Friday, March 28, 2008

Out for the Weekend

My dear husband and I will be in New Orleans for the weekend---eating too much and talking (uninterrupted) a bunch.  He won a trip through work. We farmed out the kids to loving friends. We leave today and return on Sunday evening.  I'll post pics and other fun details on Monday. Not trying to make you jealous, it's just that we really, really need a weekend away.  We need to decompress.  
Off I go to pack.

A Number of Volunteers

If you look to the right and left of my little tomato plant you'll see some volunteer plants---what they're volunteering for, I have no idea.  What they are is also a mystery.  What I do know is that they belong to the squash family.  I got a little hasty in using some compost that wasn't finished.  I figured what hadn't decomposed yet could be food for the earthworms.  Well, the squash seeds didn't get the memo.  I'm having a little drama about whether to let one stay. After all, it goes without saying that we like all kinds of squash.  It could be spaghetti, acorn, or butternut squash.  I also hate giving up on anything green--especially those green things that volunteer themselves to me.  Last year's crop of basil was entirely volunteer, so were my grape tomatoes.  I once made a homemade pumpkin pie out of a volunteer pumpkin plant that grew in my compost pile.  Who else can say they took a pumpkin pie to a 4th of July celebration?

The biggest question is, do I have room for them?  Not really.  They are pretty close to a fence, maybe I could train them to hang out there.  Maybe I could make them into little bonzai versions of squash vines---a little trim here, a little trim there.  They probably aren't even a variety that does well in central Texas---heck, they came from the grocery store.  Goodness, it hadn't even occurred to me that they might be hybrids and thus unable to produce fruit???

What's your vote?  I have a good track record with volunteers, I'm nice to them even though they aren't technically on the payroll.  Do they stay or shall I send them on their way to the chicken coop for consumption?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's a Dogs Life

Mandy, the beloved.  German Shepherd-Cattle Dog mix.  Does exactly as she's told, every time. A little neurotic.  Keeps Smokie in line.  Sneaks on our bed after we've fallen asleep.  Is a bed hog.  Barks only when necessary. Loves belly rubs.  She's just tall enough that she can plant her belly on top of your foot if you're sitting cross-legged in a chair.  This is her chair.  Smokie doesn't even think about getting in it.  

Smokie, the adored.  Spaniel-Cattle Dog mix.  Doesn't mind worth a hoot, despite many tries at training.  Can't be bothered with it.  Will do as she asked if a dog treat is involved.  Smart, wicked smart.  Can open the back door, but won't close it.  Barks at song birds and squirrels. Yelps at the deer because she has it in for all deer.  She was chased by a doe defending her fawn last year.  Sleeps in a crate at night.  Tends to be sneaky otherwise.  Besides, there's not enough room in our bed for two dogs, the cat and the two humans who bought the bed.

Tell me about your dogs.  My daughter is a cat person.  I'm crazy for dogs.  I think they hung the moon.  I think that Dog is God spelled backwards for a reason.  Unconditional love makes my heart sing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Which Came First?

The Mantis or the egg?

I've always had a great fascination of the Praying Mantis.  It's like having a tiny version of some prehistoric predator in the garden.  

Last year I spied a newly hatched mantis on my Butterfly Bush.  I couldn't find it after that for about two months and then came upon it as an adult when I brushed against the bush later in the summer.  I was so thrilled to have found her again.  From then on, I was constantly hounding her like paparazzi on poor Brittany Spears.  I got dozens of pictures of her doing nothing but hanging upside down, waiting for her next meal.  I was even lucky enough to see her enjoying a meal or two.

Then one day I caught her walking up a wall near the plant that she'd spent her life on.  She was going off to die.  It took me days to find her egg sac.  I was rewarded richly when I did.  It is the most beautiful color of purple.  I don't know if mantis' eat plant matter, but it looks the same color purple as the flowers on the butterfly bush.  No matter. 

I check it every day now that it has warmed up.  I have a distinct memory from 7th grade biology class of hatching a mantis egg sac.  How marvelous the tiny little creatures were---almost microscopic, but perfect replicas of the grown version.  I can't wait to share the tiny miracles with my kids.  I'll try to get a picture or two and start my mantis stalking all over again this year.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Pearl is getting the hang of close-up photography.  We just use a little Canon Powershot, but have fun with it anyway.  

This is the first strawberry of the year.  It could well be the last one, too.  I've never been successful at growing them.  This berry came already attached to the plant, it just ripened here. 
I fight five opponents when growing berries--slugs, snails, pillbugs, squirrels, and mockingbirds.  I suppose a little diatomaceous earth could help with the buggies and a net would help with the animals, but I can never seem to get them to set fruit and really thrive.  

If you have been successful at growing strawberries please pass along a hint or two.  Pearl really, really wants homegrown strawberries.  By the way, she said this berry didn't taste like much at all--"like a grocery store strawberry".  Aackk, we can't have that, can we?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rolled the Stone Away

I took this photo just two days ago, on Good Friday.  It was a beautiful day and Lee was off work; so we took the kids to our favorite outdoor spot.  The Pedernales River State Park.  Last year at this time it was a raging torrent and we couldn't get anywhere near this spot along the river bed. The power of water can be beautiful and terrifying all at once---just like the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The power of last year's flood rolled this boulder out of it's place in the wall of the riverbank.  The area behind the stone is five feet in height and goes at least ten feet deep.  

"And now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre.  And behold,  there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. ...But the angel said the the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you see Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has risen, as he said.  Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead"
Matthew 28: 1-7

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Taller Than Me

Where has the time gone?  She's 13 1/2 years old and taller than me.  I knew it would happen, just not so soon.  She was tiny when she was born, less than 6 lbs.  She was only 19 inches long. Her name, Pearl, came from her daddy's heart---"something small and precious", he said. 

She's doing so well in Middle School that it makes me grin.  Middle school can be hard on girls. She professes not to be "one of the popular girls", but doesn't much seem to care.  Hooray! She's a great student and an amazing person.  

She's the artist in the family, and the bug lover, and the flower picker, and the soft heart, and a cat person.  "I love dogs, but I think I'm mostly a cat person." Our cat (who came with the property) has put up with Pearl's learning curve as far as cat love goes.  She was only 5 when we moved in, and Lucky got hugged so tight that I worried his eyes would pop out.  He'd just take it.  Now, he get gentle love on the sofa a night---just the two of them.  She still hugs the stuffing out of him sometimes, but he's still cool about it.

She's in the other room right now playing on the other computer.  She also singing. That's one thing that everyone always comments on---she always so happy.   She has her moments, like all teen girls, but mostly she just sings. She's a wonderful person, a caring person, and I'd love her even if she weren't my own.  She's a gift from God.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I've seen this banner for a few weeks and shook my head at it every time.  It seems sort of silly and sad all at one time.  I'm not really against gambling, it's just not something I actively participate in.  I don't even buy the scratch off lottery tickets.  Supposedly, the funds from our state lottery are funneled into the schools.  I don't see that showing up as a line item in our district's budget--"An additional $10,000 given by the State Lottery Commission".  The fact that our town is raising money for the Educational Foundation by having a Casino Night seems like it's sending the wrong message to those that are being educated---our kids.  I know, I know, it's for a good cause and they were just trying to come up a new fundraising idea.  Folks tire of silent auctions for baskets full of things they don't really want. Heck, they'll be saving me from gaining weight by not trying to sell me those fundraising cookies (which are great eaten frozen, right out of the box).    

I won't be attending this particular fundraiser.  Not because I don't support the education in our town, but because I don't want my kids to think that gambling is something that's fun.  I've know there are too many folks that can't afford to lose even a dollar on a scratch off card, but buy them anyway.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Species?

click on the photo to enlarge

First, let me thank my husband, Lee.  Without him, this photo would not have been possible. He recently cleaned all the windows and I was able to get this shot from inside the house. 

The little yellow and black bird you see is elusive and camera shy.  I see him and his mate from indoors, go outdoors and sit like a statue with my hubby's telephoto lens until my arms are going to fall off and the birds play shy.  The moment I go back in, they reappear.  I have been trying to get his picture for a couple weeks, but trying to find out what he is for a year.  He and the Mrs. showed up in December at the birdbath. If it weren't for his mate, I would have decided that he was someone's lost pet.  They were here last year, too.  I searched all sorts of bird ID books and only came up with the common Goldfinch.  The male has a gold head and breast, but not a black head like the one in the picture.  

About ready to call the  Audubon Society and report my new discovery, I gave Google one last shot.  I typed in 'black headed goldfinch'.  There he was!  He and his mate are Lesser Goldfinches.  Never knew there was such a thing.  Evidently, neither have all the major bird ID books.  I can go on with my life now.  I also know that my days sitting like a statue are over, as long as the windows are clean.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chicken Tip #1

While others are filling brooders with loads of chicks, I am being content with my grown hens. I am not having the need for peeps this year for some reason.  That doesn't mean I don't have ideas from the past that I'd like to share, that were very helpful to me.

Man has yet to invent a chicken waterer that can be debris free.  Especially when it comes to chick waterers.  If there aren't shavings, or feed, or poop in the water, then then they've tipped the entire thing over---usually both.  I've come up with a way to fight both problems.   If you'll look at the pictures above, you'll notice that I've placed nails in a board, rocket science, I know. They are placed just a bit closer together than the base of the waterer.  The base is fairly flexible and you can gently force it in between the nails.  It holds on tight, but can be removed and washed out when necessary.  The piece of wood is big enough that it keeps it from being tipped over.  It's also high enough that it keeps the majority of the shavings and food out of the water.  As the chicks grow, I put something like bricks under the whole thing to raise it higher. The wood base should also not be big enough that they can linger on it and poop in the water.  I don't have a photo of it, but I've put an aluminum pie plate on the top, secured with Playdough, to keep them from perching on the top.

To wrap up---supplies you'll need are:
A square piece of board, not too big, not too small.
2 Nails
Pie Plate
2 bricks

Good luck.  While chickens have pea sized brains, they'll always figure out a way to outsmart us.  This tip actually worked for me until they were out of the brooder.  I should patent it or share it with folks online, huh?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paper or Plastic ? Glass or Aluminum?

This is not product placement for Fuze, I promise.  This is my fancy recycling bin.  Technically, it's my fancy, glass recycling bin.  I have other such places for plastic (#'s 1 and 2), tin cans, newspapers, and aluminum.

Why such fancy bins?  Living in a rural neighborhood presents a recycling problem----we don't have a recycling program.  That means I have to save and haul my recyclables over hill and dale to the recycling place.  It's about 5 miles away as the crow flies, but about 10 miles as the truck drives.  It's no where near anything else.  It's out in the middle of nowhere.  It takes effort, but effort that I feel good about. I feel really good when I'm hauling my trash can to the street and it's not nearly full.  Before I committed myself to hauling my recyclables, our trash can was overflowing every week.  Now, it's only half full on most weeks.  I'm proud of that.  

My son, James, attends school in a neighborhood that has a recycling program.  I drive him there because it takes 5 minutes from our house.  It's nearly an hour on the bus----our district is still rural in that way.  I digress.  We go to meet his best friend and then we walk the 4 blocks to school.  As I walk along, every Wednesday, I take notice of people's trash cans and recycling bins.  I'm weird that way.  What leaps out at me is that only about 2 out of every 10 houses take advantage of the curbside recycling!  They have to go no further than the curb to recycle and they don't do it.  They don't even have to separate it.  They can toss everything into one bin and call it done.  Why don't they?

I'm not perfect.  I still drive an SUV.  I still throw away household paper and junk mail when I'm not near my newspaper bins.  I use paper towels to dry my hands in the kitchen.  I take too long in the shower.  I have been known to let the water run while brushing my teeth or washing a pan.  I'm often unaware that lights or ceiling fans have been left on in rooms that have no one in them.  I have begun recycling plastic grocery bags.  I bought cloth bags to use at the grocery store.  I collect rain water to water my indoor plants.  The point is, I'm not covering all the recycling bases, but I'm working on it.  I wish more people would.

Hey, remind me to take the lids off those bottles.  They won't recycle them if they have the lids. They just toss them in the trash.

Monday, March 17, 2008

They Do As They Please

My chickens are one of my great joys in life.  So are my children, but that doesn't mean they don't both do silly things that aggravate me sometimes.  The trouble is, you can't ground chickens from the computer or the Wii or the telephone, or the car.

My seven chickens only get out to free range on our acreage for about 2 hours a day.  The rest of the time they scratch about in their run.  Their run is about 16x25, so they have plenty of room to laze about, take dust baths, and lay their eggs in the coop.  The reason for being in the run most of the day is three-fold----predators, laying eggs in the same place every day, and naughtiness.  They get in a whole world of trouble when they are free to wander about.  It doesn't matter one bit to them that we have four lovely acres to search for snacks on; they have to wander nearly an acre away to scratch about in my neighbors flower beds.  We have flowers beds at home!  Luckily, my neighbors are good sports and don't strangle me when they find out that is wasn't armadillos in their beds, but chickens.  Another bit of naughtiness is coming into the fenced backyard (again, we have 4 open acres!), and drinking out of the dog's water bowl and pooping on the porch.  Ever had a nice doggy kiss after they've been eating chicken poo----eewww!  I've blocked all the places they can scootch under the fence, but they find new ones.  The same goes for the area around our pool.  I can look up from making dinner and find seven chickens taking dust bathes in the beds behind the pool.  Do they scratch about so that all the dirt and mulch end up outside the fence?  No, they scratch so it ends up in the pool!  The same goes for the mulch in the beds around the house.  We have very large beds, so for all their scratching and searching for bugs, the upturned mulch should mathematically end up somewhere else in the beds---not!  It ends up on the sidewalk, the driveway, or outside the beds in the grass.  Recently they've added a new bit of naughtiness to their list, but it's not so bad and doesn't harm anyone.  It just has me shaking my head.  If you'll notice in the top picture, there is a very cozy nest box that they have used for 3 years without problem.  It's up off the ground a bit and helps keep the fireants and dampness off their bottoms as they lay their eggs.  Do they use it anymore? What do you think?  One of the hens decided it would be more fashionable to lay just to the right of the box.  Do you see the eggs peeking out of the hay?  Oh well.

Despite all their flaws, I find my ladies and gentleman to be very soothing.  They always seem to be working for their keep, they greet me as I work in the garden, they listen without giving advice, they like to gossip a bit, and they are beautiful in a chicken sort of way.  My wonderful father-in-lay mentioned this year that since they aren't laying eggs every day that it might be time to make some chicken and dumplings.  Not these girls, they have names.  Rosie, Sunny, Audrey, Sophia, Violet, Penny and our roo, Tuesday.  

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Texas Skies

When I moved to Texas 19 years ago from the midwest, I was told "Everything's bigger in Texas!"  I found that was true about things I didn't want to be bigger.  Down here there's a bug that's called a Palmetto bug---it's a darned cockroach and it's big enough to hitch a wagon to and take to town.  Over 2 inches long and they fly!  They don't bother coming in the house unless my husband is out of town.  I once chased one from room to room with a can of aerosol hairspray because I couldn't find the bug spray.  Thank the good Lord for the big hair of the late 80's or I'd still be chasing the creepy thing.

Three of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. are also located in Texas.  We lived in one for three years and couldn't wait to get away from it.  Too many people, too much crime.

Storms can be bigger too.  Heck, we have hurricanes to go with our tornadoes AND no basements to hide in.  I was horrified to discover that when tornadoes come, you just have to find "a room indoors with no exterior walls or windows".  That would leave us hiding in the powder room with five people, two dogs, a cat and a rat.  A little close, to say the least.  Close and scared.  It's either that or "find a low lying area, preferably a ditch, and lie down".  Yea, that'll happen.

We also have something wonderful that is bigger, or seems so---the sky.  I had heard that it was bigger and thought it was a bunch of hooey, but it is bigger, it really is!  It takes my breath away. It makes me believe in God.  It brings me joy.  

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Giving It a Try

I have a lengthy plant list.  Unfortunately, very little of it is built on edible plants.  We have a large deer population that I've just learned to live with.  There is only a small plot that is impenetrable to the four-legged munchers.  It's about 5 x 15 and surrounded by wrought iron fence that is within another wrought iron fence that is our backyard and pool area.  The rest of the four acres is open to any and all creatures that nibble and munch.  The beds that boarder the house are full of deer resistant plants. "Resistant"  being the important word.  Deer will eat anything if they are hungry enough.   The master gardener at my favorite nursery has this to say about the "Deer Resistant Plant List"----"The deer write that list!"   

