Sunday, August 28, 2011

Special Needs Bunnies

The bunny saga continues.

Yesterday morning was spent at the vet's office with Grace and two of our six bunnies.

A few weeks ago I finally let Grace get the bunnies out and play with them and noticed that two of them had a funky flipper foot that was all sprung out sideways. At first I thought maybe they had gotten injured since they are constantly swimming through the water bowl and into Dad's side of the cage. Then I thought maybe they had gotten their foot caught somehow and broken it.

It just seemed too much of a coincedence that both bunnies had the same foot with the exact same problem.

Grace has been ate up about veterinarians lately and I've checked out every book about them from three libraries and brought them home for her to read and pour over the photos.

When I pointed out the problem to her she went nuts wanting to take them to the vet right then. I told her I wasn't going to take them to the vet. She was persistent.

I went inside and Googled bunny leg problems and came up with this link which diagnosed what I thought was the problem ... splay leg. Apparently it's congenital and can be exacerbated by being raised on a slick surface. I did not know this. They did have a wooden box they were in for the first several weeks of their life until they finally began to venture out in to the wire bottomed cage.

The first batch of oops bunnies did not have this affliction and were raised the exact same way.

The link suggested a brace that might help which consisted of sports tape, two cotton pads and a cork.

I had two of the three things so I went back out to report to Grace on the possible solution. She was set to go to her Nana's the next day for a long weekend and wanted to bail out immediately so she could doctor the bunnies. I told her we'd wait for her and do it Sunday night when she got back because I still had to buy some sports tape.

She decided that would work so a plan was hatched.

I got some tender tape (non adhesive) from Walgreens and Sunday night we all three attempted to brace the back legs of the bunnies.

I was not an easy task.

We finally accomplished it and they were none to happy with our efforts to "correct" their problem.

I checked them several times over the next couple of days and I was pretty sure our plan was not going to accomplish anything other than handicapping them even further so I took off our contraption.

I told Bryon we would just have to keep those two bunnies and sell or giveaway Cocoa and Bean since I was pretty sure no one else was going to want our two little messed up bunnies no matter how cute they were. Bryon thought that was fine until they got together accidentally at some point and produced an entire litter of messed up bunnies.

He just always has to foil my plan with logic.

Still, that was the plan I was going to go with. There are two swap meets each month through October; one in Marshfield and one in Fordland. It costs $5 to sell something and I thought I would try to sell them for $5 each or give them away if I had to. Bryon has a lady at work that wants one of them for her three year old so at least one is spoken for. One of the non goofy ones.

The yesterday morning I went out to take care of them and noticed the white one's legs were red and looked like all the fur was gone off them. The tape we had used was not adhesive and hadn't pulled off any hair so I was trying to puzzle together what was up with them. I picked up the little brown one to check out too and was disgusted to discover it's flipper leg was missing. As in gone. As in chewed off and gone.

I couldn't quite get my brain around the missing leg. It was all healed over and the knuckle of the bone was dry and it didn't seem to be in pain but it's LEG WAS GONE.

I went in to tell Grace (Bryon was out all day). Grace went nuts and ran out in her jammies to see it. She was excited and upset all a the same time. She begged and begged and cried and begged for me to take it to the vet. I was just debating over the value of taking it to the vet but she finally played the "If you love animals and care for them then you have to take them to the vet when they are hurt and suffering" card. I caved.

We loaded up both of the goofed up bunnies in the cat carrier and they rode on Grace's lap to the vet. 

Do you know how busy the vet is on a Saturday without an appointment? Very.

The receptionist said that only one of the three vets there that day was the "bunny guy" and asked if we wanted to just drop them of or wait. I contemplated the drop off option because then I could have gone to Freda's for breakfast at least but  let me tell you I would have never heard the end of it if Grace had missed the examination.

We waited. For about an hour. Dogs came in, dogs went out. Sometimes in multiples of three at a time from the same family. We saw a lot of dogs.

