Saturday, December 31, 2016

last weekly update of the year 2016

Miser Dog, standing guard.
I'll begin with the sad -- but not unexpected -- news that we had to say goodbye to our 12-year-old dog on Wednesday.  It's strange to be in a house where food we accidentally drop on the floor doesn't immediately attract a live vacuum cleaner, but I'm so grateful that Miser Dog  survived as long as he did, got to make it through the holidays so that all the children could see him and pamper him as much (or as little) as they wanted, and that he didn't suffer at the end. 


The rest of the week was much kinder to us, and full of lots of adventures.

N-son helps prepare food
On Sunday morning, N-son and I did something I had been hoping to do for years -- we served meals at our local homeless shelter on a Christmas Day.  This was the first time I'd been back since my bike crash, and I got much love back from the guests there -- many of whom I'd gotten to know from my past normal-day visits.  Plus, I got to see my culinary-arts-trained son in action.

We were lucky to have all our kids in the house that afternoon and evening, and then the next day, my husband took off with N-sonJ-son, and L-daughter for a three-day trip to go shopping in New York City.  (I stayed home and very happily did math, and I think they were all jealous of me!)  
Pecan pie, anyone?

J-son had a three-mom week: visiting his birth mom on Christmas day, me on Christmas evening, and his foster mom after he returned from New York City.

K-daughter is keeping busy with her Reiki work, and her occasional job as wedding coordinator at our church kicked into overdrive at the end of the week, with a wedding that went on for hours and even included a fainting groom!

My husband finished out the year by (surprise) riding to and from Philly.  He did not make 10,000 miles this year -- "only" 9,859 miles.  He has more statistics for anyone who is interested.

On Friday, I got my splint off and started informal rehab on my arm.  Whoop!  My left arm is swollen, tender, and puffy, and has a (hopefully temporary) restricted range of motion -- for good or ill, I can't bite my fingernails!  But it's incredibly nice to be able to type and write again; I'm glad to return to the ranks of the bi-dextrous.

Here's wishing you all the best in the new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The "Please Remove Us" grind

In spite of my best efforts (well, maybe not my best efforts, but at least my substantial efforts) to get off of junk mailing lists, those junk mailers keep gifting me unwanted cards, catalogs, and brochures.

The credit card offers that come with postage-paid return envelopes, I return with the request "please remove us from your mailing list".  In fact, because somehow my husband keeps attracting new credit card offers, I printed up a bunch of mailing labels with that phrase that I slap onto the credit card offers, just to save time.  In double fact, I like these mailing labels so much that I printed up multiple sheets of them, and gave copies to my daughters for Christmas, so they can do the same.  (You're welcome, daughters!  Nothing but the best for you!)

By the way, those "privacy" statements that I get annually from the credit card companies?  I've taken to reading them carefully, and then contacting the companies (or delegating my husband to contact them, since they're mostly his credit cards) to limit sharing if that's not already the default.  That has also helped a lot in reducing unwanted junk mail.

If junk mail doesn't come with its own return envelope, I save it in a yellow folder titled "please remove us", and when the folder gets full, I spend an hour or two removing myself from mailing lists.  Fortunately, this folder takes longer and longer to fill these days; I think the last time I had a "please remove us" binge was eight or nine months ago.

I've made extensive use of a web-based organization called Catalog Choice.  If Catalog Choice has the company on file, usually a few clicks will stop future mail from that company.  Today I managed to get on the "please remove us" list of four or five companies in about 15 minutes. But that left six more pieces of mail where the only way to stop new mail was to make telephone calls.  Ugh!

Enter N-son.  I offered him an exorbitant fee (50 cents per catalog or flyer) to do the calling for me.  He, of course, was reluctant; it's scary talking on the phone with a business when you're just a kid.  But his apprehension just convinced me all the more that this would be a good life skill for him to have, so I coached him through how to make a call, and I gave him one piece of mail at a time so I could ensure each call went according to plan.  The only company he didn't reach directly was a place called "Carpet Mart", and he left a message on their answering machine.  We'll see how that goes!

N-son did so well that I wish I had thought of conscripting my children in my anti-junk mail crusade several years earlier.  Not only would I have saved a bunch of telephone time myself, but I would have given my children lessons on how to talk to a sales person or customer representative, and let them realize how non-scary it actually is.  Parents with younger children, take note!

