Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Items not referred to in the manual...

The manuals tell you what they like to eat. What they should eat. What they shouldn't eat. What chemicals are dangerous to them. What to do if they injure a blood feather. How often to clean their houses. That they need indirect sunlight and exercise time, toys, and companionship. They tell you that the males will flaunt themselves a bit in wooing a mate. The females are a bit diva-ish. They will talk if you keep at it. They can learn tricks if you wish to take the time and they seem open to it. That you will become one of the flock. And so on...

I've gone through several of these manuals. Not word-for-word, mind you. But there are some things I guess you just need to figure out for yourself. They don't tell you, for instance, that if you start with one bird and it learns to talk that once you bring home a companion bird it will most likely revert to mainly bird-talk. Within the 10 months that Tori had come home to live with us he had developed a pretty nice vocabulary. "Hello", "Hi!", "Tori, Tori, Tori", "Pretty Bird", "Tori is a pretty bird", "How was your day?" and "Hello Sweetheart". And a few others that we couldn't quite make out. Amazing.

Once we brought Pumpkin home, however, Tori reverted to mainly speaking bird talk. After all, he didn't need to converse with me in my language anymore. He does still say "Pretty Bird" and "I love you", so all is not lost. And, in fact, has taught both of those phrases to all of the other birds. I think they say "I love you" a lot. Joe claims that only I can hear it. Hmpf!

Tori and I had a pretty strong bond. When Pumpkin came along that eased for a while. He still loved me, but there was a real birdie for him to hang with now. He and Pumpkin would talk to each other, preen each other, feed each other, disagree with each other. They would play with the same toys, and bicker about who got to eat out of which food dish. I was handy for treats like broccoli and carrots. Eventually, Tori came back 'round, and Pumpkin started to hang out on my head and preen me.

They don't mention in the books how a bird might have a good time all on his own. It took me a few views to realize what Pumpkin was doing with the big ball of rope fringe on the playgym. He was enjoying himself, and how. Oh, my. I called Joe into the room - "Honey? Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Joe's eyes got wide, he said "Oh my God!" and quickly left the room. I guess so.

For a long time it seemed Pumpkin was the only one doing a drum solo. No big deal, right? I talked to Kay at the pet shop. She told me a few stories of very "happy" birdies and their human companions unhappiness with their selection of "happy places". The shoulder, a balding head. I guessed that I was lucky.

Tori likes to keep me company sometimes. He'll sit on my arm, shoulder or hand for what seems like hours. He'll chatter, preen, nap, demand my attention. Sometimes he likes to pick at my teeth, which is another story for another time.

But, one day, he was sitting on my hand, chattering away, and the next thing I knew he seemed to be getting very excited. He was running back and forth across my lower arm and the back of my hand. His feathers were standing upright, he was chattering wildly. Pecking at my fingers. Nipping at my fingernails. What was going on, I asked him. He kept pulling at one of my fingers. Pulling it upward towards him, then chattering at it and pecking at it. Next thing I know he's feeding my fingertip seeds. And, then..."Honey, could you come in here a minute?...Is he doing what I think he's doing?"...Joe stops dead in his tracks..."Oh...my...God!" And makes a mad dash for the living room. I guess so.

This happens off and on for a few weeks. I resist the urge to yell at Tori and tell him "No." After all, he's just doing what comes naturally, and he's not harming anything, or anyone. He's happy. He's expressing his love for...my hand. Hmmm...

One evening Tori stops over for a visit and eventually begins his dance while I'm working at the computer. I only partially pay attention. Before I know it he is going all-out and rubbing himself madly. One wing expands, then the next. Both wings stretch out and wrap around my entire hand. All the feathers on his back and neck are standing upward. He is in rapture. He extends his entire body, and then sits upright. Now quiet. He blinks at me once or twice. Then begins to grind his beak in contentment. Eventually he leaps to my shoulder and sits there for a while, grinding his beak. Letting out a soft twitter of happiness now and then. Then Pumpkin calls, and he's off to play.

