Wednesday, April 25, 2012

4/25/12 Fried

So funny, a friend pointed out that the word "fried" looks like "fired."

Well, I'm not fired, but I am fried. I'm taking a training class this week in which somehow I ended up the only student. I thought that'd make it easier, but in fact, it means absolutely no downtime at ALL. I feel seriously taxed and like every day is totally full.

But while I'm completely spent by 5pm, my other duties -- including work-related -- don't subside. To complicate matters, my wonderful employer needs me to refocus my work somewhat, away from what I'm training on now, away from my core skillset. It's the right thing, but it adds to my emotional and mental load: I have goals I'd wanted to accomplish, but now new ones have been added. This is a GREAT problem to have, especially considering my last job -- which seems more a joke as each month passes -- but I'm still wondering where the necessary extra energy cycles will come from.

The one good thing I have to say about the intense work this week -- from home -- is that during my rare minutes off, I can spend it wandering around my landscaping -- dare I call it "garden?". I fantasize about what to put where -- plants, rocks, logs, how it will look when it's grown, building a rock garden, placing a bridge, or a huge log. Every corner, every empty area is a potential planting space. I don't see it as a showpiece, it's a playspace, somewhere new to exercise my horribly underdeveloped artistic side. But it's living and breathing and growing -- every day, I'm rewarded with some subtle change: a new sprout, a new bud, and often, a new flower. It's so nice to have this as an escape from the crushing burden of balancing work, priorities, family, home, life.

And so goes my excuse and explanation for being so incommunicado lately!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

4/24/12 Making Dinner

Mondays have become a major drag. Julian has counseling at 7pm, its value of which both Dave and I are questioning....and Dave always ends up staying to "play" with Julian. Perhaps long-term this will count, but short-term, it's becoming a serious annoyance. 7pm is smack-dab in the middle of the evening, and working the whole family's life around that is a struggle.

For example, tonight I couldn't grill steaks as I'd planned for dinner, unless I started early and on the dot, because Julian needed to be done and ready to go at 7pm. This time constraint on Monday nights is increasingly frustrating as it stays light later -- sometimes I want to do something else on Monday nights besides scramble to get the kids fed in time to be somewhere. I know this is the norm in Silicon Valley kids' lives, but I just can't abide by it.

So having messed up the kids' dinner, I heated leftovers for Julian, which he scarfed down in minutes. After Dave took him to counseling, I started to work on the grilled steak dinner I'd had in mind. And this turned into an unexpected, surprisingly wonderful time with Gabriel and Katrina.

I showed Gabriel how to light the grill (whose electronic ignition is on the fritz and you have to use a lighter), he got a pot for noodles ready to boil, he floret-ed some broccoli, and got the pot for noodles ready to boil. Katrina wanted a job, so I let her sprinkle balsamic vinegar over some red onion slices I'd made. Both kids roared with laughter when this latter grilling attempt went down in flames (note to self: slice onions thicker!), but I played it up gladly. Katrina set the table, and Gabriel was agreeable with one minor task after another.

At one point, Katrina said something like, "Mommy, this is SO fun I don't ever want it to end!" She said again and again, "We're making dinner together, RIGHT?!" She also brought up several times another mistake of mine, unrelated, just to see my reaction, "Remember when you accidentally drove to Carson City?!" I always make a huge deal of this and say "HEEYYYY! Stop making fun of me!" and boy do they laugh.

Katrina wouldn't actually eat the steak that she "helped" cook, and in fact, her basic food consumption was same old usual nicky pits she subjects us to every night. But I was so struck by how happy she was about the process. Was it that Gabriel was involved? Was it because it was a nice manageable triad, instead of the usual chaos of 3 kids and two increasingly irritate parents? Or was it that for once, I was happily involving them, instead of barking out annoyed instructions about homework?

In any case, I had a great time with them, explaining how to time cooking tasks, giving them jobs and instructions, quizzes, and (half-)joking that now one of them can do something better than Dad. Poor Dad takes a lot of good-humored ribbing in abstentia in these situations, but always in a light spirit and the lesson being that they'll grow up knowing how to handle themselves in a kitchen, unlike most men of my generation. I also explained to Gabriel that Dad not knowing how to grill stuff isn't his fault, but he will grow up learning how to make French Toast and Macaroni and Cheese and banana bread -- and use a grill.

Unfortunately our family-bonding antics meant a late dinner, and got everyone to bed too late. Never good on a school night, and we pay dearly. But my memory of Katrina's obvious joy at the family cooperative, and Gabriel's roaring laughter when I completely messed up the grilled onions are completely worth it.

(Shh, the real reason we ran so late is that Katrina and I snuck in a little gardening late this afternoon....I couldn't help it, these native irises just had to be added to my new native garden....and what fun to do with your independent little girl who so often wants nothing to do with you!)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

4/22/12 Native Gardens

This weekend was the Going Native Garden Tour, in which kind people open up their homes to let the masses tramp around and gawk at their gardens. I did this two years ago with Julian, and especially since I'm so excited about my new "native" plants, couldn't wait to do again!

Yesterday I visited some gardens just by myself, knowing that kid-attention for this sort of thing is limited, and some gardens are only open on Saturday or Sunday, but not both. I reserved Julian's attention for the two I knew I'd want to see on Sunday.

Ironically, the first garden I wanted to see wasn't far at all: our own school's garden. 4 years ago, a group of volunteers at our school transformed a dull strip of dirt into a thriving habitat, filled with native plants and other hard features (boulders, logs and painted rocks), and formed a garden club for kids. The school community maintains the garden, leads tours, and decorates it with painted rocks and all sorts of informational plaques. It's really a labor of love and such a nice thing for a school -- especially ours -- to have!

It turns out that Gabriel's teacher, and his now-pregnant wife, a 2nd-grade teacher at the school too, are very involved in this garden. So though we can see it anytime, it was worth going today to talk to the garden hosts, see photo displays of how this garden came about, and do a scavenger hunt. Julian was so into finding every last thing on Gabriel's teacher's typically very thorough lists meant we were there for over an hour (and I have the sunburn to prove it!)

Julian had a great time at this garden, asking questions of the teachers/gardeners, finding things, noticing what was related, looking at the butterfly identification cards. Then we went around and picked up garbage, because there's a constant flow of wrappers and paper that get blown in from the lunch area. It was a rare Good Mom moment for me.

Then we went to another garden/home we'd been to two years ago, that I'd found was the most spectacular one there is, and it still is. I was blown away -- I want my "garden" to look like this! It's really beautiful and so diverse, with so many different sorts of plants and spaces. Lots of manzanitas too, my favorite.

The homeowner here is involved with a local native-plant nursery though, so it's related to his business as well as his passion. He has at least 5 manzanitas, for example, not always easy to come by, and they're pretty big. Most home gardens are not this beautifully designed or mature or diverse; most are more like how mine will be, a smattering of plants left to their own devices. This one is really a showpiece. He even named certain areas, like "Puppy Dog Path" or "Manzanita Trail" and put up nice little wooden signs.

The rest of the day, I was a total slug -- fighting a headache and procrastinating on numerous pressing chores, like filing my Dad's late taxes, getting airline tickets for a trip to Vancouver, cleaning out the garage, and a few work items. Ah yes, and planting some new plants I just bought at the garden tour. I'm totally hooked on these beautiful, scrubby, hardy sorts of plants and these so-not-showcase gardens, devoid of law and order and just a fabulous display of fauna. But I also like bumming around on Sunday afternoons too.