« Publishers Are Like Boyfriends -- Which Is Why I Have Three | Main | Crazy Babysitters and the Moon Walk »

July 20, 2009

Dog Days

Dog Days

by Harley

Ah, the Dog Days of summer. 4th of July fireworks long gone, and back-to-school bell not yet sounded (except at Staples).

Dog Days. In L.A., drought conditions mean watering lawns Mondays and Thursdays only. Which I applaud, but cannot explain to my sprinkler, which is possessed by some Stephen King-like demon, watering at will on random days. If I disappear from the blog, come find me in Dept. of Water & Power prison. Worse, if I let my lawn turn brown, I’ll be incarcerated in Homeowner’s Association jail. Please post bail in an attractive envelope (bisque or beige exterior only), quietly, so as not to disturb the neighbors. And please curb your dog.

Yes, Dog Days. In yesteryear, these were evil times "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." That’s from Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813, but could easily apply to Harley’s Bloggus Mondayum, 2009 as day camp ends, and the kids are home all day. Talk about fevers, hysterics and phrensies.

I start with frolicsome suggestions, “Let’s hit the beach! Who’s ready for sandcastles? Errands? A visit to the library? Let’s bake corn muffins!”

The summer stock response? “Boring, Mommy.”

“Okay, how about you sit around in pajamas, watch bad cable and eat candy while I work on the great American novel?” Much better, until excessive sugar and episodes of The Wizards of Waverly Place kick in and we’re back to fever, hysterics and phrensies.

This week’s low water mark occurred on Thursday. I got everyone into the pool when my daughters decided that out of all the inner tubes, floaties, machine guns, noodles, kickboards and chaises cluttering the water, they both required Random Pool Toy #39 at the exact same moment.

Fighting ensued, until my 9-year old, with admirable force, launched a basketball at her 7-year old sister’s head.

She missed. But I freaked. Visions of blood, brain tumors, and emergency rooms arose. “Everyone out of the pool!” I shrieked.

No one complied. So I walked into the water fully clothed. I grabbed the offending Pool Toy, with my 7-year old still attached to it. She let go, but the 9-year old caught it. I, disinclined to play tug-of-war with a fourth-grader, said through gritted teeth that either she let go of Pool Toy in three seconds or I would destroy it.

Shrieks! Wails! “Mommy’s murdering the pool toy!”

“Yes.” I cried. “With scissors. Knives. Garden shears. I don’t care. I’ll shred it.”

With only shrubbery separating us from the Entire Neighborhood listening to the new kids on the block fight with demented mommy, my daughter let go, I released the hostage, deflated it, sent the warring factions (with loud lamentations) indoors, and changed myself into dry clothes.

If only this were unusual. But it’s not just Dog Days making us crabby; we’re changing schools next month, from the excellent ($$$) private school the kids have known their whole life, to the very good (free) public school nearby.

Besides the economic reasons, the kids will experience life in the streets for the first time, rather than life on the freeway. And with luck, they’ll get a fine education. (albeit with no French classes -- c’est dommage.)

But it’s goodbye to all our friends. Yeah, we’ll make new ones. Yeah, it’s an adventure, Yeah, I attended 6 different schools, K-12, and thrived. Still, we’re melancholy. We made our decision two weeks ago and now we’ve got 37 days before the adventure begins. Dog days.

Anyone else turning over new leaves this fall? How’s it going?


PS. Here’s the newest family member, my nephew Matt’s newborn son, Wyatt,232323232fp8;7>vq=324;>279>;57>WSNRCG=327792<344325vq0mrj  getting through Dog Days in the best possible manner.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dog Days:


Yeah, and not well. But it's not Josh's blog day.

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



We've been setting new records down here for temperatures in the high 90's/low 100's, and it's wearing very frigging thin. Rain is predicted today, "SOMETIME", maybe, if we're lucky, we might get a few drops. Yesterday afternoon, it came down nice and steady for about six minutes; an hour later, it was bone dry again. Add in the usual 90%+ humidity, and I'm starting to think moving to Maine or Vermont or Nova Scotia is not such a bad idea....

P.S. My opinion, little Wyatt has Life under control.

Harley, I am so proud of you for deflating the pool toy! With such drama! It will undoubtedly remain in the minds of your kids for years to come. (At Thanksgiving, 2029 it'll be a legend.) I only hope they remember the lesson the incident was supposed to convey. My kids only remember the drama, I think. Not the point of it all.

They're going to love public school. Plenty of drama there!

This is the time of year when, freshly returned from the West Coast, I wonder woefully how I ever ended up living in the reclaimed swamp otherwise known as the Tidewater region of Virginia.

