May 31, 2006

This is M!

I've kept busy lately doing all the usual things; the girls are both doing o.k., though Emily had a nagging virus for a while. The beans are up in the garden. Matt's counting the days until summer, and I'm counting the days until he's back from Nationals and summer REALLY begins.

But I haven't blogged, in large part because my nascent library addiction has had me in its thrall lately. At least I can tell you some of what I've been reading. Here goes:

Nonfiction:
Queen Bees and WannaBes, and the sequel, Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads. Good stuff, though I don't agree with all of her reasoning. I did enjoy the scripts she gives for how to handle obnoxious people, and her inclusion of the incredulous stare as a method of righting the clueless evildoer. It was somewhat enlightening to me as a teacher, just in terms of how evil kids can be to each other and their ways and means as they do it. And I must confess that it explained some things about middle and high school that I didn't really "get" when I was there.

A Death in Belmont (on the shelf, waiting.)

Fiction:
The Codex. Highly touted on the NCTE list, and it does look tasty so far. The writing reminds me of Crighton (that, by the way, is a kudo coming from me), but I'm only 9 chapters in.

Map of Bones. Again, this was recc'd on NCTE by a fellow English teacher, as something one might like if one enjoyed DaVinci Code. It has the same blackmailing plot structure (Matt came up with that phraseology when I told him for the fifth time or so how annoying I found the back-and-forth rhythm in Dan Brown's books--they're all like that!--because after a while, I just skipped ahead so I could resolve each mini-cliffhanger before moving on. While I understand the use of such a plot device, after a while it just feels like...blackmail. A true master--and there are many--resolves at least *some* of the tension before moving back to the ranch. Mr. Brown doesn't, and it gets to be frustrating.) Apart from that, it had too much gore and shoot-em-up violence for my taste. It read like an action movie, not my favorite genre. Your mileage may vary; the premise was cool.

The Templar Legacy. Much more my speed, and another in the same vein in terms of mystical roots in the Christian past, a la DVC. Not much gore, and nothing up close and personal. Suspense was maintained without resorting to cheap reader extortion.

Dark Tort. (on the shelf) The latest Diane Mott Davidson book. They're tasty, in more ways than one.

Who's Sorry Now? (on the shelf) The latest in the Grace and Favor mystery series, by Jill Churchill (who has at least one other very successful series that I know of. I like the "coziness" of these cozies--the focus is mostly on plot and characters to figure out the whodunits, without much gore. Perhaps I am squeamish, though *real* blood has never given me the willies. I guess I just don't like to read about mangulation--my imagination is too vivid.

In between I've been starting to plow my way through James Joyce. He's been on my "things I ought to read before I die" list for quite a while, and while I've seen a few of his short stories in my teaching, I've never really delved into the whole shebang. You can see why I need some cozies to lighten the mood.

There's also been a whole slew of books Laura's been "reading". She's been so into sign language that I added a few grown-up books for me to look through; I figure one way to keep a kid interested in learning is to find what they like, and throw as much stuff about it as you can at them, until they decide to move on. So she's been learning her alphabet in sign (kind of--it's hard for her to get her toddler hands into all the shapes, but she's working on it), and zipping through the various baby sign books, and trying to get Emily to do the signs, too, which cracks me up no end. And the big-person books have supplied me with some extra signs to throw at her when she least expects it! I have to say this process has both a) made me sincerely hope I can retain at least a few signs, in case I again have Deaf students, and b) makes me respect the interpreters I've known that much more. They do amazing work! Meanwhile, a small voice follows me around the house, fist in the air, saying, "M! This is M, Mommy! This is M!"

May 18, 2006

Bugs

The first and most important "bug" this week was the one Emily had.
She again came down with just a fever--no other symptoms. So, after 24
hours, I called the doc, and they of course wanted to bring her in to
check for an ear infection. Nada. Doc said to wait until Friday, and
if there was still just a fever, they would do the usual tests. I was
NOT looking forward to helping to hold her down again so they could get
blood. It's hard to get blood out of baby elbow (although the device
they use to collect baby urine--*that* one cracks me up every time!).

So, I'm happy to say that she's been much better today, and the fever
seems to have abated. Whew! I was hoping for either that, or for at
least a sniffle to start so we'd know it was a cold. First time I ever
remember wishing for a sniffle...

