Your Doctor Is Not a Nutrition Expert

I have a friend with a tube fed baby.  The baby has been fed with formula, I think some breastmilk when Mama can get it.  Baby is now past the age doctors generally recommend formula continue.

So Mama did some research (she has a degree in the field of nutrition as well, but more importantly, she is smart and able to understand what she reads), and created a meal plan for him that she can puree in a vitamix.  At their regular meeting with the GI specialist (gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in stomach, esophagus, etc), my friend told the GI what she was going to do.

The expert, and I use that term scornfully, objected:

“I’m going to advise against it because those vitamins and minerals are already in his formula… I mean they make it that way for a reason…
…. I mean there’s all these myths about breast milk being better for babies, and I just don’t see how it’s any better than formula, I mean really… and the convenience..” 

“You really need to just keep him on the formula and think about maybe talking to a nutrition expert before you start researching this blenderized stuff… seriously, it will be incredibly time consuming and it’s really not what’s best for your child.”

I’m pretty sure my friend’s eyes bugged out of her head so far they nearly fell on the floor.  She explained a few things, and concluded with:

“I am a nutrition expert, I’m his mother, we are starting this diet.”

But here’s the thing that worries her ( and me).  This specialist works at a large, renowned children’s hospital.  She deals with tube fed babies and children on a regular basis.  How many other mothers has she given this wretched, totally unscientific advice to?  And how many of them listened to her because she’s the doctor, after all.?

Don’t go all emotional about the breastmilk vs formula issues here.  That’s a distraction.  Three of our seven were formula fed, two because I didn’t get them until they were well beyond breastfeeding age, one because my milk dried due to my own ignorance, a deathly ill child, and a lack of an adequate support system.  Our second grandson had to be on formula when he spent his first 41 days in the NICU, and on a couple occasions after he came home (tube-fed as well).

While I do wish it were otherwise, none of that negates the fact that breastmilk actually is healthier than formula, they are not the same, and formula is merely artificial baby milk.  They cannot duplicate everything that is in breastmilk and distill it into formula because they still don’t even know everything that is in breastmilk or what it does.  Breastmilk also changes with the age of your baby and even when your baby is sick- something formula cannot do.  It’s just incredibly, fantastically, gob-smackingly ignorant and ill informed for a medical doctor to claim they are the same, or that formula is ‘made that way for a reason.’

Formula has corn syrup in it, for the love of all that is crunchy. I have to wonder if she has ever even read the ingredients on a can of formula (she has no children, by choice, this doctor) yet, she felt qualified to state, as an expert opinion, that formula was just the same as breastmilk.  This hubris based upon absolutely nothing at all other than a degree in a completely unrelated field and no reading at all in the field of nutrition is regrettably common.

My friend shared this in a discussion with a few other crunchy mamas, and one of them told us about a microbiology professor who also works for the CDC who recently advised a class of students that formula is the equivalent of breastmilk.

The Striderling’s doctors all told his mother that it was no big deal to give him formula instead of breastmilk- and then we learned a year later that what he actually had included a genetic mutation that would have made formula fatal.   I’ve mentioned it before, but their totally wrong diagnosis was a diagnosis that was actual malpractice, since the information they needed for a correct diagnosis was actually in his very first blood test when he was just a day or two old.  When they found out they were wrong, they went back and looked- and there it was.

Science done right is always right, but scientists do not always do it right and they are very, very far from always being right themselves.

We need to lose this cult of the expert.  It doesn’t do the so-called experts any good either. If more parents had challenged Dr. GI on her bizarre insistence (bordering on a religious claim) that they “make formula that way for a reason,” and therefore, it must be as good as if not better than breastmilk, then she might have been challenged to do some additional reading and studying on her own and she would have, one hopes forlornly, learned something.

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Scientific Ideas Ready For Retirement: The Mouse Model

walter crane mouse

Professor of medicine and director of the MDS Centre, Columbia University, New York

An obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed in cancer research is that mouse models do not mimic human disease well and are essentially worthless for drug development. We cured acute leukaemia in mice in 1977 with drugs that we are still using in exactly the same dose and duration today in humans with dreadful results. Imagine the artificiality of taking human tumour cells, growing them in lab dishes, then transferring them to mice whose immune systems have been compromised so they cannot reject the implanted tumours, and then exposing these “xenografts” to drugs whose killing efficiency and toxicity profiles will then be applied to treat human cancers. The pitfalls of such an entirely synthesized non-natural model system have also plagued other disciplines.

