Saturday, May 12, 2007

Maybe the server will disappear Chickenblog and I won't be able to post: Happy Mother's Day...
So, Happy Mother's Day!

My boys already started showering me with gifts and affection, like the tiles Max painted. Alex read me a poem. There was a sweet school luncheon, with flowers and beautiful music. Tomorrow I just want to be with my family and anything else will be a welcome bonus ( and I do welcome bonuses!)

Love to all the Moms and Grandmoms and women who care and love like mothers. Love to all the girls, the daughters, the sisters. Love to the men, the boys and brothers, the sons and fathers. Mother's day touches us all. It's the intermingling of all of us and the expressions of our love and respect that make this day and all days special.


Over the years Geoff and I have taken the opportunity to rent small boats. I think we rented twice in Newport and toured around the small bay in OC. Twice we've rented faster boats and sped around the harbor in San Diego, where you can get a close-up look at carriers and cruise ships. I remember many years ago when my mom, bravely, took us on a sailing lesson at our local bay. She gets seasick fairly easily, so I don't think we took more than one lesson. When I was ten our family took an overnight ferry from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta, which was quite memorable. I was on a cruise to Hawaii; 100% delightful. I've been whale watching a number of times, and on harbor cruises. Geoff's prom was on a harbor cruise. I think by the time Dominic is two years old, maybe sooner, he will have logged more boating hours than my entire boating history.

Doesn't he look right at home?

The boat belongs to several families, so the responsibility and expenses are shared... good idea. I've never given any thought to what boat responsibilities might include. I do know the saying: "Buying a boat is the second happiest day of your life, and selling it is the first." I took it to mean that boat ownership is ponderous and burdensome. I suppose a larger boat would mean more work and headache, but Bill and Alison make it look manageable. They have taken such good care of the boat I assumed it had not touched water, but in truth this is the beginning of its third summer.

How many times have I seen a boat towed around and never tried to comprehend how it went from the trailer to the water? Driving backwards is the answer and slowly slipping it down the boat ramp... er... launch? We were riding in the boat from the parking lot, down the steep ramp, as Bill deftly maneuvered the lot of us in to the deep lake. (Um, if this is "Like, so obvious," please scroll down. I am sharing my learning process and it may become dull for the more experienced boaters.) Bill released the thingie that holds the boat to the trailer and then Alison began operating the boat. Gee, I never thought to ask if the boat has a name. Don't all boats have a name? Bill returned the truck to the parking lot and we picked him up from the dock.

Maria was napping and Geoff stayed with her. Wasn't he a honey to let me take first shift at playing? Actually, it was probably pretty nice to enjoy quiet, private, peaceful alone time with his book and the beautiful views. Maria cooperated by taking a very long and much needed nap.

Okay. So, after the careful backwards driving and gentle entry in to the water, comes speed. Alison eased us in to a thrilling dash across the lake. Soon we were miles from the docks and launch. Max and I sat together in front of the boat, so that our view was of our extended legs and out to the lake and the oak dotted hills, the big blue sky. We rode under two bridges that cross the lake. It was not a busy day and so we didn't pass too many other boats. By the end of the month it will be quite full of boats and revelers with coolers of beer. I'm glad we had this quiet introduction, with the pleasure of making our own waves.

Are you impressionable? I am. When I read a novel that talks about camping, I want to go camping. If I hear a discussion about ripe summer peaches, fragrant and sweet, then I will want to find those peaches and bite into them. Look at all that water. Moving water. Gallons and gallons of water. Imagine the pressure of it, the physical command of it to flow. After hours and hours of riding across the deep lake, feeling the spray of the boat's wake, possibly swimming and splashing in the endless body of free flowing water, one begins to feel a natural calling.

Did you know that lakes have porta-potties? Uh-huh, they do. So, when nature calls, there is a place, almost private, not quite secluded, where a person can answer the call. Good to know.

Bill and Alison were regaling us with tales of house-boating, and by this time we were totally sold on the whole package. We would love to spend a full week living, eating, sleeping, playing, reading, lounging, swimming, dipping, slipping, and exploring in, around and all over a house-boat. Doesn't it sound like fun? When Bill and Alison go with lots of their extended family, they explore huge lakes, which is hard to imagine, because I assumed we were on a huge lake. There are huger lakes and they can take weeks to explore and chart. And so the days of house-boating are full of expeditions, hikes, wake-boarding, tubing, laughter, naps and general water fun.

Look who woke from her nap. We picked-up Geoff and Maria and they joined the fun, watching us tube and enjoying the mild sun, the cool breeze from speeding boat. Bill had his camera out too I see. I hope he shares highlights.

