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, 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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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tricks and Treats
First of all, I woke up kind of giddy because it was an hour earlier than the clock read, and that was a treat. But it took me an hour and twelve minutes to figure out that we don't Fall Back until tomorrow, and so that was a trick.

Today is Halloween and that should be a treat, because we love carving pumpkins and roasting seeds and dressing up and we even have an actual invitation to a party. The trick is that we are sick, some of us are very sick. Geoff finally admitted that "groaning (a lot) helps," so I mentally down-graded his condition from critical to pitiful. He still has my sympathy. William and Maria are just improving, but then Alex and Max succumbed. We deserve a break, but it's not coming yet...

All during this time that I neglected Chickenblog I was thinking of really wonderful, insightful and hilarious things to post about. Sometimes, while shoving junk gently wrapping precious treasures in to boxes I would compose beautiful narratives to share, things I would want to reflect upon and recall joyfully in the future... what a treat my deep thoughts and Atumnal musings were. But the trick is I cannot remember any of it.

And now my deepest thoughts go something like this:

I wish the cats could talk, then they could tell me how awesome this place is. I hope they think it is awesome. I think it is awesome. It totally is. Awesome. Maybe I will see it in their eyes, a sign that they love it so much here that they will never run away or scratch the walls or barf on the stairs. That would be awesome.

Is chocolate good for the flu? Is this the flu? Someone is going to admonish me for thinking of chocolate and sugar when I am sick. But if this is the flu, don't I want to to go out happy?

We seriously do have a lot of stuff. I don't want to think about it, but I keep stubbing my brain on the subject every time I look around.

Maria is going to be Dorothy for Halloween. She was Dorothy when she was one and we had just moved from the TreeHouse to Garage Mahal. It fits, because she is adorable and because to look around here you would think we arrived by tornado. Still, there's no place like home.

Happy Halloween. Enjoy life's treats!

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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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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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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Our Turn

A brief history...

We have been renting since October 2003. We made huge, sweeping changes in hopes of moving to Hawaii. Life made huge, sweeping changes in hopes of providing us with challenging, interesting obstacles... you know, to "build character." We have hit more bumps in life's road than a Tijuana taxi. We currently have 2 offers on 2 different properties, and one more offer we are thinking about and another place came up today that I think we should definitely try for. We have looked at hundreds, possibly thousands of properties. We are experts. We are savvy. We know the market better than the market knows itself. I don't know how it is possible, but I am the most pessimistic optimist I know. I am hopelessly hopeful. I am grief stricken and worn out and I am looking for the sign, for the turning point. We are staying afloat, waiting for the current that will give us the chance to leave the riptide and swim for shore.

And why am I putting all of this out there?
I do not know.
Maybe because you understood my Martha Stewart last chance letter dilemma. Maybe because I want to believe that we are at the gate of that turning point, the sign of our hopes and dreams may be before us and I want to believe.
I want to believe that dreams come true, even if they are rundown, foreclosed, sorry-@ssed fixer-uppers.

It may be our turn.

Most people buy their house by acquiring a structure on land, or they may purchase a lot and build their home. We are buying our house by the knob.
One knob at a time.
We were together in an after Christmas stroll through shops and I stopped to sigh and admire all the pretty hardware. Geoff thought they were priced fairly and way more fun than typical kitchen drawer pulls. Maria kept gathering her favorites and William found one he really liked. Geoff and I lit up and agreed: We can buy our house now. And we don't have to adhere to someone else's aesthetic. We can decide that our design, our style, is Family Favorites.

Maybe it's Funky Family Favorites!
Here are a few of the knobs and drawer pulls that will grace our house. It might be fun to guess who chose which. I am looking forward to the day when they are a part of our lives that I take for granted... when I can tell a guest, "The tape and scissors are in the clock drawer.

If all of our offers are turned down, if we are outbid, again, and again, at least we have our start. We have our knobs, and sooner or later it will be our turn.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The More Things Change... Or Do They?

William, 14, Alex, Max and Geoff, October 2005... Disneyland

Sometimes I look back and see where we've been. I pick a year and read the archives from this week in 2002 or 2003 or '04, '05, '06, '07. This time I chose October 18-22, 2005. Regrettably, I see that not much has changed. Since then we moved again, but not to our own place. Geoff was in Hawaii again. He did look for a place for us, like he did 3 years ago, but mostly he was there to say a final farewell to a place we had held dear. Happily, the things that cheer and sustain me have not changed... except that they have grown... the children are as enthused and kind, as wonderful to be with as ever. Geoff is still intent on making our lives full and safe. I did wish for 3 hens, and I think we have hens now... is that progress? I'm not so sure.

