There are not many types of birds that frequent my back yard on a regular basis.

Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves

What I do get are mourning doves, pigeons (which I have finally given up trying to rid my yard of), hummingbirds, Bullock’s Orioles and House Finches. (This is for the present. The winter mix is a bit different.)

PigeonsThere is also an occasional roadrunner, as well as the occasional hawk which finds the bird feeders a place to find a sure lunch. (The hawk rarely succeeds, but I have seen it score a time or two.)

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

Roadrunner-I love Roadrunners!

By far, the House Finches are the most plentiful birds to frequent our feeders.

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Typical of the amount of House Finches swarming around the feeder

Our pets include two cats and a dog. One cat is a bird hunter. I argue with myself over my feeding birds to “lure them in” for my cat to catch. But the fact is that the only ones she catches are House Finches. Why is this? The birds are not very smart. This does not mean that I do not try to deter her, chasing the birds away when I see she is in stalking mode, or trying to save the ones she gets (a couple a week, but the death rate is very low), but sometimes I think they have it coming. (I realize how stupid I am to make such a statement online. If you want to yell at me about animals, go somewhere else. No one loves animals more than I do.)

SirenStalking

This is my bird stalker. A finch is less than two feet from her in front of the green bush.

House Finches eat anything. This includes the hummingbird food and the oriole food. I do not really mind this, but one component of oriole food is grape jelly. Finches to not have the intelligence to eat it delicately, so they get it all over themselves. I have seen them stuck to the feeder (no pictures–when I see this, my first thought is to rescue them), and have seen them bouncing around the yard because grape jelly is all over them.  So I catch them (because they pass out when under stress–also making it easy for the cats to catch them), and give them a bath.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch with grape jelly stuck to various parts of its body.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Finch "passed out" so it is no problem for me to catch.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

Bathing a finch to get the sticky jelly off of it.

What I have learned in the process of saving all these House Finches this summer is that most of them are babies. Many cannot fly at all. There are no parent birds around. Just babies kicked out to make it on their own in a world of cats and grape jelly. Babies that would not survive if a giant human were not around to rescue them over and over. What are those parent finches thinking???

Then there are the Bullock’s Orioles. Unlike the House Finch youth who appear to get kicked out of the nest before they can even fly, the orioles feed their young when they are fully capable of feeding themselves and fly well. The orioles teach their young where to find food and how to get it.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding offspring. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Male Bullock's Oriole feeding two offspring and showing them how to use the oriole feeder.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

Two young Bullock's Orioles at the oriole feeder where they made complete pigs of themselves.

So what does this have to do with human parenting?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a staff meeting at my daughter’s school.  When I learned they were extending the school day by half-an-hour, I had to speak up.

Let’s just say I have huge issues with homework. I am not opposed to children bringing home the occasional (infrequent) homework because they did not complete their work in school (largely due to misuse of time) or a project, but schools have our kids for 7 or more hours a day. Tell me why they cannot get work finished then? I do not believe in homework just for the sake of it. Last year my daughter had spelling homework. I begged the teacher to give it to the students at the beginning of the day so they could work on it during their down time at school. This never happened. Most kids have time if they use it wisely. So during this discussion I raised my hand and said I would have to strongly object to homework if the school day were half-an-hour longer.  Her teacher’s response was, “You are the only parent who does not want her children to have homework. Most parents beg for more.”

WHAT????

My incredulity was apparent. The replies were that parents do not know what to do with their children at home, so they want them to have more homework.

So it made me think of the birds.  The House Finches seem to be the type of parents as some of the parents of children in my school. They have babies, send them to school and think their job is over. (Without me, at least twenty House Finch babies would be dead this summer.)

Forgive me if I see myself more as a Bullock’s Oriole parent. I have children, I spend time with them, I teach them things like responsibility and how to act (not that they always do it perfectly). I truthfully love summer and vacations because our schedule is more relaxed and we can do more things. This is not to say that I spend every second with my children.  I NEVER play with my kids. I never have. OK, a little at the park (rare) and games and in the  yard. But not once have I sat down and played dolls or Barbie’s with them. (I would probably have to shoot myself from the boredom.) They do those things on their own. They have lots of play time. But our together time is structured. We practice school subjects. We do crafts and art . Science projects. Exercise. Cook. Read. Once in a great while watch movies. My kids do not watch television at all or have any video games. (They do watch a short educational video daily during my shower.)  During the summer about 2-3 hours per day of my time is spent directly with my kids. The rest of the day they know very well how to entertain themselves.  Why? Because I taught them to do that.

This week's art project. These are "hipps" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This week's art project. These are "hippos" based on a 4000-year-old Egyptian sculpture. (I use books. I do not come up with this stuff on my own!)

This is not me being self-righteous or condemning parents who parent differently than I do. My choice of activities is personal to our family, but children are not just creatures to be ignored in hopes someone else teaches them (or saves them from the cat). Just don’t ask the school to oversee your children (extra homework) during the after-school hours and vacations. I do not want that for my children or my family. We have plenty to do here without busywork from school.

