Am I a Bird Brain, or what?

canaryIf I had to associate myself with any one type of animal, I would say I’m a dog person, even though it has been many many moons since I’ve owned a dog (I’m constantly grappling with the logistics, but one day my time will come).  So rather than a dog, somehow we have adopted several feathered friends over the past year and a half, including 8 chickens (down from a high of 15) and one canary.

Somehow, we’ve had a problem with sexing.  Out of our initial “flock” of 10 baby chicks, all supposed to be hens or girl chickens, we were surprised to wake up one morning to the crowing of a rooster.  Likewise, our canary was supposed to be a boy. Boys are the ones that really sing and trill, and while I convinced myself that the chirps and peeps of our canary “Peep” were in fact songs, I now realize that they were in fact just peeps.

How do I know this?  Well, one simple word – an egg.  But let me take you back in time. Our canary, for quite sometime, has been exhibiting signs of what I labeled depression.  She has been feather picking, and looks quite ragged at the moment.  So what better idea than to put a mirror in her Christmas stocking (no, the stocking was not my idea).  That mirror went into the cage, and immediately Peep took to it. He (She) had a friend!  He (She) would sit in front of it and talk and chirp and peep. He (She) must have been so excited by this, that those sexual feelings blossomed, and an egg was laid.

Because of Peep’s ragged appearance, I finally decided that it was time to find a vet that could literally take a peep and let me know if Peep was in fact suffering from depression or some skin disease.  I was having the rational argument in my mind of whether or not it was worthwhile to take a bird to a vet.  I know I would take a dog to the vet if something was wrong, so I ultimately decided to go for it, despite my guess of a $200 bill.   Consequently the few days leading up to the appointment, Peep seemed to take on a whole new level of lethargy, pretty much nesting in her food bowl most of the time.  Maybe just a nesting instinct?  I wasn’t sure.

Enter Dr. Laurie Hess, a Yale educated veternarian specializing in birds and exotic pets.  Only the best for this little yellow bird.  After hanging in the office for over 2 hours, I had to leave Peep behind to go pick up kids and get them to their activities.  I returned at the end of the day with Jack and Sam.  We were greeted by a man leaving an exam room with a wallaby in his arms.  Turns out that Peep has a reproductive blockage, and after a series of x-rays, calcium shots, Vitamin D shots, and a shot to shut down hormones and hopefully cut off egg laying, I left with a very haggard bird in my possession, and a $1005 hole burning in my pocket.  Apparently due to the stress of x-rays and shots during the day, they thought at one point Peep had died, as she laid keeled over on her side. An oxygen machine revived her.  I couldn’t help thinking about whether or not I would still owe them if Peep had died.

The reaction from the four kids was at opposite ends of the spectrum.  The oldest two, when they found out how much I had spent, suggested that maybe we should have just let Peep fly away.  Sam, driving home from the vet’s office, said:  ”I’m so glad Peep didn’t you know what.”  (Apparently the “D” word is similar to that of Voldemort – that which cannot be named).  Jack called my husband and I three times that evening during a dinner out, expressing his concern over Peep.

Dr. Hess graciously called the next day to check on Peep, and of course wants to see her in a week.  I can’t help thinking that I’m getting more attention from this doctor than my own internist and pediatricians.  Of course I never paid those doctors that much money either.

I did find out along the way that Peep was probably malnourished.  The Pet Store’s recommended feeding regimen was far from adequate – and she was lacking important nutrients and vitamins.  So now I catch her twice a day to feed her calcium through a dropper, I’ve clipped broccoli florets on the side of her cage (which she does love), and I even made little mini bird muffins.

And there in lies the story of the impromptu impulse purchase at the pet store. Although I do admit, when feeling well, this little bird loves to chatter and keep you company.

A Bike … is just not a Bike

Bike-photoUndoubtedly, on any given day, one can walk into my garage and notice an array of bikes.  And most of the time, at least two of those bikes have just appeared and been left behind by some friendly visitor.

