Sunday, November 29, 2009

Surprise-Flower-Cookie Party

Happy Birthday Maria

It is a beautiful day for celebrating and she gives us reason to celebrate every day.
So, what's it to be ?
Nothing as elaborate as last year, when she never ran out of ideas for themes and activities to enjoy with her family. Our initial plans are on a bit of a weather-health delay, which is clearing up on both fronts, so we should be good to go for next week, and in the meantime we can have extra hugs, more singing, lots of coloring and gluing and decorating, we can eat triangle pasta and mandarins, and we can finalize details on her vision for a "Surprise party with cookies and planting flowers."

::I wonder if she wants a new camera, like uncle James' camera which, with his sweet skills, takes amazing photographs, like these. I could get one in her name and hold it in trust for her::

Marie and Maria, Parker's personal pit crew.

Max and some camera-envious, crazy chicken woman.

Maria, let's play!

::Thank you for sharing these pictures, James.
What kind of camera did you say you have?

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Day of Giving Thanks

Today I am thankful for teachers and mentors, for volunteers. Our lives are blessed with bright, creative, generous people that guide and inspire us.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meet Mr Chris Opperman

All week I have been posting about my thoughts on gratitude. Each day I have focused on one thing that I am thankful for. Well, back in September something happened that exemplifies so many of the things that I am thankful for, it's a beautiful and poignant example of what makes me thankful, and it began with a letter I got over the Internet. When I opened the email I gave it a quick scan, and I was immobilized with the surprise of seeing dear, familiar images, but in a wholly new context.

I really was stunned. Someone had painted my children, my nephew, my hen, and I was awestruck by the gentle and heartwarming way he painted these favorite subjects.
I still feel amazed by the paintings. I gazed at them... a lot of questions were forming in my mind, but a lot of time passed before I could stop looking at the art and read the accompanying letter.

This image of Max and his cousin Nick is very dear to me. The part I recognized was from the day we celebrated Maria's derpday... Max and Nick were sitting together at the edge of the pond, gently letting fish swim in to their hands. They were so quiet and patient. Max held Nick to keep him from dropping in. I think even without the photograph to remind me, I could never forget how special their cooperative and kind activity was and how lucky I felt to witness it. And now here it was in someone else's hands and he too saw the unique scene... he honored their play and wonder.

By now I was teary.
I read the letter.
"Hello Natalie
...I stumbled upon your blog while looking for images of chickens, and immediately liked the type of photos you take. I made a few paintings of some of the images, which I attached along with a picture of me (under very hot lighting). I hope you are not cross with me for using your photos without permission. I figured that perhaps you might like photos of the paintings, and an apology.

Without being too forward, I would like to know if it would be okay if I use some of your photos in the future...of course I will first email you before I use an image. There is an atmosphere in your photos that creates a aaahh moment...donít know how else to describe it, English is not my native language. If a picture paints a thousand words, these photos tells volumes. Iím a very nostalgic person and really miss my childhood....the best years of my life...only I did not realize it then. I love painting people with character...old people etc. and my favourite...children of course. They act so natural and paintings of children stirs memories of ones own childhood...perhaps a way of reliving oneís childhood and no care in the world...your only concerns..playing, eating, sleeping and a lot more playing.

I hope you have a most blessed day

Kind Regards,
Chris Opperman"

Now I was really teary, and I remember I ran to wake Geoff and drag him to the computer.

His paintings take me to the moment, to the place and emotions I felt when I clicked the button on my camera. I can enjoy my own thoughts and feelings about events and moments that stir me, but it is amazing to have someone far, far away, a stranger, take these images and process them and still capture the essence of what I was seeing and living. Does that make sense? I am moved not just by his painting skills, but by the connection we have made, though we have never met... he can paint the elusive, intangible elements that I remember and feel from these scenes.

"My name is Chris Opperman and I live in the most beautiful country in the world...South Africa of course. In 1989 I had a freak accident where I fell and broke my neck. Since then Iíve been paralyzed from the neck down. I became a student with Amfpa in 2002...that is the Association of Mouth- and Footpainters.

