23 March 2011

Kitty video

The kids asked me to post this video...it was taken a few hours before Lewis was adopted out.  He had just discovered that the screen was climbable:

22 March 2011

Parenting is an ongoing lesson...

...as I learned this evening.

The kids were remarkably well behaved this evening, and when they act this well I usually reward them with a little something.  Tonight I decided to let them watch an extra hour of television, and the kids voted to watch a show called "Survivorman".

For those not familiar with the show, Survivorman is a show that pits a survivalist (Les Stroud) against nature in a unique way...he's dropped off in the wilderness with a few basic supplies and his cameras.  For seven days he is completely alone - filming the entire episode himself with no camera crew.  The kids have watched this show before and have really enjoyed it (as well as another survivalist show called "Dual Survival").

This episode had him dropped off in the middle of the Ecuadorian rainforest.  This ended up being one of the few episodes that "failed"...he didn't make it the whole seven days.  He had stepped out of his shelter to pee before going to bed, and came face to face with a jaguar - who showed no fear of him even when he yelled.  This understandably freaked him out, and he decided to grab his pack, his spear, and his night-vision camera and hoof it to a nearby village.

The whole way to the village, you could hear the barely controlled panic in his voice; the jaguar had decided to follow him and it was very close.  You could hear leaves crunching under its paws as it trailed him; every so often the jaguar would growl and the sound was picked up, quite clearly, by the camera.  Les barely made it to the village in time - after he arrived he videotaped a small segment in which you could hear a very frustrated cat pacing back and forth outside the hut he was hiding in.  A very scary ending to the show - and the kids were FREAKED OUT.

I had to reassure them that there were no jaguars here - those big cats like rainforest, and there is no rainforest near Illinois.  I had just gotten them calmed down enough to sleep when Jacob remembered he had seen some big cats at the zoo nearby - and what if they escaped and hid in the woods near our house and GOBBLED THEM UP WHILE THEY WAITED FOR THE BUS????

And then, of course, I had a couple of panicked kids on my hands again.

And so, another lesson learned - if you are going to let the kids watch Survivorman before bed - make sure it's an episode you've already seen and know it will end well.  And if the kids want to watch one of the scarier versions of the show?  Make sure it is on a sunny afternoon so they don't go to bed scared.

19 March 2011


After getting the negative test results for Lewis (YAY for no feline leukemia!), I was able to facilitate the adoption.  His new family came to pick him up and brought a surprise - a huge bag full of different kinds of marshmallows for the kids to enjoy.  Turns out the husband does work for a marshmallow factory, so he's developed the habit of bringing marshmallows to kids.

This is the third animal I've adopted out, but it's the first time I've done the paperwork and completed the adoption by myself - so I was a bit nervous.  But everything went smoothly.

This adoption was a little bittersweet - I was thrilled when Sapphire and Eggnog were adopted, but Lewis was special and I had gotten very attached to the little rascal.  The kids are handling this a lot better than I am, I'll admit.

16 March 2011

Feline Leukemia???

This past weekend we entertained an older couple who were interested in adopting Lewis, our foster kitty. They said they wanted him and we told them we would push the paperwork through as quickly as possible.


In order to complete the adoption paperwork, we needed a couple of lab printouts from the vet. The vet seemed strangely reluctant to provide us with the paperwork, which confused me because I had been assured that all the cats I had brought there had passed their tests.

Just today we finally got the paperwork - and there, under the feline leukemia test, was the handwritten word "positive".


That vet had told me that Lewis had passed all his lab tests and was free to roam and play with the other cats in my household. This same vet is saying that the notation actually says "negative" but his assistant's bad handwriting makes it look like it says "positive" - which I don't believe for a second.

It turns out the records for the other kitten we had at the same time - Alf - also show a positive reading for the leukemia test.

                                                  Alf and Lewis sitting with Eggnog (foster puppy)

Feline leukemia is very VERY contagious. If Lewis has it, then my own two cats have been exposed to it. There is no cure.



I'm livid. Absolutely, utterly livid. I told the Adopt-a-Pet counselor that I will not even consider adopting out Lewis until I get a repeat of the test done at a different vet clinic. She fortunately agreed with me, and is currently trying to talk the owner of the shelter to pay for a second series of tests (the owner is kind of reluctant - funding is dependent solely on donations, which have been down because of the recession). But I refuse to send an animal out for adoption unless I know for certain he has a clean bill of health.

If the vet did in fact lie to me - an outright lie about the heath of his patient - then I will do everything in my power to see that his license is permanently revoked.

EDIT:  I just heard back from the shelter owner - she is authorized a re-test for both Lewis and Alf (who was our former foster kitty).  Alf just passed his test, so he's leukemia-free...which bodes well for Lewis.

EDIT:  Lewis cleared his test with flying colors - YAY!  His new family will come over on Saturday at 5pm to finalize the paperwork - and then he will be on his way to his new home.

09 March 2011

Parent/Teacher meeting

Yesterday I had a parent/teacher conference.  During that meeting, I also met with the high school guidance counselor to set up Jonathan's electives for the upcoming school year.

