Thursday, October 30, 2008

I am a threat to Beijing!!

How cool is this - I downloaded a Firefox add-on called "Great Firewall of China", and here is a screenshot of me not being able to access my blog while using it.

The add-on reroutes your internet access through a server in mainland China, so you can experience the Chinese government's take on the World Wide Web firsthand. I haven't tried researching melamine yet.
I want that screen shot on a t-shirt!

Brand-New Spectacles!!!

So I finally, after three and a half years, have seen an eye doctor. We have a new one who actually specializes in stuff like cataracts, and I happen to have a cataract that hadn't been looked at in... three and a half years.
It was so funny. Getting the prescription for my right eye was easy. Then he went to my left, and it was seeing double! Took lots of "Which is better, 1 or 2?" before it wasn't seeing double, then several more lenses to get it as good as it WOULD get, which wasn't great. That one's no longer fully correctable. And now I know why - cataracts are supposed to grow from the edge inward, but mine didn't get that memo. It's growing from the center of the lens, outward, so it's already right there in my pupil and already messing up my vision.
Hmmm... not driving at night anymore.
Surgery? Sooner rather than later. We're to think about it and prepare for it as an eventual necessity, because I could have thirty years to think about it or I could have three. Cataracts in young people are unpredictable that way. So just, sometime in probably the next five years.
We thought, when we picked this place, that it'd just be good to have an optometrist specializing in vision problems IN CASE I need surgery one day. We didn't know that seeing a specialist really does get different results than walking into the Optical Center at Sam's Club. Not that they don't do good work there - but if you HAVE a vision problem beyond just needing glasses, you should be getting examined by someone who can tell you what you need to do about it. Didn't know that! For example, I'd been told before at Sam's, that the problems I had were caused by the cataracts, and so changing my prescription at that time wouldn't fix anything. There was nothing else glasses could do. Well, that's not entirely accurate. There are lenses and frames, and then there are lenses and frames. Anti-glare lenses, and frames that are not my boxy square ones. The cute, narrow, rectangular frames that were all the rage about four years ago? Fine if you don't have that bad of a prescription, but the more you need glasses, the rounder your lenses should ideally be. And smaller is better. Why, I forgot to ask.
So this morning I ordered new glasses, which should be here in a week. I have small, oval lenses, a cinnamon-colored frame, and the man fitting them pointed out that the doctor had actually underlined "anti-glare" THREE TIMES on the prescription, which was funny. They're going to be a polycarbonate stuff for "aesthetic reasons, to not be so thick" which kind of makes me want to see just what sort of coke-bottle lenses I'd be getting otherwise. :)
And I'm to give my eyes a couple weeks to get used to them. Apparently, my eyes and my old prescription are so unbalanced, the new glasses are going to feel like THEY'RE unbalanced!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Racing the Cold

I spent this afternoon feeling like a pioneer woman in the face of an oncoming blizzard - harvesting and hauling plants inside, because tonight it will get down below freezing. 50 mph winds added to the sense of urgency. We moved another set of shelves in front of the biggest (and hottest) window, and that window has 2 massive tomatillo plants in 5gal buckets, a pot of basil, four tomato plants, and one tomato plant that's hanging. Our crown-of-thorns is in a yet-bigger pot, a masive pot of aloe is on a bookshelf, an ivy and a wandering-jew are on another bookshelf, a German ivy and unidentified philodendrony thing in the kitchen window, two aloes, a kalanchoe, and a pot of ferns in the bathroom, three more philodendrony things and a jade plant in the family room.
We will have VERY clean air this winter.
Almost everything had to be repotted. I am now to the point of "if it doesn't produce something, I might not have room for it." Basil, tomatoes, and tomatillos produce. Aloe produces. Anything else may become expendable, especially if it requires sun. You should have seen the front room, full of pots and plants and shelves, with me sorting "needs sun - doesn't - needs sun - doesn't." Three philodendrony things are posted on Freecycle, and an aloe and the kalanchoe are going to my mom. Another aloe is going to a friend in exchange for lemon balm and catnip. This is necessary because philodendrony thing started as one plant and is now four (got divided AND repotted), aloe started as two pots and is now three, and I'm going to be planting some cherry tomatoes shortly and will need the space. Speaking of cherry tomatoes - anyone know where I could get a CHEAP grow-light? Because propping up our fish-tank's light this spring got to be a hassle. There's got to be something easier.
I'm beat! Goodnight!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Of humanhood and fishies

