Sunday, May 15, 2022

Idiot cord cat toys

 I've been knitting for...really, a long time.  Thirty years.  

I don't use a lot of patterns, really, and I knit in the round.  A lot.  Mostly because I detest sewing by hand.  

What I don't do is post patterns.  Mostly because I don't use them--I just...sort of fly by the seat of my pants, use basic math, and...make what I want.  

I make a lot of sweaters...a lot of ear-warmer headbands (since I absolutely despise hats)...and a lot of tiny projects--coasters and cat toys, mostly.  

Cat toys, in particular, are a spectacular use of tag-ends of yarn from projects: any time you've got a few yards left, but not enough for anything useful, you can always use it to make a cat string.  

No, don't give the cats the plain yarn--the fuzzy idiots will eat it, gag, choke, actually manage to ingest it, but not digest it, and have long strands hanging out and freaking them out, triggering a thunder-run from the litterbox, with yarn-connected turds still hanging from their butts...connected by yarn...which you'll have to corner and flatten the fuzzys and pull out.  

Seriously, it's funny long after the fact, but not funny in the moment to either you or the cat.  

No, a good cat string is either a long chain stitch crochet (which they don't eat as readily)...or a knitted idiot cord.  

I've done both, but I prefer the look of the finished knitted cord.  The cats prefer the knitted cord, too, but I think it's more because of the way it feels.  

How do you make an idiot cord?  You need: 

A tag end of a skein of yarn...

a set of double-pointed needles

What you do is simple: you cast on three or four stitches.  Then you slide your four stitches to the other end of your needle (the dangly next to the slip knot closest to the point), then join the round.  And knit across.  Then slide the four stitches to the other end of the needle, transfer the needle to your off hand, and...knit across again.  You're never flipping the cord--it's just three or four stitches, knit in the round, over and over.  

When you get to the last three or for inches of yarn, bind it off.  If your cat-string is less than about three feet long, tie it in a knot.  And tie it again.  Keep tying it.  Turn it into a round-ish ball of knotted string.  

You have a knot-mouse.  My cats love theirs.  Frequently lose them, too.  Then, as soon as they get fished out of whatever piece of furniture the cats have lost them under, the cats lose them again.  

Mind you, my cats are ten years old.  They're not kittens anymore...but they certainly act like kittens when they find one of their knot mice.  

If it's between three and five feet, and you have a spare gun-cleaning rod, you can thread one of the tail-ends of yarn through the loop, and knot it a couple of times.  Kitty string on a stick!  Fun for them, fun for you!  

If it's longer than five feet, tie a knot-mouse in one end, then...drag it around.  It gets funny, while they're chasing you through your house, pouncing at the knot (and most often missing) and gets you some exercise.  

Catnip spray just makes it more fun for all...if your cat likes that stuff, that is.  Mine do.  

And you don't have to try to chase down fuzzy idiots trailing indigestible yarn from their butts, embedded in turds they're running from.  

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Baby care

I know there's a lot of parents worried about the current formula shortage--they've got infants, and either can't or have chosen not to breastfeed.  

I am not going to speculate about why there's a shortage.*  All I'm doing is sharing a temporary work-around: emergency baby milk replacement.  I read about it a long time ago, and I went hunting for a recipe I'm pretty sure most moms can manage.  

It starts with evaporated whole milk, and adds Karo syrup...and that's it.  Ingredients that you can keep on hand (just rotate as needed), for emergency situations.  And if this doesn't count as an emergency...well.  I wouldn't want to think of what does.  

No, it doesn't have the same nutritional profile as formula--it's lacking some key vitamins that babies need.  However, there are liquid vitamins out there for babies.  There's nothing preventing the vitamins from being dropped into the homemade emergency formula.  They're easily available on Amazon, and may be available in local pharmacies (I wouldn't know, as I've never looked).  

No, this is not something affecting either my immediate family or me: my youngest is eleven years old, and neither of my kids used formula.**  I breastfed both, partially because it was better for them (and for me***), but also because it was simpler, and much cheaper.  Much.  I fed my oldest for eighteen months before he self-weaned when I fell pregnant with my youngest--and she nursed for thirty months (or two and a half years).  I enjoyed cuddling them while feeding them, partially because it was the only time my oldest would cuddle, and I never begrudged the time or effort at all.  

