Little Brothers

I have never had a little brother. But after growing up with 2 older brothers, marrying a little brother, and giving birth to one, I can kind of put all the pieces together. While I have heard little boys described as “Noise covered in dirt” (which is about right), there needs to be an extra dose of teasing, tormenting, and general annoyance for amusement’s sake to qualify anyone as a little brother.

Manchild is by far the best little brother I have ever seen. He’s nailed all the necessary point, and then managed to wrapped them all up in a bow of snuggley affection I still can’t mentally balance. This boy thinks nothing of whipping his light saber thought his older sister’s hair with a smile on his face, absorbing her pitiful jabs in his shirtless ribs, and turning a deaf ear to her whining complaints. But in the time it takes you to say “Tattle-tail”, he can wrap his arms around her and tell her he loves her. It’s staggering really.

The thing about little brother’s vs. big sisters is their ability to aim their talents. Girlchld can boss like a champion, but it’s a skill she generally reserves for Manchild. Manchild, however, shares his little brothering abilities equally throughout what ever space he may be occupying. Aiming is not really his strong suit, in every applicable sense of the word.

Case in point, Manchild has a new BB gun. It’s fairly mild and can not break the skin at point blank range. I know this because he proved it to me the very day he got it by shooting himself in the thigh as we sat on the porch swing. A beautiful little purple bruise erupted there not long after, and it smarted for sure. But he was right, no broken skin. Now the neighborhood can relax, right?

Fast forward to Manchild shooting targets one balmy Sunday evening near the garden. If the garden runs north to south, Manchild was facing west. I paid him no mind as I chatted on our red porch rockers with a visiting neighbor. Tink. Tink. Pause (He missed). Tink. Manchild’s targets are the recycling in the bin beside the house. It’s fair game.

The next day I tend to my garden, very excited about the pending vegetation and dreaming of the variety of melons Girlchild proudly planted. We straight sew most everything we grow to save money, but it costs pride instead. I have to accept that despite my magic weapons of rabbit manure and core gardening practices, literally EVERYONE in the neighborhood will have a better looking garden before I do. Because they buy good looking plants, and plant them. Boom. Instant source of pride and joy. I get there eventually, but later in the season and long after the newness of spring has worn off. Did I mention we’re a corner lot with a lot of foot traffic? I spend HOURS in there readying the soil, and all the dog walkers know it! Just an extra dose of humility, in case I start running low… somehow.

I spy some melons that are looking good, out first of the season (WOOT!) and pick them up for a better look. Huh. They have bug holes in them! This makes me sad. I’m not surprised, but still disappointed. I take the melons in to the house for further inspection. I wondered if the bug was still in there, and decided to cut one in half to see if I could get a glimpse of the intruder. I once bit into a peach from a farmers market and found the worm still inside. Beats half a worm, I guess. But I wanted to see what made this hole.

I slice the melon open and find an egg. That doesn’t make sense. Upon further inspection, it looks funny. It’s a perfectly round egg, and seems a bit smooth to be made by nature. I reach in and pop it out to feel the sac. It’s suddenly VERY familiar and not and egg at all!! It’s a BB! There are BB holes in my previously healthy melons, which are no longer healthy or happy. Suddenly, neither am I! Captain Schenanigans had to be summoned and some new boundaries for friendly fire were established that day. Stinkin’ lil watermelon sniper! That boy…

I think little brothers thrive off the angst of big sisters. As in, it makes them grow bigger and stronger like nutrients and sunshine. While scrolling through my gallery for the melon pic I had been saving for weeks, I came across these little gems. Girlchild, doing her very best to get Manchild to smile for the camera, or heck, even look at it, so that we can have a nice Christmas picture. She plays her part so well, and tries so hard! Nope. Didn’t happen. Look at her trying to turn his little face…!

Lest you think they are all bad, while little brothers do love to tease, sneak, torture and do whatever it takes to make older siblings yell, they can also be very sweet! Especially when you launch yourself off your scooter and need to hobble to a neighbor’s house for a bandaid. Manchild to the rescue for his favorite princess…both to help and irritate.

But, alas, every little brother, Lord willing, grows up. And those irritating days of endless poking and jabbing don’t last. One day they grow up, and you know what? Little brother’s make the ULTIMATE daddies! Talk about wrestling and light saber battles, oh my goodness! Little brothers are born to be dads! But until they get there, us mama’s and a few good big sister’s need to gently show them their place. And it is NOT in a tree at a family graduation party, dropping leaves on my head while I recline for 5 minutes with my Diet Coke. THAT is not where little brother’s belong!

Big Sistering

To be flat out honest, I have never had a big sister. Nor have I ever been one. But gauging what I can from raising one, it’s without a doubt a full time gig. It demands constant supervising, a loud voice, and a strong sense to justice. Especially if you, like my daughter Girlchild, feel like you have a mother who needs a bit of extra support from you as she tends to dance the line of competent disciplinarian (her opinion, not mine). In situations such as these, the role of the Big Sister becomes highly involved and often quite loud, as you step out of your bounds and into said parent’s, since they shall clearly never make it without your input.

Case in point, recently our family took a little safari bus tour of the wildlife at Penns Cave in Pennsylvania. One of the rules of the bus, and of every bus you will ever be on for the rest of your life actually, is that you must keep your arms inside the bus. It’s a given. Another vehicle or object could come to close and wham, just like that, you lose your arm. Or so we’ve all been warned.

However, this was a very controlled bus loop with everyone going the same direction. There were wide open pastures where we were literally just in a field, looking through a fence at bison. Nothing to threaten one’s body parts for miles acres around. But this did not stop 10yr old Girlchild from informing her 8yr old brother Manchild that his arm was most definitely NOT inside the window. Add to that imminent threat of danger the infuriating fact that you very own mother is seated right beside you, and while she can quite clearly see Manchild in the seat in front of her, has yet to set the situation straight. She appears to be happily gazing at bison instead.

“Mom, Manchild has his arm out the window. Mom! Mom, his arm isn’t inside the bus!!” Girlchild loudly persists (as her mysteriously silent father sits beside Manchild). Then helpfully repeats her mantra until she has successfully verbally aided in the recover of her brother’s arm, and it has reclaimed it’s proper place inside the bus. Crisis averted. Parental frustration is simply an unavoidable byproduct, not the problem of a Big Sister. Score one for the Big Sister.

