- Posts for Monday Musings tag
Gratitude 2020 Edition | Our Prairie Nest
Gratitude: 2020 Edition

It’s been a hell of a year for most people and I am well-aware that we lucked out in our household. We have a roof over our heads, income, food, and the ability to meet our needs. Not everyone can say that.

There are certainly things we’ve personally lost, not to mention the greater losses that touched most of us over the year. No matter how difficult this year has been, I’ve also tried to remember that I’m privileged in so many ways. I’m grateful for my privilege and have tried to use it constructively. Unfortunately, what I have can only go so far. But it’s the little things, and we are all capable of something.

Here’s hoping 2021 brings all of us health and safety, love and joy, and more.

Our Meal Plan | Our Prairie Nest
Our Meal Plan

Right? RIGHT?!

This has been me for my entire adulthood. At least, until last year when my husband and I finally decided to get a handle on meal-planning. If you’re the same way, flailing at the grocery store or home about what to eat, here is one way to make it much easier.

Create a Spreadsheet

We created a spreadsheet with two tabs – Month One and Month Two. The plan has four weeks per month, and we don’t fret too much about a week five.

Each week has meals planned for Monday through Sunday, with a hyperlink to the recipe. When it’s time to place my grocery order for the week, I work off a handwritten shopping list where we write things that are low or we’ve run out of, and then the recipes that are linked for the week. It makes placing my grocery order so much easier!

That’s all there is to it! We started small, with the things we normally like to make, and slowly filled in the weeks as we found recipes we liked. It took time, so I want to emphasize that you don’t need to feel like you have to fill in the entire two months, or one month, or even every single week!

Start with what you’re accustomed to cooking. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If your first week is hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, and spaghetti, so what? Just put the information in there.

Then think about how you might want to space out your meals. Are you looking to add more vegetarian dishes? More seafood? Lighter meals?

Google is your best friend. Enter the search terms you want and get started. For example, I find myself looking for new recipes often and my searches are always driven by the season. Summertime usually means I’m looking for “light summer meals” and winter puts me in the mood for “comfort food” or soups or stews.

It’s also important to think about who is doing the cooking. My husband cooks five nights a week. I only cook on Saturdays and Sundays. So I like to make sure he has a balance of “easy” days with the more complicated meals. There’s also the option for frozen pizza at all times. Not as delicious as homemade, but sometimes the primary cook needs a break!

I like to have soup as a weekly option, because it usually makes plenty of leftovers for me to bring to work throughout the week. I also have tried to group certain foods together, so some weeks might include more sweet potatoes, for example, or more beans. It makes the shopping even easier.

But there’s no need to get that complicated or detailed from the get-go. Start with what you know, figure out what you want to eat, and then start adding recipes little by little.

For me, it’s just nice to open the spreadsheet on Friday night, and do my grocery shopping off it from the comfort of my own home. And I never have to ask, “What are we having for dinner this week?” šŸ™‚

Releasing or That night Daniel saved me from prom | Our Prairie Nest
Releasing (or the night Daniel saved me from prom)

Blame the New Year, blame 2020, blame the eclipses, but here’s the truth: it’s not them, it’s me. And I realized I tried to do and be too much last year.

Late last year, I started getting headaches, something I don’t generally suffer from. I had more sleepless nights than ever, and I lost about 10 pounds because… Well, I don’t know why, but it happened and I know it’s not a good thing.

The first weekend of December, I went to Midwest Furfest with my husband and son. We’ve gone in previous years, but not the past couple because A. it was getting a little stale and B. renovations took priority. But this year I had a little bonus from doing some editing work on the side, so off to Chicago we went for MFF 2019 and I am so glad we did. We chilled. We laughed. We raved. It was fantastic and it was eye-opening.

What I realized that first weekend in December was that there were things I didn’t miss back home. Things I was doing because I did have an interest at first, only to find out they brought on more stress than satisfaction.

Maybe some people are stubborn and will push through that, but not me. It took another month to realize my body was telling me something: to stop, fall back on what I truly care about, and let the other stuff go.

I want to spend time with my family and my birds, get back to writing (which has been going slower than I want), focus on genealogy again, spend more time gaming (we’re going weekly with D&D), go out with friends for coffee, and have the freedom to sit down and watch TV at the end of the day. I’ve actually been pining to watch Turn since I saw the first episode, but every weekend I think I’m going to get back to it, something happens.

The entire month of December was full of highs and lows, which is pretty normal. However, the lows of 2019 were some of the worst. I’m burned out on the things I’ve tried, from socializing at the Mom Prom to being a Girl Scout co-leader. They’re all great things and I’m glad they exist, but they aren’t my things.

This sense of burn out has been acute since October, when I lost someone who meant a lot to me. It hit hard and there are times the grief still makes me feel incredibly alone in social situations. But that compelled me to drop the things in my life that don’t do me any good or stress me out, and spend more time smelling the roses (so to speak… it is winter, after all). So I’m in the midst of releasing physical things, commitments, and other things that literally cause headaches.

Last year, I found a job outside the home that I love, and am back to working in a law office, like I did for the first 15 years of my adulthood. I’ve committed myself to writing fewer books per year, but that’s still a priority because I love doing it. And, of course, I’m as passionate as ever about genealogy. I want to get more into the family history aspect of it, and I still get so much satisfaction and energy from teaching writing and genealogy classes at the local community college!

This year, I also want to make more time for doing what I want to do. Like taking an impromptu trip to Carhenge. Or spending a day cross-stitching with my daughter. Or finally visiting an archive in Nova Scotia.

The thing is, we’re in a place that isn’t permanent for us. I don’t just mean Nebraska, but life. So we ought to live our lives, our way. Yannowhadimean? Yeah, you do.

Welcoming a New Bird | Our Prairie Nest
Welcoming a New Bird

Life with one bird is interesting. Life with two is like leveling up.

Avery is challenging. He was our first bird, hatched in 2011 and ours since spring of that year. Having a Black-Headed Caique – or any bird – is like having a baby, toddler, or pre-schooler. You can read up on it all you want, but until you experience it, you can’t know what it will be like. Because just as every child has a different personality and way of interacting with you, so do birds.

Over the years, we’ve trained Avery, kept him entertained with assorted toys, and also learned he enjoys quiet cuddles. He is at his most positive with interaction and trick training, like many birds. We’ve also taught him good shoulder manners, i.e. you only get mommy’s (my) shoulder if you’re willing to step up and come off when someone says so.

My husband always wanted a second bird, preferably an African Grey, but I thought they were too large. Let’s face it, those beaks are a heck of a lot bigger than a caique’s, and I’ve seen the damage an angry, hormonal, territorial small bird can do to a finger (by the way, you should not get bitten if you’ve learned your bird’s signals; respect their space and don’t push/force interaction; that’s a great way to lose their trust).

But I agreed that Avery could use a companion… if they got along. That’s always a chancy thing, too, bringing home a pet that may or may not jive with your existing household. Case in point: our cats. Kobold can’t stand Shiva, and Shiva seems to think it’s hilarious that all he has to do is look at her, and she runs from him.

However, I said yes to a second bird, which is my limit, and asked a friend about finding one who was being rehomed. She was rehoming some of her birds, because as her kids had grown up, gotten full time jobs, and moved out, she and her husband found they couldn’t keep up with the demands of their own full time jobs, plus outside commitments, plus birds. We met their Congo African Grey, and my husband was smitten. He wanted “his” bird, because Avery is bonded to me. Thus, Apollo the 12-year-old Congo African Grey came to us.

Right away, we learned that our birds have two different personalities: Avery is a spaz, playful, strong-willed, and cuddly. Apollo is shy, uncertain, and sweet. He won’t allow petting, but he will express himself with the various sounds he learned living with his previous family and flock.

After a few days of getting to know Apollo, establishing a routine, and also seeing the dynamic between both Apollo and Avery, we’ve determined some new goals for Avery and training goals for Apollo.

They’re both wicked smart birds. Both know the “step up” command, which is appropriate for all parrots to learn. Apollo needs to develop trust in his new family, as well as self-confidence, so training sessions with his new family should instill this in him.

Goals for Avery

I’ve been training Avery ever since we got him 8 years ago. This includes potty training and trick training, but Daniel will also target train him to give him focus. We will also use Avery to demonstrate flying for Apollo as a way to get from point A to point B. Avery flies wherever he wants, usually my shoulder or head (permitted because he has good manners about stepping up when told). We would like Apollo to feel like it’s okay to fly, too.

It’s not that he can’t fly, but when he tries, he just sort of… descends. šŸ™‚ We will also continue trick training Avery, as caiques are clownish little guys who love to play.

Goals for Apollo

Daniel will use target training with Apollo to teach trust and focus, and also help him stop his aggressive preening. He came to us with some plucking and we don’t expect to see that stop right away. If anything, it might get worse, because he’s in a new home with new people, and that’s scary as heck for anyone. But redirecting his focus while building a bond should help.

We would like to teach him enough trust for us to pet him. Daniel is doing this very slowly and, so far, Apollo will let him touch his wing and pet just above his beak. No pushing this. When Apollo uses his beak to gently move your finger, he means no. We respect his no.

Flying will come with time and trust, we think. We hope using Avery to demonstrate will help.

We also hope dietary changes will help Apollo. He enjoys sinking his beak into something substantial and really shredding it, so we have him on a fresh diet of fruits and vegetables (loves his broccoli stems!), with a homemade chopped/blended veggie/fruit/boiled eggshell mix every other day, and seeds and pellets for treats. We will introduce more formulated pellets for a balance between fresh food and optimized bird nutrition.

Like Avery, Apollo is encouraged to forage and shred. They get seeds as treats and stuffed inside foraging/shreddable toys.

A daily routine is in place that we also hope will help instill trust – a morning shower, breakfast, training, some quiet time with this toys, more training, more quiet time with his toys. And then the kids come home from school (4 days a week) and I come home from work (5 days a week), which means BUSY time. We all eat our dinner in the kitchen, birds and humans. All of us are in bed fairly early, because parrots need about 8 to 12 hours of sleep themselves.

And that is life with birds. I think having one stay-at-home person is important when you have pets that need this much attention. That isn’t doable for every family and I know how privileged we are that we can have one stay-at-home parent for the kids and birds!

As I said previously, it’s like having a toddler. Except you have that toddler for 20+ years. Maybe even 40, 50, or 60. Like parenthood, “parronthood”/a bird’s life isn’t for everyone. But those of us who embrace it find it immensely rewarding to watch our “babies” grow.