I am currently working on my website where people can view/buy my work, or request a painting on order. For the time being, I still have a Myspace account, where some of my paintings are featured. Unfortunately, it is not quite up to date, as I still have to add the paintings of the past two years. I think I will be doing that today, while I am at it. If you visit MySpace, you will be able to see some of my work under Pics. The Association of Mouth- and Footpainters in South Africa has its own website Association of Mouth and Foot Painters. You can look under Artists, and then under students, where you will find me in the third row from the top with my bandanna."

Today, every day, I am thankful for opportunities created by computers and the Internet for people to find each other and become friends, exchange ideas, offer support and knowledge, share art. I am thankful for art, and I am thankful for friends new and old, near and far. And I am thankful for the feeling of awe and respect that some people can stir in me... Thank you Chris. You are talented and inspiring. I am glad you reached out to us and you are welcome to share your beautiful work with Chickenblog any time.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Turkey A Day :: Day Two

Today's turkey really exemplifies Maria's yearning for embellishment, decor, detail and tape. 3M has to be fairly satisfied with our generous contributions to their bottom line. A heart sprouting flowers... it's so "Glorious," as Maria would say, and she would say it with her hand fluttering over her heart, her head tilted reverently.

Funny about her name. She had the letters in order and facing the right direction before school began, but all the practice seems to have encouraged creative license. I shouldn't be so stingy and trepidatious... real word, honest... I should dig out some glitter and sequence, maybe those zigzag scissors. On the other hand she is accomplishing a great deal with the supplies she has dug up for herself.

Today I am thankful for friends. New friends, old friends, friends I have reconnected with, friends that show up with wine and laughter, new ideas and encouragement... best friends, near and far.

**Last night I hosted Moms' Night Out :: MNO. I love my friends.**

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Turkey A Day

Everyday Maria makes a new turkey. Tracing her hand is her favorite method, but she also turned a pine cone in to a plump, if prickly, Meleagris gallopavo. I love its subtle chicken-y influence. I love the bright colors.
I love her signature, complete with artistic bird flair. I could gobble this up.

I am going to count down the days to Thanksgiving with art and gratitude.

Today I am thankful for creativity, for media and expression, and for the time and resources to make and appreciate Art.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

For My Scrapbook

The 3 weeks we had with my mom, with grandma, were wonderful. She split her time between our home and Hans and Gretchen's place, plus we had time with everyone in the mountains. We went to favorite eateries and celebrated Maria's birthday. We went on some nice walks. She guided me though some domestic duties I've been neglecting... guidance is needed and appreciated. We did a lot, and after her first day back home, I already miss her and can think of a dozen things I meant to do, say, share. For certain I thought I would take more pictures, especially family portraits. Clearly, 3 weeks is just not enough time. So, I am already happily anticipating next time.

Quickly, before taking her to my brother's, I thought to snap a few pictures of my mom with my daughter, and I could not be happier with that stroke of genius. A strong breeze had begun to blow from the north, and we remarked that Oregon was in the wind, calling her home.

Even with wisps of hair across her eyes, I love Maria's pretty face next to my mother's beautiful face. Those smiles. Their light. Such a lovely sight. Seeing them evokes the pleasure I feel when I think of them together.

I see love and humor and joy. I see freedom of expression, and passion for living. I see my mommy and my baby... what a blessing, what a wonderful gift.

Sometimes Chickenblog reminds me of a family album, a scrapbook of memories and treasured moments. I will turn to this page many times.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh My Goodness

So, so much goodness and I hardly know where to start or when to finish. I have hundreds of pictures I could share and lots of happy stories, funny jokes, dear moments and foodie confessions... we're talking Thanksgiving, family, mountains, starry walks, food, and a derpday! The derpday.

Hold on a sec. I gotta catch my breath.

Maria is 4. It happened. All of it... the glitter, the friends, the painting and flowers and fairy wings and hugs and affection, the elation and giddiness, the exuberance of a child in love with the world. The night before she turned 4 years old, I looked on her in wonder and I felt those sentimental stirrings... the wistfulness, not wanting her to be 1 day older. And yet every new day is good, every milestone is amazing, every new skill and bright thought is a blessing. So, as much as I would like to stop time and inhale more days of 3 year old joy, I am ready to welcome this new year... Maria's new year.

