Sunday, April 11, 2010

Perfectly At Home

Everyone was home yesterday. Not necessarily in the home.
Betty, get out of there.

Thank you.
Everyone was home yesterday, and for most of the day we were working and playing outside. And I think it was the combination of work and play that made the day feel pretty nearly perfect.

From the rose bed...

... where blooms are waking,

... to the orchard where the trees are taking root and giving fruit,

... I am beginning to see signs that we are settling in to our home. I see familiar touches, and I feel the comforting sense of belonging. We are claiming walls, filling drawers, spreading out, playing, making our marks. It feels so very good.

The traffic is our own, and so are the lines on the ground. Bike races, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, plucking blossoms, running barefoot, chatting over the neighbor's fence, spotting birds, putting tools away... it's like untying knots, unraveling tension that has been building up, and letting it go. Little by little, finally letting it go.

So the day was full. Full of productive work, full of games and laughter, full of deep thoughts and other musings, and full of delightful nothingness.

Everyone did their own thing. Coming and going.

They can be elusive... the words that describe my happiness for feeling perfectly at home. The feelings are wonderful.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Bliss in the Weeds

Besides earthquakes and aftershocks, something else has been going on in So Cal... we've been blessed with amazing weather. Almost summer-like, almost late summer-like, which is when it tends to be even better than the month of gloom we have in June. We've been making mint tea, and minding the rose buds, watering our orchard, taking dinner outdoors, and soaking up the beauty in the breeze.

Even the weeds look verdant and good, although on closer inspection I can see we are going to be plagued with stickers if I don't selectively yank the offenders. Betty surveys the land, and she is glad. This is spring, she declares. This is Betty season.

Up close I notice the stickers, and closer still... I see the lady bug beetles. Loads and loads of scurrying red beetles, and black dotties on red beetles. Eating the aphids beetles. Darling and good, lady bug beetles.

And baby ladies. Baby beetles. Did you know? Some people don't recognize these reticular little bugs as ladybug larvae. Now you understand why I am delaying the weed pulling party. I love pulling weeds. Honestly. I would gladly pull weeds in my yard, than get my nails done. There are lots of things I would rather do than get my nails done. But still. I get lost in happy garden bliss when I am pulling weeds. When I get around to it, I will be very courteous of the ladies.

Betty, are you courteous of the Lady Beetles?

Yes, Betty and the Lady Beetles are neighbors, and friends.
O, Betty, eres bellisima. Chica-chica.

So, with the children home from school, and the sun shining, I am blissfully sitting amongst the weeds. Counting hummingbirds and dreaming of figs. The lady bugs are traveling up and down the highway of stalks and leaves. Maria digs holes. Alex builds a windmill. William watches, and chats. Max reads The Hobbit, again. Geoff makes garage progress. And slowly the sun slips west.

Stickers are inevitable, as is the return of school.

Happiness can be so fragile. Fortunately it is also abundant, and easily nurtured.

I like to pause, to recognize happiness, and the pleasure it gives... before the memory flies away.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Home Again

Everyone has heard the marketing quip... What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Well, it's a lie! A smelly, dirty lie. Okay, so the "smelly dirty" part is in the washer, but I am still disillusioned.
We came home with three loads of spirited laundry. Something that smells of fear, and cheer, anticipation, and earthquake-road trip survival... and none of it stayed in Vegas, baby. It's all in my laundry room.

Fortunately, before I was up to my nostrils in Vegas memories, we had the most amazing and comforting welcome home, Happy Easter ever. We drove west Sunday morning, and it was a doozy. The five 6 hour drive was plagued with high winds, and closed restaurants, then an earthquake... which, to be honest, we did not notice traveling at 67 mph in wind gusts, but still! Were we ever whooped.

But, the Bird House was open, and Ruth was in the kitchen filling the air with fragrant aromas. Holly and Rich were ahem... The Easter Bunny had just left, and eggs were hidden all over the backyard.

I am ruined forever. From now on, I will always secretly hope that after every road trip we are greeted by family or friends, and a beautiful and abundant home cooked meal. That the children will have fun awaiting them, that there will be chilled wine on the patio, cut flowers in a vase, and that all the cares of the road and long weekend will evaporate as we laugh and play.

It was nice putting off laundry. It was a relief not having to search for any open market, so I could throw together a healthy holiday dinner. It was comforting, after the melancholy of saying good-by to family, to be greeted by more family. Every detail and nicety was considered and thoughtfully planned, and our only expectation was to enjoy ourselves... and we did. Very much.

Since then, I confess, I spent an entire day doing next to nothing. Writing, downloading pictures. Trying to figure out why FB would not let me get into Lexulous... important nothings like that. What a luxury.