Alex, 11 years old, upstairs in the TreeHouse

One big improvement is that the boys have bedrooms now. No more bunk bed in the kitchen/dining room/living room. It was cozy. Truthfully, I would be happy to return to smaller quarters if the space were a space all our own. Our zest for pumpkins... pie, bread, cake, roasted seeds, decorations, carving... that has not changed a bit. We still love it.

Maria, 11 months old, at the Wild Animal Park... oh, and Me, 38

We still love exploring in our community and making road trips north and east and south, and as far west as we can get. For all my longing and disappointments about housing, I cannot complain about our adventures. We have been many places and taken full advantage of our homeschool flexibility. I can see missing that, if we ever get tied up in a mortgage and house repairs. I relish the chance to complain about something new.

Max, 7, and Alex with baby Maria

I wonder what they will remember... what they will carry with them, what they will discard.

Remember last spring, when I moved all of the sewing things in to the garage? Alex and I have shared a section of the garage all summer. Surrounded by stacks of boxes, tools and treasures, he and I played and worked at our hobbies. Alex with robots, circuit boards and wires, and Maria and me with fabrics, pens, papers, chalk and thread. It's been a nice arrangement, but this week I am making a whole new mess arrangement. Alex needs more room, and we need to make better use of the odd square footage at the top of the stairs. The house is big, but there are a lot of useless spaces... we do not need a dining room or formal sitting room, or a foyer with pillars, or a landing. Now the landing is a sewing room, or it's becoming a sewing room, and soon the extra space in the garage will accommodate garage kinds of activities, like building robots, making toasters, designing rockets etc... I hope everyone will enjoy the new possibilities.

Alex's entertainment for Maria, October 2005

Our bed is green now. We still share our room with Maria, or does she share her room with us? I still love that quilt... not one that I made.

And now it is time to get William and Alex from school. It's 2008 again, and time to move forward.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An OCYD Update

Did everyone see Anna Banana's comment? She found a link to a TP cosy, and I swear I thought it was a top hat! I was staring at it for the longest time and humming Putting on the Ritz. I know that art is subjective... do I need to post an apologetic disclaimer, in case I am hurting anyone's feelings? I have to say though, this is the line, for me, where art and craft parts way with aesthetic beauty, function and form. I am also uncomfortable with coconut monkeys, googly eyes on seashells and this.

There were a lot of good and funny comments from the OCYD post. Sara, I don't know why I suggested that knit hats on chickens would be too much... the very idea is gaining favor with me by the hour. And some mini croissants would be good too. And I see Nikki appreciates the possibility that the chicas might look spiffy in hats and knit accessories.

Hello River, of Australia. You are so right: I wouldn't want to send out homemade gifts that are not unique. In my post what I meant by "unique" was that they might be a bit unpolished or a little too amateurish, or less gently put... ugly. I am laughing, when I say this, so no worries.

I think Mtn. Child is right to suggest I try Afghans. I am not disciplined or ambitious enough to try anything as cute as this dress from "Oiyi's Crafts." But I really, really want to try my hand at a ripple blanket, like the one I saw at "Cats and Quilts."

I finished another brown hat last night. I love it. But I am not unaware that it may resemble a toasted acorn. Now I am working on another scarf... same brown with flecks of orange and lichen green. I am laughing again... I've been so drawn to this color palette, the seasonal browns and pistachio green, deep oranges and golden ambers, and I wasn't even aware how drawn I have become until I looked at my picture. I am wearing the same brown with orange and green as I am crocheting, and I may even try to fix a dinner to match.

And the owl is my other crush. This summer Max and I read a wonderful thrift shop find, called "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat. We absolutely loved this book with its adventures and suspense, and it's rather politically incorrect narrative about boys, nature, bullies and life's hard lessons. I like its open and honest approach to describing the good and bad antics of these children's lives. And I have become fascinated with the beauty and charm of owls. I miss hearing the pair of owls that called to each other when we were perched high up in the home we called the Tree House. I miss seeing the collection of dear owls Grandma Eunice kept in her home... she has an owl crush too... she might like to read that book.

Last year I added this tiny owl to the Halloween decoration I made.

So far we have 3 costumes ready for Halloween this year. Max gathered articles from different closets so he can be young Indiana Jones. He looks really good, ready for an adventure in history and archaeology, like Henry "Indiana" Jones. Alex has been preparing to portray Dex of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Alex was born to this role, an inventor in a steampunk world, with a high moral code, impromptu skills and a ray gun. Maria consistently tells everyone she is going to be a pumpkin for Halloween. She wore this costume last year, the same one I made for William's first Halloween in Minnesota, 1991! Maybe I can crochet some kind of pumpkin hat to cap the pumpkin suit...

