Catching up…

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Well, the month of June is gone, and all too soon.  Now is time to do a quick update on everything and start fresh!  So here goes (in no particular order!)…

  • Finances for June–So the goal was to spend no more than $200 on food for the month.  That did not work out.  We actually spent $331.37.  But, to be fair, this was not always simply food–it included items such as toilet paper, vitamins, deoderant, paper towels, napkins, cat food, and more.  So if I had actually broken the list down even more, we may have spent closer to $200 on food.  I never did call Comcast to combine our phone, internet, and cable because we decided that we didn’t want to try Comcast for our phone service since we had heard several people say the service was not that great.  We’ll stick to what we know.  So the goals for this next month will be to hopefully spend less than what we spent in June and to pare down our cable bill by simply calling Comcast and asking for a cheaper plan.
  • The bungee-corded fridge–is NO LONGER bungee-corded!!  Yeah!!  After having to unclamp the door every day, multiple times per day, I have to say we are both extremely happy that the refrigerator repair man came and replaced the magnetic strips on the side of the fridge (he actually had to drill a new place for them since the fridge is so old that the parts are no longer available!).  Our fridge is doing much better now.  The temperature is within the normal range and things are actually cold!!
  • Charlie–After his ordeal at the animal hospital and a check-up with the new vet, and almost a month on the new food, we can finally say that Charlie is completely better!  The urinalysis at the last visit showed no crystals at all.  So, even though the food is much more expensive, and Charlie still likes to eat Madeline’s food, it does seem to be working.  And Charlie and Madeline are back to normal as far as their interactions–no more hissing, thank goodness.
  • School orientation–I made it through my week-long school orientation.  I can’t say I got much more sleep each night than the first night.  I really had a case of the nerves.  But by the end of the week, I felt much more comfortable with the expectations of the program and some of the people that will be my new online community.  I passed my health assessment leveling workshop (after several nights of practicing on my sweetie!).  The week was not much for a vacation, since I was pretty tired every night and didn’t really have a lot of downtime.  But at least this was only a one time thing.  I will have to register for classes on July 23rd–my first two online classes will be Principles of Epidemiology and Nursing Informatics (sounds exciting, huh? I’m being sarcastic of course!).  My expected date of graduation is Spring of 2013.  It’s a long way off and between now and then I’m sure I’ll have many, many days where I question myself as to WHY I am doing this to myself.  But I will TRY REALLY REALLY hard to remind myself of the bigger picture and the final result.  Dr. Kaye E. Van Straten, DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Nurse Practitioner).  Boy, does that sound strange!
  • My dear friend, Frank, who was recently diagnosed with cancer (Burkitt’s lymphoma)–he has pretty much completed the first round of chemotherapy and with a wonderful support system of family and friends, is rallying and still possesses a positive, “Bring It On” philosophy.  Sure, he’s tired, and I’m sure often scared, but he’s taking it one day at a time, and pushing through.  The MOST EXCITING thing is that Kimm and I will be going to see him this week!!!!  WOW!!!  I never thought that would happen.  I was hoping to visit him soon, but with my work schedule, and the fact that I just took a week off of work, I wasn’t sure it would happen.  But I have a stretch of 7 days where I only work one day.  I booked the tickets after hearing that Frank will not have to go back in for his next chemo round until the 10th, and am hoping (praying!) that I will be able to find someone to work for me that one day.  If not, I will have to simply call in sick.  This is generally against everything I believe in, but I have NEVER called in sick my entire time at this hospital and it’s coming up on one year.  I don’t get any kind of bonus for not calling out sick and many other people make a habit of calling out.  So I don’t feel overly worried about it.  But I still will try to cover it because I don’t want other nurses to be short staffed–I know how that feels–crappy!
  • The house hunt–This last weekend Kimm and I decided to finally visit a few open houses on Sunday.  It was so much fun!  Of course it would be a lot more fun if we actually knew how much we were pre-approved for in regards to a mortgage!  But we saw three houses, each of them unique in their own way.  It was so fun to imagine what each room would be used for if we bought the house.  It is my goal for July to also make an appointment at the bank to find out what I would be pre-approved for if I was looking to get a mortgage right now.
  • My nephew is 7 years old–WHOA!!!  I can still remember when he was born.  I also just received pictures of him in the mail that were taken on Father’s Day and oh my gosh, he looks so old.  This is the first picture that I’ve seen where I can really imagine how he’ll look as he enters the teen years.  Happy Birthday Eric!

