Monday, July 31, 2006

An auspicious day!

Happy birthday, darling mother in law, and happy hatch day, Cyril!

They would be a delicacy to some rainforest tribes.

For the frogs and turtle, we purchase little lidded tubs of waxworms (wws) and superworms (sws) every week. Gwendolyn loves the sws and can eat up to ten in a sitting. The frogs love the wws, but they're quite fatty, so we have to limit their intake. You have to refridgerate the wws so they don't pupate and, we can only give the pets limited wws, they pupate very quickly if they are left out. You're NOT supposed to refridgerate the sws as they pupate at cool temperatures.

When we got the last batch of sws, the container was quite cold from being in the fridge at the store, and the worms were not as active as they usually are. I noticed that some of them looked very dark and had a strange shell. It turns out that they had started to metamorphose and I didn't know it as I had never seen a sw become a pupa. Now, when the wws change to their adult form, they become pretty little moths. The sws, it turns out, become enormous black beetles. How do I know this? I reached in to the frogs vivarium yesterday to take out the old sws in their little bowl and a beetle crawled onto my hand. Gaaaaaaack. Any bug that is too big for the frogs to eat does not belong in my house, so into the bushes they went. Christian said they actually thumped when they hit the ground, they were so big. I can't control the shuddering.

Friday, July 28, 2006

To my beloved husband on our 5th anniversary:

Hi schweetie, can you believe it? Five years we've been married, and, while I know I'm most likely cursing us for saying this, wasn't it supposed to be harder? I mean, we've had our moments like everyone else, but there isn't one of those moments that I would take back.

There are so many things about you that have surprised me, mainly your affable adaptability. I had no idea when I married you that you would be such an excellent travel companion, and that you would let me obsessively plan and not make fun of me. You have embraced the alterna-pet lifestyle with aplomb, feeding frozen mousecicles to the snakes, growing broccoli for the birds and turtle and picking out live superworms for the frogs. You understand, as not many people do, that giving way sometimes does not mean rolling over. I have to learn that better. I MIGHT let you get the PGR steering wheel for the XBox. Maybe.

I listen to my singer colleagues who have trouble with their significant others/spouses and the amount of time that singing takes away from the relationship. I don't say anything to them because it would sound like I was gloating, because you not only understand the need, but you share it, just in a different venue. We've never fought because I had to go to rehearsal again. It's the other way around; you make sure that I get where I need to be when my resolve has failed me. I wouldn't have gotten two of my upcoming gigs if you hadn't convinced me to go to the auditions.

The biggest lesson I've learned over the past five years is that security is not financial abundance, because I don't feel any differently about you with or without money. Security is, I know now, coming home to a place where you are, a place where I am always safe. If home is where one hangs ones hat, my home is where you hang your hat.

I love you, Mooky. Happy anniversary.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Completely outnumbered.

It's a boy! We got the news today. So, he shall be named Cyril. Out of all eight pets, only two are girls, Gwendolyn and Persephone, and then me. It's the house of testosterone.

Poor little pooper had his well-bird check up today. He's lost 20 grams from the stress of changing homes, so we're going to give him (that's hard for me to say-I kept calling him "her") lots of treats to fatten him up and reward him for being such a good bird for the vet. He's been microchipped and vaccinated and had bloodwork drawn, which was terrible, I understand (not having been there to witness it), as they couldn't get the neck artery and had to clip a nail and take blood from the bleeding vein. Shudder. Gack. He seems in good health, though, and the shop where we bought him has an excellent reputation for well-adjusted and healthy birds. We'll get the bloodwork results back on Friday, and then all will be well. What a good birdie.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cure vs. Disease

I've been taking a drug call Levaquin for the staph infection in my foot, and a potential side effect is soul-sucking, life-draining, will-to-live-destroying muscle and joint pain. I want to cry, go home and lie on the couch and whimper.

Oh, but C3 said "hi" to me this morning. That makes everything much better.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Parrot Pictorial

We brought Charlie/Chloe/Cyril (heretofore known as C3 and "she", which may or may not be wishful thinking) home on Saturday. I had mixed emotions (not about buying her, but about taking her away from EVERYONE she knows) as the poor peanut has never been out of the shop, having been hatched, hand fed, weaned and raised there, and I was terribly concerned about the heat and stress involved in moving from an air-conditioned shop to our broiling hot house. Fortunately, we were home almost all weekend, so we could closely observe C3's behavior in minute and obsessive compulsive detail. We picked her up at about 11, did our food tutorial (the shop has its own bean mix that Fritz went nuts over; his little beak was covered in grain and he snarfed it for a solid hour before we took it away), read our paperwork, bought more stuff for the cage (suckers) and let the staff say goodbye. That was tough as they really love her, and have cared for her since she was an egg. The poor girl who was helping us was quite sad, but it does mean the pooper was loved, which makes me happy.

