Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wheat Grass Tutorial

photo credit: Opiefoto

I almost never have flowers in my home. I know what you're thinking: Wha??? A floral designer with no flowers?! Sacrilege! At the end of the day, that's just the last thing I want to do. So instead, they just die in my coolers if I don't have time to divvy them out to friends and neighbors. Springtime does make me long for a little perkiness - a little happy pop of color, however, and so once a year or so, I ignore the tulips in the cooler and instead grow myself some wheat grass. Nothing screams Easter like a big bushel of bright green grass...maybe with a few colored eggs at the base?

So without further adieu, I'm providing a quick 6-step tutorial on how to grow (or how I grow) wheat grass:

Step 1

Bust open a bucket of wheat and grab yourself a handful. For anyone who is LDS, this shouldn't be a problem -- we're supposed to rotate this stuff anyway, right? For someone who doesn't have a food storage supply (or doesn't store wheat) just grab a smaller bag from the grocery store. No need to pick up a 45 lb. bucket from Costco. And I figure if you're already making some for yourself, why not make a few cute pots for neighbors in the process? A cup and a half of wheat is more than enough for this purpose.

Step 2

Give the wheat a quick rinse, then place the wheat kernels in an airtight container and cover with water. I like to use these old Pyrex covered loaf pans, but a quart jar will work well, too. Don't put too much wheat into a single container. You don't want it to exceed a half inch...3/4 of an inch max. These things need room to breathe, so in an effort to prevent rot (Tyler's grandma says they "go sour"...and when they rot, they really do smell sour!), distribute the wheat into a few containers.

Step 3

Every day, dump the soaking wheat into a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain it really well, return it to the container, and recover (but don't add any water!). You'll do this for a few days until the wheat gets a good sprout, at which point you're ready to plant it.

Step 4

Fill your planting container with dirt. Any potting soil will work. Tyler's grandma mixes peat moss into her soil, but I haven't found that makes a noticeable difference in growth.
When I'm making grass for a wedding (see photo at the beginning of the post), I need it in large quantities so I plant it by the flat. I do this by cutting down a cardboard box, lining it with tin foil, and filling it with dirt (you only need a few inches of dirt). Then after its grown, I cut the sizes I need from the flat with scissors or a knife and place in the containers I'm using for the event. When I'm doing this for personal decor or gifts, its easier just to plant it directly into the pot I'll be using.

Sprinkle the sprouted wheat on the surface of the dirt. Give it some good coverage so your grass will be thicker. No need to pat it down -- just let it sit on top of the soil.

Step 5

Lightly sprinkle soil on top of your sprouts. LIGHTLY. If you dump a bunch of soil on top of your wheat, it'll grow funky because it'll have to work too hard to break the surface, or it won't grow at all. Just barely cover it. And if you can still see a few berries peeking through the soil, don't worry about it.

Step 6

Put the pots in a warm, bright place and keep moist. I use a spray bottle to water the grass once a day. If you over-water, the wheat will sour.

If the grass is able to grow in the sun, it will grow greener and faster. I don't get a ton of direct sunlight in my north-facing house, but keeping it by the windows on the south side has been sufficient for me. I find it takes about 10 days to get a decent growth. What you see here is probably about two weeks of growth.


And that's it. Easy-peasy. You can use pretty much any type of pot (although I've noticed that the roots tend to mold faster when grown in glass), you can grow it indoors or outdoors, and its a fun project for the kids as well because there's some instant gratification involved. It really does make for an adorable centerpiece or springtime decor feature. Grown in tera cotta pots and tied up with a bright ribbon? Talk about an easy neighbor gift! I even have some friends that have taken my event leftovers and used it in their smoothies and such, because its totally edible. But the best thing about growing wheat grass, is that is so insanely inexpensive. I have a trillion vessels in my work inventory and probably 600 pounds of wheat in our combined food storage, so all it costs me is a small bag of potting mix, and even that goes a long way.

Dare you to try it. Any way you look at it, wheat grass is happy. And happy is good. Especially in the home!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Steve Irwin reincarnate

On the way home from school this afternoon, a random conversation about Little Caesar's Pizza ("why is it pronounced "see-zer" instead of "kay-ee-sar"?) eventually caused us to reflect on a rather large road construction project in our town last summer (because they bull-dozed the Little Caesar's in the process).

Jonah recalled, "Mom? Remember that man with one hand?"

