Saturday, January 28, 2012

Culture Day Save

I realize: sometimes I really am a mommy blogger. And Chickenblog is my compulsive collection of scrapbook memories, highlights of my children's journeys. And. It's kind of cool. I mean really cool. Because if there is one thing I've learned about these journeys it's that they move very, very fast, and good stuff and key moments can get buried and lost, so it's good to have some notes and pictures to look back on, so you can say, We did that. You went there. She said this. Yeah. This is good.

Maria made a culture box, for a school theme about culture, heritage, and emigration. I love how much initiative she will take for these kind of projects. She gathers her supplies, and dives right in to create her vision.

And may I congratulate myself? I confess: I had ideas, suggestions, tips, obsessive compulsive controlling impulses, and I kept them all to myself. Thank you very much. (Please, nod approvingly, thank you.)

Inside her box she collected things she could share from places she's been, from places her ancestors traveled, from her own local culture, too. Let's see...

Her wool bracelet, that she made at the Atwood Street Festival, in Wisconsin...

Postcards from Spain and Holland...

My own tiny kitchen toys from México, and clay beads...

The chicken toy Aunt Becky brought us from Guadalajara...

The woven hat, handmade, from El Valle....

And the paper craft surfer's car, a woody, from Ruby's Diner...

Alright, so there was a parenting lapse on my part. No biggie. I just completely spaced on the Culture Day Class Party. The end of the semester for Max, and Alex, all the projects, and late nights, was intense... by Friday there were still things to wrap up, support, and I was more than ready for school to give us all a break! Mentally crossing off my accomplishments, and trying to breath, I pulled into Maria's school, when she said, "Mommy, today is culture day, and I need to dress in something from Mexico and bring food to share." As in, right now.

¡Aye, Mamá!

Never give up! Never surrender!

(Walk Maria to class. Confirm with teacher. Party starts at ten. Go back home. Collect Alex's paintings, which were too many to bring earlier, never mind. Get Max. Take Max to school. Take paintings to Alex. Go back home. Meet service person to work on that thing that was broken. Leave to my culture day salvation and buy guacamole and chips. Go to Maria's school with my proud contribution. Two hours. Done!)

So, yes, in my Other Mother Blog I would probably go into great detail about my very obviously store bought contribution sitting on the table next to amazing, amazing! homemade tamales, pupusas, chilaquiles, gnocchi, jamón de España, even Belgian chocolates! Each of the three first grade classes had tables overflowing with foods from Japan, Korea, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belgium... and more. And the children's desks had all of their adorable and fascinating culture boxes, each unique and dear.

Speaking of dear... oh, dear, I am in love with pupusas, and curtido, the light and crispy slaw you see on top of what looks like a corn tortilla. The corn torilla-like dish is the pupusa and it is from El Salvador. It is filled with something delicious. I love Rosie, Charlotte's mother, the wonderful woman who made these savory delicacies. It is something like a tamale, but lighter, and the lightly dressed cabbage salad gives the whole dish a refreshing finish.

Gee. I sure do love Culture Day!

Maria and I walked from desk to desk admiring all the different boxes her classmates made. Maria's favorite: Emma's box with the African beads for wearing in your hair, and the collection of shells, too. We were not allowed to touch people's treasures, but Emma gave Maria permission to touch the beaded medallion... I loved the look of reverence on Maria's face as she explained how special Emma's things were.

There were about forty-two more stop and go errands to make before the day was through, and at times I wasn't sure how it would all get done, but this was an hour I was very thankful to have shared with Maria.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Other Mother Blog

Since about six-thirty this morning, I have been thinking about my other blog. This theoretical blog is where I could really let it all hang out. I am talking about colorfuller language, rants, snarkiness, trollitudes, whiney-b!tchy-hormonal wisdom, and butter recipes.

You see, believe it or not, I am on a quest to be a respectable, gracious, magazine-cover worthy persona. I want to create an ambiance of grace and respectability, with light humor, tasteful decor, some frank moments, but mostly serenity and ennobling sentiment. But this is an upward battle, and anyone familiar with my history, with the deeper recesses of these 2,000 + posts, knows I have had frequent occasion to miss the mark, considerably. Oh, and the magazine-cover worthy persona is figurative. I just want to be shiny and good.

But I get so cranky!

And now. Now I gotta get my butt to the market to buy chips and guacamole. Yeah. Mexican food, because in the school parking lot, as the bell is ringing, Maria said, "Mommy, today is culture day, and I need to dress in something from Mexico and bring food to share." She's wearing her WORT Radio shirt, with a Do The Funky Chicken illustration by Lynda Barry... if that ain't "culture..."

