Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kind of Like Comic-Con

I explained to the boys, about the San Diego Quilt Show, that it's kind of like Comic-Con, but for quilts. So, naturally, they asked what I would 'dress up as.' I went as an *awestruck woman.* It's not often you will find me out in the world without children in tow, and the real bonus of the day was going with fellow quilter and blogging friend, Lesley, of Chapter III. You could say this is a Chapter III for me and Chickenblog: Chapter 1... I start Chickenblog, May 2002. Chapter 2... People start voluntarily reading the blog, about May 2007. Chapter 3... I meet a blogging friend in person, August 30th, 2008, and it's great!

What next? There's so much to consider and share and be happy about. Lesley and I met at her house and it was a curious combination of I know you very well, and this is totally familiar and wow, we are total strangers agreeing to spend the day together: how strange and wonderful. And walking up to Quilt-Con we saw Anna-Banana, who was waiting to meet a fellow quilt enthusiast and friend. Finding Anne so easily proves that Quilt-Con is not much like Comic-Con... it's far less crowded. So the fun of meeting bloggers was magnified and my pleasure was doubled. Inside the convention hall we were met with hundreds of quilts, and it was very nice to share the experience with Lesley. We seemed to enjoy many of the same quilts and to have many of the same humbling impressions of all the talented, patient and creative quilters out there.

My mind is still buzzing from all of the sight seeing, from gazing at an almost infinite combination of colors, shapes and patterns, stitched together. I am glad there were a lot of examples of hand-quilting, because those are still my favorite. And as my appreciation of machine quilting is increasing, it was great to see such a varied and beautiful collection of those quilts too. Gee, wouldn't some pictures be nice right about now? Yes, well, I did take a lot of pictures, but I was playing with my highly sophisticated camera and whatever button I pushed or setting I changed, has made it incompatible with low lighting and shaky hands. In other words... I have a lot of out of focus pictures.

Pictures are great, but the best part of my day was meeting Lesley, crossing paths with Anne, and savoring my newest favorite... Australian Sliders, with beets! Lesley is lovely and enthusiastic, she's as bright and pleasant as her blog, and I really enjoyed our conversations and exchanges.

Okay, when you take as many photographs as I do some are bound to come out alright, including the ones Lesley took, so here are a few...

"Red Wagon Panes" by Ruby Davison

"Kiku" pieced by Eleanor Sherrell and quilted by Michalee Sloan

"Dutch Treat" pieced by Charlene Hauri and quilted by Laurie Daniells, pattern by Judy Garden

Totally cool pattern by some talented person, whose name I did not catch... oops.

This is way too much fun!


Friday, August 29, 2008

We Made It!

OKay, maybe that's a bit much for finishing 1 week of school, and can you imagine how we'll whoop and leap in June? Well, we feel triumphant, so why not celebrate?

Check out these challenging and ingenious spheres William made out of Lego bricks. They remind me of the juggling we've been doing to get through this week.

1 week and no major mishaps... keys locked in car was not ideal, but I learned a valuable lesson and I am moving forward.
1 week and only 1 tardy and we got pardoned for that, so again, no worries.
1 week and we all ate breakfast, left the house with lunches, and everyone found their way to the right buildings and classes.
1 week and only once did I threaten to drop out, and honestly if you spent 25 minutes stuck in traffic with 2,000 teenagers you would want to drop out too.

It's Friday! Victory is ours!

Our children have had a week of challenges and successes, and now we are going to enjoy a weekend of whatever. How about a little late sleeping? I want to release that anxious feeling that I am late, forgetting something or about to make some huge public school faux pas. We have dinner plans with friends, and I am meeting a friend for quilt fun and lunch (tee hee.) I think the guys around here will be up to their pocket protectors in geek happiness... a computer-sized box was delivered this morning... hmmm, what could it be?

This celebration calls for a little extra something, so Maria and I baked a favorite treat. It's a sweet reminder that Autumn is nearly here. We've even seen some trees just beginning to turn color. Maria is shucking corn right this moment. She is determined and enthusiastic about cooking, and so she helped prepare the crusts and mixed the pumpkin and spices, added the sugar.

And it was her idea to add the people on top. She brought the cookie cutters from the shelf and asked for the extra dough. We rolled it out together and she made 2 little boys and 2 little girls to stand on our Victory Pies. We feel a bit giddy, a bit silly and bright, and we get 3 whole days to enjoy it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We While Away the Hours

Maria and I are keeping busy. Before it was time to bring the brothers home, I started reorganizing the entry, and deep cleaning the kitchen, and I made turkey meat-loaves to bake for dinner. I found an old bag of flour and remembered a favorite recipe: play dough! In my recipe instructions I make it sound scary, but it went fast and easy this time, so don't be alarmed by all of my warnings... the results are very worthwhile. Guess who chose the color? It looks like Spam.

