Dealing with bugs and other critters in the house

When you have cats and a pet door, you can expect your cats to bring you “gifts.” Yes, thank you. I see you caught a gecko, but kindly take it back outside. I don’t want it in my house! (The cat rarely obliges.)

Typically, I can deal with a lot of things they bring in. And no, I am not picking up any of these things with my hands! (More power to you if you can do that.)

Live birds – Close the blinds, open the front (or back) door and using a broom to get them to fly and hope they go out the open door. This is sometimes hard when they get to the second story of the house and always gravitate to the window that doesn’t have blinds.

Live Snakes – Usually not a problem as again, you open the door and guide them to the outside.

Live Geckos – These are a little harder as they don’t take direction well, so usually the broom is out unless they are already near the door. If I can get them to climb on the dustpan, I carry them outside.

Live Mice/Rat – We live near a greenbelt/wilderness area so occasionally they bring in a rodent. Again, chasing it out the door is a good option, but often it hides too well, and I am left hoping the cats catch and kill it. (Or occasionally my husband has had luck catching them under a plastic bin and then transporting them outside.)

As you see from above, most of my methods involve not killing the creatures my cats bring in. I simply release that creature out into the wild again. If I find one of the creatures above dead in the house, I usually can it onto the dustpan and can carry it to the outside trash can.

But one thing I don’t handle well is bugs. Sometimes they are brought in by the animals but sometimes they just sneak in the house as bugs do. I know there are people who say spiders are good as they feed on common indoor pests. I can ignore spiders if they are small or better yet out of sight, but if I find them in my sink, I am washing them down it. But if they are bigger…well, that is another story. I’d freak to find a tarantula inside. I don’t want to get close enough to squish them. Luckily, I don’t encounter too many spiders in my house.

Flies and mosquitoes are easy to kill. But the one insect that drives me crazy and creeps me out is the cockroach. I live in South Texas where these suckers are quite common no matter how clean you keep your house.

Typically, we spray some bug spray around the perimeter of the house, and it keeps the bugs away. But lately, I’ve seen some cockroaches on their backs. You would think they were dead, but these icky creatures are usually aren’t dead…yet. I’m not stepping on them or hitting them with something. That crunch sound drives me crazy and honestly, I don’t want to get that close to them. Typically, I make my husband deal with them.

Then there are the times when he is away, and I have to do something. If they are truly dead, the dustpan trick usually works. But when I notice them still moving slightly, I pull out the bug spray. This sometimes works in killing them or it could turn out like it did the other day. I sprayed the cockroach who was lying on his back in the kitchen. He freaked out, flipped over and scurried under the refrigerator (where I hope he succumbed to the poison.)

Ugh. I feel like such a wuss being scared about picking up these bugs and disposing of them. But I just can’t seem to bring myself to squish the live ones or carry the dead (or dying) ones away. I know many others out there have the same problem and have read their tips of dealing with these bugs, but I still think my best bet is to have my husband take care of the bugs. And I’ll agree to take care of the one thing he hates – snakes.

Trying amniotic membrane for my chronic dry eyes

Last month, I wrote about being diagnosed with chronic dry eyes. I had not realized my eyes were dry or that dry patches had formed on my cornea.

The doctor prescribed a steroid drop and lubricant to see if that would help my eyes. He also suggested using a special warm mask to help produce lipids (the oily substance that moistens the eye). While my eyesight returned to normal over the next week, a close look with the instruments still showed dry patches.

For the next two weeks, I used Xiiadra, another prescription drop to help those with chronic dry eye. It is expensive since my health insurance doesn’t cover it, but I figured it would be worth it. Well due to a misunderstanding, I discontinued the steroid drops and only used Xiidra.

At my next follow up, the doctor saw just a marginal improvement. When he found out I was using just Xiidra, he decided I should do 2 weeks with both prescriptions drops. But after 2 weeks, there wasn’t enough improvement.

This when the doctor suggested we try applying amniotic membrane to my eyes. Amniotic membranes have been used in the healing of burn victims. It promotes wound healing and prevents scar tissue formation. The doctor said it also helped 88% of those with chronic dry eyes.

So, I agreed to try it. They placed a dehydrated membrane on the lower part of each of my eyes and held it in place with my contacts. At first, I could see a fog where the membrane touched my iris but after a few hours that went away. I had the membranes in my eyes for four days, constantly wearing my contacts even when I slept. (That is hard to do when are programmed to take them out every night.)

