Sunday, December 31, 2006

How do I manage it? How do I take simple tasks and botch them utterly and completely? This is a very bad day for Life to prove my incompetence, again.
I went to the template to add a new link. I've done it before, but today my programming skills made a mess of my links... I cannot understand why it should be so, except that Life is petty that way sometimes. I have two options, no, maybe three...

1. finish the bottle of wine Holly brought
2. Drop off Hans and Gretchen's Christmas presents before it's Easter
3. Crawl back to bed.
I found an interesting piece of mail this morning from Allison. She has a site about chickens: "Chicken Video..." another kind of Chicken Blog Some of you may recall that Chickenblog began when we were Jolly Green Ranchers, living in the country with our chickens and a tractor. I write about many subjects, but those 3 chicas and Sunshine, the surprise rooster, were always a source of happiness. Life takes many turns, the chicas are long gone, but some day I hope Chickenblog will return to the farm or to some rooftop city garden with free ranging city hens. The timing of Allison's email is interesting, because the chicas have been on my mind quite a bit. Going through the archives, I've had plenty of opportunity to remember how much joy and wonder those chicas gave me. This is a reflective time of year for me, when I am wondering about my life and how I am living it, and yesterday I was daring myself to go buy some chicks. We can't have hens now, not here. Sigh. Allison sells a bumper sticker that reads: "Wherever chickens are outlawed, only outlaws will have chickens." Tempting.

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 Reflections

I wanted to create a sentimental journey of 2006, but this may only serve to prove that a year cannot be summed up in 12 photographs. Maybe I should add a few more... we've been very busy, we've seen lots of family and friends and many memorable moments should never be forgotten.

January is full of birthdays, including Ron's, Nick's, Tamsyn's, Kelsey's, Janice's and Geoff's. Geoff's 40th birthday we celebrated at the park and with lots of friends and family. It was a beautiful day, especially for January.

Maybe So Cal is always beautiful. Here it is in February and the weather was just fine for Max to climb his favorite tree. We had to make a rule about how high he could climb. Max is always ready and willing to go one branch higher.

William's and Rich's weren't the only birthdays to celebrate in March, because at long last there was a new baby in the family.
Here is little Isabella Rose.

It's April and the weather is still grand! Good enough for a long weekend of camping with our friends Tamsyn, Carol and Gene. It's funny how even a little escape can make for so much fun.

My Mom makes the long trip to see us a few times every year, and on this trip we made a surprise visit to see Grandmother for Mother's Day. Another occasion with lasting memories.

June is a month full of birthdays, like Delia's, Hans', Bill's, Julie's, Phil's and Alex's. I took the children on a Monterey Roadtrip, which we filled with stops at Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara and even a day at Bill and Alison's. By this time Geoff was getting his feet wet at his new job, and now he's way overdue for one of our awesome roadtrips.

Being busy at work doesn't mean missing all the summer fun. Geoff made it to ComicCon with us. We met Ray Harryhaussen, and saw a lot of strange and interesting characters.

I think Max really impressed me this year with his bright attitude and maturity. He turned 8 in August and he's been doing very well at school, at home, with friends and family.

Don't Ruth and Corm look happy? Grandchildren all around; I think that's how they like it. For Alex and Max it was a last week of freedom before they started their first year of school away from home.

This picture comes a little late in the photo-calendar, and Dominic came a little early, but what a welcome arrival! By October we were fully immersed in school schedules and activities, otherwise we would have rushed to meet the newest cousin.

November is another busy month, with Thanksgiving and holiday anticipation, but for me it's all about this little girl. Maria turned two and we are all marveling at her new skills and amusing antics.

Finally, I get to meet my nephew Dominic. It's hard to choose just one image to represent the last month of a great year. Holding this baby was such a great feeling, I think the memory sums up the joy I feel at Christmas.

That's 12 pictures for 12 months. There is a lot more to remember, like swimming at Steve and Andi's, welcoming Hans home from his time abroad, scrumptious dinners at James and Deanne's, Geoff's international job search, house hunting, our move, Maria learning to walk, Alex wininng two LEGO building contests, our new kitty... What do you remember about 2006?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

News Form Our Winter Break...

An update: Geoff saved the archives! I don't know how, except that it took many hours, and now the archive links work again. Now I am working to update the archive photos. The old photos were linked to the old domain name and have to be individually switched to our new domain. Remember our old *privacy* system for pictures? Obviously I've thrown that security issue out the window, but a lot of pictures are still secure, so if you are exploring in the ancient archives you can plug in "balboa park" for the username and password. Okay, the updating is going s l o w. Geoff is better at it because he doesn't stop to read every entry. I am almost through July of 2003.

