Saturday, May 01, 2010

Friday, Just In Time

Friday really did come just in time... I needed family time, and a slow dinner, laughter, and breathing room between me and a schedule.

Time to do any random thing that came in to our heads. Evening sunlight time.

Maria was puzzled about all that sunlight during dinner: "Why are we having dinner, if it's still morning?"

Some day we are going to make something with those bamboo poles, but until then, Max and Alex find no end of amusing activities to try out.

After dinner, and the Bamboo Olympics, we went on an evening walk and bike ride. Geoff, Max, and Maria rode. Alex, William, and I walked. And talked. Ideas and plans, observations... all the good stuff came out. We even made it to Maria's Park

Before dinner, and follow the leader at Maria's Park, we were already having fun...

Can you see something is up her sleeve?
Maria what's got you grinning?

Maria, what makes you wiggle?
And Giggle?

And out comes Pepper.

Hello Pepper.

Yes, Friday came just in time. Nothing was on the schedule. We had no place to get to, no deadline to meet. I grilled, and we ate more corn on the cob. Geoff could get home before dark. And it's not as though any of our worries or concerns were gone, but we granted ourselves a long overdue respite.

And now, Saturday morning, the day already looks fuller than a month's worth of Saturdays, but I am oh-so much better prepared.

Bring it on!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Re-Link Manually = feh

Nikkipolani knew what she was talking about when she said, "So I hope there's a better way to migrate your internal links than to relink manually."


Geoff is still hoping to hear from Google... to hear that they will make my internal links archive and show up. Plan B is for him to write a program that will do it for us. I cannot even begin to comprehend how one begins to believe it is even possible to write a program that instructs the server of a blog to please correct all internal links from old posts and make them appear when one *clicks* on the link. Can you believe that this sort of thing is possible? Could you do it?

I cannot do it, which is why I have been doing a caveman version of making things all better. I have been manually adding two little codes to every single post where I ever made a connection between two posts... and you know what? It is impossible!!!! And it makes non-tech geeks, like myself, ashamed and frustrated, cranky, bitter, hungry, guilty, hungrier, mad, and eventually really sad, because I want to be capable and clever, and fit, and organized.

And I even want my hair to flip and shine, like it does right after the salon lady has messed with it.

But life is unfair.

That's right. I am here to dispel any illusions about my true nature. I am not a perky flip-do kind of gal.

Life is unfair.

I want pop-corn, a movie, and a steak dinner. And I want my internal links to work. And I want all of the boxes in this house to unpack themselves right this friggin minute.

I want raised beds that keep out gophers. I want a real chicken coop, chicks, and strong biceps. I want to scan all the photographs we have in boxes, then I want to make DVD slide shows that demonstrate the joy and depths of my love for each of my four children. I want to pay bills on time. I want to host four different parties in the next two months. I want to play with the old Fisher Price barn, and hear the cow moo when the door opens.

I am looking for a reference to a good acupuncturist in our area.

I am looking for peace of mind.
Or a piece of mind... I may have lost some along the way.

Is anything more embarrassing than listing fears and hopes, complaining out loud about what makes me sad-mad-sad? Philosophies and affirmations, faith and humor... I plod along, some days more successfully than others. I am glad for this moment, when I can see how frustrated I am, and how I am ok...

I do not like starting over, but I am glad I can.
I do not like unpacking, but hey, here we are, and I am glad I can.
I do not know if I will ever get those links straight, but knowing Geoff... they will get straight!

What am I doing inside?
The sky is blue.
Birds are doing what birds do.
I am going out there, to kick some dirt, and give thanks.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Benjamin Franklin McDreamy Thunder Cat

Personally, I do not understand how he achieves this pious-puss expression.  Our Mr Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat.  He is a handsome boy.  He is a stinker too.  Beware his scratchy impulses, his sudden change in temperament.

Do your pets have nicknames?  Our cats do.  Benji's belly has magnetic powers of attraction, that lead me, face first, in to his fur, where I murmur "Woojie-woojie Fur Baby."  He just loves that.  Not.  He also ignores me when I call him "Fur Monster,"" Beasty Benji," "Rat Slayer," and "Muffin-wuffin of Love."

