Hi August, long time no talk to! Hope all is well with you and yours and that things are great in your "new" abode. I know you have been there awhile and hope you have settled in.Our flock is wonderful - lots of funny stories to tell. We just can't imagine life without Kate and Spence and THE CHICKIE GIRLS! Life is not without a bump or two, and though the lovies all are wonderful and (for the most part) get along very well (they certainly care for each other and look out for each other). We have a couple of issues, of course, with the relationship between Kate and, well, everyone!As you may recall, Kate is quite easily vexed, and Saffron seems to have her number down pat! We cannot figure out why, but Saffron seems to want to be WITH Kate as much as possible. In fact, it's almost like she wants to BE Kate.Kate has VERY little patience for the chickie girls (though when the 3 girls get together Spence doesn't stand a chance - not that he stands a chance against any one of them individually!).The girls still like to be "near" Kate (they like to snooze at the top of Kate & Spencer's cage and hang out on the seed catcher outside the cage). They all know which cage is theirs (Kate & Spencer's cage and the chickie girls' cage). The girls have grown up and are now taking turns having clutches of unfertile eggs (they mimic Kate and Spencer doing "the dance" and mating - it's pretty funny watching them mimic the mating, and they take turns every other month with which one will be on top and which one will lay the eggs!). One would think they could move on from their love affair and need for approval from Kate, but apparently not.We like to leave their cages open as much of the day as possible (as I am home and right near them to see to their every need. They have a very large playpen area and they get to fly back and forth all day. They have a lot of toys, food, water, etc. in cages and playpen as well as their own "hut" in each playpen they share (2 each hut).I have found that the girls LOVE the Scotties Kleenex boxes (the 5" cubes) that I remove the tissues from and all the plastic. The boxes fit in their cages and they love to chew one side and the bottom out of each. For about $1/box they are their favorite and least expensive toy! They like to share the space inside during the day too. Sometimes I give the girls their own individual box (Spence has no interest in the box except to ensure that Kate has one she is happy with). They chew them pretty quickly and when they do I replace them with a new one. It slows down the "nesting" process and keeps the egg laying down to a minimum (since the chickie girls Kate hardly ever lays a clutch! she has willpower!). Since the girls are laying clutches only every other time (not month as I mentioned above), and we replace the eggs with fake ones which we leave for an extended period of time, we feel we have the egg laying under control.But then there is Saffron - who wants to be as close to Kate as possible for as long as possible (except when there are eggs). Verdi bears the majority of the responsibility for creating the nest (they love the Planet Pleasure Zig Zag ribbon shredder which I cut into manageable 1" to 2" strips they then separate and carry back to the cage/box). This leaves Saffron with more time to "bug" Kate. Saffron will sit on the seed catcher and just stare in at Kate (which she would do for hours if allowed to). It drives Kate crazy and she runs around the cage trying to bite through the bars at Saffron. I have put a natural, light silk cloth over on side of Kate's cage to discourage Saffron and give Kate more privacy (which Kate likes), but Saffron will often weave her way under and around and sit on the catcher between the silk and the cage. We do not understand Saffron's behavior; can't figure out what she wants or needs when displays this behavior (which is nearly constantly). She can be distracted by feeding, new box, eggs, but for the most part she is one determined girl. She doesn't do ANYTHING but sit there and look in at Kate.Can you shed some light on this behavior for us? Occasionally Verdi will join in the "non" action, but Verdi is much bolder and will just invade Kate and Spence's cage space (always at the top away from where Kate and Spence spend their time in the cage). I keep water only at the top during the day for Spence and water and food at night at the top for Spence too (he needs space away from Kate when she wants him out of her way). There is plenty of water and food at the bottom (and the playpen) for them that they share night and day (both cages).Sometimes Kate is ok with sharing space at the top of the cage with the girls, sometimes not. But Kate cannot tolerate Saffron staring at her!Please help! Sue and Ed
Type of Animal: Love Birds
Name of Bird: Kate, Spencer, Verdi, Saffron
THIS QUESTION IS FOR DR. AUGUST ABBOTT