Finally we were up. Dr. Messick was great with Grace. I told him she was really interested in vets and he filled her in on the whole scoop and told her when she's in junior high if she is still interested she could come and shadow at the clinic. He also told her that the small animal vets field is primarily composed of women so that was a cool thing. And there is only one school of veterinary medicine in the state and it is in Columbia at MU. It takes eight years to become a vet. She had better get good grades ... and a scholarship.

Dr. Messick checked out both bunnies and said it was totally a congenital defect and there was really nothing that could be done to correct the problem. Most likely one of the parents had chewed off the leg and was working on the other rabbit's legs as well.  It was pretty gruesome to think about. Bless his heart he only charged us $20. Grace had offered to pay for the vet from her own money. I didn't make her.

He is pretty sure they are both boys. I have heard this before. I just hope he is more correct than the 17 year old girl at the swap meet who sold us Cocoa and Bean.

Grace has deemed them both "her" bunnies and we have them separate in a big dog crate outside by the rabbit hutch for now. I don't know what's going to happen to them but for now they are doing okay. They are cute. It's a good thing.

Another good thing about a three legged rabbit is that it doesn't hop away as quickly and Grace has been playing with that poor little rabbit like crazy. The other one doesn't know how lucky it is to still have both legs which makes it slightly less attractive to her.

Now I think they are mostly just in danger of being loved to death. That's got to be a better fate than having your legs chewed off.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dreams Deferred and Dreamt Again

My friend Jeff has left his job, his home and his wife (only by proximity) to pursue his dream of acting in L.A. He has been living with a friend's parents in a spare bedroom in Los Angeles for 172 days now. He's a funny guy. Seriously, he does comedy improv and writes and is a genuinely entertaining human being. He blogs every day and many of his posts have been hilarious accounts of the day to day minutia of trying to become a big star. Or in his case, just be gainfully employed in a profession that is notoriously difficult to break into let alone be successful at.

These are obstacles that would perhaps drive a lesser spirit to drink. Of course, he can't afford that; he has no job. His wife is still here and employed and keeping the home fires burning while he spends (a year maybe?) making this attempt to follow his dreams.

His wife supports him.

His wife is a saint.

While many of his posts are funny, others are heart breaking and seemingly soul crushing in the slowness that things seem to be developing. Here he had become a big fish in a small pond, there he's a guppy in the sea and just hoping to get caught in a gill net of stardom and pulled to the surface. He's a hero basically.

He doesn't have a cape or tights (dear God I hope not anyway) but would be willing to don one if the occasion should arise. He is putting his money where his mouth is and his words into action and every day taking steps in a positive direction towards an end goal. A passion. A dream.

Wouldn't we all be better served by life to take just an iota of the chance he's taking to pursue a dream? Remember when you were small or in junior high and you really thought you could pursue anything as a career if you wanted to? Maybe some people didn't feel that way.I'm guessing for most of us our spirits and dreams didn't get crushed or pushed aside or covered up until we started working jobs. Jobs that eventually turned into careers, that no matter how interesting or fulfilling, locked us into the golden handcuffs of needing, buying and acquiring more and which in turn forced us to work more and more and push those dreams farther and farther away.

Sometimes we might have even given up on those dreams as the folly of childhood. Or sometimes, maybe something can provide us with the tiniest spark and reignite that lost or deferred dream and now, as adults, who can control our action, time and other resources to a much higher degree and we can pursue them in a way that will serve us better than they ever would have then.

I don't remember at what point I became interested in reading and writing but it was probably around sixth grade that my interest started to be more than passing. At some point I remember my parents bought me an electric typewriter and that was about the coolest piece of equipment I had ever owned. I typed many, many sad junior high girl poems on that typewriter.

