Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 29, the antepenultimate day of the Month.

The Stowaway's cake. I'll have to get a picture of the Boy's cake from the Stowaway.
I made the Stowaway a birthday cake yesterday (the 29th). Making anything a surprise for the Stowaway is easier said than done. Making a surprise in the kitchen is impossible. She claimed medical reasons for needing food (remember, she has a weak constitution) so the surprise wasn't nearly as good as the Boy's birthday cake was. (He turned seven on the 25th) He is a total NASCAR fan and a Lowes (Jimmie Johnson) fan. I managed to convince him that I was decorating his cake like the Home Depot (Joey Logano) car. I tried really hard to make his cake look like Jimmie Johnson's car, but there was a food coloring malfunction (the food coloring turned out to be light blue, not navy) and that failed in the first step. Just as I had decided that half the tube was as much color as I could add without bad aftertaste setting in, I realized that the color was exactly right for The King from Cars. Fortunately, the Admiral is a fan of Richard Petty, so the Boy is also a fan of The King. So that's the cake he got.
The Stowaway got a much more simple cake, since a) she wouldn't stay out of the kitchen, b)she is 21, so the outside of the cake isn't so important and c) she has a weak constitution and too much sugar is bad for her, so it's okay if the icing layer is a bit thin. Really though, it was a pretty cake, according to the Harbor Master it was "Happy and Sunshiney like the Stowaway when she is in a good mood." It also tasted good, which is important as well.
Persons well enough to leave the house went to Mass last night, so that the girls could get an early start on their drive to FL (they didn't) and so that we didn't have to leave the sick ones during the day.

Today, the penultimate day of the month, was a day for resting and recovering. It was also the day that I realized we have nine days before the day we plan to leave. There is so much to do between now and then that it is really ridiculous. We are old hands at packing on a moment's notice. No big deal. We'll be fine. Piece of cake. All we have to do is finish packing up all of the books, clothes, things we won't need etc., find homes for three cats, some chickens and a tankful of guppies, pack the camper, and find out where we're going. And I start school on the day before we leave. Wahoo!
It's gonna be great.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Growing up

Above: The Harbor Master's thrifty tip. Reuse the same Ziploc Bag for four years.
Below: The Stowaway prefers to dig out lost baggies of quarters.

Sunday, the college girls are leaving for college. The day after tomorrow the Harbor Master and the Stowaway are departing for the sunny tropics of south Florida. The house will be quieter. I will have an uncontested right to the front seat in the car. My dog will be able to eat without the Stowaway fussing that she's in the way. Their belongings, which have threatened to completely smother the house since the day they came home will be packed into the Harbor Master's little car and drive away. The girls have driven me crazy for three months. Not a day has passed that I couldn't find some reason to complain about them. Now, with only a single day left I know that I'll miss them.

This, to me, marks the end of the summer more definitely than fall ever could. It is an end to middle-of-the-night-no-boys-allowed (excepting, of course, the Harbor Master's fiance) movies. It's the end of sitting up half the night joking about how crazy Mom can be or how loopy Dad is getting in his old age. It's the end of the summer do-you-remembers and time for the fall split up. The last one. The next time the girls come home, the Harbor Master will get married. So this year it isn't just the end of summer, it's the end of all of us being kids. It's good bye to pretending that being grown up is a long way away. It's hello to Oh My Gosh I'm Going to Be Twenty in SIX MONTHS. Which, I guess is the reason that this parting is at as hard as the first time they left.
Fortunately, tomorrow is the Stowaway's birthday, so we'll have a reason to party. Ha! Take that back to school!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cardinal Lessons

The 2nd Mate and the A.B. officially have the Swine flu. The 1st Mate seems to be going down as well, and I don't think the Boy will make it through unscathed. Now that we know we have the Swine flu it is actualy a lot less scary than when it was a mystery disease. According to the doc, the best thing for everyone but the Stowaway (she has a weak constitution) is to get it and have immunity to it.

