Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reap What You Sow

To recap, in May, garden was a nice rectangle of dirt full of seeds.

As of Friday, it was bountiful:

As of today, it is a hazmat site.

Yes, the lead report came back, and it's not pretty, kids. A whopping 793 parts per, which puts us in the (high-ish) "Medium" range. The handy-dandy pamphlet lets us know that with a moderate reading "restrict access of children or pets." Should we also be looking for signs of anger? (Haha, just looked up the symptoms of lead poisoning and "memory loss" is one; "appetite loss" and "weight loss" are others so I'm not remotely concerned for any of us. Yet.)

It's getting plowed in, we're putting in raised beds, and starting over -- although it's probably too late to do much this year save for lettuce and maybe a few herbs. And that's really optimistic because we've already got a host of other outdoor projects on the docket, so raised beds are unlikely to appear until sometime next year. We'll plow under the arugula and herbs and cucumbers, and lordy, there were tears -- real fat tears -- over the broccoli. Some day I'm going to remind Bella that she cried over the loss of green vegetables.

Mr. ABF's dream of an "Ultralocal Dinner" are gone -- dashed are the plans for beet ravioli, glazed carrots, stuffed peppers, grilled and rolled eggplant. Gone are my dreams of picking beans from the vine and eating them raw. I can say with authority: expecting the worst sure made telling y'all a lot easier, but I'm not sure it made the loss hurt any less.

Oh, and also, if you're gardening in an urban environment and not using raised beds, PLEASE, for the love of mike, contact your local university agricultural extension about getting your soil tested for lead. The good news here is that we thought to do this before making Poison Brain-frying Salad and eating handfuls of sweet smelling, well compost-fertilized dirt.

Back to the grocery store.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Slouching Towards Five

Where did the Planets come from?

Where did People come from?

Does it hurt when a baby comes out of your tummy?

Can we get a new sister? Because mine died.

How do people NOT have babies?

How many days was Maddy when she died?

What would happen if everyone just lived one day?

If you had a baby would you still love me as much?

There's something so deeply philosophical about Bella lately -- when she's not in a droning whine "Moommmmy, I'mmm hunnggry" -- that I ache to give her Carl Sagan and Hobbes and Locke and Shakespeare for her birthday, not the goldfish which she has adamantly requested. Questions that aren't posited just to be annoying or waste time or find the weak spot, but that demand answers more than a sentence long.

Most of them.

And I struggle to discover from whence these questions are coming: I am not pregnant, I am -- to my untrained and biased and eternally hopeful eye -- perhaps even slightly lighter around the middle, not the other way around. None of her friends have recently acquired siblings (although the sibling question came on a day when she went out with a good friend and her younger brother. I have a feeling friend is feeling some things through, out loud). We have not been watching old Cosmos reruns, or discussing Darwin at the dinner table. I am sure that all to most of these are standard-issue four-going-on-five philosophical "how does the world work" questions, but for me they seem to revolve around common themes lately: life, death, the meaning of the beginning, and the end. And of course, what comes next. There's always the corner, beckoning, and to which I can only shrug my shoulders and say with absolute certainty, "I don't know."

For me there's a subtext here, and it's Maddy. I have no idea what Bella's subtext is. Probably Spongebob.

At times she seems 63, and others, 13. Because you see, the other annoying habit she's picked up in addition to questioning the age and origin of the solar system, is announcing to everyone within earshot, "I have a boyfriend."

(No, I mean that. Today we went to the zoo, just the two of us, and she wanted to ride the camel. Which she had to do with another single child. So I finally got her up to the front of the line, left her there so I could run around and get her picture, and I heard her announce to the complete stranger camel guy who took her ticket nanoseconds ago, "I have a boyfriend.")

And again, I have no idea from whence this concept sprouted. I've been paying more attention to her programming (she watches an hour, but I always go do something else, so I honestly don't know if Olivia has "very special!" episodes, or Spongebob's sidekick Patrick has untoward affairs), and as far as I can tell she is not getting this attitude from television -- no one on her shows even dates (unless it's an older sibling, I've noticed in an ep of this and that, here and there, but interesting, they never use the term "boy/girl-friend", usually it's a "date" gone awry for comic purposes), and they tend to be mixed sex groups of friends who hang and which I find quite healthy all the way around. (Unless I'm missing something regarding Agent Oso, cuz that's new, and I'm sure a panda-type bear in a vest gets all sorts of attention from the ladies.) (I jest.)

I cringe. She's not yet five, and she's so proud to have this, to own this term. I've quizzed her nonchalantly on the issue, and she claims "he's a boy who's a friend!" and more to the point, the only boy at her school apparently who will actually play with her, and not push, hit, or otherwise tease and torment and knock down her stack of carefully placed blocks. And I remind myself that no more than two months ago, she was discussing marriage with her "girlfriend," and specifically, who would have the babies. So I'm trying not to get too (too) worked up, and I kinda ignore it and let it ride, and remind her periodically that "you know, you're too young for a boyfriend," but it doesn't seem to be dying down.

My suspicion is that this verbage and interest comes from the friend of ours who just got married after a whirlwind romance. I'm hoping it all dissipates with the rose petals.

