30 June 2008

A Chipmunk Story

Late last week, I glanced out our front window and saw a chipmunk hopping around the front yard. This is not an unusual sight, but the chipmunk in question was quite small. I went outside for a closer look, only to find that the chipmunk was indeed very small and it’s eyes were still closed.

I look around for the mother, but she was nowhere in sight.

We’ve had chipmunk babies before, but at this young age, they never venture far from one of the holes in the ground where the mother keeps the nest. If they do, we’ve seen the little mama drag them back into the hole, kicking and screaming.

This little guy was all alone, so with the help of my daughters, we nudged it back toward one of the holes. We didn’t touch it, because we weren’t sure if the mother might smell our scent and reject it. It didn’t understand the gentle nudgings with our shoes, but when we used a towel to pick it up and put it right next to the wall of the house, it scurried along the wall until it came to a small hole, and scampered inside. Later, I wished I’d taken a photo, but alas, the main objective was to rescue the chipmunk, which we did.

Or so we thought.

Yesterday, we came home from church through heavy thunderstorms. As we ducked into the garage, my husband spotted a waterlogged, half-dead, baby chipmunk lying in our garden. It was on the other end of the house from the hole where the same chipmunk (we assume) had scampered down the hole a couple of days earlier.

Without a second thought, I scooped up the little beast into my hands and immediately tried to give it some warmth. It was shaking, but completely unresponsive...

After I held it for a few minutes, it began to move slightly, so we put it into a shoe box full of soft paper towels. Then my daughter held the box in front of the open oven...

Soon, the little guy was dry and the rain had stopped. We hesitantly put it back outside in the front garden, near the hole it had originally run into, just a couple of days before...

The baby seemed hesitant, but after some serious nudging on our part, it went back into the same hole as before. But then it turned around and faced out. As I said before, its eyes weren’t yet opened, so it just sat there at the edge of the hole, facing out.

Then we waited. For the mother to come back, for the baby to go farther into the hole, or for SOMETHING to happen.

Nothing happened.

After a few hours, we were afraid the tiny little guy would die, plus, it would be dark soon. So we scooped the chipmunk back into the shoebox and put it back by the open oven...

Now it was time to figure out what to do – and to figure it out before all the local pet stores closed for the evening.

It was also at that point that my husband kept shaking his head at our daughter and me, telling us we ought to just leave it outside.

Maybe it was losing our cat just yesterday, maybe it was our inherent love for chipmunks, or maybe we just had a bit of baby-fever. We were NOT leaving this little guy out there alone, with no mother to care for him, more thunderstorms on the way, and with the neighbors cats always lurking nearby.

We did some research on the trusty internet and then popped up to the local pet store to buy puppy formula, a tiny nursing kit, and a small cage in which to keep our new houseguest.

THIS SITE is where we found all the helpful information we needed.

We also got a hot water bottle to serve as a surrogate cage mom for the time being.

By the time we got back from the store, the chipmunk had perked up a lot. Reminiscent of having a newborn, I mixed the puppy formula, put it in the tiny bottle, tested it on my wrist, and we began the adventure of feeding this little critter.

My daughter held him in her hand (I insisted that she wear gloves because he liked to grab EVERYTHING with his little front teeth). She tilted him back and I put the little nipple into his mouth, while alternately squeezing a bit of formula onto his tongue. He just sat there for a moment, unsure of what we were doing, and then suddenly, he grabbed onto the nipple with his front paws and tried to devour it whole...

We had to hold him back so he wouldn’t suck down the entire contents of the bottle (the chipmunk website warned us about that) and then after a minute or so, he seemed to have had enough and he crawled into a little box we’d put in the cage.

We were instructed to do this every 3-4 hours, though I confess that we had a 5 hour stretch between midnight and 5:00 a.m. My daughter took the midnight shift and I got up with the chickens... or the chipmunk, as it were.

The little guy was even feistier and hungrier this morning. He tried to pull the bottle out of my hand...

Do you like the tea box we gave him as a bedroom? My favorite kind of tea, and quite appropriate, I think.

