Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maybe It's the Power Line

Have you wondered how The Family Garden is doing? Well, it's hard to say. Nearly everything is growing like crazy, and we're getting a bit of a harvest here and there. But most of it is just... weird. Like the cantaloupes we've been so eagerly anticipating. They're huge! But they're orange instead of green. They smell like cantaloupes, but they almost look like pumpkins.

Here's one that fell off the vine while we were away on vacation:
See the deep ridges and the orange tint?


It grew so fat that it split at the bottom, so we were a bit afraid to eat it. Bill and I each took only a dainty bite, but Allyson gobbled her usual portion and said, "More please!" She's still quite healthy, so I guess we should cut up the other one that's hogging fridge space.

The cantaloupe vine is still trying to take over the garden, or maybe the whole backyard. If you look closely at the center of the next picture, you'll see a little green cantaloupe nestled inside the tomatoes' cage:


Speaking of tomatoes, guess what? We finally have some! The tomato vines had grown so bushy on our vacation that they were dragging the ground, so Bill went over to cut them down. But then he saw a good number of fairly normal looking tomatoes like this one:

We might even have enough to make some tomato sauce, if I can figure out when to pick them. Even though they're still small and green, I found beak holes in one of them. Stupid birds! We probably need a scarecrow. You'd think Lola would chase them away, but she's probably too busy barking at the birds on the neighbor's roof to notice the birds plundering the garden.

The potatoes were a big disappointment--make that potato:

The big white bucket was overflowing with lovely green leaves, but when Bill dug it up, there was only this one shriveled potato in all that musty, wormy dirt. I knew we should have followed the complicated instructions I found on the Internet, but Bill assured me all that work wasn't really necessary.

The butternut squash seem to be dying out, though I did harvest enough (five, I think) to make a delicious pureed casserole for Mom's birthday on Sunday. Most of them were small and oddly shaped, but there was one nice fat one. It was so gratifying to say, "Oh, I'm glad you liked the squash. Did I mention it was from our own garden?"

I had thought the squash vine was climbing our photinia hedge, but turns out it's actually the cucumbers. We have one perfect cucumber...
Can You See it in the Middle?
...and then this weird thing that we'll definitely be afraid to eat:

I just don't know what to make of our produce, but Bill has a rather scary theory. There's a giant electric transformer box--or whatever you call it--in the corner of our garden. He says maybe the voltage in there is zapping our veggies and causing mutations. He may be onto something: do you see the red splotches in the picture above? That's where utility workers marked a power line in preparation for digging the pool. Come to think of it, we really have seen several odd vegetables growing in that one spot.

I have a theory of my own. Maybe the pumpkins crossed with the cantaloupe, and the squash crossed with the cucumbers. Is that even possible? Maybe it is if you throw in a strong electric current. 

I was none too pleased when one of the men tromped all through the garden. I don't see why they had to be in there anyway when the pool is at the other end of the yard.

Bill finished his preparations for the excavation yesterday. I could have cried.


Ethan and Tin helped out again, but they weren't nearly so enthusiastic as the last time. When I informed Ethan that Bill needed his help with carrying the limbs to the truck, he whined piteously. "But Mom, it's ho-ot!"

"Exactly. That's why we need to get a pool. And if you don't help, we won't be ready for them to dig the hole."

"But I'm not really the working type."

I burst into laughter. "I'm not the working type either, Ethan." I waved my mop at him. "But when there's work to be done, we just have to do it."

He stalked back into the near 100 degree sun (38 Celsius), grumbling all the way. I did catch him and Tin smiling when it was time to fell one of my last three big trees, but by the time I grabbed my camera, he wore a studied scowl.

I scowled, too, when I saw the end result of their labors:

Look Closely and You Might Spot FIVE Trunks


While I was busy moaning and complaining, Bill was digging ditches, rerouting the sprinkler lines:
In the Background Was My Second-Favorite Tree (After the Departed Cypress)
It better be worth it all. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Was Surprised, Too

Have you missed me? We were away in Vancouver for a week, and as you might imagine, I'm just bursting with stories. I'll try to let the pictures do most of the talking, but you know me....

