Saturday, September 29, 2007

Holy Forgiveness, Batman!

Boy, do I feel stupid. I just came off that emotionally satisfying rant yesterday and sat down to blog another one (my precious, sweet husband of 25 years still has not a single clue what is important to me) but hopped over to read Because I Said So, one of my top 5 favorite bloggers. She totally ruined my desire to rant!

So, now I'm left with blogging about my cavies again. Sorry.

There's a woman who lives 20 miles from me whose house burned down this week. She was able to get all her animals out in time, but has to rehome 13 guinea pigs including several just-weaned babies. I am considering this very seriously. Now that the girls have a larger cage and room to play, another one or two might be a good idea. In the wild, cavies are herd animals, living in large social groups. No way could I take all 13, or even 4, but I would dearly love a couple babies. So would the kids!

We just have to get the idea to Mr. Thinkaboutitforamonth -- oops, I mean, my dear, sweet husband.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This Wife's Hardest Job

Teenage son has the next two weeks off from school. He's on this dumb 9-weeks-on-2-weeks-off schedule to ease the overcrowding of our local high school. Knowing full well that a bored teenage boy is scarier than Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy put together, I sent hubby an email at work, printed off a copy and put it in his home inbox as well. I told him dates and times of this "intersession" and suggested he think about constructive projects to occupy the boy's time. He agreed and said he'd work on it.

Well, here it is. Tomorrow is day one. Son is already sitting around shuffling a Rubik's Cube and asking why didn't I get to the store today to buy him some treats. Just so happens hubby took today off from work, so I sent him to go talk to hubby. Hubby comes to me and wants to know why I sent son to him.

"Remember the email I sent you? His two week vacation has started and he needs the list so he won't be bored making us crazy."

"What vacation?"

"The two-week intersession. Remember? 9-weeks-on-2-weeks-off no school for the next two weeks? I sent you an email and you said you'd help me come up with some ideas to keep him busy and out of trouble? It's now."

"Nah. Don't remember a thing about it."

"I can work on a list if you'd like."

"No, I can do it. But you should have said something before this."

The hardest job this wife has is shutting up. Every fiber of my being wants to march him into his home inbox, have him get out the note and read it. I know he saw it when I put it in there because he mentioned it to me that night. I know it's still there because every day I put his mail right on top of it. Which means that every day when he opens his mail, he knows he has reached the end of today's mail because there is the note from his wife. It all goes back to being ignored.

Lord, grant me the peace to not throw the toaster at dear hubby.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It came out of nowhere, officer!

Hubby was blindsided this morning. He's fine, there isn't even any damage to the car, because the collision was an emotional one.

Not that he shouldn't have seen it coming. He does this every year, so this year I tried to prepare him.

"Honey, the kids and I had so much fun today! There are 123 days left until Christmas and we sang Jingle Bells at 1:23!"

"Honey, we had another party today - there are 111 days until Christmas and we sang Silent Night at 1:11!"

"Hm. Honey, I can't think of anything other than a huge, long paper chain to help us count down to Christmas. It's only 100 days away now, you know."

All of these were greeted with various "hm"s and "uh huh"s and shoulder shrugs.

This morning, one of the littler children came bounding into the living room, all excitedly saying, "Only 89 days till Christmas, Daddy! Isn't it wonderful!?"

You'd think the poor man was in the midst of a massive coronary. His face went white, his jaw dropped and he gasped for air. I asked what the big deal was, it's been coming for a while now.

"But, it's so close!"

Did I mention that I'm invisible?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's the big day

My son is having his root canal today. Oh boy, oh boy. I'm hopin' and prayin' that he doesn't have my tendency toward nerve overgrowth!

When I was pregnant with oldest daughter, one of my old metal fillings cracked and took the tooth with it. The root canal wasn't awful, mostly just hours of sitting with my mouth open, but that's just like watching TV (how DO they think up such terrible commercials?) so no big deal. But, in excavating the root, the dentist found - not two, not three, but seven nerves supplying this one tooth! I think he might have even missed one, because the tooth is still sensitive to cold and sweet.

