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 jalapeño 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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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bare Root Season
Oh the fruits. The fruits. The miraculous fruits. Last week we paid a visit to the nursery, where they had signs posted announcing the imminent arrival of stone fruits and other bare root trees and shrubs. Roses too, but I already have more than I can handle there. Of course *having more than I can handle* does not instruct me in an appropriate course of non-action... no, I have too much going on and I am taking on even more. Because the fruits, oh the fruits, the miraculous fruits... they have arrived and they want to come home with me!

If the gophers could read they would be as eager and excited as I am, but I have plans to foil their feast. Back when we were Jolly Green Ranchers I learned that tight wire baskets dropped in the planting hole kept vicious pocket gophers from spoiling all our fun. Even here, the battle of the gopher is still being fought, with deadly accuracy I am happy to add. Baskets are right now being assembled. Many hands make light work... such a lovely truth.

Such a lovely barrier. One more screen at the bottom and we will keep our trees safe and sound.

Alex and Maria were with me at the nursery and were we ever astounded at the variety of trees and plants. The delicious possibilities are greater than I had hoped. Pear, three apple varieties, several plums, an apricot, and nectarine, pomegranate, persimmon, and figs. There were also cherry trees, varieties of berries, including blue, black and rasp.
Mouth watering.

Mom and I have discussed grapes, and I will be on the lookout for those too. In the meantime our family is weighing the options, discussing the merits of each choice. Apple and cherry are the two favorites, and Maria would very much like to have a "black apple tree..." she was eager to bring home the tree with the picture of a dark, luscious Santa Rosa plum as soon as possible.

It's too drizzly to prune the roses, a task that keeps facing delays. At least I have some heavy gloves and fresh lopers. The drizzle is not keeping us from digging holes though. Five holes are ready for those baskets, and when Geoff and I figure out where else we want trees, I think we will dig more holes. A lot of fruitless, dull, water sucking shrubs are going to have to make some kind of appeal to me or face the axe.

Poor Benjamin. As though fancy hooded rats aren't torment enough, now he has to be on the lookout for the gopher he fears dug this hole.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Present Time

I am opening boxes that have been packed and stored since the Summer of 2003. Even when we were settled in at our Rancho, it only lasted about three months, before we were back in boxes again. The net results are as follows:

We have at least three of any given household item. In the case of glue, we have about a dozen bottles, but I still had to run to the dollar store and add another bottle to our (missing) collection. We have dishes I do not remember buying. I found our breadmaker. We bought that as a moving consolation in 1994. We have more than one Scrabble set and several humidifiers.

UNpacking our things is both familiar and routine, and also like a surprise party with presents. w00ts! When did we get Champagne glasses? Why did we get Champagne glasses? Are these Champagne glasses ours?

The other night Max was looking for something new to read, and I realized that our books are actually 70% gathered in the same room, so I grabbed a flashlight and went to the library. Library. tee hee... me talk fancy. So I broke in to one box and found twenty-five years of SIGGRAPH journals. Then I peeled ancient tape from another box and hit pay dirt. Still tied together by red Christmas ribbon, three books sent by uncle Paul. I do not know when, but presumably a long time ago, he sent his books, favorites from a series his mother read aloud to him and Joel when they were small boys. Such a sweet gift, the loan of his childhood treasures for his nephews to enjoy. Thank you Paul.

I know. It raises some issues. Why were they still tied in their ribbon? How long did they languish in the dark? How many trips did they make from town to country and back again? Didn't anybody read them and love them and enjoy the kindness of the man sharing them?

I hang my head in shame.
I wince. Audibly.
But you gotta know, it is what happens when you pack and move and move and pack, and commute and relocate, when you pursue a dream and postpone gratification...
Things get left behind and stored for later, and later, well, sometimes it comes much later than we ever imagined. Sometimes later comes painfully late. It's not ideal, but we've been fortunate. Sure, there's been disappointment and collateral damages, but when we arrive at a place that sits to greet the rising sun and nurtures pine trees and flowers, when we want to read a new book and can find something wonderful in our very own library, then I have to say: We are fortunate. And unpacking, daunting as it is, can be like present time and full of surprises.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crazy Bus

Bird House Rose, photo taken by Delia

I have twenty minutes to get all caught up on Chickenblog... it ain't gonna happen.

