Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mosquito Magnet

Undoubtedly, mosquitoes have preferences. People do differ, and in any group of ten, one person will be fed on more than others. ~Jerry Butler

Mosquitoes! You can place me in a room with a hundred other people and release just one mosquito. It will most likely make a bee-line for me and bite me ten times, before it even notices there are a hundred other people in the room!

I have several reminders of this all over my legs since we began doing some serious gardening, particularly last weekend. I took no notice of the mosquitoes with my preoccupation of wrestling with some impressively invasive roots and vines that have been creeping out of the woods and claiming more of our lawn along the fence. I have no idea what the name of one of these towering weeds is but it can grow taller than I am and spread roots in all directions fifteen feet and more away but close to the surface so that they can grow more from those roots and this plant is not a vine! Fortunately, it breaks up the soil and pulls up easily, even in Georgia's clay, and that is about the only thing I can say good about it. So intend was I on removing these plants that mosquito bites happened without me noticing, until I was showering off the day's work and then the itchy bumps could not be ignored.

It is a very familiar sensation. When I was a child we lived very close to a lake. Had it not been for the blessing of winter, I don't think I would ever have enjoyed even one minute without itching. Throughout the summer my legs and arms were dotted so that no two-inch circle was without a scab. Now, yet again, it is the season for the little pests to breed and feed!

I keep hoping to see mosquitoes on the endangered species list. Would anyone mourn their possible loss? I rarely question why God made many of the creatures He did—I mean, as much as I hate to admit it even cockroaches seem to have a benefit to the ecology that I can understand, although I am sure I would not miss them either—but I just don't get the benefit of mosquitoes. Certainly fish, dragonflies, birds, and bats can find plenty of other pests to eat, I would think.

Oh, just in case you are also a mosquito magnet, as I am, the best treatment for the bites I have found is simply hydrogen peroxide. It neutralizes the itch and I have seen it do the same for allergic reactions in others. We keep ours handy in a spray bottle and rub it onto the skin. I have yet to find a repellent (that I would actually consider putting on my skin) that really works for me. Suggestions are appreciated.

~ My Lord, of all the things in Your creation, I do not understand why these little bloodsuckers were necessary, but I trust that, even if I don't understand the reason, You made them for some good purpose. All I ask is, if there are mosquitoes in heaven, that they will not be as irritating as they are here. ~

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Welcome Home, Shadow

If you're alone, I'll be your shadow. If you want to cry, I'll be your shoulder. If you want a hug, I'll be your pillow. If you need to be happy, I'll be your smile. But anytime you need a friend, I'll just be me. ~Unknown

Realizing that lessons would be out of the question, her mind just could not focus, I decided to run a few errands in the afternoon and then visit a pet shop. The Princess had just enough spending money to purchase one teddy bear (long haired) hamster. I wanted to give it a few days and set some new new rules, but I felt it would be best to do something constructive with our afternoon. My only stipulation in her choice was it had to be male; too many times people have gotten females unknowing there were more on the way.

At lunch, the Princess asked the Lord to lead her to a hamster that did not look like Dan, but had the same heart. After looking over all the choices, she narrowed it down to two solid colored hamsters, one red with darker eyes and a gray with dark reddish eyes. She liked the gray at first, but then wanted the red. They were both half grown. The red did not like being held as much, but the gray, even at such a young age, would tolerate being held for a short time while he considered you. This was definitely Dan-like behavior. She again changed her mind, after watching their reactions to being held and the gray was purchased.

On the way home, we went through a list of names. Finally, I said that Shadow was a name that I always wanted to use for a pet, but I never found the right pet for it. I liked it for a gray furry pet and because a shadow is always with you. She liked that idea and so Shadow has been spending some time exploring his new home, our home. He is energetic, yet interested in people and definitely is one who does not mind being handled.

I have decided that since she is older this time around, the Princess will remove the used bedding area daily and clean his cage regularly all by herself. I also decided that she will take financial responsibility for his food, bedding, and treats. To do this, I will take her to the store to see how much everything costs and then sit with her to write out a budget. Then we will make an envelope just for the hamster's expenses and I will raise her allowance enough to cover her budget, but she will have the responsibility of purchasing the necessities for Shadow.

