Sunday, December 18, 2011

Toby, the Darwin-Proof Cat Part 2

You might have read the first edition of the adventures of Toby, the cat who adopted us last July. If not, here it is: Toby Goes to College, or the Darwin-Proof Cat

On Friday, the day we had the oak tree felled, Toby disappeared. Normally he comes to the door if I call him, but that day, nothing. I figured he got spooked by the chainsaw or the strangers in our his back yard. It wasn't an especially cold night, and there are places in our yard we have for him to snuggle down and stay warm, so I decided to just leave him where ever he was.

Saturday morning, still no Toby.

Saturday afternoon, still no Toby.

Saturday night, still no Toby.

Sunday morning, still no Toby.

I figured the cat met his doom somewhere. I felt bad, but what could I do?

This afternoon when we came home from church, Toby was waiting at the back door.

The pitiful little guy was limping! His front paw pads look terribly scraped up, maybe even burned. (I'll save the visual imagery in case anyone is queasy.) But walking seems very painful for him. He even let me douse his paws with hydrogen peroxide. He ate and drank like a pig, happy to be home, then he limped over to my daughter's bed and took a looooong nap.

I would love to know what kind of trouble that cat found. I don't think he'll want to go on another adventure any time soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm in the wrong business...

There is (er, make that was) an oak tree at the top of our driveway. It was nice in the summer, because it shaded our cars. In the fall, dropped acorns like crazy! And this year we had a bumper crop of acorns dropping on our cars and our heads. (Let me tell ya, I know why Chicken Little thought the sky was falling. Those suckers HURT!)

Beside the acorns, the roots kept rain from draining correctly out of our yard. We had puddles (no, ponds) in our back yard whenever we had a good rain. Add in the leaves that fell nonstop from the tree, and it was a soupy, soggy mess back there.

Beside the acorns and drainage problems, it was starting to press against our fence. It had bowed the top rail and started to grow around the chain link below. We knew eventually the roots would press up on and crack our driveway. It was only a matter of time.

And our neighbor...She's got the same problems with another oak tree at the top of her driveway. But her oak tree is about 4 times as big and wide as ours.

She called out a tree trimming company to completely fell and remove her tree. We told the guys that we'd like an estimate to get our tree felled and removed too. They quoted us $350, which was an excellent price, but too much for our tight budget right now.

Honey has bargaining in his blood. He counter-offered that we'd pay them $200 cash if they just felled the tree. We'd remove it later. (Which is really no problem. Honey has felled and removed lots of trees from our property, but this particular oak tree was too big for him to do by himself. And with it being between two houses, he didn't want to risk it falling the wrong way and taking one of them completely out!)

The tree guys agreed! They put a rope around the tree, then notched it out and pulled. It went down right where it was supposed to. The whole process didn't even take 5 minutes! Let me do the math...if I were to do that sort of work on an hourly wage, I'd be earning a whoppin' $2400 an hour!!

They thought they messed up our fence when the tree fell, but Honey told them that the top rail was already bowed. They insisted on giving us $40 back to replace it. So even at $160 for 5 minutes' work, that's still $1920 an hour. Wow-ee, I need to get an arborist degree...

As I type this, Honey is having fun with his favorite toy--the chainsaw. He's cutting the tree into fireplace-sized logs. He'll probably put an ad on Craigslist for free green firewood. Whenever we need something hauled away in a hurry and we don't care about whether or not we get paid for it, Honey puts "free" in the ad. Within 10 minutes, he's always had someone come to get it. He's done that with cinderblocks, an old freezer, and more oak wood from a tree he felled earlier this year.

Even if "free firewood" didn't work out and we needed to haul the tree away, the local dump in our town doesn't charge money to drop off lawn debris. So that would be free to us, too. We had a termite-infested pine tree about two years ago that we paid to have felled. (That was a nasty mess.) Honey was able to take it to the dump for free.

I think I'd enjoy the tree trimming business. But I do see a problem...I'm very much afraid of heights...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I just found this blog, and so far I LOVE it:

The author got me thinking about Honey's and my own philosophy of raising children. I know it's not a popular philosophy these days, but here goes:

Kids NEED boundaries. They actively search for boundaries. If they goof off and don't feel the boundary, they'll goof off more and more and more until they do find that boundary they desperately seek. They have freedom to have fun, grow, and be carefree kids within those boundaries.

Boundaries are a security blanket that help kids feel loved and cared for. Feeling the boundaries let kids know that adults are watching over them.

So, what is a boundary? They are simply the rules of the house.

