November 2007

    Suppose, for a moment, that you have recently been to see the orthopedist, who, though thoroughly puzzled about what *was* wrong, declared very cheerfully that there your hip joint was definitely Not Guilty*.   And this is exactly the news that made your physical therapist tremble with excitement, for now she can begin Doing Things. 

    Physical therapists, of course, are medical professionals who receive extensive training, often at the graduate level, who cannot be licensed until they compete a practicum demonstrating the ability to say persuasively, and with a straight face, "Aching is good."  And then, of course, proceeding to Do Things that induce said aching.

    In which case, you might come home, put the children outside and the baby down for a nap, and wish you were my older sister.  Not because this sister is married to a physical therapist — that fact is purely coincidence, and only very distantly related to the handy tip coming ahead.  But because she owns the best bathtub in the world.

    If you read publications such Fine Homebuilding or Better Homes and Gardens, you might be under the mistaken impression that the best-ness of a bathtub has to do with the materials it is made of, or the attractiveness of the finish, or possibly even it’s easiness-to-clean.  Now there is something to be said for easy cleaning, but that is not the measure of best-ness.  No, no: bathtub best-ness is all about comfort.

    My sister’s bathtub is the builder’s standard-issue contractor-grade tub, probably plastic, put in by two’s (one on the hall, one in the master bedroom) in all the tract homes in her unremarkable, affordable neighborhood.  The kind of neighborhood that does not have a community center or a pool, nor even went through much trouble to disguise the fact that the hundreds of homes gathered elbow-to-elbow are, every one of them, one of exactly four possible models.  In the triumph of triumphs in the world of affordable housing, these thousand or so identical tubs are, every one of them, supremely comfortable.  Exactly what a person needs, when that person has lately been subject to a physical therapist permitted to Do Things.

    Enough to make me want to move to Las Vegas and offer to babysit my sister’s teenagers, just to get to use her tub.  But no dice.  And hence, the life jackets.  Because I do have a tub, for which I am grateful, but it is not a Comfortable Tub.    And you cannot fix an uncomfortable tub the way you fix an uncomfortable sofa, by gathering up an array of throw-pillows and using them to reconfigure the reclining surface.  Furthermore, I recoiled in horror at the prospect of purchasing some dubious inflatable "bath pillow", having had encounters with such items earlier in life.

    But life jackets — a small army of children’s lifejackets, stored in a rubbermaid tub in the garage,  waiting for warmer weather, or some desperate soul to put them to use in a non-coast-guard-approved fashion — these, I discovered, can do wonders for a tub.  They are cushion-y.  They can be folded around in all different directions, and piled on top of each other.  They are meant to get wet, and they dry easily afterwards.  The great equalizers, in a world of bathtub-inequality.   In all, a lovely discovery.


    And a life-jacket related story from the small-child archives:  Several years ago we went hiking, and  the SuperHusband was ferrying LP, then aged three, across a fast-moving stream.  He made a great leap and landed on the other side, firmly on patch of ground that was, as it happened, a yellow-jacket’s nest.  No preschoolers were harmed in this adventure, but the SuperHusband did get several of the insects up his shorts, with the expected result. 

    Made for  much unpleasantness for the gallant SuperHusband, but very good story-telling when we got back to the campground.  As LP told it:  "We went hiking, and Daddy got attacked by the Life-jackets."


    Mystery Ailment Update:  I am again numbered among the People Who Walk Around.  Not to be confused with the People Who Rotate Their Right Leg, let us not get carried away.  But walking forward in a straight line, no problem.   Indeed, at the moment the mystery ailment seems to be a case of life imitating a teenager’s fantasy-injury:  I can go out for a brisk walk in the lovely fall weather, but cannot clean the kitchen.   (Apparently I do something very bad when I do housework.  Getting a finger on the precise movement that causes the trouble is not all that easy.  Since I’m always doing whatever-it-is when  my concentration is on other activities, such as doing housework.)

     Sneaked out front after the baby’s nap this afternoon, failing to tell the older children that the baby was up and their backyard-banishment was over, and pushed a very happy aspiring-toddler around the driveway in her little plastic car.  (This one – ours, of course, being the model that had the stickers pulled off shortly after we brought it home from the church bazaar, three children ago.)  Despite accusations that this kind of activity fosters inordinate car-love in the infant, guaranteed to doom our society to another generation of uncontrolled suburban sprawl, we had a lovely time. 


* What about the Wayward Femur, curious readers want to know?  At this time, evidence is scanty.  Is it a Criminal Mastermind?  Willing Accomplice?  Unwitting Victim?  Innocent Bystander?  Stay tuned for the next installment . . .