Here, in case you've never done it yourself, is how to get off a mailing list with a phone call.  Usually, the hardest part is finding a number to call.  Call that number, and when someone answers, say "we would like to be removed from your mailing list." Sometimes they transfer you to somebody else.  You will need to read the name and address off the mail you already got, and sometimes a catalog number and/or customer number.  Say thank you, and you're done.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Miser Family update, pre-Christmas

Early this week, I went to the surgery center where they gave me fancy booties, a monogrammed bracelet, a hat, a gown, and pins to go inside my arm (but no matching purse).  After being treated so decadently, I embraced the hedonistic lifestyle; the past few days, I've been lying around in bed, doing drugs.  
My new internal jewelry.

My step daughters LJ and LA are back in town, and they came by for a family photo.  The impromptu selfie that we took afterwards came out even better than the posed photo, I think.  

Me with five of my kids (K-daughter was off visiting other friends).

LJ, a more avid dog lover than even I am, took over caring for Miser Dog, hand feeding him raw meatballs that she has made herself.  He's still very skinny and weak, but enjoying the attention.

My husband and the boys are doing well, I think.  (Did I mention I'm a little bit out of it?)  My husband will probably not make it to 10,000 miles on his bike this year, but he'll get darned close. The boys are looking forward to having some time off school.

We're wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Things that are hard to do one-handed

I can dance with my granddaughter and children
one-handed (although this photo
is from before I got my sling).
Button Jeans.
The first day, when I had just come home from the hospital in my sling, I had lots of fun embarrassing my teenage sons by asking them to button my jeans for me.  Since then, I've worn sweat pants with an elastic waist.

Butter my bread
The bread keeps dancing all over the plate. Very frustrating.

Buckle my seatbelt and unbuckle it.
I think it's hard mostly because I have to reach across my body, and my body has a big old arm in a splint stuck to the front, blocking me from reaching things.

Sharpen a pencil.
I'm actually doing a half-decent job writing with my bad hand, but the dull pencils are piling up around me.

Funny how different people talk to me about my broken arm, depending on whether they're  bicyclists or not.  Cyclists act like that tough-love parent who sees a child fall on the sidewalk and skin a knee: "okay, you fell, but now get up.  You're going to be okay."

Here, for example, is the entire letter from my father, three days after I told him about my trip to the ER.  If you listen to Prairie Home Companion and know the laconic father "Hank", you've got a pretty good sense of how my dad talks:

Dear [daughter]:

I am sorry to hear about your run-in with a car, but glad you were not more seriously injured.  Cars almost always win in these confrontations.

I was once hit by a car (from behind) while riding my bike.  Ruined the bike, but I only lost a little skin when leaving the bike in a hurry.

Love,  Dad

Or this letter, from the mathematical colleague who introduced me to the dictation feature on my computer.

Oh my gosh - so sorry to hear. I had a similar thing happen in 2000: wrist, radial head, scapula, and some ribs. Oh, and a shattered helmet. Glad to hear your brain faired well - scary stuff. Also glad to know that the dictation has come in handy, just sorry about the need! 

In contrast, my non bicyclist friends say things like this:
. . . And, in closing, I hope you get well (heal) quickly and without setbacks. I'm still shaken up by what happened to you and it wasn't even me. I so don't regret now not getting on my bike more than once this summer. I think I will stick with the exercise bike in my apartment.
Where do I stand right now? I, who named my bike SPDM (for "sudden painful death machine")?  I think I've gone over to the dark (bicycle) side.  I think it's really annoying that I can't ride now, and my reaction to the accident is not to blame the bicycle, but to feel that cars ought to be banned from roads.

Meanwhile, today I'll get a pin put in my elbow. My surgeon is a tall and extremely genial guy with movie-star teeth, who is positively gleeful about this operation.  He says, "I love broken bones, because bones heal."  He happily drew me a little picture of my olecranon, which I've included here. ("Olecranon" doesn't make it into crossword puzzles; it's part of the ulna, which is a great crossword puzzle word.)

Supposedly, the splint I'll get today will be shorter than the one I'm currently wearing, which means I might be able to use my left hand for writing and typing again.  I'm really looking forward to sharpening those pencils.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Post crash update

My big news of the week was supposed to be that I am recovering from giving final exams. Instead, my big news is that I'm recovering from being swiped by a hit-and-run driver. But I already wrote about that.