We have some "rules of the house" around here:

1. We love each other. (This is a hard boundary lately, given we have two toddlers who aren't particularly great at loving others just yet.)
2. We eat dinner, even if we don't like it. (aka: Mommy is not a short-order cook. aka: Tonight's menu is "Take It or Leave It.")
3. We obey laws.
4. We go to church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights, unless we are sick. (Which we have been lately, but we are gradually rejoining the "land of the living", Praise the Lord!)
5. We do our best in school.
6. If Mommy or Daddy say to do something, you do it. You don't have to like it, but you'd better not complain, and you do it in as cheerfully a manner as you can muster.
7. We hold an adult's hand if we are crossing the street or walking in parking lots.

8. All these rules are dynamic and changeable as situations arise.
ie: Don't touch the Christmas tree. This is a new rule which our boys are having a hard time adjusting to. I can understand all the pretty, touchable ornaments with twinkly lights are hard to leave alone. And once we take the Christmas tree down, that temptation will be gone. But in the meantime, this is a boundary you'd better not cross. See here for how my boys "test" this boundary:

(They like to "cover up" with the tree skirt. How cute is that?!)

Another situation where boundaries change was my daughter's account on Facebook. For a long time, I wouldn't let her have a FB page. Really, that girl is too busy with her friends in REAL LIFE to spend even more time with them on the computer. But as it became apparent to me that most of her friends had a FB page and she was falling out of the teenage social loop, I relented. However, her FB account had boundaries associated with it. First, I had to know the password. She knew I'd check in on it frequently. Yes, that meant I knew what her friends were talking about. (So she knew that she'd better not "friend" anyone of questionable character.) That also meant I could protect her from all the ugliness in the world such as pedophiles and other creeps who wish my baby girl harm. Second, she was not allowed to ever make her profile public. She had the strictest privacy settings available. Third, she was not to ever post a picture of herself on her profile. For the longest time, this was her profile picture:

She has a beloved, well-worn pair of purple Converse tennies. This photo suited her well.

Once she turned 18, though, we decided she could post a picture of herself in her profile. (Funny story: at 7:15AM on the day she turned 18, she posted a photo of herself. A little quick at the trigger, eh?) But she has proven herself trustworthy with the boundaries we set, so we have given her more freedom.

Another boundary we set for our daughter was that she was not allowed to have a boyfriend until she was old enough to get married. At first she didn't like that, because all her then junior-high friends were hot in love with their beaus, who changed on a weekly basis. She was out of the "love loop." But as she saw the drama, broken hearts, unwanted pregnancies, etc. that resulted from it all, she realized the boundary was logical and understandable. Now that she is 18 and "technically" allowed to get married (*cough* over my dead body!!), we have said that she can have a boyfriend. I won't lie to you, I didn't exactly relish telling her the big news. But thankfully, by God's grace, she wasn't particularly excited about it. She's got too many other things to worry about than boyfriends right now. THANK YOU LORD!!! Don't get me wrong, she has gobs of boy friends, but no boyfriend. She goes out with lots of co-ed friend groups, and we're okay with that. She's chosen good friends, and we are happy for her to find her own place in the world. We're just not in a hurry for her to get wrapped up with romantic entanglements just yet.

I remember some boundaries that my parents set for me. Most of them were logical and understandable. I didn't always agree with them, though. I remember a few:

1. No pantyhose until my junior-high school graduation ceremony. That was rough, especially since all the "cool" girls were wearing pantyhose. Today, I still prefer wearing pantyhose to being bare-legged when I'm wearing a skirt, as I'm naturally VERY pale with what I call "chicken skin." I'll spare you the photo of THAT!

2. No dating until I was 16. Oh, I SOOOOOO disobeyed that rule. I didn't go out on a technical "date," but I had boyfriends. My parents knew about them, too. Funny how I hated the rule for myself, but Honey and I gave our daughter an even stricter rule.

3. No make-up until I was 16. My parents mercifully changed that rule once my sisters and I started high school. I didn't give my daughter that rule. When she asked if she could start wearing makeup, I let her wear powder, concealer, and lip gloss. That's all she was really interested in at the time anyway. As she got older and asked to wear eye makeup, I bought some for her and showed her how to put it on right. I told her frequently, "Makeup is best worn so that no one knows you're wearing it. We are not wearing war paint!" Today I think she wears her makeup in a very pretty way. Me, however???? Uhm, I avoid makeup most days, LOL.

What about you? Do you remember any rules from childhood that have shaped how you are raising your children?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Way, Way TMI (Don't say I didn't warn you!)

Last chance to stop reading this if you're queasy at all....Okay, here goes:

My whole family has a stomach bug. Even the cat threw up this morning.

