Friday, June 29, 2007

The Ratties are now home!

The kids and I sprang the Rat Brothers out of the slammer yesterday! We were all excited to be part of this rescue mission, and (being that it happens so rarely) the folks at the Humane Society were practically giddy to have a pair of small animals being adopted.

The Boys came to the shelter without names, and the staff there began calling them "Billy" and "Daniel". As these are N's new babies, she decided to rename one of them - we now have "Billy" and "Tommy"! (for our friends in soCal, yes, they were named after our buddies down there). These are pictures of Tommy...

Billy and Tommy are both albino rats, and kind of hard to tell apart. Billy is a little bit bigger, and has some slight rusty coloring on his sides (although I'm not so sure that wouldn't just wash away if we bathed him, LOL!). They have a complimentary exam scheduled with a local small animal vet on Monday, as part of the post-adoption process. They eat rat blocks, and an assortment of fresh veggies (so far they've had fresh broccoli leaves and leaf lettuce from our garden, and organic apple slices). N. thinks that people should know that they are really good lap pets, and enjoy being scratched behind their ears and under their chin.

Yesterday was the last day of the first session of swimming lessons. YAY! They have next week off, and then go back for a second session with a new teacher. In spite of my disdain for the teaching methods the current instructor has used, I have to admit she's gotten great results. N. is down to half a float, which is more of a security blanket than anything else (she started with two floats at the beginning of the session). She is now eagerly jumping into the pool (compared with two weeks ago when we could barely pry her off the edge), and can swim the length of the practice pool using a sloppy crawl stroke, or a modified back stroke, and is working on the leg work for the breast stroke. A. dropped down a float on the front, is jumping in on his own, putting his head under by himself on the swim across the pool, and starting the switch from dog paddle to front crawl. Best of all, they're disappointed to be taking a week off, and are looking forward to the next session of lessons!

Update on my mom: the "thing" in her larynx isn't cancer! But she was just diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) yesterday, and is taking the news that she has a lifelong condition which will never improve quite hard. She's fairly young, and this is currently feeling like an awful life sentence for her. The growth in her larynx still needs to be dealt with, but for now the focus is going to be on her respiratory health.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New babies for us!!!

Rat babies - for N's birthday. We've been talking about it for quite some time. She's turning 8, and is definitely to a point where she can take on their day-to-day care. She's really been wanting something small and cuddly that she can hold and pet, and these guys should fit the bill. We bring the boys home tomorrow.

We're getting rescue rats through the humane society. You can see them here for now (I'll put photos up after we get them home) UPDATE: they're no longer listed, but I encourage people to use if they're looking for a pet! The description says that they haven't been handled much, but that was before they were sent off to foster care. They returned a few weeks ago, and are now quite friendly, and very good with the kids. When we started considering rats as pets, it never occurred to me to go to the humane society, but (unfortunately) they really have nearly every type of pet available for adoption. We were in the "small pet" portable today, and there were cages of hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, ferrets, guinnea pigs, mice, and rats. If you're ever in the market for a small animal, please consider adopting!

Monday, June 25, 2007


I was grocery shopping last week and came across Gooseberry Jam on the PB&J aisle. I haven't seen gooseberry jam since I was a kid at my grandparents' house. Our grandma used to make the most outstanding jams and jellies, but gooseberry jam really stands out in my mind. I think because it was, quite possibly, the most repulsive looking food I ever let past my lips and then ended up LOVING! I always thought of frog eggs when I looked at gooseberry jam - like plump frog eggs suspended in a gel - but tasty! In a fit of nostalgia, I purchased...

And this morning, I used it to top a warm, fluffy, buttermilk pancake, just like we used to do at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I have to say that my first impression upon opening the jar was that it looked all wrong. Grandma's was more translucent with a slight light green tint, while this is sort of a brownish yellow. At least it's staying true to the "not appealing to look at" quality that Grandma's had. Hero's gooseberry jam is all mashed up and mixed together, while Grandma's retained more of the whole gooseberry goodness. And the taste of Hero's... well... not the same. I think Grandma's must have been a little sweeter. And tasted less bad. And without this strange aftertaste that seems to linger an hour after consumption. (I'll go brush my teeth soon, I promise). So this walk down food-memory lane was a bit of a disappointment, but makes me appreciate Grandma's culinary feat with that crazy little berry even more than before.

And in other Goose news... This weekend, hubby took our boy out for a bike ride this weekend while I took the girl out to choose goodie bags (and goodies!) for her upcoming bday party. (N. and I had quite a nice time out, btw). When we all returned home I noticed that A. had a big scrape on his elbow, so I asked him about.

Me: "A. where'd you get that big scrape on your elbow? Did it happen on your bikeride?"

A: (one hand on his hip, other hand flips out, palm up - those of you who know him in person know just how he talks with his hands!) "Well (pause) I'll tell you. It was a goose."

Me: (certain I'd heard incorrectly) "A goose?"

A: "Yes. A goose! I was standing with my elbow like this (hands on his hips), and the goose bit me!"

Me: "Wow! Really? Did you cry?"

A: "No. Well, yes. It surprised me!"

