The First Day of Autumn Brings an Injured But Still Beautiful Monarch Butterfly to Our Garden

Perhaps it’s because this is the first day of autumn that coincides with my Angel Boy’s half birthday (we always celebrate) or because he really has left the nest for real this time with his first tenure track professorship (at least on the west coast so we’re closer) but I’m feeling a sense of change along with the the season.

Even in SoCal the weather will eventually morph into a winter of sorts and maybe that’s why this butterfly was in a weakened condition, because there’s no way to tell how the injury occurred,  but she was flying around me and then came to rest on the lawn right next to my new raised bed where I was playing around with the sand dolllars from yesterday’s post.2015-09-20 22.03.25

How do you help an injured butterfly? Can I pick her up and take her to the vet? Can you superglue the torn wing? (I don’t think so) but her ability to still lift off and float on the breeze made me think of her metaphorically.

In fact, it’s a day full of metaphors with my son flying off and away (literally on an airplane as I’m typing this) to become a fully fledged adult with a grown up job and a boatload of responsibility.

SIGH.

But then this butterfly visited me and I’m trying to decipher her deeper message, although maybe a butterfly is just a butterfly.

I do know that even though her wing was damaged, she didn’t give up; she was resilient.2015-09-20 22.03.12

Maybe she just needed a safe place to rest and heal.

monarch1

2015-09-20 22.01.12

And just like that, she flew away, carried off by the balmy breezes of another SoCal heat wave.
2015-09-20 22.02.56And thanks to a smarter blogger than me who writes over at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/ (you need to follow him!)  his brilliant comment referenced the “butterfly effect. According to Wiki, it’s a popular hypothetical example of chaos theory which illustrates how small initial differences may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.

And he doesn’t know it, but this is SO TRUE. As I keep saying, all will be revealed…

Stay safe, my friends, and Happy Autumnal Equinox to everyone!

Empty Nest Disaster

I need to finish the last bits of my empowering road trip, but first must share sad, sad news.

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did (as always) was to check on the baby hummingbirds.

They have grown so much and by my calculations, would be fledging the nest next week.

I took this picture on Sunday.

HummyMay303

When I didn’t see two little heads bobbing up and down and squirming around, I opened the back door and saw this empty nest.

Hummyemptynestjune1

The chimes upon which the nest was built was in disarray and a feeling of dread washed over me.

I knew something bad had happened, but couldn’t find any clues to suggest who or what had attacked the nest.

I had one last hope; that the two babies were in the mulberry tree that shades the deck, and were only trying out their new wings.

But then mom flew by and sat on the nest looking all around.

She was as confused as I was.

Calling out to her babies, I could feel her distress.

Over the course of the morning, she’s flown back no less than a dozen times, looking everywhere for her children, which confirms my worst fear that they were abducted by a raccoon or a crow or even a hawk.

But this story gets worse.

As I climbed on the bench to peer inside the empty nest and to snap a pic, I positioned the nest/chimes with my hand to get a better angle.

When I went back in the house to sit down and email tugboat man the tragic news, I saw tiny little creatures crawling on my hand.

I HAD BIRD MITES ON ME.

After washing my hands and arms more times than Lady Macbeth and dousing my entire upper body with rubbing alcohol, I took a boiling hot shower and scrubbed myself and my hair three times.

The mere thought of a creature in my hair and I knew my life would be OVER. Thick, long, curly hair is hard enough to deal with, but the thought of mites nesting up there provokes extreme mental anxiety.

I threw away the shirt I was wearing and washed the other clothes twice in bleach and hot water, so much bleach that they’re now completely devoid of color at this point.

Then I freaked out that the mites were going to invade the house and with gloves on, cut down the nest and chimes and put them into a sealed bag to put in the trash or somehow keep the chimes if I can sterilize them to my satisfaction.

After that, I found ant spray (the only chemicals around) and sprayed every possible surface on the deck and the eaves where the chimes/nest had been.