I typed lots of other things on it too. Eventually I typed articles for the local newspaper about my family and funny aspects of my life. They got published. I got a column. I also really liked to read. I read all sorts of books from our school library and whenever a subject interested me I checked out everything they had and poured over the pages. I ordered catalogs and consumer information government brochures on all sorts of subjects. The only bad thing about this passion is that I have a horrible memory. I wish I could retain much more of what I read. Instead I have become a hoarder of information and paper and books for reference which of course in my complete lack of a logical filing system are rarely ever referenced again.

Thank God for the internet,  DSL and the grid because now if I want to know something or look something up I have long ago forgotten, it's at my fingertips and in that giant filing cabinet in the sky somewhere... or maybe the Cloud.

I came across an awesome note taking site called Evernote thanks to Rachel's blog I read regularly called Small Notebook . You can even take pics of pages of books, magazines, anything with your iPhone and file them into different notebooks within the site and then reference them on your phone or computer (it syncs up).

So all of this to say, that last summer I got the writing bug again after reading maybe a hundred paranormal romances and decided to try my hand at it. Every time I read one of those books, I think "I could have done that". Last July I started a vampire paranormal romance that went along pretty well for a first real attempt for about 113 pages and then stalled. I got sort of stuck and it seemed too difficult to try to fit writing into my list of things to do.

Now some of my problem could be because of the whole "starter" vs. "sustainer" handicap I seem to have but I think I can stick it out and see it through if I know there is an attainable end goal and a tangible product of success to be had.

Last week I got an idea for a different paranormal romance and started working on it in a notebook. A real paper notebook. It's much, much more portable and doesn't have to be plugged in. This new novel attempt is not vampires which is probably good because by the time I get that vampire book written the craze will have passed and I'll have to wait another decade for them to be hot again.  These new characters just haven't shut up yet and I see lots of potential for not just one book but a series of them. I've been stealing time and staying up late to work on it this week and I already have 45 pages. Three hundred pages or around 80,000 words is a typical paperback novel size.

I think it's probably every English degree holder's eventual and perhaps latent dream to write a novel. Is this paranormal romance going to be the Great American Novel? Not likely. But it will sure make some monster romance lovers happy. And me happy.

Even if it never get's finished or dies on the vine, it has been nice to revisit a dream deferred and to feel the excitement I remember feeling from all those hours locked in my room in my childhood home tapping away on the keyboard of that old electric typewriter. The toys and tools are much cooler now and hopefully my writing is much better. No more depressing poetry anyway.

My pursuit of a dream is much less dramatic and not nearly as dangerous or courageous as Jeff's. The worst thing that's probably going to happen while following my dream is that my family will have to eat more Ramen noodles because I want to write instead of cook supper. I'm no super hero.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Kidney Stone Surprise

Medical calamity whining to follow, so if you don't like hearing about other peoples health problems, skip this post. You've been warned.

I spent two hours last Sunday morning in the St. John's Lebanon ER with a surprise kidney stone. Fear not, there won't be any photos of it.

I woke up about ten to seven am with excruciating pain in my right side. Sometimes I have a little pain in my back in the morning. I'm 43. It happens. I tried rolling over. Still pain. I got up and went to the bathroom. Still pain. By the time I'd made it around the house, I was nauseous. The next trip was to puke up my non-existent stomach contents as a result of the pain. Good times.

Bryon heard my problems and subsequent moanings and came in to investigate. I told him I wanted to go to Urgent Care so we got the early morning wheels into motion. He called Grandpa and we debated (well he debated I just mostly nodded) between Springfield and Lebanon. Since I was thinking this could be a week long deal and immediately planning for the worse case scenario, I voted for Lebanon so he could visit my bedside while he was at work.

I was suffering. It was way worse than labor had been because at least that came and went and you knew there would be a break no matter how brief and an end in sight. My braincells weren't firing well enough after only fifteen minutes of that pain to see any end to it and there was no relief.

