Archive for June, 2020

Robin Territory!

June 28, 2020

I have a thing for the American robin. Sure, it’s a common bird of North America and who hasn’t seen a robin’s nest, a robin’s egg – a fledgling? Do you ever have a summer pass where you haven’t had robins foraging for food in your front yard? Discovered a nest?

They disappear in the fall and as winter passes into spring I start watching for the first sign of robins.They are a migratory bird, but some do stay through the winter, high up in the trees, hidden out of sight. I never see robins here in the winter months. It’s such a thrill when you first hear one in early spring and to experience that first sighting – which, this year, happened for us on March 17. The robin was high up in our May tree and I captured a photo of it from an upstairs window.

First robin sighting! March 17

We enjoyed sitting on our patio watching for the robins. One robin would perch on a high limb in our honey locust tree and break out into a sharp lilting song – as if announcing the official arrival of spring, yet a new season of hope and rebirth!

Or maybe to lay claim to his (or her) territory – to announce to the world that this robin has found a place to nest and raise a family, possibly two or three broods – in our back yard. (We are careful not to use any lawn chemicals or pesticides – I literally claw the pigweed out between the cracks in our brick walk, to avoid using Roundup.)

Well, sure enough, on May 21 we discovered a nest with at least 3 eggs. Yay!!

Discovered it May 21 – Yippee!

The female was roosting faithfully.

Look carefully and you will see her tail. Female robins build the nest and sit on the eggs.

Robins can produce 3 successful broods in one year, but only 40 per cent of nests successfully produce young. We were hopeful for this nest.

Then on Saturday, May 23, Memorial Day weekend hit. Literally. We woke up to snow on Saturday. And it kept snowing through the morning.

Our back yard, Saturday May 23

We felt like we were living a live scene from the Twilight Zone. I took a video of our back yard. (Notice on the patio table the bubbles we had been playing with the day before with our grandkids):

Nature delivered a cruel blow. Several branches of our blooming lilacs snapped from the weight of the snow

Good thing lilac limbs are flexible

and our front magnificent maple tree lost two large limbs. (Aren’t we used to this? Why don’t we own a chain saw?)

I checked on the robin’s nest. Can you see her tail?

She was faithfully roosting, and, yes, covered in snow. Poor thing.

By days end, though, the skies had cleared and the snow was melting away. And sadly, the nest was empty. Had the mother robin just given up? It was a vicious storm.

I read that 40% of robins’ nests successfully produce young. Tough odds! Would they try again?

Sure enough, on June 9 we discovered a new nest. The female was just finishing it when we discovered it.

New nest! June 9

We kept an eye on the nest for several days, but so far no roosting. Then this past Monday June 22, there she was – sitting on it. Dang! These robins are sneaky. The incubation period for eggs is about 14 days. Will we be hearing the peeps of hatchlings by … July 4th? Maybe. One can hope.

I checked on the nest yesterday – lookin’ good …

I was sitting on our patio when I started hearing what was surely the cries of a hungry robin fledgling, coming from the direction of the large spruce by the shed in our back yard. I wandered closer and, there it was perched on an outer branch about 5 feet off the ground, peeping away. I watched that little bird for a long while and captured some photos and videos. Here’s the first one:

Daddy takes charge

After the robins leave the nest, it’s the dad who takes over their care, feeds them for about two weeks, while they learn how to fly, groom, hunt for earthworms and ripe fruits, how to signal a cry of distress. It’s an extremely vulnerable time! Only 25% of fledged young survive until November. And from that point on, only about half the robins alive in any year will make it to the next year.

A lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, but robins live on average only 2 years in the wild.

Getting back to our little fledgling, he stood quietly for a good while, waiting for daddy to return. Magpies, cousins of the crows, were squawking nearby, and I’m sure this little one knows to keep quiet …

Well, until he got really hungry. Here comes daddy to the rescue.

Our daughter Megan and her friend Olivia were out on the patio with me now, witnessing this little fledgling. It turns out – it could fly – a bit – which I caught in the next video seconds after I took the last one.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it landed, but it was obviously in those tall bushes.

You can see the weather had turned blustery. Yeah, well that wind ushered in a 25-degree drop in temperature and pouring rain overnight, with much cooler weather forecasted to persist through today and tomorrow.

Haven’t even tried to find our little fledgling or checked on the robin’s nest today. I’m all bundled up in layers inside our house made of brick, with the heat blasting. Just glad I’m not a little fledgling, to be honest.

The Mother’s Day Gift that Keeps on Giving Through Father’s Day

June 21, 2020

Our son, Aaron, flew out to Idaho with his two kids on April 15, 2020 after their daycare in Alpharetta, Georgia, shut down because of Covid-19. How could he and his wife, Wei, both work full time jobs from home and take care of four-year old Franklin and 14-month old Bailey running wild at home? The Georgia Covid numbers were much higher than here in southeast Idaho. We wanted to help them. So we developed a plan – he’d fly out here with them, grandma and grandpa (David and I) and aunty Megan would babysit the grandkids, while Aaron worked remotely from our home office. Wei stayed back in Georgia working from home, we’d figure it all out as time went on.