    Went to TR’s this year for Thanksgiving, which is my usual preference — his daughter is a fabulous cook.  Thanksgiving at TR’s has always drawn an assortment of guests, primarily people who have nowhere else to go.  This year the company was particularly good. 

    Several changes this year, aside from the obvious one.  For one thing, the remainder of TR’s gun collection — whatever was left after various friends and relatives took their pick — has been sold.  This was a both a sight unsettling (bare cabinets), and also a great relief for the SuperHusband and me:  Thursday morning, Mr. Boy had inquired if he couldn’t have one of the guns with a bayonet on the end.   This would have been a very hard request to turn down, between the sentimental value and the historic interest.  And yet, there is something about "7-year-old-boy" and "item with bayonet on the end" that gives a parent cause for pause.  

    The funniest change though, is that we got to sit in the living room.  You know, the room with the antique furniture that no one is ever allowed to use?  This particular one being clad in 35-year-old-and-still-unstained pale yellow carpet.  And we used the real crystal.  There was a definite feeling of the "the adults are away, the children are getting into things".

    In all, a very good Thanksgiving.


    After a warm and cloudy Thanksgiving we had a stunningly clear, bright Friday-after.  SuperHusband took the big kids to the Congaree Swamp National Park; little girls and I played in the leaves of the Syrup Maple.   Colors this year turned out better than expected.  On the drive to TR’s, the interstate was lined with striking patches of deep and vivid reds against the dark green of pines.   Here’s the syrup maple, taken earlier in the week or late last week, can’t remember.

    As of this morning, all maple leaves are down now, except for the Miserly Maple, which won’t let go of the remainder of its stash until sometime in the spring.


    In other news: Mystery ailment remains a mystery.  Orthopedist shook his head.   But he’s investigating.   He had the distinction of telling me not to worry about trying to rest, seeing as it hasn’t helped.  That was nice, in the sense that he called off the Leg Police.  Not resting, of course, is a source of symptoms that inspire rest anyway, so it’s essentially a wash.   Super nice guy, though.  See him again next Friday.

    Wondering what to do with myself today, I re-discovered the Catholic Crossword in the Miscellany (our diocesan newspaper).   In normal times, doing the crossword would be a warning sign that I have gone to extremes in my goofing-off.  But these are not normal times:

    I spy it.  I congratulate myself on discovering a mind-enriching way to spend my mandatory rest.  I complete it.  In one sitting, because, you know, that’s my job: sitting around.   I feel immense satisfaction at my intellectual powers, and my laudatory efforts at preserving them.   And then of course I come and blog about it.  (Hello world! Jennifer did a crossword puzzle!!)

    If the orthopedist has any doubts about the desperation* around this house, I’ll just point him to my blog. 


    Far more exciting news reported in the Miscellany: NFP now has its own insurance codes.  (Those numbers they circle on your bill at the doctor’s office, telling the insurance company what services and diagnoses you received.)  One for NFP as a means of preventing pregnancy, one for NFP used to achieve pregnancy.   Here’s the article from the St. Louis Review,  similar to the one the Miscellany picked up from CNS.

*I don’t mean desperate in the sense of depressed or distressed or especially miserable.  Desperate in the sense of, "SuperHusband would rather not fetch carry-out today.  Again.  No matter how much the kids love it.  Would somebody please get our cook back to work??"


Sadie  randomly tagged me for the seven random facts meme, in which we list seven random or weird facts about ourself.  As if readers of this blog couldn’t come up with plenty of random facts without my needing to list them.  But it’s my first meme invitation, of course I have to do it. 

1.  I was my parish’s "Outstanding Catholic Student of the Year" my senior year in high school.  It didn’t last.  But here I am back in the Church, and much more so than I was then, so maybe there was more to it than I knew.

2. I used to play rugby.

3.  I took Arabic in college, long before Arabic was a hot language.  I still have my notes from those classes, but I can’t read them any more.  I have other notes, from other classes, that also look like Arabic, but are actually English.  I can’t read them, either.  This is why I type 98% of my correspondence.

4.  I once had a job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.  I was spectacularly unsuccessful, but I had a lovely time meeting all sorts of interesting people.

5.  I had no trouble driving in England.  Because I can’t tell left from right.  (You just put the passenger to the curb and you’re fine.)   Well, now I can, because we’ve been practicing it in our home school.    But until October 2007, no, I really couldn’t, unless I concentrated extra hard and even then I might get it wrong.

6.  I can be very shy in person  — some of my friends remember me as "the girl who didn’t speak — for months" — and hate making phone calls.  But I thoroughly enjoy public speaking.