We packed C3 up into the carrier we had purchased the week before, a fun acrylic cage that will make for excellent transportation for outings, and strapped her in the car. I sat with her in the back seat to keep an eye on her and make sure she didn't flap herself into a tizzy. It was a bit traumatic, the drive home:

The noise, the sun, the movement...she thought that the bottom of the carrier would be a little safer, but she just slid and slipped like a little kid on ice skates for the first time.

Once we got home, she was very anxious to get into her cage, and didn't seem to have any problems with the size or amount of toys, as many of the books say new birds can:

She saw the cage, spread her wings and leeeeeaned in, grabbed the rope perch with her beak and hauled herself up:

She seemed to approve of her surroundings, especially the opening top, from where she could eat:

and adventure over the entire double cage, sometimes dangling precariously from the side in an effort to scrutinize every square inch, just to make sure that nothing was going to jump out or trap a toe. She was very thorough in her examination. Her grip is not the best, and she would periodically slide down the bars and have to grab with her beak to hang on, but I had to restrain myself from rushing over and picking her up and setting her back on top of her perch. One has to let ones children discover their surroundings, as long as the surroundings are safe. We've given her perches of various sizes as her feet need to be strengthened, due to the missing toe, but she's fairly dexterous already.

The first night was trying. She was frightened and had night tremors. I heard her flap desperately and fall from her perch at about 2 am, so I went and sat with her for a while, talking to her softly and scratching her head. She did eventually relax enough to sleep, but didn't seem terribly at ease. We covered her cage to keep headlights from coming in the window and waking her, but the street noise may have been too much. It was so hot, though, that we had to either keep the windows open or perish. She was very chatty on Sunday, but wasn't as willing to step up. She wasn't handled all that much in the shop as this species is not as needy as, say, a cockatoo, and there were so many birds that needed more attention sharing the space with her. She seemed to enjoy watching us from her perch and let us feed her and scratch her, which was a hoot, as it's amazing to me how far a bird is willing to contort itself to get us to scratch that ONE SPOT. She didn't eat as much as I would have hoped and she didn't find her food and water bowls, so we had to hang two more by her top perch to make sure she was eating and drinking.

She will go to the vet on Wednesday to have her well bird checkup, get her baseline bloodwork drawn and get microchipped.

I'm having a hard time with this situation. I'm so terribly worried about her health and well-being, and I'm so concerned that she's OK today while we're at work, and she didn't want to step up this morning, and it's so hot in the house, and the housekeeper is coming today (although bless Christian for reminding her of what not to use for cleaning) and I won't be home for hours and what if something happens, and what if she doesn't eat, and what if she hates me, and what if she's sick and we don't know it, and and andanandnadnadnandnandn.....

I'm very concerned. I sure do like her, though. She just breaks my heart.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Like a banana. Or a grape. Or the protective sticker that comes on electronics. I love that thing.

I'm peely. The terrible sunburn I got at Christian's track meet ten days ago has borne glorious, dehydrated, parchment-like fruit. I have spent the last hour scraping up the rough edges of unpeeled skin with my fingernail and then stripping off big sheets that look white until you ball them up, and then you can see the concentrated cell death in a lovely shade of beige.

I am, however, being very courteous and putting the peelings on a napkin to dispose of hygenically in the trash. I don't want our sweet little custodian to have to vacuum up the remnants of my poor judgment.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Don't judge us too harshly. We have no willpower.

Christian has wanted a big bird for a while. He likes the weight and substance of larger parrots and really yearned for a talking bird. I had been doing some research on bird species and characteristics, and came across the Pionus, a South American parrot not commonly sold in the US, but gaining popularity with breeders. They are sweet and shy and possessed of a quiet demeanor and will turn their backs on disliked personages rather than biting them, which is hilarious. I did some research and presented my findings to Christian, who agreed with me that this species had promise. There are two breeders of Maximilian Pionuses and Blue Headed Pionuses in Spokane, but only one store, Denise's Parrot Place on Mercer Island, fortunately, had any in house; one was a year old Bronze Winged, and two were just fledged baby Blue Headeds. We decided to go check them out on Saturday (Christian driving due to gimpy footedness on my part, and I think that standing in that shop contributed to the progress of infection) and met Charlie:

