Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Alarming Commercial

I think most of us have seen the recent flurry of home-security commercials from a nationwide alarm company.

The scenario is the same: The opening scene shows a woman either entering an empty house or is already home alone. She actaully remembers to set the alarm system upon entering the house as soon as she gets inside. It's a good thing, too, because all along she's been stalked by a hoodie-wearing marauder who kicks in the front door (sometimes in broad daylight) before she has a chance to put down her stuff.

The countless sterotypes are hilariously outlined in this Youtube link by Current TV, but my question surrounds something else. In nearly every one of these commercials, the home-alone victim beats feet upstairs to the second floor.

Why? Isn't the math obvious? Running upstairs = cornered.

Maybe she's hoping she can get enough info to the Security Company Guy before the brazen, door-kicking sociopath strangles her with the telephone cord, or she's running for that double-barrelled shotgun stashed in the hall closet.

(If the sociopath is brazen enough to kick in your door in broad daylight, is a noisemaker going to stop him? Statistics might be on his side when you consider the number of times your neighbor's alarm sounded off and you dismissed it as an annoyance. )

In most horror stories -- unlike these happy-ending commercials -- the victim trips on the stairs, finds the closet door locked, the phone doesn't work, and she's forced to scurry to the bathroom and lock herself inside.

We all know how effective that is!

Maybe if you actually live in an area where an alarm is not a nuisance and your police arrives within moments, staying home is wise. If you're at the mercy of the sheriff's deputy who has a fifteen-minute drive to your house, I don't think sticking around is such a good idea.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rise and Shine!

When they were babies, each of my kids had their own way of letting me know they were awake in the morning and ready to escape the confines of their cribs.

Precious Daughter used to slam her heels into the mattress.

Mighty B. would stand up, hold the side rail, and bounce on the mattress for all he was worth. I sincerely feared he'd flip himself over the rail onto the floor.

Her Nibs stands up, holds the side rail, and shimmies her butt back and forth to thump the side of the crib against the wall.

It's a wonder that crib hasn't collapsed from the abuse.

Friday, March 19, 2010

These Boots Were Made for Walkin'

It's one of those baby milestones. I took Her Nibs to the local shoe store and had her fitted for a pair of the classic leather baby shoes. Like her big sister, she waited 13 months before giving two-legged travel a try.

Yeah, they're kind of old-fashioned, but I've always loved the look of them. I still have Precious Daughter's and Mighty B.'s, but I doubt I'll have them bronzed. I'm just not that "together."

Nibs isn't quite walking yet. She's braved a step and a half between the Oracle and Me, but she hasn't tried going anywhere else without holding on. She let go of Precious Daughter's hands for minute, and big sister backed out of the picture.

Wait! You'll scuff the leather!

Please note: Her Nibs still has rubber-band wrists.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Well, I'm Glad THAT'S Over (Part III)

What was in the car besides five people? Enough bedding, blankets, and comforters for the five of us; one load of laundry; one suitcase with changes of clothes; a DVD player and four movies; Her Nibs' pack-n-play, diapers, wipes, and changing pad; The Oracle's backpack; the kids' backpacks and lunch boxes; Leapsters, Polly Pockets, monster trucks, and other assorted toys they HAD to have for a one-night stay; our favorite coffee; the Nutella; and one two-pound package of meatball mix that was still mostly frozen. It was the only perishable food item that didn't perish. The Turtle was absolutely stuffed.

It takes us forever to unload the car. The kids are beside themselves with excitement. We're staying in my in-laws' basement rec-room with a pull-out sofa, a studio couch, and a Franklin stove. My FIL builds a small inferno and The Oracle fusses with the stovepipe which is slightly dented and leaking a fine, thin ribbon of smoke into the room. Within minutes, the room is sweltering and I'm sweating.

I make the pull-out for the kids, and through lots of nonsense we stuff them into the shower and pajamas. By now it's nearly 9:30, and it's going to be hard getting them up at 6:30 for school. While we needed the fireplace to warm up the basement, it's probably a huge mistake. The kids are too excited to sleep with the crackling fire and the big ticking clock. Mighty B. won't leave his sister alone and keeps bumping and poking at her. They're fighting over blankets and Precious daughter is drawing an imaginary do-not-cross-this line between the pillows with little effect. The Oracle and I are providing plenty of entertainment with getting the studio couch in order and keeping Her Nibs away from the stove. We ended up abandoning our preparations to hang out upstairs and hope their exhaustion takes over.