Oh, before I forget...I did write in my last post that the Princess loves having parties for any reason and for no reason: She wanted to have a welcome home party for Shadow.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the sweet reminder that life, as it is, not only has its share of death, but also of birth and renewal and hope. Thank you for blessing my daughter with another good pet that she loves so much. ~

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poofy Dan, the Mystery Man

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~From a headstone in Ireland

I don't know why all of our pets nicknames are longer than their real names, but lately that is how it has been. We have "The Tail of Destruction" which is Hanah, our German Shepherd, a retiree from the border patrol. We have "Mornin' Lovin" Muffin" for Jamie, the most demanding cat I have ever had, who likes the rough stuff. Then there is Dan....

Dan is my daughter's first real pet, if we do not count the wild snails we kept for a year and then released. The Princess had in her mind, at the time, that she would marry a man named Dan, even though we knew of no one so named then or now...thankfully. When we found our furry friend, his markings were so irregular that I thought her first choice for his name, Mr. Mystery, fit very well. She changed her mind quickly though, as children do, to just Dan, the same name of her unknown betrothed. Her father said he looked poofy. The next thing I know the nickname Poofy Dan, the Mystery Man popped into my head and stuck. I just had to get that "Mystery" in his name because it fit so well; you could not tell which end was what sometimes and I had not seen a hamster with spots on one ear before.

I was a bit concerned as the Princess was six and a half years old when we decided to get a hamster in the fall of 2007. I thought she was a bit young, especially with a cat in house. All it would take is leaving his cage door open or letting him get away from her while he was out...Jamie is always on the alert for such opportunities. However, I also thought she was more responsible than most children at that age and far more gentle, which she proved to be, so it worked out very well. She has matured with him and was even able to clean the cage herself in time.

Dan has been a wonderful pet also. A very gentle creature who only bit the Princess twice and then it was when he mistook her finger for food. The first time was within the first few weeks we adopted him. In his defense, that finger must have smelled like the yummy peach she had just ate. I thought the first bite would make her give up on him, but she realized it was not on purpose and readily forgave him. The second time this emotional process worked out much faster with less parental intervention and far less tears.

Dan was given a birthday party at the insistence of the Princess in April 2008. She knew it was not his true birthday, but we were going to have a party because...well, this child does not need to have a reason for wanting to give someone a party; she just likes to give presents and have parties and would do so every day if I would allow it. Dan, always eager to explore new places and be given extra treats, was happy, too.

Dan is the only hamster that I have ever seen spring off my lap, at least four inches out and away, with his legs out stretched, as if trying to glide down the mere three inches to the floor and once he landed he ran with that hamster waddle just as fast as he could go. I was so surprised by this unhamster-like action and I laughed so hard I could barely move fast enough to catch him.

In the last few weeks, Dan has been putting on weight, not exercising at night, and preferring to nap rather than explore in his ball. This last week, he seemed bloated and rarely was awake. At nearly three years old, Poofy Dan, the Mystery Man, is rather old for a hamster and we began preparing for what was inevitable. Although it is a hard lesson, children learn much about life and death from pets.

Yesterday, it was undeniable that Dan was in his last hours. After church, the Princess ran out of her room crying Dan was dead. I held her for a long time and my husband got Dan out of the cage thinking of preparing him for burial, but Dan woke up and moved around a bit. He was very cold and moved little, but still alive. The Princess held him for awhile, in fact, much of the day. As he drifted off and we explained he was in his last hours and he would probably stay in a deep sleep. Again later she thought he had passed, we all did, however Dan was still just barely breathing, hanging onto life by a mere thread it seemed.

I watch my daughter go through the typical gauntlet of emotions that surround the death of a loved one in such a short time span, even though the day seemed to drag. The Princess came to terms with the idea of him passing, even to the point she desired it for him, but asked to stay home instead of going to Sunday evening service. As we waited, she prepared his burial box with art work and his favorite treats, a yogurt covered blueberry, strawberry yogurt chew, and a peanut. Later she watched his body struggle for every last breath, but he was in a deep sleep and not in pain. He passed away quietly and this time we were quite sure.

Our sweet Poofy Dan, the Mystery Man was buried with other departed furry friends in our back yard. This morning the Princess remarked that she thought it was odd that she was not that sad when we buried him. I talked to her about how, when anyone is dying and has no quality of life, that it is almost a relief when he finally passes on and this is a very common and natural feeling. She has cried some this morning, missing him, but she is doing well, as long as I do not press trying to do any lessons. Actually, neither one of us is in the mood for lessons today. I suppose I will do some errands since my husband is working from home and the van is available...and just maybe stop by a pet shop to take a look at small furry creatures....