I'm actually recovering really quickly.  I look terrible, because the black eye is spreading, which they say is normal.  But the cut over my eye it Is healing just beautifully and I'll get the stitches out Wednesday or Thursday.  In spite of many warnings that my arm would  hurt so bad that I would get nauseous, I haven't really had any pain.  And the only medication I'm taking is to get the inflammation down.  In fact I walked to and from church Sunday, and it was really nice to be outside moving again. The Sunday school class was on pain and suffering, so I got to be the "show and tell"!

Okay, in other more pleasant news, my husband and N-son got to go together to the military ball posted by N-son's ROTC. They look good dressed up together don't they?  Earlier in the week, my husband presented "The little red hen" in his Russian class.  (He missed the final exam for that class, thanks to sitting in the hospital with me, and says this means that now he won't ever get into medical school.)

Y, our host daughter for two years, moved out to be in her own place, and J-son has been very happily moving all of his stuff into her old room.  He loves arranging and rearranging things.  He and N-son have been a huge help to me now that I'm down to one arm.

K-daughter has been gathering hats and coats, and she and her friends take them downtown with cookies and give them out to people who need them.  I so admire her.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

What happened when a car hit me

View through my screen door this morning.  Not a picture of my injuries.
So, my last post was about the joys of bicycle riding through cold weather. This post is about what many people warn bicyclists about: collisions with cars.

While I was biking home from serving breakfast at our local soup kitchen yesterday morning, a car got jealous of me having my own space in the road, and knocked me down. The car didn't hit me from behind; it came up next to me and then swerved into me, and then drove off. Possibly it was somebody texting who never saw me, but to me it felt malicious. The cops are looking for the driver of the car, but aren't optimistic.

Waiting for treatment, 
before my eyes started turning black

After I got up with my bicycle, I would have tried to bike home, but the nearby drivers who stopped to help encouraged to me to be seen at the emergency room. At first, I tried to reassure them that I was just fine, but after two rounds of them and me debating, I saw the blood coming down my face and believed them when they told me I would need stitches. A little bit later my arm started hurting. I got a fancy ride in an ambulance, with lots of people to wait on me inside the emergency room.

I don't think my elbow is supposed look like this!
So, I have a black eye. Also, four stitches above my eye, and my husband warned me that my broken arm is eventually going to hurt like the Dickens (but he did not use the exact phrase "the Dickens"). Right now, I'm in a splint. On Monday, after the swelling goes down, we'll go to the orthopedist to see whether I need pins or just a cast.

The good thing is that almost all of the things the doctors were really worried about were fine. No concussion, no head trauma aside from the stitches, no spine trouble, no collar bone trouble, even my legs and my bike are fine. In fact, even all the glass jars that were in my market backpack were fine. Go figure!

(I did lose two perfectly good turtlenecks when the nurse had to cut the arm off -- of the turtle neck, not of me! My pastor, who knows and teases me about my frugal ways, offered to take up a collection at church to help me replace the turtlenecks. I think he knows that I can spare the dollar for a pair of new shirts eventually.)

Random thoughts:
My pink tube-thing on my head
looks a little like a
zombie bandage here.
  • Because I can't use my left arm right now, which is the arm that I write with, grading my final exams is going to be a bit of a bear. But the semester is over, so I really do have time to rest and recuperate.
  • I'm really glad my computer has a dictation mode so I can talk instead of type. I do have to go back and fix a lot of transcription errors, but I don't catch them all. If you see anything wonky, I blame it on the computer.
  • I had Motrin in the hospital, but I've managed okay with no painkillers since. (My computer translated this as "with no painkillers cents"). If I can stay drug-free, this will be a perfect time to give blood, because my exercise is already shot to pieces. Dang.
  • I'd been hoping make 50 push-ups by the end of year, but my training fell off in the last month. Now I have a good excuse for why I won't make it. Yay?
  • If I had had this accident a month and a half earlier, I would have had the perfect Halloween costume. I look like a zombie. Totally bad timing.
  • This morning, I woke up to snow. If it snowed yesterday, I wouldn't have biked, because biking on ice is dangerous, of course!
  • I've tried never to take my good health for granted. This experience fills me with gratitude, not only because it obviously could have been so much worse, but also because I get constant reminders of how fortunate I have been to have two working arms and two working eyes. And also because I know that once my arm heals, and my Frankenstein face no longer scares small children, I'm likely to be just as healthy again.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My foul-weather friends

Last week, when the outside temperatures were getting very cold (as opposed to this week, when they are getting very, very cold), I rode my bike downtown as usual, to serve breakfast at our local soup kitchen.  It's a thrilling sort of wonderfulness, breezing through a dark city so early in the day that I have the streets pretty much all to myself.  Just about every time I make that ride, I feel unaccountably happy just to be alive and awake, and I also feel yet again that I'm so lucky that I wound up living in a great city like mine.

