Friday, August 30, 2013

Kidney Stones, REALLY?!

Image from 123RF Stock Photos

Dear August,

What on earth is your problem? After all the other horrid things that have happened this month, you really and truly felt that what I needed most is an ER visit for kidney stones? That was my first ER visit for them in years and years. (I was on the way to the ER in 2009, but passed it before we arrived, so that doesn't count.) That was very unnecessary. August had enough "excitement" without that. No more, please. I think we're done with "excitement" for the year.

Not so much love, Erin

I've only have a kidney stone every 2-3 years since before Luke was born, and so far, they have passed (fairly) easily at home. After managing this one for 8-ish hours at home, it still hurt and felt like it was stuck. I also knew I would have to drive myself, so wanted to do so before the meds I had taken wore off. By the time CT got around to scanning me, it had passed (should have known when I fell asleep; up until then I had been resting fairly comfortably, but hadn't actually been able to sleep due to the residual pain). The scan showed just the one, though, so hopefully that will be it for the next 2-3 years.
Currently feeling: ready for August to be over

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - August 28, 2013

Currently feeling: I just really love this painting (from a restaurant we frequent)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bengal is Gone

Bengal: March 19, 1999 - August 28, 2013

When a pregnant cat showed up on site at the bridge construction job my husband was working in February 1999, the kind-hearted crew let her sleep in the trailer at night, since it was so cold. I was hopeful that there would be at least one kitten not spoken for when they were born in March. Mama Cat gave birth to six kittens, four of whom went on to new homes. That left two. "I guess we can have one," said DH. Just one? What are you going to do with the other kitten? "Leave it there?" NO! You cannot leave one kitten running around a construction site! So he brought home both kittens in May 1999.

They were 7 weeks old, weighing in at 1.8 lbs and 2.1 lbs (0.81 kg and 0.95 kg), but we were convinced that 0.3 pound difference was all fur on Bengal. As you can see, he really was just a bundle of fluff.

Fluff, Benga-fluff, Fluff-meister, Darth Fluffious, The Fluff-inator, Flufficus, Great Big Fluffy Tail.... it went on and on. They didn't stay small for long, though.

At full size, and not overweight (per the vet), Bengal weighed in at around 15 lbs (6.8 kg). People would come in the door and see him and almost recoil. "What is that?!" Um, it's a cat. "But he's huge!!" Well yes, yes he is. Check out those paws (keep in mind that I have large hands for a woman; I wear a size 9 or 10 ring on my ring finger). As you can see, Cleo is no slouch in the size department, though she is a bit of a butterball on top of being a large frame cat.

He was our only boy, and our only long-haired cat. People asked us all the time if he was a maine coon breed; no idea, though he sure looked like one. He was just our construction site mutt, and we loved him dearly. He reminded us of Fezzik from The Princess Bride; he could be a brute when he was in a mood, but for the most part, he was a gentle giant. (And a great big fraidy cat!)

The picture above was taken in mid-July. He looked great and was acting fine at the time. As you know, he was diagnosed with cancer about three weeks ago. He had already lost quite a bit of weight at that point, and he continued to lose more since the diagnosis. We treated him with steroids, hoping to at least make him more comfortable while we waited. I worried if we were doing the right thing, but everyone said we would know when it was time. I hoped they were right.

He stopped eating dry food about a week ago, so we switched to wet. A cat his size should be eating 3-4 small cans of wet food a day; we couldn't even get a whole can in him. Over the weekend, he started having trouble getting up on the bed like he likes to do. On Monday, he stopped eating entirely. We waited, to see if we could get him to eat something, anything, but no. By Tuesday, he was having trouble walking. We decided Tuesday evening that it was time. Today (Wednesday), we all said goodbye. Luke went to school, and DH and I took him to the vet, and stayed with him to the end.

Thank you for coming to live with us, Bengal. You were a wonderful companion for over 14 years. We are sad now, but we will remember you with love and fondness forever.
Currently feeling: missing my fluffy boy something fierce

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harry Potter Problems

We've been reading the Harry Potter books to Luke before bed for several weeks now. We are currently on Goblet of Fire. Luke, for school, is reading various other books to us (currently on Stuart Little). Every time he sees the word "disappeared," he says "disapparated." Can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing! LOL

Currently feeling: magical

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - August 21, 2013

Currently feeling: while the cat (Daddy) is away, the mice go to the movies!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Week of Missing the Bus

Image from

We've been missing the school bus for over a week now, but not the way you think! At school registration on Wednesday, 8/7/2013, the school had copies of the bus routes available for parents. These bus routes were printed from the school transportation website, date and time stamped 8/5/2013 10:19 AM. That sheet showed the pickup time for our route/bus/stop as 6:50 AM.