Charlie, whose name will shortly be changed to either Cyril or Chloe, absolutely slaughtered us. I have a weird and tragic fondness for special needs birds, and had a grand passion for a Cockatoo named Lola on Petfinder who was missing a foot. She was adopted before I could get my hands on her, though. I saw that Charlie/Chloe/Cyril was missing a toe, and when I commented on it, the woman helping us rushed to assure us that it was a nest box injury and that he didn't suffer from it or have any difficulty. I don't know why she thought we'd care, unless other people had rejected him based on the missing toe, but it made me love him all the more. He does eat with the three toed foot as the other is more stable for standing on, and I think his beak has grown more than it should because he only chews on one side, but that is very easily remedied by a trip to the vet. I have never seen a bird this sweet or shy, and he quivered in terror for the first hour we held him. This species is very sensitive and can make wheezing sounds when nervous or excited. Good God, could he be more perfect? And, he talks. Already, without any teaching, he says "Step up!" That was the clincher for Christian. We held him and talked to him and fed him and petted him for over an hour, and did all the paperwork to buy him. The store has a strict no same day purchase policy for animals, which I think is fantastic as it eliminates many unwanted pets, so we can't have him until this weekend, but we get to visit him several times this week. I can't wait to see this sweet little face again:

I really think it was fate or God or the universe telling us to buy this bird. He was passed over for a while as he isn't perfect, and the shop workers, who love him very much, were thrilled that he took to us so well. And then, I was flipping through channels yesterday morning, and I turned to the network channels to see if anything other than golf was on, and a pet keeping show caught my eye. I flipped to the description in the guide, and the first word was "Pionus." I screamed for Christian and pointed at the TV, surprised and kind of weirded out. I mean, these are not common pets, and here was a show touting them for how wonderful of birds they are. Sweet, funny, energetic and good natured were the descriptors the show host used. It felt like the universe was vindicating our purchase. So, Saturday sees the newest addition of chickens to the household. And then I swear we'll be done.

I thought Saturday night was date night?

If so, I'm a lousy date.

I should have listened to Dana when she told me, at drinks after rehearsal, to not scratch my mosquito bites, as they could get infected. Ha, I scoffed, such things never happen to me! The next night, I was thinking, huh, these bites really itch still, and boy, it hurts to scratch them. Oh well! Scratch, scratch, scratch. By Thursday night, I couldn't walk, and my ankle was one big blob of red and hot. Strange, I thought to myself, must be an allergic reaction. So, I took an antihistamine and some ibuprofen. Well, the next day, the pain was worse, and one of the doctors I work with, with whom I have a rapport and felt comfortable mentioning my predicament to, made me prop up my leg and, as she poked at my ankle and I sucked in air through my teeth in pain, told me to go straight to the ER. I needed antibiotics, she said. So, off I went like the obedient worker bee, and was diagnosed straight away with cellulitis. Doesn't sound so bad, I thought, as I hobbled back to the office to tell my bosses that I had to go home, per the doctor's orders. By the time I managed to get home after having to get the drugs, my ankle was so swollen and painful that, if I sat down and then stood up again, the pain was so intense it made gasp and tear up. I took some ibuprofen and the antibiotics, and thought I was better. After propping up my foot all night and the next morning, the swelling was better and the pain had decreased. Christian had a party on Saturday night, so he went without me, per my instructions. I was lying on the couch watching TV, and I suddenly got very, very cold. My hands and feet were icy. I covered myself up and thought, huh, funny. It's 80 degrees out. So, a few minutes went by and I got colder and colder, and my cheeks got hotter and hotter. I was in fever denial, as I was told that, if I had a fever, I had to go back to the hospital and by all things Godly, I did NOT want to do that. Now, my temp almost always runs about 97.6-97.9, but very rarely over 98.1. Why? No clue. So, when I saw 99, 99.2, 99.5 and up up up on the thermometer, I got a little worried. I pulled the blanket off my feet and looked down, and I saw this:

Now, I'm chubby, but I have little hands and feet where you can actually see the bones. Do you see any bones? No. Just bulgy red skin and unpainted toenails. Of all the times to lapse on pedicures. I called poor Christian in the tiniest of panics and he came home to take me to the ER. So, with the fever and the nasty club foot (the smaller circle is marking the inflammation on Friday and the line on top is marking the inflammation on Saturday) it was decided to keep me there long enough to give me IV antibiotics, and sneak in a tetanus booster while I was waiting. Shifty bastards.

