Thursday, July 31, 2008


I'm going away for the weekend.  If you've been reading regularly (or you received your own invitation), you know that my brother-in-law is getting married this weekend.  We're all excited, especially Duncan, who is taking his first flight on an airplane.  We endeavored to make this trip as simple as possible since we have not yet experienced air travel with Duncan and do not know what to expect.  We have also collectively flown only once or twice since Sept. 11 and want to endure as little in the way of security delays as possible.  In a stroke of genius, we sent our luggage with Grandma and Grandpa, who are driving to Ohio.  The overpacker (me) packed light (only one pair of shoes!), and we fit everyone's belongings in one suitcase, without even having to sit on it to close it.  We will enter the airport with a diaper bag, a carry on full of entertainment for Duncan, and my purse.  

As I mentioned, I'm going away for three days, and I am NOT TAKING MY LAPTOP.  I am suffering a modest level of anxiety about this; I know I should not be, but I can't help it.  This machine has become an extension of my brain.  What if I want to check my e-mail, or research something on the internet, or upload some photos, or write a blog post?  I am taking a journal, and if I am compelled to write something, I will simply have to write it out longhand (have I not defended this dying art) and transcribe it later.  Do I need a Blackberry or an iTouch or perhaps just a better phone than this little Tracfone that does everything I need of it for little money?  Perhaps. But as we sat in Yankee Stadium watching an entire row of Phillies fans texting extremely important information to their colleagues and compatriots (and I do not doubt, each other), I SWORE I would never go that far.  So in the interest of traveling easily, living in the moment, defending the dying art of handwriting, and not becoming a jackass, I am leaving my computer at home.  My brain will be off the grid for three days.  

I'll send you a postcard.

Enraging the Great Pumpkin

I tried to kill the pumpkins.  Not intentionally, mind you, but I was overcome with arrogance.  I planted six in a square foot, and I was supposed to thin them down to three.  They came up faster than everything else, and they were, by nature, enormous (even though they're about the smallest species of pumpkin there is).  They were beautiful; they made me feel like an expert, successful gardener; I was overcome with hubris; I also became attached to them.  Finally, I had to do something.  They had overtaken their space and were encroaching on the carrots, the radishes, and I don't know what else.  I couldn't dare to sacrifice three of the pumpkin babies for the sake of my other plants.  I decided to transplant them to a pot.  Once I had three out, I moved two of the remaining three to give them more space.  I turned around to check on Duncan, and Jamie said "Those pumpkins don't look very good."  Within minutes (literally), the leaves and stems had wilted sadly, almost defiantly.  I watered and watered and watered, and they showed no sign of revival.  I was as devastated as a person can be about pumpkins (though I knew I could have new plants that size in three weeks).  I decided to wait until morning to see how they looked.

Miracle of green-thumb gardening miracles...the pumpkins came back!  The original leaves are still wrinkled, sad, and dying, but the rest look fine, and there is new growth.  The moral of this story is that pumpkins appear to have very sensitive tiny little roots (I can't remember what those tiny little hair like roots are called that stick out off the main roots...Marcie...?), and they do NOT want to be transplanted.  Nevertheless, if you're compelled to do it for some good reason, or you flat out forget and do it anyway, they just might make it if you have a little faith.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Butterflies Are Free

"Butterfly born a-day."  Early yesterday morning, our chrysalis turned black, a sure sign that our monarch would soon emerge.  Jamie and Duncan went for a walk around 10:00, and I checked on the chrysalis a few times while they were gone to see no action.  When they returned about an hour later, however, the monarch had emerged.  He was stunning.  We kept him inside for a few more hours; he needed to get the fluid pumping in his wings before he could fly.  Late in the afternoon, we took him outside, removed the lid, and gave him a little nudge.  When we finally encouraged him to take off, he landed on my and clung for a few minutes.  Then, he took off with tentative but strong flapping of his orange wings, and we said goodbye.  Although there were many questions of "where'd the butterfly go," Duncan seemed to understand that butterflies are meant to be outside.  I'm pretty sure we saw him today, loading up on food before he contemplates his long flight to Mexico.  