Then we started to reacclimate to our domestic climate. I started in on the laundry and dishes, bought cat food. Alex, Maria, and I went east to our old El Rancho neck of the prairie and we visited our favorite thrift shop. Now we have more forks, a new table cloth, shirts that fit Alex, and a little, metal Peanuts lunch pail that Maria cherishes. We also stopped at the tortilleria, and brought home some hot corn ones, and some jamaica flowers for punch.

Back home, Geoff reaffirmed his commitment to unpacking. And the first box he opened revealed something like a Christmas present! Not since 1997... that's how long it's been since our bread-maker was been out of a moving box. We packed it when the cord was destroyed, and it never came out until now. So, Geoff and Alex set to get it back in working order. All of those moves, six total, must have shaken stuff loose, because they had to do more than replace the cord. I think they kind of enjoyed themselves. And when I figure out how to crank her up and get her baking again, we will all be enjoying ourselves. Toast 'n' Jelly Days, coming soon!

I still do have chicks on the brain. It is spring, and I want chicks. But. Always with the big but. But, I have to get prepared, and time things, and be responsible... blah-blah-blah. Being an adult can be so overrated. Hopefully, signs and articles, and circumstances will align and Polish chicks, or Silkies, will be more than just hencakes on the griddle.

Now, there's nothing to stop me from making some salsa to go with those fresh corn tortillas. So I roasted one chile verde, and I have tomatoes and a jalapeņo simmering on the stove. Cilantro from the garden, a bit of white onion finely diced. Sal. Pimiento. Ajo. Blend, and go!

We're home.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

When I put those words on Chickenblog, in my profile, it wasn't because I am chronically optimistic, or whole heartedly ambitious, or even particularly perky. For me, Never give up, never surrender, is more than a great movie line... it's a great reminder of what I am striving for. I want to be resilient and daring, I want to overcome obstacles and navigate rough water. And when I lose my way, or get knocked down, I want to believe that those words will rise in my mind, and spirit, and get me on my feet again. I need support. I need encouragement. I need affirmations. Left to my own devices, I am a bit too attracted to feh and meh.

This has been a bad week. Not fatal. Not devastating. Just bad, which is not good. Know what I mean? Hmmm... just admitting this, actually makes it seems a bit better... less bad. Cool.

I was in the yard yesterday and from our bedroom upstairs, I heard Maria's rescue me now cry. I bolted in to the house and flew up the stairs. And even though I was flying, somehow I managed to tear the thingy that makes the calf muscle stick to the thing, which is in my leg... not sure if it was the gastrocnemius or the soleus. I am quite certain it was the one that lets you freely put your own weight down on your leg, which I can longer do. My leg screams at me, then goes floppy. Maria fell though a chair that broke, and scraped her back. Between my wincing and her crying, we were quite a pair.

Geoff is not working one hundred hours/week, and we are all getting reacquainted, which is good, but not as easy as it might sound. Post-crunch mode is always a bit of an adjustment, a combination of recovery and realigning. And now we have a secondary and almost equally consuming project... a little something we call Robotics!!!! Man, I love robotics. Man, do I need a robotics break. Mostly though, I love robotics. Geoff is logging some serious hours as programming mentor, and you may have noticed I have added my unique, sincere, amateur touches here and there. Anyway, our family-domestic Bird House Rhythm is kind of on hold, which is not easy. It might help if there ever was a Family-Domestic Bird House Rhythm, but whatever, it will happen. Right? It's not too late. I am really hoping it's not too late.

Okay. What was my point?

I am taking the high road. My complaints and laundry list of bad week evidence are done. I will leave the rest unsaid. I am going to accentuate the positive. I am going to make that leap of faith, and believe that if I do not give up, if I do not surrender, that we will be alright. We will find the way to heal, and to grow, to learn, to make do, to feel good, be good, and do good. Affirmations, jokes, hugs, band-aids, faith, sweat, Lexulous, and signs of spring... those blossoms of hope, love and courage... those are what I am going to focus on. Maybe especially Joe's nose. Look at it. It makes me feel better already.

Flowers are blooming, even a rose. Betty is happy. The cats are alive, and they are happy too. The children keep working, and learning, and making me proud. Geoff found the Tylenol. Delia and Ron will be in Vegas. William was offered a paying job, from his good work at his volunteer job. Alex recognized Japanese words and phrases when we watched a movie in Japanese. Max makes awesome wishes. Maria is writing and reading words (her own name, Max, Izzy, love, and more). The rainy season is mostly over and the leak in our roof didn't get too bad. Good stuff. Yup.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Funniest Great White Chicken With Dreadlocks

Yes, the "funniest," "great white" "chicken" with "dreadlocks" was reportedly seen wearing "snake stomping boots" at the "Chicken Blog Worst Mommy Blogging Contest." Anyone feverishly searching for these key phrases may, or may not, have found everything they were looking for here, at Chickenblog.