Bird mite infestations from nests is a real thing. There are horror stories on the internet about it.

Crap.

I wonder how long the feeling that things are crawling on me is going to last?

I’m a clean freak ANYWAY, but this is pushing me over the edge, and hub is out of cell range and not available to calm me down and/or offer his sage advice.

An empty nest is bad enough. To be violently snatched from a warm bed in the middle of the night is every mother’s nightmare.

I don’t know what to say to the hummy mom.

Even now, she’s desperately searching for her babies and there’s no way I can tell her that they’re gone forever.

Her heartache is palpable. I can FEEL her pain.

Hub and I fell in love with the whole process, from watching mom build the nest to laying the jellybean sized eggs to watching them hatch and grow.

This is not the ending I could have predicted.

Poor mom.

She’s extremely distraught; even as I’m typing this, I still hear her calling to them.

Who said animals don’t feel things?

Because of course they do.

A mother’s love has no equal.

I feel like I let down mom down, that she trusted me to help her take care of her precious kids, and I failed miserably.

One of my favorite photos…

Property of enchantedseashells.com

Property of enchantedseashells.com

Sometimes Mother Nature sucks.

June 1 SUCKS.

Happy Mother’s Day To My Son

Vintage Angel Boy

Vintage Angel Boy

Because, of course, without him, I wouldn’t have a Mother’s Day at all.

This was brought to my attention one year by my facetious brilliant child who remarked that in fact, HE should be the one who garners all the attention, because without HIM, I’d have nothing to celebrate.

I thought about it and he’s right and the day belongs to my Angel Boy.

I’ve enjoyed thirty-four years of receiving gifts and presents and all the little things that go along with this one day set aside to recognize mothers; handmade cards and macaroni hearts (I’ve kept them all) and coupon books for hugs and dishwashing (still waiting to collect on a few of those.)

Now that our nest is empty and I don’t wake up to a sweet little boy snuggling in bed with me; that embodiment of Mother’s Day with every smile and giggle, there’s only one thing I desire, and this is true of a lot of other empty nest moms I’ve talked to.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

What do we want?

TIME!

When do we want it?

NOW!

My cell phone rang and the little screen flashed “Angel Boy”, which always makes me verrry happy, because as much as texts and emails facilitate instant communication, there’s really no good substitute for hearing my only child’s voice.

Me: “Was ist los, mein Kinde?”

(That’s pretty much my entire body of knowledge of German, which is Angel Boy’s Ph.D.; Germanic Languages and Literatures)

Him: Hi, Mom.”

Me: “To what do I owe the honor of an actual telephone call?”

Him: “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”

(By unspoken agreement, this query includes my birthday, which is either ON Mother’s Day or within a few days of it.)

Me: “YOU know what I want.”

“It’s that little four-letter word. It’s what I always want. Say it.”

Him: “You want TIME, right?”

Me: “Yup, that’s it. I want YOU. I want time BEING with you. I want to spend TIME with you.”

“Don’t buy me any THING. What I want is priceless.”

And that’s the truth.

Ever since he left SoCal to pursue his lofty academic goals mostly on the East coast, TIME has become a precious commodity.

Now I know why my mom counseled me to spend every second, every minute — with my child, because she knew that once they grow up and fly away, all you’ll be left with is memories.

That’s why I got up at 4 a.m. and did as much housework as possible before he woke up so that every minute could be spent caring for him, playing with him — just BEING with my Angel Boy without having to say, “in a minute” or “not now, I’m busy.”

If I had to give advice to mom nowadays, I’d tell them to spend more precious time being present in their children’s lives, and spend a whole lot less time on their electronic devices.

Because one day, their children will be gone, and you’ll regret the hours you spent on Facebook.

Although I’m not seeing my Angel Boy ON Mother’s Day, he planned a camping/hiking trip for us in a couple of weeks, and that’s when I’ll bask in the glow of TIME.