Life is crazy right now. And I am driving the bus. Everyone is settling in to their school routines and I am figuring out how to get from here to there, then around over to that place and back to point B before the last bell rings. I really do need to print a master schedule and tape it to the steering wheel, so I can skip the "oh-my-gosh! who did I forget to pick up and drop off?!" panic seizure.

Okay. Real quick before I leave to bring Alex home, I want to say a thing or two for the sake of posteri of prosperi... because I want to.

1. My Mommy was here for a helpful and supportive visit. She saw me though every up and down and crashing wave of our escrow process. There really was never a dull moment. My plan was to let her cheer me on as I packed up everything and then to witness our first days in our own home. Alas, this was not to be.

2. My Mommy is safe and sound and back in Oregon with her sweetheart and the last of the blackberries. She did not get to see us take possession of The Bird House, but she held our hands through the tough bits.

3. The Blue House is a Bird House and in a matter of days we will have our own keys.

4. Seriously.

5. We are that close.

6. I cannot believe it either.

7. What a trip this has been.

8. I have hardly begun to get my thoughts around it, but when I do realize certain things the joy is overwhelming.

9. It is totally awesome!

10. oh-my-gosh! who did I forget to pick up and drop off?!

11. I gotta get Alex.

12. I'll be right back. There's so much more to share...

Crazy Bus: Part II

Did you hear me sigh?
Alex is home. Max and Maria are home. William is home. I don't have to be at Maria's school's Parent's Night until six, and then the first Robotics' meeting of the season begins at 6:30, so yeah... crazy days, and nights.

Six years ago we began paving the way for our family to live in Hawaii. We sold our beloved El Rancho, where we were Jolly Green Ranchers, rounding up three hens and living under a big, blue sky. We moved in to a rental house we affectionately called The TreeHouse and though it was a strange and snug fit, we had some very good times there. It was in the TreeHouse that we made friends with Tamsyn, brought home Maria, and waited for time and tide to give us a chance on the Big Island. Then we had to find a new rental. We hoped it would be very-very temporary, but somehow we have been here in Garage Mahal for three years. I cannot say they have been 'the best years of our lives...' no one will ever hold me up as an example of how to patiently bide your time and manage life in a suburban rental palace. Oh well. When fate and circumstances finally closed the door on Hawaii for good, we turned our focus and house search to So Cal... it's been a trying path, but somehow we finally matched our needs and dreams with a place we can make our own.

It feels like a Bird House... a place that is pretty and welcoming, safe for us, and a place where we have been delighted to see red tailed hawks, a big owl, many quail, doves, ravens and sparrows. Soon we'll add a chicken, then maybe some more chickens. No one voted for "Chicken Crest!" Go figure...

I'm light headed, which I attribute to lack of sleep, a very long and full day, giddy anticipation, and complete, utter dread of packing all of our worldly treasures, while keeping things "respectable" enough for the landlord to bring in prospective tenants. Like a true Scarlett I will think about that tomorrow...

Oh. My. Goodness.
Pinch me.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Little Trip... Big Fun

On Friday the children and I made a spontaneous trip north to be with Grandma Eunice for her birthday. It's hard to believe it's been seven years since we had the big celebration with family friends. Now I am inspired to start planning her 88th birthday extravaganza!

Whether it's a big blow-out fiesta or a family dinner, Grandma is a fun person to honor and celebrate with. She gets almost as giddy as a four year old. She's so appreciative and happy. She told me about all the fun she had in Oregon and how she came home with lots of "stuff," so I chose a pretty fabric box for her to tuck in her treasures. Of course Maria thought this was wonderful, since she too has a small box where she stashes her treasures.

My aunt Becky's home has the loveliest porch. It was another hot day in Pasadena, but the morning on the porch was comfortable. I always enjoy the view, the tree lined streets, the gardens and comfortable homes. Grandma got a a chance to catch up with the boys and discover new books. She shared some of her favorites with them and they are going to be sending some of theirs to her.