On Monday, 8/12, DH and Luke arrived at the bus stop at 6:45 AM for the first day of school. They waited until 7:20 AM. No bus came by. We took Luke to school, hoping it was a "first day of school" glitch of some sort. These things happen. We were a bit annoyed, but we assumed everything would be fine the next day.

On Tuesday, 8/13, we still thought our pickup time was 6:50 AM, but I was concerned that the bus might be coming early, so I stood at one of our front windows starting at 6:35 AM. We live next door to the bus stop, so I am able to see vehicles as they drive past. I saw no bus come by while I stood at the window. DH and L arrived at the bus stop at 6:45 AM. They waited until about 7:10. We took Luke to school, where we ended up directly behind our bus in the drop off line. At 8:45 AM, I called the phone number listed on the school transportation website. While on the phone with Ms. S, I viewed the bus route/schedule on the website to make sure nothing had changed. I saw then that the pickup time for our stop had changed to 6:42 AM. I told her that it is possible that we had missed the bus due to the pickup time change, but I also explained that I waited at the window looking for the bus starting at 6:35 AM, and I never saw the bus come by. Ms. S said that someone would follow up with the driver to make sure the bus came by our assigned stop on Wednesday, 8/14.

On Wednesday, 8/14, we now know that the scheduled pickup time for our stop is 6:42 AM. DH and Luke arrived at the bus stop at 6:40, a bit later than we intended. I did checked the school transportation website for any bus delays, and our route/bus was listed as on time. They waited until 7:00 AM. No bus came by. I understand that we had possibly missed the bus if it was running a little early, so I did not call to complain. However, I suspected by now that the bus was not actually coming by our assigned stop at all. But, before calling to complain yet again, I felt I need irrefutable proof.

On Thursday, 8/15, I personally sat outside waiting for the bus starting at 6:15 AM. DH and Luke arrived at the bus stop at 6:35 AM. I checked the school transportation website for bus delays; one of our school's buses was listed as delayed, but it was not our bus/route. I continued to check the website for delays every 5 minutes until 7:00 AM; our bus always showed as on time. At 7:00 AM, DH took Luke to school, while I continued to wait outside at the stop, just in case the bus did come late. I waited until 7:15 AM. No bus came by. I had personally waited from 27 minutes before our assigned pickup time to 33 minutes after our assigned pick up time. At 8:20 AM, I again called the phone number listed on the school transportation website, and I again spoke with the same Ms. S from Tuesday. This time, she took a message with the details of the situation, including my name and cell phone number, and said she would give them to a supervisor. I was told the supervisor would investigate the matter and get back to me. No one ever called.

On Friday, 8/16, DH and Luke arrived at the bus stop at 6:30 AM. They waited until 6:55 AM. No bus came by. When I took Luke to school, we arrived at the school at 6:58 AM, where again we were in line directly behind our assigned bus. If it hadn't been raining cats and dogs, I'd have gotten out right then to talk to the bus driver, but I didn't need to get wet, and I didn't want to hold up the school drop off line. At 7:55 AM, I yet again called the school transportation phone number, this time speaking with Ms. A. I explained to Ms. A that this was my third call this week regarding the bus not coming by our assigned stop and requested to speak to a supervisor; no, I did not want to leave a message. Ms. A provided me with the name and direct phone number of Ms. H, the supervisor for our route/bus. Ms. A also stated that she would email Ms. H with the details of the situation. Ms. A said that if I did not receive a phone call, I should call her back personally, and she gave me her direct number also. I did call supervisor Ms. H at 8 AM; there was no answer, so I left a voicemail message that included the name of the school, the bus route and number, the fact that I do not believe the bus has come by our stop any day this week, and my name and return phone number. As of 3:30 PM, no return call had been received from Ms. H or anyone else. I called Ms. A back, per her instructions; there was no answer, so I left a message.

On Monday, 8/19, a full week after the first day of school, Luke and I arrived at the bus stop at 6:30 AM. We waited until 7:00 AM. No bus came by. I took Luke to school. I called supervisor Ms. H at 8:20 AM. Again, there was no answer, but this time, I did not leave a message. Instead, I sent an email with all of the above details (a single paragraph summary, plus the above with a few more details (names, numbers, etc)) to supervisor Ms. H, three second level supervisors (since I could not tell from the website which one Ms. H reported to directly), and the director of school transportation, copied to the principal and assistant principal of Luke's school. Here is my closing paragraph:
"For six days, no bus has come. For three of those days, I have left phone messages and/or voicemails that resulted in no return call and no resolution to the issue. For six days, I have had to take my son to school, causing me and/or my husband to be late to work each day. This is unacceptable. I expect someone to call me back today, Monday, 8/19/2013, before 4:00 PM and let me know what the resolution is to this problem. I can be reached via cell at ### or via my direct work number at ###. If no follow up call is received, I will contact the superintendent tomorrow, Tuesday, 8/20/2013. Please contact me if you need any additional information. Thank you for your attention to this matter."