I can’t wait.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Yummy Hummy Mummy

Anyone participating in World Naked Gardening Day?

No?

Well, I’m not either, that’s for sure.

I’m moving furniture, shampooing carpets, channeling Cinderella, and obsessing over the only full nest at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

My little yummy hummy mummy is doing what most animals do naturally — be an attentive and protective mother.

enchantedseashells.com

enchantedseashells.com

In the late afternoon sunlight, I removed the screen in the dining room window and leaned all the way out to capture the iridescence.

enchantedseashells.com

enchantedseashells.com

Have you ever seen a hummingbird stay almost perfectly still for more than two minutes?

I set up the tripod and took some video of her nest sitting, blinking her little eyes, and swaying in the breeze.

There’s a bit of shake (sorry) but the tripod was in a precarious position on top of a bench in order to get the best angle.

When she first started building the nest, I waited until she flew away in order to reinforce the chimes with twine to make sure they’d support the extra weight and not fall down,

YouTube video:

(And congrats to Princess Kate for giving birth to a royal little girl! )

Empty Nest or Full, Mother Knows Best

Single status: Day 50

Yup, tugboat man’s been gone since March 10.

I’ve almost forgotten what he looks like, and if he didn’t make a brief satellite call once a week, I’d forget what his voice sounds like, too.

This is the transitional time for absentee spouses.

The initial missing of his constant presence is OVER, life goes on, and my own routine is firmly established.

It looks like he should be home in about two weeks or so, PROBABLY missing my birthday, but in time to go camping with son/DIL, which is my birthday present, so I don’t mind being alone on my bday if it means he’s for sure home for the celebration.

And just in time for Mother’s Day, an Anna’s Hummingbird built her nest right outside our kitchen window on the deck, on HUMMINGBIRD WIND CHIMES.hummingbirdchimes

Isn’t this the craziest thing?

Do you think my little hummingbird KNOWS where she is?

hummingbirdwings

It’s magical, watching her build her nest out of spider webs and feathers. I touched it and it feels like a handwoven sweater, soft but strong.hummingbird5

Can’t stop taking pics; look at that beautiful color.

hummycloseup4A Mommy hummy in flight.

hummysatapril26wings

Isn’t this amazing?

hummingbirdday3nestcloseup

2015-04-26 05.18.22

Mom doesn’t mind when I walk back and forth or get up close and personal for pics, but she’s so protective of her nest when another bird flies into her personal space.hummyapril29(7)An egg!! There are supposed to be two; waiting for the next one!

hummyapril28egg(2)

Hummingbird sitting on hummingbird nest on hummingbird chimes.

Could anything be more adorable?

Who needs a dumb old tugboat man when this magic is inches away?

hummyapril29(1)

Another Empty Nest, Another Sad Mom

Another empty nest

Poor mama bird, I know how she feels…

 

I found a broken shell from a newly hatched baby under the ficus tree. A pair of warbling vireos make a home year after year in this birdhouse.

 

It’s so sad that she puts all that work into building a nest and feeding her babies and they always fly away.

They always leave mommy. *sniff*

I guess that’s the way Mother Nature intended it to be, but it still sucks.

Facebook is full of moms who can’t wait until their children turn eighteen, almost pushing them out of the nest with a packed suitcase and a sigh of relief so they can resume their “lives”, but that’s not the way I feel about it.

As much as I’m bursting with pride at the independent and successful young professor he’s become, his bedroom is still quietly waiting — just as it always was, with fresh sheets on the bed, clean clothes in the closet, and his favorite books lined up on the shelf.

In the beginning, when he first left for college (years ago), the hardest thing to deal with was the silence — the QUIET was deafening. I have no idea how one child could fill up the space with his presence, but he did.

Now, nothing makes me happier than a call telling me he’s coming home for a visit (sigh) so I can load up on the ingredients for his favorite foods.