My grandparents lived with us for eight years. Eight wonderful years. Max was born during that time. I remember how great it was that the boys could pop over to Grandma's and chat with her. I remember doing the same... just enjoying time in each other's company. We were so lucky to have those days.

Maria ran around and around and around the ginko tree. And when she spotted dandelions and other fallen treasures, she began collecting flora for little nosegays... pretty leaves and blossoms, that she delivered to me and Becky and Grandma.

She's waiting for me to count: 1-2-3 on your mark... get set... go! She loves to run.

Grandma was enjoying a laugh over her "wild ways." It seems she has a certain attraction to purses. It seems it has become a bit... much? Never mind Grandma. it looks harmless enough. You're the best looking *bag lady* I've ever seen!

And what good is a nice purse without a hat to go with it?

Maria, Alex, Max and William enjoying the company of their great-grandmother.
This one needs to get printed and framed.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

We Are 5 for 5: Big Finish

A couple of days ago I was enjoying a TED link put up by Turkey Feathers... it was a great talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Talk, Pray fame, which reminded me that I still haven't read the book my mom sent me, but happily I found it in my sewing room, and then it reminded me that I really do love TED, which is why I have their link in my sidebar; they have such brilliant and succinct speakers, none of whom would write a sentence like this. One thing led to another and I discovered Gever Tulley and 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. I fancied myself a brilliant Mother, because I can roughly claim that I am letting my children do all 5 dangerous things. Don't Panic: Gever Tulley uses a provocative title to illustrate a point about safety. Denying that danger exists or fearfully avoiding it, does not protect us or our children.

Gever Tulley wants to remind us that we are safer when we learn how to handle sharp objects and responsibly explore the elements, tools and heavy machinery that exist in our world. Knowledge is power, yeah? I think so, and I've written about fire and then I covered sharp things.

To illustrate my story I went through lots of photo archives looking for examples of us playing with fire, knives, and throwing things, and I tried to find good examples of us taking stuff apart and handling heavy machinery, and I have to say it's been kind of hard to find pictures. The 3 boys have knives and they use them, but I haven't taken pictures. We did have campfire

4. Deconstruct Appliances

The children are welcome to take things apart. We haven't handed over any large appliances, yet, because we repair them or trade them in, but there are several VCRs and toasters that have been disassembled in their hands. Last year Geoff and William took apart 2 broken laptops swapped parts, added new ones and then gave my mom and Geoff's grandma functioning laptops. And there was the built from the ground up computer that the boys built with their dad in early 2004. But I don't have pictures of any of this. I love to capture "everyday" life, but somehow these activities seemed so blandly everyday I missed documenting them. One of Tulley's points is that children should be encouraged to explore, and with a hands on approach learn how things work, how they are made and perhaps they will discover how to make them work better.

I decided to include the picture of Maria stringing beads... very tiny, choking hazard, hard to manipulate beads. She sat on her daddy's lap and spent 2 hours patiently and deftly slipping beads over the string and marveling at how they stacked up. Discovery and perseverance, these experiences are super valuable, and I know this because of that look. I know, it's not exactly a scientific statement, but the look is valid, it's good. When children solve problems, unravel mysteries, accomplish new tasks... they enjoy a sense of self and an awareness of their own abilities. Maria was keenly aware that she was doing a big girl activity and she was devoted to meeting the challenge and responsibility.

I love the look. I just know there are serious neuron-synapse-muscle memory-motor function-eye-hand coordination, joy things going on, and that thrills me.

And I think the outdoors can provide a similar opportunity... taking things apart and figuring-out doesn't have to be limited to manufactured, material things. When Max asked to cross the creek and climb a fallen tree, I was aware that we were trying uncharted territory, that we were risking a fall, wet clothes, mud, maybe some scrapes; I considered the weather, the depth of the creek, the current, the height of the tree, and in 3 seconds I said, "Go for it!" We ought to spend more time taking nature apart, getting dirty, sweating on a trail and crossing creeks. I am a long way from hiking the backcountry with a compass and a stick, but I am willing to get wet at low tide, try a new trail, and discover new ways of relating to the world, and finding new bridges to cross.