Other key phrase searches include:

"Star Wars Lego People"
"Chicken Polish" ( the breed, I hope, and not a cleaning product)
"Fall and Can't Get Up"
and "Sparkle Me Clean"

I think anyone searching for "dreadlocks" or "sparkle me clean" had to have left sorely disappointed.

Have you guessed? I decided to dance around in the blog stats... a mine field of ego crushing numbers and facts related to how many people read the blog, where they come from, what they like, and what they were actually looking for.

Staying Long?
No wonder there are so few comments. 83.3% of visitors to Chickenblog stay less than 30 seconds.
I guess it doesn't take long to figure out that I am not going to help anyone 'sparkle clean.'

Building a TreeHouse?
Oh. I bet people are hoping to get treehouse tips, not realizing that these posts are about our days renting a house that was surrounded by trees, where we felt like we were living perched in a treehouse.
Sad note... the landlord built his Tuscan dream home there and took out every single beautiful, mature, lovely tree. It looks like somebody dropped stucco on Isengard.

Just kidding. I could never harass someone for misspelling chcieken. I misspell chieken every single time. Ironic, don't you think? So, if you are looking for chieken, then welcome!

Dude, change your thesis.
Who was trying to score information for their term paper?
"... related studies and literature of a roasted chicken and who discovered the roasted chicken"
Let me help... I may have a few servings of Roasted Chicken literature:

Shakespeared: From roasted chickens we desire increase,
That thereby dinner's rose might never die...

John Rooster Milton: A good roast chicken is the precious lifeblood of a blogger spirit.

Mary Hen Shelley: It is a farce to call any roast chicken virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own seasonings.

Shockingly, there are very, very, very few people who come around Chickenblog looking for information on robotics, or building robotics, robotic competitions, or what to wear to a robotic competition, or how to get to a FRC.

Why Tuesday?
This post might not be read by anyone. Tuesdays are the busiest days, with the most visits to Chckinblog Chickenblog.

Maria wrote her name. I do not know who wrote the quote, but I find it applicable and comforting.

I'll see you tomorrow.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Like Being Drunk, But Less Social
I really need sleep. The uninterrupted kind I have heard talk of. Not eight collective hours. I need eight consecutive hours of restful, cough-free REM.

Otherwise I am inclined to write unedited posts like this.

Sleep, I have read, is necessary for our mental health. Without good mental health, things begin to slip. When things slip it is possible that someone will completely forget:

1. Back to School Night (an evening for good mothers to demonstrate their love and dedication to higher learning for their progeny.)

2. To return books, papers, forms, sign-this materials.

3. To make motel or camping reservations for our robotic weekend in Lost Wages, Nevada

4. Floss teeth and pluck eyebrows... it seems my sinuses are not the only things congested around here.

5. Choose a school. Hope the school chooses us. Then enroll someone in a kindergarten.

When things slip it is possible that someone will be attracted to reckless ventures and irresponsible impulses:

1. Buy an egg incubator and hatch chicks.
2. Buy chicks.
3. Adopt a kitten and a hedgehog.
4. Drive to Oregon.
5. Get something dyed or lifted, tucked, sucked, or removed.
6. Give up.
7. Say what I really think.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Own Mountain
The giddy bliss of living here still finds new ways to make me deeply happy.

The south side of the house is fenced around and was once a dog run. When we moved in it was the bare, dry, sun-scorched zone that I mostly avoided, except to contemplate its ultimate purpose. Well, since all the great rain we've had, the area greened up, with weeds, and it is easier on the eyes, sheltered and appealing. I figured it might be a better place to house the *farm* until the lottery coughs-up barn money, so that is where I moved Betty and Joe... the south side.

What a great decision. Rather spontaneously I tore down the messed up shelter, then dragged coop and hutch across the lawn and around the corner of the house to their new zone. I can fence in Betty, while still giving her free-range space. Now the kitchen entry does not have to be a -ahem- POOP DECK. That is progress.

I think I can muster about 42% more interest in decorating and arranging my exterior farm, than for "normal" decorating. I hung some art, and dusted. Worked on the color scheme. Pulled weeds. Watered weeds. Accessorized weeds. My dear potting table of eleventy years was put in to service again. And as we sat back to soak in the loveliness, it occurred to me that by summer the green weeds will be toasted duff, and the loveliness will have lost most of its power over our hearts. It will be too bright, too hot, too dry to be a farmy nook for our livestock.

And so I brought home trees. More trees, and a planting box and trellis. Setback from the house, but not on the fence, in line with the west heading sun, I planted a Genoa White fig and a blood orange. The fig is a new variety to me, but blood oranges are a longtime sentimental and flavorful favorite. The fig is hilarious. It's a ten foot pole. It looks like the world's worst horticultural choice ever. It is a stick in the mud. Cracks me up.