In a rare moment of oversight by my husband, this one relative (by marriage only) and I were left unsupervised at a recent family gathering. This man and I are gasoline and kerosene, with politics of any sort being a lit match. But nonetheless, shortly after McCain's pick for VP was announced, he and I were left to our own devices for a period of time.
His mistake first - he asked what I thought of Sarah Palin. He had to already know my answer (we are polar opposites), so I said quite bluntly that "Hey, she's not into killing babies, she gets my vote." He said he didn't like abortion either, so I asked why he routinely votes for candidates in favor of it. All issues being equal, of course you can pick and choose, but when one of the issues is what you firmly believe to be MURDER, well, that's a little more important, and they haven't yet changed the voting age to "12 weeks gestation". So we went back and forth and I got him down to "only in cases of rape, incest, or something wrong with the baby." I decided to ignore the obvious eugenics implications of "something wrong", and asked him if in the case of rape or incest, you are punishing the child for the actions of the father. He couldn't see how I could think that at all, so I asked, "Is it human or not?" and got the answer of "well, after a point..."
I should point out that I was trying, very hard, to remain calm, unemotional, impersonal, and above all, CIVIL. But some shots just beg to be taken. I asked the obvious - "So at what point was Kittyboy a fish?"
He didn't have an answer. Gee, I thought it was a simple enough question. When - was - that - boy - a - fish? Hello? What was that? Can't hear you...
Fortunately Husband returned before things got REALLY personal.
Little review here - "Kittyboy", as my son is referred to, is coming up on two years old. According to the "well, after a point it's human" people, he was not human when he was born. They base their cut-off at the start of the 3rd trimester (27th week). The official records have him born at 28 weeks and 5 days, based on my estimated due date, but due dates are pretty much guesses and can be off by as much as two weeks either way, which is why a 38 week baby is still considered full-term. Ultrasounds also measure a baby's age in the womb, and the later in the pregnancy, the more accurate they are. Ultrasounds in the month before he was born had him maybe a week behind. The one done on the afternoon before he was born, less than 24 hours from birth, did not say 28 or 29 weeks. It didn't say 27 weeks. It said 26. That's not third trimester. That's the last week of the second. That's abortable.Awww, what a CUTE widdle fishie! Yes he is! He's just the cutest widdle fishie ever! Mommy's widdle pwecious icthyoid!
And the earliest preemie to survive? Just under 22 weeks. That's right, 22. She was born just two months and a day before Kittyboy, I hear she's doing fine too. And huh, funny, I saw pictures of her at 10 ounces and there was nothing ichthyological in nature about her either. Just - a baby. A really, really tiny baby. Oh, but TOTALLY abortable if mummy had felt like it.
I wonder - when they invent artificial wombs for NICUs to use for preterm births even younger than that - when a miscarriage is no longer an automatic tragedy - how will they defend abortion then? The morbidly curious would like to know...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More canning