It's 11:30 before they're asleep, and now The Oracle and I are sneaking about in the dim firelight to make our bed, brush our teeth, and coax Her Nibs to sleep.

The Oracle crawls into bed while Her Nibs is wide awake. She wants no part of her pack-n-play. She wants the stove, and I'm sitting on a loveseat and letting her watch the blaze. Somewhere along the line, we both fell asleep, and I awaken at 1:30 a.m. with a stiff neck and my arm numb to the shoulder.

I deposit Her Nibs into her temporary bed, and I consider crawling in myself. Instead, I start thinking about the Shedder. We last saw the Shedder at 8:00 p.m., and I know full well that I won't return home until after 8:00 a.m. I wonder whether she can hold herself twelve hours even though I already know the answer. I know she'd try, but I don't think she can. From the way she's been dragging her hind legs these last few weeks, I suspect she's got some denervation going on.

I don my shoes, sneak out of the house, and drive home. The power is still out. Duchess is so excited to see me, and I feel like a heel for not staying. I admit I was tempted, but I knew Her Nibs wouldn't tolerate the hard play pen for long, and I didn't want her waking her siblings. I give Duchess clean water, a little belly-rub time, and I remember to grab The Oracle's uniform shirt for that evening's game before I drive back and crawl into bed at 2:30.

I can't sleep. My FIL has this large, antique time clock (like this one but a lot less brass) hanging on the rec-room wall. It really is an awesome piece, and I confess that I secretly lust for it as my own possession. (Guess that's not a secret any more.) When the house is quiet, you can hear it ticking upstairs. Now the house is quiet, but I'm less than five feet away from it, and the ticking resounds in my ears like the cadence from a snare drum. Thank God the thing doesn't chime, or I would have been able to mark my insomnia in quarter-hour increments.

Eventually, I do fall asleep, and I am predictably brought to wakefulness at 5:00 or so by the complaints of Her Nibs who is in an unfamiliar place on top of being chilly since the fire went out. We resume our arm-numbing position on the love seat and doze until the alarm goes off at 6:30.

Now the fun begins! Her Nibs is wide awake, and we start trying to rattle the older kids out of bed, doing everything but propping their eyeballs open with toothpicks. To their credit, they rise, eat breakfast, and get dressed for school without disturbing their grandparents. Her Nibs and I leave to take them to school.

The kids are ten minutes late, but they're there and that's all I care about. I stop at the house to make their lunches (PB&J) and take care of Duchess. The power is still out. On my way to the school, I'm thinking of Precious Daughter and how much she hates PB&J, and I feel guilty. Nibs and I stop at a nearby convenience store and add a Reese's egg to each lunch bag.

I get in and start the car and - WHAM! - somebody rear ended me. (so glad I was already in and not merely halfway!) The impact felt like a lot, but it didn't disturb a sleeping Nibs in her car seat, and there's no visible damage. The ditzy driver and I exchange information with my promise to contact her if any backup sensors or my exhaust system were damaged.

I drop off the lunches and realize I forgot my purse. I had promised The Oracle that I'd pick up a weekly train pass on the way and I couldn't. I'm three-quarters of the way back when he tells me he needs his work pass to get in the building as well as his ID for the game that evening. Once he's ready for work, we drive back to our house (the power is still out), get his passes, and I drop him off at the train station.

I was so sick of the car I could cry, but I wasn't finished yet. I still had a job interview twenty miles away at 2:00 p.m. By the time I drop The Oracle at the station, it's roughly 11:00 a.m. I return to my in-laws' to shower, feed Her Nibs, and get out the door by 12:45.

I never had time for lunch, so I grab a burger on the way, being careful not to dribble on my interview clothes. Why didn't I just get chicken pieces instead?

I arrive, and I'm happy to find a parking meter right by my destination. I'd worked for this employer before, so I knew how horrible the parking situation was. I ditch my sneakers to change into my pumps and get out of the car to feed the meter.

What's this?

My gait is all wonky because I'm wearing two different shoes. See, when I was poking around in the dark for a pair of black pumps, I grabbed one of each pair. Fortunately, they're nearly identical, spiky-heeled and pointy-toed and even the same brand, but one was two inches shorter than the other.

Having only fifteen minutes to spare and no time to go shoe shopping, I called The Oracle and had a good laugh instead. I did my best to walk evenly on my toes and keep one mismatched shoe out of sight at all times. I also suppressed the urge to brag about my stupidity - something I'm prone to do when embarrassed - but when converation turned to our bout of lousy weather, I casually mentioned our power being out and left it at that.

