Saturday, February 20, 2010

Me, Like A Chickadee

How, like a chickadee?
I cannot seem to stop chattering. Maybe not out loud, but certainly on this blog. And sometimes, like a small bird, I flit from branch to branch, or from subject to subject.

I never have been sure how to categorize Chickenblog. "Random" comes to mind.

A Whatbird.
Ever seen one before?
This bird, and several shyer ones, was sitting on the top of our apricot tree. And it sounded... don't worry, I am not about to give you my audio bird call interpretation... it sounded like a chickadee. When the sky was blue, it did not look as yellow.

And when the clouds filled in, the yellow was more pronounced. Does anyone recognize our little Whatbird?

Last night it rained. It rained more than I had expected it to, which is not necessarily significant information meteorologically speaking... it's just me, chattering away. Yvette you were right about the mud at South Side Mountain, which is why I am glad I left most of the weeds alone. The weeds do a lot of good, I say.

Have you ever had a season when you were sick so frequently that you felt embarrassed? I believe I wash my hands frequently, and I have been taking vitamins. I own and use a neti pot (this might sound like a bad testimonial) and I think happy thoughts. I kind of squirm uncomfortably when I have to admit that, yes, I am sick, again. Recently I missed a very important celebration. Maria was croupy, and I was "under the weather." I thought I made a full recovery and certainly had no clue that I was headed for worse. But. Here I am. I blame Dr. Drillhappy Martin. In 2002 he found his way through my tooth, through my jaw, and into my sinus cavity. I am not sure he was going to stop, but lucky for me Alex walked in to the room and demanded to know, "Why is my mom's mouth filling with blood? Nothing sinusly has been the same since. *shakes angry fist of indignation*

Did I have point?
Maybe the picture is an extreme macro-shot of my sinus cavity?

No. Self-sinus-photography is not one of my skills.
This is Geoff's. He is the Robotics programming mentor.
I was going to make this control panel and write programs to operate the robot, but then I got this sinus thing, so I let him take over.
I would explain it all. Describe the function of that metal box with the thingy sticking out, and why when it is on it sounds like a breadmaker, but... Top Secret.

Yeah, it's pretty much classified. Technical and classified, so sorry. Please step away.

This is slightly less technical, but equally as elaborate as Geoff's programming driver station. It is one of my baking drawers, and it is decadently loaded with measuring cups and teaspoons. The wealth of this drawer makes me lightheaded and bakingly gratified. There is abundance. Disorder, only to the untrained eye. I see clean supplies, ready to go to work. I even have a tool for making raspados and two maple leaf cookie cutters... two? I do love Canada, and autumn.

Want the dish on my kitchen?
I love thrift shopping.

I love aprons.
I love table cloths, dish towels, and bowls.
I really love bowls.

I love these teeny tiny glasses... Holly, Rich, and Ruth came with a bottle of limoncello for Geoff's birthday. We enjoyed the powerful sips from larger cups, but a few weeks ago I saw these pretty five for two dollar glasses and I instantly knew what they would work for... limoncello anyone?

The cow and kitty creamers look like they are straining to get a sip. It is such a blessing to be easily amused.

Not amused.
Time's up. Kitty says so.
Enough random chattering from this Chickadee.
I am going to drink hot tea and go to bed, or the sofa, or maybe to the South Side, and nap with Betty.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Own Mountain

The giddy bliss of living here still finds new ways to make me deeply happy.

The south side of the house is fenced around and was once a dog run. When we moved in it was the bare, dry, sun-scorched zone that I mostly avoided, except to contemplate its ultimate purpose. Well, since all the great rain we've had, the area greened up, with weeds, and it is easier on the eyes, sheltered and appealing. I figured it might be a better place to house the *farm* until the lottery coughs-up barn money, so that is where I moved Betty and Joe... the south side.

What a great decision. Rather spontaneously I tore down the messed up shelter, then dragged coop and hutch across the lawn and around the corner of the house to their new zone. I can fence in Betty, while still giving her free-range space. Now the kitchen entry does not have to be a -ahem- POOP DECK. That is progress.

I think I can muster about 42% more interest in decorating and arranging my exterior farm, than for "normal" decorating. I hung some art, and dusted. Worked on the color scheme. Pulled weeds. Watered weeds. Accessorized weeds. My dear potting table of eleventy years was put in to service again. And as we sat back to soak in the loveliness, it occurred to me that by summer the green weeds will be toasted duff, and the loveliness will have lost most of its power over our hearts. It will be too bright, too hot, too dry to be a farmy nook for our livestock.

