Random Thoughts on Chickens

Once in a while, I have other things on my mind besides Disney. Hard to believe, isn’t it?  This is one of those times.  So if you’re here for the Disney stuff, it’ll be back in the very next post (promise!), but you might want to go now.  This is quite a long tale.  It’s somewhat sad and only time will tell if there will be a happy ending.

Random Thoughts on Chickens (and how I’m trying to be a friend of fowl)

This story starts back in July when Joseph decided to move home. We welcomed him with open arms, of course.  He’s making awesome grades in college and has big plans for his future that will most certainly involve moving away.  For now he’ll have room and board and we’ll get to enjoy his company.

Before he moved back in, we knew Joe had a pet snake, Smaug, and a pet tortoise, Arno, but we had no idea he’d be bringing home three pet chickens.  Let’s not dwell on how said chickens lived in his apartment prior to moving to our backyard, mmmmkay?  So, the chickens…Brandy (a fine girl), Hei Hei, and Kylo Hen…They were precious – three different breeds – and as friendly as can be.  Notice I said “were”.Just a few days after Joseph and the menagerie settled in, some loose dogs (we live in the country=no leash law) broke into the coop and made off with Hei Hei and Kylo Hen. Brandy was then left all alone and I was heartbroken for Joseph and Brandy both.  Which prompted me to, well, you can probably guess…

I made my first ever visit to a Tractor Supply Store for some chicks, so Brandy would have a flock. At the same time, I bought a seriously strong fortress to surround the chicken coop.  We ended up with six Isa Brown chicks (minimum purchase reqired and all that) who immediately looked upon Brandy as both mother and supreme leader.  And with a new, covered, six-foot tall, chain-link enclosure, the coops (I soon bought a second so everyone would have plenty of shelter) were secure and our feathered friends were safe!

Suddenly, I was a chicken farmer…

Having grown up in the ‘burbs of a major metropolitan area, I knew absolutely nothing about chickens other than they lay eggs and also taste delicious. I had no idea I would soon be making time every day to visit our little flock.  They were cute and funny and even let me pet and hold them.  Before long, they were eating out of my hand and one in particular liked to jump onto my arm and stand there until all the food was gone.  I found watching them oddly soothing.  They were like therapy chickens.  We’d let them out of their pen to free-range (under our watchful eye) and they’d follow me.  When I’d sit down, they’d come over and hang out with me.  Even Megan and Grant would spend time with these little chickens for fun.  Yes, I’m still using past-tense…

Monday afternoon when I came home from work, Joseph met me at the door with a very serious face. He had bad news and did his level best to break it to me gently.  The evil marauding dogs had come back and were big enough and heavy enough to jump on the gate to the pen and bend the latch.  All the chickens were gone except one.  Killed by the dogs, the only remains were lots of feathers and Brandy, always so sweet and gentle, whose body Joseph found in a field quite a distance from our house.

Six weeks. That’s how long it took me to fall in love with a flock of chickens.  I was incredibly sad. In fact, in an alarming and uncharacteristic display of heartbreak, I sobbed like a baby.  Raymond and Joseph tried their best to cheer me up, but I was (for a very little while) inconsolable.  Yes, they were just a bunch of birds, but they’d added a type of joy to my life I never knew existed.

I’d been learning so much* and they were so darn adorable!  We’d been taking our time naming them as they started looking and acting in ways that allowed us to tell them apart.  Besides Brandy, we’d had Melanie, Pearl, and Sweet Pea named so far.  I was super sad for the one remaining (as yet unnamed) chick, who’d lost her entire family in the most traumatic way.

