We're under fowl surveillance. The chickens want in.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baby needs a clean, clean floor

W has reached what we have affectionately dubbed "the baby swiffer phase." He moves, and he revels in his mobility. But he is not a sophisticated crawler yet. He army crawls, sliding along on his tummy and capturing any bit of dirt, dust, or hair on our wooden floors, even as he keeps his sights on that errant cheerio left over from breakfast. If my floors are not spotless, I get to see the evidence right away when I pick up my baby. But I can comfort myself in thinking my floors are not as bad as those in the Japanese commercial below. Check it out!

So I guess we should really call it the "baby mop" phase. Too bad I didn't see any of these for sale when we were living in Japan when T was a baby! He was an army-crawler too.

By the way, the commercial starts out by saying, "Your baby is not a mop! You are the worst mom!" And ends with, "Don't be a bad mom!" Quite the tagline, don't you think?
And what on earth is on that floor??

Here's our very own Baby Mop.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodbye to Dot

We had a sad Sunday two weeks ago.

There was a bit of an accident. Our perfectly lovely neighbor turned her back on her perfectly lovely dogs at just the wrong moment, and they rushed with unerring canine savvy through the neighborhood, crashing into our backyard and into the middle of our chickens.

There is a reason chickens like to be in groups, and it isn't only that they enjoy each other's company, although I think they do. The other reason is survival. As in, while a dog manages to grab one chicken the other six scatter and hide. J chased the dogs away before they could do much hunting for the other chickens, but even so, I have to give them credit. Chickens may not have much in the way of brains, but they hide very, very well. I reflected on this often while searching for chickens in the pouring rain of that day.

We eventually found the six scattered chickens, but poor Dot, our beautiful silver-laced Wyandotte, had met her demise as soon as she met the dogs. At least it was obviously quick-- no lingering. We were all upset, of course, and sensitive N eulogized through his tears, "She was our best chicken!" She will be missed. Although, not, apparently, by the other chickens, who carry on without seeming to notice the difference.

It was Father's Day. When I called my Dad, I mentioned our misfortune with our chickens. Dad, who was raised on a farm in Idaho, informed me that all you can do with a dog that kills chickens is shoot it. Somehow I think trusting my neighbor's promises that she won't let the dogs get loose again is the better option in my case. We don't even own a gun. But I can still hear my dad insisting, "I'm telling you, they won't stop! You have to shoot them."

At that moment, I had the rather disorienting feeling that my life is rather bizarre.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We camped!

I have fond memories of camping trips with my family as a child. But somehow, I have been fearful of camping with my own brood. I grew soft as I aged I suppose, or perhaps I can simply blame inertia-- we just never got started.

To be honest, I had even forgotten that we even owned a tent. But when we decided to take a road trip to Arizona to see my eldest nephew get married (Yay!), J suggested that we take the opportunity to camp at the Grand Canyon.

"We don't even have a tent," I replied.

But we did!

It is a very small tent, and we are not a very small family, but we set off for the longest road trip we've ever undertaken, carrying with us our meager gear for the first family camping trip since the one we abandoned on account of rain when T was 4 and H was 2. That was a long time ago.

And guess what?? We did it! And it was fun!

Of course, one of the best parts was that my sister and her family (sans the son that just got married-- he had better things to do) went with us! And I have to admit I felt more confident with them in the next campground, because they are camping Grand Masters. Alaskan camping Grand Masters, no less. I felt sure that if anything went horribly,terribly wrong, they could tell us what to do.

But nothing did. Granted, the Grand Canyon campground isn't exactly deep wilderness, since the National Park people have kindly placed a large supermarket about five minutes away from the camp sites. This was useful, since we managed to arrive just as dark was falling and had forgotten to pack a flashlight. And there were bathrooms with flush toilets (praise be!).

But still, we went honest-to-goodness tent camping! The baby and I slept in the van, but that's because the tent is actually a two-man tent. Apparently J+5 kids = two men. Or maybe not. Upon emerging from the tent after that first night, J remarked, ala Jaws, "We're gonna need a bigger tent."

