RIP Oreo

Posted in Pets on October 27th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , ,

This post is a few weeks in the making – my daughter Sammie’s favorite rat died on October 11.  She took it pretty well; I was dreading having to tell her when she got off the bus that day.  She got off the bus and promptly handed her younger brother and sister each a piece of her candy.  ‘Oh great’, I’m thinking – she gets off the bus and immediately does something really nice for her siblings, and I have to tell her that her favorite rat died.  But I didn’t have to tell her – she asked me first if he had died.  I said yes and asked her how she knew – turns out that big sis had taken it upon herself to tell Sammie on the way to the bus stop that morning.  What are big sisters for?  😉  But like I said, Sammie was ok with it, but now that just leaves us one pet rat: Buckeye.  We began with 2 rats, Bobby Jack and Oreo, and then we took in 2 more from a friend who was unprepared for pets, Mater and Buckeye – 4 rats at once was a bit much, but we didn’t want to see them wind up as snake food, so that gave us 4 pet rats.

Bobby was the first to pass away in June of this year, followed by Mater in August, then Oreo in October – every 2 months we lose a rat, I guess.  That’s the only downside to these otherwise great pets – they only have a lifespan of 1-3 years.  Otherwise, they are like mini dogs: affectionate as can be and very trainable.  My girls love their rats and do very well at feeding them and giving them water every day, cleaning their cage, giving them baths, and taking them for walks.  The rats would always seem depressed when my girls spend their week with Grandma in the summer, and they get really excited when the girls return.  The only thing that keeps ME from getting too close to the rats is my allergy – what a bummer.  I found out I am allergic to rats right after we got them as cute little babies.  I would play with them and wonder why I broke out into hives on my forearms and sneezed like crazy and had itchy eyes for hours afterward.  In a way, it’s a good thing, otherwise I would be more sad than the girls when they  die, and at this rate, we are poised to have to say goodbye to a long line of pet rats!

Befores and Afters

Posted in Everyday Life on June 8th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

As you might have read in my blog before the impromptu camping trip, we’ve been putting a lot of effort into a bunch of home improvement projects lately.  Here are a few of the latest pictures:

Backyard, before and after the new fence:

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Not from the same angle, but hopefully you get the idea.  We now have a fenced-in play area for the kids, and the dogs have their own little area for their gross natural business.

Even the rats have moved on up into posh digs.  Here is their new cage, where all 4 of them live together – harmoniously, I might add!

BEFORE:
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AFTER:

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WHERE IS THE RAT?!?

Posted in Everyday Life on May 23rd, 2009 and tagged ,

My daughters are having a garage sale today.  They’ve been working it all by themselves (along with their older friend), and it’s fun to peek out the window and watch them.  They’ve gotten a lot of customers, and people are buying our old junk and popsicles and some have even donated money just because the kids are so cute.  It kept them busy all morning, and things were going great until they went upstairs to get their bathing suits on because they were hot.  That’s when they noticed that one of our four pet rats was not in his cage!  Where do you even begin to look for a missing rat in a house?!?

Not only that, but one of our dogs is a terrier mix and has been yearning to taste a pet rat.  We needed to find that rat before the dog did!  My oldest daughter is a worrier, so of course she started panicking about her rat – near hyperventilation and everything.  I started to look for the rat, but then worse-case scenarios started running through my head – what if it got outside and we never found it?  What if it was dead somewhere?  What if the kids found it dead?  What if no one found it dead and it stank up the house for weeks?  What if we couldn’t find it and it starved?  I went to look under my bed (funny that I thought I saw something running across the floor this morning.  I chalked it up to a hallucination caused by lack of sleep which happens to me a lot – I sometimes see my cat running across the floor, and she died over a year ago!), but then I realized that I wouldn’t really WANT to find the rat under there.  I’m not scared of rats in the slightest, but today I was not in the mood to look under my bed and have a rodent come running at me.  As I was debating what to do next, my daughter found the missing rat (Bobby Jack) in her sock drawer.  Apparently the sock drawer was a “safe place” for Bobby since the girls have been putting him in there (!), and he likes it.  Nevermind their poor, unsuspecting laundry maid who has rats running all over her work, sigh.

But the good news is the rat is safe and sound.  Now we have to figure out how that happened in the first place.  My two-year-old admitted to letting the rat out, but my husband thinks she is giving a false confession because she is usually scared to pick up the rats.  Hopefully someone let him out and forgot about him and he didn’t get out on his own.  I  am just thankful we locateed the MIA rat before the dog did!

I Smell A Rat…

Posted in Pets on April 22nd, 2009 and tagged , ,

Make that 4 rats.  We now have 4 pet rats.  How did that happen, you ask?  A bit of mistaken identity when they were picked out at the pet store resulted in rat babies?  No, all 4 are male – I don’t think there’s any mistaking that.  What happened is this…

We got our two pet rats, and the kids’ friends decided they wanted pet rats.  This family has a history of obtaining and disposing of pets at a record rate.  It bugs the heck out of me, but I don’t want to say anything to them and step over the boundary of  telling people how to raise their kids.  We took a cat they decided they didn’t want anymore, but we had to give it back because our dog was constantly trying to eat her and I was more allergic to that cat than I am to most cats.  So anyway, this family is notorious for getting pets and then “getting rid” of them when they’re tired of them, want new pets, or just plain can’t take care of them anymore.  To a degree, circumstances like these are understandable.  We had to “get rid” of a dog because she bit my daughter in  the face – understandable that we can’t have a dog in the house who bites kids when we have 4 kids.  Getting “rid of her” upset me at the time, but I also knew there was no choice.  I’m putting “get rid” in quotes because it’s a term I don’t like to use about pets.  I don’t like to think that this is something people should regularly do with animals.  I’m a firm believer in pets being commitments – you must keep them until they pass away (extenuating circumstances don’t count – stuff happens sometimes, but not to EVERY pet, as in the case with this family).  You need to do all the research about care before you obtain the pet; such as cleaning up after it and how much it will cost to feed it – which is why our daughter’s friend’s family needed to “get rid” of their rats.

It was a fine line to walk.  I don’t want to encourage these people to get more pets by taking their leftovers, but on the other hand, I’m an animal lover, and I can only  imagine what would happen to unwanted rats (snake food, turned loose in a field = hawk or cat or coyote food, etc).  Besides, my kids have been just GREAT about caring for their pet rats.  I barely know the rats are in the house, except when I actually have time to play with them, which is exactly how I wanted it.  The girls feed and water their rats, clean the cage weekly, and play with them and give them exercise daily.  So how could I say no to getting their friends’ rats and yes to sending them to certain doom?

So, yes, we now have 4 rats in the house.  Please don’t start calling me ‘crazy rat lady’; it wasn’t entirely my fault; I was just trying to help!  Here are the new additions – Buckeye and well, I can’t remember his name, so here is Buckeye and what’s his name (his head is barely visible underneath Buckeye – he looks just like Oreo, one of our original rats).

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And while I’m at it, here are our original rats, Oreo and Bobby Jack:

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My Bookshelf O’ Rats – just what I’ve always wanted 🙂

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My Bad Day

Posted in Everyday Life on April 6th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m taking yet another diversion from writing about my great weekend to write about a bad day I had today – I need to vent.  And yes, it involves Walmart – when don’t my bad days involve Walmart?!?  First, my husband’s business clients blew him off, yet again.  We were on the verge of a big business deal, but now the clients are stalling and  becoming difficult to get ahold of – not a good sign.  So I took the kids to Walmart to get them out of the house so my husband could have some peace when he called the clients – not that it mattered; they “weren’t home”.  Sigh.  So anyway, at Walmart, I discovered that they finally did it – raised the prices on diapers.  I knew it was just a matter of time; the diapers have been the same price since my almost 5-year-old was a baby.  So after absorbing the reality of the price increase on diapers (I have two kids in diapers!  Time to rush the potty training, I guess.), I go to check out, and I’m next in line, ready to put my stuff on the counter, and an employee says “I can help you on lane 6”.  So I went over to lane 6, but it turns out, the employee was wrong.  They wanted her to take over on lane 5 instead of open lane 6.  So I went back to lane 5, right where I had started, and now someone has gotten in the line with a SUPER-full cart in front of me.  Of course.  And I had hungry kids who now had to wait in a line with all that candy at eye level.  Have I mentioned that I hate Walmart?