I'm going to have to reorganize my pantry soon, because the jars of canned food on the bottom shelf are crowding out everything else ON that shelf. One of these days, it will be a shelf entirely of jars. And on that day, I will have to take a picture and post it, for that will indeed be cool.
I'm going to be up until probably midnight tonight, because I had the bright idea to can an acorn squash. A quart of winter squash requires an hour and a half processing time, that's not including letting the cooker depressurize so I can remove the jar. It'll be midnight or so - in the meantime, it's me, a glass of Roditis (my favorite Greek red wine), and my computer.
I went to five places for pickling salt today. Isn't it funny that they have to label it "Canning and Pickling Salt" when all it is is, well, SALT? That's it, just NaCl, no iodine or anti-caking agents whatsoever. Just, SALT. But it's not sold in our closest health food store, Food Fantasies. That was the first place I checked. Half a dozen varieties of sea salt, no canning salt. And it's not sold everywhere that canning supplies are, or it would have been at Ace Hardware, Menards, and the regular (non-supercenter) Walmart I went to next. I finally found it at the new Supercenter Walmart, a good hour or so after leaving home. I was so happy to find it, I bought two boxes. I had been starting to fear that it was solely seasonal and I just wouldn't be able to get it until next summer! It IS sold at Humphrey's Market, which is a good clip from us but would be a good place to start shopping (and isn't open Sundays, and it was today I was making pickles).
So now, I have three pints of sliced cucumbers pickling, a quart of marinara sauce cooling on the counter, and a quart of acorn squash whistling away. And I'll be doing a lot more squash this Saturday. I've resolved to put by at least some of whatever is in season, no matter the season - currently, that's winter squash. A couple months from now, it will be orange, lemon, and grapefruit marmelade. I have no clue what's in season in spring. But I'll find out! And I'll can or dehydrate it! Whatever it is!
I did meet a new friend at Food Fantasies, though. Technically, we met at the first Food Not Lawns meeting back in April or March or whenever, but I don't think we'd seen each other since. Turns out I have time to can, but no tomatoes to speak of, she has tomatoes out her ears, but no time to can them. So I'm to call her tomorrow, and I'll be canning her tomatoes! With all the practice I'm getting, I'll be thinking nothing of it next year when (hopefully) I have my own bumper crop of things to can.
Life is good!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Boy and His Cat

The tale (or is it tail?) must be told of a boy and his kitty, and the strange yet wonderful bond between them.
When Kittyboy came home from the hospital, our female cat Harriet had a predictably feline reaction. She looked, sniffed, and left. That was absolutely fine with us. Magic would creep up on his belly, sniff, and if Husband or I so much as blinked, take off like a shot for the other end of the house. All that we know of his history is that he was picked up by Animal Control as a "nuisance" and was believed to be an abandoned pet. Now we think he was probably put out after a baby came home and the new parents felt he was too affectionate, because once he figured out that he wouldn't be yelled at or in trouble for being close to the baby, he would lay down right next to him. He would put his head on our son's arm when it was outstretched. He would nuzzle him. He started HOLLERING from the nursery if the baby wasn't in it - we didn't know if that was "My baby is missing! Where is he? My baby is missing!" or "The bassinet isn't breathing! What's wrong with my baby? The bassinet isn't breathing!" Anyhow, we'd have to yell so he could find us, or go and get him, and show him where his baby was.
Above is Kittyboy, at four months chronological age, one month developmental, starting to roll to his side. He did this primarily when his kitty was nearby, because Magic was fascinating and fluffy and COOL, and Kittyboy wanted to see him up close. So he started rolling - "the better to see you, my fluffy!"
Magic provided a lot of motivation to stretch, reach, move in general, and would never, ever move away when Kittyboy got close. Kittyboy once stretched out his hand across Magic's upturned paw, and Magic just barely, barely flexed - Kittyboy started crying, and Magic took off. There was the finest, most delicate little red line on Kittyboy's wrist, from a claw just barely brushing his skin. Magic mauls us when he's in a loving mood, he kneads us with these massive scythe-like claws that once ripped a hole in a denim dress when he leapt off my lap. And he was just trying to be affectionate with his baby, and he was being just as gentle as he possibly could! Kittyboy suffered no lasting effects and was reaching for his kitty again after a nap, but Magic has gone to elaborate lengths since to have his claws as sheathed as physically possible. We would have to RESCUE the cat from his boy, because Kittyboy believed him to be stuffed, and treated him accordingly! Grab two handfuls of fur and skin and puuuuull to get the kitty situated the way he wanted. Magic wouldn't even LEAVE when Kittyboy got rough! "No, leave kitty's ears alone!" "No eyes!!!" "NICE!!! NICE!!!" We would actually see Magic lay down right next to his boy - and then brace for impact. Then Kittyboy found that when you squeeze a cat's paw, shiny curved things come out, and he thought those were interesting and wanted to explore paw anatomy further, and THAT was quite a panic moment for Magic, who was so paranoid of hurting him. Baby grabbing at hind paws, kitty pulling himself across the carpet using front claws only rather than risk using the claws that the baby was reaching for.
In late December last year, we were trying to get Kittyboy falling asleep in a crib - not a swing, not a rocking car seat, but a crib. Earlier that month, he had suddenly developed big-time separation anxiety, going into a panic any time someone left a room. That was very hard on both him and me, because I had gotten used to being able to leave to get a bottle, go to the bathroom, short little trips that out of the blue were made impossible. Husband tried playing peekaboo around a doorway one night to get across the idea that "Daddy leaves! Daddy comes back!" and had to stop when Kittyboy got hysterical. So I didn't have very high hopes for him falling asleep without either one of us in the room (rocking the car seat) or the illusion that someone was there (the swing). And the first night, it was a miserable failure - he was halfway asleep with me standing there shushing, then Magic jumped in the crib! Kittyboy woke up fully, "My kitty's here, time to PLAY!" and it just didn't work. I resolved that the next night, Magic would be shut in the bathroom at bedtime. I forgot, though. And that time, Kittyboy was fussing and not going to sleep, Magic jumped in the crib AGAIN - walked around his baby and laid down next to him, and baby quieted down. At a time when Kittyboy couldn't be alone awake, his kitty was there, and at night at least, that qualified as "not alone". Magic the Therapy Cat!
After Kittyboy was cruising along furniture, he cruised up to Harriet and "petted" her. It was nice petting, for him at least, but it was directed at her face, which she didn't like. And she responded appropriately - she hissed. I heard the hiss, looked up and said, "No touching Harriet, let her go," because we were trying to teach him some semblance of BOUNDARIES. And I thought her hissing and leaving was perfectly acceptable. Magic thought otherwise. He followed her, cornered her as she tried to leave the room, GROWLED, she leapt over him, he swiped at her, and they hurdled a baby gate to go rolling down the hallway with me yelling "Magic, NO! STOP!" He chased her to the other end of the house!!! Because she HISSED at HIS baby - how dare she!!!
And nowadays, if I'm trying to let Kittyboy "cry it out" when he doesn't want a nap, Magic has his own idea of what's too long, and if it lasts too long, he will take up position outside the nursery door and add his voice to the din. "WAAAAHHH! WAAAAHHH! WAAAAHHH!" "MRROWW! MRROWW! MRROWW!" Like I can't hear the screaming toddler, and I need to be told he's crying! (How helpful of Magic, to make sure I know what's going on!)
Magic is no longer the be-all and end-all of his boy's existence, as he used to be, but they are just precious together - and they TOTALLY "belong" to each other! I think Kittyboy will be a black and white tuxedo cat for Halloween - I'll have to get a picture of that and post it. An updated portrait of a boy and his cat!