The last feature of the south side is the mountain. In fact I think this whole thing merits caps. South Side Mountain was built by all the trenching, ditching, hole digging, earth moving labors of the Fall, when we were getting control of drainage and repairing sprinklers. I love saying "we." There is more digging in our future... and Geoff was going to have all of the dirt hauled away at once. But now that we have claimed South Side Mountain for ourselves, it shall remain right where it is. It will be a pumpkin mound, or seeded for wild flowers, or we will sink a fire pit and call it our own South Side Volcano.

In the meantime it is a quarry-castle-hole digging place. This makes me happy. I love dirt, and earth, the coolness and the warmth, the wealth of opportunity. Joe, the rabbit, was digging in the soil, then throwing himself in to the the loose dirt. Betty was having a record breaking dust bath. She looked euphoric in her rapture. I have waited seven years to witness and enjoy this liberty and earthly delight.

Max and Maria played for hours. I fell asleep beside Betty. Alex took a homework break and admitted he was not too old to want to join the dig. William too recognized the attraction of dirt play. I fondly recall his tunnels to China. I was afraid Max and Maria would not have this experience... freedom and ownership, time lost to being in the dirt, making stories and games, escaping to imagination. We have played, of course, at the beach and in other gardens. But the tunnel they made is still in their garden, not washed away by the tide, or collapsed by a careless landlord. No one will object to what they make, what they explore, what they tear down. It is their own.

I do not tell them that this is "special." I am not teaching them to see it in a particular way. I like them to make of it what they will, and my pleasure is in being a witness, being beside them, planting seeds.

There are many pleasures in life, many things to desire, and places to see, but this... being in our garden, listening to their plans and watching their play... this is one of my greatest pleasures.

New seeds, likes wishes and dreams in a packet.
There is so much goodness already sprouting and taking hold. I am deeply happy.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Look at me still talking when there's science to do.

Look at me still talking when there's science to do. I am not going to annotate this, because maybe one of you will know where it comes from. No fair Googling.

Alex and Max do wear many hats.

Today is Maria's one hundredth day of school, which in kindergarten culture means a bit of a party, lots of counting and even stickers. In my own mind it means that the days are passing much too quickly. I am glad I was (finally) free to help in her classroom. We guided the children counting ten different snacks, so that they each wound up with a baggie of one hundred treats.

10 craisins
10 seaweed puffs
10 cheddar crisps
10 banana chips
10 edamame crisps
10 Joe's O's.... you get the idea.

Saturday Karen and I shared Robotics lunch duty. We grilled hot dogs and burgers. I should say Tom helped too, because he was actually the one at the grill. Even though we were feeding about 30 people outside the metal shop, in a parking lot, Maria thought it was awesome. I thought it was awesome too. The team is working hard to finish the robot, with only about six days to complete it and program it. I bought this year's team shirt, so we can look super cool when we are in the heat of battle at regionals. Anyway, it's been robo-crazy, much like last year, and it feels good to bring sustenance to students and mentors who have been working eight, ten, fourteen hour shifts... they need the fuel.

After Robotic's lunch Max spent the rest of the afternoon and night with his best friend. They were celebrating Max O's birthday with a movie and pizza. It was a treat seeing Max glowing with post-party satisfaction, and getting the low-down on the good time he had.

(It is a Parrot-Ox... get it?)
I should scan Maria's Parrot-Ox drawing... she is officially the youngest contributing team member.

Hey, Geoff came home yesterday and the sun was still shining. Sure, he had to go mentor, but we are recognizing and appreciating an easing up of the crunch-mode at his day job. (Shouldn't that be his day-night job?)

William has been posting images on FB, which I think is bold of him. He has amazing graphics skills and comprehension, but he doesn't readily share what he can do. I should get him to write a post for Chickenblog and have him explain the fun he is having working with Mudbox.

Betty is happy. Joe too. I finished the job started by the storms and tore down the shantytown, we called a barn. I moved the rabbit and chicken to the side of our house and I think if I plant a shade tree there, they can survive another season or two without actual structural improvements. Small steps. I get a bit discouraged, because starting over is frustrating, but things are coming along.

But there's no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
And the Science gets done.

The Ratty-Rats are super. Best pets, those rats. We had Cheddar, Maria's class rat, over and we had a blast hanging out with the three of them. They are so sweet and easy going.

Is that it? I was trying to remember if I left anyone out. Geoff talks about us having a dog. A dog. I love other people's dogs. I really do. I even keep a box of dog biscuits for other people's dogs. I am in the middle of a long and subtle campaign, subliminally convincing Geoff that a vegetarian dog might be they way to go. They can do almost all the same tricks, they are affectionate and loyal, but there's no need to scoop up after them, which is huge in my book. It's not an immediate plan. No urgency. I just think it should be seriously considered as a viable option.

Ah, but look at me still talking when there's science to do... and cake. Did I promise someone a cake?

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