Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tick Sick

I'm not really one to jump on the bandwagon of all of those awareness months out there, but I'll make an exception for May--Lyme Disease Awareness Month. I guess I'm kind of late to it, but I want to write about it because Lyme Disease has been a big pain for our family, and I want you to know about it so it's not too big of a pain for yours. 

Our war with Lyme started about 6 years ago when our oldest son,  then a 4-year-old, started limping. There had been no injuries, and the limp would come and go. No child that young could fake a limp so well. We asked him if he was in pain, but he didn't even seem to notice anything different. We wondered if it were growing pains or some other benign childhood thing, but took him to the doctor just in case something was wrong.

We were more than surprised when the first thing our doctor suggested was Lyme Disease. We had seen no tick. There had been no tell-tale bull's-eye rash. He had no fever. No aches. No anything except a once in a while limp. It turns out that our doctor knew a good bit more about Lyme than many other doctors because her husband had progressed to a later stage of Lyme before he was diagnosed. None of us liked the idea of putting our son on a month-long (or more) course of antibiotics, so she suggested we could think about it and observe since we were just about to leave for vacation. 

Later that week she called my husband's cell phone while we were camping to check how our son was doing. We told her the limp was still there, and she strongly urged us to go ahead with the medicine. About 3 days into the treatment, the limp went away for good. 

Then, just last spring, our 7-year-old second-born starting having some troubles. He didn't much feel like eating he said. Strange. He also started having some pretty bad headaches. And then he said that he didn't feel like doing his school work; it wasn't that he didn't want to do his work, but he said he felt like his brain just couldn't do it because it felt all foggy. Then his legs were hurting; sometimes the shin, sometimes the ankle. 

Each of these symptoms was unrelated in my mind. The lack of appetite, I thought, could possibly be just some phase. Of course, ever since he was little when the pollen was particularly bad he was prone to horrible headaches. And the school work? Well, I was pretty sick of doing school work and ready for summer break, too. The leg pain must have been growing pains or something; he'd had leg cramps sometimes before. While each of these problems troubled me, not one thing was enough for me to consider going to the doctor.

One day he had a sort of splotchy face. Was it too much sun? Maybe poison ivy or maybe one of his brothers scratched his face while they were wrestling around. The next morning he woke up with a rash. It wasn't an ordinary rash. It was faint circles. It put me in mind of ringworm, but it wasn't the same exactly. It wasn't scaly or anything like that. And I found it really strange that ringworm would pop up overnight all over his body--his face, arms, trunk, and legs. I considered Lyme Disease, but I had thought that bull's eye rash had to have a tick-bite center. None of these did. I took pictures and called the doctor.

You can see a small circle on the inside of the left calf and a larger one on the right calf.

Our doctor took one look at his rash and confirmed it was Lyme. She took pictures, too. He was started on a 4-6 week course of antibiotics. And he began to improve almost right away.

Then a couple of weeks later we were off to my brother-in-law's wedding in Ohio. Just as we got on the interstate, my oldest son (then 9 years old) said that he had a tick crawling on him. Great. He handed it up to me, and I couldn't believe how little it was compared to the other ticks we had picked off of our children and dog. But at least he'd found it, and it wasn't attached. I got rid of that tiny disease-carrier.

A few days later, at the wedding reception, my eldest started feeling sick. His head hurt. He just didn't feel good. We left a bit early and started driving back to my brother-in-law's house where he promptly vomited all over the bathroom floor. It seemed he had a stomach bug. While on vacation. Now we just had to get him better and wait for the other 4 kids to come down with it. Away from home. Sigh.

The next day his stomach was feeling some better, but he just felt horrible. He had a fever. Once in a while he felt well enough to be outside and playing whiffle ball, but mostly he just wanted to rest. The next day we headed home.

Over the next week or so, he seemed better, but sometimes was just tired or had a little headache. He wasn't always wanting to eat either. My husband and I were beginning to wonder. One day he had some splotchiness on his face--was the one splotch sort of part of a circle? The next day he had the same circular "bull's eye" rash all over his body. Our doctor told us not to second-guess ourselves when we had concerns again. She also said not to wait for the rash; call her if they ever had any of the other symptoms again. He got antibiotics, too-- 4-6 weeks.

