Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm so excited!

Those of you who know me in real life will be able to tell because my writing style is different when I'm this excited. I tend to have great big long sentences and not take a breath because I'll talk until I need to stop and inhale.
Our books for first grade got here this afternoon from Kolbe! We have two science workbooks which will make it a little easier for Dale and I'm not wild about the kindergarten science anyway so I'll cobble it together with stuff we already have and drag him along in first grade too. I don't anticipate much of a fight since he can already identify his planets in order and the difference between insects and spiders and probably most construction equipment.
Our books are here for first grade! We'll be starting geography and I didn't really request the handwriting book but I guess he ordered it anyway. No matter. We'll use it, I suppose.
The reader is still wrapped in plastic and the spines are all stiff except for the handwriting and they all have that Start of School crisp feel.
My father always thought September always seemed more like a new year than January, as you have new clothes and new books and new classes. I thought he had a point.

Anyway. I'm coming down a little. Until I look at the table where they're all stacked!

My mom looked at them and said, "I take it then that she passed?"

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My husband, the mighty hunter.

My husband really does go deer hunting in November. Only once has he been successful, but that's all right--it's a hobby. His father, uncle, and cousins typically send home enough venison with him that we save on beef for a month or so.

That's only once a year. It's tough on him. Another hobby of his, though, is haunting used book stores--both brick-and-mortar and online. It's a mixed blessing, as he usually finds something--but it's cheap. Like his near-complete collection of Giuseppe Ricciotti's works(no more than $15 each), the Douay-Rheims Confraternity Masterpiece Edition Bible ($25), or Will Durant's Story of Civilization (all 11 volumes, $40).
He also brings home treasures for me. Like the DeHarbe's Catechism I mentioned a while back ($5). Or Louis Veuillot's Jésus-Christ, copyright 1875 ($25). Or Pierre Grimal's Dictionnaire des Biographies, both volumes, copyright 1958 ($25).
Yes, those last two are in French. Why do you ask?

With the impending desecration/abridgement of the Little House books, I asked him for a favor that channeled both of these talents. How many of the soon-to-be-cut books could he find?

Heh. Once Bob the mailman does his job, we'll be missing one. Out of 15. For less than $85 including shipping.

UPDATE 2/28/07--In looking at his favorite used bookstore for our missing Little House book, he instead found a second-edition hardcover On the Banks of Plum Creek, published in 1937, priced at $6. Which coincidentally is the one I'm reading to Madeleine. It's before the Garth Williams illustrations.
And it's ours.


Monday, February 26, 2007


The info:
I got a load and a half of laundry done. Tomorrow's chores will include drafting the kids to put their own clothes away. It's a lot harder than it sounds, trust me.

I did a load and a half of dishes, more to follow now that dinner is done. An empty sink is a beautiful thing.

We did almost all of the school I planned. What didn't get done is a bit of science, two pages on seasons (fall and winter). We live in Michigan; Rachel at two can tell you about seasons. Madeleine could write the four sentences of text.

We had a brief moment of contention. Dale is now four and he's agreed to start some school on a regular basis. It seems Madeleine wasn't expecting another student and thus was quite distracting while Dale and I worked a bit with the letter B. She couldn't focus on math and we had to have a student-teacher conference afterward about sharing Mama's attention.

We finally finished Dale's birthday cake. It was only 8x8 but since my kids are weird and chose grapes for dessert yesterday, we finally finished it off today.

I had a chance to vacuum the living room rug, after which the kids ran in circles for about five minutes on it.

I cleaned off Rachel's chair with some Murphy's oil soap knockoff and her booster seat with disinfectant wipes. She didn't notice but I certainly could tell the difference.

Now for some questions:
Jean's husband--have you made the tandoori chicken yet?

Zach--did you know we would homeschool when we first met in 2001, or did you figure it out later when I started blogging about it?

Daisy--have you started looking at curricula yet? There's a TON out there and choosing is part of the fun!

Diane--have you gotten all of those tests graded yet?

Okay. That about does it.


I told you so!

I was going to post about not watching the Oscars but have changed my mind. Here's a synopsis: I can't watch five hours of people I don't know wearing clothes I can't afford praising movies I haven't seen. Abridged enough?

Speaking of abridgements, I found out this morning that the Dumbing Down continues apace. I can't believe it and am so mad I can't formulate coherent words.

Is paper that expensive? Or are these Gore syncophants afraid of killing trees? Might I suggest someone else more worthy of such censure?

I admit I haven't read the Charlotte, Martha, or Caroline series, but come on, people! These are children's books! How low are our expectations?

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Friday, February 23, 2007

On "intelligences"

Maybe I should just title this post "Opinions" and blame its crankiness on low blood sugar. Bear with me.

You know the saying that doctors make the worst patients? Teachers are pretty jaded parents of schoolkids, let me share that. For similar reasons. We know the bureaucracy and its foibles and are determined that their child avoid those pitfalls. I'll admit my knowledge of public school systems is hardly incentive to get my kids there (that's another post--or three).

The teacher "training" isn't all it should be, either. I had one prof whose voice was overpowered by the blower on the overhead projector in an 8:00 AM class. You might say that isn't that early, but trust me, as a college student it was fatal. She also read directly off note cards, "And when lecturing try not to read off note cards. It is difficult to maintain interest or attention without eye contact."

I don't have the quick wit my husband does but I can tell when something's fishy. Back in undergrad, we studied Gardiner's Multiple Intelligences. Back then, there were only three--visual/verbal, auditory, and kinesthetic, I think. Translated from teacherspeak, those mean showing, telling, and doing. I thought that pretty much covered ninety percent of kids. The last ten percent probably needed one-on-one time or just aren't cut out for it.
[I admit I'm balking at writing this because I can hear the Education Establishment shreiking in the back of my mind: "What do you mean, leave out that last ten percent? Don't you care about the children? How coldhearted! You're elitist! All children can succeed, and if you don't make them so YOU as a teacher need to work harder!"
Come on. Let's be realistic. Is every kid destined to be an all-A student, graduating magna cum laude from Stanford? Studies have shown that smart kids could virtually have chimps for teachers and still score above 1400 on their SATs. (Please don't make me find the link; I've got dialup.) I've had enough dumbing-down of education, eliminating valedictorian and salutatorian, honor rolls, et cetera so that nobody feels bad about someone else doing better. (Gag sound)]

In grad school, I found that Gardiner's intelligences had been expanded to nine, I think. Now there was physical, interpersonal, scientific, musical, mechanical... I got confused. Exactly how many different ways were we as teachers supposed to explain things? Their descriptions sounded pretty vague as well. How were students diagnosed with each of these learning styles? I admit I was overwhelmed.

And I smelled something fishy. I was snarky enough to whisper to a classmate, "In another few years they'll have, oh, about two dozen different 'intelligences'-- one for each student in the classroom!" They seemed more like astrological signs than actual science. Instead of "I'm on the cusp of Cancer and Leo, but my rising sign is Capricorn and I've got Gemini in retrograde" we could get "Johnny can't finish his math homework because he has an interpersonal intelligence with a strong tendency to musical." [No, Johnny can't finish his math homework because his parents have brought him up with no self-control or discipline. Or there are health issues involved that either haven't been diagnosed or you deny.]

I'll admit different kids have different learning styles. I see at least two here in my home--Madeleine is a visual/verbal kid with a fantastic memory, where Dale is more tactile and musical. Will I teach them the same material in different ways? Of course. Should I expect a public school teacher to come up with a dozen different ways of teaching the same thing? Of course NOT. Do I think it's a worthwhile way to spend teacher training time? What do you think?

Okay. Rant off.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another resource...

For our Catholic classical/Kolbe Academy homeschooling.

I'm adding it to my right-column as soon as I can access my template.

Long story.


For all of those injured...

This is a post to help Shelly laugh. And to give those in blissful ignorance an idea of the kind of pain tolerance/bullheadedness I descend from. And to remind those who are already familiar a chance to sigh and roll their eyes. Since the lasagna is in the oven and the kids are watching Noggin, I have a chance.
What follows is TRUE. While I did not see it myself, my mother did and she's a pretty credible witness. I'm not making it up though some of the details may be a bit vague. The pertinent stuff is absolutely factual.