PS - I have a great video of Duncan talking about the butterfly, but I need to learn to edit first so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Butterflies

I believe the term Marcie used was "giant ball of crank;" well, Duncan had that day yesterday. If someone was not actively engaged in a superlatively exciting activity with him, he whined.  He demanded to be held. He demanded new milk every 10 minutes.  He disobeyed us for entertainment.  At one point, we had to pull the car over (a first) to rescue  his teether.  He liked nothing.  Come to think of it, he was much like an adolescent, minus the being held part and, perhaps, the teether.  For those of you who insist he would never behave this way, again, I have no proof, but you have to trust me.  Around dinner time, the typical time for him to have a melt down if one is coming, he became a completely different child.  He found a train, filled it with a fireman, and entered an imaginative world peopled by Paul, the fireman, and his daycare teacher, Nina.  Thank goodness. 

The highlight of our day of crank was a trip to Rainbow's End Butterfly Farm and Nursery in Wingdale, NY.  We thought it might be interesting for Duncan to "grow" a butterfly.  We were treated to a brief introduction to the life of a butterfly and then taken into a greenhouse full of butterfly-friendly flowers (echinacea, lantana, etc.) and monarch butterflies.  We were given "butterfly lollipops," Q-tips dipped in Gatorade, and taught how to sneak the Q-tip under the butterfly's front legs to entice him/her to pay attention; then the butterfly would unroll its proboscis and feast. I managed to catch several butterflies and was finally successful at handing one over to Duncan who remained still long enough to be in awe.  We bought a chrysalis in a butterfly-friendly cage and are anxiously waiting for it to become a butterfly (Jamie and I are secretly a little afraid it will emerge while we're in Ohio).  I have a feeling we'll be making a few more trips to Rainbow's End (hopefully sans crank) because we have to release this butterfly within twenty-four hours, and I just don't think Duncan will understand that "if you love something set it free" speech.

Home Sweet Home

Friday, we had a nice visit from Matt and Courtney who found time in their whirlwind travel tour to spend the afternoon with us in Amenia.  Matt and Courtney have become serious travelers. Among the places they visited this summer were Kentucky, Miami, Key West, and the Bahamas. It's easy to be envious of their freedom and their adventures, and I found myself wishing I got out more.  Nevertheless, they have been away for over a month with still a week to go and swear they'll never go away for so long again.  I was reminded that life is what you make it; it's all about perspective.  Jamie and I are adventuring day travelers who also take the opportunity to grow basil and play in the sand with our son.  It's a good  life.  We caught up, shared our crazy boarding school experiences, and shared news of former Kildonan colleagues. They talk about wanting to move back to the Hudson Valley so if you know of some good education jobs, interesting houses, or well priced pieces of property, let me know so I can lure them back here!  They are talented educators and good friends, and I'd love to be able see them more often.  Safe travels, Matt and Courtney.  I hope you'll be in your own house soon enough and have plenty of time to lay low before school begins again.  Thanks again for coming!

P.S.  Matt and Courtney are also talented writers who are writing much better "stuff" than I am this summer so visit their blogs to get a taste of their travels.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Almost Caught Up!

Did I mention that I was tired? I know...when we don't do anything, I get bored and complain about sitting around the house. When we're out and about, I get exhausted because we're never home. I always want the best of both worlds. We had a very busy and enjoyable week, but Thursday we welcomed the opportunity to stay close to home while Duncan was at daycare. I spent the morning relaxing at home (umm, reading in bed for at least an hour with a large cup of tea) and catching up on my computer communications. Jamie practiced his piece for Jason's wedding and recorded it for John so HE could practice. Then we went to Red Hook to try out Alison's Wines and Vineyards (a misnomer in my opinion as they do not currently grow any grapes on site though they are researching what will grow in Dutchess County). We tasted a lot, bought a few, had lunch, and then brought Duncan home.  It was a lovely way to spend a summer day.

Happy Birthday Grandma/Good Bye Yankee Stadium

Tuesday, we went to John and Kathy's house in Poughkeepsie to celebrate Grandma's birthday. We all had a great time even though the weather chose to be inclement, and we were forced to stay indoors.  We had a nice cookout, which featured the BEST baked potatoes EVER that Grandpa cooked on the grill under his umbrella.  I tried to record a Happy Birthday song, but Duncan wasn't quite warmed up enough yet so it lacks the enthusiasm of some of his other performances.  Happy Birthday to Nash, for example, was quite popular in our house long after Nash's birthday even though I don't know who Nash is.