Maria got a new pair of pants yesterday.  She's grown a lot since last summer.  Besides enjoying making her clothes, it also spares us from buying tr@mp pants... he-he-he... yeah, that's a judgmental poke at the garment industry for filling the clothes racks with slutt-y little low rise pants that say "princess" on the posterior.  Give me a break.

Even Benjamin objects to the objectification of children, so he likes to supervise when I am making patterns and cutting pieces.  He likes this green floral print.  He approves of the contrasting pocket with the fresh cherry print.   "Make two pockets," he purrs.  He knows she will collect flowers, rocks, and other treasures.

In her new pants, Maria can run around the yard, dig in the sand, and come down the slide... easily and comfortably.  And she can dance the Paradox Dance, and scoop up her hen, Betty.  She can even get her arms around Benjamin, at the end of day, and bring him in for the night. He can't get scratchy when Maria has her arms firmly wrapped under his arms, his legs dragging between her feet... he must submit.

The sun is shining.
Life is good.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Between April Showers

It's raining. I've lost count of how many rainy days we have been blessed with, but I know I have loved every single one. Yeah, I am one of those people that likes a rainy day as much as a sunny one. We need the rain. It smells good. Rain inspires me. In fact my only regret about the rain is that I did not buy those polka dot rain boots I saw in Las Vegas.

And another thing, it would be extremely pathetic for a So Cal gal to complain about weather. Today it is raining, not too cold, and very likely tomorrow will be clear and warm. The weather rarely makes for big news, or altered plans, which is why we have been having fun... in the rain, in the sun, all kinds of any-weather-fun.

That's the weather report. Now for the whether report: The question is whether or not it is corn season?
Maria asks whenever she sees a pile of corn at the supermarket. California has long growing seasons, generous climates, and an uncanny ability to produce out of season produce. But I refuse to buy watermelon in January, and corn before summer is highly suspect too.

I know. It's not summer. Not yet. But the corn, it looked so appealing. Neither Maria, nor I, could resist.
Get it? Ap-pealing. I know. We are husking, but I don't think ahhusking is a real word.

Corny, right?
I'm done.

Last night we ate roasted chicken, grilled onions, beans, avocado, cilantro, salsa, corn tortillas, red cabbage, and corn on the cob. Every bit was delicious.

Last Sunday we made a potluck picnic.

It wasn't raining that day, but Priscilla and I agreed that we were looking at a June sky. May Gray and June Gloom are the local weather expressions. If you ever consider enjoying a summer vacation in So Cal, then book after June. Even October has more summer than June.

No one was complaining. Not Maria. Not Emma. They played and played and played.

My cousin is a teacher. I have deep, deep respect for teachers. Next time she comes I want to take Emma and Maria in to the yard and let them play, so Priscilla can enjoy her lunch from start to finish without a single interruption, then I will offer her nap time, a glass of wine, and the comfiest spot on the sofa where she can read or control the remote. Any mom deserves a break, and some indulgences, but teacher-moms are doubly worthy.

I will benefit too. Maria and Emma can be my personal trainers, running me around the yard, whipping me in to shape.

Emma. Oh my goodness. Such a cutie.

I was going to post a picture of my recent haircut. I went to an actual salon, in my usual biennial fashion. She gave me a flip-do. She used mousse. I took a picture, because I knew it would last only until the first shower. But no way can I subject anyone to my "cute flip-do" after the genuine cuteness of Miss Emma, and the sweet promise of summer corn. Those acts are too tough to follow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fresh and Springy

It's hard to type and cry at the same time.
Would you look at what my sister-in-law created for the CB header?

Holly. Holly, you talented, generous sweetheart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I was about to post the old header for a comparison, and now I realize I may have dorked big time. Big time, compared with my usual dork factors. I think I made the old header *poof* in to the cybervortex of all gone. Crud.

Last year I was enjoying some moments of embroidery inspiration, and I think it is so funny that I actually wrote about the little stitched hen, "It needs somewhere to go... " and now it definitely has a home. I think the actual hen-in-a-heart sampler is still packed somewhere. Using her sweet skills and magic, Holly took elements from my flossed design and turned it in to a new header for Chickenblog... but she did not stop there...

She also took a baby Betty photograph and made me a third header. Now I can go with seasons and moods. I feel so sophisticated, like I have a big girl blog. In color. With features and lights.

I hope I can recover the Luna Hen Header, and there was even a header before that... did I lose that one too? It was purple and had flowers. I loved it. Double crud.