 At just about the time school started this year, we all noticed a bike, laying on its side, that had been left at the end of a driveway near our bus stop.  There it sat for many days, until one day someone moved it across the street and propped it up against the street sign.  I’m sure it was a well intentioned adult, trying to place the bike in a more prominent viewing position to remind whoever left it behind that it should be retrieved.

So this bike I passed daily driving in and out of my neighborhood.  The thought bubble in my head when I drove by it was – “I wish someone would claim that bike and get it out of here.”  One day I was driving home with my two teens, David and Eliza, and I articulated this thought, in somewhat of an exasperated tone.  David quickly said – “I like seeing it there.  It’s a symbol of our neighborhood.”

From that day forward, when I passed the bike, a little smile showed up on my face.  A bike, especially for youth, is a phenomenal symbol of freedom and independence.  And fortunately, we live in a fairly self contained, untrafficked neighborhood, ideal for bike riding.  When I think back to my childhood, many of my memories are of zipping around on my bike – with cards pinned to the spokes, stopping at a neighbor’s driveway to “fill up with gas,” or racing down the street with hands in the air.   And of course when I was older, it was my primary mode of transportation to visit my friends and get me into town.

 This week the bike is gone.  Who knows where it went – whether its owner finally decided to reclaim it, someone else decided to claim it, or someone just got tired of it and decided to dump it.  I guess we’ll never know.  But guess what?  I miss it.

Bieber Fever

P8310009I guess I’m a lucky Mom.  I’ve seen Justin Bieber not once, but TWICE this year (click here for my first blog about him).  It was a pure unadulterated teeny bopper love fest at Madison Square Garden.  (For those of you unfamiliar with who Justin Bieber is – he is the hot 16 year old sensation who grew up in low income housing with a single mom in Canada and was discovered by Usher via youtube – an utterly amazing story).  Tuesday night my daughter, her BF and I took off for MSG.  The two girls sporting their purple attire, and carrying their sign decked out in purple lettering exclaiming “Call the Doctor, We got Bieber Fever” (purple being Justin’s fave color of course) arrived in the bustling NYC scene of 32nd and 7th, where a sea of purple clad girls could be seen….wildly screaming.

The theatrics of the night were made even more fantastical as Justin’s new concert movie was being filmed.  With Sean Kingston opening, JB’s lively acrobatic and amazingly talented dance team and back-up singers making their presence known, staging and props (like JB playing his guitar sitting in a huge heart and being carried through the air to the center of the arena) and the guest artists who sang with him throughout the evening (Boys II Men, Ludacris, Usher, Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, and Sean Kingston) – it truly was quite an event.

Yes, despite some trepidation, I had fun.  A lot of fun.  But the best part is, that in this day and age, where we are bombarded by smutty reality shows like Jersey Shore and X-rated wrap lyrics, we have an adorable kid who is all about love, hearts, smiles (he even took the time to make his appeal about no texting while driving).  He is an adorable sensation.  I’m so glad my daughter’s crush on Little Wayne has passed :)

justin-bieber-420-420x0

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The Good, Bad and Ugly of Family Reunions

Duke-Reunion-2010

Since Wise Hubby was a boy, he’s faithfully (and gleefully) attended his bi-annual family reunion. The older generation (originally comprised of his mom and her six siblings) and their children – and now their children and THEIR children – gather every two years for a week. The days and nights are full of softball games, Irish songs, impromptu musical performances, golf, swimming, Talent Night, card games, “inductions” of new family members, and other mischief/fun.

Whenever you spend time with extended family (up to 100 of them), there’s bound to be highs and lows. Having just returned from the latest family reunion, I decided to chronicle those pinnacles and valleys over the 20+ year I’ve been attending.

1988. Upstate New York. High AND Low: I’m forced to lie across three chairs and wiggle my body in my rendition of the American flag as the family sings “God Bless America,” a song sung at every Reunion. Embarrassing, to be sure, but in a good way because it means I was officially part of the family.

1990. Poconos. High: Finally knowing the words to the interactive songs sung every year. Low: Being drenched greeted by squirt-gun toting family members as soon as we step out of the car on the first day.