Last Tuesday, I went back to the doctor to see if there was any improvement. And there was! One eye was 95% better and the other one about 90% better. I had prepared myself that we might have to do the amniotic membrane again as I had read online that it sometimes takes multiple applications for the cornea to be fully healed.

To keep the dry eyes from getting out of hand again I am still on the Xiidra and using Oasis Tears Plus (an over-the-counter lubricant). I go back in the eight weeks to see how my eyes are doing. Here’s hoping I have the dryness under control by then.

Trying to keep the kids busy for the summer

The last day of school was last Thursday. Lexie is now officially done with elementary school. In just 10 weeks, school will start back up. Until then, I have to find a way to keep the kids busy. Guess this means it is time to write my annual “What we are doing this summer” post.

As the kids get older, it is harder to find things they want to do…much less do together. But I usually manage to come up with something.

Water Park/Pool

I love the free option of our neighborhood pool, and we plan to go there a few times a week. I prefer to go in the morning because we often have the place to ourselves, but if we go in the afternoon, we have a better chance of running into classmates or friends. Either way the kids have fun.

We also have a season pass to Sea World and Aquatica (Sea World’s water park). While it is too hot to enjoy the theme park rides during the hot summer days, the water park offers a fun afternoon.

Jase and I went to Schlitterbaun (the original waterpark in New Braunfels) in May with his middle school orchestra. It was fun so we may all go here one day this summer.

Life Skills

Threee summers ago, we went over some “life skills” which included laundry, bank/credit cards, renting vs owning, cooking, and other things to help them survive out on their own. But you can’t do a summer or two and expect it to all stick. So this summer the kids will pick up additional chores, and I have plans to work on cooking and having the kids try some new foods this summer.

Violin lessons

During the summer getting Jase to practice his violin instead of playing video games can be hard but luckily, he still has his weekly tutoring sessions, and Dr. K will certainly expect him to practice between meetings. As added motivation, at the end of the school year, it was announced that Jase would be concertmaster (1st chair violin) when the new school year starts in August. He wants to keep that title so hopefully he will be motivated to practice this summer.

Trips

After last year’s Alaskan cruise, we decided this year we wouldn’t plan any big trips. At first, I wanted to plan just a few weekend trips so my husband wouldn’t have to miss too much work. As it turns out, we only have one weekend trip….but have three other trips also planned.

The first is just an overnight excursion here in our hometown. This year the annual city attorney’s conference is here in San Antonio at the Riverwalk. We decided to stay downtown for a night and while my husband attends the conference, the kids and I will see the Alamo, the Riverwalk and the wax museum.

The following week, I am taking the kids to Corpus Christi. My husband is staying home, but don’t worry, we won’t be bored. My parents and brother are coming along. My parents have not been to Corpus Christi so we are going for four days. We plan to hit the beach and tour the USS Lexington.

And then in July, my husband has a meeting in Austin, and the kids and I will be tagging along. I don’t know what we will do there. We might just hang at the pool.

The last trip is a weekend trip to South Padre Island. And this one is not a working one for my husband so he will get to hang with us at the beach. He will have to return home on Monday but the kids and I are staying an extra day to go to Schlitterbaun on the island.

Overall, I think I will have enough options available to keep the kids busy rather than bored…or more importantly off their electronics for some of the summer.

Using my Cricut to decorate cups and shirts

Almost two years ago, I wrote about getting a Cricut die-cutting machine for Mother’s Day. After owning it for a few months, I finally cranked out four projects over two days (a dragon for my cellphone cover, 2 shirts and a toiletry bag).

Well, in the past two years, I have done a few other projects, and learned a lot. Here are a few of the other projects that I have done.

Cosplay Helmet

If you follow this blog, you know that every year, my family dresses up for ComicCon. This past year, my son was a tie fighter pilot (from Star Wars). He needed the imperial symbols on his helmet which I cut out of white vinyl.

Campaign shirts

My mom ran for City Council. Originally, I just made her 2 shirts that she could wear while campaigning. Then the kids and I joined her in a city parade so I went ahead and made shirts for us.

 

Concert shirts

My husband and I went to see Imagine Dragons in concert in Houston in November 2017. I made us shirts to wear (cheaper than buying them there). Then Imagine Dragons came to Austin in August 2018. This time we took the kids to the concert, and I made myself a new shirt as well as ones for the kids.

 

PTA bag 

For my last birthday, I asked for a new bag to carry all my PTA papers since I was on two different PTA boards. Of course, I decided to customize it. I’ve gotten several comments about it.