Here is the Santa that Maria kisses. She enthusiastically waves hello and good-bye to the little guy by our front gate. And in her arms is her other sweetheart, Frosty, the plush doll her Grandma Boo-Boo left her for Christmas.

Last night I was feeling comfortable and content, when I suddenly remembered this is our last week of winter break. It occurred to me that I really love having all the children at home. I love that the rules, expectations, impositions and chores of School are slipping from my memory, and our own family rhythm is taking over. School culture is very consuming and for us, it's still foreign. At least we have this break. I wish Geoff had a break. His work is all consuming too, and this morning, with rain coming down, and new toys to be played with, Geoff has to leave us and go to work. Sigh. If I were benevolent leader of the world we would have 4 day weekends, 6 hour work days, health coverage for all, nap time, peace on earth and 10 weeks of paid vacation. More on this later.

Happy birthday Debbie! My Colorado cousin and I share the distinction of having post Christmas birthdays. Debbie I hope you are enjoying a very nice birthday with all the trimmings.

Holly has a pre Christmas birthday, which she celebrated with grace and good humor. Rich organized a surprise party for Holly, which I think worked... she looked surprised when she walked in to the pizza place and found friends and family waiting to fete her with pizza, beer, balloons, presents and cake. Here she is radiating wit and beauty...

And for no particular reason, here is picture of our kitty, Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat, cowboy and explorer:

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Can I share Christmas Eve first? We were with Holly, Izzy, Nick and Rich last night, and we had a great time. It's so nice to arrive at their home, where everything looks so festive and beautiful. We did a lot, including watching the Chargers win one more, and watching Izzy try to crawl. We were fed what has become a favorite tradition: Holly's Hot Enchiladas! She can cook. What a treat. And there were gifts to exchange. Great Grandma Nancy always seem to know just what children will love. William loves his Superman gear, Maria loves her penguin, Max loves his football kicking game... Izzy and Maria looked adorable in their matching holly dresses. We can't wait to try Geoff's boogie sled on some mountain snow. I'm trying to sum it all up, which really isn't possible, so just think of laughter and anticipation, happy children, pretty lights, and the contentment we can have when we are with family, safe and thankful.

And here we are Christmas morning. We were up at 6 and now it's nearly noon. Maria still has unopened gifts. She's busy stacking lighthouse boxes that came from her Tutu and Grampa Corm. Geoff has been assembling and reading instructions since dawn. Alex already built a dragon. William is still wearing his Superman shirt. Max took his haul to his room and probably has it all in order by now. And me? I'm trying to share it all with you, with aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and grandmas and grandpas, because the only thing that could make Christmas morning more fun would be to have you here with us. Thank you for the National Geographic subscription, the books and CDs, for the rubber ducky collection and the new table cloth, the sweater for Maria and for pretty wood frames (I've already put pictures in them!) It's not all about the presents, of course. I am delighting in the collective spirit, love and good will that propels this holiday and keeps us together in tradition and joy. May the peace and cheer be with you all through the new year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Our children by candle light. The eve before Christmas Eve.
We still haven't found our stockings, but we are singing carols,
making plans and loving the season, especially with Geoff home today.

Grandma and all in Pasadena are well and we had a very good time visiting them.

Thank you to everyone that has sent us Christmas greetings. Your cards and pictures are hanging on our wall and it's cheering to see them and to know you were thinking of us. We are thinking of you too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

¡Mas fotos por favor!

We were at The Wild Animal Park yesterday for our traditional sledding adventure. I think this is our fifth year of bundling up for cold fun and hot chocolate. This year we brought a school friend, Mitchell. Before sledding we saw elephants, dik dik, pudu, meerkats and lions. The lions are amazing; don't hesitate to visit TWAP and Lion Camp if you are in SoCal. After sledding we made the long hike back to the entrance, where we did Christmas crafts and tried a visit with Santa. Maria loves Santa... well, she loves images of Santa, and Santa dolls and the little plastic Santa by our front gate, but she does not love a breathing, speaking, real live Santa. She cried mightily, until we left the Park, when she resumed her happy "Ho Ho Ho Santa!" song.

Don't look for us in the neighborhood today. We are off to see aunt Becky, Grandma, Julie, Dan and Molly. It's rather spontaneous, but long over due.

