How do Sundays work again?

I mowed the lawn this morning, for the first time in … um … a while, after looking at it the other day and realizing that it really was starting to look like the house had maybe been abandoned. My lawn right now is a weird mix of 1) dead, yellow grass, because it hasn’t been raining much; 2) weeds, up to two feet tall in one specific place, because apparently weeds don’t require nutrients to grow, and 3) the occasional patch that apparently gets a better mix of sun and shade and needed cutting but wasn’t necessarily looking completely out of control. But there are definitely patches where nothing has grown in weeks, meaning that about half the time it was super obvious where I’d mown and where I hadn’t and the other half I was basically trying to find the tracks the mower had left in the dead grass.

9 years and counting in this house, and I still hate my lawn.

And then Dad came over, and he and the boy went swimming, and we had pizza for dinner, and now I’m trying my best to not remember that I actually have a small amount of grading and lesson planning to get done tonight, because this is officially the first Sunday of the school year and Sunday is Grading Day again. There’s nothing that will take too long– one advantage of e-learning is that I can justify doing everything electronically and mostly multiple choice, so the computer can do the grading for me and I just have to record it– but I’m still vaguely resentful of the entire process.

Oh, and I got manipulated into volunteering (that’s a thing) to be team leader this year, which comes with more responsibility and zero additional pay, so that’s an extra meeting this week. I think I can dodge some professional development for it, though, which is probably a net positive.

I’m still probably gonna go play video games after I finish this.

I realized a couple of days ago that I could read the titles on my bookshelves while sitting in my recliner in the living room. While yesterday specifically was definitely rough, I’m definitely officially healing up now, and I haven’t had much cause to complain about my vision at all for at least a week or so. The surgery was a month and three days ago, and I had a one-month follow-up last week and the same doctor who was concerned about my eyes being too dry last time proclaimed me “much better” and “healing perfectly” this time. My understanding is that nearsightedness takes a little longer to heal than farsightedness does, so I expect more improvement over the next few weeks, but honestly if it were to stabilize right around where it is I think I’d be pretty damn happy. Seriously, if you’ve ever considered this and you have the money I’d jump at it; if you’re local enough to use the same folks I did, let me know, as they sent me a couple of $500 off coupons that don’t have expiration dates on them.

In which we’re gonna need a bigger boat

I’ll get to the graphic in a minute; this is gonna be another grab-baggy sort of post. Bear with me.

I just finished mowing the back yard, just in time for it to start pouring outside, so I’m sure all the grass will be regrown in a day or two. I have shared my distaste for lawn work many times before; in fact, bitching about my lawn was one of my first posts around here. My wife, who is more fond of working outdoors than I am, generally handles it; my job is to remove snow, and we collaborate on leaves. You may recall that she broke her foot a couple of weeks ago, which coincided with the weather being nice enough that the grass came back to life; to her credit, she waited for me to figure it out myself that I was going to have to mow the fucking yard and didn’t bring it up until I’d ruined my own day. Having mowed the full mess over the last two days, I have realized something: I feel basically the same way about yard work as I do about writing fiction. I absolutely hate doing it, but the feeling of being done with it is absolutely stellar. I love looking at a freshly-mowed yard. I just don’t want to have to create the conditions to be able to do that. If I ever figure out how to enjoy writing as much as I enjoy being done with writing I will be at Seanan McGuire levels of productivity in six months.

Speaking of mowing: I don’t wear headphones all that often, so it was already kind of weird that I shelled out so much money for the AirPods Pro that I bought a bit ago– but holy shit, am I impressed by how good noise cancelling works. I wasn’t even listening to music for a good part of mowing the yard; I just had the headphones in with the noise cancelling on and I could barely hear anything. Cue someone hopping into comments to tell me that’s going to kill my ears, of course.