You know how mama birds feed their young, don’t you? They regurgitate partially digested insects and worms directly into the beaks of their babes.

I’m not THAT extreme, but you know what I mean.

It’s one of my greatest joys to watch my son eat.

I admit it. I do. I sit across from him at the table and soak it all in, every single mouthful.

(Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s used to it.)

And then he leaves again, and the quiet fills our house and our hearts.

Can you guess that I’m missing my Angel Boy right now?

Older. Wiser. Better?

Many years later, still puzzling things out.

SELFIE PUZZLEStill the paramount focal point of any photo.
Still fabulously attired with beautifully coiffed and beribboned hair.
Still unable to fit round pieces into square shapes.
And yet, still, the world revolves around me.

And most importantly, still adorable.

P.S. I sent this post to hub and he emailed back that this has always been his favorite pic of me and it’s because I look so determined.

Empty Nest Moms, This One’s For You.

When Is the right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom? (And I say “son” ‘cos I had one child, a boy, and never experienced what it’s like being the mom of a girl.)


This was the week I did it. Cleaned my son’s room, I mean. Fifteen years after he moved out, or as I like to refer to it, when my darling Angel Boy abandoned his mommy.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the antithesis —  the total opposite — of a “free range” mom.

Need an example?

I carried Angel Boy until he was about seven-years-old, when his legs dangled to the ground, and he was ALMOST my size.

In this photo, he’s probably thirteen-years-old or so, my little Harry Potter look alike, already taller than me. See that MOMjoy? All it takes is being next to him to bring out that kind of a smile. (And that swishy track suit was all the rage in the 90s, I promise you.)

jasonroomom

So, don’t make me say the dreaded words; “moved out”.

That’s bittersweet and rife with sadjoy (my new word all moms should immediately start using in our daily conversations.)

Sad he’s gone, but joy and pride in his accomplishments and goals. Mostly sad, though.

The purge. Well, more accurately; the relocation.
jasonroomclean1From the first grade, a diorama of the Carlsbad sea wall that his dad built — dinosaur books, academic awards, handwritten spelling tests, report cards, a writing prompt about what the future might hold (potential editor of National Lampoon)…one of the last Valentine’s Day cards made for me before that tragic discovery of the wonderful world of females who are NOT Mom–jasonroomclean2

And so many books: Chaucer to Mann to Goethe to Faulkner, Welty, Shakespeare, all the books from fifteen years of college and graduate school.

In a bookish family like ours, it’s a tough Sophie’s choice kind of dilemma: how does one determine which book might not have value? It’s pretty much impossible.

But here’s the real question…

Is there ever a right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom?

The answer to that — for me– has always and will forever be a resounding NO! NEVER! — until I came up with the brilliant idea of simply moving things to another area, saved and protected, organized into plastic tubs to be stored in the garage, thus not purging nor destroying parts of him which is really part of me, but preserving forever and forever my Angel Boy’s childhood which means he hasn’t really grown up and gotten married and moved away and doesn’t need his mommy anymore…SIGH.

Wait a sec, let me wipe away dust-streaked tears. SIGH.

Sniff.

Buck up, Princess Rosebud, there’s still hope, he might be back, adult children DO return home, sometimes they DO need to fly back INTO the nest, so all is not completely lost.

Something to cling to, to be prepared for. Happily.

Every picture, every single scrap of scribbled upon paper, every college application, all art projects from the age of two, baby books, envelopes of baby curls, baby teeth the Tooth Fairy saved, that fallen off shred of shriveled umbilical cord (yes, Angel Boy, I told you we were forever connected, how could you doubt me?)

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like his room hasn’t been cleaned properly in the thirty years we’ve lived in this house, because it has, but we had stored everything that belonged to him in his closet — just in case he needed that one specific item for any reason.

Or in case he decides to start collecting baseball cards again–of which there are THOUSANDS.

