Thursday, November 15, 2012

The mind of 7 year old is often nonstandard

In which Kid1 takes a great idea, flies with it, and then shows his true colors. 

The following is an email sent to Kid1's 2nd grade teacher on Monday:

Dear Mrs. D, (as dictated by Kid1)

My idea is our class can raise $20 to buy a flock of chicks for a hungry family in Africa. There's an organization called Heifer, who give animals to people who are hungry and need them.  They bring the animals to families that need help.

I am hoping my class can raise $20 for a flock of chicks.  If my class can do that, my mom will give us an extra $20 to help  a second family.  The latest time we could do it is Christmas, so it can be a Christmas present to them.

I want to do this to make another family's life easier to live.  I have chickens and I think they produce enough eggs to last you for a long time.  And you can also use the eggs to get money so you can buy other things.  And the droppings are good for fertilizing your garden and especially your vegetables, so it's easier for vegetables to grow, and that gives you some nutrition, too.

Is this idea ok?

They have programs called Read to Feed where children earn money for each extra book they read, and Change for Chores, where they earn money for doing extra chores, and different children could do different things.  I could tell the children about this and ask them to tell their parents about it, and could you put this in the Friday newsletter if it is ok?  I would ask the children to tell their parents because some parents might not read the newsletter.  Even though you've asked them to read the newsletter a thousand times (Rebecca interjects that she reads the newsletter).


This is her response:

Hi Rebecca and Kid1,
This sounds like a wonderful idea!  I would LOVE for Kid1to share this idea with the class...It fits in PERFECTLY with our persuasive writing/reading unit that we have started.  I like that it is a dollar donation per child (and teacher).  I personally love the idea!  It also fits well with our unit study of Around the World for Social Studies, plus is a lovely way to give back to others!

SO, for his persuasive writing this week, he'll write it up.  I'm happy to write it in the newsletter too! Tell Kid1 to chat with me tomorrow (probably right before Snack Recess because I have a meeting in the am).  Then we can share the idea with the class.  I think we could make the goal to collect the money by Dec. 14, that way there's time to figure it out before Winter Break.

Great idea!!!

So Tuesday he wrote it up and apparently also told the class about it, because this morning he reported that "We already have $7 and that's just from TWO KIDS!"

The idea was originally mine - we got a Heifer catalog and I was flipping through it and asked the kid if he thought his class would like to get a hungry family a goat.  But he was adamant that a flock of chicks was the way to go.  He loves his chickens. (By the way, in case inquiring minds want to know - that newt eating chicken is still kicking.  We're still not eating the blue eggs, just in case).  But the kid has flown with it after the initial suggestion.  His approach can be a bit unusual...

R: "Kid1, this is great that your class decided to do it, you might be saving some child's life."
K: "Saving their LIFE??"
R: [sadly] "Yes, children die of hunger every day, sweety."
K: [enthusiastically] "I hope that the child that gets our chickens is right about to die, and then our chickens come, and they don't die. (pause)  Well, it'll take some time for the chicks to grow up and lay eggs, so I hope they're ok until they chickens are right about to lay their first again, and then the child is right about to die and they don't because the chickens start to lay eggs."
R: [stunned silence]

This is why no right thinking adult ever, ever, ever wants to relive their school years.  Kids, even the seemingly nice ones, are secretly demonic.  It's a proven fact.  It's scientific. Small Demon People.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mama's Home Remedies

Nobody makes cookies like Mama makes cookies. Except the nurses in the pediatric ward.  Theirs are better.

Kid 1 spent the last two days in the hospital.   Nothing life threatening, but he was that point of pretty broken and getting worse, where the doctors are scratching their heads and I'm scratching my head and my husband who we will call the Physicist is scratching his head and we're all looking at xrays and lab results and things and finally we all decide simultaneously to admit him.  After 6 weeks of hemming and hawing and fussing and worrying.  Ok, nobody but me did those last two.  But I did them enough for everyone.

So I pack him a bag and he's all "I don't want to sleep in the hospital" and I'm all, "dude, you're broken and you need fixing and you're gonna stay there and like it until you are not broken."  Except I only said that in my head because outwardly I'm a nice person and so I just packed his favorite stuffed dog and told him that I and the dog would stay with him the whole time, and it wouldn't be bad and we'd come home soon.

We went to the hospital and I wore a cute little dress and cute new shoes because people are nicer if you look nice and I needed everyone there to be really really nice to my kid so I couldn't let him down by being repulsive. 

The next time I do that, and check myself and kid into hospital for an unknown period of time, I'm going to remember to also pack myself a bag.  And a change of clothes, maybe a hairbrush. And choose cute shoes that don't put long sharp bleeding gashes in my feet.  I slept the first night in my little black dress and some fluffy blue slippers from the gift shop.  I think people were extra nice to him because they figured his mom was a train wreck crazy lady.

So kid 1 and I spent 48 hours in hospital, and he was an amazing trooper and the nurses all loved him like crazy, and every time they were all "honey, I know this medicine is unbearable, let us just put a tube in your nose so you don't have to taste it," he'd be all "I can drink way worse than that," and down a liter of it without a fuss (he described it cheerfully as "soapy pool water").  And when they came to take some blood he'd be all "only two vials?  Yesterday they took six and it didn't even hurt."  And he'd watch them put the needle in and suck his blood without even flinching, which hello, I can't even do and I'm a veteran armored personnel carrier jumper/elbow breaker. So then they brought him extra popsicles.

And after two days they pronounced him Fixed, and we got to leave, and I'm  jumping up and down happy and you know what he does?  Tears up.  Gets all freaking misty eyed.  He spent two days under conditions I would consider torture, and didn't flinch, but he almost cried when we left.  Because, he said, he was going to miss all the nurses and doctors.  I am mildly insulted by this as I'm pretty sure he thinks they're nicer than I am, which is completely true: not one of them tried to make him do his homework or asked him to tidy anything.

This whole time Physicist was in Atlanta at a conference, because the Physics gods know exactly when I'm going to want my husband around, and they take him away *on purpose.*  And he would totally have come home if it turned into surgery, but it didn't, so I got to be the train wreck crazy lady without any support.

Except for my mom, who is amazing and a godsend and watched 3 year old Kid 2 the whole time and also brought me a pair of jeans and some decent shoes the second day, for which I will love her forever.

So we get home, and I'm completely relieved that 6 weeks of medical madness is finally over, and we can all relax again, and I'm cuddling kid2 and look down and his palms are covered in red spots.

Two weeks ago his preschool notified us all that hand, foot, and mouth disease is going around.  Which, thank goodness, is not the same as hoof and mouth disease and the toddlers don't have to be herded out into the field and humanely, umm, anything, which is a really good thing, though I'm sure it still sucks for the cows when it happens to them.  So now kid2 has spots all over his palms, which is a sign of h/f/m disease, and I only got home from the hospital 15 minutes ago with kid1.  They do this on purpose, you know.