1992. Cape Cod. High: Diving contest where each person must imitate a pig while going off the diving board. Low: No large room that can accommodate the bunch of us, so we’re squeezed into the motel lobby each night for our nightly meeting. Hot, sweaty and claustrophobic!

1994. Berkshires. High: The first time we have a child to bring to the Reunion and pass along the family tradition. Low: Rustic, cold cabins with hard bunk beds; after the first night, we sent our two-year old to sleep with her grandparents at a nearby motel.

1996. Vermont: High: Going on a romantic canoe ride with Wise Hubby, the only time we spent together that Reunion as I chased two toddlers for most of the week. Low: Returning from the canoe ride to unhappy campers (literally) and realizing that we had not borrowed the resort’s canoe, but some poor people who happened to tie up at the same dock. (Of course, we crashed the canoe several times into the dock – all while the rightful owners were watching).

1998. Cape May, NJ. High: We’re the only guests at the lodge, so the kids can roam free, and no worries about disturbing other guests with our rowdiness. Low: We still managed to have the police called by local neighbors complaining about the noise at night.

2000. Cape May, NJ. High: Trip to the Jersey Shore during the day and dinner dance with extended family at night. Low: Watching stressed Wise Hubby as this was his year to plan the Reunion; it’s a lot of work to keep 100 people happy!

2002. Upstate New York. High: Watching my now older kids branch out and bond with a new batch of cousins. Low: Family owners of the resort put on their own singing/dancing entertainment every night, and don’t appreciate guests (us!) who are used to commandeering the stage. Hard feelings abound.

2004. Connecticut. High: We brought dress-up clothes from home and took our skit up to the next level with costumes. Low: Having to walk a mile up a steep hill for every meal and meeting.

2006. Poconos. High: Great new accommodations (2-bedroom suites with kitchens) at a family resort with every possible amenity. Low: Wise Hubby broke a few ribs while diving for a ball during one of the daily softball games. (I think this was the year …)

2008. Poconos. High AND Low: Spending my 20th wedding anniversary with 100 other family members. (The high was they put together a surprise “roast” of us.)

2010. Poconos. High: Last week I had three massages in five days at the resort. (I’m finally getting the hang of this Reunion thing.) Poignant Low: Missing Wise Hubby’s parents, both of whom have passed since the last Reunion.

Flash What?

777px-union_square_new_york1From Guest Blogger Sonya:

Recently, a friend/co-worker told me about a challenge that he and his sister gave each other to grow and do things that have always been on their never-ending to-do lists, yet never seem to make the time for.  I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of us.  Life has a way of sucking up time in the most routine daily life matters.  I was intrigued by Brendan’s journey, particularly when he told me that this month his sister challenged him to put together a “flash mob.”  Flash mobs are events displayed in public places that appear to start and end in a totally random fashion yet are actually coordinated and organized.  You may recall seeing an event in Grand Central Station several years ago that made it’s way to YouTube.  Suddenly at a precise moment hundreds of people in Grand Central froze for a  minute and once the minute was over, resumed what they were doing and where they were headed.

This past week was Gay Pride week and to honor this, Brendan, who is also an accomplished dancer, organized his own flash mob in Union Square of NYC.  He choreographed a central dance for a group of friends and had several others randomly join in during the 5 minute event culminating in a large group effort.  Once the music ended, everyone moved through the square as if nothing had happened and people watching were left looking for more and wondering what had just happened.  Many people applauded the impromptu entertainment.   To orchestrate this event, Brendan provided many participants with training videos on line and rehearsals with his core group.  You can see his efforts in the link attached (Click here).

What out there is important to you that you are putting off until tomorrow?

Where the Hell’s Elaine?

One mark of a good vacation is that you lose track of time.

As in you’re absorbed in the activity of the moment (reading a good book, pushing a toddler on a swing) and you wonder what time is it?

Or, you’re in “chill-axing” mode for a few days, and you question what DAY is it?

