Thursday, August 28, 2008

Starting Kindergarten

This was the scene last week, as Alex, Bella, and I waited outside her new school--ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, Bella would specify--for the doors to open on the first day. The first day of kindergarten. Wow. I swear it seems like it's only been about a year since she was standing up for the first time, grinning that toothless grin beneath a nearly-bald head, and all of a sudden, she's wearing a backpack and standing on the sidewalk outside an elementary school, clutching a getting-started-bribe of watermelon pickles for her teacher.

waiting for the school to open, first day of kindergarten

She almost didn't let us go with her that first day. After the school's open house earlier in the week, when the principal was instructing weepy parents on how to leave their weepy children on their first day at school--that they should say goodbye and leave quickly, then go to the school's library for a "Boo-Hoos and Bagels" breakfast, so as not to break down in front of their children or give their children the chance to break down more than they surely were going to anyway--MY daughter leaned over and said, to me, "Um, Mom? I think you can just stop the car in front of the school, and I'll just hop on out and come in by myself, OK?" We had to negotiate for the right to at least walk her in to the classroom ONE TIME. We had to promise not to hang around too long, though, and to do any crying in the library with the other parents.

Once we got to her classroom, Bella wasted no time in cozying up to her new teacher, warming her up with some jokes and giving her a gift that "we made ourselves!"

warming up the new teacher with a joke, obviously

She had delighted in picking out her own comfortable clothes to wear that morning, remarking more than once that we should give her old private preschool uniforms to "some other poor kid" who had to go to that school. It was heart-warming seeing her so happy and at ease in this new place, and she settled right in to her place, practically giddy to be there.

all in our places with bright shiny faces

She went right to work on the project in front of her, promptly ignoring her father and me.

work to do

We were able to talk her into one goodbye hug for each of us, thankfully.

indulging mommy

hug from daddy

She sat back down at her place, and her father and I watched her for several more minutes, waxing sentimental (look, she is our only child, and this is the only time we'll have this experience, so give us a break), until we got this LOOK--the look that plainly said, "Hey, guys? I got this. You can GO, NOW."

I got this.  You can go now.

So, we went. And despite all the sobbing parents out in the hallway, we held it together. We skipped the whole "Boo Hoos And Bagels" experience. We were proud of the independent, fearless, confident little character we'd somehow produced, and we left her at school with no concern whatsoever for whether she'd be all right, but with considerable pangs of sadness for ourselves, and our own loss of our wee little baby.

And then, outside the front doors of the school, inexplicably, there was a giant anthropomorphized wiener, obviously sent from above to let us know that everything was going to be OKAY. Or sent from Sonic to remind us that hot dogs are tasty. Whatever. A good omen is a good omen. Don't look gift-wieners in the mouth, people.

Because nothing says, "Welcome to Elementary School" like a giant anthropomorphized wiener.  From Sonic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"We Could Get Nuuuuude!"

sucker punched

Following that cell-phone commercial on TV, depicting the family that mistakenly visits a nude beach on their vacation, and the little girl in the commercial asking her parents, "Why is everybody NAKED?"

Bella: "Mom, why ARE all those people naked?"

Me: "Because in some places, there are nude beaches, where people can go swimming without any clothes."

Bella: (blinks) "AWWWESOME! Can WE go to a nude beach?"

Me: "No, I don't think so."

Bella: "Why not? Pleeeeease?"

Me: (laughing) "No."

Bella: (cajoling tone) "Please? We could get nuuuuuuuuude!"

I'm both mildly alarmed and a little delighted that my daughter finds the prospect of everyone running around nekkid in the surf so wildly appealing. I don't know why I'm surprised, though, seeing as how she's down with the skinny-dip in the backyard.

maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let her watch The Shining

Like A Chipmunk

I feel like my entire life right now is consumed with a sort of controlled panic to get stores put in for the winter. It's kind of funny, because I've never felt this way before, except with the horses and their hay. You can NEVER have too much hay to carry you through a winter. Never. Just when I think I can't possibly pickle anything else, I find myself staring at a peck of peppers or pickling cucumbers or that lovely watermelon, and looking around for spare jars and the giant jug of vinegar. I know. It's weird. The freezers are groaning, and I now live in fear of a power failure. My pantry looks completely different than it did last year at this time.