The kids loved the trip, especially since their cousins were there. But I could also tell that they really did enjoy the camping. B was a little confused about what was going on, though. I can't blame him. At three years old, what are you supposed to think when your entire family packs up, drives and drives, and eventually settles in a spot in the woods, cooking meals around a fire and sleeping in a tent? B apparently thought everything in his world had changed for good. At one point, after much fun and delight running around the camp site, he sat near the fire pit, grew thoughtful, and asked me, somewhat plaintively, "Is this home?"

"No, sweetie," I replied, surprised. "We're camping."

He appeared to consider this, and then confided to me, "We should go home."

I realized that he didn't really understand what "camping" means, and assured him that we would indeed go home after our camping trip was over. We only stayed two nights and he truly seemed to enjoy the time there! But it was a reminder that so many things we think of as simple and straight-forward can be perplexing to our small children.

Even so, J and I agree we should go camping as a family again.

But we're gonna need a bigger tent.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Total. Diaper. FAIL.

If you're not a parent, and have thus not become inured to discussions involving infant feces, you may want to skip this post. But I feel like sharing, so there.

W tends to have more than the usual number of infant blowouts. No diaper can successfully guard against all blowouts, no matter what the advertisements say. We've tried many brands. And in W's case, since he seems to store it up for several days before letting loose, all we can really do is diaper him, hope for the best, and clean up the inevitable when it comes.

But until today, all blowouts had luckily happened within the safe confines of our own home.

I was sitting in church with W on my lap. He really is a sweet and low-key baby, and very easy on us in general. He is generally remarkably quiet and content during Sacrament meeting. So I was listening to the speaker with him on my lap, when I felt a sudden warmth. I thought I was merely feeling this warmth through the diaper and our clothes. Oh no. When I lifted him up to see if this required and immediate diaper change or if he might wait the ten minutes that were left in the meeting, I was horrified to find that there was yellow poo dribbling down his chubby leg and on my skirt. It was as if I hadn't even put a diaper on him!

J and I had to quickly put together Operation Remove Poo from the Church Without Attracting Attention. I tried to arrange W's baby blanket both to cover the mess and stop it from spreading. J sent T to walk in front of me, as a sort of shield. So I went awkwardly up the aisle, holding W in an unnatural position and praying that the speaker was so fascinating that no one was looking at us, while T walked a step ahead of me, probably vowing to never provide me with a grandchild.

T went back to join the family and I managed to walk home, carrying W in the same awkward fashion, and get the two of us cleaned and changed. And I rediapered him. Which was something of an act of unaccountable faith, I suppose.

Good thing the kid's so dang cute.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Language acquisition with B!

I showed the video from my last post to N and B, and they were predictably thrilled to see their very own mugs on an electronic screen. B's little eyebrows shot up, and he excitedly exclaimed, "It's me and...! It's we! It's... it's..." He floundered, obviously sure that there was a some pronoun, somewhere, that would include himself and the siblings also in the video with him in one neat, monosyllabic package. He just didn't know, or couldn't remember, what it was. But he was undaunted. He was brilliant. He was impressive. I could see his mind working, scanning his little lexicon like my computer scanning for viruses, and when he came up short, he applied his version of Grammar Rules I Know Thus Far and settled on shouting, with unmitigated delight, "It's mes!"

How cool is that? I don't remember learning English, but I remember when I first started learning Japanese. If I didn't know how to express something, it was hard for me forge on, undaunted. I was typically very daunted. Too bad I wasn't more like B and other little language-learning children. And how impressive is it that a not-quite-three-year-old can do this? It's really quite sophisticated if you think about it. "I don't know this word I want to use, but I know the pronoun 'me,' and the word I want is like 'me,' but there are other people with me, so it's more than 'me'... so I'll make 'me' plural! I know how to make plurals!" And so we get "mes." Fantabulous.

"That's right, B." I said. "It's you, and N, and W! So say, 'It's us!'"

And that got me the best smile of all. "Yeah. It's us!" he replied. With great satisfaction.

He may move on to "us," but I will always remember "mes."

Climbing over every language obstacle...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A short post with two big brothers and a baby.

The other day I was checking my email when I noticed the almost-melodic sound of a 5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old singing. So I turned around and witnessed N and B singing "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to baby W, much to his delight.

I had been feeling a bit blue, but at that moment all I could feel was very lucky to be me. Seeing my children love each other and enjoy each other's company is the best mood-lifter. I'm glad video exists, so that I can have that little episode forever.

