What, me worry?

As a nationally-acclaimed worry-wort  (*disclaimer: no one has ever given me anything but grief, let alone acclaim for my vigilant worrying) a few weeks ago I did something that I’ve been feeling kind of proud of.

This:

That’s me (not pictured) boldly allowing my baby to ride her bike to school clear across suburbia all by herself without any bubble wrap.

And here I am not pictured again, sending my 4th grader out to meet the school bus alone with little more than a smile and that pack on her back.

I am brave. I am chill and relaxed and so comfortably assured that my children are prepared for their world that I can barely think of anything to worry about.  List? Consider yourself checked.

Vegetables? Eaten.

Sunscreen? Applied.

And oh yes stranger danger and helmets and looking two ways and holding on with both hands we’ve covered you too.  We are good.

And then, an email.  An email from school that came with this title:

Bear Activity confirmed in school district.

Aces.  So much for all that time I dedicated to compulsive preparations because I can tell you this with utter confidence  —  I sent those little lambs out into their environment without a single item that might be useful in self-defense against wild animals.

Unless you count a sharpened #2?

I turn my jittery, flustered attention back to the email and find, not a step-by-step on defeating bears with writing implements, but this helpful tip:

“Please talk to your children about bear safety.”

Um, right-o.  I am sure that tying trash in trees and stomping out campfires works just fine when these not-so-gentle giants are encountered in their woodsy ‘hood, but what could bear safety in the suburbs possibly look like?

I can only assume that it’s a little bit Never accept candy from trench-coat-adorned bears.

And perhaps a smattering of Just Say No, er, to bears.

Once Upon a Time in an Enchanted Suburb

Once upon a time in an enchanted suburb there lived a family.

There was a king.  A queen.  A couple of princesses.  It was quite an ordinary family. They were content; not much happened in their little kingdom.

Then one day funny things did start to happen.

Funny, unexpected things that were not really the ha-ha kind of funny but more of the surreal funny of old-fashioned fairy tales.

The king, a rugged, tough guy sort of king, ignored a nagging pain in his side.  And wound up spending his magical summer in the hospital.

The brave queen soldiered on.

And then the princesses began acting funny.  They slept-walked into dangerous unknowns, narrowly escaping swirling attic fans and plunges.  They threw up.  They fainted.  Their fair coach failed to complete the trip home.

And yet despite grave doubts, the magical summer did end.  Happily-ever-after returned to enchanted suburbia.  And the brave queen soldiered on.

And then one day in the palace kitchen . . .

Princess number 2 skipped happily along, successfully navigating the stairs and turning the corner into the kitchen, for she wanted to know what was being prepared for dinner.  The Queen was there, chopping veggies; she was unaware of the terror lurking just feet from her precious princess.

The princess threw her hands up and started to scream.  And when I say she started to scream I mean SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM as in the horror industry was on the phone immediately trying to sign up such splendid vocal chords.

Her pointed finger shaking, she screamed on.  And when the queen followed the wiggling digit she saw, not 2 feet from the warm kitchen with the chopped vegetables and the screaming princess, a bear.


A BIG BEAR.

A BIG BLACK BEAR staring my shrieking princess in the eye.

A big black bear standing on the welcome mat inches outside our patio doors as if he had just taken the burgers from the grill and was merely waiting for the princess to lend him a hand in opening the door.

And then he loped away, pausing once for a slow backward glance.  He sauntered into our garden where he found our berries covered in snow, and with a cat-like grace leapt 6 feet to the top of the fence, strolled a bit up top, and disappeared into the afternoon sun.

And the brave queen?  She’s kind of at a loss here.

What I don’t know about chickens

Chicken:

Not a chicken:

Hang tight. We have just about reached the end of my knowledge about chickens.

They have beady little eyes.

The color of the eggs they lay is directly linked to the color of their earlobes.  Impressive sounding, right?  At least until you get to the obvious follow-up question.

So no, I do not know how one locates a chicken earlobe.