- In the last 2-3 days I've been thinking about you two and another lady I know and haven't heard from in months. Then today I see messages from BOTH of you in my email! Excuse me while I try to think really hard about winning some major lottery :-D---- I can picture the household exactly as you've described it and every time I hear about the chickie girls I'm impressed all over again that the two of you started out with a pair of sweet love birds and were trying to do all the right things with them when by way of a miracle you ended up with FOUR! I'm very glad to hear that the egg laying isn't out of control. Be sure to offer calcium rich foods of course, like cuttlefish bone to groom and chew on; some natural cheese; cruciferous veggies, even a regular Tum's tablet to chew on. I'm confident that you're doing fine--- When it comes to Saffron's strange behavior, you've pretty much answered this yourself. She and Verdi are 'playing house' as a couple - which is really perfectly normal in the bird world. She has a strong, natural bond and 'crush' on top of this. Discouraging a love struck lovebird is beyond difficult. Love transcends family relations and sexual orientation when it's an enclosed 'society' with limited options. I know Kate might not feel flattered, but I can't help think this is adorable. There's no harm being done, right? No one is acting out or becoming aggressive? You could remove the chickies to their own part of the house without sight of mom & dad, but that's a challenge in and of itself. They'll always hear each other. You could make the 'drape' you fashioned something thicker and opaque, secured with clothespins or other strong clips so Saffron doesn't wiggle in - but she'll find other ways to keep the subject of her love and devotion in sight. --- You have come SO far since we first met! I hear the increased confidence in knowing that what you're doing is right, knowing that curbing the egg laying is important and trusting your own instincts about what is 'too much' and what is ok. I can't do a thing except support you and back you up right now. You're seriously nailing this whole scenario perfectly. You also 'sound' in good spirits. Are you keeping your health in check or have you just grown to tolerate the degree of challenges it's throwing in front of you? I suspect both. And Ed? Are the two of you still finding the strength to be each others support system? --- You know, when I don't hear from you for a while I become concerned that I'll never hear from you again and I'll never know how you all are. We have many years together and have come through quite a bit with the classic couple Mr Tracy and the beautiful, trail blazing Hepburn At least mark your calendar to peek in here and say 'hi, we're all still here' every 3 months or so. You made my whole month by stopping by just now!
Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
August, thank you so much for your response. It makes perfect sense, of course! Now that we see it in black and white type I think we always had some gut feel that was going on (extra special bonding), but didn't realize it because of the 2 females.Saffron does look quite forlorn; she actually physically dips her "shoulder" and head and just stares quitely into the cage.However, Kate does NOT appreciate this adoration and though some times she will tolerate it, most of the time she will not, and gets whipped up trying to "get" at Saffron through the bars in the cage (trying to nip her). Kate will sometimes injur her beak or face (drawing blood and requiring antibiotics). That is why I put up the opaque silk half cover.It does provide a "screen" between the cages, but as you indicated, they can hear each other and will whistle back and forth occasionally (the flock call is what we call it) to ensure everyone is "safe".Sometimes Spence will sit on the perch outside the chickie girls cage door (in an attempt to keep them from bothering Kate), but he is no match for them and one attempted nip from either one and he is outta there!For now I guess we will just have to continue to monitor the situation and keep the girls in their cage when Saffron begins to really bother Kate.It is somewhat surprising that Saffron is so bonded to Kate, because she also has a very strong bond with Verdi. She and Verdi take care of each other and help each other out. Another question I had for you regards Saffron's sight. Is it possible that she may have poor eyesight? She has those spooky red eyes, and seems to be afffected when the light is low. She also has more difficulty "nailing" a landing, and often uses Verdi to "buffer" her landings (something Verdi seems quite willing to assist with). In the evening she sometimes has difficulty locating the access points to her cage, and has a LOT of difficulty getting from the top of the cage to the bottom of the cage. In fact, Verdi often has to go up to the top of the cage and guide Saffron to the bottom.If Saffron goes up to the top of the cage when the cover is on at night, she gets "stuck" up there and Spence will let us know "Saf fron uck" "not safe" and I have to go in and ask Verdi to help her down again.Verdi doesn't really appreciate this task after she has settled in, but she dutifully performs it so that Saffron can be "safe safe".They are amazing creatures and the highlight of our lives!Is there anything else we can do for Saffron?Thank you again.
