Thursday, July 21, 2011

An R-Rated story about Gardens

I have sleep problems. Those of you who have ever lived with me know this is the case. My sleeping habits are questionable to say the least: I'm hypersensitive to noise, I have strange rituals involving socks and chapstick, and I tend to take out my sleep frustrations on those around me.

However, over the past year or so, I have developed a different sort of sleep problem: hallucinations. The combination of stress and sleep deprivation tends to result in me waking up in the middle of the night because I see something that isn't really there, think it's real, freak out and shout a lot of incoherent statements until Andrew, in a monotone voice, assures me that all is indeed well in the world.

What is most notable about these hallucinations is that they almost always involve bugs. I'll shake Andrew awake in the middle of the night because massive amounts of fire ants are crawling out from under our dresser. I will swat at the curtains with my pillow because a 6-inch spider is crouching in the corner of our window. Or, I will run around stammering, ducking my head while batting at the air because giant flower pots are hovering above me waiting to drop insects in my ears.

I'm no Freud, but I think this means I am afraid of bugs. In fact, I think this means I am more afraid of bugs than anything else in the world.

You can imagine my horror, then, when my zucchini plants got involved with my greatest fear.

Until recently, the zucchinis were winning MVP in the garden (and I don't give awards easily). Wherever I looked, their little jagged-leaved faces were sprouting up all over the place.

I finally contained their growth to two plants and they took off like the world really was going to end on May 21st. Their leaves were massive and they were producing fruit faster than I could keep up with.


The tomato plants might have been cowering like little babies, but the zucchinis were the brute force of the garden. I never worried about them.

That is, until they started looking a little sick. I thought maybe I wasn't watering them enough at first -- their leaves were beginning to turn yellow and wilt and they looked quite weepy.

Then they stopped producing zucchinis altogether and the roots starting looking like some type of rot was taking over.

Then I got worried.

So I went to battle for my zucchinis and turned to Google for advice on some type of spray that would kill whatever was harming my little troopers (so much for organic). Within minutes, I came across something that made my stomach turn a bit. A bunch of online gardening boards were blowing up about something called a squash vine borer. It was a bug. A bug that lays its eggs in the vines of squash producing plants. A bug whose larvae bores into the stem of the plant, blocking water flow and killing the plant. A bug that is common in the southern states. A bug, that once it begins its work, can't be stopped.

And if that wasn't enough, there was another bug mentioned, called simply, squash bug. This bug removes sap from squash plants and causes their leaves to wilt and turn yellow. This bug injects disease into a plant. This bug, much like the vine borer, doesn't go away.

I started feeling a bit ill. All the symptoms and descriptions seemed to line up, and were it not already 10:00 at night, my bug-fearing adrenaline probably would have been enough to drive me into the garden to slice open a stem to look for the little sin-incarnate beasts. But alas, it was dark, and I would probably feel a lot better if I could convince Andrew to do the dirty work anyway.

Unfortunately, Andrew was more or less already asleep when I started spouting off the drama, a hundred miles an hour, demanding that we take the camping hatchet to the roots to determine if the vine borers really were present in our defenseless plants. His non-sympathetic answer seemed to indicate that he didn't actually buy my story, like I had some type of garden hypochondria. However, he reassured me we would check on the plants tomorrow.

But I couldn't sleep. All I could do was lay awake and think extensively about the word "larvae." Perhaps the worst word ever.

The next morning, Andrew left at 5 a.m. when it was still dark and when I obviously wasn't going to get up. I thought I would be able to wait until he got home, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, I just had to know.

So with a mysterious prodding driving me forward, I took my garden shears and a butter knife and crept out into the lawn. Once I arrived at the plant, I became aware of the multitude of mysterious bugs flying around -- ones I was sure were on to my plan and were determined to keep me away. Not backing down, I trimmed away some of the excess vines until I had a clear shot at the roots. And then, with a shaky right hand and queasy stomach, I started sawing.

Then I saw it.

Because I know some of you are pregnant, if you would rather not see what I saw on that God-forsaken day, just look at this teeny tiny bunny on this puppy's head or think about hugging baby orange kitties. If you would like the graphic detail, just mouse over Thumper.