Time to Regroup and Consider…

The gate to the pen has been chained shut, top and bottom, and the electric fence I ordered will be here any day. (Thank you, Amazon Prime.) Yesterday when I got home from work, Joseph had some surprises waiting for me – four tiny, newly hatched Marans chicks and two, three-week-old Light Sussex/Barnevelder crosses. Random Thoughts on Chickens Random Thoughts on Chickens We absolutely could not let our only surviving chicken remain alone.  The tiny babies are safely living in a large tank with a heat lamp until they grow some feathers.  The bigger chicks are spending a few days closed in one coop so they’ll be near, but separate, from the lonely chicken.  This way they can become acquainted before living together as a group.Backyard Chickens

Funny how life can turn you in a direction you never saw coming!  I’m still quite a bit sad about the hens we lost and I still don’t know much about raising chickens.  But I’m going to do everything in my power to protect and provide for this new flock.  Life (and Joseph) put me on this path and while I’m certainly surprised to find myself here, I’m not turning back now.

Still here?  Thanks for sticking with me!  Know anything about chickens?  Any helpful tips and suggestions you have are welcome!  All of our feathered friends are of egg-laying varieties.

*I’d like to give a giant shout-out to the two best resources I’ve found so far.  The Chicken Keeping 101 Facebook group and Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.  Both the group and the book have helped me understand that it’s not just us – keeping chickens safe and healthy can be challenging!  Wish us luck…we’re gonna need it.

What it’s Like to be Married to the Same Person for 28 Years

Today’s our 28th wedding anniversary!  We’ve left the kids, the dog (and the rest of the menagerie) and have chosen to celebrate this special occasion by ourselves.  Alone.  Just the two of us.  While we won’t be taking that cruise we’d been so looking forward to, we decided a weekend getaway was definitely in order.     

Back in 2014, we celebrated our 25th anniversary at Disney World and wore our celebration buttons for a couple of days.  The reaction from other park guests and some cast members was both hilarious and sometimes a bit alarming.  Quite a few people were amazed that we’d managed to stay married to each other for so long.  One guy commented, “I’ve been married three times and added together I haven’t been married 25 years!”.  Several folks asked us for the secret to staying happily married.  I would share the secret with you now if I had one.  Jokingly, I usually claim our relationship success is based on two rules:  Don’t share money and don’t share a bathroom.  In reality, there is no secret.

I’ve often worried that Raymond and I have given Megan and Joseph unrealistic expectations about marriage.  We know that not all marriages are as harmonious as ours.  We honestly enjoy each other’s company and being together at the end of the day makes our home our happiest place on earth.  It also makes “home” wherever we are.  We rarely disagree, although we do get on each others’ nerves from time to time.  We’re in sync with each other in a way I cannot describe and after all these years, it’s taught me one important lesson that we’ve tried to pass on to our children.  I have this theory…

What it’s Like to be Married to the Same Person for 28 Years

There’s only one reason to get married and love is (mostly) not it.  Alone, love is not enough.  The best and most important reason to get married and stay married is that together you are better than you could ever be individually.  You bring out the best in each other.  You are each other’s biggest fan.  Together you are a super-power that minimizes individual weaknesses and vulnerabilities while maximizing strengths.  You not only compliment each other, you make each other want to be the best versions of yourselves in order to achieve dreams, reach goals (individually and together), and be happy. 

We’ve stressed to Megan and Joseph that while Raymond and I are very happy together, it is never up to any other person in the world to make you happy.  YOU are responsible for your own happiness.  I absolutely do not mean in a selfish way, but I believe you must love yourself in order to be lovable.  There’s no place in a healthy relationship for pettiness, insecurity, or jealousy.  In the long-term, it’s not up to another human being to fix you or prop you up or compensate for your personal issues (no matter how much they love you and want to help).  That’s too big a burden to place on anyone and is completely unfair to that person.

When the person you love makes you want to constantly grow, learn, strive, and reach for the very best YOU – and is there to cheer you on along the way – that, I think is the best way for me to describe what it’s like to be married to the same person for 28 years.

I love you, Raymond.  Thank you for being with me for each and every one of the past 10,227 days.  Happy Anniversary.