And so I brought home trees. More trees, and a planting box and trellis. Setback from the house, but not on the fence, in line with the west heading sun, I planted a Genoa White fig and a blood orange. The fig is a new variety to me, but blood oranges are a longtime sentimental and flavorful favorite. The fig is hilarious. It's a ten foot pole. It looks like the world's worst horticultural choice ever. It is a stick in the mud. Cracks me up.

The last feature of the south side is the mountain. In fact I think this whole thing merits caps. South Side Mountain was built by all the trenching, ditching, hole digging, earth moving labors of the Fall, when we were getting control of drainage and repairing sprinklers. I love saying "we." There is more digging in our future... and Geoff was going to have all of the dirt hauled away at once. But now that we have claimed South Side Mountain for ourselves, it shall remain right where it is. It will be a pumpkin mound, or seeded for wild flowers, or we will sink a fire pit and call it our own South Side Volcano.

In the meantime it is a quarry-castle-hole digging place. This makes me happy. I love dirt, and earth, the coolness and the warmth, the wealth of opportunity. Joe, the rabbit, was digging in the soil, then throwing himself in to the the loose dirt. Betty was having a record breaking dust bath. She looked euphoric in her rapture. I have waited seven years to witness and enjoy this liberty and earthly delight.

Max and Maria played for hours. I fell asleep beside Betty. Alex took a homework break and admitted he was not too old to want to join the dig. William too recognized the attraction of dirt play. I fondly recall his tunnels to China. I was afraid Max and Maria would not have this experience... freedom and ownership, time lost to being in the dirt, making stories and games, escaping to imagination. We have played, of course, at the beach and in other gardens. But the tunnel they made is still in their garden, not washed away by the tide, or collapsed by a careless landlord. No one will object to what they make, what they explore, what they tear down. It is their own.

I do not tell them that this is "special." I am not teaching them to see it in a particular way. I like them to make of it what they will, and my pleasure is in being a witness, being beside them, planting seeds.

There are many pleasures in life, many things to desire, and places to see, but this... being in our garden, listening to their plans and watching their play... this is one of my greatest pleasures.

New seeds, likes wishes and dreams in a packet.
There is so much goodness already sprouting and taking hold. I am deeply happy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something in the Air...

Mom: sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
Maria: Mmmhuh?
Mom: Something is a bit stinky.
Maria: I don't smell inthing.
Mom: I think it's your feet. (leaning in) sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
They smell like Easter.
Maria: Then that means they smell wonderful!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Look at me still talking when there's science to do

Look at me still talking when there's science to do. I am not going to annotate this, because maybe one of you will know where it comes from. No fair Googling.

Alex and Max do wear many hats.

Today is Maria's one hundredth day of school, which in kindergarten culture means a bit of a party, lots of counting and even stickers. In my own mind it means that the days are passing much too quickly. I am glad I was (finally) free to help in her classroom. We guided the children counting ten different snacks, so that they each wound up with a baggie of one hundred treats.

10 craisins
10 seaweed puffs
10 cheddar crisps
10 banana chips
10 edamame crisps
10 Joe's O's.... you get the idea.

Saturday Karen and I shared Robotics lunch duty. We grilled hot dogs and burgers. I should say Tom helped too, because he was actually the one at the grill. Even though we were feeding about 30 people outside the metal shop, in a parking lot, Maria thought it was awesome. I thought it was awesome too. The team is working hard to finish the robot, with only about six days to complete it and program it. I bought this year's team shirt, so we can look super cool when we are in the heat of battle at regionals. Anyway, it's been robo-crazy, much like last year, and it feels good to bring sustenance to students and mentors who have been working eight, ten, fourteen hour shifts... they need the fuel.

After Robotic's lunch Max spent the rest of the afternoon and night with his best friend. They were celebrating Max O's birthday with a movie and pizza. It was a treat seeing Max glowing with post-party satisfaction, and getting the low-down on the good time he had.

(It is a Parrot-Ox... get it?)
I should scan Maria's Parrot-Ox drawing... she is officially the youngest contributing team member.

Hey, Geoff came home yesterday and the sun was still shining. Sure, he had to go mentor, but we are recognizing and appreciating an easing up of the crunch-mode at his day job. (Shouldn't that be his day-night job?)

William has been posting images on FB, which I think is bold of him. He has amazing graphics skills and comprehension, but he doesn't readily share what he can do. I should get him to write a post for Chickenblog and have him explain the fun he is having working with Mudbox.

Betty is happy. Joe too. I finished the job started by the storms and tore down the shantytown, we called a barn. I moved the rabbit and chicken to the side of our house and I think if I plant a shade tree there, they can survive another season or two without actual structural improvements. Small steps. I get a bit discouraged, because starting over is frustrating, but things are coming along.