Well, I think that’s it for a catch up.  Whew!  Now I feel better about starting out the month of July with no loose ends.  You can look forward to blogs about my trip to California.  I haven’t seen Frank for over 5 years so I am so looking forward to seeing him and spending time with his family.  We’re leaving in two days!  Talk about last minute!  So between now and then I have to work two shifts, pack, and sleep!

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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June Goals…

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Since I have been trying to pay off my credit card debt, I have wandered into the world of frugal blogs.  They are so addicting!  I love to read about how other people–people just like me, who are simply trying to pay less, and get more in a world that is so determined to make everyone buy, buy, buy–manage to reduce monthly expenses.  So, I have decided (I should say, WE, since Kimm wholeheartedly agrees), to try to reduce our monthly expenses on food/personal hygiene stuff this month.

It’s kind of hard to say how much we generally spend since we haven’t really been keeping track.  However, I tend to allot about $200 a month (just me) for food, personal hygiene stuff, and other miscellaneous stuff that we might need (or think we need).  So, since we both do this, that comes to $400.  Again, not sure if we actually spend that much or not, but starting this month, I’m going to find out!  I also started with a goal of $250 total for food/personal hygiene stuff/etc.  That ends up being $50/week for groceries and a $50 trip to BJ’s for bulk items.

So far we have gone shopping one time and we are already over budget, but not by much.  We actually went to two places–Walgreen’s (for some deals that we had coupons for–buying ahead–I’ve learned from some of the frugal blogs that sometimes you have to go over your budget in the beginning in order to catch good deals when they come up), and Stop and Shop for food.

So at Walgreen’s we did QUITE good.  We purchased two rolls of Angel soft TP (sorry Cottenelle, no more brand loyalty!) for $2 ($1 each, limit 2), shaving cream that was on sale for $2 (for which we had a $1 store coupon and a $1 manufacturer coupon–total price: FREE, I like that!!), Colgate toothpaste (on sale for $2, for which we had a $1.50 manufacturer coupon, so total price, $0.50–not bad).  So the total for that trip was $2.63.  Yeah!

Next on to Stop and Shop.  Now we have always made out a weekly list, since we find that it is, oh so easy to be tempted when we are in the store to get this or that.  Mind you, we still may succumb to a temptation, but it is much less likely.  Our total trip to S & S was $59.38 (almost $10 over).  Not bad for the first week.  Plus I know what put us over–we got 2 pints of ice cream (total of $7) and some homemade Peanut Butter cookies from the deli ($4).  If we would have resisted, we would have been on budget.  But you know what–I also don’t believe that we should go without all the time.  I believe we deserve to treat ourselves once a week.  So if our budget has to be $60 a month, so be it.  I’ll know more towards the end of this month.

Before going, I made sure that our list included everything we needed to have different meals during the week.  These are our meal ideas:

  • veggie burgers with a salad
  • Boco chicken patties with Au Gratin potatoes (had at home)
  • Pasta dish with veggies on the side
  • Baked mac and cheese (lasts 2-3 meals)
  • Boco chicken parm with spaghetti
  • Pierogies
  • Scrambled eggs with pancakes (all the stuff at home)
  • Homemade pizzas
  • Frozen pizza with a salad

As you can see we had even more meals than needed (which is good because sometimes you want a choice).  Stuff we got from the store included: the staples (1/2 gallon milk, 2 loaves of bread, American cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch), lettuce, tomatoes, a cucumber, croutons, 1 can of chickpeas (store brand mind you–and they weren’t that bad!)–all stuff for our salads, onion, pasta, sharp cheddar cheese, a frozen pizza (the one on sale), paper towels (2/$4 with a $1 off coupon), cream for coffee for both of us, apples (for snacks), cool whip–to have with some berries at home for dessert, and some frozen o.j. to mix up (I decided to try this instead of buying the not-from-concentrate Tropicana that I always get–it was a savings of more than a few dollars–it’s actually tolerable, although it has the pulp which I’m not particularly fond of, but I’ll deal).

So far for meals this week we’ve had the veggie burgers with a salad, and the chicken sandwiches with the potatoes.  Both VERY good.  I don’t mind spending less money as long as I don’t feel cheated at mealtimes.

I’ve already made a list for bulk shopping which pretty much comes to $50.  We need laundry detergent (somewhere between $16-$20 I’m sure), Diet Pepsi (about$10), iced tea mix–two since we’re cutting down on the soda (about $14), and pizza crusts (I believe about $7).