I spent five hours in the ER, which isn't bad, all things considered. Usually, ER visits take 8-9 hours and one has to sit in the waiting room with gunshot victims and hookers. The Northwest Hosptial staff was fantastic, and everyone had a good sense of humor, although I'm sure things would have been different had they been busier. My video iPod was the hit of the evening. Apparently, though, I cursed them by commenting on the quietness of the evening, or so I was informed by the ER tech who came to unplug my pump so I could go to the bathroom. In hindsight, a large raspberry iced tea was not the best idea. Here is my arm shortly before the infusion began:

The nurse thought I was pretty gruesome for taking pictures, but I must blog.

But, the wallop did a good job, and the inflammation is mostly gone. I have an ankle bone again! I'm sure everything at work will be dire when I go back tomorrow, but I can always summon some tears and clutch my ankle and say I have to go home.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Measure twice, buy once.

It is official. We've gone to the scary place that only the mentally unhinged and bird breeders usually inhabit. We have joined the legions of those who have homes stuffed with animal habitats on every available surface, with furniture incidentally squished between bird cages and rickety incubators on top of old TVs. These poor souls usually have floors covered in seed and bird poop, dining room tables and kitchen counters covered in bags of Birdie Bread mix and carpets covered by easily washable towels. It's only a matter of time before we never leave the house because we're afraid to abandon the pets.

Witness the madness:

Our two itty bitty birds are in the upper right hand corner. Each side is meant to hold one bird. We could fit both birds and all of our other pets in one side and still have room for a cockatoo on the other.

Do you see how tiny they are in comparison to the cage? What the hell was I thinking? It takes up the entire space of a chair. It's not like we had room to spare in the livingroom, as it's a wee little parlor, but I honestly didn't measure the space correctly.

Hopefully once I have Mom sew a pretty little skirt for the cage, it won't look so very, very white and dominant. I hope.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A glimpse into the future.

Saturday was an eventful day.

Christian is now part of the "Masters" track and field circuit, meaning over 30. Christian did well in the shot put, but the real event was the over 50 age group, which included the 90-99 age group. Yes, the 90-99 age group, of which there was one participant, a sprightly and adorable spindly little man named Leon who is a youthful 92. He joked about having to use the tiny 3K shot and thankfully got to do standing throws, as I can only imagine what a spin or a glide would do to those hips. He had mean form and never fouled. He's actually the national record holder in the his group so we were in the presence of fame and glory. Apparently, there's an over 100 age group as well. I would so dearly love to see that competition. It's my fondest hope that someday Christian will be in that category, carrying his little 3k shots in a plastic bag that used to hold oranges, like the bag one of the gentlemen in the 80-89 age group had with him. It's my fondest wish.

There was almost too much of the sweetie pooperness on Saturday. The camera pooped out at the reptile show, so I only have a few meager and not very exciting pictures from the event, but here is one:
Very young children and pregnant women (ahem, preggers in the picture) aren't supposed to touch reptiles because of the trace amounts of salmonella, so poor Kyan had to reach and point and make lots of "OOOO" noises and faces and struggle vainly to get out of his stroller to pet the pretty snake that could eat him and still be hungry for the next kid. We're training him well.

Jayden wasn't so sure about most of the reptile exhibit, but the petting area was a hit, and even though he's three years too young to touch legally (even though he's handled our snakes repeatedly, but we tried to respect the rules, mostly) he managed to get in a few good strokes. He seemed far more excited about the Purell handwash than the animals, however, so I think he's safe from invasive bacteria.

Joining the club

We, like every other American and some Europeans, who are ahead of us in most things but behind us on this, became victims of credit card fraud. I was rudely awakened at the ungodly hour of 10 am on Saturday with an automated phone call from Bank of America saying that there was a fraud alert on Christian's credit card, and could I please enter in the last four digits of his SSN? No, I thought, I don't know them. I got up, ran upstairs (Christian was at a meet and unable to provide the necessary information), got his SS card and called the bank back. I, of course, am not authorized on his (paid off) account, so I had to call him at the meet, interrupting his discus throwing, to tell him to call the bank, which he could only do 20 yards away from the ring where the event was taking place. He called, got a little information and his phone dropped the call. Gack. I was in a bit of turmoil as identity theft ranks right up with spiders in my bed on the fear meter.

