Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hello from KY

I am here in Louisville, and I am sleepy. I had to get up at 3:30 am to start traveling today. The alternative was to leave the afternoon before and spend another night here away from my family, so we decided not to do that. So far I've gone to lectures on hepatopathies (liver problems) and obesity. It is pretty exciting to be here with some many progressive veterinarians from all over the world.

The kids had their annual checkups yesterday. Colin had to get one vaccination, which the clever nurse managed to almost sneak past him, pretending it was a "bug" that bit him, quickly covering up the bite with a circle bandaid. No crying! Anna actually had 4 vaccinations AND a TB test - poor baby had FIVE pokes with the needle. She was brave until the last one, and then she cried a bit. We rewarded both kids with gelato afterwards.

When I got home, Francesca the new dog was a bit hyper after being in the kennel all day. Overall, she has been learning the new ropes of her new home well, but she is pretty manic on the days she's left alone and kenneled the majority of the day. She also has a bad habit of trying to steal food. She stole Anna's toast off her plate twice last week when Anna was dawdling on her way to the table, and she'll jump up and swipe stuff off the counter if I don't watch her. I'm sure its because she was so starved in her previous life (she's still really skinny). She is very affectionate, and as Anthony noted, you can tell she's grateful to be in a good place. She takes monitoring, but when I caught her chewing on the sofa, I told her NO BAD DOG, then gave her a chew toy. She started chewing it instead, with no back talk. Amazing!

Also, potty trained in 1 week. Yes!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hello, I must be going

I have lots to say but no time to say it. I am leaving at 4 am tomorrow to go to a veterinary convention in Louisville, KY. I am traveling with my work friend Enricka.

So if posting the next few days is spotty, now you know why. Hopefully there will be internet access at the convention, as I am loathe to be loaded down with a laptop. If I can't keep up somehow with the bloggy world, I might go into withdrawal.

Please think kind thoughts for Anthony who will be playing single parent for the next 4 days.

If you'd like to see some pics from our weekend, check out Paige's site.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm like the Pied Piper for Rat Snakes

After my last appointment today, my nurse Paige said to me, "You gotta come see this! Quick! Its not an emergency or anything, but come here!" I followed her out the front door of our practice, which is in a strip mall. Slithering along the front windows of our clinic, I instantly recognized a RAT SNAKE. Ya know, the kind I've been seeing around my house. Now, 20+ miles away at my job site is another one. The people who work at the Chinese restaurant next door were watching it but cowering at a distance.

"Go get a bucket!" I said, "I'll get it!" This guy had pretty spots on his back,and he was also pretty pissed. We put the trash can in front of him, but he wouldn't go in it, so I grabbed his tail, of course. He lunged at me, but I jumped out of the way. My smart nurse had brought out the trash can and a large stretcher to use as a lid for the can. With the snake in one hand and the stretcher in the other, I tried to convince the snake to go in the white can. "Smash him with the stretcher!" Leah said. Brilliant idea - I pegged him with the stretcher about 10 inches below his head, someone else put the can in front of him, and you bet he went willingly into the trash can.

We carried him triumphantly through the clinic out to the green belt behind the parking lot. While Susan did Steve Irwin impressions ("Doc-tah Mah-tin catches the most poisonous snahke in ahll of Awe-stralia!") some of our coworkers looked on with some annoyance (they were actually trying to practice medicine, not wrangle snakes).

We snapped these photos at the snake release:

Snake in office white paper recycle bin.

Posing in my lab coat and all!

My photographer Jimi said, "Get a little closer!"


Often I'm amazed and thrilled at people who have blogrolled me. Check out this hilarious video from someone who likes me, she really, really likes me.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Parties and Farewells

Last weekend's chaos included me working on Saturday morning, Anthony working Saturday afternoon, our local community's annual festival, a 5K race, and Colin's birthday party. I was pretty glad when it was all over. Also, glad Emily came to help, mow my yard, and run her first 5K!