Other than the no field/shooting thing,  I know nothing about this, but Dr. Google helped me out by telling me it was totally not a big deal and there is really no treatment, it just has to run its course.  Unless your kid gets encephalitis and dies.

Dr. Google is like that.  Always the backhanded compliment.

Dr. Google's other main points were
1. the rash is really infectious so
2. Don't let your kid touch anything, or touch anything your kid has touched, or let anyone ever again touch anything your kid has touched or looked at funny or been in the vicinity of touching.
3. But don't worry, it's totally not a big deal.
4. And also, there's no treatment.  You just brave it out and it goes away.

You know what they need to make?  Latex gloves in size 3T.  That might be the only way to keep a three year old from touching things.  They don't make those.  I checked.

But the red spots don't seem painful and I spent today watching him touch every unwashable thing in my house, like the carpet and the couch and the walls and the chairs and every possible toy because we can't take him out in public, and at this point I'm really kind of medically broken down and can't handle being vigilant anymore and if we all get non painful red spots on our palms I tell myself I can deal.

At which point I check his pudgy little hands and the rash has gone from flat pink spots to red swollen blisters. Vile.  Those things were just about to burst and send us all into a virus-ridden uninhabitable hell.  And his pediatrician was emailing me confirmation that there is no treatment.

Except I am a Mom, and I am done with my kids being sick, and I am Not Giving In to the blisters.  So I marched into my garden with some shears, and I home-remedied that kid, and I shoved his protesting little hands in socks, and now 4 hours later his blisters are back to being pink flat spots, and I home-remedied him again in his sleep, and I am not letting that damn rash win if I have to sacrifice my whole damn garden to stop it.

And then I disinfected my house.  

Physicist is done in Atlanta and when he gets home in 30 minutes, he better have some good presents in his pocket, for all three of us.  Four.  My mom should get a present too.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Chicken and The Newt.

My chicken ate a newt.

I'm not sure I've even mentioned that we own chickens.

As of 6:30 pm, there were 4 of them.  I'm hoping that's still the case in the morning.

We got them in May.  My mom and my kid drove out to this organic farm where the farmer was converting from hens to crops, and selling off his layers, and they came home with four of them, in a box.  A Rhode Island red ( she follows us everywhere and talks a lot, is super friendly to people and  the leader of her chicken pack), a Plymouth Rock (black and white speckles, also very friendly), some sort of indeterminate pale red chicken who gets picked on, and an Easter Egger (a gorgeous pale brown with black tips to her feathers).  Easter Eggers are called that because they lay blue or green eggs, and the only reason I know what she is, is because we caught her laying a pale blue egg her first day.  Laid it on the ground right in front of me. So her name is Bunny, because what else do you call something that produces Easter eggs? The other three all lay brown eggs.  Bunny is the prettiest, but because chickens apparently are not like 11 year old girls in this matter, she is not the leader, in fact she's the least popular chicken among the pack, gets picked on by all the other three, and is the only one shy of us.

But because she's pretty and we are like 11 year old girls in this matter, and she lays blue eggs, and she gets picked on and we route for the underchicken, Bunny is by far our favorite.

These ones lay brown eggs
Feeding chickens in the garden

The hen house, full of geese.

A brown egg and a Bunny egg.

Produce from the garden: eggs, beans, cucumber, zucchini and plums

Dinner from the garden: Mushroom Bunny-egg omelette with sauteed summer squash

Today Bunny ate a newt.  I saw her with the newt, a limp and very wiggly rubbery bright orange thing dangling from her beak.  I thought it was a ring-neck snake, as the garden's been full of them this summer and they have either bright orange or bright red bellies, and they curl up when they're scared, and this one looked curled up.  I and Kid1 and Kid1's friend took off after Bunny, to save the snake.

We tried to head her off.  We tried to round her up.  She is a fast chicken, let me tell you, but I wanted to save that snake.  And as we closed in on her, she held up the snake for inspection.  It wasn't a snake.  It had two legs and two arms and a big bulbous head and it was still bright orange and I gave a great shriek of "NEWT", because now we weren't trying to save the snake, we were trying to save Bunny.

The only newt in this part of the world that comes in that color is this one, and it is deadly poisonous if eaten.  It has the same neurotoxin as the puffer fish, oddly enough.  1/18 of a newt is enough to kill a grown man.  The only animal known to be immune is one type of snake.  Everyone else dies within three hours, tops.  I know this stuff because when Kid1 was three, he got very obsessive about newts and wouldn't stop asking questions until I'd read him every single word on the internet related to newts.  I'm not kidding, every word.  Even the molecular toxicology mechanics parts where your neuroreceptors get blocked by the toxin and you have convulsions and fall into paralysis and die.  He was a funny kid.  But that whole experience drilled it right into my head: Newts; they're not for dinner.

The chicken ate the newt.

Kid1 and Kid1's friend both saw it, from about 6 inches away, just as they were about to grab her.  They both swear up down and center they saw it.  I was 4 feet away, and I say I believe them.

We called the vet to see if there was some sort of Ipecac for chickens, but they said one can't make a chicken throw up. 

I waited for horrible convulsions, or possibly paralysis.  Kid1 and KidFriend discussed it in sad voices.

15 minutes post-newt, Bunny started yelling, in that loud sort of clucking quacking way chickens do when they're annoyed..  She yelled for about 10 minutes.  We thought it was the end.

Then she went on about her usual business.

6 hours later, she went to bed with the other chickens, as healthy as a horse.

So here are the possibilities as I see them:

1. Chickens are immune to newt neurotoxins.  This would be good, and also new to science, and also, some herpetologist should get on a study of that.  Preferably by some means other than feeding newts to chickens.  Said means were discussed in great detail at tonight's dinner table.  If any herpetologist wants some ideas, my kid and I have got some.  They're labor-intensive.

2. MY specific chicken is immune to newt neurotoxins.  Which makes her a SuperChicken, and thus even cooler than we knew, and now she's our double-favorite chicken.

3. This particular individual newt wasn't toxic.  He was walking around all blithely, thinking his color would save him, and he didn't even bother to touch up his neurotoxins when he got up this morning.  If so, this says bad things about the future of the newt species.  They ought to be more careful about things like that.  Word gets out, is what I'm saying.  Pretty soon anyone might be eating newt.

4.  Ok, I got no four.  Science is wrong, or the chicken has superpowers, or the newt was a dud.
Either way:

5.  It's going to be a long, long time before anyone round this house is eating a blue egg.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The quick and the dead

I've been stepping over my sons' toys on the playroom floor for three days.  Ok, longer than that.

I'm pretty lax about the state of the playroom, frankly.  I recently acquired a book of "Don'ts for Mothers" from 1878.  It is full of words of wisdom, such as

"Don't restrain your child from romping in the nursery.  It is his castle and he should be Lord Paramount therein."