It wasn't a sharp pain, or an ache it was just constant PAIN. I managed to get some clothes on, changed shirts twice because I couldn't stand anything touching my throat, like a collar. I brushed my teeth, grabbed a trash can to puke in and we were on our way to Marshfield (the opposite direction of the hospital by the way) to drop off Grace at Grandpa's.

Grace really, really wanted to go along because she's totally digging doctor and veterinarian stuff right now, but I wasn't in any mood for an intern. Bryon and I dropped her off on the street and she crossed the apartment grounds to Grandpa and we were off.

By this time Bryon was pretty sure it was probably a kidney stone. I was thinking exploded appendix because it felt like a definite explosion of some sort. He may have offered up other possiblities but honestly I was just in my own little bubble of PAIN. I kept puking and occasionally opening my eyes to see what mile marker we were on because they were not passing quickly enough to suit me.

Bryon later told me he was driving 85 mph. At one point I did notice some sirens and a patrolman on the other side of the highway but apparently he was after some other lawbreaker. Good thing because I think I would have just puked on his shoes.

We FINALLY got to the ER and they got me in and started an IV. They couldn't get my vein in either arm (big surprise there, I'm always like the last kid getting picked for dodge ball when I donate blood because I'm a hard stick and no one wants to do it). I think I told them all of this, but it probably mostly came out as "UG". Bryon did tell them I was a hard stick too. They finally got it into my hand and I know I asked repeated times for drugs. Pain drugs. Good ones.

I finally got them. The dear nurse that was administering to me was the nicest sweetest man, which of course I didn't totally appreciate until after it was all over, and he was working fast. My pain was just faster. He asked me what my pain was 1-10, 10 of course being the highest. Ten I said, definitely 10.

The meds knocked the pain back down to maybe a five but I was still sweating and squirming all over the hospital bed. Then we got to go down the hall for a CT and I had to stretch out on my belly and hold my breath while they radiated me.

By the time we got back to the ER suite I was ready for more drugs and asked for them. Ask and ye shall receive my friend. My concierge, I mean ER nurse, pumped me right up with a nice vintage of something ...dol. And it was good. No more pain. I also no longer had any vertical hold on my vision, but at that point what was a little dizziness and lack of vision? I just closed my eyes and dozed off for a few minutes blissfully pain free.

Bryon came back and told me I indeed had a kidney stone. Then the ER Doc came in and told me the same thing. It was three millimeters and had already passed from my kidney through the tiny little tube and was just about in my bladder. Apparently that tiny little tube was not built for solids and is usually flat until you get some liquid worked up and processed and ready to complete it's journey to the great beyond. So when something solid, like say a giant jagged boulder goes through it, it feels like you are passing glass.

ER Doc said anything less than six millimeters would pass no problem. Uh huh, I wasn't planning on ever testing that theory. Since Sunday, I've heard from lots of kidney stone survivors who of course all had their own horror stories. Much like childbirth only a unisex, equal opportunity affair. Many have even told me it's worse for men. Seems only fair since we have to give birth and can still get a kidney stone. 

The entire episode only lasted about three hours for me. I'm pretty sure that was mostly because Grandpa took Grace to church with him and the first thing she did when she walked through the door was to seek out Pastor Gary and ask him to pray for me. He did. The whole church did. I guess it sure worked ;)

I was a little loopy as we left and got a pain med prescription filled that I didn't end up needing and by the time we got home I was good as new. They wanted me to try to "catch" my stone. I won't go into the detail of how one does that, but you can imagine if you are so inclined.

I was unsuccessful in that endeavor. I think I must have passed it when I went one last time before I left the hospital. So now I'll never know what kind of stone it was or what offending food or beverage might have caused it. They suggested drinking lots of water with fresh lemons squeezed into it. I drink lots of tea usually. When I was pregnant with Grace, more than seven years ago now, I stopped drinking soda and switched to tea. I don't know if the tea caused it or something else, but I've drank nothing but a little coffee each day and lemon water every day since. It was a good motivator. I don't want another one. Ever.