Now when I should be cleaning the house, paying bills and rousing the troops, I've been searching the internet and making phone calls about where to place our little chipmunk. While there is a part of me that would like to do this ourselves, raise him to adulthood, and then release him into the wild, I am no expert. I'm just happy we got him through the first night. I'd like to send him on to an adoptive family who really knows what it's doing. After leaving several phone messages all over the area, I'm waiting now to find out what the next step will be.

Stay tuned...


I finally got a call back from a lady who does this for a living - rescues wild animals which are orphaned, injured, or ill, and takes care of them until they can be re-released into the wild. We will deliver the little chipmunk to her this evening.

Thanks for all the great emails, comments, and myspace messages. More pictures will follow later, after he has gone to his new home.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

29 June 2008

Grieving our Kitty

Yesterday morning, our nearly 13-year-old cat went to kitty heaven.

He had a valiant fight with kidney disease after his diagnosis 5 months ago.

This past week, he really went downhill, and the IV treatment I gave him every couple of days, ceased to help. He stopped eating, he didn’t want to be held, and since Thursday, he’d been holed up in our closet waiting to die.

As hard as it is to make that final choice, I'm so thankful we had the option to end our kitty's life peacefully rather than watch him just wither away in pain.

He went very quickly – it only took seconds – and he was a bit of a fighter to the last, meowing and complaining to me about the IV in his leg. I loved that about him – he never hissed, scratched, or bit, but ALWAYS complained – loudly. He was such a funny cat.

Our two cats were Ricky and Lucy, brother and sister from the same litter. Lucy is still with us, alive and well, and as unfriendly as ever.

Ricky was my favorite cat and I'm thankful I had THESE PICTURES of him.

He came when I called him, always sat in my lap, and whenever I picked him up, he threw his front paws around my neck. He also slept in my bed and was my little gardening buddy. He was an indoor cat, but he went out with me in the fenced yard when I gardened, and just followed me around. He was so friendly, talked all the time, and was more like a little dog than a cat.

Here he is in the garden, just last week...

In looking at these photos, I realize that when we look at pictures of OTHER people's cats, it can be kind of underwhelming. You have to know a cat to really like him. Dogs aren't like that - usually you can see a picture of a dog and know what kind of a person he is.

Trust me when I say, this cat was special, all the way down to his crooked face and half-moustache.

I’ll be ok until I hear “You’ll be in my Heart” by Phil Collins. That one gets me. It TOTALLY describes how I feel about my pet-babies.

Our kitty will be sorely missed, but we knew his time had come and we're thankful we had the option to put him out of his misery.

He was a really, really good cat.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

26 June 2008

Summer in Maine doesn't crawl; it sprints.

A couple of days ago I was at the grocery store, and the lady bagging the groceries made a comment about how it was finally warm outside, and how it was about time, seeing that it’s almost the Fourth of July.

That stunned me.

Just because we’re nearing the end of June, doesn’t mean we’re already at the Fourth of July, does it?

In my mind, the Fourth is the unofficial mid-point of summer. Summer vacation, that is. Of course, this year, due to unforeseen circumstances, we didn’t finish our homeschooling until June 13. We usually end before the month of May is over.

Our summer vacation is just getting going.

It made me want to grab the calendar and stomp on it until it slows down to a crawl, rather than the sprint it seems to be taking.

I’m sure spending my day fretting about it will solve everything and for once, summer in Maine will never end. I’m optimistic like that.

* * *

On a different note, I left a comment for all the great comments about our bathroom tile, but I thought I’d address it again here. I’m going to go with the lighter, wood-looking tile. After my hubby brought home more samples yesterday, my head began to spin. I told him just now that I’m going with the lighter tile and that if I had to prolong the decision for even another minute, I’d surely shoot myself.

Thank you for all the great input; it REALLY helped me. And I’m glad I don’t have to shoot myself.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

25 June 2008

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

I need help from the internet today, so I'm asking you - my friends (you, to me, are the internet that MATTERS) - for some advice.

As you know, we are in the market for a new toilet. Our old one, along with the countertop, sink, tub, and linoleum, are a color that most of the appliance stores call "bone." Sort of a beige, if you ask me.