Regarding yesterday’s addendum to yesterday’s first post: I think, based on comments, that it is clear that 1) I don’t know anything about Great Britain or their money; and 2) It is absolutely the way people write about their money that is bullshit, thus Option Two wins. I don’t feel like it is unreasonable to suggest that if you are going to spend a fair amount of your time in a book talking about people’s income levels and how much things cost, and the people you are talking about use a monetary system that is no longer in use and is not exactly intuitive, maybe put a chart somewhere explaining how it works? I’m willing to be accused of shocking ignorance on this, that’s fine, there are lots of things I don’t know, but part of the reason I was able to not realize that the shilling got phased out however many years ago was that nobody ever explains what the fuck a shilling is in history books. They just assume you know there are 3.2 shillings in a Cumberbatch and move the fuck on with the narrative. Put a damn chart in there somewhere!

The feasibility study has been returned, and it turns out I’m not actually able to watch the Snowpiercer TV series without spending additional money. I had heard it was showing up on Hulu, but apparently that’s only true if you pony up for some sort of “Live TV” add-on, and … nah.

I will, nonetheless, bow to the will of the interwebs and watch this program as soon as I can do so without spending money for it. That may take a while, however. In the meantime, Avatar: the Last Airbender is on Netflix and I somehow haven’t finished Season 5 of She-Ra yet so I need to up my TV-watching time as a percentage of my day.

I have seen a couple of different variations of the graphic at the top of this post floating around on the internet recently, as well as a couple of different NO NO THIS IS THE INTERNET BEING STUPID types of counter-posts. Folks, the official CDC “considerations” are right here; feel free to look at them yourself and compare them to whatever version of the graphic you’ve seen recently. The paraphrasing is essentially accurate, and the fact that the CDC, whether they’re calling them “guidelines” or “considerations”, doesn’t actually have the power to make their thoughts law doesn’t really matter. The point is, the fucking Center for Disease Control has effectively said that there is no way to safely open schools. Because these “guidelines” or “considerations” or whatever the fuck you want to call them are impossible, and every teacher and other adult who has ever spent any time in schools knows that. I am done for the year, effectively, and my son’s last day was yesterday (I still have some PD stuff over the next couple of weeks, and grades have to be finalized, but there is no further e-learning this year) and there is a lot of time for things to change one way or another between now and August, but the way things stand right now we are not going to be able to reopen schools this fall. Not safely, at least. I know the person in the White House doesn’t give a damn; that’s perfectly clear, but so far the governors have been more reasonable.

Speaking of governors, I had this conversation with my wife earlier:

For context, Woody Whoever’s last name is not Whoever and he is running for Governor as a Democrat, and he is running such a low-key, bullshit campaign that I literally didn’t know that there even was a gubernatorial race this year until seeing his name on my primary ballot. I do not at this time remember his last name and I’m not about to look it up. I did some quick research before I marked his name on the primary ballot (not that it would have mattered, as he was the only candidate) and he seems basically competent, but Gov. Holcomb is one of the few Republicans I’m aware of who I would also describe as “basically competent.” He’s shit on education, but so is everyone else in the damn world. Obama was shit on education. I’ve voted for one candidate who was good on education policy in the last fifteen years or so and she turned out to be a shitty politician and got voted right out again after her first term. It just doesn’t happen that damn often.

Regarding the headline to this post: when I initially wrote it I had plans to tie it into one of the parts of the post, and it was going to make sense and be at least moderately funny in the way my post titles occasionally are, and I have completely forgotten what the hell I was going to tie it into or how– something about classroom size, maybe?– but I’m not going to change it. “I am an idiot” is definitely a theme of this post so we may as well run that shit straight into the ground while we still can.

3:24 PM, Friday, May 22: 1,590,349 confirmed cases and 95,490 Americans dead.

Question for the lawn care enthusiasts


What’s the deal with the rings?  Do I have faeries?  Should I never walk into them at midnight?

Well, whatever works, I guess…

imagesI have a handful of severely autistic students.  One of them in particular has been a major behavior issue as of late– he’s been running out of the classroom, throwing things, saying crude sexual insults to the girls, and trampling people in the hallway.  We are trying, for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good, to keep him in our building and not have to move him into a residential placement of some kind somewhere else.  His issues generally begin when he gets into the building, amplify during Success period, and by the time he gets into my room for Math he’s completely uncontrollable and acting out.