The other goal that I have for this month is to call Comcast, our cable company, and request a cheaper plan.  Right now we pay about $120/month just for internet and cable.  I believe they have a deal for new customers for internet, cable, and phone for $99/month for a year.  That would be a huge savings for us since we pay about $40 for phone right now.  So I’m going to call them on my next days off.

So those are the goals and I’ll keep everyone updated.

By the way, Charlie and Madeline were out in the apartment together all last night with no problems.  It was great–even though Madeline woke me up twice, at least it wasn’t 5-6 times!  She only hissed at Charlie once this morning.  For the most part they are acting back to normal–both in their normal “favorite” spots and acting calmly.  Once they can eat next to each other again, then I’ll know things are truly back to normal.  That, I’m sure, will take time.

I have to work tonight and Friday night, then two days off.  I really want to try to pick up an extra shift as well since I did last week and my paycheck was VERY nice (almost $350 more than normal).  If I can do that a few times a month, the bills will be paid off that much sooner!

Published in: on June 5, 2008 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Charlie’s Home!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Okay, well, he’s been home for a few days.  I just never got around to blog about it until now.  I’ll backtrack and fill you in…

So Charlie went into the vet hospital on Thursday.  They inserted a catheter to drain his urine and started him on IV fluids to hydrate him and flush his bladder.  The hospital called on Friday morning and said Charlie was doing fine–his blood work came back negative, he was tolerating the catheter well, and he was receiving antibiotics and a medication to prevent spasms in the bladder.  I worked Friday night.  Saturday morning they called again and let us know that Charlie had pulled out his catheter during the night (do you blame him?!) and they would be watching to be sure that he was urinating on his own and if so he would be ready to be picked up that afternoon.  I, of course, was sleeping, as I had to go in that night as well for work, but when I woke up Kimm and I went to pick up Charlie.  His little paw was shaved because of where they inserted the needle for his IV fluids–it looked so skinny compared to the rest of his paw.  It was so good to see him again!  Another good piece of news–we got about $300 back on the original bill (since the original bill was an estimate).

There was more drama after we brought Charlie home.  Turns out Madeline kind of forgot about Charlie or felt he was some kind of threat–she was growling and hissing at him like crazy.  So we had to separate them during the day and at night.  Charlie was in the spare bedroom with his own litter box, water, and food.  Madeline had her run of the rest of the apartment.  Unfortunately, Kimm had to deal with this since I was at work.  Same thing happened on Sunday.  Let’s just say she was getting a little bit frustrated with not being able to have the cats in the same area of the house.

So when I came home on Monday morning, I let both cats out and observed.  Madeline was still hissing, but Charlie was basically ignoring her.  I tried to get each cat more used to the other by petting one, and then letting the other cat smell my hands.  That seemed to work fairly well.  Everything seemed to be going okay until later in the day, when we decided to cut the cats’ nails since they were very long (it sounded like Charlie was wearing high heels whenever he walked on the wood floors!).  So we started to with Charlie.  All was going well, until Madeline saw Charlie in Kimm’s arms.  All of a sudden it was mayhem.  She started growling, Charlie got scared and tried to climb out of Kimm’s arms, Kimm held on to him because she didn’t want him to get hurt, Madeline started howling and hissing, Charlie was climbing onto Kimm’s head, and I was saying, “Let him down, let him down” but she wasn’t and all of a sudden I see blood coming down Kimm’s head.  That freaked ME out!  So we got Charlie into the spare bedroom, and Madeline into our bedroom, and I looked at Kimm’s head (only a small scratch, but lots of blood).  So, basically we were back to the beginning again.

The cats spent the night separate again.  I tried again the next day to have them out.  Pretty much the same story.  Today is Wednesday, four days after Charlie came home and Madeline is STILL hissing and growling, although much less.  In fact, she is becoming so used to Charlie’s smell that often she won’t know that Charlie is in the same room as her unless she sees him.  Tonight we are going to let them both in the apartment together.  We can’t stand Madeline in the apartment by herself at night.  She wakes us up about 5 times during the night–we are getting VERY sleepy and VERY annoyed!