We're pushing five here, and I do mean pushing. She seems so confident and content most of the time, and yet sometimes I can just sense her surfing, trying to catch her balance as the paradigms move under her feet. Sometimes she is so easy and fun I wonder why I haven't attempted to construct a sibling; sometimes she is so unsettling I can't imagine having the strength to parent another; and sometimes she is so singularly incredible that I struggle to remember why I ever wanted another child in the first place.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Last Tuesday we woke up to . . . . darkness. Since Bella is occasionally sneaky like that, asking me if she can turn on the television or get some juice when it's 5:45 a.m., I had to look at the clock to make sure it really was 7:00 a.m., not 3:30 a.m. We cranked up the tv, started the coffee pot, turned NPR on in the kitchen, flipped open a laptop to check headlines, and I started methodically making Bella's lunch for school-camp. All to the delightful backdrop of one of the most wicked thunder and lightning displays I've ever experienced. Flashing, cracking, booming, dishes rattling, rain spilling over the gutters.

And suddenly, the thunder actually hit a split second before the lightning, there was a blinding boom, and NPR shut off. The lights stayed on, curiously, but Mr. ABF noted that we had lost our internet connection. We thought we may have experienced a direct hit, but just the radio and not the lights? Not the television? We continued our morning, and less than an hour later Mr. ABF got in the car to drive Bella off, and clicked the button to open our brand-new, two-week old automatic gate opener (part of the kitchen reno was a driveway to get the cars off the street) and it was dead. Deader than dead.

Upon his return, we went in the basement to examine what the deal was. The cable that brings internet into our house (but not our televisions; we're satellite people) runs through a box, which was fine. The light was on. Everything on the other side of that box, however -- the wireless routers and so forth -- were blitzed. The radio happens to be right next to the box, we just rebooted that and it was fine. The wire from the gate opener happens to run out of the house hear the cable box as well, and the fuse box to the gate was black and still smoking.

We apparently got hit by lightning.

As if you didn't know that already.

My theory, and I'm no meteorologist, is that lightning actually hit the lightning rod on our house, which runs to ground right by where all this stuff enters our house. And the shock entered the house through the cable wire, not the electric. But whatever -- we're a few hundred bucks out of routing stuff (thankfully the only computer directly hooked up to the cable was on the third floor, and it was unaffected), and we're to disassemble, dig up, and send in the entire gate mechanism to see if they can fix it. It was a few days without internet.

And a few days of pondering odds. We joke about being struck by lightning, but according to the paper, 2,000 other people reported lightning strikes last Tuesday a.m. (including a friend about 20 miles west, who lost two televisions, both hooked up to cable. No other appliances). Sometimes lightning doesn't just hit you. And if it actually hits the rod, is that a good thing?


No sooner did we get internet access back, than we all piled in the car to go to NY for a friend's wedding. It was his second marriage, as his first ended right around the time he reconnected with Mr. ABF at our old location. I remember a lot of dinners where we invited this guy over and ate and chatted until late in the night. He later told Mr. ABF those dinners were a sort of lifeline for him. We proceeded to witness a good seven years of dates and girlfriends, some of which were deemed important enough to tell us about or even meet; some, apparently, not so much. He moved to NY, we moved here, we all stayed in touch.

For Spring Break, we crashed at his place for a few days while exploring NYC with Bella. He had just started a relationship with a new woman -- in fact, I believe we as a family accompanied them on dates three and four. She was lovely in appearance and spirit, and I was personally won over when Bella offered her a butterfly tattoo and she acted as though Bella was presenting her with a spa makeover. As we were leaving, friend told us he thought this was it -- this was the woman. I think the words "marriage" and "wife" and "killing my J-Date account" actually left his lips, in all our presence, and I wondered if he shouldn't dial it back.

A few weeks later, friend called and asked for Bella. We put her on the phone, and from our end we caught,

"Mmmhmmm, mhhhmm, oh. Yes. Purple. Ok. Here's my dad."

Turns out they're getting married, and Bella just agreed to be a flower girl. In June. It was April, end of. They had been dating approximately 50 days, and were planning to get married on their 100th day of knowing each other. I guess when you know, you know. Sometimes you're struck by lightning.

It was my first wedding since Maddy, and it was a bit strange. I had forgotten how overwhelming positive and happy and upbeat weddings are, and I seriously slouched in my seat, hoping the couple wouldn't catch sight of us and realize how when the rabbi said that "for better or for worse" part he really meant it. Sure, at the rehearsal dinner and the actual night of there was heartwrenching oration on how both the bride and groom each had lost a parent, and how both parents had remarried. (I know how much our friend's loss continues to touch him, and I'm relieved and grateful he found a soulmate with a similar missing piece.) This was followed by examples of how the parents showed them "how to love again," which I suppose for me was a bit touching-slash-bullshit.

Bella was a flower girl, decked out in floofy lilac, sprinkling rose petals. She was in heaven. She continually asked where the bride or groom were located, so she could offer hugs and ask "When are we eating cake?" "When is the chair dance?" At the end of the evening, as we were leaving, we slipped into the photo booth they couple had set up for the guests and Bella and I held hands, jumped up on the trampoline, and the flash went off.


There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer.

-- "Maybe," Stories from Zen Buddhism

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


(Scene: Fenceline, muggy evening, Mr. ABF greets new neighbor and one of her three kids.)

Mr. ABF: "I'm [Mr. ABF] by the way . . . "

Neighbor: "Oh, I remember! You're [Mr. ABF] and Tash, and your daughter is Bella, and your dog . . . your dog is . . . . Maddy?

Mr. ABF: ???!!!!?????

Neighbor: "No wait, Max. Max and Buddy. Isn't that funny, I combined them!"


Mr. ABF walked over where I was lovingly grilling our salmon dinner and recounted this by beginning, "So I just had a weird encounter." And we both wound up laughing so hard there were tears. Our collective sense of humor has indeed twisted.