Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The trees have eyes... no really!

Tree before I got my hands on the trimmer and saw... if only I could back in time...
In one of my earlier posts, I stated that I was impulsive. This time around, the unfortunate victim of my impulsiveness was our 15 foot pine tree in front of our house. I decided the thing was too tall, over grown, and in need of some serious trimming. I told Dave about my plan and knowing that it would have been futile to talk me out of it, he took the ladder outside, positioned it by the tree, and then went inside to watch the World Cup. In retrospect, I totally should have watched the World Cup. But I caught the end of it which is what the game came down to any way... back to the tree... armed with the hedge trimmers and a couple of hand saws, I went at the tree... I sheared off the branches towards the top to create a clear opening for me to saw... and off went the top 3 feet of the tree. It was actually much easier than I thought and it took me no time at all. I was impressed with my tree-cutting abilities. I called Dave to seek his opinion on whether or not I should take more off... I think he wanted to stay out of the whole thing so he didn't say much or give an opinion one way or the other. The tree looked terrible. The inside was all brown and dead and now it had an abrupt end, like some amateur had taken a hand saw to the top of the tree... oh wait, that is what happened... I decided to take a break and read up and pine tree trimming... too little, too late. Every site essentially said the same thing: cut of the top, and the tree is doomed. So that was discovery #1. Never cut off the top of the pine tree.
The victim:(
I decided to clean up the tree pieces and as I was grabbing one, I realized the pine cone was moving! I examined it closely and found what appeared to be a caterpillar in it. I put it into a container and realized that it never detached from the pine cone. It crawled around but the pine cone went with it. Strange. I wondered if it was in the process of building a cocoon and I detached it and now it would never mature. I did that once to a monarch caterpillar that was hanging from a ledge (named him Ledger) and I ended up keeping in a shoebox and helping him hang. I released him after he become a butterfly and like to think that he is somewhere in Mexico now, enjoying life. In an attempt to save this caterpillar, I needed to know what species he was so I did some research (thank God for the internet) and learned that it was no caterpillar. It was a bag-worm! What the heck is a bag-worm you might ask? Let me share with you discovery #2. Bag-worms are parasites that essentially suck the life out of trees. They attach to the tree and form a bag around themselves that resembles pine cones. They go unnoticed unless you know what to look for. I swore they were pine cones and now I am finding these disgusting little things all over my trees. I pick them off whenever I find them and fling them into the street- my hair stands instantly upon hearing the snap off of the tree. I watched them wriggle on the hot pavement- feeling a tad guilty that they were suffering but also feeling like it was an appropriate end for them after having mooched off of my tree's nutrients for who knows how long. A squirrel came along and had a nice feast and I felt a tad better knowing their end was quick. The rest got run over when Dave left for work. I still have one in the bug catcher that I am keeping for scientific research. Every time I walk by my pine trees, if I stare long enough, I can find a moving cone that gets picked off and added to the smashed lot on the street. So my once glorious emerald green arborvitae is now a brown, chopped, dying tree; even if does survive the bag-worms, will look ridiculous and be the laughing stock of the block. Really. It is that bad. I have consulted an expert arborist and am hoping he will say that even if the tree hadn't been cut off at the top, it would have died. I can then remove the tree without guilt and plant one that will be bag-worm free... until the cones start moving again...
Bag-worm. Hard to see but his head is poking out of the right side of the "cone". Gross.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Please pass the wipes...

I am a parent of three young children. I've experienced my fair share of things gross and disgusting: "up-the-back" newborn diarrhea, 24 hour flu puke (multiple times), cleaning up food messes, month old chocolate milk sippy cups found under car seats, etc.. When Ella was a toddler, we were all excited to take her to her first fair. On the way there, she puked up her dinner- chunks of hotdog and peas everywhere and the smell lingered in the car for what seemed like forever. All that to say, I don't get grossed out too easily. However, there is one thing that gets me every time. Public bathrooms. I won't even address Port-A-Potties... actually I will. I remember vividly when Ella was potty training. We had just moved her out of diapers and it was the summer. Dave suggested going down to some fest downtown. Knowing full well that there would be no access to a bathroom other than portapotties, I did my best to talk him out of it. He assured me that if she had to go, he would be the one to take her. Fair enough I thought. I hated the idea of her being subjected to those conditions, but at least I wouldn't have to take her. We went down to the fest and sure enough, the kid had to go. My husband was no where in sight. I tried to distract her, but also knew her well enough that when she said she had to go, the window "to go" was short. I sighed out of frustration that Dave was probably somewhere in line getting a nice cold beer or a pulled pork sandwich while I was about to endure germ-hell. First, there is the smell. Second, how on earth does one disinfect the seat of a portapotty?? I lined the seat with toilet paper (a rare find in those things!) and caught a glimpse of the filth below as I lifted her onto the seat. Surely some kid somewhere has fallen into one of these. Can you imagine? I tried to focus but my mind kept imagining her slipping through my hands straight through into the blue pool of toilet paper, pee, poop and who knows what else. I lifted her off when she was done and she grabbed on to the closest thing, which unfortunately, happened to be the urinal! I couldn't believe it. Of all the things! I rushed her out of the bathroom and in typical fair-type fashion, there was no water or soap at the sink. I had some baby wipes but I couldn't help but feel like she wasn't clean, no matter how many wipes I went through. Fortunately, she is now as grossed out by those things as I am and will hold out for a better option, which takes me to the original subject of this post. I am usually the one to take the kids to the bathroom on trips, mostly because women's restrooms tend to be somewhat cleaner than men's. There are some issues that arise when taking kids to public bathrooms. When sitting, their legs are not long enough to touch the ground. This means that their clothes sometimes slide down their legs and either hit the floor or touch the edge of the toilet if they hold them up. We've all been in those bathrooms and there are people out there who just don't know how to use toilets. There is always some remnant of pee on the space of the top that isn't covered by the seat or on the front of the bowl and it grosses me out to think that even a small hint of that might get on their clothes. I am all for independence when toileting (yes, I am referring to wiping) but on a long trip, a clean hiney is essential for everyone's sake. We stopped to use the bathroom and Hanna was taking her own sweet time, as she done a number of times on this trip. Fortunately, no one was waiting. I decided that perhaps if I left her alone, she would be more inclined to "poop or get off the pot". I opened the door to check on her and she said she was done. There was toilet paper in the toilet and (breathe)... her hands were wet! I knew she hadn't gotten off the toilet, which meant that as she was attempting to wipe or toss the toilet paper, her hand went into the pee/poop filled water below (more breathing). She tried to grab onto me as she leaned forward for me to wipe and I jumped out of the way to avoid her touching me with her feces-filled hands almost sending her flat on her face on the floor. I managed to grab her but her clothes were now dragging on the floor as she stumbled up. I explained to her that I didn't want her wet hands on my clothes and her look suggested that she thought I was being a bit dramatic. She washed her hands (under careful supervision... singing "Twinkle Twinkle"... twice!) and skipped out as if nothing had happened. I, on the other hand, was still gagging. There are few times I wish my kids weren't toilet trained... and this was definitely one of them. Give me a diaper and wipes any day! Perhaps a cathetir might be a good compromise? For now, we are home. And yes, while this could have happened even at home (and there are times one could argue that our bathroom resembles a public restroom), I would have been better equipped to disinfect her (and me) on my own turf.  Fortunately, no one came home with an infectious diseases... or it may just be too early to tell.