See?  It is ok to be lax about toys on the floor in the nursery.    However, the same source tells me "Don't let your child sit with his back to the fire: it weakens the whole frame and causes the spine to become bent... and predisposes him to catch cold."  Huh.

Anyway, 1878 or no 1878 wisdom, I've been stepping over the toys on the floor in the playroom.  One of them is a lump of dried playdoh.  The boys were playing with playdoh on Saturday, so it's not surprising.  But this lump looked slightly gruesome - lumps of dried play doh are remarkably like dessicated frogs, really.    I've avoided looking closely at it each time I've walked by.

Ooops.  There's a reason lumps of dried play doh look like dessicated frogs.  Especially when they are, in fact, dessicated frogs.

Why is there a dessicated frog in my playroom?  Did a kid catch it live and bring it in?  Seems unlikely, as they would have instantly alerted me with shrieks of joy and plans to keep it.  Brought it by an ill-meaning cat?  Did it hop in to the cool of the house on its own, on a hot August day, and just...dry out?

There's a lot of pathos in a dried frog, but there's ick factor, too.  I must admit that after a moment of silence (aghast, rather than memorial), I quickly dropped it out the nearest window.  The same one the caterpillar left through.  It can find it's long home amongst the shrubs and flowers down below.  More appropriate than on my rug, no?

I wouldn't stand under that window, if I were you, should you ever come to visit.  Who knows what will land on your head.

Having laid out the frog in not very ceremonial style, I required tea.  This is my British blood calling.  We require tea when we are upset.  Or happy.  Or relaxed.  Or tense.  Or when we unceremoniously bolt dry frogs out the window.  And getting tea, I was frightened right of my skull by a loud "SHEEP", bellowed at me as I approached the tap.

One doesn't expect to have sheep bellowed at one when making tea, and it took me a minute to orient on the bellower.  See how you do.

There's a chickadee on my teapot.

A very live, loud, undessicated chickadee.  We had a bit of an argument, Chickadee and me.  I explained that my kitchen window was not an appropriate place for small birds, and it explained that if I didn't like the idea, or the idea of it sitting on my teapot, it meant the blender, or no, my kitchen knives, or better yet, the plums, or rather, the teapot after all, I could jolly well open a window for it.

There's a trick to getting live birds out of your house.  What you have to do, you see, is get a lightweight cloth, like a dishtowel, and drop it gently over their heads, whereupon one can easily and gently pick them up and bring them out of doors.

Chickadee hadn't taken that training course.  It did not condescend to dishtowels.  Instead we played a nice game of tag, or make-Rebecca -climb-the-counters/rearrange the chairs/leap from on high, until he was bored with that game, and pobbled out the kitchen door, happy as... well, as a Chickadee can be, who's clearly won that round.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Al Gore talks a lot.

I say this in tones of profound respect.  I spent the last 6 weeks talking a mere 4.5 hours nonstop, and found it exhausting.  Today he talked for..... oof. 8:30 am till 9:30 pm.  What's that?  13 hours.

There were a couple breaks, as well as lunch and dinner.  But the man essentially talked for 13 hours.

I'm taking his Climate Reality Leadership Training.  It's a three day conference, which I'm taking because

a) it's in my city
b) it's free
c) they accepted my application, and
d) why not? 

But now that I'm taking it, I'm really glad I'm taking it.  But also really tired.  He has 1,000 trainees from57 different countries.  And 47 US states.

He says he's going to hold a separate, special training for North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

If you're American and follow politics vis a vis red state/blue state much, that would have made you laugh.

SSleeping now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Giant Sequoias: a micro post

When white men first discovered the giant sequoias, they were pretty decently pleased.  "That there's a dem big tree" one can practically hear them say.  They cut one down and sent a 20' long section of trunk back to a big fair in Philadelphia, just to show how huge around they are.  The Phillies just laughed, and called it a California Hoax.

It's hard to comprehend the size of a giant sequoia, even when you're right up against it.  Our minds don't wrap around it right - it slides away, out the side doors of our ears.  Big, we say.  But we don't quite see how big.

Those early lumbermen did.  They calculated that by chopping down a single giant sequoia, they could harvest as much wood as from felling an entire acre of mature pines.  Too bad the trees were so enormous that they smashed to splinters under their own weight when they fell....

I tried to get pictures, but like several million camera-wielding tourists before me, mine still don't do justice to these trees.

Tall and thin, almost pencil-like in it's proportions.
From a distance, they're just a tree - a tall, slender tree.  Very tall, but also, upright and thin.

Each of those branches is fatter than the 300 year old oak in my yard.

The center tree - in the background, pale, bright orange - is the Grant Tree.  It is the second largest tree, by volume, in the world.  Here, it just looks tall.  And thin.  But look again.  Look at the fence.  That's a regular sized, split rail fence, the kind that keeps full-sized tourists from trampling on shallow roots.

You start to get a hint of the size when you're right up against them.  These trees are considerably wider than horses.
The Palamino is standing in front of a single tree.  Not three.  One.

Or these trunks might help.  These weren't particular large, as trunks went.  Much smaller than many.

Or maybe this photo, where my mother on horseback is still shorter than this mid-range sequoia is wide.  This one was small enough not to even shatter when it fell.

But we still couldn't wrap our minds around their girth until a ranger with a rope had us all get in a circle and spread out until we held the rope out to it's full extent, circled.  He'd cut the rope, he said, after wrapping it round the Grant Tree to measure the exact circumference.

My mother's house would have fit inside the circle we made with that rope.

Go back up and look at that first photo.  Imagine a horse at it's base.  Or a house.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

To their source...

My family and I were meant to spend last week camping in Lassen Volcano National Park.  The plan was to leave Sunday morning and spend the next 6 days climbing volcanoes, swimming in gorgeous alpine lakes, bit o' kayaking, bit of relaxing under the trees.  Saturday night, my husband checked the weather.

"Um, hon?" he called from two rooms over.  "The forecast isn't great in Lassen.  Check your email."

Yes: instead of simply talking, when there is data to relay, sometimes we just email.  From two rooms away.  This is because we are introverts.  It is also mildly tragic.  I'm aware of that.

I checked my email.  This was the weather report for Lassen:
4 helicopters.
38 firetrucks.
700+ firefighters.
Continued lightning storms.

We went camping in King's Canyon/Sequoia National Park.

King's Canyon is south of Yosemite, also in the Sierra Nevadas, but down near the southern end of California's Central Valley. As a child, my mother took me every year to camp in the Sierras, but it was nearly always further north, in Mammoth and Yosemite.  I grew up swimming and diving the Tuolomne River, a crystal clear and incomparably beautiful stream, which flows from Yosemite down through Hetch Hetchy and into the taps and showerheads and toilets of San Francisco.  But I don't know the parks or mountains further south, and the rivers I know only by reputation, and their tail ends, the irrigation ditches of California's Great Central Valley.