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the smallest of creatures who live such a short time, yet leave a mark on a child's heart forever. ~

Saturday, May 15, 2010


If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.
~Carl Gustav Jung

Today was just one of those days! First, I just have to say that my daughter was easy during the "why" stage. You know that time a young child asks why about everything? My daughter was inquisitive but also would accept "I will tell about that when your older" when it was appropriate. Now we are into the "what" stage.

If you are a parent, you know what the "what" stage is...or you most certainly will! It is the questioning reply to every question you ask. What? It is the word that is shot back at you when you call your child's name. What? When you are just looking at your child. What? It is the automatic, meaningless, mindless word that children say in any situation at any time and more often every situation all the time. What? Sometimes it is said drawn out: wha-at? Sometimes it is short and strong like an accented staccato note (for those who know a bit about music): WHAT! Sometimes it is a whine: what? Sometimes it is a dare with a glare: what! One little word expressed so many different ways! Obviously, by the time a child reaches that age of nine, she is highly accomplished in all the ways of saying "what", even so she will continue to practice it daily with diligence.

I also need to remind my dear readers that I have been busy for the last three weekends and the reason I have not been posting is because I am just emotionally and mentality spent. This weekend I was determined to spend some time in my herb garden in the morning before the afternoon sun hit it so today's gardening added the remaining physical aspect to my exhaustion.

This is when my child seems to get the best of me. At first, she was helpful and sweet. She, cheerfully and eagerly, cut back some plants as I asked her to do. (I so love my Princess when she is being a princess.) Then, as the sun approached bringing heat to add to my discomfort, as gardening is enjoyable but never comfortable, she began complaining and making little arguments. (She is so much like me!) Finally, I told her to put away her things, including her bike, and just go inside. She went for the bike first, touched it, and whined about it burning her.

This is the place where my patience wears thin, where my idealistic imaginings of a mother serenely playing with dirt and greenery while her daughter happily explores nature nearby is shattered by crashing reality that the child does not have that same imagery in her mind, not at all. I told her, at that point, as I wiped away droplets of hot sweat and stretching out that familiar ache in my legs and back, to just go in the house. I worked a bit longer, probably fifteen minutes, just long enough to shake off the disruptive happenings and go back into my own little happy place before I heard a light tapping on the dining room window from above. I looked up to see my daughter making some kind of motions, but because of the glare on the window I could not see what message she was signing to me, so I motioned for her to come out.

Thinking we both had cooled down, although the heat was bearing down as the shadow I treasured to protect me from the brunt of the sun dwindled noticeably with each moment, and that I could still restore some remnant of my sweet illusion, we talked a bit. With my regained patience, I calmly talked to her as a mother does with a child, who needs just a reminder of how to behave better in such situations. I listened to her verbalize her thoughts and explained how she could have done things differently, better. It started well, but about ten minutes later we were right back to that place she wanted to take me and I did not want to go. Again, complaining about her burning hot bike and, again, not putting it away as I had told her to do, I, again, told her to go back into the house.

Now I am drenched with the heat as the sunlight invades my working area. My muscles are warning me that the more I wanted to do is too much. I am disgusted with myself for how little I had done, but I realize that part of my child's problem might be that it is past lunch time. Back down I go to finish up at least this one last area. The aroma of jasmine blooming on my fence is soothing. I hear the familiar persuasions of a red shouldered hawk to his mate perched on more distant tree. Most of the weeds come up easily as this soil has been well worked over the years. This patch of my garden is looking rather tidy. Oh, that sweet scent of jasmine I love so much...tap, tap, tap.

I look up again at the dining room window wondering why the child does not just come out the door onto the deck and talk to me. I already had explained earlier that I could not see what she was signing because of the glare, yet there she is, again, making hand motions. Realizing the irony of this situation, I stand up and with that "what" shrug and mouth the word clearly. Being that she is well acquainted with the many ways to communicate "what," she could not claim misunderstanding. Still, she stays put in the dining room with a window between us while I, like a boiling tea kettle, scream "WHAT!" followed by "Come out here!" loud enough that the neighbors three houses down are then coming out. Still behind the window in the cool of the house, she makes more hand motions, as if she cannot hear me. Perhaps she could not, which would support my thoughts that it be far more logical for her to come out the door. I then quite exaggeratedly motion for her to come outside, which she finally does and what do you think the first word out of her mouth is...?


