Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gartenjahr 2010

I can't remember now if I've mentioned it before, but in the dead of winter I declared that this was going to be Gartenjahr (garden year) 2010. I did this
1. because we were actually going to be in Provo for the summer
2. as a preemptive strike against more ambitious and expensive home projects
3. since our yard really hasn't had much attention. ever.
If we do nothing besides remove rocks this year it will have been very productive. We happen to live on a shoal of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which means that our yard is entirely rock. Digging is actually more about prying the rocks apart and planting anything requires some serious rock abatement.
Rob was quickly on board with Gartenjahr since he is the gardener in the family. He obsesses over the Seed Savers catalog. He coddles seedlings in the boiler room all through the winter. He turns over the garden without a rototiller and when that is done he is forever turning over the compost pile.

Next I took two classes: a residential landscaping design class which I loved but eventually bailed on to take a spring break with the rest of the family (we should have spring break); and a gardening class by a local guru that was painful but only six weeks long. I'm still trying to figure out what I learned of practical use for the yard. Since I didn't complete the work for my BYU class, we don't have a landscape design yet. And the gardening class mostly taught me that we should have seven acres to work with, so I'm not certain what to apply there either.
For the first time, Rob planted a winter garden. I confess that I was a naysayer. He used this former portion of his compost empire and covered it using a pet corral, two shower curtain liners, and a bunch of binder clips. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of it at that point -- I was too busy saying nay. We think he planted it in about October, and it just sat there until he removed the plastic just before he went to Berlin in March. He planted lettuce, spinach, chard, beets, peas, and garlic. It grew slowly all winter long, but since March it has taken off. It has been a real enthusiasm booster as we're putting in the summer garden now to be bringing in a harvest already. We'll definitely do it again, and we'll probably try a fall garden as well.
On Saturday Rob took some baseline pictures around the yard. Among others are the tulips, the apricots, the lilacs, the rhubarb and the neighbors' wall which we latticed with ivy. The garden has strawberries, chard, garlic, onions, lettuce, spinach, half a dozen kinds of tomatoes, and squash, zucchini, cucumber and herbs (basil, basil and more basil). We're hoping that just saying it will help it to become a good Gartenjahr 2010.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cosmic Forces

[Sebi and Tomas demonstrate a plane shape, their monkey ways, and a best friend ending shape] Sebi just performed in his dance program's end-of-year performance. As you can see, we signed him up with his friend Tomas so that they could see each other this year since they're on different kindergarten schedules. They made good use of the time running (jumping, leaping, galloping) around, and Miss Laurie worked her magic with them too. They emphasize choreography, so this piece was crafted in part by the ideas the boys came up with about space: rockets, robots, orbits, a mushroom cloud, and a black hole among other things.
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Here is a snippet for the grandparents.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Vocabulary Building

At family dinner back in March I was trying to keep kids in line and used the word "uncouth" which they all found hilarious. After defining it for them, they tried to use it as much as possible at the table. Maddie and I found it was also apt for many of the drivers on the road the next morning.

Will came home the next day and said "I feel melancholy because Papa is still gone." He says he learned it from Because of Winn-Dixie ("From the book, Mom. I haven't seen the movie yet.").
Last week the kids told me that I never drive anywhere without calling someone "cupcake", "grandpa", "twinkie" or "podunkus" (as in someone from a podunk town). I'm working on my zen-at-the-stoplight breathing from Tal Ben-Shahar and I think it helps. At least it keeps me thinking about something other than the Utah and student drivers. Pbththtbpth!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Joss is Two!

Incredible, but true. Joss is TWO.
I love this picture because it captures the whirlwind that is Joss right now.
He celebrated his birthday by:
* drawing all over the wood floor with a green felt marker
* dealing out the contents of my wallet across the kitchen
* drawing on a white door with green felt marker [I really wasn't ignoring him -- I was trying to bake the cake, but he gets a lot done in a few minutes]
* chasing two bewildered mallards around the front yard yelling "CACK, CACK!"
* going to In-N-Out Burger with his papa where he had "chuice" and "prensh pries" and a "hambuhgur"
* spontaneously shouted "I LIKE CAKE!!!" and jumped around
* had a bath, had a nap, had a few good flopdown tantrums
* got visits from Opa, Betsy Boo, Uncle Bulk, Kiecoo, and Lolly & family -- he's a pretty popular guy!
* opened presents, ate cake, snuggled his new Elmo, pulled his new wagon and pushed his new lawn mower around
* talked to the CA grandparents on Skype
Poor later kids never get to actually open a present. I don't know how they make it in life with so much help! But he is certainly a competent candle blower.
Here are two things I adore about Joss:
1. his talking. It's fantastic right now. He picks up new words every day and you never know what he'll parrot next. My two current favorites are "aprikose" in German and "Luvoo, Mama".
2. his intensity. Whatever is happening, he gives it his full-throated, full-bodied, full throttle self. When it is birthday cake, he's just gotta jump. If it's bedtime, he needs a few minutes to wail about it. If there is injustice in his world, you'll find him on the floor, beating it to a pulp.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Weigh 20 Pounds For a Day