My bad. I should have known about this. I believe there are school newsletters, or something. My other blog might be called Thirty-One Flavors of Failure, and in it I would write about bringing chips and guacamole for the kids, and a six pack of Corona for the teacher, as a token of my remorse for being so flaky, but I wouldn't mention that here, because I am pretty sure that would dull the shiny goodness.

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love Maria

Her little hands, and her big heart, always in motion.

She's moved into book four of the five first grade reading books.
Her front tooth, on top, is loose.
She, rather solemnly, asked me to assure her that she will be able to join Team Paradox, and not any other robotics team.
She likes to run laps, do yoga, and try karate.
She is sewing Valentine hearts as gifts... so far, for Izzy, for me, for Geoff, and for Janice.
She wants to stay home from school to help me decorate for Groundhog Day.
Last night, while I showered, she made our bed... bedsheets to quilt, pillows fluffed and everything.
She loves Tasha Tudor, Nikola Tesla, and Temple Grandin.
She teaches me how to play Little Big Planet 2.
She learned how to swim last summer.
She doesn't like sandwiches, having her hair brushed, some Picasso paintings, or itchy tights.
She gets horrible cramps in her legs and feet. They wake her in the night and leave her crying for an hour or more.
She wants to run the most laps in her school's jog-a-thon, so she can have lunch with her principal.
She asks God to keep us all together after we die, and assures me that she will always keep me in her heart, no matter what.
She tells us her feet stink. And she's right.
She says Missconsin for Wisconsin, and curlerpurler for caterpillar.
She makes love notes, and declarations of her affection for us, frequently, everyday.
She is a farmer, cook, scientist, dancer, runner, gardener, photographer, and girl. She is a joy.

One more thing: Thank you.

I wrote this post last night, before story time with Maria. On the way upstairs I grabbed a stack of new mail, and made a wonderful discovery: real letters and cards, all for Maria. I wish you could have seen the look on her face. She was amazed and delighted, she got wiggly and giggly. She held them to her frame like they were... well, like they were love notes.

They were. Love notes. One from her Grandma and Grandpa in Oregon, overflowing with support and encouragement, and all the sweet sentiments that make Maria sigh and melt. One was from her best friend, Amira... a loving reminder that no matter what else is happening she will always have her Anagram Sister to lift her spirits. And there was one more, from her Tutu, who got directly to the matter, and added a special, little gift to ease Maria's worries.

Thank you. These love notes were read multiple times, and made the best bedtime stories possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This Post Needs A Title Love and Stitches

Another fat quarter... ironed, squared, hemmed, blanket stitched, and trimmed with crochet. And I love it. I am smitten. I like how fun it is to choose a print, and to play with the stitches, and I like that I can start it and play with it in minutes throughout the day, and complete it without breaking a sweat. This one I, bravely, released into the world, as a hostess gift. I say "bravely," because I may have a minor (read: totally obsessive) fabric attachment.

Do you find yourself thinking about the person you are making a gift for? I do. It's a kind of tender intimacy I feel whenever I am creating something for a particular person, because my mind sort of meditates on how I feel about them, and my wishes for them, what a great person they are...

(off topic, but how does one grammatically make the "they" and the "are" and the "them" and the "is" jibe? Because I suspect I am messing with my plural/singular/English/proper language skills. *Embarrassed.*)

My point is: handmade gifts get a lot of love put into them. I like to think about the person I am making the gift for, and it makes me happy, feel blessed, feel connected, and the process becomes a gift for myself, to be reminded how I feel about this individual.

Would you like to see something?


Yes, a pillowcase, with a sheep stack.

I don't know how to describe how I feel about this. It's weirdly adorable.
I saw it on Etsy*, and sent the link to Geoff, like a month ago. I so completely and totally forgot that I did this, and then a few days ago Geoff handed this package to me... I was blank, in love, but blank, and he had to remind me that I sent him the link!

It took me about thirty years to figure out that he really does not know what-how-when-where to shop for me, and that there is no correlation between this fact and his love for me, so every now and then I email him suggestive material... so to speak. Clues. Hints. Something that figuratively grabs him by the shoulders and says: Think man! Her birthday is in twelve months, and she thinks a pillow case would be really great! Buy this. He actually loves me more for doing this for him, and now that I see how well it works, well... yeah, lucky me!

Nothing is safe! Because weirdly adorable is even better with a crocheted edge, I totally went to town on my pillowcase. Oh, and pardon the wrinkles, but my head mushed it all up, when I was counting sheep last night.

*Holy Farm Critters! They have chicken towels!!?!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

James, Don't Leave Us!