So it tickled me that all the other volunteers and staff, who have seen me riding my bike every week for the last year and a half, were amazed that I would ride my bike in the cold.  When they pestered me about this, I used what has become one of my family's favorite Mr. Money Mustache lines:  "There's this wonderful invention; it's called clothes. You put them on your body, and then you stay warm."  Fellow servers kept returning to the fact that it's very cold outside, and I said "Yes, I know; that's why I decided not to wear my bathing suit here!"  They asked me how far I had to bike to get there; when I told them "2 miles," you'd think I had told them I had swum here from France.  What a distance to travel!  How could a person ever do that?!?

For the record, I truly believe biking two miles in the cold is more comfortable than driving two miles in the cold. I have experience with both.

When I first got my job here at my college, I was a single mom with a two-year-old daughter and I lived a mile and a half from where I work. The only thing the cold car had going for it, comfort wise, is that it blocked the wind.  Those winter mornings that I drove my daughter to her preschool (next to my work), she cried from the cold the whole way there, even though I dressed her in as much warm clothing as I could, and even though I then wrapped her in blankets.  That car ride was danged uncomfortable, not just because the weather outside was cold, but the entire car itself was a giant Cold Sink, one that sucked all the warmth from our bodies into the icy seats and frigid metal frame that surrounded us. Even if we had driven far enough that the engine could warm up, and the air inside the car started to become bearable, every other interior part of the car would hang onto its coldness for a long time.  Worse yet, our bodies were strapped into immobility, and we couldn't move around to generate muscle heat.

For a two-mile trip, the car didn't even allow us to spend less time in the cold weather:  what with walking to the car, getting my  bags in the car, and then parking and walking from a parking lot to her day-care/my office, the time spent outside of a warm building was just about the same either way.  Nowadays when I go on a two-mile trip, I put my backpack on indoors, and my biking starts and ends at the doors of where I'm going.

So the bike isn't much colder than the car.  In fact because I'm exercising (using my legs to crank up the ol' body heat as well as to move me along those dark city streets) my internal thermostat feels like it's at a much happier place.  That's why I think that tooling along on the bike is actually more comfortable than shivering in an automotive straitjacket.

Not that I'm a total nut about cold-weather biking, mind you.  The weather, as I've mentioned earlier, is currently changing from "very cold" (freezing temps) to "very, very cold" (single-digit temps).  And just the other day, after biking a half-mile to my dentist and back through very cold temps, I wimped out and decided not to bike the extra four miles over to our blood bank (nor back again, while drained of blood).  I didn't drive, either -- instead, I walked the two blocks to my office and caught up on paperwork.  And don't think that I didn't mentally beat myself up, pitting my own comfort against saving the life of a sick or injured person!  But despite the self-flagellation, I don't know when I'm going to go give blood, because four-and-four miles through the increasingly (very)^2 cold December weather is wigging me out a bit.

That being said, the older I get, the happier I get about being outside in winter.  It's not that my body is changing, it's that I've discovered clothes.

The first clothing epiphany I had was in graduate school when I accidentally bought a pair of humongously thick-soled Earth Shoes. The shoes were so ugly that even the other math grad geeks made fun of me for them . . . but for the first time ever in the post-frostbite portion of my life, my feet were warm in winter.  Ugly be damned: I could walk outside in January and not be miserable!  So even though my current shoe selection is much less of a fashion wreck, I make sure I have a good selection of thick-soled boots to get me through the winter.

Strategy:  I spend a bunch of time during the summer yard-sale season rounding out my boot wardrobe, making sure I have 3 or 4 pairs of potentially worthy boots waiting for me come December.  This usually means I buy a "new" pair of boots every year or two, so my annual boot budget alternates between $0 and $5.  Having four pairs of boots feels a bit like luxurious overkill, but I've learned I can never tell in summer which boots will hold up in snow and slush until there's actual snow and slush, and having a good selection of back-ups keeps me from having to resort to those pricey "thrift" stores where boots can cost a crazy $7 or more. I'm currently rocking a pair of Ugg boots I snagged with a bunch of other stuff in a "fill a bag for $5" yard sale.  

