Monthly Archives: February 2015

Is That a Vole Outside My Window?

A few weeks ago, Dave noticed a flash of movement in the snow outside our front window. He kept watch and eventually saw a small dark brown mammal dart out of a tunnel in the snow. He called me over to watch, and after a few boring minutes I saw it as well. After we finished laughing and marveling (and I assured Dave that I always knew he wasn’t seeing things), we started wondering what this little creature was. A mouse?

Dave offered up the suggestion that we had voles. I’d heard of voles but had never encountered them and wasn’t even really sure what they were. We knew we had something tunneling around in the yard because we would kind of sink into the grass when we walked around in back. Dave kept saying we had moles, so when he suggested we were seeing voles outside the window, I thought they were some kind of interchangeable creature.

A little bit of Googling taught me a few things:

  1. Voles are also called meadow mice or meadow voles. (I have to confess, this made me think of the story of the country mouse and the city mouse … one of my favorites from childhood.)
  2.  There is a difference between moles, voles and shrews. Moles and shrews primarily eat insects; voles are herbivores. Moles and voles both make tunnels; shrews use those tunnels but do not create them.
  3.  Voles are rodents, about four to six inches in size, and they don’t live very long. It’s rare for them to live more than one year.
  4.  Their front teeth are prominent (the better to gnaw you with) and they are orange.  (I find this equally fascinating and repulsive.)

We were mainly concerned with whether these little cuties would mess with our garden this summer. Much to our dismay, we found out that voles do eat seeds, grains, grass, herbs and succulent vegetation. On the plus side, they aerate and turn the soil with all their digging. (Not enough, however, to prevent Dave from renting a rototiller this spring.) They also destroy weeds. Moles, on the other hand, eat insects and grubs and leave the plants alone. I actually found myself wishing we had moles, even though voles are cuter.

Hello, cutie!

Hello, cutie!

In the process of doing research, I found a page that compared moles, voles and shrews. Knowing nothing at all about a shrew, I started to wonder if what we have are shrews instead of voles. I followed a link to find out how small a shrew was, which led me to a photo of what looked like a dead shrew in a spoon. After composing myself (I am not a fan of looking at dead animals), I went back and tried to figure out how big the spoon was. I couldn’t tell if it was a teaspoon or a larger serving spoon. I did, however, lose my appetite.

I called Dave over to look at the photo, after explaining to him that shrews are smaller than voles (three to four inches compared to a vole’s four to six inches). He asked me to find out if shrews hibernate; it turns out they don’t. He’s convinced what we have are voles, even though I think the little guys we were seeing couldn’t possibly be four to six inches long.

I did some research on how to deter them but it looks like it’s either difficult or time-consuming to do this effectively. We aren’t interested in trying to kill them; I was hoping to find out that maybe they are repelled by certain plants.

As a side note while I’m on the topic of local wildlife, Dave brought in an injured female cardinal last week. We were in the middle of brutally cold temperatures (down to 9 below zero at night, wind chills of -25). He feeds the birds and squirrels first thing in the morning and found this little lady by our front steps; it looked like she was dragging a wing but she had no other apparent injuries. He thought maybe she flew into something, got stunned and then the cold just knocked her sideways. I won’t go into detail but she went to birdie heaven later that afternoon, sadly. What was surprising to me, though, was that we have no local wildlife refuge or point of contact for injured wild birds. There are a few for squirrels, opossums, etc. but nothing in our area for birds. (Dave is opposed to starting one ourselves, alas.)

But back to the voles. Basically we have thrown up our hands. We’ve decided to plan a really large garden, and expect to be feeding many voles as well as (hopefully) ourselves.

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Let Me Invite You Into My Mind

I’m not sure if this a ‘difference between men and women’ thing or just a ‘Wendi, you are crazy’ thing (most likely the latter), but here’s a conversation Dave and I had last night:

I just finished reading this article about body composition and was muttering to myself, “Yeah, I wish it was that easy.” Then I turned to Dave and said, “Listen to this.” I read the article out loud – it’s short – and waited for his reaction.

He was nodding along in agreement. I told him that I agreed with the basic concept too, which boils down to this synopsis at the end:

“… So toss your scale out the window, forget about nonsense like body mass index and “weight loss” and instead use your body and transform it into one that looks and feels great.”