My office has a lot of projects in the Central Valley.  We do a lot of work on the Valley's water infrastructure, the dams and levees, the highways, the roads and railroads.  Thus, I've written an awful lot of Environmental Impact Reports and Biological Assessments and their ilk, not only on the ecology of the Valley, but on the waterways that flow into it.  Every hydrology section of every ecological report begins in the Sierras, traces its path down through the Central Valley Foothills, and ends in the giant farms and rural towns of the Valley.  I've walked a lot of miles in the Valley, traced a lot of river corridors between fields of crops and orchards.  So it was something of a thrill, after driving four hours south through the Valley, to finally have a chance to work my way up those foothills, and into those mountains.  To see those rivers where they are still wild, where they run over rock and not concrete, between trees and not alfalfa.

In our week in the Sierras, we traced two rivers to their sources: the Kings' River, and the Kaweah.

This is the Valley of the Kings .  It's Kingly, indeed. I was at 6000' when I took this snapshot, and many of those peaks towered thousands of feet above my head. Every drop of rain that lands in that view runs into the King's River, every fallen snowflake, every melting alpine glacier.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Fun Pets

I'm grading finals in the living room.  My husband is doing ...something engineery in the office.  There is a wall between us.  I could hear him moving around and doing ...stuff?  I wasn't really paying attention.  Rearranging the bookshelves, maybe.  Or kicking the wall while he calculates esoteric things.

I have 98 more final exams to grade by tomorrow, at 5 minutes per exam.  I'm not paying attention to whatever-on-earth noise he's making in there.

Until he comes in.  Stops at the door.  Looks at me sitting peacefully with a fat pile of exams on my lap.  Says "that wasn't you, then?"

Oh. THAT noise.  That noise that's between my room and his but is also just about the spot where I noticed a grate was off the house today, leaving an open hole to the crawl space.  Ok, let's admit it.  I've noticed it off for the last two months, and have been deliberately turning a blind eye, because, hello, who wants to deal with the giant house rat who pulls off grates? Also, my husband keeps propping the grate back and wedging it with a spare roof tile, which is one of the most ineffective and un-engineer-like things I have ever ever seen him do, so I suspect he also does not want to deal with the giant mutant house rat who pulls off grates blocked by heavy clay roof tiles.

Also, we've been busy.  Just don't argue with our excuses, k? Thanks.

Apparently tonight's noises steeled his nerve.

He has a flashlight in his hand.  He passes the windows as he goes, and he does not make it as far as the grate, nor does he bend down to peer in it.

Instead he comes back.  "It went back in there," he says.  "It's black.  With a white stripe."

Of course it is. 

Of course.

Maybe we can name him Pepé.

But I have a sneaking suspicion he's in there with Fifi.  And they're not alone.

The NICE thing about skunks is if you leave them strictly and completely alone, they at least won't climb up into your walls and chew through your wiring.  Also, the whole rabies thing has totally, totally declined in skunks over the last couple decades, and now way less of them are going to go crazy and bite your three year old.  Also, at some point the babies will grow up and then they'll all leave peacefully.  Of their own accord.  Without me getting sprayed.  Unless they really like it in there.

I know a guy who traps mountain lions.  Maybe he can help.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

With gratitude for good work, well done.

I stopped this evening on my way home from teaching.  I was driving the scenic route, a winding highway with tall trees and high hills and not much else.  Mostly home, a long view caught my eye, and I pulled over and got out.

It was a long view over green hills, tall white poppies rising up on the slopes and shaking in the wind, redwoods in the distance, the smell of summer under one of those unbelievably blue skies.  I didn't stay long but I stood for a few minutes, quietly under the sun.

It was five pm and I had been talking, nonstop, since noon.  I was going home to my two boys, who would tackle me with love and conversation for the next several hours.  It was good to have a few minutes, with no one, to be glad of a job well done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Microblog: When crude oil burns by the tankload

When oil refineries are on fire and the news says "if you're in the smoke, shelter in place with tape around the windows and wet towels under the door,"  it's a very very good reminder that you should move the whole "making house more energy efficient" thing higher up your fix-it priority list.

Because the house across the patio with its all new double paned windows? Only had to shut its door to keep out what turns out to be quite smelly smoke indeed, while my husband and I got to spend an entire hour slapping painter's tape over every single huge leaking window seal in the house. When window salespeople and energy companies and Al freaking Gore list all the good things about energy efficient windows, they always seem to miss this point.  Leaky windows are a pain in the arse, come giant oil refinery fires and shelter in place orders.  I think someday I'll point this out to Andersen windows, and their sales will skyrocket.  And then they would reward me with free! new! woodpaned! double-panelled! windows for my whole house.  Let a girl dream: it's the only way I'll get them in the near-term.

On the bonus side, my window are now festively decorated with stripes of bright green and blue.Except where my husband used masking tape in the bathroom, which just clashes with the cream walls.  Thanks, love.  Also, that's not going to come off easily and we'll have to entirely repaint the bathroom once the smoke clears and we try to take the tape off to open windows.  I'll make sure to choose a paint color that goes well with masking-tape-dun, for next time.

Only think how useful good windows would be, in, say, chemical warfare.  Then you'd really be wishing you'd listened to Al Gore.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Small Posts

I have come to the sad, sad, sad conclusion that holding down 1) full time consulting gig and 1)half time teaching gig is not compatible with blogging.  At least, not when I feel compelled to write long, witty, amusingly illustrated posts.  So in the interest of continuing at all, I am going to introduce the MicroPost.

Posts about whatever crosses my mind.  In miniature.

For your inaugural micropost:

The first photograph I took in Alaska.  I was so excited about this discovery, I took a phone pic and instantly text messaged it to two of my good friends back in the lower 48.

The text didn't actually go through, as I was on a mountain somewhere in the middle of Alaska, but nevertheless:  Amazingly exciting, drumroll please........

Moose Poop!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Place Where the World Ends

In between fussing about my students, I thought I'd walk back into the past two months and write about some of that stuff I would have been writing about, if I were here, which I wasn't.

One of the reasons I wasn't here was that my husband and I were driving across Alaska. Not the whole thing.  We only had 10 days.  Alaska's big.  We drove the Kenai Peninsula, from Anchorage to Seward, Seward to Homer and back again.  That's pretty much all the paved road there is up there.  We hit it all.  And a lot of unpaved road, too.  The unpaved road is where they keep the loons.  But that is a story for another day.  Today's story is about a river, and the Place Where the World Ends, and Aslan's Country begins.

Our third day in Alaska, we were signed up with Alaska Wildland Adventures to raft the upper 17 miles of the Kenai River.  It was billed as a calm and scenic float tour with wildlife viewing opportunities and a few class II rapids.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wiping brains off the laptop screen

My head just exploded.

In the five minutes it took to write that last post, this appeared in my inbox:

Dear Professer ,
Hello, my name is [name], i am a student of "introduction to oceans' of session D.
I added this course last friday, so I missed the fisrt three lectures. 
And i am now wondering if i can join a group of others because i don't have a group.