I also do not know how the eggs decide who will go on to become a big chick and who joins us for breakfast.

Nor do I understand what drove the children to spend copious amounts of time passing weeds into the coop.

Perhaps it had to do with the pathetic state of farm strawberries this year.  Hail damaged and dusty, we picked barely enough to squeak out 4 jars of jam  Hardly enough to get us through the summer, let alone the school year, but I am not concerned in the slightest.

Who needs cowboy-hick-farmland berries anyway?

Not us.

We are partial to their beautifully bountiful backyard suburban cousins.

Blame it on the Rain that keeps fallin’ fallin’

Ahhhh.  Hello my beautiful sunny iris.

If you squint just right it don’t you think it almost looks like that smoking hot orb that used to hang in the sky above this fair land?

Forgive me the sarcasm.

It’s not as if I’m one of those cheery sunshiny types.  I don’t need the sun to make me smile.  I like dreary rainy days that dispense permission to lounge in sweatpants with each thirst-quenching drop.

But enough is enough. I’m getting kind of cranky.

Maybe that has something to do with swim team practices in the cold rain and my inability to differentiate between a character-building, commitment-keeping lesson and being a mean parent.

But never mind a couple of wet, whiny kids, we’ve got strawberries bursting out of their patch–

My favorite flower flax is flexing its, um, floral-ness

And speaking of things that are taking delight in this everlasting deluge, there’s this, er, thing

This unidentified random weed that I neglected and it grew and grew and just when it started towering over me and hungrily licking its chops it burst into lovely light pink blossoms and now it’s not that scary anymore. In fact, I’m renaming it ‘flowering bush’ and inviting it to stay.

This is the garden.

Unfortunately, that big bare spot to the south represents the broccoli, pepper and eggplant sprouts that, like my shivering swimmers, proved not to be fans of icy rain.   But it’s okay, because I’m sure these guys will fit in just fine–

They look so hearty and tough.

And I’ll just bet they don’t complain to their mother even though she’s hardly the one who voluntarily begged to be signed up to swim.

Outside.

In Colorado.

In stupid old unpredictable May.

He’s Not Huntin’ Wabbits

What is our caped crusader up to this time?

I’ll give you a hint:  There are no wabbits on that rooftop.  But he is after something….

I know.  All super-hereos have their kryptonite, why should mine be any different?

He has a nemesis–

Do not be fooled by the banal laugh and bright feathers.  This evil bird haunts us;  every spring, sure as the unwanted snows cover the tulips,  woodpecker arrives on our roof in the pre-dawn hours to pound away like a jack-hammer on acid in hopes of attracting a mate.

He must go.  The squirrels and the robins are our friends.  But this early morning wake up call simply won’t do.

We’ve discussed my husband’s single minded dedication to triumph over the woodpecker here before.  He’s out to get that bird.  And I am totally on board.  If I were any more supportive I’d be a bra.

It’s just that there is already a pretty impressive arsenal awaiting our fine feathered friend.  Our roof currently sports a large mirror, a duct-taped reinforced line of nails, and now this —

Yup.  It’s patriotic. It’s plastic.  It spins in the wind.   And our house is officially that house.  Sorry, neighbors.  And here you were so supportive of the whole bug-selling venture.

Meanwhile, down here on the ground–

That snow was so 2 days ago.  This weekend Mother’s Day brought sunshine and daisy-chains.  Head over to Digging in the Dirt to see The World’s Longest Dandelion Chain and other garden updates.

Spoiler alert — you’ll find this Gardener’s Challenge.  Tell me, please, what on earth has gotten my rhubarb so excited?

The Birds, The Bees and The Booty Shake-Shake

I’ve got a bone to pick with a particularly heated humpback whale. Or maybe it’s that mudskipper’s fault. I don’t really know who’s to blame but my first grader has picked up an alarming new habit and she didn’t get it from me.

Maybe it’s the season.  Something in the air.