My 18 month old started vomiting on Friday afternoon. He vomited pretty much every 20 minutes for several hours. His little body is exhausted. He is still throwing up.

Last night, my 2 1/2 year old started vomiting. He vomited pretty much every 20 minutes for several hours. He is still throwing up. He has been really sleepy today. He took a 4-hour nap, and went back to bed at 8:00.

I started vomiting around 4:00 this morning. I vomited pretty much every 20 minutes for several hours. (Do we see a pattern here?) Thankfully, I've been able to hold down a Nutri-Grain bar, half a banana, and some ginger ale since late this morning. I've got a killer headache, though. And I'm very dizzy. Daughter and Honey have the same headache and dizziness, so I'm pretty sure the boys have it too. Aspirin didn't touch my headache. I just took a big fat 800 mg Motrin, hoping I can hold it down long enough to work.

Honey started throwing up around 6:00 this evening. Yep, he's been vomiting every 20 minutes or so.

My daughter started vomiting around 7:00 tonight. Guess how often she's been vomiting? Blech...

The blessing in all this? Honey and I have not been really gross sick at the same time. Honey did about 15 loads of laundry today before he got sick. Y'all, I'm not even exaggerating, either. Every washcloth, every hand towel, every bath towel (except one), the baby's bedding, our bedding, every throw blanket we own has been puked on. We've shampooed our carpets, mopped, and wiped barf from practically every surface in our house--toilets, sinks, cupboard doors, dishwasher door. My older boy threw up IN BETWEEN THE COUCH CUSHIONS!

I'm planning to get some Pedialyte tomorrow. Our daughter caught a bug like this when she was 2, and she got dehydrated and had to be admitted to the hospital. I SO don't want to repeat that experience!

Do you have any tried-and-true home remedies to help with stomach bugs?

***Day Two Update: The illness has moved downward, so to speak. At least everyone in our family (but one) is potty trained!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Growing Up, Encouraging Others

A close friend of mine has a son who graduated from Army basic training today. Honey (a former drill sergeant), the boys, and I were able to drive down to his graduation ceremony.

What memories it brought back! Pride and patriotism. I remember the heady feeling I'd get over the deference given to me because I was a drill sergeant's wife. (Honey would make his troops stand at Parade Rest whenever I showed up!) I recall meeting some of the new soldiers my Honey trained, and their parents thanking Honey for transforming their "boys" into "men."

I also felt sadness for Honey's comrades who lost their lives on the battlefield. My heart ached for their widows and children they left behind. I felt thankfulness that my Honey was home, retired, safe beside me.

The new soldiers who graduated today seem like babies to me. Young boys who don't understand the gravity of their decision to defend our country. They recited a creed that included a phrase along the lines of, "if necessary, I will fight to the death." Unfortunately, death may be a real possibility for some of these new soldiers. I prayed right then and there that it wouldn't.

Today's speaker said something noteworthy to me: "The Army is the strength of the nation. The soldier is the strength of the Army. The family is the strength of the soldier."

That statement reminds me of scripture. 2 Timothy 2:4 says, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

Soldiers who aren't worried about drama "back home" can clearly focus on the mission at hand. They know their spouses and families are taking care of everything in a competent way.

If you are kin to a member of the military who is deployed, encourage them to focus completely on their job. Assure them that you can handle the "back home" stuff that comes up. Tell them "Don't worry about me/your kids/your parents/whoever. I'll take care of things here. Focus on what you need to do to get back home safely."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Dad's Seizures

I called my parents this afternoon to see how my Dad was feeling. It turns out that they spent most of Friday night and Saturday night in the ER. My dad's seizures returned in a major way. He had more than 20 seizures IN THE WAITING ROOM! The neurologist quadrupled his anti-seizure meds and put him on a tranquilizer. The next night, his seizures weren't any better, but my mom didn't even keep track of how many he had.

Please pray for the doctors to be able to pinpoint exactly what is causing his seizures. At this point, they don't think it's the cavernoma that is causing them, because it hasn't changed at all since they found it in 2009. The cavernoma isn't operable, either, as it is in the part of the brain that controls speech and facial muscles. (But because of his original symptoms of losing speech and facial control, it would make sense to me that the cavernoma should be the first thing to be investigated. I am not medically trained, though, and the doctors might have already done enough tests to rule it out. I just don't know.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Do You Trust Me?"

This is an amazing blog: Living On Less Money if you need a warm feeling about the Lord's faithfulness to His children. I suggest you start at the beginning of the blog to get the "full effect."

