Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Introducing Ada and Lula. Or, a little bit about pond life

Alden yelled to me, one morning a little while back, to come and look, there were "some ducks on the pond." We have this little pond at the bottom of our backyard. Alden has a view of it from his bedroom window.

I loved it that he was doing a little birdwatching out his window, and up I went, to see what he was seeing. I figured it would be something boring, maybe not even a duck… I looked, and I looked again, and some more. Got the binoculars out and, after looking through them, decided that what he was seeing was something way more interesting than I ever could have imagined: mergansers. Wow. We made Ray get up and come look and his determination was a pair of hooded merganser hens.

We continued to see them for days, just in the early morning, before the day had really begun. After a number of visits, I said, "one more day of seeing them, and I’m going to name them." and, indeed, they showed up again. So, I give you Ada and Lula, our very own backyard hoodies.

Don't bother squinting: they are not in the pond in this picture. Sorry, never managed to get any pictures of them.

They did then stop coming. Sad. Although, as the days get longer and longer and the sun rises earlier and earlier, maybe it is just that they are there at dawn, but head out before we get up. Ray and I are also both pretty sure we saw at least one of them on a nearby body of water.

In other pond life and pond sightings: we have at least two resident turtles. The one I have seen is impressively big and suns himself on the edges of the pond when there’s good sun for sunning. Ray has seen two of them at one time, so we know there are more than one.

Wandering around and looking in to the pond we have seen fish and crayfish, quite a good number of them, in fact. Then of course there are the frogs, quite a few, cute little things. And, finally, our best recent sighting was of a pair of wood ducks, again, pretty early in the morning. They stuck around for a good long time that morning, and we were able to really get a good look at them. Sadly, they were only here that one morning (so far.)

Note: Ada and Lula are old family names on Ray’s sides. Once upon a time, if we had had a baby girl, we might have named her Ada. Some of you may also remember Esme, our resident nesting mommy robin, last spring in Colorado. Esme was another choice-name for a hypothetical baby girl. Apparently I am still trying to figure out ways to use those names I loved. So, if there’s a bird hanging around my backyard for more than a fleeting moment, I’ve got a good name for her!

New note: Closer inspection of the bird book (I prefer National Geographic), and a bit of actual reading of the labels reveals the possibility that this was not a pair of hens, as we suspected, but rather a male/female pair, with the male being "first spring", and therefore not yet in typical male plumage. So, perhaps Lula is not in fact Lula, but rather Lou, or Louis, or something like that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Boston: April 2008

Lots of pro and con list making occurred, when we were deciding whether or not to move to Maine. On the “pro” side of things was “being closer to Anne”. Anne has been a good sport over the years, first flying out to Seattle, then to Colorado. But, in truth, she doesn’t love flying, and has long wanted us to live closer.

I also will admit (though she won’t be all that thrilled to hear it) that I also thought living closer to her as she gets older (shhhh… just say it in a whisper) might not be a bad idea. You know, I want to be a good daughter and all....


Small side story: out of the blue, last fall, she had the occasion to need emergency abdominal surgery. Don’t worry – she’s totally fine and everything was okay. But, there she was, in the hospital, and there was my saintly sister Samantha, going to see her every day and taking care of all sorts of details.

Well, wow, I thought to myself, here I am, just a few short hours away. Now I can do the helpful thing, something I never could have done had we been living in Colorado. So, I offered to go down to Boston to help. No no… Anne said. No no… Samantha said. We’ll be fine. Things are really okay.

Well, okay, I said… but, if you change your mind, or need me, let me know. I’m just three hours away, I really can come down.

Fast forward: Anne is just fine. The post-Christmas slump is approaching (not for me, just for the rest of the world. The skiing was so good here, the slump didn’t hit till about mid-April, okay, early April, when there was STILL feet and feet of snow on the ground), and I’m talking on the phone to my sister, one night. Out of the blue, she cheerily announces that “Mom’s taking me to Sanibel Island, Florida, in March.”

Whoa, wait, I say, what’s up with that?

Yeah, Sam says. You know, to thank me, for everything that I did when she was in the hospital after her surgery and all.

Hey, I said I’d come down and help, and you told me not to!!!

Okay, really, it’s okay, I’m not being totally fair. [But I just had to tell the story]. Mom says she wants to take us all on a trip next year. And, in truth, I have not been having any great Florida cravings lately, so it really is okay. But, here I am, all moved out east and ready to help, and when the call comes....

Anyway, back to the present:


I wanted to do something for April break, but, it needed to be easy and cheap. So, I decided that the thing to do was to head down to Boston, see Anne, and be tourists for a few days. Spring was coming pretty slowly up here in Maine, and I knew it would be warmer there, and that it would be good for us to get out of town for a bit. It's pretty easy to come up with lots of ideas for fun things to do in Boston (especially when there are still feet of snow on the ground in your own backyard, and Anne is talking about how she is out in her garden planting things). So, I planned to take the kids for a few days and leave Ray at home to work (poor guy).

We headed down on Monday afternoon, and proceeded to have a lovely three days, alternately being tourists: first up,

The Aquarium

then, the Peabody Museum, at Harvard, for Alden's current interest in all things Native American Indian.

On our last day, we met Sam and her kids at the Public Gardens, and took a ride on the swan boats, followed by the obligatory visit to the Make Way for Ducklings duck statues.

And, visiting local playgrounds and skateparks:

the first one, in the posher Arlington suburbs.

Then, on to the grittier Medford one:

and, then, Milo enjoying long distance communication at your better basic playground.

Truly lovely spring weather:

Anne took great care of us and Alden had a lot of fun at the skateparks. Actually, Milo did too, and upon arrival home, had to be pulled out of the car kicking and screaming all the while, going on about how he wanted to go to Grandma’s and the skatepark.
Way more pictures at flickr.

Saturday, April 5, 2008