ANYWAY, we want a change. We want white appliances. We painted the trim and cabinets white a few years ago and now that we HAVE to get a new toilet, this is the perfect time to start changing everything else.

That's the complicated way of saying that we went shopping at Home Depot for a toilet, and ended up looking at sinks, vanities, showers, and floor tile. Now we're looking at a complete bathroom renovation, due to one lousy toilet.

But bear with me here.

What I need from YOU is an opinion on floor tile. We're going with that first, since it needs to be put in before the toilet, which will come second.

We brought home a bunch of samples, and we like the wood look, since we have wood floors in the hallway. We narrowed it down to these two. The one on the left is pretty much a perfect match to the wood floors in the hall, but the one on the right is a bit richer and we like it only a tiny bit better. Actually, the family is sort of split on it. The consensus is that the dark tile looks better in the bathroom, but the lighter one looks best up next to the hallway.

Oh, and ignore the color of the walls - we might change them.

So, will YOU be the tie breaker?

Below are the photos of the bathroom (one with the dog who doesn't understand photography and thought I was standing there wanting to give him a treat). If you have an opinion, please leave a comment and let me know which one you like better.

Wordless Wednesday


Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

23 June 2008

One of my worst fears realized

A few years ago, I found a mouse in our house. The cats had caught it in the basement and played with it until it was dead. Not a pretty sight. I found it by nearly stepping on it as I walked across the concrete basement floor, heading toward the laundry area. That was the first of many such occurrences.

This year, our problem is toads. As of yesterday, we had found two toads in our basement. This morning, I found a third.

I found it because I stepped on it.

If you aren't totally grossed out, then read on. I promise you WILL be grossed out before this is over.

I was hanging laundry in the basement, having just come in from a morning walk, so I was still wearing my sneakers. Usually I take my shoes off, but I was going to go back outside, so thankfully (I think) they were still on.

As I walked back and forth across the concrete floor of the basement, hanging clothes on the clothes line, I felt/heard a pop under one of my shoes. There are all kinds of cat toys and other junk in our basement, so I really wasn't alarmed. But then I looked down and saw a tiny little toad sort of hobbling away. Needless to say, I was horrified. In fact, horrified doesn't begin to describe it. I shivered and danced and screamed and tried to shake off the "eww" that was creeping up all over me.

I ran upstairs, got a bowl and a paper towel. I picked up the poor little crippled toad with the paper towel (yes, there was a bit of blood), put it in the bowl, and took it outside. When I put it down on the grass, it was still alive, but I could see that it was hurt much worse than I originally thought. The pop I heard had pretty much split it open from end to end.

I wanted to cry. But instead, I was seriously afraid I was going to throw up.

I ran back into the house and headed for the bathroom. Yet, when I got there, I found only the dismantled toilet from my previous post, below. At that point, miraculously, the nausea abated and I just had to laugh. Maybe it was hysteria, maybe it was my feeble way of shaking off what had just happened.

Needless to say, all plans I'd made for today were suddenly cancelled, and we started cleaning the basement. When I say cleaning, I mean moving EVERYTHING. Boxes, crates, furniture, sleeping bags, camping equipment, shelves, and a million other things. The sensation of a little baby toad being squashed under my sneaker is still quite fresh in my mind and I have GOT to find their entry point into this basement.

After several hours, we didn't find the secret toad portal, but we did decide to get rid of a bunch of junk we no longer need, so it was a fruitful day in any case.

But not for the toad.


Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

Trouble in Paradise

This toilet has been making weird noises for the past couple of weeks, and running when it shouldn't be. Yesterday, hubby took it apart, found a bunch of rusted parts, said we need a bunch of new parts, and then left it like you see it now.

The number one thing I am thankful for this morning - the fact that we have a second bathroom.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

22 June 2008

Slug Fest, Part II

Ok, the beer and orange thing worked for a couple of days, but then the past two mornings, I went outside to find one of the orange halves empty. Yes, empty of beer and/or slugs.

I checked it all over and there were no holes, rips or tears in the orange peel, which meant only one thing.

Someone or something has been drinking the beer. Darn those partying slugs, they passed the word and now our front garden has become the neighborhood bar.