I started thinking recently about the Lord's faithfulness to my family and me. I also started thinking about the ways my trust in Him comes and goes, much to my shame. I realized that my circumstances often dictated how much I trusted Him. For instance, if money was tight, I seemed to trust in HIM to make it through. If money was great and we had extra, I seemed to trust in my own abilities. (I often forgot that it was the Lord who gave us the extra money in the first place!)

I remember a few ways the Lord came through in my times of leanness. When Honey and I were just starting out, times were T-I-G-H-T. They are with most young couples, I suppose. In our case, after our bills were paid, we had a whoppin' $40 left over for the whole month! But my memories of those lean times were magical and happy. Maybe because we knew where the "freebies" were in our town, but probably because the Lord came through in creative, amazing ways for us.

I remember when we were expecting our daughter. I needed to get a crib for her, but I didn't know how in the world I'd be able to afford one. I also wanted a Jenny Lind crib, and I asked the Lord to somehow provide one for the baby. I left it with Him. The next day, I decided to practice my flute. As I opened the case, I found a $50 bill I had completely forgotten about. (When I flew from Texas to the base where Honey was stationed several months prior, I hid some cash in various places so that if my purse was stolen, I wouldn't have lost our entire savings.) This $50 bill in my flute case was going to get my baby a crib! The very next day I found in the newspaper classified ads a Jenny Lind crib for sale. The price: $50. My baby got her Jenny Lind crib. I sometimes wonder if the Lord only gave me that special crib because I specifically asked for it, or if He just wanted me to learn to ask specifically for things close to my heart. I'd like to think I'd have been content with another style of crib, but that memory is one of my favorites.

I am now a firm believer in tithing, or giving 10% of our gross income back to the Lord's church. No, I didn't always feel that way, but over several years the Lord gradually convicted Honey and me that we needed to do our fair share of supporting  His ministries. The trouble was, our budget was maxxed out. Really, it was MAXXED out.  There was no way in our own abilities we could stretch our budget to give a whole 10% back to the Lord! But the Lord gave us some wonderful friends who were being blessed in tithing, and they shared their testimonies of how the Lord made it work for them. So in January of 2004, Honey and I wrote our very first tithe check. I remember it was $500, which seemed HUGE at the time. (It still is actually, since our tithe right now doesn't even come close that amount. But the Lord has always remained faithful!) That was a very painful check to write though, because there was no earthly way our budget would last through the entire month with $500 missing. But God isn't confined to earthly ways!

I don't know if you remember, but Congress voted to raise the child exemption for the 2003 tax year from $500 to $1000. Because of that, our tax return in January 2004 was exactly $500 more than we'd anticipated. Our tithe!! Paid for by the United States Congress, no less!! Our budget survived that first month of tithing, and we had a neat story we'd be able to share with others.

February 2004, we wrote out that $500 check again. We knew we wouldn't get another tax return, but we were excited to see how the Lord would make our budget happen this second month. A week later, we got a very unexpected late Christmas check from my great-grandfather, and our budget survived.

Honey deployed to Iraq in February 2004. Starting in his March paycheck, he received all kinds of extra allowances: hazardous duty pay, separation pay, etc. The total amount? $500 per month.

Over the next year of Honey's deployment, not only did God provide that tithe, but we paid off ALL of our $20K+ of debt. Credit cards and a car, completely paid free and clear. Don't ask me how that happened, because I just don't know. There is no earthly way an accountant could look at our finances and figure out how it was done. An average financial advisor would have told us to quit giving our money away and pay off our own debt first. But the Lord's ways are not our ways. Only by blessing others did the Lord bless us.

The Lord opened up the opportunity for me to go back to school in 2006. I got a paralegal certificate and landed my dream job working for a prominent local attorney. Much to my surprise, though, the Lord decided this job would be temporary, for He had other plans for us around the corner: a baby! Who'da thunk, after 15 years of having an only child, we'd have another one? Honey wanted to retire from the Army and finish his own education though, so I needed to work full-time through my pregnancy so we could save, save, save as much as we could. During that job (and Honey's deployment to Afghanistan), we were able to buy a minivan, pay it off in less than a year, and get a good nest egg to cushion us through Honey's college years.

Money is tight again, as neither Honey nor I are working, we now have three kiddoes to provide for, and inflation is rearing its ugly head in our budget. BUT... the Lord has remained faithful to us! My own sinful fears about how we're going to make it sometimes bubble up, but the Lord just keeps bringing back to the memories of His faithfulness in the past. The Lord of my past is the Lord of my present and future. He's got a perfect track record, and I am excited to see how He will provide for us if we just trust him!


"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    "Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!