Hell of a lot less effort than preparing and then cleaning and sanitizing bottles...

I'd be willing to bet there's a lot of moms out there right now that chose to use formula who wish they'd chosen to breastfeed instead, right now...and a lot of moms who can't getting really frantic.  And all of them are likely getting pissed about news that truck-loads of formula have been shipped to feed infants of illegal aliens down on the border...whose mothers almost without exception breastfeed.  

*I have my opinions, but I'm not going to start conspiracy theories.  Nope.  Not at all. 

**The hospital added powdered formula to the breast milk they were feeding my imp--it triggered the onset of a nasty case of acid reflux, and exacerbated his symptoms something fierce.  That was the only experience either of my kids had with formula.  

***Breastfeeding is very good for moms: each six months spent breastfeeding reduces chances of breast cancer.  It helps shrink the uterus following delivery, reducing the risk of later complications; helps moms burn more calories and drop back to pre-baby weight (mostly) faster;  and also reduces the risk and severity of baby blues, by triggering the brain chemistry to boost mood-boosting hormones. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Busy week done

Less busy (but still busy) week coming up.  

On the one hand, I seem to be through the chronic fatigue attack: I am no longer feeling like utter death warmed over.  On the other, I seem to need double the recommended maximum of sodium as my daily minimum for proper function,* and the PVC palpitations are not going away.**

I have an appointment with a new primary care doc on Tuesday morning.  Tuesday night is my imp's spring band concert, with a newly-repaired (and very much improved) trumpet.    

As it turns out, his trumpet was in dire need of care when we got it: the person who owned it before him drank soda between measures he/she was playing, and gummed up the internals something fierce.  Now that it's basically been rebuilt, it sounds a lot better...the imp says it plays easier, and he sounds a lot better than he did.  His teacher's not unhappy with him.  (The saxes and clarinets, on the other hand...)

Other than that, there's not a lot going on this week, and only one appointment Monday morning of next week, to finish up the recommended maintenance on the Subaru.  

Oh, funny story from last week: Friday morning, the imp told me he'd used up his color pencils on maps in History, and assignments in Spanish, and needed a new package.  If he'd told me Thursday night, I could have added that to the Friday morning pickup...but no.  

So I had to run in Friday morning, and get colored pencils.  While I was there, I decided to see about foam pillow forms to make a set of dining chair pads (we REALLY need some), impulse bought a dress for my pixie, and...found jeans that fit me.  In the junior's section (not the kids--the teens).  I got one pair to test fit and comfort and quality.  And wound up going back later and getting three more.  Yeah, they're skinny-fit (not my preference), but they're not more holes than cloth, not tissue-paper thin, and they fit both my figure and my height (they're supposed to be capris, but still).  

Incidentally, Walmart finally got the planners (and had some of my preferred brand that has fountain pen-friendly paper) in stock for next school year in, which is a life saver: my current planner ends in June, and the kids have their well-child visit in July.  

And since (between ME/CFS brain fog, hypothyroid brain fog, and a suspected case of ADHD) I suffer from CRS,*** I definitely need that calendar/planner.   Because I can't keep track of the damn appointment cards. 

*I have been using an electrolyte replacement water enhancer for the past week and a half, and am losing water weight and feeling better.  With every 30 oz mug of water (and I drink 3-5 of those daily), I'm having 220 mg of sodium plus what's in what I eat. That's...a lot of sodium consumed every day.  

**PVC palpitations are harmless, according to my research, but truly annoying.  I'm not sure if they're triggered by GERD, stress, perimenopause, or something else entirely, but they hit worst in the couple hours after I've eaten.  And they hit with a feeling like you've just started down on an express elevator. 

***Can't Remember Shit

Monday, April 25, 2022

Busier than I'd like, this week.

I spent last week--pretty much all of it--feeling utterly flattened.  I'm still working on recovering from that, but I'm starting to feel a little better, at least.  