Dave knows that I weigh myself every day. He also knows that I try not to let it get to me, but if I’m either on a plateau or, even worse, an upward trend, I can’t help but get upset and try to analyze what’s happening. He always tells me to just stop weighing myself daily because body weight fluctuates so much due to various reasons (something that is also mentioned in the article). My reasoning, though, is that I want to know if I’m trending upwards so I can make adjustments in my diet or exercise before it gets out of hand. I don’t want to weigh myself once every couple weeks and realize I’ve gained five pounds or something; I want to stop it before it gets that far.

Who are we kidding?  I would never wear shoes when weighing myself!

Who are we kidding? I would never wear shoes when weighing myself!

On the other hand, my main goal was to get healthy and I feel like I’ve achieved that. I’m really trying to maintain that, because it was a lot of work and it took a long time. I’d love to weigh less, but I’ve just been bouncing around between the same three pounds, up and down, for about six months now. Maybe this has to be good enough at this point.

What I pointed out to Dave, though, was that the article talked about how outdated BMI is and how it doesn’t take many other factors into account … yet it’s the tool that medical professionals use. On the one hand, they exhort us to toss our scale out the window and not care about BMI, but on the other hand, if my doctor is using it as a guideline then I’m kind of screwed.

“Here’s the way I picture it,” I told Dave. “I go for my new patient visit next month. I already know they’ve got my height down as five feet tall. [I was 5’1” at my other doctor’s office, and I used to think I was 5’2”, so this is like losing TWO INCHES of height. It also dramatically changes my BMI results.] I weigh myself at home in my underwear, but at the office I have clothes on and I know that adds at least three pounds. I would have to weigh 125 pounds, in my clothes, on their scale in order to be in the ‘normal’ BMI range. I have not been that weight since before I had kids and I know I won’t be that weight next month (or probably ever). So I’m worried that the doctor will yell at me and tell me to lose weight, even though I’ve lost 34 pounds in the past year and a half.”

Dave just looked at me, incredulous. “Who gives a shit what the doctor says?!”

“Well, how would you react if your doctor told you to lose weight?” I asked.

“I’d just say, ‘This is who I am.’ They can’t tell me what to do. Only you can make yourself feel this way; don’t give them that kind of power.”

I shook my head. “I can’t help it – I wish I didn’t care about it, but I do.”

Even crazier, I have never really been yelled at by a doctor for my weight, even for all the years I was obese. The only time one of my doctors said anything was when I was 43 pounds heavier than I am now. And then she just casually said, “Well, you might want to work on your weight a bit” in the context of a conversation about my high cholesterol. Probably the one time my weight was a big focus at doctor’s appointments was when I was pregnant; they did kind of get on me for gaining weight then (I gained 30 to 35 pounds with each kid and started off in the 120 range, so I was not overweight to begin with). That’s also when my high blood pressure started.

I also have no idea what my new FNP will really say. She may not even bring up my weight at all.

And there we are. What I wouldn’t give to be able to just swap brains with Dave for a day and not worry about stupid things!

February: Chicks and Chocolate

Yesterday Dave and I were walking around Rural King after picking up some sunflower seeds and corn for the birds and squirrels. (And voles, apparently – we sometimes see them darting through their tunnels in the snow and it delights Dave to no end. I hope we are still as delighted by them after we plant our garden this spring.) We passed some cardboard boxes marked ‘Live Chicks’ and I peeked inside the holes, but didn’t see anything. At first I thought it was a subliminal suggestion, but after we walked a bit further I knew I was hearing cheeping.

I tapped Dave on the arm. “Why do I hear … cheeping?”

I was pretty sure he’d laugh at me and shake his head. Instead, he took my hand and led me further up the next aisle.

The cheeping got louder. I could see metal tubs set up with warming lamps, and each tub had either chicks or ducks inside. In the store! Just hanging out! Well, with price tags on the side, but still … it was something I’d never seen before in my life.

I figured people got their baby chicks either from someone local who raised them, or ordered them through the mail. (I only know about that last option from books I’ve read.) I had no idea you could just go down to the store and buy them.

So of course I lost my mind. I took pictures, I cooed, I talked to them. Dave talked to them too, of course – it’s not possible for either of us to go past any type of animal and not have a little one-sided conversation. After my baby chick appetite was sated, we continued on and found rabbits. Bun-buns! So I lost my mind a second time; more one-sided conversations ensued. “You like that carrot, don’t you? You know it’s not real, right? [It was made of sisal.] Hi honey! Hi bun-bun!” and so on.