Now, this nerve overgrowth would explain so much. Regular dental cleanings have always hurt my teeth and the dentists always thought I was just being a wimp. I've given birth to six kids, how wimpy can I be?? Hm? We own a Sonicare toothbrush, but I can only stand to use it a couple times a week because it makes my teeth too sensitive to chew with. The Sonicare Diet. Nah, I can smell the lawyers ponying up already.

Of course, if the poor boy had my nerve overgrowth, at least one of the thirteen cavities he is nurturing would start hollering at him, right? Well, we shall see. It promises to be an interesting afternoon.

The Not-so-big C

Mom had her lumpectomy yesterday and all went very, very well. The lymph nodes weren't involved at all and they were able to remove all the tumor. After having some time to think about my initial response, I wonder if I was reacting out of fear and shock.

The original doctor she saw wanted to just do a radical mastectomy with big, old fashioned radiation and get it over with. My wonderful, intelligent, calm sister arranged for a second opinion. The second doctor was able to do a tiny lumpectomy, grab a couple lymph nodes and stitch her up. Mom sees the oncologist in a day or two to discuss having a balloon inserted in the incision area with some radioactive "seeds" to do the dosing instead of the old fashioned radiation therapy method. She'll have to be on estrogen and progesterone inhibitors for five years, but the kind of cancer she has responds well to that kind of treatment.

Now THAT is a prognosis I think I could live with. I'm not altogether sure it's worth dosing my breasts with radiation yearly, but it's not the death sentence they would regularly hand out to cancer victims when I was a child.

In researching risk factors, I found that my mom's tendency might have been artificially inflated. She had a total hysterectomy in the 1970s and has been on estrogen ever since. That will inflate your odds considerably! So, me in denial says, "Blame this whole fiasco on the doctors who've had her on estrogen for 30 years even after her aunt had a double radical at age 80! It has nothing to do with your genes!" Hm. I'll have to write more as my thinking progresses on this. I'm not sure I've reached the final, end-all iteration of my thinking.

Friday, September 21, 2007


It's been a real fiasco here this summer. Turns out several of our children have forgotten how to brush their teeth! Now, that the 7-year old has a cavity, I'm not surprised. That the 10-year old has a cavity worthy of a root canal disturbs me (it was a baby tooth though, so we pulled it.) But that my 15-year old son has 13 - THIRTEEN - cavities, that's a real blow to the parenting job I thought I was doing.

Now, to be fair, in his defense, I concede that he has what is called "porous enamel" and with the move and getting resettled, I didn't exactly run to the dentist for sealants as often as I should.

But, knowing he has this porous enamel, and in my own defense, I have purchased, instructed in the use of, reminded and nagged concerning the use of floss, the toothpaste of his choice, a pre- and post-brushing rinse and a fancy sonic toothbrush that does all but sing the national anthem to him.

If even two - pick two, any two - of these had been faithfully used, I submit the damage would not have been as extensive. Now, partway through drilling, the dentist informs me that at least one of his teeth will require a root canal.

I'm pretty much over my anger, but can't quite see my way to laugh about it yet. I am seriously considering telling all the relatives to purchase tooth care items and gift certificates to the dentist for Christmas this year, though. After insurance we'll be in debt to the dentist more than $2000. While that includes cleanings, my oldest's wisdom teeth removal and various fillings, it doesn't include root canals, braces or anesthesia for the poor boy who just can't sit still in the chair. My mother said, "Have the dentist just skip the novocaine!" Yeah, sure, except the dentist didn't do anything wrong, why should he be punished? So much for a commuter car this year.

So, open wide and say AHHHH, or is it ARGH!?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Us girls gotta watch our figures!

Cavies' physiology is very similar to humans, that's why they are used in medical experimentation. That also means we suffer similar rates and causes of diabetes and heart disease. Part of the puzzle in preventing those illnesses is exercise, and another part diet. Now, my girls eat well. They eat more hay than anything else, which is just what they need. They only drink dechlorinated, flouride-free filtered water. Organic, freshly-washed and rinsed, dark leafy greens are the fresh food in their daily diet, plus treats of low-sugar veggies and very, very, occasionally a nibble of fruit. We even grow a garden for them, with wheatgrass, clover and lemon balm, an herb that helps Ash deal with her grouchies. Because they are caged, I can control their diet.

But, because they are caged, they get less exercise than if they were "free range" cavies. Those little hamster balls are very bad for guinea pigs and can cause permanent spinal injury and death, so that option is most definitely out. I can't force them to exercise, but in an effort to encourage it, I have designed the girls a figure-friendly cage.

The whole thing is made from those snap-together grid and connector things. I used the snap connectors to maintain even distances between the grids, but I also used plastic zip ties from the hardware store because those little connectors can fall off and make the whole thing very unstable.

The first story is three grids wide by four grids long and has lots of hiding places, room to be separate, play or snooze. The front left grid is a "door," attached with zip ties at the bottom and grid connectors at the top. We can swing the door down and invite cavies out for a snuggle if they want. This reduces their anxiety about being chased around and picked up when they don't want to be.

Each ramp was made by bending grid squares in half and attaching them to the sides of the enclosure with zip connectors. The second story is one by three grids and each ramp is two grids long, providing a gentle enough angle for easy climbing.

Now, it's not good for tender little cavy feet to be walking around on cage floors or grids, so inside both stories and the ramps is a piece of folded coroplast. Coroplast is corrugated plastic used for making signs. I bought my coroplast from a sign making shop. But, coroplast is pretty slippery if you have long nails, so I made a little blanket carpet.

I used waterproof mattress pads sewn to leftover pieces of colorful fleece for the "carpet." I left one edge unsewn from each piece so any dust or hay that gets between the layers can be shaken out. The bottom floor will eventually be one large piece and the second story and ramps will be a second piece all sewn together. Since this photo was taken I've already made an improvement: I added ties to the sides of the "carpet" to tie on the outside of the grids, much like a crib bumper would, just to stabilize the flooring a little more even during the girls' most rambunctious run.

As for the exercise encouragement? While the girls' favorite toys, snuggle spots and water bottle are on the bottom floor, the top floor is where the food is! Their hay, daily greens and occasional treats are all served "upstairs." No matter how lazy they are feeling, if they want food, they gotta go up, and if they want water, they gotta go back down.

Twice a day, usually around 7AM and 7PM, the girls zoom up and down the ramps and around the second story so fast they are almost a blur! The hay basket (made from a bent grid square) hangs over their potty corner (yes, one is potty trained, and the other isn't), and since cavies usually poop and pee where they eat, I rarely have to stand on my head to sweep up beans (beans are what we cavy slaves call the poops because they are hard and small, much like dried beans.)

The cavies live in my schoolroom/office, and have a very small space for themselves. Making the most of the available space, simplifying cleaning as much as possible and providing a healthy environment were the motivating factors in my design.
It took me a long time to think this through, and I'm very proud of it!

I love this guy.

Breakfast of Champions.

Surely you remember Ken. Betcha don't remember him in crumpled jammies with bedhead. I'll tell you, this photo is enough to get any trivia-lovin' nerdy chick's heart a-thumpin'!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

That's not true, Mr. Spock, they give us love!

I have two wonderful cavies (guinea pigs.) Watching them interact is just like watching children. Ash is only a few months older than Ginny, but she's clearly in charge. She can also be a bit of a bully. Ginny is quite at her mercy, but is also very creative, intelligent and nurturing of Ash.

When Ash is in heat, she becomes even more ornery. One day, close to feeding time, Ash chased Ginny into the pigloo, then moved toys in front of the entrance, locking her in. I suppose she thought that she'd get the dinner all to herself that night. But Ginny, in her calm, thoughtful manner, waited for the familiar crinkle of lettuce wrap, lifted the pigloo with her nose, crawled out from under it and joined Ash at the supper bowl.

Come a thunderclap, Ash runs to find her protector, Ginny. It's so funny to see Ash, almost 1/3 larger than Gin, nosing her way under Ginny's tummy to hide like a baby would hide beneath her mother.

And, just like a moody teenager, Ash will sometimes lash out and nip a finger for no apparent reason. Getting offended and thinking "She's upset at me. What did I do?" makes about as much sense as asking her to explain herself. Sometimes you just have to forgive and move on.