But there's no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
And the Science gets done.

The Ratty-Rats are super. Best pets, those rats. We had Cheddar, Maria's class rat, over and we had a blast hanging out with the three of them. They are so sweet and easy going.

Is that it? I was trying to remember if I left anyone out. Geoff talks about us having a dog. A dog. I love other people's dogs. I really do. I even keep a box of dog biscuits for other people's dogs. I am in the middle of a long and subtle campaign, subliminally convincing Geoff that a vegetarian dog might be they way to go. They can do almost all the same tricks, they are affectionate and loyal, but there's no need to scoop up after them, which is huge in my book. It's not an immediate plan. No urgency. I just think it should be seriously considered as a viable option.

Ah, but look at me still talking when there's science to do... and cake. Did I promise someone a cake?

Monday, February 15, 2010


There is something very mixed up about love... about how I show it. I tend to play it one of two ways. Either I express myself liberally, with emotional abandon, or I stay quiet and still. And sometimes when expression and emotion are most deserved, most true, I am most restrained. Very polar opposite. Very much confounds me.

And sometimes these two poles do what magnets cannot. They come together. My quiet, private love wants to come out in to the open and declare itself, which is how I wind up with obtuse posts, like this :: Personal, yet public. Emotional, yet restrained. Undeclared, and composed.

My heart is heavy for friends, and for family. This has been a difficult week. Those loved ones that I hold dear, may be far away, but the sadness I feel is close, heavy, and tangible.

When Maria was a baby her great-grandmother Marjorie sent her Emily, a doll she knit herself, a doll that has become one of Maria's favored babies. Emily arrived with a soft pink smile and charming details, like bows, and ruffled sleeves. It is the kind of doll that maybe should have been put on a shelf, protected against use. But Maria took such an immediate liking to her that we let her love her baby doll. She has loved Emily liberally, with hugs and proximity.

The love shows. Emily's dress has a small stain, so do her pantalettes. The yarn in her black hair got a small snag, and she is covered in little bits of yarn fuzz... what are those called... the little balled up dust threads that cling to sweaters? Then came the tragic day when Emily's smile came undone. Maria cried. She really cried. She was devastated, even a bit horrified.

You would think I would have done anything in the world to fix it. Fix it right away. But I didn't. I meant to. I meant to find a matching thread and a very wide eyed needle. I meant to take away Maria's disappointment and mend the loose threads, but I kept putting it off with all the usual excuses... packing, cleaning, errands, moving, moving, moving, unpacking, holidays, other plans and other projects. It isn't that I do not love Emily, and Maria, and Marjorie, and handmade gifts. I love them. I thought about Emily all the time, and I felt pangs of regret every time I put off making her all better. I loved quiet and still, when I should have loved liberally, aloud and declared. With words and actions. Delivered. Mended.

I am sad. I am disappointed in myself.
It's not just about the doll, obviously.
She was so easy to fix. And yesterday, when I stumbled upon my small crochet hooks, I did not realize that they would be exactly what I need to get the job done. And today it seems so poignant.

I pulled the embroidery floss through, making a new smile with the same thread that Marjorie used when she knit Emily. She made Emily. It never ceases to amaze me that she could make yarn in to such a sweet gift, a gift which I know is reflection of her love, her thoughtfulness, her way of living. Maria watched me and was very pleased to see Emily's smile returning. She held my arm as I tugged the threads through and finished, and Maria, said, "Won't she be glad that Emily is all better?"

I am not at a loss for words, but I struggle to put them in order, make them match my thoughts and emotions. I am sorry that Marjorie is gone. I am sorry I never returned to Ontario, to be in her company, to enjoy the beauty of the place she called home.

I am profoundly grateful that I knew Marjorie, that she kindly shared her home with me. I am grateful she raised three sons, that she painted and knit. I am grateful for the kindness she exuded, her quiet grace. I am grateful for the way her love and loving example reached her children, her grandchildren, her daughters-in-law.
I think of strength and gentleness, I think of inner peace and confidence, when I think of her. I think of the shore of the Lake where she lived and feel respect for her choices, for her wisdom.

Because of the son she raised, I have known the loving care of a father. When I reflect on this realization, I am deeply moved. I am sad. She made a good life, and I would like to think I could still sit beside her, that her family could enjoy her company. I am encouraged too, because a good life is admirable, perhaps rare, and I had the great honor of being a witness to her very good life.
Thank you Marjorie, your life has been a blessing to me.