So.  This week is looking busier than I'd like it to be.  I've already gotten some of it handled, but...yeah. 

We've been having...issues...with the breaker that the heat pump is on.  We didn't notice, at first, because cold weather means we don't use it.*   But as things started warming, we switched over to using it, and...snap goes the breaker.  

To be fair, it was a 40 year old breaker, and was due replacement, but...part of the fun was finding an electrician that would show up.  First one didn't.  At all. So, we shopped around and found a new one that scheduled to come out this morning at 8:30.  

They've been out, looked it over, called around to their suppliers to find a replacement, went and got the replacement, then came back and slotted it in.  Done, paid for,** and gone.  

Tomorrow, I need to get the Subie's oil changed, and schedule any maintenance it needs done.  I've put just over 70K miles on it in the eight years we've had it.  

(No, I don't drive much--why do you mention it?)

Wednesday and Thursday, I have to make a trip to the opposite corner of town.  Wednesday, I have to go get a Holter monitor applied, and Thursday, I have to hand it back over.  Mostly precautionary, but there it is.  

Friday, I've got the regularly scheduled grocery pickup.  

Sprinkled in through all of this is the fun catch-up housework I let drop last week...when and as I can get to it.  In five minute bursts.  I have the kitchen mostly caught up--I'll probably work through most of the house, picking up and de-cluttering as I go, over the rest of the week, as I'm up for other things (grabbing coffee, water, food, or Gatorade...which I guess I'll be drinking at least one per day for the foreseeable future).  

Oh, and laundry.  I'm a week behind on that, too.  I have a lot of clean stuff to sort and put away (towels & sheets), and other stuff to sort (I sort the imp's clean clothes because if I don't, it won't get put away, and I can pull stuff that's worn out/stained/ripped and/or outgrown at the same time).  

Next week, I've got a new-patient visit with the same nurse practitioner that acts as GP for everyone else in my family, because I sincerely dislike the doctor that replaced mine, and do like the one taking care of my kids. 

Granted, we're still looking out for good people to do other repairs for us,*** and those we'll take as they have time to come to us.  But that's actually a lot easier than running errands when I've been beat this flat with autoimmune problems. 

*We have a propane fireplace insert heater that takes care of most of the house, with radiant heaters in all three bedrooms, and smaller ceramic heaters that we set low to prevent other areas from freezing (with varying levels of success). 

**Cost less than I was expecting, too.  And I don't begrudge the hours, plural, billed, considering they had to drive to the other end of town to go get the a large pickup...towing a trailer...with current gas prices.  

***We had one of the recent storms pull the cap off our gutters in the front, and we think it bent the hell out of either the guttering edges, the fasteners, the cap, or all of the above, and need an expert to come in to fix it.  And last week, the gutter guy's wife/receptionist/booking agent was in the hospital when we called.  We also need some serious repairs to the carport--probably to the extent of a full rebuild.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

I hate my body.

So.  Easter weekend.  The kids had Good Friday off from school, so Grandma picked them up from school Thursday, brought them and their stuff here, grabbed their overnight bags (packed the evening before), and took off with them.  Friday morning, I picked up groceries from the curbside delivery as usual, then ran in for a bone-in pork shoulder.  Which...I totally mis-timed Saturday, and had to change how I'd planned to cook it.  Instead of using my crock pot, I ended up using my off-brand instant pot (which is still my favorite ever Christmas present).  Took the instant pot and roast up to my mom's for lunch and a visit. 

It turned out tender and tasty...but a little dry.  Damn it.  

Then Sunday was Easter: Odysseus took the kids to church, then brought them home to change out of their nice clothes into something warmer because springtime in Missouri means random cold fronts, and we went over to his mom's for lunch.

I was already feeling about half-dead by Sunday morning, thanks to all the activity Friday morning and Saturday, then compounded by the chilly, wet weather that moved in.  So, yeah, I wound up with an autoimmune flare hitting me; then combined that with a ton of really rich (but tasty) food for lunch, that I didn't salt enough.  So.  ME/CFS flare, plus gallbladder unhappiness, plus not enough sodium to offset all the cold fluids I drank to try to soothe the mildly upset stomach...