The good news is that Charlie seems to be better.  He’s been using the litter box faithfully and he’s putting out a good amount.  He’s on his new food, and seems to like it, although it’s kind of a pain since Madeline is still on the other food and so we have to make sure that if she doesn’t finish her food we put it up so Charlie can’t get it.  But I have my little guy back–he cuddled up next to me this morning as I read and had my coffee and it was just like old times 🙂

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Missing Charlie

Friday, May 30, 2008

I’m missing Charlie this morning because he’s not here. He’s at the Deerfield Animal Hospital, recovering from a urethral obstruction. It’s been a stressful couple of days…

On Tuesday, early in the day, I noticed that Charlie seemed to be using the litter box an awful lot that day, considering that since I had gotten up, he had already been in it twice–for him, that’s a lot. Then later that day, we started noticing these small puddles all around the apartment, about the size of an egg. We’d wipe them up, thought maybe it was cat urine, smelled the paper towels (yeah, I know, gross–but they didn’t smell), so was unsure of what it was. Even later that night, I noticed Charlie walking kind of strangely, almost like he was constipated, and then stopping every once in a while to strain, like he had to take a poop–but nothing came out. Until even later in the night, when I finally noticed, during one of these straining sessions, that some urine was left on the floor. Wiped this up again, smelled it again, still no smell, but this time I KNEW that it was urine. He also vomiting up a large amount of food with a hairball. Oh yeah, he was also licking himself in the nether regions quite a bit more than normal. So I did what any person in the 20th century (are we still in the 20th century, or the 21st??–), I’ll rephrase, what anyone in the computer crazy age would do–I googled his symptoms and lo and behold, they seemed to indicate a urinary tract infection, which seems to be quite common in male cats. Turns out this can be a serious problem because cats can become blocked, essentially not being able to get rid of urine, which is a medical emergency. Since Charlie was still leaking, and because it was 10 pm when I triumphantly “diagnosed” him, we decided to watch him during the night and call in the morning to take him to the vet.

After a restless night (I couldn’t sleep well after reading about a potential blockage), I got up and immediately called the vet (which is another story in itself since Madeline and Charlie’s vet office closed a while back so I called the closest one in Holyoke). Of course they did not have an opening that day. So I described the symptoms and they suggested that I call one of two Animal Hospitals since Charlie could be blocked. So I looked up the two places and choose the Deerfield Animal Hospital since it was not the Boston Road Animal Hospital (which is located in Springfield, a place I try to avoid at all costs)–fortunately they were both about the same distance for driving. So I called, and again described the symptoms and they said, “Bring him in.”

So we loaded him up in the carrier, and he is such a good boy, walked right in–unlike Madeline whom we have to bribe with food and then still end up pushing her in! After a 25 minute drive we arrived and they took a urine sample and turns out that yes, he did have a urinary tract infection. The vet informed us that Charlie had quite a few struvite crystals in his urine (in their words, large +++ amounts) and we even got to take a look under the microscope.  Struvite crystals are formed when urine is more alkaline (meaning more basic, not acidic).  The normal urine pH for cats is 6-6.5, and Charlie’s urine was 7.5 (much more alkaline than normal).  Ways to keep the urine more acidic include changing the diet (which the vet recommended–by a different brand of food, Walthum SO), including wet food in the diet (again, the Walthum brand–which may be difficult for Charlie, since he doesn’t really like canned food–he has difficult eating it–Madeline could eat a can in a few minutes, and Charlie would still be pushing it around with his mouth, he just gets confused), feeding several small meals a day (which we already do), and increasing water consumption (how the heck do you get a cat to drink more water?).  So, after paying $158.01 for the visit, we were sent home with antibiotics for 10 days, some free samples of the prescribed cat food, and instructions to keep an eye on his urinary output because he still had a chance to obstruct (because of all the crystals, which can irritate and inflame the urinary tract, and combine with mucus which works to try to reduce the irritation, but really just works to create a plug–this is dangerous because if a cat can’t urinate, he can’t get rid of potassium so the potassium goes back into the bloodstream, and the high levels of potassium can cause cardiac arrythmias and even death).  So yeah, we were scared.

So we head back home.  And of course, what does Charlie do on the way home?  He urinates.  A LARGE amount.  Oh yeah.  There’s nothing quite as unpleasant to the human nose as cat piss.  When we take him out of the crate he is soaked!  So we have to give him a bath.  And we don’t have any cat shampoo, so we use Kimm’s body wash.  Charlie sure didn’t like that bath, but at least he smelled much better.  But of course we forgot about how all this would affect Madeline.  She, in the brief time we were gone, forgot that she shared the house with Charlie.  In reality, she didn’t recognize the smell of Charlie after the bath and started to hiss (VERY loudly and VERY menacingly) at Charlie.  Poor Charlie was simply trying to lick himself dry after his bath and thus ignored her.  But Madeline persisted.  So we had to separate them.  Turns out this is quite common in cats.  Lucky us.  Good thing we have lots of doors between all rooms in our apartment.