I Googled today finally to see what I could do to prevent it and  this is what Mayo said...

You may reduce your risk of kidney stones if you:
  • Drink water throughout the day. Drink more water throughout the day. For people with a history of kidney stones, doctors usually recommend passing about 2.6 quarts (2.5 liters) of urine a day. Your doctor may ask that you measure your urine output to ensure that you're drinking enough water. People who live in hot, dry climates and those who exercise frequently may need to drink even more water to produce enough urine.
  • Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods. If you tend to form calcium oxalate stones, your doctor may recommend restricting foods rich in oxalates. These include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, tea, chocolate and soy products.
  • Choose a diet low in salt and animal protein. Reduce the amount of salt you eat and choose nonanimal protein sources, such as nuts and legumes. This may help reduce your chance of developing kidney stones.
  • Continue eating calcium-rich foods, but use caution with calcium supplements. The calcium in the food you eat doesn't have an effect on your risk of kidney stones. Continue eating calcium-rich foods unless your doctor advises otherwise. Ask your doctor before taking calcium supplements, though, as these have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones. You may reduce the risk by taking supplements with meals.
Now out of all of that ... the only thing I eat a lot of are tea, chocolate and meat. So I guess my stone might have been a chocolate meat smoothie. 

So that is the tale of my surprise kidney stone. Here's to hoping there will not be a sequel.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mean Girls

I'll admit I've never seen the movie, but real life experience with mean girls is enough for me. I don't need to see a movie.

Grace has had her first experiences with mean girls this summer. She's gone to daycare since she was twelve weeks old and with a lot of the same kids so he has lots of friends there. Since she started preschool and then kindergarten last year she's made new friends, and her old daycare friends have done the same. So this summer as soon as school was out it was off to daycare. I love daycare. It's open 6 am to 6 pm, I can drop her off and pick her up whenever I make it there and I know she's well fed, cared for and entertained. I don't worry about her at all. Until this summer.

Not two weeks into summer daycare she started complaining about mean girls. Her best friend suddenly wasn't her best friend anymore and wouldn't play exclusively with her. Another girl, her same age and her older sister were also causing her trouble. Those two were the children of one of the teachers so the problem felt compounded.

It's hard to know exactly what was going on or if Grace was an instigator or a victim. She seems to have good self-esteem and I think she'll stand up for herself but when push comes to shove there's no way to know unless I wire her with a hidden transmitter and helmet cam. Now THERE is a million dollar idea. The Headband Cam. The Sharper Edge could make a mint!

Her complaints were that the other girls were "mean" to her and not playing with her or starting to play with her and then abandoning her when someone else came along. She herself was very sassy and bossy acting at the beginning of the summer and Bryon and I decided to make her stop watching iCarly and the Lindsay Lohan version of Freaky Friday which really helped her demeanor... after the whining to watch it stopped.

The girls in those shows talked terrible to their parents and adults and treated each other poorly and she was starting to imitate them. Of course she didn't think so but as soon as the viewing stopped, her attitude improved. I know this is true for myself too. Crap in, crap out. What we read and watch really does affect us even if we don't think it does.

I used to watch ALL of the Law and Order shows and one week I realized I'd seen probably 20 murders on television that week not to mention the nightly news reports. I still watch a lot of crazy stuff but I'm an adult so I get to, Grace does not.

I didn't now how to help her except to give the lame advice that she would have to work it out (how she asked?) Ummmm, yeah. She could ask someone else to play with her (there was no one else she said). She could ask to play with them (they wouldn't she said). She could tell her teacher they were being mean to her (she wasn't supposed to tattle she said). She could play with her best boy friend Andrew (he had other boy friends, no girls allowed). She could color by herself (that was boring). You can see how all of my suggestions both the good ones and the lame ones went.