Then I  get home and starting making dinner, and I have a crying baby underfoot – I don’t know why he always cries at home.  He’s the happiest little guy everywhere else, but when we’re at home, he only wants to be held, and I can’t hold him while I’m cooking, doing laundry, cleaning or blogging, so…  he cries a lot.  I  guess I can get rid of most of the toys that are starting to take over my living room since no one plays with them!  And all day I’ve been looking forward to a nice hot relaxing shower, so after dinner, I went to do just that.  But apparently running the dishwasher, giving the kids a bath and hand-washing a dinner pot drained the (new!) hot water heater, and my shower was lukewarm with a cold rinse at the end.  Of course it was.  I can only hope that my day turns around when the Cubs begin their season-opening game tonight – I’ve been looking forward to this for months,  so hopefully my bad day wasn’t a precursor to the tone of tonight’s game.  To quote Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own: “May our feet be swift, may our bats be mighty, may our balls be plentiful…”  GO CUBS!

Earlier this morning, we ruined our chances of sleeping in (since our oldest daughter is on spring break) by signing up to bring a pet to my second-oldest daughter’s school – we forgot about spring break when we signed up for pet day for first thing in the morning, oops – so adding to everything is the fact that I’m tired today also.  We let our little ones play at my daughter’s preschool; they had a blast, and we had fun watching them.  My husband read a book to the kids, and we brought the rats for pet day – and it was SO fun to see certain teachers pale and shriek with fright – hehe!

So I guess the day wasn’t all bad; it was just Walmart getting under my skin, AGAIN.  Oh, and get this – I saw the store manager (I’ll call him Mr. Palindrome, since his last name reads the same backward and forward) park in one of the handicapped spots right in front of the store.  To be fair, he does have a handicapped tag, but I know from my sources that the handicapped tag is not for him but rather his elderly mother whom he cares for.  But I still think he should only be able to park in the handicapped spots when she is with him, and I definitely don’t think he should take those spots away from his customers when he is perfectly able-bodied.  Well, just my opinion, the guy irritates me because of all his dirty price games he plays at the Walmart and the small businesses the store pushes out of the way.  Not that it’s a small business, but Kmart is the latest victim of Walmart in our town – it’s closing for good in May.  What a shame – and to think the Kmart in our town was opened as the test store to see if Kmart would work in small town America.  The test was successful, but that was decades ago, and times have changed – just like Walmart’s prices!

***UPDATE*** – The Cubs are on, and they’re winning – YAY!  Soriano opened the game with a home run on the first pitch of the game! How cool is that?  But, for some reason, the game is not on ESPN 2 like tvguide.com said.  My husband bought me mlb.com, but that seems to be broken at the moment – they’re showing video during the commercials and nothing during game play.  Not only that, my husband’s clients have called (but I guess that’s a good thing), leaving me with the two little ones at their crabbiest time of day.  So I have 2 screamers and no Cubs game.  At least they are winning (I think).  When I put the little ones to bed here pretty soon, I’m tempted to join them just so I can start over tomorrow – every attempt I make at relaxing tonight has just made things worse!

Three Blind Mice… Err, Rats

Posted in Pets on January 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

Our new pet rats are great, and Oreo is becoming a real friend.  Bobby Jack, however, seems very nervous all the time.  He squeaks and sneezes a lot, and he uses his nose to try to burrow into my hand when I hold him.  We are thinking he might be blind.  I don’t know that much about rat behavior; these are my first pet rats.  But it just seems like Bobby Jack can’t see.  Are there vision tests for rats?  I guess I have some research to do about rat blindness, squeaking, and sneezing…

You Dirty Rat(s)

Posted in animals, Pets on January 3rd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

According to Wikipedia.com, James Cagney never actually said the line, “You Dirty Rat“.  The closest he got was saying “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” in Taxi.  But rats!  That’s not the point of this post.

Seems I couldn’t resist adding to the Food Chain Gang – we’ve added two pet rats to our family, Bobby and Oreo – the kids chose the names.  It was kind of an impulsive activity to do today, pet shopping, but it was not an impulsive decision, the type that should never accompany a new pet.  We’ve been talking about getting a rat for some time now, but if it ended up being the wrong decision for our family, we didn’t want to be like rats leaving a sinking ship and ditch the responsibility. So we’ve been thinking about it a lot, and today just seemed like the right day to do it.

Rats are friendly, intelligent, non-biting rodents who make great pets.  Rat owners compare their companionship to that of dogs, believe it or not, and from what I’ve seen so far, I see what they’re talking about.  I think rats haven’t caught on as pets because many people don’t like the way their tails look, and they still have a negative stigma from a few incidents of centuries past, namely the Black Death outbreak and the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  I did some research about both of these historical tales – not that they influenced my decision to get the rats as pets; the research was just for fun.  But I found that the Bubonic Plague, aka the Black Death was most likely transmitted by fleas rather than rats.  True the fleas would travel on the rats, but they more commonly preferred larger hosts such as dogs or cats and used rats when larger animals were unavailable.  The Bubonic Plague was attributed to causing the demise of one quarter of the Earth’s population of human beings at that time, it’s hard to blame people for taking it out on rats.  And the Pied Piper story is basically a legend that tries to explain the disappearance of over 100 children from the town of Hamelin in Germany just before the year 1300.  Most likely, the children were recruited to newer European settlements, possibly by a man in “pied” clothing.  In the legend, there is a rat infestation in Hamelin, and the Pied Piper leads the rats out of the town to a body of water where they all drown.  The townspeople neglect to pay the Piper for his rat removal services, and he returns and leads their children out of town.  Some versions claim they went to a cave, some say another village, and there are even a few versions that say the Piper had ill intentions toward the children – in one they meet a fate similar to the rats.  I enjoyed some of the rat research I read and wanted to share it.  If you want to continue the research on your own, I’ve added to the level of the cheesiness (and length) of this post by putting some common sayings involving rats in italics – try looking them up; the origins are interesting.  But anyway, back to our new little friends.

When we were at the pet store, I didn’t want any part of picking out the rat.  I felt like they are only in pet stores to become snake food (which is why I won’t join the rat race and work in a pet store, as much as I’d like to do the other work in the store), and I didn’t want to have to see the ones that wouldn’t get saved.  As it is, I went over there to take a glance, saw little Bobby, who was about to be put back in the snake food tank, and that’s what prompted me to say, “Maybe we should get two.”  The pet store sent the rats home to us like this, a brown bag lunch for snakes, thus proving my point:

The rats my family chose for us are 4 week old brothers.  They are adorable, incredibly tame, and I’ve already really bonded with Bobby.  He cuddles me and sits on me and grooms himself – rats are actually very clean animals.  The entire start-up for this type of pet set us back about $25.
$2.99 per rat + $3 for bedding + $9 cage + $3 food (for about 3 weeks worth) + $2 water bottle + tax.  We are going to be resourceful about toys and use my kids’ toys for the rats – we’ve already found that they like to crawl through these foam tunnel blocks they have.  And we were very resourceful when making their cage as well.  Instead of trying to decide between the $19 glass aquarium and the $24 hamster cage (I was concerned about the heaviness and the breakable glass of the aquarium and worried the rats would escape the cage), we opted for secret option #3 – a large $9 transparent Rubbermaid bin with a lid in which we poked air holes.  Overall, I’m very happy so far with the new pet decision, and my major concerns have not come to fruition which were: 1.  that our Jack (Jerk) Russell Terrier mix would try to hunt the rats, and  2.  that the kids would unwittingly hurt the rats.  But our dog has not even noticed that the rats are here yet (she’s almost 11 and her sense of smell is failing faster than I thought – that makes me a little sad), and we laid down strict rules for the kids about handling the rats.  I was also worried about having yet another chore to do around the house, but I was promised help from both of the enthusiastic new pet owners (there’s a sucker born every minute).  Here are the cuties – Bobby is the beige one and Oreo is the gray and white one: