Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The ants crawl in and the ants crawl out...

Every year as the golden branches of forsythia burst forth and the lilacs offer their fragrant bunches of tiny, perfect blooms, another sure sign of spring can be found creeping in from cracks and crevices... the ant invasion.

I live in a very old house, and with every old house come numerous channels and avenues for creepy crawlies to make their way into the human living quarters. As the house settles down and then down further, more cracks appear and more access is given.

So every spring, the ants find their way to my kitchen. A few may show up in the bathroom, but the kitchen is their main point of entry. I have never wanted to use poisons or even ant hotels because of the kids. Consequently, I have spent many spring days watching ants march about my counter to see where they come from and where they go. Armed with a roll of duct tape, I am prepared to seal off any avenue they use. Sadly, I have met with only limited success. In an old house, there is always another way if you are small enough to find it.

The new invasion began three days ago, but this year I plan to try out some new techniques I found on natural pest control. I still don't want chemicals and poisons in my kitchen and I have run out of duct tape. I am also getting to old to spot the cracks the ants use to gain entry.

Armed with new knowledge of ant dislikes (flour) and common household items that are poisonous to them (baking soda), I plan to launch a full-out attack. I know that if I do nothing, they will be gone in a couple of weeks time. I know that if I spend hours a day trying to squash them all, they will be here for a couple of weeks anyway. But maybe, just maybe, if I counter-attack in a new way, I can shorten their stay.

Now, if I can only do something about the winter spider convention.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Fishy Story

Today may be the day I finally put the aquarium to rest, although I will miss it as a fixture in my livingroom. I rather like the soothing babbling noises of the filter and watching the air bubbles rise. I like the colorful gravel and the large rock formation that rises from it. It's a focal point for guests who stare at it in rapt amazement until they finally ask "where are the fish"?

It's another fish tale, the ones that didn't get away so much as simply expired. I expect goldfish to die with some regularity, but some were the victims of exceptional circumstances.

I believe it began when The Boy's teacher decided to put a little goldfish bowl in the center of every group of desks (nowadays, second graders are allowed to look at each other during school - the desks are pushed together in groups of four). The fish were a grand biology experiment for the children. They would learn how to be responsible for living things that they fed and cared for. Needless to say, all the fish died.

I saw one of the early corpses firsthand. When I arrived to pick my son up at his afterschool program, a counselor took me aside and handed me a plastic baggie with a small, mushy, somewhat shiny, indistinguishable mound of something that looked like it might have been a sardine that had slid out of a sandwich to the floor and had been stepped upon. I didn't make him a sardine sandwich that day.

The counselor explained that The Boy had shown up there with a fish in his pants pocket, a very dead fish. No autopsy had been performed, but a type of dissection by erosion had taken place while the body was transported inside the pocket of a small boy's jeans. The question then became, did the fish die before or after he reached the pocket?

The Boy upon questioning admitted to removing the fish from the trash after its natural demise. So when the children requested a couple of goldfish as pets, I didn't think it would be a problem.

The first fish that got sick received prompt attention from The Boy who decided to pick him up and comfort him, hastening his passing. Later fish died on their own as they will do, but also due to overfeeding, underfeeding, general attention and general neglect.

The most abused fish were the deceased ones. Although I firmly advised a flush funeral, The Girl insisted on burial. The Boy would then insist on exhuming the carcass for further examination. When the last fish finally went to Davy Jone's locker, I said "enough".

The tank is very clean now. If you glance at it quickly, the play of light and shadow makes you think you can see fish swimming about. Watching fish swim in an aquarium is rated highly as a relaxation technique. But watching an empty tank only gives one a desire to fill it and I have already seen where that leads.

So to avoid the many hours of relaxation followed by even more hours of high frustration, I think I will empty the fish tank today.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I Am Not a Supermom

Have you ever woken up one day and wondered what your kids ever did to deserve you? Or rather, do they deserve better?

Recently I have had the experience of meeting "accomplished" mothers. These are the mothers who have such a list of credits to their names, it's nearly impossible to imagine how they managed to squeeze in time for pregnancy and birth. I do know one thing, they were probably multi-tasking during labor.

These mothers have immaculate houses. They make elaborate meals out of vegetables and grains they have grown themselves - organically. They sew, they churn butter, they knit the kids new bicycles out of steel wool.

I start to feel inadequate. I begin to pity my kids. I start to wonder why I had them, why did I want to bring children into the world when I wasn't prepared to make cookies for the bake sale, volunteer to sew costumes for the school play, head up the local fund-raising efforts and do spot welding on fighter jets in my spare time?

Then reality hits me. My mother never did any of those things either, and I don't remember ever resenting it. In fact as I face homework sent with my child that requires that I participate and then sign that I have participated, I can only imagine my mother's reaction should any of my teachers ever tried to send her homework.

I don't want to be without influence in my children's lives but I am not sure that constant accomplishment equals influence. I want them to know what I believe, know what I think is important, understand how to have compassion and how to forgive failings and foibles.

I don't live up to the perfect suburban mom standard. I am disorganized and scatterbrained and rushed and forgetful. Some days I get tired and order pizza. I let them eat it on the fly instead of forcing the family to sit down and talk about our days. But if they have something to tell me, I can listen instead of needing to wash the dishes, finish my needlepoint or paint a mural on the side of the garage.

Motherhood is hard enough without having to try to live up to impossible standards. I believe more mothers are like me and my mother than are like the supermoms. At least I hope so. And my children are lucky I am not a supermom, because truthfully, they're not perfect either. For now, we will each just have to make do with what we got.