The meeting started up on a VERY good note.  One of Jon's teachers stated "I wish I had a whole school full of kids like your son."  What a compliment!  I know I blushed a bit because Jon teased me about it later.

During the meeting it was revealed that Jon is above average in all of his testing scores, so they plan to place in him all advanced courses.  The high school here does things a bit differently than the high school I went to.  Rather than eight class periods, there are four - each period lasts for approximately two hours.  Rather than having two semesters of school per year, they have four quarters, so he will be getting the same amount of education but in a different format.

Once I got used to the concept, I found I rather liked it.  I remember numerous times in my own high school years where I was just starting to really grasp a subject, to get into it and understand it on an instinctive level, and then the bell would ring.  I would have to wrench myself out of that mindset and move on to a completely different class, and then struggle to fit my mind into a new mindset - say, a science mindset.  And then, as soon as I got comfortable - BAM!  The bell would ring again and I would have to go on to English Lit.

Having the class periods being twice as long solves that problem.  Also, with only four subjects to juggle instead of eight, Jon will have an easier time understanding each subject.  And the school offers free tutoring after school and on weekends, so if he is struggling, he can get tutoring without having to pay for it.

Jon has decided that the four electives he wants to take are Intro to Production Tech (woodworking), Intro to Welding, Intro to Auto Mechanics, and Spanish (most of those subjects will help him build that Tumbleweed Tiny Home that he's been dreaming of).  Also, he wants to get some of his electives out of the way in advance, so he is going to take Intro to Computers over the summer.

I also found out that Jonathan has been spending his Friday lunch period playing chess with the coach for cross country.  Evidently they play in the lunchroom and have attracted quite a crowd of students who root for Jon the beat the teacher.  Because of this, Jon has gotten a reputation in his school for being the "go-to" guy when you have trouble with studies, and several students have asked him to help them understand classwork.  He's starting to finally develop a social life in school!  He's always struggled with that, never having more than one close friend at a time, so I'm glad he's learning to socialize with a wider group of people.

I'm really proud of him - he buckled down this year and has shown the potential that I always knew was there.  He's got the whole world ahead of him and if he keeps up the good work, he can probably get a scholarship to pay for part of college.

05 March 2011

Cost of gardening

Okay, I decided to write this post because in the last 24 hours I have had several people comment about how expensive gardening is.  If it had only been one person to say this to me, I would have ignored it...but three people in a 24 hour time period?  That's a bit much.

Let me explain something - if you know what you are doing, gardening can be low cost. 

I started reading and researching Urban Homesteading late last summer - too late to start a garden.  The more I read, the more sense it made to me to have a garden in our backyard for a number of reasons.  Now at first, I also thought that gardening would take a huge investment, but the more I researched the subject, the more I realized that I could do it for under $50.

The first thing you need for a garden is the space to plant in.  Our backyard is average sized, but large enough to plant a garden for our family's needs - so I already had the space necessary.

Second thing you need is tools.  I found a shovel for $5 at a rummage sale, and Sean found gardening gloves and hand tools on sale for $1 each last fall.  Late fall is the best time to buy gardening supplies because they are dirt cheap - all the store wants to do is move the merchandise so they have room for other items.

I found about 75% of my seeds on sale last fall for 10 cents a packet.  Over the winter, I blogged about gardening and talked about it with friends and neighbors, and this lead to me being given several more packets of seed for nothing.  By the time February rolled around, I only needed eight more types of seed - which I ended up paying full price for.  But full price for most of the seeds I bought turned out to be only $1.99 per packet - not a bad price.

I was resigned to the idea that I was going to have to dig my garden out with a shovel, because paying to rent a rototiller was completely out of the question.  But then a neighbor offered to let me use her rototiller in return for some free babysitting.  SCORE!

So now I find that I have paid a grand total of $37 on my garden.  According to my research, I can get as much as 700 lbs of produce from the small amount of land I have, if I plant wisely.  I won't even be using all of my seeds, and next spring most of the extra leftover seeds will still be viable - so next year I won't have to buy seeds at all if I don't want to.

With the right research and knowledge, a good food-producing garden can be planted very cheaply - and it's worth it when you consider how much food you will be growing.  I know that two of the people who told me that gardening was "too expensive" have space and time to plant this spring - and I strongly encourage it!  Think about planting everything you need to make your own homemade spaghetti sauce - tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, basil, etc.  It doesn't cost much to start up.  Making the sauce is actually pretty simple, if you can the sauce it will last for a year.  Plus, you will know exactly what is in your sauce because YOU made it - no preservatives, no additives, just good wholesome food.

And if you don't have space?  Still consider working towards a garden.  Most towns have a community garden where you can plant if you live in an apartment without a yard.  I have a neighbor who plants her garden in another neighbor's yard because her landlord won't let her plant on her property...she splits the produce with the neighbor whose yard she uses and they all benefit.

For those who are interested in starting out, I STRONGLY recommend the book "The Backyard Homestead" by Carleen Madigan.  This gives you the basics.