Sunday, July 14, 2013

104 Days of Summer Vacation? Maybe Not, But It's Still Pretty Sweet

It has been a whirlwind summer for us so far. Not too many of the lazy days of summer here. Or are there?

Seattle beckoned the morning after school got out. The eldest went straight to church camp two days after we returned. Next we careened into VBS. And now, I'm rehearsing for the musical Annie at our church and preparing for church camp with the middle child. We have another trip in August right after Annie wraps.

Gymnastics, basketball and tumbling continue to energize and distract the kiddos as well, with day camps fit in here and there. Work and managing the chaos keeps us busy but we've also had plenty of friend time to fill in the spaces around these events and I am very thankful for the fellowship, fun and memories.

Pool time, sprinkler and popsicle time. Museum, family and treats time. Train rides, American Girl Dolls and Just Dance time. Library, golfing and trampoline time. Coffee and chatting time (Discussions of Dawgs and Dawters of cawse!) Thrift shop shopping time (I don't think we popped any tags, but I'm not really sure). Dinner, movie and laughter time (I'm talkin' to you: The Guru, Pork Chop, T-Bone, Sewer Rat and Queso Grande! We need to give The Nurse/Maid a nickname too!)

All of this has made Summer what it is supposed to be. Running kids in the dusk, sweaty and laughing, hoping to evade their bedtime for a few extra minutes. Damp and sticky faces, fresh from the swimming pool and otter pops. If fireflies could survive our blistering July heat, I know my kids would have jars full of them by now.

They definitely have bellies full of junk food-thank you Free Slurpee Day, Cow Appreciation Day and Happy Hour slushes! Junk food is even better when its free. Don't get all crazy, we have been slipping a steady diet of fruits and veggies in them this summer too. Some from our garden and some from gardens around the world, but all better in the summer-especially if they are shared with friends.

We continue to ignore piles of papers and clothes in favor of, well, anything else, but there will be plenty of time later for that. For now, we have just about six weeks left to "live deep and suck all the marrow out of life," so to speak. We don't get the luxury of Phineas and Ferb's "104 Days of Summer Vacation," but we can make the most of the 80 we do have. I am thankful for our friends and I hope you make some memories this week too!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Duck, Duck, Loose! Part 2 - Return of the Mallard

Well, as luck would have it, I can’t leave well enough alone. Remember our little duck friend from the other day? Good. I did too. That’s the problem. It was eating at me that we had so harshly turned our back on her when she needed help. I didn’t like the way the other catty, mean-girl ducks were quacking as we left her. They didn’t like her. You could tell.

So, we went back up to the pond the next day, to just look from afar and see how she was getting along in her new setting. We walked everywhere, man, we walked everywhere. No duck. She just wasn’t there. Feeling especially crummy and bad duck-neighborish, we went home.

It was nagging at me for a few hours so I rallied the troops, aided by my super-supportive and loving hubby who truly is a, “good man Charlie Brown”.

We rolled off in the family truckster, armed with water and little cups of ice cream to placate the whiners. Oh, and bug spray. Always bug spray. After choking our way through the DEET cloud, we walked down to the pond. While it seemed a fruitless pursuit after the afternoon’s failed excursion, we forged ahead anyway. After seeing no duck (did I mention we named her Yvette? Long story but it stems from the genius movie Clue) we stopped to have some water. I saw something moving on a nearby tennis court. Low and behold, it was Yvette!

How and why she made her way to the court is beyond me. The youngest child was busy sinking up to her knee in sludgy mud, the eldest preoccupied with her iTunes and headphones and the middle child wanted to climb the middle-school football obstacle course. Very concerned for the duck. I went and picked her up and filled my hand with water. She gulped it down for what seemed like forever. I don’t know how long she had been up on the court, but she was a pretty hungry and thirsty little duck.

We headed back to the car, successful, Yvette peeping along behind us. The unfortunate thing was that she had been rejected by the other ducks. Now what? Home, I guess.

We put her back in the sandbox pond in our yard, dug up some worms and caught a moth and some grasshoppers (this nice July weather must have them sluggish or something) and she gobbled away.

“That little girl is pretty hungry! She ate the biggest earthworm I ever saw,” said the youngest. “Well, almost the biggest. There was that one we saw in the rain that time and it got all stretched out because it was wet and the rain washed it on to the concrete and it was trying to find the dirt so it got really long and it was going to die because the sun was coming out and it couldn’t get to dirt so I moved it before the birds of the sun could get it. Do you remember?”

Yes, there was that one.

After a bit of splashing, snacking and preening, we tucked her in to an old cat kennel with a towel and a small dish of water for the night, hoping she would rest easy and get some strength back.

We called a duck rescue the next morning to set up a delivery. The nice lady is a teacher who lives on property with a pond. She rescues ducklings and raises them for release into the flock on her property and lets them make their way from there. She was delighted at the prospect of Yvette as she had a duckling, Mallory, that really needed a friend. (Yes, Mallory the Mallard).

We met at the PetsMart parking lot-seemed perfect for the drop. It was here that the youngest child staged her mutiny. Flinging herself over the kennel, she wailed, “I want to keeeeeeeeeep herrrrrrrr!!!!!!”

