Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bird Mystery Solved (no thanks to you)

I know the prize I offered up wasn't swank or anything, but where is your competitive spirit? We live in America, people -- we compete because we CAN, not because a prize is dangled in front of us!

I drive by a dentist's office every weekday on my way to and from Casey's school. For the past two weeks or so the dentist has had the following message on his sign: "Remember nobody wins unless everybody wins." Um. No. What in the heck does that even mean? If nobody wins then everybody has lost because that means no one even tried to win and that's pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

But back to you -- has Obamunism so weakened your inner drive to succeed that you can't even bother now to jump into a friendly little game of "Name that Bird"???? You figure someone else will do it for you, is that it? Someone who's getting some Bailout money is going to give you the answer and tell you not to worry they'll cover your mortgage payment this month, too?

Okay, I'm done abusing the four people who read this blog so I'm going to tell you -- it's a Cedar Waxwing, a Bombycilla cedrorum, in case you're into latin names.

I found it in my Birds of Florida Book -- must have zipped right by it the first time I looked last week. And this explains why there were so many of them in one tree: "Mostly seen in flocks, moving from area to area, looking for berries . . . . Spends most of its time at the tops of tall trees." They probably thought the puny excuses for tomatoes I have growing on the Porch Where Tomato Plants Come to Die were actually plump green berries. When the birds saw there were only two, they flew off to somewhere else. Good thing I got a picture when I did.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The 40th Birthday Post

Well I've been feeling a little bit, you know, old, whilst waiting all week for my 40th birthday to show up today. So I haven't posted. Very sorry about that -- but to make it up to you, this will be an extra-long post.

We're a week or so behind and we've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get moving. Let's start with Easter:

Our church has an Easter Egg hunt every year after each of its Easter services. We went to the Friday night service. This year, Mace was old enough to appreciate all the finer nuances of Easter Egg hunting and Easter fashion. While only a few women in our church -- okay, no women in our church -- wear hats on Easter anymore, Mace is a traditionalist on this point of fashion.

That's right -- you work it, baby -- don't let the phrase "contemporary-style worship" and "casual atmosphere" keep you down. Easter deserves a hat.

Ohhh -- that's what the bucket's for. Mace also didn't realize that there was candy in the eggs at this point, so he was a hunting machine. He even found a golden egg:

Once he discovered the Easter Bunny, though, love was in bloom, and for him, the hunt was over.

MFEO (Made For Each Other).

On Sunday morning, we let the boys hunt for all their eggs out on the deck (after spotting both an alligator and more than one snake in a week, there was no way I was getting out in the yard to hide eggs).

This is when Mace discovered that the eggs had candy in them. So he would find an egg, open it, eat whatever was inside it and then go find the next egg. So Casey found this many eggs:

. . . and Mace found the other six, each of which contained two mini-Reese Cups. I'm a pretty lax mom, but even I draw the line at twelve Reese Cups before breakfast, so we cut him off after 6 eggs.

Last week, Casey finally talked dad into setting up the swimming pool.

Note the greenish hue to the water -- we filled the pool up the day before, so algae hadn't had a chance to grow yet -- that's just the color of our unfiltered water. Nice, huh? But the next day, the chlorine had kicked in and the water was fine. Note also the ladder -- why is the painting ladder in the pool, you ask?

How else will we get in and out? The irony here is that I justified not buying the $30 pool ladder last summer because I had spent $100 on the pool and that was pushing the budget for summertime fun. This year, Joe has spent nearly $200 buying the fittings, hoses, and accessories to hook up the solar heating panels we brought with us from the old house, so that he can heat the little $100 pool, but yet neither of us has thought to buy the $30 ladder to get in and out of the pool.