Also, I have read the PDFs of lecture1&2, but i can not find the lecture3 in Bspace, 
I think i need to read it before the next lecture, but i don't know how to get it.

Thanks so much,
 Clearly, I need to have a word with the admissions office.

Maybe more than one word.

Did I mention my class was already standing room only?  There are 107 seats, every single one full, and students sitting in the aisles.


Expect 5 more weeks of my head pounding the wall.

Lesson #1: Students should never, ever, have been given access to their professor's (or in my case, lecturer's) email addresses. 

Because when that happened, ridiculousness like this began to occur:

Email, dated yesterday, 11:30 am:
Dear Ms Rebecca

Nice to meent you!
I am a student whose name is [name] (student ID: [#]).

As I attended class from Tuesday, I decided to take this class and I
completed the changing class form on the document.

I hope you to enroll me in the class, and please send me the webpage
information of the class.

Tank you!

As I could not even begin to decipher what this person wanted me to do, I ignored the email.   Surely every student who's ever been to college knows that the person giving the lecture is not the person who handles enrollments, right? 

Saturday, 9:43 am, I get this email, from the same student:

Dear Ms Rebecca

Nice to meent you!
I am a student whose name is [name] (student ID: [#]).

As I attended class from Tuesday, I decided to take this class and I
completed the changing class form on the document.

I hope you to enroll me in the class, and please send me the webpage
information of the class.

Tank you!

What, really?  again?  And on a Saturday?  This time I respond:

Hello.  As far as I am aware, my class is now full.

But he/she is not done:

Dear Ms Rebecca

Thank you for your response!
Is that true? but I complete with my documents and now I have connection
with class webpage...
Perhaps I am already enrolled in the class...


Dear [name], I hope not.  Because if you are, you will continue to pepper me with inane emails at inappropriate timesFor my sake, I hope you will stop.

Then there were also several from students who didn't manage to come to the first week of lecture, wanting me to take time off from my weekend to get them caught up.

They ranged from at least polite and coherent to downright ridiculous:

I'm sorry for absense of yesterday.
  I was at a travel and due to few reasons, I could not returen at time.
And I heard that you made the group to make presentation. However due to absense, I have no group.
 So could you make me take part in any group which is lack of members?
I don't know any one in the class so I need your help.
This student didn't miss one lecture, he/she missed 4, and is apparently trying to make it seems as if it missed only one.

Hello [name],

Considering that you have missed 1/6 of my course, which is rigorous, demanding, and fast-paced, I think it would be best if you registered instead for a class you can attend, or at least a class that does not require attendance.  You have missed four lectures, as well as the opportunity to join a group.  That material will not be repeated.

 Sigh.  It's going to be a long six weeks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is it ok to say if a Chinese man says it??

Ummmm (sheepishly)  hi!  (Waving).  Can we skip right over the part where I'm a bad blogger, and chalk a two month's absence (oops) up to a combination of vacation where there was no internet, extreme overwork, and technical difficulties??  We can?  Ok thanks.  Moving right along then.

In the summers, I cut back at my day job for a few weeks to immerse myself back into my college days - but from the opposite side of the podium.  These days, instead of the nerd in the front seat taking frantic notes, I'm the nerd with the wooden pointer, talking so fast that no one can take notes.  I teach Introductory Oceanography, which was my all time favorite class in college.  I have 100 students, and because it's a summer course, about 60 of them are on exchange from various Asian countries. China seems to be the biggest contributor, this year. This makes for some awesome exchanges.  Like this one, at the end of today's 2 1/2 hours of lecture (yes I'm hoarse now, thanks for asking):

Asian man gets to the front of the line of students, queued up to add the class or ask about the grading policy or recap a lecture point.

Me: [smiling encouragingly] Hi.
AM: Hello Professor.  I just want to say to you thank you.
Me: Thank you? [Have I changed his world in one lecture?  Good going, fast work.]
AM: Yes.  Thank you for the ... exciting lecture. In China where I come from, the teachers, they not...interested in what they teach.  They not... make interesting for us.  This is new thing, I like it.  So I say thank you.
Me: Oh. Thank you... well...I'm glad you enjoyed it. [What the heck do you say to that?  "I'm sorry your entire country's educational system is dull?" or "What, really?  Interesting lectures are a NEW thing?" "In a country of a BILLION people, you haven't found a single lecturer interested in their subject? They all teach like robots? This is the way it is done?"  The mind boggles.]

So, AM, you are welcome for the exciting lecture.  I'll try to keep up my game.

I also ask each student to turn in a sheet with their name, major, and the answers to a couple of questions, to get an idea of how much background knowledge they're coming in with.  It's usually a pretty mixed bag, but the answers I most enjoy are to the question "Can you name three tidepool  organisms?"

This answer is adorable:
"Not right now, but will do more research about it!"  She gets an A, doesn't she?

And from those who've never heard of a tidepool but are game to give it a go, this answer is representative:
"tuna, dolphin, sharks."    Well, at least they hit three marine animals.

This one didn't quite get that far:
"frog, swan."  Umm, no.  He needs my class very very badly.

This English-speaking, American, engineering major explains that he has derived that "tidal" comes from tidal waves, therefore I must be asking about underwater creatures, and gives me "sharks, kelp, salmon."  Good logic, well explained. What are they teaching in high school these days???????

Next the students who, misunderstanding the point, resorted to their laptops or smart phones for answers during the mid-class break:
"cowfish, actinaria [sic], starfish."
"brachiopoda [sic], alga [sic], shells."  Nice. Research on the fly.  I like it.  You have no idea what you are talking about, and no idea how obvious that is.

And finally, those who charged ahead boldly with their lack of answers.  An exchange student who listed her major  as  "Money and Banking" did not, like many of her compatriots, apologize for her lack of knowledge or leave it quietly blank as if they didn't notice the question, she just wrote "no idea."  That's ok. Short of a Castaway -style marooning, she likely won't need to know.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Last week, I was going to write about the Wildlife Festival, but I got sidetracked by Wonder Woman.

Or something.

Which is really ok, from your point of view, because I didn't, in fact, attend much of the wildlife festival.  When you have 1) a tank full of frogs that you're actually willing to let people hold, and 2) a feisty turtle with really sharp nails that you're also willing to let people hold, you don't get a lot of time to explore and report back.

Really. Sharp. Nails.

But she makes people happy.
Even one-armed people

(I liked this kid.  We both had an arm in a sling and didn't let that stop us. We were kindred spirits.  I bet he fell out of an armored personnel carrier, too.  He had that level of cool.)

I heard from about 136 kids that the whole thing was fantastic, and that they got to hang with eagles (etc) as well as frogs, and there was a bunch of great music and a bunch of great games and crafts and everybody won honeysticks from the bee guy.  Also there was cake.  A big giant birthday cake for everybody.