Call it admiration, appreciation, or straight up Stockholm Syndrome, but Manchild sure does love his Big Sister. When he’s not bruising her, he is wildly defending her with a scarily reckless abandon. This weekend, Girlchild and Manchild were experiencing an old fashioned seesaw at a playground. Gravity being the friend that it is, injured Girlchild as she attempted a dismount. As she climbed off crying, and explained what happened, Manchild caught wind of the situation. Feeling a touch theatrical, Manchild launched his 8yr old fists upon the recently vacated seat of Girlchild’s end of the metal seesaw, and unleashed his fury. The seesaw, being a seesaw, dipped lower and lower as Manchild punched it for hurting his sister…until he relented and it swung upward and it clocked him right between the eyes on the center of his forehead. Four days later, the fading bruise still makes me laugh. An entirely avoidable injury, yet not in Manchild’s book of punishable offences. Chapter one starts off with hurting his sister…

While I do appreciate Girlchild’s Big Sistering at times, like when she informs me Manchild has something in his mouth that isn’t food or is being too rough with her dog, I do jokingly call her Mini Mama. Between the both of us, Manchild seems to be turning out okay (punching see-saws aside). On one day of our stay in Pennsylvania I was lounging in our rented home and Manchild was antsy to go somewhere. I told him to take the $5 bill out of my purse and head down the road to the table of produce and wares an Amish family had set up in their driveway. Considering it was mostly vegetables, jelly, baked goods, and soap, I didn’t really care what he came back with. We’d use it eventually. Manchild happy sets off down the road, money in his fist and independence in his heart. He’s adventure bound!

Moments later my boy returns with a bag of ginger snap cookies, and a bar of soap. Doing a quick calculation in my head, I asked him about the remaining $1.25 that should be leftover.

“Oh” he replied casually, “I told them to keep the change. I knew you wouldn’t mind, and they seemed like they could use it.” He smiled at me as my jaw dropped. Now, maybe he just didn’t want them to know he couldn’t quite manage the math to know how much was leftover. But I think at least a part of this growing child sensed this family could a few extra dollars, and knew that we had some to share. He certainly had no fear of my reaction at his volunteering me to bankroll those around him. I’m proud of the decision he made on the fly, whatever the reason. I certainly could find no fault in it. He was absolutely right. Between me and Girlchild, this kid was gonna turn out right.

While much of Big Sistering involves keeping the youngers in line, some of your time is take up with making sure you have your fair share of the spotlight. No matter what the ruckus, that spot light ought not move too much off target, or higher ups should be notified. Logic and reason are innocent bystanders. During our vacation, Manchild had been indulging on cookies without feeling the need to notify anyone else of his consumption. As a result, Manchild became a spewing fountain of regurgitated vanilla cream cookies (this is why I don’t buy this stuff at home), as he moved through various rooms of the rental.

While Captain Schenanigans tackled the bedroom, I took on the project of cleaning up the living room. The more we cleaned, the madder Girlchild got. Finally, as I tucked her into bed that night I asked what was bothering her. Her reply? “The entire time Manchild was throwing up no one was paying ANY ATTENTION TO ME!!!”

She was absolutely right. Situation be damned, her attention was stolen by a younger and she wasn’t having it! Corrections needed to be made to ensure her Big Sister role was held intact and with the respect she demanded. Stomach contents were no match for birth order! That’s what Easu illustrated in Genesis, right?

But for as lone wolfy as the Big Sister role may feel at times, our family definitely wouldn’t be complete without her. Only Jesus knows how many more injuries Manchild may have sustained without his hovering Big Sister’s watchful eye (we’re not gonna talk about how many injuries Big Sister may have brought upon herself from Manchild due to taking her role a bit too seriously). Big Sisters are a class unto themselves. A rank I will never join, though probably ought to learn more about in order to help relieve the self appointed burden they often choose to shoulder. Bless their little hearts, they only want fairness. Well, and control. Absolute and utter control.

Testing My Endurance

It was so hot and steamy in there that I could feel sweat drip down the back of my calves. CALVES! Whose calves sweat anyway? Certainly not mine before, there’s nothing touching them. Except the plastic Tyvek hazmat suit I was inside of, which breathed about as well as a ziploc bag. Plus my face mask kept steaming up so that I’d have to use a tissue to wipe it clear in order to see out of it. But I’m not thinking about the rising temperature of the day, or even pending dehydration. I’m waiting for the next car to pull up.

 

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Months ago, when Baltimore County had opened up drive through Covid-19 testing centers I “volunteered” (still paid, but not a part of my normal duties, and no one would force me to do it) to test. After 16yrs of telephonic desk nursing, I just wanted to feel like a real clinical nurse again. So I volunteered, twice actually, and I waited. And waited. Finally, I found out who was scheduling the testers, e-mailed her myself, and pushed to be put on the schedule. There were school nurses, and community nurses who could no longer do home visits, also being used in line ahead of me. But I wanted to be able to look back 30yrs from now and I say I got involved, so I did.

My first morning showing up at the testing site I found myself at the Donning Station where all the clean supplies were ready and waiting. I was given a white, plastic based hazmat suit to step into, and there were firemen waiting to duct tape my base layer of purple plastic gloves to my suit. They made sure to fold back small tabs on each piece of tape so that I could remove them myself afterwards.

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Next came the blue plastic apron over my head, arms through, tying in the back. Then my mask (I had driven to the fire department to be sized for it last month), hairnet, pull my hazmat hood over my head, place the plastic face shield on my head, and finally, a second pair of plastic gloves. For the next four hours I would not eat, drink, or use the bathroom. Unless I wanted to waste PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and have all eyes on me as I doff my garments, then re-don them upon my return, as everyone else continues working and toughing it out. No thanks, I’ll wait.

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We all have jobs, and are assigned to one of six lanes of traffic. I am paired with another nurse, who quickly teaches me the simple test requirements of the lab kit we are using that day. Today’s kits were manufactured by Labcorp, and only required a Q-tip to be inserted less than an inch and rotated for 15 seconds per nare. Much less painful than the original test kit, requiring a long swab to reach the back of the sinus cavity through the nostrils. That one hurts! But each day we use whichever kit we are given and proceed according to directions.