The second bugs are out in the yard. I know spiders aren't technically
bugs, but I have to share this creepiness. When we cleared the leaves
off the garden a few weeks ago, there were tons of spiders. Now, I
really mean TONS. If we crunched the leaves a little in one spot, you
could actually hear the "whoosh" made by thousands of little spider
feet, and watch--if you were quick--their little bodies scurrying out
of the way. (One reason I am not too grossed out is that they always
did scurry *away*, and not towards us.) They were probably either hobo
or wolf spiders, both ground dwellers who love hiding in leaves.
Anyway, although some of them likely rode off to the compost pile with
the leaves, I've noticed several of them are still hanging out in the
garden. This makes me happy, since they're not herbivores--they're
carnivores, and should eat lots of other bugs, leaving my garden to
grow in more peace.

I wonder if spiders ever try slug for lunch?

I noticed them in particular because...ta DA! I planted some hot
weather stuff today: beans, summer squashes, pumpkins, and some flowers
to keep them company. My battle with the bluebells ended
yesterday--I've topped or yanked or dug up all I'm going to this year.
This will leave me more time for the fun--the battle was satisfying in
that next year will be easier, but not how I like to really spend my
time in the yard.

The third and fourth bugs are companions (plus a fifth). Every year
around now, there is a huge influx of soldier beetles. Some of them
get in the house, and creep out innocent bystanders, but I've learned
that beyond being harmless (they're not roaches, and they don't bite),
they are beneficial. Our fair city is built, I swear, on an ant hill.
'Most everyone, no matter where in the city they live, gets ants now
and then. Soldier beetles LOVE ants, to the point where, whenever we
get ants in the house, within a day or so I see two or three beetles
have snuck in, and there are no more ants. Since ants "farm" aphids,
which are not very good for plants, I'm happy to see the beetles win.
Sometimes they startle me--their habitat is just outside my office, and
whenever the screen is open they can creep in--but it's worth it.

May 14, 2006

Mother's Day Pilgrimage

When Matt asked me what I wanted to "do" for Mother's Day (often code
in our house for what item we'd like to check off our "I want"
list...), I said I wanted to go on a pilgrimage and deliver flowers.
So we did!

I went out to the back yard this morning and gathered white lilac (it's
the neighbor's, but it hangs over nicely into our yard), lots of Dutch
iris, some lavender, and a few forget-me-nots. I packed them in
traveling gear (little baggies, each with a paper napkin and some
water, rubber-banded around the stems, whole caboodle stuck in a
recyclable vase-like object, and then set into a diaper-wipe box,
filled in with newspapers. It worked really well, actually, even
though they were in the trunk.), we gathered weapons and ammo for the
girls, and off we went.

Almost. Our first stop was *going* to be Mah's, but she arrived here,
flowers in hand for me, before we could get out the door. I laughed,
and we swapped flowers. (She had picked out two little roses; one just
a bud, one partly open, as symbolic of my two little girls. A nice
gesture, especially since we've both read _The DaVinci Code_. ;-) )

Next up was Grandma Pat's house; since she was the farthest away, she
was actually expecting us. We were able to get out and play in her
back yard for a little while (and Matt was drafted to cobweb her
vaulted ceiling; tall people are handy like that.)

The last two stops were vacant, alas, but we delivered our nosegays
anyway. And I did get to talk to Julie while we were en route for a
while, which, as I pointed out, was probably a higher quality of
conversation than we would have managed with the children running
hither and thither.

The girls slept in the car, Matt's planning take-out for dinner, and I
have only changed one diaper today (and it's looking good for the rest
of it...). What more could a mother ask for?

Oh, and yesterday Matt got some of the veggie garden actually turned.
I mixed up some fertilizer, had just enough compost to add, and I think
I might go out and rake it smooth here in a few minutes....I did
confess to one item on the "I want" list, that being some chicken wire
or hardware cloth to put over the bare dirt until the plant babies are
up and growing; we have quite a bunch of cat people in our
neighborhood, and they always heed the siren song of freshly dug dirt.
Ick.

May 6, 2006

Strapped: Read this Book!

Thanks, Matt, for taking Em for a while so I have time to review yet another gloomy book I've just read: Strapped : Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead. I was initially somewhat skeptical of the premise behind this one, which basically is that our middle class is going to shrink if we do nothing to help them, because the up-and-coming children of the middle class have it much harder than their parents did.

Perhaps because of my history background, I admit to thinking, "Well, shoot, every generation thinks they've got it tough. Why, in my day, you young whippersnapper...." etc. Apparently, I'm an OLD 35!