Except for me.

Because I was hanging with the kids and the frogs over in the kids and frogs station.  Damn frogs.  They make a girl popular, and popular girls don't have time for cake.

I never knew that before.

If I think about it enough, it will probably really transform my memories of jr. high school, don't you think?

So I was going to skip writing about the whole Wildlife Festival thing in general, because, in that way that things happen which convinces you beyond reasonable doubt that the universe just  mocks us continuously,  this past weekend was way wildlifier, from my perspective, than the frogs-and-turtles-booth at the festival.

Yes, wildlifier is a word.  I made it myself.  And the last few days: wildlifey.  What I would do, if I was a good blogger, is show you really awesome photographs of the deer, and the fox, and the rare snakes, and the rare birds, that showed up in my backyard this weekend, just so you can understand for yourself how much the universe enjoys mocking me.  I spent two solid months looking for wildlife to show at a festival, and you want to know how many cool species showed up  in my yard the weekend after it was over?  Ten.


But I'm not a good blogger, because this is the best photograph I managed to take of the gorgeous young stag, antlers still in velvet, browsing blackberry behind the house:

It's a mule deer, I swear.

Yeah. You've seen better photographs of Bigfoot.  This is not my forte.

So I call up my friend Ivan.  Ivan is the hands-down best wildlife photographer I've ever known. Or fired, which I do frequently because it calms him when he gets overworked. AND, bonus for all of my 6 readers, he has all the photographs of the cedar waxwings, orange-bellied ring-neck snakes, red tail hawks, and red foxes that your little hearts could desire.  AND, he was bugging me just last week about when he'd get a mention in my blog.  But has Ivan sent me any photographs yet?

No he has not.  Ivan, love, you're totally fired.

The closest I got was a photo of wildlife watchers, which frankly?  Not as pretty.

But maybe funnier.

You want to see my best wildlife photo of the last month?  And by best I mean actually in focus despite terrible lighting and framing?

Isn't she gorgeous??

That's a sharp-tail snake I found in the five minutes I got to sneak away from the frogs-and-turtles at the festival.  I snuck away to see if there was still a newt under a log by the pond, and instead, I found this absolutely beautiful girl, curled up in the sun.  So I called my buddy Matt, who you now understand is the guy with the turtle, because he is the best snake catcher I had around.  Also, I shy away from getting bit, even if by very very very small teeth.

Always have a turtle guy around if you happen to need to catch a snake without getting bit.  They're convenient.

So Matt comes over, and holy shmokes, for a big guy, he can move quick.  I think I will rename him.

The Guy with the Turtle and Hands Like Lightning.

Matt caught me the snake. Awesome!  Because if there's anything better than letting a hundred little kids hold frogs and vampire-clawed turtles, it's letting them hold frogs, vampire-clawed turtles, and really cool snakes. 

So for the rest of the afternoon

HOLY SHMUTZ POTATOES!  There is a CATERPILLAR on my COUCH.  Right freaking next to me.

Hold on.  I will show you. I will photograph him before he attacks.

This caterpillar things is out of control.  You know where I found a caterpillar yesterday?  Hanging from a thread (these puppies have webs like spiders) from the ceiling of my car.  Driver's side.  Right where my head goes.
You know where else? Also yesterday?  Under my bed.  I went to pick up a toy some wretched kid had left there, and it was crawling with a caterpillar.  I threw them both out the window. Not the kid. The toy bounced.  I didn't check on the caterpillar.

Listen.  I like living with oak trees.  They are pretty and the acorns are scenic in that cute little we-can-make-garden-gnomes-out-of-these-or-peg-them-at-people way.  They provide excellent shade on hot summer days and probably do something to alleviate global warming.  But I do not like oak-caterpillar-season, and I do not think that I should be forced to dodge disgusting creepy things with too many legs and attack-faces in my car and under my bed and on my couch when I am trying to write about  cute things like snakes.

Here he is.  He totally has attack face on.  I took this, and then I threw him out the window, too.  I had to use some paper because the couch would not have fit.  Also, my husband might have questioned the couch/window decision. Take that, you galaxy-invading-squish monster!

Look at him!  He is rearing up on his 80 hind legs, trying to kill me!

Ahem.  Before we were interrupted by a foul blot of wriggling inhumanity (and by the way, the babies of every other species in the world are adorable.  Except for baby insects. Who are vile. What is up with that, Mother Nature?  Don't you think the butterfly population of the world would be doing a bit better if you'd bothered to make their babies look like tiny little kittens?  That might have been the way to go, hmmm?)

 So ANYway,

 Nope.  I can't even do it.  I can't even get back to the story I was trying to tell you about my gorgeous little sharp-tail.

I can tell you this, though.  The kids were thrilled with her.  They and Guy with Hands Like Lightning passed her back and forth for the next hour.  She didn't mind at all, though.

Because she was dead.  We discovered this about 30 seconds after her lightning fast, super-stealth, would-otherwise-have-been-truly-impressive capture.  And yes, that means my best wildlife photo of the month was of a dead snake.

But the kids. Apparently they're totally thrilled with passing around (and cuddling! cuddling! for reals!) a dead snake.  Which really, is completely disgusting.

Kids. Caterpillars. There's more than one similarity.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kinda klutzy

I was at the Wildlife Festival today, getting set up, and my colleague, Matt, who we will later call "The guy with the turtle" and I are putting up posters. 

"So I fell out of an armored personnel carrier yesterday," I begin, to explain why I'm working one handed.
Matt stops me.  "I don't think I've ever been able to start a conversation with that exact phrase" he comments.

This Week in the Garden

Three weeks in the garden, actually.

It's been rather an unusual month, here at Terrace House.  Last we examined the garden, we were just breaking out from the dead of winter into early spring, but a spring following a dry, drought-ridden winter.  Than in three extraordinary weeks, we went from something like 10% of normal precipitation, year-to-date, to over 75% of normal.  That's a good 65% of the an annual year's rainfall over the course of three very short weeks.

It's been damp.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A little damp

Last night, I climbed in bed early, to cuddle my smallest who had been woken, time and again, by great crashes of thunder.  He had had quite enough thunder, in his opinion. It was one of those black-as-tar nights, except when the windows lit up, every 10 minutes or so, with cracks of huge white light.  Like the gods were playing on/off with a giant celestial light switch.

I could hear the rain thrumming against the house, and pouring through the rainspouts, but more than that, I could hear water rushing past the house, surrounding us in all directions. Down the steps, down the drive, in the gullies and the ravine. It sounded like we were on an island in the middle of a raging torrent - not the most common sound for a California hillside.  My son and I fell asleep to the sound of swollen rivers rushing past.

By morning the storm had moved on, and the world sparkled, damply but unflooded.  So it wasn't until I got a call about the Wildlife festival this afternoon that I realized I needed to think about creeks.

