Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Feel-good stuff

We've been doing plenty of reading here at our home. Summer is great for that, you know. Not to mention, since a lengthy to-do list for our newly purchased house cannot peaceably coexist with a cushy vacation budget, reading allows us little escapes via the back yard and our imagination...

So my son and I were reading together (taking turns, but mostly me) and one of the mystery stories we read featured a slightly silly story about a scientist mom and her inquisitive daughter, studying penguins during an oil spill. In the story, the daughter explained to a friend that the oil-soaked penguins try to preen their feathers, and even if they've been bathed, they still find and ingest enough oil to sicken and often kill them. In addition, the spilled oil, the baths and the extra preening strip away the necessary, binding oils on their skin and feathers—the very stuff that seals their coats and keeps the penguins warm in freezing water.

Oil-soaked, oil-poisoned, too-cold penguins. That's bad. And the solution? The scientist mom designed a pattern for penguin sweaters. The kids publicized the situation and the pattern. Knitters all over the world responded, and sent the tiny sweaters... and it worked! Penguins were saved!

Nice story, I thought. Whatever. Couldn't happen.

But it could! It did. My son kept reading and found sections in the back detailing true stories that inspired the fictionalized ones we'd read. You can see for yourself! penguins

And then, our searching on YouTube (which was carefully filtered by me, of course) brought forth another gem: swimming

You have to watch almost all the way through, to see the little creature be lifted out. Make certain you have your sound turned up, because its utterance is the best part.

Watch them both, and I dare you to not say "Awwwwwww" at least once while viewing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From rats to bats

You may recall our unhappy little run-in with rats at the last house (note to self: do not feed the birds black oil sunflower ever again!) and how difficult it was for us to shake those critters.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the kid and I were shocked to find a bat hanging on the living room curtain one morning. Yes, inside the living room. In our new home. I went to open the curtains, looked up to the top of them, and proceeded to shriek like a banshee. There, gazing back at me, was what appeared to be a bat. My son noticed I was behaving oddly and I asked him to confirm that, indeed, there was a bat atop the curtain... and yes, he agreed shakily, that was a bat.

We ducked lower than normal and ran to get out of PJs and into real clothing—because we wanted to be properly dressed when we hurriedly met some new neighbors (preferably someone with testosterone, thus all the better to assist us in removing said bats). After a couple of strikeouts (no one home), we lucked out three doors down the street with a poor fellow who was just preparing to enjoy his day off. He was less than enthusiastic about helping us evict the visitors, but tried to put on a brave face and marched back to our house with us.

To make a long story short, one bat had become two bats by the time we came back into the house, and in the process of trapping those bats behind a large fishing net against the curtain and carrying them outside, they morphed yet again into three bats... one of which appeared to be smaller. I'm not sure the small one could fly yet; apparently, it had been clinging to one of the other, larger bats.

We prodded the bats with broomsticks (as gently as possible, to get them off the curtain) and then watched them crawl across the grass and climb up the side of our house to a shady spot behind the gas meter. They can't walk, you see; they move by this strange, awkward but oddly quick gate on the "fingers" of their wings. It's both repulsive and fascinating. Then we began trying to discern the point of entry. (We think they sneaked in around a huge gap in our side storm door. That'll need replacing. Even if that isn't where they entered, it still needs some serious work.)

(And oh, by the way, my husband watched 12 of them exit the unprotected, unscreened attic vent the other night on their way out to feast on bugs. Which, granted, is a good thing. I know they do good work. I know. Still... not sharing the house permanently with them. Sorry.)

We've been doing a lot of research since then. Did you know that bats are protected here in western PA? That you can't hire anyone to eradicate them? That while you are encouraged to not let them live in your attic, since their guano is toxic, technically you're breaking the law if you kill them? And also, that since June and July are typically when the moms are nursing their "pups" (no kidding, that's what they're called) that you're not advised to kick them out because the babies can't fly yet and will be trapped inside your home to die... all while the frantic mommy bat flies crazily around, seeking any entry into your home to save her baby? (Did I mention that they can squeeze through holes about as big as a dime?)

So, yes, we have some house guests for a few more days... just to ensure that the babies are flying and we won't wreck any families. And then, somehow, when those babes are definitely airborne, we'll get them out. There are humane ways (one-way exits shaped like giant net stockings, basically) and we'll try that, I suppose. The clean-up? We might have to call a professional. All the scary discussions online about the poison poo, the respiratory infections it causes, and the inevitable bat mites that linger after the eviction have frankly got me rather spooked.

I never thought that I'd have to permit and share space with these squatters who lived in our home before we did. Nor did I ever expect that my rights would fall secondarily to theirs... or at least it feels that way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot, hot, hot

Have you noticed that the weather is unseemly, unseasonably, un-Godly hot? Especially for this early in the summer? What the h***???

On another note, we are now official residents of the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

It's different but good. The traffic is worse, but we knew that going in. The new street and neighborhood have been swell so far, with friendly folks and plenty of peace and quiet.

There have been, and will continue to be, some home repairs, yard fixes, adjustments and such. We knew that, too, although I don't know if we envisioned quite this many. Alas, the place is our little money pit now, so we'll grin, bear it, and prioritize long, long lists of projects.

We have no regrets. (The only things I've missed are a more flat backyard and the central A/C we left behind...) I do believe that this is the place God had in mind for us. And if it's possible for a house to feel, then this little house is content— happy to contain a permanent family again after years of solitude.

Stay cool and check back soon. I hope someday to resume painting, to actually complete unpacking and organizing tasks, and to write a meaningful entry about the trials of the sale/purchase/move/baseball playoffs/last days of school all within about a 48-hour period of time. (Although, I've noticed that already, my mind has begun to block the unpleasantness of the entire experience...)

Please say a prayer for blessings on all our troops who daily defend the freedoms that many Americans take for granted. We celebrate Independence Day for more reasons than cook-outs and fireworks.