I’m a hoarder, not a tosser;  he and I share this attribute. Although the one and only item we’ve ever tossed out will forever haunt tugboat man and I…his favorite skateboard.

Angel Boy hadn’t sk8d in years, the half pipe ramp in our backyard disintegrated and had been torn down; who would have known that it meant so much to him? Apparently, MOM should have known, but one summery day, tugboat man and I were cleaning out the garage, and did the horrible-est thing EVER — we put the sk8board out in the street instead of framing and hanging on the wall. This was about ten years ago, and my son won’t let us forget how we failed him.

Guilt and shame compels us to regularly offer to replace the board; however, no new board could possibly subsume the sweet memories of that fave —  but we learned our lesson and promised to NEVER again summarily throw away any item that might contain a shred of sentiment without prior authorization. In writing.

Now that his room is so pristine. So vacant. So unoccupied.

I wonder.

What if…

For Rent: One room. Three meals, snacks, and yes, one very sadjoy empty nest MOTHER included…

jasonroompaint

Yummy! Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake Roll

cakeroll8

It was devoured in record time; I didn’t even have the chance to take pics of a slice!

Full house to empty nest in the space of forty-eight hours.

It was a whirlwind visit from my Angel Boy; more like a pit stop, really.

The summer class he was teaching at Yale was over.

We picked him up from the airport Monday afternoon and he flew away Wednesday afternoon.

Except for the hours he was sleeping or surfing, my son’s number one activity was EATING.

That child of mine always had a wonderful appetite, but this was Olympic-level eating.

Chew, swallow, repeat.

A mom’s heaven.

I was a whirling dervish of a baker: Apple Pie, French Bread, Blueberry Banana Bread, Chard and Mushroom Lasagna plus his favorite Cake Roll. Sometimes I fill it with ice cream, but summer berries looked so beautiful at the farmer’s market so that’s what I did.

I bet he gained at least three pounds.

I’ve posted the recipe I always use from my mom’s 1940’s Betty Crocker cookbook.

Here’s a pictorial about how to create the roll. I did it outside on our deck because it’s kind of messy with the powdered sugar but if you don’t use it, the cake sticks to the cloth.

cakeroll1 This is how it should look, barely browned and still spongy. You can cut off the edges if they’re crispy.cakeroll2 Carefully turn it over onto a powdered sugar-covered cloth and peel away the parchment paper without destroying the cake (easier said than done!)cakeroll3 Roll it all up like a giant sushi roll and put in the freezer to cool off while youcakeroll4slice the gorgeous strawberries. Add only enough sugar to macerate (get juicy.)cakeroll6There is no excuse NOT to whip fresh cream. Nothing out of a can, thank you very much! It only takes a few minutes and it’s so yummy.
cakeroll5Unroll the cake, spread first with whipped cream, and then layer the strawberries.
cakeroll7

I used a LOT of strawberries and cream which made it hard to roll, but I wanted to fatten up my skinny child, so I didn’t care so much about the symmetry.

Bon appétit!
Trust me, it’s worth the effort!
cakeroll8


Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake Roll w/Freshly Whipped Cream

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Line 15x10x1 -inch pan with waxed paper, foil or cooking parchment paper; generously grease waxed paper or foil with shortening. (I used a cookie sheet with sides)
  • In medium bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in granulated sugar. Beat in water and vanilla on low speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until batter is smooth. Pour into pan, spreading to corners.
  • Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake. You should still hear some sizzle…Immediately loosen cake from sides of pan and turn upside down onto towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove paper. Trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary. While cake ¡s hot, carefully roll cake and towel from narrow end. Cool on cooling rack at least 30 minutes.
  • Unroll cake and remove towel.
  • Beat one small container with 2 or 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.
  • Slice two cups of strawberries, sprinkle with 2 or three tablespoons of sugar. Stir and allow to macerate for a while. (Save a couple for garnish)
  • When cake is cool (hurry it up  by placing in freezer for 1/2 hour) spread evenly with whipped cream and place sliced strawberries evenly over the unrolled cake.
  • Roll up, sprinkle with powdered sugar, garnish with whole strawberries, and refrigerate.