I explained the obvious and logical facts:

Yvette is a duck and we are not.
Ducks are social and need other ducks.
We have dogs.
Dogs eat ducks.
We have no pond.
Ducks like ponds.
Yvette is a mallard and mallards migrate so in 6 months, no more Yvette.

That did the trick, right?

Have you met the youngest? She’s got a bit of a stubborn streak.

“Nooooo, don’t take her! She loves us! I want to keep her!”

I had to pry her off to get the kennel out of the car. The nice duck rescuer and her daughter took Yvette out to transfer her to their kennel. She commented on how imprinted on humans Yvette was and how gentle. “She was probably somebody’s child’s pet and when she got bigger, they just let her go.”


At only about a month old, she still needed a mother’s guidance. For another month at least. The nice rescue folks said they would feed and love her until she started dismissing them in favor of other ducks. Then she would move out to the pond.

For the next three hours, the youngest intermittently cried and fell into despair. “I miss Yvette!”

We took them for ice cream and it seemed to get a little better.

Good luck Yvette! We know you will have a great life at the Duck Spa. Don’t forget to write!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Duck, Duck, Loose!

Yesterday we were minding our own business, just driving along on a sunny summer afternoon. But there in the road was a duckling, and it was decidedly out of the pond. Was it fate that I was wearing my “Happy Happy Happy” shirt yesterday? Perhaps. At any rate, we parked the car, crossed the road and cornered the little duck.

She was very sweet, and once we saved her from the street and got her calmed down we took her over to a pond and let her get a drink and forage around in the muck. She seemed very happy.

Happy, Happy, Happy.

You knew it was coming again-this story is perfect for Duck Dynasty references.

Anyway, what was most interesting was that she didn’t seem scared. She took us like a duck to, wait for it… water!

We searched the area for places she may have come from. No doubt she had already reenacted scenes from the book Are You My Mother? You know, the one where the baby bird goes to everything from a ditch digger to a big dog, asking, “Are you my mother?”

We took her on our own tour, going from one pond to another. A stop in at our vet elicited the terse, “We don’t do ducks.” Ummmmmm, okay.

"Yes, I ride in cars now."
We checked the shops where we last saw a mother duck and four babies of about that size. The last time we saw them there was plenty of green space but yesterday big construction equipment had torn up half of the place to build apartments. So the baby duck could have easily played out that scene from the book with the “Snort”.

Seriously, people, if you don’t remember that book, just go look it up. It’s a classic and you should re-read it for posterity.

We went back to the first pond near a mother duck with a few ducklings, but the mother took her babies and swam away. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) she seemed to imprint on us as her new family. As we left the pond, hoping she would stay with the ducks, she followed us. All the way to our car. She toddled along, peeping cheerfully as she went.

Hoooooowwwwww do you argue with that?

We decided to take her home (shocking) and do some more research on what to do with orphaned ducks. After a cursory Google search, I discovered that mallard babies aren’t on their own until they have feathered wings and can fly. Our little one only had little stumps with pinfeathers and some fuzz but no true feathers yet. She was able to hunt and get food on her own but couldn’t fly away if there was danger.

We put her in the back yard, after making sure the dogs were in the house-because you know they love a good snack. Fortunately we had acquired a new sandbox for the backyard but had not yet acquired sand. We filled the sandbox with water and got some slices of bread.

The hubby was very excited to see that we had brought home another wayward animal! I'm sure he was. At least I think he was. Was he?

This may or may not have been the first time I have tried to rescue or bring home a sad castoff or abandoned animal. Soooooo, maybe there's a trend.

We had to run around to pick up and transfer kids, so I put her in our fenced garden to see if that would keep her comfortable while we were gone. Lately we’ve had plenty of caterpillars and grasshoppers to squelch even the heartiest of duck appetites. She got to work quickly, running under the green beans and snagging grasshoppers.

This could be the start of a beautiful relationship, little duck! When we got back the duck was happily nestled underneath the fig tree and seemed to be no worse for the wear.

Every time I walked away, she started the high-pitched peeping like I’d abandoned her again. All of the kids brought their friends over to stare and pet the duck. And everyone's opinion was that we should keep her forever.

After much debate and research we determined that really we weren’t made to raise a duck. After all, we aren’t ducks. Also, we have dogs. We got a lot of glares from our offspring. What was that in their eyes? Disappointment? Betrayal? Sadness? Maybe all three. The eldest picked up the duck and we got back into the car. We tried again to find her mother. I suggested we take a “gander” around the shops. I didn't get a rim-shot from the eldest. I think I got more of a withering, “Reeeally?” type of a glance.

We went to a pond and put her down near some other ducks. Our hope was that they would take her in and help her survive another few weeks until her wing feathers grew in. Instead, she turned and sprinted after us as fast as her little webbed feet could take her. High-pitched peeping the entire time trying to get us to come back and get her.

We took her back and she kept following us. Luckily a couple nearby intervened. We walked away and they stopped her, feeding her bread and continuing to return her to the water. They acted as a buffer until we were out of eyesight. They came over and told us she was trying to climb out of the pond and come after us. Some ducks were swimming towards her though. Hopefully they would try to take her, wait for it, under their wing.

So we walked away sad. Sad to not have her follow us around, peeping in recognition. We hope she finds her place with the other ducks. The eldest child said, “Well, she’ll have a good story to tell the other ducks now." True.

More Hijinks...