Saturday, September 15, 2007

Am I Quirky?

I have been tagged for a Quirky Meme by Calamity Kim. So, I am supposed to share 6 of my quirks. I had to go to the dictionary: "A peculiar trait." Also: "Idiosyncrasy" and "Eccentricity." Then I had to think. Hmmmmm

Lately I feel less and less eccentric or unique. The more people I meet and listen to, the more blogs I read, the less I see myself as a special individual. Which is not the same as saying I am not special... I just mean there are a lot of eccentrics with peculiar traits, so many in fact that it makes me feel rather common, typical, unquirky. All my life I have had ideas and dreams, little hidden desires that I hoped to act upon one day and everyday I come across more and more people fully embracing the things I've been hoping to do, and living out loud the secret wishes I've been making.

Are memes really supposed to make you ponder and think deeply? I don't think so. I also don't think I have any good quirks.

Now if I could get a pair of kittens to ride along with me in a sling, that might be a bit quirky. I could wear a big hat, mine would be a cowboy hat, and I would casually as you please walk around town with kittens at my waist. Or a hen. I could be a chicken lady. In a stroller, or sitting by me while I drive around running errands.

This isn't quirky, I don't think. When I see dreadlocks, my scalp itches... no, not my scalp... more like my brain. My thoughts itch and I feel it in my scalp and I get a compulsion to shave my head and run my hand all over my head. Just saying.

Is this quirky? I like other people's dogs better than my own. Well, ya, we don't have a dog. Sometimes I really believe I want a dog, but I know if I had one I would be very distressed. Dogs need a lot and I never feel like I am giving them enough, so that their little dog faces stare up at me and I live with a horrible sense of guilt mixed with regret, in spite of the fact that I love them. I love other people's dogs and I like to pet them and feed them and I love to hear them drink water. I love Molly and Toby, Sam, Jasper and Pippin, and all the dogs riding in cars hanging out the window and soaking up the sun in the breeze. Other people's dogs are the best.

Through art, Alex expresses his desire to break for lunch.

A lot of people have said I am crazy quirky to home*school. I cannot over state how much I love my children and love having them with me. I miss them when they are at school. I want to learn with them and share the day and new experiences. I want to see what they see and laugh out loud with them. I wish home school was the perfect, ideal place for all learning, but I appreciate that they need to see more and do more and find their own paths. I will never regret our school days together.

How about liking funny faces, grouchy faces, even blurred photographs, is that quirky? Not so much. I like Maria's pout. I even liked it when the babies cried sometimes. If I knew they were safe, clean, fed and they were just having a cry moment, I liked it. They get so expressive and they are so powerful and I just love hearing the effort. Then I love to scoop them up and embrace them. Sigh.

Dreams don't make us quirky, do they? Recurring dreams about places, like Mexico, where I used to go as a girl. No, that is not quirky. Never mind.

Let's see... peculiar...

I like the taste of bell peppers, but I will not eat bell peppers. I flavor dishes with bell pepper, but pull the little suckers out after cooking.
I always sleep better when my feet are clean.
That's it. I've shared enough. As much as I write and post on Chickenblog you might not guess that I am a quiet person, more shy than outgoing. What I would really enjoy is hearing from lurkers, family, friends. Do you know what a lurker is? If you read Chickenblog and never say "hey" or make yourself known, or make comments, then you are lurking. That's cool, but just this once why not say hello and tell us something about yourself. Do you have a peculiar trait? What are your quirks, or just one quirk. Please. Life is so much better shared.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oh So Random

I was about 5 years old the first time I ate chips and dip. "Like a Rhinstone Cowboy" was playing on the hosts' stereo, and I couldn't believe that both Fritos and potato chips could be dunked into this creamy, savory dish, and come out tasting divine. It was fancy heaven and I was a baptized convert.

You Wanna Come With?

We're going to Sophie's house, Laura and Gary's too. They live about two blocks from Grandma's and if we run we can be there ahead of the end of this sentence.

