Friday, January 08, 2010

We Need to Ratify a Pet Policy

It's not that the children are obsessed with adopting kittens, bringing home stray dogs or raising llamas. It's their mother. Lord help us, their mother is the weakest, silliest, most pagan (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller", "rustic"), farm-wishingest citizen in suburbia. And if this post does not turn away lurkers and readers alike, well maybe nothing will...

Here is Benjamin Franklin Thunder-Cat. He is a bad kitty. It says so on his passport. He gets nippy and scratchy. He thinks he's toilet trained. He is not. Maria knows I call him my furry baby. I also call him beast, monster, and Woodgie-woodgie love muffin. He is more than enough pet for any family. And yet we have another cat and a hen. We had a parakeet, but he got wise and gave us the slip. Easy come, easy go. I thought about getting Maria a fish for her birthday, but I resisted.

Just because I resisted buying a gold-feeder to swim in a bowl of water, does not mean I have good sense.

I am the weakest, silliest, most pagan (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller", "rustic"), farm-wishingest citizen in suburbia.

And I am a rat wrangler.

Meet Pepper, fancy rat and nose wiggler.
She is curious. Scurious. Sweet and docile and fun to watch.

Hello Polly.
Polly is timid, sweet and docile. She loves to take her lunch in to her hut with her.

Pepper and Polly are my Winter Solstice gifts to the children, who all agreed that Maria's class rat, Cheddar, was great fun to have over for a weekend visit. When I tell the story I emphasize the children's love and fascination with the cute, scampering critters known as "fancy rats." But the children tell it another way... affectionately, a bit warily and with humor they say, "Mom, you're crazy, you know."

At least Gretchen gets it. When I was debating my impulse, she came on board all the way and said that rats are great pets. She wistfully recalled a childhood practically overrun with pet rats. When she said she and her sisters had twenty-one rats, well I felt positively sane for only wanting two. And she is right. Rats are great pets. Easy to care for. No biting. No barking. They like to visit and explore, but are happy too in their modified bird cage.

Benjamin agrees... Oh, never mind. Who cares what he thinks?

I love rats.
They're delicious.

No. The real experts are little girls. Izzy and Maria know a fun pet when they get their hands on one.

And just before Christmas, when little girl excitement and energy was at a high watermark, Izzy and Maria were tickled pink to take turns loving and feeding and holding Pepper and Polly.

Rats give you the giggles.
Their tails wiggle and their whiskers tiggle.
(sorry :: poetic license)

"Soft voices" and "gently" were the words of the day.

The "Ratty-Rats," that's what Gretchen calls Pepper and Polly. Izzy called them Polly-Holly and Peppermint, which I thought was awfully clever.

tap-tap-tap... hello?
Is anyone here?


Either they've all rushed to their local pet shop, because they see what fun we are having, or Chickenblog is being cut from blog lists everywhere.

Come back. We don't bite!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

*Dancing on clouds with Ponies
and Sliding Down a Rainbow Into The Bathtub

*Not a song title.
Not our New Year's Eve plans.
Not remotely close to anything we have ever nurtured or ingrained or stimulated or suggested, and yet there it is... twirling and flitting from the active and highly colorful imagination of our daughter, Self Rescuing Princess-Ballerina-Cowgirl Maria.

She asked for two things for Christmas.
1. A fez, just like my Max and Alex.
2. A horse puppet and the horse has all the colors, like a rainbow.

Every time she described the horse puppet, sometimes pony puppet, and its rainbow colors, the boys and I would exchange glances. My expression was one of distress-amusement and the boys' expressions were of amusement-sympathy. No one had any idea where she got the notion that such a thing could be procured. No one had any idea what such a thing could even be. So, I kept my eyes open where ever I shopped, and the day I got to visit my favorite independent toy shop I began to narrow my search. I found a rainbow tattooed unicorn that definitely would have struck a chord with her love of all things fancy. But other than being garish, pricey, tacky and very commercial (gee, Natalie, why not tell them how you really felt about it?) I did not see any play appeal, any lasting value, and it wasn't even a puppet. Then I remembered all the times she admired and pined for a hobby horse. A head on a stick, I reasoned, could be a kind of puppet. As for the rainbow factor, she never was too specific about whether the horse was a rainbow, had a rainbow, or just adorned itself in rainbowiness.

I stitched rainbow ribbons to the bridle and let Santa himself make a special delivery on Christmas Eve. We have wonderful friends, and one in particular with a very jolly laugh. And now Maria has a rainbow horse puppet that she rides all over the yard, and through the house. She loves her horse. She loves her fez too. By the way, a fez is a much easier gift to procure.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

It Is Christmas Day

And there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
Luke 2:8:9

I love the sheep and the glory, the stars... their light.

And in our home, I love the blessing of being together preparing, playing... the laughter and whispers, the carols and the frosty-jingle songs.

I love the flurry of motion when we ascend upon our stockings.

I love that they want one gift opened at a time, so that we all pause and enjoy the discovery of new treasures.

I love that the fun is for one and for all, so that by the end of the day we have all shared in the play.

I love that William and Alex baked Christmas cookies... a new recipe, a new tradition.

And I love that we are home, where Santa knows where to find us...

So that, just like last year, he can come by with a special delivery for a little one who has been very good.

And this time, she had a gift for him.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Merry Bird House Christmas

All together under our very own roof, we are preparing for Christmas.

Max made a snowman in school. A clever way to use a sock, and we love the fez.

This school project I got to help with, when I joined Max's class in reverse painting on glass. Looks like a starry and peaceful night. I recall the magic of a snowy Christmas. All the children were so intent and creative painting their holiday plates.

Maria mastered paper chain making, and hung this one with our stockings. Have not figured out how to hang them from the mantle. Maybe because I am too cheap to buy six hangers? We have a tradition of hanging them from a banister.

I finally tried adding ornaments to the tree, only to discover that it is so parched and crisp the branches fracture and collapse when I touch them. Ah, I remember our 2004 Christmas and the tree we hurled out the door, over the railing and in to the pitch black of Christmas Eve. It was so dry we feared it would spontaneously combust. Fortunately, Maria has been making and adding pretty touches. The tree is loved. Fragrant, dry, lit and loved.

William and Alex are together in the kitchen, deciphering an Alton Brown cookie recipe. They are baking. Brilliant. They are cleaning... brilliant and radiant beams of motherly gratitude.

Geoff wrapped gifts with me. Absolute awe. Proof that even after twenty years, love will surprise you.

Max and Nick are playing together. Christmas is for family.

Maria helps in any way she can. Sitting outside the *workshop* door, she asked 42 questions about our progress. We played her favorite opposite game.

Mommy: Santa wears a bathing suit.

Maria: No. He wears a fluffy-fluffy suit. And it's red. He has a hat.

Mommy: What about the magical rats that pull his sleigh?

Maria: Mommy! Reindeer pull his sleigh. Not rats.

Mommy: Oh. Well, I know Santa smells like french fries.

Maria: Santa smells like joy


I hope your home smells of joy, and that your Christmas is merry.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things... Christmas Style

Like Nikkipolani, I have some favorite things and these last days before the big day I am feeling the magic and rush of joy as we go all the way to Christmas day. Some of my favorite things came all together yesterday...

Favorite number 1: The majesty and pageantry, the utter charm and mild chaos of a Christmas service with the children. There was nothing exclusive about this telling of the Nativity. All of God's creatures were welcome to the manger. Maria joined the children from learning circle, as a kitty, and sang (or as Max points out, she mostly lip-synched) "Do You Hear What I hear?"

I loved seeing friends, hearing music, reflecting on peace and love and hope and joy, and having my family around me.

Favorite number 2: Having family around me. It's official :: We have a Christmas tradition. We got to enjoy a second annual Downtown Cultural Holiday Extravaganza. We took Ruth to Holiday Pops. We walked to the Gaslamp and saw favorite sights, like The Bondi, and the home of our favorite annual convention.