I know I just got through saying that this season was all about jumping rope, but perhaps I was hasty.  Even jumprope can’t trump that sense of er, love in the air.

Well, love.  Or mating.  Something like that.

I’ve got one kid happily engrossed in setting Abba tunes to spinning ropes–

And another who can’t stop talking about mating rituals…yours, mine, the cows, the birds…you name it, we’re discussing it.  And it’s all thanks to the incredible imagery in LIFE, the picturesque if slightly randy Discovery Channel documentary.

We were fascinated to learn the extent that some bird fellas will go to lure a pretty lady to his nest.   And thrilled, of course, that the kids finally have the down-low on the snuggling habits of cuttlefish.

But what my nine year old really needed to know was this:

So what did you do to attract your mate, Mom?

While I frantically tried to drum up an answer that didn’t include vodka shots or shimmying in dimly lit bars, her little sister stepped forward to field the question for me.

“I know how people attract a mate,” she boasted to her naive sibling. “Booty shaking.”

And her money-maker’s been in motion ever since.

Before you get suckered in by any cute thoughts about this dancing queen, I should confess:  This shake-shake routine goes out with a bang.  And by bang I mean a slap;  a playful slap executed upon her own unexpectedly and abruptly exposed shaking booty.

I am so proud, so proud you see.

Or mortified.  I get those two emotions mixed up.

Either way, thanks a bunch, natural world.  Sure, you’re educational, but I’m not really on board with the downward direction in which you’re dragging my little darling.

I Pledge, Well Kind of

You bet I accepted the Huffington Post’s Week of Eating In Challenge. I’m all in.  Shine that spotlight on homemade meals and watch me frugally budget.  Who knows? All that money I’m saving could add up to bags of gold that will allow me, some day, to bid adieu to my aging appliances and rip out the Formica that callously imprisons my kitchen in the late 1970s.

Pledge-smedge, bring it on.

We eat in all the time anyway and what a perfect excuse to try out new recipes and yippee for family cohesion and what? What’s that you say? It’s this week? Oh no that simply won’t do.  This is the week of my 40th birthday and I’ve got visitors in town and lunch dates and hey, BACK OFF!  I’m pretty sure that everyone out there in pledgeville would agree that no one should have to cook dinner on her 40th birthday.

How about this?  I’ll gladly pledge you Tuesday for a birthday dinner today?  Just this week, that’s all I’m asking and then I promise I will cook at home from here to eternity.

I can say this with conviction, because based on my incredible haul of birthday loot I know that there is an awful lot of cooking in my future.

It’s awesome, isn’t it? My gorgeous cherry red Kitchen-Aid surrounded by the best books in the biz. I can’t wait to start flinging flour.

Rest assured I am going to spend hours gleaming expert advice from these legendary cookbooks.  I will create masterpieces that will have eaters in tears.  Already I have visions of Crepes Suzette dancing in my delusional head.

But I have to tell you, despite thousands of pages of beautifully detailed recipes, the advice that captured my loins attention came not from a renowned book nor from a celebrity chef.

No, one voice stood out from the crowd.  His beautiful, naked request really spoke to me.  Grabbed me in that visceral sort of way. (Visceral sort of way = passionately around the waist as the sun set over the waving wheat and he easily hoisted me up onto the saddle and steadied me with one bronzed arm as he steered the steed towards the nearest haystack.)

Now that I am older and wiser I understand why, as some women age, they seek to make changes.  Some take up knitting.  Some go blond.

In honor of my 40th birthday I have officially changed my name.

Call me Biscuit.

Hungry? Pass Me My Soapbox

Back in the old days nobody was allergic to food, and I was the only kid in class who had to sit out PE because of a weird breathing problem.  Now we have peanut-free computer rooms and asthma is as prevalent in schools as number 2 pencils.  Kids sure have changed.

Well, something has changed, but maybe it’s not the kids.  Maybe it’s what we’re putting into kids today that is so remarkably different.