5. Break The DMCA- Drive A Car

Years ago, again in Mexico, I let my boys drive our Big Blue Whale. No takers. I repeated the offer when we returned in 2003, and they were still not interested. Our family land in Mexico is ideal for underage driving... most days there is zero traffic and there are plenty of wide open, even cow-free, spaces. My boys have internalized values and a strong sense of right from wrong. They keep me honest and sometimes they say, "No." I love it when they say no, when they show their own resolve and willingness to express their internalized values. They have driven tractors and Alex tried his Grandpa Corm's riding mower, but they declined underage driving. Maybe this is why I am so comfortable about letting them do the 5 Dangerous Things... maybe it's because they instinctually want to be careful and safe, and I agree with Jennifer, that when we take away the mystery, then the allure-the unknown attraction is diminished.

Eva left an interesting comment on the first post, and she asks, "but do you think there (are) things in life everyone would be wise to be afraid of? like drugs, for one. or is fear inappropriate even here?" Yes, we are wise to be fearful or aware, respectful. Bungee jumping, driving under the influence of alcohol, sexu@l promiscuity, feeding bears, texting while driving... there are a lot of things that people choose to do that can have very dangerous consequences, that have risks not just to the one trying a behavior, but to others as well. Drunk driving and bear feeding are not included in my list of dangerous things I let my children try. The risks are too great. I find that often times risky behaviors that are not worth pursuing have a natural way of weeding themselves out... let the bears feed themselves and never operate anything when your senses are impaired, because it is a foolish thing to do. Period. Other things are tempting or alluring when they are not understood. I am not afraid of drugs, but I have no interest in using drugs. I know they have good and bad effects, but on careful consideration, I believe the risks far outweigh the benefits. I could not limit myself to, "Just say no," when discussing drugs with my children, not as they mature and have an ability to reason, to be curious. Neither will I act as though they are free to experiment or imply that I am cool with whatever. I will not hesitate to show them what happens to cr@ck addicts, or calculate for them the cost of a smoking habit. At some point they will have to make choices and when that time comes, I hope they are educated, informed, and sure enough of their own beliefs and convictions that they will say No to those risks that jeopardize their dignity, health and intelligence. I agree, Eva, we can learn respect without fear, and I hope you can find a safe, comfortable opportunity to learn to start a fire...

This has been fun and interesting to ponder, and it has all been especially meaningful and interesting because of your comments. So, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Maybe the 6th dangerous thing would be "Saying what you think, out loud."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

We Are 5 for 5: Part 2

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.
I wondered where we would stand, how our list of dangerous things would compare with Gever Tulley's list of dangerous things and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. My first post on this topic covered fire. I really feel like I put myself in the line of fire, so to speak, by admitting that I let very young children hold hot sticks and burn leaves, but I think it's important to create an environment for safe danger, for careful risks. We learn when we go outside of our comfort zone, by experiencing physical actions and objects, so we know hot from cold, sharp from dull. I am not trying to preach... it's more like being defensive, because I believe in my methods, but I know some people will think I am nuts. I really cannot fathom parenting without carefully, rationally, attentively providing real life experiences for my children, and real life can be dangerous.

2. Own a Pocketknife

Knives are sharp. Good knives are very sharp. I have never met a single person who has not cut themselves. Young, old, expert, novice... who has not cut themselves? Even just a little bit. Hopefully not fatally. I worked in a bakery and cut myself at least twice when slicing bagels. Geoff worked in fast food and did nasty things while prepping food and cooking burgers... you don't even want to know. But before he was injuring himself in a professional setting he was a kid with knives and Exacto tools and he cut himself then too.

