Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hey! This is Fun! (But NOT for all parties involved.)

Saturday, while I was running around the house trying to get dressed up and made up and wrap presents for a bridal shower, and have one lousy cup of coffee that I desperately needed, I heard Lucy outside barking...a lot.  

Typically, while the dogs are outside, Lucy and Linus will chase each other around the yard.  It is their favorite activity.  Lucy's legs are shorter than Linus', though, and she knows she can't continue to keep up with him.  She's like a cheetah.  She can catch him in short bursts, but when he runs laps around the yard without stopping, she falls behind, and like any woman, HATES being left behind by a man.

She plays the chase game for a lap or two, then takes up her station on the deck.  Linus will make one more giant lap around the yard until he comes back around and sees Lucy is not following him anymore (Lucy is ALWAYS the chaser).  And like a pinball who won't stop bouncing around until falling into a hole, Linus begins his little game of trying to get Lucy to chase him again.  He begins by weaving a small web of intrigue.  He gallops around the patio set on the deck at a slower pace, and Lucy is quickly drawn into the game for twenty or so laps.  This is where he peels off, hoping the magnetic pull of the chase will continue and she will follow him off the deck by default.  No dice.  Time to regain her energy again.  So he expands his web, running quick laps around the perimeter of the deck.  This has worked one way in his favor....she is, in fact, intrigued.  But she is, after all, a smart girl, and begins playing a game of her own.  The Waiting Game.  She stands up on the deck, about two feet off the ground, and idly trots from one side to the other as Linus races the Backyard 500 around and around the perimeter of the deck.  But she doesn't just watch.  No.  She eggs him on.  Barking at him to keep him engaged in his own game, making him think she's just about ready to give chase again.  And she only barks when she's playing...or Duncan is eating from "her" food bowl.  She'll hound (pun intended) this point further by occasionally running over to the edge of the deck like she's really really considering jumping off and joining in.  And after Linus has run 300 of the 500 laps and is visibly tiring and starting to trip over his tongue...she makes her move, and the chase is on once again!  And then rinse...and repeat.  All.  Day.  Long.  

The above is what I expected to witness when I heard Lucy barking outside.  What I saw instead was the Bulldogs taking turns tossing a baby squirrel into the air.  Lucy would bark when it hit the driveway and did not move, and she wanted it to "play".

Commence me screaming curses at the top of my lungs at the dogs to get away while trying to check and see if the poor squirrel is "okay", and continuing to scream while trying to get the dogs inside.  Funny how a story can go from amusing to traumatic in a paragraph, huh?  And the trauma doesn't end there.  After getting the dogs inside and getting gloves, I was terrified by the thought of having to go back there and see what they had done to the squirrel.  My throat was raw from yelling, I already had tears running down my cheeks, and it was beginning to storm.  

I think the most heartbreaking part of this experience was that the baby squirrel was still laying there, making a chirping sound.  I think this hit me the hardest because I couldn't help but think that it was crying for it's mom.  

I put my gloves on, leaned down, and started trying to take a damage report.  Clearly, something was wrong because it wasn't moving.  Then, it looked like it was having a seizure.  And as sad as it sounds, I was still slightly scared that it would hop up at any moment and "attack" me.  When I finally realized that it probably would never move again, I picked him up and looked him over.  There wasn't a scratch on him.  There was some blood that was coming out of his nose, but no puncture holes, no scratches, just fur, wet from saliva.  

I'm not a doctor, but I had a good guess that there was internal damage.  He stopped chirping, his breathing sounded raspy and was slowing, and I just held him and cried over him.  I lightly stroked his little side and back and told him how sorry I was that my dogs did this to him.  I know that I ended up with a shoe box with an old towel inside and set him in there after awhile, but I honestly don't remember putting him down to go get those things.  Then we got in the car and headed to the vet.  While I wanted to think that they could do something for him, when I blubbered to the receptionist that my dogs got a hold of him and he was still alive, she just took him from me and said, "Don't worry, Honey.  We'll check him, and if he's still alive we'll put him down."

I knew this would be the outcome, but somehow that didn't make me feel any better.  At least if he was still with me it may take longer, but he had someone to hold him and be with him.  The main point was that he shouldn't have to die.  I wanted him to be okay.  I don't handle death well, and it was no surprise to me that this upset me so much.  I felt completely responsible for the death of the baby squirrel.  And for the rest of the day I wanted nothing to do with the bulldogs.  We didn't make up until the next morning.  I finally broke when Lucy just kept following me around, sitting there, looking at me.  She knew I was mad, she knew I was upset, but she didn't know why.  It's funny, because she knows when she's been naughty (but that's for another post), but she didn't know she did anything wrong.  My husband tried telling me this over the phone, but at the time I couldn't believe him.  I knew it the next day, though.  They truly were just trying to play with the squirrel.  Unfortunately, that didn't work out too well for the squirrel.  But I can't hold that against them.  They didn't mean to hurt him, they just didn't know what they were doing, like when Lenny pets the mice to hard and ends up breaking their spines.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nesting Procedures

One morning, while opening the blinds in our bedroom, I noticed a nest sitting on the window sill.  Not only was the nest firmly built on a brick foundation, but was located under a very large overhang which supports the four white columns of our colonial home.  No chance Mama or her babies will be exposed to any elements.  No bird was around to lay claim to it, but I managed to convince my husband to let it stay there.  I was excited to have the chance to watch baby birds grow (once they were actually in the nest, of course), but it would be downright cruel to destroy something that took a lot of hard work to create, and would be needed very soon to house eggs, and the baby birds.