 

 

Cups as Gifts 

My husband needed something to give some of his employees for Administrative Assistant’s Day. And of course, we waited too long to actually order something. Enter my idea to customize insulated cups for them. The paralegals got black coffee cups and the others received colorful tumblers. I did six in all.

At the end of the school year, the PTA president typically gives out small gifts to the board members. I decided to customize tumblers with “Stop me before I volunteer again” and filled the cups with candy. They were a big hit.

 

 

 

Cups for Family 

I had two cups left over from the PTA cups so I made one up for both of the kids. For my daughter, she wrote her name on a piece of paper, I scanned it in and then put it on her cup. My son likes Star Wars and choose this design and then I added his initials in the Star Wars font.

And since I am trying to drink more water, I bought an insulated tumbler. On one side I did my initial (in the same format at the ones for my hubby’s employees) and on the other a dragon.

Overall, most of my projects have gone pretty well. And I like that comments I receive when people see them.

Finishing out the school year

It is Memorial Day here in the United States. This typically signals the end of school and the start of summer. As it is, the kids just have 8 more days of school – and they are busy as usual.

This week, Lexie has field day on Tuesday. This is 3 hours of outdoor (and a few indoor) activities to promote health and teamwork.

On Wednesday, the school is doing a panoramic picture of the whole fifth grade (about 100 students). When I was in elementary school, they didn’t do this. It was saved for graduating seniors of the high school. We will go ahead an order one even though the one we bought her brother is still in the cardboard roll it came in.

The day all fifth graders here wait for is Friday. It is the end of the school year pool party. The kids get to walk to the neighborhood pool (about 1/2 mile away) and swim and eat for 3 hours before walking back to school. I threw the one when Jase was in fifth grade.. This time I am attending but not running the show. It will be a nice change.

Jase at his Come Alive theatre (with Lexie) – May 2017

Next week, Lexie has her Come Alive theatre on Tuesday morning. Every fifth grader researches a historic figure. They prepare a speech and dress as that person. When someone comes by and presses the red button in front of them, the student “comes alive” and gives their spiel about their historic person’s life. Lexie is Sandra Day O’Connor – the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice. When Jase did this two years ago, he was author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Wednesday of next week brings Jase’s only end of the year activity. He will have his own field day at the middle school. Sixth graders go out in the morning and seventh grade participates in the afternoon. The eighth graders are off at their own end of the school year pool party on that same day.

Image result for school is out

And then we come to the day every student (and teacher) has been counting down to – the last day of school. For Lexie this means a graduation ceremony as she leaves the elementary school. We will take her out of school that day after the ceremony.

After that it is just 10 weeks of Summer vacation before they will both be going to the same school again. I am sure the summer will fly by as will these last two weeks – or should I say 8 days – of school. It always does.

Dealing with chronic dry eyes

I’ve been wearing contacts or glasses for over 30 years. At each yearly checkup, there is little change to my prescription. But I am getting older, and last year finally started needing reading glasses in addition to using my contacts to sharpen things in the distance.

When I went to my last eye appointment in October, the doctor suggested trying progressive lenses for my glasses and trying monovision for my contacts so that I would not need the reading glasses. Monovision is where they correct one eye for distance and the other eye for reading. As strange as it sounds, it does work though the viewing of things in a distance is not as perfectly clear as it would be with regular contacts.

I adjusted to the new contacts and glasses, and everything was fine until in late February, I noticed a slight change in my vision. Sometime in the morning or evening, focusing with my contacts seemed harder when looking at the computer screen, but the problem wasn’t there for the rest of the day.

Over the next month, I noticed a slight change in my vision when looking at things in a distance. At first is wrote it off to still not being used to the not-as-crisp vision of monovision. But then I noticed that I had the same problem with my progressive-lensed glasses.

Finally, in April, I decided I needed to go to the eye doctor and talk to them about the change in vision. It seems that as many aging people (I am in my mid-forties), I have developed chronic dry eyes. I had not noticed them feeling dry. They weren’t scratchy or irritated. Sometimes they felt tired but certainly not dry. Now looking back at it that tired feeling may be them being dry.

But this isn’t the case of just having to put drops in my eyes regularly and everything is fine. My dry eyes have created corrosive patches on my cornea. The swelling from this is what had changed my vision and needed to be repaired so as not to get an infection in those open areas. (My vision had decreased so much by the time I went in that I could not see the computer screen with my glasses on. It was blurry but readable with my contacts in. I pretty much rarely wore my glasses in the weeks before my appointment.)