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In the beginning the time moved fast. We nurses only test, as there are other people who fill out lab slips, run the samples to the cooler, direct traffic, and monitor supplies.  I hear stories of the week before, when there were about a thousand people in line (literally) and the cars were turning around and leaving because the wait was so long. It was the first day you didn’t need a doctor’s referral to come. Meaning, the first day people without insurance could be tested.

This day, about a week after that, the line was starting to space out and we even had 5-10 minutes between cars in our lane to sit down. My feet hurt. The guy next to me, the one who took my photo so I could remember this event even though I’m unable to have access to my phone, is a volunteer from the community. He works in HR during the day, and his mom raises standard poodles. He tells me about birthing poodles. His job here was moving the giant orange cone from in front of each car that tells the driver where to stop. It sounds boring, but the following week no one filled that position (the racism riots in the country took the National Guard away from directing traffic into our lanes, so those roles had to be filled first, and we ran out of volunteers), and it was a major pain to do it in gloves. You don’t want to touch the traffic cone in potentially COVID-19 dirty gloves, but once you touched it the gloves weren’t really clean either, so at what point in the testing process could you touch the traffic cone? It is ridiculously hard to put two plastic gloves on over top of each other, spraying hand sanitizer between pairs. I felt bad about all that waste.

The following week, the line was even more sparse. Administration added an hour to our shift (ugh, it’s now June and Baltimore is heating up), and cancelled the second shift. There is a longer wait between cars, so I start asking questions to those who have been here since the beginning. The (white) people with insurance all came at the start of the pandemic, which explained why I am now mostly seeing immigrants, undocumented,  and as always, the elderly. They scare us with their driving. The other nurse and I each test kids in forward facing car seats, and they don’t even cry.  But those two were the only little ones to come through. Not many children.

The process is that when a car comes through the gates to the fairgrounds they are given a piece of red paper placed on the windshield for each person in the car needing testing without an appointment. A green sheet for everyone needing testing with an appointment. Then they are to follow the lane of cones to the testing building (the Cow Palace) and there someone directs them into one of our six lanes. They drive in, a sign is held up telling them to turn off their engine (for our safety) and keep the windows up (for everyone’s safety). Place your drivers license up to the glass for ID and test result contact info. Phone numbers and birth dates are verbally confirmed through the glass. But people get confused and love rolling down their windows. By the time we get them to put them back up (the people taking contact info only have an apron and mask on) the information is usually captured on the lab slip, and it’s time to be swabbed. So I hold up a sign asking them to roll the window back down. For some reason in the new cars that don’t require a key in the ignition, NO ONE can put their windows down without starting their car. Now it’s a safety hazard again. We had one old lady come in to test without putting the car in park. Heaven knows how much she could see over her mask, let alone if she wasn’t feeling well.

But so far I have yet to see anyone cough or complain of symptoms. Most are just returning to work and need a negative test result.  In my contact tracing training by the CDC online, a person must be within 6ft of an infected person for 15 minutes to be considered exposed. I spend an average of 40 seconds with each person. Even in a car of multiple people (and the truck I had to crawl into the rear middle seat to reach the toddler in a car seat), I spend less than 5 minutes total exposed before we send them on their way. I’m not worried about exposure with all this PPE. I hand each person a paper bag with information in it and instructions on retrieving their test results online.

It is the PPE that makes testing so physically brutal. All nurses know what it feels like to go 6-8hrs without food or bathroom breaks. But to have a plastic mask on your face for even an hour is much more uncomfortable to me than those days as a busy floor nurse. Especially on a slow days. Slow and uncomfortable is the worst. Having air on your face makes a huge difference when doing a task, it’s kinda surprising.

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But the lines are slowing down considerably now, and more urgent care clinics are offering tests, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the County testing centers close sooner rather than later. I sure hope so, because July, in Baltimore, in a hazmat suit, is a lot to ask.  We close 15 minutes early and head to the Doffing Station. We stand in trash bags as the firemen assist us in taking off the dirty layers first, then the clean, and finally, we keep our mask and face shield and spray them down with sanitizer and bleach wipes. We’ll use those masks five times, or until they fall apart. I stick mine in a ziplock bag, where it will stay until next week. Any germs I missed will be long dead.

There’s water, soda, and boxed lunches for the workers. I never make it out of the parking lot before I eat and drink. Mostly drink. The eating there is just to avoid the ruckus that awaits me at home. I still have cases to work and calls to make for my real job. But the most important thing I will be doing for the rest of the day is re-hydrating. I’m blasted! But I’ll happily do it again next week. After all, it isn’t everyday you get to be a part of history.

 

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I know I look grumpy, but I’m just tired and needing water.

 

Flinging Cats on Movie Night

I can not tell you how many times, and for what assortment of reasons, I have thrown live cats at my husband. But let me assure you, in 12 years of marriage, no animals have been injured or abused. At the most, some were left mildly perplexed.

See, it all began with Family Game Night. A compromise with the children who begged for a Family Movie Night, but due to their desperate pleas to be allowed to swim in freezing cold water during winds strong enough to elicit a small craft advisory, dinner was an hour and a half later than usual. Not enough time for a movie. But, thanks to the creative powers of public schools and the endless limitations of online education, the children had a new game they wished to play with us instead called Find It. The rules were simple. One person calls out something the others must locate from anywhere in the home, and present back to their lap. First one to Find It wins, and becomes the caller. It’s pretty easy online. It’s annoyingly harder when you are all in the same room with the same objects!

It began with me requesting something that starts with the letter Q. That transpired in to Manchild asking us to find something “old”, and Girlchild asking us to find “a nail polish color that would look good on Grover dog.” That lead to Manchild rummaging through her bedroom (she is the only one in the house owning nail polish), which to her abject horror, she learned about only after he brought her the requested polish. Am I the only one not seeing the benefit of thinking things through here?