This was not in the manual. Probably a good reason for that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thank you very mulch

Late Saturday afternoon, near the end of the work day at Lighting Accessories, I received a phone call from my husband, Joe. I could hear the panic in his voice immediately and asked what was wrong. There was background noise on the phone. He was outside. "Honey? he asked. Did you order a delivery of mulch?!" I did not, and told him so. I think I would have remembered that.

I asked how much there was. He said a truckload. (Cue hysterical laughter here...) It had filled up my entire car port beside the garage. I wouldn't be parking there when I got home.

He mowed the lawn that afternoon and had gone inside to take a shower. Once out of the shower he was dressing in the bedroom and looked out the window to survey his work, and discovered the delivery. No one had come to the door. No delivery receipt. Nothing. No clue as to where it came from.

I asked him if he was kidding. I very often play pranks on him, this might be a little revenge. No, he swore it was the truth. He's not the best actor, and judging by the sound of his voice, I knew it was authentic. So, I headed home from work thinking about how we would figure out who it belonged to.

I got home and parked down the block and walked the rest of the way home. When I walked into the backyard Joe was standing with the pile of mulch still looking bewildered. "Honey, I said, that's a lot of mulch."

We asked a few neighbors if they had seen the delivery truck. Nope. We walked around it. We took pictures. We determined it was very fresh. Possibly a maple tree. We joked about it being a mob drop and that there were woodchipped bodies buried in there. Okay, that was me. Joe didn't think it was so amusing. We debated how long we would have to keep it before we could start giving it away - we have no need for it. I'd already installed enough mulch this season. We went online and started surfing legal advice websites for information -- would we be responsible for payment if contacted by the deliverer? We have plans for the upcoming weekend, company coming. How would we get rid of all of that mulch by then?

We made a few phone calls. Mainly to share the story, because it's funny. We think. So did everyone we talked to.

After a while we took another walk around the neighborhood. We found the recipients. They live just across the alley from us and weren't home when it was delivered. They were very apologetic. We told them not to worry. They said they would clear it out right away. They did. Joe and I went out for dinner and by the time we got back they had it all moved away. That was a lot of work to do in just two hours or so.

Not the most exciting ending to this story, I know. But for a while it was damn funny. Damn funny. We'll have to keep that in mind. We've been known to pull a prank or two...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You've got to have friends

Look at those two. Pumpkin and Tori. I often find them sitting like this. So close. Chattering to each other, or just sitting quietly. Sometimes with their eyes closed, sometimes not. Sometimes Tori is chattering quietly and Pumpkin just nudges in close, closer, closest. They have been friends a long time now. Nearly two years.
From the first day we brought Pumpkin home they were buds. Eager to be near each other. Not that they didn't have issues. Pumpkin is like that little brother that wants to follow big brother everywhere. To do what he does. Eat what he eats. Play with his toys, and so on. But their bond is a strong one. And though we've added the adorable Miss Pixel, and the playful Texter, they are as strong of friends as ever. And that's encouraging to see. To watch. To know.
Because, even though life brings constant change, some things remain true. Though the dynamics may be different, the amount of time spent together altered, knowing someone for who they are, for where you've been together, what you've been through. That's something we can hold on to. Something special. Everyone needs friends. Parakeets, even.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

There's no place like home, sweet budgie home

I've been procastinating. Certainly nothing new. About two months ago, now, we purchased a larger bird house, to replace the two houses we've been using. Splitting the kids up during the day when we're at work, or out of the house for one reason or another. At night, occasionally, they pair up as well. Although, more often Miss Pixel has her own place, and the boys share a budgie bachelor pad.

It's a lot of upkeep, two houses. And, I thought it would be nicer for them to all be together in one house, albeit one with plenty of room for each to spread out. They really like their own little "space" at night time.

So, we bought the bigger house and I put it on my desk, and put the big playgym on it, so the birds would get used to it. They enjoyed the big playgym there, but had no interest in climbing down and inside the new house. Even after I'd filled it up with toys and food.

So, now, finally, I decided it was time to make the move. I would clean all of the houses, and rearrange things, so the new house took the place, literally, of the original two. I moved Tori's house over to the desk, so as not to traumatize them, and shifted the playgyms around a bit. They seemed okay with the playgym shift, but, once again, had no interest in checking out the new digs. I convinced Tori to go in for a minute or two. Long enough for a snack. Pumpkin sat on a perch for about 30 seconds, and that was it. I'm worried. This is going to be difficult. I can't get Miss Pixel or Texter to go near the door. They keep flying off.

So, last night, all four of them slept in Tori's house. It was a little crowded, since they all want to sleep in the same spot. So, there was a bit of a tussle once they were tucked in. Not for too long, though.

Today I worked, but Joe was home, so they were out all day. Joe said they didn't go inside the new house at all. They did go into Tori's house for snacks.

Tonight I tweaked the set up a little bit. Put fresh food and water in the new place, and when it was time to tuck them in, that's where I placed each one of them. To my surprise, little resistance. In fact, they all found a comfy spot, and within minutes were chirping at me to turn on the night-night music and turn out the lights. They are all now sound asleep.

I made this out to be such a big deal. I was so worried about traumatizing them. Parakeets are not the most comfortable with surprises. They like time to adapt to things. If you put a new toy on a playgym, they will stay away from it for a while. Won't go near it. So, I thought this would be a long drawn-out process.

Perhaps having the house sitting on my desk did help them acclimate a bit after all.

Of course, there's always tomorrow. They may revolt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What music the birdsong brings...

Their chatter in the early morning gets a little louder, and more demanding as the sun rises higher. They hear the least subtle move. When I sit up in bed, fluff a pillow, attempt to sleep a little longer, they get a little louder. "Let us out! We want to play!" Well, they don't actually say that, but it's pretty clear what those calls mean.

I get up, let them out to play. They call to one another, "Come out! Come out!", until all four are out and buzzing the room. Flitting from playgym to playgym. I turn on the radio, or a CD for them. And, sometimes, I go back to bed for a while and listen to them play as I close my eyes a bit longer. Occasionally, on a gray, sunless day, they will sleep in a bit, and I may actually have to wake them.

They keep me company as I get ready for work. Tori loves to sit on my shoulder, arm or hand while I blow-dry my hair. Sometimes Pumpkin joins him. Some days even Miss Pixel wants in on the fun. I don't know why they like it so much. Is it the sound of the hair dryer they like? I use a diffuser, and I don't point it in their direction, so it's not the blowing air. Or maybe they just want to distract me. Because by the time I've dried my hair, it will not be long before I tuck them back into their houses for the day while I go off to work.

As soon my husband or I arrive home we let them out to play again. They can hear the key turn in the lock and start calling to be let out. They play. They snack. They chase each other around. Take turns landing on my head while I'm at the computer. Throw their toys on the floor. Jump in the "swimming pool" I put out for them. Sing along with the radio or CD, sit together and have parakeet conversations, take a nap. Sometimes one or two will nap on my shoulder, softly chirping with contentment now and then.

When I put on a new CD Tori and Pumpkin often run over to the CD player to watch and see what I'm doing. Waiting for the music to start again. They have favorites, believe it or not. A most recent is a New Orleans tribute CD. Others are Iris Dement, Van Morrison, David Gray, and some compilations I've put together. They have a special Night-Night CD of celtic music I put together for Tori and Pumpkin when it was just the two of them. I put it on when I'm getting them ready for bed. They know it's Night-Night music. Once it is on they are ready to go inside and be tucked in for the night. It's amazing.

Sometimes I'll be at the computer a little longer than they would like, once they've gone into bed, and I'll realize that one of them is yelling at me to "turn the damn thing off". So, I'll turn it off and say goodnight, and off they go to dreamland.

They are remarkable creatures. Angels do have wings.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Miss Pixel would like your attention

Miss Pixel wants to remind you to vote, vote, vote for Mr. Squirrel and his card at the contest website www.hallmark.com/you. Well, okay, maybe not. What she really wants is the attention of her three male companions - Tori, Pumpkin, and Texter. All of whom were playing up above her house, and not inside, with her. Check out the video and see how she makes her feelings known.

As you can see by the wild fluttering of her wings, Miss Pixel is clearly demanding something. It is my interpretation that she wants her friends attention. I'm pretty sure I'm correct.