I went home from that appointment with a prescription for some drops that had antibiotics (for any possible infections), steroids (to reduce swelling) and a lubricant (for the dry eyes). I was also to put on a special warm mask to help produce lipids (the oily substance that moistens the eye). It was also suggested for me to not wear my contacts as to not introduce possible bacteria to my eyes.

Within a day or so of treatment, I noticed an improvement in my eyesight. After a week, I went back to the eye doctor having noticed about a 50-60% increase in improvement. Imagine my surprise when the doctor said that he saw no change in my eyes. Yes, my vision had improved but a close look with his instruments still showed swelling and dry patches – including one on my iris.

He discontinued the first set of eye drops and recommended another one to help with the swelling associated with dry eye disease. There are only 2 prescription eye drops for the long term that address my condition. Both are expensive – especially if not covered by insurance. He recommended Xiidra which works faster than Restasis. There is no generic of either medication.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my health insurance doesn’t cover either one. And he wasn’t kidding when he said they were expensive. At my pharmacy, Xiidra was $609 without insurance. Yikes! And that is for a month’s supply. Dang.

After looking online and downloading several specials and coupons, I went to a different pharmacy where I thought I might be able to get the medication cheaper. Unfortunately, they were not able to combine all my coupons, but I was able to get the medicine for $290. (I figured I didn’t want to mess with my vision and eye health so I couldn’t let cost be a factor here.)

In addition to the new drops, I researched online things I could do to help with the chronic dry eye condition. They mentioned the warm compress/mask which I now try to do twice a day. Another suggestion was to drink more water. Done. And then there was the suggestion to blink more often. As we stare at the computer screen or our phones, we tend to not blink as often. I’ve been working on this too (as I look away from the computer screen and blink several times). And the last suggestion was to increase fatty acid intake, so I pulled out the fish oil capsules I had bought in the past but never faithfully taken and started taking those.

I have been with the regiment for a week and a half. My vision is better, but I won’t know if the dry spots have cleared up/improved until I go to the doctor later this week. I hope so but if not, he has a list of other treatments to try.

Unexpected events: Suicide and suicidal thoughts

Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a church in downtown San Antonio. My husband and I were attending a memorial service for Mike – a fellow attorney my husband had known for the past fifteen years. As I sat on the pew, I was surprised that the family had the minister address the circumstances around his death.

Last Tuesday, Mike committed suicide. My husband who talked to Mike usually weekly was shocked. He knew Mike has been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer last year but had no idea that he had recently gone off his medication. What no one knew was Mike – who was a 75-year-old grandfather – was also fighting depression. On the days before he committed suicide, he was planning a vacation with his wife. That day, she spoke to him on the phone, and he said he was leaving right then to come home. But he never did.

Instead of shying away from the facts, his family let everyone know how he died. And as I said, it was addressed at the memorial service. The minister addressed depression. Mike always seemed so happy and upbeat that many were shocked that he was depressed. He kept it well hidden from church friends, his clients and even his family.

Our neighbor’s father committed suicide two years ago. Again, it was unexpected. His wife spoke to him just moments before he took his life. Again, he had medical issues, but no one knew if his action was related to medication, or if he too was hiding his depression.

You just never know what is going on in someone else’s life – even when they always seem happy. Take my 11-year-old daughter Lexie, for example. She is most of the time very happy and outgoing. As with every pre-teen girl, there is always some issue with friends, but it all seemed typical to me. It was definitely a surprise when I received a call from the school counselor. Lexie had written a note to a friend that indicated she might harm herself. I needed to come pick her up.

In the note, twice Lexie mentioned she wanted to die. Now she may have been being over dramatic, but the school must take these things seriously. They recommended we get Lexie counseling and had Lexie sign an agreement not to harm herself. They gave me a list of counselors and sent us on her way.

At home Lexie denied that she wanted to harm herself. But because she has some self-esteem issues and some anxiety, we still felt it would be worth it for her to see a counselor. The problem with the school list of counselors is that they covered every range of problem from child abuse and rape to a host of other specialties that didn’t apply to Lexie. And many of the counselors were not located near us. So instead of using their list, I called Lexie’s pediatrician and got recommendations from them.

I’ll write more about Lexie and counseling in the upcoming weeks. But my point is that you never know what someone is thinking or how someone truly feels. People often say they are “fine” when they are not.