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.

2009-03-10breadsticksAt this very moment I am making breadsticks. I am working on the 9th batch this week. Counting this batch, I have three more to go. I must hurry because I only have a couple of hours to do a lot of things.

I am making breadsticks for the wedding in which I wear the wonderful dress. I had to get the dress altered. It would never zip up, and my winter of being sick three times (third time currently) has not allowed for lots of any exercise. The person who altered it (for an unbelievably good price) made loops and lacing in the back. It is actually very pretty. But although I love the color of the dress (which is not truly represented in this picture), as predicted my March skin does not look too terrific in it. I should have gone to get a spray tan, but no time or energy. There are chocolate shawls (which I have yet to model), so I am hoping that will be advantageous.

2009-03-12dresslacingHere is the funny part about the dress. The person who picked out the dresses and purchased them (in another state–not the bride) is a size “0.” Yes, it’s true. I will admit, here online (I cannot believe I am doing this) to being a size 10. (I have no idea what this corresponds to in non-American sizes.)  The dresses were small for everyone. The size 0 purchaser got herself a size 6 because that is what fit her. She got everyone else a dress at least two sizes bigger than their actual size. Everyone but me, that is. Mine was a size 12. It should have been at least a 14, or according to her own purchase, a 16. But mine was a 12 and did not fit. Thus the alterations.

But as I was earlier this week  picking up MY perfect dress, I learned from the Bride (who always went with me to the fittings because the seamstress was a lady who does not speak English, and I do not speak Spanish) that Size 0’s dress does not fit anymore. She gained weight, and it does not fit.  At this point, no one is sure what she is going to do about it. Me? Forgive my snicker!

For those of you that were concerned about my parenting skills a couple of posts ago, let me say this:  My children are well-behaved and happy. I recently went to a birthday party in which there were 7 children all between the ages of my 2 daughters. (Nearly 5 and 7.)  There were three well-behaved children of the seven. Mine were two of them. There were three happy children of the seven. Mine were two of them. (The other well-behaved and other happy child were not the same child.) This is not an isolated incident. I do not want to get into giant discussions about parenting. That post was written for humor. And there is a lot more I could say on this topic, the birthday party, and parenting in general, but I am not the type to judge other people’s styles of parenting. (And I am not saying my children and well-behaved and happy every single minute of every single day. They are not. But the general trend is happy and well-behaved.)

2009-03-08bubbleplayToday’s post is not a SkyWatch post because I will not be able to do my regular SkyWatch visiting. I am having a medical procedure this afternoon relating to this problem. It involves sedation which is known to make me feel rotten for a good week.  (And of course I would rather feel rotten for a week than feel REALLY rotten for an hour!) Our wireless network does not work with my computer. (Prince Charming needs to get on that.) I am assuming I will be in bed this afternoon and evening, so I will not be visiting you, either.  The wedding is this Sunday, and festivities for us begin tomorrow evening when the groom arrives as our guest. I am hoping the doctor will give me something to take if I feel really horrible.  Sunday not only am I in the wedding, but I am one of the photographers. I will not be taking pictures at the church, but a few hours before the wedding at a park. I really, really, REALLY hope I feel good!  But thank goodness once the breadsticks are in the freezer, I am off of food duty!

Not for SkyWatch, but I couldn't help myself.

Not for SkyWatch, but I couldn't help myself.

So that is my current life in a nutshell. Exciting, I know. But I hope to be around a bit more next week. Although I will be babysitting my niece and nephew (ages 7 and 12) while the bride and groom are on their honeymoon. Maybe I will just stay in bed next week, too!

 

This picture is of Chic and Chicklet at this year’s Independence Day Parade. That has nothing to do with this post, but I thought you might like to know when it was taken.

 

Today I thought I would tell you a little about those two sunbeams in my life.  OK, one of them is more of a storm cloud a lot some of the time, but when she is sweet, she is really sweet.  At those times she makes up for all the bad in the world, not just her own.

 

Chic is 6.  In just over two weeks she will be entering first grade.  I am not a big fan of the school year in general, and especially not fond of it beginning on August 11.  I don’t care if school is out mid-May.  The pool is not open then.  It is often still cold then.  I would be much happier starting after Labor Day and going until Memorial Day (and cutting a couple of days off of the newly-lengthened Spring Break.)  But I do not make the schedule, and neither do the immediate administrators at the school, so I have to deal with it.  But this was about Chic, not school. 

