Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Chicken or the Blog? Part I

For years, we had goldfish. I'm not sure goldfish even count as pets, except I remember having quite a collection when I was a child, so they must count for something. At first it was the three plain old goldfish from the school carnival, and soon I began collecting fancy ones with double tails, bulging eyes and various colors. This is more or less how the goldfish collection grew in our home and with my children, only I managed to keep them all confined in one tank and never exceeding five in number.

I've always loved animals. My mother always said I might die of anxiety if left in a room with a mosquito or a fly, but lock me up in a cage with tigers and lions and I would be just fine. She pretty much hit the nail on the head. I've also always possessed this uncanny ability to attract stray animals. So, with my soft spot for just about anything outside the insect realm and my animal magnetism, I found it very difficult to hold steadfast my decision not to have pets (save the won-at-the-carnival goldfish) once I had children.

Fast-forward five years post baby #1. The kindergarten classes at our school hatch chicks or ducklings as part of their life sciences unit. They do this every year. The chicks are kept for a week or two and then shipped off to the farm, where they likely turn into something you pick up at the store for dinner. My husband started working on me right away, asking about the chicks, what happens to them after they hatch, where they might go and whether or not the teachers might be willing to pass them along to a nice home where they might be kept as “pets”. Well, I knew exactly where that conversation was going, so I nipped it in the bud, at least for that year. The same conversation came up two years later when our son was in Kindergarten, but hubby did not persist since there was also a new baby in the house. Eventually, that baby went to Kindergarten where they were still hatching chicks.

Do the math and you'll figure that my husband must be a very patient and persistent man. I'm not sure anyone else would have waited six years for the opportunity, but he sure did, and boy did he work the right angle! All it took was one dinnertime conversation. He timed it just perfectly. His eyes lit up and he wore a contagious smile as he posed the question “Kids, what do you think... wouldn't it be fun to have chickens?” to which the children need not have responded because their expressions had written in them every hope, every wonder and the inkling of distrust that crossed their hearts and minds at the thought that this might be nothing but a cruel trick.

To make a long story short, of course, the children wanted to have chickens. They pledged to help take care of the chickens, they promised to help build the coop, their father swore an oath in some kind of slow-cooked tomato sauce to prepare everything before any fowl laid a feather on the property, and by the power of Democracy and words I was certain would not hold water, I had been defeated. In two weeks, I would be bringing home the six balls of down that would send me on a downward spiral.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Chicken or the Blog? An Introduction

It is a question that has pestered mankind for centuries, perhaps even millenia. Which came first?

The more contemporary version of the question I ask myself has a much simpler answer. For me, it is clearly the chicken(s) that came before the blog.

How is it that someone who neither Tweets nor Likes nor jumps onto 4square winds up blogging? Well, it has been a long journey, one that has taken me from the purgatory of parenting, volunteering, domesticating (former students of philosophy are generally at liberty to make up words) and such to the progressive Dantean circles of insanity. Every successful sourdough starter, each daily meal, every seed or seedling planted in the garden and lastly, the chicks-turned-roosters or hens that have overtaken my life in sub-urban California, have contributed to my transformation from the content “home-maker” to the marginally insane person in need of blog-therapy.

This is the story of how raising urban chickens slowly drove me to the brink of insanity and why I decided, after much encouragement and prodding from friends and acquaintances, to contribute to the daily recommended allowance of 15 minutes of laughter per day for those who might find this humorous.

I will share my best and worst moments, knowing full well that someone may read this someday and either laugh in recognition or just at the absurdity of it all, while others will shake heads in disapproval or perhaps offer free counseling for my children who will no doubt make good use of it someday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I'm borderline insane. Aren't we all? Think about it. Insane is the new “normal”. So much information, so many activities, children, work, homework, volunteering and the list goes on.
It was my daughter's 7th birthday recently. This child has never had a real party, so this year I promised exactly that. Until party day and on the official birthday, I couldn't help doing just a little extra (or going overboard, as my husband put it). So, in spite of having spent the previous 10 days sick as a dog, nursing the concussed soccer player and having slept about as much as a mother of newborn twins, I persisted.
The morning was spent on frosting some of the 57 pumpkin spice cupcakes. The offset spatula seemed a cop-out, so I watched a video on how to create chrysanthemums instead. For whatever reason (the term reason being used loosely), this seemed an excellent idea. I was a bit discouraged given the first six cupcakes took over half an hour to complete, but I kept my pastry bag full and continued until I had thirty. I was on a roll, I told myself, and with the sense of accomplishment any mother would feel after marking off the first thing on her infinite to-do list – in my case, cupcakes, dinner, clean house, pick up children, snacks, extracurricular activities and a surprise whisking everyone away to the Friday night performance of Cirque du Soleil's Totem – off to the classroom I went.
Logistics were off, so I was asked to come back at the end of the day to share cupcakes and celebrate, which I did. In the meantime, supermom was off to make this birthday even more special! I spent the following hours cleaning out the closet and bedroom of the birthday girl. The closet was neatly organized, the surfaces tidy and most importantly, I had waited for one year to buy the coveted zebra/pink cheetah bedding on clearance (I'm not cheap, I'm frugal... or so I tell myself). Wants being wants and not related to needs, this seemed a reasonable waiting period. Just as 2:00pm rolled around, I had managed to rather efficiently spruce up the bedroom. We threw the tiger pillow-pet that her auntie had sent on the top bunk and voila!
I made it to school to pass out the cupcakes, early as it turned out. There were a few inquisitive glances... what were these cupcakes anyway? One of the children held it and examined it carefully for, my estimate is in the ballpark of, ten minutes. “What is this?” she asked, sniffing the frosting and assuming the look of British nobility - nostrils flared, eyes crossed, lips tight. “Pumpkin spice with maple cream cheese frosting” I replied. She poked and prodded, licked and bit it and gave it much consideration. “Are we going to be in the same class next year?” she asked with gravity “Because, if we are, could you please ask your daughter to make vanilla cupcakes next year? I only like vanilla cupcakes. I don't like pumpkin and I don't like anything else”.
At this point, the other three moms licking maple cream cheese frosting dropped their jaws and glared. I told the student as seriously as I could that I would make a mental note of her preferences for next year, but that I could not promise anything. I would, however, do my absolute best. Maybe vanilla would have been a better idea for the second grade palate.
The troops arrived safely home within a half hour of cupcake distribution and I sent the girls downstairs for the big surprise (the first big surprise). In the meantime, my sister called and I managed to pick up the phone. Midway through my first sentence, my youngest came running upstairs whaling, her eyes engorged with tears, her voice giving way to absolute grief. I crumbled. What had gone wrong? Was it the wrong bedding? Was it too much? Had this child been so deprived of birthday celebrations that she could not possibly handle the exuberance and joy of commemorating the day properly? The sobs would not dissipate and words could not form in the mouth of this suffering seven year old. Finally, after hugging and comforting her for what seemed an eternity, she was able to give voice to her tragic loss. “You took down my mobile...” she said, accusatory, betrayed and ultimately defeated.
“Oh no, my love. I didn't take down your mobile” I replied with full sincerity. “That was daddy”.
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Monday, November 21, 2011

