When Children Get Sick, Parenting Steps Up Ten Notches

Toby got sick with this horrible cough and I even thought Wednesday night that I heard a “whoop,” so I kept him at home from Montessori on Thursday and Friday.  On Thursday our drive-through pediatrician (got to replace that guy!  Not only does he look at my kid for three seconds, doesn’t talk to him at all, and treat me like an idiot, dismissing anything I say, he also calls me Mrs. Hardcastle, Lionel’s and Toby’s last name, when I’m Dr. Homesteader.  Even Lionel, who can be pretty traditional, says it’s pretty stupid in this day and age to assume a woman’s last name) said that he didn’t “think” it was pertussis, but here’s some broad-spectrum antibiotics anyway.  In fact, I realize now that I was just worried — and that his cough was really more of a bark (croup) than a whoop.  Though I was fully vaccinated as a child, I got whooping cough as an adult about ten years ago — and the coughing and chest ache is just unmistakable.  But the Montessori teacher told me that two children were assumed to have had pertussis and treated as such, though it wasn’t confirmed.  Since Toby hasn’t been vaccinated, I immediately worried in the pertussis direction.

Other than full-time day-and-night parenting, I’ve been crocheting, trying to figure out what to do with a half-bushel of Gala apples while the family is at home, and working on BAP, all in fits and starts only.  I lost a couple days on the conference paper I’m delivering next week.  The usual.

When I have an interesting thought in my head and the time to pursue it, I’ll blog.  I hope Toby’s going back to Montessori tomorrow.

Happy fall back, everyone!


First Frost

Becoming a gardener means becoming obsessed with the weather.  Two days ago, I brought in the rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley (yes, the whole song, though the parsley is half-yellowed and is really just in to make it easier to harvest what’s left and then, I hope, put it in the compost bin I still have yet to build), and my beloved potted nasturtiums.  I also brought in the pea and arugula seedlings, especially after half of the arugula seedlings died.  But yesterday I spent all day on campus and came home irritated and irritable, more focused on how far my working life is from what I want it to be than the weather and its effects on what is already around here.  I guess one does not need to read a bunch of books on mindfulness to know that one should pay attention to the present and stop worrying the future and the past and whatever else is not right in front of you, but I’m a slow learner and was brought up to appreciate the lessons of books over the lessons of experience.

When I woke up this morning at 6am, it was 29 degrees, as in 3 degrees below freezing.  The lawn was covered in frost, and there was a heavy fog.  Today at Toby’s Montessori, the children are having a Halloween celebration, going to school in costumes (which is why I bought Toby a Thomas the Tank Engine costume at all), going trick or treating (Toby’s first time), playing games, and having a communal lunch.  I realized early that I had forgotten to buy milk, my appointed task — a failure coming too close on the heels of my failure two days ago to put away the meatloaf all night.  (Am I going to recook it and pray?  Quite possibly.)  After getting Toby to school, and running to get the milk, then going to the store to get things we needed, I finally was able to check the raised bed:  the arugula looks fine, the kale seems to be hanging limply with beads of water on them (I bet they’ll be fine), but the nasturtiums are all wilted.  Goodbye nasturtiums, except indoors.

Nasturtiums might be my favorite plant:  they grow in any old soil, are beautiful enough to naturalize anywhere (my ex-mother-in-law had gorgeous white calla lilies with orange nasturtiums winding their ways under them and filling the world with their orange flowers and silver dollar leaves), and taste wonderful.  I know that many people are not adventurous enough to eat the flowers (long ago, a friend of mine who loved pepper refused to try the nasturtiums that I bought and put in the salad especially for him and his peppery tastes and then never let me forget that I “put flowers in the salad” — dork!).  I prefer the leaves actually.  If nasturtiums also smelled good, they’d be perfect.

Very soon I have to be at the Montessori to pass out goodies with the other volunteer parents.  I can’t blow that.