I always knew geese were no good. Dumb parks, overrun with waterfowl... sheesh. Some goose is gonna get it now. Nobody attacks my children and gets away with it. Dang. Looks like now the war is on with Spittle Bugs AND Geese. If Nature crosses me too many more times, I'll have to write it all down to keep track, LOL!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We've been so busy! Apparently these twice/week swimming lessons officially pushed me over into Over Scheduled Land. That plus all the last week of classes stuff, dentist appointments, an end of the year fieldtrip, and weekly parkdays - oh, and homeschooling. I tried to thoroughly embrace unschooling, I really did. It speaks to my soul, but is too big and scary for me to dive headlong into it. N. is still doing math and reading everyday this summer, though I expect we'll take a week off here and there. We took months off at a time in the past year, so I don't feel like I'm robbing her of anything if we sit down together for an hour or so to keep the progress up in those areas. She's even been writing letters to a few people - writing on her own is a new thing, so I'm trying to support this new interest without cramming it down her throat. Always a balancing act.

Two pictures from the end of the year Springfest at the district homeschool campus. One is N. acting out a sleepy owlet during the reading of "The Tree in the Ancient Forest" by Carol Reed-Jones. The other is her dancing around during the "Silly Dance Contest" routine that she and her classmates did in their Drama class.

Swimming lessons went great for both kids today. I wish I'd been blogging about just what a militant teacher this swim instructor has turned out to be. Not a warm, fuzzy bone in her body. Has the kids in tears most classes... but the kids are learning and improving. It's physically uncomfortable for me to watch most of the time. She relies on scare tactics, blaming, and other coercive maneuvers to get the kids to do what she needs them to do. It's so completely opposite of the way I operate with kids (my own, and others) and just people in general. I always find myself trying to be sensitive to their fears and respectful of their legitimate concerns. When my daughter went underwater while on her back trying to swim, and finally came up sputtering, crying, and physically shaking, the instructor said to her "Why are you crying? You did that to yourself! If you hadn't tipped your chin so far forward, you would have been just fine!" and then left her sobbing on the opposite side of the pool, I wanted to leap over the fence and hold that b*tch underwater myself. This from the woman who two weeks ago said my daughter could trust her. Huh? So she basically teaches through ridicule and verbal tongue lashings. It's exhausting for all of us. And then we found out that this lady won't be teaching the kids next month. I'm thinking "Hallelujah!", but the kids were sad and mopey that they will be losing their "favorite teacher". Again - Huh? So while it's not at all the way I go about things, maybe there is a place for it after all. I did some research on the 'net somewhere, and came across an article that basically said that kids crying in swimming lessons is perfectly normal, and that the best way for them to get over their fear is to just keep going - they'll get over it. It encouraged lessons to be taught apart from the parents, or at least for the parents not to intervene in the process - so I'm trying. I'm biting my tongue and sitting on my hands, and watching my kids slowly turn into swimmers. Anyway - pictures of the kids at lessons...

More entries to come!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Treading water

Lots going on. The kids started swimming lessons this week. They use these weird foam squares attached to an adjustable belt to assist the kids as they learn to swim. N. hasn't had any lessons since the summer before last, but she can float on her tummy, and dog paddle underwater. She doesn't float on her back - mostly flails and freaks out, actually, LOL! But that seems to be pretty normal. I keep trying to convince her that if she just relaxes, the water will hold her up, and it's actually quite calming. She's not quite buying it. She wears two squares on her back. A. had a couple sessions of mommy and me swimming classes two summers ago, so he's starting from square one (ha, ha - he actually wears 2 squares on his back, and two on his front). He had such a big smile on his face throughout his lesson. He's going to have fun with this. Actually, I think this teacher will be good for both kids - firm, yet kind.

After their lessons, the kids were talking in the back of the car. They were talking about their mutual discomfort with floating on their backs, and I was telling N. to relax and trust the floaties (foam squares) and the water.

N: "They'll hold me up?"
Me: "Yep."
N: "But there are only two of them."
Me: "I know, but between you and those floaties, you aren't going to sink."
N: "Wow. Okay."
A: "What about me? Will I sink?"
N: "No! If I have two floaties, and I won't sink, and you have four floaties - there's no way you'll sink! And you're even lighter than me!"
A: "I'm lighter?"
N: "Yeah. Lighter means you're easier to carry."
A: "Yeah. I'm lighter, and you're darker."

LMAO. They crack me up.

Last night was our homeschool group's Annual Meeting where we had to elect board members, and appoint our operations team. I have one year left in my two year term, so I'm still on. I volunteered to be the Chair. It was that, or continue as Secretary, but I'm happy not to type up notes anymore, and now I can be a control freak, LOL! I'd been planning on volunteering to be President, but life is kind of up in the air right now. Which leads me to...

Friday night my mom called to tell me that the ENT, who was supposed to be checking out her sinuses, found a growth on her larynx. To shrink it, she'll undergo radiation treatment. The radiation will eventually cause her to lose her voice, which should return 3-6 weeks after treatments are over. If the growth is benign, then presumably that's as bad as it gets, and life returns to normal at the end of summer. If not, well... we just have to wait and see. I can't let myself get worked up about the unknown. I can't allow myself to speculate about the Worst Case Scenario. I just can't. I have to stay hopeful until.... I don't know. Over 90% of laryngeal cancers occur in people who are heavy smokers or drinkers. My mom doesn't fall into either of those categories. But she's sick. She's been sick for months, and she's not really getting better. She's had a low-grade fever for over a month now, and swollen lymph nodes... but I can't go there. I just can't. And so we wait.