...and then, add in a couple of months of more stress and fear over my sister's health...

...and my usual symptoms of low blood sodium refusing to resolve...

I wound up with tachycardia (very fast resting heart rate), plus confusion, plus shortness of breath (probably partially caused by the tachycardia), and a NEW symptom showing up of my heart skipping a beat, then racing faster...which scared me, which boosted my already borderline bp...

Yeah, I tried everything I could think of: I ate two handfuls of sodium/potassium salt, chewed one baby aspirin and swallowed another, took a celery seed extract (which I think may have made things worse, as a diuretic).  Nothing helped.

So I woke Odysseus up and asked him to take me to the ED.  At 12:30.  

They drew blood, and talked to me, put me on a saline drip (first a liter, then another half) and I sent him home at around 3:30.  

Turns out that after two handfuls of sodium/potassium salt, my sodium levels were still below the threshold (129, with 135 being the threshold of normal), potassium levels were barely over, and thyroid levels were really off.  As in: my T4 was a .59 (bottom of "normal" range is .65), and my TSH was 9.75 (TOP of normal range is 6.65).  

The whole "heart skipping a beat" thing?  Turned out to be stress-related premature ventricular contractions.  PVCs.  EKG showed my heart has no damage; cardiac enzymes were "beautiful" according to the ED's attending doc* (the main one).  

They put in an order for a Holter monitor (24 hr heart rate monitor thing that I go in to have applied, go about my business for a day, then go back for them to take off and analyze), and kicked me loose around 5:30.  Got home at a quarter 'til 6, with my heart rate starting to slow, but still tripping over itself.

I crashed, but only slept until around a quarter 'til 10. Could not sleep longer, could not nap...still felt like shit, but less so.  Drank Gatorade, ate salty food, felt better. But still felt awful.  Went to bed early, read, drank more Gatorade, went to sleep.  

Today's not as bad, but I'm still mildly freaked out.  And tired.  And frustrated, because my thyroid's low again, I'm still having weird symptoms (some that it's too high, some that it's too low), can't take Aleve (GERD symptoms), can't take celery seed (still cautious because of blood sodium levels), and my joints are hurting.  

I've had to shift my new-patient appointment for my new doc's office around because the whole Holter monitor thing?  Yeah, the hospital set the appointment for me, and it's at the exact same time.  And I was right--new doc wants to see the results after that test.

I'm still waiting to hear back from my endocrinologist.  Who actually called back for clarification of exactly what I'm taking (because she couldn't quite remember and it hadn't gotten put into my file), was going to call back after the nurse got the clarification, with further instructions...but didn't before the office closed for the day. 

In the meantime, I need to clean out the bottom of the pantry (again) so the electrician (coming first thing Monday) can get at the breaker box.  And get the dog food re-positioned so it can be shoved more out of the way without risking spilling.  

And...yeah.  Gutters.  Gutter guy's been called, but his phone's dead, his wife's got the chargers...and is in the hospital (I feel for her...and pray it's nothing serious).

And we need to make plans for getting the carport rebuilt.  

And I'm still feeling...kind of flattened.  Not as bad, but yeah.  

I really, really hate my body.  But to be fair?  It hated me, first. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Such bullshit.

As y'all know, I've been spending the last several years researching ways to mitigate ADHD and help my imp function in a world that doesn't really make allowances for neurodivergence.  ADDitude has been one of my main, go-to resources for quick research into "this issue has popped up--how do people with/parents of people with ADHD manage it?"  

Normally, I don't begrudge the "don't feel bad your kid's not normal" essays; however, this one is utter bullshit.  

Rejecting norms is a shit idea.  Utter shit idea.  Most social norms are based in courtesy, and this idiot is rejecting acting with courtesy--and teaching her children to be courteous--in public.  Let me go through bit by bit: 

She argues that public meltdowns don't merit stern responses because her children are different.  

While this is true when the child's under two years of age--before they can communicate in anything other than a meltdown that they've had enough--it is the parent's responsibility to teach children self-control.  The only way you can do that is to stomp down on instances where they don't demonstrate that.  

Doing anything else is teaching them that they don't have to control themselves, and it...snowballs.  

I'm not saying you beat the shit out of your kid for a public tantrum, but you do have to set expectations--and hold kids to them--so that they learn how to comport themselves.  I am raising future adults, not perpetual children.  Not ferals.

It's like potty training: you have to teach them to hold in their shit until it's an appropriate place to release it.  That place is never in public.  

She also argues that, since her children are different, she doesn't even try to keep them corralled at restaurants.  She argues that, since they're neurodivergent, they won't sit still, and she's okay with them crawling under the table, running around, and being feral.  

Okay, bitch, don't get unhappy when somebody trips your crotchfruit for running around and fucking up their meal experience.  

My son's ADHD AF (I'm sure you can figure out that last acronym).  Yes, his preference would have been scrambling around and being a noisy nuisance.  That's why I always asked for a booth, and stuck him in the corner! It is totally inconsiderate of others to allow your feral crotchfruit to be noisy in a restaurant. 

Fast food places...are a little different--it varies by venue.  

Her third assertion...well, it depends.  The whole "kids should be seen and not heard" thing is, admittedly, extreme.  But you do need to teach your kid volume control: how to use an indoor voice, where an indoor voice is appropriate, and where it's okay to be loud (i.e., outside).  You also need to teach your kid when it's appropriate to speak: as in, not over the top of anybody else, not two or three of you at once, and do not interrupt an adult.  Ever.  Unless they're on fucking fire.  

Her fourth assertion, again, depends on the venue.  Yes, kids roughhouse.  Yes, it's healthy for them to roughhouse.  It's fine in your home if you're okay with them breaking your shit.  It's fine outdoors, at a park, or somewhere it's safe for them (and those around them) if they roughhouse (here's a hint: sidewalks and other areas near streets and parking lots are not safe places for them or anyone else).  

It is not fine for them to roughhouse over at someone else's house (without permission).  It is not fine for them to roughhouse in indoor public venues.  The grocery store is never a good place for a kid to chase down and tackle their sibling.  Nor is Walmart.  They're endangering themselves, others, and goods you never had any intention of buying, and you're failing your responsibility to teach them courtesy.   

I am unconvinced that the unwritten playground rules actually exist the way she asserts--however, she does discuss issues that again, are safety issues.  And a matter of courtesy.  Don't do things that will hurt others.  And most ADHD kids simply aren't aware that the actions that float into their heads as "could be fun" could also be harmful to others.  My ADHD kid is fine with being told the rules, especially if you also explain that not following the rules could cause others to be seriously hurt.  

I am also unconvinced, anymore, that there even is a "no screens in public" rule.  I have not seen a toddler without a phone in their hand in a store anywhere in the last six or eight months, unless they're asleep on Mom's (or Dad's) shoulder.  

That doesn't mean I allow mine to monopolize my devices...or be addicted to their own.  Their devices can come along on the ride, and even in the doctor's office, but not in a store.  I use shopping as time to teach the kids things: how to shop, how to read labels for things they're allergic to, how to figure unit cost, and consider whether they'll eat all of whatever before it goes bad (i.e., sometimes the bigger package isn't better), how to pay attention to their surroundings so they don't run into people...and so that they can be alert and not a target for predatory individuals.  

The next assertion--that shoes don't have to match and hair doesn't have to be brushed--is again...iffy.  No, hair doesn't have to be brushed.  However, it also doesn't have to be long.  It must be brushed if it is long.  There is no negotiation about that, sensory issues or not.  It's a health issue.  Same with matching shoes: kids don't need that many different pairs.  Mine have a pair of boots, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of sandals.  There's sometimes an issue finding the shoes at all, but there's no "I can wear one of each kind."  Again, that's a health and safety issue.  

I don't mind the whole "I don't complain about my kids" thing.  However, other moms that do may be looking for "oh, yeah, mine do the same thing--here's how we handle it."  And if you just nod, smile, and change the subject, you're not helping.  

Then again, the author of the article clearly doesn't manage her kids' behavior, so she may not have any helpful input.  

She's right that her kids' behavior in public isn't a reflection on her parenting; however, where she's missing the point is that her own reaction to her crotchfruit's public behavior (or lack thereof) is a reflection on her parenting.  

