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April 23, 2006

Mother Love

Each night before I turn in for bed, I check in on Graham, pulling covers up over his out sprawled arms and legs, smoothing back a lock of hair and allowing the caress of a tender cheek to wipe away the day’s frustrations and cares – both his and mine.

Graham sleeping. (Click image for larger)

As I lean in to give him a good night kiss, I sniff deeply of that heady aroma of sleeping child – sweat and sunshine, shampoo and joy. And I know in the very marrow of my bones that This Child is Mine.

I’ve read that smell is the most potent of the senses, attaching itself to events so powerfully that even a faint whiff of a scent can bring back long-forgotten memories.

It also acts as a recognition device, a reinforcement of maternal process. Even the day after Graham was born, I could have chosen him from an array of other babies, just from his individual scent.

I think it’s an ancient response for women, going back to when we were simple primates. Have you ever noticed that when a baby is presented to a gaggle of women, almost the first thing each one of them will do when handed the child is to hold the baby close and take a deep sniff? We all laugh that we “just love the smell of new baby? but what we’re really doing is testing for recognition. We sniff and think, “Yep, this smells good but it’s not mine.?

That imprint of aroma is like olfactory DNA, something so unique and singular that it cannot be replicated. Every animal mother can tell her child from the all others in a herd, even when there are hundreds of them.

So at night, when mothers everywhere tuck their little ones in to bed, we can sleep in peace, too, because we know This Child is Mine.

A mother’s nose knows, and it’s never wrong.

Deep Purple

With all the chartreuse leaves popping out on trees and cheery yellow daffodils in bloom, a garden’s deeper purple flowers and foliage can make a welcome change.

This spring my gardens contain wild prairie crocus...

Wild prairie crocus. (Click image for larger)

...snake’s head fritillary...

Snake’s head fritillary. (Click image for larger)

...and grape hyacinth.

Grape hyacinth. (Click image for larger)

From emerging hosta shoots...

Hosta shoots. (Click image for larger) the ruffled edges of “Plum Pudding? heuchera...

“Plum Pudding? heuchera. (Click image for larger)

...and the stalks of “Husker Red? pensetemon,

“Husker Red? pensetemon. (Click image for larger)

...purplish leaves also add color and form.

And don’t forget the punch provided by the bright fuschia of Turkish tulips...

Turkish tulips. (Click image for larger)

...and waxy-leaved bergenia.

Bergenia. (Click image for larger)

What I’m Reading

Browsing through: “Foliage: Dramatic and Subtle Leaves for the Garden? by David Joyce.

Listening to: “Dragonfly in Amber – Part 1? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish time travel.

Graham’s current favorite: “Owen & Mzee: the True Story of a Remarkable Friendship? by Isabella Hatkoff and “What Do Illustrators Do?? by Eileen Christelow.

Today’s Grahamisms

Graham and I were out running errands one night last week when it began to rain quite hard. We rushed from a store to the van, trying not to get wet. As I buckled him into his booster seat, most of my body still outside the van, Graham said, “Oh, the water makes everything sparkle, even your butt.?

While walking down to Big Park on Medicine Lake, Graham said, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World is wrong. Howler monkeys should be on that list because when they howl it can be heard for seven miles.? Then he demonstrated by hooting at the top of his lungs, startling a nearby walker.

Graham’s class has been studying art for the past two weeks, and every day he brings home artwork that he has done in the style of Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt and others. One day, he announced, “My favorite artist today is Andy Warthog.?

Posted by maasx003 at 12:44 PM

April 16, 2006

Spring Ephemerals

There is something rather bittersweet about the spring ephemerals. You wait all year for them and are delighted when they appear, knowing full well that they won’t last long.

I’m sure there are very specific guidelines on categorizing plants as ephemerals but I’m using my own loose interpretations here.

I would start out with the crocus, a cheerful spring bulb guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone’s face. They come in a variety of colors....

Purple crocus. (Click image for larger)

....and build dense clusters as they multiply.