We stayed overnight in Poughkeepsie so Jamie, John, his friend Don, and I could make our last pilgrimage to the House that Ruth Built.  Duncan stayed with Grandma as a special birthday treat (she was a good sport, but he turned out to be an angel).  The forecast was for rain, possibly torrential at times. We packed our ponchos and were prepared to do whatever we needed to make it to New York, New York (or until the fat lady sang).  We had a GREAT view from our seats though we were high enough up that I would not leave my seat until the game ended.  The sky became ominous in the 3rd, and we felt a few drops...The game was a pitchers' duel through the 4th, and then the Yankees broke it open in the 5th.  We were hugely thankful that an official game had been played at that point, and the Yankees were in the lead.  The Yankees scored again in the 6th, and then all was pretty quiet until the 9th when the Twins scored and loaded the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate.  Mo saved the day.  The Yankees win; THEEEEEEEEE YANKEES WIN!  5-1.  Mussina was brilliant and Mo earned his salary.  Best of all, NO RAIN! 

We were all nostalgic leaving Yankee Stadium, but the new stadium winked at us from across the street, bright with the promise of more World Series rings and a new chapter in baseball history.  As we left, I overheard a man declare "The ghosts won't have far to go."  I liked that thought.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Going to the Dogs

You saw Lucy's picture in the previous post.  She's lovely, right?  She is the calmest, most well behaved dog I have ever met and sweet as local corn in August.  And terrifying to Duncan.  

He had a dog incident last week with Bella, the puggle who recently moved downstairs.  Bella is also adorable and friendly and small, but Bella just moved to a yard she can run around in, and she had been a house bound leash dog until she moved so she LOVES to run in the yard.  Last week, she came running around the corner, and Duncan didn't expect her, and he SHRIEKED and cried and shook.  We thought it was just Bella, but Lucy is 5 times bigger than Bella. Duncan was so afraid of Lucy that we had to carry him around for half the weekend.  He was comfortable when Lucy was in her cage, and when he was upstairs with the gate closed...and by the end of the weekend he pet her many times.  A few times he said "Paul stay here; Lucy go home."  He had fun with Paul, but it was a rough weekend for him.

Which brings us to Tuesday the 22nd.  We were on our way to Poughkeepsie to celebrate Kathy's birthday, and we thought it would be fun to stop at the Trevor Teaching Zoo.  Duncan liked the snakes, and that was the end of his comfort zone.  After that, we had to carry him around the his fear of dogs has already generalized to a fear of all animals.  He was interested, and he wanted to look at the animals, but he couldn't believe that he was safe from them.  Consequently, I couldn't get any decent pictures because I was too busy being Duncan's Sherpa.  I did get some nice close ups of the herons, but my heart wasn't in it.

I've been enjoying watching the development of Duncan's language skills and his motor skills...watching him develop a phobia?  Interesting but definitely disturbing.  I hope we won't be in therapy for years.

I'm Blogging as Fast as I Can!

Our friend Paul came for a visit last weekend with his new dog Lucy.  Paul and Duncan are like old friends, and Duncan deems Paul "dunny."  We took in the Hidden Gardens of Amenia Tour, highlight of local life.  We couldn't get to all the gardens; it was beastly hot, and, frankly, Duncan could care less about gardens (except Diana's, which featured cookies).  We saw Diana Hanbury King's Birdsong, George Fenn's Old Mead Farmhouse, Bob Lane and Jerry Wall's Churchill Gardens, and Maxine Paetro's Broccoli Hall.  It was quite a bargain at $20 each, and the $5 lunch at Churchill Gardens was a great value.  

Monday, July 21, 2008

Contemporary Art Exhibit at Chesterwood

Summer Home in Stockbridge

Yeah, I wish.  But anyway...last Thursday, Jamie and I returned to Stockbridge to visit Naumkeag and Chesterwood.  Naumkeag was the summer cottage of the Choate family, brother of the Choate Rosemary Hall Choate.  It always strikes me as ironic that a summer cottage can be larger than my main school building at Kildonan, but it's a lovely home with an arresting landscape that I could not begin to do justice; for one thing, I still cannot shoot in bright sunlight.  The blue steps are apparently a famous design in the landscape field.  They are truly impressive.  If you have not visited this historic home in Stockbridge, I highly recommend it.

A stone's throw from the Norman Rockwell Museum, Chesterwood is the former home of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor best known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Monument.  The tour includes the grounds, French's home, and his studio.  I forgot to take pictures - how could I forget with that heavy camera around my neck.  Although the estate is interesting, we also experienced our third accidental contemporary art exhibit.  The Estate is hosting the Contemporary Sculpture Show until October 15.  (Our previous "accidental art" experiences were the Garden Gates at Norman Rockwell Museum and the MassMoCA exhibit at the Berkshire Botanical Garden).  I enjoyed the juxtaposition of those modern pieces and French's classical work.  