I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to answer your question about my health. They were finally able to find an antibiotic (low level, but better than nothing!) that my body would tolerate for a two-week period. Between that, a nebulizer and inhalers, I got a CLEAN chest Xray last month (no signs of pneumonia) for the first time in over 2 years! Yeah!!!!! Also, I was diagnosed with IDDM (Insulin debepdent diab mell). I have been living with BCG levels well over 200 and 300 for over a year. The fever and sweating from the pneumonia was masking the symptoms of the diabetes. Since I could hardly keep food down, I missed all the signs. My asthma had taken a real turn for the worse during this time, and they have had me on prednisone which puffed me up to obesity and was another contributing factor.It is difficult to keep my glucose under control because the prednisone inhibits the absorption of the insulin, and if they cut back the prednisone my asthma deteriorates to the point where I need oxygen to breathe.I am SOOOOOOO much better even though the daily struggle is still there. It will take time to get the glucose levels under control. Fortunately, we live very close to the Joslin Clinic, so I am being treated there. However, I could really use an insulin pump, and of course, despite being covered under TWO health insurance plans (my husband's and mine), our insurance will not pay for an insulin pump or supplies. They don't pay for my everyday diabetic supplies (other than the insulin) because I have to order special needles and testing supplies because every time I stick myself with anything (and I'm talking 32 guage 4 mm needles and special testing strips and lancets that use minute amounts of blood) I end up with a 1 to 2" bloody bruise. I look like my husband beats me around the thighs and stomach daily with a baseball bat! That blood platelet problem I have. I never knew you could get bruises like that near on your tummy!So anyway, I do have a lot more energy (even though it's a lot less than the average bird). I am so grateful to be able to stay awake (really felt like sleeping sickness before - wearing diapers 24/7 cuz I couldn't get myself out of bed to the bathroom and because the incontinence was uncontrollable). Alas, we are through that part and will get through the next as well! In the interim, I insisted that Ed take a break from work and me and everything else and spend a week in Harwich on the Cape. The last day of that week his calf swelled to the size of his thigh and he couldn't walk! Turns out he had a Baker's cyst rupture (very painful). As he was limping around in pain with one of my canes I noted to him "I thought we might have matching canes someday, honey, I just didn't think it would be today"! Gotta keep laughing. Our lovies are our saviors, We love them soooo much! They are our "kids" and the light of our lives (not discounting Eddie, of course).I hope you are doing well and are settled in. How do you like it? What is new with you?
-- I thought I 'heard' a bit more vim and vigor in your tone this time around. I was truly concerned when I hadn't heard in so long. I fully understand how the feathered family can inspire one to keep pushing ahead, for them if not ourselves. And you had to rally for Ed too. As brave and patient as he is, it's the two of you that work in concert to be one strong couple. Haven't I just described Kate & Spencer too? -- I'm actually doing better than I thought here in this old folks community. My macaws have turned out to be the feature 'show' of the place and I'm more than blessed with some very patient and tolerant neighbors. Not a single complaint despite having some very LOUD rescues come through at different times. I keep social with all the neighbors and introduce them to newbies in for rehab - explaining their less than loving history and I think that pursuades people to be more open minded. After the current macaw moves on to his forever home in the next couple of weeks I'm taking a break (let's hope there are no emergency rescues needed) and just letting my two permanent residents, my 'chickies' (Sadie and Cookie the macaws) have some alone time with me for a while. We've been nonstop with rescues for a solid year now. Turns out that my name has made lists that a couple of our zoos have and 3 other rescue orgs that focus mainly on anything except macaws. Sure am flattered, but I wish this happened when I was somewhat younger than I am now. --- Those cysts like Ed had have a reputation of being quite memorable - not just for the pain but their odor. I don't envy either of you for that. Let's hope your summer is worry free and finds you taking at least a couple more excursions without complications. --- Well, back to the subjects at hand that brought us together - I'm now a bit concerned about Saffron and what you've described about her vision. Has she ever been checked out ? I'm not sure if I remember whether or not you found a decent avian vet nearby. Don't make me lecture you