And speaking of clothes: tubes.  Tube-like headbands that go on my ears are, like, 50 times better than a hat, for reasons that I can't at all understand.  Tube-like things that go around my neck and keep the wind off my neck have made all sorts of outdoor excursions more comfy.  Somehow, I didn't know about these tube things until a few years ago, and now I've become a bit of a compulsive tube collector.

Also, the older that I get, the more I take to heart the wisdom of layered clothes.  Right now, as I type this, I'm wearing purple warm tights under my jeans, and I'm also wearing three different knit tops, one over the other.  I used to think layers made me look like a Girl Scout (probably because I first got lectured about layers while I was backpacking a lot with the Girl Scouts, and the layers we wore were waffle-weave long-johns topped with flannel shirts -- imagine that).  But nowadays, I like how the different layers add more color to my outfit, and of course they also help me stay warm.  Plus, I get to wear even more of my favorite clothes all at the same time.  Win!

So there you go.  Warm clothes have become my foul-weather friends, appearing exactly when I need them the most, and assuring me that they've got my back even when the rest of the world is giving me the cold shoulder.  I'm going to go cuddle up with another sweater right now.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent-ures in decorating

Here's the latest update from our family.

We continue celebrating advent together; this week was mostly about decorating, as we gathered together to (4) hang lights, (5) decorate the cast iron tree over the fireplace, (7) bring in pine boughs, and (8) put out the Santa statues (pictures of that below).  We sported our fun Santa hats at every step, with J-son rocking a striped version he loves and commandeering our only pair of Christmas socks.  I-daughter, living a half-mile away, tells me she played along at home, plugging in her Christmas lights right on schedule. 
We also (6) celebrated St. Nicholas day by donating money to a local charity, and then (9) introduced Baby-A to the joy of of rolling out and pressing Springerli.  Well, except that Baby-A wasn't as joyful as the rest of us were, because she just wanted to eat the raw dough.  She doesn't yet realize the pleasure of waiting until the cookies are so brick-like that they click when you tap them on the table.  Kids these days!

N-son got to visit an army recruiter this week, and he has an action plan for moving forward on enlisting (although that is very far off, if indeed it can actually happen). J-son got to hang with some of his boxing friends, both at their houses and at ours.  K-daughter has been teaming up with friends to collect hats and scarves to give to people who don't have them.  My husband rode his bike to Philly yet again (sheesh).  And me, I finished teaching for the fall semester -- exams next week!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What a Miser Mom buys her kids for Christmas

Lots of people talk about the wish to dial back Christmas giving, and of course the MiserMom household is no exception.  I love the descriptions in the Little House series of Laura's treasured, and yet frugal, presents: an orange, a penny, and a tin cup.  My kids are accustomed to hearing me promise/threaten/wax nostalgic about a Christmas like that. 

And yet.

And yet, among my "upper family" (sisters and father), the gift-giving exchange is about so much more than the gifts. It's one of two times each year we gather back together, and we spend a leisurely half-a-day going through the ritual of opening gifts one-by-one, watching each other, sharing stories about how a particular gift was chosen or what it was given for, laughing and reconnecting.  The ritual is a larger kind of treasure, worth far more than the material aspects of the event.

So I've been building a compromise.  In my "lower family" (among myself and my kids), I've tried to shift the emphasis onto shared experience.  The past few years, Christmas has been focused on building gingerbread houses (or gingerbread shacks, or earthquake-shattered wrecks -- even the disasters have been fun to create).  But we've also exchanged gifts, in a much smaller ceremony.

Some of my favorite gifts that I received last year had minimal material impact.  My step-daughters offered me all their cast-off clothes, and since they're fairly fashion conscious, that means my wardrobe got a styling update.  My birth daughter knitted me a pair of wool socks.  My sister got me a set of bamboo straws, so we can have our "no hands dinner" with no plastic straws.  My husband offered to clean out the basement, and made huge headway on getting rid of boxes and boxes of old paperwork he no longer needed.  We worked on that together (him deciding, me carrying).  That was a lot of fun.