After she played with the dough, we put everything away, flipped the paper and she filled the page with faces and people and clever little creatures.

We played with the chicas for a while. We still haven't found any eggs... isn't it about time? Hmmmm.... I look forward to seeing the look on Maria's face when she discovers what magic these hens are capable of. "Eggs come from chickens" is really abstract, until you've pulled a warm egg from a bed of straw. She loved pulling carrots out of our barrel garden, and she's still keeping a look out for tomatoes that are ready to pluck. Anne's been talking about Food Not Lawns! and boy that just stirs my soul. Can you imagine the trouble I'd be in if I turned GaryBob's field of green in to something really green? Our front yard would make a perfect corn field and pumpkin patch... a picket fence to keep the chicas in, a fig tree and a lime tree, maybe a few more barrels for lettuce and peas, and we'd be lucky farmers.

Besides farming (real and imaginary,) coloring and playing with dough, we have been pouring through our books. We brought home all kinds from the library, and of course our own library is well stocked. I wonder if I should dare to unpack any more of our books... they've been in boxes so long I forget which favorite titles we are missing. This little book says, "No farm would be complete without a cat." I agree... especially cats that enjoy being read to.

William, Alex and Max are doing well. In fact they are excelling, each in his own way. William is showing a lot of motivation and taking on new challenges in math. Max's teacher told me he is a pleasure to have in her class, that he asks good questions and that we should be very proud of him. We are. Alex is navigating a school that is as populated as a town. There are a lot of demands and new things to figure out and he is taking it in stride, and looking forward to participating in their technology club. My heart swells with pride for these 3 children, 4 actually... they are such a joy to be with. It's no wonder I wanted them here, with me. Now the boys are trying something new, and we are all making the most of this opportunity, savoring the benefits, and adjusting.

An hour later.

Aren't I clever? Whistling, smiling, summing up all of our happy happenings... and I think: I am managing so well. And now it is time to go out and run errands, keep the pace going, accomplish the many tasks that keep a family operating at top speed.

My keys are locked in the car.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This Time, Last Year

Sometimes it's hard to know what's next, where you're going. Sometimes it's no fun to even try. So, I thought I would look back, and look at what I found...
On this very day, a year ago, we were in Wisconsin, and it seems we had a very full day. Max and Maria sat together on Grandma's porch. I remember Max was teaching Maria all he knew about Bucky Badger. Maria was impressed.

Later, Phil and Lil' met us at Ella's Deli. Lily was on her way back to the twin Cities, and probably preparing for a new school year. Phil's wearing one of those great Threadless T-Shirts I love so much. Who recognizes the Alamo and the bicycle in the basement? lol

Ella's is unusual and good, and strange, and good. It's were I would take clients to impress them test their mettle.

Fortified with matzo ball soup, we met Betsy, Gabe, Griffy and Jordan at the Vilas Zoo. I declare it one of my all time favorite zoos. It's really wonderful to find a favorite zoo conveniently located in a favorite city, which happens to be in a favorite state. I love Wisconsin.

Since someone else just bought the house that I had set my heart on, I am fighting the urge to open up a Wisconsin real estate page and just buy a place now. So long California! So long coastal living and insane housing market! Kiss my wounded tushy! Never mind. A house is only 1 part of the equation, and a job is the other 99 parts...

This is a bubbler and a family learning about bubblers, which are not to be confused with fountains.

2 great things about Henry Vilas Zoo, it's small and affordable. Everything feels accessible and relaxed, and it didn't break the bank to enjoy extras, like feeding goats and treating everyone to a sno-cone.

Maria and I just cleaned the kitchen, then we made play dough. She made a figure she says is her daddy and I made a figure to be her. She added fingers to mine. When we pick the boys up we will remember to bring snacks and cold water. The process is such an event, we need provisions to see it through, safely, comfortably, to the end. Hopefully, everyone will have had a pretty good day. Maybe not as good a day as we had last year, but, you know, there's always tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 2

I bow, reverently, respectfully, to all the moms and dads who have been taking children to school, commuting, packing lunches, making meetings, signing releases, finding immunization cards and keeping appointments, helping with homework (but not too much,) smiling, cooking, cleaning, volunteering and more. I salute you. I am in awe. You deserve a medal, a holiday.