I have a date tomorrow morning at 10 am.  I was meeting two troops worth of Girl Scouts to lead them on a Creek Clean-up.  Girl Scouts are good for local creeks.  We were heading down to this lovely bit of beach downstream of town, which had been thoroughly covered in trash washed down from the commercial district.  Coffee cups, plastic bags, golf balls, detritus of all sorts and sizes.  Perfect for small girls to jump around with gloves on and do good unto their world.

But I did get that call about the Wildlife Festival, and as we chatted pond turtles and mountain lions and tree frogs, my colleague mentioned that the creek would likely be off limits, given how swollen it is.  "But it's fine" I answered, surprised.  "I was there on Tuesday, and it looked beautiful."  "The water district doesn't want us near it, till the swelling goes down," she answered.

Oh.  It rained last night.  A lot.

One hour, one extremely muddy son, 1/2 a water-filled rainboot from fording a small stream, and one trip to the beach later, I realized she was right.  Overnight, the creek had doubled, and where clear clean water had rushed past mounds of trash scattered amongst willows over a sand bar on Tuesday, now brown foaming mud poured through banks washed clean and willows submerged.  The litter has moved on, and the Girl Scouts will have the morning off.

Now if only my sons could be convinced to let me sleep in.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mud turtles, mountain lions and more: arrangements for a Wildlife Festival

I got a YES!  I got a YES!! Doc Hale is coming to my scavenger hunt!

Ok, back up.  You have no idea what I'm talking about.

Two weeks from now, on April 22, the Nature Area in my town will be hosting a Wildlife Festival.  The Nature Area is 13 acres of beautiful habitat with multiple creeks, 400 year old heritage oaks, frog ponds, and wildflowers, painstakingly restored over the last three decades by one dedicated and dauntless woman and her crew of volunteer staff and students.  It's beautiful.  And it's owned by the school district, and adjacent to my kid's school, and it's recently been hammered by budget cuts.  Access and educational programs have been cut way back, and some folks are beginning to talk about development.

I live in a community that's absolutely ensconced in nature.  We're 10 minutes from major urban areas, but our town is nestled in and amongst rolling hills and parklands.  We're a community that loves the natural areas around us, but we've also settled right on top of some of the most delicate and precarious habitats - the creeks.  We've built in the drainages to save our views of our hills, but those drainages are what keep the hills healthy and alive and packed with wildlife.  By choking them, we're choking off the habitat and the animals we chose to live amongst.  And within the limits of our town, the Nature Area provides the absolute best, healthiest, most vibrant parcel of creekside habitat around.  It is the town's last refuge of the California red-legged frog.  It is alive with bird song.  Unlike the majority of town, the creek waters in the Nature Area run clear and unchoked by trash, English Ivy, French Broom, and Himalayan blackberry. And it's a safe piece of nature that every kid in the school district has access to, to run around unrestricted, to learn about science and ecology and growing things, and Native American culture.  It's a treasure.  But it's a threatened treasure.

So to raise money for the Nature Area: the Wildlife Festival.  And because we recognize that to restore creeks, we first  have to preserve the healthy creeks among us, the Friends of the Creeks organization to which I belong is joining in to support the Wildlife Festival.

The Festival has been going on longer than I've been around, and is apparently going to be choc-a-bloc full of things like a live raptor show, and honeybee demonstrations, and live music, and making your own nature inspired arts and crafts.

I volunteered (because nobody shot me down in time) to organize a Creek Wildlife Scavenger Hunt.   Where kids follow clues down the trail past the creeks, meeting and learning about different wildlife as they go, with hands on activities, crafts, and games.

First on my recruitment roster: my good friend and fellow wildlife biologist, Matt.  Matt has a passion for reptiles, and for pond turtles in particular, and he's the very fond owner of a rescued, unreleasable, Western pond turtle*.  Matt will be bringing Speckles to meet the kids as Station 1 at my scavenger hunt, and for a hands-on activity, he and the kids will be making Turtle Soup.**

 Second on my recruitment roster:  Jon, a biologist who works for the local water agency, which coincidentally owns the creeks running through the Nature Area.  Jon is both good-natured and completely awesome, and came up with the brilliant idea of letting kids use his equipment to identify (and them make their own) animal tracks by the creek.  Possums, raccoons, deer, who knows what else.

We're going to have stations with live native tree frogs to examine,  and bottled invasive bullfrogs (evil ever-hungry destroyers of all native amphibians).  And stations with good creek plants and bad creek plants.  But what I really needed, as of yesterday, was 1)Mountain Lions, 2) fish, and 3) birds.

So I wrote to Doc Hale, legendary mountain lion biologist.  And now we have come back to the beginning of this post!

 I met Doc in January of this year, thanks to Matt-of-the-turtles and his hiking propensity.  Matt showed up at work one Monday with photographs of some scratch marks in the dirt on a hiking trail.  He passed them around to half a dozen wildlife biologists, asking "what made these scratches?"  "Mountain lion" said the first.  "Mountain lion" said the second.  "Mountain lion" said the third, fourth, fifth and sixth.  But Matt, being a scientist, was skeptical.  He called up the best known mountain lion specialist in nine counties, and invited him out for a hike to look at the tracks.  I tagged along with my oldest kid and his buddy, because what six year old doesn't want to track enormously powerful pussycats with daggerlike teeth who can run like cheetahs and jump like kangaroos? 

Here's Doc, examining the trail marks (click to make it bigger and examine them yourself):
Yup, those are lion tracks.

A seven year old's hand is smaller than a mountain lion's paw

Where the lion sharpened his claws on a nearby tree

Houses, 25 yards from the claw sharpening tree.  I wonder if they know?

When tracking wildlife, it is always good to bring along a nature photographer

Doc, as you can guess, is a character. Not only does he know his wildlife, but he's a trained archeologist and can identify the Native American uses for every herb we passed on the trail. He's been tracking lions for decades, and is on a first name basis with many of the long term feline residents of our towns.  His photographs are astonishing***, as are his estimates of how many of these enormous, but secretive lions live right in our collective backyards. Dozens of them use the creeks in our local towns as their trails, slipping through silently in darkness, moving from one open parkland to another, leaving no evidence but grainy night photos on trail cameras and an occasional scratch mark on a tree.  And Doc has graciously agreed to come help out, sharing his photos, and his astonishing tales, with the kids at the Wildlife Festival!  WWHHHHEEEeeeeeeeeeeee!!

This is going to be awesome.

Matt and Jim (Doc) Hale, discussing their findings

 Now, all I have to find is someone to bring riparian birds, and someone to bring fish.  If you know of anyone, give me a shout!


*These lovely shelled beasties have been suckerpunched by habitat loss and by competition from released pets, such as the red-eared slider, and are currently a State Species of Special Concern - which basically means they're working their way on to the endangered species list.