Later in the summer, our dog had a weird "episode." It was like his back legs wouldn't work right, and he was really frightened and seemed to be in pain. After a few minutes it passed. We took him to the vet who tested for Lyme, but it came back negative. A few months later he had another shorter episode. Then another a few months later. We took him to the vet again. She x-rayed his hips (he had to be put under for that), but all was well with that. She did note that his back legs were not as developed as his front legs. And his Lyme test came back positive. You guessed it. Antibiotics.

It seems that we've had lots of battles that have turned out okay. But really, it feels like a never-ending war. I can't even count the number of ticks we've picked off of our children and dog. And couch. And refrigerator. In our house the boys (and man) get "summer" haircuts, not so they will be cooler, but so we can spot ticks more easily.

We just spent several hundred dollars and have built a coop for guineas which will be delivered in a couple of weeks, all in the hopes that when we can let them free range they will eat up all the little blood-sucking ticks. You might not realize it, but with a husband, 6 children, a dog, 3 cats, several fish, a large vegetable garden, homeschooling, and umpteen million unfinished projects I want to do, I don't really want the extra responsibility of guinea fowl. I don't want to be tied down with them.

More than that, though, I don't want any of my loved ones to have Lyme Disease. Really, we've been quite lucky in the Lyme department because we've caught it fairly early. I have a cousin who almost lost her vision because of Lyme. Another friend had shoulder problems and Bell's Palsy. I've read way too many horror stories about what untreated Lyme does. If you haven't and don't know much about the disease, you should type it in your favorite search engine right now and read about it. Become familiar with all of the many, many possible symptoms. Your or yours could have the disease and only have one or two or ten or no symptoms. Frequently tests for Lyme come back with false negatives. It mimics so many different diseases. It is frequently misdiagnosed. It can be chronic and difficult and expensive to treat. It can leave permanent damage.

That's my public service announcement for the year. Please educate yourself. It's not an ailment you want to play around with.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Three-Layer Yummy-- A Recipe For Kids

My son is a thinker. He thinks up all sorts of plans, ideas, and inventions. When it is his day as kitchen helper, he often thinks up elaborate ideas for snacks. These ideas are not remotely doable. However, while at my parents' house, he found my mother's stash of instant pudding, and this dessert was born.

Three-Layer Yummy

His creation requires: 
  • one box of banana pudding, prepared
  • some sliced bananas
  • one box of vanilla pudding, prepared
  • one box of chocolate pudding, prepared
  • graham crackers, crumbled
  • chocolate chips
Notice how there are no sizes or exact amounts? Well, that's what makes this dessert perfect for kids to make. Just layer it in a dish the way the child dictates. Seriously. Something like this just can't go wrong. But for those of you who need a little more direction, slice bananas in the bottom of a big bowl. Then spread the banana pudding over the bananas. Then crumble up some graham crackers in a layer over the pudding. Next spread a layer of vanilla pudding followed by more graham crackers. Then comes the chocolate pudding and another layer of graham crackers. Top it all off with some chocolate chips. 

My son notes that you can use just about whatever pudding you want and put it together however you want--just don't use pistachio pudding!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Violets Are Blue or Purple

Well, a few weeks ago we got right back into the weed-eating. I'd not noticed it before, but this spring the children brought to my attention the violets that were growing all over our back yard. I guessed they were violets, but I didn't really even know. After consulting books and the internet, I found that they were indeed violets, and what's more, they are edible and healthy (lots of vitamin C).

So into the salad they went.

It was a spinach salad with dried cranberries and walnuts. The violets fit right in flavor-wise because the leaves tasted like the spinach. The flowers didn't have much of a taste that I noticed, but they sure do look pretty.

Now, before we go any further, please be smart. Don't go putting just any purple flower that grows in your yard in your salad bowl. Make sure you properly identify and research what you eat. And please don't just clip off some leaves and blossoms from your potted African violet. That's just not edible. Again, be smart.

Alas, I doubt we'll get to eat any more because the lawn was mowed. I know my children will keep their eyes open for them next spring.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Straddling the Fence

Well, it appears that one of two or three or four or five things has happened. Either

  1. I completely stumped all of my readers.  OR
  2. My geography question was so ridiculously easy that everybody thought it was just a rhetorical question.  OR
  3. Nobody really cared. OR
  4. I should've had a real prize. OR
  5. You forgot your homework.
Although you should perhaps have ventured a guess, I will tell you the answer. In the picture in the previous post, I was standing in two states. My left leg was in Pennsylvania, and my right leg was in Maryland. I was straddling the Mason Dixon Line. The stone marker you see is actually one of the special crownstones that was placed every 5 miles along the line. I suppose that means that the coat of arms you see is the Penn family coat of arms. The south side of the marker is the Calvert family coat of arms. This crownstone has sunken over time so that a large portion of it is buried. 