3 children :: 3 schools.... What's this, day 2? Is that all? Good grief.

Yesterday, with Maria sound asleep, I left the house to start the pick-up process. The magic School Bus left the house at 1:15 p.m. and we did not pull in to our driveway until 3:15 p.m. There were no errands, amusements, side-trips or excursions. We were in transit, in traffic and transfixed by the masses. Every street was a sea of vehicular mayhem.

Does it let up?
Will it get easier?

The mornings are negligibly easier. Geoff takes Max, because I cannot be 3 places at once. Evidently I can be 2 places at once. You didn't know that about me, did you?

It's pointless to whine. I have no right to complain. Lots of people do this sort of thing all the time. I am a total newbie. My tales are nothing new to anyone else and I'll get no sympathy. I hang my head in shame and shudder at the thought of managing this when the novelty wears off! lol

Yesterday Maria and I sat across a rustic table, seated outside, and we shared a lady's breakfast. We ate slowly, we conversed, we giggled, we reflected on the changes in our lives. After breakfast we went to the library and came out with a fresh stack of good reads. Then we made friends at the park. We were caught in the rain; a shower that lasted 4 minutes and left about 10 drops per square foot. We hoped it would rain in earnest. It did not. We stayed outside. Maria tried all 5 slides and climbed the funny ladder, she did somersaults. She fell asleep on the way home, and forty minutes later it was time to go get her brothers.

Maria's Derpday
Maria has spent most of the summer anticipating her birthday, which comes at the end of November, and is pronounced derpday. It almost sounds like dripday, but really is slightly more DERP than DRIP. She talks about her derpday or anyone else's derpday almost constantly. Derpday themes, derpday menus, derpday guest lists and invitations, derpday activities and derpday decor.
Her only birthday party was attended by some family and we sat together and colored, then ate a blueberry cake.
She's looking to upgrade.
I mentioned the chocolate-princess-butterfly-glitter cake. There are also her plans for: "Disneyland, Easter eggs, dress like a princess, brownies, ice-cream, noodles, pizza, pie, snow, bicycle rides, camping, sewing, playing, swimming, and, and, and mashed potatoes, and what else have we got to my derpday now? I don't know what else to my derpday either. Oh, well. I can't wait to my derpday. I should open up my lots and lots of presents. And I really can't wait."
She left quite a bit out. She adds new things hourly. All good and promising things she attributes to her birthday.

It's kind of scary, and kind of infectious. I want a derpday too.

I also want a nap. Pick-up time is only 3 hours away

Monday, August 25, 2008

Friends and Chicas

Have you met our friend, Mitchell? He and Alex met at school 3 years ago. Both being sweet guys, well mannered and bright, they get along well. It helps that they also both like basketball and video games. We all enjoy having Mitchell over for a visit, and we have had many great times at Mitchell's house too. I think Maria sees Mitchell as a brother we don't see often enough.

Mitchell has been hearing about these chickens of ours for a while and we finally got to introduce him to our little chicas. BTW if you want to meet them, you have to give me plenty of advance warning: 3 chicas in a small backyard create fresh havoc every 4 hours. I like to spruce things up before company arrives.

So, here is Mitchell meeting Fantam the Dark Bantam. She's actually less dark than Buttercup. She's also plumper, fluffier and slightly calmer, but only slightly. Mitchell learned quickly that catching bantams is not so easy. Trying to catch bantams is good exercise.

Seriously, I do not know how these little things can so easily get out of our grips. They are so super strong, and of course we are stronger, but we have to be gentle and strong. I love people who are gentle and strong.

Do we have a backyard chicken convert? Could be. They are so amusing and funny. I think Mitchell enjoyed their antics.

Please be a hen. Fantam has plenty of chica feminine characteristics, but we've been burned before! She is very dark, and fast, which makes it hard to get good photographs of her, but I think this one shows her pretty plumage. Pretty little Fantam.

Love the feet! Panic! Alarm! LOL
At dusk all of the chicas mellow out considerably and we enjoy holding them and letting them roost on our shoulders. They seek high spots to roost in the dark, when they cannot see very well. The darkness and their weak eyesight make them sit still, and then they kind of hunker down and snuggle a bit. The bantams like to lean in to my neck and whisper in my ear.