Walking downtown we saw lots of fun holiday sights. I count fun and good humor as a favorite.

No school. That's a favorite for sure. Not just for these dear boys, but for me too. I am so thrilled to have them home. I need the free labor. We are going to have some good times.

Last year our downtown walk was a scramble to find Symphony Hall and it was really cold. This year our walk was leisurely and the weather... So Calwonderful.

The Pops were in great form and they were joined by Mariachi Champaña Nevín. Feliz Navidad. Before the concert begins children are invited to the "petting zoo," where they can acquaint themselves with the instruments. Maria returned to the violin she remembered from last year. So many favorites... live music, sing-alongs, new experiences, dressing up, a camera battery that holds up just long enough for a few snaps.

After the concert we had a downtown dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, then we enjoyed the Christmas lights all the way to Holly and Rich's front door. More favorites... lights and decorations lovingly displayed for the holidays, and dropping in on family for a casual visit.

The calendar for today includes haircuts for the boys, which means a nice visit with a dear friend. Maybe some shopping... hmmm... maybe just window shopping. I definitely need to do some housework. After visiting Ruth's beautiful home and Holly and Rich's beautiful home I am super motivated to put actual ornaments on our tree... beyond that, I am a realist. One more favorite, because I think of it on a daily basis :: A Christmas Story from Clover and Alicia. I think Clover may be my favorite dog in the world.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All The Way to Christmas Day

All the way to Christmas day we go, we go, we go. Maria made up this song last Christmas, and she sang it from sunrise to sunset. She's brought back her favorite song and sings it joyfully, every day... sometimes in the dearest places, at the sweetest moments.

Maria is completely, whole heartedly enthused about the whole Christmas season. She loves the days at school and learning new carols, making gifts. She loves the glitter and the glue and the tape. She loves the letters that arrive with Christmas greetings, the music we play, the treats we've baked and the hum that stirs the air... something coming... Advent

I want to remember this forever... that she is so delighted and energized by anticipation and traditions, by the prospect of making crafts, cooking special foods, decorating our home, preparing for company. She puts hearts and cutout stars in our stockings. She write notes, wraps gifts, she shivers with the thrill of her own excitement. And she sings her song... all the way to Christmas day we go, we go, we go.

She is learning a new song, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" to be sung in Church next Sunday. Max learned the words, posted in the kitchen, and playing from the computer all day. Hopefully, tonight we will find the box with our crèche. We have symphony tickets and plans for a dinner out on the town with Tutu Ruth. My mom will be here and Grandma is coming from Pasadena. The tree is still undecorated, we are still unpacking. This and that are less than ideal, but still we have so many opportunities to take pleasure in this Christmas... and so, all the way to Christmas day we go, we go, we go.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Here it Comes... The Christmas Extravaganza

A second storm blew in this morning and it brought with it rain and a blast of Christmas inspiration and the energy to actually accomplish a few of the things that I have been dreaming of. The rain was so beautiful. It drizzled for a long while, but in the middle of breakfast it came down in great, satisfying sheets of water. It was our first Saturday-home-eating-pancakes with the kitchen door open rainfall. What a great start to the day.

So. I washed dishes. I did laundry and took out garbage. I showered. Seriously, this has been an amazing day. Is it the weather? Is it finally being in recovery mode? I don't want to over analyze it, but it does matter. When one feels inspired, ready and able to make pancakes and tamales on the same day, it's worth figuring out what forces are at play. I even unpacked more boxes, let Maria paint with real paints, cleaned after making tamales and sewed a patchwork scarf.

And what about this bird cake? Cute.

Hencakes have been around as long as Chickenblog, but a blog friend at "A Cup of Coffee..." shared the genius idea of using a squeeze bottle. We are totally hooked on the squeeze bottle. She gave Chickenblog credit for inspiring her first Zacky-cakes. I just love it when good stuff goes around.

I passed the bottle to Geoff. I knew he would appreciate this creative outlet. Sure enough, out comes a Klein-cake. Not to be confused with a Khan-Cake. No, this is a pancake inspired by the mathematical certain non-orientable surface... you know a surface with no distinct "inner" or "outer" sides. A Klein-cake.

Yup. That's how we roll in the A.M.

Not to out do Geoff, but I too dabbled in the realm of mathematical polyphysic-calculated with integer coefficients thingy. It's pretty much a familiar yet confounding paradox of heat with doughy snowiness. Maria ate it before we could calculate it's relative parameterization. Oh well.

Back to basics. Hencakes. Hencakes, with added flax seed, will brighten your day.

But what about the Christmas Extravaganza?
I was just feeling really perky and excited, because I accomplished so much today and it kind of feels like it will all serve to make this Christmas the best ever. That is all. Thank you, and Good night.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Big Bowl of Comfort

This is the spicy, hot, flavorful, rich, nourishing and delicious soup that was brought to my door on Friday. Friday was turning in to one of those days marked by pain, embarrassment, and disappointment, but Karen caught me from free falling in to the Perilous Pit of Pity. It did not reverse the farces of evil that kept me from celebrating Christmas Moms' Night Out, but it came unexpectedly and with a hug and Karen's encouraging smile and that made the biggest difference in the world. I felt the love, I felt the support and I felt the yum...
mmmm that was good soup.

Later, a second visitor ensured that I stayed well clear of the Perilous Pit of Pity. Seriously, we have got to keep clear of the PPP... it moves around, can sneak up on you and it's mean. But like I said, I had another visitor. Anne came with huge stash of MNO gifts... eat-ables and wear-ables and a beautiful little handmade handbag, a movie pass and a coffee pass. I made her describe Josie's menu, which sounded fabulous... no surprises here. Anne shared the news and fresh fruit and she assured me that the red bench came out fine. Maria found us in the garden and joined us for hugs and chatting.


There may be something to this... to these simple pleasures and kind gestures. I do wish I were all recovered and perky and able to conquer everything on the Holiday Extravaganza Wish List, but visits from friends, a bowl of hot soup, a chance to listen and talk... these have been very nice moments in this season of light. A good reminder to myself to lighten up, to ease off on trying to be everywhere, doing everything.

Yesterday I did a small photography job for a friend, something that may take some stress out of her holidays. Today I am visiting Max's school to help with an art project. Our tree has only lights, so far. That's okay. I may be ordering fruit baskets and having them shipped instead of flying around the malls and post office... that's okay too, right? My goal is to get healthy, stay healthy, enjoy Christmas moments, make heartfelt gestures, keep light, calm and merry, and find out where Karen got that soup.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

We Need A Little Christmas

All the way to the tree lot my mind and heart were in a heated debate.

Heart: What we need is to decorate for Christmas.

Mind:We are sick. Stay in bed. Shut out the light.

Heart: Fresh air and the joyful spirit of Christmas will cure whatever ails us.

Mind: Are you for real?

Heart: Think of the children, and the heartwarming sight of a lit up tree.

Mind: Think of the lines and the hassle of climbing in to the attic to search for the tree stand.

Heart: A cheerful heart has no fear.

Mind: Bah and humbug. A cheerful heart doesn't vacuum pine needles.

Heart: This is going to be wonderful. You'll see.

They went back and forth like that. I side with the heart, obviously.

Only Max and I are sick and I think the fresh air was good for us. William and Alex are strong and capable, so I put them in charge. They found a good tree, and Max, Maria and I chimed in with our happy approval.

William and Alex hoisted our evergreen on to the roof of the sleigh van, secured it and even got it standing straight and secure in our living room.

Now it is lit and pretty and cheerful and dropping pine needles...

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Crackin' Up

Is it a coincidence that if someone is "cracking up" they can be either laughing heartily or losing their mind? Personally, I am going for a little of each.

The broken window actually makes me feel more giddy than grumpy. It is our very own broken window. We can fix it when we want to and we do not have to answer to anyone for it. And better still, it came from play. Spontaneous evening ball tossing between two family members led to this event... this rite of passage. What can be more classic than a shattered window pane from an errant ball?

So, what else has me cracking up?

Geoff's ankle injury. When the swelling goes down we can get a better prognosis.
Maria's mystery fever, which has finally left, but not before we had to postpone her birthday celebration.
Max's new cold.
My new cold.
Feeling old, grouchy, grinchy, overwhelmed, smelly, tired, far behind and after I post this, embarrassed.
Yes. It is that kind of morning. And I haven't been anywhere near a Martha Stewart publication, so the feeling that I will never achieve my goals and fulfill my holiday fantasies has been mustered all by my own daydreaming and self-deprecating self. Can you say "self" twice in the same sentence?

I am still holding on to my gratitude, still gleefully dizzy with new home joy, but I also kind of want a break.
No. Wait. Choose my words carefully...
I still kind of want a break.
I would appreciate it if all illnesses and ER visits would cease and desist. I would like to have consecutive days of good health, for all family members. It would help tremendously if we could be unpacked, organized and even familiar with our surroundings now.

I am going to leave decorating, shopping, house cleaning, parties, outings and hoopla for another wish list.

If nothing else, I would love to take a nap.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Can We Talk About Something New?

It's not just you. Believe me, I have been wondering the same thing: Will I ever move on from the subject of packing-moving-unpacking?


And you can trust me on this too: I have been very conservative about not documenting every last detail. I have spared you the number of times I drove back and forth

You know what? Unpacking and settling in is where we are at. That's how it is, and not much else is going on. Well, almost not much... Insomnia hit me real hard last night and, beginning at one a.m., I began pinning, cutting and sewing a dress for my niece. It's all done. At face value that might sound like super ambitious productivity, but really it was just the darn insomnia and of course I was less than effective the rest of the day.

yawn Tonight I will sleep. Honest.

This was one of those prints that I could not resist and even though I found it in July, I knew it would make really folky-sweet Christmas dresses for Maria and her cousin Izzy. What was I thinking? As though I had (have) nothing else going on? It makes me laugh. I am nuts. It was such a luxury getting to sew, and finally seeing this vision completed makes me happy. Maybe I am a bit off-course in my priorities. Maybe not.

Under the arms and fitting around the shoulders is still my weak point with this pattern. Turns out I can make my own pattern, which is not the same as being good at it. Still, this is so much easier for me than following the store bought patterns, with their obtuse directions and aggravating tissue.

Can you see the pink rick-rack peeking from the bodice? I also added a contrasting border to the hem... for length and for fun. I did not account for how much fussy cutting this print would require. I fussy cut both the sleeves and the bodice, but now I am not sure I have enough to complete Maria's dress... uh-oh. Maria may get a holiday blouse to wear with her tulle skirt.

I bought the dots somewhere else, and at some other time, but they are both Michael Miller prints. And now I am rambling and scrambling, a kind of absent minded way of avoiding the pressing chores and responsibilities that are weighing upon me.

Tearing myself away from the warm glow of iMac... I am going to aim for genuine super ambitious productivity... wish me luck.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Thank You Betty! Thank You Fantam! Thank You Wisconsin!

Fantam laid her first egg! Dear fluffy, plump and lovely Fantam the Dark Bantam left us a petite oeuf. And what does one do with fresh oeufs? How about breakfast crepes... or creeps as we affectionately call our amateur attempts at the French classic.

We could have tried omelets, but we already ate Aunt Carol's wonderful Bucky Cheese! So we settled on another taste of Wisconsin, courtesy of Laura, Gary and Sophie.

Direct from the North Woods and just as tasty as can be with real maple syrup, pancakes, aka creeps. Sometimes we call them Hencakes.

Now we go forth and greet the brand new day.

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