And there's your geography lesson for the week.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Homework

Do you know where I am standing in this picture? (Geographic location please. "On the ground" does not count.) 

Put your guess in the comments, and while I'd love to send the first winner a cool prize, I don't have any sponsors or such, so simply feeling proud will have to do.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Time Flies

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I just didn't expect it so soon. I suppose it happens to most parents eventually.

The empty nest.

My mother said that the baby birds were there yesterday, but this morning they were gone. She walked around the yard a little, but didn't see any little ones. It all happened so fast, but I read that it only takes about 2 weeks until baby robins leave the nest. 

A big thank you to my mother who has kept us informed and risked life and limb to get these nice pictures. It has been a most educational experience. Thanks, Mommy!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Return of the Robins

Look at those feathers!
My mother said she was scolded severely by many birds while trying to get this shot today. Evidently, robins really know how to raise the alarm if they feel their babies are threatened. Thanks for being brave in the face of danger, Mom!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mean, Mean Mommy

I only know this because my mother told me.

My daughter (4yo) called Grammy on the phone a couple of days ago. Dear daughter said, "I just cannot tolerate my mother anymore."

What, prithee, do you think I did to cause her such distress?

Well, she wanted to talk on the phone to Grammy, and I told her she could call her. Unfortunately, she wanted to carry on the conversation in the middle of the boys' school lesson. And loudly. I told her she needed to go to her room to talk on the telephone.

And that was all. Intolerable.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Hancock News Column-- May 7, 2014

This one is for my dear mother. Happy Mother's Day!


One luxury we splurge on is having unlimited long distance calls on our home phone line. It costs more, but when we moved here, we knew my well-practiced talent for talking on the phone, paired with the fact that all of our family and friends lived at least two hours away, would require the extra investment.
It was an investment worth the money. Countless mornings I’ve lain in bed a few extra lazy minutes while long-distance Grammy “baby-sits” an early bird. She kindly listens to childish concerns. She keeps important secrets that are whispered when everybody else is still sleeping. The children remind her to take her medicine or to refill the vaporizer for her breathing problems. They giggle together over jokes she finds for them on the internet. They play together their own made-up games like the rhyming game and the birthday game.
Do you know how sweet it is to awaken to the sound of your early-rising five-year-old asking Grammy to read a book to him? Some mornings I’ve walked down the hall to hear my mother on the speakerphone reading The Little Engine that Could to all five children, and they are reciting it with her because she’s read it so many times that it’s imprinted in their memories.
These close times with Grammy will stay with them even though they can’t be close to her geographically. Because of that unlimited long distance, my children’s chubby little fingers have learned how to dial that 11-digit number by heart, just to talk to their special friend. Yes, that extra money is certainly well worth the price.
On Mother’s Day in our house, we usually place a couple of long-distance phone calls to our mothers. Then because I love cookies, it’s become a tradition for me to make cookies with the children. This year I plan to make one of my favorites--Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. This recipe makes a huge amount, so you could bake some now and freeze some dough for later if you don’t want the temptation of so many freshly baked cookies piled up in the cookie jar. Or you could bake them all and share them with your mother!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (whatever kind you like)
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups quick oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Cream together the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt, and then stir it into the peanut butter mixture. Mix well. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork dipped in flour. Bake at 350℉ for about 12 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack, let cool until cookies won’t burn your mouth, and then enjoy with your children or mother (or all by yourself) and a glass of milk!

Mocking Bird

Recently our children overheard somebody say some words we didn't want them to repeat. Here is the dialogue that followed:

Me:  Don't use those words. Copy the words I use instead, okay?

Daughter: Copy the words I use instead, okay?

Me: Ha, ha. That's not what I meant.

Daughter: Ha, ha. That's not what I meant.

Ad infinitum. Or so it seemed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Robins, Part 3

Here is the latest installment in the robin saga. It appears that they are much larger, in just three days!
"It's getting crowded in this nest!"

It looks like there are still some patches with no feathers, but I bet it won't be long until they leave the nest.

Knock, Knock!

Wet washcloth in hand, I was wrestling my 2-year-old to get her messy lunch face cleaned up before her afternoon nap.  She was resisting and squawking until she decided to use words to remedy the situation.

