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Ten things

August 15, 2011

1. August has mopped the floor with me so far. First, I took the train to South Carolina to help my mother move out of the beach house she just sold (my favorite house I’ve ever lived in, on the barrier island I eulogized in the last post).  While I was gone the kids rode their bikes over from their dad’s house and fed the cat a can of wet food every day, with the result that when I got back (having driven 700 miles in a 16 foot rented truck filled with furniture, hear me roar) she was no longer scrawny.  Then we were all gone for a week with my boyfriend and his daughters; while we were gone my ex-husband fed the cat a can of wet food every day, with the result that she is now shopping for pelts in the Husky department of Sears.

2.  My younger son was bitten by two teeny-weeny innocent looking little leeches.  He has enormous itchy swollen places where the leeches latched on.  The internet says both that this is normal and that it is cause for alarm.  Which is correct?

3.  My children, even after driving eight hours yesterday and three hours today, are presently sitting in the car in the driveway listening to the last cassette of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It’s not like they haven’t read the book hundreds of times.  It’s not like they haven’t seen the movie.  It’s not like I myself haven’t read the book out loud to both of them.  It’s simply that Jim Dale is a genius, and my charmingly retro car boasts the only working cassette player around.

4.  Speaking of mopping the floor, I am pretty sure my basement is full of water.  This is precisely when one longs for a strapping male roommate wielding a shop-vac. Dixie Carter famously quipped “It takes a mighty good man to be better than no man at all,” but I’m guessing she had a sump pump.

5.  The globetrotting children leave for California with their father on Wednesday.  I have three assignments due on Wednesday. Two days of chaos followed by a yawning void. It’s not ideal.

6.  My boyfriend’s kids and my kids continue to astonish me.  At the risk of tempting the wrath of the gods, may I simply say that I never, ever expected them to get along the way they do?  We introduced them nearly two years ago.  I was warned that my kids would hate and resent my boyfriend, and that his kids (especially his kids, because they are GIRLS, and girls are more complicated than boys, or so everyone said) would hate and resent me.  No one even bothered to point out that the kids would certainly despise each other–it seemed, to use my boyfriend’s pet expression, axiomatic. We must have bought into the pessimism as well, because it never occurred to me that the kids might wind up fiercely devoted to and fond of each other.  At best I figured they’d tolerate the occasional mandatory interaction. How wrong I was– how wrong we all were. This year, there was–and I am not exaggerating–not even a single squabble we were required to referee.  This is partly due to sheer dumb luck, but it also speaks very well of my kids’ dad and my boyfriend’s kids’ mother.  (As I typed that last sentence, my ex-husband called right on cue. We chat often and pleasantly these days.  Something very strange has happened–he seems actually to wish me well.  He’s happy, I think.  He wants me to be happy, too.  Unbelievable.)

7.  The digital camera (my boyfriend’s–I don’t have one) is missing.  On the plus side, there’s a very bad picture of me that may now be gone forever.  On the minus side, there are many very good pictures, including one of the four children together that is so lovely it makes my throat hurt.  I’m avoiding unpacking the very last bag, because what if it’s not in there?  I already emailed the owner of the cabin we rented, who assures me we left nothing behind.

8.  We kept hearing an owl at night, and I have not been able to figure out what kind of owl it was. It’s driving me nuts. I tend to think it was a barn owl and my boyfriend disagrees.  Like morons we went off for a week in the woods with one set of binoculars between us and NO BIRD BOOK (we caved and bought an old Peterson’s at the used bookstore.  It still had the Bachman’s Warbler and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in it.) He may be right–I’ve been playing owl calls all day, to no avail. However, I am absolutely correct re my identification of the much-disputed Spotted Sandpiper, which joins the Green Heron (who’s brown) and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker (whose belly is not all that red) on my list of wrongly-named birds.  He was completely spot-free.

We didn’t see anything terribly exciting or rare, but we saw the same birds every day when we looked for them, which is a cozy feeling.  Gorgeous Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats, a resident kingfisher, three noisy teenaged ospreys and their patient parents, two Great Blue Herons (one youngish, one mature), a couple of cormorants, a flicker who popped out of a hole in a dead tree right as I was looking at the hole through the binoculars thinking that it sure would be nifty if a bird lived in there, Hairy Woodpeckers and a Pileated (the latter seen only by my elder son, while fishing), dozens of Cedar Waxwings, a few ducks I couldn’t identify in flight, and a relentless bully of a hummingbird.  Possibly a Black-and-White Warbler.  Bobolinks.  But what owl makes a strange whistling screech that rises in pitch?

9.  My kids are going down to check on the basement right this second.

10. Eeeh, could be worse.  Inches, not feet.  All’s well.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2011 7:38 pm

    Have been missing your posts, glad you are back.