But the real winner tonight was when Captain Schenanigans asked us to bring him a live yellow cat. Of which, of course, we only had one. Jax. And there were three of us. So, I lay on the sofa and watched the children tumble their way down the stairs to search the den, or Girlchild’s room, or anyplace mircofleece has been tossed down. After a moment of silence, I remembered the cat bed was in MY room, just down the hall. I stand up, and begin moseying down the hall just as the first child bounds up the stairs, and down the hall behind me. I reach the cat bed first, extricate the feline from said slumber containment unit, and hold him high above my head.

By this point, the second child has crashed into the room and has joined the first kid jumping at my shoulders. I am just hoping my arms are longer than the cats legs, as his claws and my eyeballs are dangerously close to one another. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to be in a “thinking clearly” sorta mood at this point. Cat high above my head with his belly soft and limp, I start my retreat to the living room with one dangling yellow cat, who seems to be stretching at an alarming rate!

By this point the young ’ems have figured out they are not tall enough to reach our prized pet, and have started a defensive technique instead. One of my loving children, I strongly suspect Manchild who tackles like an NFL player, throws their arms around my waist, launches all their weight against me, and attempts to drag me backward.  The other, I believe though I can’t clearly recall in the fog because at some point I started closing one eye to protect it from any swinging claws, seems to be alternating between hanging off my shoulder with grabby hands, and joining child #1 in their tackling attempts. At this point I have 166lbs of opposition pressing against me, and 10lbs of confusion hanging above my head, and my arms are getting tired.

I lock my elbows to protect my eyes, and slog forward into the dining room. My footless onsie pj’s are sleek against the sweaty mitts of my offspring, and their hands slide down my waist as I walk.  I think I see a flash of my husband’s red shorts near the finish line and joy surges in my chest. But when I look up he is gone. Darnit!! I’m not sure I can go any further, and he just added another 4 feet on to my expedition (later he admitted to coming into the hallway to watch the noisy racket like some smug spectator, but refused to assist my win, choosing instead to hustle back to his recliner and make me complete the entire journey). For this he shall pay.

I narrowly make it through the dining room, pivot 300 degrees on my right heel and face the corner of the living room. I then  hurl the cat with all my might at the no longer smug looking man comfortably observing from the lounge chair. Shockingly to us all, after a complete 180 of yellow fur though the air and around the corner, this priceless tabby is gently caught, safely and snuggly, in the massive arms of Captain Schenanigans. There’s no meowing or clawing. Truth be told, Jax doesn’t seem all that worked up about his flight!

Jax the cat did opt not to stay in the room with us upon gaining his freedom, he seemed to have time sensitive things to attend to in the basement after all. However, later in the evening, as I found him lounging upon Captain Schenanigan’s pillow in silent revenge, he really appeared no worse for the wear. For as much as I feared his claws digging into my flesh as I carried him like a shedding torch though my home, I never actually felt anything sharp. So while lesser cats may have panicked and clung to my wrists, it may be entirely possible that Jax the Charming has become used to our schenanigans, and even developed a low grade tolerance to the ruckus that becomes us. I know I sure have!

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Some Days Are Stones.

David Ramsey, pastor of Rock Springs Community Church in Cortez, Colorado (not the finance guy, though both men are full of wisdom) used to say “Some days are diamonds, others are stones”.  Unfortunately, today just felt like pea gravel.

Apart from being cold and annoyingly rainy (JUST enough to make walking the dog uncomfortable, though not nearly as uncomfortable as quarantining with a un-walked dog), the day actually started out fairly OK. Virtual school in the morning, Girlchild had her class and Manchild did some online work. We are working on his handwriting right now, and so he has to write 4 sentences daily. At first he hated it, then we turned those sentences in to letter writing, and now he’s fully on board. Actually, he had been writing letters to friends and cousins, but after running out of those he turned to writing encouraging notes to our neighbors. Especially one elderly woman whose mother had just died, and he penned his love and affection for her and her dog, after telling her he was sorry her mother passed. I do love this 8-year-old boy!

Friday is the day our cleaner comes (I know my weaknesses, and seek help when needed). Cristina has become a friend, and I am SO proud of her for launching her own business, Fresh and Shine Cleaning Services, newly licensed and insured! However, this means the kids and I need to scamper out of her way, while Captain Schenanigans hides under the stairs working in his dungeon. So we got sandwiches from Subway and ate them in the car while I read aloud from The Magic Bicycle chapter book.

We stopped for groceries and snowballs (for you non-Marylanders, picture a sno-cone or shave ice with flavor pumped on to it, and maybe marshmallow topping), then high tailed it home to catch Manchild’s online class.  We got there just as Cristina was wrapping up, and she gave us a shiny new folder with the name of her newly minted company on it. Inside was information including her new website: http://www.freshandshinecleaningservices.com,  which is a huge step for her.

She asked me to leave a review, which I did. Then I perused her gallery of photos and low and behold, there was Manchild’s old room with a before and after picture (he has since moved to a different room)! Wow! I did not expect to see that. It makes sense, there is definitely a dramatic change every Friday in this house. But to see your home as an example of “dirty” online is not adding the polish to today’s diamond. Oh well, I hope it helps her gain clients. To be fair, that rug doesn’t get any cleaner than she got it, and those stains weren’t coming clean no matter how much she vacuums.

Manchild’s conference call started off educational, then at the last minute switched to a fun game where the teacher called out for the kids to find something (old, red, flat, whatever), and they race off to be the first to bring it to show the class.  Girlchild seems to be causally observing, when I hear “Something with holes? Mom’s laundry basket!” And before I knew it the entire second grade class was staring at my dirty laundry.

“Uh, Girlchild? Tell me my unmentionables were not visible, please. ”

“Oh, I don’t think so, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

*Facepalm* Carry on.

Soon Manchild’s class was over (I can always tell when it ends from anywhere in the house because I loudly hear him asking “CAN I GO NOW? CAN I?)”  That’s my boy. Crazy smart, can fix things with his hands to rival any businessman, but academia was not holding his interests. I’m on the phone when he comes into the kitchen, opens the freezer, and pulls out a bag of half used frozen peas. I motion that he was certainly welcome to eat them and was silently pleased that my urging for healthy food choices was FINALLY influencing his decisions.

