Friday, April 29, 2011

Working in the Yard

I come from a family of gardeners.  My grandparents were farmers; they grew cash crops and a full array of vegetables for their family.  My mom brought the same mentality into her suburban home.  She had a strawberry patch and two different veggie beds in the backyard.  Flowering plants are her primary love and she devoted her evenings and weekends tending them.  She allocated the kids a whole section of the yard as a"dirt pit" -- clearly in the hopes that we would start our own mini-garden -- but instead we spent gleeful hours digging and dumping water and making rivers and pushing around little dump trucks and just getting dirty.  I loved the dirt pit but viewed the rest of the yard and garden as a chore to be avoided, and I was mostly successful.

My adult life has had a similar mentality.  Eric and I bought the house when we were 24 and we inherited a "professional landscaped lawn."  It really was lovely, but we did nothing to tend it and it has gone to crap in the 9 years since.  We added a tree to the backyard (Fred, the American Sycamore) and a tree to the front yard (Red, the Red Bud), but that has been the full extent of our plantings.  My mom, of course, was horrified that we had not transformed our yard into anything but grass, so she transferred all sorts of plants to our yard (peonies, rose of Sharon bushes, columbine, lilies, irises, lily of the valley).  I'm pretty confident she brought other things here, but I never tended them so there's a "survival of the fittest" mentality in terms of what's still around. 

Overall, my interest in growing plants has been rather low.  In the past two years, though, I've discovered a new joy:  yard work.  I really delight in taking my clippers and cutting plants down to size and I LOVE ripping weeds and other plants out of the yard.  It's ridiculously theraputic to destroy, and I've averaged 2 hours a week destroying and restraining all sorts of plant growth on the property. 

I'm slowly feeling the inclination to plant something on my own.  I checked out some gardening books from the library and I've brainstormed some ways to eliminate the grass altogether from my yard.  Today I committed.  Samantha received a lovely hydrangea potted plant for Adminstrative Asst Day, which she promptly gave to me.  I brought it home, spent an hour digging and preparing a space for it, and put it in the ground.  The girls were THRILLED.  They supervised the digging, squealed with delight each time a worm was revealed, and they took turns watering the plant.  Lola literally shook with joy and exclaimed "I SO EXCITED!" when she was given the water cup.  She watered the dirt about a foot away from the plant, but who cares? 

Raina has been an active member of Gardening Club at school; she's really enjoying the whole process of encouraging vegetables to grow and we've had lots of botantically based conversations in the last few weeks.  I think it's time for the Whomptons to switch mentalities; it's time for us to become gardeners.  I'm honestly looking forward to the enterprise, and I too am excited to see what Raina, Lola, and I create over the next few years.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Raina grows stronger!

Raina has never been particularly outdoorsy or much a fan of exercise, so getting her outside and active has been a continuous struggle for us.  For the first three years of her life, she chose the stroller for every activity and she refused to go anywhere after Lola arrived, because she had been displaced from the stroller.  Family ventures came to a halt, which was miserable for everyone, so we've made a concerted effort to build up her endurance over time. 

At age four, she could walk to the local playground about 1/2 mile away, run around like crazy, and make it home but there was much complaining, stopping, and crying.  At 5, she could do it happily and without complaint OR she could Big Wheel there with some assistance.  At 5.5 years, she could run the entire trip there and back OR she could walk to our favorite local restaurant (about 1 mile away), have dinner, and then walk home.  Now she can wander around the STL Zoo for a few hours and all we hear are excited statements of "Let's go over there to see this animal!"   I think in a year or two she'll be ready for some real tourist-focused walking cities like Chicago, New York, or DC.  It's glorious.

Raina's newest discovery is the bike.  We come home from school and she bikes around the driveway while I make dinner and, on weekends, she bikes to the playground or to a restaurant.  Going uphill she bikes at a walking adult's pace and going downhill matches a light jog, so it's perfect for us.  It's possible that this summer will see Raina and I at Creve Coeur Lake Park -- a nice, flat bike loop -- to see if she can make it the full 3.7 miles.  If so, we'll be able to do long family walks again, which brings me great joy.  She currently has a very old hand-me-down bike that doesn't fit her well (she's grown tall and leggy) so we're going to upgrade her bike for her birthday in a few weeks.  I'm excited to see what she does with it!

Running in the Rain

Running is a good all-purpose exercise: you use it in almost every other sport and it's good endurance training.  Plus, it's ridiculously hard; nothing transforms the body quite like running does.  It's nice to do solo and also pleasant to do with a friend.  It just requires decent shoes and perseverance .... I have the shoes, so I've counted myself as a runner for a while.  As an adult, I've trained for and completed some long distance races; I've scored myself medals and shirts and the desire not to run ever again, only to return slowly to it as I realize how much I miss being outside and communing with the bunnies and deer and birds and trees. 