Hold on. Funny story: When my brothers and I were little squirts, we got to buy pocket knives in Mexico and they were mostly a novelty because they were ridiculously small. Closed, the knives were not bigger than 1"... they were seriously tiny and really kind of cute and we loved them. One day we were visiting the mall and the knife cutlery store was advertising free sharpening for all pocket knives. Cool! We stepped in to the very professional boutique, with the samurai swords, katana and coats of arms on the walls and presented the clerk with our pocketknives. He scoffed. He ridiculed and scoffed some more. He was so mocking and dismissive about our knives that he refused to sharpen them, but we insisted. He said they could not be sharpened, because they were 'just toys' and as he was saying this he opened one up and to demonstrate their toyness he dragged his thumb across the 1/2" blade. He would have done less damage if he had not dragged so much of his thumb, so vigorously, but he was evidently not that clever. He slit his thumb wide open and sent us away with one duller, bloody little knife. Incidentally, we never hurt ourselves with those knives.

So what to do? Banish all sharp things? No scissors, no pins? With some possible exceptions, I think children can be trusted to learn that sharp things must be used with care and respect. I think adults can take the time to instruct and observe, and facilitate opportunities to teach children how to use all kinds of tools, including knives and scissors. Maria has been sitting beside me and cutting fabric since she was 3 years old... no cuts. She has been loading and unloading the pincushion since she was 2 years old... not more than 2 pokes. And when we were camping at El Capitan State Beach 2 years ago, I let her help chop the veggies. When Max was 3, and showed an interest I taught him how to hold a knife and sat with him while he worked. He loved peeling and chopping garlic. LOVED it. I taught William. I taught Alex. They keep their fingers out of the way. They know to be attentive and patient. They know to use the right tool for the job. A dull dinner knife can do a lot more damage than a sharp paring knife; if the knife cannot slice efficiently it will slip and do damage. Sharp knives work.

I have to admit, this one, owning pocketknives got me in to trouble. It was 4 years ago when Alex says, "I was walking down the street when all of a sudden a bunch of Ninjas flipped out and tried to kill me, but then we realized that we were equally matched and we went our separate ways" and in the melee he cut something, a little bit. We cannot remember what he cut (finger?) I vividly recall how mad the doctor was, at me. Alex needed a tetanus shot, but no stitches or butterfly bandages. And apparently I needed a parenting lecture from the peds doctor about children and pocketknives. She told me to 'take the knife from him and to never let children play with knives and that if I didn't take it away he was sure to get cut again or worse.' She was very mad at me, very finger wagging-incredulous, you bad mother mad. He was almost 11 years old, extremely responsible and well-behaved, not in the least bit stupid, reckless, blind, ignorant, or self destructive. I imagined this small cut, the memory of it and all it entailed would make a suitable and instructive impression, so that I need not ever worry about his next cut. And, there will be a next cut, because we use tools.

3. Throw A Spear

I am claiming this on a technicality. We do not have spears, but if we did, we would totally throw them. We do have bows and arrows and I think the danger/learning opportunity is comparable to spear throwing. When we were Jolly Green Rancheros, living on our 2 acres of El Rancho goodness, I bought the boys a bow and arrows. 3 boys: 1 bow... a safe ratio, when the only target will be a straw bale. Hand-eye coordination... when I Googled this I mostly found articles on improving the connection between what we see and how we can physically control and guide our movements. I recall from university courses and reading about child development, language acquisition, and fine motor development... hand-eye coordination is important. Gever Tulley goes in to some of the specifics about how throwing things strengthens coordination, improves 3-D and structural problem solving. Brain stuff working in conjunction with body stuff... it's good stuff!

We never once had a single bad incident with the bow and arrows. Alex took great interest in the activity and it led to a deeper appreciation for Medieval history, a subject he is very well read on, and it greatly improved his coordination and visual acuity. I wonder if target practice with the bow and arrows is what gave him such remarkable skills in rendering his ideas into elaborate and detailed designs and illustrations... yeah, I think so. Max also embraced the activity and he spent hours a day practicing when we moved to the Treehouse. He had to develop strength and coordination to manage the sizable bow. He had to overcome the frustration of not being as skilled as his brothers, and he worked very hard to successfully close the gap. Somewhere in our garage is a book that Max made, papers stapled together, and it is full of numbers... hundreds and hundreds of numbers and tallies, reflecting Max's scorekeeping. He's a numbers guy. He logged every score made on their homemade targets, so that bow and arrow time was physical and academic for Max.