Colin's party was fun, and he had a good time. He keeps rehashing it in his 3 year old toddlerspeak. The party had a space theme, with Buzz Lightyear invitations and of course the cake. I also had the kids make a universe with space stickers on black posterboard. Then we had the kids drop the alien into the black hole. They lined up to do this for 10 minutes. There was no prize, no winner, just the dropping of the alien into the hole. Do not underestimate this activity for your next preschool party.

At one point, I was changing Colin (it was his party and he'll poop if he wants to) and he said, "Mommy, what's those lots of girls doing? I want to go see those lots of girls!" His party was small, but I didn't realize until then that none of the boys we invited came. Fortunately, Colin rolled with it, but I felt a little bad for him.

Colin's Buzz Lightyear loot included: a shirt, a swimsuit, a light up spinning Buzz, a backpack, wristbands, a wash cloth, a book, and a lamp. Do not underestimate Disney's marketing!

I have been a little down this week because of my sister's devastating loss. Also I feel a little sad because tomorrow is Anna's last day of preschool. She has had the same wonderful teacher for 3 years. She is ready to move on, but I'm a little wistful over leaving this stage. The school, in typical low key fashion, has no ridiculous graduation, but also no goodbye party or anything. I thought about organizing one then realized -ha! Who am I kidding? Its MAY, the month everyone has a birthday, graduation, or some other event. Planning Colin's small party almost did me in!

Anyway, although I know Anna will remember her first wonderful school, I know she doesn't realize what she is saying goodbye to tomorrow. That's probably a good thing, for her to be blissfully unaware, just looking forward to a fun summer and kindegarten. And for me, at least I know Colin will be going there next year.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Brief one

I'm pretty tired from an exhausting overpacked weekend, but I had to leave you with this image of the party boy and his Buzz Lightyear Cake!

Happy boy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We love our new toys!

Francesca and her "rainbow trout." Did you know trout squeek when bitten?

Colin sleeping last night with Buzz Lightyear.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Colin!

Today Colin turned THREE! We had a pretty good day together, going to the craft store to pick out supplies for his party, buying toys for the dog (I'm not used to such a young, playful canine!), and buying a cake. We've been feasting on my homemade cake, and there's one in the works for his party this weekend, so we resorted to a store bought cake for tonight. Colin picked out a brownie cheesecake. Good boy.

By far his favorite gift was his "Big Buzz" - a large size Buzz Lightyear - "with BUTTONS!" He can't even stop pushing buttons long enough to properly smile. (Note, Steph, he is wearing his favorite shirt, the CHEEKY MONKEY one. It suits him perfectly, but for some reason he calls it his "Team Shirt.")

In this next photo, I asked him to give Buzz a kiss.

He really loves Buzz. He frenched him.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to me

So this year Mother's Day was the day before my birthday, so I got lots of pampering. Anthony made this fantastic torte for breakfast. We agreed it was one of his best EVER, especially with so many wonderful blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries!

Mother's Day Torte

Then there was berry torte AGAIN for my birthday breakfast!

Birthday Torte - yum.

Anthony is pretty passionate and perfectionist in his cakes, but he knew I didn't really relish the pure sugar/crisco icing. So he made me a cake with cream cheese icing, which doesn't set up as well and required chilling in between applications, but the results were SO worth it!

There was some cussing and consternation when he realized he forgot to add the water to the cake batter, but the results were wonderful - a dense, eggy, rich cake.

Artistic close-up.

Photo by Anna of me, enjoying my cake.

Anna says, "Can I PLEEEASE have another piece?"

Colin approves of the cake (me, too!).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Big Day

We did a lot today. There was a bike race in our area, 18 miles through the countryside. It wasn't very well advertised, so there were only about 15 participants. I took the kids in the bike trailer, and Anthony rode with me (he was a little embarassed to have me do all the pulling, but I insisted, since I'm the one who's training for the triathlon).

It was a beautiful morning, with a cool, dry breeze that whisked the sweat off my body. It also blew away the whiny voices of my children when they argued. Overall, they were very good during the long trek and ate all the snacks I provided, but if you put two small kids in such a confined space for that long, there's going to be some bickering. Actually, it was a good lesson for us all - since Anthony and I really couldn't interfere, they had to work it out between themselves.

The scenery was very pastoral, and we saw lots of corn and cattle. The roadside grew native grasses and some of the heartier wildflowers - firewheels, Mexican hats, primrose, winecups, and bishops flower. Also, heard many birdsongs, very appropriate for International Migratory Bird Day.

Anna was very disappointed that there was no tape at the finish line. She was cheered up somewhat by the cookies that were there instead! I was just pleased that we were not the last to finish.

After the race, we did our civic duty and voted in local elections. Anna said, "I like voting, because you get a sticker!"

Then, we went down to the shelter to check out a dog I had been looking at. I had been talking about getting an older dog, maybe 2-5 years old. I'm already working on housetraining my "puppies," I don't need another.

But this dog seemed really special. She's 8-10 months old. I noticed her sitting quietly in the back of her kennel, while her obnoxious cagemate, a barking jumping red heeler, tried to get my attention. She looked at me with a friendly expression, but when Colin came to the cage she got up and sniffed him, tail wagging. She was calm and pretty well mannered, and friendly to kids without bowling them over.

Today we all went to see her. Anna wanted her immediately; Anthony was still a little reserved but agreed; Colin just wanted to go see the cats. She was even offered at a very reduced rate, since she had been at the shelter so long (over 1 month) and was a large, black(ish) dog. She is actually a catahoula mix, a Louisiana all-purpose dog, used for retrieving and herding.

Once home, Anna and I immediately gave her a bath (she was very stinky after being in the kennel a month). I kenneled her while we ate lunch and she sat in there, quiet and well-mannered. She seems very willing to please, and is learning the rules quickly. She's peed outside 3 times and pooped once! Claudio is not thrilled but as usual takes her arrival in stride.

Oh yeah, since we are trying to keep with the Italian theme for pet names, I think she is going to be FRANCESCA.

Photo of Francesca and me (with wet hair), taken by Anna.

Happy dog, making herself at home in the kitchen.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ah, look at all the lonely people...

My job is taking care of the health of companion animals, not being companions for their owners. But sometimes, I end up being a friendly ear for the owners that bring the pets in.

There are lots of widows with pets who are lonely. There is the bachelor executive who works a lot and has his labrador, and that's about it in his life. He LOVES that dog, and sometimes calls me up just to tell me how he's doing. There is a single woman who moved to the area who loves her fat cat and the Wizard of Oz. She takes off work to bring him in if he sneezes, and she wants me to run labwork on him if he loses half a pound (he's fat! he's on diet food!) just to make sure its not something bad. Another single woman just moved here from Mississipi after the hurricanes with her two beloved Pomeranians. She calls if she thinks her dogs won't take the tiny antibiotics I prescribed.

There are students who are lonely. There are even married people who are lonely.

The last time I was lonely was in college (undergrad). I lived in the dorm, but it was one of the new modular dorms, which was great because I had a private bath. Up on the far corner of the top floor, I didn't know anyone but my R.A. I was assigned a roommate, but she illegally lived in her boyfriend's dorm room, and I saw her twice a semester. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, who I let hang around way too long just because I didn't want to be alone.

I went to classes and studied a lot. The saddest part of my day was dinner. I hated eating alone. To be in a big cafeteria eating alone with tons of your peers around you was quite depressing.

Fortunately, I made lots of new friends in choir, and one of them was Anthony.

As long ago as that was, I never forgot how strong that feeling of loneliness was. Today, my life is the opposite of lonely. I have 3 people who clamor for my attention and smother me with affection. In fact, I often savor my time alone, including a lunch or two each week eaten out on a workday BY MYSELF.

My life is full of un-loneliness, I feel its the least I can do to listen to a lonely person for a few minutes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

P. Envy

Raising a little boy is so very different than raising a girl. Boys test everything out to see how they can make it produce the most sound. If that doesn't work, they jump on it, or over it. Or throw it. Its all about ACTION.

Also, boys come with parts.

After peeing on the potty, I told Colin to wipe his penis.

He says to me, "Mommy, where your penis?" and moves the leg of my shorts aside to look.

"I don't have a penis," I tell him.

"Anna not have penis?" he asks me.

"No," I said, remaining cool as a cucumber.

He asks, "Mommy, you lost it?"

(sorry, snakes and penises, its what I've got to work with these days!)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Without snakes, what would I do for content?

On Saturday I go down to feed the hens and collect the eggs, and mentally tell myself, "You know, there might be another snake in there." Therefore, I didn't jump out of my skin when I saw this:

Its the other snake, slowly consuming an egg. This is a slow process of dilation, a kind of inverse of birth.

We watched the snake for a long time, slowly stretching its reptilian lips around one of our eggs. We figured we'd catch it after it had swallowed.

Almost there!

Maximum stretchage!

Once the egg was entirely in the snake's mouth, it started backing up. I think it was pretty wary, being in a somewhat compromised state with an audience.

Its scales are so stretched out, it almost looks like a cobra. We knew eventually it would implode the egg by squeezing its muscles, then later cough up the egg. Anna asked, "Is it going to make an awful noise when it coughs?" Ha ha.

Finally, after waiting about 15 minutes, we decided to go ahead and catch the snake. As soon as we looped the hoe around this one, that egg came right back out in half a second! This snake was a little harder than its partner to catch. Eventually, Anthony got it with a hoe and I grabbed it by the tail, and we quickly dropped it into the bucket.

I really hope this is the last snake post...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spoke too soon

If you read my comments, last night I said the snakes weren't eating the eggs so they were welcome to stay.

This morning I peeked in the coop, looking for eggs, and saw this:

Eek! That's a little unnerving! He was smart and stayed super still. Apparently this works on the chickens.

That's Chicka the China the Chinese Chicken, and she's been feeling "broody" lately. All day long she sits on those unfertilized eggs, trying to hatch chicks. Uncle Buck said, "Do you think you need to get her some chicks to make her feel complete as a chicken?" I don't think she's intelligent enough to feel unfulfilled if she doesn't get any chicks. Look at her - she's dumb enough to sit right next to a reptile who would happily consume all her progeny.

I'm sure that snake is thinking, this place is great! Lots of places to hide, and a vending machine!

After Anthony had enough coffee, I fished the snake out with a hoe, and he caught the creature in the bucket. It was actually one of the easiest snake captures we've had. Then I hopped in the Prius and released the snake into a far away greenbelt by the soccer fields, near a nice woodsy stream.

If I were a snake, that's where I'd want to live!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Love is in the air...

Last week after a huge rainstorm, Anthony walked by our back door and noticed this with his peripheral vision on our back fence:

Relax, its not a rattler, its a Rat Snake. It has a diamond back, but no rattle tail and no fangs. We like these snakes, although they are a little unnerving, since they eat lots of rodents (that poach chicken feed out of our shed). Unfortunately, most of our neighbors kill them. I don't really understand this (except for that genetic/biblical fear of snakes in general), because these snakes won't harm humans, but will control rodents. Rodents carry leptospirosis and hantavirus, people, and those can make you seriously sick.

Colin contemplates snake on fence. Its twice as long as him, easily.

I was at work when Anth took the above pictures and felt a little left out. However, tonight as I was grilling, I noticed some mockingbirds acting weirdly down by the shed. Our chickens live behind the shed, and I wondered if they were eating chicken feed. When I went down to investigate, this is what I saw:


I yelled for Anthony to come see it, and Anna said, "I want to see the 'snake sack' too." It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about! They writhed around eachother, and didn't seem to mind us too much, but they did dart back under our shed when the mockingbirds came around. I guess they're vulnerable in this state. They came back out moments later - I guess they like to do it out in the open.

Love bites.

If I'm clever enough, I'll post a video.