Monday, March 30, 2009

Wyatt's Words

The last week we have been working on a goal for Wyatt. He has been attempting the impossible. That task, the daunting and unattainable feat, is to go five days without calling anyone names or using bad words. Wyatt's favorites have been wide and varied, including from one time to another: dummy, dumb dumb, funk in the trunk, doo doo head, funk head, poopy head, and so many more I cease to remember...

I have implemented the sticker system to earn him a treat since my efforts in "Time Out" have been totally useless. Time outs did nothing to inhibit his mouth from uttering his favorite pejoratives. So for his first five sticker reward he chose to go to Mt. Madonna County Park which is about 25 minutes from our home.

Here the kids are looking at the maps to help direct our walk to the Miller Ruins.

Wyatt looks more unlike me as he gets older...kinda makes me a little sad.

We walked a short way to climb upon the concrete foundations of the Miller Estate. Miller bought the lands, which now are owned by the Park, in the late 1800's. The lands were clear cut then and there were views to the ocean and eastern valley from the home site.

Now, over 100 years later, the forests have grown back and consist of a mixture of redwood and oak. The trees are tall and the undergrowth thick so you can only see as far as a few hundred feet.

This tree, a coast redwood (Sequoiadendron diversilobum), was probably one of the few sparred from the ax during logging over a century ago. It was the biggest tree we encountered. Ella is barely 3 feet tall so you can see by it's size it is ancient in comparison to us mere mortals.

Wyatt demonstrates his advanced map reading skills. We managed to not get lost somehow...

Leading the walk, I hope he enjoyed his reward for not saying bad words or calling names. That he came up with this trip totally unprompted surprised me. I never know just what to expect from my little boy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gemma's Feeling Awful

This is sad Gemma today. She is at least standing on her foot now, but is still in quite a lot of a pain. This morning I came out to see that she had not eaten her food from the night before. That means she is doing bad, actually really bad.

Her body is tired from so much compensation for the painful foot. She has been standing in this spot for most of the morning. Her butt muscles are very fatigued and she has her back feet under her for support. Normally, when relaxed a horses hind feet rest further behind the point of the hip.

When horses stop eating they colic. And I could tell that she had not gone #2 lately. Immediately I dosed her with some strong pain killers, 2 grams of Butte. I pulled her hoof wrap and removed the cotton plug the vet put in the hole of the abscess. The pressure was building up in the hoof again. More discharge poured from it. I think the plug, while good intentioned, was preventing drainage which is BAD...

The plug had Betadine medication on it, an anti bacterial solution. But to prevent further infiltration of bad stuff, I will keep it wrapped with a cotton pad on the surface of the hole so drainage will continue. This is the finished product complete with the silver duct tape which sticks most excellently to the hoof.

Moral support is always good. Sharpie keeps checking in on Gem to make sure she is still annoyed with him enough to pin her ears back. When I checked her a couple hours later she had relieved her self and looks a bit better and she started nibbling her food.

I am hoping for better this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I think this is going to be a long recovery.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sadly Saturday

To begin with, it's Friday night and I've got nothing.

After two days consisting of blood and puss and tears, I have a raging headache.

I think I will wrap a couple aprons around my head and tie a tourniquet to contain the pressure.

In brief, my son Wyatt split a tidy little gash in his head last night creating a Niagara falls-like gusher which streamed blood all down his neck and shirt.

My son is capable of deafening dolphins and dogs and I needed OSHA approved hearing protection while I doctored him. And since I was swabbing up Wyatt's blood Ella, my two year old, felt it necessary to scream about her alleged issues....

Not to be outdone, since she was deprived of attention, she had to start crying, "Sum tings biting my gyna!" Translation: Something is biting my vagina. What the??? That's an attention grabber now isn't it. By the way, everything was just fine down there. After a trip to the dock in the box and thankfully no stitches in Wyatt's head, it turned into a long evening...

Then today after 7 days of having a 3 legged horse, I finally called the vet out to work on what I knew must be an abscess in her foot. A hoof abscess is one of the MOST painful things for a horse. They literally can not stand on the bad foot and they shuffle the other three around trying to maneuver as to not touch their bad foot to the ground.... I had poulticed and duct taped and doctored accordingly, but to no avail and was beginning to think she had a broken bone in her foot. (And yes, duct tape is a staple supply in any equestrian medical, seriously.)