I am trying something new this year in addition to the tried and true veggies.   Something that has been requested by my daughter.  Edamame.  It's funny that it has a fancy name if you eat it green, and a plain name (soy bean) if you eat it once it's dried.  My two boys won't touch it, but my hubby, daughter and I enjoy it a great deal.  I boil it in the pod in very salty water and then sprinkle it with some additional sea salt just before eating.  It gives us all permission to play with our food.  I love popping the beans into my mouth right out of the pod.  My daughter also loves to eat them cold the next day.  

And so, I'm hoping that we'll get some magic this summer and be able to eat edamame, fresh out of the garden instead of fresh out of the freezer.

Dance with Me?

That's what he asked me, twenty-two years ago today---"Dance with Me?

We were at a church sponsored dance and he was the Young Adult leader. I was 2o and he was 23. I had just come out of a painful breakup of a relationship that I though would end in marriage and wasn't looking for someone in my life. I needed to heal. What I was doing at a dance, I don't know. A friend had insisted I go, "you need to get out...".

I knew Lee was attached, albeit with someone that was 500 miles away. I assumed that he was just being nice to me, since I was new to the group. I wasn't sure if I wanted to dance anyway. The music wasn't really my style---I was an Air Supply/Journey kind of girl and the music was Earth, Wind, and Fire/ Hip Hop kind of music. I said 'yes' anyway and Lee excused himself to talk the D.J. A smooth piece of music by Al Jarreau was put on and I was caught off guard. A slow dance!

He wrapped his arms around me, pulled me close and we danced. We danced again after that and then again. My mind was swirling and my heart was pounding--This can't be happening, I don't want to like anyone else. I still love Kenyon....or do I? The rest of the evening he was the only other person on the planet.

The end of the evening had to come and it did. It was time to leave and he walked me to my car. "Can I call you?" "I thought you had a girlfriend?" "Well, we decided since we're living 500 miles apart that we should be able to date other people." Normally, I would have run far and fast from just such an arrangement, but I was lost in his blue eyes and smile. He seemed so much more sure of himself than any other man I'd ever met. How could I say no?

I gave him my number, got in my car and drove away. It must have been by the grace of God that I got home safely, as I didn't remember any of the drive home. The entire time my head was spinning with how amazing this man was, and how it was impossible for me to open my heart again---certainly not to a man that was still in a long-distance relationship with a college sweetheart.

He called. We dated and the rest is wonderful history. He's still the only other person on the earth---for me anyway.

Thanks, honey, for asking me to dance.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Big and Little

We live in a town that is rather rural.  That, of course, is changing with the times.  Large neighborhoods are popping up everywhere.  We do not live in one of them.  We live on four acres with houses spread out everywhere around us.  My children had no friends nearby for years.  My daughter, Pearl, got lucky and a girl her age moved in just a few acres away.  They hit it off and are best friends.  My boys are not so lucky.  They have grown up having to go on "play dates".   My parents never had to drive me anywhere to see anyone when I was growing.  I just went outside and played with whoever was outside too.  I drive my kids to see all their friends. Rural living can have it's downside.  Not having friends nearby is one of them.

My youngest son, James, is nine.  I hate that he's growing up so quickly.  He's such a love bug and a great kid to boot.  He was a wonderful baby, but I'll admit that the fact that he can feed and bathe himself has it's attraction.  As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about the fact that my 'baby' is growing up.  Some days he acts 15, some days he acts 5.  Some days he is every age he can be.  That's the cool thing about being nine I guess.  Yesterday I captured him being 5 and 15 all at one time.   His best friend lives a car ride away.  This week is spring break, but he hasn't seen his buddy all week.  Finally, yesterday they were able to catch up by talking for 45 minutes on the phone.  I always considered talking on the phone as a teen thing.  I always considered hanging upside down on the swingset a childlike thing.  James is able to seamlessly blend the two.

Today he can just be nine.  I am getting in my car, picking up his buddy, and driving them both 15 miles to see Horton Hears a Who.  Maybe I'll be nine, too.  

PS...It was a great  movie.  Certainly worth an hour and a half of my time.  The Junior Mints were mighty fine, too.  Popcorn was so-so.  

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why? Part 2

There's something that happened to me in the last year that has also been a driving force in the creation of this blog.  My mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in early June of '07.  Unlike many others stricken with that disease, she didn't live the textbook version of "2-5 years".  She died on February 23rd, 2008--A mere 8+ months after her diagnosis.  

I'll try to give the Cliff's Notes version of a very long story.  My mom was not soccer mom.  I grew up not having her attend childhood events.  I don't have mother-daughter memories.  It wasn't that she didn't love me, she just never seemed very interested in me.  Honestly, I was okay with it.  If you don't know anything different, you accept things the way they are.  I thought maybe once there were grandchildren that she'd come around to liking kids.  She moved away from our hometown to "be near you and the the grandkids".  Oddly, even though she was only 15 miles away, she took little interest in my children or enhancing our relationship now that I was grown.  She developed her own life and carried on as though we were still 400 miles apart, despite my reaching out to her. 

Once she was diagnosed I was under the mistaken idea that she and her husband (my father died 17 years ago) would welcome any help or outreach I or my siblings had to give.  She and her very caring husband circled the wagons and the children were on the outside.  They didn't quit seeing us, but we were all supposed to pretend it wasn't happening.  They didn't need our help. We weren't given the chance to mourn along with them at the devastation that was taking place daily.  Lou Gehrig's disease takes no prisoners!   It was only by the grace of God that my sister and I were allowed in during the last four days of her life. My step-father got very ill and was hospitalized.  That left me and my sister to care for my bedridden mother.  She was unable to speak or eat either, no thanks to the disease.  Her husband returned home just one day before she died.  We were there with her when she died.  She was able to write, "I love you" on her whiteboard to my sister and I.  It meant alot.

Fast forward to now.  At the memorial service we found out so many things about her that we didn't know.  In going through her things we discovered she collected clocks and watches.  We also found out a couple well hidden secrets about her that would have been better off kept secret.  My siblings and I are coming to grips with the fact that we didn't know our mother very well and that's just the way she wanted it.  Why?  We don't know.  Aside from the secrets, none of the other stuff was worth keeping to herself.  In fact, it was worth sharing.

And so, I am blogging so my children will know things about me.  I have no secrets, but I do have joys in my life that they may not know about me.  I love the smell of digging in the dirt.  I love how my chickens "talk" to me when I'm working in the yard.  I love that Lee lets me put my very cold feet against his in the winter when we get in bed.  I love how they giggle with delight when someone passes gas at the dinner table.  I love their daddy with all my heart, even when I'm mad at him.  I hate prejudice.  I hate when the wind blows hard for more than 2 days in a row.  I hate lying, but not the people who tell the lie.  I hate war.  I hate that they are growing up, but fiercely proud of the people they are becoming.  I hate when their daddy is out of town because I miss his company.

This is a heavy-hearted post.  Mostly, they will not be like this.  Mostly they will just be about who I am, who I love and what I love in life.  It gets better, honest.

Why? I always wonder...

...why people blog.  For me, it's to keep a journal for myself and my family in  a way that's a little more interesting than the standard paper journal.  It's also so I might meet a few people along the way who share common interests, may it be raising children, growing all things green, soaking up unconditional love from my animals, working on a happy marriage, mourning the loss of my mother, living near beloved in-laws,  and working on the future of our planet one bit at a time.

I'd like to introduce you to the cast of characters you may encounter.  
Lee-dearest husband
Thomas--first born son (16)
Pearl--dear and only daugher (13)
James--wonderful "baby" who is no longer a baby (9)
Grandma and Grandpa--my wonderful in-laws
Mandy--neurotic, but well behaved German Shepard-Cattle Dog mix
Smokie--multi-layered Cattledog-Spaniel mix
Lucky-luckiest cat I've ever known.  Also the only cat I've ever had (I don't own him, he owns me.)
Lucy, Pearl's pet rat.  Smart and very cool pet!
Chickens with names (read: pets who happen to lay eggs)
I also have many friends and extended family whose names I'll introduce later.  

I hope you might follow along.  We aren't that interesting, but that's the way we like it.  We have the standard human problems, but nothing we can't overcome with the help of each other and lots of prayer.