Sunday, August 29, 2010

8 Feet Tall, One Brick at a Time

James is a Lego guy. He gets a kit or two at every gift giving holiday. He also buys kits in the interim with his own money.
We've been to Legoland in Carlsbad, CA, twice.
In Austin, the only place to buy Legos has always been in retail outlets. They have only so much shelf space, and therefore don't carry much of a selection.
In August, Austin finally got its very own Lego store!
To commemorate the event, Lego sent out Master Brick Builders to make Buzz Lightyear.
An 8ft. tall Buzz Lightyear.
The public got to help! Seems like a recipe for disaster, but they have it down to a science.
Fifteen tables were set up, within a ringed off area. Thirty kids were allowed in at a time.
On each table was a certain kind and color of brick.

There was also a plan for each table. What I discovered, was that each table was actually building a replica of a standard Lego brick. Does that make sense?
The Brick Master, would then take the bricks that the children had made and assemble them into the Buzz Lightyear character.

James and best buddy, Jack, making bricks.

There was no limit to how many of the larger bricks you could make, but James and Jack quickly got bored with making rectangles. They both made 3, and called it a day.
They handed them over to the Brick Master to use for the final product.

Here they are with a miniature version of Buzz and the Brick Master. We didn't stay for the final building. They had just begun on Buzz's feet when we got there.
It took the Lego employees three full days to make Buzz come to life. I can't seem to locate, in all my searching, how many bricks it took to make him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Morning with Hobbes

First, I must be honest. His formal name is Hobbes.
He never, ever gets called Hobbes.
It has become clear that you must name animals with at least a two syllable name, so you can sing-song call them when they are in another room.
Thus, Hobbes' name is Hobbesy.
He seldom gets called that, either.
The short list:
Ankle Biter
Itty Bitty Kitty Committee
Teeny Weeny
Bad Cat
Purr Bucket

Nap After Breakfast

A conference with Mandy after watching the birds at the birdfeeder.

Playtime with shoes.
He has a shoe fetish. Better not let him know I am a 'member' at the DSW shoe warehouse.

Checking out the cartoon genius that spawned his name. Big cat shoes to fill.
Thankfully, we don't have a Calvinesque boy to play the part of Calvin at our house.

Helping change the air filters.
Last bit of activity before his late morning nap which precedes his pre-lunch kitty treat.

Hobbes was 5 months old on Monday.
We think we'll keep him.
He's a pretty good boy, despite his tendency to hassle the dogs.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Parenting Is Not for Sissies

Steel Eel
Sea World, San Antonio, Texas
by Pearl Cox

I chose this picture because it seems to fit parenting to a tee.
Parenting can be beautiful.
Parenting can be two emotions at one time.
Parenting has twists and turns.
Parenting can be terrifying.
Parenting can be exhilarating.
Parenting can make your heart race.
Parenting can make you feel out of control most of the time.
Parenting has hills and valleys.

I can't go into specifics, but it has been a hard year in the parenting category of my life. Since that is my primary occupation, it takes up a great deal of my physical and mental time.

I remember when my kids were babies. Oh, how I worried----or so I thought.
Babies have basic needs.
While it is frustrating and exhausting (read: little sleep!) caring for someone who doesn't speak your language, it doesn't take too long to get the hang of it.

One cry means I'm hungry. One cry means I'm in need of clean diaper. One cry means I'm hot/cold. One cry means I need help with this tummy ache. One cry means I'm tired and I can't get to sleep. One cry means I'm lonely/bored.

As they grow, it becomes more complicated.
If they become unhappy, it's usually because of something you have done or haven't done.
"No, you may not have cake for breakfast."
"I'm sorry, your blankie is still in the washing machine."

Once they reach school age, the circle of people that can make them laugh and cry, widens.
Teachers, friends and enemies. Book reports, and P.E. and lunch and lockers.
All those things, are primarily out of your control, as a parent.
Yet, you're now expected to comfort the emotional wounds caused by others, when you really just want to go all 'she-bear' on the perpetrator .
Something as simple as having a different parenting style than the best friend's parents can cause all sorts of drama.

It's much easier to just get down in the trenches with your kids and fight like they do. To get drawn into their every little sadness and worry. It's rarely the right thing to do.
This year, my kids have been battling self-doubt, sadness, worry and change.
I have been blessed beyond measure with the fact that they have always made good choices. None of the things going on with them will harm them physically or really mentally.
It's just typical teenage stuff.

I have not, however, been able to distance myself as a parent from their woes.
I want to "fix it", just like I did when they were little.
It's not as easy as when I could just throw the blankie in the dryer and read them a book until it was dry. Bandaids don't work. Neither do cookies.
All I can offer is an ear for their worries.
I wish I could take all their anger and sadness and worry and make it disappear.
I cannot.
I also have not come to a place in my parenting style, to just let things play out.