I had a great mothers day. Rob and the kids showered me with cards and gifts and yummies. The primary kids sang songs. Rob cleaned and cooked, took Joss entirely during church, and let me have an afternoon nap.
This was one of Sebi's contributions. I particularly like the part where he says that my favorite thing to do is my taxes. That's going to be as hard to live down as his telling the preschool teacher my favorite restaurant was the gas station mexican place. The soup that Rob and Will and I love to eat but Maddie and Sebi object to is gazpacho (a chilled Spanish tomato soup).

And here is Maddie's poem. I love it! And I love them. They're great kids. I also love the phase we're in where Mothers Day is played sans irony. I can see in the not-so-distant future a day when I'll be serenaded with Mother by Sting or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen or Weird Al.
Last of all, I got to spend the evening with two of my favorite people from my mission, Sonia and Nuria. It was so much fun to see them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Come, Easy Go

As soon as I blogged about having I rabbit, I promptly lost him.

It was beautiful weather, so I took him outside and put him in his corral in the long grass.
Then I got distracted and went inside for a minute where my dad called and we skyped for a long while. When I looked outside, there was no rabbit in the corral.
Not a trace.
I walked all over the backyard and I searched the dark crevasses and window wells but when I examined the fence I realized that the rabbit had plenty of options for escape. I let the neighbors know and walked over to the neighbors' wood and checked the front yard and back all day long, but I didn't see anything all day. I was mostly worried because he is still small and we have a ferocious dog next door and our own cat would have been happy to find the rabbit before we did. But I was devastated because he's a good rabbit and he's cute and I like him.

(Sebastian's sign)
Telling the kids was not fun -- first there was sobbing (loud, LOUD sobbing). Then they moved quickly through the stages of grief and stopped at anger.
I was the fall guy.
There were rumblings of impeachment from the far right.
In spite of Rob's optimism, dinner was a subdued affair. After dinner they put up "lost rabbit" signs around the neighborhood. Maddie decided to console herself with a shower (Maddie reacts to most things in life right now by wanting a shower). While she was gone, I told Rob that it was Betsy and Kelly's 3 month anniversary, because they were married the day the rabbit was born, and the rabbit was three months old that very day. So he called her to wish them a happy anniversary.
After he hung up the phone, he looked out the window and saw the rabbit hopping in the neighbors' yard. He tore down the back steps, ran up to the treehouse, jumped over the fence and started chasing the rabbit. I called the neighbors to warn them that Rob was prowling around their yard. He caught it in a matter of minutes.
Which is why I am still in office.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saturday's Recital

On Saturday our three violin players had a recital. I realized with a shock that Maddie and Will have been playing almost three years now. Sebastian started last September, but because he broke his arm, this was his first performance. I wouldn't have stuck with it this long except for our great teacher, Margaret. She keeps all of us going. She's got several students from our neighborhood and it's been fun to watch their progress, too.

Here Sebi plays Indian Drums.

Will playing Long, Long Ago.

Maddie playing the Minuet from Mozart's Don Giovanni.

(Margaret graciously made me a copy of the accompaniment so that I could try it out and help Maddie with practicing. When she asked if I wanted to play at the recital, I decided that it would be good for me because I haven't played in public for years. So I was plenty nervous. When I got up to play with Maddie, I was ok until I looked up and realized that I'd put the last page of music in upside down! I panicked. The good news is that Maddie kept right on going while I had my crisis. The other good news is that our videographer stopped the tape just at the point where I didn't have it memorized any more. Thanks, Schatz!)

The kids were happy with their performances and even happier after Margaret gave each one a huge personalized candy bar!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blue & Gold 2010

Last Thursday was the Blue and Gold dinner for the cub scouts along with the annual Cake Decorating Contest. Will and Rob had been working on plans for their submission for a week.
If this doesn't ring a bell for you, you need to see some Phineas & Ferb. This is a show about two stepbrothers who decide to make the most of their summer vacation. They build a rollercoaster. They travel to Mars. They add their sister's face to Mount Rushmore for her birthday. And in one episode, they pitch a toy based on their pet, Perry the Platypus. We are also especially fond of the episode where they go Bollywood and the one where they get their parents' favorite band back together for their anniversary. Will and Rob's Perry the Platypus Inaction Figure took third place and won for "most colorful".
Here's a sampling of the other cakes to be had. Top honors went to the pizza cake, with a second place for spaghetti cupcakes (which I can personally vouch for -- very realistic and very yummy). The Barbie cake gets an honorable mention for coming complete with a moralistic dialogue. When it was time to serve them, Dylan, who made it, wanted Rob to cut into it. There were pockets of strawberry jam throughout and he said "Look! It's a slasher movie! Cubmaster's Killing the Prom Queen!"
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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Our Latest Acquisition

