Insert Cliche Blog Title About Feeling Overwhelmed By Life Here -> <-

Sorry, but the only other title I could come up with for this post was, “When It Rains, It Pours”, and that just felt much too overused.

But still appropriate.

Late Wednesday evening I noticed Arthur was clearly not feeling well. I relayed as much to Mr. Awesome and after a quick phone call to my mother we removed him to the guest room and put him in the “hospital cage”, a clear plastic tote lined with towels and topped by a screen, then plugged in a space heater to warm him up a bit. Thinking there was probably little the 24 hour emergency vet could do for him other than tell us to keep him warm and call the avian vet in the morning, we watched over him for a couple of hours and prayed.

When we looked in on Arthur the next morning it was clear he was still not well and I made an appointment with the avian vet, who said he was underweight but his heart and lungs sounded good. She ordered a gram stain and chlamydia(psittacosis) test. The gram stain came back with lots of bacteria in it. We wont know the result of the chlamydia test for several days. The vet prescribed an antibiotic and tube fed Arthur so he could regain some of his strength.

Arthur seems to be improving slightly. He’s been eating millet and Mr. Awesome has been able to get him to drink a couple of times. I’m doing my best to towel him each day and dribble antibiotic into his mouth with a syringe, but he isn’t exactly cooperative, and clearly doesn’t appreciate it.

After all that has happened in the last six months with our birds, I feel toasted… and worried. Worried that the psittacosis test will come back positive and all of the birds have it.  Worried Arthur isn’t going to make it through this. Worried I made a bad decision, did something wrong, and this is my fault. My mind keeps replaying all of the “I should’ves”.

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

I need to remember that right now, in all of the craziness, to just focus on today and not worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. There’s too much to do right now without adding hypothetical scenarios of what may or may not happen. And deep down inside, underneath all of the fear, worry, and questions, I know Jesus is going to get us through this, and that someday, things are going to feel better. So I suppose another cliche title for this post could easily be, “This Too Shall Pass”.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

-Matthew 6:33-34

 

 

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September 2016 Chop Batch

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I’ve been putting it off but finally decided it was time to just get it done, time to make a new batch of chop. Chop can make feeding your birds for the next few (or several) months a lot easier in many ways, but chop day can be a long day, especially when you are the sort of person who feels they must use every dish and cooking utensil in the house while cooking.

What chop is and how it is made has been written about by persons vastly more qualified than myself, so if chop is new to you, I highly recommend you have a look at what they have to say.

So… what wen’t into this batch?

Bean soup mix (minus the seasoning)

Brown rice

Wild rice

Barley

Quinoa

Frozen corn (defrosted)

Kale

Radishes

Brussels sprouts

Parsnip

Carrots

Red bell pepper

Yellow summer squash

This was meant to be a conservative, trial batch to see if Willow would eat it. Mr. Awesome wisely pointed out that creating a massive batch before seeing if she liked it was probably a bad idea. The budgies are used to eating chop and grain bake, so I wasn’t too concerned about whether or not they would eat it.

As chop batches go, I give this an 8/10 for the budgies, and a 5/10 for Willow. I chopped the vegetables too fine for them to appeal to Willow. In the future I should probably just hand chop the vegetables for her chop instead of throwing them in the food processor. I also want to really focus on adding a better variety of vegetables to future chop batches. I have a tendency to focus a bit too hard on the grains.

One thing I did do differently in this batch of chop that I really liked was to use only fresh vegetables, not a mix of fresh and frozen. This helped to keep things from getting too mushy, something I was sure would turn Willow off instantly.

And how was it received? Willow hasn’t shown much interest, and I’m not sure the budgies have either. It is going to take some creativity on my part to get them excited about it. It’s going to take time and patience, but I’m praying we’ll get there.

 

Sunset On Lake Michigan: No Filter

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Mr. Awesome and I spent a little time on the shores of Lake Michigan this past weekend. The view, as usual, was impressive.

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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. -Psalm 50:1

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Human Error

Mr. Awesome and I went to visit his mother and stepdad on the shores of Lake Michigan over the weekend. We had a lovely time: did a little shopping, had ice cream, and watched the sunset on the lake. Sunday we were able to attend the church Mr. Awesome’s grandmother called home for many years and Mr. Awesome got to go fishing with his uncle and stepdad. It was a fabulous 30 hours of relaxation.