Out of Step with the Typical Academic Calendar

I’m scheduled to present at a localish conference in two weeks.  It snuck up on me as I’ve been sick (again!), and doing mom things like buying Toby a Thomas (naturally) Halloween costume and volunteering to pass out goodies at Montessori, making a carrot cake and things like that (Toby’s birthday was last weekend).  Also, crocheting, which I’m completely addicted to.

I really want to do nothing but snuggle up on this dark grey day and crochet while listening to my new audio book,  The Dirty Life (borrowed from the library, of course, because I simply couldn’t listen to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle one more time, because though I love it, the more informational parts of it make me scream and rail at this stupid world and industrialized food system of ours).  What’s a shower or a meal or scholarship next to sitting and listening to a tale of a New Yorker who used her oven as a bookshelf transform into a farmer while I crochet a ripple afghan with autumnal colors that will keep my family warm?  Even poems seem like nothing next to that, though I am finally, occasionally, reading poems again.  Mary Oliver’s poems now seem luminous to me; I used to think them. . .sort of boring.  (I’ve never mentioned that I write poetry, have I?  I haven’t written poems in several years.  I went to grad school in poetry, then turned away from the PhD in poetry because I was too concerned about being able to support myself afterwards.  As I did my PhD in something marketable, I lost writing poetry along the way as I watched some of my writer friends win awards and publish books.  It’s taken years for me to turn from pea green with envy to happy for their accomplishments.  Of course, such envy says more about how I’m betraying myself than anything about how I feel about my friends. After so long, I feel nervous and hesitant about even starting to write poems again.  Not like a beginner, because beginners have that naivete to see them through, that belief that they can do it because they don’t yet know how hard it is.  But I do know.  But I’m not planning on reading or writing poems today either.)

I have to go on campus tomorrow also, and find a way back to inhabiting the self who cares about universities and scholarly agendas.  I worked for ten minutes or so on the conference paper, just to get a start.  (I’m lucky because it’s on a subject that I’ve done a lot of work on, so it’s just a matter of actually writing it or even cobbling it together from other things.)  But that’s all I’m doing with the prospect of putting in a full day on campus tomorrow.

Sometimes I just don’t care, just don’t care at all, about scholarship, tenure, the future of the university.  I need to recuperate from a hectic academic year, step completely away from it and come back, renewed and refreshed.  Normal academics do this, perhaps, over the summer (though from your blogs you seem much more productive and focused to me).  But I can’t, unfortunately.  This is why I hate my academic calendar.

More Productive When There’s More to Do?

So today I’ve done a lot of laundry, including the sheets (since Almost-Three has a runny nose and is home from Montessori today), and my final word about the homemade laundry soap is this:  I can’t tell the difference between this stuff and the eco-friendly stuff we spent so much money on.  In other words, I consider the whole project a huge success, lumps and all!

I’ve been amazingly productive today:  I’ve done a bunch of laundry, including the sheets, and gotten the sheets back on the beds.  I’ve looked up Almost-Three’s vaporizer online and figured out what was wrong and now it’s pumping out steam.  I put some eucalyptus essential oil in it so that it will help with Almost-Three’s runny nose and congested sinuses while he sleeps.  (Eucalyptus oil is my first line of defense against cold-weather germs.  Also, of course, echinacea tea, though a doctor I once visited said that the science was mixed on echinacea and that she voted for Vitamin C.  But I’ve been trying use food and herbs for medicine and get away from the vitamins, which have limited efficacy anyway since most vitamins need other vitamins to be assimilated into the body anyway.)

By the way, Almost-Three’s name is now officially changing to Toby, because he says that is who he is in the Thomas the Tank Engine pantheon.  At first he said that I was Gordon and Lionel was Percy, but then last night that switched:  now I’m Percy and Lionel is Gordon.  I’m glad to be seen as a self-important and snotty personality no longer by my son.  But from day to day, Almost-Three insists that he’s Toby.  And Toby is such a nice tram engine, I’m delighted to call him that here.  (I’m planning a post on why I don’t really like the whole Thomas the Tank Engine world because where can you post a postcolonial and Marxist close reading on a reasonably-harmless children’s show but your own blog?!)