My Lord, I thank you for this memory, for I know there will be a time when my daughter with have her fill of "what" in her own life and I will be giggling as I recall this day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Finding Myself in Flatland

Sphere to Square: Now, Sir; listen to me. You are living on a Plane. What you style Flatland is the vast level surface of what I may call a fluid, on, or in, the top of which you and your countrymen move about, without rising above it or falling below it. I am not a plane Figure, but a Solid. ~Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

I finally did it! I read this 1884 satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, a book that my aunt told me about when I lived with her...oh, I suppose it was nearly 35 years ago. She was going to college then and it was required for one of her classes. Although I had not read it, she gave me a detailed description of it so it was almost as if I had read it. Still, I have never forgotten her unique perspective on this book.

Now one might ask me why I would bother reading a book about a square, who believes the whole universe is only on his plane of two dimensions, as does everyone else in Flatland. Yes, I like books that foster deeper thinking and I like sci-fi and I like math, so this should be a book I would enjoy at some level, but I have to admit that the initial thought of actually reading about geometric figures living on a plane just sounded...boring.

Actually, it has some points that are quite entertaining, "points" being quite relative to the story actually. First, there is a strange preoccupation with symmetry in each geometric figure and sharpness of angles. Then the more sides a being had, the higher his place in society with those who were like circles (because there were no perfect circles but only polygons with so many small sides that they seem like circle) being as priests. Of course, without the ability to look from above, everyone looks like a line so one must learn to determine shapes by feeling or an elaborate way of recognizing by sight only taught to those of the right number of sides. However, the most comical part was about the women, who were only uneducated and ill-tempered lines with a sublime ability to kill anyone merely by approaching them with their needle sharpness or being walked into because they were so difficult to see being a mere dot at certain angle, suggesting it was thought up by a man with curiously disconcerting wit, if you get my point....

Then a sphere interacts by placing a part of his body in Flatland, thusly:

Our little square then is quite puzzled as to how this obviously higher being could disappear and reappear, because of some alien concept he tried to explain called "height." All the sphere had to do was rise above or below Flatland, so he could not be seen by the Flatlanders but still could be heard. Oh, and when the sphere was above Flatland, he could see everything like into houses, into safes, and even the insides of any Flatlander's body! Very weird stuff. Then imagine, if you can, the sickening feeling of being out of control and not knowing what is happening when the square is pulled up above Flatland by the sphere!

My aunt, a rather devout Christian woman, saw a correspondence in the Flatlanders' limitation of two dimensions and our limitation of three. She associated angels as beings of another dimension that we do not see, but they can easily enter our plane of existence, so to speak, and leave it as well. You will not find angels mentioned in the book itself, but the possibility of other dimensions and beings existing in them is more than suggested. I do remember how much my aunt's perspective, based on this book, shaped how I thought of angels from that time on.

~ My Lord, what a joy it is to be able to see You in everything, even what we cannot yet see. I await with anticipation to see more. ~

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Our Victorian Princess Tea Party

Tea for you and tea for me.
Will you please come for tea?

The kingdom has been in preparation as the Princess wished to have a very special tea party for her birthday, as you may recall from this earlier message. Three young princesses were invited, but only one could accept the invitation as the other two were previously obligated. No matter, though, as my Princess was overjoyed even with just the one.

Preparing for tea...

This tea pot was brought from Florida from our great aunt's place. It is musical and plays "Tea For Two" when lifted up. The three boxes hold one precious gift in each, a bracelet of fresh water pearls with one rose quartz bead, for each of the invited guests; two will be hand delivered at a later time.

With all in preparation, the Princess awaits for her guest princess to arrive.

She passes the time by reading books about princesses in her princess castle tent, a gift given to her by her Royal Grandparents some years ago.

Her guest arrives. A servant (me) curtsies, "Welcome, Milady." The Princess also curtsies and welcomes her guest princess into her castle tent to show her around and chat. Soon afterward, they are presented with a choice several exotic teas. They both choose English toffee tea. While it steeps and then cools, the guest princess chooses to have her face painted with a blue butterfly with white polka dots to match her dress.

The Princess chooses a smaller design near her eye.

May I pour your tea now, Milady?

Will you be taking sugar to sweeten your tea, Milady?

The Royal Baker (me) created a cake depicting the kingdom.

Just a closer look...

The princesses are served the cake.

The cake and ice cream meet with approval!

Afterward, the story of The Princess and the Kiss was read by the Royal Story Teller (me) followed with games of Hot Potato, Blokus, sword fights, and just being giggling girls.

All the things my now nine-year-old Princess loves.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for giving us this child nine years ago. She truly has been a princess graciously given to us by God, as her name means. ~