And I realize that working parents have a different kind of time with their children than I do since I am a stay-at-home mom. But all I can say is that if I were working and had just a couple of hours daily with my children, I would not want them to be doing homework during that time.

Note: This is not an attack on anyone. I know most of my readers with school-age children are amazing parents. This is more about me, my opinions and why I have those opinions.

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Mom's Donkey

Mom's Donkey

Yesterday I went to a funeral.  It was for a man from my church who suffered from a stroke about three weeks ago while recovering from a long illness.  He was a funny old man. 

It was the second funeral I have attended since my mother passed away in early December of 2006.  The other funeral was for a dear friend who passed away unexpectedly.  He was like a grandfather to Chic and Chicklet, especially Chicklet (who we have previous established has special relationships with men).  His funeral was in our church.  The one yesterday was in a funeral home.

Yesterday’s funeral had a couple of things that I thought were unusual.  The first was that there was a social time afterwards in the funeral home (which is what was completely new to me) that had appetizers–potluck style.  Chicklet was with me, and the service had already cut severely into her nap time, so I dropped off my dainty tidbits and left.  The other thing was that the during the service, the funeral director pulled every card from every floral arrangement and had the greetings read to the entire group sitting there.  Although I was not offended by this, I can think of a few reasons why that might not be a good idea.  It also took a very long time (cards were being pulled as the reading was happening).  We were already well past an hour of actual service, and Chicklet (age 4) was about fed up with quietly sitting still.

But through all of this, I did not mind being at the funeral home…

Funerals are not something I like.  OK, who likes them?  But I detest funerals.  By the time I turned eleven years old, I had been to well over 25 funerals that I could remember.  My father’s aunts and uncles were old.  My parents helped out old people.  We just seemed to be connected to a lot of people that died, and I had my fill of funerals at an early age.  Personally, the necessity of funerals had escaped me.  I have never thought I needed a funeral for closure.  To me they are mostly a time of misery.  A few forced laughs to check the flow of tears periodically, but overall not something necessary in my world.

Funerals are, however, necessary for most Americans, so whether you like it or not, when someone dies, there is usually going to be a funeral.

When my mom died the funeral was three days after her death.  Due to the circumstances of her death, and knowing what she would have wanted, my father, my brother and I decided to do it quickly and simply with no fanfare.  My mother’s family did not appreciate this at all and made the whole thing a big ordeal by their interference.  Their wishes were not granted.  (This is a completely different story, but they spent a lifetime making my mother’s and father’s lives miserable, so I was pretty firm about not bowing to their desires.  It was just their desires, and I knew it was against everything in which my mother believed.)  Since that time they have on their own done things to make my mother’s passing more to their liking, but at the time it was not at all to their liking. 

I was not with my mother when she died.  I knew she was going to die, and I had been there eight days before.  Had she lived I would have returned four days later, but I did not live close, and it was not possible for me to be there the entire time.  As we were driving back to Missouri after we learned of her passing, we got countless phone calls from my mother’s family, my mother’s caretaker and my father’s family all telling their side of whatever story and why we should do this or this or that, or complaining about some other party that had been calling us.  As was often the case before her death (years before), everyone was mad at everyone, and I was supposed to fix it.  At this time I probably was the logical person because my father and brother had been in the thick of things until the end, and neither of them had the emotional stamina to deal with selfish people.  Because selfish is what they were.  The reasons given why we should do this or that was never in consideration of my mother, her husband or her children.

Apparently, these people will never learn that it is unwise to order me around.  Making absurd demands of me, especially at a time like this, meant that I would do the exact opposite, if that was possible.  The only reason those people got anything the way they wanted was that I was on the road when my dad was at the funeral home, and he caved to one demand–to have a funeral.  (I would have had a private graveside service, which is what my mother wanted.)

Funerals are never pleasant events, and they tend to bring out the worst in people.  I do not think that was the case with my mother’s funeral because her family always has their worst on display.  For some crazy reason my mouth would still drop open at their unbelievable selfish behavior (shouldn’t I have been used to that after 41 years living around them?), but they were no different at the funeral than in daily life. 

Since I hated funerals, I was truly dreading this one.  I did not want a bunch of people comforting me.  The circumstances of my mother’s death (she had a 9-year illness that rendered her unable to take care of herself all those years) meant that I would have to put on the fake smile to many insincere people offering condolences.  Maybe some were truly sorry about our loss, but many ditched both of my parents when my mother’s illness began.  I have always been honest (brutally honest in the opinion of some), not false.  Politeness in this case would call for being deceptive, which I not only dislike, but think is wrong. 

