All Aboard the Small World

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all

(get right up in your left ear)

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world

(take a big breath)

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all

(repeat forever)

I am so delighted to get that song stuck in your head, you have no idea!

I used to sing it during December to get “Jingle Bells” off my mental soundtrack.

You have to fight fire with fire.

If you have ever had tea at my place, you have seen this map. It’s really one of my favorite things, and you should run out right now and get yourself one.

Mine’s been up for just over two years, and it’s starting to come together.

We often have company over from various places on the globe, sometimes we know them, and sometimes we are attempting to know them. I figure if they’ve agreed to go to a stranger’s house and eat whatever random food gets served over a cup of tea, those brave souls should at least have a little piece of home to look at.

We all sit around the table and talk about places we’ve seen and places we want to see. We hear travel stories and people stories and realize that the world we live in is getting smaller by the minute.

Before they leave, I ask my guests to put themselves on our map.

A sticky arrow with their name points out the dot that stands for “Home”.

And there it stays, to fade slowly over years, that validating statement, “So-n-so was here”.

Many visitors to Southern California will visit Disneyland (Dizzyland, I call it) and I guess I can’t blame them, but it’s not my favorite. They will hop on that wretched boat ride and have a million puppets tell them what they already know.

But they can’t stop singing about it.

I prefer to stand in my kitchen and stare at the map and think about this big beautiful planet that is covered in friends.

And be amazed that those friends have also stood, just here, where I am now, on my own little dot.

If I have any readers who would like to represent the African continent, or perhaps Russia, we have priority seating available. Extra points if you come from Madagascar.

I know you’re staring at Greenland.

But that’s youngest child’s attempt to be helpful.

He didn’t want it to feel left out. After all, Greenland was already downgraded from a continent to island status. What it loses in tectonic plate, it makes up for in polar ice cap.

I think Canada can claim it, probably without a whole lot of trying.

The sticky says “nobody” and is waiting for the lone representative to come over and put his or her name on it.

Bring me a reindeer.

But don’t you dare sing me a Jingle Bell.

I Need A New Spin

It’s been a long day.

I have to admit, I always imagined myself as someone who, after spending her first lifetime wiping dirty bottoms and cooking for an army, would then spend her next lifetime doing ‘bigger’ things out there in the ‘real’ world.

You know, the one where they hand you money for all that hard work and loyalty.

Most of my girlfriends turned this timeline thing around and did their careers first and are just now winding their way through the early years of marriage and/or parenting.

No one asks for your credentials to be a mom before you’re interviewed for a pregnancy position.

“Where have you been? We are ecstatic that you want to join us in career-land! All you had to do was ask! We’re not going to ask you a single qualification question, it’s so obvious that just because you want it, we should give it to you! You can start today! We see such great potential in you that we are willing to train you for the first nine months, and then sign you up for life, with a paycheck that will only get bigger, as you get better!”

Said no job application ever.

Conception is, hands down, the easiest way to start a career.

If you like being broke. And occasionally, broken.

So I was making bacon in the microwave, and maybe it was asking too much that bacon happen in a tidy way, wrapped in paper towels. Not that I’m picky. Bottom line is always: yes to bacon.

Apparently the microwave felt uncomfortable, what with all that hot greasy goodness exploding inside, so it did the only rational thing: blow up.

Technically, only the rotating glass shattered.

But if I end up with a twin suddenly growing from my ribcage, well, maybe I should have replaced the whole thing.

Who knows.

My point is, I have been dabbling in job applications lately, and no matter how I spin myself, the bottom line is always: I don’t have a college degree (in anything, they don’t care in what, only that everybody else who applied, does) or a prestigious job that they can steal me away from (twenty-plus years of housekeeping does NOT qualify as a prestigious job, obvs) and loyalty can be bought for beans.

And I feel just like this photo. Useless.

Maybe a little slicey around my edges.

Now, I understand that I can lower my sights and work alongside my own high schoolers at the mall.

Can’t you just see me, folding shirts in the Abercrombie display and telling a passing tweenager to “wear something a bit more modest, for heavens sake”?