At the largest intersection of this road project stood a man responsible for holding the stop/slow sign. He was missing his left arm. We drove that road a couple times a day, always stopping at his command and offering a friendly wave as we passed by (and by friendly wave, I mean I waved while the boys screamed salutations and practically jumped out of their safety seats). He never failed to nod in return, and when the fall came around and the construction was completed, we were a little sad to see him go.

I told Jonah I did remember that construction worker and he innocently inquired, "How come he only had one arm?"

"Well, I can't be sure. Maybe he was born without it? Maybe he lost it in an accident? Maybe he got really sick and the doctors had to remove it? Maybe--"

"--Maybe he used to hunt crocodiles???"

I suppose that's a valid theory. Considering all the crocodiles we have in Utah...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The birds and the...?

Sam...a few days old

Jonah is 6 1/2. I've been wondering for a while when the most appropriate time is to have "the talk" with him.

You know what I mean. THAT talk.

He attends public school now and I can only imagine the things he's going to start hearing (and repeating) from other students with older siblings. I struggle with wanting him to be accurately informed but also wanting to shelter the daylights out of him. Because he's so inquisitive, I'm anticipating that a simple "how-to" will elicit a barrage of questions that I may not be prepared to answer. But questions are good, right? Information is good. I'll keep telling myself that: Information is good...its really, really is.

When it comes to body parts and private areas and what-is and is-not appropriate or safe, we are extremely straight forward and keep an open dialogue. What we haven't done is take the next step and talk about what those body parts do. I still remember having that conversation with my mother at a similar age. It doesn't take much to recall the wave of nausea I felt after she opened up the trusty book, "A Woman's Body." But the diagrams were helpful. Only I don't have any diagrams for boys. What will I do without a diagram??? (Thank goodness Barnes and Noble has an online store!)

Every time Jonah starts asking questions that could possibly head in that direction, I start to panic -- a mild panic. Having had two children myself, I'm pretty confident in my ability to accurately describe where babies come from, but when it comes to the other stuff...well, just count me out. I'm a female with female parts and female problems. And that is all I know. Period. (no pun intended) If that conversation is not a job for the Dad, I don't know what is. My fear is that the one conversation will automatically lead to the other, and for that, I will obviously need reinforcements.

Today at lunch we were discussing the generational steps that make up a son, grandson, great-grandson, etc., when Jonah asked, "Mom? Why don't I have a sister?"

"Because Sam was a boy."

"Why didn't you have a girl?"

"Because I had two sons. You don't get to pick what kind of baby you're going to have."

"Why can't you just make a girl?"

"Because that's not the way it works."

"Why not? How does it work?"

[SILENCE...beads of sweat forming on my forehead...]

Maybe if I look very intent on making this peanut butter sandwich, he'll think I didn't hear his question and resume his incessant chatter about Pokemon. Just don't.make.eye contact.

Wait a second -- This conversation doesn't have to go that direction! On a deeper level, he's asking about gender determination! Mitosis! Nucleic acid! Cellular...stuff! AND I'M MARRIED TO A GENETIC SCIENTIST!!! I can be exempt from pursuing this discussion!

"You know what, buddy? That's a very good question. And since its one that involves DNA, why don't we wait for Dad to get home? He can explain it so much better than I can."

"Okay, Mom. No problem." [enter Pokemon-speak]

Yes, my child knows what DNA is...and yes, I should be ashamed of myself for using Tyler as an out. But I'm not. Besides -- he's six. He's got the attention span of a hummingbird.

I'm sure we will revisit this issue in another day or so when he remembers we never did talk to Dad. And maybe then I'll be ready.

Or maybe not...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sam not only agreed to have his photo taken, but was also game for a little green face paint in honor of today's holiday. I suggested Jonah do the same, but he responded by hiding behind the toilet.

Then I tried to get a photo of both boys.

And this is what I got:

So much for trying.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why I Love Spring

There's something about winters in Utah that can drive a person to insanity. And not just any old crazy, either -- I'm talking serial killer kind of nuts. The inversion we suffer from in January through the end of February is almost unbearable. Everyone drives around the valley in their filthy-dirty cars, hacking up the gunk that was once in the air but now coats their lungs, squinting their eyes trying to make out where the silhouette of the mountain peaks should be... People are short-tempered and depressed, and after 4:00 PM when the day turns to night (I'd say the sun goes down, but there is no sun during those months) the only thing that seems to provide any kind of distraction from the dreariness is consuming unhealthy amounts of comfort food while watching really bad sitcoms. Unless you have the where-with-all to make frequent ski trips up the mountain to escape the smog (and I don't ski), you're stuck. No relief.