Happy Winter to all!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Well, if we were sending a greeting card this year, this might be the one! Alex was passing time waiting for his lunch yesterday. I guess he was feeling monstrously hungry.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday. I slept past 7 this morning and only panicked for a second, then I remembered that the boys did not have to be up and out the door in 20 minutes. So that makes today the first day of holiday break. I've puttered a bit, showered and dressed. William is showered. Max and Alex unloaded the dishwasher. Maria is eating leftover Chinese food. Geoff is at work. Geoff works every day and late.

I want to make a plan for the week, so that we don't squander our precious time. I want to visit beautiful places and see family. I want to get out of the house and also enjoy time in the house. I want to find a way to soar over the hurdles that seem to appear on a daily basis. Maybe I am the biggest hurdle, because I can't seem to find the faith or assurance I need to overcome the setbacks. I've been sick. The kitchen sink has backed up for the fourth time. My burnt thumb hurts in a nerve damage kind of way. We aren't unpacked. Where are the stockings and those Christmas gifts I bought last September? The new landlord was here when we were out. I can tell because he cut back the blooming roses, again. They are hacked to their bases... it helped to look beyond the murky, thick sink water and see roses in the garden. Yesterday when I was under the sink and learning how to run a snake through the pipes, I wondered what Gary thought of the mess he must have seen looking in the house.

I know that this is the time of year when the worst stress is the stress we bring upon ourselves, so I am cutting back. No Christmas cards from this house. I thought this would give me some relief, but I feel kind of sad about breaking a 26 year tradition. The tree looks shabby, thinly decorated. Where is the other box of ornaments, and the nativity figures? What other stress am I creating? I guess I am one of those closet Martha dreamers, hoping to hang home sewn stockings and serve eggnog to drop by guests, after volunteering at the shelter. Give me any circle of women friends and they will all admit they are climbing up Christmas Mountain pulling a full sleigh, but how many of them are willing to jump on the sleigh and just let it take them on a wild ride?

My expectations are unrealistic, for me. But I still do want to make a plan. I still hope I can get the house clean and send that last package of gifts. I know that if I can keep absolutely everything out of the garbage disposal the sink may not clog again, and if it does clog, I know how to remove three traps and clear crap from all three arteries. I know that no matter how much or how little I do, the days will pass and this school break will come to an end, and I don't want that day to come without some special memories to hold. I remember I said I was going to enjoy the privilege of being very busy... maybe I just need to adjust the weight of the sleigh I am hauling.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aloha! Big mahalos fo' dis holiday classic from Tutu and Poppa Corn Man!

Da Night Bafo Christmas Lyrics by Kathy Collins

Was da night bafo' Christmas, and all ova' da place,
Not even da geckos was showin' their face.
Da stockings was hangin' on top da TV
('Cause no mo' fireplace in Hawai'i)
Da kids stay all crashed, my old man too.
They leave all da work for you-know-who.
So me, I stay pickin' up alla their toys,
When- boom!-outside get only big noise!
I run to da window, I open 'em up,
I stick out my head and I yell, "Eh! Whassup?!"
And then, I no can ba-lieve what I seen!
Was so unreal, you know what I mean?
This fat haole guy get his reindeers in my yard!
And reindeers not housebroken, you know, as' why hard!
But nemmind, this Christmas, so I cut 'em some slack.
Plus, had uku pile presents pokin' outta his sack!
So I wait 'till he pau tie up his reindeer,
Then I yell out da window, "Huui! Brah, ova hea!"
An' I tell 'em first thing, when I open da door,
"Eh, Hemo your shoes! You going dirty my floor!"
He take off his boots, he tell, "You know who I am?"
I go, "Ho! From the smell, must be Mr. Toe Jam!"
He make mempachi eyes and he go, "Ho, ho, ho!"
By now, I stay thinking this guy kinda slow!
He look like my Tutu, but little less weight,
And his beard stay so white, mo' white than shark bait!
He stay all in red, specially his nose,
And get reindeer spit on top his nice clothes!
But him, he no care; he just smile at me,
And he start fo' put presents unda-neath da tree.
I tell 'em, "Eh, brah, no need make li'dat,
And watch where you step! You going ma-ke da cat!"
Then, out from his bag, he pull one brand new computah,
Choke video games, and one motorized scootah!
He try for fill up da Christmas socks too,
But had so much pukas, all da stuff went fall troo.
When he pau, I tell 'em, "Eh Santa, try wait!
I get plenty leftovahs, I go make you one plate!"
But he nevah like hang, he had so much fo' do;
Gotta make all them small kids' wishes come true.
So I wave 'em goodbye, and I flash 'em da shaka,
And I tell 'em, "Mele Kalikimaka!"
When he hear that, he stop...and I telling you true,
He go, "Garans ball-barans! Merry Christmas to you!"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pictures Say It Best