Just because I could rock the Hot Dog On A Stick uniform does not mean I want to spend hours over a deep fryer and scrub floors for minimum wage.

I can do that at home, for the same pay.

(Because hotdogs were on sale, I saved the difference. I would have to say clever moms can make at least minimum wage, don’t you think?)

So there’s a bit of identity struggle, deciding what I’m able to do, other than go in circles and make everybody’s bacon.

My resume is just a list of things I really never want to do again.

The problem is, they aren’t looking at my resume. They’re letting a computer scan a pre-made form that only lets you insert data bits in tidy little tofu squares. My resume is where all the flavor is, the excitement, the reason you must love me immediately.

Surely the sparkly lime green stationery speaks for itself.

Once I remove the spaghetti stain.

All of my kids signed letters of recommendation, although one recommended I get “way more professional”.

They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

So I turned my apron over and tied it around my neck.

Haters be hatin’.

How To Hypnotize A Chicken

How are your peeps coming along?

The winner of our Puffy (and Poopless) Peeps Give Away is Mike!

For the rest of you who received a box of real chicks in the mail, here’s a few more things you may want to ruminate on.

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Blondes (Leghorns) and redheads (Rhode Island Reds) are the usual backyard choices for laying hens.

They will start laying small “pullet” eggs around six months old, unless they start crowing, which sounds like a dying carburetor or maybe a moose with the hiccups.

Separate those. They are turning into roosters. Roosters are boys. Boys don’t lay eggs. Boys have cooties and attitudes. They must go.

I once had a hen that crowed though, so pay attention.

She laid an egg in the morning and crowed in the afternoon and the other hens decided she could stick around, but she had to be the one in charge of crossing the road.

Your hen will lay an egg a day for the next three years or so. You will protect it, feed it, water it, admire it, and clean the coop. You will tend the nest boxes every day and remove the eggs as fast as they’re laid so that when the hen returns to the nest and wonders, “That’s weird. I’m pretty sure it was here a minute ago,” she will shrug, go outside to play, and lay a new one in the morning.

Over and over and over.

Unless she’s a naughty hen, or maybe another breed like a Light Brahma or Polish, and decides to get “broody”. Then you have to crowbar her butt off the nest and steal the egg without getting your hand removed by the angry mama.

Who're you calling broody?

Who’re you calling broody?

This hen may get so broody that she decides to start her own nest somewhere you can’t find it, like our Bantams did once – on the roof.

You may discover how Easter Egg Hunts were invented and why.

You may discover, all by yourself because you’re very clever, your own special collection of rotten eggs, in case of emergencies.

Like a zombie attack.

You’re ready.

So when the nest boxes are suddenly empty every day, you have to ask yourself: “Are eggs about to roll off the roof onto my head and cause a zombie apocalypse or are my biddies turning the corner to henopause?”

This is important because you have been getting some amazing eggs. They have more nutrients and better flavor and brighter yolks and sometimes TWO yolks because you have some seriously happy hens. They get to run around and eat bugs. They get to poop on your patio. They like to roost on the swing set and take dust baths in the side yard.

Maybe all the ladies need is a nice massage, maybe a nap.

Yes.

It’s time to learn how to properly hypnotize a chicken.

If Clark Gable can do it*, so can you.

Our model today is a bearded Araucana rooster named Blackbeard. This tough guy keeps his harem on the straight and narrow.

  • Find your chicken. Lure it over with a bread crust. Say “chick, chick, chick”
  • Pick it up like a big cuddly feathery teddy bear
Blackbeard demonstrates how to hold a chicken: by the legs.

Blackbeard demonstrates how to hold a chicken who has attitude: by the legs.

  • It will wiggle. That’s okay. It doesn’t know how much fun it’s about to have
  • Gently lay it on its side, on the ground, like it’s nap time for chickys
  • With your finger, draw a line in the dust, from the chicken’s beak out and away, along it’s line of vision

Wait….what’s that?

  • When the chicken focusses on this line, it will go quiet and limp
Ooooh...it's so pretty....