My FIL met the kids' school bus at 3:00 and spotted a power truck from a city over 300 miles away working on a transformer. He spoke with the driver who estimated the return of our power by 7:30 p.m.

We ate dinner with my in-laws. When I called home at 7:05 p.m., I was overjoyed to hear our answering machine. After dinner my FIL and I started loading the car. We had to pick The Oracle up from the basketball game first, though, so we didn't get home until after 10:00 p.m.

I had to pitch the entire contents of my fridge and freezers except a few condiments. It's a bit of a blessing, I guess, since I really need to scour one and defrost the other. I later learned that the electric company will reimburse for my lost groceries, but they pass the bill on to the neighbor who owned the downed tree. I think that's kind of crappy. The tree is one in a long line of trees running the length of the city line, and they're all in pretty sorry shape. Where the treeline passes along our yard, the property on the city side is watershed land owned by the water department. (In an interesting note, the water department is in charge of the creek, but the parks department handles the trees.) I called them today to have them inspect the trees because they're ancient and very unstable. One is clearly infested with carpenter ants, so the others probably are too.

It's three days later, and the kids are still "hung over" from not getting enough sleep. The Shedder is still clingy and insecure from being "abandoned" by her pack. I can't wait for the weekend!

Now, aren't you glad it's over?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm Glad THAT'S Over - Part II

We park in the garage beneath the arena, and The Oracle goes inside to see if he can get tickets for us. We see other statisticians and their families waltzing about with passes around their necks, so we're thinking it won't be a problem. The kids and I are playing Red Light/Green Light as we wait. The Oracle returns with four tickets and we're good to go.

We have about forty minutes to kill before the game starts at 1:00, and the kids want to look around a bit before we eventually go inside. Precious Daughter and Mighty B. are starting to ask for lunch, so our plan is to get something to eat before taking our seats.

They scan our tickets -- No Re-entry! -- and we go upstairs. Our timing is good, with about five minutes to go before the National Anthem. After browbeating two overexcited kids to use the bathroom, we head for the concessions. Our choices are limited to pizza, hot dogs, and fried seafood. My weird kids don't eat pizza and are afraid of tasting fried seafood, so they settle on hot dogs. There's a big sign on the cash register announcing "cash only" for sales. The vendor tells me all of the vendors are cash only. He also said it wasn't their decision; the higher-ups decided it would go this way. He directs me to an ATM near where we entered the second floor.

I should point out that this arena is old, and it's purpose when constructed several decades ago had nothing to do with basketball. The basics have been retrofitted and remodeled for modern-day use and all-purpose function, but not in the realm of customer conveniences. The ATM in question was a temporary model, and it was sucked dry of cash probably as early as Friday's four-game marathon. A note taped to the screen directed users to the hotel next door.

The first thought to flash in my head was, "No Re-entry!" Now what are we supposed to do? The security guards are courteous and helpful despite helping countless others in the same plight, and through the rigmarole of stamping my hand and signing my tickets, I'm permitted to leave the arena without fear of "No Re-entry!"

Our little parade makes its way next door to discover that the only ATM I'm permitted to access in the hotel is out of order. It'll gleefully take my card and let me hit buttons, but the screen remains dark and I can only guess at what I'm doing.

Back out the door into the cold and damp, and we're walking to a mall that's another block or so away. Their ATM is offline.

Well, now, by this time, the kids are really hungry. My stomach is rather rumbly too. Hunger is the average suburban kid's greatest discomfort, so my kids believe that their misery is so acute they can't possibly walk another step. I remind them that they both had nice breakfasts -- nicer than usual thanks to our power outtage -- and can't resist telling them that there are plenty of kids in the world who didn't have breakfast at all. They responded by whining. I suggest that they'd have a lot more energy if they didn't waste it on complaining and Mommy wouldn't be such a grouch either.

Across the way I see another possibility, but it's not a kid-friendly establishment, and I'm told I am not permitted to bring my children inside.

I didn't mean to do it, but I whined. The man led us to the ATM.

Sixty dollars in hand (and a five dollar ATM fee!), we return to the arena. Precious and Mighty are practically staggering like refugees from the Sahara. Her Nibs' babblings have taken on a whiny tone, but I think her misery was due to being strapped down (first the car seat then the stroller) for nearly four hours. Past security, up the elevator, and we're facing the glory of food.