She is the only one of the four that does this. A short while after we brought her home I noticed she would do this when Tori and Pumpkin were hanging out together, or spending time with me. Although she is very fond of me, I'm certain it was Tori and Pumpkin's attention she was looking for.

The dynamics were interesting. At first it seemed as though Tori and Miss Pixel might be an item. See the video "A Very Awkward Moment" for further example. After a while, it became clear that Pumpkin was not going to back off in the pursuit of Miss Pixels affections. I was worried that Tori would be lonely without his best friend, Pumpkin, to pal around with. And that he would feel rejected by Miss Pixel. (Oh, how we humans do like to project our feelings onto others...) Anyway, Tori did have me to play with. Our strong bond has continued to grow. And, after a while, the trio did seem to settle in to their places.

But, then, we added Texter. Another male who definitely is fond of Miss Pixel. Miss Pixel does seem to return some of that affection, but, so far, I think the majority of her affections are reserved for Pumpkin, and, herself. She is a confident little Diva after all.

More on this little parakeet soap opera another time...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hay-elp! Hay-elp! Someone forgot to vote...

Well, gee, gosh-darn-doggone-it anywayzzzzz...we're slipping in the polls again. We had finally gotten up to 2.6% and now we've slipped back down to 2.5%. Ohhhh, fudgsicle! On my visit to the Hallmark contest website tonight I discovered a decline. I'm sure it's just a temporary glitch. We'll bounce back and then some, right?

Meanwhile, Mr. Squirrel is dreaming of a winter with lots of nuts in store.

There are only 53 voting days left in the contest, folks. Let's give that cute little baby a run for his money, honey. Remember: www.hallmark.com/you (vote for the squirrel)

I promise, I'll send good wishes out to you all.

Many thanks,
Kimberly & Mr. Squirrel (seen here napping on a sunny day this past winter)

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Mourning Dove

I discovered a baby mourning dove today, while working in the yard. He (or she) was relaxing underneath a lawn chair. Waiting for mama bird to come back with lunch, I suppose. Anyway, I was able to snap a few pictures. Here's one...

Happiness is a birdie on my head

Tonight Texter was brave. He was curious. He wanted to go where the other birdies go. Onto my nose, eyeglasses, and head. I can tell the relationship is going well when my birdies finally decide to sit on my head. Why is it so interesting to them? Because that's the highest point on my person, and they want to sit up there? Because my hair is up there and they like to preen me? Miss Pixel likes to preen my eyebrows and eyelashes. It tickles, and its sweet.

So, tonight, as I was getting the birdies ready for bedtime, Texter decided it was time for him to take the leap. To see what it was all about. To preen me. Then, of course, the others had to join him. Miss Pixel, then Pumpkin. Tori took a seat on my shoulder instead. Before you know it, Texter will be flying over to sit atop my head while I'm at the computer, just like the others do.

And so, I'm happy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Is this thing on?

Just wondering if anyone is out there reading this...

Is it age, or the parakeets?

I've always liked animals. We had cats and dogs, the occasional mouse, gerbil or hamster growing up. I even had a wonderful parakeet named Hutch for many of my teenage years. I was never much of a dog person. Not that I would be mean to one. In fact, I get very upset if I see one mistreated. They're just not my thing.

When my husband Joe and I first moved in together, I expressed an interest in getting a bird. I wasn't certain, however, if it was the right time. We both worked long hours, and I worried about it being alone all day. Plus we were adapting to living together, and that in itself was an adventure for two people used to being on their own.

Finally, a few years later, after we were married, I decided it was time. I gave Joe the option - baby or bird. Well, I was joking, really. Both in our 40's by the time we married, kids weren't in the plan. I've never really had that deeply felt longing. An occasional yearning, sure. But it just never felt right. So, we brought Tori home, and thus began our parakeet adventures. And my mellowing...

Like many parents, I have, on occasion, projected my emotions/perceptions onto the birds. I've decided that they are sad, or hurt, or lonely. Sometimes I think my perceptions are right, after all, I know them well. But I can go a bit overboard.