Checking in on those Disney New Year’s (non) Resolutions

We’re a bit past the midway mark of 2017 already!  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  Goodness, how this year is flying by!  I don’t know about you and your family, but we have been crazy busy this year and there’s no slowing down in sight.  I took a quick peak back to my New Year’s post to see how I was keeping up with my plans…

Checking in on those Disney New Year’s (non) Resolutions

The SOUP!  I’m really not sure why I fall in love with soups in Disney restaurants more than any other type of food.  Last Christmas at Jiko I was crazy about the Curried Butternut Squash Bisque and tried my best (fairly successfully) to reproduce it at home sans duck confit and quince marmalade.  I’ve made it twice so far and it was very tasty both times and close, but not exactly right.  I’m waiting for the weather to cool off a bit before I give it another go and I’m still committed to trying to record an actual recipe to share.  I tend to produce my most successful creations by throwing a bunch of ingredients together without measuring anything.

The Dark Side CHALLENGE!  Joseph’s first runDisney events and my first ones not having to run alone.  Star Wars 10K and half marathon…check!  A good time was had by all.  Happy, happy memories.The MOVIES!  There’s just one movie left on my short list of must-sees this year…Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15th).  I thought Beauty and the Beast was good and Spider-Man: Homecoming was solidly entertaining (even with all the teen angst).  Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 was by far the best movie I’ve seen this year.  I’m a huge Guardians fan and spent a fair amount of time worrying about the sequel not living up to the original movie.  HA!  Worried for nothing.  Volume 2 was everything I’d hoped for.

Scuba School!  Joseph and I, then later, Megan and Lyndsey (Joe’s girlfriend) have all completed our PADI open water scuba certifications.  We’re now working on our advanced open water and rescue diver certifications as well.  Who knew this would be so much fun?!?!  We’ve got some diving in Florida coming up to practice our new skills.  One downside…I either had to buy new swimwear or continue on with the single, well-worn Target suit I’d purchased several years ago.  I waited until all the swimsuits at Dillard’s were 1/2-off and forced myself to go shopping.  It was just as horrible as I expected, but I now have two new suits for vacation.  And they’ll be covered up most of the time by my wetsuit.

Booking a Disney Cruise was on the list.  That one was so easy, we’ve got not one, but two cruises in our future.  This fall we’ll be sailing on the Fantasy’s 7-Night Eastern Caribbean itinerary.  Next fall, we’ll be on the Wonder’s 4-night repositioning cruise from Vancouver to San Diego.  Does this mean we will finally get to Disneyland?  I’m sure working on it and will keep you posted.

Last Item:  Disney Undersea Adventure.  On our upcoming Caribbean cruise, Raymond and I will be visiting Tortola, St. Thomas/St. John, and Castaway Cay.  We were able to book two scuba diving excursions through Disney Cruise Line.  In Tortola our adventure is the Certified Scuba Wreck & Reef Dive.  In St. Thomas we’re signed up for the rather boringly named St. Thomas Certified Scuba excursion.  Both adventures include two dives – one to view coral and wildlife, one to explore a shipwreck.  We’re super excited!  On this cruise we’ll also be celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary!

Did you make any Disney (non) Resolutions for 2017?  How are you doing with your list?

Have you done any of the scuba excursions on a Disney cruise?  Got any tips or feedback to share?

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!

Recently I came across this article by a mom explaining why she and her husband wouldn’t be saving up to take their children to Disney World any time soon.  She made the following five points rationalizing that decision:

  1. “We don’t want our children to feel entitled to a Disney World vacation.”
  2. “We don’t want our children to view a trip to Disney World as the pinnacle event of their childhood.”
  3. “We don’t want to succumb to the pressures of a high consumerism culture.”
  4. “We don’t want to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  5. “We want our kids to explore the world more than Disney World.”