Did I mention that we got a rabbit?
We were trying to surprise Rob with it when he got home from Berlin.
Maddie's friend Emma had a rabbit with five babies and she got one.
I think she got the cutest one, too.
Emma and family did such a good job with them -- I've never seen such a personable rabbit before.
The Isaaks generously gave us the deluxe rabbit kit with lots more goodies and bells and whistles than any of mine ever had. Maddie decided to name him Berlin. He's outside mowing the lawn right now. I'm trying to fatten him up so that the cat stops looking at him.
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

500th Post!!!

Here it is, the 500th post on The Professor and Mary Ann!

I had been thinking that my blog wasn't very cool because it didn't have a point or a theme. My posts are scattershot and you may on any given day get a cultural lesson or a kid anecdote or even a rant or a recipe. Then Maddie, who has lately been one of the most religious blog readers, reminded me that Sebastian used to call tater tots "Peter Pans" since she read it here. I decided that whatever else this blog is not, it is the McFarland Family collective memory.

So I thought I'd celebrate by choosing a couple of old posts to remember on this momentous occasion:

Friday, May 07, 2010

MA's Birthday: Tidepooling at Dana Point

On my birthday, we got up and used the hot tub (not the pool, because I'm old and I can't be shocking my system early in the day, dontcha know?) and then had a supreme breakfast at the hotel. Supreme means there was lots of fruit, lox and capers involved.
We skyped the kids who were all happy and well with BetsyBoo and Uncle Bulk, and then we drove down to Dana Point.
This is where Rob came to look at the tidepools over three decades ago. Our nephews Tyler and David, and our niece Hannah clambered over the rocks with us out to the point and examined the pools with us. We saw three huge starfish (the one above is eating a mussel), hundreds of hermit crabs and anemones and barnacles and mussels, a blue heron and that lovely sea slug.
We ran back to the hotel to retrieve Rob's jacket, which has been lost and found more than any other thing we own, and then we flew back home which was a crowded flight but quick. It was a wonderful trip!
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

MA's Birthday: World Premiere

Saturday night Rob and I attended another film: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, the World Premiere. It stars Alyssa Milano, Michael Landes, Christopher Gorham and was produced by our own Rick McFarland!
It played to a sold out crowd on Saturday night and they were into it. It's a romantic comedy about 'what a girl does when she meets "Mr. Right" . . . after already meeting the right guy.'
Here is Rick, getting interviewed by folks. In the background there is Beau Bridges, who was one of the co-stars along with Carol Kane and Tom Lenk.
I had seen a version back in September, but this was the first time either Rob or I had seen the finished film. It was great! It is well-cast, well-acted and very entertaining. We're thrilled for Rick (and all of the family and friends who worked on it as extras and accountant and wardrobing assistant and editor . . .).
Afterward there was a very enthusiastic Q & A with these guys. It looks right now like there will be a limited release in theaters mostly in Utah and then you'll be able to find it on airlines, on DVD and in foreign markets like France, Germany and Kyrgyzstan, who are snapping it up. I'll try and post here when they'll have their local premiere.
We finished the night by going to the afterparty, held at a sports club. It was packed with the dolled-up and worked-over from the OC and was an interesting lesson in how the other half lives. The music was loud and I wanted to keep my hearing at least until forty, so I put in earplugs. That is how I know I'm middle-aged; I was glad I had earplugs in! We talked to some of the film crew, but since we weren't drinking or wanting to paint anything on the chicks in the thong bikinis, we left at 1:00am.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

MA's birthday: the Getty

Saturday morning we ate a quick breakfast with Rick & Kathy & family, then jumped into our car and schlepped across two counties to go to the Getty. Since 1997, every time we have traveled to Southern California Rob has wanted to visit the Getty, and every time his mean wife makes him go to Disneyland instead. So I was making it up to him.
First off, it was a revelation to travel and go to a museum without kids. No car seats, high chairs, sippy cups, diapers, naps, wipes, travel bibs, snacks, strollers or whining!
We loved the architecture
We loved the art
and we loved the gardens.

As much as we loved seeing it unencumbered by the unappreciative, we went straight into the gift shop to buy the kids presents. We bought the Close Up art cards for the museum so that they kids could get to know some of the pieces when we bring them back some day. My sister bought Maddie a set of these from the MoMa in New York and we have used them so much they are sticky and dog-eared.
It's a deck of 24 paintings and 24 details from the paintings that you can use to play Memory or Go Fish or Old Maid. Our favorite is Go Fish, and I've been tickled that the kids are gradually learning the names and even artists as we play. I also love to see them choose their favorites: a Warhol, a Hopper, a VanGogh, and so on. The link above shows that they currently have five sets.
After a chicken and fig sandwich on the patio just because we could, we sped back to Newport Beach and attended two films in the art and architecture series: Hella Jongerius, a designer of furniture and housewares, and Liquid Stone, all about Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia. They were both fascinating. It made me want to go back to Barcelona in 2026 when the Sagrada Familia is supposed to be finished.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

MA's Birthday: Newport Beach

For my 40th birthday, things fell into place so that Rob and I could get away for the weekend without kids. Two nights ago, as I was bedding down on the floor of Joss's room at 1:25am to the strains of his maniacal screaming, I had time to contemplate this.
It was a good decision.
We flew out on a very early flight, so when we got our car, we drove out to the beach and had a marvelous breakfast at Charlie's Chili. Then we spent nearly four hours walking it off.
We saw some dolphins, a few sea lions, and dozens of fishermen at the end of the pier, catching mackerel. They would haul in a line with ten flipping silver fish at a time and remove them to buckets with a pair of salad tongs. We watched the surfers catching waves on the north side and the fishing and sailing boats on the south side. We meandered up and down the boardwalk, critiquing the houses and choosing which ones we would rent.
And Rob got out on a jetty and did a little tidepooling. We checked into our hotel in the afternoon and took a nap to make up for our 4:00am wakeup. In the evening we ventured forth in search of fish tacos. We went to the Bear Flag Fish Co. and were not disappointed. Not only were their tacos sublime, but we asked for a recommendation for a side, and they offered us an ahi tuna salad with chips. It was a plate of chips and salsa, only the salsa was big chunks of tuna marinating in a sesame sauce with a little seaweed. It was amazing!
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Spring Break: Berkeley Marina

Our last day in the Bay Area, we took the kids out to the Berkeley Marina. The kids looked for sea creatures at the shore and played at the playground there.
We took a walk down the pier and had a picnic. (I like how Joss has both a stroller and a backpack with a leash in this picture, but he's still on his own.)
In the afternoon, Rob took Maddie and Will down to Alameda Beach where you can always find warm water and a very shallow shore.
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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spring Break: Model A Rides

In the afternoons while Joss napped, Rob and Grandpa tried to get the other kids out doing things. They took the Model A out and tooled around town. Twice they went to the local cemetery to fly kites and feed the ducks. It has a magnificent view and pretty and varied landscaping, but I was still surprised to find that it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who is more famous for Central Park and Stanford University). They ran into a nice woman who let the kids use her slingshot to feed the turtles across the pond.
Then I got to ride around town and I took some pictures of favorite landscapes and houses because of my landscaping class. The rumor mill says that one of the homes above belongs to Sharon Stone, though it has been uninhabited and under constant renovation since it was sold. Which one do you think it is?
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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Spring Break: Golden Gate Park

We drove into San Francisco to visit the new California Academy of Sciences. I'd come here as a child to the Steinhart Aquarium and the Planetarium, but I was excited to see the new building. It was as incredible as anything else there. We got into the planetarium show early in the morning, and all Sebi wanted to do after that was go back again. While walking into the rainforest, we watched as one of the macaws (which fly around free in that huge glass dome) landed on the handrail and took a look at its own information card! We loved the coral reef, the underwater tunnel, and of course Claude the albino alligator (deeply creepy). Grandma and Grandpa helped us navigate the cafeteria and its huge array of choices -- we ate everything from Joss's almond butter and jelly sandwich to Maddie's fish & chips; from Will's tamales to Rob's spring rolls and my key lime and mango mini ice cream sandwich.
After the Academy of Sciences, we stopped by the Conservatory of Flowers which was, by happy circumstance, free to the public that day. Good thing too, because grandparents and kids lasted maybe 30 seconds in the hothouse temperatures inside. Rob and I had never been before, and we explored from one end to the other, looking at the exotic flowers, fruits and carnivorous plants.
[click to enlarge] They had a fun exhibit going with a model of San Francisco and G-gauge train all made out of recycled objects. The Transamerica Pyramid was made out of white keys from keyboards, the Ferry Building was made of wine boxes and corks and silverware and a grater and on and on. There was an entire Barrel of Monkeys hanging off the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we zoomed back across the bay to give Joss a nap!
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