The vet arrives late Friday afternoon, examines, then take X-RAYS. (This is where you are supposed to be saying cha-ching as my money starts floating around in the breeze.) There were thankfully no fractures on the film but what looked like three abbesses. So there I was standing over the vet, trying not to hover annoyingly, watching him carve into the my horse's foot in search of a puss pocket. After 10 minutes of nothing, I was beginning to loose hope, BUT then I saw a black slimy patch in the hole that Dr.Vet was carving in the sole of my horses hoof. I knew we were only moments away from more filth and pestilence. And pow. Then the rest of the "problem" dumped out of the 1/4 inch hole in the mares foot. Phew.... She will feel much better Saturday, or today since I am writing this on Friday night. Yes, there is a bit of the twilight zone going on around here.

So I have no happy flower stories or joyful bird houses or goofy photos of my kids to gab about. I gotta go to sleep. ;(

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring, Spring, Spring!

We just got access to another 600 acres of private hiking trails ACROSS the STREET from our house. Woo hoo!!!! So, Ella and I went out for a quick walk and photo session. I am trying to use the "advanced" features on my digital SLR, which I have only had for FOUR years and never thought to pick up the instruction manual.

Go Ella, Go!

Ella is standing among rusty popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys nothofulvus)-white specks, miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor)-purple specks and fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii)-yellow specks. My photo does not do them justice.

The wildflowers are blooming everywhere.
Thus, you see the real reason I decided to get academic with the camera.

Wanting to take close up pictures of flowers, I was having trouble with field of view. Only one flower was coming into focus and the others remained blurred. So working with the aperture setting I have been able to get better close ups, or rather better flower pornography.

These California golden violets (Viola pedunculata) are blooming on the grassy northern slopes of the hills right now. They form small clusters and are not very abundant in the midst of the non-natives which have rampaged our grasslands.

I think this one could be Blue Violets alter ego........Golden Violet.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Half Moon

For some reason walking out to feed my horses is a special time of night. There is something incredible about the word when it glows with moonlight and strange long shadows lay quietly across the land.

A few nights ago I was bestowed with a magical walk including fairies and their sparkling dust. Add in a few elusive moonbeams and that just about made it complete. And no, I was not doped up on booze, or looped out on goof balls, or taking too many pharmaceuticals resulting in a conscious altered state. On the contrary, my daily interactions with my beloved family is enough to make me hallucinate. Thankyouverymuch.

Maybe it's the still night air, the coolness dropping from the sky like an icy blanket, and the glowing of the land which stirs an appreciation inside me. It all makes me feel alive and aware.

I always pass through a place where the coolest air gathers at the bottom of the creek channel on my short journey. The heavier cold air sinks to this low spot. It gathers and waits. Sometimes I think it is almost alive.

I can imagine a creek floating above the stream, but it is not running water that I see. It is a narrow curtain of cold air stretching up toward the sky, tapering as it ascends. This phantom creek flows north from our property stretching across the small valley in which we live. The river of air winds along the channel twisting and turning like a blue and white ribbon of stretched salt water taffy, but every flowing toward it's confluence with the bigger creeks downstream. It's a cold ghostly kind of stream, ethereal and unworldly.

I can feel it as soon as my chest breaches the invisible sheet it forms in the swale and just four steps later I am out of it. Just like that. In the day it is intangible, but at night time the sudden change in air temperature grabs me by surprise. It startles my skin and nose and hair, sending little prickly goose bumps up my arms and neck. A presence touches me and I shiver, but it is not unwelcome. It reminds me to feel and notice that which is absent at other times.

My little walk had come at a break in the rainy weather, and as I faced west toward the barn, the illumination from the glowing half moon was dazzling. A yellow halo pulsed around the half eaten moon pie. Shining with such brightness, the moon revealed the delicate water ripples flowing down our stream. This was the for real kind of water. The second hand sunlight made shimmery blades of grass visible where they lie flattened after the floodwaters had their way. A few silvery strands floated on the top of the water moving slowly with the tiny current.

I could see my reflection in the water too. My face was clearly visible in tones of black and white and gray. It was a night portrait, complete. I saw not just an outline or a soft picture, but well defined features. My solemn visage, my bright eyes and my quietly closed mouth. I was studying. I can't help it. It's what I do.

Distant calls of Pacific chorus frogs echoed in my head. Their repetitive conversations bounced back and forth between the hills in our valley, bringing me back to reality. Something happened to my frogs. I found one dead and floating body in the pond and the rest of my frog men have been silent. I have a suspicion that something lurks in the darkness just out of sight that snacks on my happily noisy friends. There are masked bandits on four legs with clever hands who don't steal money, only my little green jewels from the pond.