How long were we out there? I didn't much think about the passing of time. My mind was content to enjoy the scenery, to absorb the pleasure of laughing and playing and sharing. I would like to go out for a week, and see the transition of the day into night, and have the luxury of slipping into the water anytime, on a whim. Swim on a whim... I like that.

Then, with more time to take it all in, I could enjoy the quiet of the lake, as much as the play and wild abandon. I could lose count of the days, reflect on the immensity of night, and begin to count stars instead of minutes.

I would pack board shorts and a rash guard, some water shoes and a hat. I would bring lots of memory for the camera, a good book and a brain-candy book, sun-block and a favorite pillow and blanket. It might be nice to have colored pencils and a sketch book, or a quilting project to dabble with or ignore.

And food. Tubing, swimming, laughing... after hours of serious play we were Hungry. Bill warned us we'd be hungry and, of course, he knew the solution was waiting for us in town, at Mike's Pizza. I could write a ten page post about long days at the beach, or camping, and the splendid appetite that comes from swimming, hiking, running, walking, leaping, body surfing, snorkeling and breathing ionized oxygen. Food is good. Food when you are truly hungry is a sumptuous blessing.

Back at the campground, Geoff and I took Maria on an early evening stroll. It was beautiful... the air, the surroundings, the company... all beautiful.

This is where I started to get into a bit of trouble. Memory trouble, because I videotaped and photographed 2 entire Giga Bytes of memory... I wanted to capture every moment, so I could bring as much of the fun home with us as possible. Then, suddenly and without warning, my camera coughed and sputtered...

... a little steam rose from the shutter button and the screen read: NO MEMORY.

I'm glad we travel with our laptop, a rather dilapidated specimen, rebuilt by Geoff and hanging on by a wire. It served us well... we were able to download and later retrieve all those many photo files I managed to collect after only 3 days into our 1 week journey. Once we were fairly confident our pictures were okay on the laptop, I deleted enough files from the camera to make room for more pictures, and I did try to be a little less zealous in my picture taking... though you would not think that was the case when you see just a handful of the Big Tree pictures I took.

Bill and Alison took Dominic home... they had to get back to their jobs. We hung back one more day and went to see the sequoias of Calaveras State Park. It never occurred to me to mention the possibility of seeing snow, though we were going up to an elevation of +4000'.

Don't snicker. It's real snow. Hard, old, dirty, plowed-up in a melting heap at the edge of the parking lot snow. Never mind the sweet fragrance of mountain pines and sky-scraping giant sequoias. The children ran to the sooty pile of winter.

They poked the snow and hit it with sticks. They followed the tunnels that seemed formed by giant snow worms and contemplated their existence. Geoff rode by on our bicycle... off to explore. He invited the children. They could not be compelled to leave their snow.

I sat with them and absorbed the scenery, inhaling the freshest air. We wondered when the last of the snow had fallen, how much longer this pile would last. The boys worked at loosening a hunk of hardened snow that hung off the main heap.

Maria studied the snow on her stick. She talked to the sparkling ice chips. She looked back at the huge quantity of "Ice-ice." She was riveted.

Then we went into the woods. We took a trail that would lead us to a sampling of the large sequoias. The day was perfect, warm and welcoming. The forest was inviting and we stepped in full of awe and wonder. Even the fallen trees are amazing. Resting giants, still holding life for the forest, still commanding reverence. Their size spans great heights, and time.

At one point I couldn't resist stretching out on the forest floor and looking up. It was dizzying, breathtaking and humbling. It was enlightening. I lost physical perspective and gained spiritual perspective. Details began to emerge, like the birds that were darting from branches. I saw squirrels walking up and down the trunks, like Sunday strollers along quiet avenues.

Besides sequoias, there were Douglas fir trees, the ones that smell like Christmas. And there were trees that were blooming pale green flowers with beaded centers. Perhaps you know what these are? They seemed to float on the branches and from a distance they looked like little lanterns in the shadowed forest.

Max and I walked through the length of an entire fallen tree... from the base of its trunk and through the top. Geoff stood in the space between these two trees. I thought of John Muir and the story of his riding out a Sierra storm in the branches of a Douglas fir. As a girl I loved to sit in trees; I think I might still love it. I'd love to try and see.

The walk in the forest was very nice. The immensity and delicacy of life there was a joy to witness.

No trip, no matter how luxurious or relaxing, no matter how spiritually uplifting, or intellectually stimulating... no trip comes without laundry.