I think there's a lesson for me there. I have one child that the more he is spoken to, whether in correction or humor, becomes more and more belligerent. He has a tendency to lash out with whatever words he knows will hurt the most. He hates me. I'm a terrible parent, teacher, human being. But he can't explain what the problem is specifically. I have done nothing to offend him other than to speak to him. So, I just have to forgive and move on. Not easy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why At The Rope's End?

I have often thought about my life, here at the end of my rope. It's a good place to be, really, at the end of myself. A place so lifeless that either the Lord shows up or my heart ceases to beat.

My heart is still beating.

At the end of my rope is a frayed knot. It started rough, many pieces of jute twisted together and tied to prevent unraveling. Over years, the sweat from my hands clinging to it has changed it to a nearly solid ball. The end is fraying, but the knot is sturdy. At first, it cut into my hands, leaving blisters and sore spots as I struggled to maintain. But, while it has become smoother, my hands have become tougher. There is little struggling now, just hanging on while I wait for the Lord to show up.

That frayed knot also my answer to a lot of the little nagging questions that hound my days.

"Fallen off the end of your rope yet?"
'Fraid not.

"Ready to give up the good fight and just quit trying to find reasons to live one more day?"
'Fraid not.

"Aren't you scared by the thought of how you will make it through the troubles you're going through right now?"
'Fraid? NOT!

So, I swing on the end of my rope, hanging onto the promises of the Lord by this frayed knot.

A place to speak

I confess. I have blogged before. I have started accounts on several other sites, only to abandon them weeks or months later. But, in defense of myself, those other sites were generally geared toward a certain kind of audience. Women with children, homeschooling families, Christian couples, etc. I felt like I had to temper my thoughts - to put them through a filter, if you will - to make them palatable for the intended audience.

I need a place where I can speak what's in my heart without filter or fear. I need a place where my friends can find me being me.

More and more these days, I find myself being marginalized by my family. Not the work I do - the laundry, the cooking, the teaching and kissing of boo boos - but the words I speak. Appointments are missed, opportunities lost, lessons not learned, all because Mom is being ignored yet again. I realize it's a fantasy, but a blog gives me the illusion that I am being heard. Someone out there is listening.

My words are who I am. When my words are ignored, I cease to be a living, contributing human being and become merely a functioning body taking up space. I don't want to be merely a body taking up space. So, here are my words.

The Big C

My mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Well, there it is. I've said it.

Her doctor wanted her to make sure her daughters get regular mammograms, now that there is an immediate family history.

Hm. I hadn't planned on ever having one. I've never had a single risk factor, and I don't think I see the point. I mean, what if they DO find something? What would I do with the information? Am I willing to even consider poisoning my body with radiation and chemotherapy?

Right now I'm at the point that I gotta die of something and I don't particularly care what, all roads lead to Jesus, some more quickly than others.

I'm a believer in providential healing, but know that the Lord chooses to heal sometimes and not others for reasons only He knows. So, if I get the Big C, and He chooses not to heal me, I go to heaven. If He chooses to heal me, I stay here and go to heaven later. In the end, does it really matter, REALLY, what I die of? If He wants me here, won't He keep me here? If He wants me home, won't He bring me home? Why borrow trouble going to look for reasons to bring in the big medical guns and shoot myself in the foot to death? I am beginning to kind of feel that way about all diagnostic testing anymore.

It's kind of related to how I feel about prenatal testing. They wanted to do an amnio on my oldest daughter before she was born. They swore up and down she was going to have spinal bifida. Oh, the agony of those days when I had to decide what to do. Turns out she was fine, and all that faithless angst was for nothing. All my kids got a high score on that test, until with my next-to-last baby I started declining tests. If the Lord wanted me to have a special needs kid, I'd have one, and if He didn't want me to, I wouldn't. I certainly wouldn't abort if my child was less than perfect. But, that is a fallacious argument, because in one case we are talking about (possibly) prolonging a life and in the other ending it.

Ecclesiastes 2:14 puts it this way: The wise man has eyes in his head,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.

One woman suffers through cancer, the other suffers through its treatment, both die in the same plane crash a week later. It's all meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

(This post was summarized from an email conversation I had with my dearest friend, who was an immense help in crystallizing my thoughts. Thanks, Shandy.)