See? Quick, huh?
oh, look at those zooks! Grandma's going to make more zucchini bread if they send that big one over. Laura's been saying the garden is a bit ragged from all the heavy rain. It looks beautiful. The season is coming to its end and gardens do fade, but I can plainly see that this is an exceptional and well tended garden.

They planted quantities of zinnias that I have only dreamed of. I have a favorite flower for every month and bold, brilliant zinnias are my end of summer favorites. I saw raspberry canes,

...and Swiss chard. There was broccoli, too. Sophie came out to the garden and she described the wall of sunflowers that were standing at the end of the driveway. Some were 8' tall, and they were a bird favorite.

We were there one evening for Sophie's 17th birthday. Laura baked a rich and moist chocolate cake from an old family recipe and Sophie invited the younger cousins to help her blow out all of those candles!

We all helped devour the cake.

Well, Claudia didn't have cake. Sweet Claudia. Such a fluff.

I can take a 1,000 photographs and find one that stands out above the rest; this picture makes me very happy. Carol and her grandson, Griffin. I love the light and love they radiate.

Alex radiates light too. Handsome boy. We are happy mosquitos don't show up in photographs, otherwise we would not enjoy our Wisconsin memories as well. Dang mosquitos.

I just love how the littlest children know that they can see their image in the cameras, and they always want to see! Maria says, "And me? And me?" That makes me laugh out loud.

Happy Birthday Sophia! We love you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cheering For The Home Team

Our first football game ever, and we were cheering for the hometown team... the ones in blue. Well, we were actually there for the band.

Geoff's cousin Sophie plays saxophone in her school band. Too cool. For the first game of the season the band members hit the half-time field outfitted in uniforms of their design. Sophie bore her #13 jersey, and this brilliant smile, that I just love to see.

We sat in the bleachers with other home town fans, or so we thought. There were a lot of people cheering for the big city team sitting around us. Is that usual? I don't know. The whole scene was new to me. And fun. Everyone was excited, supportive, happy. Maria was happiest of all, because there was so much light, color, music and action going on. I think she likes hoopla and ceremony.

And cheerleaders; Maria gasped when she caught sight of identically dressed girls, dancing, chanting and jumping around. She got up and did a little bleacher dance.

Laura and Gary see a lot of these games and probably came to even more games when they were in high school. I think it's funny that something rather common can be an entirely new and exciting experience for some... for us. I liked seeing all the people gathered in support of their children and sharing a warm, end of summer evening together. It gave me a view of community I am not familiar with.

And when the band marched onto the field, we were the ones cheering! Yay Sophie!
She's a senior this year.
A senior!
(Excuse me for a moment while I recover from my reality session: I know she's growing up, but does this mean I have aged too? These concepts can be so jarring.)
Sophie is one of those children that makes you feel good about the future. She may be shy and reserved, and she may not like this little spotlight I am shining, but I cannot help myself: Sophie is a joy, a bright, kind, funny, talented and sweet young woman.

So, we cheered for the band, and tried to remain hopeful about the score at half time.

Maria got to high-five the mascot, which was a moment of exhilaration for her.

And the kiss the bluejay blew? Maria was elated!
Max walked home with Laura and Gary and they roasted marshmallows, then Laura and Gary walked Max over to Grandma's. I have to mention these little things because they are unique experiences for us. Small town. Family all around. Simple pleasures. Memories to treasure. I feel so happy thinking of it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We're Going to The Zoo, The Henry Vilas Zoo

Back to Wisconsin. Like I said, we didn't laze about the whole trip. One day we met Gabe and Betsy, with their children, Griffin and Jordan, at the Zoo in Madison. The free zoo!

We saw bison, lions, seals,
prairie dogs
a badger
an ostrich
a black bear and a polar bear!

We had sno-cones!

We fed goats.

Hungry, hungry goats!

The nice thing about a free is zoo is no one feels pressured to see everything and do everything.

Without the pressure, there's time to sit and reflect, sketch. No hurries. No worries.

Geoff remembers this zoo from his childhood. I love visiting places he recalls fondly. Here's the bubbler he remembers. Bubbler? A bubbler is where water bubbles up for a cool drink. A fountain is where you throw a coin and make wishes. Wisconsin talk... I love it.