We miss having a yard big and safe enough for the bow and arrow. We look forward to being some place where we can take aim at a bulls-eye or straw bale, pull back on the string and hit the spot we aim for. I know from personal experience that hitting what we aim for is deeply satisfying. And, now that I have thought about it, I think we might see about making some spears.

Coming up:

4. Deconstruct Appliances
5. Break The DMCA- Drive A Car

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Monday, February 09, 2009

My Favorite Vegas

Vegas is not my favorite, but I have discovered my favorite version of Vegas, and it's at Legoland California.

We were there, the real Vegas, once in '97, maybe it was '96... yeah, '96. Alex was a toddler, William was fascinated by pirates and Geoff had a conference to attend. He must have been working for a healthy company, because they sent the 4 of us, all expenses paid. Arriving in Las Vegas with 2 children, one does not hope to catch shows or learn blackjack. I went for the clean sheets, fresh towels and a 2 day break from dishwashing... sweet!

What was the conference? It had to be a tech/gaming/graphics/electronics theme... whatever it was, it booked the whole town, which was quite awesome, because all the geeks were in meeting rooms and convention halls and all the pools, buffets, freebies and rides were practically empty. The boys and I walked all over the place and enjoyed the last days of the ill-fated "Vegas is for Families" campaign. We stayed in the Luxor, which was mind-blowing for William who was also a huge Egyptology enthusiast. While Geoff did his thing, we traipsed over to the MGM and discovered they had rides and shows for children and families, so besides the superficial glitz and glam of the hotels and general environs we had actual activities and entertainment, and no one was there! It was exclusively ours.

The pyramid is the hotel and inside the rooms are on the perimeter, overlooking the interior. It was an impressive layout, but kind of nauseating when staying with young children... it was hard to resist hanging over the railing to look down and from many floors up, it was a long way down. And there was so much to see! Every hotel has its theme, and before you get jaded looking at yet another slot machine, you can have a good time being engrossed by the lengths they go to fill the places up with eye candy. The Luxor was brimming with ancient *artifacts* and replica treasures, so cocktail waitresses aside, it was kind of like visiting a very glamorous museum.

I believe this, New York-New York, was what we were watching under-construction from our Luxor room, but maybe it was the Venetian. All I know is that I really love watching stuff under-construction. I love the earth movers and the cranes, the dirt and dust. I marvel at engineering and coordination and design. It's no less amazing when achieved with Lego bricks.

Vegas is strange. Everything is fake, but of course very real. It's right there in front of you, so it has to be real, but I see the superficial qualities and half expect the walls to evaporate, and everything to disappear, like a mirage. I had a very good time, because I had no expectations, no illusions. Someone was kind enough to make our beds and serve us 3 generous meals and I never had to scrub a pan or change a bulb.

What really struck me though was that look of disappointment and boredom I kept seeing in people's faces. Not every visitor was a geek, there was room for a few pockets of regulars, tourists, dreamers. They were drifting in out of buffet lines and sitting dutifully at slot machines. Even out in the light of day, they looked like unhappy investors in a fool's paradise. They looked like they wanted more stimulus, more glitter, more, more, more, and they wanted it served to them... they were not going to go traipsing and exploring for their fun. I thought it was hilarious, especially the kind of Farside characters in the casinos... cigarettes dangling from crestfallen lips, glazed expressions on made-up faces... lots of leisure wear and high hair, big rings, and bedazzled accessories, but every one of them defied their shiny exteriors and exuded profound sadness, loss, and disengagement. They lacked gratitude, awareness, joy. Vegas is strange, baby, very strange.

How many bricks to make Camelot? I do not know, but it must be in the millions. Can you imagine designing, planning and constructing something this elaborate and assembling it with Lego bricks? Amazing.

Legoland has a section in the park called Miniland USA and it's quite a sight in terms of construction and creativity, and it is also interesting when you know the places, towns and regions they are representing in bricks. Vegas looks just like Vegas. They go to great lengths to include the details and regional flavors of D.C. and New Orleans, New York and California, so that if you have been to those places you have the delight of rediscovering that place on a whole new scale.

