Knuffle

This is Knuffle:

37378053_10214793366700502_7741432092931653632_n.jpg

We found him in the grass, in the backyard, on July 17. He’s been a quiet pet, really. Boring, maybe, but pretty undemanding. He just asks for somewhere warm, and to peek at him from time to time.

IMG_20180719_182124625.jpg

Honestly, I don’t know if he’s a live egg or not. I did try to candle him, but there was nothing to be seen at all. A little research tells me that pigeon eggs won’t show anything under candling until they’ve been brooded (kept warm) for nine days, and since we didn’t know the providence of this egg, we decided to assume he hadn’t been brooded at all. So we’ve been keeping him warm for nine days. Maybe not ideal conditions – definitely not ideal conditions – but we had to try something. People who know about birds in our neighborhood told us that 1) pigeon eggs are hard to brood and 2)it’s really not worth it to try. So under the circumstances, even with poor care, we’re the best chance this little guy’s got.

 

Why Knuffle? The kids named the egg Knuffle, because Mo Willems writes books about a IMG_20180726_133758169_2.jpgmischievous Pigeon, and books about a stuffed animal named Knuffle Bunny. (That’s the kind of house we live in.) There is a crossover book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, wherein we get to see that Pigeon has a stuffed Knuffle of his very own. What else would we have named this little egg?

 

Are we sure it’s a pigeon? Of course we are. Because hatching a dove would be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and without a license, hatching one would be illegal. I’m pretty sure that the birds in the neighbor’s tree are pigeons, anyway. But, even if this does turn out to be a live egg, and turns out to be a dove, the recipe I found online for pigeon milk supposedly works for doves, too, and once it’s hatched, there is a real bird rehabber around the corner who will take a baby bird – he just doesn’t do eggs – so I’ll turn Knuffle over appropriately.

Anyway, it’s been 9 days! Today, we candle! Do we have a live egg? Let’s find out!
The first thing we learned, is that it’s pretty hard to use an actual candle. A plain old flashlight works much, much better.

To me, it pretty much looks like no one is home. The kids, however, are unconvinced. So, we looked up pictures of what we should have seen. There’s not a lot of love for pigeon eggs out there, but we cobbled some info together. It seems that most eggs at this age will have a dark blob on the “big” end of the egg, opposite the air bubble, and a visible network of blood vessels. I don’t see any of that (though you can clearly see the air bubble, to bottom of the right-hand photo).

However, pigeon eggs only take 18-19 days to incubate. So, since Knuffle is such a quiet pet, and doesn’t really take that much space, the kids have convinced me that keeping it warm for ten more days, just in case, isn’t really that huge of a burden. So, I guess I’ll update this post, with pictures, if we have a pip in ten days. I’m not ambitious that we will, but stranger things have happened.

The next thing I learned, is that even if we don’t have a pigeon, I might have hatched a monster. The feed store down the road sells newly-hatched chickens, and I have two kids who are now fascinated by the very idea of raising birds. They’ve tried to convince me that having a hen would be an investment. (I think our chance of buying chicks is just as high as our chance of hatching a squab, but, again, stranger things have happened.)

I love the idea of pigeons. – George Foreman

 

 

Advertisements

Hobbies

Chapter 11 of the Mommy Rule Book is, If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.

Not because everyone needs to cater to you, but because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of anyone else, either.

Don’t lose yourself. Have a hobby.

I’m posting these here, mostly because I don’t want to lose them.

(And also, because I’m leaving these in the workbook/coloring book/craft table, and I want clean copies to come back to.)

I like to draw mazes. Partly because they’re fun to work once they’re done, and partly because, like working a jigsaw puzzle, it’s kind of zenny to make them.

Mazes

Waiting for the School Bus

Middle school is a crazy time.

I’m thinking I’ll probably have a whole collection of thoughts to gather together on that, later.

But I’m taking a minute, right now, to remember today.

See, I walk my middle-schooler to the bus stop. Every day. Our elementary school is only for our neighborhood, and as such, we don’t have bus service until middle school, so this is new this year, but it’s nice.

I trust her to walk herself. It’s a half-block, around the corner, and then another half-block, with maybe a dozen other kids, all middle-schoolers, waiting for the same bus. Quiet, residential street. I don’t walk her because I don’t think she’ll be okay – I walk her because I need to know everything else in her life is okay. This is a dedicated moment, amidst all the hustle and bustle of getting kids and self ready for school and work, dropping off sister at her own school, errands, chores, and the ephemera of real life – we walk, every morning, just the two of us, to the bus stop. And her daddy and I take turns picking her up. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we talk about favorite books or new television shows or what’s going on in PE or whether she likes math or if that boy was being obnoxious again or what we heard about on the news. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, really – we’re together, in a dedicated moment, every day, by appointment.

But today, my kid stopped me before the usual drop-off spot. Just where we turn the corner. It’s not that much shorter, but….

But my kid is growing up, I guess.

And I guess that is one of the most important mommy rules, isn’t it?

Our job is to grow children – into adults.