Until something whizzed past my leg. Or I thought it did. It was hard to tell. Until the dog, standing in the foyer, turned his head to look at something flying past in him as well. I hear a few more things hit the hardwood in the living room before Manchild saunters into the kitchen and holds up this… ! 20200508_211458

It’s the top half of a PVC sword my husband had made him and painted silver. Manchild cut a piece off, and made a pea shooter. In the house. By now peas are flying left and right and I astounded that he foresees no bad ending to this story.  Frozen peas. Flying through the house.

“Manchild! What are you doing?!” I yell/ask, stepping on peas while spotting more peas down the hall and into the bathroom. “These are going to get smashed and rot!” Cristina had not left more than an hour ago. It was right about now I was cursing the dog for not eating produce. Any healthy, American mutt ought to be all over this food fight like white on rice! Stinking Grover.

After a threat of losing privileges, and with the delegating supervision of his older, wiser, sister (“YOU MISSED ONE OVER THERE! MANCHILD! YOU MISSED THAT ONE! GET IT!), most all of the peas did seem to disappear. Curiously, so did the pea shooter…and about a cup of un-popped pop corn kernels with it. They turn up in his bed at bedtime. I let his father handle that. After all, it’s nearly Mother’s Day, and why should mothers have all the fun of parenting. That mess needs to get spread around! Like peas.

 

 

 

Awards

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“Dad? Daaaaaaad! Can I have a cookie before breakfast?” Manchild yelled from an empty kitchen to his missing father.

“No!” Yelled back both Captain Schenanigans, and the voice from the open laptop on the table. Captain Schenanigans had been called away from his conference call to solve an internet problem for Girlchild. His co-worker in Pennsylvania (who had never met Manchild, but had a set of twin boys and a younger boy at home) voluntarily took over parenting for a moment, albeit virtually. Because all parents know, ya can’t have cookies before breakfast, doesn’t matter whose kid it is. Blue ribbon for that dad!

Don’t you ever wish there were more awards given out in life? I could certainly go for one every time I drag my pajama clad body in rubber boots out to the coop in the rain, wind, cold, dark nights, and early morning hours. Twice a day for ten days, just to fight with Hank-the-hen who looks at me and annoyingly runs away. Again. Like she doesn’t know the program yet. Hrmpf.

Right now as I type, there is a black and white chicken out there in the chicken coop with bubble gum on her breath. Not from cracking gum of her own, but because she happened to have a slow healing foot infection at the same time as Girlchild was being de-escalated (learned this word today, medically speaking it means to be taken off a prescription intentionally yet prematurely) from Amoxicillin because it wasn’t a sinus infection after all, it the wrong daily anti-histamine. Which was the first thing I told the doc when she came on the video chat last week… But diagnosis’ aside, this bubble gum flavored liquid gold was just in time to treat Hank once and for all. So I took Girlchild off the drug, re-calculated the dose (sorta) and switched to a tiny veterinary syringe. No needle, just down the hatch while her protesting beak attempted to swing from side to side.

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Girlchild has set her sights on becoming a veterinarian (can’t imagine why), and earlier in the week requested permission to administer a dose of medicine to Hank. Seeing as how it was Manchild’s bird, I sent them both out to conquer a 5lb chicken with a dose of antibiotics. The chicken totally won! Sadly, Girlchild trudged back to the house to inform me that Hank had bested them, and they lost the entire dose down her feathers. Manchild was still outside trying to wrangle up the other hens who slipped out of the gate during the poultry rodeo.  I re-loaded her syringe and we gave it another go. Hank’s a tough old bird, but I’m a nurse. We. Don’t. Skip. Doses.

So I’m thinking I’d like to collect an award for doing my due diligence with Hank. I’d also like to give one to the driver  who was driving slow enough, and paying enough attention, to hit the brakes in time to avoid running over Manchild yesterday,  His first time riding his new electric scooter, with the whole family watching, and our hearts nearly stopped.

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There is a house across the street with a driveway that does up a small hill to a carport. Just the right size for a boy to bike up, and coast down at top speed. Which he had been granted permission to do, with supervision, Unfortunately, there was also a corner with a stop sign about 200 feet up the street from this driveway, on the same side. It was just the right timing for Manchild (wearing his dirt bike helmet which covers his ears so he couldn’t hear our voices) to swoop down this hill, out into the street, and right in front of this car that wasn’t on the street when he left the top of the driveway, but was most definitely there when he got to the bottom. Praise God, and thank you Jesus, for protecting my boy!! Big old blue ribbon to that driver. Huge. And very blue. Maybe even gold! Whichever is the best.

I’d also like to give an award to 8yr old Manchild, for learning to use a sledge hammer to pop the 12ft boards of our deck from the underside, and thus sped along our little deck project. We were taking off the old wood boards and replacing them with composite decking. Trex brand in Tiki Torch brown, since you asked. I mean there’s no time like a pandemic for attacking those nagging home improvement projects, and since I knew my husband had all his week-ends free for a while, why wait?

One particularly stressful day I just went out and started pulling up boards. Manchild’s radar went up at the sound of hand tools in use, and he showed up about the second blow of my hammer. We had the first railing off in about five minutes, and the second and third about three minutes later. We raced each other, I won. 🙂 After about two hours I was done with the project and went inside. But the opportunity for demolition nagged at Manchild like a kid waiting for Christmas. Every chance he got, he asked if we could work on the deck. When he woke up in the morning. When it was too dark and past bedtime. At the intermission of family movie night. All he wanted to do was pull up boards. And he was good at it! Half the deck was removed by Manchild alone. We may have botched up homeschooling and had him doing the wrong assignments online, but he certainly learned a few other life skills this week! Red ribbon for Manchild (I know, I’m switching between ribbons and awards), because while his skills and enthusiasm were unbridled, don’t interrupt movie night to ask me to do demolition work. I’m in my jammies already, and we all know I can only doctor birds in that attire!

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One final special award would go to all the good doggies in the world. The ones who comfort their boys and girls when the world seems unfair. The ones who curl up beside tired mamas at night who are perpetually cold, who fight husbands for the front seat of the car where they always ride, and suddenly go on multiple walks a day when parents need a break. The ones who pick up all the dropped food off the floors so mama doesn’t have to, and are the only ones in the house obeying when we speak.  You puppers are God’s gift to us.