"Knock, knock," said she.

"Who's there?" asked I.

"Leaf," said she.

"Leaf who?" asked I.

"Leaf me alone!" giggled my now clean-faced little sweetie.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Robins, Part 2

My mother sent this picture today.  They certainly have changed in just a couple of days.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rockin' Robins

When we were visiting my parents earlier this week, we looked out our bedroom window and saw a robin's nest. I couldn't see what was inside, but this morning, my mother sent this picture.

I asked Mom for updates as these little cuties(?) grow.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


While we were attempting to tempt our daughters out of the bathtub tonight, ours sons began screaming about something very important going on outside.

Doubly important!

While I grabbed the camera, a two-year-old may have escaped outside to dance while chanting, "Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!"

It was a beautiful sight.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Did you think you'd ever say. . . ?, No. 1*

"No. Please let's not drink the ketchup."

*Don't be misled. This is not in anyway the first surprising thing I've heard my husband or me say to our children. I always chuckle when we say such things and think that we should write them down, so here is the first such written record.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Hancock News Column-- April 23, 2014

The following column, when it appeared in the newspaper, did not include this picture, but it did include the aforementioned grammar. Your challenge is to find it. However, if you find more than the one I did, please don't let me know; I'll just feel more stupider.*

Feast your eyes on the prize(s)!
 The Great Ice Cream Debate**

         Ice cream. Few things motivate my children like a bowl of cold sweetness. I’m not surprised because I work harder if I know a couple scoops of chocolate candy-laced ice cream awaits me at the end of a difficult task. 
The possibility of a prize of an entire half-gallon of ice cream had my older boys buckling down with crayons in hand to color their entries for a local grocery store’s coloring contest. They were so proud to show me the fruits of their labor, so I was thrilled to hear the voicemail message letting us know that all three of them had won!  
Well, for some unknown reason, I had it in my mind that there was no way each of the boys would walk out the automatic doors with his own ice cream; certainly, I thought, the boys would have to share the prize. I had prepared the boys for this possibility so that they wouldn’t be too disappointed. I asked the woman at the customer service desk anyway and heard the response I’d expected.
As we walked through the produce section, one son excitedly asked if that meant they could each choose the flavor he wanted.
“No,” I explained, “You’ll need to settle on one you can all agree on.”
“But Mom,” my eldest said, “She said we could each have one.”
“No, she didn’t. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. One is enough,” I replied in a tone that did not invite any further challenges.
All through the store, my  mind was racing to find a solution averting the catastrophe looming in the last aisle. Walking past the meats, I wondered if maybe all three would want the same flavor. Impossible. Pushing the cart through the snack aisle, it occurred to me that perhaps one of the boys would be able to bribe the other two. Hmmm. Not likely. By the time we picked up a gallon of milk, I was desperate. Silently I pleaded, “Please, please let the freezer case have only one kind of ice cream left!” Yes, I know the boys would still be disappointed, but at least I would be spared brokering a deal.
No such luck.
Three minutes later, fellow shoppers saw us playing “One Potato, Two Potato” to decide whether we would be taking home cherry nut, cookies-n-cream, or chocolate marshmallow. Then I tried to soften the blow for two very disappointed but stoic children by allowing them each to pick out a topping for the cherry nut ice cream.
When we brought the ice cream to the customer service desk, the employee was confused. “Do they really only want one instead of three?” she asked.
Oops. Yes, I’d heard the answer that I’d expected earlier, but what I’d heard wasn’t actually what was said. My sons heard it, but I failed to really listen. I endured the inevitable I-told-you-sos all the way home with three much happier boys and three half-gallons of ice cream. 

I did apologize to my sons for not believing them. I will not apologize, however, for sharing this hot fudge recipe that my mother-in-law shared with me. It’s easy and probably tastes pretty good on just about whatever flavor of ice cream you end up bringing home. Best of all, it makes enough to eat now and to store in a jar in the refrigerator for later. 

Hot Fudge Sauce
1 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine butter, cocoa, sugar, and evaporated milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour hot mixture into a blender and blend for 2-4 minutes (I used my stick blender right in the pot). Serve immediately.

*Yes, that one was on purpose.
**The title was not written by me, but added by the newspaper's nice editor. I haven't asked if she wants me to come up with my own title. One one hand, I probably should so she doesn't have one more thing to do. On the other hand, it's kind of cool to see what she comes up with.