Cars and buses are moving around, and a recording plays the kind of ambient sounds you might expect to hear in a bustling city. I love the landscaping... lamps and bridges are all made of Legos parts, but the trees and lawns, gardens and flowers are all achieved with live plants.

...Okay, twist my arm... I will boast for a moment. When we sold El Rancho, one of the buyer's family members was a landscaper from Legoland, which we thought was really cool. He had a lot of praise for the landscaping design at El Rancho, and you bet I swelled a bit when he spoke in such glowing terms of the layout and plant selections. We got help putting everything in, but the entire design and every plant choice was mine. Good memories. Sigh

This is where Vegas puts on a glorious fires blazing,seafarers dashing, 2 ships and cannons blasting, pirate show. Even after all these years I can recall the heat of the fireworks and feel William absolutely quivering with the delight of live theatrical spectacle. The pirates were manly and swashbuckling, with open shirts... you know, to be authentic, ahem. It was all so real and so fake, and so fun and maybe we'll go back and see that again.

I call this one "Pink vs. Vader" Pink is totally going to win, every time.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On My Mind

So, lately I have felt that I have little to blog about besides my same ol', same ol'. But today I have fresh(er) material. Ha. It's not really so fresh, but I'm sayin' it anyway.

I love praise. Gold stars, high-fives, abject awe and wonder... any of that stuff makes me buzz and swell with inspiration to do more good. Heavy praise and flattery also makes me uneasy and suspicious, and causes me to look around and wonder, who are they talking about?

Hold on I have a point.

I cleaned my car yesterday. I consider time to clean a vehicle to be a luxury, and one I don't grant frequently. We live in our car. We are Southern Californians, living with summer heat, winter breezes and heavy showers all in the same day. We have 4 children all running in different directions and at different speeds. These facts are often reflected in the look of my vehicle, particularly the interior. It's the age of lunch, breakfast or dinner, on the go. We need paper and pencils, ketchup, empty buckets, spare shoes, books, erasers, yarn, water, towels, scarves, talcum powder, sunblock, hair brushes, and hats. Yes, Need. And every so often, when it is not raining or blazing hot, when we are not on our way out again or it isn't 9:30 at night, I divide and conquer. I drag the trash and recycling barrels to the sliding doors of our Jet Puff. Good stuff goes in a bag, and the rest is either tossed (like the apple core and the stiff sock with no heal) or recycled. I pack one tidy little box with pens, the hair brush, sunblock and talcum powder and any other indispensables.

Ta-Da! The car is clean(er). If fate is kind, I will even go so far as to visit the car wash, which is something I love to do.

Here comes my point.

When I drop Max off at school we are often met by the amazing and dedicated school volunteers that stand at the curb and direct traffic and remind us not to peel out after we drop-off our precious cargo. This is a painful time for me, and not just because I will miss my son and wish we were enjoying a holiday, but because the amazing and dedicated volunteers open the car door to let children out. It's like kid valet, and I guess it's nice. Or at least it would be nice, if I wasn't mortified. I see it... the long slow, nonchalant stare glance, the slight pursing of the lips the subtle eyebrow shift. And I know just what they are thinking: Good grief woman, clean your vehicle! And I bet they remember that I am the mom that never volunteers, willingly, and that I have yet to bring punch or cookies to a class party. They probably wait for me to peel out drive away and then huddle to discuss the fact that I did not buy wrapping paper, chocolates or refrigerator magnets at the the fundraisers. I drive away in shame. I rationalize all the way home, then I vow to change my ways and be Super Mom. Of course I forget my hasty vow by the time I am back in the house, clearing breakfast, dressing Maria and preparing for part 2 of my 6 part chauffeur shift.

It was with certain glee and relaxed shoulders, a modicum of healthy self-esteem, that I took Max to school this morning, gently pulling up to the curb and the morning volunteer. My car is clean. My conscience clear. I am Super Mom. And she... She didn't open the door! She didn't step up to my conestoga and take that causal survey of the interior... I was robbed of my moment, my non-funky mom moment.