By the time the event was over and he had time to go home to take a shower before we took the boys to the reptile show, it was 1 pm and I was frantic. What if it was money that couldn't be returned? We just paid everything off, and I didn't want to be responsible for a weekend of orgies and bathroom furnishings. He called BoA from home and was told that someone got ahold of our account number and charged $4500 at Bed, Bath and Beyond and some posh hotel. Fortunately, as the account had a whopping $15 balance, they noticed a slight increase in spending patterns and declined the charges, barring the first one that triggered the alert. They reversed the charges and closed the account. And then, they ruined it all by reissuing a new credit card. We didn't WANT them to issue a new credit card, and Christian tried to tell them that. We want all but ONE credit card to be cancelled (per customer request) and use only a Disney card to get points and then pay it off at the end of the month. One more credit card means one more letter we have to write to the BoA asking to cancel the account and one more headache of trying to maintain our credit score while eliminating all superfluous sources of credit. This is why we left BoA to go to WaMu. We don't like BoA's slap-happy approach to issuing cards, and they have awful fraud protection. Oh, they're fairly helpful when the fraud has happened, but they don't do enough to STOP it from happening. I only hope WaMu won't start flinging credit cards at us. I shall be forced to fling back and I'm terrified of confrontation.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So this guy walks onto an elevator...

I could have an entire blog dedicated to conversations overheard in elevators. This one, though, was actually said to me. A teeny, tiny little elderly woman with a perfect white bob and little shiny sweatpants got on the elevator I was riding in the Medical Center. She was with a person I assume to be her daughter and was at the MC for an appointment, according to their conversation. She looked at her daughter, who seemed unhappy, sighed, glanced around at all of us, caught my eye, and, with a huge smile, said, "What is it they say? You're born, you live, you die. Life's a bitch." She was awesome.

Support your local herp

We shall post pictures upon our return. Information here. Come get over your fears! Then you can feed our pets when we go on vacation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Feather therapy

The best part of the long weekend was getting to spend quality time with the birdies. I really wish I could teach them to play with balls and string and bits of toys, but they seem to only want to eat, sleep and preen. We took them outside quite a bit as the weather was beautiful, and they enjoyed running about on the lawn:

They seemed to especially enjoy the sunshine and the accompanying sleepiness:

When we were weeding yesterday, we brought them out in the smaller, portable cage, and they spent a good two hours in a grooming orgy, with fluff flying and keratin flaking. Playing on the iPod at the time was the Tiki Room soundtrack, and the birds were deeply confused as to where all the fascinating bird sounds were coming from, and cheeped along merrily with the Tiki Chant. When I finally had to separate them so we could leave the house and go to barbecue #2, we could hear the cries of dismay as we drove away. I think they were convinced that we've come to our senses and finally put them in the same cage permanently. If we wanted to come back to a bald Pierre, then we could. However, as we bought him for his pretty blueness, we'd have no use for him bald and would have to send him back.

Sanity, recovered.

I just returned from a luxurious four day weekend in which I performed twice and slept approximately as much as a traquilized narcoleptic. Get up? Why? I had no plans that couldn't be cancelled. The only problem with going back to sleep after waking up once is that I tend to have either nightmares or really intense sex dreams. Why? Couldn't tell ya. In between sweaty, heavy sleepiness, we weeded, cleaned, walked around the neighborhood, visited the Japanese Gardens with Tara and Lee, ate much grilled cow, lit things on fire (emits showers of sparks!), watched Will and Grace reruns, played with the birds and only took showers prior to leaving the house. The laptop heaved a last sigh and generated a kernel panic, so I couldn't even play Bookworm. Oh, and I got an excrutiating and marvelous massage in my livingroom. It was a good pain, never mind the screaming.

As most family outings begin by our smacking our heads for not remembering to bring the camera, Christian stapled it to his hand this weekend as we knew there would be many fabulous chances to take pictures of me screaming, "Don't take a picture of me!" At the Japanese Gardens, we got to combine two of my favorite things: herpetology and the elderly. We each purchased a bag of koi food that is much beloved by the resident red eared sliders in the pond as well, so we got to feed all the wildlife. Every time a turtle would open its mouth to eat, one of the four of us would make a sound that a turtle would make if eating in an animated film. Yes, we're five, and yes, we like cartoons. We're just providing the soundtrack.

The tour guide was an adorable and quite aged little woman who could not have been less than 85. She walked us around at a leisurely pace and I wanted to carry her at certain points as she was a little tottery. The best I could do was offer an arm.

Christian and I also took a long walk around the neighborhood yesterday as my legs were going to leap from my body in protest if I didn't get some exercise, so we took the opportunity to photograph our favorite house:

It's hard to tell, but the entire house is edged in brick and faced in some kind of river rock. It's enormous, extending back about twice as deep as our house, and has a matching little garden shed. The only house for which I'd sell mine.

And then there was an unidentified klassy neighbor, although I do agree with the sentiment:

Enlarge the picture. Yep, that's our neighborhood.