Don't leave us, James. We make party for you. College is overrated. It's cold out east, and they got no burritos like the burritos we got. Sure. We're proud of you, young prodigy boy-man, in college at sixteen, but you gotta come home, 'cause you're a homey, a Bird, a robo-disco-STEAM-inventor, and we aren't the same without you. Go, see what they know, then come back, and we will make more party for you.

In the meantime, we just cry, waiting, thinking of you in snowland.

The Good-bye For Now and Good Luck in Kawledge party we had for James was a working party, 'cause some of us are still in regular skool, and there are movie projects to complete. The Bird House has been the scene of movie making for a couple of weeks now, and our big screen has become a big green screen. How cool is that? Okay, it's also messy, haphazard, and slightly inconvenient, but really, mostly just cool.

Lighting is probably the most challenging obstacle to filming in our living room. Did I mention that this film has been somewhat plagued with setbacks and blood? Yes, it's actually been a very tough assignment to complete, due to scheduling conflicts, technical difficulties, and a very nasty stunt accident to McRae's brow. Working title of this film: There Will Be Blood.

If they can get credit for rehearsing, for taking precautions, for planning, for rolling with the punches, for working around the setbacks and obstacles, for not giving up... well, then they're in good shape. After all, learning is the objective, and I think they learn a lot more when things don't go smoothly.

Where would we be without our friends?

I tell you, all the posts for the next six months are going to be mushy and sentimental, as I look at the faces of these dear people and think about them growing up, and growing away, and doing all the things we have been hoping for, for themselves... it's just so hard. I am not ready, I tell you. Not ready at all to let them go, to miss seeing them play and hear them laugh, and follow their stories from the front row. We have been so blessed with our family, and our circle of friends, who are like family, and these days and activities... and I am not ready to let any of it go.

We won't be totally abandoned, not just yet, not all at once. But it is going to be a lot quieter here, in the Fall. Of all the phases in my life, this one is the most confounding to me.

Oh, dear.
It's the curse of blessings.
Makes me greedy, attached.

After feeding the cast and crew three dinners in a row, it occurred to me to ask for film credit. Tatiana, just a mention of "Lady Betty Oprington... 'Foundation,' or 'Productions,' even 'Catering,' and I have a logo if you want to add that too. Thank you.

Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate-peppermint buttercream frosting. If you get into college, we make cupcakes for you and decorate them with fancy, coordinated doodads. That's how we roll.

Claire came by, too. She and Maria shared magic tricks, and talked about the fashion show, last spring. Claire is already hard at work preparing for this year's fashion show.

Outside of his brothers, James is William's best friend. They are working on some pretty neat things together. After filming, and sitting in the ER with McRae, James and William stayed up all night, for one last creative-inventive-planning session, before summer break. When I hear their ideas, listen to their plans... I just want to open doors for them, give them room, watch them build.

A green screen is a bit of magic. You can project any place or object onto the screen, and create a whole world. It's something like these young people... they just need a wide open space where they can project the amazing things, ideas, and places they imagine and believe in, and with some work, and play, it all comes together, and becomes real. I like watching behind the scenes, and seeing the finished project... of course, when is a great work of art ever really finished?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quiet On The Set

The final project, for the video film class Alex is taking, is a Western. Tatiana is editing the movie, and James was a stuntman, until he left for college. Grant made an appearance, and his brother, Clark, stepped in to finish some fight scenes. William advises, and has also developed terrific computer generated animations for the green screen shots. Have I mentioned that our living room has become a green-screened sound stage? Suki has been helping with costumes and make-up. Eli has been helping with costumes, and about everything else, as well. Alex wrote the script, and he's been organizing everyone and everything, which has proven to be a monumental responsibility. Maria and I have been ready for anything... feeding the cast and crew, standing in, transportation, first aid, acting as extras.

Oh, golly. I am going about this all backwards. Does it matter? The green screen shots were taken first, and then we went on location. These were taken when we went to a local park, for some real life-outdoor-westerny scenery. Later I will share some of the fun of making our home a movie studio, and also saying ~so long, and farewell until you return~ to James.

Some days I cannot help being overly wordy, and explanatory. The intention is to clarify all points and be understood, but I muddle it so. I think I must be more obtuse than I mean to be.
Doing it again.


Too beautiful for words. In my whole life I have never seen as many peacocks, at once, ever. In fact on this day I saw more peacocks than I've seen collectively in my entire life. I make this statement with absolute certainty. Maria and were completely awestruck and enchanted with these wild birds... they were everywhere. They are not tame, but not particularly shy either, so we were able to get quite close to some.