Time to check our primate arm-span:

Griffin, age 5 and quite a primate!

Max, age 9... ready to climb and swing!

William, age 16 ... a good sport for his mom. Ahh.

Alex is 13 and also humoring his mom. Thanks son.

Maria is 2 and she's a monkey girl for sure!

Jordan! One more 2 year old monkey girl!

Before we left, we had two bear encounters that were really awesome. First the polar bear sniffed the air from deep inside her lair and then she slowly, cautiously stepped out in to the late afternoon heat.

Max reminded us about a polar bear's remarkable sense of smell and their unique distinction from most animals, they think humans are tasty.

In the enclosure next door we met the black bear. He looked big. Who remembers? One kind of bear will chase you if you run, so you are supposed to stand your ground and another kind you should run from? Which is which? Might be good to know.

There's more Wisconsin to come, like quilts and the football game and tamale pie...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Saying Thank You and Stuff

If Geoff comes home to show me (again) how to make award badges, then I can post the one bestowed on Chickenblog by Tami of Lemon Tree Tales. She declares me worthy of a Nice Matters Award and she said very nice things about me and Chickenblog. This is what a "nice Matters Award is about:

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you've been awarded please pass it on to others who you feel are deserving of this award."

Tami put me in very good company, as she also nominated Pink Purl and Calamity Kim, two very nice women, I am proud to call friends.

Tami, thank you for saying I am Nice and because I think you are nice, I should just turn around and second your nomination for Nice Matters. Can I do that? Why not.

I would also have to second the nomination of Tracy at Pink Purl. She is the essence of good cheer and encouragement. It's a nice treat finding a comment from her, because she has so much kindness to share. Have you ever visited her Etsy shop? I loved her handbags, from a distance, and when they went on sale this summer I was unable to resist making an order. Now I have a charming strawberry book tote and a pink one that's going to surprise a friend! Her work, the details and quality are even more impressive in person, and I have to thank her for making the package extra special with some unexpected extras... very nice I tell ya!

My sidebar is full of people who are nice and who matter, and who know that nice matters, but usually these awards are limited to 5 nominations... not easy. I would like to make special mention of the woman who taught me how to make an apron. Louise of "Lululollylegs" made a very nice and complete tutorial of apron making. You may recall that I made my very first apron with her help, and then the apron made it to a fundraising auction... double niceness!

More inspirational niceness came from "Happy Things," where, again, I have been inspired to venture out into new creative avenues. She made a scrap quilt that I found irresistable. Initially I thought I would make it very scrappy, because I love the bold randomness of hers, but apparently I am a little bit conservative or anally retentive about colors and patterns (Is anally retentive hyphenated?) "Happy Things" is a nice blog, where I can find happy reflections on everyday moments.

Somedays, seeing all the talented people who are making, writing, creating and sharing, I am stunned. Seriously, there are some super gifted people and some of them are doing all of this extra work + blogging + keeping a beautiful home beautiful + looking beautiful themselves + raising 5 children (Who are very likely beautifu!l) And they do this while being Nice. They know that Nice Matters. It's true, just check-out Anna Maria's blog. She is nice. She shares tips and tutorials, and she shares happy moments, as well as sad, and she even makes time to respond to comments, which considering the number of visitors coming by her place is quite remarkable.

Is that 4 or 5?

Well, one more, for someone who is nice and has been especially nice to me for quite some time. Working and studying, reading a lot and singing the praises of fellow bloggers, Tarie is in the Philippines and you can find her when you go "Into The Wardrobe." I count myself as extra fortunate to know her, because she has been crossing the road to the Chickenblog for a long time, and when I wasn't sure anyone was paying attention, Tarie was saying all kinds of nice things to me.

Now For The Stuff

1. We are not moving to Wisconsin. Not soon anyway. A few people have been under the impression that my enthusiasm and love for the state of Wisconsin is a sign that we have at long last settled on a place to call home. Sigh. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I was just being exuberant.

As for where we will live, we are as confused as ever.