BTW the photos are from our Rancho days, and serve to remind me that I once did have my act together slightly better than these days. They are brain and soul candy for me.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

We Nest

Geoff did come home last night. My ears are still ringing from Maria's scream of joy when Geoff's key turned in the door. He goes back to work today, but we had an evening full of laughs and catching up. Everyone slept in... bliss. We had a big breakfast... muchas gracias chicas. We even did a little cleaning.

I now have a Portrait of each chica in the nest box. It is such a reverent and solemn time when they are laying. They get calm, dare I say introspective? I don't mean to anthropomorphize too much, but they are like women in labor, quiet, intent and focused. Sometimes they hum or coo or making an almost purring like rumble. They fuss with the straw, turn, shift and turn again. Frida is such a serious little hen. She is the smallest and the most intense. Cranky really. But since she has started laying she has settled a bit and seems more tolerant of my doting attention. I am glad they let me sit beside them and visit.

Frida's eggs are the lightest color of the three. Her eggs are almost pink and they are completely covered in pinpoint white flecks. You'd almost expect to find strawberry cream inside.

The chicas are easier to catch, but not necessarily easy to catch. They seem to have adopted me as the rooster (flattering) and they will assume the position when I happen by. Alex did not get cooperation when he went to pick up Betty. So, he started his morning with an invigorating chicken run. Maybe it's a good thing our backyard is a postage stamp.

Alex held Fantam for a few minutes, and I got a little misty eyed recalling when he had our first hens and he was a much younger, smaller farmer. 6 years ago... whoa, the math, the time, the changes. How does this happen? Sigh.

June 7, 2003. Alex and Gracie.

Just above the table coop, in the branches of the ficus tree, is a hummingbird's nest. She flits and calls above my head every time I visit the chicas. Then she settles in to the egg cup sized nest that is expertly fixed on a slender branch. As small as she is, her tail hangs down and her head and slim beak can be seen alertly poised above her nest. I imagine her, and the nest could fit securely in my palm.

Even after our big breakfast we still have a store of eggs. They are pretty. When we find them in the nest box they are warm to the touch. Seeing them sitting in the basket, lovely shades of café con leche, I sigh happily.

Birds are not the only ones that nest. I try very hard to overcome my longing to fluff feathers and pull straw in my own home, and resolve to make this house as homey as possible. Even now I am cranky and sad thinking of what I wish I could do, thinking of what I miss about our Rancho days. Seashells and pumpkins, sticks and stones. We live in a rich environment, in a land of opportunity, and our nest is well lined and snug. In years to come I wonder if I will read this and remember the horrible wallpaper or that the handle to the oven fell off, for the fourth time this month. I hope I remember that Maria and I watched dolphins in the reef, during one of the most pacific days on the Pacific I have ever seen.

I very quickly finished the pink and blue crocheted blanket... the one I had to rework a bit. I love it. Everybody loves it. It has such a wonderful texture and feels warm, almost like a firm hug, when it's on top of you. I promised my Mom pictures of the popcorn row and shell edge I added to the top of the blanket. The popcorn effect doesn't show too well, but it's a row of bumps that are whimsical and fun. I was so anxious to finish the blanket... anxious as though I were bored of the project and the frenzied pace I was working at, but as soon as it was done what do you think I did?

Yes, I started another one. This one is cotton too and it's lilac. I messed around with the stitch and made a pattern that reminds me of a garden bed with raised rows ready for seeds. I will call the blanket Lavender Fields. Probably this stitch has an original name, but I don't know it from any of the other stitches I make up, so Imagine it is all mine. This one feels good too. Heavy and comforting. I don't know how big I will make it, but I am trying to remember to slow down and enjoy the process. How could I ever think I was bored making the first one, when all I wanted to do was make another?

I think I would be one of those birds that makes a new nest every year, which is funny considering I am so piney for a forever home. Maybe I will settle in to our own house and be desperate to move in 5 years... but I don't care. I'll cross that creek when I get to it.

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