Oh, I know we’re a long way away from that. But I think that maybe this is how it begins, isn’t it – a half-block from the bus stop.

Happy Left-Hander’s Day!

images

It’s Left-hander’s Day!

Generally speaking, lefties are more likely to use both hands comfortably than righties are. Personally, I think that this is probably because it’s sometimes just easier to use the computer mouse as it is, or because steak restaurants tend to have table knives that are beveled to favor righties, or the scissors at the craft table are all righties, or the swipers on credit card machines are almost all built to favor use with a right hand, or whatever. (The Edinburgh Inventory is a ranking of how “handed” a person is. I’m personally about 40 points left of ambidextrous. Would you like to know where you rank? There’s a little test here.)

As it turns out, the habit of switching hands might be good for your brain.

It seems to be popularly suggested that using your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks builds additional connections and pathways in your brain.

Now, think of your brain like a library. Everything you know – from algebra to how to brush your teeth – is on a shelf in the Brain Library. A physical library has different pathways – main aisles and side aisles, shelves can usually be reached from either end, and sometimes even through the bookcases. Then, for whatever reason, the roof collapses! And you very much need some piece of information, but the main aisle is completely blocked. That’s quite all right – you know how to access the needed information by walking down a side aisle or reaching through the stacks. Those multiple pathways come in handy.

In the real world, brain damage and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia are very similar to those roof cave-ins.

The more neural pathways you have, the less devastating that cave-in is. The damage is still there, to be sure, but you have taught your brain how to do things in different ways.

Give it a try. Go out and be sinister today! Try and be a lefty (even if just to brush your teeth) – your brain will thank you!
Note: I first encountered the brain-as-a-library analogy when listening to an episode of the podcast “Two Guys on Your Head.” (I’ll update when I’ve tracked down which one.) For the whole catalog:

http://kut.org/term/two-guys-your-head

Additional reference:

http://www.awakeningfromalzheimers.com/what-being-right-or-left-handed-says-about-alzheimers-risk/

Speak Out

20597484_10212146208803209_5210762568885632133_n.jpg

We are trying to raise kids who are comfortable navigating in their world.

With that in mind, there was an opportunity this week that we simply couldn’t pass up. The kids and I attended a rally at the Texas Capital, and I have some thoughts I’d like to share.

The rally was kid-oriented; two Representatives, Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston), read The Lorax, and we then discussed the bill in question, HB70, which prohibits all political subdivisions from creating any regulations regarding trees and other vegetation. I had already told my kids about the bill, and what it meant, and we went to this event only after they agreed it was something they’d like to speak out about.
Texas Campaign for the Environment then had some lobbyists delivering copies of the book to different Representatives. We tagged along, and though the House was still meeting, we did get to speak with some staffers. The whole thing was an interesting experience, and I know that not everyone shares our viewpoint, but I think there are some things that apply to everyone, and I’d like to share what we learned.
This experience taught me – and the kids – that speaking out about your opinion doesn’t have to be scary – even if it WAS intimidating at first. We went to five offices, and everyone we spoke with was quite pleasant, and even welcoming. It was a wonderful opportunity to remind my kids that we have every right to be there, and speak to the people who represent us.
We learned that sometimes, your allies might surprise you, or even hold a slightly different opinion. Some of the people protesting this bill were doing so because they love trees; some were protesting because they thought it was a slippery slope to other environmental issues, and some protests were not about trees at all, but were people who want to preserve local government’s right to regulate local concerns.

It was also a very neat way to remind the kids that if you don’t tell people – or your government – what you are thinking, then they don’t know.Aside from our gentle little foray into political activism, we made a whole day of it. We spent the day walking around the capital city, riding public transportation, and talking to people and taking in the public art, all of which goes back to the goal of comfort in navigating your world. (I realize that there are places where this is not a big deal, but for those of us in Texas: we love our cars, and we are well out in the suburbs. Public transportation and learning how to safely walk on a city street are experiences that we have to actively seek out!)

Go out and be brave! Ride the bus, talk to a stranger, voice your opinion!
Speak your mind even if your voice shakes. — Maggie Kuhn

The Zen of the Jigsaw

I sat down with my kids on a recent, rainy summer afternoon, to lay out a jigsaw puzzle on our coffee table.

I love jigsaw puzzles. My mom and I used to work puzzles together. I have very specific dallas jigsaw.jpgmemories of having puzzles strewn across the formal dining room table. Specifically, I remember the Dallas yellowpages puzzle, and the night before christmas jigsaw.jpggreen Night Before Christmas puzzle. (Funny, I guess other people remember them, too – a very quick googling brought them up right away.)

 

I have so many other puzzle memories, too. Working the US Postal Carousel puzzle on the coffee table, watching the news, when the famous OJ Simpson white Bronco car chase was going on. Spreading out the Paris Cafe puzzle on my apartment kitchen table. Working the Visit from St. Nicholas puzzle on my own kitchen table, while my oldest baby sat in her high chair next to me, eating (read: playing with) her afternoon snack. Spreading the blocks from the kids’ farm puzzle all over the living room floor. Having a collage of all the kids’ puzzles spread on the coffee table. Sitting up way too late with my husband, working puzzles on the puzzle board. Spreading a tablecloth over the puzzle on the kitchen table so we can have lunch; giving up and going out for dinner, because every hard surface in the house is covered with a different in a jigsaw in progress.