Siberian squill also form cheerful clumps, creating a wash of blue color like a river or stream.

Siberian squill. (Click image for larger)

The woods are the perfect place to look for native spring ephemerals. The other day I took the dogs for a walk in nearby French Park. On our way back from the woods, I glanced into the brush edging the walking path and was astonished to see not one, but two clusters of bloodroot in bloom.

Bloodroot. (Click image for larger)

I must have been truly distracted on my way to the woods because I completely missed them, which was a pretty incredible feat considering how white the flowers are and how evident they are against their surroundings.

Bloodroot remind me of strange alien life forms whose bat-like wings surround them when it’s cold and open up with the warmth of the sun. Very cool.

Budding Bloodroot. (Click image for larger)

My astonishment continued the next morning when I stood with Graham in our driveway, waiting for the school bus. I glanced up into our woodland/dry streambed garden, and there was a single bloodroot in bloom.

I don’t remember planting it, even though I know I’ve wanted to add bloodroot to that bed for years. Obviously I did so last year!

I would even add trees to my list of spring ephemerals, in this case the magnolia species.

I’ve too much Dakota prairie in me to ever want to transform myself into a Southern belle, but if it would mean being able to enjoy the sights and scents of magnolia trees for more than just a few days, I would certainly consider it.

Our “Merrill? magnolia trees are seven years old now and have truly come into their own. Last week’s unseasonably early warm weather made the buds pop, and every day I came home from work to be greeted by even more blossoms.

The two magnolia. (Click image for larger)

The threat of rain concerned me because a hard rainfall can wipe out an entire tree’s blooms in an instant. But luckily, the rain never arrived, and we’ve been graced with glorious blooms for almost a week.

And the fragrance! Just step out of the house onto the deck, and you are instantly enveloped in a cloud of sweet smells, which travel all the way to the front yard. Working in the yard is certainly enhanced by this kind of aromatherapy.

The trees are uplit with landscape lights and are eerily beautiful at night, their delicate white blossoms glowing in the dark.

All these spring flowers are lovely but don’t last long, so you really have to stop to enjoy them while you can.

More Spring Photos

The hellebores continue to please me with their greenish, waxy-looking flowers. I planted three more last year.

Hellebores. (Click image for larger)

Since they are in Pont’s main flight path through the garden, it remains to be seen if they’ve survived.

Last fall I planted 96 “Czar Peter? tulips in the middle bed of the back gardens. They are coming up nicely, with an unusual purple stripe along their leaves.

Czar Peter leaf. (Click image for larger)

Taking Care of Business

In spring, my list of things to do grows longer by the minute, and Brian has to talk me down when I start to get that frantic look in my eyes. I could be outside every spare minute and still not get it all done. That really puts me in a panic when I let it get to me.

I’m still clearing out perennial beds, but I’m almost finished with that chore. I was able to cut back most of the clematis this weekend and got a start on pruning the shrub roses. But when I look around, I see the prairie garden to be weeded, the early vegetables to get planted, the wisteria to be pruned and on and on. Yikes!

Sometimes I feel smug that I’ve gotten so much done already, and it’s only mid-April. (Is it just me or did Spring come early this year?) And at other times, I’m just overwhelmed.

Today, I had to tell myself just to give it up and stay indoors to tend to mundane household chores (Lord, do I hate ironing). I could feel my internal gardening pressure rising as the sun came out. It was supposed to rain, dang it! When it’s pouring out, I can work indoors without any guilt.

There should be gardening therapy for people like me. Not a therapy where sick people do gardening to feel better. I’m talking about therapy for “people who garden too much? or wish they could garden more, something to help them feel better when they can’t.

Maybe I’ll add that to my list of things to do.

What I’m Reading

Browsing through: “Architectural Plants: What to grow and how to grow it? by Christine Shaw. Too bad most of the plants won’t survive in Zone 4.

Still listening to: “Outlander – Part 2? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish time travel. Two disks left!

Graham’s current favorite: “The Borrowers? by Mary Norton. Another children’s classic. And “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late? by Mo Willems.

Today’s Grahamisms

While watching a silly cartoon in which Baby Bugs Bunny and Baby Daffy were building a “huge? castle, Graham said, “That's not the biggest castle I've ever seen. Actually I've never seen one but I know I will some day.? Too right, boyo.

“City Gardener,? Mom’s current favorite BBC gardening show was on. Graham watched for a while and then said, “You know, to make everything look really great, we need to paint the house green and add bricks all around the gardens. So get going.? Just what I need, a six-year-old design critic.

Posted by maasx003 at 3:59 PM

April 10, 2006

Happy Birthday, Graham!

Monday, April 10, our son Graham Kiloran turned six. He was born on a Monday, and it’s hard to believe that enough years have passed for that same day to come around again.

And it’s hard to believe that our tiny baby....

Graham at one day old. (Click image for larger)

....has grown into a big boy of six.

Graham with his BD cakes. (Click image for larger)

We held a small party this weekend for a mixture of old friends and new. The theme was superheroes and the eight boys (and one little sister) made their own capes, wrist bands and goggles. (Many thanks to my friend Wendy who shared her professional ideas and supplies.)

Flash greets everyone in the entry. (Click image for larger)

Making super hero wristbands. (Click image for larger)

Making super hero capes. (Click image for larger)

Games included Bad Guy Bowling and a race to save Superman’s life by gathering all the kryptonite that had fallen into our yard the night before when a meteorite whizzed overhead.

Super heroes hunt down kryptonite. (Click image for larger)

Our heroes located all the kryptonite. (Click image for larger)

Then there was a piñata, Spiderman cakes and opening presents – all in two hours. Whew!

At the Batman piñata. (Click image for larger)

Piñata opened! (Click image for larger)

Even time for gifts! (Click image for larger)

Dad & Graham play some chess. (Click image for larger)

And soon another year will zoom by and we’ll find ourselves at party number seven, wondering where the time went.

So here’s to you, my sweet babaloo. Happy, happy birthday.

We’re Back in the Garden, Baby!

The Maas family spent some time doing garden clean up this week, lifting leaves from the front perennial beds so the bulbs could come through.

Graham was my helper guy, gently pulling the matted leaves back to reveal yellow daffodil and crocus shoots. Each time he found one, he would shout, “Mom! Look! More garden treasure!? He was especially enamored with the tulip shoots declaring that they looked like candy with stripes of white, yellow and red.

At one point he told me, “We make a good team. You know how to garden and I know how to have fun.? Indeed. I thought they were one and the same.

Today Brian removed the bags of leaves that protected tender plants during the winter, and Graham helped with box elder bug extermination, his trusty squirt gun filled with soapy water. Any time he saw a box elder bug, he would shout, “Do you want to go to heaven??

He was quite proud of his efforts saying, “We are saving the gardens. Dad and me are shooting the box elders and you can get the slugs.?

More Signs of Spring

The goldfinches have ditched their drab gray winter coats for shades of yellow –from the softest cream to bright lemon.

The dogs no longer need their coats when we go for walks.

A bunch of asparagus was only 98 cents at Cub this week. As I was cooking it, Graham said, “I smell something stinky.?

I made my first chive omelet of the season.

Brian uncovered the willow furniture under the pergola.

What I’m Reading

Still reading: “John William Waterhouse? by Aubrey Noakes. A look at the Pre-Raphaelite painter and his work.

Listening to: “Outlander – Part 2? by Diana Gabaldon. Continuing the tale of romantic Scottish time travel.

Graham’s current favorite: “The Borrowers? by Mary Norton. Another children’s classic.

Today’s Grahamisms

"When Pont dies and is a dog angel, will he still be in the house but we just can’t see him? What if I walk through the house and trip over him?"

"When superheroes crash their cars, they get zero dollars back."

Posted by maasx003 at 4:08 PM