We did a lot of research and with the help of Angell Memorial (I'm sure you know their reputation), we found a wonderful group of avian vets less than 10 miles from our home. All 4 are all seen regularly for check-ups and for pedicures of course, though they seem to be keeping their own nails trimmed well except when the girls sit on the fake eggs and they get a little too long.They are seen at least twice/year for well visits and sick visits when necessary - Kate is the only who has had to be seen for sick visits - we think her early months in that horrible place left her a bit neurotic, which she sometimes displays with nasty feather picking and scraping her face/beak against the bars). Kate's feather picking seems to be much better lately. We changed their diet to 100% organic (special order) food including freeze dried vegetables and fruit that they all absolutely love. Even though we were purchasing Harrison or all natural brands, the organic we now get from Altoloma farms in CA and from Drs. Foster and Smith with suppements like crushed egg shells from avian web seem to really have made a difference.Saffron is doing better with navigation, but I feel that if she were human I would have had her she an opthamologist in her first year. She is VERY skittish by nature (a fraidy cat if you will). Verdi is willing to take on the world no matter how large, and she protects Saffron from anything she perceives to be big, bad or dangerous (as does Spence). If she does get "stuck" anywhere Spence will make a call out to me and let me know "Saff ron uck" "not safe" and I will go in and assist if Verdi doesn't handle it right away. I always wondered if her eyes being red had anything to do with her vision. I haven't personally been able to attend any visits over the past year, and though I ask Ed to discuss the issue with their vet, he has a lot to handle with four birds by himself. I will make a call to their vet tomorrow about Saffron. I just needed to know there is something to be concerned about.Saffron is the largest of the four; she is very long and not built for smooth, efficient flight as Verdi and Spence are. Kate is a bit bottom heavy, and not that graceful, but she can stick a landing at 10.0 every time. For a while, Saffron was using Verdi as a landing pad; she is much better now, but still uses Verdi to slide into occasionally. Saffron has a long wing span to go with her long body, and has always looked a bit awkward flying. It took her quite a long time to learn how to navigate around and into spaces she wants to be in. She gets upset easily (another neurotic one) and tends to "hide" until you tell her it's ok and she's a very pretty, good good chickie girl. Verdi doesn't desire this type of praise - she responds with a look of disdain as if to say "of course I am and I know it too".If Saffron hides where I can't see her (we have a towel in their room they love to play hide and seek in), Spence will give her up every time (I sometimes think Verdi would prefer she stay hiding for a longer period of time - sisters!). Kate is of course disgusted by most of the chickie girl behaviour and ignores them as much as possible. It stresses Spencer a bit because he has to stretch himself to try to keep track of 3 of the girls (Mr.Protector). They are just like kids with their own distinctive personality traits.I taught them the concept of "safe" and if they don't feel "safe" they make it known (sometimes they hear "outside birdies" and have to be reminded that lovies are "inside" where it is "safe safe" and it's the same with any loud jets or airplanes that may occasionally be re-routed from Logan International due to weather or other potential air traffic issues. They complain a bit but Spence will say "air plane" "safe" and everyone calms down. He's a very responsible birdie and takes his responsibilities as "guardian" of the flock quite seriously!We are constantly amazed at how amazingly smart these birds are, and their seemingly unlimited ability to understand, learn and retain concepts, as well as their ability to communicate with us and each other (definitely bilingual - Ed still really struggles with learning lovebird, but he's improving constantly). The only one who makes absolutely no attempt to speak either human or love bird is Kate. She relies on Spence and when that doesn't work up to her standards she sits and makes this ridiculously loud rat a tat/shrieking noise non-stop. I can always get her to stop if I ask her what she "neeeeeds" and then Spence has a chance to answer for her so her urgent needs can be met. She is after all, the Queen of Sheba and expects the human serfs to be up to her standards.They all definitely understand the concept of "need" and will voice that quite clearly with "neeeed mom mee" "neeeed rib bon" "neeeeed ring rib bon". They are quite clear with their needs and desires. Of course, I try to keep them stocked up with everything they could want or need so they rarely have to ask for anything. I keep them stocked up with a six to nine month supply of huts, ribbon shredders, ribbon rings, cuttle bone, etc. etc. I buy in bulk to get a good deal and they have toys to last at least a year!So spoiled. What can I say? The latino background trained me to anticipate needs and all will be happy and fulfilled - nurturing means meeting needs of those who depend upon you for safety and security and all that Maslow taught us about the heirarchy of needs!In return you get happy, well adjusted, secure beings. Of course, we think ours are extra special - we are amazed daily at their ability to comprehend and think on their own in a conceptual manner. They are a very intelligent species! Very well behaved as well (unless something in their world is not as they feel it should be of course).We are definitely blessed to have them in our lives.I am glad that you are making the adjustment to your new environment. My Mom's place has a cockatiel and finches in one of the general areas near a bright grouping of windows. I feel bad for them though because they never let them out of their cages, and they haven't taught the residents not to stick their fingers or faces too close to the cages. The residents love them, but they don't appear to be the most well adjusted I have seen.Do you think we should make a special appointment for Saffron? Again, I can their vet tomorrow (today) to see what she feels we should do, but I know they check their eyes for brightness, etc. when they are seen, but I also know that Ed has not mentioned her issues specifically. I have noticed that it seems to be an issue when the light is low or dark.Thank you so much and look forward to your response.Sue and Ed