After I posted pictures on Facebook, it was suggested that I get some chickens. I already know I’m probably not cut out for chickens; I would be inconsolable if one of them died (a highly probable situation) and I would want to keep them in the house with me. (The cats, I’m sure, would get on board with that plan.  The landlady … not so much.) But oh, I love chickens and ducks.  I want to move next door to someone who has them so I can visit them every day.

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OMG DUCKLINGS I WANT THEM ALL

Then another friend, who raises chicks and knows her stuff, mentioned that the chicks in the store are not happy – that’s why they cheep so much. Well, that didn’t help – it kicked my maternal instinct into overdrive. I want to go back and buy ALL THE CHICKS and make them happy and love them forever and ever, amen.

In other exciting news, February is apparently a lucky month for me Influenster-wise, because I’ve been picked for another VoxBox! I loved the one I got last year, so I’m pretty darn excited. I’ll be doing some reviews here once the XO VoxBox arrives, as well as a general ‘unboxing’ type post for the box itself. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I did already get to choose one of the items. It’s a free bra and panty set from Adore Me, which I’d never heard of before. I believe they’re trying to give Victoria’s Secret a run for their money, which is interesting to me because I used to get all my underthings from there. I finally decided they just don’t fit me comfortably, so if Adore Me is a good fit, I’ll be ecstatic. I tend to think of these lingerie places as being more for young adults and not women with older bodies. I’ll be happy if they prove me wrong.

By the way, I got the Shea Contour set (with the bikini, not the thong – I prefer to avoid dental floss up my butt, thank you).  If only they could guarantee I’d look like that when I put it on!  (Psst:  If you want to give Adore Me a try, here’s a referral code that will give you a bra/panty set for $25.)

Speaking of Influenster, remember last spring I was notified that I won the Vaseline grand prize, which was a couple containers of the men’s lotion and a free ride in a race car? Well, Vaseline never sent the prize, so boo to them. It should have arrived in May or June sometime, and then we were so busy looking for a place to live and then moving in July that I never bothered to contact Influenster and let them know. I kind of thought it might arrive later that summer and get forwarded to me here, but I never did get anything from them.

Other than that, we’re just waiting for some snow and looking forward to Valentine’s Day this Saturday. We make it easy on each other now; our tradition the last few years has been to go to a chocolate shop and make a custom box to share. We’ve done it with See’s and Fannie May, and this year we went to our local chocolate shop, Veni’s. Their candy and chocolate is made right on the premises, and it’s truly mouth-watering. We picked up a dark chocolate assortment (which we won’t touch until Saturday), some of their almond butter crunch, dark chocolate mints, dark chocolate coconut haystacks, and two dark chocolate Amaretto candies. (We like dark chocolate, can you tell?!)

Dream Big, Kids!

In light of the recent measles outbreak, I was curious whether I’d ever been vaccinated for the measles.  Dave and I were talking about it and I was pretty sure I had been, but not positive.  Then I remembered the School Days book my mom used to keep for me, which I still have.

This book is one of my treasures — it has school photos, report cards, awards, my class schedules, teachers’ and friends’ names, and anything else I deemed important that year (my first speeding ticket, my bus pass).  My mom kept it updated through first or second grade, and then I took over.  I still pull that book out when I can’t remember for sure what classes I took sophomore year, or what teacher I had for first grade.  (Dave, by the way, remembers all of that stuff effortlessly.  How does he do that?!)

In the back of the book is a record of my immunizations and illnesses, which was filled in by my mom until 1970.  I was, indeed, vaccinated for measles (and mumps, diptheria, etc.)  The two main illnesses I had were roseola, which I don’t remember having (I was only two) but may have contributed to my hearing loss, and chicken pox, which I still remember as one of the most miserable experiences of my life.

What really stuck out, though, was this little section at the bottom of each school year (through sixth grade), called When I Grow Up I Want to Be – .  I never really paid much attention to it before, but apparently in kindergarten I wanted to be a mom, a nurse, and a school teacher.

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Dream big, kids! One day you could be a cowboy.

Back in the late 50s / early 60s, apparently most boys aspired to be either a policeman, fireman, cowboy, astronaut, soldier, or baseball player.  Girls could choose from mother, nurse, school teacher, airline hostess, model or secretary.

I could never have used this book for my kids.  When Eric was in kindergarten, he wanted to be a Power Ranger when he grew up.  Paige wanted to be a veterinarian.  (Well, in the book’s defense … there is a blank line where you can fill in a custom occupation.)

I think it’s kind of sweet that I did get to be one of the things I wanted to be in kindergarten — a mother.

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