Tuesday, April 26, 2016

while the kids are at school

Well, yes, as with all pets, it does eventually become my job to feed and clean up after and take over most of the responsibilities for animal care here.  I deal in a good deal of animal waste here, of many varieties.  It's not a glamorous job, but I do enjoy the elimination of odor that results from such work.

Also, I kind of enjoy a few moments of quiet with the chicks, when I get to hold them.  They are so monopolized by the kids when they are home.  I am pretty sure nobody would let me take close ups of their stripey wing feather stubs.  

Or of their awkwardly large feet.  And the kids would roll their eyes when I made the observation that these gangly stubbly large footed smelly creatures remind me of my children.

And no one would let me do weird things with the chicks such as placing them on windowsills for pictures.  

Elliott and I are convinced that we have three roosters here, of our five. They are showing their inner blustering, and bossing, and standing on the heads of others, and general testosteral behavior.  We seem to attract maleness, chick wise.  More than half of our last batch turned out to be cock-a-doodle-doers.  

So I have my suspicions.  It's all...about...attitude.

Don't tell anyone, but I kind of have a favorite.  There is one chick who is smaller than the other four.  I will not name this chick Tiny, because last time "Tiny" became quite the crower, but this chick is small.  Song bird sized.  But she does not like to be separated from the rest of the crew and gets all tweety when she is taken away from them.  If you maintain eye contact, she will have a bit of a tweety conversation with you.  But then, too much eye contact and, like my children, she will cop an attitude with you and get all tall and aloof. 

But take a look at her fuzz.  On the back of her head.  And her tail feather stubbies.  Oh my.

And now I must clean the brooder.  But that was fun.  Let's not mention those 15 minutes to anyone.  Okay?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

properly motivated

I had promised Elliott that just as soon as we returned from our vacation trip we would look into finding some chicks to round out our flock here.  This boy does not allow such things to be put off.  Not even for a day.  Or for breakfast.  Or to be told to put some non-pajama clothes on.

I heard some scraping and dragging and grunting noises while I made breakfast, coming from outside, and I looked out the back window to see the garden shed door open and a good deal of thumping and crashing coming from inside.  Next glance out the window revealed Elliott, in PJs, dragging a large green bin backwards across the yard toward the back door with a heat lamp under his arm.

Mommy.  I need a bucket of warm water and soap, please.  And for the hose to be turned on.

I sipped my coffee and gave him the hairy eyeball.  Can we eat breakfast first?

You can.  The door slid closed behind him.

I scrapped the plans for muffins, threw some cereal and milk on the table and headed to the basement to find a bucket and to turn on the outside water spouts for the season.  It is spring here, after all.

Determined as a nine year old boy -- who is preparing for chicks that were currently headed north in a small box in a minivan -- can be, said nine year old is not especially careful...or tidy...or able to wait patiently while you repair the fabulous duct tape detailing of the homemade brooder we created last time we had chicks.  Turns out duct tape can lose its stick when left in a garden shed for a couple of years where the urban wildlife nests and sits and scratches upon the chicken wire surface the duct tape was supporting.

I rescued the heat lamp before it was dropped.

And headed back down to the basement for some different duct tape and then got to work reattaching the wire to the top of the bin.  

Isn't it gorgeous?  Especially since someone was breathing heavily in my ear while I worked.  No time for coffee or scissors, I had to use my teeth and bare hands to tear and fit.  

All cleaned and repaired, the brooder was carried to its new home for the next few weeks. The dining table, of course.  

Elliott added tea cups.  For shade and a place to rest, he told me.

And then, while I was having a moment to brush my teeth, Jonathan arrived.  The minivan had not come to a complete stop before the back door slammed and Elliott was out there.

Can I carry the box?  I am told was all he said.

After some perfunctory greetings, attempts at mazes and chick forts were made, but these chicks were determined to be too easily chilled and so were quickly returned to the brooder.

All day long those chicks were tended and held and talked to and watched.  Adjustments to light placement and bin positioning and water temperature were all made.  And every time I left a window or door open to let in some of that gorgeous spring air, it was closed as soon as I left the room.

It's too drafty for the chicks.

It was a very full and chick filled day.  And yes, those are still pajamas.  But fresh ones, I was told. I had to tear him away to go to bed.  

And, of course, he was back at the brooder hours before the rest of us were even awake the next morning.

Friday, April 22, 2016


This school vacation week we took a rather fabulous journey.  It was a once in a childhood kind of trip for us, hoped for, talked about, for a long time, trying to find a sweet spot between oldest and youngest child, when everyone is old enough to remember but not too old to miss out on some of the magic.  We have been working our way through the Harry Potter books as all family read-alouds, though several of us have also read them all on our own.  But during last summer's road trip, we had gotten through many.  We never quite made it to the last book in the series.  But that's okay.  There will always be the next long drive.

I will share more about our trip as I begin to process the time and the pictures.  But, freshly back, I am struck by what each of us took from our time away, on an adventure very different from our typical family adventures.

This trip hit lots of firsts for the kids.  Beginning with their first time in a plane for some, but also our first stay for all five of us at a resorty kind of hotel, airport and theme park security checks, theme park rides, and employees in character.  Interacting with flight attendants and taxi drivers and learning how to figure out where you are and how things work.  Learning how to give privacy to people in close proximity. Going to a place that allows you to step inside a story that has, up until nowd, been entirely about others.  Finding that what you love is going to be very different from what the millions of people who have been there before you loved, from people you know who were there before you, and from each other, the small five of us.

I was lucky enough to sit with our most awe struck during the first plane ride.  We had joked about our early morning plane departure, and how it might result in someone being left Home Alone.  We remembered all the kids.  But apparently we forgot to tame our bed heads.

Are we going to go into the clouds?

The giggling brought on by the old look mom no hands trick on the airport tram.

With a quick turn around to see the drastic change of vegetation a plane ride can create.  We have seen these changes happen slowly, while driving on long car trips.  But this, getting in a box and stepping out into another world.  It was incredible. 

Another highlight?  The banana tree in our hotel's courtyard.  Seriously.  Elliott spotted the fruit on his first walk past the tree, after I had walked under that tree a dozen or more times traveling between pool and room without noticing.  

He's a good spotter, that Elliott.  But also, he has a bit of a Minion love going on.  Of course, the pronunciation of the spied banana was repeated in a Minion accent.  Incidentally, I have not laughed as hard as I did while sitting next to Elliott on the Minion Mayhem Ride, in a long...long...time.   We did that ride twice.  Because I needed to hear him giggling again.  

(OK. There was also the moment when the velociraptor tried to eat my head while we took a family photo with it.  I laughed hard then, too). 

There were the unexpected joys of firsts we could not have predicted.  And of course, there was the expected, or at least hoped for, magic.  

Seeing it all through our kids' eyes, not knowing exactly what will stick for them, what will cause anxiety, what will be so cool, who will throw themselves into an experience and who will hold back.  I think that not knowing is part of the magic of parenting for me.  Of recognizing and embracing that moment, when they turn to you, and pull you into their awe.

I got to sit next to Elliott on the late plane ride home as well.  He fell asleep before the plane left the runway and I could not wake him when the plane landed.  Eventually he sleepwalked off the plane and curled up in a chair, snoring, while we waited for our ride home.  He remembers nothing about that trip home.  The plane ride itself was no longer a first for him.  And I know his head is full of everything we saw and did together.  And just as he power-napped on a bench tucked between Hogwarts Castle and the Flight of the Hippogryph, he was doing what he needed to do, was just plain exhausted by all those firsts and all that wonder.