    And #3 is my favorite.

  2. August 15, 2011 9:32 pm

    One thing: love your list. And welcome back. So, two things.

  3. August 15, 2011 10:05 pm

    I’ve been checking every day to see if you’ve posted. So glad you’re back. I hope you find that camera!

  4. August 15, 2011 11:17 pm

    Oh the poor cat.

    ..and the wonderful rest of it.

  5. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    August 15, 2011 11:33 pm

    I know, the poor cat. I felt awful about leaving her for so long twice in a row (with a few days between), even if she did get visited and fed and played with every day. (As I type this she’s in bed with me. She never used to sleep in bed with me.) Consoling-windows friend visited, too, and cleaned her catbox and let her out on the porch to play and stayed to keep her company, and my ex-husband drank his coffee over here with her in his lap a few times. And the kids stayed for quite a while every day when they were here–practicing piano and so forth. Still, you can tell she was lonely. She has been most affectionate since we got back.

  6. August 16, 2011 4:26 am

    I almost did a jig when I saw this in my inbox this morning! Glad your having a relatively good summer and I will say a small prayer to the digital camera gods – the horrible photos can always be ‘accidentally’ deleted/lost but the lost ones can never be found!

  7. August 16, 2011 5:33 am

    Ah! You are back. Hurrah. It seemed that the entire blogsphere – or at least the one I live in – was on holidays all at once. It got so bad at one point that I actually found myself reading NEWSPAPERS online – filling my brain with morosely written facts and information (which it can no longer digest). But now you’re back with your beautiful prose and lovely wit and you’ve saved me – and my brain – from such tortures. Thank you.

  8. August 16, 2011 9:19 am

    I’m fortunate enough to work at a place where there are lots of eagles and herons to be seen. It’s really neat to be out for lunch and look up to see crows chasing off bald eagles. 🙂

  9. August 16, 2011 11:04 am

    A fairly new reader here. Had to chuckle at the basement reference. I am at my summer house and my sister and I spent yesterday, the first day of our vacation, wrestling a Wet Vac out of the hardware storm in a torrent and vacuuming up basement water mixed with mice poop. The husband’s reaction when I called him that evening back at home was, “How MUCH was the wet vac?” We haven’t spoken since. Sometimes no man is a good man.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      August 16, 2011 12:16 pm

      I shudder to think what my basement water is mixed with. What happens if I just ignore it? I mean, it’s an old house. It’s had basement water before. It’s still standing. Right?

  10. August 16, 2011 12:41 pm

    ‘The internet says both that this is normal and that it is cause for alarm.’ Ah, yes. *nods in satisfied fashion* That’s the core essence of the internet, right there. Conflicted!

    From a distance of several thousand miles, my owls are evidently connecting with your owls. Will. Not. Shut. Up. Can’t. Sleep. Gah.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      August 16, 2011 12:49 pm

      Whatever you do, do NOT google pictures of “leech bite”. You’ll never go back in the water again.

      British owls! What kind are they? I picture them with wigs and robes and possibly crowns and scepters, too.

  11. August 16, 2011 1:05 pm

    Or maybe a screech owl?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      August 16, 2011 1:14 pm

      Those I know–I’ve heard them many times…and played their calls to attract other birds, too (kind of cheating, but still.) Not a screech owl nor a barred owl nor a great horned nor a saw-whet. I still think it was a barn owl, but I am fighting a losing battle.

  12. August 17, 2011 12:25 am

    I’m in love the image of the boys sitting in the car listening to a book on tape. (Less in love with the image of all the water in your basement. Good luck with that!)

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      August 17, 2011 2:26 pm

      I haven’t been down again to check. Denial is a river in my basement.

  13. Kate Smith permalink
    August 19, 2011 3:43 pm

    Barn owls are well known for their otherworldly screech. Have you tried the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website? They have recordings of bird calls you can play, and get a better idea.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      August 20, 2011 8:25 pm

      I did! I love the Cornell website. I think it was a barn owl, based on the screech, but my boyfriend disagrees. We keep playing the Cornell recording and then saying “See, it went like this!” and making a terrible noise and then, “No, no, it was like THIS” and so forth. I don’t see what else it could be, however, unless (as Hairy Farmer Wifey says) it was a baby pterodactyl.

  14. August 24, 2011 3:02 pm

    Could it possibly have been some sort of cat? There’s a wild cat whose call sounds like a cross between an owl & a baby/child screaming. Of course, I can’t remember the name of said cat. Did you see it or just hear it?

    I have a very cool picture of a Pileated Woodpecker that I took from my back door as he was trying to extract bugs from a very dead tree. Those are cool-looking birds.

  15. August 24, 2011 3:03 pm

    Fisher Cat. I had to go look it up…

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