-- You're up late! Of course it's going on 1:30 a.m for me so who am I to say? You know it's strange but many assisted care facilities out here also have birds in a common room and for the most part they are also consistently caged. I get calls regularly to do an on site eval to be sure the cages are big enough, food is right, all the usual. I'm always happy to do this since it's really for the birds health and happiness. For the most part it's pretty good and I encourage staff to go ahead and try to bond with a bird - to get it out regularly once wings are trimmed and permanent escape isn't possible. I love hearing about how beautifully engaged and nurtured your lovies are. Not all of them communicate like yours because not all owners (human companions rather) respect their intelligence and give them input. These are sentient animals. They are self aware and so, of course they can 'figure things out' and they know what they're doing, saying and even how they're acting. Even though Cookie is a Severe macaw and Sadie a blue & gold, they grew up together and are 'sisters' just as if they were hatched together. And oh my yes they do get on like sisters. Always vying for attention and trying to push each other around. Still, if one or the other was suddenly to be gone there would be a great void in the remaining one's world. They count on having each other to pick on - and yet they'd defend each other to the last. I love my work with all of these psittacines. I did a 3 day consult with an African Grey recently who has very loving and devoted humans, but she didn't have anything to do when she was in her cage. It was barren and only one perch. As I talked to her 'mommy' that first day, the bird sort of ignored me and just sat there. The more I talked about how aware she was and because of that she needed input, challenges, mountains to climb physically and mentally - the bird came to front of the cage and looked at me like, "Oh my God, you get it! You are speaking for me!" On the third day we had one bursting at the seams with joy, talking, whistling, crazy happy Grey and a human mommy who couldn't wait to start teaching her to work some simple human toddler puzzles. Mission accomplished. It's so heart warming and rewarding to hear about YOUR home and know that on the other side of the country there are four very well loved, fullfilled and joyful lovies. What a wave a relief when I think that if I see one family like this, there are a thousand more. Usually that thought accompanies sad things I see. You are a breath of fresh air and needed positive in my life. -- I would like Saffron seen specifically for her eyes. It could just be lack of pigment that produces what you're seeing and it sounds like she does have vision, but let's make sure. Not that there is anything to be done if she's impaired, but it's important to know. --- And that means you need to come back and let me know too. I think the system automatically sends out follow ups these days, but that will be a good thing in this case so you don't forget me for months and months again. ---- You are doing a wonderful job - even with the food. I can't say enough nice things about you and Ed. You were made to be feathered friends. You certainly came into your own with this little couple and the resulting family. -- I'm signing off now. Dawn comes so darn early!
Thank you, August. Saffron DEFINITELY has vision. I have watched that very closely since she was born (as I did with Verdi's leg - which by the way, you would NEVER know she had any issues as a young chickie - every now and then when she spends too much time laying on eggs she will get up and that leg is a little stiff or weak, but she rebounds almost immediately - we are sooo grateful for that).As I joked (only half way), if she were human, I think she might need glasses! Is it possible for birds to have less than perfect eyesight (like humans)? I would think so, but what do I know!Again, she gets around just fine - she is clumsy on the landings and not the most graceful in the air, but there are no issues getting where she wants to go when she wants to go there. I really do think she might have issues in lower level light (we have an issue with the females in my family in that we have issues driving at dusk - not during daylight or at night, but at dusk - it is very difficult for us to see - but we all have diabetes too). Again, don't know if birds suffer from the same type of ailments. Also, I believe that her hesitancy to move around the cage and get "stuck" at bed time is partially her "scaredy cat" personality (but not entirely).Your stories are always wonderful - such great work you do!Wishing you and yours all the best! I will definitely check back in.PS: did you ever get the pics I sent to you?