I met with the corporation’s autism consultant on Thursday, and she was in my classroom observing me/him/us today.  (Sidenote:  all three of my classes killed their math tests this week; I’m super happy about how they did.)  We’ve been working on solving two-step equations and linear equations for the last few weeks, and so they’ve been hearing me say the phrase “work backwards” or “do the opposite” over and over and over and over again.  (In other words, 4x = 12 is a multiplication problem; you need to do the opposite, division, in order to solve it.)  Well, everybody but this kid has; he’s spent most of his time either sitting in the hallway or in the main office or the counselor’s office.

He had to take the same test as everyone else, so the autism consultant and his usual paraprofessional worked with him in the back of the classroom.  I heard them repeating my instructions and going over procedures to solve problems, mimicking the language I’d been using.  The kid actually did pretty well.

For the last ten minutes of class, the autism consultant and the paraprofessional disappeared for some reason and left the kid in the room with me.  I noticed after a minute that every time I gave the class an instruction he was doing something else.  Oh, great, I thought; last thing I need is a meltdown when the two people who are here to observe him have left for two minutes.

“What are you doing, Jim?” I asked.  (Jim, obviously, isn’t his name.)

“The opposite,” he said.  “They said I’m supposed to do the opposite of everything you say.”  Big, shit-eating grin on his face.

Parts of my head screamed at other parts of my head.

“Stand up,” I told him.

He sat in his seat.

“Make as much noise as you can until the bell,” I told him.

Complete silence.

“Don’t do any of your missing work, at all,” I told him.

Out comes his math workbook.

Ah, autism.  Every day can be Opposite Day from now on.

The broken tree is gone.  All hail the broken tree!  The guys did such a good job they even took away the broken branches from the last big storm we had, over the summer, which I had hauled off into a corner of my yard and not bothered to finish bagging up and curbing.  The company is called, believe it or not, Skeeter’s.  If you’re in northern Indiana, you should use them the next time something falls down around your house.

(Sidenote: there’s a good lesson in why internet reviews can be a shitty idea here, where someone who perhaps should not be allowed to have an opinion appears to believe that tree doctors are a cabinet company.  Uh, no.)

On why I hate all life

We bought our house in February or March of 2011.  I have the exact date somewhere I’m sure but for the purposes of this blog post it doesn’t really matter all that much.  Just be aware that our inspection report from before we moved in specifically states that a roof inspection wasn’t possible because there was a foot of snow and ice on the roof.  It could have been made of pancakes and toaster strudel for all we knew before we moved in.

We were prepared to take that risk, on account of the fact that the interior of the house appeared to have been well taken care of, and there were indications that the original owner of the home was actually the builder, so we figured that the place had been well-maintained.

Note that the home inspector does not inspect your lawn for you, and that if the roof was covered in a foot of snow and ice, so was the entire lawn.  This is important, because if I had seen the lawn prior to moving into the house I would have argued against buying the place.  The previous owners were an elderly couple and clearly devoted most if not all of their growing-season leisure time to maintaining the lawn.  I am a teacher with a two year old and a second job, and I hate yard work with the hot passion of a million suns, so… yeah.  Let’s just say that I have not done a good job maintaining what they have wrought.  This picture-heavy post basically exists to let you know what I am up against and gives you a chance to call me a lazy whiner.  Be aware of something: we’re entering our third summer in the house.  Third.  Not fifteenth.  And since we’re just entering it, it means that the lawn has only had two summers to become what it is today.


Let’s start with something pretty.  Isn’t that flower pretty?  It’s gorgeous, in fact.  It’s growing in my back yard.  It grows in my back yard every year!  For like two weeks.  The rest of the time, as far as I can tell, it’s a weed. Now that we’ve seen something pretty, let’s go look at the front yard.


Our first front-lawn picture is one of the few that vaguely resembles victory, actually:  this little patch of the front of my house was a weed-infested hellhole until about, I dunno, a month ago?  Then I did this to it.  The little barrel over to the right is filled with violets that I had tried to plant in this space but they got eaten by weeds (milkweed, mostly) and I tried to save them.  I actually successfully transplanted something!  They’re doing fine!