New leaves? You betcha! First, I gotta woman-up and get a bunch of work done. I've got 2 weeks in which to rewrite a semester's worth of lab curriculum and deal with a backlog of administrative nonsense before heading for sunny Torrance, CA for a week. Then the madness begins as the countdown to the first day of classes truly commences.

As all that looms, I have resolved not to curse the heat and humidity more than twice daily. I promise myself not to spend more than 15 minutes playing solitaire instead of answering student e-mail. I grit my teeth and refuse desert while pushing that extra 15 minutes of aerobic exercise.

And hope like h&#ll that we survive the start of another school year . . .

Good grief. PLEASE stop talking about starting school already - it just ended! I love having the kids home and not having to play drill sarg every morning to get them out of bed.

Harley - you have my sympathies. We only had two kids. Makes a huge difference. Where was your son during this fracas?

My threat to the teenage kids - and it works because I actually did it once: "I will shut this place down." Which means, all electronics will be turned off. They thought I was kidding the first time, but I'd just installed surge protectors on all the stuff, so it took me less than a minute to shut down the computers, TV and video games. BOOM!

Proud of you for taking the pool toy - you gotta call their bluff so they know you're serious.

Also - I'd get a soft basketball, just in case. They make the Nerfy kind for pools that don't just sponge up the water.

Kathy, I'm sorry. Honestly, it was STAPLES that started in with the "back to school time!" and it was 2 weeks ago. The equivalent of mall Christmas muzak in October.

My son was doing the usual "third kid out" routine; enjoying the fact that the other two were in trouble, innocently saying, "Mommy I don't have to get out of the pool, right? I wasn't fighting, right?" Which made his sisters want to commit fratricide.

And I'm borrowing that "I will shut this place down" because mine are very deeply committed to electronics.

And Betty? Welcome!

Harley, my sympathies. Hot weather and cranky kids are rough on Moms.
It's the dog days here in Florida, with an extra sense of doom. It's also hurricane season. At night we watch the thunderstorms roll in and pray they don't whip into a Category 3.
Sheesh. It seems like my teacher friends were just praying for the end of the school year.

Ah, Harley, this too shall pass. Eventually the little darlings grow up, and they might even become friends. It happens. Your job is to get them to that point, with your usual good humor and loving strength. Parenting ain't for sissies.

As for electronics, I forbid my kids from having any, except for one computer that we all shared. They were also not allowed to watch TV except on weekends, which made me the TV Nazi, according to my brother, but also made them book readers. And have I mentioned their scholarships recently? I know, I'm disgusting that way. But honestly, what do they need all that stuff for? It's bad enough their mother was addicted, and I wasn't trying to learn stuff like trigonometry and calculus and physics.

Elaine, my daughter's new apartment, a high-rise in South Miami, came with hurricane screens that she was instructed to pull in case of an event. That sobered all of us up, instantly. And by the way, now I know why no one from here goes to South Florida for vacation in the middle of summer. Yikes, it's hot there now.

Oh for the simple joys of feuding children...we are turning over (as I type) a good portion of our back,side and front yards to accommodate a new sewer line...and,as of five minutes ago,a replacement sump pump pipe, rodent trap and sewer popper. Of course, I am the one dealing with Mr. Rooter's minions, not Chuck. This is not fair. I am a plumbing dummy. However, Chuck is bigger than I am, so I can't haul him to the back and tie him to the willow so he's available to make decisions. And he's evidently indispensible at AutoZone today... On the positive side, nothing has backed up into the house, and this probably would have been something necessary before we sell or move, because codes are always changing, but...arghhhhhhh!
Still, Harley, if you need bail money, just yell...I can be discreet and use small bills :o)
Oh...and the weather in Champaign has been lovely...high 50's at night and 80 during the day. For July that's not shabby! August? We'll see... Hang in there. :o)

We did most of the back to school shopping this weekend. And yes, back to school ads start on July 5. We did it now for several reasons: 1) We already have plans for most weekends in August. 2) The Missouri Sales Tax Holiday (first weekend in August) turns Walmart, Target and OfficeMax/Depot into zoos. I like the zoo when the animals are on the other side of the fence. 3)Most of the stores were empty. Always a plus shopping with the two princesses. Notice they are princesses not angels. Now I still have a peeve. The "supply list" asks each student to bring 48 pencils for class use. That is a new pencil every 3.75 school days. WTF? is that?

Back to school actually needed to move into July. Most public schools start in mid August. Freshman for college may need to be on campus around the 15th. No I have no valid reason why Hallmark releases their new holiday ornaments this week.