I pushed "send" on that email right at 9:00 AM Monday morning. Like magic, my phone rang around 10:30. It was one of the second level supervisors. I was assured that this was the first he had heard about the problem. He would personally be in contact with supervisor Ms. H (I had left a voicemail for her on Friday, remember?), and one of the two of them would contact me before 12:30 that day.

At 11:30 AM, my phone rang again. This time it was Ms. H, saying this was the first she had heard about the issue. She said that she had not actually seen my email because she had (ironically) been in a meeting at my son's school all morning. She only knew about it because she had a phone message from her supervisor when she left the meeting, and he filled her in over the phone. She did not want to wait until she got back to the office to return my call (worried about that 12:30 deadline, I suspect), so could I please recap the story for her. I did, and I explained that I was perplexed as to how this could be the first she had heard about the issue, considering that I had left messages with the main number for her on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and I had personally left her a voicemail on Friday. "Well, ma'am, I am out working issues on the routes until about 9AM, and then I am back out on the routes by 1PM, so if you left me a voicemail after that, I haven't been in the office yet to get it." No, actually, I left you the voicemail at 8AM on Friday, and that still doesn't explain why the two messages I had left via the main number on Tuesday and Thursday had also gone unanswered. There was a lot of "um, uh, er" coming from her at that point. She simply reiterated that this was the first she had heard about the issue, but that we would get it resolved today (Monday, day 6 of school). Ms. H said she had tried to reach the bus driver before calling me but had not yet spoken with her, but she assured me that one of them would call me back that day.

At 12:30 PM, my phone rang for yet a third time. It was the bus driver, Ms. B. "I'm sorry, I haven't been going by that stop. The sign at the other end of the street says it's a dead end, so I thought I'd get stuck. I asked the kids at that stop if there were any other kids on the road, and they said no, so I just didn't go down there." So wait, let me get this straight. Instead of contacting your supervisor with your concern that one of your assigned stops was down a dead end road where you feared you would be unable to turn around, you instead chose to take the word of some elementary school students as to whether or not you needed to drive past a listed stop on your assigned route? Really?!!

I explained that yes, the road does dead end, but only after there is another road to turn on. The assigned bus stop is just before that turn. I can see it from my house. "Well, why don't I just pick him up at your house?" Because, if you do, then you *will* be stuck, because you will be beyond the road where you can actually make a turn! ::headdesk:: So please, just drive past the assigned stop. You can pick up my son, and it will be obvious what to do next to avoid the dead end.

"Well, if he rode in the afternoons, I could have just asked him where he lives, but he doesn't." Okay, #1: Not his fault he doesn't ride in the afternoons. If you were driving your assigned route, this would not have happened in the first place. YOU were the one choosing to skip stops. #2: Giving YOU, the bus driver, directions to his stop is not my 8-year-old elementary school son's responsibility. Either you should be figuring that out, or if you can't, there should be someone you can speak to at work who can help you with that, like maybe your supervisor. And #3: Even if he did ride in the afternoons, Luke himself would not have been able to help you! He is not the most observant child, and you come into the neighborhood via an entrance that we almost never use (there are four possible entrances). He would have had no idea how to get to our house from there, even if he did ride in the afternoons. He can recite his address, yes, but not give directions to it. Some other child might have been able to do that, but not mine. And oh yeah, see #2: Not his responsibility! ::snort::

So, after all of that, other than managing to get me in touch with the bus driver, who is it that *actually* solved this problem? I DID! Remind me again why there are supervisors, if all they are going to do is let the parent resolve the issue? I should have just gone to the school (or one of the other bus stops) and spoken to the driver directly. That would have solved the issue much sooner. But no, I chose to follow the rules, per the transportation website (if you have questions or concerns, please call this number), and this is what it got me! Makes me wonder some days why I am teaching my son to follow the rules, when all it ever seems to do is cause crap like this.

On Tuesday, 8/20, the seventh day of school, the bus finally came by our stop. It was 15 minutes past our assigned pick up time (and has continued to be 15 minutes late every day since), but it was there. I suppose that's all that matters (assuming it continues to arrive at a consistent time), but obviously, I'm still a bit upset about it.

Currently feeling: beyond frustrated!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - August 14, 2013

Currently feeling: ready for a new adventure

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of Third Grade

And here we are again, the beginning of another school year. Time for the annual comparison shot.

Click to biggify.

WOW! I really didn't think he had grown all that much in the last year, but the door says differently! LOL I know they are not lined up exactly, but still, you get the idea. He really will be taller than I am by the time he finished elementary school. And just for the fun of it, here are all four "first day of school" pictures lined up.

Click to biggify.