Fast forward to mid-June. All told, Aaron, Franklin and Bailey stayed with us two months. Georgia opened up again, and Aaron and the kids flew back to Atlanta on June 11.

We enjoyed lots of adventures sheltering in place at our house in Idaho over that eight-week period with Aaron and our two grandkids. We took family walks around the neighborhood on some fine spring evenings (maintaining social distancing of course):

April 26, 2020

In retrospect, it’s a wonder to me how David and I raised three kids. How could I have been a stay-at home mom?  While the grandkids are precious, filling our lives with constant delights and surprises, it is honestly quite exhausting to entertain a 4-yr-old and 14-month old at home throughout the day, every day. From the moment they wake up (with the birds it seemed) each wanting different breakfasts, to the moment you finally get them both tucked into bed at night, you run around like a staff of five, with the feeding, diaper changing, cleaning up spills, pulling toys and games out of your butt to entertain them, in this case, separately, because Bailey is too young for legos, and loves to step in and destroy whatever Franklin has built with one stroke.  Thus, our dining room table, and kitchen counters were quickly relegated to Franklin’s legos, and airplanes, and … whatever else got tossed on on them out of Bailey’s reach.

‘Situation normal’

Although, Franklin was a big help to David when mowing the lawn.

Megan and Bailey were best buddies at the get-go. Girl Power!! At age 4, Franklin is absolutely certain that he’s too old for naps.  I would beg to differ on most days as he would fall into a perpetual whine by 4 pm, lying underfoot as you attempt to make dinner, dragging his ‘pillow’ around. Bailey is down to one nap a day, our strategy was to keep her active and busy till 1 pm, give her a bottle, then nestle her in the pack’n play for hopefully a two-hour blissful reprieve.  

Imagine the ecstasy I felt on Mother’s Day, May 10, when, miraculously, both Franklin and Bailey went down for naps at 1 pm. Megan retired to the basement to watch Netflix, David sat at the computer to do crosswords, wow, perfect time for me just to crash on the living room couch, grab a power nap, bask in the quiet, reflect on the legacy of my motherhood …. lying there on the couch looking up at the ceiling, hey, what’s that? I hadn’t even fully positioned my body into comfort mode when I noticed a wet spot on the ceiling above me.  What?  How can that not be a water leak?

I called to David to come down and look at the ceiling in the den.  Well, what do you know?  A Happy Mother’s Day gift from the upstairs toilet. What the hell? We should deal with this right now, while the kids are sleeping. David cuts the wet chunk out of the ceiling. Chunks of plaster come raining down, he pulls out the saturated insulation. “Go flush the toilet and see what happens.”  Sure enough water hits him in the face from the hole in the ceiling, dang we weren’t quite prepared for this.  We spend the rest of nap-time getting the plaster mess splayed over the carpet and couch out of there before the kids are into it.

What’s wrong with this picture?

So, yeah.  I guess when we replaced the tile in the upstairs bathroom, like, five years ago, the toilet hadn’t been reset properly and had been slowly leaking all this time.  Except we didn’t flush it that much, so the spills didn’t penetrate the ceiling till Aaron and the grandkids were using it.  

For God’s sake! Don’t flush the upstairs toilet! Not pretty.

David just set the wet chunk of cut-out ceiling on top of our heating/air conditioning unit outside to dry out.  

Which it has.  Like, weeks ago.  Sitting atop that unit suits that piece of ceiling just fine.  

Meanwhile, we’ve been carrying on as if nothing is awry in our den.  

Except one morning we looked up, there was Tigger. He had apparently bounced so hard he crashed into the ceiling.

What mischief had he and all the other stuffed animals been into during the night?

 

Frankly, over the past 8 weeks, Tigger has been bouncing all over the house. Meanwhile, I’ve taken several still-life photos of the ceiling situation, and honestly, could that hole in the ceiling somehow, if you will, look like it was carved out purposely to complete, say, a three-dimensional wall/ceiling abstract grouping?

Good feng shui? Nice balance with the new ceiling treatment

I had about convinced myself that I could actually just live with it. What the hell. The hole in our ceiling is not hurting anything. No one ever sees it now except us, with this Covid-19.  Besides, it would serve as an interesting conversation starter if or when we entertain guests in our home again.

Alas, Aaron and the kids are gone now, been gone for … 10 days. We’ve cleaned the house, spic and span, restored the dining room to its old self. (How do you spell peace and quiet?)

Wow! We no longer have to eat standing up!

All the kids’ toys are put away, down to the last lego we discovered yesterday under the dishwasher.

“Hello!”

Boy does the house look spiffy! Uh, except for the gaping hole in our den ceiling.  It has to go. 

David is on it.  I say that because, well, I’m not. Can’t even cope with the thought of hiring someone.

Happy Father’s Day, honey. Kinda funny how this ended up ultimately being your gift on your special day. Something about … uh … balance? I dunno. One of life’s unsolved mysteries?

Meanwhile, we’ve got the memories. And about 1000 photos and videos of the grandkids. This is one of my favorites, appropriately shared on Father’s Day – Franklin and Bailey with grandpa:

 

Yes, we’ll miss them. But I think we’ll manage. We have accumulated a sizable to-do list here.