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!Disney Simba Magic Shot

Initially I had two thoughts:  First was (shallow, I know), “Fewer people in the parks, YAY!”.  After that, I had a deeper reaction…Why write the article at all?  If you, like me, took a few minutes to check out the many reader comments, this lady was highly criticized.  People got really ugly!  What made her put herself out there attracting such hateful words in the first place?  Unlike the article’s haters, I can understand how this mom might want other moms in the same boat to know they’re not alone in their desire to maybe not take their children on a Disney vacation now or ever.  If she’s genuinely afraid of inadvertently turning her children into entitled materialistic jerks, she needs to stick to her guns.  She knows her family best.Disney's Castaway Cay Walkway

As I’m safely on the other side of child rearing, I have a different perspective than many of the article’s harsh critics.  I didn’t feel judged by the author and I’m 100% positive a trip to Disney World was not the pinnacle event of our offspring’s childhoods.  They had amazing personal accomplishments that challenged them physically and mentally.  Things that required dedication and hard work that made them (and us) proud and developed strong character.  Things that had nothing to do with family vacations.  Vacations were for de-stressing, reconnecting, and having tons of fun.Disney Cruise Line in Alaska with Teens

Visit Disney Parks (if you want to)!

Now that Megan and Joseph are adults, I can tell you that vacationing at Walt Disney World did not turn them into materialistic victims of a “high consumerism culture”.  Their Disney vacations have made them hungry to keep exploring the world, experiencing new adventures, and facing challenges.  They also learned the value of saving and budgeting for travel.  AND they had fun, their parents had fun, and we have many happy family memories that will last forever.Disney's Hollywood Studios Meeting Muppets

Through the years, I never felt we were trying to “keep up with the Joneses” – most of our friends and neighbors were not Disney travelers.  We were the oddballs (until I found the Disney fan community, you guys are the BEST!).  We live very simply, grow our own veggies, drive the same vehicles for 10 years or more, and value hard work.

When the kids were growing up, we did without things like video games, a trampoline, a backyard pool, etc. in favor of saving money for travel.  Collectibles like Pokémon cards and Beanie Babies were sadly a firm “no” in our household.  Disney travel was our absolute favorite, so we let Disney show us the world via cultural experiences in Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line visiting countries like Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, and Norway.  Also, we had enormous amounts of fun.Segway tour of CopenhagenDisney Magic South of France

I am completely excited for the article’s writer who will be spending her savings on a trip to Costa Rica with her family.  I admire their commitment to serving the less fortunate and know first hand the value of teaching children about other cultures and languages.  One thing that struck me about the article was the point the author makes about how going to Disney World may indicate someone would do so to “conform to societal pressure”.  Character meal with Genie

Is it true?  Do you guys take Disney vacations because of guilt?  Does the pressure (if it exists) make you think your kids will be maladjusted if you don’t take them to Disney World?  Will they have unresolved childhood issues?  Feel deprived and unloved?  I fell in love with Walt Disney World as a newlywed having never had the chance to visit as a child.  I turned out pretty well and never felt slighted by parents who chose to take me to Sea World (among other places) instead.  We started taking our children to Disney World simply because we ourselves love it there.Expedition Everest

If you think about it, societal pressure on Disney fans is often exceptionally strong.  We frequent Disney vacationers take a lot of flack from coworkers, family, and friends that do not understand what the draw is…How could we possibly want to return to Disney World or Disneyland?  Raise your hand if you’ve gotten the eye-roll accompanied by, “What? AGAIN?” on more than one occasion.Memory Maker Photo in Disney's Hollywood Studios

One last comment (because I can’t help myself) – The article’s author believes, “This culture is one that demands we spend money on this toy and that gadget and this “magical” trip. We don’t want to give into that pressure.”  I say, part of healthy childhood play should include plenty of time to pretend, play make-believe, and dream about being a veterinarian, a hero, a princess, a circus performer, a builder, a policeman, a dancer, a teacher, a banker, or even an Imagineer.  Indulging in these playtime fantasies in no way supports a materialistic, consumerism culture.  If you want to buy or make toys and costumes that support healthy play, don’t over think it.  You’ll be fine and so will your kids.

Now it’s your turn!  What say you?  Do you find Disney vacations detrimental to healthy childhood development?  Do you favor certain other types of travel?  If you’ve taken your children on a Disney vacation, was it the highlight of their entire childhood?  Did it make them feel entitled?  Are they spoiled or materialistic because of Disney travel?  Less apt to give to their community?  I’m biased and I’d really like to hear your side.