Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Dead Bird in Lake Wobegon

The boys slept late Tuesday morning. Monday nights are Civil Air Patrol nights, and they usually sleep late on Tuesday mornings. But they had been up for a while before I finally dragged myself out of bed. They had already eaten, so I set BB to work on loading the dishwasher and GL on reading while I made my breakfast and coffee. When BB was done, I sent him to take a shower so GL could finish his handwriting before BB needed the table. That's when I discovered GL had colored on my laptop with a permanent marker. Papa Bear was not a happy camper!

Don Aslett's Stainbuster's Bible, which has saved my bacon many, many times, and paid for itself many times over in items it has rescued, wasn't much help at first. It began by saying not to get your hopes up. There's a reason these markers are called permanent. The treatment for felt-tip markers is to start by hoping you were mistaken, and it was only a washable marker. So you start with the treatment for washable marker. The first step is "dry spotter". That's any spray-on stain remover that says it's for greasy stains. That lightened it ever-so-slightly, but wasn't taking out any more no matter how much I applied or how long I scrubbed. So I read the next step: laundry pretreat plus a few drops of ammonia then machine launder in warm water. On my laptop? Not going to happen.

Let's see the next step: treat it as permanent marker. Okaaaay, and that would mean? "Don't get your hopes up, but... rub in Cutter Insect Repellent lotion, wait a few minutes, then rinse with water. Pretest first, and don't use Cutter on Spandex, rayon, acetate, plastic, vinyl, or paint." Great. Just great. My laptop, which I bought this summer, is going to spend the rest of its life looking like it belongs to a twelve-year-old. Why don't I just cover up that marker with some nice skateboarding stickers?

But wait. Don always gives a last-ditch "if that doesn't work" treatment. Usually, if you get that far, the stain isn't coming out anyway. But if it's partly gone this may lighten it some. Or destroy the garment. And for markers, this step was... Sponge with alcohol. Easy enough. Shouldn't damage the plastic. Worth a try, but don't bet the farm. I tried it, and most of the marker wiped right off! A second application removed all but a faint trace--a tiny smudge on the bottom. Don Aslett saves the day again!

GL finished up his work relatively quickly and painlessly, and BB got right down to business, so I had high hopes that despite our late start, we'd have a fairly productive day. We needed one because this was one of only two days this week that we don't have to go somewhere. Even if it's after school hours, leaving the house always puts a damper on productivity for the day. Even a short trip, if it's in the middle of the day, can blow a gaping hole through the middle of our most productive hours.

BB wasn't especially fast, but he was plugging along steadily. While not exactly enjoyable, that's better than his slow days, which are more like beating one's head against a wall, only with less opportunity for short-term reward. GL spent most of the day in his room, watching a Sesame Street DVD.

Then the neighbor kids got home. The younger kids GL befriended this summer. They're not usually here during the week; they come about two weekends a month. GL had to go out and play with them. Fine. But they wanted BB to come out, too. They sent GL to ask him. To his credit, BB said no, he wasn't done with school. When you're in sixth grade, and you don't get started until 10:30, you'll probably still have some work left at 3:00. But  how do you explain that to a six year old who doesn't know anything but public school, and is used to getting his way by nagging? They kept sending GL back in to ask again. Since he doesn't understand who's in charge most of the time, he'll usually do anything anybody asks him, however unreasonable. He saves his rebellion for the reasonable demands of people who actually are in charge. I told GL he could explain that BB had to do his "homework" first, but they weren't buying it. By this time, BB was so frustrated with them, he wouldn't have played with them anyway.

Then they found the bird. They thought it was dead. They poked it with a stick and told (dared?) GL to touch it. MB heard them, and told them and GL to leave it alone. I looked out the window. It was a woodpecker. Probably a Downy or a Hairy. Those are the two we get most often, and I tend to forget which  is bigger. I offered to go out and bury it. I got a spade from the shed and started to dig. "Do you always bury birds?"the older kid, a girl, maybe seven or eight years old, wanted  to know.

"When they're dead, I do." I answered, not mentioning that I'd never found a dead bird since we've lived here. Local animals usually find it first, and don't leave anything to bury. Then I stopped. What if the bird wasn't dead? Birds sometimes crash into our windows. Most of them, and practically all the smaller birds, bounce off the glass, recover in midair, and fly away. Occasionally one will fall to the ground and lie there for a moment, stunned. Since the neighbor with a cat moved out, they generally recover. Was that a breeze stirring its downy feathers, or a slight movement? It was still warm. "Maybe it's not dead. Let's put it over here and if it wakes up, it can fly away later." I found a place off the ground where it could fly away easily if it did in fact wake up, but relatively safe from predators.

The wildlife has been way too bold around here lately. Rabbits let you walk right up to them. They just sit there staring at you and don't run away until you're within three feet of them. Numerous sightings of foxes in town. Not out on the farms and country roads served by our post office, but right in town, where the houses and stores are right next to each other. There's a badger living under the neighbors' shed, and we live right in the middle of town.