I'm not sure what we have on tap this Thursday, but since we're going Yankee Stadium on Wednesday (shh - don't tell Duncan - he's not going), it may be some restful vacationing at home while Duncan plays at daycare.  It's been a busy week!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Taking Flight


Last Wednesday, we took Duncan to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, where I was reminded of the importance of context and background knowledge.  We had never been there but thought that Duncan would love it.  He is passionate for all things with wheels, and we expected planes would be no exception.  Also, he's taking his first plane trip on August 1, to Ohio for Jason and Suzanne's wedding, and we thought that seeing some planes would help prepare him for the trip.  

I'll be honest.  The facility looks a little bedraggled.  It consists of four hangars full of planes and an outdoor space where the planes they ACTUALLY FLY are kept.  The ORA only has airshows on weekends so we were just planning to view the exhibits.  Duncan was polite, but his response was hardly enthusiastic.  It was more...tolerant, I guess; he was apathetic.  We viewed four hangars of planes and headed across the street to the "air field," where we strolled a bit and had a picnic lunch.  Midway through lunch, we noted some activity in the field.  A plane had been wheeled out to the air strip, and we suspected they might be sending it into the air.  After a lot of dramatic propeller winding and loud noise and "the man" climbing into and out of the cockpit, it actually DID take off and circle the the ORA for about 10 minutes; then it landed, took off again, and circled for a few minutes before coming in for a landing and an exuberant reception from some people who appeared to be mechanics.  Duncan was a little frightened and expressed concern about "the man; he was audibly relieved when "the man" deplaned.   Afterward, however, Duncan's enthusiasm was unbounded.

We returned to the gift store to do a little Christmas stocking shopping and let Duncan pick out a Matchbox size plane, which he flew around his head all the way home, all through lunch, all through the afternoon, and for many days to follow.  He wanted to return to the hangars to see the planes again, but we really had to get home.  Next time, I think we'll aim for the airshow, but for now, planes have now become part of his wheely obsession.  Today I showed him a picture of the airport we're leaving from (White Plains, which he deemed big), and he can hardly wait for his own plane ride.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Little Fish, Big Pond

Remember when we were at wit's end?  When was that?  I guess it was ending around this time last week.  We needed to get Duncan a big boy mattress at some point, and it seemed to us that if he was already having sleeping problems, we should just do it and get it over with in case it was going to begin a new rash of sleeping problems.  We bought the bed on Wednesday, and it was delivered Friday.  Over the weekend, we took Duncan out to purchase his bedding.  He chose lime green sheets (chartreuse, if you will), a pink and orange throw pillow, and a step stool.  We see no need to rush into a comforter since it has been hazy, hot, and humid with a forecast of...hazy, hot and humid. Duncan "helped" Jamie convert the convertible crib into its final form, the full bed. And then, although he has needed a little reassurance each night, he has slept beautifully.  He LOVES the new bed.  Yesterday while I was at work, apparently he and Jamie spent a good deal of the morning getting into and out of the bed.  Here he is, my little fish in the big pond.  


So you see, seeds work.  Call it folly if you will (I do understand it's mid July), but here are some of the seeds we planted six days ago.  Cucumbers, radishes, and tiny pumpkins from top left to bottom right.  We've also planted carrots, but they're still teeny, zinnias, nasturtiums, and something I've already forgotten.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Little Housekeeping

Yo, I just realized I have not updated my books between Reading Lolita and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  If you care, join GoodReads, where I've been documenting my current reads.  I am prolific today!

(Sorry about the Yo; I'm reading Freedom Writers' Diaries)

Happy Birthday, Poppy

We took a break from hot and sweaty gardening to practice singing Happy Birthday to Poppy, whose birthday was last Friday. It's good we got it on video because Duncan did sing it to Poppy, but not with quite the same gusto he did at home. We spent the weekend in Albany with Nana and Poppy and had a nice cookout at Lorna and Vernon's house. Duncan went right into the pool with no reservations, which was refreshing. Last year, we couldn't get him into a paddle pool or into Nana and Poppy's 8' diameter pool. He cried and clung to me until I took him out. This time, when I arrived at the pool from changing into my suit, he was already in with Lorna, smiling broadly. Poppy doesn't care too much for gifts at 68, but the Wall-E cake Colin picked out was pretty cool. Many happy returns, Poppy!