Angels Camp playfully reminded me that we were accumulating a growing stash of dirty clothes. Sigh. There's no way to escape it... life and laundry track you down. At the end of any day, I liked looking at Maria's shirt and recalling the day: Ketchup from lunch, dirt from the gravel in the campsite, jelly from breakfast, little something or others from lying down on the forest floor. She had good days.

We hope to return to Angels Camp, to the Lake, and to see the Jumping Frogs of Calavera's County.
FYI: Chickenblog is going to get some server updates in the next 48 hours, so we may be shut down for a bit... don't know when, or for how long... but when it happens I will be lost and sad... even my email will be affected! Must practice calming breathing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Great Save

At last! Many thanks (all thanks) to Geoff for saving my 2GB of memory on the laptop and getting all of it to transfer to our dear iMac. Now I can relive all the joys of our week of relaxation and fun, new adventures.

On any road trip I love anticipating and discovering bizarre, absurd and novel sights. Sadly, as the country grows more and more uniform, with a Walmart and Dennys every 17 miles down the road, it gets harder to find something truly different. I know it's best to get off the main highways in order to find local color or original specimens. So, when we got off the 99, then travelled the 4 and made our way along the 49 everything got more and more interesting. We found ourselves in the western foothills of the Sierras, gold mining country. Oaks, creeks, rolling hills, ghost towns, wineries, distant snowcapped mountain peaks and expansive blue skies were bountiful. We were truly seeing places we have never seen before, like Angels Camp, Lake New Melones, Mike's Pizza, Murphys, Calabasa's Big Tree State Park and these...

These were in the breakfast place Bill suggested, Rodz Grill. I call it "Bacon and Eggs." I call it weird. I kind of like it. I like it at Rodz, in my memory, where I can reflect on the peculiar things we get to discover when we go to new places.

Bill and Alison, with baby Dominic, met us in Angels Camp, a short drive from a family cabin, so we could follow them to the Lake. I have long heard about "The Lake." Alison's family have been coming to the Lake forever and now it's part of my brother's life too. Now we were going to have our first introduction to water sports. Confession: I was doubtful, concerned, anxious, ignorant and hesitant. Unlike Alison, I am not inclined to be athletic and the thought of combining athleticism with a high speed boat was, frankly, scary. Naturally I extended my fear to my children, but only in my thoughts; I did not want to deprive my boys of an opportunity that they found quite intriguing. All three boys were willing and eager to see what you can do with a fast boat, wake boards, tubes and life vests.

All new ventures should begin with some training, so, some miles from the docks, we found a quiet bay, where Bill and Alison began teaching us the finer points and safety rules of wake boarding. Basically, I was agreeing to let the boys be strapped to a fiberglass board and then towed behind a speeding boat in a very cold and deep lake. I don't know that the depth of the lake matters, excepting it isn't shallow, but a "deep lake" sounds vaguely ominous.

The boots fit snugly and like a wetsuit, it takes some coaxing to get them on. Alison uses Joy.

This is Alison waking up the Lake with her first ride of the season. Water temp? High 50s.... brrrrrrr. She's very good, and the boys were encouraged and excited as ever to give it a try.

Next up was Alex. The board is awkward and difficult to maneuver in the water. It sounds a little harsh to say that Alex and Max were not successful. Technically they did not get a good ride, but they made many attempts, which was challenging in the frigid water, learning to manage the new gear. I was thoroughly impressed, and could not imagine getting in the water, let alone subjecting myself to the added challenge of standing up on a boot bolted board... it looked really tough!

Max was not discouraged, even when Alex climbed aboard sore and shivering. Once they fall, and everyone falls, they are left floating all alone, until the boat comes around to reel them back in. It's not easy looking back and seeing your little boy dropped off in the middle of the deep lake. Okay. So, I was a little anxious, but I was careful not to be a panicky mom. I loved seeing my guys embrace adventure and discovery.

It helps to try new things under the watchful eyes of cautious and caring family, like Bill and Alison. They are experienced and diligent. Once we established that wake boarding was best taken in small doses, Alison proposed "tubing." I've heard Bill talk about tubing, about wild rides, flying through the air, crashing in to a rock hard lake surface. Hmmmm....

Want to ride in a tube Max?

Tubing is awesome! I could have built up some suspense, and told you I was really doubtful, but it would be a waste. I have found my water-sport and it is sitting in an inflated donut and being hauled around a lake at crazy speeds. We all loved tubing. We were screaming, crying, eating, drinking, soaking-up tubing! We crashed and splashed and bumped all over Lake New Melones. William and Alex went first and the looks on their faces were priceless. I could feel their joy.