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Friday, April 25, 2008

A Polka Dot Tennis Skirt, A Cookie and A Horse

When Maria was about 3 weeks old, so tiny and new, Geoff called me from his perch in the kitchen, where he used to read his laptop: "What size is Maria?"

In my postpartum haze, his question was fuzzy. He never asked about sizes and measurements, unless we were in a lumberyard. At first I thought he was concerned about her petite height and her less than average weight. He worried about things like this, and I replied, "She's fine sweetheart. She's just a lot smaller than her brothers were."

"No." He answered, still talking to me through the walls. "I mean what size clothes does she wear. Would she be a 2?"

I was nursing Maria, stuck in that tired old chair we stuck between our bed and the crib, otherwise I would have gone to him, to see his face, to discern if what I was hearing was possible. Could Geoff actually be thinking about clothing, about fashion and sizes, and what people wear? It seemed improbable. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Shopping." He does not elaborate, not willingly.
"Shopping for what?"
"Shopping for Maria." He does not elaborate, not willingly.
"What are you doing?" I try not to wake the dozing baby.

Geoff appears in our bedroom, and says, "I'm on Ebay trying to get Maria a tennis outfit. Is she a size 2?" He looks excited and agitated. The clock must be ticking on an auction. The bidding must be fast and furious. I cannot believe what I am hearing, the giddy look in his eyes. He has never bought a stitch of clothing, voluntarily, ever. Not for me or for William, not for Alex and not for Max. He buys his shorts 3 at a time every 4 years and his T-shirts are from conferences. He looks at me impatiently, "Would a 2 be big enough?"

"A size 2 or 2T is for toddlers. You need to look for sizes by month, like 3 months or 6 months." And he's already gone, back to the kitchen and the auction. For about half an hour he asked me about sizes and ages, and he ran stuff by me, about styles and colors. I was laughing. He was determined to get this child a tennis outfit before she was big enough to rollover or hold her head up. He was so preciously obsessed with his mission, that it was endearing and sweet and I will never forget the happy realization of his love for his daughter. It's not that there was any doubt, or that shopping is an indicator of love. It was his willingness to venture forth into uncharted territory, to envision the future, when she would be big enough to play tennis, to run and jump and catch. He saw all of the possibilities and he wanted to embrace them, to make way for them, and that is a very dear sign of love.

A week later the skirt arrived. A size 3T.

She wore it for the first time last summer, and it kept sliding down her slender waist. Our tennis pro. Our girl, healthy and happy, and loved.

This morning she went into our shared closet and shut the door, first turning to me saying, "Please, go away. I am getting dressed." Honestly, I can't say where she learned this. I don't have the sense to expect privacy, and never bother asking for it.

She came out in her apple shirt and tennis skirt, which still slips a bit.

She skinned her knee a few days ago. She walks with a limp and insists on a fresh band-aid every morning. Her friend Jack lives behind the suitcase. The suitcase is sometimes Jack's shop, and sometimes a horse.

Today the horse is taking to her Grandma's house, and she is bringing her "homework."

By the way, in yesterday's post, the photograph was of a very small section of a property Geoff had been hoping to buy. I was less certain about its potential, and I regret to say its too late anyway. Someone else made the first move. Geoff is very sad about the missed opportunity. As we look for a home we keep reminding each other that we must remain detached. We cannot let our emotions get the best of us, and yet... it's when we let our hearts decide, when we feel inspired... when we see all of the possibilities and embrace them, then we make way for good things to happen. So, perhaps we should allow ourselves to become attached and emotional, to be hopeful. We must venture forth with knowledge, and optimism and love.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Carrots and Honey
Last night I ate carrots cooked in honey. It was a suggestion from Maria B. to Janice R., to cook the baby carrots with a bit of honey. I wonder how much exactly. I have carrots and honey. I even have a ham, and Janice R.'s amazing carrot cake recipe, and somewhere in the garage I have a packed box full of Easter decorations and Spring touches. I could go on for a long bit about Easter and how it catches me off-guard and unprepared most every year, fortunately I have labels, including an "Easter" category of past posts, so no need. It's all been said before. I really do try. I try to plan and clean and decorate and I even imagine going to church, but somehow my efforts fall short. Last year, probably around 4th of July, when I packed all of the Easter bunnies, baskets and egg decor, I really believed I was packing for another move. I did not think we would still be here. Not that we had a plan or even much hope, so I guess it's just a habit. It makes me sad how I dread holidays, even my favorites. Gad. I wasn't going to do this. Carrots cooked in honey is really very nice.

