Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I planted some Jacob Cline Monarda in my garden in 2005. Monarda is one of my favorites. It's not too showy, but pretty nonetheless, and has an slightly spicy scent. Maybe it's stupid, but back then, our first summer here, I was looking for plants that liked to spread out, or even invade a little bit, and the monarda was supposed to do that.

It didn't. For the last 4 summers, it has sent up, grudgingly, no more than 3 flowers. It has not gotten much bigger.

My Jacob Cline Monarda, which as been eaten a bit by damn bugs.

But last year, I noticed there was a smaller, second monarda growing next to my original. For whatever reason, I dug it up, and moved it a bit back further in the garden, along the path into our garage. I was excited earlier this season when I saw that it — that secondary plant — had gone nutso and presented a huge cluster of plants.

Its abundant procreation was great, but, there were some oddities. For starters, the flowers on this clump of plants were all white, and not nearly as large as the parent plant.
Jacob Cline Monarda is a hybrid, and some hybrids have a tendency to revert back to one parent or another. So, I'm assuming — though I could be wrong, since I didn't spend much time in my yard last year — that the little offspring I dug up and moved must have not inherited the big, red flower trait. Maybe the bees had something to do with it, or maybe my original plant sent out a different kid?

My new, hearty white monarda, with some purple coneflowers tossed in.

And, ultimately, this new clump of monarda couldn't have been moved to a less convenient spot. Monarda's common name — Bee Balm — gives a hint. It attracts bees. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a live-and-live, calm, rational sort of girl. Bees don't bother me. I mean, I feel better when they're not so close, and I certainly respect their abilities. But I don't scream or flail or in any other way live in fear of bees. Also, I'm sympathetic: honeybees have been dying off for the last few years, and that's bad for humans, since bees pollinate our crops. We need them. I figure, it's not gonna kill me to have some plants in my garden that honeybees — and even their healthier bee cousins — enjoy, and plants tended without any chemicals, at that, which, I hope, gives them some healthy food.

We have a little infant chair for Matthew we use in our yard, which we keep in the garage. I've been hauling him out on my hip, and working my way into the garage to grab the colorful bouncy chair several times a week, so we can enjoy the yard. Navigating through the buzzing bees did give me pause, on several occasions, since the monarda was beginning to intrude into the pathway; the long stems leaning a bit right into my pathway, forcing me to figure out how to gingerly move through the bees. This went on for awhile, and maybe I started to get cocky, passing through that field of buzzing energy. I couldn't imagine how some people could live in fear of bees, considering any one person maybe gets stung only once or twice in a lifetime, and how, for most people, it's just no big deal.* So, I continued to push through the bees to get Matthew's car, hoping my bravery/insanity/cavalier attitude teaches him respect, but not fear, of bees.

Alas, my number was called last week. A bee must have gotten caught up in my shirt, but thankfully escaped prior to stinging me on my abdomen or back, but got my left forearm, on the tender underside, before flying off. It fucking hurt! But mostly, I was offended: I had TRUSTED the bees. Man, I was stupid!

I had only been stung once in my life prior to this summer, probably when I was about 10, so I waited to see if I went into anaphylactic shock. I didn't. Also, there was no stinger left in the welt, so I'm assuming the bee has lived to see another day. Which is fine. I hate the idea of bees dying after they sting, since it must be an act of such terrible desperation for them. Mostly, though, I'm glad it didn't get Matthew. To help teach him about the respect aspect of our relationship with bees, I cut the flowers off of all the monarda directly next to the path to the garage, and, to be safe, I'm gonna move the whole cluster out to the front of the house, perhaps near the corner where my new, bold neighbor likes to sell drugs.


* Bee stings are big a big deal for some people. I know.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Naughty Mommy Chronicles — Part One

We occasionally do things we never think we'll do, depending on circumstances. A couple of years ago, I never thought there'd be a kid in my life, and here I am – with some painful and also beautiful twists and turns — with a kid in my life; so that's a big shift in philosophy for me, itself. Once we committed to parenthood, we certainly discussed ideas, goals, priorities, hopes, and dreams, but never made a list of all the specific items we'd deny my child, or what we, as parents would never do. It never occurred to me, prior to this very active stage of development for Matthew, for instance, that I'd let him eat White Castle cheeseburgers, or play with glass bottles. I'm not confessing to those crimes, necessarily, I'm just saying
I never gave it any thought before circumstances were afoot. I'm just asking that you don't get all high and mighty on me, or worse, call DYFS, because you've probably peed in the shower, or stolen office supplies, or failed to disclose an STD, or kept a book you borrowed from a friend, or seen Kenny Loggins in concert, or SOMETHING you hadn't planned to do until the circumstances were right there.

I was running a fever, and had a throbbing headache, and my hair hurt. But, I decided to do the dishes, even though I would have preferred to go back to bed. Matthew, now almost 11 months, is The Decider of Who Sleeps And Who Does Not And When, and since he was, at that time, fully awake, and chasing the animals in his walker, my not-quite-25 pound master would not permit a nap.