This woman is raising the next generation of public drains, and doesn't care.  Her kids are happy now, and how dare the rest of us imply there's something wrong with them!

Thing is, I do get where she's coming from: parenting normal kids is a hard, unrelenting, thankless job.  Neurodivergent kids make it more difficult; where normal kids tend to pick up on unspoken social cues, neurodivergent kids need those cues not just spelled out, but explained, and you have to stay on them all the time to learn self control.  And it takes...not just more effort, but more time with more effort expended for far less results.  

Those results do happen, though, and they do build...if you love your kids enough that you don't give up, and let them go feral because it's easier.   

You can't give up on your kids.  If you love them, you have to teach them how to fit within the rules in public.  They can relax and have their come-aparts at home.  It's a fucking courtesy to others thing.  And it's a being accepted by their peers thing.  

It's a growing up thing.  

You cannot let them remain children forever--the world won't permit that, and you won't be there forever to try to cater to it. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Budget: medical

Years ago, before my other half started his current job, we had a doctor's appointment for the kids--just your standard well-child visit.  Went well, like they always did: kids healthy, growing like weeds, Imp screaming at the doctor to not touch his bits (and yes, he used the medical terms, and yes, the doctor thought that was excellent), and we were out.  Went to pay at the window, and the admin assistant asked for our insurance card, and I declined, saying we'd be paying cash. 

Our insurance (yes, we had it--it came out of the account right at the top of the month, and cost around half my monthly paycheck)...didn't cover doctor's visits.  Just catastrophic stuff.   

If they'd tried billing the insurance, it would have gotten kicked back to me, and I'd have paid $125 per kid for the office visit; as cash pay, it cost $80 per kid.  

Makes sense, right?  

The gal doing the billing blinked at me, and asked if I wanted the bill mailed, and I said no, and pulled out my checkbook...which shocked the crap out of her.  "'re going to pay right now?" 

"Well...yes.  I budget for this."  

"I have never even heard of that.  Why do you budget for doctor's office visits?"

"...because I know they're coming up, and know I'll need to pay y'all promptly so you can keep the doors open and the lights on?"  


That doctor first went cash, then retired when Obamacare really came online.  Odysseus has been with his current job for more than five years; I still budget for office visits (the copay, specifically).  

You don't want to know how many people pay their copay with what is clearly a credit card.  And bitch about the copay every time (I see a lot, especially at the endocrinologist's office).  

But yes, medical is another line on the budget that needs to be...close to the top.  Above "stuff I want" but below "stuff my family needs."  It may not be stuff, but it is both an expense and a need.  

The "expense" part will vary with age and health--you've got to figure that stuff out for yourself.  But you need to figure a lot of different things into that: your insurance costs (if it doesn't come out of your paycheck before you even see it), your office copay for each visit (yes, you're going to need to do math: what's the base copay, times how many people, times how many times per year).  A couple of visits to urgent care or the emergency room per person per year (you likely won't need to use it, but it's better to have it in reserve for the possibility).  Your prescriptions...and a few extra bucks set aside for an "uh-oh, need a course of antibiotics" situation.  Any vitamins and/or other supplements you take.  Over the counter meds like NSAIDs, acetaminophen, antibiotic ointment; supplies like bandages (wraps and sticky), disinfectants (alcohol and peroxide are an absolute must, as is bleach), hygiene supplies (soap!  shampoo!  toothbrushes/pastes! laundry- and dish-detergent!).  

Hey, how's your vision?  Yeah, you're going to need to budget for that, too.  And start socking away money to cover glasses--just in case--even if you don't need them currently

A lot of this is, quite honestly, ongoing small costs.  Preventative maintenance.  You pay the small costs up front so you don't incur enormous ones.  

Budget for them.  You need a line item in your written budget for "medical."  Be honest, and be thorough.  

It's a lot less stressful to know you've got the money to cover those things than to not think about them and have them pop up in your face just before you've bought groceries.  

Or worse, just after you've bought that thing you wanted that could have paid for the sudden, unplanned medical expense, instead.