Flames, Fins, and Feathers

We packed a whole lotta action into about 4 hours last night.

Yeah, there were flames–from an exploding transformer across the street from us (note: it was not Optimus Prime).

And there were fins–Tuck’s spunky fish, Penny, passed away in one of those long, drawn out ways that goldfish are wont to do (especially with an audience).

But the feathers part of the night…that’s what I’m talking about.

After the exploding transformer but before the fish funeral, I went outside to find this tiny creature flopping around on our driveway:


I’m no birder, but I did recognize that this was a hummingbird. The beak kinda gave it away.


I am ruby-throated hummingbird; hear me…chirp?

It was indeed a hummingbird, but it was struggling hummingbird. So, of course, I ran inside to get my camera. (Don’t worry; the story ends well.)

She (he? we preferred to call her a her) was having a serious wing issue. The bird kept trying her hardest to fly away but only succeeded in getting a few inches off the ground before smashing herself, beak first, back on the driveway.

She did this several times before giving up. 

I sat next to her for a bit while she frantically looked around. The driveway dive-bombing had left her more than a little stunned. 

She let me touch her. She let me scoop her up and carry her inside (where the human inhabitants freaked out). So I set her down inside a Tupperware container, and we went back into the great outdoors.

See her right wing? It’s hard to tell in this photo, but it was bent and flipped up and obviously not right because it wasn’t listening to a thing her brain tried to tell it to do. 


She let me reach under her wing and press it back into place.

I was amazed at how easily it snapped back to the right position.


I scooped her back up and put her back on the driveway. She stretched her wings out but still couldn’t fly.


She hopped over to the door and gave herself a pep talk.


And then she tried to take off, but she didn’t get very far. She flew up a few feet but landed again rather quickly–at least this time she was in control and did not do a beak-plant on the concrete.

I scooped her up again, and we all started talking to her. 


She was calm and still. At one point, she closed her eyes like she was napping. I realize she probably thought she was hiding; they don’t call simple folks “birdbrains” for nothing, you know, but it was mighty comforting to think that for that brief moment I was the Bird Whisperer.


After several more minutes of our encouraging heart-to-heart, she finally took off!

And went straight to Jack, where she lit on his shirt.


She stayed on the Creeper for a couple of minutes and then flew away! (Not fluent in MineCraft? Wow. You are as rare as a Bird Whisperer.) 

Her wing was fixed. She sounded like a miniature helicopter when she took off.

It was one of the coolest things we’ve ever experienced. How many people have ever helped a hummingbird? We don’t even have a hummingbird feeder in our yard. Yet.

All that might be changing pretty soon though.


Jack says he’s going to hang this picture in his veterinarian office when he grows up.

This makes me smile.

We only have one word for our little ruby-throated friend:

[wait for it…]



I freaking hate spiders. Hate them. Hate them with the amount of vitriol usually reserved for Satan and stomach viruses. 

While I was never that preschooler who would willingly pick up a Grandaddy-Long-Legs and let it prowl all over my arm, I would let them be…as long as that being was far, far away from me. But all that changed when some random, hideous water-spider bit me at the swimming pool, and we had to use scissors to slice the sleeve off my shirt because my mutilated limb had swollen so much that my blood supply was about to be cut off. I could have died. Maybe.

From that moment on, I declared the entire species of arachnids my mortal enemy. Anything 8-legged freaks me out.

Picture if you will, then, my reaction to Theo pointing out the “GIANT mommy-spider” building her death trap across one of our keeping room’s windows. I told Theo I’d have to take a pass on seeing that one. And by the way, precious son, how do you know it’s a mommy-spider?

“Because I can see ALL of her babies!” Theo had his adorable little face pressed up to the window.

Dear God. 

He wasn’t joking. Our window had become the Northside Hospital for spiders. Mama-Spider was all sliding up and down, spitting out her gnarly web-stuff around her 10 billion babies who were still waterfalling out of the egg sac dangling from the window. No one should ever need to write the words “egg sac.” My skin is crawling just thinking about it. 

One night when Jack was a baby, and Russ was rocking him to sleep, I’d stepped out onto our back porch to let a dog out. In one smooth motion, I opened the door, flipped on the light switch, walked outside, and came face to face with the biggest spider I’d ever seen, Discovery Channel viewings included.

Cue Little Miss Muffet on steroids. I howled and flew back inside, flailing around like I was having a seizure. By the time Russ got to me, I was curled up in the fetal position on the couch and had goose bumps the size of golf balls.

“What. The. Hell?”