Has it really been two years, since little Lady Betty Orpington came home with us? The proof is in the post, I guess. Betty is almost two years old. And Chciekneblog is almost eight years old, and I still mistype c-h-i-c-k-e-n every time.

Ooh. I am so buzzy with inspiration. There are about five flavors of parties I would like to have, and I can easily imagine having a blogiversary give-away. I want to embroider some more, and finish quilts. I have these ideas about science gatherings, potlucks, movie nights, building garden beds, making a real hen house, and road trips along the coast.

And of course chicks. I got chicks on the brain! I realize this probably should wait, but I cannot deny it: I have chicky fever! It's no good pretending Betty needs company, because she would most likely abuse any cute-fluffy intruders. It's no good pretending to be naive and innocent, bringing chicks home in a lunch sack, like I did the first time. I know better. And Geoff would smell that lie a mile away. Ugh: Feh for *responsibility.*


One thing at a time, I suppose. If I get more corners of the Bird House de-cluttered, I think Geoff will feel inclined to indulge me on some of my whims and flights of fancy.

Is it spring? I feel so light.

Monday, April 26, 2010

FIRST Night at Georgia Aquarium

Back when we were having planning meetings about how to get a high school robotics club to Atlanta, Georgia... back when we were totally blown away by the magnitude of the team's success and the honor of being invited to compete in the FIRST Championships... back then, it was not easy to appreciate adding an aquarium visit to the itinerary. And that is why it is so wonderful, so critical, to have a large and supportive membership, because it increases the likeliness that someone will see what's needed, when life gets complicated.

Raising funds, organizing, believing... we were definitely in a complicated phase of this year's robotic journey. And thanks to sponsors and supporters, to the regular volunteers and the new, fresh volunteers, we did manage to get to the competition, to sleep in comfy beds, eat regularly, and stay safe. Amazing. But the really cool thing is that Dennis, one of those fresh-new volunteers, loves aquariums. He ignored the naysayers, encouraged the doubtful, and redoubled our faith in spreadsheets and carpool organization, and he bought enough tickets for everyone to go to FIRST Night at the Georgia Aquarium.

Dear Dennis,
Thank you for knowing what we needed, and getting all those tickets. Thank you for seeing that the beauty of nature, of water, and cool, quiet spaces, would be the perfect antidote for long, hot, competitive, high energy days. We were restored and filled with wonder. Being in the Georgia Aquarium was amazing enough, but after hours and with our robo peers, those bright and enthusiastic students and families, was truly an exceptional opportunity... one I will never forget.

1. First of all, you must remember that we were in jet-lag mode. Everything was happening three hours earlier than our customary time. So when the day of walking, scouting, cheering, dancing, walking building, and walking, began at seven in the morning, for us it was 4 AM.

2. Remember too: It is wonderful, and critical, to have a large and supportive membership, because it increases the likeliness that someone will see what's needed, when life gets complicated. Former president, now mentor Matt, made Isaac's message and louder, so all could hear. It's hard to be heard in the Georgia Dome. And a special mention of 2102 Team Paradox's present president: Isaac broke his collarbone during spring break, and postponed his surgery until after Atlanta. He never complained, and he demonstrated as much clarity and enthusiasm as ever. We are so fortunate to have these two...

I just wanted to give you a picture of the particular challenges and obstacles between us and a visit to an aquarium. Envision about fifty tired, revved-up, hungry, new to town Paradoxan... were we in for a treat...

Welcome to the Georgia Aquarium. It's FIRST night, an after hours party for about three thousand FIRST attendees.

Coming from the California coast, I have to say I was surprised to learn that we were visiting the world's largest aquarium. Atlanta is pretty far inland, so whale sharks and jelly fish were not anything I was expecting to see on this trip.

I think everyone was impressed.
And delighted.
It was such a big contrast from all we left behind back in the pits and arena.
We decompressed.
We touched stingray, manta rays, and horseshoe crabs.
We watched shrimp.


Mmmmm... shrimp.

It was so cool.
An aquarium, or a classroom for that matter, full of intelligent and curious students gives the atmosphere amazing energy. It magnifies the value and interest of the experience. It was amazing in there.

I have two anecdotes. Little stories that I never want to forget.

