Friday, April 10, 2009

A Schizophrenic Parrot and Other Musings

Oh dear, a month since my last post. How ever did I manage when I used to update here almost daily?? I must be growing very inefficient in my old age.

It's been a real mixed bag of a month, with some highs and some lows. Our financial situation has long since reached crisis point and is now wavering between blind optimism ("something'll turn up, it always does") and extreme pessimism ("better get used to bread and water from now on") with disconcerting frequency. We lost one major contract, with the client citing financial cutbacks, and we've had to accept a pay cut in the last remaining biggie, so it's quite dire when one has on one's bleak reality glasses. The money situation has caused quite a few tears, many tantrums and countless moments of despondency in the last few weeks....but we'll cope. It's not like there's a Plan B in which you don't cope, is it?

On a nicer note, there have been lots of good moments with friends over the last few weeks. We still see Jacki and family every Friday and we have plans to take the girls to all kinds of places once the dratted school holidays have finished. The other week, we went to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, which was fun. Emily and I are back to going swimming every Wednesday; last Wednesday we took Romy too which was lovely, as it's ages since they've been swimming together. Emily and I have also been pottering around and we have a growing list of places we're determined to get to this year. A return visit to Gainsborough Old Hall the other week was pleasant too.

Emily went on her first ever camping trip this week with her friend Maisie and Maisie's Mum Janette. They went off to stay at Thornwick Bay near Flamborough Head; it was just for the one night, but a fantastic time seems to have been had by all :-))

We've been wrestling with trying to work out some kind of holiday event this year - given our dire lack of funds and the need to cater for a parrot, that hasn't been all that easy. However, we've found a few places not too far away who will take parrots while their owners are away, which is a relief. It wouldn't be fair to leave Mum and Dad with responsibility for Lulu as well as the cats and we can't take her with us, so parrot boarding it must be. At least the places I've found are all family homes with their own parrots so we know she won't be just stuck in a cage for days on end.

With that now sorted out, it looks as if we'll be able to get to St Bees a few times this year, hopefully with some of Emily's friends coming too for a few days at a time. We also want to go somewhere else, possibly Somerset for a week or two, and there might be a few one night trips in the pipeline too to various parts of the country that are just a bit too far away for day trips.

Cats are all fine, although Severus is still missing Voldy very much, I think. He seems to be looking for him in the garden often, which is quite heartbreaking :-( Here's an enormous looking Juliet with Emily, and her brother Romeo sleepy in the garden of Emily's dollshouse!

Lulu is being a schizophrenic parrot. For me and Jon, most of the time, she's completely adorable and very affectionate and largely well behaved. Every day she's out of her cage for a good five to six hours and she's looking very healthy and happy. Her "vocabulary" is increasing all the time, with lots of new clicks, tunes, whistles and vocalisations - she now does a faultless miaow that is indistinguishable from Severus' miaow, lol. Once, she did say Lulu - but she hasn't ever repeated that, so maybe it was a fluke. African Grey's don't really begin to talk until they're over a year old though, so she's still at babble stage :-)) Last week we bought a large dog cage which we can use as an "outdoor cage" for Lulu so she can keep us company in the garden during the summer. We do have a parrot harness for her, which would allow her to be out with us and not caged, but I'm a bit concerned about the fact that the leash is not elasticated....what happens if she goes to fly and then comes to a very sudden full stop?? Anyway, here she is trying out her outdoor cage for first time:

We are still having problems with Lulu and Emily, though :-(( If anything, it's getting worse in as much as Lulu now dive bombs Emily if Emily's walking underneath her play rope or anything like that and Emily's been nastily bitten a few time in the last week or two just for offering Lulu a treat. That girl has the patience of a saint, I have to say. Although I'm sure it must be upsetting for Emily, she's still trying and she's not giving up on Lulu, which makes me very proud of her. We've tried most of the ideas and methods that have been suggested to us for improving the relationship between Lulu and Emily, all to no avail so far, which is distressing. Not quite sure what we can try next, but we'll think of something....

Emily's done some Easter crafts over the last week, with decorated eggs for our seasonal tree and blown and painted eggs too. This morning she spent a few hours making Easter cards and tomorrow she'll be making an Easter cake and cupcakes. There's plenty of chocolate involved in that, naturally. Emily's new bed has arrived, but we're still waiting for the mattress to be delivered before she can move permanently into her blue room and her old, tiny, pink room will be spare.

Education has been going well, if rather patchily. We're focusing on history at the moment and Emily's enjoying learning about world war II still. We watched Carrie's War the other day and Emily wrote letters in the role of an evacuee. We've also learnt a great deal about the lead up to WWII, who did what, when, why and how things might have been different. Emily's going to interview my Mum shortly about her life in London during the Blitz.

There have been a few education wobbles, mind, notably one afternoon where it took Emily a whole hour to do ten fractions. When she presented me, eventually, with a scribbled on, illegible page of fractions some of which hadn't even been copied correctly from the book in the first place, I, um, wasn't happy. To put it mildly. We had a huge battle over that - it just pushed all the wrong buttons for me. We're a tolerant family and by and large Emily gets to do pretty much whatever the heck she when I ask for a mere ten minutes of her time to do a focused task, I expect to get it without a fuss. So I was upset and angry, then she was upset and angry....poor Jon got to mediate, yet again, but we all learnt something from the situation.

I still don't honestly know what to do regarding secondary level education for Emily. I'm (mostly) convinced that a) she doesn't need to jump through GCSE hoops BUT b) that doesn't mean that she doesn't need to be learning. At the times when she goes off down a self-directed avenue, that's great...but I'm not an unschooler and I don't think days on end playing on facebook (!) can be counted as an education. Up to a point, sure...IT skills and all that, lol....but not at the exclusion of anything else. So I think we'll vaguely follow some GCSE-ish syllabi and see where that gets us, without the pressure of having to sit the exams at the end of it. Every time I talk about this to someone, I end up changing my mind, because the rosy picture of autonomous education is very seductive ...but in practice it doesn't work for us. I'm tired of being made to feel guilty about that, to be honest. Emily gets masses of time to tiptoe through the daisies, to play and to follow her interests; I don't see the harm in ALSO requiring and encouraging some formal study.

Anyway, with the above in mind, I was delighted that my Dad has volunteered to help Emily with the scary subjects, lol, most especially maths, physics and technology. Having spent most of his career teaching maths/science/engineering type subjects at Reading College and then later in an army college, he's ideally placed to work with her on all the subjects I....dislike. He's having a read through some textbooks to get an idea of the scope and level we're looking for and has a real gleam in his eye ;-)

1 comment:

Beloved Parrot said...

Hi! I found your blog through Google Alerts. You have some wonderful pictures of Lulu, and I'd like to encourage you to submit one or more to It's all free; we supply the captions so you don't have to worry about what to say. Just click on the Send Us Your Pictures over on the right.

Now, I don't know what you've tried with the situation between Lulu and Emily, but from the pictures I see she's been allowed to perch on human heads. No, no, no. Nor should Lulu be allowed on shoulders -- you can't read the body language that way, which means a bite could come out of nowhere. Find out who Lulu loves best then have that person make a big fuss over Emily in front of Lulu, do it a lot. Lulu needs to see that Emily is a "valued" member of the flock. You and Emily might want to take Lulu into a neutral area and teach Lulu step-ups; know step-ups is crucial, and a neutral area in the house will help focus Lulu's attention. If you're not sure what step-ups are or how to teach them, Google it or read Mattie Sue Athan's Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot (3rd edition). A neutral area is a place the bird is not familiar with; maybe the bathroom or a bedroom or office.

Good luck and do think about sending us some pictures of Lulu! (I'm writing this from my personal blog; is the site I run with a friend.)