I have an eye condition called ocular rosacea, which makes my eyes very sensitive to light and wind, so I don't run much anymore.  I can run outside when it's dark and not breezy and, admittedly, those limitations are sometimes too restricting.  My desire to get up at 4 a.m. or to begin my run at 8 p.m. is pretty low.  Therefore, my running has been limited to the treadmill and watching whatever terrible TV happens to be on at 5:30 a.m.  Not ideal.

This weekend, my friend Paul was running his first marathon and I wanted to support him, so I swore to myself that I would run outside with him for at least 2 miles -- regardless of what it did to my eyes -- and that I would spend the rest of Saturday and Sunday recovering from the experience.  We started off at 6 a.m. and it was glorious.  I ran with him for 5 miles and then trekked back a few more before I called to be picked up.  My eyes only started hurting at the end of the run, which I count as a tremendous success.

The secret?  It was raining!  I never purposefully ran in the rain before but it was exceptionally delightful.  The sky was dark and overcast and there were no surprise shafts of sunlight breaking through at moments and stabbing my eyes.  No need for sunscreen or a hat.  It was a gentle rain, so the coolness was refreshing and it soaked my outer-layer so I was never overheated.  All together, it was a very pleasant experience, and I recommend you try running in a spring rain to see if you like it too!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lola and her Lovies

Lola refused to nap today (which is never a good start to the afternoon) but she did want to play "tuck Mommy in bed so she can take a nap."  Admittedly, I like playing this game a lot because I get to lie on the couch, she covers me with blankets, I read, and occasionally act like I'm snoring.  Easy way to occupy the kid.
Today Lola was dissatisfied with my sleep-acting.  I was not convincing enough, or something, so I countered with "Lola, I need a lovey."  She looked confused, I repeated my request, and then she scurried away in pursuit of a lovey suitable for her mommy.

She returned with five stacking blocks.  She tucked them under the blanket with me, patted them, said "FIVE lovies, Mommy!" and promptly gave me the look that meant "start sleeping!"  She got extremely convincing snores after that!  :)


Eric has had allergies and asthma all his life and, by all accounts, it was really bad when he was young.  His doc focused on treating the allergies with the assumption that the asthma would tame as a result, and he never really improved until he found a doctor who aggressively treated the asthma.  Jump forward in time and location: Saint Louis.  Saint Louis is one of the worst cities for allergies and asthma but Eric keeps both under control by taking Singulair and regularly using his inhaler.

We've monitored the girls because both asthma and allergies have a family link.  It was no surprise, then, when Lola started showing symptoms a year ago.  This March was really bad for her.  As soon as she laid down to sleep, she immediately began coughing and she never really stopped until she got up the next morning.  She coughed so much that she cried in her sleep.  It was terrible, and we knew it was time to have her re-evaluated.  As a result, we upgraded her Qvar inhaler and added a chewable Singulair to the mix. 

Lola loved taking the Singulair.  It must be coated in sugar or something, because she happily popped it in her mouth everytime we said, "Lola, medicine!"  Approximately five minutes later, the terror started.  She went absolutely zany.  She ran circles around the house, stuck her tongue out and babbled, jumped up and down, and darted from one activity to the next.  She also went completely aggressive: repeatedly smacking people (without provocation), throwing items at people, etc.  She spent an entire day at daycare walking up to her friends, putting her hands in their faces, and shoving them down to the ground.  It was like she was on an upper that completely eliminated her impulse control so she just did whatever she wanted.  She also had strange mood swings; she'd be completely bouncy and happy and then would dissolve into hysterics at the drop of a hat. 

So we experimented.  We gave the pill at different times of day.  If she took it right before bed, then she stayed up an extra two hours.  If she took it with dinner, she spent the 2 hours before bed going crazy and hitting her family members.  Taking it in the morning caused her to be in time-out all day at school.  She only returned to her true self when off the meds for a full 24 hours. 

Upon further review of the Singulair materials, we learned that possible side effects include mood swings, aggression, and hostility.  Yep, we saw that first hand.  Lola's been off the Singulair for a few days now and she's returned to her happy, stable self.  Thank goodness.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy birthday, Eric!

Over spring break, Samantha, Krystal, and Raina visited Owensboro for the day and immersed ourselves in good memories of our grandparents.  We took one last tour of the family farm and Mom shared great barn/veggie/cow/tobacco/farm stories with Raina.  We had a really nice visit and I'm so glad that we went.  Unfortunately, on the drive back, we were in a car accident which totaled out the Saturn. 

The Saturn was the only Whompton car that safely transported all five of us from place to place, so we immediately began the search for the new Whompton-mobile.  We obtained it during Eric's birthday weekend and he joked that for his birthday he bought his wife a car.  Too true :)

To make up for it, he had three birthday desserts:  cookie cake, brownies, and butter pecan cake.  Note his choo-choo train, complete with animals, caboose, and candles!  Happy birthday, Eric!


The girls recently turned a corner in their relationship and they seek each other out as a playmate.  It's glorious on so many levels and has resulted in some cute photos too.