P.S. Try my very best Apple Pie Recipe. Click here.

Lentil Cookies v2

My son-2Even though TECHNICALLY I’m defined as an “empty nester” because my son is on his own, married, and no longer resides at Casa de Enchanted Seashells, I don’t believe he’s ever further away than my heart.

I woke up on Saturday to read this email from my Angel Boy, which is the reason why I baked cookies early this morning and sent a package off to him while they were still warm:

angelboyemail

Not ALL is perpetually enchanted in the life of Princess Rosebud; It’s still difficult to think about or talk about my son’s recent emergency life-saving surgery  — I can’t even GO there to that place of “what if” — BUT the worst diid NOT occur and he’s making a full recovery.

Briefly, here’s what happened.

He had an obstruction due to a congenital defect we never knew he had, Meckel’s diverticulum. During his surgery, 24 inches of small intestines were removed because they were necrotic, along with 8 inches of ascending colon, his appendix, and lots of other small valves and little parts.

It all came about with no warning. Crazy, right?

Here’s that “if” again. IF my DIL had not fought the ER and been his best assertive advocate to insist they take a more proactive approach to diagnosis his pain (she just would NOT GIVE UP) and IF we had not had such an amazing surgical team led by Dr. Todd Stafford  –  well, let’s just say that we are all very grateful that he had such a dedicated team of doctors. Nuff said.

He lost about twenty pounds during his ordeal, and at six feet and 160 pounds on a GOOD day, that much weight loss made this normally fit and healthy young man look emaciated.

During his post-surgical recovery, his diet was limited to low fiber and low residue foods; a lot of Cream of Wheat, mashed potatoes, and chicken noodle soup. No vegetables, no fruit, nothing that would interfere with the healing of multiple incisions and re-joining of internal organs.

I’m happy to report that three months after the surgery, he’s defied the odds and is back to eating pretty much everything he wants, with only minor digestive upsets.

He went back to work, teaching a summer course at Yale, and I’ve been sending him healthy cookies and high protein bars on a weekly basis —  and as requested, he’ll receive the lentil cookies on Wednesday, and that should keep him supplied until he’s here next week for a short visit. Yay!

You can be sure that I’ll be cooking and baking nonstop. I’m so HAPPY to have my Angel Boy here, surfing with tugboat man and best of all, close enough to touch and hug and play Scrabble and Bananagrams.

Every minute of every day, I’m grateful to be one of the luckiest moms in the world.

To read all about Angel Boy’s surgery, click on the following links: 

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A while back, I posted Alton Brown’s Lentil Cookie recipe that I discovered on Food Network’s website.

This time, I experimented and created a version that’s a bit more intensely nutritious.

LENTIL COOKIESAngel Boy’s Lentil Cookies

They are quite dense, full of protein and energy,  and would make a great snack for hiking.

  •  2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup protein powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup smooth unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup brown sugar (If you use honey/agave, adjust the flour to accommodate the additional liquid)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 egg (or not if vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups lentil puree, recipe follows
  • 1 cup dried fruit, I used a mixture of blueberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins, apricots.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine egg, oil, vanilla, yogurt, brown sugar. Whisk briefly to incorporate. Add peanut butter and lentil puree and mix thoroughly. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, protein powder, ground flaxseed, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice.  Add the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon or a hand mixer to combine. use hands to mix. Stir in dried fruit. If it seems a little dry, add yogurt. Form the dough into balls about 2 teaspoons in size and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper Bake for 13 to 17 minutes, depending on your oven’s personality.

Lentil Puree:

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups water

In a small pot over medium heat, combine the lentils and the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Remove from the heat and puree. If using immediately, let cool.