Anyway, while I was making supper for all of these flu victims, I happened to look out the window and spot a cardinal sitting in a tree. This particular cardinal, Fred, is marked by extraordinarily bright plumage. He is also surprisingly tame. Fred and his mate, Mrs. Peppering built a nest in the rosebush outside a bedroom window. The nest had been abandoned earlier in the summer by some other bird, presumably because they couldn't stand the noise. Mr. and Mrs. Peppering didn't mind the noise, which was good because the boys spent the entire thirteen days of incubation, and even more, the ten days of the chicks growing up with their faces mashed against the window. During the twenty-three days that they lived there, we all became closely acquainted with the chicks. We watched Mrs. Peppering and Fred slave to keep the chicks' stomachs filled. The A.B. took pity on the poor overworked parents and dropped an occasional bug into the nest. This was strictly against orders.
On day ten the chicks began to bail, with some help from Fred. Within two hours the chicks were flying awkwardly around in the clump of trees in front of our house. Mrs. Peppering was the only one who looked distressed. While she seemed to approve of the chicks' leaps out of the nest, she also seemed determined to herd them back in again. By the end of the day they had disappeared, never to return again to the home of their youth. Fred and Mrs. Peppering also became rare sights.
It was strange that Fred showed up today. This morning the Commodore mentioned my being an "adult child living at home." Although I realize that she's right, and that I have to be careful about "sucking up all of the air" that is needed for the younger guys, it was still a little frustrating. Seeing Fred gave me a mental image that gave me an idea that led to understanding. I am perched on the edge of the nest. It isn't big enough for me to fit in all the way, but I'm not ready to jump quite yet. My mom is trying to look after the little guys on the inside, and trying to shove me out of the nest and herd me back into it at the same time while I am also trying to jump and balance on the ledge at the same time. It makes for some prickly moments to work through. We'll get over them I think, as long as God keeps sending cardinal messages.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Introducing the Crew...and Co.

The crew is the result of reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons. It has been in existence for a little over 2 years, and most of the persons in my immediate family are regularly referred to by their titles. My dad is the Admiral, or, occasionally the Dadmiral. Mom is the Commodore. The looks that persons give a kid when he yells "Wait up, Commodore!" across a crowded parking lot are really funny. I was elected Captain in the early days of the crew, and at the same time my brothers (12, 10. and 7) were appointed 1st Mate, Able Seaman and Ship's Boy according to age. My younger sister joined the crew at a later date (just before our first voyage) so she is the 2nd Mate, even though she is older than the other crew members. The crew has had to learn to work very closely together. Literally. We've spent quite a lot of time in seriously cramped quarters.
My older sisters, both away at college, were also noticed. We have the Harbor Master, responsible for finding places to anchor for the night while we are traveling, and the Stowaway, who slipped aboard on an Easter Voyage. Last, and yes, probably least, is the Ship's Dog, Robynne, who protects the crew from the dangers of wild dogs, potentially rabid squirrels, and staying inside all day. She is also Guardian of Tallulah when the crew goes ashore.
We named a little tin rowboat the Silver Star and have had quite a few adventures in her. Our beat up station wagon was christened the Y.S. Wagon.(Y.S. for yellow station wagon. Technically, it's a beige station wagon, but that doesn't work nearly as well.) We have since nevigated several 1000+ mile voyages in her. When we acquired a 35ft. R.V. it was understood that she would also need a name. There was some talk of calling her the Silver Star II after our "actual boat" but only the Commodore was really in favor of that. We loaded up the crew and went for a test drive. "How about we call her Tallulah," the Boy said. (Cool Runnings 1993) The vote was unanimous. Tallulah she is.
The Master and Mistress of Swampwood are not crew members, but they were instrumental in the formation of the crew. They provided our first chance for adventure are so enmeshed in all of the doings of the crew that no account could be complete without them.

So the crew: Admiral, Commodore, Captain, 1st Mate, 2nd Mate, A.B., Boy, and Dog.
And Co: Master and Mistress of Swampwood, Harbor Master and Stowaway.
And the Vessels: The Y.S. and Tallulah.

Also, please pray for the A.B., who is going to be checked for the flu tomorrow morning, and the 2nd Mate, who is also sick.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Farewell to my Costa Rica Pen.

I stepped on my favorite pen. I was writing outside and stopped for a spray of bug repellent. I guess I dropped my pen when I was soaking the 1st Mate. I didn't realize it until after he had doused me with the spray (which did absolutely nothing to repel the hundreds of more than usually bloodthirsty mosquitoes) that I didn't have my pen. It was lying on the ground where my foot had landed when I tripped as I stood up to be sprayed.
It's a beautiful pen. It was hand decorated with a coat of clay and a pretty sunflower. The artist's fingerprints in the clay around the tip fit my fingers exactly right. It beats those squishy rubber grippy-things to pieces. It didn't even need a name, since there's one right on the side of it, a little wooden strip that says "Costa Rica." The ink always comes out in a beautiful, steady, dark blue almost black line, but it doesn't get all clumpy and nasty on the tip. It doesn't scratch or stick. It was a present from my uncle.
Now there is a crack around the top of it, through the clay and the plastic. The ink flow has slowed to a faint blue line. My Costa Rica Pen has written its last letter. RIP.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Boxed Books

A conversation reminds me of something from a book. The phrasing eludes me. So I wander over to the bookshelf where the book ought to be. It is an utterly thoughtless action, pure reflex. I can see the book I want. I can feel the print on the cover and the individual feel of those particular pages between my fingers. I reach out to pick it up, confident that the itchy half memory will soon be soothed. Wrong. There are no books on the shelf. It's empty. The books are in boxes, stacked up in more or less out of the way places. Herein lies my problem: Books should not be in out of the way places. They should be easily accessible in moments of dire need, such as mine. Instead, I am forced to go and stare dejectedly at the book's name on the roster on the outside of the box that imprisons the friend I so desperately need, and then settle for Googling the quote. It isn't the same at all.

The reason for boxing up our books is simple. After two years of deciding, it actually looks like the family is going to head out on an extended road trip. This decision is exactly what I have been campaigning and praying for ever since the idea came up. Unfortunately, after you jam seven people, a border collie, and all of the necessary things like food and clothes and tennis balls into a camper, there just isn't enough room for all of the books that one needs. So we have the important ones: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jesus of Nazareth, Tolkien, school books, and assorted instruction manuals. The others will stay behind. All alone. It's a hard trade though, giving up adventures on paper for the real life variety. I didn't know until I closed the lid of the first box how difficult it was going to be. Nearly every book is linked with a memory, a time or place where I first read it, or first understood it. I read That Dog! five times a day while I cried my heart out when my first dog died when I was ten. I sneaked Little Women out of the shelf and read it out in the yard when I was eleven. When I was twelve, I became obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I was trying to read the Return of the King when I broke my arm. I read it in a day a year later when I realized there were only twenty-four hours until the movie came out. I read Swallows and Amazons aloud when I was seventeen, to comfort my brothers while my mother was in the hospital. My entire childhood is packed away in the boxes that are steadily climbing up the walls. I suppose I shouldn't wonder at how hard it is to close the lids!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Embrace the Velveeta

Tonight, I am going to a play. It will be my first time being an audience member in years. I can't wait.
My younger sister and my three brothers are all in the play. They have been working very hard for an excruciatingly long and unbelievably short five days. Consequently, I already know every single song and most of the lines.
It is a Missoula Children's Theater production of the Pied Piper. MCT inc. has 47 teams of two persons each who travel around the world putting on an hour long musical a week. Auditions are on Monday, performances are on Friday or Saturday. It is very cool. My years in Missoula were enough to completely enchant me with the world of theater. I was an "Assistant Director" for three years in a row. One year, one of the directors responded to an actor's complaint that their song was stupid with, "Yes it's a cheesy play. Embrace the Velveeta." Now, watching my crew bounce off the walls in anticipation, I can't wait to see what they've got for us.
So tonight I will sit in the audience and enjoy myself. I'll pay for my first ticket in five years, have fun, and embrace the Velveeta.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can't Trees

I live on the edge of thirty-something acres of forest. This has obvious consequences. There are sometimes snakes in the yard. More often than not, these snakes are venomous. Deer eat the top of my sunflower seedlings. Rabbits eat my mom's lettuce, my dad's Brussels sprouts, and anything else they like. Once, a live possum was found in the dumpster by my mother. It didn't help much when my dad told her that the possum was presumed dead when he threw it in there.
The best thing about living on the edge of a forest is that it provides an unparalleled escape route. No matter what problem I have they can be lost in the forest. I force my way through the blackberry thickets and thorn vines the size of my finger to enter a realm where the measly troubles of the "real world" have no place. In a patch of thirty-year old pines, with the green tinged sunlight coming through the needles above to light the red-gold needles underfoot, everything is wonderful. I could be kidnapped by Indians or caught in a fairy's trap. I could be the only human ever to set foot there. I walk on through more blackberry bushes. The ground becomes swampy. A creek winds its way through the forest. I follow it. I am drawing nearer to the civilization that I fled and the weights that slid away during my sojourn slam back into place. I am returning to the real world when I come to them. Three trees among three thousand, unmistakable and wonderful. The Can't Trees. Two are water oaks, almost twins. Their roots are buried deep in the bank of the creek. They grow across the creek from each other.Years ago, the bank collapsed.Because of this, the trees grow horizontally for about three feet, and then turn upwards at almost a right angle. Then they go up and up. The third tree is a pine. It is not a big tree, or a tall one. It stands beside the path that leads to the creek, just above the culvert. It is easy to walk right past it without noticing what is remarkable about it: the top of the tree is a loop-the-loop.The trees have helped me through some very difficult things (4-H public speaking contests, papers that didn't want to be written, getting up the courage to go to summer camp...) and they are as inspiring now as they were the first time I saw them. I am not easily inspired by other persons. I can convince myself that they are smarter or more talented. The trees are not. They are just trees, working their way up to the sunlight. It is an undeniably clear example of what can be done if one pushes on, even when the very ground falls away and life seems to be going in circles.
I leave the forest and return to the comparatively open spaces of the yard. The sunlight looses its green tint and I no longer walk on a golden carpet. But I am not the same as I was. I am not as troubled, or worried or confused. Because if a tree can grow in a circle, what can't I do?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventure-n. a daring, hazardous undertaking.
Adventurer-n. one who has or looks for adventure.

There is adventure in opening my eyes in the morning. As long as I can lie with my eyes closed, the day can't start. I don't have to notice that my dog is sitting beside me, staring me into waking up, or acknowledge that my mom will want coffee when she gets home from work. I don't have to pay attention to anything. I can remain in a limbo-like nothingness. It is the anti-adventure. The moment my eyes are open, I am hurled into adventure. A scream from outside might summon me to aid in a battle with a hawk who wants a chicken breakfast. I could be called on to be the Peacemaker in the Great Cereal Battle. I might be ordered to vacuum the living room and find buried treasure (could it be a drummer boy quarter!) under the sofa. It's happened. The moment I am awake, an adventure begins.
I am often annoyed by persons who say that they are bored. Bored is simply a way of looking at things wrongly, say, through closed eyelids. Bored is a way of shutting out the great adventure that life is supposed to be. I have met persons who are constantly bored, wherever they are, whatever they are doing. They fail to look at life in a way that makes it interesting and exciting. They are not willing to open their eyes to the day; they are not willing to look for adventure, and so, they are bored. Bored is keeping one’s eyes closed.