Just the night before the sky was dark and petulant, dumping trillions upon trillions of rain drops on our five acre patch of earth. The creek spanned 60 feet wide during the heaviest downpours. But in contrast, the few feet of water I traversed on this night shows the broad range of possibilities between day to day and moment to moment.

I looked to the sky again realizing the cloud cover, which had been persistent in blocking the sun and moon for several days, had finally relented. The moon hovered in the middle of a cloud shaped horseshoe in the sky. Puffy clouds lightly brushed with a pallet of blue and gray and yellow formed a shroud around the moon. It was as if an opening cleared in the canopy just for me so that I could experience a few moments of brilliance.

Maybe we live to find those few moments of brilliance. I try to store them in my mind. I think I will need these thoughts later. These gathered memories of exceptional minutes need remembering. Isn't that what we all strive for?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Mystery Package

I got something in the mail today! Woo hoo for me!
Wow what can it be???

Yeah! Something right up my tree!

It's a brand spanking new bird house! And who is it from?

The peeps say,
"Congratulations Julia!
I put 2 biddies in for the kids.
Thank you to Mountain Woman!
Hope you enjoy the birdhouse!
GA Farmwoman.

Translation: I won a bird house from Mountain Woman at Red Pine Mountain and it was hand made by Farm Man, husband to GA Farm Woman at Life on a Southern Farm.

Now all I have to do is put it in a tree so I can see it from my kitchen window. Who cares if it is raining... I have a new bird house to install!

You see.
Nice and cozy in a tree.
Right where it should be!

Thank you Mountain Woman and Thank you GA Farm Woman!
Smiles to everybody!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome Ultimate Blog Party

Welcome to Our Simple Life on this splendid Friday if you are coming from 5 Minutes for Mom. Please feel free to look around and see the projects and stories from my little wordl!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

And to those who did not know, there's a great giveaway and blog exploration week happening between March 20th and March 27th where hundreds of prizes will be offered! The Ultimate Blog Party shall be hosted at 5 Minutes for Mom. Just click on the button above and you will see links to many other blogs to visit and giveaways!

I would love to win prize number 20 which is a handful of goat milk soap bars! Go check out what you might want to win!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wordful Wednesday-How to Hatch a Tree Part IV

Remember these little beauties? If not check back here.

These baby acorns have started to sprout above ground!

Here is a baby valley oak seedling and an acorn split in two. The baby tree is still getting nutrients from both halves of the acorn via the root!

This is a live oak baby with the delicate little spines that are visible along the edge of the leaves.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Battle of the Titans!

On March 3, 2009, I spotted three tree swallows circling our property in the preparatory dance of love. They were chirping and fluttering and strutting and doing all the things they are supposed to do this time of year. Their acrobatics are astounding as they swoosh round and round circling above the pastures at terrifying speeds. Really, it is quite a show. These first arrivals were displaying their stuff in fine form and more arrived today, about two weeks behind the search party. I am sure some of these birds hatched and fledged from the boxes on our property

However....I knew that the battle royal was about to begin. A combat situation between two fly weights of the avian world. The tree swallows have one object on their miniature bird brains. It is a pair of boxes which are already claimed by a these two western bluebirds...

These bluebirds are the well established owners of the paired boxes on the post at this corner in the pasture. The male on the left and the female on the right staunchly defend their territory from alien invaders. They are vital bug eating members of the flittery-jittery gang that live year round at our house. Go bluebirds, Go!

Hooded in his brilliant blue space age helmet, we see a tree swallow jealously eyeballing the nesting boxes from the adjacent fence line. (above) Don't let the clean white shirt fool you. These tree swallows can get down and dirty fighting over nesting boxes.

Not to let the blatant stares go unanswered, Mr. Bluebird shows his ownership by flying into the nest box and putting his body in the entrance hole to block swallows from visiting his home. He is not going to loose his box to a bunch of fly by night visitors.

Working as the wing woman, Mrs. Bluebird perches on a nest box about 150 feet away and does the back door attack on the swallows chasing them out of her territory.

Then in what looked like aerial combat, the bluebirds and the swallows battled like 4 ounce titans. As the gang of tree swallows swooped and dived at them from above, the bluebirds launched short bursting attacks upward, always returning to their nest box. This display of territoriality only lasted for 3 minutes but it was enough to see who's box it was and who's box it was not. After finding their attempt to claim the box futile, the swallows disappeared. But they will be back. There are 6 other boxes they can use on our property...

Then the dominating pair of bluebirds stood at attention on the highest portion of the bluebird boxes, claiming their territory only as bluebirds can.

It was fun to watch and we shall see babies in a few more months!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Dead Cats, Why Me?

Warning: I use a few profane words here... My mom has complained about my use of the F-word in this post, so now you know. But there were extreme circumstances. I will revert to my normal and tame vocabulary in my next post.

Sometimes I have experiences that leave me quaking after they have occurred. Today I had this feelings for hours.

This morning as I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I hustled the kids into the truck to take them to preschool at Ms. Cindy's. After yelling at the kids to get in their car seats I strapped them in and flung my body into the drivers seat to begin our short journey.

We live on a busy rural road. It's a two laner that posts 45 as the legal speed, but frequently travelers are driving in excess of 60 down the mini-highway. I pulled out on our driveway and looked both ways, scanning the roadway north and south for approaching vehicles. We have a straight away in both directions, so fortunately I can see cars coming from afar. As I looked to my right, I immediately spotted a dead cat, light cream in color, in the middle of the road.

It was sprawled across the yellow line that bisects the roadway. A clean kill still. No blood or guts. Yet...

I knew that cat. It was a stray that had dined at my cat food dish just the night before. As I came out of my house at 10 pm to feed the horses, it dashed from the porch zooming under my truck, a skittish feral. I remembered thinking, "Great, I am feeding just one more unwanted cat."

But there he lay, dead on the road. I pulled over immediately and picked up his soft, limp body and put it in the back of my pickup truck. I hate it when other animals get hit while eating road kill, so I wanted to move the body out of harms way. I have seen turkey vultures dead where they were eating along the road. There was no need for another fatality today.

I popped back in the truck quickly clicking my seatbelt into the latch. I needed to turn the vehicle around, so I drove down the road to our neighbors driveway where I could negotiate backing up my crew cab, long bed, piece of crap truck. Navigating my vehicle is like moving the Queen Mary in a vat of sludge. The turning radius is miserable. No, actually the turning radius is miserably shitty.

As I was backing the truck up I caught a glimpse of a black something on the side of the road that looked like cat. Fuck. No, I thought, that can't be another cat. I kept backing. But, I had to look again. Yep, it was a cat. A small wisp of a black cat was dead on the shoulder of the road. A black cat. We have a black cat. His name is Lucky. Oh, Crap.

"I see another dead cat," I said to the kids, "I think that's Lucky, guys."

Setting the parking break, I informed the kids, "I'll be right back." I could not leave without making sure. I had to investigate further and jogged over to the spot where the cat lay on the ground. One look was all it took for me to be certain. It was Lucky. My heart sank. Black with faint tabby stripes and a few white hairs on his chest. Damn it all to hell.

I picked up the stiffened cat. Our stiffened little Lucky cat. Rigamortus had already set in and blood pored from his mouth when I placed him in the back of the truck beside the other dead cat.

Great. Just fucking great. Now I had not one, but two dead cats back there. Two dead cats, one black, one white, in the now bloody bed of my truck. The yin and the yang of cat death. One dead stray cat and one dead beloved member of our family was back there. A hell of a way to start the day.

So, there I am, driving down the road with a pair of dead cats bumping around in the back of my truck. One of which was defiling the bed with bodily fluids, but that was beside the point. I needed to break the news to the kids about their cat. Well, they were aware of what was going on. They saw me picking up dead cats along the road from their car seats. What a conversation starter for sharing time at school, "My Mom put dead cats in the back of our truck this morning..." That's just the reputation I want to establish.

I began factually, there was no reason to attempt hiding anything from the kids, "That was Lucky. Lucky got hit by a car." What else was I to say?

"No, Lucky's not dead, Jeweya (Julia)" cousin Adam responded first in a most affirmative manner. "He was merowing to get in this morning."

I responded, "Well, that cat I just picked up is Lucky, and he is dead, Adam."

"That's sad mom," Wyatt chimed in.

"Wucky dead, Wucky dead?" Ella peeped from her position between the two boys. She had to get her two cents in as well.

"It's very sad Wyatt. Very, very sad. Yep, Lucky's dead." was my only reply. I was stifling back tears at this point since I always have a tough time with my animals dying. My stomach was upset and I had that feeling of miserable helplessness for which there is no immediate cure.

It was an awkward scene. Picture if you will, a white Ford truck with three kids strapped in the back seat talking about their dead pet, one disturbed mom, and two dead cats bouncing around near the tailgate. The lot of us, cruising a long our two lane country road were involved in a very strange conversation.

