Entries Tagged 'Animal appreciation' ↓

Cat Lives

I woke up this morning with a to-do list a mile long and a sick cat. She was having… bathroom issues. (Nope, I won’t go into detail, you’re welcome.)

And then we couldn’t find the cat carrier. And I didn’t get out the door as early as I wanted to. And then there was a huge bird poop on my windsheild that took forever to get off and totally grossed me out. And then the Starbucks carline was so long it made a “Y” with cars trying to push their way in and then I realized my contacts were drying my eyes out and I probably should have changed them. And then work got more “worky” and while I had a half-day today, that to-do list and various technical issues made all of us there feel more “Monday” than “Friday.”

But, oh yeah, my cat was still sick. I called and got an appointment for 2:30pm.

So much for grabbing the kids and heading to the beach, which had been my original plan.

Yes, my day was filled with “first world problems” — that stuff you feel guilty getting irritated by but let it get to you anyway and storm around and secretly feel sorry for yourself. Could that Starbucks line be ANY longer? Did that bird poop have to smear like that? My life is awful.


So I gathered the kids after work and told them we were “going on an adventure to the vet!!! Oooooh.” They bought it, they were excited. Yay, we get to stuff the cat into a carrier and poke our fingers at her while she howls all the way there. Best day ever.

(Cue more feeling sorry for myself.)

My cat got poked and prodded. And then, when they took her in the back, that 16 year old granny-cat threw a hissy fit and King Fu chopped and hissed and lunged at anyone until they finally sedated her. I secretly cheered her on. That will be another $100.

It was a couple hours later, after the kids had enjoyed Frosties at the Wendy’s next door and then met about 10 different dogs (the vet may actually be better than a petting zoo), that I got my wake-up call.

The doctor talked to me about my cat. She is sick. And this medicine may work. But it may not. And it may be something bad. And there is more potential testing. Oh and today’s visit is about half a paycheck, thank you very much. But your cat needs to be treated so… what are you going to do?

He then gently said the dreaded, “Let’s see how this goes but we may need to have a conversation about testing and what it means for a 16 year old cat.”

I would trade a hundred “Y” shaped lines at Stabucks for conversations like those and dropping money like that.

Because I feel horrible about all of it. Yes, that’s my responsibility as a pet owner. But that money!! But what kind of person AM I to think about money when her life depends on this care?

When, as a pet owner, do you decide that your animal’s life is not worth the cost? When are the treatments and the money not going to give her a better quality of life? When do you arrive at that point? What is humane? When I am being selfish, when am I being reasonable? What is RIGHT?

That is an answer I have to arrive at.

With humans, you treat them until there is no treating left. No question, who cares what it costs, you do it. Not with pets. There comes a point when they won’t get better and cost matters and it’s up to you to “do the right thing” for both your family AND that animal.

I don’t like having to make decisions about money and health and whether a family member (because my animals always are family members) lives or dies.

Nope. I don’t like it one bit.

My cat and I go way back, after all. My husband and I picked her up in a fit of nesting after we first moved in together in… wait for it… 1997.

Times goes by and our cat is aging and decisions need to be made.

It’s funny how perspective kicks you in the ass and tells you to stop obsessing over to-do lists and Starbucks. It’s funny how your soul checks itself when it considers the very real possibility of choosing to end a life.

Compared to your children, it’s just a cat. It’s more than a cat, it’s family. Round and round I go.

Let’s hope these antibiotics work so I can go back to worrying about the little stuff.

(What a luxury to worry about the little stuff!)

For now.

16 Years.

Florida’s Version of Neighborhood Watch

These are the kinds of things people in my neighborhood get notices for:

And don’t think this isn’t for real, either. Here’s where we found a mother and five babies destroying my backyard a few years back.

My yard still hasn’t recovered.

Florida. It’s wilder than you realize.


Releasing Butterflies

I am tying up a few loose ends around here as I prepare to get back to work. And that includes this blog’s time with Insect Lore. Yep, that’s right, my time with Insect Lore is over for now.

But we have obviously loved all the goodies and creepy crawlies we’ve gotten to know along the way.