Mama Bear left for work. I went inside, washed my hands, and sat down to check my blogs. Near the window, so I could keep an eye on the kids. They decided to hit GL with sticks. He decided to stand there and take it. Since they are about six and eight, and he's thirteen, and they had very small sticks, there wasn't any actual harm, but it was a bad precedent, so I went out and told them, "No hitting people with sticks." They stopped. I went back inside. A few minutes later, GL was chasing them with a stick. Just chasing, not hitting, and they were all having a good time, but you know that's the part someone would see and report. And GL has just enough social skills to dig himself a deeper hole. So I went back out and repeated: "No hitting people with sticks!"

I decided maybe now would be a good time to clean the shed. I'd been meaning to do it anyway, the weather was good, and who knows how much more good weather we'll get this year? And I could keep an eye on things. I decided to start by taking down the tent from the boy's campout  last weekend. I had the poles out and had just started to fold it when BB came out. He had finished his schoolwork, and wanted me to put on a DVD. He's not allowed to change discs because if he does, GL thinks he can, too.

When I came back from changing the DVD, the neighbor kids had gone back in for supper.*

*At least some families still eat supper together. Pre-Autism, we were religious about it. But as GL's sensory sensitivities appeared, there were fewer and fewer foods he could tolerate. So we usually ended up cooking a separate meal for him, which he often didn't eat anyway. With his weight generally low, almost unhealthy, we tried anything we could think of to get him to eat, and offered food any time he might possibly eat it. He still has a limited selection of foods, but he can prepare most of them himself, and maintaining enough weight is no longer a problem. Have you ever sat with a group of people when they're all eating, and you're not? When you're eating, you don't notice it, but when you're not, watching other people eat is really kinda gross. He hasn't sat down and eaten a meal with the rest of us more than a dozen times in the last five years.

Then when Mama Bear went to work, she was on a different schedule than the rest of us, and always eating at a different time. We tried adjusting to her schedule, but it never worked. Then BB started learning to prepare a few of his favorites. So I'm usually cooking for one or at most, two. When it happens that we all eat at the same time, it feels strange. Once recently, we all happened to sit down at the same time and eat the same thing. It was enjoyable, but doubly strange.
 After supper, the neighbor kids got in the car and went somewhere with their dad. They didn't come back until after the boys were in bed. Once the boys were in bed, I went and checked on the woodpecker. It was keepin' on it's back. To quote Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! er, woodpecker. Its neck was broken.

Since it was still lying on it's back, I figured I'd get my bird book and have a closer look for a positive ID. It had the long bill of a Hairy Woodpecker, but it was less than 6 inches long--more the size of a Downy Woodpecker. It looked like it was molting. Maybe a juvenile Hairy? But it had a red patch on its throat. The only similar bird I could find with a red throat was the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Yes, that's the actual name of a real bird. But this bird had no yellow on it that I could see. Looking at the bird book again today, that yellow is rather subtle. I got the spade out again and set to digging.

Our yard has about an inch of topsoil over clay hardpan. Even the flower beds, after years of working, have only an inch and a half to two inches. How do I grow vegetables? Compost. But I wasn't too keen on burying the bird in my vegetable garden or compost pile.

You know what dry weather does to clay. You can tell how much rain we've had lately by how busy our birdbath is. I keep clean water in the birdbath. I've had to fill the birdbath or change the water every day this week. This was going to be a lot more work than I thought. And if I didn't bury deep enough, some animal would dig it up. I ended up throwing it in the dumpster. I didn't feel right about that, either, but I figured it was better than having something dig it up and possibly leave parts of it for GL to find. There's no telling how he'd react. He might be hysterical with grief. Or he might want to carry around some ex-woodpecker parts in his pockets for a souvenir.

I got cleaned up and did some laundry. It's harder to keep up on now because our dryer doesn't work right. It dries just fine, but it doesn't shut off, so you can't throw a load in before you leave the house or when you go to bed. You have to set a timer, and make sure you're there to shut it off. MB got home and wanted to work on her jewelry for a while. It's a relaxing outlet for her, and she makes some beautiful stuff. She's been selling it on and off for about three years. On and off because she doesn't get enough time to make it and keep up with demand. She started with rolling and baking clay beads, but is slowly moving toward more fine jewelry. At least, I think that's what it's called. It's mostly metal and shiny stones. If you haven't seen it recently, you should take a look. I finally got to look at my blogs. We got to bed around midnight, which is not good when she leaves for work at 6:30.

When we finally got to bed, I asked, "Why do I feel like I've been running from the moment I woke up until now, but I can't remember what I did?"

She said, "When I was the stay-at-home parent, I felt that way every day."

And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

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Blogger Arby said...

"Why do I feel like I've been running from the moment I woke up until now, but I can't remember what I did?"

I know that feeling!

September 30, 2010 at 8:06 PM  

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