Wyatt and Adam continued questioning me again and again, "Are you sure that was Lucky? Really, are you sure???"

"Lucky's not dead, Mom." Wyatt asserted himself several times.

"He tried to come in our house this morning," Adam insisted.

"I am 99 percent positive that cat is Lucky, guys. There is a one percent chance that is not Lucky, boys." I replied with reservation. I did not want to get their hopes up for no reason.

In the back of my mind, I knew there was a very remote chance the dead black cat could be one of Lucky's litter mates who lived across the street. One of the neighbors said there were several black kittens running around when we adopted Lucky. Or rather when Lucky coerced me into adopting him.

However, I could not shake from my mind the undeniable fact that the cat I picked up looked exactly like our cat. Maybe, just maybe, it was not Lucky. But it was a hell of a long shot for sure.

We arrived at Mrs. Cindy's house where the kids go to school. I wanted to hustle them into class as fast as possible to get the kids to move on with the day. I wanted to get them thinking about something else. But as soon as we walked in the door the announcement broke out, "Our cat's dead. Lucky's dead." So much for my intentions. But the kids were not crying so I guess that was to be my consolation in the matter.

As I came out to the truck, I went back to examine the black feline corpse once again. There was no doubt in my mind. It was Lucky. Small and lithe in form. Black with faint tabby stripes. A few white wisps of hair at the center of his chest. Fuck. It's Lucky. Damn it. I wish these cats would stay home. I did think it was rather odd that he was killed past the neighbors house though. That's really out of his range I thought to myself.

I jumped back into the drivers seat shaking my head, "OK, Ella, we've got to go home. We've got some work to do." I had to declare this with resolution. I really did not want to start sobbing.

"Wucky dead, Ma Maw?" Ella questioned me.

"Yep, we need to bury him when we get home, and the other cat too. We've got work to do..."

I made small talk with Ella on the 12 minute drive home and parked in anticipation of my job ahead. I was to be the undertaker for the day. My plan consisted of digging a hole on the south side of the property near the fence line between some redwood trees. The only thing was, could I do it without breaking in to sobbing fits of tears?

I unbuckled Ella from her car seat and sighed, "Ella, please come to the house. I need to put my work boots on." The Dansko clogs I was wearing were just not the right shoes for the occasion. Ella tottered after me while talking about burring the cat and we went inside. I sat down on our hard wooden bench seat and quickly laced up my boots while thinking pragmatically, "Where is the shovel???"

Meanwhile, Ella sat down on the floor and started taking off her shoes. "No sweetie, keep them on. We have to go back outside," I told her patiently. I finished tying my shoes and pushed my pant legs over the top of the worn leather boots. Then I stood up with determination. I was not going to start blubbering like an idiot. I just had a job to do.

"Let's go Ella, we need to bury the cat." I was resolved to get this over with as quickly as possible.

I walked out the door holding it open so my little helper could exit and I could shut in the warm air that remained within the house. It was still overcast and the chill from the night time was lingering yet. The sun had risen faithfully, just as it does every day from the east, but shone coldly down on our front porch. What a grim day this was turning into.

As I was turning to walk down the steps Ella said, "Dare's Wucky, Ma Maw." She was pointing under our patio table. "Dare's Wucky Ma Maw," She repeated again.

There, lying on a dark gray cushion under our outdoor table, a little black form was sleeping tightly curled in a tidy ball of warm soft fur. Breathing, blinking, yawning, and mewing. It was Lucky. Our Lucky. He was alive. Santa Maria! He was alive. I knelt down in slow motion and reached under the table to stroke his ebony coat. Yep, it was Lucky.

At that point I started crying, the tears were silently streaming down my face and I picked up my daughter and smiled. It was a mix of emotions of relief and confusion and sadness which are difficult describe. After being so stoic about Lucky being dead during the prior 35 minutes, I could cry for relief at that one moment.

I walked out to the truck again to look at the dead cat still lying in the bed. It was Lucky too. But his brother I am sure. And he was an identical brother with out a doubt. He was the same size and same coloring, down to the faint tabby stripes and the white hairs on his chest. Same eyes, same everything, but not our Lucky.

So the kids were right. Lucky was not dead. I guess when there is a one percent chance of something going in your favor it can happen. Odds are it won't, but it can. I guess we were just lucky today with our Lucky. It has taken me hours to shake the feeling of loss and remorse which shocked my system. Even after finding our Lucky alive and well, I could not get that feeling out of my body. But finally, it has faded and I can tell this strange little tale of good and bad luck.