To begin with, thank you. You and you and you! We feel the love and support, we witness the kindness and generosity and we are so grateful, so awestruck. My friend Jola, who could not come to the party, could not help participating. She made 3 princess hats, with elegant tulle veils. Bill and Alison sent the perfect wings... Maria ran, exclaiming "I'm in the sky!" All our family, in the mountains for Thanksgiving, played and hid and seeked, and tickled and chased and shared and showered Maria with love and she loved them right back. Everyone shared in the excitement and jumped into her world. A lot of things and stuff can go into a party, a celebration, but it's the people that make it fun and special... and everyone we know has contributed to Maria's happy derpday.

I told you... I don't know where to begin... We ordered a decorated white cake. At home Max helped me make beet extract pink frosting and he guided me in adding some flowers and his sister's name. Then we topped it with a glittered fairy angel we made from The Toy Maker. Maria loved it. It made her eyes widen and her mouth formed a delighted "Oh!

Nice thing about an outdoor, garden party is the decorating is mostly complete... there were pomegranates and flowers and foliage and natural loveliness everywhere. We added our scrappy princess garland and the Sesame Street and princess cups and plates Maria chose... and that was about it.

Alex and Delia sliced bagels. Geoff was helping all over. William was a good gopher too. Max was a very supportive member of the party crew.

Ta Da!
Complete with a Calamity Kim apron, Maria was this happy all. day. long!

There were 3 princesses, including Princess Emma (pictured) and Princesses Izzy and Maria. There were 11 princes! William, Alex, Max, Nick, Tristan, Morgan, Karsten, Jared, James, Jacob and Jesse.

These princes were chillin'. Far away. Alex, with his wry wit, later remarked that the day was surreal. There was a great deal of pink and accessories, and not a Lego brick or robot in sight.

Tristan was a fun party guest. I noticed that he systematically visited each craft station and activity, where he quietly and contentedly enjoyed painting rocks and plaster flowers, then planted a real flower. He was with us at the pond and on our explore and wherever he was, he politely and thoughtfully played and engaged with people and the environment. Morgan too. What a little naturalist he is. He waited so patiently at the edge of the pond and time after time he could swiftly and gently scoop up fish in his bare hands.

All the fun we had at this pond makes me want to go back to the big pond where we celebrated Tristan's birthday.

Princess Izzy Isabella in her magical derpday wings.

Fun loving Nick and the princesses and of course cake. Mmmm... chocolate cake, and beet extract frosting! Tasty.

I am going to be very patient, but I expect to see a lot of emails with photo attachments coming in real How many cameras were working and flashing and capturing the fun? Many! Gretchen and I were messing with Hans this time, doing our over the top photo love. We are so funny. And a special shout out to the anniversary couple btw. I'm so glad you are celebrating together this year!

There were a lot of guests that joined us in celebrating Maria's birthday, and I am so glad they were there to hear Maria say, "I love you all. And thank you for coming to my princess derpday. And... and now I just want to open presents."

Now let's head out in to the park and enjoy the sights. Let's run around with cousins and friends and look for those frogs and float leaves...

Izzy, Maria and Jacob.

James, Tristan, Morgan, Maria and Jacob... fishing.

It's a nice treat to be in a favorite place and see people that I love there, together. We should do this more often.

Maria and her cousin Jesse.

Here is the adventure ready J Crew. Jacob and Jared, Jesse and James.

Did I mention that everyone was having a good time? I think uncle Rich would like to come back here to play again. He and Morgan were the most successful fishermen. Max and Nick made a cooperative and patient team.

Max held Nick while Nick prepared to make a catch... they didn't ever fall in, so I guess it was a good idea. It was certainly a pleasure to watch them playing together.