When March rolls around, its like tasting chocolate for the first time. Suddenly the sun is gleaming, people start smiling again, and everywhere you turn, you see short-sleeves and clam-diggers -- despite the fact its only 50 degrees on a good day. Men are back on their bikes, women can't stop talking about what they're going to do in their garden that year, and kids...well, kids finally shed the monster-skin they somehow developed during the winter and start acting like their former-summer-euphoria-selves again.

I, for one, feel like a new woman. Since Jonah started kindergarten in the fall, we have become slaves to his ridiculous 12:20-3:10 PM school schedule. I'd like to say I run a tight enough ship to provide these guys with a decent before-school activity, but I really, truly do not. Our daily schedule goes a little something like this:

7:00 AM -- Jonah wakes up and fails miserably at "playing quietly" while Sam continues to sleep.
8:00 AM -- Sam wakes up and he and I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and wait for Jonah.
8:30-9:30 AM -- Jonah eats breakfast.
9:30-10:00 AM -- Jonah showers.
10:00-10:45 AM -- Jonah runs around the house, naked, while playing with toys.
10:45-11:00 AM -- After being threatened 100 times, Jonah finally gets dressed.
11:00 AM-11:50 AM -- Jonah plays with his food and eventually...eventually eats his lunch.
11:50 AM - 12:00 PM -- brush teeth, try to clean the resulting sparkly toothpaste off the counter, search frantically for two matching shoes, "Where in the world is your backpack?!" 12:01 PM -- "Everyone out the door NOW!"
12:04 PM -- Kids strapped in the car, mommy requests a few moments of silence.

See? Try as I might, there's just no way to make it to the museum or story-time at the bookstore before school. The library is sometimes doable simply because its down the street and we can make it home by lunch, but even that is pushing it. So at mid-day, Jonah goes to school, Sam takes a nap, and by the time the afternoon rolls around and both kids are at home and awake, I suddenly find I have an army of monkeys in my house jumping off the furniture, dumping out the toy chest, and fighting to see "who can be the loudest" while I struggle to get some sad-excuse for a dinner (usually involving potatoes...I don't like potatoes much) on the table.

But now -- oh joyous now! -- with the sun pouring through the window and the breeze just hovering around no-jacket-needed weather, the moment I see those little eyes skirting about looking for mischief, I can now open the door and usher them outside to explore, dig, and scream to their hearts' content. This afternoon I sent them out with a small container of bubbles and didn't see them again for an hour and a half (though I listened to the giggles through the open kitchen window). An HOUR and a HALF. Do you know what a mother can accomplish with a childless hour and a half?! Laundry! Dinner! Bills! Heck, I could clean the entire HOUSE with a spare hour and a half! Okay, maybe not the whole house, but I could definitely make the bed. Did I do any of that? Of course not! I watched Oprah, read some emails, and ate half a bag of Goldfish crackers. I deserved it. I needed it. After a winter like the one now in my rear view mirror, one afternoon of slacking off was just what the doctor ordered.

I. Love. Spring.

But, lest you think otherwise, I did manage to get dinner on the table, too.
And this time, no potatoes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Whoosie Cushion

Not all boys are created equal.

There are some who exit the womb tossing balls and tackling teammates, others who immerse themselves in video games and comic books, and yet others still who prefer to strum a guitar or bang on a snare drum to pass the time.

However, I do believe there is a common denominator that unites boys everywhere: the obsession with bodily noises.

My boys are no exception. In their eyes, there is nothing better, nothing more entertaining, nothing more expressive than a good belch or some decent flatulence. Growing up in a house of females, I wasn't privy to the humor associated with bodily functions. After marrying into Tyler's family of brothers, I was a little shocked by how casual and welcomed it was to break wind during dinner and then discuss it. I suppose I should have looked at it as a primer to mothering boys, but at the time, I assumed I'd be graced with daughters simply because girls were all I knew how to do. I know the Lord must have a pretty decent sense of humor (just look at a giraffe and try to convince yourself He doesn't), but I didn't know He was that funny. Apparently humor is divine, because I'm now the mother of two sons.