Gather, gather, gather, store store store! I can't imagine how people in the days before refrigeration must have scrambled as the summer days dwindled down. Canning and pickling and salting and curing and drying and digging...I feel guilty for buying that sushi rice at the Asian market. It came from Maryland. Arkansas is Rice Central, and I bought rice from Maryland. Don't complain to me, complain to Riceland. I needed some sushi rice. Sue me.

If you're quiet, you can hear and feel it from the growers at the farmer's markets. The ones that are still showing up "in town" with their produce are antsy, anxious to get back to work. You can see the distracted looks on their faces, as if they're thinking about how much daylight they're burning while you make up your mind whether to buy one eggplant or two. You definitely feel it if you visit the actual farm, and of course, there, you can see it.

Bella and I visited "our" little nearby farm recently, and it sort of looked like the plants had taken over. Squash were run amok, to the point that they were overripe and spoiling in the rows in places. Tomatoes were ripening so fast that we were hard-pressed to find a handful of green ones for relish. The sweet peppers we came for were exploding in vivid shades of red and orange, instead of confining themselves to the quiet yellow-green of the last batch we collected for pickling.

peck of peppers for pickling

Far from being put out and having to collect two five-gallon buckets full of peppers for us, the grower was thrilled that we were taking them, telling us that he had just about been ready to till those rows under. This is how my first year of following the harvest has been--I've always seemed on the tail-end of whatever season it is. The good news is that I've gotten some incredible deals, from growers with a supply of fully-ripe, highly perishable produce to unload before it becomes very expensive compost. But I've also missed out on getting in good supplies of some things, like blueberries. I got a few pints, but not as many as I'd have liked. And I'm hoping for one more green bean harvest this year, but have no idea yet whether or not that's just a pipe dream. I'll know in a couple of days.


I'm pretty tickled with how much Bella has seemed to absorb during this process. She already knows more about nutrition and the origins of her food than I did as a young adult, and she definitely has a more experienced palate. The kid is even eating pickled peppers--probably because she was part of the process as they went from being living fruit on the vine to making a colorful confetti in our kitchen.

pack pepper for pickling

She even went with me to Scott to pick up hay last week, and hardly complained at all, despite the fact that it was a thousand degrees out. OK, maybe not a thousand, but it was darn hot. See?

that's right, it's HOT

This hay we got, it's some magical stuff. I haven't seen one bit of it go wasted since we got it home. The horses are desperate for quality forage, and very much appreciate the Good Stuff when they see it. My problem with putting in hay is the same as it ever was: I don't have the room to store as much as I'll need over the winter. So I bring home as much as I can carry (actually, judging from the pictures, possibly a bit more than I can carry, or at least more than I know how to load and tie correctly), and hope for the best. There has been a spell of rain and lower-than-normal temperatures recently, so I'm kind of hoping that means an extra cutting of hay this summer. It could happen. (This is where you stop what you're doing and pray for hay.)

only 100

yeah, it felt precarious, too

objects closer than they appear

I never feel quite so happily secure and optimistic as on the day I come home with enough hay to fill the barn. Conversely, nothing sets me on edge and gives me general anxiety quite as much as being out of hay in January. Ack, I don't even like thinking about it. This is how I get a little insight into the trials of my forebears. All right, so my forebears probably didn't have access to a Purina mill for complete livestock feed. Or a Kroger down the road, for that matter. But humor me, for I have soaked cucumbers in a solution of lime and water for 24 hours and created from that a delicious pickle. I see both the future and the past.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Before And After

I don't ask often, but if these "before and after" pictures frighten or anger you, head over to my post at the Arkansas Times, and then the follow-up post on the Times' home page to comment. We're talking about Chesapeake Energy, and the real-life consequences that befall residents of neighborhoods where Chesapeake comes to drill.

It could happen to anyone. What if you worked for years in order to be able to afford a small piece of land in a quiet, rural neighborhood, with these views from your back yard...

before Chesapeake 1

before Chesapeake 2

...and then, seemingly overnight, you're living in the middle of this?

this is what replaced forest

instead of allowing the wood to be harvested, all the trees are just burned as they're cut down

nice view...NOT

Oh, and you should know that, along with the deforestation and destruction, comes 'round-the-clock noise, constant heavy traffic, air pollution, and literally earth-shattering blasts from a water cannon at regular intervals.

Chesapeake Energy's slogan? "Doing The Nation A World Of Good." You know, as long as it's someone else's part of that nation. I doubt that this is happening in the backyard of any Chesapeake executives.

Go. Comment. Make yourselves heard.