The funeral went better than expected.  The family room at the funeral home was open to my dad, my brother, my mother’s caretaker, me and my family.  The other family was irritated that they were prohibited from being there, but their irritation was more than fine with me.  When it was over, I was relieved and just happy to be done with it…

Back to yesterday.  As I sat in the funeral home, I was comfortable.  It was not anything about it specifically (the sound system was bad, the decor was extremely dated, the service was too long and had odd additions to it), but just being there.  I thought about it the whole time I sat there and finally came to the conclusion that it was comfortable because I connected it to my mother.  The last time I had been in a funeral home, it was for my mother’s funeral.  It was after her life ended, which had not been so wonderful for many years, and she was finally at peace.  The last time I saw her face (with WAY too much make-up; she did not wear makeup at all) was in a funeral home.  Seeing her lifeless form was not a comforting experience, but the last time I saw her face before that, it was wracked with pain and pleading eyes.  She could not talk for several years before her death, but her eyes communicated quite clearly.  Near the end her eyes spoke of fear, pain and “PLEASE LET THIS END!”  So I guess when I saw her again, she was at least in a restful state.  No more pain.  No more family garbage.  Just rest. 

So as I sat there yesterday, I suppose my reflections were what they should have been at my mother’s funeral, had that time not been laced with so much emotion and family political posturing.  I had time to process and be comforted.  It was nice.

by Louise Cannon

A few days ago I wrote about something I try to do as a legacy for my mother.  Today is something that falls along similar lines.

 

My mother loved birds.  It was actually a strange kind of love.  She was terrified of being near birds outside, something about their wings flying around her .  I have no idea where she got that phobia.  I cannot think of anything else that frightened her; she was one tough broad.  But although she did not want birds flying around her, probably in her top three favorite things in the world to do was watch birds.  She had lots (I mean LOTS) of bird feeders.  At the last house in which she lived, the lawn was 3 acres.  She had feeders of all sorts scattered under and near trees throughout that yard and hanging from the porch eaves.  She would also put cracked corn on a wide spot of the driveway by the garage to feed the mourning doves.

 

Although I was never afraid of birds and did not mind looking at them occasionally, I never really got into watching them.  She would love to point out a new one that would come to the feeders. (Once a strange sort of hummingbird was way off course and was at her house for a few days.  Some people from a local conservation office came to check it out.)  I would be interested, but only casually.  The only time the interest became greater is when my parents would leave town and yours truly got the posh job of filling the feeders.  My mother filled the feeders three. times. a. day at a minimum of 30 minutes for each round.  I did it twice a day in her absence, on the way to work and on the way home. 

 

When Prince Charming and I got married, he expressed an interest in having bird feeders.  One year for a birthday or Christmas, I purchased a very nice pole and feeders for him.  It was his job to keep the feeders full.  I liked watching the yellow finches come to it, but I preferred watching them on my giant sunflowers that took up half the garden. (I have always loved looking at flowers.)

We moved to the desert where there were no songbirds at all, at least none where we lived.  We did not put up our feeder after we moved.

 

Last year (nearly 5 years after moving), the homeowners association patrol noticed our bird feeder lying by the side of our house (where it had been since we moved) and sent us a none-too-friendly letter about it not being appropriate there.  This was just a couple of months after my mother’s death, and I had already been thinking I wanted to watch birds a little more.  We decided to put it up.   (Prince Charming’s father had also been into feeding birds, and had passed away recently as well, so it was easy for both of us to decide to put up a feeder again.)

 

During the summer I fill the feeders twice a day and could probably do it three or four times, but I refuse.  What kinds of birds we get?  House finches and pigeons and a few mourning doves.  The house finches are OK, but they are everywhere.  And the yellow finches do not come much when the house finches are around.  The house finches will eat almost anything, so it isn’t like I can change the diet out there to make them leave so something more interesting will come.

 

But we have a jewel that comes to our house.  Bullock’s Orioles.

 

The first time I saw one I gasped.  (I guess I gasp a lot when things are beautiful.  I do that all the time when I open Sky Watch Friday pictures.)  We do not have cardinals or blue jays here (the showier birds I was accustomed to from southwest Missouri), but periodically we get a glimpse of the orioles. 

 

We have a yellow Bird of Paradise tree/bush not far outside our back door.  Little did I know when planting it that Bullock’s Orioles come there for a feast.  They are terribly skittish birds, and nearly every picture I have of them is from inside the house, through the window.  (The pictures in this post are the best I have from this summer and last.  I do not believe the scarcity of good pictures is due only to my lack of ability to take good pictures!) When I first saw them last year, I did not know what they were eating from the tree until I enlarged some pictures and saw the worms in their mouths. 

 

The tree only blooms for a short time, then the birds go elsewhere.  This year we got an oriole feeder.  The orioles still come since the flowers have gone, but not as frequently.  But what do you think eats most of the jelly from the oriole feeder now that the orioles are not here as much?  The house finches! I do not want to go so far as to scare the finches away, but it does get a little irritating to see an oriole finally light on the feeder, only to fly away (before I can even move toward my camera) because the finches ate all the jelly!

 

Last week, however, I received a special treat.  A male was on the tree getting the last of the worms from the tree and a little grape jelly from the feeder, then taking it to a young oriole in a nearby tree.  The male was so busy that I actually got the lens of my camera out the door and took a couple of pictures before they both flew away. 

 

The orioles have made me interested in watching birds.  They have made me want to build a life list of birds.  They are the reason I started going to blogs like 10,000 Birds and Virtua Gallery.  I wish my mother could have seen them.

 

By Louise Cannon