It didn't take long to realize that this love for all things intestinally-related was innate. Once Jonah learned he actually had a little control over his body, it became a favorite pass time to see just how loud he could belch. When Sam came along, everything was taken to another level. Sam revels in it. Not only is he the first to point out and laugh at anything that remotely sounds like a toot ("toot" being our word of choice -- I feel its less offensive than other options and considering how often its said around here, it might as well not be disgusting.), but he's a pro at mimicking those sounds and does his best to slip in one -or twenty- artificial belches while we bless the food before dinner. Jonah is always a great audience, and if we're lucky, he'll join in and contribute to the symphony of inappropriate noises.

A while back, Jonah's Granny took him to the dollar store. I'm pretty sure the purpose of this particular visit was to find Sam a Christmas present, but not surprisingly, Jonah came home that afternoon having spent the entire contents of his piggy bank -- on himself. The prized acquisition of that trip was a immaculate blue Whoopie Cushion. I know he'd had one in the past, but it might as well have been his first fart-maker because it quickly became his most loved possession. His entire reason for existence became wrapped up in trying to "trick" people into sitting on it. He never did seem to grasp the idea that the cushion should be hidden so as to catch the sitter off guard, but we all played along and did our due diligence on what became known as the "Whoosie Cushion." Unfortunately, his father and his Papa were frequent targets of the whoosie cushion. When 160-270+ pounds meets a little rubber pillow, the pillow doesn't stand a chance. So once a week or so, the whoosie cushion would pop. I would suggest it find its way into the trash, and Jonah would insist on patching it with "Goose Tape" (aka, Duct Tape -- Goose, Duck, Duct...its all the same, right?). Pretty soon, the only thing holding it together was tape. But that didn't deter the boys from using it. Over, and over, and over again.

When it was his time to bring something for Show and Tell at school, the whoosie cushion was it. I'm sure he demonstrated how it worked, and I would imagine the other 5 and 6 year-olds got a kick out it (soooo much cooler than a stuffed animal!) -- And that his teacher rolled her eyes.

Sam became the whoosie cushion's biggest fan. He would gleefully scream, "toot-ing! toot-ing!" every time it was brought out, laugh delightfully at each disgusting vibration, and then watch intently as another Goose Tape patch was administered.

This morning the whoosie cushion received two more patches and I announced that it was finally time to say good-bye to the wretched thing. After cries of protest, I finally gave in and agreed it could stick around until we had time to make another trip to the dollar store to replace it.

We're counting the coins in Jonah's piggy bank right now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Toothy Accusation

Jonah started losing his teeth soon after the school year began. It was very bittersweet. While I love to see him excited about growing up, every mother is cognizant of the fact that once the teeth start falling out, a kid's cuteness factor starts dropping like one of those free-fall attractions at the amusement park. No one looks at a kid with a mouth full of twisted, half-grown adult teeth and overcrowded baby teeth and thinks, "Wow! That child sure got good genes! Who, pray tell, are his uber-attractive parents?"

When the first tooth became wiggly, I had a frantic desire to get a family portrait taken so I could usher guests into my home and direct them to the photo to show that at one point, my child was indeed very cute. I needed proof. But that never happened, so now I have none.

You'll have to take my word for it.

Eventually, the first one fell out while he was brushing his teeth. The second fell out while he was sucking on a pistachio shell, and I can't even begin to remember how he lost the third one. At that point, his front teeth were gone. All except for one, anyway.

One afternoon Jonah was jumping off the couch and hit his face on a sofa cushion of all things, which knocked his remaining tooth out of alignment so it was just crooked enough that you noticed. The skawonkiness (yes, that is a technical term) of his tooth just got worse as the weeks passed...and then months...until Tyler and I were begging, pleading, and trying to bribe Jonah to just pull the nasty thing out. For some reason, he always resisted, and so we've been looking at his goofy grin for quite some time now.

Yesterday, while eating a granola bar, Jonah announced that his last remaining front tooth had FINALLY fallen out. There was cheering. And dancing. And jumping for joy. At last -- no more crooked, crazy, "billy-bob" tooth. We put it in a Ziploc bag and waited for the evening when it would be placed under his pillow to be exchanged for a Sacajawea coin by the hairy, 33-year old tooth-fairy that is his father.

At 9:00 PM, Jonah got out of bed with his tooth-baggy in hand.

"Mom? I decided I want to write a letter to the tooth fairy."

"Sorry, kiddo. Its way past your bedtime. If you want to wait until tomorrow night to put your tooth under your pillow, we can work on your letter in the morning."

"Okay. I'll wait." [He hands me his tooth] "You keep this safe for me. But MOM --" [He gives me the stink eye and points his index finger at me] "Don't even THINK about putting it under YOUR pillow!"