The tree, I don’t know what that is but I’ll probably have to cut it down before it grows into my foundation, if it’s not there already.I didn’t put it there.

noname (1)

We have (this will be a theme) a surface root problem in both lawns.  There’s an enormous something-tree (again, I don’t know plants) in the front yard.  It’s big and pretty and I like it but it also has these for, like, a ten-foot radius around it.  This is where Deathwish the toad lives.  I keep planning on putting some sort of box around this tree to try and contain the roots but it keeps not happening on account of 1) complicated; 2) expensive; 3) hard work.  This area is, obviously, impossible to mow and must be kept under control with a weed whacker.

I own three weed whackers and not one of them works right.

noname (2)

This used to count as a completed project.  This tree, also in the front yard, also had a surface root problem, so I built this little planter box around it.  When I built the box, it was relatively straight and square; the roots have taken care of that and now it looks all crooked and janky.  Also, I was stupid enough to not bother putting some sort of cloth underneath the rocks, so now grass is growing through them.  This needs to be torn down and rebuilt this summer; who knows if I’ll actually get to it or not.  Another clue for next time: mortar.  Which I know nothing about.

noname (5)

This is by our front door.  These vines wrap around to the front of the house where the woodchips are and continually threaten to take over the front porch and the sidewalk and have to be hacked back.  I think you should be able to click on these to get a bigger version; that big thing in the middle has been hacked down twice and keeps growing back.  In an ideal world, I’ll rip all of these out, put the grass back in, and put a lawn swing here; I don’t like the vines either aesthetically or practically and my front porch isn’t quite set up right for a swing.  But, again, work-time-money.  I weedwhacked this a couple of weekends ago, so this is actually pretty cared for compared to how it usually looks.

noname (3)

This patch of bullshit is on the side of the house.  Bek has carefully planted several peonies here, and carefully arranged landscaping fabric around the peonies to keep the milkweed from reestablishing itself; the last two years have been a constant battle against milkweed.  You can see that the milkweed gives no fucks about our bullshit little landscape fabric and is back anyway.  She has threatened to cleanse this part of the lawn with flame if the landscape fabric didn’t work.  I look forward to that happening at the end of the summer.

Speaking of cleansing with flame…

noname (4)

The rest of the side yard.  That big bush in back is a burning bush and I love it; we have three of them and in “ideal world” mode I plant several more along the house back here, mostly so that I never have to mow it again.  See the big dead patch there?  Our neighbor on this side of the house is retired and his lawn is immaculate, which makes me hate him.  Two years ago he literally poured gasoline or something else horrible along the border between our yards here to keep my weeds from encroaching on his lawn.  I was so overwhelmed with new-house-baby-coming-JESUS-FUCK-THIS-LAWN that I didn’t even care.  That patch of land still hasn’t recovered from whatever the hell he killed it with.

I want more.

That’s the front yard.  Now, just for perspective, we live on a cul-de-sac, so our front lawn is wedge-shaped and relatively small.  I can mow it in twenty minutes, easy; fifteen if I’m in a hurry.  The back yard is much, much, much bigger; probably easily four times the area of the front yard.  Have you gotten the impression that I hate my front yard?  Pfah.  My hatred for my front yard is nothing compared to my hatred for the back yard.

noname (7)

Let’s start with this tree.  It’s a… Chinese elm, maybe?  I dunno, some kind of hardwood.  We called a Tree Guy out last summer (several, actually) to discuss ways to get rid of our locust tree, a job that, as it turns out, no landscape guy anywhere wants (we called four of them; two refused to even provide us with an estimate, basically declining the job, and a third guy quoted a price so high that I’d cut the damn thing down myself or attach a fuckin’ lightning tod to it and hope before I paid it) and he looked at this tree and went “Yeah, fifteen-twenty thousand bucks to take that one down.  It’ll chew up saws like nobody’s business.”