**Ok, not really.  Because Speckles wouldn't taste very good.  Early settlers in California got very excited about all the pond turtles here, because turtle soup was a huge delicacy, but to their enormous dismay, it turns out that pond turtles taste like mud.  And not very tasty mud at that.  More like slimy green mud at the edges of a cow-trampled puddle on a muggy summer's day.  Remind me to tell you about the oysters, sometime, though.

***Lion eating a deer on the front lawn of a house in a nice residential neighborhood 10 minutes from here.  Night shot of more than half a dozen lions hanging out like campers at rest time in clearing in the woods.  Deer hunter proudly kneeling next to a newly killed stag, in time honored hunting pose, totally oblivious to the lion who is standing 6 feet behind him, looking on.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Five shades of blue: a happy ending

When we last saw my farmhouse, Ruben, Chuey, and I had just climbed down off our ladders, after spending two solid days painting stripes.

Then I decided I couldn't live with the stripes.

Then I decided the stripes were Dr. Seussian, and they made me laugh.

Then I stewed.

Then I decided to completely jump the shark, bought a can of no-VOC, non-toxic, non-caustic paint stripper, and  stripped all the old paint and pickled stain off the wall, so I could hand lacquer and hand wax the entire 12 foot high, 144 square foot room (plus stairwell!!) and restore all the wood panelled walls back to a glowing, brilliant, natural redwood.  Luckily for my marriage, it took an entire $16 can to strip one square foot of wall, and my husband got home before I could do any real damage.  The conversation went like this:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adventures in Paint

1. Thank you for indulging me in last post's rant.  I shall try not to do it often.  Be warned, though: I am liable to rant as often as 2x per year, and when I do, I gesticulate with the vim and intensity of a crowd of Italian mothers debating their rival sauces.  One wants to stand at a safe distance.

2. Do you ever have one of those weekend where you go out with all your old college friends and you hit up the G Street bars you used to hit regularly in college, and then somehow someone orders shots and the beer chasers don't really drown the buzz and another few rounds later and another few bars later, you suddenly wake up in your own bed with your mouth tasting fuzzy and the absolute certainty in your mind that whatever you might have done in college, you are clearly too old for that now?  And what on earth were you thinking?

That is exactly how I feel.  Only there was neither friends nor bars, nor sadly, even drinking involved.  Just that delightful wrung out and put away wet feeling of utter inability to move another muscle, even to blink your eyes.  Ho baby, that was a weekend.  And like the alcoholic version above, the only cure - I'm certain of this - is hair of the dog.

I must. keep. painting.

Since the day I bought this house, I've fretted over the foyer.  Actually, I've fretted over the entrance hall, because I'm not really a foyer kind of girl.

This is how it goes: You walk in my front door.  You're standing in a big, empty room, with a pile of shoes on the floor by the door.  It's one story high at the door behind you, sloping up to 1 1/2 stories directly in front of you.  Straight ahead, through a double door, is the dining room.  To your left is the playroom/den, to your right, a staircase and the door to the living room.  It's physically the central room in the house.  It's the room that's supposed that's supposed to welcome you.  But it's dark, and gloomy, and the wood panelled walls are stained a muddy mushroom brown green grey.  The only lighting is from grimy, brassy can lights on grimy brass tracks.  Some of the bulbs don't work - not because the bulbs have burned out but because the lights are just very far gone.  The ceiling has wood beams in the same muddy mushroom as the walls, and the panels between them might have once been white, but are now stained yellow with age and cracked.  There's one window: a small, octagonal thing next to the door, in the shade of the house, that lets in no direct light.

(I think that if you shift and click on a photo, it will show it to you much larger in a new window)

From the moment I bought the house I've been trying to fix this room.  18 months, and the number of paint colors I've tried has long past into double digits.   I went a bright sunny yellow for awhile, but my husband couldn't stand it.  "Mexican restaurant,"  he said, dampingly.  And somehow, even with bright yellow walls, it remained a dark and depressing room. 

I cut the front door in half to let in more light.  That didn't help.

I looked past the entryway and painted the dining room, which had been the same muddy brown, until it glowed and shone.  I took off the door frames and sanded them down to their original redwood and laquered and waxed them till they glowed.


In progress

After left

After center

After right

Now the view from the front door was vastly improved - you enter the house and your eye is drawn straight past the entryway and into a bright and welcoming room.  But you were still standing in a dreary, dark, hall.  I primed the walls white - that brightened it a bit, but what color to paint on top?  I tried ice blue, faint blue, light blue, middle blue.  I gave up for six months.

Then, finally, in utter despair,  I called Victor.  Victor is a color consultant, and I had never consulted a color consultant before.  I do my own colors, blast it!

He offered grey.  I rejected grey, absolutely.  He argued that my dining room's green had a lot of grey in it, and as the two rooms are closely ensconced, that grey would mesh well.  I spurned grey, and offered red, in shades of brick or terracotta.  He sneered.  We had already tried and rejected yellow, in a myriad of hues.  He found a slate blue, and in a 6" by 6" square, it looked great.

I painted three of five walls in Victor's slate blue, and despaired again.  It was green blue, it was grey, it was one color here and another there, and over all hung those grimey, horrid, depressing  track lights and cracked ceiling.

For a year I'd been hiding from that ceiling - it was terrifying, daunting, in the amount of labor it represented.  I thought I could ignore it, hide from it, pretend it would go away if I didn't look.  We talked about someday stripping and restoring the redwood beams.  We talked about antique tin tiles.

But Victor's failed blue, if it did nothing else, shook something awake in me.  That room was not going  to remain another month in that condition.  So I stopped consulting Victor, or my husband, and I bought lights, and I called in reinforcements.

This is Ruben.

And this is Chuey.

They built my mom's house last year from the ground up, and by god they were going to save my entry.  Yesterday, Ruben and Chuey and I spent the day on ladders.  Today, we sent the kids away and my husband and I spent another day on ladders. 

And it is not done.

But it is getting there.....

Painting the ceilings

Wall 1/2 painted, tester lights hung.  We may go down a size.

Front wall.  No door frames yet.  N looking as blurry as he feels.
I walk in now, and the ceiling is bright, and the whole room, even with half finished walls, feels bright.  The new lights, although only two, give more than twice the light of the 8 cans that used to be.

The walls are Victor's slate with stripes of Mozart Blue.  The ceiling rafters are marscapone and the panels are glacier (a super pale blue).  The door frames will be the same refurbished redwood that the dining room doorframes are. Color for the two side walls (behind the staircase and towards the playroom, visible in the pic where I'm painting the ceiling) is yet to be determined.  Something very pale, I think. I'll take suggestions, happily.

Halfway through Saturday, N was out with the kids, and I stopped painting to text him: "Happy happy happy."

Happy.  But utterly, drunkenly, full body exhausted.

When the entry hall is done (and yes I will post pictures), the upstairs bathroom will be tackled.
You want to see my test paints??

Clearly, I haven't found the right ones yet.  Yes, I'm testing paint on the mirror.  That mirror will go away and become a wall.