I thought I was aware.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job with this whole food thing.  But this weekend I saw the movie Food Inc, and once again my eyes have been forcibly opened.  If you think the truth was inconvenient, you’re not going to be happy when you take a look at what’s going on with food these days.  This is not about your sweet tooth.  This has nothing to do with cutting out the fat.  The very food we eat, the food we feed to our children, has become little more than chemically and politically engineered calories.

Our bodies are not happy about that change.  Our bodies are staging a revolt.  So should we.

I know. It’s not fun, and I’m sorry.  But we need to pay closer attention to the story of our food.  The story, in short, goes something like this–

In 1994 we started engineering neurotoxins into our food supply.  The rise and acceptance of genetically modified crops and uber-processed food-like items corresponds quite neatly with the bizarre health trends that we’re noticing in our children and their friends.

As of the year 2000, 1 in 3 of our children will develop asthma, ADHD, serious food allergies, or autism.  Our cancer rates are considerably higher than all other developed countries. A person’s risk increases by 4x just by moving to the United States.

That is crazy. And terrifying.  And totally unacceptable.

It’s one thing to go overboard every now and then.  We all do it, eat junk and then negotiate with ourselves for a longer jog, a salad for dinner.  And that balancing act used to be enough.  But these new-fangled calories are different. The damage they do cannot be worked out in the gym.  Our children are not lazy; their bodies simply have no idea what to do with the junk that we shovel into them in the name of convenience.

The more refined or processed a food item is, the further away from it’s natural state a snack gets, the less our bodies are able to deal with it without getting sick. Really, really sick.

We don’t even know what we’re eating anymore, but I know this: we need to go back to eating food.  Real food with real ingredients.

It may seem inconvenient; then again, so do seatbelts and helmets.

Rules to Eat By:

  • Eat real food; that is, food that our grandparents would instantly recognize.
  • Eat food as close to it’s natural state as possible.
  • Read labels. If you can’t pronounce it or define it, don’t eat it.
  • If you’re eating meat, know where it comes from.   Cows haven’t evolved to eat corn, organic or otherwise.  It makes them sick.  Healthy cows eat grass. Healthy people eat healthy cows.
  • An average fast food burger contains DNA from hundreds or even thousands of different animals.  Even if those animals aren’t sick, it is gross, and dangerous.

*****************************************

Wow, that’s sure a lot of proselytizing. So where have I gotten all my information?  Here–

Books I think are terrific:

Movies that tell the story (both are available from Netflix.)

  • King Corn – 2 guys plant 1 acre and follow it through the system and into our food;
  • Food Inc — great summary of the issues, including the politics of the food system;

Hay is for Horses, Not Bras

Some of you may have gotten wind of the fact that I’ve got a hankering to be rolling around on the farm with a rugged cowboy.  It’s a beautiful fantasy.  Freshly harvested vegetables pose in a photogenic basket. The scent of fresh hay crushed beneath my back. The vivid blue of the sky peaking through cracks in the old wooden ceiling of the barn.  Somewhere in the distance a rooster cackles.

Oh yeah. It’s hot.

Thing is, much as I may covet a good old fashioned roll in the hay, I never have, actually, rolled in the hay.  And given my current circumstances I probably never will (though if I can get my hands on a hat, Halloween is looking promising.)  While I am ensconced in my life here in the suburbs,  I’ll just bet that somewhere out there someone is rolling in actual hay with an actual cowboy.  So to that lucky lady I must ask:

Doesn’t the hay make your boobs itch?

You see, recently I had the good fortune of experiencing hay in my bra, not from a wild romping in the barn with this guy,

but from the stomping about at Monroe Farm during harvest day, picking basil and carrots and pumpkins and strawberries.   Here, the carrots pose artistically, fresh from the earth–

And the sweet children, with the largest pumpkins they could find upon hearing that said pumpkins would have to be hand carried twenty-seven miles, uphill, in the snow, to the car.

You’d never know it from the handful of fresh strawberries and my cowgirl-ish good looks and cheerful smile–

but trust me, already the hay had worked its way in. And I was one heck of an itchy cowgirl.

I never would have guessed it, but it turns out that hay in the bra can make one feel a tad cranky.  That being said rules are rules; they may seem unfair, they may be difficult to understand, it may even appear to some as though they were made up on the spot out of poking discomfort but I assure you that on the farm rules are made to be followed, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with itchy lady parts.

Take for example this gem that came screeching out of my mouth towards the end of a delightfully long day:

NO! I said no and if you pick up one more grasshopper I will take it and saute it and call it dinner. Do not touch your sister’s grasshopper!  NOT one more grasshopper AND I MEAN IT!

If you think I’m crazy, that’s ok.  City slickers don’t know what it’s really like down on the farm.  Besides, I was just looking out for this guy

Poor Jiminy, he’d already lost his jaunty top hat and cane and I could barely make out the words to his exuberant show tunes.

With the grasshoppers set free and the time for liberating hay from it’s hiding place drawing near, it is time once again for a gratuitous picture of a cow. Those of you who have been around a while know that prior to my infatuation with cowboys, I had a thing for cows.  I’ve even been know to throw in a gratuitous picture of a cow, or two here at the Greener Biener.  It’s been a while, so here you go, one gratuitous picture of a cow

What?  You’ve got a problem with my picture of Bessie?  Perhaps you think you could do better chasing down a wild cow for a photo session with hay in your bra?  (If so, send me your successful picture and I’ll post it on the site, no jealousy, no hard feelings. I promise.)

Happy Birthday, Baby

Oops, that’s not my birthday baby.  Here she is.

Lest there be any confusion, her name is Acadia, not Lorax.  But boy oh boy does she speak for the trees.  If by speaking for the trees you mean throwing down on the lawn and kicking and screaming in protest of a few defenseless branches.

Sweet Acadia.  She doesn’t always manage the birthday with a smile.

Even the Mardi Gras beads didn’t make up for her extreme displeasure over my choice of birthday restraint back in her earlier fling-self-from-rooftops days.

Last weekend we moved some things around in the yard, in preparation for the big backyard birthday blow-out.  We are also weighing options for a still-hypothetical garden relocation project.  Maybe, just maybe the soil on the sunnier side favors the production of girl flowers?

In the heat of the preparations a large plastic climbing object was moved across the yard.  A couple of overhanging branches were cut to make room for playtimes free of eye-pokes.  A couple of branches.  Cut a couple of inches.

The planet patrol lost all control.  Her face turned red with rage.  She stomped her feet.  She clenched her fists. She announced that she WOULD NOT STAND HERE ONE MORE MINUTE AND WATCH US KILL THE TREES.  Then my dear little Lorax flung herself on the ground and cried her heart out.

Eventually the heart-heaving sobs quieted, but she continued to mope around, forlorn, staring at the mistreated grass and communing with the flowers that somehow had the misfortune to fall under the evil reign of her own parents.

Sweet sensitive soul. In her haste to castigate us she overlooked the fact that she claims as parents two of the biggest tree hugging hippies one could find.  Never mind that we committed to diligently recycle and compost and carry reusable bags.  No sound arguments would make it through whilst the sap on her friends’ wounds still oozed fresh.

We appeased her by letting her plant flowers, however many and wherever she thought best. It turned out the flowers felt they should be randomly scattered strategically placed in beds all over the lawn.

And with that the Lorax was back in business. She grabbed hold of that big old shovel and set right to work restoring balance to the planet.

She set sister Kira to task too.

While the irises were busy contemplating the next stop in their total domination of the yard, I questioned Acadia about her birthday wish list.  Turns out that there are, in fact, a couple of things that might make her stony facade break into smile.  They are, not necessarily in this order:

  1. Clothes for her dolls.
  2. A horse.
  3. And a promise on behalf of her parents to leave her leafy large friends alone.