Alex, Eli, and McRae had to get straight to work filming, because they only had one hour of sunlight. Maria and I were free to explore, and that is exactly what we did. We explored and delighted. We agreed that someday, when we finally do celebrate her seventh birthday, the cowgirl birthday, that this would be the ideal place to wear bandannas and ride hobby horses, share cupcakes, and kick our boots.

Howdy, Eli.

When Alex made arrangements for them to film here, the park managers were really nice, and supportive. They went over some rules and expectations, then just stepped back and let the movie makers do their thing.

The film will be sepia toned, and they are going to dub their voices. I'm still not sure what the story is, exactly, but I do know it has fight scenes, and an airship, bad guys, and good guys. And mustaches. It must be good.

Not familiar with the trees of California ranchos? Those tall, spindly ones are eucalyptus... brought to southern California by someone hoping the fast growing trees would make good lumber for railroad ties. They do grow fast, but they don't make good rail road ties. They smell good. The shorter, fuller trees are pepper trees... Schinus molle. Not a true pepper, but still used in spices. It can be poisonous. Unfortunately, the pepper tree, though somewhat pretty from a distance, has become an invasive species around the world. Ah, I hate to malign an innocent tree, but honestly, I am not a fan. When planted in the wrong environment, they quickly become an irritant, and they suppress other plants and native species.

Okay, but never mind, because it's a really pretty scene, right?

Still using my pocket camera. The charger for the big beautiful black camera will not show itself. Can you see the four peacocks on the rooftops? Pretty.

I'll be saying pretty a lot in this post, because well. You know. This place has a lot of pretty.

This is all a city park, but the history is more interesting than that. I don't know that it's usually this quite, because it seems like the kind of place that would fill up quickly, regularly. I feel fortunate to have enjoyed this first (successful) visit in such a private and intimate way. We were practically the only ones there. It was kind of nostalgic and sentimental, imagining the Carillo family working on their out buildings, hosting friends and family, keeping their Rancho de Los Kiotes in working order.

The land and the buildings were acquired through the acting work of Leo Carillo, and though the land today is worth many millions of dollars, none of it feels particularly opulent or ostentatious. It feels like the home and working ranch of a family that was blessed and generous. It still feels welcoming, personable, warm.

It makes me happy that the city, and other thoughtful people, have thought to protect and preserve this place, and to make it available for everyone to share.

Maria and I found lots of big peacock feathers, and some very tiny and pretty ones. The large tail feathers, with the iridescent eye, were too scarce to be found.

They finished a lot of filming in one hour. A few more scenes need to be filmed here, next week. They have had a rough run, with many setbacks, delays, and even a run to the ER. Not ideal circumstances for getting a final project completed, but of course some of the best film makers out there have fantastic tales of sandstorms, and other disasters. These guys aren't giving up.

I guess I am still feeling sentimental and nostalgic, seeing these boys at work. I think how amazing it is when the make-believe and play of childhood becomes something bigger... all the pretending, well, it becomes as real as they imagined. I've been behind the scenes all along, and I am still enchanted and enthralled by the magic of seeing my children grow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Speaking of Gardens

With chickens and gardens on my mind, I decided to visit some favorite inspiration gardens.

I feel compelled to remind myself: This is January, the winter month. This is when frost and heavy rain can dampen a gardener's spirit. Beware the false impression that spring has arrived. The weather has many sketchy, foggy, rainy, cold days in store, yet.

But who would believe it? Under a blue sky, with fuschias seductively displaying their petals and finery? Who would ever know...

Light on her feet, with only a knit cap and winter's long shadows to hint at the season, Maria leads the way to a secret garden.

Silent and lovely garden ladies... no one told Maria the way.

We've been visiting this garden for seventeen years. Our friend, Candice, introduced us to many of the area nurseries, back before William was in kindergarten, and Alex was a baby. This is where we found Joe, our dear old bunny. They used to have all kinds of birds, and rabbits here. This is where we first learned about rabbitats... cozier, earthier, roomier rabbit habitats.

Even with all these temptations, with all the pleasures offered, I don't come here as often as I used to. Easily, happily, remedied, I think. Maria played in the little house, like her brothers before her. Her game was sweet... imagining everyone was together, and we were making our plans to build a tree house.

Thinking of outwitting our hens, and revitalizing our garden beds really did encourage my gardening aspirations. Maria and I exercised much discipline and restraint, limiting the number of seeds we carried home. She continued exploring the play house, testing it for all its possibilities, while I finished blanket stitching a napkin, and thinking of sprouting other possibilities.

This was a moment.
Window boxes, and sunshine, play.
Memories, and hopes.
It's no secret,
gardens give way
to wonder
and goodness.