Ooooh…it’s so pretty….

  • Time the time-outs with your buddies to see whose chook takes the longest nap
  • This, my friends, is how they make boneless chickens

The hens are laughing at me….aren’t they?

*Clark Gable made a black and white movie in 1945, “Adventure”, that was pretty much a bomb. Not even the love scenes were any good. But the man had chicken skills, and I will never see Rhett Butler the same way again.

A Puffy Peep Give Away

Welcome to “Chick Days” and my Puffy Peeps Give Away Drawing!

I’m not discussing my girlfriends, people, I’m discussing the fluffy chicken nuggets that everyone is about to rush out and buy because spring is springing and, darn it all, they’re adorable.

When I was little, my parents kept giant multi-level incubators from which hatched every chick imaginable. I would watch an egg the size of my thumbnail crack open and a tiny button quail puff would wobble around waiting to be rescued from between the egg turners.

So I understand the tractor-beam adorability going on. Been there, done that.

But frankly, I’d stick to the marshmallow variety if I were you.

These little mallows are just as cute and squeezy, but they won’t grow up and poop in the house.

Fine.

Before you go down to the feed store and buy peeps for your peeps, you need to have a brooder and a box ready.

Don’t go crazy and get more than six hens. That’s a heap of hens. My favorite number is three.

Regardless, have a very large box with shavings in the bottom, water and chick mash available, and a Metal Mama brooder.

I’m glad you asked.

Dad has been in the business, as I implied, since always. He makes every animal container you could dream up, and most of his construction is custom.

Think kennels, aviaries, tortoise homes, coops.

He calls it a “Metal Mama” and you need to put it in a corner of your box, not the middle. Chicks regulate their body temperature on their own, so give them options. They stay under the mama’s wings to get warm, and wander out exploring to cool off.

The bulbs used inside the Mama resemble the heat of a 60 watt incandescent, similar to heating elements from a reptile store, and are much cooler than the 150 watt naked bulbs that people mistakenly hang over their poor hot chicks. And there are two, in case one burns out in the middle of the night.

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See?

Your peeps start growing.

During week one, they stick close to their metal mama.

Your kids hang out next to the box 24/7 and name the chickees.

During week two, the chicks pace the entire limits of their box and start having thoughts.

Your kids start thinking about Minecraft and wander off.

Sometime in the middle of week three, you will walk in and find chicks perched on the edge of your cardboard box, pooping on the WRONG side of it and wondering how to break into the fridge.

You holler at the kids, wondering why the chicks are out of water again, and remove the metal mama because these chicks are giving her the stink eye.

It feels familiar.

Week four is liberation time. The fuzz is now feathers. They are becoming tweenagers.

Hopefully you’ve built them a poultry palace with multiple canopy beds, because it’s time for them to move out and get a job.

They will be just fine in the wilds of your coop.

Oh. It’s snowing out there?

Guess they will just have to live at home with you then, leaving dishes in the sink and watching Netflix till all hours.

You should have seen this coming, people.

Let’s stick with marshmallow peeps for today’s drawing, though adorability and my genetics demand otherwise.

Kindly subscribe to my blog or comment in the box below about anything ‘spring chicken’ and I will put you into the drawing for a package of oozy gooey sticky smushy marshmallow peeps.

I think the Postman is the only natural predator for this variety of peep; apparently they send treats to “Singapore”.

So we’ll do our best.

Magic Mountains

You know how you wake up in the morning and stagger into the kitchen for a cuppa and when you look out the window, there’s a mountain that wasn’t there yesterday, right in your backyard, and you startle a bit and think, “Well, it’s finally happened…I have that kind of faith!”

Then your fist-pump is interrupted with Hubby rushing in behind you crying, “I can explain!”

No?

Welcome to my world, the one I graduated from two years ago.

That place where concrete mysteriously vanishes into thin air and mountains magically appear out your window.

Hubby has ways of dragging things home, and why I should be surprised that a mountain is one of them is beyond me.

If a mountain follows you home one day, no, you may not keep it.

