Friday, September 25, 2009

the taming of the swamp, part one

welcome to the jungle: our new front yard

so...this is it. the swamp. the swamp that is our front yard. i have never seen anything like this...but i haven't really been looking, either. the one and only time i saw the property it was march and all i could tell was that it was beautifully situated with lots of trees and a ravine running through the front yard. i hadn't counted on the vast number of undesirable herbaceous perennials that would crop up in the summer. it was a bit of a shock. if it weren't for invasive species, we wouldn't have a "yard" at all.

when we got here in august, i was overwhelmed to say the least. after a few days of opening boxes i realized that i had all winter to get the house in order but only a handful of weeks to work outside before it got too cold and the ground froze. so i dove in headfirst and started dismantling the yard/swamp...and this is the pictorial record of my foolish endeavour...actually, it isn't so much foolish as frickin' exhausting and thankless. i guess rich may be thankful that i'm not asking him to help. he's lucky i'm not planting turfgrass. anyway, pictures!

i have to admit it isn't all useless greenery--there are some hidden jewels that have sprouted on their own, like this extraordinary shagbark hickory, which i absolutely adore

but for the most part we have/had crap like this: Smilax tamnoides, most graciously known as bristly greenbrier and less graciously known as the blaspheme vine, hellfetter, and hagbrier...

...and you can see why--those suckers are inflexible and will totally stab you; on the upside, they aren't poisonous

dramatic tree in the "backyard"...

...but unfortunately, this isn't an optical illusion. this 40-foot ash is leaning about 20 or 25 degrees off of perpendicular and will fall (hopefully) right between our house and our garage. i'm guessing, with our luck in iowa, it'll miss the house but land on one of us.

another main component of the "yards": stinging nettle, just about to bloom (but still fully able to sting)

leaves of a baby red osier dogwood, fleabane, and poison ivy. got lots of all three. been trimming the dogwood in great hopes it will do something lovely. and, also in the on-the-upside category, i don't seem to be allergic to poison ivy...which is convenient because rich can't get near it without breaking out in a he says.

we have a bajillion daddy long legs

and several walnuts with a blight (they're on the chopping block this weekend)

klingons/cling-ons, hitchhikers, cockleburs...whatever these are called they are destroying our clothes. they come out easily when the ground is wet, though.

more stinging nettle, inflorescence.

this is a street view of the front yard. frightening.

however, occasionally the weeds would do something desirable like produce a red berry (in the case of this honeysuckle)...

...or produce a little cornflower blue flower like whatever this was (bird's foot violet?)...

...but then the rains came, and we realized we had only just begun to have troubles with the landscape. we didn't have a yard, we had a swamp. and a swamp it remained for several weeks.

look for part two soon!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

life in the fall, in iowa city...

...revolves around the hawkeyes. through the generosity of our lovely neighbors, marge and dick, rich and i went to the football game on saturday--again i seemed to be the only person there without an iowa shirt on (i need to make a goodwill run). the variety of iowa shirts at the game was astounding--hundreds of variations on the same theme all differing combinations of black and gold. some just say "iowa," some "university of iowa" or "iowa hawkeyes," which also gets shortened to "iowa hawks;" every now and then a shirt would just say "kinnick" and i guess if you didn't get it you probably shouldn't ask (it's the name of the stadium). "i bleed black and gold" and the nike "just do it" with a hawkeye symbol are also representin'. there were a couple of girls in "will cheer for beer" shirts...which was fine, but not great. one very drunk girl (by noon) was walking around the stadium working her "IOWA: i only want alcohol" shirt way too hard and certainly making her momma proud. sadly, it probably wouldn't have bothered me on a guy. isn't there a more creative solution to that acronym? "i only want aces" or "i only want adderall" or "i only want [to make an] A"...something like that? "i only want ass" is probably a parallel to the alcohol one, and the gender isn't specified in that way so it might make for some awkward moments between friends. anyway, my point is i probably need to get a shirt. and the hawkeyes won.

gus and his friend, jack, sold cokes and water outside the stadium and made an absolute mint. this is the second time they have done it and both of them netted $100 each. i think gus is saving up for a new ipod. is it normal for a 9 year-old to have that much money? i'm not so sure. homecoming is the next game and i'm guessing they will be slammed. i do hope the weather holds for them.

pictures of something good next time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

doctor daddy and danger girl

the results from being danger girl...and rich is so not allowed to be with the children unsupervised for a while

i think rich knew he was in trouble. i got a call on my cell phone from rich that was way too calm and way too spartan to be good--it was simply, "sophie fell on the playground. she's bleeding. you have to come pick her up now." i got a similar call about gus four years ago after he crashed going way too fast down a hill on his bike without a shirt on and ripped about a quarter of the skin off his back. he had to take codeine just so he could sleep for about a week or two.

back to today: as i was driving downtown to get them, thinking maybe it wouldn't be that bad...i saw ambulance lights. two sets of them. at first i tried to pretend it must be for someone else, but then reality kicked in and i almost pushed a car parked at a red light in front of me out of the way (with my prius--clearly i was deluded) because i knew they were for sophie. i ran across the ped mall to find a very bloody, very much in shock sophie with 6 EMTs around her. she was running after a friend, tripped, and fell head first into a concrete planter. it was an ugly head wound and it bled copiously. rich, being rich, tried to dissuade the other completely freaked-out parents from calling 911; he felt he assessed the situation, put pressure on the wound, saw sophie was able to walk and wasn't unconscious, so he was going to just get her to the hospital and sew her up...if only all these people would stop bothering him...but 911 came anyway (thankfully).