As we pulled into our driveway yesterday evening, I mentally prepared myself for what would meet us bird-wise when we walked through the door and climbed the stairs. No doubt they would all be good and ready to come out of their cages and quite happy to see us.

What I found was frightening.

As I made my way up the stairs the first thing I noticed was that there was a light on. If we are gone more than a few hours I leave the lights off and the curtains open so the birds can have some darkness when the sun goes down. I was sure I had turned that light off. I always turned that light off. Well that’s weird, I thought. Guess we must’ve forgot. Oh well, no worries.

But then I rounded the corner and looked into Willow’s cage. I couldn’t find her. For half a second I thought my eyes were just having trouble focusing in the dim light. Then I began to worry I was going to find her on the bottom of the cage, dead, struck down by some sudden or unnoticed ailment. Then my eyes moved to the top of the cage…

There she was, perched in her usual place, ruffling her feathers and giving me her best “It’s about time you lot showed up!” face. The cage door was wide open, and there were mounds of parrot doo on the nearby bathroom floor.

My stunned brain swirled and tumbled to find an explanation for what I was looking at. A number of possibilities presented themselves in split second increments to my addled mind. Landing on one I turned to Mr. Awesome (who had followed me up the stairs) and asked,

“Who’s in our house!?”

Mr. Awesome looked a bit quizzical.

“Check the doors!” I exclaimed, and pushed past him to inspect all points of entry.

I’ve watched plenty of true crime and fake crime television programs in my day, so I knew what had happened. Clearly, some deranged psycho had broken into our home, turned on the hall light, and let just one of the birds out. They were no doubt waiting in a closet with an ax to dispatch us in our sleep.

I raced around the condo checking every door to make sure it was secure. All locked! The fiend must have slithered through the basement window. Nope, that was locked too.

I returned to Mr. Awesome and the scene of the crime.

“I have a hard time believing someone would break into our house, let the bird out, and not take anything.” he pointed out sagely. Once again I ran off. My jewelry was still there. We hadn’t noticed anything missing. Not a robbery then.

I padded back to the crime scene and began to rethink things. If a crazed, parrot-loving psychopath hadn’t snuck into our home and let Willow out of her cage… then she must have escaped! I stared at her in awe, considering what kind of genius, feathered Houdini our bird must be to have figured out how to manipulate the latch on the cage door AND swing the safety catch at the same time.

“I think it’s much more likely you just didn’t latch the door properly, or got distracted in getting everything ready and forgot to shut it all the way.” repeated Mr. Awesome, or something to that effect.

How annoying that he couldn’t see we had a bird prodigy. Me forget to lock the door? How could I be that stupid? How could I miss something like that? Put Them In Their Cages When You Are Going To Be Gone For A While was the first subject of Parrot Owning 101.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

But as I gazed at the piles of poop and shredded trim in our guest bathroom, I finally had to concede that at some point in my haste to get on the road, I had neglected to latch Willow’s door, the result being she had quite the party while we were away. Heartily displeased with my own stupidity, I thanked the Lord that it hadn’t been worse. Willow was fine, the budgies were still cozy in their cages, no electrical cords had been gnawed on, and the bathroom trim could always be replaced. Humbled and flabbergasted at the fallibility of my own mind, I grabbed the vinegar spray and broom and started cleaning up.

And so boys and girls, what’s the moral of today’s story? Double and triple check your animals before you leave the house, and don’t rely on your memory to serve you properly in these situations. I think in future Mr. Awesome and I need to create a buddy system: I check, you check. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

I suppose there is one small consolation to this unpleasant event. At least, while we were away, Willow wasn’t bored.

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Update On the Flock: Part Three

See parts one and two

Bottom of his cage. Not breathing. Tuck.

I had gone to visit my parents and help them out with a few things. The drive to their place isn’t too bad but enough to make me crash there for the night instead of drive back home. When I missed Mr. Awesome’s call the next morning, I assumed it was to wish me good morning, but the statements above were about all I could decipher at first from my very upset husband on the other end of the line.

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My first response was relief that Mr. Awesome was okay, and that no horrible tragedy had befallen our parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Then came sadness and disappointment.