Maria and Geoff were together, when Maria decided to climb in the playset. One of those toddler habitrails, like they make for hamsters and mice. Slowly she made her way to the top, and we could hear her "hellos" from every new level she conquered.

Suddenly, from somewhere inside the maze, she starts screaming. It's the cry. The one that is not phony or tired or needy. It's the rattlesnakes in my breakfast cereal cry, and she had everyone's attention.

See the vertical blue tube? That was the first access to the top, that I found. I dropped my bag and shot up it as fast as possible. Inside it is layer after layer of offset shelves, made especially for wriggly three foot tall munchkins. Then there are narrow bubbles, and twisty-turny places with bumps... I faced one obstacle after another, and all the while Maria was in absolute panic mode. So, you know, my heart was just at the back of my throat.

I reached her at the cargo net tube, where she had her panic attack. The net dropped under weight and all the holes gave her a clear view to the floor below. It was a sensory nightmare for her. We spent a good while calming down, and letting her regain her confidence about getting out of there.

So. This is kind of usual parenting stuff. Been there. Done that. I was glad I did not have to be manually extracted from the tube. I was glad Maria was all in one piece.

But then something very nice happened.
I wish that every mom and dad, doing their job, gets witnessed and praised, at least once, in the line of duty, by a woman like Veronica.

As I wriggled my way out of the tube, Veronica came up to greet me. And she said that she had witnessed this scenario plenty of times... crying kid, stuck in the habitrail, but that she had never seen a faster rescue than the one I had just conducted. She was very excited, and she was searching for the right description of my sweet moves *ahem*... and then she hit on it, "You were like one of those bottles they send up a mailing tube. I saw you drop your bag, and then vooooosh! You were gone!"

Oh, look. She was ready with a fist bump. I think I was still a bit too adrenalized to notice much. Look at Maria. Obviously she had a complete recovery.

Oh man. I don't often get noticed for my rescue skills, for my mail tube abilities, so this was a highlight, a golden moment for me. Thank you Veronica. I cannot say I am athletic or graceful, but you gave me a glimpse of myself as a swift and mighty mother, and it felt good.

So after my race to the top, and respectfully watching all the swimming ceviche shrimp, I was feeling an appetite.

I know.
Fish = Dinner = Rude.


But I thought Matt had a great idea: Skip the long line at the burger counter, and go for ambience and taste at Legal Sea Foods. A bunch of us agreed, we could relax, dine, chat, and come back to the aquarium with our hearts and stomachs content and emotionally aligned. So we we skipped over to the Boston institution in Atlanta, and was it ever worthwhile. They were totally cool about painted faces and red pants, and we filled both bars with hungry Paradoxan. I think Maria enjoyed the best service of all, as she made fast friends with the three sweet women behind the bar. They treated her very well. Very.

We returned to the aquarium even more relaxed and definitely satisfied.

Down in front are Maria and her good friend Erika. The size of this tank was as amazing as what was in it.

I recognize Maria and Erika sitting in front, and Steve and Dennis standing to their right. After this many hours, days, and nights working and playing together, I find our circle of friends growing and growing. It's a blessing.

I love that under the sea is a world that is mysterious, strange, and sometimes utterly unbelievable.

I love that these remind me of Hawaii.

Alex said to me, "This really is a once in a lifetime experience, isn't it?"
He was right. Being in the aquarium after hours, when everyone behaved so nicely, the rules were a bit lax, and we could enjoy the unique opportunity in unique ways...

Naturally riding the moving walkway through the aquarium was fun and mesmerizing...

and awe inspiring.

Tube aquariums are amazing.

Aren't they amazing, Dennis?
I love how happy this night made Dennis.
He loves aquariums...

Standing through a tube is good, but if you can ever get away with this... with sitting down, totally kicking back, then go for it! Seriously. Never turn down an opportunity to look up and all around while riding through a fish tube.

It was dreamy.
When I took my ride, I could hear the fuddies saying "hmph," but I did not care. And by the time I came back to take pictures of the cool people, even some of the fuddies had given in. Good for you, I say!

Once in a life time?
Maybe, but I hope not.

Thank you Dennis.
Thank you FIRST.
Thank you Georgia Aquarium.

Dennis and I were thinking of all the ways to ensure the team earns another visit to Atlanta, just so our families could swim in this tank, and have a sleepover...

Is there an aquarium in St Louis?!