i picked up sophie, took her to the hospital, and sweet dr. gina let us in to the ophthalmology department. she is a wonderful doctor--very kind, very compassionate, and very good with bleeding patients and semi-panicking mothers. rich and gus met us there and rich took care of the suturing. sophie was a less-than cooperative patient and i am so glad that rich was her doctor or else i am certain she would have been sedated--she was almost uncontrollable. four stitches later, and probably some psychological scars from both of her parents holding her down while one sewed her up, she has a lovely repair. sweet danger girl.

sophie bunny puts on a brave, pretty face

this is not something you ever want to see your husband doing to your child

waiting for the local to do its magic; gus had to leave the room right after this because he almost fainted (dr. gina helped him get a glass of water and find a chair)

big boy returns after it is all over (he's also known as safety gus--the polar opposite of danger girl) and is a little paler then when he left

the prettiest four stitches ever seen

doctor daddy and danger girl

Thursday, September 10, 2009

just one dead thing in the trash this week

another chipmunk. paco did it. but this time i left it for rich; i still ultimately had to be the one to pick it up and throw it away in the trash. is it somewhat abnormal for sophie to be poking it with a stick and giggling uncontrollably--should i worry about this? hmmm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

oh my, iowa iowa iowa...

at the city park pool, before the big meltdown

iowa, my dear, you must learn to loosen up. you simply must. i am trying to be a good resident; i am trying to follow the rules. but some of your rules are, frankly, inane. counterintuitive. stupid. for example, today you had a glorious fundraiser for the open-space dog park: bring your doggie to city park pool and let them swim their little canine hearts out for a few hours. great idea. fabulous idea. love the idea. the part that's not to love: not allowing any children under 12 to attend said event. terrible idea. horrible idea. counterproductive idea.

why? because who do you think has a significant number of dogs in iowa city? families. families with young children, at that. and your volunteers should really tell families with children under 12 BEFORE they pay the fee for said event that the kids are not allowed to get in or even around the pool. we weren't told until we filled out a ridiculous amount of paperwork, paid the required donation fee and entered the pool area; sophie was devastated when she found out she couldn't go swimming (try explaining to a 3 year-old who is dressed in their best bathing suit that they aren't allowed to get in a pool that everyone else and their dog is in). then a withered woman who had worried herself to a mere twig of 90 pounds gleefully explained that the children couldn't even be in the pool area, but instead were required to watch me and paco from the other side of a 12-foot chain link fence. i can just see my crying, wailing 3-year old and profoundly depressed 9-year old doing just that...their little fingers clasping the links and of course we left, rather louder than i intended, and demanded a refund (and, after a lecture on how this was a fundraiser and many attempts at shame inducement, got one).

my point is that you must sometimes stop and think about the consequences of what i am guessing is intended to be a legislation of common sense. you didn't raise nearly as much money as you could have, you alienated families who would have loved to have gone for a swim with their doggie(s), and you looked like an overprotective ass. am i really that unable to watch my own children in a shallow, public pool? think, please, before you legislate yourself to death for your own good.

okay, enough.

this is what it took to get everyone away from the pool: dairy queen bribes (paco got one, too)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

more new mexico pictures and some other ones, too...

shaved rich!

sorry, sorry, sorry. i know the i'm-not-happy-in-iowa storyline is getting old, but just be glad you only have to READ about it...i have to live it. and for those of you accusing me of being morbid with the dead things in the trash post--welcome to my world! it is iowa and it is hard on little things...when winter comes nature won't discriminate and will be hard on everything. new mexico was hard on little and big things alike at times, too. so there. write your own damn blog and be happy all the time and know that i love you and appreciate your readership...

on to more positive things--pictures!

it seemed like a good idea at the time: sophie, gus and i took a trip on the railrunner to santa fe to meet rich, the result of which was stressed-out gus and crazy busy sophie from start to finish

stressed-out gus; crazy busy sophie

stressed-out gus; crazy busy sophie

rich is too margaritaed to mind

sophie attempting an en bocca della verita move with a lion in santa fe

we caught paco in the backyard flinging this into the air and trying to make it fly; it didn't work

i think it was a tobacco hornworm; sophie is just too grossed out to care what it is

and she got even more grossed out when i picked it up and let it crawl on me

we released it back into the wild, and of course paco found it again

rich built this shed for the guys renting our house--it was a wee bit more challenging that we/he thought, and i'm fairly certain he could have built one from scratch easier than this

aunt lindsay will ALWAYS be cooler than mommy...

this is how i got through that last week--lots of wine and awesome friends and relatives

on the road yet the fuck again...with heavy artillery

we stopped through a tiny sliver of texas on the way to iowa

the highlight of the journey: turpentine creek in eureka springs, arkansas! sophie sees ears...

swimming tigers

relaxed tigers

stripy tigers

my guess is that sophie is trying to figure out how we can take him with us

meet missy, the tiger

turpentine creeked-out girl

sophie on our lovely patio at the crescent hotel in eureka springs--actually, i think eureka springs on the whole was the highlight

wonderful creepy owl monster detail on the fireplace

gus and sophie, in their big big bed

paco and rich in the sitting room

gus, adapting nicely

our glorious little patio

sophie and crescent sculpture

our first sunset in iowa since 2006