Uh oh, it’s my day to blog?!?! Shoot. How do I spin an interesting blog post out of the last few days pf visiting with my family (including playing with delightful nephews and neice), celebrating Jackson’s 15th birthday at a minor league baseball game (complete  with the birthday boy being invited onto the field to pick the winner of the in-between innings race between a Hamburger, Fries or a Frosty), attending a campy but great fun melodrama complete with corny jokes and a 4-minute version of the Wizard of Oz, plus lots of down time of chatting, reading, napping and just staring off at the beautiful mountains.

As I woke up this morning, I remembered it’s Thursday – the one day I promised myself to post while on vacation. In that waking moment, I thought, “Hey, a great blog post would be videotaping me doing the Matt dance in front of a landmark site like Garden of the Gods or Pike’s Peak or The Air Force Academy.” 

I jump up to look at the clock: Yike’s, it’s 6:30 am. Given the 2-hour time difference, I only half an hour until the bewitching 9 am posting time). No time! No time!

Then I relax. I realize that letting time pass blissfully by is, ahem, one of the signs of a good vacation (see point #1 of this post).

So, I decide to answer one question in case any Wise Women are wondering.  Where the hell is Elaine?

Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“See you” next week, my friends …

The World’s Largest Father’s Day Card

DSC_0687Coming home from a weekend away, Mark and I drove into the driveway yesterday on Father’s Day.  My husband’s first reaction was – “oh good, the lawn has been mowed.”

We then walked into the back, and there in the grass were the large letters of DAD mowed into the lawn.  Rather creative, huh?  After being away, it’s nice to come home to home made presents – (while the older kids are on their own on this one, the younger ones have the great benefit of working on Father’s Day projects with their teachers).  So whether it is the simple card with a few nice words from Eliza, the book written about Dad from Jack, the hand made bowl from Sam, and the “DAD” mowed into the lawn from David – aren’t those things always the best?  Far more exciting than the outdoor thermometer that I bought!

Hope all Dads had a great day!

Reporting LIVE from University of Maryland….

DSC_0653Reporting LIVE from the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland.  I’m here with my fourteen year old daughter, Eliza, and her good friend and History Day partner.

Let me start from the beginning.  Eliza, as an eighth grader, had the option to enter a district history day competition this past March.  This year’s theme was Innovation in History. Students across the country compete in this contest at the local level, with the hopes of earning a right to attend the National Conference.  Entrants can write a paper, do an exhibit, film a documentary, develop a website, or put on a performance related to their topic.  Not a school requirement, and far from enthusiastic about entering the contest, Eliza and her friend were persuaded by their well meaning parents to enter the contest.  Finally acquiescing, they chose a topic right up their ally – Innovation in Snowboarding and it’s Impact on the Ski Industry (click here to watch). I must say I was amazed at their chutzpah in attacking their project.  They instantly lined up a list of interviews, which included a list of  Editors of most Ski and Snowboarding magazines, as well as a professional snowboarder.  At the district competition, they placeed 2nd in the group documentary division.  They then progressed to the State competition, where they placed first, much to all of our jubilant surprise (including that of some random specatators, who blatantly reacted to their historical topic of snowboarding with a response such as … “Snowboarding… how odd?!”).

The best thing about this contest at this point was the sheer confidence booster this provided to these two young girls.  This plus the experience of showing and representing their project in front of a panel of judges was a wonderful experience.

So Sunday we drove down to University of Maryland, and checked into our hotel in Dupont Circle in DC.  There are kids here from every state.  There’s no way I could complain about our 5 hour drive, as we passed by cars with license plates from Iowa, Wyoming, Texas, Ohio.   Monday, we were Washington tourists in the morning, exploring the Newseum.  If anyone  has the chance to viisit this museum while visiting DC, I highly recommend it.  It’s an amazing walk through history – and the two hours we spent there was just the tip of the iceberg.  I could have easily spent a day there.  The stories, pictures, and film document the amazing stories of our history.  There is an exhibit of the Berlin Wall – including actual sections of the Berlin Wall which tells the story of East and West Germany.  And of course an exhibit on 9/11 -which I cannot look at without getting emotional.

From the Newsmuseum we went out to the University of Maryland, where the girls were scheduled to present their documentary. They showed their film, then were questioned by a panel of three judges for ten minutes or so.  Us Moms were very proud of their maturity, composure and ability to answer the questions so well.

So then we entered the waiting game…. second round winners were going to be announced at 7PM – only ten finalists would be announced out of 100+ entries.  Eliza seriously commented that she now knew how Obama felt waiting for the Presidential election results to come in….

So did they make it?  Unfortunately not.  As we plan another day of sightseeing in Washington, I think they will get over it.  The good news is, they got a great taste of how delicious success can be, and how hard work can pay off.  And they’re already discussing next year’s History Day theme, with no prodding from their parents.

It’s time for a Picnik…

picnikTwo more weeks and the pace of life will slow down a bit.  I must say this spring has reached a whole new level of craziness – I feel like I wake up first thing and crank up the engine and plow through non-stop – until I realize that it’s 11PM and I’m exhausted.

Anyhow, I’m not here to complain but thought I’d share some learnings I had as I was working on the year end lacrosse photographs, captain and coaches gifts for my son’s team.  In today’s age, there are so many options for printing and using photographs – it can be overwhelming.  I browsed all the traditional sites like Shutterfly and Snapfish, but ended up thinking that I could probably do the best price-wise at either Wal-Mart or Costco.  (Although you can get great deals at Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc. when they’re running specials).

So if you’re looking for the most inexpensive hassle-free way to get many pictures reproduced (in my case 5 x 7s) – Costco is my recommendation.  I originally went through Wal-Mart online, and fifty of the pictures they sent to me were printed wrong.  So then I went off to the store to try to remedy the situation – we were able to fix one set of 25, but not the other.  Then I was told to have more produced I’d have to pay the rush fees (as my deadline for needing them was 3 days away).  Then off to the customer service counter to return the bad ones for a credit, upon which time I was told that I had to do it online, after I had been told that I could do it in store.  So, never having been a huge fan of Wal-Mart, the store has dropped down a few more levels in my book.

So I ran home, uploaded my photo to the Costco site, specified pick up at my local store, and 2 hours later they were waiting for me, printed correctly, and 20 cents cheaper per print than Wal-Mart.

Now for my second discovery during this photo process (this discovery is more fun).  I needed to find a site that would allow me to put titles on the photos I was printing.  My daughter pointed me to picnik.com - a very fun and easy to use site with a great selection of fonts and styles.  Some of their styles/formats/borders do require a fee, but everything I did was free, and I was very pleased with it.  Interestingly enough, Google just bought this company.

So….Costco and picnik.com – next year this job will be much easier as I’ve gone through the journey and learned my lessons.

Crazy Weather lately, but We’ll Take It!

P4030404The year 2010 has brought all sorts of crazy weather – including a handful of terrible earthquakes.  For the Northeast, the last 3-4 weeks have been nothing short of a little insane.  Six weeks ago was a big dumping of snow – Vermont received 5 feet of snow over the course of 2-3 days.  Then came the Nor’easter.  I blogged about this crazy wind and rain storm that blindsided us, exerted a tremendous amount of damage, and left several neighborhoods without power for up to a week.  Then just shy of two weeks later, an awful rain storm hit.  Some parts of CT and RI received up to 10 inches of rain – Rhode Island hasn’t seen flooding this bad in well over 100 years.  Parts of I-95 were even shut down.

And now for this past weekend.  We were up in Vermont to conclude our season of skiing.  Did you know that Vermont was warmer than Florida this weekend?  77 degrees!  As you can see by this picture, we all skiied in t-shirts, wished we had shorts on (because it was hot!) and my oldest son got one heck of a burn. The conditions were surprisingly good, so there were no complaints from our end.  There will probably never be another time that we can ride a chairlift up to the top of the mountain, with snow all around us, in a t-shirt, and be perfectly comfortable.  It was nothing short of incredible!

We write our own destiny. We become what we do.
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek

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