Their pain is my pain. Their worry is my worry. Their sadness is my sadness. Their uncertainty is my uncertainty.
All I can offer is advice and remembrances of when I was their age.

The one thing I refuse to do, is tell them to suck it up and get over it.
It seldom works out so well for parent or child when that tactic is used.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Towers

Sounds like the name of a movie, doesn't it?
In my case, the towers remind me of my kids. Always there, but so familiar that I take their presence for granted.

We've been busy at our house. As much as anything, we've been mentally busy.

We've been getting Tom ready to go to college. He leaves on Wednesday. His college of choice is about 45 minutes away. He's had a lot going on this summer and I can't tell if he's excited or not. It doesn't feel like it.
I'm usually very good about practicing the Serenity Prayer, but not so much lately. I think it must be natural to second guess your parenting a million times over when sending a kid to college.
Did I prepare him adequately enough to take care of himself?

I find myself asking the same questions I asked myself when he went off to kindergarten.

"Will he eat?"
"What will he eat?"
"What if he gets sick?"
"What if he forgets something?"
"Will he get his work done?"
"Will he get good grades?"

Only now, the answers to those questions have real consequences.
He's not coming home at the end of the day for milk and cookies. I won't be there to listen to his worries and help resolve his dilemmas.

Lee reminds me that we've done a good job. He tells me we will not micromanage Tom's college career. He assures me that Tom knows that college is for finding himself, making his own decisions and living with them.
There comes a point where I have to let go.
I just want him to be happy and realize the importance of the next four years.

It will be amazing and it will suck eggs.
It will be challenging and it will be wildly rewarding.
It will be stressful.
It will be loud, and silly and fun.
People will challenge what he believes about himself and the world.
It will be life changing, above all else.
Never have there been four more important years in his life, than the ones coming up.

Have fun, Tom.
Get some sleep.
Eat breakfast.
Eat lunch.
Eat dinner.
Do your homework.
Listen to your conscience.
Spend time with friends.
Learn to love time alone.
Go to class.
Don't forget your key.
Make new friends.
Meet the teacher.
Try something new.
Do some laundry.
Stay healthy.
Know that we will miss you, even if you don't miss us--and that's okay.

Yup, pretty much all of the things I thought before he went to kindergarten. Except for the laundry part.

We love you, Tom!
Have a great year!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Somebody turned 80 years young yesterday.
Someone I love and admire.
Someone that has been supportive and thoughtful and caring and helpful.
Someone I try to model myself after in many situations.
Someone who loves my kids like crazy.
Someone who thinks of others before herself.
Someone who insists on doing the kids chores when she's at the house, despite my protest.
Someone who has accepted my extended family, despite the fact that we often 'put the fun in dysfunctional'.
Someone who, when she calls the house, asks if I have time to talk instead of just starting in.
And most importantly, Someone who welcomed me into her family with loving, open arms and insisted that I call her mom.

Happy Birthday, Mom!
I love you skyfulls!
Thank you for all you've done for me and the family.
I am proud to know you and have you in my life.
I am a lucky, lucky women, indeed.
How many women can say as much about their mother-in-law?
We had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant and back home for carrot cake and ice cream.
Uncle JD was able to come from Colorado to help us celebrate mom's big day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Twenty-Two Years

Six cities
Six addresses
One apartment
Two rentals
Three houses
Eight Vehicles
Two birds
Several rodents
Four dogs
Two orange cats
Innumerable chickens
One lizard
One snake
Some tadpoles, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, butterflies and spiders

Lots of laughs
Lots of sleep loss
Lots of tears
Several fights
Some scary times
Some times when I thought we wouldn't make it
Lots of joy
Lots of understanding
Lots of silliness
Lots of compromise
Lots of listening
Lots of hearing
Lots of hugs and kisses
Lots more I haven't listed

Three kids that I wouldn't trade for anything
Kids that wouldn't be who they are without you and I working together.
Kids who wouldn't be who they are if we didn't feel free to disagree about how to raise them.
Kids who wouldn't be who they are if we didn't work out those disagreements.
Kids who wouldn't be who they are, if they didn't see the model we try to create for them every day on how to do this marriage thing right.
Kids I'm crazy proud of.

One husband, whom I love with all my heart.
One husband that I wouldn't trade for anything.
One husband that has worked very hard on our marriage.
One husband that I've been thrilled to have as my partner for the last twenty-two years.
One husband that I hope will be glad to spend the next twenty-two years with me.

Truly, Madly, Deeply.
Love You, Sweetie.
Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Chair

The picture below is wrong, all wrong.
This is Mandy's chair.
Well, first it belonged to the humans in our family--for about a minute and a half.
THEN it was Mandy's chair.
Then we got Smokie and after about a year or so, she claimed it as hers.
There must have been some discussion while the two dogs were trying to kill each other (early in their relationship) that involved the ownership of the chair.
One day, Smokie was laying there and Mandy was not.

Now, this has occurred.
Smokie has not completely given up ownership, nor has Mandy, but letting the kitten take it is just wrong.
Mind you, he has razor sharp teeth and can jump three feet in the air and grabs doggy ankles as they pass by the bed.
But still! It's the dog chair, dangit!

We humans in the house admit, that when we've been so lucky to have had a seat in the chair, that it loves us. It wraps its buttery leather arms around us. It makes us sleepy and comfy and warm. It would bake us cookies if it could could. And read to us.

And so, I've decided that the chair doesn't really belong to any of us. It means something comforting to all of us, even the naughty, ankle biting kitty.

Is it wrong to love a chair so much? Do you have a favorite piece of furniture?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fifteen is the Magic Number

My new hen, August, chose 15 as her number of eggs to go broody on.
Back in July, I found her secret hiding place.
She promptly moved the secret hiding place.
Across the driveway.

Every night, when I lock up the hens in their coop, I do a head count.
Luckily, the hens turn in before it's completely dark, because I counted and discovered I was missing one.

I walked the perimeter of the house. No hen.
I looked under bushes by the house. No hen.
I wandered the property a bit. No hen.
I "chook, chook, chook, chooked". No hen.
I rattled grain in a bucket. No hen.
I looked in her secret hiding place. No hen.

I realized she had not laid an egg in that place for some time, but was still letting herself out of the run every day.
She must have a new secret hiding place!

Rifling through the ornamental grasses in the near dark comes with its own risk. Wasps find the grasses especially attractive for setting up housekeeping. If I hit one, I'd find myself covered in wasps, as there was just enough daylight for them to see me.

I'd take my chances, as my hen would be no match for the Great Horned owls if she decided to come back to the coop in the final moments of the daylight.

I finally found her.
Poor thing had decided to go broody. She'd laid enough eggs, in her little chicken mind, to sit them. What she didn't understand, is that they weren't fertile. Tuesday, our roo, had taken no interest in her as far as mating goes.

I picked her up and marveled at her little nest. She even lined it with breast feathers. So smart for such a young hen. As I walked her back to the safety of the coop, I had a little "birds and bees" discussion with her. I don't think she heard me though.

The very next morning she was back out there and horrified to find all her eggs were gone.
There was much chicken "baawwoook!, bawoook!, aawwkkk!" from the front of the property. So much so, that it caught the attention of the dogs---in the house.

Looks like she'll have to find a new hiding place.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One Big Honkin' Spider

Okay, so the title was fair warning for those that don't care for spiders.
Or pictures of spiders.
Or pictures of people holding spiders.

Because I know a little bit about a lot of stuff, it's important to me to know just a little bit more.
First, this is the largest Wolf spider I've ever encountered.
What does that mean?
It means I have to find out why this one is so large, when the others around here are just 'medium'.
Sounds like I'm ordering a soda or something.
Small, medium, large and supersized insects.

Anyway, in my research, it turns out there are.......get ready........

Let me backtrack to Biology class, first.
No moaning, you know you need to learn something new every day to keep your brain sharp.

Remember the order of all living things goes like this.
I'll add the latin junk that goes with my spider in parenthesis.

Kingdom (Animalia)
Phyllum (Anthropoda)
Class (Arachnida)
Order (Araneae)
Family (Lycosoidae---Wolf Spiders)
Genus (Hogna--my spider)
Species (Helluo--my spider)

Her name (yes, it's female based on the size) would be H. helluo.
If you're ever at a dinner party and seated next to an entomologist, you'll have this to say...

"You know, I was just reading the other day about the ginormous size of an H. helluo Wolf spider found in a crazy, bug-loving lady's pool and how her husband rescued it and then knew right away to come get her cuz she'd want a picture of it and then would blog about it...."

Okay, so here are the numbers, in case you want something to keep you up at night.

Within the family of just Wolf spiders, there are 12 superfamilies.
Within those 12 families, there are 4,000 different (kinds) species.

Now, before you move to Antarctica (no Wolf spiders there), remember these things:

1. All 4,ooo kinds do not live in North America.

2. They are fabulous hunters of bugs that we don't like.

3. They are venomous, BUT, they won't bite you unless you really mess with one.

4. The bite will only hurt. They are not considered a spider that should send you running to the ER on a Sunday evening.

5. They will go out of their way to avoid you. No crawling in your sleeping bag for this spider.

Be sure to study. There'll be a quiz on Friday