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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn Colors

I know I'm biased, but you just can't beat this time of year in Oregon, especially when you're blessed with gorgeous weather. It seems to make the fall colors all the more vivid. It's also much more enjoyable to be out and about enjoying the colors and activities under sun-drenched blue skies, rather than in drizzles and downpours! A few of my favorite fall shots thus far ...



Back yard fall plantings ...








A special birthday ...













Picturesque Sauvie Island Pumpkin Patch ...









Finding the perfect pumpkin ....













But not necessarily the most perfectly orange one ....











Finally getting to take that long-awaited jump into the pile of leaves ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Arachnophobia at its very best ... or worst!

In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on my extreme case of arachnophobia. It has been with me since I was a young child when, in the middle of the night, I woke up to find a spider crawling up the wall beside me AND another crawling up the wall behind me. I haven't been the same since. It's in my DNA as well ... from my mother's side ... and she quite-successfully passed it along to me and my three sisters. My dear sister, Heidi, is fabled to have sprayed a bleach-based cleaner on a spider ... which just so happened to be located on my parents brand-new blue carpet ... which, after that, was blue with some white squiggles in one little section.

Anyway ... now that it's Halloween, all the big blow-up spiders have been going up on houses around town. One business, in particular, has upwards of twenty attached to its building right now. Every time we drive by, my 3-year old daughter says, "Mommy, you not like those spiders!" Amen to that, sister ... even the blow-up ones are creepy!

I've been thinking, though ... is it me, or does the gigantic spider population seem to grow exponentially each year? I know that we in the Northwest don’t have anything compared to the likes of jungles … and, from the pictures I’ve seen … Australia (I had a friend who was an exchange student who lived with a family who kept a hand-sized spider in their home as a pet … it apparently also served the purpose of eating other bugs … but I digress). But still … as a person who is truly haunted by the very thought of spiders … the years of dealing with them are starting to take their toll.

Growing up in Washington, I remember daddy long legs and what we referred to as ‘garden spiders’ … the kind that look like they hail from some faraway, exotic land (even with all the interesting markings, I STILL think they’re hideous). About 9 years ago, I moved to Oregon … expecting the spider situation to be similar. It is not. They grow them bigger here. I don’t care to know the names … I just know their bodies are far too plump and their legs are far too long. Generally-speaking, they’re just far too hideous. And, while they start showing up in August, their grand debut seems to be in September and October.

When I first moved to Oregon and was met with our first late summer/early fall crop of hideously-large spiders, we lived in an apartment building. I would literally feel trapped as I attempted to leave for work in the morning. They were so big, I could hardly bring myself to walk past them for fear they would either fall on me, follow me, or see that I was leaving and figure out a way to get into our apartment. I would literally begin shaking and sweating. I was a wreck by the time I made it to the office.

Then we purchased our first home … a ‘new build’. I quickly learned that a newly-built home equaled many spiders. It started with smaller ones … still creepy. But, they would burrow their way into MY space. Let me give you an example (just one of many) … I went on a 3-day business trip. When I returned, I went to turn down my side of the bed and found that – in the 3 days I’d been gone – a spider had created a nest under the fold of my sheet and was living there … right next to my unsuspecting hubby, who’d been sleeping with it all along. It came to a point where I couldn’t just walk through my house … I was constantly inspecting as I moved … my eyes surveying up, down, and to the sides.

My dear friends, Suzy and Paul, tried to help me one year by giving me a 'pink flip-flop on a stick' ... I think it came about after a discussion about me not wanting to step on a spider to get rid of it. I needed to be much farther away from the creature and I didn't want its remnants on my shoe. So, one day, the 'flip-flop on a stick' arrived in the mail. That manifested into its own ridiculously-silly story when, one day, I was walking into the house holding a mocha, dry cleaning, my purse, and a bag, and discovered a gargantuan daddy long legs on the garage wall by the door (which I needed to enter). I switched everything to one hand (no place to put it down and couldn’t walk past the spider into the house) and prayed my mocha wouldn’t ‘spout’ out of that little drinking hole all over the dry cleaning. I grabbed my ‘pink flip-flop on a stick’ and half-squished the spider so it was hanging off the flip-flop. I swiftly walked it out to the curb, where a puddle of water had accumulated in the road. I dropped it in the water . . . shivers going up and down my body. It was then that a car drove by, driver and passengers watching intently, and I realized I was standing on the sidewalk with dry cleaning, a purse, bag, and mocha precariously balanced in one hand, while holding a pink flip-flop-on-a-stick in the other.