We have all sorts of woodland and domestic critters that habit our property at night. Neighborhood cats, skunks, moles, racoons, mice, foxes, and even the occasional deer.

I'd love to know who is drinking the beer.

I suppose I should do the obvious thing and keep an eye out for animals that look hungover.

* * *

On a different note, summer is HERE. My daughter and I walked out of Shaw's this afternoon and there was a warm, humid breeze coming across the parking lot. It felt like we were at the beach. Know what I mean?

Not that it's warm enough to go to the beach yet. If it's 75 and breezy at our house, sweatshirts will be required at the beach.

But still. If you want to take a lawn chair, the Shaw's parking lot will do nicely. :)

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

20 June 2008

First Day of Summer

Longest day of the year.

Happiest day of the year.

Summer starts at around 7:00 p.m. today.

All this I heard within 15 minutes of waking up this morning.

And then I looked at our outdoor thermometer and it's below 60 degrees.

Go figure.

Hey, at least it isn't snowing, right?

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

19 June 2008

Slug Fest

This is the year of the new garden.

Last year I ripped out all our old, ugly bushes in an un-thinking frenzy, and this year, I've planted flowers. Tons of flowers. Living through Maine winters has made me perpetually color-deprived and I can't seem to get enough.

So imagine my dismay when I discovered that the flowers I painstakingly planted were being eaten.

I wasn't sure what kind of little monster dared to munch (and leave droppings - yuck) on my flowers, but I recently read THIS BLOG and I wondered if it might be slugs.

In the above-mentioned blog, Mir suggests putting beer into half a grapefruit, which will attract the slugs and drown them in the process. I was skeptical, and I didn't really have a slug problem.

Until yesterday.

So late last night, I set my traps. I didn't have any grapefruit, so I cut an orange in half, scooped out the fruit, and filled both halves with cheap beer. One of the peels was a bit ripped and leaking, but this was just an experiement anyway, so what the heck? I set each one next to my daisy plants.

This morning, I ran out to see my pitiful daisies, and lo and behold, the orange peel and beer WORKED.

The intact orange peel was still full of beer, but also had about six or seven dead slugs lying in it. Ewww was an understatement. BUT - no slugs on the daisies.

So I went to check the other orange peel, the one that had leaked. It had a bit of beer on the bottom, and one half-drunk slug grinning up at me. The daisies next to this one, however, were COVERED in slugs. Eww again!

After flicking all the slugs off the daisies with a stick, I threw them into the woods. Then I took the orange peel full of dead, inebriated slugs and threw THEM into the woods, too. I'll spare you the photos. Eww a third time.

I don't know if I'll ever think about beer the same way again.

BUT ~ I'll be serving it to the slugs in my yard every night this summer.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

18 June 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Blast from the Past...

About 5-6 years ago - my two daughters in the frigid waters that hug the coast of Maine.

Quite a jump, don't you think?


Wordless Wednesday

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

15 June 2008


As often happens at this time of the year in Maine, I find myself outside more than I'm inside... thus my scarcity here. Of course, today being a rainy day gives me little excuse not to catch up.

This is one of those "too much to tell, to little time" moments, so I'll just toss out some bullets...

* I found another toad in the basement last week. One toad is a freak occurrence. Two toads is an infestation. To me, anyway.

* I ripped out a big chuck of our back lawn and planted a flower garden. I should mention that at age 41, I've discovered gardening and I love it. I've also finally learned about annuals and perennials - meaning, which is which. For years I thought an annual was something that came back up annually and that a perennial was perennially dead, once it died. Yes, my mind is twisted like that.

* I'm eyeing other chunks of lawn that can be potentially ripped out and made into flower gardens, as well. Less mowing that way, and more color. The grass is very afraid. So is my family.

* I cleaned out our garage - a semi-annual affair that always leaves me wondering why I don't do it every month. But I never do. I wait until we can hardly walk through it because of all my son's and husband's stuff scattered everywhere, and all the dirt dropped in between from gardening.