Even in the daylight, Betty is the calmest chica. Maria can catch Betty and keep her on her lap. Alex can get her to rest on her back, like a baby. She is the one we expect eggs from soonest, but she still isn't looking quite as Orpington as I expected. Orpingtons are roundish, very plump and downy, with tiny heads. Either she's got more growth in her or she's just got her own look. No matter. She's a dear chica.

Betty, Buttercup and Fantam are working out their dynamics, their hen-pecking order. I cannot say they are ready to throw each other tea parties, but at least now they are orbiting around one another, in the same parts of the garden. Hopefully they will come to be loving friends, sisters, devout and dear, happy to nest together through the chill of winter.

Our friends make life better.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

At The Starting Gate

Everyone is on the new school program tomorrow. We've had some trial runs, a few school visits and Max's first 3 days of school. The warm-up has been... well, it's been eye-opening. Eye-opening means that I have no idea how this is going to work, and I am anxious about logistics. Drop-off and pick-up will be daunting points, and consider the work load of adding 3 new cultures to our lives. Schools are micro-societies, mini-fiefdoms, each vying to be the center that our family will revolve around. And I look over my shoulder, when I dare to say those mini-fiefdoms are alarmingly fascist. Many solemn vows and pledges must be made. For this I cringe and squirm. 'Fitting in' is paramount, and I have even been advised to not mention we are renters... in the short-sighted minds of some local citizens, renters are carpetbaggers, freeloaders who do not pay taxes and therefore are unworthy of the bounty of this affluent community. Gee whiz, I figgered my rent pays the landlord's property taxes.

Dear Lord, please help me from being bitter and snarky. Thank you for giving us choices and options and free will, and thank you for my mini-van, whole grain Goldfish Crackers, and resilience. Amen.

I bought 2 calendars and I have them marked and labeled for all school holidays, which incidentally do not match between grade school and high school. All breaks and 3 day weekends are written in glitter ink and well highlighted with stickers. I am resisting the urge to circle pep-rally days as sick days, in advance. I remember pep-rallies. Unless you love it, unless you like to be told when and how to feel peppy, unless you crave any excuse to be away from books, reason and home, unless you just feel good about cheering, well then, it's a colossal waste of time, and irritating. I mean no disrespect to fans of the pep. It's just that some of us 'get it' the first time and then we never, ever need to do it again. Also on the calendar are reminders of tests, meetings, assemblies, functions and assorted obligations that will cause us to strongly consider returning to an agrarian lifestyle, and raising our own children, our own way.

OKay. Good things, just for the sake of positive thinking etc...
1. Alex may get to take a cooking class and join a robotics club
2. Max is excused from learning cursive, because his penmanship is "beautiful."
3. William will be using 3-D Studio Max, again... this cannot be attributed to school, but it's a strong incentive to do well in school.
4. With the boys away and busy, Maria and I will have long hours alone to plan her "princess birthday party with Easter eggs and chocolate butterfly glitter cake." Actually, party planning is a strong-suit of the boys, and Maria was upset already, missing Max, and I am sure she is going to be a sad princess when all of her dear brothers are scarce.
5. Gee, maybe #4 wasn't so good.
6. Maria and I will go to the park more often and we will find a dance class, read stacks of books and snuggle under bed-sheet tents.
7. No school next Monday!!! WooTs!


I have been delighted by all of the great comments coming in, especially from new readers or readers who have been very, very quiet up until now. It's beautiful, comments. I never wanted to be doing this, blogging, all alone, without feedback. Now how do I keep you coming back? Sometimes beautiful things are fragile, delicate and easily lost. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and welcome to our kitchen table... that's one of my favorite metaphors for Chickenblog... just a casual kitchen table where we can gather and commune, where we can share our day and refill our cups. Feel free to bring a pie, or a bag of zucchini. This blog is a lot of things, like a family photo album, a journal, whimsy, scratching the surface, clucking, a love letter, whining, news, blues, and an interaction with the wide, wide world.

On a recent post, there were several inquiries about accents. OKay it was only 2 comments, but "several" sounds so cool. Judy in Kentucky and Lesley, I have an iMac and a few years ago Geoff showed me that accents and all kinds of symbols can be found in the USA flag symbol, in the upper right corner of my screen.

I click on "Show Character Palette"

It shows many options for symbols and language accents, which when selected will appear in whatever text I happen to be currently writing, by hitting "insert."

Very fun. Very helpful. Unless you are not on an iMac... then none of this will help at all.

Gracious, where does the time go? It's afternoon. We are just hanging around the house, amusing ourselves with "Laurel and Hardy" shorts, chess games, and other happy diversions.