I think that big kid on the end ate the other ones! Pretty startling when you see it all laid out like that. Some days I think we'll never get to the end, and some days I can't believe it is going so fast. Only 9 more first day photos left! EEK!

Currently feeling: who is that grown up young man?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to Become an Accidental English Paper Piecer in 10 Easy Steps

How to become an accidental English paper piecing quilter in 10 easy steps:
  1. Want to become a quilter, but know that you do not have the time or energy to learn to use a sewing machine. Spend years admiring quilts of others, reading about them, and dreaming of "one day" becoming a quilter.

    Image from Wikipedia Commons.
  2. Attend a girls' weekend with some long-time friends who are all very crafty. Admire some of their quilts in person. Mention this quilting longing that you have that is hampered by lack of sewing ability.

    Image from Wikipedia Commons.
  3. Have several friends pull out their hexagon quilts that they are all piecing by hand using English paper piecing. Become intrigued, but stand fast in your knowledge that you do not have the time or money to pick up a new hobby.

    Image from Wikipedia Commons.
  4. Visit a quilt shop with said friends. Lovingly fondle fabrics and live vicariously through your friends' purchases, but do not purchase anything yourself, since you cannot actually sew or quilt.

    Image from Wikipedia Commons.
  5. Arrange for a friend to accidentally purchase two copies of a good beginner book on hexagon quilts. Offer to purchase her second copy so that you can at least read about it, in case you do ever have the time and money to start quilting.
  6. Upon returning home, have said friend let you know that she will be mailing your book. Have a second friend who lives near the first friend mention that she will pop a little something into the box when it ships in honor of your birthday. Suspect nothing more than a bottle of nail polish.

    Image from 123rf.
  7. Open box when it arrives. Instead of nail polish, discover that your two friends have colluded to make sure you have virtually no choice but to start learning to do English paper piecing. After all, you don't want to hurt their feelings.
  8. Start reading new quilting book.

  9. Cut and baste fabric.
  10. Start piecing.
Special thanks to my dear friends Annette and Terri. You two are the best!
Currently feeling: excited and a touch intimidated by this new adventure

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Bengal Has Lymphoma

Or we think so. He's lost 2.5 lbs (almost 20% of his body weight) in the last few weeks (not exactly sure when it started). Took him in to the vet today. Vet felt an abdominal mass, so did an x-ray. Kidneys enlarged (nearly twice normal size), heart not visible due to pleural effusion (fluid in the chest cavity). Combination of symptoms and location of the mass indicates lymphoma, for which there is no cure. All we can do is slow it down and/or treat the symptoms.

We'll wait on the blood work to come back (probably Saturday) so we can make an informed decision. Hoping it comes back that he's okay to start steroids to reduce the inflammation of the kidneys and spark his appetite. Vet assures us that he is not in any immediate danger (assuming he starts eating in the next few days), nor is he in much/any pain for now. If he can't take the steroids, then I'm not sure what we'll do.

I know he's 14 years old, but DH was there when he was born, and he's been in our home since he was 7 weeks old, nearly as long as we've been married. He was just a little 2lb fluffball when he came home. Now he's a 15 lb brute (and not overweight at 15 lbs), and about as brutal as a powder puff (but mind the claws). It's breaking my heart to see him down to nearly 12 lbs. We want him to be with us a little while longer, but we don't want him to suffer. Cross your paws for us, please.

Currently feeling: miserable

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - August 7, 2013

Currently feeling: such a precious picture of my niece

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Movie Muse Shorts: Pacific Rim, The Wolverine

Pacific Rim -As a "Godzilla versus Transformers" movie, this was fine; no more or less than anyone expected. To me, though, it was still a disappointment. It was billed as a "guy movie" that was also trying to make a conscious effort to appeal to women as well. I can't say that it utterly failed, but it didn't really do any better than most of the comic book-type movies that have come before it. Other than the romantic aspects (which I almost would have preferred them to avoid), they could have easily replaced the female lead with a male character with very few alterations to the plot. If that was their idea of "making an effort," then it was a sad one indeed. Again, overall, on okay movie. Glad I saw it on the big screen (and equally glad I did NOT see it in 3D; I'd have been ill almost immediately, because both the monsters and the tech were amazing to look at, but the rest left a bit to be desired.

The Wolverine - Another "good but not great" film for the summer. (Seems to have been a lot of those.) Some very interesting moments, for sure, but overall fairly bland (if frenetic). Hugh Jackman does his best to carry the film all on his own, and he very nearly pulls it off. I felt some of the moments and characters were just unnecessary; the time and energy could have been put to better use elsewhere, but the formula required their presence. I know he's in the next X-Men film, but at some point, the ageless Wolverine is going to start showing his age (if he isn't already). I really do think he works better in an ensemble setting, even if it is just to show him as a loner. I miss that dynamic in these more "stand alone" type films.

Currently feeling: hoping the winter film slate is better