It was my worst nightmare, literally. All I could do was drop the knife, weakly shake my limp hands in the air while making a lot of whimpering noises, and then stumble back into the house.

Several emergency phone calls later to Andrew, who, by the way, never answered, I realized I had to face this evil alone. I gathered my courage and dauntingly reemerged outside. I crouched near the cursed little larvae to see just what I was up against, and then, as if to mock me, his vomit-inducing partner sauntered right past. It was the squash bug.

Again, enjoy a cup of bunny tea, or see more bugs at your discretion.

In the battle for my zucchinis, I had lost. Like a madwoman, I went about hacking the garden, searching for more of the spawns of Satan. Unfortunately, I think most of them had already reached teenager stage, as several little red bugs violently hovered over my head and the rest of them, no doubt, burrowed deeper into the soil.

And in the end, all that remained in the wake of my axing and chopping was devastation.


With my MVPs now neutralized, I admit defeat. The zucchinis are gone, never to be seen again this summer. And I somehow have to convince Andrew to conduct a controlled burn in our 8-foot garden (because seriously, the larvae are in the soil now).

With my squash saga closed, I have resorted to making bread with bananas instead of zucchinis and offer my many reassurances and condolences to those out there whom I gave zucchinis to -- there is no need to issue a recall because those zucchinis were pre-infestation. You have my word. And my Sword. And my bow. 

Since larvaegate 2011, the basil is the new reigning garden champ. And my sleep hallucinations have gotten much worse. Two nights in a row, I have seen a giant spider crawling on Andrew's neck that always disappears under his pillow by the time I get a paper towel and a flashlight to kill it.

Or at least I think it's a hallucination. For all I know, it may in fact be real life. And at this point, I wouldn't be surprised either way.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

España and Aging

As apparent from my last post, Andrew and I made an incognito trip to Spain. We wanted to surprise his little sister for her graduation in order to give her a present: ourselves.

You are welcome.

Youngest child that she be, we assumed little Elisa was probably feeling unimportant and that people don't pay enough attention to her in general, so we decided to buy tickets to Spain in order to attend her high school graduation and ward off any encroaching "no one really loves me" issues she may be experiencing.

The Browns: Doing what we can for the youngest children of the world. 

While I watched Elizabeth's graduation, I couldn't help but feel that I too, like the 18-year-olds before me, had just graduated from high school. As in, I'm still a relatable, understanding, not-a-regular mom but a-cool-mom, spontaneous, able to actually stand back up after picking something up from the floor teenager.

So riddle me this, youth. How is it that my ten-year reunion is actually next summer? As in 12 months away. And the last person I told my age to responded with: "Oh wow." Surely it hasn't been almost a decade since I threw my graduation cap in the air and won a green oscillating fan at graduation night and not a Playstation like everyone else.

This may also explain why I was recently traumatized from watching the movie Never Been Kissed. The plot feels a lot creepier when you're closer to the age of the cool hockey teacher and not the Drew Barrymore student.

Big events like graduations or birthdays or weddings have a way of making you feel old...or at least making you more aware of your age. And now that I am closer to 30 than I am to 18, I'm trying to focus on the positive things I have to look forward to, like puppies and babies -- neither of which I have, mind you.

All I have going for me right now is a new ice cream maker and season three of Prison Break on Netflix. And two pans of cinnamon rolls in the fridge. If that's not a recipe for happiness, then I don't know what is. And by happiness I of course mean obesity. 

But the idea of a baby is beginning to sound more appealing. Perhaps this comes in part from my recent awareness that there is some type of modeling gene present in the Brown family, and I'm not sure how to isolate it for reproductive purposes.

But they all have it.

Even the friends have it.

Though I feel it may be slightly recessive in Andrew.

I only said "slightly," dear husband.

Sooo here's hoping recessive wins out in our collective gene lottery because I'm pulling for my child to make it on Tyra's Next Top Model cycle 63: Toddler Edition.

And Lord knows I need something to brag about at my reunion.