On the first day of vacation, my sister-in-law Sheryl gave me the best birthday present I've ever received: my first facial. And when I say she gave me a facial, I don't mean she paid for it. I mean she did it herself, at the spa where she works. She gave me a hand, arm, and shoulder massage, and then applied various combinations of warm towels, cleansers, and moisturizers to my face. By this point, I was pretty close to unconscious, but as I recall, she also did a scalp massage. Oh, somewhere in there she waxed my eyebrows, which wasn't quite so relaxing. But my brows look great! 

On the second day of vacation, my other sister-in-law Lisa drove me into Washington to meet an old friend from high school who found me on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. Melissa still has the same curly dark hair and the same laugh; I hadn't talked to her in over 20 years, but it was surprising how familiar her voice was and especially her laugh.We both fondly recalled the years when we corresponded, after she moved to Washington in our junior year. I've just finished a nice, fat letter to her today, and I hope we'll be pen pals again. There's something so satisfying about writing a letter on real paper, and getting ink on your fingers. If you haven't done it in awhile, you should try it!

On Saturday, we took a five-hour drive through the most gorgeous terrain I've ever seen, into the northern interior of British Columbia. Our destination was a cabin on Greenlake, the same one I told you about last year when Ethan learned to wakeboard. The view was as breathtaking as I remembered:

 The Heavens Declare His Glory!

So far north, the sunsets last for hours; it was after 10:00 by the time the sun set each evening. Most nights, Mom took the three boys out for a bedtime swim. When Ethan and Travis hesitated on the dock, Dad threw them in. Meanwhile, I stayed in the house where it was safe.

Allyson's favorite evening pastime was roasting marshmallows for s'mores. Yum!


My favorite evening pastime was playing a card game called Sequence. We played guys against girls, and the ladies got our butts kicked the first night. The next day, we whispered strategies whenever we were alone together. At game time, I threw away my disposable contacts and got out my glasses so I could see the board better. "You know how in the movies the librarian takes off her glasses and turns into a sexy woman?" I asked. Mom nodded. "Well, this is the opposite," I said, putting on the glasses with a flourish. "I'm now transforming into a crazy-smart lady." It must have worked, because we beat the guys three to one that night. They were still up by one game in all, but we went to bed happy (and exhausted since it was after midnight).

If the view was as gorgeous as I remembered, the water was even colder. Allyson and Katie didn't seem to feel the cold at all, but played at the water's edge for hours. Ethan complained, but still swam. I flatly refused to get in. Even out of the water, it was a bit cold for me. When the sun went behind a cloud and the breeze blew off the water, it was downright cold. The only long pants and jacket I'd brought (pictured above) reeked of woodsmoke, but Mom and Dad came to the rescue. I went out on the boat in Mom's cream and aqua fleece pullover and Dad's navy and white track pants. I didn't care how ridiculous I looked:

Allyson looked so adorable, maybe nobody noticed me anyway:

Allyson (age 4) and Katie (age 6) were two peas in a pod, and for once they made it past the 48-hour mark without fighting over Nana's attention.


They enjoyed tubing, kayaking, jet-skiing, and kneeboarding, but that that's a whole other story.

On our last full day there, the wind finally died down enough to go wakeboarding. The three boys went first, and all of them got right up on the first or second try.
Travis, age 9

Kurtis, age 11

Ethan, age 13
After all his struggles last year, Ethan looked like a pro this time. He even learned to jump the wake. Bill and Lisa went out next. Bill looked so good on the board that my heart pitter-pattered.


 Lisa didn't look half bad either:



The whole time they were boarding, I was quietly debating over whether to give it a try myself. Seeing Travis huddled at my feet, shivering violently under two towels, almost dissuaded me. But I'd come so close to success last year, and I didn't want to wait another year to see whether I could really do it. I said a silent prayer. "Lord, please help me to have fun, no matter what happens. But I'd really like to get up on the wakeboard AND turn it toward the boat. Oh, and please help me not to get hurt!"

When they started to put away the wakeboard, I said timidly, "I think I want to try."

Bill raised his eyebrows. "You're not even in your bathing suit."