The author makes some fairly compelling statistical points, however, to show that it's not just whining: the reason so many of us are struggling is NOT because we are the loser generation of slackers, but because many of the supports that previous economies provided are gone (she has a great three-word answer to how hard the "Greatest Generation" worked and strived [strove?] to get everything they had without any help from anybody, and why can't we do the same? It is: "the G.I. Bill", which provided free housing, low-cost mortgage help, and free college. A short analysis of her book is that basically our generation has the OPPOSITE of all three of those things, plus usurious lending practices.)

So, a slightly more detailed analysis of her main points:

~College is the new high school, in that you need to have at least a Bachelor's degree to achieve a traditionally middle-class lifestyle. While high school is free, college is not, and more and more, different colleges' degrees provide you with a different future income potential; naturally, the more the degree costs, the better your future (in general, mind you).

~The government is paying way, way less of the costs of college than it used to, creating a double economic whammy on us. Not only do we need it more, but we have to pay more out of pocket to get it.

~Student loans do not necessarily reflect any kind of reality in terms of ability to repay. They also hit most college grads right in their child-bearing years, making it very difficult to support a family without both parents working.

~That means, in order to be middle class, most parents have to rely on childcare. The U.S. is literally alone in "1st World" countries in not providing for low-cost, high-quality child care. Adam Smith's invisible hand is never going to fix this, either, because the supply and demand system won't work with this particular industry.

~Here again, I was skeptical about it just being whining, in that we are making it on one income. But then I started tallying up what we have going for us that many in our generation/class don't (fortunately, there's a "socio" in "socio-economic status", or we wouldn't be middle class at all, at the moment!):

1. As teachers, we make so little that in some ways it would be a pointless choice for me to be working; by the time we paid more in taxes and paid for childcare, my earnings would be negligible. It's just a good thing I'm happy being a SAHM!

2. We didn't have to save for a down payment for our house; Matt had a very small legacy, whose timing coincided happily with our need. Most people aren't that "lucky" [in quotes because the trade off was that Matt never knew his Dad]. Saving is very difficult for our generation not because we are partying on pizza every night, or horrible spendthrifts, but because the real value of the basics--food, housing, clothes, childcare--have all gone up. Waaaaay up, in the case of housing!

3. We were smart enough to ignore the amount our mortgage lender told us we could qualify for, knowing we'd want to be able to pay our mortgage on one income, and hence, bought much less house than we could have. I'm not gloating; I think it's sad that lenders don't take into account the future status of their lenders. And we wonder why there's a high default rate....

4. We were fortunate to be in a place where we were ready to enter the home market while rates were low and before prices skyrocketed. People in their late twenties now are really hurting; rates are still low, but they have ever-higher school loans coupled with high first-time home prices that we, on the older end of the demographic, didn't face.

5. About those loans...again, Matt's loans for undergraduate were very small, thanks to family contributions, and mine were non-existent, thanks to scholarships, so I had only graduate school loans. But even for us, those two are a pretty big percentage of our take-home income.

~Apart from wanting to make us feel better, the author asks our generation to get involved in solutions. There's currently a vicious circle, in that many of us "check out" because we feel that there aren't enough of us to make politicians listen, so what's the point in trying? And since we don't try, they don't listen. Her point is that while it's true that we would need to have a higher percentage of the available people in our age group vote than in others, we do have the raw numbers to make a difference...if only we will. Another part of her analysis is that most of us came of age in a time of strong conservative politics, with a focus on individual responsibility, and as a result, most of us think any shortcomings are our own rather than structural. Oh, the irony! So her solutions are:

~Read a paper, and get involved. In something. ANYTHING, beyond what looks good on your resume.

~Lobby to divert a relatively small part of the federal budget toward helping keep a middle class in existence: let the government again cover more of the cost of college, subsidize home buying, and use sliding scales based on need.

~Re-regulate the consumer loan industry. You can even get the Christian Coalition in on this; usury is a Biblical crime, but that's pretty much what we have going on now with credit cards. For an example, she mentions several times how ludicrous it is that lenders can change interest rates any time they want, and make them retro-active. So you're paying along, and suddenly all the things you purchased cost you more. She also points out that the lenders' stated reason for, say, raising your rates when you make a late payment TO SOMEONE ELSE make no sense; raising those rates just makes you more likely to not be able to pay.

~A final plea is to get other generations involved. This is not just about making our lives cushy; if we continue to make college off-limits to more and more people who happen to be born poor but have good brains, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to have those minds at work, and contributing to the economy in meaningful and hefty ways, if we're going to keep competing in the world and simultaneously maintain the standards of living our elders have gotten used to.

This is a good book. The library has it. Check it out and make yourself read it. It's not difficult, and it IS very clear. Coupled with the other book I just reviewed, it could even be a manifesto.

American Dynasty: Please don't go there, America!

I'm finally ready to give you a review on American dynasty : aristocracy, fortune, and the politics of deceit in the house of Bush, by Kevin Phillips.

First, as I probably mentioned before, Phillips is no lover of liberals. He was a staffer in the Nixon administration, voted twice for Reagan, and is generally a traditional conservative. To me, this gives his critique added weight; he joins such conservative stalwarts as George F. Will in being absolutely horrified with what George W. Bush has done to the Republican party. While I don't think my political leanings are a big secret (o.k., you got me: I'm an old-school Progressive!), I have been known to vote for Republicans when I have a good reason.

This particular book does what good history should do: it analyzes the hows and whys of where we are. He especially focuses on the history of the whole Bush family, pointing out that any in-depth study of their previous dealings would have revealed a common pattern; in other words, if the party had done their homework, they would not now be so embarrassed (quietly embarrassed, I'll grant you. One thing the Rep.s do seem to have going for them is a "stand-by-your-man" mentality. While there's always an interesting tug-of-war between such loyalty and plain hypocrisy, the Dem.s certainly have a thing or two to learn about such solid solidarity. The fact that more and more conservative commentators are abandoning him is, I think, a symptom of a much wider dissatisfaction.)

Anyway. I can't do justice to the whole book in a short review, so I'll just tell you some of the things that struck me:

~Oil is key. No matter how much dissembling goes on, every meddle we make in the Middle East is basically about keeping the oil spigot flowing, and preferably, keeping our hand on the controls. Phillips traces the history of the Bushes in the oil business the whole way back to World War I, which is when the petro-economy first really got going; the newly mechanized war machinery made oil important, and the Second World War and subsequent Cold War just entrenched this. As over the course of those years America needed more oil and depleted its own reserves, a presence in the next big area of exploration became paramount. While I deplore our dependence, he makes a valid point that it really has been a matter of national security to protect the flow: until we change our habits, our economy and our military need it. What he faults the Bushes for is in not admitting this publicly; it is part and parcel of their pattern of deception.

~The entire family (and its network of friends and associates) has kept a nineteenth century adherence to crony capitalism. The problem is, most latter-day politicians (and, um, the LAWS), have moved past this. It's no longer acceptable to pass legislation that directly affects your own business. Yes, I know about lobbyists, etc., but this family goes way beyond pandering for campaign dollars; they're pandering for their OWN, PERSONAL dollars, and for those of their friends. The most disturbing part of this is that in spite of widespread coverage in the media, it seems the electorate just refuses to believe it. (Just as with the Medicare prescription mess; in spite of having accurate numbers which have, in fact, been recently, sadly, verified in action, a majority of the public just didn't believe that they could be right. Is that baa-ing I hear? I thought so....) Basically, unless you are both in the top 1% of income possessors (note I do not say *earners* in the country), AND you don't hold a lot of investments in the U.S. Treasury, voting for anyone in this particular crowd is NOT in your best economic interest.

~This capitalism has especially centered around the arms industry, in addition to oil. Here was some fascinating history, on how much American arms dealers probably contributed to both world wars (one reason Eisenhower made his famous warning about the rising military-industrial complex was because he was involved with the commission in the 1930's that examined arms dealer's roles in fomenting World War I.) One subject that I want to read up on more was about how many familiar names--GE and DuPont are two that stuck with me--had not just cozy relations, but many subsidiaries in Hitler's Germany before the war began. Just an eerie, eerie precursor to G.H.W. Bush's problems in Iraq, when he had to fight against the weapons we had (until recently) been sending there. The Bush family were directors and/or owners and/or officers for many of the companies involved.

~The Bushes have long had a close relationship with the CIA. And so does Yale, especially Skull and Bones. Phillips traces the membership that flowed from one to the other over and over since the beginning of the century, as well as the welcoming arms of companies that also maintained relations with both; the covert world basically became part of the network of cronies, with many future businessmen serving a sort of missionary term as spies before becoming titans of industry and/or politicians. It is no wonder that lying is a way of life passed from generation to generation in this family. To be honest, this puts all the flaps over Homeland Security in a whole new light for me. And I'll bet you anything that Porter Goss's career is pretty much over, at least in the Republican community; another point Phillips makes is that this family also has a history of playing both dirty and for keeps.

~One key aspect of the deceit lies in lying about their backgrounds. Prescott Bush, W.'s grandfather, pretended *his* dad couldn't afford to send him to law school. G.H.W. Bush emphasizes his time in Texas, rather than the family's lush compound in Connecticut. But W. surpasses them all; in spite of having ALL of his business dealing financed by his father's monied friends, he exudes the aura of a Texas self-made man. Phillips also points out that in spite of all the help, W. was not much of a business man (he quotes someone else--can't remember who, now, sorry) who said, "Anytime George found an empty oil well, he had lots of people willing to throw money down it." This is no up-from-the-bootstraps story; this is a story of an old-fashioned vieux riche family who uses its networks--covert and overt--for all they're worth. But that's not what the average-Joe American sees. Without condoning Michael Moore, Phillips actually points out that one reason bin Laden may have targeted the World Trade Center is that one of the companies who manages it is largely owned by Bush friends, the Saudi bin Laden family. These are exactly the people that Osama is mad at, since he figures they've sold out to the U.S. The fact that the Bushes are also connected to the company--and associates of the same Saudis--does not, in my view, make them culpable in 9/11 (although I can see a certain lovely conspiracy theory there--I'd need more evidence to buy it, personally), but it DOES make many actions of both 41 and 43 seem pretty...well...dishonest. The much ballyhood blacking out of the pages in the 9/11 report that dealt with Saudi Arabia: was that truly about national security, or was it about protecting the buddies of the Bush family? Judging by the current and past behavior of the Bush family as Phillips documents it, there's no question that it's the latter.

~Phillips' analysis of the reasons behind both Gulf Wars were pretty interesting. In part, he points out that the control of Iraq was not just to ensure oil supplies for America, but also to make sure that the U.S. maintains a strong presence in the region. The U.S. is rapidly becoming NOT the largest consumer of oil; that honor is shifting to China and India, so to keep in the game, U.S. oil companies need to keep control of the supply. Do not expect a U.S. withdrawal anytime soon, in other words, as long as oil-company execs are in power. (He reiterates here the gullibility of the American public: in spite of evidence to the contrary, the fact that in speeches Bush just kept saying "9/11", "bin Laden", and "Saddam Hussein" persuaded people that Iraq was in on the terror attacks. Even many in the military, the last bastion of stand-by-your-manninshness, were o.k. with Afghanistan but could not see the point in invading Iraq, at least not because of 9/11 (and especially when bin Laden was not yet captured). Further muddying the waters, of course, is that there are lots of terrorists in Iraq NOW, in large part as a response to the continuing American presence there. What a mess--and the more complicated it gets, the less likely it is that your average Joe will understand how much he's been misled, of course.)

~Phillips is angry because the Bushes got to power using the conservative Republican machine, and have perverted traditional conservatism. Budget deficits are seen as o.k. under the Bushes, because they only hurt the masses; as long as oil and arms companies can continue to get government funds, who cares about the future cost? (As Al Franken says, if you're poor and Republican, you really need to know that W. not only isn't listening, but he doesn't care. The "compassion" in "Compassionate Conservatism" is that he doesn't quash your hopes by letting on that he doesn't care.) Bush isn't stupid, and he's not interested in trickle-down theory (remember, his dad called that "voodoo economics" in the 1980 primary?). He's just interested in making sure that his buddies, his family, and after he's out of office (or maybe now, for Dick) stay rich. It's just too bad for the rest of us that we weren't born into the right family.

~This is exactly the sort of aristocracy that Phillips is talking about in the title. This is not a good thing. Phillips' fear is that in history, conservative monarchs who have been temporarily deposed, then restored (he uses France and England as prime--and close--examples), have inevitably been overthrown in bloody and deleterious revolutions that left their countries in shambles for years to come. His hope, such as it is, is that traditional Republicans can gain control of the party before any more Bushies can come to power (he would not be a big fan of Condoleeza Rice, by the way, who used to be a Chevron exec....). Making this hope somewhat shaky is the way that W. has co-opted religious fervor to stir up "the base". Many wonderful fiscal conservatives are now not as palatable to the "base" in the South because they are not as down-the-line socially conservative as fundamentalist Christians want (Phillips does draw a neat distinction between evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, by the way). It's a fine fuddle the Rep.s have gotten themselves into.

There are lots more issues and side issues, but those are the things that stuck with me. It's pithy reading, but he tries to be fair (and, as I mentioned, he's no big fan of liberals and does point out some things Clinton did stupid). I recommend it for Republicans; Democrats already don't like Bush. This book explains, with solid research, lots of examples, and clear reasoning, why good Republicans should be appalled with him as well.

May 5, 2006

A Golden Day

I have to make a note of this, since I realize it hasn't happened much lately.

Laura was angelic (mostly) today. We got to go outside and play with "rockies" and "Mah" this morning; Laura did all her screaming outside, kept her feet off Emily's blanket, stayed out of the flower beds, and shared crackers with me. Emily played happily in her portable crib for quite a while, then wanted a little company but was still happy. I got half of the bed along our north fence free of bluebells and (other) weeds, plus did some weeding elsewhere. Going back inside did not involve screams, chasing, or struggling.

Can it be that Laura got the memo about her half-birthday, figures she's been "two" for a year now, and is moving on? I'll try not to get my hopes up too far...

~~~~
Being at the stage of life we are, we really enjoy the comic "Baby Blues." I especially identified with the one two weeks ago today; to see it, go to: BabyBlues.com, then select the "Friday, April 21, 2006" date in the pull-down menu and hit "Get Comic." That is soooo my life, and I do love it...and I have fifteen and a half years!
~~~~

This is not meant to be bragging, since I think so far all we've done is provide genes and a reasonably supportive environment. Laura, however, consistently makes me chuckle whenever I get those updates on the "average" kid her age (and, as a disclaimer, she crawled late, walked late, and still is not interested in bathroom mechanics....so this is more along the lines of how much fun it is to watch, as opposed to my kid being better than someone else's; a fruitless comparison in the first place!). So the one I got yesterday said,

Your child is becoming increasingly good at matching words with the objects they describe. She can name a few body parts, some colors, and even a friend or two. You can help her improve her verbal skills by giving her details. If she says "Dog sleep," for example, you might say, "Yes, Spot is curled up and fast asleep on the chair." She can't imitate your complex language patterns just yet, but she's learning more all the time.

The heck she can't imitate our "complex language patterns," and frankly, we're trying NOT to give her details about some things at this point since she picks things up so quickly. Wednesday she looked at her Daddy towards the end of dinner and said (verbatim) : "Would you please get up off of your chair and help me down now?" I know adults who don't string that many words together (we especially like the "would you please" part; that's a *very* nice change!). She's also been making the connections between baby signs (we have four board books--complete with pictures of babies performing the signs--of them checked out from the library, and she carries them from room to room, drilling herself and then pestering me to read them. Again. And again.) and the corresponding English and, occasionally, Spanish words.

All this verbal skill also makes it easier for her to play tyrant (we call her "little Napoleon" sometimes), which we allow when it suits us. For instance, everyday at nap time, we get everybody changed, then the three of us sit on her bed to read a book (or two if Mommy can be snookered into it and Emily isn't feeling too tired). We finish reading, do hugs and blow kisses, and then Laura points at Emily and me and says, "Now you go upstairs." This is much better than crying passionately about being left alone, so, whatever works!

May 3, 2006

Garden Gloating

Yesterday, we had fresh salad from the garden. We probably could have
had some sooner, but the planets didn't align for me to go and pick it
and wash it, and for there to still be time to eat it. Though I've had
lots of help, there's something very satisfying about the first fresh
produce of the season!

Today, I planted the other half of the "castle" bed, so there'll be
lots more salads to come.

Update on the bluebell battle: they've started going to seed, so I've
started decapitating them instead of digging them up (it's quicker).
I'll just have to finish the initial assault later, or next year. I
did finish clearing out my herb bed, the front beds, and the whole area
where I put all my free perennials; at least I have that much
satisfaction. I try to keep reminding myself that surely by this time
next year, I will not be feeding Emily (or certainly, not much!) and
will be able to take the good drugs that'll let me stay out longer than
an hour a day in the pollen. *That* is on the list of things that
drive me insane, though I'm definitely grateful for any time I do get
(and I'm happy to be the one feeding her, too.). Patience has never
been on my list of virtues, sadly.