I could not resist, even though the water was painfully cold and I still had fast=scary fears. It was entirely worth overcoming my fears, because it was so much fun. Excuse me a moment while I abuse the adjective "fun." Going fast is fun. Splashing is fun. Bumping up and down on the wake of the boat is fun. Sliding out, as the boat turns, and feeling like your body is being flung from a rubber band is fun. Swinging back toward center and colliding with the other tube is fun. Fun. Fun. Fun. I had fun.

Normally, I am not a screamer. Tubing forced out a primal scream of exhilaration from the very ends of my toes.

And what's with my legs? Total bounce action. Max advised me, "Don't let your butt sink in to the water, because when we start moving it will feel as hard as a sidewalk." His advice was good. Though tubing is mostly about sitting back and taking a ride, there is some muscle action involved... holding on tight, keeping your booty elevated and your head back. I'm just trying to make it sound like it's an actual athlete's sport. Grin.

My brother likes to make it look totally mellow. He showed us how to take it easy.

Of course, if you take it too easy,

you may not be able to hang on when the ride gets wild!

Even after the tubing, William, Alex and Max were so taken with the lake, they stayed in the water, swimming and reveling in the thrills and spills.

Dominic is casual, relaxed. No worries. No hurries. He's having an awesome life! He spent the day kicking back and taking it all in. He's just waiting for his turn in the tube.

We definitely kept our promise to ourselves: We went someplace new and did things we've never done before. It's great seeing new places, and obviously I liked the day at the Lake. When can we go back? New sights are a treat, but meeting family there made it special. I miss my brothers, their families... family. For the rest of the trip my thoughts and heart wandered and wondered, "How can we be closer? When can we be together again? What's our destiny?" The rolling hills and old oak trees of the western Sierra, the history of fortunes found and lost, the ascending road with twists and vistas, inspire reflection and yearning.

FYI: Chickenblog is going to get some server updates in the next 48 hours, so we may be shut down for a bit... don't know when, or for how long...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For the record: We've been out of town since last week. It was a working vacation, with the added challenge of going some place "new," and relaxing. (insert amused snicker.)

We are back, and we had fun, and Geoff did show up at the *summit,* and we did new things and we were in new places. Relaxing? Hmmm... a bit? Maybe not so relaxing, but that's asking a lot when traveling in an RV with four children. I missed blogging. I missed being able to record impressions, feelings, deep thoughts and other musings, and God help me, I have obviously become too lazy and dense to pick up a pencil and paper! So, now my head is swirling with half baked ideas and snippets and other brilliant reflections that I wanted to record for all time, but the insurmountable task of sorting it all, getting the kids to school, unpacking our conestoga wagon, doing huge loads of vile vacation laundry and trying to retrieve 1,000 photographs from the ailing computer... wait, what was my point... oh yes: I am in over my head.

For now, I will say: We LOVED seeing Dominic, Alison and Bill, and we LOVED being weekend water sports enthusiasts. We tube, therefore we are cool. We loved hiking in Big Trees State Park. Alex and I loved making a quick dash in to Gayle's Bakery, where we made off with the last olallieberry turnover. Mmmmm Gayle's. We loved waking up in the misty Monterey morning. I loved finding new subjects to point my camera at, which is why I ran out of memory... I can't wait for Geoff to figure out how to transfer the files, so I can start playing and sharing.

Okay. I got the kids to school, late, but fed. 2 points for me. Max did a lot of school work on the trip, but he is still tormented by what he missed. -3 points for me. Alex made it in time for the yearbook class photo. 2 points for me. He also suffered anxiety about what he missed and also expressed mild contempt for having to go back to school. -3 points for me. Tomorrow is some huge school Mother's Day extravaganza. 3 points for me, because I have never had the honor of a school/mom extravaganza. The boys are not enthused about the fanfare and orchestrated PDAs. -3 points for me. I had to promise Max that he would only have to move his lips during the singing part, and I would whisk him away when the time came for him to leave the stage, find me and dance with me in front of the entire school. We are shy people.

I have not forgotten my contest plans, and I see I have new messages from willing participants (?) I need to decide on a prize. Something decadent, yet classy, but not too classy, just sort of worthy of your interest and kind of whimsical, because I like whimsy. OKay, so get ready... this is going to be good.

I added a new link in my sidebar: Cream Puffs in Venice is Yummy. Seriously, even if I can't eat, or cook, like this, at least I can savor the images and words. So, if you think food and cooking can be art, poetry, and love, then buon appetito!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Technically speaking, we are home. We stink real bad and our heads are still rattling from the all day drive.
Good night...