"Yes I am." I peeled off my fleece layers, and immediately goosebumps appeared on my bare arms. I shivered in dreadful anticipation, then dipped both size-ten feet into the icy water so I could force them into the rubber boots. When I finally slipped off the dock, the cold took my breath away, which was actually good since it took my mind off being nervous. I pressed my bent knees to my chest and peered over the board at the boat. "Ready!"

I waited, waited, and let the boat pull me to my feet. Remembering Lisa's instructions, I tightened my abs, put most of my weight on my (soon-to-be) back foot, and twisted my hips. And the board turned toward the boat!

"Woo-hoo!" I yelled. And then I tripped over the wake and did a face plant. I got right back up on my second try, but then fell so hard that both feet were ripped from the impossibly tight boots, the board flying over my head and landing several yards behind me.

"I think I'm done," I hollered. "Lisa, did you get a picture?"

"No, I'm sorry!"

Oh, no! I couldn't write a blog story without a picture. "I'll give it one more try," I said, my teeth clashing together audibly as I wrestled my nearly lifeless limbs back into the tiny boots. On the third try, I forgot to wait for the boat to pull me up, and I fell as soon as I tried to stand.

"One more time!" I hollered.

On the fourth try, I got up and stayed up! I forgot about the cold and actually enjoyed myself on my victory lap. Lisa pantomimed instructions from the back of the boat: straighten your legs more... put your shoulders back... bend your elbows. I tried to follow her instructions, but I'm sure I still looked ridiculous, the way I always look when I snow ski. This was the most flattering picture I could find:

I let go of the rope and glided to a smooth stop at the dock, where Ethan was waiting for me. "Isn't it hard to swim in the cold?" he asked as I paddled the board toward him.

"Takes all my energy just to b-breathe," I answered. He and Bill hauled me up onto the dock, where I shrugged off my cold life jacket and rubbed myself down with a damp towel. I didn't stop shivering until long after I'd put my fleece back on and drunk the hot cocoa Mom made for me. But at bedtime I realized it had been worth it all. When I hugged Ethan goodnight, I told him how proud I was of his wakeboarding.

"Me, too," he said, a sheepish grin lighting his face.

It took me a moment to realize what he meant. "You mean you're proud of me, too?"

"Yes," he called out over his shoulder.

"Were you surprised your 40-year-old mama could wakeboard?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Me, too."

In the few moments before sleep claimed me, I whispered, "Oh, Lord, this was a good day!" And I basked in the warmth.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Word That Dwells In Us

You're not going to believe this, but I've been attending a Beth Moore Bible study for four weeks and haven't posted anything about it! Actually, it's a collaboration between Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Kay Arthur called Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed, and it's a study on the life of David. It's been amazing so far, but for some reason I didn't feel the incredible urge to blog about it until yesterday. Now I'm wondering how on earth I'll be able to explain what the Holy Spirit revealed to me. It seems hopeless, but I have to try.

In yesterday's homework, Beth Moore led us to 2 Samuel 7, in which God reveals through the prophet Nathan that He is going to build an everlasting family line through David:

" 'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son....16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me ; your throne will be established forever.' " 
Here is David's response: 
 18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
       "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?...
25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever....
 27 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer. 28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever."

Notice the way David's prayer repeated back God's promises, and how David was bold to claim the promises for himself and for his family--not just his children, but his family line. Now we know that the family line God referred to would include Jesus, and that through faith in Him, we are a part of David's line.  According to Romans 11:17, as believers we have been grafted as branches into David's family line. That means we are entitled to all the blessings God promised him!

Beth encourages us to pray the same kind of prayers for our own family, claiming all the promises the Bible holds for our children, our grandchildren, and all our offspring down the line until Jesus returns.

But wait, it gets better.... John 1:14-16 tells us, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.... From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." 

