Thursday, May 26, 2016

Playing Catch-Up . . . and Introducing our Newest Additions . . .

So, some highlights of what's been happening since we got back from western PA . . . 

Friends from NC came and spent the night with us before heading to Shriner's hospital for their oldest daughter's back surgery (which went perfectly, and E is doing great!).  It's always so much fun when they come to visit. Little Bit and their girls get along sooo well! Their little boy (3) has claimed Lexie and Ashlyn as his personal playmates and drags them around the house to play with him. He's little and cute, so they don't mind.  I had to laugh when, at one point, one of his sisters came to play cars with him, and he told her NO! I want the big girls to play with me! 

A couple months ago, Starla, from church asked if Lexie would do a violin/flute duet with her for special music at church. Soon after that, Lexie got her new violin, so we delayed things a bit for Lexie to get used to the new violin. Their special music was a couple weeks ago (Starla's mom, Sharon, joined them on piano). 

Little Bit has always been my gift-giver. And has suffered some from living in a house full of . . . not-gift-givers . . . Daddy and big sisters aren't real good at helping her with her desire to give gifts. But this year, much to her delight, her Sabbath School teachers had the perfect craft . . . they had the kids all make vases for their moms for Mother's Day (the week before, so it had time to dry) and then brought flowers for the kids to put IN the vases, and give to us moms after church. Little Bit was SOOO excited to give it to me.  Isn't it pretty? :) 

Our other big Mother's Day news was that the stray cat who "adopted" us last winter, became a mother in our flower bed.  By the time we got back from Pittsburgh, she was definitely pregnant. I had been afraid of that, but was also afraid that, with the return of warm weather, she'd go back to whatever family she used to live with (I can't imagine that she didn't have another family, she's much too friendly to have been a feral cat). She hung pretty close to the house for the rest of her pregnancy, but during the night that night, she'd been picking fights with our other cats, and I got tired of it waking me up, so I put her outside. The next morning, Little Bit was playing outside and came in all excited because Tracy had kittens! She had 2 kittens at that point, but as the morning progressed, she ended up with 5!!! For a small, young cat, that worried me. . . We had plans to go to a baseball game that day, so made sure she had food, water, and shade . . . I warned the girls that one of the kittens didn't look like it was doing well . . . so I wasn't sure what we'd find when we got home, and we left.
When we got home, all 5 kittens were still alive, but she still didn't seem to want to stay with them very well. We decided to bring her, and them, inside. So set up a box for her.  The next day, Ashlyn came and told me that she thought one of the kittens had died, and that Tracy wouldn't get in the box with the kittens at all. When I checked on them, 2 of them were actually dead, and as soon as I removed them from the box, she got back in. So, I'm assuming that one of them was the one who had never looked like it was doing well, and either it died, and then she wasn't willing to get in the box as long as the dead kitten was there, and the next weakest kitten couldn't survive even a little while, without her in with it to keep it warm, or something happened that both of them died at the same time.  Regardless, while it's always sad when a life ends, I have to admit, I was relieved, I felt like the other 3 kittens had a better chance, and it would be healthier for such a young/small mama cat, to have 3 kittens instead of 5. And because it was so soon after they were born, the girls hadn't bonded with them, so handled it ok. 
Tracy continues to not be a great mom. . . .for the first week she'd only stay in the box with the kittens during the day if people kept her company, so the girls took turns doing their school work and generally hanging out next to her box.  She did seem to stay in the box with them pretty well when we weren't home, and at night, at least. But if we were around, she wanted people near her. 
Friday afternoon, Little Bit was on kitten duty, and all of a sudden called "Mommy, Tracy has a kitten in her mouth!" Lexie followed her, and she carried it and tried to stash it behind stuff in the cabinet under the kitchen sink (that someone had left open). Needless to say, we moved the kitten back to the box, and made sure all cabinets were kept closed. During the night Friday night, I woke up to hear a kitten crying. Went down to check on them, and Tracy was out of the box, behind the big chair, nursing one kitten. Eins, the kitten that was crying (the girls named the kittens Eins, Zwei, and Drei (1, 2, 3 in German), Zwei & Drei look so much alike that I haven't figured out which is which but Eins was darker, and mouthier), was out of the box, about halfway between the box & Tracy, and the 3rd kitten was still in the box. I couldn't reach Tracy & the kitten with her, so I opted to move Eins, and the kitten from the box, to where she was, but then I was afraid if she left them, they'd get too cold on the floor, and might crawl under the chair, trying to find her, so I stayed with them, the rest of the night. About the time I needed to go get ready for church, Tracy left them, so I crawled in behind the chair and moved all 3 of them back into their box. 

They were still in the box, and Tracy was mostly staying with them, when the girls and I left for church. But just as Rodney was getting ready to leave (he comes later because we have to be there early for the girls to help serve breakfast, and one of the girls, and I to set up our respective Sabbath School classrooms), Tracy moved the kittens (I think all 3 of them this time) behind the chair again. Rodney texted me to see what to do, and I suggested moving the chair out, and putting the box where she seemed to want the kittens. He tried that, and she moved the kittens to the kitchen, under one of the kitchen chairs.  So he decided he better stay home to make sure she didn't hide them someplace else.