Postage Due

I had just returned from one of the infinite number of short trips that fragment my day into twenty-minute segments. Barely having pulled into my driveway, turned off the engine and stepped out of my car, I saw the USPS truck tucking itself neatly in parallel form just behind my vehicle. The postman rummaged through a few boxes and presented me with my correspondence, taking care to point out that there was postage due on a large white envelope. Regretfully, I did not happen to have the 44 cents necessary. Fortunately, the postman did have a miniature manilla envelope handy, upon which he inscribed “postage due 44¢"

The irony of the matter was that the envelope in question came from our financial adviser. It was definitely an accident, but I couldn't help thinking how ironic it all was. Financial adviser – big white envelope – postage due... are you following me? What made it funnier still is the fact that his office is right next to the local post office, and that he could have handed me the envelope and saved himself postage and me “postage due” anytime.

One question still lingers... Why does the USPS not return mail to senders anymore?

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble locating that miniature manilla envelope.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today Your Shoes, Tomorrow Your Undies - airport security for minors

Taking three children on a transatlantic flight may be adventure enough, but the most grueling portion of the trip is spent going through U.S. Security. Seasoned travelers know to avoid the belts and jewelry and above all, they know to travel in slip-on shoes.

Compared to our previous two hour long experiences, half an hour seemed a reasonable sacrifice in order to ensure our safety, though it seems an eternity to a child. Curious as she is, bored and confused as she was, my youngest began to wonder. Why are we to remove our shoes? What could possibly be wrong with her new Nike outlet acquisitions (the ones that make her spring off the pavement and run faster than a cheetah)? Would these people in uniform keep them?

I put her mind at ease and explained that she would have her shoes back once they had made it through the x-ray machine. Clearly her shoes were not broken! This process made no sense at all! She pummeled me with questions and peace would not be restored until she had a full explanation. Could you blame her?

This is where speaking a second language comes in handy! I certainly could not explain to my six year old that we remove our shoes because somebody once got on a plane with a bomb in his shoe – not in an airport, and not in English. So, I did it anyway, in an airport, but not in English.

The next time we went through security, she was content to follow the rules, and the topic never again resurfaced until months later over dinner. For whatever reason, she decided we must revisit this subject, and she let us know that she found it rather drole that due to one person's bad idea, the rest of us should have to remove shoes at airports for the rest of our lives. How can you argue with that kind of wisdom? A mother must agree! And so I did... only I took it a step further to pose the question:

“So, if someone boards a plane with a bomb in his shoes and we all have to take our shoes off for security, what happens when someone puts a bomb in his underwear? Will we have to remove that as well”?

Roaring laughter shook the table. Eye-rolling from the teenager, baffled looks from the tween, shock from daddy and from the young sage a response broke through her trills “Who would want to look in our underwear? That's gross! And who would be stupid enough to put a bomb in there”?

Sometimes, my children think I make up stories in order to illustrate a point. It worked to my advantage that a few weeks ago, Mr. Underwear Bomber was all over the news. Mommy didn't make that one up! They might be asking on our next trip whether body-scanners are not another way of sneaking into our undies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Luddite

Instead of going into painful detail about my background, I present you with the article sent to me on my most recent birthday.  Not too long before receiving such a gift, I had been accused of being quite the Luddite, not just because of my being domestically inclined, but also because I am more or less illiterate so far as social media is concerned.  As it turns out, and I quote...
"You may be so far behind the times that you're actually ahead of them."