And I can say I drove around with two dead cats in the back of my truck. I guess I can check that off my life list now. ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Am A Super Hero!

I just could not help myself after I saw this super hero creator today! Does it fit or not? I am mean, green and carry a big splintery stick. What could be more appropriate for an environmentally sensitive mommy who is not afraid to kick some ass. And they even had a little Unicorn I used for my special emblem! They did not have flip flops for shoes, but bare foot worked just fine. The slightly over-sized feet were just an added authentic bonus since I wear a size that I won't tell. But I am almost 6 feet tall so you can do the math.

Make your own super hero at the Super Hero Factory!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Another Milestone

Today marks another milestone in my simple little life. This benchmark has been approximately 4 1/2 years in the making. This very afternoon, after considering the possibility for about three weeks, I decided to attempt riding my horse while my two kids (Wyatt age 4 1/2 and Ella age 2) played in the arena.

Mom on horse, kids on ground. Could be a recipe for nightmare or just good fun for everyone. While this sounds like a meager feat to accomplish I can assure you it is an act of monumental coordination to achieve without children implosion or horse lunacy. Why we did not all succumb to spontaneously combustion is beyond me. And I am not totally positive I can recreate the events of today again. This is symbolic of the reclamation my personal freedom. If I can repeat it, I can ride my horses more often and that is always a good thing.

There were several reasons why I could not achieve this task up until very recently. Ella, being the two-year old wild card in the hand I am currently holding, has not always been focused enough to concentrate on playing in one location for an extended period of time. That being said, Ella's need to pee or "go dirty" for number 2 would be the equivalent of throwing a gigantic metal horse shoe at my head during a ride. Basically my darling daughter could be a ride killer.

For our debut success today, I employed master planning. First, I took Ella to the potty one last time to be sure there was nothing left in there. Next, we exited the front door with Wyatt to allegedly follow after putting on his socks and shoes. Then armed with four plastic shovels, two buckets, one pink dump truck, and miscellaneous pieces of wood we migrated to the arena and prepared the play area. After loosening the packed and hardened sand and forming some into a child-sized pile, I decided the scene could not be better set for riding success.

Then Ella and I went in the barn and brushed Gemma, saddled her, and picked her hooves in readiness for the big event. There was one thing missing however, a small boy named Wyatt.

Wyatt was supposed to follow me and Ella out to the barn but he was missing. Go figure. I was guessing he got lost somewhere between the couch and his shoes, which seem to have anti-magnetic properties when it comes to going on Wyatt's feet. Back to the house I marched while pushing Ella in the double stroller, across the mud pit of a creek and to the cracker box we call home.

Inside, I found an industrious Wyatt, busy hacking into my computer, or at least trying to hack 4 year old style, and may I say very unsuccessfully. After setting the caps lock he could no longer type in the password and was fast talking me about how he wanted to look at pictures and the computer turned it's self off and other such nonsense. You educate your kid and look what happens... They think the computer is their own personal playground.

So I apply my super hero powers to Wyatt's feet and accomplish the miracle of shoeing the child. Phew... Then, the troupe of Mom, Wyatt, Ella, and eldest cousin Luke (you can imagine that with five kids running around our property at any one time you can pick up a kid here or there) made the pilgrimage back out to the barn to find a horse who had been standing patiently in the cross ties without maiming herself. Small blessings being what they are, I move on to the main goal, riding a horse.

After putting my tall boots on under the rapid fire questioning from my children about, "When can I ride Gemma?" and "What are those boots for?" I managed to lead a horse to the mounting block without anyone getting stepped on or kicked. Both Ella and Wyatt pushed their dump trucks close enough behind the horse that I had to start yelling. I must give huge credit to Gemma-horse. For being a five year old, she handled the children's assault like a seasoned mule. (For those of you who are cringing at my description, be assured the kids were not in harms way.)

Now what happens next is amazing. It's practically a miracle.

What happens is absolutely nothing.

I rode Gemma for a half hour while the kids occupied themselves by filling dump trucks with sand, making a sifting screen out of my lawn chair, random digging, constructive piling, and linear and non-linear running. It was general chaotic happiness.

I expected to have sand thrown in someones eyes. I expected Ella to scream about needing to pee or worse yet peeing and walking around with her pants around her ankles. I expected Wyatt to strip naked and run around like a nudist troll. I expected fugitive-style jail breaks with all kids running for the hills. I expected my horse to be naughty.

But the horse was good. The kids were excellent. They are definitely growing up.

The simple question remains:

Can I do it again?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring is coming, It really is!

A few days ago, before I was inoculated with the most recent variation of a "viral death scourge," Ella and I went on a hike at my neighbors property. Since that time, I have developed a dry hacking cough and a three day headache, but then I digress...

We are so lucky that there is short loop trail that I can backpack Ella up, let her out at the top and help her walk "by self" all the way down. Since I am a kind and gentle mommy, I will wait another year before forcing her to walk the circuit both ways. Plus, by then, she will be approaching 40 lbs and I'm not going to carry her chunky carcass up the hill any more. The hike is about 35-40 minutes tops and Wyatt is already a seasoned trouper.

From the top of the ridges there are fabulous views of the valley, and the just blooming wildflowers are an added bonus. All of my little colorful spring-time friends were peeking out from the annual grasses shouting, "Hey! Nice to see ya. How are you this year?" I guess I have imaginary conversations with the plants while we are out among the elements.

I feel it's my duty to teach Ella the names of the plants. I figure I'll give my 2 year old a break since I only expect her to learn the common name for each species this year. After she turns three I'll start drilling her with the scientific names, which are in Latin. I know, I'm generous that way.

Seeing as I have a degree in botany with specialization in plant systematic, I figured I should take some specific floral pictures and roll the Latin names around in my brain, so that when I ever work again it will look like I have been practicing. I've been a botanist since I graduated collage and worked for the past 14 years in consulting. With the housing economy destroyed, I am among the riff-raff of the unemployed. But then again, there could never be a better time not to work since my kids are so little. I am just fortunate we can survive without the extra income. Enough of my endless, senseless and mindless prattling...

On to the hike:

Black sage (Saliva melifera) dominated chaparral covers the southeastern slope of hillside. That's the scruffy looking olive green stuff above the trees. The blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) in gray, have yet to leaf out and the live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) keep their shining green patina all year long.

Indian paint brush (Castilleja foliolosa) in the Scrophulariacea, is one of the first spring bloomers which is found in openings in the chaparral.

Lacepod (Thysanocarphus lacinatus) is a little annual in the "Mustard Family" that already has bloomed and made seeds for next year. They're quick like that. The purple flower is wild hyacinth (Dichelostema capitatum), a native bulb.

These little soldiers are miniature Miner's lettuce (Montia perfoliata). They form armys on the steep sloping hillsides where thousands of their ranks grow annually.

This slope is nearly vertical from the trail. All I had to do was stand and shoot for this photograph. They were literally staring me in the face!

This little delicate beauty is padres shooting star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. sanctarum). These are one of the first flowers to emerge once the rains begin and are sadly the first to disappear.

Lastly, here are a pair of wild hyacinth, in the "Lily Family," that are leaning over due to the weight of their heavy blossoms.

As we walked down the trail, I held Ella's hand while we talked about the plants. I hesitated for just the briefest of moments to consider a trio of mushrooms that were located in the middle of the trail. Immediately, Ella said to me, "Piture dat Maw Maw. Piture mushwroom."

A little sparkle lit in my eye at her astute comment. She is so on to me. Without even saying a word she knew what I was thinking. When I was looking at the mushrooms I did not stop walking, I just slowed almost imperceptibly and looked down. But that was enough for her to notice the difference and look for a reason why.

Some days these little kids amaze me with their depth of perception. As parents, we just have to be listening and paying attention to know the extent to which our children are aware. It really reinforces that no matter what you are doing, your kids absorb you. Your words, your actions, your thoughts. My husband always says, "They are our replacement models." How right he is...

They learn the positive with the negative, the dark and the light, and the yin with the yang. However, on this day, I am glad I had a moment where I know my daughter was absorbing nature (a definite positive) from me and with me, at a primitive level, and that alone is a comforting feeling.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Decode It!

One more addition of Decode Wednesday, following the lead of Maricris at Zen Ventures, brings you this series of pictures to figure out just why did Julia take them?

From left to right you have Wyatt (my son), Adam and Luke (older cousins who live next door). You see Wyatt and Adam will strike a pose at the merest suggestion. Resembling zombies from the Michale Jackson "Thriller" video or maybe from night of the living dead, the little boys get into character like it is simply another breath.

Elder Luke looks on, a little hesitant. He can't help that he takes after the stuck-in-the-mud "conservative" PATERNAL side of the family. I can see the over-sized hamster running on it's wheel in his brain. Indecision......... Luke is thinking about it. To copy or not to copy...That is the question!

That a boy! Now you are becoming 7 again, and not acting like your 87.

But then Wyatt has to pose by himself. He has become the consummate camera hog. I should take no little blame in creating this monster. He's only had a camera stuck in his face one million times.