Happy birthday Maria. You had a vision and it was so much fun to see it come to life. I hope you always find a way to make your beautiful dreams come true, and I hope we can always be around to witness the joy you find and inspire.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


High Speed Internet
This day and the next.
I hope you find abundance too.
Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recipes For 2 Small Eggs

Seems like most recipes call for 2 large eggs. So, if Betty gives us 3 in a row, I think we'll make something sweet and decadent for our drive to the mountains. And how honored are we by these generous, dear treasures she bestows? Max scooped her up when he came home from school and sat inside with her on the sofa... stroking her golden feathers and praising her, showering her with his admiration. I wonder what she thought of that!

When the hens are on the loose they run for the grass, then they high tail it over to a dusty place beneath the climbing rose and after they have bathed in dirt, they step over to the glass door and peer in. Beak to the window, they gaze and cluck softly. They see the TV and the dining table, the cat's food bowl, the long hall and tall ceilings... or maybe those are the things I would see. Maybe they see the housing inequity. Maybe they pine for plush cushions and slick floors. The cats sit on the other side of the door and stare out. The hens spend hours staring in. We cannot really know what they feel, but it's darn funny for us.

Delia is here. We've been catching up with hilarious Internet bits, and we've been listening to Maria tell princess stories at the dinner table, then dance between every mouthful of dinner. We've seen the elaborate and amazing creations Alex and William have displayed upstairs... like the fountain made of Lego bricks! We've sympathized with Max, still in school, and spending evenings with homework. And we've been checking our Thanksgiving lists, buying supplies, revising recipes and preparing to haul all necessities and other stuff up to the mountains... couldn't there be a simpler way to gather and have fun? I suppose not and I know I will not regret our plans, but it is a bit daunting.

We had to buy snow chains! I am in (almost) total denial about the prospect of there being snow and very cold temperatures. For one thing, I cannot remember where our winter clothes are... after Wisconsin, last March, what did I do with those thrift shop threads and dozens of gloves? Today will have to be a shopping day. Won't that make the numskull economists be proud... bunch of goons.

OKay. Don't let me go down that road. It's not that I don't think about the economic crisis or feel livid when I do, but Thanksgiving is on the near horizon and I want to fill my head and heart with gratitude and hope. It is not ignorance or denial. It is self preservation.

Yeah, so I'll be at a mall today and all I can think is: Meh.

I would rather be spinning my wheels some other place.

A game! Name 1 place you have to go this week and then list 5 places you would rather be! I'll go first.
I have to go shopping. I would rather be...
1. Highway 250 from Havi to Waimea
2. camping in Big Sur
3. Linden Hills, Minneapolis and Wild Rumpus
4. Wisconsin
5. Home

Alex is enjoying his break, as is William, but I think if they could go to a school, like this, where student art is science in motion and where there are workshops to teach computer assisted design and lessons on transmissions and drive trains... I think they would be extra happy Geeks.

Here comes a to do list... it has to be done.

1. make spaghetti sauce for first dinner in mountains
2. find winter clothes for 6 people
3. shop for whatever winter clothes I could not find
4. buy bouillon, celery, carrots, drinks, aluminum foil and something else
5. clean car and gas up
6. pack
7. pack
8. tie up all loose ends for Maria's princess birthday... now I call it Maria's Amazing Princess Glitter Extravaganza... she promised the grocery clerk that not only was he invited, but that there would be snow and swimming and monkeys in trees
9. hire monkeys... I kid.
10. Fill head and heart with gratitude and hope... so far so good.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch... My Happy Contribution to Our Economic Recovery

A little spending, a lot of playing. On Sunday we met cousins Nick and Izzy and Aunt Holly out in the country. Thank goodness for pony rides and petting zoos, for shady spots and hot brats... no, not overheated, cranky children. The other brat... the pumped-up, spiced sausage. I absolutely loved seeing the tiniest goats ever and watching Maria feed piglets. And seeing Max completely absorbed in hanging out with chickens and goats and sheep, piglets, ducks and geese was very dear. Alex, William, Nick and Max spent time on their own, exploring and adventuring at the craft booths. Izzy, Maria, Holly and I did the same. These are a few highlights...

I know it's not right, but I'm thinking Thanksgiving right about now.

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