Right before Joe went out of town the last time, the dishwasher stopped working, so the entire time he was gone (eight whole days), we had to handwash the dishes. I know -- the horror. (And by "we" in the previous sentence, I mean "Grandma" and "Wilma," our nanny. I think I washed the dishes once while Joe was gone. Apparently I was sitting around eating Bon-Bons and watching Biggest Loser while all the dishwashing was going on.) So by the time Joe got back, we (again, Grandma and Wilma) were ready for the dishwasher to work again. Joe summoned the troops and they took care of the problem (kinked drainage line).

As no blog post is complete without a picture of some wildlife -- check out these birds:

I tried looking them up in my bird book, but I couldn't find them. Apparently an entire flock of rare and exotic birds has gone missing from some rich person's aviary and they have come to roost in the tree outside our bathroom porch (aka The Margarita Porch, or The Porch Where Tomato Plants Come to Die). Here's a closeup, so if you can identify this bird, you win a prize (a golden egg with Reese Cup wrappers inside):

As I mentioned earlier, my 40th birthday was today. Friday night, Joe took me out to dinner and then tricked me into telling him I wanted to go to Bern's dessert room. If you aren't from Tampa, you might not appreciate what it means to go to Bern's. Bern's Steak House is the nicest restaurant in Tampa, if only because it's been around forever and has really really really awesome food. Our only family legend regarding Bern's involves my father vomiting up his oysters onto a waiter's tray in the middle of the restaurant because he couldn't make it to the bathroom. The waiters at Bern's are so professional they didn't miss a trick -- as one of them was walking past the tray where my father had three seconds before lost his oysters, the waiter whisked out a napkin and laid it over the vomit. Another waiter, coming from the other direction, hoisted the tray to his shoulder and disappeared into the kitchen. It was amazing.

But I digress.

When we got to Bern's, we went upstairs to the dessert room, and all these people were waiting for me:

I like that picture, but the one below is better because Dez looks like the waiter is about to attack her with a dessert fork:

Here is why the dessert room at Bern's is awesome (aside from the fact that there are no vegetables allowed there):

It just makes people happy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Genesis 3:15

When I got home from the book fair today, I found this:

A bucket turned upside down with a paver on top only means one thing at our house -- someone found an animal and it's still alive and it's under that bucket because a squealing female only had that much presence of mind. The bucket then sits there until a man comes home and deals with whatever is under the bucket, whether it be a fruit rat, an abnormally large cockroach, or one of these:

And now we need to rewind to yesterday evening when Grandma and I had to explain to Casey about putting animals "out of their misery" and how it is cruel to allow an animal to suffer. We got started on the subject because Grandma had watched an old episode of the Crocodile Hunter and the Croc Hunter had found a shark on the bottom of the ocean with its tail and fins cut off, but left to drown. Grandma and I started talking about how cruel it was of the hunters not to kill the shark if all they wanted was the fins, etc. Casey protested -- "No! Don't kill the sharks!" So we had a talk about how God gave us dominion over the animals and that although God gave the animals to us as food, we have a responsibility to care for the animals and be humane in our treatment of them.

And then today Wilma and Mace trapped a snake under a bucket. Grandma's initial idea was to leave it there until Joe got home -- she thought he was coming home tomorrow night, but he really won't be home until Friday.

And there we were. It was up to me and Grandma to deal with the snake and leaving it under a bucket until Friday was not an option because we got all preachy with the 6 year old the night before.

We were assuming, of course, that the snake was poisonous because it was acting pretty aggressively before the bucket went over its head and that meant someone had to kill it because I can't have snakes hanging out by the doors under the house where the kids are constantly running in and out. But it would be cruel to leave a snake under a bucket for four days.

So I got a shovel and the camera and Grandma and I dealt with the snake.

We looked at it -- failed to identify it. We noted the triangular-ish shaped head and in our state of sheer terror, thought it must be a copperhead. I then commenced wacking it repeatedly with a shovel until it stopped moving and then went back inside with the picture to identify it. I totally get that I did that backwards.