“Dude, biggest spider ever. You…must…KILLIT.” My shrieking slowly dropped several octaves as the switch was flipped, and I went into psycho-spider-killer mode.

Russ came back with a shoe.

“Aw, hell-l-l-l, no. You’re going to need something better than that. Like a flame throwing apparatus.”

“A flame throwing apparatus? Like Raid?” Russ was seriously rethinking this for-better-or-for-worse thing.

“Like Raid and a lighter. Need to torch that mother.”

Let the record state that this conversation took place before Russ actually laid eyes on the octopus sized banana spider on our deck. 

“Oh, come on. It’s just a spider,” Russ said as he held a Nike in one hand and pushed open the door.

“Go ahead, Superman,” I called out, realizing those might be the last words I ever spoke to him.

Never seen a banana spider before? Allow me to remedy that:


Thank you, GroovyNoms, for adding fodder to my nightmares.

“Aaaghhhhh!” he yelped and ran back inside, doing his own wiggly dance in the process.

“Like I said: flame throwing apparatus.” I crossed my arms over my chest, confident in my diagnosis, then ducked back under the blanket.

In the end, Russ stood at the door and doused the octo-spider with a double shot of Raid hornet killer and Hot Shot flying insect killer. Of course, since the octo-spider was neither a hornet nor a flying insect, all that he really accomplished was seriously hacking off the spider. You could see it glaring its 10,000 beady eyes at us as it leisurely hauled its fat, drenched self back up its web and into the dark. I’m betting a flame thrower would have taken care of the problem more efficiently.

I didn’t go on our back deck again for weeks.

Since we still technically have a month or so of summer left, I didn’t want this current 8-legged squatter (and her mess of babies) to think she could adversely possess our entire backyard. And although I’m a big fan of taking a mallet to an ant, because the wench was in the window, my trusty flame throwing device might risk burning down our house–which would not be cool. So Raid it was.

Then I started thinking about how so many people are all warm and fuzzy and say spiders eat all the baddies out there. Spiders are our friends. Don’t mess with them, and they won’t mess with you. They are one of God’s creatures, too.

To that point, I submit Exhibit A: hussy-spider-mama going all rabid-vampire on an innocent little moth. The moth is one of God’s creatures, too, you know.


I especially like the water gun which appears to be aiming right at the target.

I certainly hope she enjoyed her last meal.

Dog Paddling

This is the story of a little dog who learned to be brave.

On April 30th, Kirby was hit by a car. She broke her pelvis in 5 places. Luckily, she was still quite young, and our amazing vets expected her to make a solid recovery. 


Amazingly, she walked hobbled out of the hospital 3 days later. She was sore and slow-moving, but she’d survived. 

Two months later, she was able to run again. And it made her happy.


But she wouldn’t swim. It’s in her blood to be a water-dog, but Kirby would only splash around at the edge of the ocean. We could tell she loved the water–she’d bark and whine and jump around, but she was just too scared to get in. She would run around the sides of the pool, whimpering and begging to be splashed. We put her in the pool, and found out she could swim, but it freaked her out. 


Even though she has webbed paws and is built to retrieve ducks from cold, deep ponds, she still wasn’t convinced that the water was for her. She had a bad case of the chickens. 

I’d even say it was an epic case of the chickens.

So she and I had a heart-to-heart.


And Russ got in the pool with her…a little paw-holding, if you will.


Then she gathered up her courage and went for it.


(Well, to be honest, the gathering part still took awhile.)


It was scary and required lots of courage (and focus) on her part, but she did it. She conquered her fear.


Now she rules the pool. 


She could do this all day long. She swims over to the steps, drops the ball, turns around, and waits for someone to throw it again.


And then she’s off…leaping from the steps like a moderately-graceful gazelle.


Every once in awhile, she’ll stop to catch her breath.


But then she can’t stand it, and before you can turn around (or walk in the house), she’s right back on the steps, waiting for the ball to be thrown.


She is a water-dog now. 

She did something she didn’t think she could do.

She is so incredibly proud of herself (and we are, too).


And now she is very, very happy.


a huge shout-out to the sweetest poet in the land–our friend Jennifer W., a hero to so many 4-legged folks, a mighty fine artist, and one nifty friend. 

Kirbo gives you a paws-up and a tail-wag for the fabulous pink tennis balls

She’s batting her eyelashes at you, too.

P.S. Monster Metaphor Alert: Jack and Tucker are at their first sleep-away camp this week. There’s a little more to this entry than just a brave pup going head-to-head against a fear and winning…


(catch and release, of course 🙂 )