My maternal grandmother was living alone when she broke her wrist at 88 years old (born in 1905, so this was 1993--I was away at college). She had previously broken an ankle and hated the cast; she didn't like this one any better.
Somehow, either she could wobble her hand around in her cast or they realized later with the X-rays she needed pins in her wrist. Either way, she needed a second cast with pins.
My mother was visiting her twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. When Mom left her, she had instructions to write down when she took her pain medication and not to get her new cast wet. I thought, "She's 88 years old. So she gets addicted to morphine. Wouldn't that be a happy way to go?"
When Mom went back three or four days later, Grandma (according to Mom) "had it all off."
My 88-year-old grandmother, who had trouble opening the cellophane on the McDonald's danish wrapper (do they still have those?), had decided she didn't like this cast. She had gone to the garage where she found a hammer. She broke the cast off. What was left she removed with scissors.
She wasn't done. Since she didn't like the pins any more than the cast, she got a pair of pliers and pulled the three pins out. All by herself.
I'm fairly sure Mom wavered a bit, then recovered enough to ask, "Where did you write down when you took your pain medication?"
Grandma replied, "Pain medication? I thought I wasn't supposed to take that medicine."

You read that right. Pounded on her own casted wrist with a hammer and then used ordinary garage pliers to pull the pins out while stone cold sober.

And my husband wonders why I feel like a wimp for taking Motrin for a headache...

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Everyone's doin' it.

Talking about Lent, that is.

So I'll tell you what we're doing this year. We're doing what I'm calling an Old-Fashioned Lent. We're using my DeHarbe's Catechism (copyright 1912, all you Modernists with your Baltimore Catechisms--faugh!).
It goes like this, taken from pages 218-219.

6. On what days are both the laws of abstinence and fasting to be observed?
The laws of both abstinence and fasting are to be observed on 1. Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent... etc.
7. On what days is the law of fasting, apart from the law of abstinence, to be observed?
The law of fasting, apart from the law of abstinence, is to be observed on all Week Days in Lent that have not already been mentioned.
8. Do the laws of either abstinence or fasting bind on Sundays or Holidays of obligation?
No; on Sundays and holidays of obligation neither fast nor abstinence need be observed; also the Lenten obligations of abstinence and fast end at noon on Holy Saturday because the Lenten Season closes at the end of Mass on that day.

Yep. Fasting all week 'cept Sunday, abstaining Fridays and Saturdays too.
It's like Catholic Weight Watchers but more so. I really don't feel the need to give up chocolate on top of that.

You may wonder what inspired this little foray into madness. It's my idea. And it's the first time we've really been able to do it. It's been like this: 2001--pregnant; 2002--nursing; 2003--nursing (different child), 2004--pregnant, 2005--nursing. Why didn't we do it last year? I don't remember; I think I forgot until a week into it or some such. We were still recovering from the February from Hell, frankly.
And before anyone calls a social worker on me, the kids are exempt, at least from the fasting. Abstaining, on the other hand, they do because I only prepare one meal. They like my tuna casserole.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Book bleg

We're in the market for a good book (or series thereof, if that's what it takes to be thorough) of American folk tales. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, and the Uncle Remus tales are ones I know I want included. Illustrated is preferred because the kids like pictures.

I'd rather not do movies. I recall Patrick Swayze did Pecos Bill a few years back but I didn't see it. While I've seen some really bad movies (Howard the Duck, Night of the Demons), I don't know if this is one of them. Is it a worthwhile kiddie flick, or is it like Robin Williams' Popeye (which I've seen too)?
And I don't imagine Disney is going to be releasing a Platinum Edition of Song of the South anytime soon. Which I also vaguely remember seeing in the theater...

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Good news!!

Lily Siekierski is coming home!!

Monday! She's over 5 pounds, breathing with her cannula, and taking all of her feeds orally. Praise be to God!


Saturday, February 17, 2007

First thing we do...