, Albeit a Small One

What kind of crazy people put in a garden in July? The kind of people who don't get around to it until July but don't want to put it off until next year. On July 8th and 9th, we crossed the garden project off my summer wish list. The whole project took almost two entire days as well as two trips to Agway, one trip to Daisi Hill Farm, two trips to Paley's Farm Market, and one trip to Amenia Nursery. I have lost track of how much money it cost at this point; it was a lot more than the value of the produce we will harvest, but I really felt it was important for Duncan to be a part of growing food from the ground up.

We began with the principles of square foot gardening laid out in Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening. I'm a sucker; let's get that out of the way. I was easily entranced by how easy Mel made the entire process sound and how much one can apparently grow in a single square foot of real estate. We don't have access to power tools so rather than build the raised 4 X 4 beds he advocates, I purchased two 3 X 3 grow beds from Gardeners Supply Company. Rather than build a permanent grid, as he describes, I cobbled mine together using bamboo stakes and string. At this point, I'm not considering this a garden but an experiment so I'm comfortable with that adjustment. Mel also provides a formula for a grow mix that is supposed to limit weeds and promote plant growth; it's a healthy 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 mix of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. We mixed the concoction on one of the hottest day of the year, only to discover we did not have enough to fill both beds. We couldn't stomach mixing another batch, so we went with the purple bag that starts with F at Paley's. Then I realized that we had filled the boxes 12 inches deep, and they only needed to be you do the math regarding how many shopping trips we really needed. Anywho, now, we're doing a little experiment to see which works best. It's rather an uncontrolled experiment because we didn't divide the plants between the boxes (i.e., one tomato in Mel's mix, one in the Purple F mix). Oh well. I gave up being a perfectionist on March 13, 2006.

I knew it would be difficult to find any kind of vegetables to put in at this time, but I didn't know JUST how difficult. I bought the last four ratty tomatoes at Agway, three of the last five ratty packs of basil at Amenia Nursery, and some other herbs at Daisi Hill Farm. We picked out some cooler weather seeds that can start now and be harvested closer to fall (carrots, radishes, tiny pumpkins, cucumbers, which I know are a gamble). The fascinating thing is, we already filled our square feet and have no room to replant for additional "crops." I save a little space for the tomatoes Duncan started from seed in June and for some lettuce as the weather gets cooler, and we have filled 18 square feet of garden!

And how does Duncan feel about the project? It was difficult to keep him entertained; he had only so much tolerance for direction. He LOVED watering with his little can. He loved digging in the dirt. In fact, he spent a lot of time trying to dig up the seeds he and Jamie planted. In the intervening days, he has continued to enjoy the watering, likes to move the labels around (I don't need them any more anyway), and says "hi" to the garden each day. So far, I'm pretty happy. My own biggest a some time gardener who usually only deals in shade that SEEDS WORK! I had forgotten just how miraculous it is to plant something in the ground, wait a few days, and see tiny leaves sprout from the dirt! How could I forget? My family and my job, both literally and figuratively, exemplify this concept each day, but somehow, I had forgotten that sometimes you don't have to wait years to see what happens!

Mel was mostly right. It was not THAT difficult, and it will be even easier next year. I'm already fantasizing about how many more square feet we need to be useful. Last night, I finished Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I began the day we "finished" the garden, and it validated my desire to grow some food. I strongly recommend this book, which will make you think about the food you purchase in an entirely different way. Thanks Mel, thanks Barbara, thanks Jamie who did a lot of the icky labor, thanks Duncan for playing along, and thanks to all the gardeners in my life who have helped me realize that I have nothing to lose except a little time and money and a LOT more to gain.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mama and Daddy's Big Day Out, Two

Our plan for Thursday was to visit a few Connecticut wineries. On further inspection (Wednesday night), we discovered that the wineries do not follow the same schedule as Mama and Daddy's Day Camp, and they were only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. A quick change of plan led us to look for Hillside Gardens, in Norfolk, CT. Hillside Gardens was purportedly a nursery with exceptional display gardens. When we finally found it, it was not only not open but was also for sale. We wound our way back to Salisbury, where we had lunch at Chaiwalla. Although it was disappointing that we could not visit any of our choice destinations, I've been wanting to go to Chaiwalla for years so it was nice to check that off my life list. It's a cute little restaurant (and I emphasize little; I had to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom, and the kitchen is the same size as mine at home). Jamie had tomato pie, I had a nice curried tuna salad, and we both ate decadent desserts as well as a pot of chai tea. It's a nice place to have breakfast, lunch, or a snack, and I highly recommend it. My vote for next week's outing is to revisit Stockbridge to see Chesterwood and Naumkeag.

And A Few More