Ahem, about that sprinkler system, she forgot to mention someone completely inept at anything in the category of yard stuff was the one to reset the control panel and the timer.

When she cuts a plea deal and rats me out to the Dept. of Water and Power could someone bail me out?

Alan, when my kids went off to college and we cleaned out their desks I found hundreds of markers, pens, and pencils. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands, and all because of those stupid supply lists. What a waste. There were so many left that I have sent containers of them with my daughter to their vacation home for the little one to use, and I have two extra sets for him, one here and one at our farm. It's crazy--he's 21 years younger than his oldest aunt.

Ole crabby me also wants to know why the hell anyone needs grass (shade trees, annuals, etc.) in arid regions, and then has to waste water to make it grow where it was never meant to grow in the first place. Xeriscape, people. (Not you specifically, Harley; people in general.)

Harley, I love this blog! I am in awe of you getting into the pool with your clothes on! That's awesome.

The weather here in the mid west has been so gorgeous the past 2 weeks, as to be unbelievable ! We're used to having 98* with 95% humidity about now. Yesterday it was 76!!!
Glad you took the toy away!And the shut down is great! My son & I had a showdown over his Walkman. I took it away from him for a week. He went thru my drawers & was using it while I was at work. That made it 2 weeks & a promise that if he snuck it out again, I'd stomp it! Yep! I came home early from work & he had it out again. It went to the floor & I stomped it to smithereens.
Better the walkman than him!

What is Xeriscape?

Kathy, xeriscaping is a method of gardening that takes into consideration the local moisture level, and does not require additional irrigation, etc. Here's a Wikipedia entry:


My husband did a film for the Department of Agriculture many years ago on the topic. We went to Utah to see some spectacular desert gardens, as well as some that required massive amounts of watering. And we got to see the interior of the main water source for a big chunk of the Salt Lake City area. It was pretty cool. They have excellent water there, by the way, very pure snowmelt that barely requires treatment.

It's been so cool here that my tomatoes have been on the vine for a month without ripening (they need hot nights).

You are preaching to the choir here re the gardening thing. However, I have moved into a lovely suburban neighborhood, where the Homeowner's Association (mandatory) decrees that cactuses are not appropriate for front yard landscaping. I'm now educating myself on succulents and maybe some drought-resistant ground cover masquerading as grass.

BTW, I expect the fashions will SLOWLY change as water becomes more scarce. But do I want to pour my limited time and energy (and knowledge) into this issue and be the militant activist here? Maybe, but my instincts tell me I have to learn a lot more about gardening first and then who's going to write the Great American Novel and assault the pool toys?

When we left New York, the only thing that made me cry was saying goodbye to my children's absolutely wonderful private school. I loved that place. But I never doubted that I was doing the right thing by moving them and putting them in (admittedly, excellent) public schools. It is just so much more natural a life. They are no longer hothouse flowers used to constant personal attention, yet they're still getting a great education. But there was definitely an adjustment period. It took a good 3-6 months for the older one, who was 10 at the time, to settle down and feel at home. The younger one had no problems but he was only 6.

As for the summer activities, I wish I had your problems! This is the summer that wasn't in the northeast -- constant constant constant rain and cold.

Harley, your neighborhood isn't the only place that has weird decrees. My mother lives in a newish community of town homes and condos in SW Ohio, and they are required to water a set number of times a week, too. Including if it rains every day that week. It's one of the 10 dumbest things I've ever heard.

Michele, thank you for that. I know there will be an adjustment period, but better now than when they're in middle school. One big adjustment is going to be clothes -- from uniforms to free dress.

Sometimes I wish there were a uniform for moms.

Kudos, Harley for going right into the pool in your clothes. I love your description of the toys and floats available - I have this vision of a pool with all sorts of flotsam.

Also Kudos to Rita for the stomping. It's always nice to make kids realize you mean what you say.

That's the sweetest picture of your nephew and his baby.

Oh, yeah, this shall pass. Then, in three years or so, when the monthly visitor starts stopping by, well, there's a whole host of new issues.

I'm still Mr. Upbeat.

Hurrah for parents in charge! It may not be fun, but it's quite necessary. There are lockboxes for the plugs of electronic gadgets that can enforce the ban even when parents are away. One mom grounded her daughter from the phone until she pulled up her grades. She put all the phones in her trunk when she left the house (except for one hidden so the younger daughter would be able to use it for emergencies). "The phone is my LIFE!" and to get her life back, she stayed after school for a week, catching up, only leaving when I left and kicked her out.
Our sprinklers run way too much, my backyard is a marsh and the mower makes ruts. There are devices to shut them off when the ground is damp, but we don't have those yet. Oh well, the frogs like it -- the frog chorus is wonderful!
I've nearly finished the "Frog and Friends" CD -- mixing my stories, Mike Anderson's music, and the frogs' singing!