Now I've read and heard those verses many times, but yesterday morning around 8:00 A.M., I actually grasped the enormity of this truth, and the Holy Spirit inside me rose up with overwhelming joy and awe. I'm going to try to put it in words....  God promised to bless David's family line--us--through His son Jesus. Jesus was the very Word made flesh, the same creative Word that created the universe: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3)

Here's the revelation: Jesus and the Word are the same. There are no words to describe how powerful God's Word is; it created the entire universe! That same power dwells in us through the Spirit of Jesus. The way to access that power is by using the Word, by repeating back to God the promises He has given us in the Bible. In John 15:7-8, Jesus promises, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." 
Do you see it? God is just WAITING to pour out blessings on us! Why? Because blessing us brings Him glory. For a long time, I've been wondering why my faith isn't strong enough to believe for miracles. Sure, I know that God has answered many of my prayers, but why haven't I had the courage to ask for something big, to claim all God's promises for myself and for my family? When I read all these verses, and the Holy Spirit helped me understand how it all fit together, I literally broke out into rejoicing in my kitchen. 

I got out my stack of scripture memory cards and began quoting them in a new way, as praises and prayers to my Father. I had to keep stopping every two or three verses to worship Him for his goodness and power. My heart thrilled with each promise--all sins forgiven, all diseases healed (Psalm 103), blessings poured out on my offspring (Isaiah 43), peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4), a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61), all my family's needs supplied (Matthew 6), etc. When I hit Philippians 2:11, I literally fell to my knees with a thud: "... that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." And my mouth trembled as I quoted the next verse: "and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." 

There it was again, the glory of God through the grace of Jesus. That glory stayed with me through most of the day, and it came back to me when we discussed the homework at Bible study. I grew more and more animated as I tried to explain these revelations to my dear friends. I might have even pounded the table at one point. (I hope I didn't scare them!) 

I don't ever remember feeling this excited about the Word of God. I know I've told you this so many times, but I have to say it again. The Word is powerful. It's alive! Meditate on it. Memorize it. Pray it over yourself and your family. It is the power of Jesus himself, and God wants to use it to transform you. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Least Of These... Part 2

When I read my friend Victor's post about the Good Samaritan in modern times--and especially the comments about it--it brought to mind one of my earlier posts about a time when I failed to help someone. I always meant to tell you the rest of that story, but I never did...

The first time I conversed with a homeless person, I was waiting in a Chicago subway station with my friend Angela. My entire body was tense with anxiety despite the soothing melody from a cross-legged young man playing guitar at our feet. Cringing at the harsh squeal of wheels on the opposite track, I willed our train to arrive.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man approaching on my right. His clothes were shabby and dirty, and his long hair was unkempt. I wanted to run back up to the street, but instead I edged closer to Angela, who edged closer to the guitar player.

When the man spoke, I was caught off guard by his genteel manner and quiet voice. He explained that he’d fallen on hard times and had been living in the subway for a few weeks. “I know I look dirty and I probably smell,” he said, “but I haven't had a way to take a shower down here. I don't want you to feel threatened, so I'll stand back here. If there's any way you could help me, I'd be really grateful.”

I hesitated for a moment. Even though I knew he might waste the money, I had a strong desire to help him. My fear of being mugged proved stronger, though, and I replied that I’d just given my last dollar bill to the musician. This was technically true, but I also had a five and a twenty, either of which I could have spared. Another train rolled up just then, and I looked over my shoulder as we rushed to board. The man’s head hung low and his shoulders were slumped.

By the time we reached the airport, I’d forgotten the encounter, but it came back to me at Bible study two days later when we studied Matthew 25. Jesus’ words in verse 45 pierced my conscience: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” I longed to go back and respond differently, but all I could do was ask God to help me share His love the next time I had an opportunity.

That opportunity came within a few months, when my Bible study group served dinner at a downtown mission. I’d been looking forward to the experience for weeks, yet my fear that evening was nearly as strong as it had been in the subway. How could I relate to these people? Was I capable of loving them?

When the first group of mission residents settled into the molded plastic chairs, it was my ineptitude as a waitress that dominated my thoughts. I struggled to keep up with the rhythm of filling trays, distributing meals, and cleaning tables. I’d hoped to share loving words with someone who needed encouragement, but instead I felt awkward and shy amid the easy conversation and laughter at each round table.

By the time the last group filed in, I was feeling a bit more confident in my duties, but I still felt anxious. Unlike the first two groups, these men and women were homeless, and I knew some of them might be mentally or emotionally disturbed.

Actually, they weren’t all that different from the people I see every day. Most of them were neatly dressed, and all of them were polite. They talked and laughed, and they really seemed to enjoy their meal. I wanted to join in their conversations, but I had no idea what to say. 

