16 January 2007

birds and words


we started a tradition in our household of the "new year's drinking bird." maybe you remember these from childhood: it's has a thin blown-glass beaker sort of thing for the body, a flocked red beak and head with a hat on, and a green feather for the tail. the beaker is filled with blue fluid, methelene cloride i believe. the bird is on a pivoting stand, which makes up the legs and feet. you place it in front of a glass of water, and every now and then, depending on drafts and humidity levels in the room, it will tip forward and "drink" from the glass.how and why it works is still a mystery to me, but that's really the fun of it. if you put the glass close enough to the bird, when it tips back, the bottom of the beaker will touch the glass and go "dink." cosmo likes watching the bird, waiting for it to go, and after it drinks, he says "deeh." [trans. dink] adorable. we decided to bring it out on new year's day every year, and put it away at the end of january. a sort of post-holiday treat.


observing as language first begins to develop must be one of the most fascinating things for parents. i am completely blown away. cosmo moves from indexing (pointing at everything that catches his eye) to pointing and vocalizing to attempting words and sounds (roar! dink.)and most amazing to me is how much more he understands our words. i am also witnessing the power of repetition. if something is present and named over and over, he learns it. if i say "cosmo, go get goodnight gorilla and bring it to mama." he will stop in his tracks, turn to where he remembers last seeing that particular book, and will go to it, pick up the book and bring it to me. he then sits down to hear the story and look at the pictures. he knows the book well, and points to characters and makes certain sounds for them. on the black page with the two eyes, he will suck in air, and say "huh!?!" with a surprised look on his face. that is what we do on that page each and every time we read it to him. pavlov's dogs? that's what it makes me think of, and it is scary. he also knows the term, concept and gesture for "hot," he waves his hands, fingers spread, and says "ha! ha! ha!" he knows to stay away, and does. all we have to say is "cosmo, hot!" and point at the object, and each time he sees the object, he will go "ha! ha! ha!"


carl's father made us a bird feeder for christmas. it's a really nice one, shaped like a little house, with an extended roof to cover the tray, and a little flap door on top to pour the seed in. we've seen a few birds in the brush in our back yard, including some cardinals, and i like the idea of attracting more. i thought we might need to set it on a pole at first, but i noticed a tree limb about 20 feet or so up in the pecan tree. if we could run a long rope through the Y in that limb, we could set the feeder at just the right distance from the tree trunk to keep the squirrels away, and it would hang in perfect view of our kitchen window. late in the evening, after cosmo had gone to bed, carl and i set out to do just that.

it was comical really, to see us out there with our high hopes and bad throws, trying over and over to get that twine hung over that limb. carl had the great idea of tying the twine to the end of our foxtail (a toy made of a leather ball on one end, and a long multi-colored nylon tail). it was the perfect weight, and if it should happen to stray across the property line, and hit the neighbor's minivan, no harm done. first we tried it from our upstairs neighbor's balcony, but the angle of the roof made it difficult to see, and it was an awkward position from which to throw, especially since we are both right handed. carl went first, and then decided it would be easier from down below. i gave it a try. or two. or three. unfortunately, though i could see my target, and it wasn't that far away, i couldn't get enough force behind it, and i guess i've got terrible aim. carl tried from down below. he managed to get it up there more than once, but it kept getting caught on old leafy branches, and we'd have to pull it down and start over. still though, we were getting hopeful that it was not out of the range of possibilities. finally i suggested carl try again from upstairs. i showed him the view i had, and he agreed that it might be easier. he gave it a couple of good tries, and then, at last, the foxtail ball made it through the Y! it was stuck in some light branches, but thoroughly through the big branch and so carl began to gently tug on his end of the twine.the foxtail began to slowly loosen and inch its way down. i got so excited, i started coaching the thing, and grabbed the rake and held it high above my head, ready to snatch the ball when it got close. i am sure our neighbors thought we were nuts, making quite a commotion out there, but we were on a mission. finally, inch by inch, the foxtail made it to the rake, i swung at it and pulled it down. we had our twine hung, ready for the feeder.

once we had the feeder heavy with food and swaying lazily from the tree, i couldn't stop staring at it in awe. i felt like a kid on christmas eve that night. i couldn't wait to go to bed so i could get up in the morning to see if any birds came to our feeder. i woke up several times in the night, as i am wont to do with a night waking baby, and each time i would think "is it dawn yet? can i go check the feeder yet?" it was a big disappointment to learn that it often takes a while for birds to find your feeder. we didn't have any birds at the feeder that day. or the next. or the next. but the beautiful thing about hanging a bird feeder is that you begin to notice birds. i could suddenly hear their songs all around me, and i'd catch them fluttering around in our bushes and trees. i saw at 4 cardinals in a couple of days. but none of them noticed our gift.

last night, carl spotted the first one. a female cardinal. i raced to the window to look, but it had flown off. later we saw a male cardinal on the feeder, a couple of other birds, and what we suspect is an adolescent male cardinal. it was smaller and its feathers were kind of orange and gray instead of red, but too bright for a female. i know nothing about birds really, and i doubt i'll be getting into bird watching as a hobby or anything, but i just like seeing them in our yard, and cosmo does too. he was thrilled when we showed him the bright red bird on the little house hanging outside our window. we even trimmed the foliage in front of the window so cosmo could see the feeder from his height.


i've embarked on a personal writing project. its a memoir really, but scaled down to sized. i have three periods in my life where such strange things happened, i find it impossible to explain them fully to anyone. so that's the challenge. three stories. of course now that i've started, i realize how challenging it truly is, and not in the ways i first imagined. first of all, there's the problem of memory. i can't recall all the details, so to fill the story out, i will have to invent. i'm not a fiction writer. i know nothing about character development or dialog. so these are things i will need to practice and learn. it will be frustrating and difficult. i admire all of my friends for whom writing is a big part of their profession. it can be so excruciating. and yet, so utterly thrilling in those moments when you know you get it right. this is how anyone making anything ever keeps on going.
as anne lamott suggests, bird by bird.