Sweetest photo of Ryan and daddy! Totally admiring Harley's command of the pool situation, as well as the 'shut this house down' and electronics stomping--GREAT moms at TLC!! I'm sincerely hoping 'dog days' doesn't begin applying to this summer until late August, as I've just begun to get into the flow of our very recent beautiful days. New leaf? Painting my living room and bedroom in the next week or two?? Wrestling finances into line to afford car payments soon? Here's hoping!

Oh, and I meant to say, I must be in the lucky part of the country right now. Our weather has been cooler and much less humid than usual this time of year. It's wonderful, but I'm sure we'll pay somehow.

Good news: it's only going to be 101 here today.

For some reason, each time my daughter, husband, and step-son invite me to the back yard to swim, I envision relaxation--floating, twirling, a few laps...

Instead they keep bringing out the big plastic ball--balls are my sworn enemy, being a ball magnet my whole life. The day I got my new goggles (pink to match my suit), my daughter fisted the ball right into my face. It hit me on the left goggle and I ended up with an oval bruise around my eye. I looked like I belonged at the women's shelter.

Meanwhile, I'm feeling inspired, but everyone leaves me just enough time to relax into my writing, then bursts in on me. I feel so loved and so frustrated simultaneously!

Hi. It's Me, Margie - listen people -

The Dog Days is an old dumbass reference to the time between mid-July and early August when Sirius - the dog star - is close to the sun. People thought the proximity made the weather hotter. Duh. Wonder what they thought happened when the Big Dipper got closer to the sun? More productive moonshine stills?

Some people who really don't know anything but talk like they do not mentioning any names - they'll swear to ya that it means weather so hot the dogs just lay around and won't do anything. In some neighborhoods, that applies any time of year to dawgs of all kinds. Just saying.

And for you TLCers in NY - keep any eye out for my Cousin Rita. I guess someone told her there are international Navy Ships, uh, docking up in the available ports there.

Watch out. Me, Margie just got sirius.

I've been chuckling all day about you going into the pool with your clothes on. That will definitely leave a lasting impression on your kids.

Good luck with the adjustment to the new school . . . and here's to pool harmony!

I'm here in southern California (the O.C., altho I'm not one of those rich bitches they show on Bravo) and I'd just like to say to the god of weather, "Make. The. Heat. Stop."

My hubby stopped watering the lawn a few months ago, good eco-husband that he is. Down side is that we haven't replaced the brown dead stuff with anything pretty or useful, which made the backyard look really pathetic yesterday for my book launch party. At least everyone knows now that I'm not making stuff up about my family in my weekly column.

Good job with the kiddo-fight. Why should one of them be unhappy when they can both be unhappy? We're raising an only child, so he is missing out on so much fun. I feel a little sorry for him - until I read stories like yours!


Harley: "educating myself on...drought-resistant ground cover..."
Lantana (comes in lots of different flower colors) and Cenizo (looks like Japanese boxwood only gray with velvety leaves), and potato/sweet potato vines come to mind. Also crepe myrtle and althea (rose of Sharon) are good heat-resistant plants. My idea of ground cover is keeping the weeds cut short.

Re: Very good public school vs. private school. My kid situation worked in reverse. The daughter went from very good public school, to me almost going broke paying for private school. Great education, but a very sanitized, unrealistic environment. Seeing me suffer made her study harder, and she graduated with a 2/3 free ride so I didn't have to pay for college. Pay now? Pay later? Does it really matter? You still have to pay...

*Hijack* A great review of my newest book, Woman Strangled - News at Ten (about the TV broadcast industry) can be viewed on KODE-TV Channel 12 "Good Morning Four States" program.


Thank you, Laurie. That ground cover advice is urgently needed. I'm off to the nursery to view it up close. Only now I think I have to call up the Homeowners Association and petition them to allow it. I'm serious. Sirius. Any moment now they're going to cite me for Brown Grass due to Aberrant Sprinklering.

Congrats on the review!

Harley Growing up, there was a guy in our neighborhood that hated his zoyza grass cause it turned brown so early, so he sprayed it green. No, it didn't look real and really looked funny under the snow in December!

St. Peters has rules about how high plants can be, so on the undeveloped lots, the builder has been ordered to mow -- there were wonderful wild flowers, cover for the rabbits -- now ugly stubble and where it was too wet, ruts . . . lovely view. I should call and thanks them so very much for their environmentally damaging rule.

ok girls, pay attention me,Margie!
Want to make the drudgery of ironing more fun? Check out the ironing board covers here!