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Tabby King

“Meeoooooooow!!!” I heard coming from the basement bathroom as I carried an overflowing basket of dirty laundry to the washing machine. I turned and looked to see Jax, our dopey tabby, laying on his side on the tile floor, batting his paw half-heartedly.  Now, I’d watched enough Tiger King to know that this was clearly not normal cat behavior, Jax favored micro fleece and my pillow as his relaxation locations of choice, not hard floors. Something was up.

After starting an endless load of sheets and towels, I sauntered into the bathroom and saw a small puff of brownish fur, about the size of a moth ball, chillin’ like a tumble weed on my floor. It wasn’t there yesterday. Jax had now changed positions, and any good Joe Exotic apprentice would know that he was in prey position. Crouching like a not so hidden tiger. Something was definitely under there!

Since I’d spent my morning self-learning how to express my dog’s anal glands via a vet on Youtube (Grover’d been obsessed with his poop chute for days), and recruiting Girlchild (who wants to be a vet) to help me put these new skills in to play, I felt it was perhaps Captain Schenanigan’s turn to take one for Team Pet. I lured him from his dungeon office with promises of unknown adventure, and then bravely stood in the bathtub behind him as he laid on the floor and peered under the shelf.

“Yup,” He declared, “There’s something under there, and it’s not coming out with Jax around.” He threw the cat out of the bathroom and closed the door. Magically, Jax opened the bathroom door and walked right back in like he was one of the kids. Taking this as my out from the crap show that was about to go down (picturing rabid, mutilated squirrels zooming around the room at break neck speed and requiring painful vaccines), I snatched the yellow dummy, handed Captain a plastic bag for his defense, and gracefully exited the room.

Hauling Jax upstairs, I declared his misdeeds to the kids, and deposited him in the living room. I noticed my shirt is unusually covered with cat hair, and informed Manchild he needed to brush his cat, since it’s spring and he’s blowing out his winter-ish coat. Part-time outdoor cat = part-thick winter coat.

A few moments later Captain Schenanigan, ever our hero, ascended the stairs to present to us Jax’s prey. A tiny baby bunny. Having raised only about 8 billion baby rabbits in our backyard, I recognized that this one was big enough to make it on his own, not dependent on milk anymore, and could survive without his mama. Which is good, considering we don’t actually know where he came from (or how he ended up under the shelf in the basement bathroom, for that matter), and I had zero interest in wildlife rehabilitation.

The bunny, save for a little blood under it’s nose, looked reasonably okay. It’s skin was intact, it was alert though frightened, and per Captain Schenanigans, all it’s limbs appeared to be in working order. Yay for small miracles.

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We selected the perfect location of brambles with no foot traffic or dogs, and lots of weeds and trees on our neighbor’s hill to release baby Thumper. It only took a second before this tiny bunny had hopped it’s self away and out of sight from our four pairs of staring eyes.  A success story! Well, at least for the rabbit.

Back inside the house, Manchild trapped Jax and proceeded to groom him with a pet brush, for maybe the first time in either of their lives. I’d never seen a cat grimace before, but Manchild was all business at his task, and despite my demonstration on gentleness, preferred his utilitarian methods of cat ownership. I felt little sympathy, to be honest.20200410_150004

I’d settled back into my typing, when the sounds of a crying cat registered from some far off place in the house. Since Jax is a very vocal cat, this was nothing new. I figured Manchild was giving his grooming skills another shot. It barely registered in my mind as Manchild cruised through the kitchen, asking where we kept the rabbit nail trimmers, and disappeared again. I had tried trimming that cat’s nails alone exactly once. Jax could handle himself against an 8yr old boy with a set of clippers and a dream.

Back to blogging, I finish and post for the day when my son proudly stands before me and declares ” I washed the cat and trimmed his nails! I was nice, I even used hot water!!”.

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Our jaws go slack and drop open like cod fish. What?! How did we miss this? But the look on the face of one soggy, angry, shame-filled tabby let us know our sins would not soon be forgotten! Manchild proceeded to tell us in great detail how he went about his pet grooming process, which included a purple loofah and a bar of homemade hand soap I’d received as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law. We dissolved into laughter, we couldn’t help it. This child was determined and amazing, and we were lucky to have him.  The cat, on the other hand, had decidedly learned his lesson about bringing baby bunnies into the household, and moseyed off to lay low for the rest of the day. He spent the next hour licking his fur and waiting for it to dry.  Lesson learned about not flying under the radar of enthusiastic cat owning boys.

Ya can’t say he didn’t earn it!

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This is why we can’t have nice things. I set this brand new bar of hand crafted soap out YESTERDAY!

 

Laptops and Windshield Wipers

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My Hero!

“You need a new laptop”. My tech savy husband informed me, yet again. My old slow one had kicked me off Citrix for the millionth time, and as I yelled for my personal tech support to drop what he was doing and help me sign in before I was late for telecommuting, it was clear this work from home thing wasn’t working for me. Or him, by default.

See, I’m a technology hater. I have grown accustomed to every magical device that works wonders in the commercials failing me royally IRL. This new computer would be no different. I promise you. But since working from home was a must for the foreseeable future, I’d do anything to make it run smoother.

As a public health nurse during COVID 19, I am noticing that while the front line medical people are true heroes (not me, I agreed to help test, but they didn’t need me after all) it’s honestly the computer guru’s who are the unsung heroes for the healthy.

See, when my unit was finally allowed to work from home (after much begging), we were sent a few e-mails with instructions, and told NOT to call OIT (the help desk) for help. We were to each use our own computers and our problems and issues would overwhelm tech support. I get that, but most health departments are not known for their technology skills or youth, and ours was no different. So it was good luck, Suckas!

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Guess who wouldn’t be able to talk to her class online without such a capable computer loving dad!?

Thus, my amazing husband set to work ordering me a new laptop for curbside pick up at Micro Center one morning.  By noon it was in a cardboard box laying on my bed, waiting for me to get excited. I ignored it. Hours later, Captain Schenanigans couldn’t wait anymore and ripped into it.

“How are you not more excited about this?”  He asked in disbelief.

“Honestly, computers to me are about as exciting as windshield wipers. They should do wonderful things to make my life easier, but in my world they only ever half work. I am quite used to squinting through the rain, with blades that aren’t yet trashed, but leave half my view smeary and limited. That’s basically computers to me. They never work right”.

He said nothing. Maybe blinked a few times. Then proceeded to attacked my laptop like a fox in a hen house. Meanwhile, I still don’t even know what kind it is, even as I type.

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Last night we lost power, meaning we lost internet. Wind was whipping around outside causing a tree to fall on the power line next door, making it smoke and smolder.  The whole Schenanigans clan when through entertainment withdrawal.  Manchild can’t fall asleep without a British woman online speaking calm meditations to him. Not kidding. SO, so, so very much not kidding.

OK, I thought to myself, I’ll just use this time to type up a fresh blog on a blank document and copy it to my page after the power resumes. Seemed easy and reasonable to me. Nope. Forty minutes later I’ve up used all my mom-allotted angry words, and threw in the towel on finding  ANY way to put words on the screen of this over-priced coaster before me!

Lo and behold, twenty minutes later Captain Schenanigans had finished his group chat  and pulled up a note pad on the computer for me. By then I was already knee deep in watching Valentines Day, and bawling over Julia Roberts missing her Manchild-aged son while deployed. The moment to blog had passed like a thief in the night. Or my memory of any given password. Gone.

So while this pandemic has thrown everyone’s plans into an uproar with it’s merciless behavior, if you are able to carry out business as usual (or close enough to it), thank a computer person. Because despite being a public health nurse during a massive pandemic, my job hasn’t really changed that much. But as a sound engineer who supports teleconferencing technologies, Captain Schenanigan’s been busier than a one armed paper hanger! If we all have to telecommute (and Girlchild just got diagnosed with a sinus infection over the phone- after three tries to get the camera working), I’m thankful that at least some people know how to do it! Now please, could you help the rest of us?

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Guess who wouldn’t be able to do any school work without Captain Schenanigans in the houzzzzz!!?

 

 

Of Mice And Making Men

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http://www.Centralpc.org streaming live over Youtube.

I don’t know about you, but we are sleeping in later and later each day of this pandemic. Some people may be losing sleep right now, but we are not them. Bedtime has become a bit of a slippery slope, since 8yr old Manchild and 10yr old Girlchild have absolutely no where they need to be, so most nights the kids are in bed about a half hour later than usual.  It’s not a huge deal, but what I don’t understand is how they are sleeping two hours later in the mornings to make up for it? Rest assured, there are no dark circles under the Schenanigans family’s eyes!

After reading in bed til midnight myself, it felt like the dead of night when I heard a loud crash and thump, like falling toys or plastic on a carpet. I bolt from my bed and launched myself into Manchild’ s room, where I find Jax the cat with Sally the mouse in his mouth. This was Manchild’s pet white mouse, and she was dead. I looked at her cage and it was still  locked up tight. I look around the room and see nothing that would make a huge crashing sound (a few scattered toys, but that’s our norm around here).  I have NO IDEA how that stinkin’ cat got this mouse out of her cage.

 

Manchild had crawled into bed with Captain Schenanigans and myself at some point, so when I gently relayed the events to him in his sleepy state as I climbed back in bed, he registered no emotion. When I reminded him what transpired this morning as we sat on the couch waiting to watch church, he remembered but didn’t react much. But as I lay with him at bedtime tonight, the sadness came. It always does at night. He told me how he had just gotten used to Sally’s squeaking (she was ridiculously loud hosting raves in her cage all night for being a single tiny mouse), and that he wouldn’t be able to sleep without her sounds now. It was pitiful. Then, on my way out of his room, I was nearly eighteen inches from freedom, he dropped the pet bomb. It never fails.

“I want another pet”. He asked, sadly, yanking on my irrational heart strings. “I want something else to be responsible for.”

Thankfully, my sarcastic side stepped up and kicked the heart strings in the throat. Not gonna die on this hill of empathy, we’ve got 16 other animals to care for on this property.

“You mean like a rabbit?’ I say dryly. We all know the fight that ensues daily to get Manchild to put his shoes on, go outside before the bus comes, and feed his bunny, Hops. Every. Single. Day.  Why on earth would this kid need more pets?

“No, ” Manchild begins, but I cut him off before he could get farther.

“How about a chicken?” I offer a bit too far on the snide side. We are up to our armpits in chickens, WHICH I LOVE, but I can’t replace some of my lower producing breeds with better egg layers because half my flock belongs to my children. They take them to the fair, and love earning ribbons and prizes (Manchild cleaned house with a Grand Champion layer last summer). But do I have to twist their tiny arms behind their backs to get them to gather eggs, or heaven forbid, throw feed out for them (not literally of course, we have cameras everywhere on this property)!? Chickens, to my children, are pets of convenience. Because I love being out there messing with them every day, the kids rarely have to pay attention to their birds (although that has changed now that they are home all day due to Corona, and have waaaaaaay more time for chores like gathering eggs – WOOT)!

“No”, Manchild begins, and I head him off again because we are rapidly losing animal categories, and I don’t need anyone setting their hopes on a terrible plan at 9pm.

“No more rodents! We aren’t getting a hamster”, I declare. Something we’d discussed at one point in the past once we saw how non-bitey they were and just all around better BFF’s than mice.

“I want a fish” Manchild declared.

“A fish? Only if it’s in a bowl and you feed it and you change the water!” I lay the guidelines hard and fast because deal breakers are best found quickly.

“And AFTER all this (Corona) is over!” Captain Schenanigans chimed in from another room in stealth mode. He has learned to monitor my animal conversations with the children as this dramatically cuts down on the volume and variety of furry souls we drag home without his knowledge. I’m still trying to get him to agree to a nice, silent alpaca. They max out at 5 feet tall and we’ve got a 6 foot privacy fence,  boo yeah! Hellllooooo suburban alpaca homesteading!

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Photo by LARAINE DAVIS on Pexels.com

It was agreed. We’d get Manchild a fish. It’s ALWAYS the first night after a pet death that this type of bartering occurs. I simply can’t say no to a sad child who wants to love an animal. I can not. But I can put up boundaries on acceptable species, and it’s not my fault if you don’t like your options. That only took ten years of parenting to achieve.