Lead it into the Grand Canyon where it can be free.

Not my backyard.

The kids thought Christmas had come in July and the gophers were ecstatic, but the neighbors weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.

Hubby got somebody to grade it down to flatness with a tractor.

It happened three more times before Hubby decided that our property was officially two acres larger than when we bought it.

Only it was layered, like a bean dip.

From then on, we all kept a wary eye out our windows.

You couldn’t take for granted what you would see on any given day.

Which brings me to the utter irony of our new house.

Now when I wake up in the morning and stagger into the kitchen for a cuppa and look out the window, I see a large and quite permanent mountain in our backyard.

This mountain casts a shadow over our house – a fact that was not disclosed during escrow – a fact that screams, “Somebody bring me a tractor!” every day at 5.

I can get this kind of action in Alaska. This is So Cal. I need my photosynthesis therapy.

And I am constantly surprised by what I see when I look out there.

I’ve seen so many animals on that mountain, I would not be surprised to see a rhino saunter by.

Our neighbors take it all perfectly for granted.

“You should have seen it before the Fires of ’07,” they say, “Herds like the Serengeti. Sometimes the mountain lions came by. We had a bear once.”

Now Hubby is always dragging home new running shoes.

He piles them by the front door so he can toss them on and go exploring all over the mountain he gets to keep.

I figure it gets that much flatter as he stomps about up there.

But a kayak mysteriously appeared in the garage a while ago.

Do you see this foot?

This foot is down.

This foot is graduated.

I don’t care if it was a good deal.

You are not bringing home the ocean.

Um.

Wait a minute….what was that in Matthew 21:21 again?

 

Otherwise Known As The WAP

The small child looked directly at my girlfriend’s butt.

“Is that a spider on you?” he innocently asked.

It was a situation that, on the surface, called for an immediate break dance maneuver and the “Get it off me!” song sung a cappella.

Except we were standing with ten people and a stroller, in an elevator meant for six.

These are the kinds of memories that come to me when you suggest a visit out to our family’s “go to” tourist spot: The Wild Animal Park, aka: The San Diego Zoological Society that Changed it’s Name to Confuse Us.

By calling it a “Safari”.

Now, you can buy a safari that drives out among the rhinos, one for zip lining over antelope herds, one for hot air ballooning over the lions, or that mazes through treetops over *gasp* tourists.

My kids grew up on the monorail out there. You could entertain school kids, let the toddler nap, and nurse the baby all at once. You got a nice breeze, no one escaped, and if you were lucky, the giraffes would play tetherball with each others’ heads.

The ancient monorail finally bit the dust one night, leaving tourists to wend their way back to civilization on foot (I would pay serious money for that safari), and now you can see Africa and Asia on the safari tram, same perks.

So…ask my family for a private safari tour, and you will be shown things that were never marked on the map.

Sure, you can see the lions mate and the tigers stand eye to eye with your snack-sized toddler.

You can watch the gorilla troop wrestle and climb and pee off the cliff.

Yes, you can pay to feed the lorikeets while they land on your head and poo in your purse.

But did you know you could feed the giant catfish down by the flamingos?

You spend a quarter on a fistful of duck kibble and walk to the shady edge of the wooden bridge. As you toss it, the ducks come swarming. Within a minute you notice that the water is beginning to boil, and from under the ducks bob the massive heads of four-foot catfish, all fighting over the food.

We waited years for a catfish to swallow a duck by mistake.

Recently, the duck food dispensers were removed.

I guess it’s BYO for the catfish safari.

Stand with your back to the fruit bat exhibit *shudder* and look at the boat structure they added for restaurant seating.

Notice how it sits in a dirt area?

If you remove the boat and the dirt, you will have the original concrete swamp that used to hold their white alligator.

Before that, it was the elephant wash.

There was a time when you could watch keepers lead elephants to the empty pool and hose them off on a summer day.

Obviously, this prime real estate was needed for you to eat your french fry safari on.

You could walk over to the low rock walls that now surround the butterfly exhibit, and that was the line for the elephant rides. And camel rides. There was a burro in there somewhere.

Somehow, the carousel safari isn’t quite the same thing…

Also on our list of “things you must see” is Max.

Not Max the Emu, he was one of my favorites at the old bird show.

He would run between two keepers, taking a bite of kibble, over and over again.

“This bird’s eyes are larger than his brain. He doesn’t even remember where his bedroom is. In his own mind, Max is very popular. He makes two new friends every time he comes on stage. This is Max the Emu…and this is all he does!”

That poor bird was determinedly optimistic, and just like him, I always have the feeling that I am meeting new friends. Friends who love me and want to share their kibble.

Okay, maybe there’s something familiar about their face…and they seem to know me already.

But that’s never stopped me from being just so happy to be a part of whatever the heck is going on.

Blink blink.

The Max I refer to is a salmon crested cockatoo that sits, today, at the back of the Plant Trader. Max is an old man, even in bird years, but anyone who has ever been greeted by Max in the past goes looking for him first and last.

He talks and whistles and can carry on like a flamenco dancer; he throws kisses to the ladies.

Which reminds me.

Never go into the petting kraal. The animals pet you back.

That includes lorikeet landing, lemur walk, cactus gardens, and the geese in the lagoon loop.

Always check the nursery for possible animal baby cuteness overload.

An okapi is a velvet giraffe who met a zebra in a bar once.

Smuggling a meerkat home: yes.

Smuggling a spider home: no.

Not on your butt, anyway.

Hi Max! Give us a kiss!

And How Was Your Week?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent Sunday night cowering in the corner of my new sofa, under two blankets and whimpering.

I read a book to distract myself from the fact that the sky was falling.

In the pitch black howling madness, our little overnight storm whipped rain horizontally, uprooted trees, flooded and eroded everything, and made me pray for the dawn.

I’m sorry to report that the rest of this week has been about the same.

If you replace rain with the boys’ school projects, spats of hail with Hubby’s work load, and wind with the level of general stress in the house, there’s no wonder I could hear occasional slammed doors, moaning around the corners and whimpers over impending doom.

As a seasoned mom, I’ve weathered worse, but when Wednesday night rolled around and I had had to personally talk down my menfolk from abandoning ship, my radar told me to look a little closer into things.

Somewhere, the sky was about to fall.

“Mom,” said a son, “I’m not going to school on Friday.”

“Is it written on the calendar?” I asked, not skipping a beat, “Because unless it is, oh yes you are.”

So he went over and wrote it on the calendar.

His spiel was something about a class project that his group needed to pull together or his grades were ruined. Forever. He didn’t know where or when or how…but could I find a pop-up canopy, a table and four folding chairs, a collection box, and oh yeah, can I drive him around on Friday morning?

Because grades trump all other life activities, including, as it turned out, bathroom breaks.

“Here,” I said, looking deeply into his eyes, which was not easy, because his eyes did not want me to look into them, “Let me just stop the planet from spinning while I tend to your business.”

Upon further investigation I discovered that this was a “student-led” activity.

One where – you guessed it – students were in charge of everything.

Well there you go.

Does it mean my fourteen-year-old gets to write his own off-campus pass, his own attendance note, make up a day off and drive himself to Starbucks for a good grade?

My other son stepped forward.

His list included signing up for the SAT (“like, yesterday, Mom”) and the tutoring that came with it, a class he needed to prepare for his church group, a major essay due Friday, a major project due next week, and both boys had two basketball games and a team dinner to squeeze in.

I reached out a hand, and stopped my spinning planets. I started rolling up my sleeves.

“Well boys, brace yourself. Incoming life lessons starting now.”

I spent yesterday gathering supplies, filling out online registrations, proofreading essays, collecting permission forms, washing uniforms, going over notes, blocking out my Friday morning, and putting gas in the car.

It’s very rare for me to be involved in the kids’ schooling anymore, and as much as I’m in favor of independence and learning the hard way if you need to, once in a while, I rise from the couch and remind them who’s in their corner.

I talked them through each step of the process, they took the next thing off the “to do” list then I did, and so forth until things began to fall into place.