Kitty play

(Prefaced by - yes, we're aware of the dangers his compulsions pose, and he's closely supervised!!)

For reasons not particularly understood by anyone, Kittyboy loves to have things draped about his shoulders. Scarves, belts, any unguarded stringy thing, is worn in the manner of a tailor's tape measure. It's not all the way around his neck, just hanging at the sides. There's a yellow ribbon he especially loves, and of course his Magic-kitty loves it too. Today, he learned how to play with his kitty with stringy things!
This evening I heard all kinds of shrieks and squeals from the hallway. They were happy noises, and I was in the middle of fixing dinner, so I was just happy that he was playing happily. After a LOT of shrieking, I really did have to check and see what was so incredibly fun. Kittyboy was waving the ribbon over Magic, Magic was rolling around waving his paws at it, and when he'd caught it, Kittyboy would SHRIEK and giggle and pull it away. They were going all up and down the hall like this, it was a riot. And there's a reason Magic is the Kittyboy's kitty, because the toddler would jump in close to snatch the ribbon back from Magic's MOUTH and CLAWS, and Magic would let it go as soon as he got close. It's been established since Kittyboy came home that Magic will go to any length, however ludicrous, to avoid hurting HIS baby.
Most likely, the game had begun because Magic pounced the end of the ribbon, and Kittyboy amiably went to drape it around his kitty's neck. After all, that's how HE plays with stuff, he puts it around his neck, so kitty must like it too. And then Magic GOT the ribbon, and that was just SO SILLY, because that's not how you play with ribbon, you put it around your neck, silly cat! So Kittyboy pulled it away squealing in laughter, to try draping it over Magic's neck again, and so on and so forth, and then he learned that his kitty would run after the ribbon down the hall, and that was hysterically funny and accounted for a good part of the shrieking, as he was bouncing backwards waving the ribbon to get Magic to follow it.
Then Magic took a break at the food bowl, and Kittyboy finally got the ribbon arranged around his kitty the way he wanted it - until Magic saw it and went back to chasing it.
1 toddler + 1 kitty + one very bedraggled ribbon = WAY more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Best of Times - The Worst of Times