Come to find out, that wicked looking snake is (was) a harmless corn snake. It was awful killing it -- but I would have gotten over that sick feeling if the snake had actually been poisonous. Now I know why my mom and my aunts always tell the story about my mom killing a rattlesnake in the backyard with a shovel -- it's a gruesome thing to have to kill any animal over the size of a cockroach. It takes awhile to get those images out of your head. So now I'm having these waking nightmares about getting to heaven and that snake will be waiting for me, accusing me of having killed it before it had a chance to truly live. When I told Joe that, he said, "Not many serpents make it to heaven." He has a point, I guess. He also said we could have sold that snake for $50 if I hadn't killed it. Another good point. I'm going to have to be less reckless with a shovel from now on when Joe's out of town.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Real Time v. Chronological Bible Daily Reading Time (CBDRT)

Just before Christmas I bought a Chronological Bible that is divided into daily readings so that I could read through the Bible in one year. I thought reading through the Bible in a year would be easier if I was reading through the Old Testament, for example, in the order things happened. And it is easier and enjoyable and I'm learning alot about those stubborn Israelites in the wilderness who actually had God in a cloud showing them where to go and providing them with food every day but still whined because they preferred Egyptian food.

Unfortunately, however, the numbering of the tribes and the timing and manner of all those sacrifices bogged me down a few weeks ago.

So in CBDRT today is actually March 4th.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Casa Flamingo's Little Gator

Almost every person who visits our house for the first time looks at the tidal creek beside our house and asks if we have alligators. My standard answer is, "We do, but they're pretty small. The creek is brackish (part salt water, part fresh), so I think the young alligators move on to fresh water to find mates before they get too big."

Keep in mind, please, that I have a tendency to sound like I know what I'm talking about when I have no clue. I am an attorney after all. I have no idea whether or not big alligators dislike brackish water -- I'm just basing my incredibly scientific-sounding-Wild-Kingdom explanation on what I've observed in this creek by our house, and for some reason I don't want people to be afraid to come to our house, where the water (that might be filled with huge man-eating gators) is only 8 feet from where they park their cars.

You should also keep in mind that other than a small alligator that Chance cornered in our back yard a couple of years ago, I've never seen more than this of an alligator in our creek:

And usually I only see this:

Unfortunately, however, I feel the need to formally retract all previous statements regarding the size, girth, and breeding patterns of alligators, because today I saw the rest of that "small" alligator in the photo above, and here he is:

Isn't it time for him/her to be moving on to fresher water for a mate? Go on little fella/little lady -- romance awaits you in a nice freshwater pond two or three streets away from here!

On a somewhat, but not altogether, unrelated note -- does it bother anyone else that Bindi, the Jungle Girl, keeps doing shows with her dead father? At what age will the Discovery Channel let that poor girl move on, for crying out loud? How long can they keep mixing new footage of her with old footage of the Crocodile Hunter? Isn't someone just plain taking advantage of the child at some point?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Photography Lesson

Last night, Dez, Heidi and I went to see Chris Tomlin and Israel Houghton and The New Breed.

See that bag turned just so -- that's what you call "product placement." Heidi's the one with the bag and is the awesome photographer I rave about all the time -- she sells those photo purses now and those are her adorable kids. And that other chiquita banana is Dez. If you think they look happy to sit down, you're right -- we'd been standing outside since 5:40 and it was about 6:45 before they opened the doors, I think. The concert started at 7:30. It was a great concert, but I feel the need to point out the difference between a good photographer and a, shall we say, not so good photographer. Here is a picture Heidi took of Chris Tomlin at the concert:

Note how Heidi takes advantage of the jumbotron screen to show you what Chris actually looks like since his head was the size of a pea from where we were sitting. Here's another:

It didn't even occur to me to take advantage of the jumbotron. Here's my best photo from the concert:

But for Heidi, I might have no decent (i.e. in focus and with the appropriate lighting) memories recorded to film.

We should go back to Dez for a minute, though. She really loves Chris Tomlin. Really. A lot. But don't you think for someone who really loves Chris Tomlin she looks a little peaked in this photo?

A little tired, a little spent, a little woozy even. I have to give her credit, though, because she made it through the entire concert, standing up pretty much the whole time, with her hands in the air, and even all the way up to being dropped off at her car without admitting she felt like she might vomit, which she probably did as soon as she got home. I got a text from her this morning saying she'd had a rough night and had gotten the virus that my family gave her.

I am ashamed to remind you that this is not the first time that my family has spread incredibly nasty retching germs to Dez and her daughter, sweet Kari. You'll recall that back in January sometime, Dez actually caught Mace's vomit in her hands at the dinner table and quickly succumbed herself to the nastiness. (But really -- if your first instinct is to catch a toddler's vomit, you're going to suffer the consequences. Am I right?) This time I felt particularly bad, though, because we thought Mace and Joe's sickness at the beginning of the week was a bout of food poisoning because Casey didn't catch it within the typical 24 hours. I gave the all clear too soon and Dez and sweet Kari came over for dinner Wednesday night. Grandma got sick right before bed Wednesday night; Casey got sick in the wee hours Thursday morning, with me getting struck down about an hour or two later. Sweet Kari was sick by Friday and Dez clearly was fighting it at the concert. I've learned my lesson, though -- do not sound the all clear until every last person has thrown up for the last time and is back on solid foods. If there is still someone in the house who hasn't started throwing up, the quarantine is still in effect -- no one in, no one out.

I was trying to figure out where Mace caught it -- and I was assuming he had caught it at church on Sunday morning (where we pick up all our viruses -- instead of our regular tithe this month we're going to donate many cases of clorox wipes to the church), but then I remembered that we had gone to play putt-putt at Congo River Golf Sunday evening and on the way home I caught Mace licking his shoe. I'm not a germ freak, so my kids will be the ones at the park who drop their french fries on the park bench, or even (if I'm distracted enough so as not to really process what they're doing even though I happen to be watching them) on the ground, and then pick it up and eat it without me making a peep. But even I draw the line at the children licking the soles of their shoes. That's just gross. So I'm blaming a week's worth of sickness for the Flamingos on an unknown kid who puked on the 7th hole a few hours before we got to Congo River Golf and that's all I'm going to say.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Fungus Among Us

When I said I would keep you posted on the tomatoes, I fully expected to post a few weeks' worth of pictures where you would see the plants getting bigger, putting out flowers, maybe even plumping out a little tomato or two before getting attacked by the Florida Fungus and shriveling up. Seriously -- I thought I could milk the tomato plants for at least four blog posts, at a minimum. But these tomato plants have let me down in so many ways.

Already! This is the shortest amount of time it has taken for a fungus to attack my tomatoes. They've been fungicided, insecticided, serenaded, and watered. But there you go. This is what I get for living in Florida. (Well, to be fair, it could have been the serenading -- I did just get relieved of my duties as a backup singer for our church's worship team. You wouldn't think tomatoes would be so discriminating, but apparently they're a pretty fickle bunch, so you never know, it could have been my rendition of "God of This City" -- I always had trouble with that one.)

So, so sad. All I want are good tomatoes without hard white centers. Is that so wrong? I cannot pay a gazillion dollars a pound for tomatoes that you can't eat all the way through. It's just a bad financial decision. Sigh.

But on a happier note -- the otters are back. I think we have three, but I can't be sure.

See -- here is an otter's back. Don't whine, it took me awhile to get that shot.

I finally got a picture of its head, too.

So Florida loses points for growing tomatoes on your margarita porch, but gains points for otters in your creek.

Just in case you were keeping score.

And no, I haven't seen those cute little ducks again, but it may not be the otters' fault. I saw a hawk a couple of days ago while I was walking out to get the mail and it had something suspiciously downy in its claws. It coulda been a mouse, but it could have been something else (that rhymes with yuckling). Or maybe the duckies are just hiding out -- we'll hope for the best.