And what did I get my own children?  My friend Carmen was sort of horrified.  She'd told me about her gifts to her teenaged daughters--a new phone, a jacket from Abercrombie, a pair of new shoes, a something else, another thing or two, and also a bottle of each child's favorite coffee drink.  So when she asked what I got my kids, and I said, "well, I sewed them cloth bags for vegetables out of old sheets . . . ", Carmen just about called the authorities to report me for child abuse.

To be fair, I didn't stop at the bags-made-of-old-sheets; I also made mesh bags out of old lace curtains, too.  So there's that, although that didn't much reassure Carmen.  (She finally eased up when I told her that I also gave the kids money as well).

But in fact, I was pretty happy with my gifts to my kids, not because everyone wants cloth vegetable bags, but because my kids all know how much I've been working to eliminate trash from my life, and these little cloth bags are part of my scheme for avoiding plastic.  I wasn't just giving them stuff, I was giving them a little bit of something that matters a lot to me.

So, at the risk of driving Carmen into another tizzy, here is the "Table of Contents" that came in each of the gift boxes I gave my daughters last Christmas.  I figure people can use this list the way that I use Laura Ingall's gifts ("Do you want an orange, a penny, and a tin cup for Christmas?  Or do you want Miser Mom's box of bags?  Hmm???").  Or, if you happen to know someone who's so frugal you have no idea what to get them for Christmas, maybe this list would spark ideas.

Guide to the Goodies
(with a food/shopping motif) 

Peach ginger jam
  • from the peaches on our tree, picked by N-son and canned by his mother.
Cherry jelly
  • picked, (imperfectly) pitted, and canned by J-son. Our host-daughter Y helped with the picking.
Cherry pits
  • Stick in the microwave to make yourself a heating pad. (I love tossing mine in bed right where my feet go, so I can go to sleep with toasty toes).
  • [These were cherry pits we'd washed and dried as a by-product of making cherry jelly.  I then put the clean, dry pits into cloth bags I'd made out of old denim jeans -- so these are a lot like bean bags, but with cherry pits.]
Mesh bags
  • made from 100% post-consumer products.
  • Great for purchasing vegetables and bulk M&M’s,
  • and also for washing delicates (like bras or stockings or boxing hand wraps, y’know) so they don’t tangle with other things in the machine

Cloth produce bags
  • Again, made from 100% post-consumer products.
  • Great for purchasing bulk grains or coffee beans. Use the washable crayons to mark the product code on the bag for check out purposes; then launder and reuse.
  • Store salad greens in this bag (keep the bag damp); the salad greens stay crisp for a week or more.

Something to read while you’re standing in line at the grocery store.
  • [a used book that I'd liked reading that I thought my daughters might like, mostly Peanuts Comics]

Something to give to the ca$hier.
  • [this was money, but in unusual denominations -- a collection of $2 bills or dollar coins.]

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Early advent update

Here's the update for the past week.

Our family delightedly put up our advent calendar, full of fun December tasks.  This week the calendar revealed that we would (Dec 1) see Beauty and the Beast at our local theater, (Dec 2) make a batch of marzipan, and (Dec 3) pull out the Christmas clothes -- hats!  shirts! earrings!  yay!

BabyA is ready to geek out with me!
It's been lots and lots (and lots) of fun for me to have K-daughter and my granddaughter in the house -- the whole place seems so much more alive.  Together with Baby-A, I've gotten to reconnect with that literary classic, The Little Engine that could.  K-daughter has had a bunch of friends over to the house, and they seem to like the place.

My husband rode his bike to Philly, and then back (that's getting to be a little bit of old news, right?)  On the way back, the wind was so bad that for a while he drafted an Amish buggy.  He's realized that if he rides 27 miles/day, he'll top 10,000 miles for the year -- I don't know if he's serious about making that number.

J-son has started taking on an informal leadership role in his boxing gym, mentoring the newer boxes.  He's also been bringing in some solid grades, mostly because he's been determined to take his schooling with the kind of seriousness he's been learning in the gym.  We're so proud of him.

N-son pretending to be a present
And speaking of proud, I'm psyched and just a little jealous that N-son got to run the cash register at his Career Training Center.  He's been picking up a lot of cool skills, and even a bit of a "can I help you" attitude that's been super useful around the home.  That's a real gift to us!

On somewhat sadder news, our Miser-dog's health has taken a turn for the worse.  We're caring for him with something of a home hospice model, trying to make him as comfortable as we can while he still seems to be enjoying having the family around him.