Speaking of creepy crawlies, you might remember our window sill full of caterpillars who wound themselves into quiet cocoons. Well, awhile back they did hatch over a flutter filled Sunday afternoon. The next day my family decided to release them all. And we, of course, video taped our fun.

It was truly bittersweet, we had grown used to having them around and watching them change. But, of course, butterflies must fly and a warm Florida Spring offers them the perfect opportunity to do just that.

And in the words of those wonderful Dixie Chicks, “there’s beauty in just letting go.”


(Oh and p.s. Gotta love my husband’s first comments. “Don’t whack it, it’s not a bug.” Well, I guess not the kind of bug someone would actually want to whack at least… Such a fun family afternoon.)

Spring Zen

When I picked my kids up from school a little over a week ago and hollered, “WOOO HOOO Spring Break!!!”, I never expected the turmoil, the insanity, the unexpected turn of events we experienced in the many days following. No way.

So while adrenaline continues to fuel my days and the unexpected has become almost expected, I actually found myself a little spring zen in my backyard yesterday.

This butterfly seemed so taken by my un-mowed clover. And that’s not the sky in the background but the sky’s reflection on our backyard pond. Kind of cool.

Anyway. It seemed the perfect first day of Spring picture to post.

Breathe. Focus. Don’t mind me. Just finding my zen here on my blog.

(My son is doing fantastic, by the way. He was released from the hospital the day after my last post. And while he tackles his brother in the other room, it’s hard to believe he was as sick as he was. So, back to school tomorrow for him…)

Busy Baby Bugs

Well folks, our babies are growing up! I can’t BELIEVE the difference 2 weeks can make in a caterpillar’s life. They must be 6 or 7 times the size they were when they arrived. And I am also happy to report that we’ve had no caterpillar casualties – all 30 are healthy and viable in their dixie cups.

(Note: These cups are on a window sill that never gets direct sunlight. The Insect Lore directions explain that direct sunlight could kill your caterpillars. So far so good here.)

In fact, as you can see from the caterpillar hanging upside down, some of them are already in position to start crafting their chrysalises!

We’re so proud. I’ll post again once we have an actual chrysalis.

Oh and after winter froze and killed all my butterfly friendly shrubs, I need to get cracking and replant my garden. These guys are going to need a new home soon!


And nothing yet from our Praying Mantis egg sack. It’s due to hatch soon though so I’ll post once they emerge and chaos ensues as I try and round up and release most of them before they eat each other.

…Can’t wait! I think.

Caterpillar Cuteness

Well, more creatures have come to our home. While our praying mantis egg sack sits quietly waiting to hatch and our few remaining ant hill ants keep burrowing away, we got this Insect Lore package in the mail.

We opened up our package to find well over 30 painted lady caterpillars collected into a small jar. However, the directions noted that we should separate them into small dixie cups right away. Ok then, we had some work to do. So we pulled the folding table out of the garage and into the driveway, invited over the neighbors kids and spent our after school hours gently rehousing caterpillars.

But before I did, I jumped onto the Insect Lore Facebook page. Why? Well, the caterpillar food we had to transfer into the cups too looked suspiciously like peanut butter. And with one kid allergic, I had to ask – so I did. They responded right away and said:

“All butterflies’ larvae eat from unique host plants, so the diet is a ‘smoothie’ of malva, hollyhock and thistle plants – no goober peas involved at all.”

Phew. Good to know. And we were off. My 7 year old did great as he carefully spooned and smooshed the food into the bottom of the cups as instructed. I spent my time carefully picking up caterpillars using an included paintbrush. Before we knew it, we had them all put safely into their new homes.

And I have to say. Those little caterpillars were pretty darn cute.

We passed a handful over to the neighbors who took them home to watch. And then brought the rest of ours indoors and set them up on a ledge which gets no direct sunlight.

So now we wait.

In the meantime, another rather large beast has decided to upstage all of my new creatures. A total diva. Laying there, thinking he’s all that.

Yes, this new addition is sunning himself on a bank off my backyard. But really, this pic is zoomed in. He’s not that big, only three feet or so. Still big or small, we love all beasites around here.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Waiting for Baby Mantises

So we got our next Insect Lore item in the mail. I had no idea what it was going to be either. All I saw when I looked down on my front door stoop was a box with this on it.