As I scraped a plate into the garbage, I paused to say a silent prayer. “I know I came here to serve, God. Thank you for the opportunity to do that. But I also wanted to… talk to someone. Please help me find the words.” I dropped a handful of dirty silverware into the gray, soapy water and headed resolutely back to clear the last few tables.

Before I picked up the next tray from a rather rough-looking man, I looked into his brown eyes and murmured, “Have a good evening.” I almost laughed at myself. Gee, that was hard.

Due to the twitch at the corner of his mouth, I suspected the man was a little amused at my discomfort, but I appreciated the way he left my dignity intact. “Thank you so much, ma’am,” he said, clasping my hand firmly.

I grinned as I shook his hand. My heart was light, my aching back and sore feet forgotten. I can’t explain what passed between us, but somehow I knew that we’d recognized each other, accepted each other in that one moment when I realized that we were both “the least of these.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Maybe I'm Not the Dog Whisperer

In one instant yesterday morning, Lola wiped out all the tenuous goodwill we'd been building over the last several weeks. As you know, Lola and I have a somewhat rocky history, but thanks to Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, we'd been making a bit of progress.

What I learned from Cesar is that I have to show Lola that I'm the pack leader. One of the best ways to do this is taking her for walks and making her match her pace to mine. Before I tried it, the idea seemed laughable. When I tried to walk her in the past, she almost pulled my arm out of socket, and she even pulled me over a couple of times. But as I watched Cesar transform the most unruly dogs into docile followers, I started to believe there might be hope for even Lola.

"It's all about body language," I explained to Bill, even though he watches the show right alongside me. "We have to somehow commune with Lola, convey our intentions through touch and calming thoughts."

"Nnnhh," he replied.

"No, really," I persisted, determined to overcome his skepticism. "It's like the girl and her owl in that book I read recently. It took weeks, but she somehow convinced him to let her trim his talons. She just talked to him in a quiet voice and told him what she was going to do, and she focused on calm, soothing thoughts as she pictured what she wanted him to do."

"Yeah. So you're the Dog Whisperer now. Then why don't you tell Lola to stop running along the fence and destroying the hedges? Or better yet, tell her to stop barking at the wind."

"Okay," I said, heading for the back door. Lola raced up to meet me, resting her front paws on the dirty rug just inside the door and letting her long spotted tongue loll out. I knelt down to her level and gingerly rested a palm against the side of her head. "Now, Lola, we need you to stop barking so much. We hear you, and we appreciate it that you're trying to protect our house, but this is really too much. You don't need to bark at the birds. Or the motorcycles. Or the wind. Understand?"

 One of Allyson's Pictures of Lola

Lola stared earnestly into my eyes and then lunged forward to plant a sloppy kiss on my chin.

"Eww!!" I wiped my chin forcefully and pressed my lips together to keep from joining in Bill's hearty laughter.

"So what's she saying?" he asked between snickers. "I'll tell you. She says, 'It's almost bedtime. When are you gonna feed me?'"

Undeterred, I took Lola for a walk a few days later. I breathed deeply, allowing my shoulders to sink back and down, willing the tension to drain from my neck. "Now, Lola, you're going to walk right beside me, okay? Right beside me. And you're not going to pull on this leash."

Lola surged forward, jerking my right arm violently. "Wait," I said firmly, tightening her choke collar and forcing her to stand next to me. She kept trying to move forward, but I calmly held my grip and refused to move until there was no tension on the leash. At last we moved on, only to stop again after two feet.

This went on for three sides of the block, and the muscles up my arm and shoulder were beginning to throb. Lola was surprisingly patient, if a little bemused, and so was I. As we walked, I kept my knee pressed to her left flank. "You're going to walk right beside me," I repeated over and over, "and you're not going to pull the leash."

After we rounded the last corner, she finally seemed to get it. She still pulled the leash a bit, but she walked right next to me. "Good dog!" I exclaimed as I removed her collar and fed her a Milkbone biscuit back at the house. I gave her a little pat on the head, and I swear she smiled at me.

 Lola's Smile

I took her out a few more times over the next few weeks, and each time she caught on a little more quickly and put a little less pressure on the leash. When we walked sedately past the dreaded yard with all the barking dogs, I knew I really was becoming the pack leader. And just as Cesar had promised, we were starting to build a rapport. Even Bill had to admit that there might be something to this Dog Whisperer stuff.

Back to Reality
And then came yesterday morning. I was up on the computer, editing some audio for an e-Learning course I'm developing, when I heard Bill say something about "the dog." Though I couldn't hear his words, his tone alarmed me, and I yanked off my headphones. "The dog what?"

"I said, 'The dog just picked a squash.'"

I tore down the stairs. He was holding a six-inch, green striped squash with teeth marks all over it.



"You mean she jumped over the fence and stole a squash?" I asked incredulously.

"No, it was one of the ones growing on the outside of the fence."

"I didn't even see that one! Oh, man! That's a big one, too," I wailed.

Lola poked her head through the open door. "Bad dog!" I scolded. She padded inside and sat at my feet, leaving clumps of dog down in her path. "Bad, bad dog!" I repeated, but my ire was tempered by the laughter that threatened to bubble up to the surface. Lola was staring up at me with rapt admiration, her tail thumping audibly against the floor.

I could almost hear her saying, "Yep, I picked a squash! Isn't that great?" But probably she was really saying, "Oh boy, oh boy! The lady's talking to me!"

I guess I'm not the Dog Whisperer after all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

See How Our Garden Grows

You won't believe how much our garden has grown since my last update. We've harvested green beans a few times since then, picking as many as 17 at a time! But the green beans perished a few weeks ago. Their bright green leaves took on a mottled appearance, and then they shriveled up and died. I suspect they were choked out by the butternut squash vine, which is determined to take over the entire plot.

Here's a picture from about a month ago, when the green beans (against the front fence) were still vibrant and fruitful, and the squash vine was neatly confined in the center row:


And here's a picture from last night. See how the squash has entwined itself all around the fence and grown over the top of the green beans:

Here's a close-up of the biggest squash, one of about five:

The other big player is the cantaloupe vine, which is wrapping its tendrils around the other end of the fence. Pretty soon there might be a showdown between the two vines. I wonder which will win? I'm betting the squash, but it's hard to say....

Did you notice the tomato plants behind the squash? All three of them are producing yellow flowers, but not one tomato has developed. Does anyone have any idea why that would be? We thought it was the lack of bees to pollinate the flowers, so we planted several varieties of flowers in and around the garden. Allyson and I also prayed for God to send us bees, but I guess I didn't really think that through. The other morning, I saw three bees hovering around the cantaloupe flowers. "Thank you Jee...zus!" I prayed, recoiling violently when one of the bees meandered too close. So now we have the bees, but still no tomatoes.

Here's the biggest cantaloupe, which was thimble-sized just a week or so ago. Doesn't it look tasty?
I can't wait until it's ready. Allyson will be so excited because cantaloupes, which she calls watermelons, are her favorite fruit--with the possible exception of avocados.

Those Shriveled Up Banana Trees
Remember the pathetic, wilted banana trees Bill planted just before my birthday in April? They turned browner and browner with each passing day, but our friend Mike assured us that they really would survive. And he was right. Look at them now:


And remember the wisteria vine that Bill gave me for my birthday? It has clambered up over the top of the pergola.


When spring comes back around, maybe it will be covered in a profusion of fragrant, purple flowers that look like grape clusters; I guess that would be a passable replacement for my beloved cypress. Only then there would be so many bees that I'd be afraid to come out on the back porch to enjoy it.

It's Cow Sa-moor
Oh, I just remembered one more garden story I've been meaning to share. One evening last month, I was out weeding the garden while Allyson played on the swing set. Suddenly the breeze shifted, and I wrinkled my nose in distaste. "What's that smell?" I asked.

"It's sa-moor," Allyson answered.

"It's what??"

"You know!" she giggled, covering her mouth with one hand. "It's cow sa-moor--that means poop! Me 'n Daddy bought a big bag of cow poop at Home Depot. Remember? It makes the plants grow."

"Ah," I said, turning my back to hide my snicker. "Well it sure does stink. I hope it's worth it."

Based on the way our garden's taking off, I guess it was. 
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