7. I don’t follow rules well.  And I’m a tad lazy  efficient.  So I’m not going to tag seven people.  But if you’re one of my readers, I’d love to see your seven facts.  Post a comment so I know to go look for them.

In the unlikely event that you are reader #8 or higher to participate, by all means join in.  (Do I have that many blog-owning readers? I haven’t checked lately.  I doubt it.)   And if you can’t bear to do just seven facts, you can do extra.

Sadie actually posted and followed the rules, so if you are stickler for that sort of thing, go look at her blog for the details.

Here they are.  New readers can refer back to the Snake Report for the exciting tale of how we became, for a very short time, snake custodians.  Our snake friend has not made any more visits, and the Sterilite container is back to its former employment as action-figure storage.

Refer to for more information on, and better photos of, Black Rat Snakes. 

the underside of the snake, note the distinctive pattern
The underside of the snake.  Note the distinctive patterning.

Free at last.  Nothing like a photo shoot to make a snake happy to go back to the woods and stay in the woods.

    I always used to cringe when I heard the word "empowered".  Because it sounded like a made-up word, and because it seemed to pop up in the whiniest of contexts.  Turns out it isn’t that new  of a word — it made the cut for my dad’s stodgy old collegiate dictionary, circa 1960.  And it turns out that there are decidedly non-whiny moments when it is just the right word.

    So today I took the doors off the cabinets below the bathroom sink.  The mystery ailment is slowly decreasing in mysteriousness, but certain secrets remain.  I get to see the orthopedist next week, and hopefully the veil will be lifted at that time. 

    (Why so long?  Not the evils of socialized medicine.  I just have a very low-intervention family physician.  And, I must grudgingly admit, the long, slow take-it-easy method has helped parse out the jumble of complaints.)

    In the meantime, though, I’m supposed to stay off my feet as much as possible.  This because at least part of the mystery — possibly the crux of it, possibly not — is a wayward femur.  The sort of disorderly femur that does not stay nice and steady in one snug spot in the hip joint.  (Is it the femur’s fault? Probably not.)   So when I walk too much, things hurt, and my leg gets numb.  Physician and P.T. agree, I should not do things that hurt or make my leg numb.

    As I’ve gradually pared down activities, there’ve been a lot of things that are pretty easy to outsource.  Children can do more housework.  A friend was very willing to pick up paid work as dance-class-day chauffer.  There’s a reason they have that long aisle of frozen meals at the grocery store.  No problem.

    But there’s a bit of internal tension on my part, because it’s one thing to make the kids clean the kitchen, it’s another to have them fetch and deliver every little thing a scattered-brained mother left at the far end of the house, and suddenly realized she needs, and can’t remember exactly where she put it. 

    And then, there’s a limited number of maternal walking minutes available each day, but no one really knows how many there are.   All we know is that it is very important not to use them up.   Is it okay to get up and go get a book?  For me, to read, all to myself, purely for my own entertainment?  Wasting valuable steps here, don’t want to do Permanent Damage on account of a little boredom, do we?  Especially while a hard-working SuperRelative is in the other room doing chores.  Major recipe for agonizing, self-doubting guilt-mania.

    Removing the cabinet doors under the bathroom sink makes it much more convenient to sit down while brushing teeth and all that, but the whole business of actually doing it uses up Valuable Steps.  And the SuperHusband has way more to do than he has time for, he isn’t exactly pacing the house at night begging for me to think up projects.

    And this is where the empowerment comes in: I got a wheelchair.   That fits.  Oh my goodness, the acts of contrition it is saving me.  Because now I can be in the bedroom, and look at the cabinet doors and realize I want them off, and I can just *go to the kitchen and get the screwdriver*.  Crossing the *entire house* in the process.  And cross the house again, take off cabinet doors.  And then! Get this! I realize I need a little ziplock bag to put the screws in, so I *go back to the kitchen*!  Just like that.   And then back to the bedroom to stow the screws and cabinet doors in the closet.

    And all this, while the Superhusband is at work and big kids are playing outside during the baby’s nap.  With no guilt.  Zero.  (Yes, I did have a certain awareness that I need to lay down some of the day.  But I’ve got a much better handle on that than on the step-ration. If I sit too much, I know it, I’m not agonizing over whether it’s too much or not.)  This is empowerment.

    And it gets even better.  Because then, after all this reckless crossing of the house,  I can realize that lunch leftovers are still out, and I can just get up and put them away, because I didn’t use up my step-quota on Some Other Task.   (My kitchen is not set up for a seated cook.)

   So that’s the news from the castle.  An empowered housewife.  Very nice.  No more sulking and despairing for me.  Everyone is happier.  Snake photos up next, if i can remember my photo-hosting location, and then I really will go lay down.