Now, ironically this all happened on Wednesday, a day I was originally not supposed to work, because I switched with a co-worker who needed the day off to take her dog to the vet.  So I go into work that night, after not getting much of an afternoon nap, tired and worried.  When I got home the next morning, I look in Charlie’s litter box and see that he had gone 3 tiny amounts of urine.  And then I see him try to go again, with no result except for a tiny little drop or two.  He was in the box for about 3 minutes before he gave up.  I go to bed and let Kimm know the litter box total so she can keep track during the day.  When I get up later that day, still no additional urine production.  So we pack up Charlie again and take him back (we could bring him back to have them palpate the bladder for no additional charge).

The vet takes a look and a feel and says, “Yep, he’s blocked.”  So now Charlie has to have a catheter placed and in place for 48 hours, to flush the crystals out and then the catheter will be removed and they’ll observe that he’s able to pee again.  So we left him last night about 6 pm.  It was a strange night without him.

The vet called this morning and informed us that they had no trouble unblocking him, that his bloodwork was normal and that they’ll take out the catheter as planned.  Oh yeah, that stay and all the care involved with it cost $995.58!!  There you go with unplanned expenses.

While Charlie has been gone, we’ve been trying to get Madeline to adjust to the new smell of Charlie.  We’ve laid out the towel we used to dry him after his bath and she’s been lying on it (after a few minutes of sniffing it suspiciously!).  She’s acting a bit strange, but okay so far.  The real test will be when Charlie comes back home.  We’re thinking of buying these things called bath wipes at Pet-Co.  Supposedly you wipe down both cats with them and then they have the same smell, therefore eliminating a lot of the aggression.  We’ll have to wait and see.

So at this point, we should have Charlie back on Sunday if all goes well.  Thankfully I’ll be working this weekend so less time to be at home, missing him even more.

Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is there a cat tooth fairy?

Monday, May 26, 2008

I feel remiss in forgetting to mention that Madeline’s tooth finally fell out about a week or so ago.  I would post a picture, but apparently my camera is not so high tech to take a crisp image of such a small object.  So you must simply trust me when I tell you it is out.  There is a funny story to this as well.  I happened to find Madeline in one of her favorite spots, which is atop an approximately 5 foot caddy in the bedroom that holds clothes (remember, I live in an old apartment building, with limited closet space!)–she likes to lay there on top of my folded sweatshirts and catch a little nap during the day.  So anyways, I happened to see her and was giving her a little lovin’ and checked on her tooth and I saw that it was gone.  I asked Kimm if she had noticed that it was out and she hadn’t.  So we commenced to search the apartment for her tooth.  We looked in all her other favorite spots to no avail–no tooth to be found.  We eventually gave up and figured it would show up when we weren’t expecting to find it.  And oh, we did all right.  When Kimm climbed into bed that night she caught her toe on something in between the sheets and wouldn’t you know it, it was Madeline’s tooth!  This was VERY strange, considering that the bed was made during the day.  I still am having a hard time understanding how Madeline happened to deposit her tooth there??  I’m happy to report that since the tooth has come out, her breath has improved tremendously.  You can actually stand to be in the same room with her when she is grooming herself now 🙂

Madeline has been in rare form lately, providing excellent photo opportunities…

Hangin\' around

Balancing act!

Cat in the box

Cat in the box (notice the one green eye, one yellow eye–normally they are both yellow…eerie)

Window seat

Window seat

Good book

Current read… (and yes, that is an ugly flowered couch underneath that sheet–hey for $25 one can’t be incredibly picky!)

New coffee machine

Comfy…

And I can’t leave out Charlie, because he can be just as cute!

Sittin\' pretty

Sittin’ pretty…

I know I\'m cute

I know I’m cute!

Camera Shy

Camera shy…

Face shot

Face shot

And there you have it…my babies.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 7:48 am  Comments (1)  
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New Camera!

March 28, 2008

Well, the title says it all…I FINALLY have a digital camera! I am part of the technological generation! After thinking about it for a long time, I purchased a Kodak camera–red, 7.2 megapixels, tiny. A simple camera for me to use. So now I can take pictures…and include pictures in my blog. I’m incredibly excited (if you can’t already tell!). Here are a few pictures from tonight…

Here’s me (try not to notice the bed head!)

This stuff rocks!

And here is my sweetie!

New beer=happy

And Mr. Man (aka Charlie)

I'm trying to sleep!

And the family princess (none other than Madeline)

The Princess

I think that’s enough for tonight. Hopefully this will all become much easier with time 🙂

Published in: on March 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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