I’m not super fond of the ground cover here and would like to get rid of it but I’m not sure grass will actually grow under this tree.  There’s probably tons of surface roots underneath it, too. The huge pile of dirt is from the peony project in the front yard, and the giant tree branch fell off a neighbor’s tree into our yard and I was too lazy to hack it up.  In an ideal world, there’s a hammock under here; it’ll probably never happen.

Note, by the way, that there’s no border or anything trying to contain the ground cover.  I actually tried to do this my first summer, only to discover that between the roots and the ground being made of fucking cast iron, the job would have been virtually impossible– or at least close enough that I wasn’t willing to put in the work.  Digging around any of the trees in either lawn is incredibly labor-intensive to a point that I frankly wouldn’t have believed prior to buying this house.

noname (17)

Turn around from the tree and you get this, covering one side of our back porch.  This used to be some (apparently quite expensive and nice-looking) form of vines or ground cover until the drought last summer killed it stone dead.  Some of it is trying to come back; the vast majority of this is weeds, some of them very large.  Also, tomatoes.

noname (6)

This is just outside our back door.  It’s a flower garden, technically; at least half of what’s in it will flower, some of it beautifully, at some point during the summer, which is paralyzing, because it means that for the most part I have no idea what’s going to look pretty at some point and what’s a weed that I can hack up and throw away with impunity.  The flower in the first picture above is to the right; those close at night and open up during the day; since this picture was taken early in the morning they’re closed right now.  There’s also some pink flowers to the left (dying off now, as their two weeks have expired) and some blue ones to the right.  It makes me insane.  Off-camera to the right is… I dunno, a wisteria, maybe?  A big bush that bursts into flowers and looks really cool for about two weeks.  Bek knows what this is; I’ll edit it later.  (EDIT:  I am informed that this is a lilac bush.)  Also: there are at least two or three different species of actual trees growing in here; see if you can spot them.

noname (16)

A little farther down from the door; the maybe-wisteria is to the right in this picture.  This used to be green and pretty.  It’s basically Hector’s pissin’ bush now.  He killed it.  I’d cut it down, but it’s covered in an inch of tarred-on dog piss and I’m afraid if I cut it down he’ll choose something else as a target for his poison stream.

noname (8)

Opposite side of the lawn, next to the ground-cover-money-tree.  This also is filled with weeds and flowering things, and tons of plants that my mom looks at and goes, “That’s a blabbity!  I wish I had a blabbity!  You can’t cut that down!” and makes me insane.  I think the giant thing with the big leaves is called an elephant ear; I have no goddamn idea what anything else is but some of them will flower.

noname (9)

To the right: locust tree, which I hate.  In the middle: more locust trees, grown from the first locust tree.  This happens every year no matter how many of them I cut down.  I feel like the white-edged leafy things are a weed; sometimes I try and kill them all and they come back.

noname (10)

More goddamn surface roots, these from the locust tree.  In a few weeks, we will enter my favorite part of the year, where  hundreds of little locust trees start growing from these roots.  I hate the locust tree, have I mentioned that?  And I hate baby locust trees?

noname (11)

This used to be the world’s scraggliest and ugliest pine tree until I cut it down last year.  I’ve left the stump, not out of laziness, but as an example to the rest of the plants not to fuck with me.

noname (12)

I don’t know what the hell this is but it’s huge and it takes over the middle of the rest of the yard.  Sooner or later I’ll cut it down; it’ll probably grow right back.

noname (13)

There’s a fence in here, and behind it, a utility abutment that doesn’t actually belong to anyone.  Last summer I spent two ninety-five degree days pruning this back and clearing the fence.  Last summer.  As in this all grew back in less than a year.  I will not be repeating that experiment; fuck it.

noname (14)

This is just grass, mostly, but because of the way the fence is constructed I can’t come up with a way to prune it down short of getting a pair of goddamned scissors and cutting each blade individually– which, needless to say, isn’t happening.  I’ve taken three or four different stabs at it with different tools (including a reciprocal saw and a machete, among other more practical, first-choice types of tools) and I can’t find a way to do it that doesn’t make me suicidal.

noname (15)

My tulip tree.  I actually know what this is and I like it; it may be the only plant in the back yard that that is true for.

The end.