* For Father's Day, I got my hubby a Cabela's gift certificate. We still haven't visited the new Cabela's down in Scarborough, but we will soon. Very soon. I'm just a little afraid that once my husband goes in, he may never come out. I think he sort of wishes that might happen.

* Last week, my son and his girlfriend rescued a big snapping turtle from being run over on a road down by the river. The turtle was not pleased, amused, nor the least bit appreciative. It stole my son's girlfriend's flip-flop and tried to leave with it. It also hissed and snapped and said some very unkind things to everyone within ear shot.

* I had a GREAT birthday last weekend and my darling hubby bought me an amazing new camera. I discovered that I need a higher degree to know how to operate it, so I'm working on that now. Until then, here is a picture of an iris in our front garden, taken with said camera...

* That's all I can think of right now. School is officially out at our house and there has been much rejoicing from students and teacher alike. Oh, and the big news is that our daughters will go part time to the local public high school next year. No more higher math for me. Been there, done that, did lousy.

Have a great week, everyone!

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

06 June 2008

Turning 41

Last year upon turning 40, I began making a list of things I wanted to do in honor of the big milestone.

I’ve since lost the list and the only item I can remember is that I was going to go have my hair cut professionally (I’ve been cutting it myself for 21 years).

I have yet to do that.

You see, I have an aversion to paying someone to take scissors to my hair, when I might not even like the result. Besides, my hair is… special. You know - curly, temperamental, difficult. You’d have to know it personally to know how to cut it.

Anyway, if I ever find my list, I’ll let you know what else I didn’t do this year.

* * *

In other news, the Celtics won the first game of the finals last night. It was a good game; especially the part when Paul Pierce came back out into the arena after spraining his knee. You had to see it to understand – major warm and fuzzy feelings abounded.

Also, I loved the ad, like so many others that have been shown, with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – and only half their faces showing. I’m still marveling at how they’ve changed.

Where has the time gone?

Oh yeah, I’m not 20 anymore. I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

04 June 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Seen last week in the Oxford Hills area of Maine...

Wordless Wednesday

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

01 June 2008

It's Always Something

Our little mutt dog is 13 years old. He’s the one that had the VERY expensive surgery last year. He’s been fine, since.

Over the past year, however, he’s developed bad habits that he never had before, even as a puppy. He gets into the trash (especially bathroom trash – he loves that), he gets into things in the garage, he chews on things. It’s really weird.

Just today, he got a hold of our daughter’s best pair of jeans and chewed a hole right out of them. He was actually chewing on the piece of denim and it had to be pried out of his mouth.

Over the past couple of days (I warn you, it gets gross here), the dog’s had diarrhea, and you know dogs – they aim for carpet – usually light colored carpet. Not the wood floors, not bathroom tile, and not small, cheap throw rugs that can be washed or thrown away – this dog aims for the wall-to-wall carpet in our bedrooms. Light grey carpet. He left several piles all over our room and our other daughter’s room (no, he doesn’t discriminate).

We awakened to it yesterday and today and we were scrubbing for quite some time. As I was scrubbing, I said (in anger, but partly true) that I’m ready to have him put down. Hubby chastised me for saying it in front of the kids, so I told him HE could do all the scrubbing. He shut up after that.

So today, said dog is on rice only. Plus, the daughter with the hole in her best jeans won’t have anything to do with him, which is sad, because he loves her best. She’s momentarily forgotten that he’s just a stupid, senile dog. No offense to dog lovers, because I am one. I’ve owned smart dogs and dumb dogs. This one falls into the latter category. He’s sweet, but not smart.

To add to the weirdness, today Hubby went into the basement and found another “pile” on the concrete floor. As he was walking over to clean it up, it moved.

At this point in the story, I was about ready to move away and never look back. I mean, that last sentence is the stuff horror stories are made of.

But – turns out it was a toad. A BIG toad. We have no idea how it got down there. We’ve had mice (small ones) and once a shrew. One time I found a tiny, tiny toad, but I figured it hitched a ride and came in the house on one of the dog’s legs. This toad was big and should not have been able to get into our basement.

That totally freaks me out.

What else is in the basement?

And why didn’t the dog (or cats, for that matter) do something about the toad?

These are the big questions I’m pondering today.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes