Monday, July 29, 2013

Has It REALLY Come To This?

Okay, so I can't stand it when my kids lose an animal. CANNOT STAND IT. This time, I'm trying really hard not to run out and do something stupid the very next day. Like buying another pet I'm not ready to handle. I've learned some hard lessons about fish and garter snakes and cats that way. But it's hard. No, I did not tell my little son that his favorite chicken is missing yet. But I can't stand it. Especially since, despite our best efforts, our little farm that at one time or other has included three cats, a garter snake, a horse, five laying hens, and one rooster, has now been reduced to one lone white leghorn hen and a fancy goldfish. 
First, you have to understand that I did not grow up with animals. My parents never let me have anything more than a fish or an occasional caged rodent. My dad had allergies. This is an ailment I've come to empathize with much more as my own husband and son suffer from the same torment. So, despite my childhood desire for a dog, I now have a dander-free home of my own, and I've become very accustomed to it. Our farm cats were outside cats only, with their very own barn and field hunting paradise and a special, spoiled-kitty-B&B in our indoor porch. We will definitely get more cats. Someday.
In the meantime, my son is going to be so sad about his chicken. Yes, a chicken. She was an Ameraucana--pleasant and friendly and quite social for a chicken. She was free range and used to follow us around the yard. She'd even cluck back at you if you asked her a question. 
Instead of running to the pet store right this minute, which is the way I seem to deal with animal loss, I'm sticking with internet research. And I researched the one thing my son has been begging me for ever since his baby garter snake did a Houdini trick and escaped. And I'm looking at this ONLY BECAUSE I LOVE THE LITTLE GUY and my heart isn't quite ready to bring home a new cat.  

Of course it had to be snakes. But, I've discovered a few breeds that can be excellent for beginners and they are the perfect indoor pet for him because of his allergies. But, a snake? They only eat once a week and it takes five minutes to clean their tank. After reading the following, I've decided it may not be so objectionable to let him have it in his room (all except for number 7 below).
SnakeBuddies’ Top 10 reasons that snakes RULE!!!
  1. Snakes are hypoallergenic. If you can’t tolerate pet dander and fur all over your couches, carpets and clothes, a snake may just be a great option.
  2. Snakes only eat (on average) once a week! Statistically speaking, this means that during a single month, you may feed your Siamese cat 60 times, while feeding your snake just 4 times . I’m not great at math, but that seems significant to me.
  3. Snakes are extremely quiet. If your “snake” barks wildly when the doorbell rings, you should take it to your vet immediately. :)
  4. You don’t have to walk your snake. We all enjoy the occasional exercise, but isn’t it nice to imagine a quiet stroll through the neighborhood without having a leashed ball of energy pull your arm off, or carrying around the handy plastic bag to pick up poo?
  5. You can go on vacation for a full week without any need of hiring a pet sitter for your snake. I don’t suggest trying that with your Macaw.
  6. Lots of options to choose from. Like dogs and cats, snakes come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and these days, through selective breeding, there are more variations to behold every day. Long or short, fat or skinny, orange or green, bug eaters or mouse eaters etc, etc.
  7. Breeding snakes can be fun, educational, and profitable. Until you’ve seen a tiny little head poking curiously out of a soft, white, leathery egg, you haven’t experienced the true joy of snakes. Not only is it pretty easy to get this hobby to pay for itself, but you’ll be minimizing the need for others to take native snakes out of the wild!
  8. Snakes are clean! With no more than 5 minutes of simple maintenance per week, you’re snake cage will be clean and odor free. Can you say the same for that litter box?
  9. Many snakes are relatively inexpensive. You can easily spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on COMMON breeds of dogs and cats, but many of the snakes available in today’s pet trade can be found for an amount of money likely hiding under your sofa cushions. It is not uncommon to see beautifully patterned Corn Snakes or King Snakes for sale for around $20! Plus you’ll save hundreds of dollars more in vet and grooming bills every year.
  10. Snakes can be trained to talk, fetch the paper, make breakfast and to do yard work. OK, so I admit I might have stretched the truth a tiny bit with this one, but to be fair, a pet is just that… a pet. Above all, the purpose for a pet, is to bring you enjoyment. Nowhere does it say that you have to cuddle, walk or sleep with your pet. All that is required, is that you care for and get some sense of appreciation for the animals you keep, and I dare say that a person is no less capable of attaining those goals with a snake than they are with a fuzzy bunny.
Just after the above list, Snake Buddies has another list. The things that one must carefully consider before buying a snake. Oh, I'm going to do my research. Believe me. But for now, it looks like my little guy MAY have a chance at that corn snake he thought was soooo cute. His birthday is coming up.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bookshelf Overhaul

One of the fringe benefits of being a writer is the affect it has on the literacy of the children and teens in my life. I love connecting with other authors at conferences and then giving the kids I know a little "inside information". I tell the kids about new books coming out, what they should read next, what they should tell all their friends about, and I often bring home signed copies of new books and well-established favorites. My two little readers say they miss me when I go away for a few days to a writing conference, but it isn't a secret that they look forward to the armload of signed books I bring home for them. It started out as a peace offering for my absence. Now, I think it has evolved to a shift in their perspective. They look forward to those books. Even better are the occasional times I've been able to hand them a copy of a book before its actual release date. Thanks to my awesome critique partner, Kate Coursey, my daughter read an ARC of Stefan Bachmann's "The Peculiar", the summer before its release.

My home is a haven for reading. I have a room dedicated to it, full of soft-cushioned couches, blankets to curl up in, a rocking chair, absolutely no technological distractions, and very full bookshelves. However, I noticed that many of the shelves were, for the most part, ignored by my early-reader son. I decided to overhaul the bookshelf. I pulled everything off, covering the floor with piles marked Animal Stories; Stories From Other Cultures; Holiday and Seasonal Stories; Chapter Books; Fairy Tales; Animals and Nature; People, Places, and Things. The piles went on and on and my little reader walked in with wide eyes.

"What are you doing?"

Clearly, he thought his neat-freak mom had lost her mind. He never sees me sitting in the middle of such a mess with a peaceful look on my face. I was having fun with this clutter, and he couldn't understand how that could be possible.

"I'm putting the books into sections on the bookshelf. So you can find your favorite stories when you know what you want to read."

"Like in the library?"

Bingo. He plopped on the floor beside me and began to "help". He sorted two books into their correct categories before he settled in a corner with a book that caught his attention. He read piles of books for nearly two hours on his own that night. Success!

All the books have gone back onto the shelf, but I've placed labeled dividers between each category and my little reader is quick to find something that interests him in any given moment. He's even become the sorting expert and the bookshelf police. Sometimes he'll call out, "Hey! Somebody put 'Abiyoyo' in 'Picture Books'. It goes in 'Stories From Other Cultures', guys!"

Literacy is in full bloom. Happy Spring.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Living It

I have often looked up at a blue sky, with a perfect feather-dusting of clouds, and I've thought, "That looks just like a painting."

No it doesn't.

It looks just like nature in its perfection, and the painting is only a copy of something greater.

I've learned some hard lessons in life experience over the past few months that have reminded me to LIVE and FEEL and SAVOR the ride no matter how bumpy, unexpected, or uncomfortable. In the past, I've often gone through my life like I'm holding up an invisible shield, keeping my head down and hoping that the next bend in my road won't have something too difficult in it.

Well, what if it does? What if things get really tough?

I've been reminded that facing unexpected challenges and experiencing the full spectrum of emotions is a pummeling that can make me stronger. I just have to let it be.

So, farewell 2012. At times, you've been a great friend, a formidable foe, a hilarious joke, and an exciting journey. I'll hold onto the memories, even the bad ones, because all that living is worth something. It's worth learning to be more sympathetic and less judgmental. It's worth a grateful attitude. It's worth loving and cherishing while you can.

It's worth a million stories.