This week I learned that, for taking a pictures, a bird on a tiki torch is worth
2 in a bush. Much easier to make it stand out! Richmond, Virginia got a white Christmas this year. This was the morning after, when it was still snowing. I was tucked safely inside my in-laws' sunroom for this picture. (Another thing I learned--it doesn't matter how clean the glass is, sooner or later you have to go outside to try to get a decent picture. Then the birds fly away.)
On a sidenote, birds in Virginia are awesome. Just sitting in this sunroom I saw goldfinches, rufous-sided towhees, song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, a flicker, another woodpecker, a big hawk, a bluejay, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, and cardinals galore. In the backyard. And I got a picture of every single one, but most will never be displayed ;-)
I took this with my backyard-birdalicious 55-250mm zoom lens.
Me: The small size of this picture doesn't do it justice!
Nathan: Zoom it and crop it.
Me: ::uses new photography acronym, just learned:: But all the pictures I've posted are SOOC and I want to stick with that!
Nathan: Then you'd better make a big deal out of your elitism and label it SOOC or they will judge you for crappy pictures.
The best thing ever just happened. I was putting Evangeline down for her nap and she was resting her head on her shoulder in that way she does when she's going to be compliant about sleeping. Suddenly she jerked it up. "Hi!" and she gave me her widest smile. I smiled back and said hi. She put her head back down. Jerked it back up--"HI!" and a huge smile. Me: "Hi!" Then she leaned toward me and planted her lips firmly on my cheek. "MWAH!" A real live kiss from my baby girl, who until now thought that kisses were the same as forehead-bonks. "MWAH MWAH MWAH MWAH!" She showered my cheek with kisses and giggles. I never knew that there could be a gift that you'd be more grateful for every day.
This week I learned...to be perfectly honest...not much! I thought "I should post a picture of something besides Eva this week" and then realized that I don't really take pictures of things besides Eva, other than the occasional sunset (still working on those skills, especially the skill of running up the hill fast enough to catch it). But I worked some more on starbursts. Yeah, it's a weird picture. But I find it amusing. And I took it while Eva was jumping on my back as I lay on the floor. I think I've decided that light flair could be cool in the right picture but it officially bugs me. It's been a crazy week, from the jewelry open house to the holiday ball to packing to leave for the States.
(CIUAN: one-stop shopping for photography lessons, last-minute ball pictures, scissors, bandaids, and bathroom usage!)
Chances are, you've already heard that I spent April of 2008 in Australia. 20 of those days were R&R; after 11 months of Nathan's 15-monther. You've probably also heard that we love-love-loved it. Australians are great because they love you too. We had lots of conversations that went something like this:
Us: We love it here!
Aussie: You should move here forever!
Us: But Australia is located beyond the edge of the world, our families would disown us, and also you have so many dangerous creatures!
Aussie: Yeh, but you have bears!!
Seriously, every time. Bears. Apparently the country of Australia isn't acquainted with the cuddly Virginia black bear. They have more things smaller than my hand that can kill me than I could have ever imagined; they have man-eating great white sharks; they have the world's only venomous mammal; they have spiders that eat birds; even their ocean is so ferocious that a prime minister disappeared into it forever (so they cruelly named a pool after him, thank you Bill Bryson for pointing that out); they have giant adorable mammals that could maim you with one kick. Their cavalier attitude toward pain, dismemberment, and death is astonishing. We were taking a surfing lesson near Sydney when we noticed that there were, oh, 10 Portuguese man o'wars (men o'war?) within sneezing distance. Some say that this sneaky siphonophor's sting can be the most painful thing a person experiences. Australians have given it the cutesy nickname "bluey". We told our teacher that the place was crawling with them and his reaction was "Just give'em a wide berth."
Venom and ocean aside, it is true that the Antipodean land has no large carnivores. We are able to listen to Australian radio here (OK anyone is over the internet but we're in the right time zone so we hear daytime programming during the day instead of crazy trance.) The other day I heard the following:
"The [governmental agency of some sort] has proclaimed this the Year of the Forests! Not to be confused with the Bear of the Forests, a fierce creature that feeds on the blood of innocents." ::ferocious growling::
I decided that I couldn't have been the only one to notice that Australians have a complex about not having bears--I'm pretty sure they're jealous--so I googled it. And came up with...the drop bear. That's what he said on the radio! Not bear, drop bear. As in, it drops on you and rips you to shreds like a cranky zombie koala. (Remember, Australians call them koalas, not koala bears.) Check out this supremely awesome list of Australian cryptids, and this also awesome list of the world's top 10 cryptids (I had to click on that because I wasn't sure what "cryptid" was.) Drop bear is # 8 on the first list, and didn't make the second--I have no idea why.
I also have no idea why they say thunder birds couldn't exist. If the harpy eagle can carry off sloths from the forests of central America, and the Philippine monkey eagle can eat just what its name suggests, couldn't there at one point have been a giant bird in North America? Maybe the buffalo eagle, known for carrying off bison calves.
So they invented a zombie bear? My verdict is that Australians are definitely jealous of our carnivores. Nobody told them that they already have enough fearsomeness. I'm just wondering why they didn't choose something to envy that's actually likely to kill you, like a mountain lion. At least they don't have to be jealous of the hoop snake, since apparently we share it.
In other news, this is a question I ask myself all the time.
This week I learned that my husband will be disappointed if I'm all about working on my starburst pictures and not about getting his or Eva's faces exposed for good viewing. Certainly not as accomplished as I've seen my fellow CIUANers produce, but I did just learn it :-)
What's with the spotty things, everyone? Dirty lens?
My grandfather grew up in the high desert of Arizona shooting rabbits for food during the Great Depression.
I was half-listening to AFN talk radio (::gag:: but it's gotten better recently with more NPR and Dave Ramsey) the other day when my ears perked up because I heard the word "Bisbee". Some of you may know that Bisbee is a wonderful town in almost-Mexico, Arizona that now houses a great mix of artists, older citizens, car-decorating hippies, antique store owners, People Who Wish They Lived in Europe, chocolatiers, restaurateurs, and probably some raconteurs as well. It's been booming recently, but in the the latter part of last century it began to empty out as the copper mining industry died off. Bisbee is home to the renowned Copper Queen underground mine and the huge Lavender Pit, inactive since the 1970s (and still an impressive multicolored gash in the mountainside). The Bisbee area is also home to an impressively-sized hot dog and the oldest baseball diamond still in use in the States, but I digress. See my pictures for more on that.
Both mines now just run tours. I think the area still pulls up some beautiful Bisbee Blue, though. Then the resident artists make it into super-expensive jewelry. My Great Aunt Millie lives in Warren, which was the first neighborhood to spring up just outside of Bisbee when the mines were booming.
Bisbee has always been a melting pot, as its mines were a magnet for immigrants seeking jobs, including a lot of Serbs and Croats. My mom's dad's family were Croats, and the men all worked around the mines at one point or another. Papa Joe used to tell us how they really would take a canary down with them and split real fast if it kicked the bucket, and how he had to watch out for a headless ghost who haunted the tunnels, carrying a little lantern, and how without lights the darkness was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There are other stories too, like how he accidentally burned down a guy's field while playing "crashing airplanes" with matches, or how the football once ended up in the soup (Papa Joe had 3 brothers) and got chopped in half, or how the high school radio club once wired all the school lockers to give shocks, or how in shop class they blindfolded a kid and convinced him they were going to shoot him, or how he and his friends used to "borrow" horses and ride them into the desert, then have to think of an excuse for how one of them could have broken his arm if he was just walking around. I think it's a good thing that Papa Joe joined the Army to channel a little bit of that into becoming a hero. When the Buffalo Soldiers were based at Fort Huachuca, little Joe would watch them patrol the border while the echoes of the Mexican Revolution were still going on.
The modern-day Papa Joe.
Naptime all around!
You're already almost a mile up on the desert plateau when you start climbing through the Mule Mountains into town. The tunnels you drive through were cut in the 1950s, and when you think about it that leaves you wondering about how isolated this place was. Bisbee's always a tad cooler than Tombstone and Sierra Vista, and tends to get snow in the winter. You come around one last corner and see a great big B on a mountain and you're there. The old town is built around a gulch and scrambles up the red sides of the surrounding hills. Some of the houses don't even have roads built to them, just stairs. It's hippie heaven, except the climate just isn't right for growing your own cannabis.
So anyway I was listening to the radio and heard Bisbee and there was this completely juicy story. I missed the dates but I'm sure it was back in the Wild West days when Wyatt Earp philandered nearby and Doc Holliday said that he was your huckleberry. There was a robbery of some sort and a shootout resulted; a couple of bystanders (men) were killed, and also a mom with her baby who were standing in a nearby window. Outraged, the town formed a posse with a certain man whom I'll call Gufus at its head. Gufus led an inept search and did not find the murderous robbers. After they returned empty-handed, a lightbulb clicked on in somebody's head. Turns out Gufus was the head of the robber gang, and his disastrous search was a farce to allow them a real getaway. The vigilantes turned on him, and he was lynched.
This story came from a program called "Chronicle of the Old West." If you can find it, I'd like to know. I did a short search and gave up as the coffee wore off.
Eva and Aunt Millie in front of the Bisbee museum--well worth a visit.
Checking pockets while doing laundry today I found 5,000 yen and a baby sock. It was a good take. And I would never have misplaced that much money without noticing before I was a mom.
Speaking of which...an assortment of EE's current activities:
When something gets flushed down the toilet, she waves bye-bye--more enthusiastically than she ever does for any person. She will lift up the lid after it's closed to wave bye-bye, and has been known to almost reach into the water with her vigorous farewell. She also does the sign for "all done", preferring to reach down into the air pocket below the toilet seat to do it. (No, we don't let her do these things, but sometimes she just gets away with them.)
Mom...if I don't want to wear the bow, WHY would I let you wear it?
Whenever she climbs up on something (on the playground, on a tupperware storage container, the couch which she is not allowed to stand on, etc.) she has to dance on it in triumph.
Her most perfectly pronounced word is "shoe." Sometimes she says "she" but sometimes it is very clearly and lovingly "shoooeee". Her other good word is "cheese" which comes out "sheez!"
Playground Ninja, cominatcha from where you least expect
If you offer her something and she really wants it, she'll plop down on the floor right where she is and hold up both hands for it.
Sometimes, when she's really excited, she'll stick both hands in her mouth and CHOMP down on her fingers and hold it for about 15 seconds. That one's a little scary.
Check out those jowls!
One of her favorite things right now is to close doors. She has a door-closing call: "AH-ha! AH-ha! AH-ha!" like Prince John in the cartoon "Robin Hood".
She's really into walking on her knees. Here's an action shot:
She thinks it's as funny as I do.
In other news, it's finally happened. Mommy's started referring to herself in the 3rd person. Why does she do this? She always swore she wouldn't! Do other mommies have an explanation?!
This week I learned that if you're going to practice your starburst skills you should really clean your lens. I succeeded in getting it but the picture was ruined by the ghosts of someone's smudgy fingers...
We just got our backyard fenced in tonight, and I am so excited because now Eva can't dash straight for the road. But I realized that now every picture I take of her back there will have chain link in the background. Awesome.
I started listening to Christmas music inordinately early this year, in early November. I was looking for some good stuff for church. It was a secret affair, turned off whenever someone came to my house so they wouldn't think I was one of those people who puts up Christmas lights on November 1st. But now that it's Advent I am completely and unabashedly immersing myself in it. So I'm going to share and I hope you will share with me what you're listening to.
The albums currently on my Christmas playlist are:
Sara Groves ~ O Holy Night
Downhere ~ How Many Kings
Jars of Clay ~ Chistmas Songs
Selah ~ Rose of Bethlehem
High Street Hymns ~ Love Shall Be Our Token
Emmylou Harris ~ Light of the Stable
Bebo Norman ~ Christmas... From the Realms of Glory
Sufjan Stevens ~ Songs for Christmas
The Chieftains ~ The Bells of Dublin
And then, of course, some random tracks like:
"For Unto Us a Child is Born" and "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah
"Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying" from the Heirs of the Reformation CD
"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "Gabriel's Message" by Sting,
from If on a Winter's Night
"Miracle" by Matisyahu (OK that's a Hanukkah song)
"Winter" by the amazing leslie moruza (Dripps), all eleven
"On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry"
performed by St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir & Orchestra
"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" by Fernando Ortega, from Christmas Songs
I am such a huge fan of the concept of music subscription services (like Zune, the new legal Napster, Rhapsody, etc.). I would either break the bank buying new music or never hear anything new at all if I didn't have it. For $15 a month I get to listen to almost whatever I want and put it on my Zune mp3 player, and each month I get to download 10 songs to own. You can't beat it. Wow, Zune should be paying me right now. If you haven't yet, it's a great way to explore the richness of Advent music--often more beautiful and haunting than familiar carols.
If you're on the market for something to listen to and don't yet have the Chieftains' Bells of Dublin...do it. It's my earliest memory of Christmas music and is a constant in my life, including sometimes in July. (As long as you don't mind all the killing in "St Stephen's Day Murders"--some of you who don't get along so well with family might even identify with it.) My other earliest memory of Christmas music is attending Handel's Messiah in the Cadet Chapel at West Point. Which means that I was 5 at the oldest. Boy, I must have been an angelic child to sit through that at that age.
I hope you're able to sit around with your family some time this season and sing some carols together. Or take some joy to a nursing home and sing to them.
To show God's love aright, she bore to men a Savior when half-spent was the night.