And no, this has nothing to do with the economy, and everything to do with parenting a TODDLER!
This morning, we had SUCH a Norman Rockwell moment. Kittyboy is not into hugging, apart from stuffed animals and dolls, and not into kissing, apart from flat surfaces and occasionally dolls. Not, "not into" as in he only does it on command, "not into" as in he really just doesn't do it. This morning, Husband brought him in while I was doing my hair, just to say Good Morning. I was trying to get ready for the "mommy and me" picture we were taking at Target this morning. When they were going back out the door, Kittyboy leaned way over towards me, then sat up and signed Please, and then leaned waaaay over towards me with his arms out, reaching. I said, "Oh, you want a hug!" because he does like to get hugs, he just doesn't give them back. I went over and took him, and the first thing he did was put his arms tightly around my neck and his head on my shoulder. I GOT MY FIRST HUG THIS MORNING! FIRST ON-PURPOSE HUG EVER!!! It was soooo sweet, and we cuddled JUST like that for A COUPLE MINUTES even, it wasn't a squeeze-and-push-back, it was a real hug. And it was just the most wonderful thing ever.
But I couldn't have a cliched Dickensian title if the most wonderful thing ever hadn't been followed by the absolute opposite. After Husband went to work, we were still getting ready for the picture. I was dressed, my hair was pretty much done, I was even wearing makeup (which I very rarely do), ALL THAT WAS LEFT was getting Kittyboy into this cream suit that was Husband's years ago, put together a purse, and leave. I started an hour before we had to leave, because I didn't want him staining the suit (did I mention it's CREAM?). And Kittyboy, in a moment of multiple-personality disorder (aka evil toddlerhood) decided he didn't want to get changed. I was interrupting HIS plans for the day, which did not include wardrobe changes.
It took me 45 minutes to put on a shirt, vest, jacket, pants, and shoes. We didn't even do socks, just shoes. He kept throwing himself backwards, this awkward and dangerous-looking maneuver that puts him completely off balance and requires me to catch him so he doesn't go back on his head. He did hit his head once, quite solidly, on the frame of his trampoline, because he threw himself back when I wasn't behind him. It didn't seem to faze him, but it didn't improve his mood either. I think this particular form of resistance is a violent variation on going limp, perhaps, because once he's on the floor, he rolls to his stomach and tries to escape again.
I did win the war, mainly by benefit of persistence. I can't claim superior strength, because in a way, he will always be stronger than I - because he doesn't care if he hurts either of us, while my goal is to keep either of us from getting hurt. It is a bit of a handicap, when you're wrestling a toddler who has great strength and an absolute disregard for his or anyone else's safety. He's slammed his head back against my face before when I was carrying him, because he was mad. (And gee, he's never even taken a self-defense course!)
After this morning, I have a new tactic, inspired by the bonking of his head against the trampoline - what if I just quit catching him? Obviously, direct him so he's not hitting anything that would actually hurt him, no corners or anything, not the metal frame of the trampoline, but what if he started to experience the natural consequence of that action every time he did it? The front and back of the skull are strongest, I read that in a toddler first-aid book, it's the temples you really worry about. Toddler skulls are pretty strong - they have to be, as often as toddlers fall. Were he driving a car, I would NOT be paying his speeding tickets, because he'd be dealing with the consequences of his actions. Maybe if I quit catching him, he'll decide he doesn't like hitting the floor.
So yay, I got a hug! My first ever! And ugh, I had to wrestle baby Samson. It was the best of times!! It was the worst of times!! And he's not even two yet!