Yes, I love jigsaws puzzles.

I once had a coworker who confessed that she didn’t like them, and didn’t understand them. “What do you do with them when you’ve finished it?” And it’s not just her – I’ve heard other people express similar sentiments.


In January of 2013, my oldest daughter and I had the amazing opportunity to witness a group of monks from the Drepung Loseling Monestary, as they worked towards creating a sand mandala in the atrium of one of our local university’s art museums. A sand mandala is designed with the specific purpose in mind of destroying it when it is finished. It is meant to represent the impermanence of material life, and its value is not in the having, but in the creating. The act of its assembly is a sort of meditation.


The concept of mindfulness seems to be something that our culture struggles with more and more. There is a facebook ad that keeps popping up on my news feed, encouraging me to just breathe for 15 seconds. There is a dutch trend called “hygge” (pronounced hoo-guh), which really doesn’t have an direct English translation, but which basically means being mindfully cozy. Do a quick google search on “stress addiction” – it seems that being addicted to cortisol – the hormone released when the body is placed under stress – is a thing.


My jigsaw puzzles get assembled; displayed on the table for a day or two; carefully (and completely) disassembled and returned to their boxes; stored on a shelf for a year or more; and greeted once again like the old friends that they are, for the process to begin again.

Despite the display and the return, the joy is in the peaceful assembly. The gentle, quiet, socialness of sitting with a friend or loved one over the project, and the ritual of working the same Christmas puzzles, year after year after year.

For many of us, I suspect it is the closest we will get to creating our own sand mandalas.

I would like to make a humble, and perhaps biased, suggestion for all of us who are searching for peace and mindfulness. It might be time to just sit down, and work a jigsaw puzzle.

 

There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.  – Deepak Chopra

To be, or not to be.

O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.   – Reinhold Niebuhr

Fairy tales are full of people who won’t share their name, because it gives power. The stories say that if you give someone your true name, then they have some control over you. But maybe, just maybe, fairy stories have some sort of distant relative in reality. Superstitions, after all, are based in practicality – it’s bad luck to open an umbrella in the house, but only because something as unwieldy as an umbrella is likely to knock over and break something.

I’ve never really felt in control of anything, and I wonder if that’s why I’ve always felt awkward when I’m introducing myself to people. I invariably mumble, and then they have to ask again, and then I have to tell them again. I dread being asked what my name is. Is the mumbling caused by the dread? Or is the mumbling caused by distaste? When I was a kid, the first person I had met who shared the same name had already claimed the only logical nickname. It had never occurred to me until that point that there WAS a nickname for “Amanda,” and Mandy is the first person I remember being consciously jealous of.

(I did try, briefly, in high school, to claim the nickname “Alice,” because it sounded vaguely like my initials strung altogether, but I’m insecure enough to have hated it the very first time it was said mockingly, even though I’m sure the person only meant to be funny rather than mean. There is only one person left who still brings that up, and I can’t seem to get her to stop. My own fault, I suppose, for bringing it up in the first place. Que sera, sera.)

I’m not a terribly assertive person. “That’s not what I would have expected you to choose,” or “Oh, no, you really don’t want to do that,” and “We’re going to do it this way,” and “I want you to care about this,” are things I have been in the habit of capitulating to. I don’t confront decisions that I would not have made. I’ve been in the habit of consoling myself that situations are only temporary. That I can just go back and quietly and privately fix it later.

The problem is, when you aren’t assertive enough to do it right away, “later” keeps getting further and further away, and before you know it, temporary situations become long-term, and the starter house and furniture and miscellany of life that you bought 14 years ago, that really wasn’t what you wanted, has become the house you are going to stay in for at least another ten years until your youngest graduates from high school.

I’m afraid that this is who I am now, though. The last time I really tried to be assertive was ten years ago, and I was told that I was pregnant and hormonal, and throwing a temper-tantrum, so I’m kind of in despair that I will ever be taken seriously as someone capable of defiance of any kind. I’m trying to dig myself out right now, to say that “later” is finally here, but I think I let it go too long. I’m afraid it’s no longer possible, and that maybe, since I’ve always lacked the courage to change anything, it’s time to just accept.

I’m really very blessed. I know this. And in the end, I suppose this current sadness is really just another temper-tantrum. Maybe fairy stories have nothing to do with mumbling when you introduce yourself. Maybe fiction is beloved because it gives us the illusion that people exist who really do get to decide their own fate.

Maybe you all feel the same way, and I’m only just now coming to the same “what have I done with my life” mid-life crisis that everyone feels. If so, then I’m going to tell you something that you really need to hear: It’s okay to feel this way. I understand, and you aren’t alone.