Of late, I've had reason to wonder why. The big Why? Recent readers already know some impetus; longtime readers know this month it will be 14 years since my dad died. Winter has never been my favorite season. Why do these things happen?

Some back story. My dad was only 57. He was self-employed for his last 14 years, most of it without health insurance for himself or his family. Seriously. He had a wife and three kids and no health insurance for anyone. When I say, "If we'd had allergies, we'd be dead," I only mean partly because my mother wouldn't have had the patience for it.
I had insurance when I was in college only because 1) it was mandated by the college and 2) they sold it for about $150 a year. Six months after graduation, though, I was flying solo. I went to the dentist, the optometrist (I had contacts and was vain), and the gynecologist (the Pill). I figured if both ends were okay, in between had to be in good shape too. Good thing I was pretty healthy; I don't know what would have happened if I'd gotten pregnant. The boyfriend at the time said he'd "fight for what was his"--a bit vague. What exactly did he consider "his"?
Anyway, the day I got hired at the parochial school brought me insurance. I remember signing the form--long-term disability was crossed out. I didn't care. I walked out of the interview thinking, "I have health insurance! I can get sick now!"
Back to my dad. He had health issues, I'm sure. His dad died when in his early 40's, his mother had diabetes pretty badly. He had problems my mother told me about after his passing (don't make me paint a picture, folks). He had bleeding from his ears. You know, where the skin is really thin?
But without health insurance, he couldn't afford a trip to the doctor. It's not a given he would have gone anyway, being a man from the Silent Generation and all, but he would have had one less excuse.

Then there's Christina. She was gainfully employed for most or all of her adult life, somehow or another. It was tough for her without a college degree but she never shirked or was too proud for just about any job. When she started having "digestive trouble," she tried adjusting her diet, her activity, tried blaming hormones, et cetera. Attributed it to irritable bowel, eating something bad, casting about for anything.
More than a year later, her workplace finally got health insurance and she traipsed off to the specialist she thought she needed. They thought a colonoscopy was the route to go, which is when they found the cancer that later killed her. At 34.
Okay, yeah, she could have gone on her husband's health insurance through his work, but that meant they wouldn't have enough to pay for the gas for him to get to work. Catch-22, anyone?

So we follow the money. Is it because doctors charge enormous fees to afford their private jets, ocean-going yachts, and Swiss bank accounts? I don't think so. Speaking as a lawyer's wife, it's not like they hand you a check along with your diploma. Have you seen how much med school costs? I've heard of doctors scrubbing their own office toilets to stay solvent. What is costing so much?

My guess is malpractice insurance. And who makes money from that?


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

We spent ours with a combination tonsillectomy/ adenoidectomy and recovery therefrom.

How romantic, you say.

I can tell how wound up I am about an event by how well I sleep before it. Back when I was teaching, I would have a restless night before school started and semester changes, waking up three or four times. On the other hand, the night before our wedding, I fell asleep around 11 on an air mattress on the floor of Christina's apartment and didn't wake until she started moving pans around to make pancakes near 8:30.

See, I knew I was doing the right thing.

But the boy's surgery today? Forget it. I managed to fall asleep around midnight, but when Rachel woke up at 3:50 I was up. It didn't help that the alarm was set for 5 since we had to be on the road by 6 to be sure to be to the surgery center by 6:30.

Before he went in, he was a wonderful, brave, cooperative little boy despite being awakened an hour and a half before he usually wakes up. Sure, he was a little shy, but not to the point of being a problem. He had no problem being wheeled in the wagon away from us into the OR.

We went back out to the waiting room where I desperately tried not to have a nervous breakdown. There was the impulse to run back in there, grab him and scream, "Don't hurt my little boy! I don't care how routine this is for you, it sure as H*%% is not for me!"

I resisted though the hit of Versed I probably would have gotten would have helped me get through the rest of it. Instead, I vainly tried to memorize the list of school closings, discussed with another mom our sentiments, shared a bag of baby carrots (her treat) and gave her a rosary so she had something to do with her hands. It had helped me, a little. I got through the first decade of the Glorious Mysteries when the doc came out in his U-M surgery hat. All was well, no fluid in the ears so no tubes. But his tonsils were "huge, his adenoids just big."