Our first stop is the candy counter. I normally wouldn't do things this way, but despite being whiny, they were well-behaved in the face of my snappish nagging to stay together, keep up, and keep moving. The candy is a mix-and-match plethora of sugary goodness at an astonishing $4 per quarter pound. Precious Daughter gets Reese's Pieces and red Swedish fish. Mighty B. chooses gummy worms and the larger Swedish fish in assorted colors. At the last minute I went with black licorice bites. Yeah, it spikes your blood pressure, and I'm sure the day's aggravation already gave it a boost, but I felt entitled.

Precious Daughter wants a bag of roasted peanuts, too.

Finally, we're in line for lunch. Hot dogs and chips for the kids, fried shrimp for me. With beverages it comes to a whopping $27. I'd already blown $15 on peanuts and candy. Sheesh! I was under the delusion that my $60 might include a little souvenir for the kids.

By the time we get to our seats, it's halftime, which means we spent an hour wandering about in search of money, and I'm amazed that I didn't bite off anyone's head the whole time. Security is once again very helpful, staying with Her Nibs in the stroller while I shuttle kids, food, beverages, and eventually Her Nibs back and forth. By the time I take my seat, halftime is half over.

The chips that came with the hot dog are "crab flavored." The kids are horrified and won't touch them. Precious daughter does not like her hot dog, but being a meanie-grouch mom, I refuse to buy anything else. I offer her some of my fried shrimp, and she refuses. She feasts on peanuts, candy, and root beer. Mighty B. downs his hot dog and his sister's. My stomach is roiling at their culinary indulgences, but they were good through the ATM ordeal and I say nothing. Her Nibs wants to try shrimp, but she hasn't tasted any shellfish yet, and I'm not willing to experiment in a crowded arena with the luck we're having this weekend. She eats the goodies I had stashed in my purse and she's happy.

My fried shrimp were excellent, by the way. The vendor is a well-known seafood restaurant in the region or I never would have ordered them in the first place. Even then, I half expected rubbery, overcooked, greasy shrimp simply because it's a temporary fast-food setup. But, I was hungry, didn't want a hot dog, and didn't want to wait (or make the kids wait) in another line to get pizza. For once, my impatience paid off. They were plentiful perfectly-fried shrimp. Precious Daughter missed out on a good thing.

The second half of the game was really good. The kids even got into it. Nobody whined about being bored and wanting to take a walk, and the team we were rooting for won the conference title. After the Oracle finished adding up the scorebook, we headed for home.

Our power was still out. Drat. I'd called my FIL that morning to arrange lodging for the night in the face of that possibility, but I was still disappointed. The Shedder eagerly greeted us and became increasingly antsy as we fumbled about our darkening house and stuffed the car with bedding, toiletries, stuff to do, a load of laundry (school uniforms), and changes of clothes. Chessie huddled in Mighty B's blankets and didn't come out. We ate dinner at a local diner and returned to the house to let the Shedder pee one more time and check the water bowls before heading to the in-laws' house fifteen minutes away.

We knew it was going to be a long night, but we had no idea how crazy it would be.

(To be continued.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Well, I'm glad THAT'S Over! (Part I)

I was originally going to title this, Hell Weekend, but it not only sounded like a cheesy slasher movie, it wasn't completely awful.

What a weekend!

I think I mentioned before that The Oracle is a statistician for college and professional basketball. After he helped me get the kids on the bus, he took our car Friday morning to work a conference tournament on the other side of the river. The first day of the tournament was a four-game stretch with the semi-finals scheduled for Saturday and the final on Sunday.

The four-game day is a brutal one with games scheduled in rapid succession, something like noon, 2:00, 6:00, and 8:00 p.m. Each men's game lasts a bit over two and a quarter hours. Four basketball games in one day is a lot and requires an overnight stay. Fortunately, his friend/boss has a home in the area and invited The Oracle to stay the night. Rather than be away from the kids for two nights, he decided to return after the two games on Saturday and drive back Sunday morning for the final.

This area of the country endured a horrid nor'easter weekend of nonstop rain and high winds that brought a fair amount of flooding and shredded several trees. It's been damp, cold, and miserable for three days.

Anticipating the Oracle's return Saturday night, I was making a vat of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I'm dropping the meatballs into the gravy at 4:30 when -pop!- our electricity went out. I waited a minute or two hoping the transformer would reset itself and power would return. No dice. I turn off the stove and order from a restaurant that delivers.