After my son was born and while I was holding him, one of the hideously-large ones referred to above quickly crawled through our open front door and headed for the living room couch. I screamed, likely scarring my child into the same fate of his mother. It was at that point that we decided to start spraying the outside of the house, in an effort to curb those getting into the house. I’m sorry … I know spiders are beneficial for the garden, yadda, yadda, yadda. But … unfortunately, that whole concept is lost on me. I don’t want them in my garden, and I really don’t want them in my house. So, over the past 5 or so years, things have been much better ... until recently.

I feel, at times, that I'm being hunted down by them ... as if they know about my irrational fear and want to test me. Just the other day, we were having our far-too-close-to-white carpets cleaned. As I was chatting with Mr. Stanley Steemer (about them being 40 minutes early, and, sorry, they wouldn't be able to start yet because I needed to go pick up Braden at school, which is why I originally scheduled it for the 3-6 PM timeframe and even told the guy on the phone who called just an hour earlier that 3PM would still be the only workable time...), I felt something on my foot and looked down to see the biggest, nastiest, black spider. Mr. Stanley Steemer guy even kept repeating, 'oh my goodness, that is a REALLY big spider!" Anyway ... I ran ... and told him he needed to get it (I think I said 'please'?!)! I did my part … by handing him a paper towel. However, with horror, I realized it was looking as if he was going to preserve the darn thing by picking it up with the towel and putting it outside. I INSISTED on it being squished. He was a bit leery, because of its size ... but I finally won the discussion … or maybe he finally just succumbed to the ‘customer is always right’ theory. I have no idea where it came from ... I don't know if it happened to be walking across the door when I opened it or what ... which brings me to my next question ... is the spider spray we put on the house doing ANYTHING?! Ughhh. My hubby, Jeff, laughed and said, "See ... that all happened, and you're still alive ... even after a big spider walked on your foot." I wasn't amused.

So, in the mean time, I keep watching for them ... with cleaning products and the vacuum cleaner being my extermination-combo of choice. We really don't have that many that actually get into the house ... it's just that one is too many for me!

While our son talks about liking spiders, our 3-year old daughter is the one to actually squish them. The other day, there was a small one by the front door … she excitedly told Jeff SHE was going to get it, ran to the bathroom to grab a tissue, and proceeded to do just that. We all jumped up and down with glee in celebration of her bravery. Thank goodness that strand of Jeff’s DNA transferred to her!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Golden Rule ... Kid-Style!

"Treat others the way you want to be treated."
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
The Golden Rule ... perfect for any and all occasions. And, so important to teach children. And, how do you do that in a fun way? Read to your children (or have them read to you!) one of my latest favorites ... Do Unto Otters - A Book About Manners, by Laurie Keller. I have to admit, this is the first book I've read by this particular author ... but I'm looking forward to reading others. This book is goofy, hilarious, filled with perfect puns (that the adults will enjoy even more than the kids!), and purposeful ... all wrapped up in one little book that's a kick to read.

The premise of the book? Mr. Rabbit comes home one day to find that new neighbors have moved in next door ... otters! He doesn't know anything about otters ... what if he doesn't get along with them? And, so he learns - from a little bird-like creature dressed in plaid pants and a bow tie - about the golden rule ... "Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you." Mr. Rabbit's imagination takes over from there, as he envisions all the ways in which he would want to be treated by otters. It's brilliant.

I believe it's targeted at the age 4-8 set ... with which I would agree. My 3-year old liked the pictures, but much of the humor was lost on her. My 6-year old son got a kick out of it ... and, I suspect, within the next year he will 'get' even more of the subtle humor that is woven through the story line.

Do unto others ... or otters ... a perfect rule to live by, a perfect book to enjoy with children!