Afterward... Dale was not so cheerful.

We got to post-op and found our little boy being cuddled by his nurse and wailing for "Mommy." It took him five seconds to realize Mommy was there and ready to hold him. He was woozy, coughing, and hurting, trying to eat a Popsicle but afraid to swallow.
Nurse went over the post-op instructions virtually repeating what the doc had said. I didn't mind; I'd rather be told twice than not at all. She pointed out the phone number but also said we'd have an 24-hour availability line and "they're really good about callbacks in this practice."
The other lady hovering nearby commented that Dale had seen the "pulse-ox" and promptly put his hand out for her to clip it on. I knew it was from the tour the week before and told them so, and we all agreed it was a great program.
Anyway, we got his aceteminophen with codeine, Daddy pulled up the Buick, and we were on our way home by 9:30. If we'd pushed it, we could have made library time. As it was, Madeleine and I got out for swim class this afternoon.
And Dale? He was up for wrestling with Daddy tonight just before prayers. I think he'll be just fine.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm Heather, and I'm... a book snob.

No, I'm not talking one of those with tooled leather covers and gilt edges. Those look nice on a shelf but aren't always the most convenient for actual reading. Which is what I do with books--what you're supposed to do with books.
It's the contents I'm concerned with. Don't give me abridged versions, condensed revisions, or brief synapses. I'm a grown-up. Give me the real thing.
Examples: I've read Les Misérables--all 1500 pages or so--in both French and English. I read Gone with the Wind back in college. I've read Dracula, Frankenstein, and Phantom of the Opera since the kids were born--only one of which have I seen the movie. Pride and Prejudice, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Jungle Book too. Anna Karenina and The Three Musketeers are on the shelf for 2007. I've got The Last of the Mohicans on my list, though I was told years back it was boring. I don't know if that was the high-school kid talking or if it really is.
When a friend told me her husband had received The Count of Monte Cristo for Christmas, I asked which one. "The big one, about six hundred pages."
"No, you got the wuss version. The real one is almost 1500. But so worth it!"
I'm getting better, though. At least it was in English.
This friend was so proud that she'd read a book--Picture of Dorian Gray--before I had. That doesn't happen much.
I have a weakness, though. Every now and then, all of that intellectual growth and multisyllabic prose gets to me and I need to burp my head, as it were. That's where the embarrassment lay.
I also like--deep breath--trashy romance novels.
I'm not exaggerating when I say "trashy," either. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that trees died to print them. My most recent one involved a psycho ex-cheerleader and supposed Bigfoot sightings. Which, upon further reflection, makes it no less realistic than most of the others I've read, just more obvious about it.

I guess what I'm saying with this is, just because someone has read all of the smart stuff doesn't mean they spend all their time with it. They just might have some Virginia Henley or Joanna Lindsey in the pile with Wilde, Dumas, or Dickens.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Spread-eagled like old hookers in the sack,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge
Till on the smoky bars we turned our backs
And toward some stranger's bed began to trudge.
We screwed asleep. Many had lost the thrill
But screwed on, a fraud. All went numb, all blind,
Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the kill
of deadly HIV he left behind.

Sex! SEX! Quick, girls! An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting on the clumsy condoms just in time.
But someone was still holding out and waiting
And looking afraid she'd run out of time.
Dim, through the drunken haze and culture lies,
Another girl like me, I saw her drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
She plunges from me, smothering, choking, drowning.

If in some college dorm room you too could pace
Behind the student that was taken in
And watch the salt tears rolling down her face,
Her hopeful face, dreaming that she'd hear from him
If you could hear at every jolt the blood
Come gargling from the fun-corrupted wombs
Of us deceived, our babies less than mud
Our bodies scarred, small secrets taken to our tombs
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for some interesting story
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
pro voluptate mori.

With acknowledgement to the late Wilfred Owen


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Wish you were here....