I spent this morning at a dog-friendly park, watching my son (from a polite mom-distance) pull off his school project all by himself.

Because the other kids in his group, perhaps, had failed to mention this project until *sigh* today.

Who knows.

He spoke to everyone passing by about the plight of pit bulls, raising money and awareness for their non-profit organization, Villalobos Rescue Center. You may be more familiar with the show, “Pit Bulls and Parolees”.

He had a very good response and has some donations to turn in, and I imagine will get a decent grade on his project.

The Friday weather is beautiful today, clear skies, sunshine, gentle breeze.

We’ll enjoy the calm while it lasts.

Would You Rather? The Teen Version

After freaking out twice last week, it occurred to me that I was not having fun.

These were supposed to be the Basking Years.

Teenagers lull you into a false sense of family cooperation that comes from the fact that – follow me closely here – they aren’t actually home all day.

I waltz around the house on a Tuesday, admiring the tidiness and quietly cheerful atmosphere and feeling like my family is just the loveliest thing. I smile into their photographs on the wall. They sit perfectly still up there, not even thinking about spilling food on our new couch.

What cherubs.

At 6pm exactly, the front doors fly open and admit a hurricane that smells of basketball practice, stale Ritz cracker crumbs, greasy backpacks and spilled gatorade.

Gym bags, sweatshirts, shoes, papers, and cell phones are dropped the length of the house as my man-cubs attack the kitchen. There is no eye contact, only grunts and fierce grappling over the refrigerator handles.

My daughter has put boots on the landing, purse at the staircase, umbrella on the table as she navigates to the sink.

*plop*

In go the tupperware from lunch at work.

She’s tidy like that.

I’m really sorry to say it.

But the Teen Version of our game, Would You Rather? looks an awful lot like the Toddler Version.

Only on Axe. So.

Would You Rather….

Have food in the fridge for a week of actual dinners, but duct taped and clearly labeled “DO NOT EAT”…or…let it go and watch them live on frozen hot dogs, tortilla chips, and pancake mix?

Stay awake until midnight every weekend until you see your teen safely in from a date…or…startle awake at 3am, notice the front porch light still on, have a small coronary, rush to the child’s bed and WAKE THAT KID UP BECAUSE WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE ALL THE HEART ATTACKS AROUND HERE?

Be flattered that your teen is asking you a question, like, maybe you still know things, even if you have NO IDEA what the answer is, so you make it up like a boss…or…keep watching your episode of PSYCH, quietly hand the teen an iPad and mouth “Google it”?

Have a teen who has a better resume than you…or…have a teen who can navigate internet circles around you?

Have a teen who is content to ride the bus to pay for college…or…have a teen who gets a drivers license immediately but can’t even afford gas?

Have a house full of teens bouncing off walls and smearing pepperonis in the houseplants…or…have all the teens at someone else’s house where the adults have abandoned them to pepperoni autonomy?

Spend hours and dollars helping your teen fill out job applications, buy a nice shirt, practice interviews, and drive him to his new job so he can make minimum wage…or…hand him the difference in cash because, as his sisters keep pointing out, no one can support himself away from home for years to come.

Which would be my only motivation in the first place.

Have a teen who gloats about his manly smell of victory…or…runs the hot water heater dry in a single shower?

Have a teen who participates in sports and costs you a million dollars…or…a teen who participates in drama and costs you a million dollars?

Have a teen who wakes up at 6am every day no matter what but be grumpy…or…have a teen who sleeps until you pry him off the bed with a crowbar but then he’s one happy cookie?

Do the sniff test on a pile of random laundry you found in the hallway…or…do the sniff test on a pile of random restaurant doggy-bags you found in the back of the fridge?

Dive into an end-of-the-season gym bag…or…into an end-of-the-year backpack?

The question last week, of course, was, would I rather have a teen who goes mysteriously missing for five hours…or…one who gets in touch promptly in order to let you know about a motorcycle, a car, and a broken kneecap?

In other words, would you rather freak out…or…be reassured to NOT freak out?