Even with that teensy communication breakdown B exhibited at the end there in the video.

Well, see, life is good. It just ain't perfect.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dust baths and tomato seeds. Ah, spring!

Around here, spring is a tease. We'll have beautiful, warm sunny days that make us feel that spring has truly sprung, and then in an abrupt about-face it will snow down some spiteful slush on us.

On the sunny days, the chickens are clearly as ecstatic about it as we are. Here they are enjoying a dust bath. They will fluff dirt into their feathers to make sure no lice or other unpleasantness can live there. Plus, it obviously is a pleasurable experience for them. They transform our backyard into a chicken spa.

But Spring is nearly ready to commit. I hope. And we are preparing for gardening season! This means the shelf in front of the playroom windows are being taken over by tomato seedlings.

We had a bit of a tomato planting party. See, when we first started gardening, we would buy tomato starts from the local nursery. We grew some lovely Roma tomatoes and beefsteaks (if they told us the variety, I don't recall), and we were quite happy with them. But a good friend and lovely neighbor who jut happens to be an expert gardener opened our eyes to a world of tomato possibilities: it turns out that if you are willing to start your own tomato plants from seeds, there is no end to the variety you can choose from. I had no idea. Now, granted, I grew up in Alaska, where unless you have a greenhouse as well as a green thumb, you don't grow tomatoes. But still... orange tomatoes, purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, yellow and green striped tomatoes, tomatoes that remain green when ripe and juicy (which I forgot, so last year the chickens got most of those-I thought they were still green! Because they were! But ripe nonetheless)... it was a whole new world for me.

This year we ordered from a fantastic heirloom seed company called Baker Creek. After pouring over the amazing catalog, we selected (with N's help- he's quite the little gardening enthusiast) Violet Jasper and Omar's Lebanese as new varieties we're trying for the first time this year. We also planted some of the favorites we've found thus far: Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, and Pink Brandywine. Unfortunately, we ordered too late to get all out favorites-- some were sold out! My goal this year is to buckle down and learn how to successfully save the seeds from our tomatoes. Then we will only need to purchase seeds for new types to try.

Planting those tiny seeds, it never ceases to astonish me that we expect to get tomatoes from them. We planted some eggplant and sweet peppers, too. Purple Beauty Peppers, Lipstick Peppers, Black Diamond Eggplant, and the fabulously named Pandora Striped Rose Eggplant.

Here are J and N watering the newly planted seeds.

N feels a special responsibility for caring for our little plants. Here he is watering the seedlings a couple of weeks later.

A few days ago, the seedlings were so large that it was time to transfer them to larger containers. J undertook that task. And now they dominate the window.

Isn't it a beautiful sight?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The One That Started it All

The chicken on the heading is Rainbow. As mentioned before, she is the one that started it all. This is the story of how she did it. Oh, by the way, I am T.

In third grade, we hatched chicks in our class for Easter. I was one of the kids that was permitted to take a chick home--if the one we claimed ever hatched, which mine did. So on the day that we were to take them home, my teacher (as she later told us) was driving to the school that morning with the chicks' cage on top of her car. As she pulled into the school parking lot, though, the cage fell off, scattering the food, the straw, and the chicks, too. Luckily, a fifth grade class was outside and they helped my teacher pick up all the chicks. But it was just my luck that my chick was forgotten! When I came in to claim my chick that morning, it was missing! Being not very self-conscious of what I looked like at school, I burst into tears.

The teacher suggested that since one of my buddies was late, and his chick was safe and sound, I should take his. My teacher had said that if you came in late, you might not get your chick. So my mom took the chick (being black, my friend called him Blackie Chan), and left. One of the other parents was nice enough to go searching in the parking lot for my lost chick (by then, my friend and his mom had arrived). Meanwhile, all of us kids were gluing our faces to the window, looking. Suddenly someone pointed it out, saying, "Hey! The chick is under that car over there!" Soon, my chick was brought in, shivering. My friend's mom took my chick home with her, and later, after school, we switched chicks.

When I got home, I was greeted by another chick that my mom had apparently bought to keep Rainbow, as I had by now named her, company. That one was Angela.