The meme works this way: Who are the five Catholic (or Christian) bloggers you'd like to meet but haven't yet?
Since I got tagged, here's my list in no particular order:

Danielle at Danielle Daily
Mama of Mama Says
The Summa Mamas
Melanie Bettinelli of Wine-Dark Sea
Barb at SFO Mom
Julie D. of Happy Catholic

Hey, if Snoring Scholar (whom I'd also like to meet) can have more than five, why can't I? But hey, I'll stick with only five that I have actually met (even if just for a moment).
Dale of Dyspeptic Muttering (this is a joke--he's the husband)
Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It!
Amy Welborn and her Open Book(s)
Zach, the Eclectic Amateur
Shelly and her Brownies

So there you have it. Now, how does this work? Do those listed consider themselves tagged?


Ups and downs

Today seems to be a down day.
I made the mistake of picking up Dies the Fire, one of Christina's favorites. I haven't read the third one; I happened to peek and there's an... event in there I want to pretend doesn't happen. I know, it's fiction and none of it actually happens, but bear with me.
It's like in the Little House books. When you finish the Laura series, she and Manly are married and have Rose. Yes, they've lost the baby boy, but everyone else is still around. Somewhere in the Rose series, though, Pa dies. I don't like that. I like to imagine Ma and Pa are still farming out there in the little growing town of Silver Lake, while Mary is off at the college for the blind.
My dad didn't like reading fiction because when the book was over, he felt like he'd lost a friend. I suppose I get that from him. I like the idea of folks going on even if we aren't privy to their lives anymore. I still miss Andy Sipowicz, for the record.
Last month was rough, first with the death of Christina and then the miscarriage. I could hide from Chris because I was so distracted by what was going on internally but now that mask is gone.
I don't mean to rehash everything. I'll post again on an up day, probably tomorrow. We have library time, the tour of the surgery center for The Boy (his big day is St. Valentine's Day), and swim class. At least we'll be busy!

Apparently, it's Awards Season.

I think I'll probably find more for me over at the Hidden Treasure awards, as opposed to St. Blog's.
And nominations close tomorrow! I better act fast!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's Saturday, and we did some school.

One of the advantages of homeschooling, and starting it young, is the kids don't know any better. Madeleine and I just did some math, per her request--she's finishing up as I type. She did her language arts (reading, sight words, spelling) with Daddy this morning while I sneaked in my shower.
The Boy wanted to do some school today, too. I broke out his Preschool Scholar book and he did some number work, coloring and circling groups of up to 7. He doesn't yet have the fine motor skills to trace or write the numbers themselves yet, but he's not quite four. I'm not worried. While he was working, he said, "I love doing home school."
See, the kids haven't learned yet that they're supposed to dislike school, live for the weekends when they don't have to go. They don't know it's a five-day-a-week obligation with a two-day weekend respite. Instead, "school" is something fun like playing cars, Legos, or puppets. Since it usually has a parent involved, it's even cooler--like being read to.

Just another example of my kids not knowing any better.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kindness of strangers

We attend the same parish as I grew up in. I was baptized, received First Communion, and my first Confession there. That's where Dale and I were married--by the same priest, even.
All of our kids have been baptized there, and that's most likely where they'll receive their early sacraments, too.
Just because we're longtime regular members, though, doesn't mean I know everyone there. My mom tells me about various Adventures in Bingo of neighbors ("You know Rose, she lives down the street...") but to recognize them is asking too much.
Apparently, people know who we are. I was recognized by an older lady in the lingerie department of a local store. "You go to St. [Name], don't you? Ten o'clock? You got the three little ones, two girls and the boy. They're so cute."
In November 2004, Dale happened to be gone two weekends in a row. The first he was out west visiting his brother before deployment to Kuwait, the second was Opening Day of firearm season. The first my mother met me and the kids at mass, the next my mother-in-law was with me and the kids.
A lady with whom I've never spoken came up to me before the recessional was quite over. "Is your husband all right?"
I assured her he was fine and explained his absence. I was touched that this complete stranger would be paying enough attention to notice and then would be concerned enough to ask.

That's kind of how I feel about all the prayers and kind words lately.

And Milehimama, if you're reading this, I thought it was too long to leave in your comboxes. You never know who's watching--to the good. You're in my prayers, too.