Maria and Jordan riding the ottoman, sister cowgirls of the living-range. I found this pair of feathered $1.87 bonnets at a thrift shop in Madison, Wisconsin. I love Willy Street and St. Vincent's. I love discovering an unexpected treasure and seeing it open up a new world for someone. I need to grab my camera again, the next time Maria is brandishing the inflatable sword, and wearing her brother's leather belt and her purple pirate hat. William says she appears in his room, dressed in her piratey garb, and thunders pirate words... Oooh arggh! I'm a pirate!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Suddenly It Is Spring

William initiated this Spring cleaning weeks ago and they are still at it. They are methodically, diligently sorting and organizing Lego bricks, components, characters and gears.
I tried to get a picture that included the cats; the cats like to tiptoe through the maze and find a spot to roll in, but they came to me when I showed up with my camera. This is Alex's room. This is the first time the boys have had their own rooms. In the "TreeHouse" their beds were in the dining room/kitchen/living room. In our "Rancho" they slept in one room and played in another. At "Neptune" they shared a room in the little house we had. Maria shares our room. I think the boys would just as soon share a room as not, or at least they agree that they enjoy sharing a playroom, er a "Lego Room."

They love Lego bricks. Love. Don't talk to me about the expense or the waste or the volume... I have a thoughtful and tested response to every negative comment I have ever heard against Legos. Even Maria uses Lego bricks to make things and she brightens when her brothers invite her into their world. She is very helpful with sorting and finding heads. I imagine she will be an engineer, like her brothers, able to comprehend the function of gears and pistons, and how to increase the speed of vehicles. Maybe she will have Alex's design skills, or some of William's creative abilities. She'll be lucky if she can be as methodical and disciplined as Max is with his creations.

Sometimes the house gets very quiet, and I call their names... William? Alex? Max? Maria?
Then I hear back, "We're up here. Maria's with us."
They are playing together. They often do.
They plan and design together, and share ideas for future creations.
They read aloud to each other and have sleep-overs in each other's bedrooms.
No, they are not always perfect angels... they get moody and mean, but it's quite rare and even understandable.
Truthfully, I think they are 4 of my favorite people in the world. I love their company and their ideas, their attitudes.
I love that they care for each other and that they have no qualms about sharing their love.
I marvel at their intelligence and curiosity, their appetite for learning.
Even when I think of our challenges, the areas we need to improve, the setbacks we want to overcome, I think that I am not so disappointed or dismayed. They fill my heart with so much pride and joy, that I can only expect good things, bright paths. Perhaps our paths are unconventional, and maybe we cannot always see the most direct route, but at the end of the day, you will find us together and happy, and I would not want to have it any other way.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Looking Back: Nine Hundred and Eighty-Four Pretty Good Posts
See that long list of dates in Chickenblog's sidebar? Those aren't randomly generated, they aren't pay per view ads... those represent the times I couldn't help but express my deep thoughts,

Max, Alex and William: December 31, 2002. Hawaii

share family news,

The Boys with Deanne: May 4, 2003. Legoland

congratulate friends,

Holly, Nick and Rich: June 13, 2003. El Rancho

pass along recipes,

Anne and Max: October 24, 2003: The TreeHouse

announce a birth,

Alex and Tamsyn: March 30, 2004

beg for help,

Sam, James and Deanne: December 21, 2004

feeling the love

or promote world, and local peace.

Geoff, Maria and Natalie: March 27, 2005

I never imagined I would keep it up for this long or that it would matter to me as much as it does... I certainly dragged my feet, when Geoff suggested I start a blog. My first post was just a fanciful daydream, meant to convince Geoff that I would give blogging an earnest go. In those early days, blogging could be supremely aggravating... oh, wait, it can still be supremely aggravating!

William, Geoff, Maria, Max, Nancy, Alex, Rich, Sophie, Lily, Nick, Phil. Kayla and Holly: June 12, 2005. The TreeHouse

I am glad Geoff insisted I blog. We have a colorful journal of the last five years, with photos, and remembrances, silliness, frustrations, and a lot of happy reflections. I am glad Holly makes tasteful banners, so Chickenblog can look polished and inviting. I am glad that, very recently, more than 2 people have discovered Chickenblog and they have joined the conversation, shared the laughs... blogging is so about dialogue and connections. I am glad that my friend Anna Banana is blogging too... she and I appreciate how cool it is to keep track of things that matter and to amuse ourselves with stuff that probably matters very little.

Alex, Alison, Dominic, Bill, Max and William: June 30, 2007

All this gladness cannot be contained... Geoff has been nudging me: You better get busy making a 1000th post contest to celebrate. I was remembering my very first contest, when I asked readers to identify something the cat coughed-up... that was April 26, 2003, but no one took a chance at my grand prize offer (too bad the Grand Prize was a pony and a Hawaiian cruise... too late now.) But now we can have a new contest, and I will think up a new grand prize, so sharpen your pencils, put on your party hat, and be on the look out for the 1000th Chickenblog post.

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