2. School has begun and Alex and Max are a bit too despondent. A little whining, some reluctance, feet dragging, periodic groaning: All expected and accepted. But these guys have been down, moody, sad, indifferent, morose, angry, cranky and firm in their conviction that school is loathsome and miserable. My kind and tender response? As long as you're going to be miserable, let's send you to free school. This approach has had very little effect. I may have to consult the Big Book of Parenting Charms and Solutions... where did I leave it...?

3. William is beginning a new independent study program in the city where we live, and it looks dry and uninspired manageable and like a path to better opportunities. William reads so much and is in constant dialogue with Geoff about his graphic and computer interests, that I think he is going to thrive in spite of busy work and details.

4. I am not sure there is a 4th Stuff, except all the stuff that I have been trying to get done, like cleaning the house and unpacking. If you ever feel like I have neglected you or I have made some terrible oversight, like failing to acknowledge a gesture of kindness or to remember your cat's birthday, you are in good company. I am foremost on my list of neglected people and the list grows from there. But I keep trying, and trying. Some day the house won't shame me, and I will have you over for a simple yet fabulous dinner. We will talk about timely and intelligent topics. I will know where all the immunization cards are at once, and we will have 6 passports in a safety deposit box, ready for world travel, just in case. My hair will be clean, dry and brushed. I will have chickens pecking around my garden, and canned tomatoes in my pantry. People at church, some church, somewhere, will know me, and I will sew presents for Christmas.

Maybe I need to be a bit like flowers growing in an alley. Just a little space, a little hope. Even among bad smells and unsightly things, something good can grow. Keep trying. Keep trying.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Over The River and Through The Woods

To get to Grandma Nancy's house there is a fair amount of river crossing and going through forests. We also drove passed cows, barns, fireworks stores, cheese shops, a giant orange elk, and water towers; all exotic and novel sights for us.

On some road trips it feels like the closer you get to your destination, the slower it goes... it may be the anticipation making the minutes longer, the miles stretch out. Who wrote about the concept that traveling by halves makes it impossible to ever arrive at your destination? And yet we did arrive, and we were greeted and embraced and welcomed into Grandma's home and it felt like we had never left.

Sure there are new quilts on the wall and children have grown, certainly the Creek had grown, but the quiet serenity, the warm-home feeling that Nancy keeps alive is the same as ever... it's so wonderful! The first day we got to visit with Tom and two of his girls. Grandpa Phil was there and Lily came with us. Sophie came by after work. Everyone was anxious to know our plans and we were happy to just go down and look at the creek, swollen and wide from the long rains. We wanted to sit on the porch and talk and let the kids play ping pong in the basement, look for butterflies, walk to the basketball courts. Shoot hoops.

Our week had been far too full and we were far too rattled to care about rushing around searching for fun. I really believe it was a blessing that we happened to have tickets to the Midwest when we did, and that we could arrive at this spot and be with our family and enjoy simple pleasures, like conversations and visiting on the glider, cookouts, watching the children run around and swing in the backyard. So it was great to spend time with Nancy, Phil, Laura and Gary, Sophie, Carol, Betsy and Gabe, Tom, Kayla and Rosa. Maria and Jordan were fast friends and Griffy and Max were, too.

Noting how many places we've been, someone asked "do you and your family ever stay home??" I guess we do get to travel a lot, but in my mind, in my heart, going to Wisconsin, or Oregon, Hawaii, El Valle, it's not like leaving home; it's like going home. We are fortunate that we can stay in touch with our parents and grandparents and that they happen to live in such wonderful places, so that when I go visiting it is a wonderful adventure, a beautiful destination, a blessed opportunity.

I really delight in seeing our children connect with their great-grandmother and cousins, and with the past. Even a simple game of drive-thru restaurant becomes a vision of the past, when other generations laughed and played, and we can share and recall happy memories together and then we make new connections with each other.

Coffee and french fries anyone? Tea?

Hey we got out and explored, too, saw sights, and played, but for a few days the vacation was the perfect blend of mellow family togetherness and laughter.