-- It is possible for a bird to have sight impairment. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. And it could be that her 'scaredy cat' behavior is because she can't see or perhaps has impaired depth perception. It would be good to know. --- Thanks for the nice comments about what I do. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and know that if I see one bad situation there are a thousand more I don't see. But again, it is also true that when I see one GOOD situation, there are a thousand more of those I don't see too. You and your feathered family give me SO much hope
Hi,I'm just following up on our conversation about Kate, Spencer, Verdi, Saffron. How is everything going?S. August Abbott, CAS
Well the "girls" (all 3) are busy building nests. It's a long, loving process that they take very seriously! Kate just builds them and doesn't lay any eggs and as I said before, the girls take turns, but only after they have built an ENORMOUS nest made of planet pleasures shredders and rings (I cut the shredders into 1 1/2 to 2" strips and put them on the play pen and they fly over, separate the colors and stick them in their tail feathers and fly back to the cage with them where the fashion them into a lovely nest nearly a quarter of the size of the bottom of the cage! Kate is bit neater and makes a smaller nesting area. Spence oversees the whole operation and makes sure that I keep the playpen stocked with ribbon (what we call the shredders) and ring ribbon (what we call the round rings). If I don't Spence will tell me "neeeeed rib bon" or "neeeeed ring rib bon". It's very amusing! He also takes his role as "guardian and sentry" for all the girls during this phase. Making sure that no one disturbs the process or the nesting areas. Very funny - he is a very responsible birdie!I have been watching Saffron closely and her sight is fine but I have scheduled a visit with our vet just to be sure. I still think it is a "night vision" and far-sighted issue. I have the same problems myself!When Saffron is in nest building mode she doesn't bother Kate anywhere near as much as when there is no clear other purpose. We have tucked in the opaque silk cover (which covers half of Kate's cage), but Saffron just goes to the open side and stares in. We keep the part of the cage with Kate's box and house and food covered and leave tje other half open, but Kate has never been a very sociable bird and she really likes her cage space to be HER space that she chooses to share with Spence.I don't think after 2 years that we will see any change in Saffron's behavior, and all things considered, we could be dealing with much worse behavior. I think as Kate ages she may grow a bit more tolerant (or not). Time will tell. I check in often and let them fly into our room and we spend a little "siesta" time around noon (they perch on the top of our drapery rods and nap while I nap in bed). They do the lovebird cuddle and I get some rest too. I try to check in often to shoo Saffron back to her cage so that Kate has some alone time. Kate can wear herself out getting annoyed with the whole situation. Spence will usually let me know when Saffron is really bugging Kate.Verdi is Verdi - she is very self sufficient and goes about her business without much concern for anyone or anything else. She hangs with Saffron and can get sucked into the "let's stare at Kate and Spence" mode, but she does it more out of the need to b e part of the group than anything else.Now that we understand the behavior we can make small adjustments, but it seems to me that this is going to be a long time issue that we need to work on with Saffron (and Kate). We tell Kate that Saffron loves Kate, but Kate';s not really interested in being loved - worshiped perhaps, but not loved. I will keep you posted about Saffron, but she seems quite capable of finding everything she needs and wants, and like I indicated, she is a large, long bird and sometimes a bit clumsy. She is definitely not built for flight like Spence and Verdi - neither is Kate really - she is quite bottom heavy - but boy can she stick a landing! She's not very nimble. Perhaps the violet greens are more true to the original size and aerodynamics that the mixed cinnamon or lutinos????Thanks for following up. Say hi to your girls as well!
-- I'm amazed at the vocalizations. I don't think you truly understand how remarkable all of this is. How much it shows that you have put your hearts into this family above and beyond what anyone else could or does do. --- You have 'unique' written all over everything about them. It's very possible that what you observe about the difference in body build is pertinent; however, the whole eye thing really should be checked. Not that there's anything to worry about of course, but just to know. --- Do NOT press 'accept' anymore on this, even if the system sends out a reminder or whatever it's doing these days. We have a new site name and some new protocols taking effect in the next few days. I've scheduled a 'follow up' for a month from now, just to remind you to check in and let me know what's up. Of course you can ignore it and write back at your leisure, but I truly do think of you all regularly. I'm so very happy to hear from you whenever I do. --- So have a very good summer and all my blessings to you, Ed, Kate, Spencer and the chickie girls. Always, August