Category Archives: Texas News

Hurricane Harvey Aftermath

 

 

The entrance into our subdivision

This was my first Texas hurricane.  I’ve only been through one other hurricane and that was many years ago when my children were toddlers and we lived inland off the SC coast.  There was NO flooding involved, just lots of wind.

Our neighbor to our left next to containment ditch

I won’t kid you…I’ve lost track of time and days but somewhere early in the Harvey ordeal, I thought I was going to die.  I remember calling my daughter on the East Coast in tears and feeling so hopeless.  We live in a one story home.  There is NO basement so no tangible place to retreat during tornado warnings.  One of the days, we had 155 tornado warnings.  I finally just went numb on those.  As far as the one-story, there was going to be only one place to go and that was on the roof.  I couldn’t imagine trying to climb onto our roof in the dead of night, in pouring rain, amidst tornado warnings.  Maybe 40 years ago I would have been more confident.  In my late sixties, I knew my limits.

Our home from across the street

One man interviewed on television summed up my feelings at that point exactly.  He said (and I paraphrase) that he felt like someone who has been condemned to hang at dawn and, as dawn approaches, just feels overwhelmed by the sense of dread and hopelessness.

I also felt angry.  Honestly, I was pissed.  I had wanted to evacuate to Dallas back on Thursday before all the craziness struck but my hubby wasn’t convinced it was necessary.  Maybe I’m one of those people who have etched on their tombstone, “I TOLD you I was sick.”  In my case, it would have been, “I TOLD you we should have evacuated.”

Cavalcade of craft on our street by subdivision

As the days progressed and Harvey hung over the greater-Houston area, I began to see ordinary people coming out to help with whatever tools they had at their disposal.  There were folks with Jon boats, kayaks, air boats, canoes, dump trucks, you name it.  I didn’t really see any of those on my street during the brunt of the storm but we did have a helicopter flying overhead.  I’m pretty confident that it would have lowered a basket if I had jumped up and down and waved my hands.  Our Houston mayor (who was pretty awesome during this) kept saying that they were opening shelters within walking distance of all those affected.  It wasn’t until AFTER Harvey moved on that we found out the shelter for our subdivision.  It just wasn’t announced.  That was a scary feeling – not knowing where you were supposed to go.

Home on our son’s street

Our son’s street started flooding and soon only his house and his father-in-law’s home were still water-free.  He texted us that he was moving the kids to the in-laws and helping other neighbors get to that house.  Later the entire street was under water and they had to be boated out.  They were taken to our church were they spent the rest of the storm and several days after until they could return to their neighborhood.  Thankfully, their two houses were still dry.

Flooded containment field

We live one house away from a huge containment field for Clear Creek.  It was that creek that flooded and put over half our town under water.  It quickly went over the banks of the big field and came down our street.  Soon the street was under water and it was inching down our front yard and sidewalk toward the house.

Water up to our stoop – already receding

The first real night of flooding, we were able to contact our next-door neighbor who owns a two-story house and he told us to come over and spend the night on their second floor.  That was such a Godsend, let me tell you.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about our neighbor and his family.  The second and worse night of flooding, George and I were to take shifts sleeping while monitoring the water outside.  I had the first shift and within less than two hours it had almost gotten over our front stoop.  At about 2 a.m. it was decided that I’d wade across to the neighbor’s home with the dog and spend the night at their house while George would stay at the house and see if he could keep the water at bay if it started to come inside.  I found the neighbors frantically moving furniture up higher and carrying pieces to the 2nd floor.  I spent the night in a chair upstairs with the dog on my lap and as soon as it was light enough, I headed home, not knowing what I’d find.  Water was about 8 feet from our garage which sits behind the house, the whole front yard was under water and it was surrounding our house on three sides.  Miraculously, the inside was dry.  As the rain slacked off, we could see that the  water had gotten to within just a few inches of coming in the front door.  If it had continued to rain that day, we would have been flooded.

Kayaking down our 6-lane road

Harvey moved on and we gradually saw the extent of the damage to our area.  We’d already seen plenty of misery on the TV (yup, we never really lost power or cable) but it is different seeing it in your own neighborhood.  Just around the block from us, the entire street flooded and I think all the homes have major damage.  Driving down the street is heart-wrenching seeing all the piles of furniture, drywall, and belongings sitting on the curb.  The other half of our subdivision had major flooding and they estimate about 75% of the homes were damaged.  Two of my knitting friends had to leave their homes as water rushed inside.