Chickenblog is a photoblog today, so that I can share all our holiday fun and recent busy-ness. The fun began with our road trip last week, when we finally got to meet Dominic. He is a 3 and a half month old cutie, my nephew. Yes, he's my nephew and also Bill and Alison's son. We were in Santa Barbara, a nice half-way meeting place. We enjoyed the sights and sounds of State Street and we watched Pirates II in our hotel room. Alison and Max played UNO, and we all "oohed and ahhed" over Dom-Dee (as Maria calls him.) I wish there were more opportunities for us all to hang out together, not just special occasions. It would be wonderful to be to close to more family. I'm glad we got together. It was dear to see my brother be a dad.

The drive up to Santa Barbara was classically traffic'ellacious on the 405 and 101, but the kids were great. I love traveling with them. We decided to try for an early Sunday departure, hoping the roads would be less congested. The early start was delayed by having to have the Odyssey jump-started, but our plan still worked. It was clear sailing all the way. But even when there is no traffic, there is still a need to stop, and Maria needed her stop as we whizzed through Anaheim. She was definitely ready to get out and stretch. Where do you go to use clean facilities, have a little lunch, and stretch in Orange County? Yes, The Big D.

Do you know what is a lot of fun? Going to Disneyland with four great kids who are happy, healthy and delightful... that is a lot of fun. We had the best time. Our So. Cal passes make it so easy to drop in for a little R and R, without feeling compelled to ride everything and see all. We just walked in and started enjoying the music and lights and all the beautiful flowers. Everything is decorated for Christmas and I feel like it's smart to let someone else go overboard with tinsel, ornaments and ribbon, so that we can enjoy all the glitzy splendor and not have to do any of the work ourselves.

It would take a lot of words to express the ecstasy we all felt when Maria had her Disney dream come true, and I want to share the moment with you and I hope I don't get too schmaltzy... In front of the castle we stopped to listen to a big band playing tunes from Mary Poppins. Maria loves music and especially live music, so she was very happy. Then the band was joined by performers who sang and danced to songs and scenes from the movie. Maria was visibly, vocally elated. She danced and clapped, she cheered and was shaking with the excitement of seeing Mary Poppins right in front of her. The boys and I were amused and amazed at Maria's bliss. She was star struck and in awe. Mary Poppins and Bert made the day even better by making a personal visit with Maria after their performance. They sang to her, danced with her, and gave her hugs too. Maria was thrilled. She was very, very happy.

The rest of the visit was continuos magic. We played and sang and danced. We rode the Tea Cups, King Arthur's Carousel and Thunder Mountain. Max decorated a cookie, we saw real reindeer. How about time hanging out with Captain Jack Sparrow? Priceless. We walked a lot. The boys explained that real ice cream lovers never balk at eating ice cream in cold weather, so I bought them each a scoop of Toll House cookie dough ice cream to eat on the way out. We still managed to avoid freeway traffic, so the drive home was easy and we laughed a lot recalling the great time we had.

Today is the last day of school before Christmas break. Yea!! Yippeee! I am very excited about having all the children home with me. William, Maria and I miss Alex and Max during the week. Yesterday was a busy school day. Max and Alex performed in the Holiday Pageant. Every class represented a continent and gave a performance from different regions of the world. The middle school made Buddhist peace flags and they passed them out to everyone. In the parade Alex carried the flag of the Netherlands. Max's class sang a "Shalom" song. I know that a lot of time and thought went in to the pageant and it was a pleasure to watch the children sing, dance and present their work.

And now I am going to rush out to clean our very dirty car... I should do something about the dirty house too. And I need to take the boys' lunches, which I was too late to pack this morning. I am overwhelmed and taking on too much, and I am also happy. The rush and chaos of this time of year is too much, but it's a privilege too. We don't have to shop and bake and volunteer, wrap and ship packages and run around looking for house lights and extension cords... we get too, if we choose to. So, I am going to do all I can and not sweat the sticky floor or the things left undone... I am going to love the privilege of being very busy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It was our server that kept us out of the www, and now Chickenblog is back and running thanks to Geoff. He probably spent days on the phone and hours emailing trying to get the server people to see the error of their ways. It took them long enough. I should probably notify the four of you that noticed my absence: I'm back!