Come to find out, in 3-6 weeks, we will be hatching a nest of Chinese praying mantises in our home. Yep. You heard me right. When we opened the package, we had an egg sack and a pagoda to house our new creatures.

After some careful construction (and a little McGyvering, I added some small paper edges to keep it from slipping out), our egg sack is resting carefully on it’s hanging platform in the pagoda.

So 3-6 weeks, and we have babies. Of course, the directions said we should release all but one or two or else they will eat each other. This is good news for my garden since they eat pest bugs. However that begs the question, what will our praying mantis eat? And then I read:

“Be prepared to find very small insects such as aphids, fruit flies, small caterpillars, moths, or other soft-bodied insects for them to eat. Your mantis will eat almost any live bug.”

Um. Soft-bodied?



But then I also read you can pick up pin-head crickets at a pet store and they like those too. So perfect. I can handle that. I think.

(…visions of escaped crickets all over the back seat of my car and screaming, swatting children and hungry mantises waiting patiently at home…)

In the meantime, our mantis has already been named by my 4 year old. Copernicus. I swear. He picked it. I couldn’t even make that one up.

Until then, the egg sack is quiet in its new home.

I’ll keep you posted of course.

Elephant Love

A few days ago I took my kids downtown to see the circus parade through the city. The kids were bored, we needed to get out of the house, it was something free to do, so we went.

But I’ll be honest with you. My feelings about the circus are very ambivalent. For obvious reasons, I go back and forth about the benefits of animals being in captivity. And my concerns were there that day at the fringes, much like the small handful of animal protesters scattered here and there during the parade.

However, this post isn’t about getting political about animal captivity. (I think.) It’s really just about elephant love. Because I totally fell back in love with those beasts that day. Oh my heart. I had forgotten how amazing they really are.

With sky scrapers at their rear, we watched them come down Morgan street – all three of us were excited and amazed. It’s really not something you see very often. And suddenly they were right there, rounding the corner in front of us. So massive and lumbering, they were like a dream – slow-motion, mind-blowing, enormous. But I had forgotten how quiet elephants are when they want to be.  Because despite their size, their feet only whispered across the pavement. Had I closed my eyes, I’m not sure I would have been convinced they were there at all. A dream.

My boys and I squealed and turned and ran up the sidewalk to meet them in front of the Forum. We rounded the bend, and there they were again – plodding along, quiet. Were they unhappy? I didn’t get that feeling. They seemed passive, going about their business, holding the tail in front of them, hardly concerned it seemed really.

But once they were lead into their secured area, unharnessed, hosed down and then left with a pile of sand, some hay, a few tires and logs – that’s when I saw their joy. They were silent no more. Trumpeting, grumbling their contentment, tossing sand, rubbing their bodies on one another, wrapping their trunks together, rocking, flapping their ears, wet eyes glistening, watching, mouths agape. And that pile of sand, tossed joyfully, it went absolutely everywhere.

So how could I claim to know they were content? I’m no expert but I’ve seen very happy elephants in the wild do all of these things plenty of times. That said, a parking lot in downtown Tampa certainly is NOT the wild. The street sounds, the unfamiliar smells, and pavement, and metal trucks, and various caged animals, and strange humans clicking cameras all around them is nothing at ALL like the wild. But I suppose I took a small bit of comfort knowing that these were domesticated Asian elephants, rather than wild African elephants. And I also reminded myself that these elephants were teaching people to love them. Because how often do any of us get to the wild? So how would we know to care anyway without close encounters like these? For free? In downtown Tampa?

I don’t know.

I’m clearly trying to make myself feel better about enjoying my visit with these beasts. And I was thinking about all of this while my heart swelled with every grumble. They were fantastic. So gentle and loving and funny and silly. These animals are brilliant. And everyone around us laughed and ooohed and clicked their cameras too. We were all desperately, hopelessly in love.

Except for my four year old. Sure, sure, he thought they were “so cool” and “awesome” at first but their grumbles and sand tossing were quickly overwhelmed by hot sun and a little unexpected winter humidity. The whining started and eventually drove me to pack up my camera and lead my boys back to the car.

Oh but they were wonderful. Really. I know, I know, I know they are part of a circus. I know, I read “Water for Elephants”. I know all the bad stuff. And I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors with Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. My guess is, being a high profile circus with lots of attention, that they care for their animals as best as anyone could – under the circumstances. But that is just a guess.

Regardless of all that worry, my heart was with those beasts that day. They are fantastic. Utterly breath-taking. Beautiful. Wonderful. Wise. Kind.

And most certainly forgiving.

Insect Lore Ant Hill Review and Giveaway

A couple years ago, my oldest son was given an Insect Lore Ant Hill for his birthday. And do you know what I did with it? I immediately gave it away.

You see, ants and I have never been friends. We get fire ants here in Florida. Lots of them. And they bite and leave big welts. And I had some run-ins with some over-sized scary mean ants in Africa as a child. So ants, in abundance, were not something I wanted in my home particularly.

Fast forward  to a few weeks ago when I learned we were getting the same Insect Lore Ant Hill to review here. Being “professional” and all, I sucked it up. I can handle it. I assured myself there was a way to “enjoy” ants while educating my children. Plus, what kind of animal, wildlife lover was I if I couldn’t handle a few ants? Sheesh. So I awaited their arrival. …I was excited! Swear.

We got the Ant Hill first. But then I learned that the ants come separately. In fact if you purchase an Ant Hill, be prepared to send away for your ants with an additional $4.00. In the meantime, you are instructed to set up your Ant Hill and have it ready to go as soon as they arrive.

A week or so later, my ants arrived safely in my mailbox tucked into a puffy envelope. I ignored the heebie jeebies running up and down my spine and ripped it open while my son cowered behind me (I’ve done a nice job protecting him from my ant issues it seems). Luckily, the ants were carefully secured in two tubes. We still had to transfer them into their new digs, however (which we translated as “setting them loose”). Thank goodness for instructions because Insect Lore suggested that we refrigerate the ants for five minutes which will “calm” them. Because these ants bite too. So into my frig they went. Once they were good and “calm”, I popped open the Ant Hill lid, slid the ants inside, and shut it. No ant escapees and we were in business.

To my astonishment, these ants have become my family’s most recent obsession. We are utterly fascinated with their daily progress. They are always busy. We’ve found new tunnels, ants carrying and depositing sand, ants eating and carrying food, interacting, job sharing – it’s all pretty amazing. After school, my son rushes through the door and into the kitchen to see what they’ve done while he’s been gone.  I think we all have a new appreciation for ants and all that they do. I never thought I would say this but our Ant Hill is one of the most interesting and educational products we’ve had in our household in a very long time.

One bit of advice, however? Read the instructions carefully. They are very thorough and will help you understand and care for your ants best. The instructions also include some fun activities and facts for your kids so that you can continue to make this project as educational and interesting as possible.

Oh and I almost forgot! As I do with every item I review for Insect Lore, I get to give some away. Insect Lore will send one winner two Ant Hills – one for you and one for your child’s school. Yep, you too can suck up the courage to bring some ants into your home. Because, take it from me, you and your kids will find yourselves more mezmerised by their comings and goings than any all day The Santa Clause movie marathon. As will your child’s class.

Giveaway Rules

What do you need to do? Between now and Monday, December 20th, leave a comment below telling me about how excited you are to share an Ant Hill with your kids. OR you can comment about how fearful you are to bring a bunch of ants into your home but are willing to come to terms with those heebie jeebies for the sake of your children’s educational development. Of course. (I promise, as an ant fearing parent myself, they aren’t so bad!)

A tweet can count as an entry too (maybe something like: “I entered the @MorningsideMom @insectlore Ant Hill #giveaway here because she swears that ants are a good time. http://wp.me/ptpXZ-10N “). Just leave a comment here saying you tweeted.


Congratulations to Jen and her six year old son! They have won the ant hill giveaway. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have! And thanks to everyone else for your entries. This contest is now closed.

And in the meantime, are you curious to hear what my seven year old thinks of this Ant Hill? Here is a quiet conversation between the two of us while we watch our ants. It’s a little blurry but you can see them hard at work, carrying sand and moving through tunnels. Also, I called this product a “toy” in this video. Upon later review, my son corrected me. “Mom, it’s NOT a toy. It’s ants living in their house.” Right.

Full Disclosure, as always: I am a paid Blog Ambassador for Insect Lore since they do advertise on my site. That being said, my reviews for their products are entirely my own unbiased opinion.

The Trendiest Shedding and Pooping Give-away Ever

You’ve been searching high and low for the perfect gift. I know you have. Malls, miracle miles, cutesy shops and mega chain stores. Where is the perfect thing I can get my so and so. It’s not easy. It’s infuriating at times. It’s exhausting.

People. You’ve been doing it all wrong.

You’ve been looking to give things. Things! Plastic things and metal things and wind up things and things you throw away and things you pour water on and suddenly cha-cha-cha-CHIA, it’s the pottery that grows!

You have been sighing wistfully at those car commercials – you know, the ones where a car with a red bow is somehow parked in a person’s living room. Oh! What joy!

Things. Things are not the answer. THINGS won’t tell someone how much you really adore their eyebrow wax job and that certain way they eat their Reese’s peanut butter cups by gnawing the edges first.

That is too special.

You need to give something this year that is REAL. Real, people. Something that breaths. And walks. And bahs. And poops. Something that will forever anchor their trust and faith in you as a person, as a socialite, as a humanitarian and as a true super awesome giver person .

For reals.

So forget the car. SUCH a dumb idea. It’s time to tie a big old red ribbon around the most thoughtful, trend-setting, fashion forward gift you could possibly give this year. Ever.

A goat.

Yep, I said a goat.


*chews grass*

And not ONLY is a goat a real thing that walks and bahs and poops and would totally impress your kids and freak out your dog BUT according to The Hildago, goats are so crazy hot right now – especially with rock-star extensions. Totally fashion forward. From runway to backyard, a goat would put you on the trend-setting edge of it all. Don’t believe me? Oh but you totally will when you click here…

As Minnie Driver said here, “The Hildago saw it coming. Probably the only one that did.”

Ok, so what is the deal with the goat, really?

I am so very lucky to have the opportunity to offer this unique give-away thanks to Oxfam just in time for the holiday season. You see, if YOU win, you get this goat to give to someone you love. And because we love you and know that shipping and especially handling a goat can be kind of a… well… hassle, we’ll bypass you and your loved one all together and send that goat along to someone who could take care of it the best way possible.

In case you skipped the video (for shame), here is what would happen to your gifted goat. Oxfam distributes goats in countries with need. Why goats? Well, they are fantabulous for so many reasons: they provide milk, food and fertilizer. They also reproduce quickly and work best in countries prone to drought. Also this program specifically donates the goats to women in needy communities since they are the ones raising families and running households with immediate food and resource demands.

Pretty amazing right?

And totally something you have to give that special someone. Like now. You HAVE to get this goat. YOU HAVE TO!

Let’s take a moment to catch our breath. It’s kind of over-whelming. I know.

So here are the give-away contest rules.

1. Enter here by leaving a comment about what this goat could do for your look this 2011. (Or why you like goats. Or just that you like entering. Anything really…)

2. Enter again by commenting that you tweeted this: I entered the trendiest giveaway ever for the gift that keeps on shedding. And bah-ing. http://wp.me/ptpXZ-10e #OxfamHidalgo @morningsidemom

3. Enter again by commenting that you posted a link to this contest on Facebook.

3. Enter as many times as you would like.

4. Winners must be located in the U.S.

5. While this contest is occurring on multiple sites, you may only win once.

The contest begins December 6th and a winner will be selected at random on December 13th.

And what if you didn’t win and you’re totally bummed out your loved one will be goat-less this holiday season? Fret no more. You can buy your own! Or maybe shop for something a little different. Like mid-wife training or a school desk and chair or manure. Yep, you can send someone poop on your behalf. Say it with me… awwwwww….

(Also, for a good time you can follow The Hildago on Twitter here.)

‘Tis the season folks. Charity is cool. Goats are cool. It’s so obvious. So get on board.



Congratulations Susan. Enjoy your goat. I hope it is a gift like no other.

Happy Holidays and thanks to everyone for entering this giveaway. Consider checking out everything else they offer at Oxfam. I already have some manure and school books in my Oxfam cart…

(Full disclosure, as always: I have not been paid in any way to create or promote this give-away. I just think goats are cool.)