But aside from that, I started to look adoringly at dogs out for walks with their owners. At stray cats and kittens in the neighborhood. I convinced Joe to put up a tarp over our yard swing, and put in crates with warm fleece blankets to keep the kitties warm over the winter. I put out food for them. Took pictures of them playing in the snow. I started looking into rescuing them. So far that hasn't worked out.

I now talk to the wild birds in the yard. I talk to Mr. Squirrel (of Hallmark fame). I had a rather one-sided conversation with a baby mourning dove the other day. He/she was resting comfortably under one of our lawn chairs.

We've put out feeders for the wild birds. I've even taken to talking to spiders and ants, and other critters, putting them outside of the house instead of squashing them. It just feels better not to destroy them. After all, what's the point. I haven't, however, crossed this spiritual threshold with centipedes. I hate them. I just do. Fortunately, I don't see them too often.

Early this spring I was doing some cleaning. And discovered an ant on the counter. I decided to take it outside, not kill it. I got it to crawl onto a piece of paper to take it out. But, when I turned to go outside, I knocked over a diet coke and it spilled all over the kitchen floor. I took the ant outside and released it. Returned to the kitchen to clean up the spill, and slipped on some ice cubes and did the splits falling to the floor. I haven't done the splits since high school gymnastics, and even then, not really. But this was authentic. And I felt it. The muscles in my legs pulled in ways I didn't know were possible. I sat for a moment on the wet floor, and then slowly got up. I was sore for a day or two. Good karma and clean kitchen floors. I guess it was worth it.

So, the question is...is all this goodwill due to the mellowing that comes with age (not necessarily with hot flashes), or is it a byproduct of having these wonderful birds as companions? (I'm sure my sweet husband has something to do with it as well).

I still swat at mosquitoes. After all, they want my blood. But I also had a brief conversation with a firefly the other night. Well, I did the talking...

Thank you, thank you, it's working!

Huzzah! Someone is out there listening/reading/voting. I logged on to the Hallmark contest website today and, lo' and behold, my percentage of votes has increased from 2.3% to 2.6%! Seeing as how I've been stuck at 2.3% for quite some time now, it's a vast improvement. So a great big THANK YOU to all the voters out there! And for those of you spreading the word as well, Muchas Gracias big time!

If any of you have been watching the stats, you may notice that some of them have changed. Still, that darned (but cute) baby is still in the lead. I'm not one to pull the bottle from a baby's mouth, but I'd like to catch up to that little rubber baby buggy bumper. So, keep voting, Please.

I've decided to try a new tactic to get more votes. I came up with the idea of making sugar cookies in the shape of a squirrel, and including with them a note on the contest along with the website address. But first I had to find a squirrel cookie cutter. Not an easy task. Wasn't exactly the hardest task either. I found one at Joann Fabrics & Crafts. However, it was one of a set of 50 animal cookie cutters. But, 50 cookie cutters for $9.99 - not such a bad deal, right? Besides, I'm sure I can make use of some of the other critters at some point.

I did a little shopping, and took my cookie cutter kit and got in line at the check out. The woman behind me in line joked that she was curious what I needed 50 cookie cutters for. I told her that, actually, I only needed the squirrel, which she thought was very funny. Then I asked if she would like to know why. She was a little reluctant, but said "sure". So, I explained about the Hallmark contest and how this was my new marketing/bribery plan to get more votes. By the time we both had checked out and left the store, I had given her a card with all the voting information on it and asked for her vote. And, she had shared with me a story about a crow that visits her backyard on a regular basis. He picks up stale bread at the Uno restaurant near her neighborhood, then brings it to her yard where he dips it in the birdbath to soften it, and then feasts away. I told her that warranted video, not just a photo!

I received an email from my cousin, Deb, who was in a Hallmark store recently and found my card. Out shopping on her own, she wanted to show the card to someone, and struck up a conversation with one of the other shoppers in the store and told her that the card was by her cousin. So, now, members of my extended family are getting in on the act of approaching total strangers. No word, though, on whether she convinced this stranger to get online and vote.

Well, that's the latest news regarding Mr. Squirrel. Keep voting America. If anyone needs any animal shaped cookie cutters, just let me know!