10 January 2007

what once was lost...

has now been found. united lost and found called yesterday morning to inform me that my purse has been found, with (i think) all of the contents intact, and they will be shipping it to me ASAP. i have been spared the arduous task of waiting in line at the DMV. how lucky is that?

03 January 2007

the most wonderful time...

i had many great plans for blogs, even one including a series of photos, which i took, but never got around to posting. instead of reaching into the past, to reconstruct a moment long past, i'll write this one:

following a hurried but pleasant pre-christmas time of baking, errands and visits with dear friends, we packed ourselves off to denver for christmas at carl's parents' house. cosmo's high tops had to come off at security (don't they know how hard those things are to put back on?), but we made it through without a glitch. cosmo enjoyed running around in the airport, and slept through the entire flight. we arrived a couple of days after their first big blizzard. everything was up and running, but many travelers were still stuck in denver, and we saw some camped out near baggage claim, along with a several hour security line. we were happy to get out of there...unfortunately, on our way out, we realized i'd left my purse on the plane, under the seat. yes, i had my phone and my only id in the bag, and a bunch of other stuff that's hard to replace, but there was no getting it back. we tried over the next few days, but with all the chaos, it was hopeless.

we had a lovely christmas in denver. cosmo played in snow for the first time. of course he kept wanting to eat the snow off his mittens, but he also enjoyed sliding down a make shift slide, and helping to roll the base for our snowman.
he slipped and scratched his nose on the sidewalk, but not too bad. wasn't the first time, won't be the last...he climbed a lot of stairs, and learned to admire the christmas tree without tearing it apart.

we had to be a bit hyper-vigilant with cosmo at carl's parent's, to keep cosmo from either hurting himself, or damaging their property...honestly, it was exhausting, and we were so happy to come home. i had to go through extra screening on the trip back, since i didn't have identification. it was futuristic! i stood in a very short line consisting almost exclusively of women. i had sent my carry-on with carl and cosmo, so i had nothing on me but my clothes. i was asked to step into chamber where i heard a digitized woman's voice say "enter. air puffs are on" followed by a pause followed by intense blasts of air directed at various part of my body. then i stood there and waited for 30 seconds, until the voice returned to tell me i could now exit. a glass door in front of me opened, and out i went. that was it. some friendly guy asked me if i had anything besides my shoes, i told him "no" and that i had lost my purse. this seemed reasonable enough to him i guess, because i was not further screened. i made it through the line before carl did.

on the plane, a kind gay couple allowed the three of us to sit together, even though it meant they couldn't. cosmo wasn't so sleepy this time, but he was also terribly well behaved. upon arriving in houston at the ungodly hour of 9pm (already past cosmo's bedtime) we waited for over an hour to get on a shuttle back to the lot where we'd left our car. the driver was unfamiliar with the expansive parking lot, and a passenger had to take over the role of navigator. it was a case of the blind leading the blind, but we miraculously made it back to our car, out of the lot and safely home.

i couldn't wait to get online, since i'd been without my phone, and away from the computer, i felt a little cut off. sadly, the computer wouldn't start up. black screen. the next day, when i went to get my phone replaced, all their systems were down, they couldn't do anything for anyone. i almost cried walking home from sprint. then i felt so foolish for being so dependent on these technologies...i had to remind myself that i'd be fine. i'd have plenty to eat, and a warm dry place to sleep...it was merely an inconvenience. still, at every turn there seemed to be a further complication due to the fact that i didn't have my phone and couldn't get online...
i finally did get my phone replaced. sprint got their system back up, and i went back just in time. the next day, cosmo and i were back at IAH for a flight to dallas. we were going to see cosmo's father's side of the family--including cosmo's father himself. i'd had a lot of ambivalence about going, but had decided we would, and i was looking forward to it, in a way. there had been reports of bad weather in the dallas area, but i wasn't too worried. we catch another little bitty plane from there, to wichita falls, and i wasn't looking forward to that part. the slightest breeze throws those things into a terrifying tizzy, but i still thought it would be better than a three hour car ride. our flight was delayed. we waited a good part of the day at the gate, until they finally boarded us. once we got settled, they announced that the dallas/fort-worth airport was closed due to storms, and we'd have another update in an hour. that hour turned into an hour and a half. they started letting people off the plane. some stayed, we didn't. instead, we got in line to see if we could reschedule for the next day. before they got to us in line, the flight was canceled. we rescheduled, made some calls, and headed for baggage claim. it was good to see carl when he arrived, though i hated that he had to drive to IAH again, during rush hour. when we got home, i tried out our new pasta maker, and we had a rather late dinner of fettuccine.

that night, i woke up in the middle of the night vomiting. in the morning, i felt like hell all over. we didn't go to wichita falls.

luckily, it only lasted a day, and we got to celebrate new year's eve with friends.

the next day, cosmo got it. he's been sick of and on for days now.

we went to the galleria to get my computer looked at. seems the logic board is messed up, but if you take out the airport card, it works fine. ok. no wireless. that's cool, at least it works now!

i traveled out to missouri city to get my driver's license replaced. i pulled up, started to walk up to the building, saw the line out the door and wrapped half way across the building and, like the other white people described in one of chuck's blog entries, i turned around and got back in my car.

i'll try again monday. early.