It would not be complete with out the hunchback "Quazi Moto" pose.

What was all that silly ghoulish stomping really about? The true reason I have approached this gang of walking dead still eludes you...does it not? Observe if you will the condition of his pants below the knees, his saturated shoes, and the random dirt spots on his shirt.

Imaging if you will, a mother screaming, "Wait a minute Wyatt. I need to see you. RIGHT NOW!!!"

Then you see below my son is thinking, "Run Wyatt! Run!"

Take a good look at that kid's back side. Who's got the one foot long rooster tail up their back? And on a white school shirt.

Adam is thinking, "You are sooo in trouble, Dude!"

When I saw my pig pen of a child the only vernacular I thought to my self was unprintable. Let's just say that angry gargoyles were spitting in my head the phrase, "OH MY WORD."

Somebody rode their bike through the creek a few times when he was not supposed to. And wearing a once "good" shirt. I already said that once didn't I? Am I falling into repeating myself? Am I crazy for being a little disturbed by this?

Full disclosure. Destroyed shirt. Naughty little monster. Better run now, Mom's going to get you!!!

Mom says, "AGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!"

There is just not enough bleach in this world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Raining and Pouring!!!

The rain has been falling for the past few weeks and everyone has settled into the reality that everything is wet, wet and wetter. As I gaze out my kitchen window while typing on the computer I can see the rain falling in sheets across the back half of our property. The wind is picking up now and blowing northward. The rain, likewise, falls at an angle approaching sideways.

Everybody has their way of dealing with the rain.

Wyatt dons his day glow orange jacket and attacks the weather like the little warrior he is:

When I capture a photo like this one I can really see Wyatt's anisocoria. His pupils are two different sizes. When he was a baby I went into panic mode over this and we had to go to the ophthalmologist for proper diagnosis. See how his right pupil is bigger? He really is a freak of nature.

Then there is my drowned rat, totally soaked carcass directly after cleaning horse manure in the pouring rain. Sometimes one must do what one must do.

Ella and Daddy Mike dash off in the service truck to work at our truck yard. They will go and find shelter under the steel buildings.

Gemma horse occupies her time chewing wood off her stall walls until it day lights on the other side. She more and more resembles a 1200 lb termite or a gargantuan beaver capable of ravishing an entire barn.

With a brief break in the weather I caught Sharpie horse standing at the furthest west portion of his paddock. He parks himself there waiting for the sun to rise over the roof line. He's obviously been camped for a while since he could not bring himself to move to go to the bathroom.

The seasonal creek burbling across the property is irresistible to Wyatt and the cousins, who go for a stroll in the water. They have mud boots on but I guarantee they are filled with water to the brim. Undaunted by wet feet they ford the little stream under the auspices of "catching ducks." Whatever. I just am happy they can occupy themselves for limited durations without intensive supervision.

These are the ducks they allegedly are after. They are totally safe. The kids don't stand a chance.

I have to slowly creep toward them to get this mediocre picture. At the sight of me they start waddling quickly away.

Inside the kids find new and better ways to torment the animals of our "compound." Do you see what I see? Wyatt was screaming at me this morning, "Come see!" Ella threw in her own, "Picture dis, picture dis mom."

Now do you see? What kind of animal would submit to this kind of torture? Wrapped in two fuzzy flankets and attacked by a slobber covered walrus, Lucky cat is sleeping. Or faking that he is sleeping. The cat sent me a psychic message, "If I keep my eyes closed long enough they will just go away." Or is this cat is really a dog in a feline body?

This is more normal behavior from Lucky cat. Scaling walls vertically is his particular specialty.

There. That's better. Now they can't get me.

But then again, I kind of like being pampered and snuggled...

This innocent feline just killed his first bluebird much to my despair. He lept straight into the air and caught a beautiful male bluebird who was flickering around the mirrors on one of the trucks. Now daily lock down has been implemented to ensure the next generation of bluebirds are hatched on our property. No more fatalities at the claws of this cat.

Finally, a parting note with a male bluebird sitting in a tree. The rain is pelting him but he is fine with the weather. Fortunately we have about a half dozen pair of bluebirds who move around our property. There will be more babies as long as the predator is contained.

And as the wind berates my house, gusting and shoving, giving it's best effort to knock our little hovel over, I will say adieu. Happy Monday to you!

The Day the Swallows Came Home

The tree swallows are here already.  They arrived January 30 much to my dismay.  Swooping and calling and chirping their merry song over my ...