I thought my husband, John, was simply annoyed at the nest being there (because it was preventing us from being able to open the window while the weather is so nice), but one day not long after the nest showed up, he called me at work.  "Did you see the eggs in the nest?" 
"No!  How many eggs?"
"There are two."

When I went home for lunch to administer Bulldog Recess, I almost immediately ran upstairs to see the eggs.  I was surprised, though, because I saw three eggs, not two.  When I told John, his response was, "Oh.  I guess I missed one of them." 

Returning home from work that evening, changing into some more comfortable clothes for some yard work or a Bulldog Walk, I checked the nest again.  Four eggs.  I often annoy John with my questions.  He always knows he's in trouble when I start a sentence with, "I have a question."  I usually get an eye roll and either, "This ought to be good," or, "Oh boy."  But semi-witnessing the egg laying process brought up the question of how exactly reproduction works for birds.  I guess I just assumed they carried all the eggs and then laid them, like amphibians or reptiles.  I also was basing this assumption on how mammals deliver (although yes...I do know mammals don't lay eggs!), carrying and delivering the entire litter at the same time.  Seeing the size of the robin compared to the size of the eggs, I knew that couldn't be possible.

Enter Google.  After a little research, I had my answer.  The eggs form one at a time, and the robin will lay the egg as soon as it is fully formed.  Because like an airplane, too much luggage, and you risk not being able to take off!  I should have tracked the number of days, but not too long later, the hatching started!

We were out working in the yard all day, and a quick run up to get something and I saw these two little guys!  And already hungry!

Luckily, John was working in the front yard and I was in the back, so I didn't have to keep making excuses to run in and see if the other eggs had hatched.  Three came not too much later, and then it was awhile before Four made his debut.  It was interesting, because I caught Mama flying off with an egg shell in her beak after Four arrived.  She was also monitoring their progress and removing the egg shells as soon as the little ones broke free.  There were several freezing nights after the Birdies were born, but I never saw Mama leave the nest.  She just poofed herself out and kept those babies warm.

Before the eggs hatched, Mama would fly away any time we opened the blinds, or even walked into the bedroom.  After they hatched, though, it was interesting because Mama would just look and acknowledge us, but she would stay in the nest.  I don't know if that's nature not to abandon the babies when danger lurks, but we like to think that she got used to us and trusts us.  We can get right up to the glass and peek at them, and she watches the entire time, but doesn't seem nervous or alarmed.  I have gotten into the habit of telling her, "Good morning, Mama," when I open the blinds in the morning, and, "Good night, Mama.  You keep those babies warm," when I close them at night.

And a few weeks later...

These guys just crack me up.  One has a bit of a Mohawk, but the rest of them look like little old men who are bald on top and have crazy hair on the sides.

See the resemblance?
While doing my research, I also read that the father actually takes over feeding the fledglings while Mama builds another nest and lays a second clutch of eggs!  So now I'm wondering where this second nest is.  Guess I'll have to start checking the other windows!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

Maybe it was due to a very long day of work yesterday, or the fact that I woke up every thirty minutes beginning at 1:30 am, but after letting my obligatory morning cup of coffee sink in I still felt like I desperately needed another.  Wanting a little extra "kick" I tried adding some sugar to my usual coffee and cream only dose of much-needed energy.  This won't make sense at first, but I have tried unsuccessfully off and on for the past few years to add sugar to my coffee.  And again, I was unsuccessful, and think I need another cup, not only for the added benefit of even more caffeine, but to get the taste of the last cup out of my mouth.  Adding a little sugar to your coffee doesn't seem like a difficult task, or one that can be easily messed up, but I feel I have.  I believe this stems from my long-standing history with coffee...and possibly my emotional ties to it as well.

People think I'm crazy (or a liar) when I say that I started drinking coffee when I was two years old.  No, I wasn't sipping black coffee from a sippy cup.  Well, maybe it was in a sippy cup, but my dad would mix a little coffee with a lot of milk and sugar.  I have never asked how or why he started doing this, but my most educated guess is that I wanted to imitate my parents.  For as long as I can remember, my alarm every Saturday morning was the sound of my dad fiercely stirring sugar into his cup of coffee.  Mom drinks hers black, so she never made a racket preparing her cup, but the sound of Dad stirring his was like a dinner bell, or the sound of the freezer door opening to my dogs who always want ice.  It always got me out of bed.  Now, I'm not suggesting I jumped out of bed and hastily made my way downstairs.  But the wake-up process, however slow, had begun.  And a typical weekend commenced with Mom, Dad, my sister Sarah, and myself, sipping coffee and reading together.

In case you were wondering, I do not still drink a dairy-ed down version of coffee from a sippy cup.  As I got older, my dad adjusted the proportion of milk to coffee.  The end result was coffee with lots of milk and sugar.  And I eventually cut out the sugar completely and started using half and half instead of 2% milk.  But to this day, I still can't drink a cup of black coffee, no matter how smooth it may be. 

When I reached the age of full coffee maturity, my dad usually prepared it for me, at my request, because it never tasted as good when I made it.  It was always the perfect shade of Coffee Blonde, and had enough sugar that you could taste it, but never enough to drown out the flavor of the coffee. 

Something that really upsets me, is that I cannot replicate the taste of a cup of coffee my dad got perfect every single time.  I try every now and then for nostalgic reasons, but I am disappointed every time.  I have tried different brands and roasts of coffee.  I have tried preparing it different ways.  I have not added enough sugar and it tasted like the sugar sat in my cupboard for years.  I have added too much sugar and it made my lips pucker and my hair stand on end.  I have added so much milk that my first sip is room temperature.  And I have not added enough to accomplish the correct color and creaminess.  There are so many little things you miss when someone you love dies.  So many things you never know you won't be able to replicate until you try doing it yourself for the first time.  And that's enough to make you want to cry every time you try it in the future.  There were so many little things I took for granted.  And all I want right now is a hug from my daddy and a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Introducing....My Blog

Welcome to my blog.  A blog that I wanted to create, but not sure I'll openly share.  We'll see what happens.

This is a repeat of the "About Me" section, but it is an introduction, so it fits right in:  I wanted to create a blog where I could pretty much post anything I wanted, whether it be book reviews, crafty things, recipes, photos and stories, and more. And then I wanted to think up a creative name for the blog. After hours of rejecting ideas and feeling less and less creative, I drove home to administer Bulldog Recess. It was a beautiful day, and I had the music turned up and the windows down, and I'm not sure what made me think it, but it hit me that if my dad hadn't passed away five years ago, he would have a blog. And if he had a blog, it would be exactly like I plan on mine being. So welcome to: My Father's Blogger.

My dad was a man of many interests and talents.  He would read an article, see something on t.v., or watch someone do something, and immediately become interested in the subject and want to jump right into it himself.  Our garage and basement were full of forgotten tools of his sometimes short-lived trades.  The possibly functional black and white photo enlarger (never used) for the photography interest phase, before his interest in photography was peaked again when digital cameras hit the market.  The half-full sketch books full of still life drawings, portraits, and water color paintings I loved flipping through as a kid, sitting in boxes mixed with graphite pencils, water color paint tubes, and mixing palettes.  The full fly fisherman ensemble, complete with waders, non-slip boots, vest, hat, ventilated shirts, fly tying kit, pole, and pole carrying case (used maybe twice).  And the race-worthy bicycle and professional riding attire attained after standing for hours under the hot Parisian sun on the side of the Champs-Elysee, watching the final leg of the 2001 Tour de France.  And books.  Lots and lots of books.

I think we all may have inwardly questioned these fleeting interests (especially because they tended to be rather expensive), but I don't remember anyone ever giving Dad a hard time for his choice of hobby, or amount of time (or lack thereof) or money he spent on his new hobbies.  Looking back, I certainly can't question what he did or why he did it.  I am definitely my father's daughter.  Guess who wanted her own set of graphite pencils after beginning a drawing section in art class, and who was happy to accompany her to the art specialty store to purchase some?  And who wanted to get the photo enlarger fixed and set-up a professional dark room in the basement because her friend's mom (who actually was a professional photographer) had one in her basement and she just so happened to be taking a photography class at school?  And who has a whole bookcase full of books she has read (listed in alphabetical order by author, of course) that she just can't bring herself to give up, even if she didn't especially love the books, and desperately needs more room to store books she hasn't read yet?

My dad and I, at one point or another, shared a lot of the same interests.  And I owe a lot of my creative tendencies and very varied interests to him.  I know this because I look in my own basement and see discarded supplies for craft projects I hope to return to and finish someday.  I see something somewhere and want to try it.  I'm always pushing myself to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems.  I love cooking without using recipes, or start with a recipe and make it my own.  And if I didn't have to work, I think there still wouldn't be enough time to do everything I want to do and try everything I want to try.

I didn't really intend for this blog to turn into an homage of my dad, and I'm not suggesting that it has, but I guess I'm happy I made the realization of how similar we are (which sounds silly, I know) because even five years after he passed away I find I avoid thinking and talking about him.  I could tell you where one picture of him is in my house, and because it's in a locket it's not visible.  I have spent a lot of time not thinking about him, because living in a world where he "didn't exist" and there were infrequent reminders he was once here, was easier than missing him everyday.  But I know this isn't healthy (thank you Psychology degree!).  Recently, I've found myself thinking and talking about him more.  And yes, I find that I miss him more and get upset by something that makes me think of him more, but he was such a wonderful person and so important to me that it's not fair to just let him fade away.  And maybe it's because I am so much like him, or because everyone always said I look just like my mom but I only see my dad when I look in the mirror, but he's always going to be with me and influence my life so it's silly not to acknowledge how I became who I am today.  

So here I go...