I pictured a nice little blue Beta fish for Manchild, and am taking bets on how long it will be with us. Sally the mouse made it a year, and considering Jax doesn’t like seafood, this fish has a real shot! This time I really, really, really won’t feed this pet for my son. I promise to make him care for it alone and feel the weight of this much desired responsibility. Granted, Sally’s cage was stupidly hard to clean, and when your pet buries it’s food you have no idea when it needs more. But those days of Mrs. Nice Mom are over. This is the Fish of Tough Love! The Responsibility Enforcement Fish! The Beta of Life Goals!

So yes, I will pay another $10 for another shot at my son learning responsibility. Like a carnival game where you’re pretty sure the first 4 tries are a waste of money, but by the 5th time you hit your groove and win the stuffed banana with a slow leak out the back where the seams don’t quite meet. I want him to win the prize of a tiny, fish sized burden on his carefree, unfocused little shoulders. It’s needs are tiny enough for his little hands to meet. It’s environment doesn’t change with the seasons, demand heated water bottles, or require extension cords. No nail trimming, vet trips, or fear of being bitten. This is actually, quite a perfect pet for an independent experience. It you can care for it barefoot and shirtless, then Manchild will have no problems!

Of course, there is the little matter of timing. Cause now I’m pretty excited about a new fish in the house, and Petco has curbside pick up, and I’m not really sure what waiting for the Corona virus to pass has to do with marine life anyway. I mean, if anything, now is the time for new indoor entertainment, right Captain Schenanigans?! 😉

close up of a siamese fighting fish

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Sweet Warriors and Sleepy Chickens

In this time of lots of time on our hands, I am very much enjoying the disruption in our busy lives. I LOVE having everything cancelled. I LOVE having my kids home (most of the time), my hubby around, and no commitments to keep. It’s an introvert’s dream! Well, except that my nursing job still makes me come in to an office building filled with hundreds of people (where they send me e-mails telling me to stay away from crowds of 50) to make my phone calls from my desk. But thankfully, I work part-time…

Anyway, over the week-end it was SO bright and SO beautiful here in Baltimore, that we were just making up excuses to be outside. Nearly 8 year old Manchild invited me to join him in spending time with our chickens in the backyard. Naturally I jumped at the invitation, and settled into a hammock chair while my wild man tore around the yard chasing my hens like he was the Corona virus and they were germophobes. Eventually, after several reminders that the birds would hate him if he always scared them, he stopped chasing the seldom caught ones, and just picked up the few tame favorites that we always held. Like Squeaker.

Squeaker is a bantam (miniature) White Crested Black Polish hen who is a family favorite because of her wild hairdo and pitiable live choices. Polish Crested chickens are all a bit special because of the bouffant crest of feathers around their head that tend to limit their vision and block their brain waves. Think hawk bait. We have two of these Mensa rejects, Squeaker and Phyllis (Gold Laced Polish Crested), both of whom tend to get so busy scratching and pecking in the yard that they fail to notice when the rest of the flock has moved on.  Suddenly they raise their poofy heads and they are alone! Panicked chirping and squawking from these two is not unusual as they try to get one of their brainier henfriends to holla back and Marco Polo the gang’s new location. Once again.

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Squeaker is the front left, Phyllis is the one on the right, nearly camouflaged with the dirt.

Every time we let the chickens out to free range, Phyllis runs up and down the same fence, looking frantically for the nearest exit, while all the other hens calmly walk through the open gate like normal girls. Phyllis can NEVER find the exit on her first try. Ever.

But even better than Phyllis, is Squeaker, who can’t go in reverse. Because she can not see behind herself, this 1lb puff of fluff assumes she can not move backwards. Which is why when I do an evening head count, finding Squeaker turns into an Easter egg hunt. I usually find her wedged (barely) between a bench and the wall. Or a pallet and the fence, or any small space she thinks she can fit through, but then can’t, and so she stands there and silently waits for help. Bless her heart. Her tiny, special, heart.

So Manchild settled in his hammock chair and cradled Squeaker in his lap. He then began to swing, and his arms fell limp. Instead of noticing her big chance for freedom to leap from the lap of a “dangerous” boy, Squeaker instead hunkers down, puffs out, and falls asleep to the rocking motion of the swing. Manchild noticed, and he began to sing a lullaby to her. Not knowing any good lullaby’s, Manchild hummed the ABC song softly to himself, and that worked just fine. Squeaker was content, Manchild and his soft touch (he really is tender for a wild boy) had won over yet another little creature.

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After a time, he sets the little hen down, and instead of running off to join her peers, she starts pecking at the dirt between our feet.

“Your turn!” Manchild instructs me.

So I scoop up the tiny bird and begin to rock her in my lap. Sure enough, her head bobs low, she fluffs herself out just a little and squats into a small sleepy ball. It was very sweet. I began thinking Captain Schenanigans needs to build a chicken swing in our run. Especially since we plan to plant new zoysia grass plugs this weekend, so the chickens are going to be on lockdown like the rest of us. No free ranging for quite some time. It’d be a great boredom buster!

After we set Squeaker free to run with her fast crowd, Manchild went back to catching hens we don’t hold often, and bringing them to me for cuddles like a toddler with a dandelion bouquet. He knows what fills his momma’s heart with joy! I check each girl’s feet for Bumblefoot (a common staph infection) when I get them, since some of these girls are rarely touched and wilder than feathered honey badgers.  I hold them and talk to them long enough to undue whatever stress my well meaning child had put them under, then hand back their freedom as I set them down to roam. They are generally indignant and full of attitude, but that’s not uncommon round these parts, let’s be honest.

So in this time of chaos I urge to to stay home, rock your pets, enjoy your spare time, and wash your hands. Because we all know that chickens carry Salmonella! 🙂

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Hank, Manchild’s Silver Laced Wyandotte. This girl is a boy’s chicken! She’s survived being mauled by a dog twice, being sewn up by both myself with medical sutures, and my husband with sewing thread, and she still clucks on, laying and scratching two years later. Occasionally pausing for snuggles. #Survivor