That is the story of "The One that Started it All". And I'm pretty sure this explains why Rainbow seems to be the easiest one to catch--at least when I'm catching her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Meet the chickens

We have seven hens plotting to infiltrate our home and turn it into a massive indoor chicken toilet. That's Rainbow (otherwise known as "the chick who started it all") in the picture, hatching her nefarious plans in lieu of hatching her eggs. No roosters allowed in the city-- not that we'd want one. We lived in Taiwan briefly, and though it was brief it was long enough to discover that roosters don't only crow at daybreak. They crow whenever-the-heck they feel like it. N once remarked that he wished we wouldn't take all the chicken eggs, because he wanted some of them to hatch, and H promptly launched into a lecture about precisely why our roosterless hens' eggs wouldn't actually produce any chicks. See, having chickens is educational for children!

We have three Rhode Island reds, a black australorp, an ameracauna (who gets extra points for laying green eggs), a silver-laced wyandotte, and one Unknown. That's Odessa. Poor Odessa, I just haven't been able to figure out what she is. I should get back to the chicken books and pin it down...

So the reds are Rainbow, Angela, and Beauty, who, ironically, is the chicken my husband and I think the most homely. L thought her gorgeous, however, and bestowed upon her her hyberbolic moniker. It wasn't as if I was going to tell her, "NO, honey, that chicken is too ugly to be named Beauty." Our black australorp is Lucy, who is actually Lucinda, but I think I'm the only one who remembers that. Our white ameracauna is Snow White (that name's from L again... someone had princesses on the brain two years ago, even despite never having any Disney princess movies in the home...hm....maybe that "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" lady has a point--wait! We do have the movie Cinderella...ok, now I will end this parenthetical insertion, really, I will), and the silver-laced wyandotte is Dot. Then there's our unknown Odessa.

We love our chickens. They are the Pets that Give Back. We give them food and care (and it's really not strenuous) and they give us the tastiest eggs I've ever had, plus loads of entertainment. They also free me from a truckload of guilt from the food my children would waste. Preschool children are notorious food-wasters, but now it's not wasted food, it's chicken food! I love that.

I will admit I have a favorite. Lucy is the smartest of the bunch (although that's really not saying much) and will follow me around like a puppy in a most endearing way. They ALL follow me when they think I have food in my hands, but that's different. On the rare occasion that a chicken finds her way into the neighbor's yard, I have to chase her down unless it's Lucy. Lucy will follow me obediently back home. Actually, Lucy may well be the most obedient member of this household.

If we had more space, we would have more chickens. And maybe a goat. A small goat. But I read that, just like chickens, goats get lonely on their own...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Two-year-olds get a bad rap.

I told B that it was time for him to get dressed. (All right, so it was past time. But when we don't have to be anywhere, sometimes B hangs out in pajamas for awhile. I'm not disclosing until when here... but anyway, he doesn't mind.) Next thing I knew, four-year-old N and two-year-old B were clomping through the house as robots. Not sure where that came from. But here comes B, imitating to the best of his ability the jerking movements and stilted voice of a robot, as modeled by his brother.

"Robot-need-to-get-dressed," he intoned. Then he grinned that impish grin at me.

I felt like the mother in the opening paragraph of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Two-year-old Wendy presents her mother with a flower, and the narrator remarks, "I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, 'Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!'"

It is for my two-year-olds that I have most often felt that sentiment. I must confess that, although I adore babies, I never long for a baby to stay a baby forever, and am predictably thrilled at each milestone reached. And once a child is much past two, they themselves are so impatient to grow up that it seems rather cruel to wish that they wouldn't (nevertheless, I have my cruel moments). But two-year-olds are so satisfied being two. They have the best of being a baby, all that excitement at the newness of everything, without the night feedings or the spitting up.

Even when my two-year-old robot fidgeted and decided to tease me by running off after his shirt was on, he was easily brought back by my simply joining the game. "Robots-need-pants," I reminded him mechanically, and he laughed and ran back to hug me, before obligingly stepping into his trousers.

If only B would be fully potty-trained (surely the most odious task in all of parenthood--but we're so close!), I confess I could wish he'd stay two forever. Terrible twos? Never heard of them.

But then, maybe my children are just developmentally delayed, because J and I agree that three is a perfectly rotten age (too harsh? "very challenging" in parentally PC terms), full of whining and "testing." I must admit that we therefore greet a fourth birthday with an extra measure of glee mingled with relief.