Now I can post pictures of my nephew, Dominic. And I can tell you all about our weekend roadtrip to Santa Barbara, the many activities keeping the boys busy at school, and the usual activities keeping me busy at home. We continue to be experiencing our own series of unfortunate events, including the final death throws of our dearly departed dryer, and Geoff is up to his eyebrows in MLB PS3 toil. Our tree is literally half decorated, but I did manage to hang some lights on the house.. it's half-assed... err I mean sublime or subtle or something.

Anne just called. So nice chatting with a friend and she left me with an awesome idea: Get my car detailed. I may carpool Friday night and I could actually offer to be designated driver if my car is clean and she suggests giving myself the gift of letting the pros clean my car and I love this idea.

Clean car... I am starting my list of things to do. Today I wrapped some gifts, fed children, bought groceries and mostly sat around overwhelmed by what I wasn't accomplishing. It's time to make a list and direct my energy and make haste, get busy, meet goals, set priorities and release my inner super mom. I used to lead the children in my song: "Super mom. Super strong, super mom. Super mom, always right, never wrong, super mom!"

I'm on it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Has anyone seen Chickenblog today? I haven't. And I haven't seen my archives or comments since the big switch to Beta Blog. I am starting to believe that the whole new Google/Blogger marriage has destroyed my blog. Though, I can apparently still access my posting page... but even this has gotten complicated.

What have I got to blog about?

We had our gingerbread house building gathering which was simple and simply fun. My camera battery won't hold a charge, so no pictures of hot gluing and gumballs.

We got a BIG tree, which I think we will decorate over the course of several days. We agreed to go for more drama, so we need colored lights, rather than the tasteful-trendy all white look we've been using. I guess the big bulb "retro" look is in. I remember the big bulbs. Didn't they crackle a little? I seem to remember them making a fizzy electrical crackly noise. Hmmm, probably not good.

Geoff and I went to a company holiday party. Free food. Free drinks. Big giveaways. I loved being out in the world with my handsome husband. We found a comfy couch to share and watched hundreds of people swirl, whirl, twirl and mingle, we grabbed some Cracker Jacks for the kids, posed for a digital, green screen photo-op, then we went back to relieve Holly and Rich from babysitting our four.

Did I mention I made bourbon pecan cake? And William has been asking whether there will be tamales this Christmas. I guess my vague responses were what prompted his offer to help this year. Help? Awesome. I am totally inspired to make tamales with my son's help.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Renting is depressing. A huge mortgage is depressing too, I know, but renting is depressing and degrading, so it beats out the stress of home ownership by a lot. I could elaborate and explain my humiliation and despondance, but I'd rather throw around colorful language and other sentence enhancers like F-this! and F-that! And F-it all! Our new landlord doesn't want to admit the plumbing here is shoddy, instead he tries to tell us "how to flush a toilet." The garbage disposal has clogged twice and he asks, "Did you put anything in it?" F-ing A! And we are still answering to Bob, the Treehouse landlord, because he wants us to pay for the replacement of the very F-upped carpeting that we put up with for three years and will be torn out when he rebuilds in 6 months...

You know, this isn't a half bad house and I like it better than an apartment or a trailer or a mud hut with a cardboard door, but I can't help feeling very unhappy. I feel a constant weight knowing that I may ruin something that isn't mine, simply by existing. At any moment the kids may stain the carpet or put a hole in a wall, or the landlord may be at the front door, again, asking to come in to adjust the sprinkler timer. It puts me in a state of constantly facing the fact that I am not good... not good at maintaining an orderly "drop by anytime" house... not good at flushing toilets... not good at accepting my lot in life and bucking-up... not good.

Can you picture me unpacking more boxes, decorating for Christmas and settling in to our new home?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Maria is Two and So Much More

It all goes by too fast. One moment you are trying to choose the right name, the next you are chasing a girl on a trike. Suddenly Maria is two. She is drawing and coloring and singing and dancing. She is delighting us with her wild ways and headstrong notions. She is charming us with her hugs, kisses and funny phrases. She plays with "bumbies" (bunnies) and before she slides or throws a ball she counts "one-two, one-two, nine, wheee, go!" She eats avocados and tomatoes, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. She likes to slurp the milk out of cereal. She likes to give the kitties their treats, and greens to Joe, the bumby. Maria is feminine. Her nature says pink, lace, pretty shoes and baby dolls, dresses and mommy's scarves, a string of pearls, baubles and beads. Maria is a growing child. Her nature says climb, run, jump, explore, solve, inspect, push it, shake it, build it, then do it all over again. I say happy birthday baby girl. Happy birthday daughter, flower, funny child with the funny smile.