Shopping Center next to our street

When you meet friends and strangers now, the first question is inevitably, “How did you do in the storm?”  Everyone has shared this experience and it has made family of us all.

I’m so grateful to have been spared the flooding inside and to still be alive.  I’m achy and can’t sleep well at the moment.  I wake up in the night and think I hear rain outside.  We are all probably suffering from the effects of prolonged exposure to stress and some hurricane PTSD.

Our front yard

I can’t say enough about the wonderful acts of kindness by folks and the heroism of rescuers.  The military folks have really stepped up.  Who would have thought that we’d be excited to see tanks rolling into our town but hey, with Harvey as the enemy?  Have at it!

In my next post, I’ll talk about my “lessons learned” but for now, I’ll just leave you with this little tidbit to digest.  First they said it was a 1- in-500 year event.  Then they were announcing that it was a 1-in-800 year event.  Now the weathermen are saying it was a 1-in-40,000 year event.  All I know is that it was a heck of a storm and not one that I ever hope to go through again.  Give those you love a hug today.  Smile at a stranger.  And remember, life is so unpredictable.  Concentrate on the things that really matter.

 

Riding Out Hurricane Harvey

Where’s the Bread?

Good morning, all, from the SE Texas Coastal area.  We are hunkered down in our house just south of Houston while Hurricane Harvey sends bands of rain through our area.  This is my first Texas hurricane and I have to admit, I was more than ready to head up to Dallas to wait until Harvey left the area.  However, my husband and son didn’t think it was necessary, nor apparently did our town officials as they sent the residents notices that there were no evacuations in place for our area and to just hunker down.

So the first order of business was to stock up on some essentials, like bread, water, canned goods, and snacks.  I have been getting cases of water on a regular basis and have them stashed all over the house so I wasn’t too worried plus I have a great portable water filtration system I can use to make just about any water safely drinkable.

What every girl needs

The local grocery stores have been doing a great job of stocking and restocking although they were out of most breads when I ran to the store.  Don’t judge me on my choices.  I need my comfort food in stressful situations.  You’ll notice that toilet paper and Blue Bell Ice Cream is missing in my cart.  Yup, I sent hubby back the next day to pick those up when we heard it was now a Cat. 3 hurricane heading our way.

I also have emergency rations I can dip into and a cooking pot (JetBoil) that I can use if the power goes out. That’s been one of my main concerns but except for a short duration the first day of landfall, our power has remained on.

Stocking up on ice cubes

I left the bags of ice to folks who might have more need of them and we’ve just been making ice like crazy in our refrigerator and then bagging it up and taking it out to the chest freezer to store, in case we have to start putting frozen goods in ice chests in the event of a power failure.

I popped up a lot of popcorn the night before landfall just in case our power went out.  I really love popcorn and that’s something I wouldn’t want to attempt in a JetBoil.

I also put critical and irreplaceable photo albums up high, just in case our house would be flooded.  In addition I added my Mom’s ashes (try replacing those!) and several stuffed animals from my childhood, which also couldn’t be replaced if lost to flooding.

Elizabeth and friend

My little Elizabeth (on the right) has been with me since BEFORE I was born.  She was a baby shower present given to my mom and then passed on to me when I was a baby.  We’ve been through a lot together and I’m not about to ignore her at this stressful time.  “Cindy” the dog is another childhood pal.

Spinning through the Storm

I’ve been getting a lot of spinning done.  There is something soothing about having a rhythmic activity to do (especially fiber-related) in times of stress.

Weather Channel

We’ve also been watching the Weather Channel and KPRC News.  This is NOT so relaxing.  After the evening news the day Harvey made landfall, my hubby looked over at me and said, “Time to break out the Blue Bell Ice Cream.”

Drainage Ditch

My main concern in this hurricane has been the drainage ditch that is just one house down from our home.  This is a picture of it after a rainstorm last year.  Now that ditch is over 15 feet deep and as wide as probably 2-3 houses laid side-by-side.  In April ’16, the water came up to the top of that ditch.  Since they are calling for Harvey to stall over our area of Texas into the middle of next week, rainfall could be unprecedented.  Right now they are calling for up to 30 inches of rain in our area.

The other things we did to prepare was to charge up all of our devices and rechargeable batteries.  We filled the bathtub with water that could be used to flush toilets in case of power failure.  My knitting friends have formed an informal text chain to check in with each other as the storm progresses.  Some of them hit the road and evacuated earlier but most remain in the area.   Our children are checking in with us regularly and I’ve been keeping my brother (the survivalist expert) informed on our conditions here.

Despite a plethora of tornado warnings around the area yesterday, we got a pretty good sleep, interrupted only by the nervous licking that our dog was doing that sounded SO LOUD that I finally got up, grabbed the dog and went into the guest bedroom where she could hide under the covers to her heart’s content and I could soothe her if she started up with the licking again.  I actually slept in, only to be awakened by a thunderstorm passing through.

So, it is Saturday- the first full day after Harvey has made landfall and so far we are good.  We have appreciated (and felt) the many prayers of friends around the country.  Continue to keep Texas and its residents in your thoughts and prayers as we go through the weekend and into the next week.  In the meantime, stay dry!

 

But I GOT the Flu Shot!

Meds

It just seems like, well, last month that I was really sick with coughing, chest congestion, and major sinus drainage.  Whatever I had back in February really knocked me for a loop and I wasn’t the only one.  This ailment had been making the rounds of my knitting friends.

This month, I was doing fine until this past week.  We spent part of the day with the grandkids earlier last week and I noticed that little Spud had snot flowing out of his nose while Sweet Pea was hacking away.  Of course, they were touching me, my phone, etc. but they are the “grands” so what can you do?  You love them, runny noses and all.

This past Sunday, I woke up feeling just a tad “off.”  Throughout the day, the feeling persisted and by last Sunday evening, I was suddenly hit yet again with the drainage and the hacking cough.  As the week progressed, we got the word that our grandson had tested positive for the flu.  In the meantime, my hubby and my son were now laid low with the same thing and even the baby was very cranky.

All week I’ve been fighting coughing, achy body, a dull headache, and sinus congestion alternating with lots of drainage.  I finally broke down today and went to a local clinic.  After I filled out my symptoms and was ushered into the examining room, the nurse said, “Hmmm, sounds like you have the flu.”

She grabbed a flu testing kit and came over to me with this long swab.  I dutifully opened my mouth.

“Oh, no,” she chuckled, “This doesn’t go in your mouth.”

“Huh?” I responded, startled.  “Where does it go?”

“This has to go up your nose and not just inside your nose, …it has to be way up beyond the bridge of your nose and I have to do it in each nostril,” she answered.

She promised me she’d be gentle and she was.  After a few minutes, she asked me, “Did you say you had gotten a flu shot this year?”

I assured her that not only had I gotten my flu shot but I also had made sure it was the one for “old folks.”  In other words, I got the high-dose version.

“Well, guess you might want to get the “high-high dose next time,” she said and walked out, leaving me waiting for the clinician.

When SHE arrived, she said, “So I guess you got the bad news, hmm?”

“No,” I replied. “What do I have?”

She told me I had the flu and assured me that I wasn’t alone in coming down with this despite getting the flu shot.  The CDC had told medical staff that this flu season’s dose was turning out to be only about 50% effective.  Together, she and I decided that Tamiflu wasn’t a wise option at this point, since I’d been fighting it since Sunday.  However, she DID prescribe an array of other meds for me, at which point I told her that perhaps I’d better encourage my husband to come in to be seen, since he seemed sicker than me.

Long story short, he DID go in and he also has the flu.  He did not get any meds, though and when I asked why, he said that the doctor said he was well on the road to recovery and she didn’t think he needed anything more than the over-the-counter things he was already taking.  Man, I thought, I must be a lot sicker than I realized.

So now, happily medicated, I’ll tell you what knitting things I’m working on.   I’ve been knitting the Vikings Binge MKAL Shawl and even sick as I have been, I’ve been enjoying it.  Jimmy Beans Wool, by the way, has some wonderful little Viking stitch markers if you’d like to really go all-out with this project.  Before I ordered my yarn, I looked at quite a few pictures of the fjords of Scandinavia and picked my colors from some of my favorite pictures.

VMKAL

I’m just finishing up Clue #3 and then will start the final clue (all the clues are now published so you don’t even have to wait if you decide to purchase the pattern).

Cyprus

On the Texas front, I’ve been complaining about strange little knobs (which I am now told are called “knees”) that are all over our back yard.  I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from since we have no trees in the back yard, only a shrub along a back wall that has a grocery store on the other side.  The shopping center developers planted trees all along the concrete barrier wall between them and our subdivision, probably when the center and subdivision were first built.  Now my son tells me that the trees behind our wall are most likely Bald Cypress trees which send out these “knees” all over, growing more profuse and taller as they get more moisture.  Thank goodness it hasn’t been really wet because the darn things in our yard have remained about 3 or 4 inches tall but that’s still plenty of aggravation for the mowers and us, whenever we try to walk around in the back yard because they lurk in the grass and you end up twisting your ankles as you walk over them.  I would just like to go on record to say that I think it was a very stupid choice of tree to plant behind people’s homes.  Plus the darn things lose all of their needles in the fall and we have the needle debris all over our yard to contend with.  However, I guess I can learn to live in harmony with my interloping friends as long as the roots don’t choke out my little kishu mandarin tree.

Our First Kishu Mandarin Tree

Tree

Our son is working on his Master Gardener certification and has been planting some wonderful things at his house.  He already has a lemon tree and a lime tree that produce great fruit and now we are looking forward to enjoying grapes, raspberries, peaches, apples, and mandarins.  I have been joking with him about how great it will be to enjoy the “fruits” of HIS labors.

Tree2

Several weeks ago, he told me that he thought we should have a Kishu Mandarin tree.  I LOVE the little Halo mandarins that you find this time of year in the produce section.  When Jason mentioned that the Kishu Mandarin tree produces what many believe to be the sweetest mandarins around, it didn’t take much convincing to give him the “go-ahead.”  What proved harder was FINDING a Kishu Mandarin tree.  Apparently they are SO popular in this area that they quickly sell out when a nursery gets some in stock.

Tree3

A big reason for their popularity is also the fact that they don’t get too big.  The mature tree averages about 8 feet in height and 4 feet in width.  The fruit is also very easy to peel and seedless.  Granted, the fruit is small (about the size of a golf ball) but with no seeds to worry about, you can just peel them and pop them in your mouth.

Tree5

He called me this past Sunday afternoon to say that he had my tree and was planning to come over with the kids to plant it for me.  I panicked a bit because I was going to be entertaining a group of ladies at the house that evening and had just spent a day and a half cleaning house.  I really didn’t want to have my two lively grandchildren dragging all of the toys back out into the living room.  My son assured me that he’d keep them outside.

Tree6

I went out to check on the gang when I heard a lot of squealing.  Turns out it was Spud and Sweet Pea grabbing worms out of the dirt from the hole and chasing each other with them.

Tree4

“Want to hold this worm, Nana?” asked Sweet Pea.

“Um, nope!”, I assured her.

Tree8

And now my little kishu is planted.  Jason will be coming over later this week to redefine the area around my little tree and the storms predicted for this week will do the watering initially.  I’ll have to be patient for the next few years until about Year Three and then I should be able to start enjoying my mandarins.  Can’t wait!

 

Preschool Graduation

Single Posing

Sweet Pea

We have a new graduate in our family.  Little Sweet Pea graduated from preschool last night.  Of course, we were on hand to document the momentous occasion.

Marching In

Marching In

Each 4-year-old class marched in to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.  It was so cute to see these little ones arriving so seriously.  There was a bit of a kerfluffle as Sweet Pea came up the steps, though.  More on that later.  Suffice it to say that, as she daintily made her way up the steps, the girl behind her bounded past her and jumped the line, so to speak.

Little Graduates

Little Graduates

Here is Sweet Pea’s class.  Honestly, as they performed onstage and later, as they came across the stage one at a time to receive their diplomas and pose for a picture, I found my mind drifting as I began to imagine them ten years from now.  From their mannerisms and their personalities peaking through, it wasn’t hard to imagine what kind of high schooler they might become.  The little redhead (the line cutter) next to Sweet Pea is probably going to be the class clown.  She was a real cut-up during the proceedings.  The little boy next to her will most likely be the class heartthrob.  Who could resist those eyes?  The little boy in the front row with the check shirt?  He’s probably going to be the class president.  When he was waiting for his name to be called to go get his diploma, he was standing in the Clark Kent/Superman pose with his feet apart and his hands on his hips….surveying the audience.  Confidence seemed to be his middle name.

The little boy top left will probably be trying out for all the class plays.  When we started to applaud after their first song, he yelled out with delight, “You’re all so happy!  You’re clapping for us!”  Yup.  He’s already gotten a taste for applause.  That gentle giant of a young man on the top row will probably be a linebacker on the football team.  He always seems to have a bemused look on his face.  He looked the same way at the Christmas presentation.  He’s still trying to figure out life.  How about the little blonde in the middle of the top row?  She just looks so “inspired”, doesn’t she?  She’ll be the teen who goes around the school trying to get you to sign petitions for noble causes.

Hands up!

Hands up!

The children sang some songs and then recited some Bible verses for all of us and then it was time to file over to the side of the stage to wait for their name to be called to get their diplomas.

Three Mouseketeers

Three Mouseketeers

Remember that little redhead I told you about…the one who bounded past Sweet Pea as she was marching into the auditorium and up onto the stage?

The Mix-up

The Mix-up

Well, when the teacher called Sweet Pea’s name, we heard a scuffle off to the side.  Miss Redhead was trying to walk across the stage but the director had just realized that she wasn’t in the correct order and was trying to move her behind Sweet Pea.  The little girl wasn’t too happy about having to wait and Sweet Pea wasn’t going to budge until everything was straightened out.  Finally the girls traded places and the ceremony continued.

Our Graduate

Our Graduate

Sweet Pea got a hug and a diploma from her teacher and then moved to the “X” at the front of the stage where she posed briefly for a picture.  We were lucky.  Many of the children held their diplomas up completely covering their faces.  And while we are talking about covering faces, what’s with that graduation cap?  When Sweet Pea first came out I immediately thought, “Who the heck put that cap on her head?”  It looked like it was jammed down as far as it would go on her head, completely covering her eyebrows and almost obscuring her eyes.  Apparently the teachers decided her cap might fall off and decided to put it on more securely, attaching it with two bobby pins for good measure.  You have NO idea how much self-control it took for me not to run up there and readjust the darn cap.

In His Hands

In His Hands

Speaking of running up, one little girl came bounding across the stage, arms pumping, grabbed the diploma right out of the teacher’s hands before she could even present it to her, didn’t wait for the hug and immediately went to the “X” where she beamed at all present.

“That kid’s going to be running half the committees in the high school in ten years,” I whispered to my son.

Newly Graduated

Newly Graduated

When the ceremony was over, we all filed over to the reception where I was telling Sweet Pea’s other set of grandparents my theory of how you could predict what these children would become based on their little personalities this evening.

Grandpa B. asked me, “So what do you think our granddaughter will be?”

“A free spirit,” I said, without hesitation.  Then I thought about it some more.  “I’m not really sure,” I admitted.  “She’s definitely an observer.  Not much gets past her.”

Yes, I’m not really sure what our little Sweet Pea will be doing or what she will be like in ten years.  She’s changed so much just in the past two years.  One thing I AM sure of is this…it is going to be immensely entertaining and rewarding to watch her continue to grow and mature.  Every moment I’m around to see that is going to be a blessing.

And The Rain Came Down

 

Overflowing the Banks

I TOLD you it was going to rain.  Boy, did it ever here south of Houston.  We had torrential rains beginning late afternoon through most of the night along with thunder and lightning.  Poor little Toto ended up cowering under the covers for most of the night and refusing to go outside to do her business before bedtime.  Wasn’t going to happen.

Rain1

This morning I walked down the block to the drainage “valley” which is one house down from our home in our subdivision.  Usually it is a tiny concrete channel at the bottom of a lovely landscaped area which channels the rainwater.  You can’t even SEE the channel here.  It had completely swelled over the channel and come partway up the banks.

On the other side

On the other side

I walked across the street and looked down at the drainage area on that side.  Wow!  The brown line isn’t from any planned mulched area.  That’s stuff that was washed up onto the banks when the water came up that high.

Rain3

Here’s another view.  I’m standing on the sidewalk, looking down.  You can’t tell from this picture but that is a steep bank down to the drainage channel.

Rain5

That line of debris was only about six feet from the sidewalk.  If it had gotten to the sidewalk, it was just a short hop and a skip to the street in front of our house.  Yikes!

That got me to thinking about flooding in the Houston area.  I found this site which chronicles significant floods in the Houston area from 1837-2007.  That’s a LOT of floods.  Further reading told me that my county, Harris County, considers flooding to be its Number One threat since the area is flat, has clay soil, and is prone to very heavy rainfall.

Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 left major flooding in Houston in its wake.  Here’s an interesting site with pictures of the flooding.

If you live in Harris County, TX, go ahead and visit this site where you can put in your address to find out if you were unlucky enough to purchase property that is located in a flood plane.

Over the little creek

Over the little creek

I parked my car on the way home from knitting today and walked to the little bridge in our subdivision that goes over a tiny little creek.  I wanted to see how it was faring, especially since I had just driven over a bridge on the way home where the water was almost up to the bottom of the bridge.  Hmmm, not too bad although, if you look at the debris line to the right, you can see that it got up pretty high in the night.

Creek

Here’s another view of it looking out over the bridge railing.  Again, you can see the debris line on both sides.

All in all, I’d say we were pretty lucky in our neighborhood.  The worst I encountered was a worm on the entryway floor in our house.  How in the world it got there, I have no idea.  Then later this afternoon, when I was dust mopping the floors, I came around the corner and there was another worm on the dining room floor.  It hadn’t been there five minutes ago.  The Commander chucked it out the front door and I might have mentioned to him that, if a worm dropped from the ceiling on top of my head, the whole neighborhood would hear a scream to rival the infamous Rebel Yell.  Not that I’m afraid of worms but they belong on the ground, not dropping out of nowhere inside your home.

So, the next time you see cows lying down in a field, sit up and take notice, at least if you live in the Houston area.  And for Heaven’s sakes, keep your umbrella handy.

Aggies or Longhorns?

Texas Proud

Texas Proud

I was visiting our new vet the other day and as I chatted with the technician, she mentioned that she was a graduate of Texas A & M.

“Oh, is that the one with the steer?” I asked her.

“Umm, no,” she said.

“Wait,” I persisted.  “Are they the ones that are the orange color?”

“Noooo,” she drawled.  “That would be the University of Texas.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I apologized.  “I like cows and I have an orange car and so I put this emblem of a Texas steer on the back of my car and I can never remember which school it is.”

“That’s ok,” she laughed.  “My brother is a graduate of UT so I won’t hold it against you.”

I was telling this story to my hubby today and he gave me “the look.”

“You really need to learn the difference,” he lectured me.

“Well, which school is it that is the hook ’em ones,” I asked him.

“That’s University of Texas,” he told me.

“Then which one has more of an agricultural emphasis,” I asked.

“Texas A & M,” he said.  “What do you think?  They’ve got agricultural in their name. They’re Aggies.”

“But then why does UT have a motto that says ‘Hook ’em, Aggies?” I pondered.

“No, they don’t,” he said.  “It’s ‘hook ’em, horns.’  For Pete’s Sakes, you’d better get it right if you’re going to be in Texas.”

“Well, I like them both, ” I insisted.  “But I have to go with the one with the steer because it matches my car and besides, you know I have a soft spot for anything to do with cows. Of course, there is that nickname ‘Aggies’ and I have a soft spot for anything to do with farming, too.”

Ah, what’s a newbie Texan to do?

It Was a Lizard Home Invasion

I was minding my own business this morning when I opened the back door to head out to the grocery store.  Imagine my surprise when I almost stepped on a black lizard on our door stoop.

I won’t lie to you.  I screamed and then I slammed the door, but not quickly enough.  The lizard managed to squeeze partway into the house.  Now I had a dilemma.  I could continue on about my errands, not knowing whether or not the lizard would be able to completely squeeze all the way inside OR I could open the door and try to knock it back outside.  I opened the door but not before I knocked a bunch of times on the door, yelling for the Commander.

The darn lizard scurried into my kitchen and I followed it in, grabbing the fly swatter as I entered.  By this time, the Commander had come running from his office and I pointed to the floor at the big (okay, maybe it was only about 6-7 inches long) black lizard and gasped, “Lizard!”

“I gathered that,” he said.  “Bring me a paper towel.”

In the meantime, he was trying to herd it toward the door but when that failed, he tried to stomp on it.  I saw it run under a pair of his sandals that he keeps by the door and I ran for a broom.

“Shut the door,” he yelled but I was a girl on a mission.

When I returned, he said, “It’s under my shoe.  Give me the broom.”

“No,” I said.  It’s under those sandals.”

Well, we were both right.  Part of its tail was under the Commander’s shoe.  The main part of the lizard was alive and still quite active and hiding under the sandals and when the Commander moved them, off he ran behind our bookcase.

“Now he’s behind the bookcase,” the Commander told me, as he rummaged around with the broom.

I, in the meantime, was mesmerized in horrified fascination by the part of the tail that was still on my floor whipping around.  I decided to stay by the door in case the Commander corralled the lizard and needed to make a quick exit.  Sure enough, that darn lizard darted out from behind the bookcase and the Commander scooped him up in the dustpan and pinned him with the broom and took him outside.

When he came back inside, I pointed to the still-moving tail and said, “Do you mind taking that outside, too?”

“It was just a lizard,” he told me when he came back  from his catch and release mission.

“That was no lizard,” I assured him.  Our lizards are green.  That was black.  I think it was a salamander.”

Bummer!

Bummer!

“And what the heck where you doing, just sitting there?” I asked Toto, who had been watching all of this with big eyes. “You’re supposed to be defending our house.”

If  dogs could speak, it didn’t take much imagination to figure out what she would say.  She was thinking, “What do you think I am, a cat?  Does that look like a dog biscuit to you?  I’m not touching that slimy thing.  Oh, no…not this little tan pup.  You’re on your own, Mom!”

The Container Garden Experiment

Time for some planting

Time for some planting

This is the year that I’m going to have a garden.  We are in Texas now and I’m determined that I’m going to have some fresh vegetables.  However, I really don’t want to have a big in-ground garden.  Been there, done that.

My first garden was set up in raised beds in our backyard in Pennsylvania when our children were in elementary school.  I was determined to go totally organic with it, which I did, but I won’t lie and tell you that I wasn’t freaked out by some of the bugs I had to do battle with.  I was also quite protective of that little garden, even to the point of running outside in my nightgown, jumping the protective wire fence around the garden, and shooing rabbits out of my lettuce.

Potting Soil and Containers

Potting Soil and Containers

My next garden was out in the country when we moved to a house up on a ridge.  I was WAY too ambitious with that one.  Without benefit of a tiller or garden tractor, I put in a garden that was about as big as the footprint of our house, not near any source of water, and then promptly left it in the care of my aged mom and aunt when I had to go out of town right in the middle of the growing season.  Needless to say, neither of them could keep up with the weeding or watering and it was completely choked with weeds when I got back.  That was the end of my gardening that year except for harvesting the cherries on our fruit trees.  So much for my gardening efforts.

Earthbox Gardening

Earthbox Gardening

This year, I’m putting up a garden in containers.  I’m also curbing my natural tendencies to go “all out” and confining my gardening to two tomato plants, two green pepper plants, some lettuce, some okra, and a container of herbs.  I obsessed for weeks over what kind of containers I wanted to use for my garden and finally settled on two different systems.  I’m using Earthboxes for my tomatoes and lettuce and my son and hubby modified some plain old plastic buckets that we got at Home Depot, turning them into self-watering containers that I’ll be planting the rest in except for my herbs.  Those will go in a standard planter.  Herbs like to be a little dry.

Containers in place

Containers in place

Today the Commander and I moved our containers into place beside the garage and then I planted my plants.  The one Earthbox even has a little trellis system that we put into place for the tomato plants.  If you’d like to read more about the Earthbox system of gardening, you can click here.  There seem to be a lot of happy gardeners who use this system.

Modified buckets

Modified buckets

Our son worked up these buckets.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the guys were doing outside but it involved drilling a hole in the center of the inner bucket and drilling little overflow holes around the outer bucket and also putting in a fill tube.  There is a similar type of bucket construction in the book The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward C. Smith.  I highly recommend that book, by the way, if you are at all interested in doing container gardening.

Let the gardening commence

Let the gardening commence

I’ll keep you posted on how the gardening goes this growing season.  My okra seeds are soaking today and I’ll plant them in the bucket at the bottom right tomorrow.  I’ve never grown okra but my son insists it is an easy plant to grow.  Heck, I’ve never even cooked okra either but the Commander loves it so this is a labor of love.  At least we have a tall patio fence here so if I have to do any running around in my nightgown to chase away garden pests, no one will be able to see me.

 

 

A Walk to Remember

The Long and Winding Path

The Long and Winding Path

Today was Pancake Day at Nana and Papa’s, which didn’t get off to a great start.  Usually “Pancake Day” ends with Spud having a big bout of diarrhea.  Don’t ask me why because I couldn’t tell you.  Today, however, it was his sister’s turn to shine when she walked in the door, sat down at their little table and promptly threw up.  And we were off and running!

A few Dora the Explorer cartoons later and she was back at the table and ready to eat and boy, did she eat.  She polished off a pancake and the mini-muffins were disappearing faster than she could say, “More, please!”  It was a miraculous recovery.

The children watched some more cartoons and then I suggested that we head off on a walk.  They were up for the challenge so off we headed.  First we started down the long bike path along the overflow ditch that runs through our subdivision.

“Aaaargh!  Nana”, wailed Sweet Pea as one of her clogs sailed past me.

I retrieved her shoe and she stuck her foot into it.

“Aaaaargh!” she wailed.  “It’s muddy.”

I looked inside it and there was a bit of mud so I sacrificed the one kleenex I was carrying to wipe it out as best I could.  That wasn’t quite good enough so I told her to wipe her foot on top of my shoe and then put her now clean foot into the clog.  That did the trick.

