Of birds and babies

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are having a little wild kingdom moment outside our tame, suburban home. Somewhere on our property - under the house? behind the garden shed? - lives a particularly smelly skunk. This skunk is not just visiting, we believe. It has set up permanent residence. We know we should call animal control, but have we? No, we have not. Instead, we live with a sense of daring (or dread) every time we open the door to let Clementine the dog outside. She's been sprayed before. We know the drill. And recently, when I was weeding in a particularly fragrant part of the yard, I expected each time I looked up to be staring into the beady eyes of a furry face. So far, thankfully, he (or she) has not made an appearance.

Meanwhile, in the front of the house, in a small tree by the side door, a soon-to-be-mama bird has carefully built a nest and spends most of her days tending her eggs. The egg part I can only surmise, because I haven't yet brought out a chair or step-ladder to look in. And that's because she's always there. The only time she flies away is when I walk out the door, and then she swoops down in front of me and swoops back up into a different tree nearby. Startled, I give a little yelp every time.

Some background: When I was small, we visited friends at a farm in Maine. They had several outbuildings, and we slept in one. One afternoon, I went back to the room, closed the door, and immediately realized there was a bird trapped inside that was frantic to get out. It flew back and forth across the room, flapping its wings. I was terrified. I don't remember who got out first - the bird or me - but I do remember that feeling of being trapped myself. As a result, I've never been the biggest bird fan. I'm more of a bird-avoider.

Which is why it's ironic how happy I am about this mother bird sitting in her nest outside our door. I could do without the swooping, but she's so patient to sit there each day, with her little beak pointing toward the sky. She's so motherly. And what skill to build that nest! I'm impressed with the whole operation. Sometimes, before I get in the car or do whatever it is I've come outside to do, I stand for a moment and watch her, and I think she might be looking at me, too. I suspect she won't stay long after those babies are born and learn to fly, but for now I'm glad she's here.

Update: She did it! The babies are here! They hatched soon after I wrote this post, and no step-ladders were used in the taking of this slightly blurry photo. Instead, a friend of Holt's climbed up on his shoulders and snapped away. Welcome to wild kingdom, baby birds.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

And so it begins - or ends, as the case may be. I have a niece graduating from high school (and moving from China to college in NYC) and a daughter moving the much shorter distance from middle school to high school.

So I'm thinking about graduation gifts and trying to channel the mind of an 18-year-old (the 14-year-old is easier, since I live with her). What I've come up with are all things a certain 40-something also wouldn't mind having. Isn't that the sign of a good gift - something you'd want for yourself?

Jewelry, of course. I love this navy brass bracelet and its straightforward name, 'Love This Navy Brass Bracelet' from Isabel Harvey.

In case my niece (or yours) is more of a necklace girl, there's this 'I Heart You' necklace, because I do love her, and I'm sure you love your graduate, too. Also from Isabel Harvey.

I'm a pushover for aviators. I particularly like these new top-bar shades from Madewell.

I haven't yet read Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts On Kindness, but I'm a George Saunders fan.

David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher at the high school my daughter will attend, gave a graduation speech in 2012 called "You Are Not Special," that was picked up by media outlets around the world. He turned that speech into a book of the same name, and I'd like to both read it and give it as a gift.

Both my daughters have these cameras (like the Polaroids of old), and they love them. My 8th grader often brings hers with her when she stays over at a friend's, and the photos she takes are very fun. I think a freshman in college might like one to help document the year, so I'm putting the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera on the list as well (and adding a box or two of film).

I got into the graduation spirit last night when I read a speech given this month to graduating seniors at the University of Texas at Austin, called '10 Life Lessons From a Navy Seal' about what we all can do to change the world. You can read it here, if you'd like.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength." ~ Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

(Photo by John Chillingworth on BBC.com)

Bits and pieces

Friday, May 23, 2014

Some favorites from the week:

Going outside for the very first time.

I loved Maine and Commencement, both by J. Courtney Sullivan, so now I'm reading The Engagements, and yes, it's a good one.

Some thoughts on age and beauty.

A nanny's love.

And a reminder that it's never too late to start.

I hope you have a happy and fun long weekend, with lots of down time and good things to eat.

(Photo by Jessie Webster for Smitten Studio.)

Mother's day

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I'm a teary mess every time I watch a P&G "Thank you, Mom" ad, such as this one called "What I See," about a mother who was told her daughter would never walk or talk. "I never saw the things my child couldn't do," the mother says. "I only imaged what she could."

I also am a sucker for any kind of "Life Lessons From Mom" list. There are endless variations as we approach Mother's Day, including "25 Things I've Learned About Being a Daughter in My 50s," "7 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice for New Moms," and "7 Things Mom Taught Me About Living," from The Huffington Post. (Why so many lists of seven? I have no idea.) In any case, I read them all.

Last night, I had my own, very small "what I learned" moment or, like the Oprah column I sometimes used to read, an "aha"moment. My son, Holt, got an invitation to a Bar Mitzvah for this coming Saturday. (This was a last-minute invite because he has just gotten to know this boy from his baseball team, and the original guest list was put together months ago.) He may know a couple of the kids at the party, but most he won't.

To understand this "aha" moment, you should know that I am not a big-party kind of person. I love small get-togethers (my husband likes to joke that I prefer parties of two people or fewer), and I love the kind of socializing that happens spontaneously on the playground, on a driveway, or on a walk with friends. But giant gatherings of people I don't know? Not so much.

After reading the email invitation, I went to find Holt and ask him what he wanted to do. There were a few logistics to figure out, but when that was done, he said, "I'd like to go." And before my "what I learned moment," I had a bad-parenting moment.

I said, "But will you know anyone?"

He said, "I might know a few."

I asked, "Do you at least want to think about it?"

He said, "No, I'd like to go."

And then - at long last - the aha moment kicked in. I realized that a.) he's not me. He doesn't share my dread of big parties full of strangers, and oh, how happy I am he doesn't. B.) Never project (an offshoot of "A," and one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn - over and over again - as a parent). And c.) he's brave, and I could and should be braver, too. I could be more like him, instead of the other way around.

So this is my list. Not seven or 25, just these "Three Things I Learned From My 12-Year-Old," in honor of Mother's Day.

I hope you have a happy one.

Bits and pieces

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three things I'm loving right now:

1. The idea of hot-cross buns in the morning. Did you know hot-cross buns are a traditional Good Friday food? I did not know, and we're not having any (!), but don't these look good?

2. This book by one of my new favorite authors. Also this one, which a friend recommended, and this, which for some reason I put off reading but then couldn't put down.

3. These Chicago White Sox players wearing 'Boston Strong' T-shirts in their game against the Red Sox gave me a lump in my throat. We'll be in our usual spot on Monday cheering loudly for the runners in this year's marathon, and without a doubt I'll have another lump in my throat as they go by.

I hope you have a very happy (long) weekend.

(Photos by londonbakes for Food52 and AP photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

For sale

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

For two years (OK, three), I've been talking about having a yard sale. There are corners of the basement and attic where I've stored throw rugs, dining room chairs, art prints, a bed frame - all things we no longer have need of or room for. And yet, that yard sale hasn't happened. Partly it's finding the time to organize and execute; partly it's feeling unsure about pricing; and partly it's the idea that there's a better way. There are so many online marketplaces beyond craigslist to buy and sell, and I'm intrigued.

My latest intrigue is Hunters Alley (affiliated with One Kings Lane). Have you seen? It's like poking around a great flea market where someone has weeded out the bad stuff. As a result, I'm making very little progress on the real-life corners of the basement and attic - the art prints, the chairs, the throw rugs are all still there - but I'm having a wonderful time imagining the buying and selling I could do.

And so winter turns to spring.

This will happen, someday.

(Guanajuato Knoll Tulip Chair on Hunters Alley).

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