The skies are overcast and darkening. Most power outtages in my area last a few seconds to an hour or so, but when the lights don't come back on, I start enlisting the older kids' help to pick up the toys from the floor so we're not tripping on them in the dark later. I'm busily gathering candles and lamps to light the way when night really falls.

Dinner arrives and we eat by candlelight, and we have a good time. We feast on fat helpings of ice cream for dessert since I suspect the ice cream isn't long for this world.

I'm impressed with my kids' sudden ability to find things to do that don't require a television or computer, something of which they seemed incapable until Saturday night. Any "normal" weekday, Mighty B. is hounding me incessantly for permission to play with the Wii or his Webkins, and when his time ration is burned, he mopes about with "nothing to do" and getting into trouble. Precious Daughter has a roomful of toys, but once she tires of reading she'll stare at the never-ending repeats of Phineas and Ferb until her eyes fall out if I let her.

At our Christmas-in-February gathering (long story), my parents gave each of the older kids these awesome night-vision goggles. While I wasn't crazy about another hunk of Chinese-made plastic, I have to admit that the sheer coolness of the goggles trumped their country of origin, and I highly recommend them. They work surprisingly well, and I found myself borrowing them for numerous trips to the basement to find our propane lantern and my grandmother's oil lamp. When it got really dark, the kids were playing hide-and-seek with them in the back of the house where I lit no candles. Chessie hangs out back there, and she thinks candle flames are interesting toys.

(My stepmom found them on QVC which is where the link above leads, and QVC is selling them for ten bucks cheaper than Toys R Us. If you read the QVC reviews, you'll see that some customers reported goggles with defects. QVC's return/exchange policy is awesome, which is another reason to buy them there if you do.)

We're on the end of our electricity grid. We later discovered that we are one of fourteen houses on our street without power. The neighbor to my right has lights and heat, and the houses across the street do too. The cause of our outage is a downed tree behind one of the fourteen.

The Oracle returns home despite my recommendation not to and feasts on cereal for dinner. The kids are up rattling around until 10:3o or so. We eventually extinguish our candles for the night save one in the bathroom, and tuck the kids in with their flashlights nearby.

By morning, we're still without power and the house is getting chilly. The Oracle has to drive to Sunday's game which means we'd be stuck in a cold house all day with no food and no car, and at this point we know we're without power for the long haul, so we quickly shower (turning off the water between soap and rinse), feed the critters, and tag along with the Oracle to the basketball game.

We're not even sure if we can get tickets, but there's enough around the arena to keep us occupied for two-and-a-half hours.

A solid hour of that time was spent just trying to get lunch.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comments on Facebook

Note to Vee: I'm not trying to change your opinion that FB is a huge, time-sucking frivolity. I understand not wanting to get entangled with it.

That being said, I just had to share a recent discovery that has steered my Facebook time toward what I wanted it to do -- connect with friends -- instead of getting sucked into Facebook's cyber clutter.

Facebook has this feature called a "news feed." It's supposed to let you read updates of what your friends are doing or thinking, and it's a nifty little feature. The bad part about the news feed is that everything you do gets posted there if you're not careful.

For a time I got sucked into Fish World, a cutesy little time killer that starts you out with a fish tank and a few fish. Sell the fish for cyber money to buy more fish, tank decorations, and eventually more fish tanks. Feed your fish, clean the tank, give your fish cyber love (by clicking the "love my fish" button), and eventually you become a tycoon of sorts.

Really, though, you're trapped a s a Fish World slave. If you don't feed the fish, they go belly up, and you wind up flushing all that cyber money down the cyber drain. Your friends can revive your dead fish for you, but when you're housing hundreds of fish in a tank, it's a pretty hefty undertaking. Go a weekend without feeding the dumb cyber fish, and they're dead by Monday. It annoyed me so much that I actually created a fake FB user that I befriended and put onto Fish World for the sole purpose of reviving my dead fish. (In a tacky bit of humor, her password is "Lazarus.")

Back to the news feed. Fish World is a prime example of news feed clutter. Everything you do -- buy new fish, feed a friend's fish, clean your tanks, sell fish -- gets a pop-up request to publish to your friends' FB pages. Now, you can click one button one time to clutter your friends' feeds ad infinitum, but you have to refuse publication every single time. There is no one-button fix to reject this nonsense. I got so annoyed with it that I sold the last of my fish and abandoned my empty tanks to the cyber algae.