The playground

The playground

We next arrived at the playground and they ran up and down the steps trying to chase lizards who were sunning themselves on the structure until we glanced up and there was Papa riding his bicycle past us on the street.  Papa decided to tag along behind us so we continued on our journey.

The Trumpet Trees

The Trumpet Trees

Next stop was to explain about the “trumpet trees.”

“Look,” I announced to the kids.  “We’re almost at the big bridge.  See those trees?  Those are “trumpet trees.”  Just listen.

“Too-da-too-da-too!  Spud is approaching the bridge.  Tada, tada, tada…Sweet Pea and Nana are approaching the bridge,” I crowed.

“Wow,” said Sweet Pea.  “I think we have some of those trees at our school.”

“Well,” I explained.  “Trumpet trees are very shy and they only talk to people that KNOW they can talk and even then, that’s usually when there aren’t a lot of other people around.  Time to go on the bridge and see if we can see an egret.”

Over the river

Over the river

Spud had picked a few little dandelions and given them to me and I mentioned that we should see if they would float down the creek if we dropped them off the bridge.  He had grabbed a few leaves to drop and, while he held my hand, we stuck our flowers/leaves through the rails and dropped them into the water.

“Nana, nooooooooo!” Spud wailed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“You dropped your flowers into the water.  I wanted you to keep those flowers.”

The little garden

The little garden

He was inconsolable until we spotted a little garden with a bench.  There were also some enticing mud puddles enroute to the little garden.

“Watch out for the mud pud….”I started to say as he dashed down the sidewalk right into the puddle where he proceeded to slip.  His legs went out from under him and he landed on his little bum right in the middle of the puddle.

“I’m ok,” he gamely said, as I gave him a hand up.  He was soaked.  We were quite a way from the house so I decided to just hope he air-dried as we continued our walk.

The jumping square

The jumping square

Next on our journey was “the jumping square.”

“Come on, guys.  Here’s the jumping square.  Everybody jump!”

We all jumped but I had forgotten that there were two more of these squares on our walk so believe me, I got plenty of exercise with THAT particular brainstorm.

The Marching Path

The Marching Path

We were almost to the swimming pool area with another playground but first we had to go through “the marching path.”

“Why do they call it the marching path, Nana?” Sweet Pea asked me.

“See those two rows of trees all standing up in a row on both sides of the path?  It’s like they are standing at attention just waiting for a parade to march by.  We’re the parade.  Everybody march!”

We marched between the trees and headed to the next playground.  Luckily, Papa was waiting there for us and soon the children were happily swinging before Spud decided to do a little treasure hunting.  I walked along with him, steering him clear of more mud puddles.

He was filling my hands full of little pieces of string when all of a sudden he yelled, “Look at that.”  He took a nose dive over the edge of the playground tanbark and was saved from a face plant into another puddle by my quick grab of his pants.  He did manage to snag a cute little purple plastic thingie.  It looked like a little wand with a plunger thing and had a little stamped flower on the side.  It was kind of a tube and the plunger moved up and down into the tube.

“Cute!” I said.  I thought maybe it was some kind of toy launcher with the toy now lost.  “Look, Spud.  You can put your little strings and wires in it and we can pretend it is a little vase.”

I carried it around the playground as he brought me more treasures when all of a sudden, I took a closer look at the “thingie.”  Oh, NO!  That “thingie” was an empty tampon tube.  Crapola!

“Spud, we can’t keep this.  It is something yucky.  Nana is going to throw this away now,” I told him.  In my defense, it’s been over 25 years since I’ve needed one of those and apparently, they are making the darn things a lot fancier now than the days of the old cardboard tubes.

“Time to head home,” I announced.  Papa headed back on his bike and we started the trudge back to the house, retracing our steps as we marched, jumped, and climbed over the bridge.  By the time we got on the winding path headed to the house, Sweet Pea was dragging.

“I am too tired,” she sighed dramatically.  “I have to rest.”

“How can you be tired,” I asked. “You have young legs.  I have old ones.  If anyone should be tired, it should be me.  Do you need me to carry you?”

“Yes,” she sighed.

I was afraid of that.  I hoisted her up (along with her doll) and we continued on.  Spud brought up the rear and Sweet Pea (who was suddenly a whole lot perkier) gave me constant updates on his whereabouts (i.e. “he’s right behind us, Nana!”).

We finally made it to the house where Papa and their daddy waited.  Real helpful, those two.  It was a walk to remember and for once, I didn’t have to clean up any diarrhea.  Yay!

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