I don't remember too many mean girls when I was young but a few do stand out. I remember on the school bus when I was in kindergarten, I liked to sit as close to the back of the bus as I could. Of course the last four seats were "reserved" for the high school kids. I was drawn to them. Grace is too now. I sat in the first row from the reserved seats most of the time so I could be near the cool kids and hear their conversations. One day one of the high school girls pointed at my legs and started laughing and leaned over and stroked my leg. My legs were covered in fine black hairs of course. I don't think I was abnormally hairy or anything but she commented loudly about how hairy my legs were and I was mortified.

I went home that night and asked my Mom if I could shave my legs. She said no. I used to pretend to shave my legs for a LONG time after that. Of course it didn't help but I don't remember anymore comments after that from her. I don't remember if I moved up closer to the bus driver or not. That would have been the best plan but I was five then so probably not.

I don't really remember not having anyone to play with on the playground in school. I remember there were definitely cliques and I was not in the cool ones but even we nerds banded together and had friends. I do remember one mean girl in particular who said mean things and was hateful all the time in grade school. Her name was Staci D. She was Nellie Olsen to my Laura Ingalls. Total nemesis. She was always cutting people down.

When I was around 8 1/2 I got a journal and started to keep it sporadically. One day a few weeks ago Grace asked me to get her a journal. She had been watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid over and over and wanted to start keeping her own journal. I told her it might be better to wait until she knows more than sixty sight words but she insisted so I dug out an old notebook/journal I had picked up somewhere and gave it to her.

I also dug through my drawer for my old diaries. I showed them to her. I told her diaries are private and other people shouldn't read them but I would show her mine. She was not to get them without permission. The first page I turned to was this...

See Staci really DID think she was a big shot at school AND now you also know my "real boyfriends". Of course those boys didn't KNOW they were my boyfriends. Many got much more page time through the years and even into my second diary.
I wish I had kept many more entries than I did, but even then I was more of a starter than a sustainer. Still it's interesting (embarrasing) and maybe even a little helpful to look back and remember what it was like to be 8 1/2 and boy crazy and stuck with mean girls.

Grace's journal was her own idea and she took it to daycare several days and then showed me what she had written. She came up with this system all on her own since she can't write very many words yet to fully explain her feelings. She made boxes and put Yes or No in boxes. The Yes' are all the times her feelings were hurt by the mean girls.The No's are the times her feelings were not hurt. As you can see, one day was very bad, the next was a little better.

Every night before she goes to bed Bryon and I take turns reading to her. Bryon reads one or two books and then plays the Timber game with her (his big arm is a tree that falls on her over and over and she laughs uncontrollably). I just read. Bryon is the fun parent. Well since she just doesn't know very many works to write yet she asked me to help her spell words so she could write in her diary. I thought that was a very worthwhile endeavor. She wanted to write songs in her diary. Sure, I said.

Do you know how LONG it takes to write a song and spell out all those words? Longer than I have the patience for but I've been trying with the minimal amount of eye rolling and sighing on my part. It isn't easy.

She wrote this one...
and a few others and she started a story called Mean Girls.

I checked a book out of the library called Little Girls Can Be Mean . One of the first suggestions was to have the child keep a journal. Wow, we were better than we thought! So far that has been the best suggestion really.

One morning before we left for vacation I went in to wake her up to take her to daycare so I could work from home and she started crying not wanting to go. I caved and let her stay home. The next day I let her go to Grandpa's for the day so I could work in Rolla. I don't want her to start thinking she can just avoid the problem because if this happens at school (and it will) she can't ditch school. Since we got back from vacation things seem to have settled down for her. After the first few days back at daycare I asked how things were going and she said she had "worked it out". I asked her how that was. She said she just walked away from them or told her teacher or played with someone else. Good plan.

We invited one of her friends over for a sleepover to try to spark the BFF thing back into place and Grace ended up staying at her house instead. I think that helped some.

Life is just hard sometimes and you can wear a helmet but it won't protect your heart.