Facebook has a lot of clutter, and it took me a while to learn to ignore the cyber guilt that comes with not reciprocating with the game tokens, cyber flowers/smiles/hugs/hearts, pillow-fight and water-gun attacks. I do not care if "a lonely cow" has wandered from its farm and needs a home. I'm not interested in someone's latest high score in Bejeweled Blitz or Farkle or Word Twist.

What some FB users may not know is this: On every bit of cyber clutter in your news feed, hover to the right of the unwanted entry, and FB will reveal the word, "Hide." Click and it gives you the choice of hiding the game or hiding that person's news.

I've hidden countless applications (fish, farming, horoscopes, daily luck (whatever that is), restaurants, knights and dragons, you name it) and my news feed is becoming what I want it to be. I can check FB, respond to my friends' posts, and get out of Dodge in under a half an hour unless I start a chat session with somebody who happens to be online.

And now that I've figured it out, Facebook will probably undergo another major overhaul and I'll have to start from scratch.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Food Addiction

I've always loved the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. In fact, I'll never forget the first time I tasted them together. My friend, S., spent our graduation summer in Germany and gifted me with a boxful finely-chopped hazelnuts moulded in milk chocolate upon her return. They were divine, and I did my best to savor that box of candy for as long as I could stretch it.

In recent years, my hazelnut-chocolate craving has been fed with these:

And these (the dark chocolate is equally divine).

How is it that I spent my entire grocery-shopping existence walking by and never really noticing this?

I've seen it on the shelf, sure. I remember passively thinking, "I wonder what that's like," and quickly dismissing a purchase because of the hideous price attached to it. I didn't want to make that kind of investment on something that might be too gross to finish.

This week, my stupormarket had the small-sized jar of it on sale, so I impulsively dropped one into the cart.

Overnight, I've become a full-blown Nutella junkie. I enter the kitchen and immeditely fight the urge to snitch a baby-spoonful-sized nip from the jar. My mind is whirling with culinary possibilities. The top of my wanna-try list is a schmear on a slice of toasted home-made pound cake.

I went back yesterday and bought two more jars.

And, no, I never noticed the "Ferrero" logo on the jar, or I would have been hooked much sooner.

Do you enjoy Nutella? How?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poor Knucklehead

Duh-chess, our German Shedder, has had a rough time lately. She's been with us for six years, and for much of that time, she's had a chronic snot issue. Multiple trips to the vet clear it for a day or two, but it rapidly returns. On occasions where we've boarded her at the kennel, the snot clears until she returns home. Because of that, I've chalked it up to an allergy of some sort. (I admit that I have no medical basis for this assumption other than when it comes and goes and how she behaves.)

Duh-chess also tends to eat things that don't agree with her, as discussed in this post. Over the last few months, we figured she was getting into something but couldn't find the source. She'd spend half the night with her tail dropped, her belly tense, and panting in our faces. Whatever it was, it always cleared by morning. Yes, I could have taken her to the vet anyway, but somehow spending seventy bucks to explain a no-longer-existing symptom for the doc to not clearly diagnose didn't seem fiscally sound.

Last week she spend two days in turmoil, so I took her to the vet on Friday. She hadn't touched her breakfast until late into the evening on Wednesday, and Thursday's breakfast was still in the bowl on Friday morning. Added to her symptoms was a phlegmy cough that I didn't like. She's had the cough before, too, but it always cleared by morning. I figured it was related to the chronic snot. (Her shots are current, so things like distemper or kennel cough didn't seem likely.)

What really prompted the vet visit was a general weakness in her hind legs. In 2007, she'd tested positive for Lyme disease, and I feared a flare-up. Shepherds are prone to hip and lower-back nerve problems anyway, and I didn't want Lyme bringing on an early demise to our goofy companion.

Long story short, we spent $234 for a chest x-ray, a rather thorough physical exam, a Lyme test (negative!), a shot of antibiotics, and a ten-day supply of same. It seems Duh-chess has a rather deep respiratory infection. The doc showed where some fluid had gathered deep in her lungs.

Now I feel like a shitheel for blaming the poor dog's miseries on kitty-litter snacks.

The good news is that she ate some wet food on Sunday. It took me that long to conclude she might be ignoring the dry food because her throat was sore and irritated from coughing. I know I wouldn't reach for the hard sourdough pretzels if I had a sore throat. Poor pup.

She's still a little shaky on her legs, but she was barking at the school buses this morning. I'm hoping she'll be back to her goofy self soon.