I lamented the pressure in my head, and trudged through the dishes. As I neared completion, I noticed Matthew had almost figured how to escape his walker. This pre-walking stage is terrifying, because it seems like everything is interesting to my kid, and we will never be child-proof enough. And my sinus headache day was a particularly curious day for my boy; he had pushed himself most of the way up and out of his walker, by climbing on the support bar. Matthew likes to climb, and he's fast as hell, too. We are ambivalent about his climbing aptitude, but at the same time, are amazed at his adroitness, and are delighted that he's so alive and healthy. However, he can never, not for a second, be left alone, or he will figure how to climb as high as he can, with what he has in front of him for tools. Sigh. So, Matthew was leaning over the little food tray in his walker, and most of his upper body was in the gigantic bag of Steve's dog biscuits, next to the refrigerator.

I didn't bother drying my hands. I simply separated the boy from the bones. But as I reseated the child, within Matthew's hand was a red dog bone, and he showed it to me with his heart-melting, beaming happy face. He held it up so I could see his handiwork, and said, "ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya!!"

I smiled and congratulated him on his skills, and proceeded to remove the small red bone from his clutch. Whoever implied that it was easy to take candy from a baby was a dope. Taking a dog treat from a baby was no small task, either.

So, like that, Matthew went from sweet, adorable baby to a tyrannical monster. He protested in his strongest terms. I'm not such a pushover that I'd be bothered by my baby's wail over a dog biscuit he should not have, but I'm also not so uptight to be horrified by a baby holding a dog biscuit, either. There are bigger concerns these days. Maybe you're horrified by the baby-with-dog-bone-scene, and that's fine, but that day, as Matthew fought me for control over the natural bacon flavored (but artificially colored) dog biscuit, it felt like a knife entered my eye socket, due to that fever I mentioned earlier. At least it wasn't one of the brown, liver flavored bones.

So, I let him hold on to the dog biscuit. Often Matthew just likes to visually assess what he has in his hands, and I hoped that would be the case.

We walked out back with Steve, and i sat down in my patio chair with Matthew on my lap, while Steve defended the perimeter of our yard from the stray cats, and William, the same neighbor he sees about 18 times a day. The barking rattled my brain, inside my stuffy skull case, and I said, defeatedly, "Steve. Shut up. For the love of God."

Sensing my weakened state, Steve, ever the opportunist, did not immediately shut up. And, alas, after a few minutes, Matthew's assessment of the bone moved on to his mouth.

I pulled the bone away from Matthew's mouth, and again, he voiced his disapproval with all his might. We were outside, mind you, and I am sensitive to the amount of racket my kid makes because a) I don't like to hear other kids bitching and moaning, and b) I don't want people to think I'm abusing my kid.

Matthew shares an unfortunate trait with his father I call, depending on my ability at that particular moment to find sympathy, either "Canadian Rage," or "World of Pain." The fact my kid inherited this does not please me one bit. He has my eyes, fingers, earlobes, and toes, and Glen's mood swings. Seeing this characteristic in his son does not make Glen happy either; no one likes seeing their worst traits in their offspring, right? So, as Matthew freaked the hell out over my attempt to take his bacon flavored Milk Bone, the knife in my eye socket turned. I wasn't up for the fight: the bone WAS edible (and promotes healthy teeth), after all. So, terrible mother that I am, I allowed my boy to gnaw on it.

After a minute, Matthew pulled it away from his 4-toothed piehole, and allowed his bone hand to dangle at his side, where my sometimes-lieutenant, Steve, stepped in and snatched the bone from the baby, and with economy of thought and action, swiftly buried it among my purple coneflowers, which are just spectacular this year, by the way.

Matthew thought the exchange with Steve, and subsequent ritualistic burial, was a total hoot. It's a little known fact that Steve, despite his outgoing nature and seemingly endless optimism, has a dark side. My exuberant, young canine friend likes to prepare for the worst, and as a result, we often find kibble and bones and items the baby has launched off his tray (carrots, and bits of waffles and bread primarily), carefully tucked into the cushions of the chairs and sofas. I now know to look for this, so I can convince Steve, as he's trotting toward the living room with a bit of bagel in his mouth, to live in the moment, and to enjoy the spoils of Baby Cast Off. Periodically, I fail, and discover Steve crunching on a 3-day-old bit o' waffle, or find a bit of crust poking me in the back, when I plop down on the couch. The plus side here is that Steve will not save any meat (save for kibble or dog bones) in his couch-pantry, but the situation is still wrong, at least from where I sit now. I may have a different take on things in another couple of weeks.

Perhaps if the economy tanks and food is rationed, I'll wish we had some shriveled carrots and waffles and Dog Chow to help us through our rainy days. I don't want to seem unappreciative of Steve's Disaster Preparedness, but I check the couch cushions daily now for these treasures because it's a matter of time before Matty finds some day-old kibble and bits and gets pissy with me for taking it away from him.

The sinus infection is gone now, at least, so I'm in good shape to battle a demanding baby, if necessary. And the bag of dog bones, for the record, is now out of reach of my boy.