 

 

Chic loves school.  She thrives there.  She entered Kindergarten reading (through no fault of my own.  I try to provide a learning environment, but my attempts at “teaching” her anything have all pretty much been dismal failures.), and left reading rather well in my opinion.  She can sit down and get through books beyond her grade level and can figure out most words.  I would say by the end of first grade, she’ll be reading “real” books all the time and all the way through.  She loves reading.  She has always loved my reading to her, which I still do almost daily (unless it’s a pool day, and sometimes even then).  And here is what she said to me this week before a story time:

 

“Mommy, I love reading.  It makes me feel like I am inside the story and living a completely different life.”

 

Really, how much happier could any mom be than to have a statement like that come out of her 6-year-old’s mouth?  That’s exactly what I love about reading (doesn’t everyone?) and exactly why I want my children to love to read.  It was definitely one of those “success moments.”  There are always rewarding things about motherhood, but most often, at least to me, they are unexpected.  This was so rewarding, I suppose, because it was a set goal in my own mind a long, long time ago, and I actually got there.

 

Here are a couple of other amusing things to come from Chic’s mouth recently, totally unrelated to the above…

 

At Vacation Bible School this summer our church was participating in a nationwide project called “Bottles of Love” in which each child was given a water bottle to drink, then refill with loose change to raise money to build wells on Navajo reservations.  They were supposed to bring change back every day, so I had Prince Charming get a bunch of change from the bank in order to fill the bottles (for both girls) about 1/3 full each day.  The first day when we were getting ready to go to VBS, I noticed Chic’s water bottle was more than half-full.  I was concerned she had found the money and used more, meaning we would not have enough for the whole week without another trip to the bank.  So I asked her where she got the money.  She replied, “From my piggy bank.”  Now let me state that she does not get regular contributions for her piggy bank.  Prince Charming and I give the girls a little once in a while, but definitely not often, and our girls do not have friends and family with pockets full of change for them.  So I asked, “Did you use ALL of it?”

  “No,” she said.  “I left a little.  I have to keep something to live!”

 

Had to admire the generosity, yet sensibility of her thought processes there!

 

Another amusing thing she said was in regard to a babysitter coming to watch the girls while I had a meeting and Prince Charming was out-of-town.  Usually babysitters are called (4-6 times a year) for our “date nights.”  So Chic asked, “Since we’re having a babysitter, is Daddy coming back for a date night?”  I told her he was not and like I told her before I had to go to a meeting.  She remembered.  Then she said, “Why do you have “date nights” anyway?  Don’t you already know each other?”

 

Chicklet is four.  She is the storm cloud, but she actually started life as a hurricane and has improved with age.  I have been known to say on more than one occasion, “She became tolerable after she turned three.”  Sounds horrible of me, doesn’t it?  But it is true.  Maybe sometime I will write about her early days, including before she was born, but for now I will just stick with the fact that the older she gets, the more wonderful she gets.  I do not ever miss the passing of time with her.  When Chic went to Kindergarten last year I was concerned Chicklet would regress to one of her former selves, but she actually got even better.  I think she was meant to be an only child.  She is an absolute JEWEL when it is just she and I at home.

 

Chicklet is clever and savvy.  She doesn’t give a rip about learning, and she will not start Kindergarten until she is six.  She has been able to roll her eyes appropriately since about 18 months.  Her sense of humor is beyond her years.  She warms up to men better than women most of the time, and she pretty much wraps everyone around her finger.  (Except her mommy.)

 

When we were in Missouri in May, some good friends had the girls over for an afternoon.  That would be the girls without their mommy, which meant Mommy could go shopping alone.  (Louise hates shopping and usually only does it when out-of-town.)  I cannot remember the details of this story, but it was something like I am telling you.  After a fun afternoon, there was talk of bringing the girls back to me.  Chicklet was astounded, and said she was going to spend the night with the friends.  The wife of the couple said, “Well, we were not really planning on having you spend the night.” 

 

Chicklet:  That’s OK, I can stay anyway

Wife:  Hmmm…  we really don’t have a place for you to sleep.

Chicklet:  That’s OK.  I can sleep in your bed.

Wife:  I don’t think there is room enough for three in my bed.

Chicklet:  That’s OK.  You can sleep on the floor.

 

By Louise Cannon