When we got home, she was still under the kitchen chair with them. We moved her box from the sunroom to the living room, and apparently that's what she wanted, she hasn't moved them any more (knock on wood).  This week the kittens' eyes started opening. Two of them (Zwei and Drei) have gotten soo much bigger, but we noticed that Eins wasn't growing nearly as fast, and his eyes didn't open as soon. He also seemed to still get really cold if Tracy didn't stay with them. So we started making sure to cuddle all of them, especially Eins, whenever Tracy got out of the box. We also started trying to make sure Eins got to nurse whenever she did get in the box (the other two tended to push him out of the way), but he still didn't seem to be gaining much weight, his eyes did eventually open) and even when we tried to make sure he could nurse, a lot of the time, he wouldn't. . .
Just as it seemed like he had a little more energy and might be doing better, last night when the girls started to put the kittens back in their box so they (the girls) could go to bed, Eins, who'd been sleeping on Ashlyn's chest, wasn't breathing :( Needless to say, it was a very sad bedtime. Eins had been such a little fighter, and was Little Bit's favorite :( In this picture, he's the one "hugging" Lexie's thumb. I feel like there must have been something wrong, and there probably wasn't anything we could have done, but this loss has definitely been harder on us, because we'd bonded with them. I feel pretty confident that Zwei and Drei seem to be strong, and nurse well whenever Tracy does get in the box with them, so hopefully they'll continue to thrive. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A VERY Belated Post About the Final Day of Our Trip

 I know, I know, our trip was WEEKS ago . . . and I have no real excuse . . . but here, at last, is the last post about the trip.

The girls and I spent a fun day at the Erie Zoo.

The animals were super active when we first got there.

I had to laugh, there some monkey-like animals (I don't remember what they were called) that were screaming at each other at the top of their lungs in the morning. When we walked back by their cage after lunch, they were both curled up on the grass with their "blankies", sound asleep.

Little Bit had fun with the various sculptures that are there.  And as she does so often, managed to make new friends at the playground, who she was sad to leave :)

There was much eye rolling from the big girls when I asked all 3 of them to pose by the same penguins that they've been posing at since we first went to the Erie Zoo in 2011 (and again in 2013). But Lexie and Little Bit were willing to humor me :)

And that, finally, finished up our trip to western PA!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

I'm finally continuing with our trip to western PA. On Tuesday, we planned to go to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, but the client Rodney was meeting was farther out than I realized, so I decided we'd just hang out nearby that day and go to the Children's Museum the next day. So Tuesday was a playground in the morning, and swimming at the hotel once we got back. 

Wednesday we headed to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. It's always fun to see what Little Bit does and doesn't remember from places we've been going to all her life, but only once a year or so . . . she was very excited to see the huge glass bird sculpture in the lobby and, when I explained that it's too tall for me to effectively take a picture of her with it (it would be her standing by it's metal legs), she commandeered the camera and took her own pictures of "her bird". 
One disappointment was that there were LOTS (and lots and lots and lots) of school groups there. I'm not sure why there were SO many there and NONE at Carnegie, maybe Monday is a non-field trip day? Or we just got lucky? Anyway . . . We did a pretty good job of going where the school groups weren't, and waiting it out until they all left for the day. THEN we went and spent more time in the areas that had been so crowded.  While we were waiting, we discovered that most school groups never went to the 4th floor water area. Understandably . . . If I was a teacher I wouldn't want to have to deal with a whole class full of wet kids. So we spent quite a bit of time there. At first we tried to do the "don't get soaked" parts, the best of which was playing with SNOW! They make "snow" (pretty much use a shaved ice machine, I think) and put a pile of it on a table and have various molds and other "sand toy" type things to use so the kids can play with the snow. Little Bit went back to that table multiple times while we were there.

The big girls have pretty much outgrown this museum overall, and definitely didn't feel the need to play in the water and snow, BUT conveniently tucked away right next to the water play area was a little sunlit nook perfect for reading! They very happily hid away in this nook the whole time Little Bit played on that floor.

Once she was tired of the snow table she begged and pleaded to get really wet! If it had been one of the hot days we'd had earlier in the week, and/or if it was the last thing on our agenda that day (AND if we weren't going to be driving for a couple hours to the next hotel when we left the museum), I probably would have just let her get wet in her clothes, but given all those factors AND conveniently we did HAVE her swimsuit in the car because of being between hotels. And even better, through some twist of fate, hers was near the top. So I went out to the car and got her swimsuit and let her change into it.  Then the water play began in earnest. She had sooo much fun (note to self, MUST bring swimsuit (or go in swimsuit and bring change of clothes) next time, she really did love it!) There was all kinds of ways to experiment with water and just have FUN with it. I kept my distance since I wasn't in MY swimsuit, but she had a blast. When I told her that the school groups had cleared out and we could now go enjoy the rest of the museum in peace, she was reluctant to leave :) 

One of the things we knew we wanted to check out, but NOT while it was crowded, was the current exhibit in the changing exhibit area. It was tunnels and things to crawl through made out of packaging tape . . .MILES and MILES of packaging tape.  Socks were required, and I wasn't sure I'd fit very well anyway, so I didn't go in, but asked Ashlyn to take some pictures while she was in there. They turned out great, and Little Bit had a blast! AND since we waited until there were no crowds, they could play in there as long as they wanted, instead of making one quick trip through like the kids had to do when it was crowded. 

Little Bit also had fun with the gears in the Make Shop and actually spent quite awhile learning about electricity in the Make Shop. One of the employees sat down with her and explained how it worked and kept asking questions . . . "What would happen if we hooked this up?" It was the most focused I've seen her on something, and definitely worked better than if I'd been trying to help her :) It was fun to  watch.
As we were leaving we had to pause for a picture next to the giraffe sculpture because . . . it's a GIRAFFE after all!!!