As mentioned in the last post, the budgies and us had a solid routine down when we brought Willow into the mix. Her addition to our flock didn’t seem the phase Robin and Tuck much, other than Robin seemed to make a point to establish his position as top bird in the house, flying up to and past Willow just to let her know what’s what. His interest in her soon waned, however, and all five of us settled into a nice groove of daily existence. Everything felt so nice and complete. But now Tuck’s passing left a vacuum in our little feathered family, one that I was sure would need to be filled, and quickly.

After talking to Mr. Awesome on the phone, I jumped in the car as soon as I could and got home. Mr. Awesome was sad, Willow was affectionate, and Robin was acting pretty much as normal. I thought I could see confusion glaze over his little face every now and then, but then wondered if I was just projecting emotions onto him that he wasn’t actually experiencing.

For the next few days we kept our eyes on Robin to see how he was doing. This was a bird who had never been away from other budgies in his life and now he was alone. At first he didn’t seem to do too badly, but as the moments of confusion (sadness?) that we noticed early on began to increase and he became increasingly obsessed with his reflection in mirrors, we decided we needed another budgie, stat.

Enter Arthur.

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So named because he’s a brave little guy, he caught Mr. Awesome’s attention with his playfulness.

Things were pretty hectic for a few weeks. Getting two new birds adjusted in the house at once isn’t easy. At first Robin didn’t seem to pay much attention to Arthur, and once he started to it wasn’t all positive. Robin had picked on Tuck quite a bit, but Tuck was big enough and sassy enough to stand up for himself when need be. Arthur only being about five months old and a smaller, American budgie, we were concerned for his safety, and kept an eye on Robin’s aggression.

After experiencing problems with wing clipping when we brought home our other budgies, we elected not to clip Arthur’s wings. It was apparent that he could fly, but didn’t have much control or concept of how to steer or change his elevation. This resulted in several quick catches and rescues.

Enter Flight Master Robin. Early on it was clear Robin wanted Arthur to go flying with him, but the concept was confusing to his new companion. After a while Mr. Awesome and I started noticing that Robin would fly several circles in front of Arthur, demonstrations of how the whole wing flapping thing was to be done properly.

One morning I sat at my computer with Robin and Arthur perched next to me on Mr. Awesome’s computer monitors. Robin did two or three quick circles, starting and ending perched next to Arthur. Finally, Arthur did the circle himself, a bit slower and less confident, but he successfully made it back to where he started. As best as I could figure, I had just witnessed a flying lesson.

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Arthur’s flying skills have improved, the result being Mr. Awesome and I are breathing a bit easier. Arthur has learned to step up and is a sweet little guy.Robin seems to have worked out whatever issues he had with him, and is now being quite congenial with his new companion. Robin still enjoys his time with the budgie in the mirror, but it isn’t nearly as frequent or long lasting as it was before Arthur arrived.

Once again our little flock is beginning to feel complete and we are establishing some sort of equilibrium. I praise God for it.

 

Update On The Flock: Part Two

Read part one here.

I grew up with birds in the house.

Actually, that sentence is probably an understatement.

I grew up with budgies, finches, cockatiels, conures, African Greys, macaws, and a lovebird all making their marks on my childhood/pre-teen/teen years, thanks to my mother who dearly loves, and has seemingly always had a passion for, birds. I grew up attending bird club meetings and going to bird shows. My parents and I all had similar bird club jackets (it was the 90s. Don’t judge me). One of my cooler birthday memories is of attending the Midwest Avian Research Expo. I knew who Dr. Irene Pepperberg and Alex were by the age of 8, and I’m pretty sure none of my friends left our house without hearing just how intelligent and amazing parrots actually are.

Parrots were to my family what horses are to others, a lifestyle.

So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that after we had had our first budgie, Giacomo, for a couple of months, I started to  hanker for a bird that could poop gallons a day and rearrange my face if it really wanted to. Mr. Awesome was not terribly enthused by my not-so-subtle growing desire, as he is rather opposed to tidal waves of excrement and being mauled. Weird.

But then we lost Giacomo, and I regretted the time I spent wishing for another bird, time I could have spent just enjoying him. You truly don’t know what you have until you lose it.

In the weeks that followed, Mr. Awesome and I dithered on just what species would replace Giacomo, as we desperately wanted to fill the hole he had left behind. After researching other species and looking around, we came to the conclusion that we were, in fact, budgie people after all, and would get two budgies instead of one, since with Giacomo it became clear he would have greatly benefited from the company of another budgie. Had he lived, I am fairly certain we would have eventually procured a friend for him.

Enter Tuck and Robin. Mr. Awesome rejoiced that the floods of poo, though increased by having two birds, still remained relatively mild.

Then, like a couple who have settled into a functional, comfortable routine with their two children start lightly tossing around the idea of baby #3, we flirted with the idea of another bird. This prospect waxed and waned. One of us would have a dream about having tons of budgies and we’d want another bird. Then we’d have one of those lovely evenings where the budgies were so very adorable as my husband slayed virtual villains, and the thought of changing things up with a third bird seemed ridiculous. I mean, really, why mess with a good thing?

And then Willow happened.

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Through familial connections I’d been aware that a certain African Grey might be in need of a new home in the near future. When Mr. Awesome and I saw her, she was underweight, lonely, in need of a much better diet, and had plucked a good portion of her chest and neck area. Somewhere between ten and fifteen years old, Willow had been hand fed as a baby and sexed female.

The first serious conversation Mr. Awesome and I had about taking Willow pretty much ended in the decision not to. Where would we put her? What about the costs involved? Would we have the time? What about the budgies? Was this a responsibility we should take on right now? What if Willow decided she wanted Mr. Awesome and not me and he was at work all day? What if she did prefer me and became combative with Mr. Awesome? Just how much fecal matter would it bring into our lives? They were serious matters that needed addressing.

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But the next day when I saw Willow again, my heart broke at the thought of not giving her a good home, and I prayed for God to give us guidance, to let us know if this was something we should do or not. I didn’t want to take her unless we could reasonably say that we would be her last home. The subject was tabled for a few weeks as we waited to see what Willow’s family decided to do, and we mulled over whether or not we could accommodate her in our home.

The answer turned out to be yes, and though there have been problems to solve and challenges to overcome, a lot of learning to be done and patience used, she is fitting into our home beautifully. We’ve had her just over two months now, and I can’t imagine life without her. I praise God for bringing her into our home, and pray that we will have her for many decades to come.

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And as for Mr. Awesome’s fears of swimming in feces, I will point out that Willow is well on her way to being potty  cage trained, and in two months we’ve only had a handful of “accidents”. That and my cleaning regime has increased significantly, but that is a subject for another post.

…to be continued…

 

 

 

Update On The Flock: Part One

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, 2016 has been a bumpy year full of changes in our household, and even more so for our little flock. From the time we brought Robin and Tuck home all the way through 2015, the days passed without major incident bird wise. We moved the budgie cages around until we found the location they seemed happiest and worked best for us- our loft/office space. It has an east facing window, is on the second floor, and stays warm during our long, Midwestern winters. Add to all of this the fact that we spend a good portion of our time there as it’s where the computers are (Mr. Awesome is a video game designer after all) and it would seem we have found the optimum location for bird placement within our condo. And so, Mr. Awesome and I established a gentle rhythm with our two feathered housemates. They had their routine, we had ours.

Then one morning this spring Robin started gagging and vomiting up foam. We took him to the vet who, after listening to his heart, detected a murmur. An X-ray revealed fluid in his chest cavity. Robin was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and given a diuretic injection. The vet indicated that the shot and an oral diuretic would give him a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, so we brought Robin home thinking the best we could do is try to keep him calm and comfortable until the end came. We prayed for the little guy. We didn’t want to lose him.

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One of the (many) awesome things about God is He cares about the little things in your life, even the tiny details you don’t think have any significance on the world at large. When we brought Robin home we thought we had maybe a few days with him and assumed we were on a death watch… but he perked up. We started giving him the oral diuretic the vet prescribed and the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months. He got feisty again (something to do with the fact the medication is 11.6% alcohol perhaps?), and hassled Tuck with renewed energy. Five months later, he’s still here, ruling the roost and alerting us to every “threat” that passes his window, or calling to the birds outside.  I don’t know how long we’ll get to keep him, how long his little heart will hold out, but I’m thankful for whatever time God gives us with him.

After Robin’s heart scare, things calmed down and went as back to normal as they could with Mr. Awesome and I watching for signs of his condition deteriorating. We were thankful to have found an avian vet we really liked and felt we could trust. We were thankful to have our little flock still intact. No more waves…

And then we heard about Willow.

…to be continued…