Dear Brown-headed Cowbird,
I love your clear, watery warble. But your parenting practices are highly suspect.
I can’t decide if I like you or not.
My friend Kathy told me I need to write more. So, I comply.
Though I struggle with feeling irrelevant in this age of blogs that are perfectly photographed, engagingly-written by self-assured experts in every imaginable topic, she tells me that I do have a niche, and I fill a role… I’m still not 100% certain what that role is, nine and a half years after I started blogging.
I’m also going to — at Kathy’s urging — start to journal more on the things about which I cannot write publicly. I find that, as my children grow toward adulthood, I can’t really disclose to the faceless masses — or even friends I know and trust in real life — many of the things that truly weigh down my heart, as they are often not my secrets to divulge.
Then, when all of these thoughts and feelings and words are teeming in my mind, considered but unwritten, everything else seems like fluff — truly irrelevant and not worth the time invested in writing a blog post.
This, however: Worthwhile. To me, at least.
I did something this past weekend that I’ve never done before: gone on a girlfriends’ weekend with no kids and no husband. Well, I haven’t done anything like that since I’ve been married. For Mother’s Day, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Portland area, to see some dear friends. I had been semi-planning this trip for, oh, about a year… But, with my oldest son’s high school graduation, my second son going to Civil Air Patrol Encampment in June, a house that sucks up our remodeling budget and most of our discretionary income, a family camping trip to plan, and more — always more — I was certain that it wouldn’t work out. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been scheming with my friends. He’s a good man.
So, while my headcold-ridden husband stayed home with our six children, I flew to PDX, and went criss-crossing southern Washington and northern Oregon with three friends for four days. Mountains! The beach! Gardens! Farmer’s market! City! Country! We packed a great deal into a short period of time.
One friend, Dee Dee, traveled up from the desert — though not the same flight as me — and we met our two friends who used to live here, but who now live in the Portland area.
This time is a treasure to me. I have no great love for the Phoenix area… Yet, as my husband says, it is the land of our anointing. It’s where God has us, and where He has blessed us. We have not plans — not any hopes, even — of ever living elsewhere. There are far too many attachments here in the desert: our beloved church, my husband’s job of 24 years, nearby family (though no one remaining who actually lives in the Phoenix area)…. So, it’s a hard balance, something I’ve struggled with — with varying degrees of success: I long for green, for water in creeks, for rain, for tolerable weather… Yet, I cannot give in to discontentment. It wants to eat my heart, and I can’t let it. I won’t.
So, any trip outside the desert is a delight, and this one was particularly so.
In my absence, my husband bought me a second-hand rototiller, so all things considered, it might have been the Best Weekend Ever.
My other favorite times:
I must return. We’re already making plans, the four of us, to do so.
It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur. To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too. It has a nice pace: Filled, but not frenetic. I hate busy, deadline-driven days. I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished. I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children. Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t. So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.
Yard work. I am happily transforming our back yard. Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard. The front, too. But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place. We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do. We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system. We need more trees. We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!). We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool. The cool-decking needs redone. We need gutters. The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted. The list goes on. But for now, we’re doing small things. For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard. I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler. It has very much greened-up the yard. Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds. But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely. There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though. I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread. Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had. It’s just a four-prong step-on device.
Birds! I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks. It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird. I got to get quite close. “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail… Think it’s an Anna’s.” Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide. It was an Anna’s. Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.
No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”
Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin. We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars. Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate. Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together. Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.
There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two.
We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds. We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list. We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.
We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere. We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.
It was a great day.
On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona. Perfect.
When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls. Not really, but she was in tears. Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone. :( She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys. We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two. Plus her own 15 month old daughter. My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary. :) Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours. She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…
I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her. I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…
This provided a giggle, though:
When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner. “Mofin? Yes! Soop? NO!” It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake). Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.
Overall, a good day.
Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her.
Dear Brown-headed Cowbird,
I love your clear, watery warble. But your parenting practices are highly suspect.
I can’t decide if I like you or not.
Random extended family thoughts: I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is. It’s really a cross-section of American society in general… Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months, one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not… Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life. I find it really fascinating. Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities?? I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root… I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.
vacation!! I have wanted to go to California’s Limekiln State Park for a good five years, and this summer it appears that I’m going to get my wish! My dear hubby is a very linear thinker, and wants to have A, B, and C done and tied neatly with a bow before moving on to D, E, and F. In other words,he does NOT like to plan ahead, because then there are a million half-done, tentative things hanging around in his brain, and it drives him batty. Additionally,being that we live in the scenic and wonderful state of Arizona, he sees little need to venture out of our borders, with the possible exception of Colorado, since his brother lives there.
He’s NOT into driving long distances. So, my planning has been made with extra thankfulness for him agreeing — well in advance — to plan for and book a trip that he’s not all that sure is going to be worth the tedium of driving for two days…
I sent out a plea for assistance to a local birding list yesterday. In the e-mail, I described how, over the last week or so, I have spotted two juvenile thrashers — siblings, perhaps? — and they look similar to Crissal Thrashers, except that they both have extensive black (or at least charcoal grey) streaking on their breasts, which Crissals should not have. I described the birds as best as I could, and hoped for some good responses. I was specifically wondering if thrashers could hybridize, since a couple of them have dark spots/streaks on their breasts.
I got several really helpful private replies, with the general consensus that it’s probably a Crissal Thrasher, though I’m not convinced; there is a LOT of streaking on the breast, and it is very dark, which Crissals don’t have, either mature or immature.
One of the replies I receive, though, threw me for a loop. It was from a lady who suggested that she come over and spend the day with me on Saturday to help me out with my “thrasher problem.” She told me she’d schedule her time with me around a college football game she wanted to see, and some time with a cousin who also lives in my city.
I was taken quite aback. It just seemed really forward.
It has been a pleasant surprise, during my short time on the bird list, that it appears that a number of those participating offer up their homes and properties for other birders. I really love that camaraderie.
However, I just don’t think it would work for you to come on Saturday. Saturdays are our only days for family time, and we tend to be quite selfish of our time together, even on weekends that are not busy with responsibilities and activities. My husband has a full-time job, plus is the worship pastor for our church, so our weekend time is rather abbreviated. Additionally, some or all seven of us have plans for both Friday and Saturday… And, my sister and her husband and new baby are moving back to Phoenix, and should arrive on Sunday. Time gets even tighter around the holidays. Lastly, to be honest, I think my husband would be rather unnerved by a stranger — no matter how friendly and innocuous — spending the day with our family.
I feel badly saying no to your suggestion, and I’m sure you would be lovely company, but, unfortunately, I just don’t think it would work.
p.s. Maybe it’s still a good idea to visit your cousin! It sounds like you could use some company. If they’re the sort that are up for a drive, I suggest taking the Carefree Highway to the western entrance of Castle Hot Springs Road (almost to Wickenburg), and driving north and east to a spot about ten miles in, to where there is a convergence of two or three perennial creeks — N 33.97620 x W 112.44647, if you have a GPS. You can do an easy hike back in at least three directions and follow the creek beds for some great birding. I’ve been there at all times of the year, and there is always some water, though, of course, after it rains there is always more. (You can enter the coordinates on this website to get a map: http://www.mytopo.com/searchgeo.cfm)
Perhaps I should have just told her, “No, thank you.”
Or, perhaps she is really in need of a friend and I should have, if nothing else, took it on as an opportunity to minister.
It just seemed like an unsettling mix of loneliness, presumption, and wanting to help…
In no particular order:
Too many compelling blogs, too little time….
Here is a mini-roundup of bloggy thoughts I’ve found interesting in the last few days.
Hey, also, if you have a blog, or know of a blog that you think might interest me, leave a comment with a link! (I’m always looking for interesting blogs, even as I sigh about there not being enough time to read them.)