But right now I have to go back to crochet world.  I think I’m addicted.  First I worked on a scarf for my sister, and though I still need to do that tassels and all that stuff (I like the actual crochet much more than all the niceties afterward), I then started a new coffee cozy for our French Press.  I had made one that worked well for our travel-size press, even when it was steeping, but it’s not big enough for the full-size one when the plunger is still up.  I’ve been working the last couple days to remedy that situation.  And since I’m at the part where I have to crochet two pieces together, I have to pay more attention and can only do this while Toby is sleeping.

Updates on Laundry Soap and Fall Garden

So here’s what the laundry soap looked like after resting overnight:



You can see that it’s kind of lumpy.  That recipe filled up two containers of laundry soap and there’s still a bit more.  The new laundry soap didn’t make the washer explode or anything.  We’re just doing our first load of laundry with them, so I’ll report back when I get off my butt and take the things out of the dryer.

Also, here’s the arugula now — and I’ve harvested at least twice now.  Yum.




And here’s the spinach.  I harvested only a few baby spinach leaves for the first time today because, of course, they’re still pretty tiny.  You can also see that I didn’t leave a lot of room between plants (nor is my weeding very effective).  When I planted everything so close together and then didn’t space them out it was because I imagined that it wouldn’t be too long before frost killed all, so at least I’d get a lot of baby greens.  But so far we haven’t had a frost.  Even my tomatoes are really doing their best to ripen.  I’ve gotten a whole lot of tomatoes off one plant in the last few days.  Pretty amazing considering the windy blustery weather that just started in the last two days, though no doubt the plant is putting out a last surge of energy in the hopes of passing its seed along.

Homemade Laundry Soap

So today I finally did it!  I made my own laundry soap from this recipe.  Originally I was going to use this one — even to the point of searching high and low for a 5-gallon bucket at several local hardware stores — but today I decided that I really don’t have enough containers for almost 5 gallons of laundry soap (going out and getting more containers would contravene our family agreement to save money).

Here’s a basic recap:

  1. Grate and cook soap (1/3 bar of Fels Naptha, which I only found at my favorite hardware store — yes, I do have a favorite, especially after searching high and low for the bucket) in 6 cups of water until dissolved.  Do not do what I did and try to shortcut the grating with the thought that it will melt up nicely with the heat.  It won’t.  Grating isn’t fun, but it’s better than sticking your hand in trying to catch the undissolved bits.  Of course, a bar of hard soap is not the easiest to grate.  Of course, I managed to nick myself.  I seem to have to shed blood for my new projects.  But after grating and dissolving, it’s all easy.
  2. Add 1/2 cup each of borax and washing soda.  Let dissolve.  Remove from heat.
  3. Hot water in bucket.  Pour soap in bucket.  Add more water.
  4. Let stand overnight.

I’ll let you know what it looks like tomorrow.

The recipes I found have different ratios of soap, borax, and washing soda, which tells me that it’s not an exact science.  I can handle that.

If this works well and we don’t notice any difference in our clothes, this recipe will save us tons of money.   The calculations associated with the recipe I used show that the soap is $.01 per load.  Yes, 1 cent.  Having bought all the ingredients already, there will be no outlay for a while since I still have 2/3 of a bar of soap and tons of borax and washing soda.  I love that feeling.

I can’t imagine ever getting to the point in my back to the land adventures of giving up a washing machine, but I’m ready to give up the pricey soap!

Arugula Harvest!

First harvest today!  Not really enough for two people, but when mixed with some salad greens from the CSA, it will be fabulous!

I was going to wait the full 40 days that it said on the seed packet, but then I read online that arugula can be ready in 3 or 4 weeks (tomorrow will be a month since I planted it) and to be sure to harvest the leaves when still young or they can get bitter.  Also because I was too softhearted to thin properly, they’re all over each other, which would be okay, but crowding out some nasturtiums, and that’s a capital offense.  Great excuses!

No pictures yet.  Too busy soaking, spinning, eating.  Will post pics soon!