Please. I know I'm a little strapped for cash these days, but I haven't tried the ol' "steal-the-tooth-and-put-it-under-my-pillow-in-hopes-the-TF-doesn't-know-better" for at least 25 years. I'm way too mature for such shenanigans. Besides, I know the coin is going to be placed in his pocket, and then end up in the washing machine next week anyway.

For those who are curious, the letter said this:
"from...Jonah to..

Dear tooth fairy,
i want to see you so can you just get a blanket and go.
P.S. under a blanket."

He's quite the communicator, eh?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brain Freeze

I was working at the D Street house today when my cell phone rang. Every time my phone rings, I brace for the worst. Since Tyler has his own ring (Tom Petty...its catchy), any other call is usually a contractor, which is my least favorite of daily contacts. This afternoon, while attempting in vain to scrape out the ridiculous mess of caulk that is currently the crown molding in my kitchen (thank you very much, Crescent Cabinets), the generic ring cut the silence. I assumed it was the cabinet guy, and climbed down my ladder with a sigh. Instead of hearing a gruff man instantly complaining about how "particular" I am, I was greeted by a woman's voice on the other end. Jonah's kindergarten teacher.


A phone call from Ms. B can only mean one of three things: Jonah has split his head open, he's gotten sick all over another kid, or his actions have garnered him a dreaded RED STICK. The "stick system" is how discipline is administered in Jonah's class of 25 students. Green stick = good behavior, Yellow stick = major warning, Red stick = busted. Amazingly, Jonah hasn't spent much time in the red stick category, mostly because while common sense isn't enough to persuade him to good behavior, the consequences of that fateful stick are.

Jonah's teacher assured me he was fine, but that she wanted me to know that Jonah had received a red stick that afternoon for hitting another child. She said she had talked it through with Jonah and that it sounded like the hit was not at all malicious -- that they were playing a game and Jonah got carried away. BUT she wanted me to know that Jonah was extremely upset and would likely be so when he was picked up from school. She held him back while the other students went to art class to inquire about his response to the red stick. In the midst of the crying, she was able to make out that he "hated red sticks more than anyone" because he knew what the consequence would be and that it was bad. Really bad. Red sticks can only mean one thing: No Gameboy, no Playstation.

Oh, the HORROR!!!

I had a dentist appointment this afternoon, so Tyler picked up Jonah from school. When I returned home, I found a pitiful little 6-year old curled up on a chair underneath a blanket, quietly sobbing. (Mind you, this is hours after the offense occurred) I pulled Jonah onto my lap and asked him to tell me what happened. He described the incident with perfect clarity, pausing only to push away his little brother who was clearly trying to console his best friend. We rocked, and talked about why it was wrong to hit his classmate even if it was all in fun, and how that little boy may have felt.

And then, out of nowhere, he began to wail in agony: "I know what the consequence is, Mom! I know what it is!"

"You know what it is because we decided what the consequence would be beforehand, didn't we? What's the consequence for getting a red stick, buddy?"

"No [sob!] Game [sob!] Boy! NO [gasp!] PLAY [sob!] STATION!"

Holy cow. The agreement was, if he gets a red stick, no electronics for the rest of the day. And seeing as he's only allotted one hour's worth each day, its not like we're talking about a huge loss here. At least from my 30-year old perspective.

I'm a big believer in making the "punishment" fit the crime, but in some circumstances, I think you need to have the consequence laid out before the crime has been committed, simply to try to influence good behavior (or at least dissuade bad behavior). In this instance, I wasn't sure he was learning the lesson because he was so fixated on how horrible the consequence was at that moment. So now I'm rethinking that approach. But in the meantime, Jonah and I had a little discussion about why we have consequences and why there are good consequences, and bad consequences.

I said to him, "What if Ms. B called to tell me you hit that boy and instead of losing electronics I took you to go get ice cream? Would that help you to remember that hitting isn't good to do?"


"Nope. You'd probably think that hitting is okay since you got rewarded with ice cream, and then you wouldn't learn that your actions were inappropriate. That's one of the reasons we say 'When you do good things, good things happen, but when you do bad things, BAD things happen.' Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, it makes sense..."

"Good, I'm glad. Because you're a good kid and I know these consequences are hard for you."




"Ice cream sounds really good right now. Do we have any?"

***Note to self: Avoid ice cream analogies. The thought of ice cream will always trump the life lessons you're trying to teach.