I think environmental consciousness, like everything else in life, requires a lot of patience while we drag everyone along for the ride. My kids wouldn't dream of not recycling something. My mother, a lover of the earth, would be confused by it all.

But you know, the idea of spraying my brown grass green is sounding pretty good today.

And the Texas Campaign for the Environment just stopped by my door seeking money & letters to be sent to various state, national and private individuals to help stop toxic e-waste from all our old electronics, here and overseas.

I'm sorry, it's obnoxious, but I must brag: our kids school ends Friday after Memorial Day and starts Tuesday after Labor Day. It's like The Way Things Were Meant To Be! The summer vacation rental savings (way lower that 1st week of Sept) doesn't cover the private school tuition, but it's a nice perk.

OTH, I recently heard what high school tuition costs and think public school there will be quite fine. Our current tuition is of the Montessori elementary type and not bad.

Finally - I have to vent that Maryland has cut funding for the G&T Summer Centers entirely next year. Since current GT offerings consist of 2 hours per week for 7 months, for 3 years only (3rd thru 5th grade), I don't think summer center funding is too much to ask, especially as we still pay $400+ tuition. My DD is rather precocious, but I think she deserves an education up to her potential (or at least something that makes her think hard occasionally), too, like the other students.

Thanks for pretending to listen to my rant! :). Am practicing for my nastygram to the legislators.

Oh, clarifying: we did the public elem thing, which is how I got details on paucity of current offerings, and why this year we're ponying up funds for private school. Which I always swore we'd never do; I was a believer in public education and community all together etc

As a retired high school teacher, I can attest to the wide offerings at public h.s. (or at least mine) -- with all the honors classes and A.P. college credit, tech. school as an option, early release for work/study or classes at the community college, education is there for the taking.
Sorry about the loss of a gifted program, though. A time and place for students to stretch their wings is worth fighting for. Good luck!

Reading comments reminded me that on my walk the other day, I saw a lawn that was too suspiciously green, with edges that are too perfectly trimmed . . . yep, someone who owns a million-dollar house in Santa Monica has put Astro-Turf on their whole front lawn. Oh. My. God.
Harley, lantana will go bushy and hedge-y and climb to the sky if you let it, but it puts up with all sorts of drought and seems to thrive here almost as well as in Texas. For a fabulous ground-cover, consider moss rose (portulaca), which will grow enthusiastically part of the year. Local garden shop should be able to recommend a companion planting for the non-enthusiastic time. I was talked into planting Mexican Heather, and really, really like the fact that I haven't yet killed it by forgetting to water it for weeks on end (literally!).

I think it's time for me to go meet the mysterious Homeowner's Association and see what my non-grass options are. I walk and jog the 'hood a lot (the joy of dog companionship) and here too I see astroturf. Aside from the obvious aesthetic objections, the stuff coalesces into tiny clumps that attach themselves to the children's socks (at least the stuff they use on the school football field) and I do NOT want to live with that.

Strange times.

Late to the party.......do consider river rock......a gorgeous replacement that the landscape police do love, I hear.

Well, Harley, you made me laugh so hard my morning cup of tea (with cream) is all over the front of my computer and I don't have a napkin at my desk to clean it up. Dog days of summer, indeed. Why does the incident of the one and only wanted pool tool sound so familiar?? Hmmm, well, way back when . . . .

Sorry I missed this entry,
it was a great and dramatic story.

Great Blog site Harley!
I feel your sprinkler pain. I was having an atrocious time with my drip system, which I hope I fixed. Although, living in Silver Lake (part of Los Angeles) we get some wicked heat, not quite like the valley, but hot none the less. I don't have a lawn to worry about, because our property is covered in native (if you can call them that) drought tolerant plants, no grass. However, because we have ample deck space, more than I could ever manage to fill, I have self-watering containers galore. In these containers I grow every imaginable vegetable and fruit possible. Right now my "Ali Baba" watermelons are taking over the entire deck. Anyhow, some containers over fill with too much water and flood, whereas other dry out. Combining all this with the heat, figuring out which drips to use for each plant based on their size proportions is a lot to quantify, especially since it keeps changing as the plants keep growing.
And with all this including life and my many responsibilities, you would think I would cut back, but no, I add new containers every year. I think I should just give it all up and retire to an English countryside, like St. Mary Mead.

I think the pool scene, modified somehow, would be great for a new book! :)
It was cooler here, but it's supposed to be back up to "heat index of 100" tomorrow. Great. I can't figure out how to run the stupid digital thermostat!!!!!!!

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site