A recent scientific paper showed that all 150 drugs tested at the cost of billions of dollars in human trials of sepsis failed because the drugs had been developed using mice. Unfortunately, what looks like sepsis in mice turned out to be very different than what sepsis is in humans.

You must read the rest. I find the reasons for continuing the mouse model research particularly telling:

Robert Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] has provided the best answer. He was quoted in the press, noting: “[There are] two reasons. First, there’s no other model with which to replace that poor mouse. Second, the FDA [the US Food and Drugs Administration] has created inertia because it continues to recognise these models as the gold standard for predicting the utility of drugs.”

There is a third reason related more to the frailties of human nature. Too many eminent laboratories and illustrious researchers have devoted entire lives to studying malignant diseases in mouse models and they are the ones reviewing one another’s grants and deciding where the NIH money [US government medical research funding] gets spent. They are not prepared to accept that mouse models are basically valueless for most of cancer therapeutics.

Raza focuses on cancer research because that is her field, and on mice because they are most often used in her field. One suspects much of what she says is applicable to other diseases and other lab animals as well.

One problem with lab mice is that they are bred and raised as couch potatoes:

“I began to realize that the ‘control’ animals used for research studies throughout the world are couch potatoes,” he tells me. It’s been shown that mice living under standard laboratory conditions eat more and grow bigger than their country cousins. At the National Institute on Aging, as at every major research center, the animals are grouped in plastic cages the size of large shoeboxes, topped with a wire lid and a food hopper that’s never empty of pellets. This form of husbandry, known as ad libitum feeding, is cheap and convenient since animal technicians need only check the hoppers from time to time to make sure they haven’t run dry. Without toys or exercise wheels to distract them, the mice are left with nothing to do but eat and sleep—and then eat some more.

That such a lifestyle would make rodents unhealthy, and thus of limited use for research, may seem obvious, but the problem appears to be so flagrant and widespread that few scientists bother to consider it. Ad libitum feeding and lack of exercise are industry-standard for the massive rodent-breeding factories that ship out millions of lab mice and rats every year and fuel a $1.1-billion global business in living reagents for medical research. When Mattson made that point in Atlanta, and suggested that the control animals used in labs were sedentary and overweight as a rule, several in the audience gasped. His implication was clear: The basic tool of biomedicine—and its workhorse in the production of new drugs and other treatments—had been transformed into a shoddy, industrial product. Researchers in the United States and abroad were drawing the bulk of their conclusions about the nature of human disease—and about Nature itself—from an organism that’s as divorced from its natural state as feedlot cattle or oven-stuffer chickens.

Think about the implications of this for every single piece of labrat tested science you thought was proven. (One report from 2008 found that lab rats and lab mice account for 4/5 of all animals used in animal testing in the EU that year):

Standard lab rats and lab mice are insulin-resistant, hypertensive, and short-lived, he and his co-authors explained. Having unlimited access to food makes the animals prone to cancer, type-2 diabetes, and renal failure; it alters their gene expression in substantial ways; and it leads to cognitive decline. And there’s reason to believe that ragged and rundown rodents will respond differently—abnormally, even—to experimental drugs.


That’s the drawback of the modern lab mouse. It’s cheap, efficient, and highly standardized—all of which qualities have made it the favorite tool of large-scale biomedical research. But as Mattson points out, there’s a danger to taking so much of our knowledge straight from the animal assembly line. The inbred, factory-farmed rodents in use today—raised by the millions in germ-free barrier rooms, overfed and understimulated and in some cases pumped through with antibiotics—may be placing unseen constraints on what we know and learn.

“This is important for scientists,” says Mattson, “but they don’t think about it at all.”

They don’t think about it at all. But, science! That’s almost a direct quote from somebody who was trying to convince me about something or other- the what is neither here nor there. The point is that yes, science is great, it’s lovely, I love it (really, I do), but it’s also done by scientists, who are human and not demigods.

Raza (quoted at the top of the post) works with cancer. Clifton E. Barry, III, is the government’s top researcher on Tuberculosis, and he’s noted problems with the mouse model as well.

The process of drug discovery has been carried out in the same way for decades. You start by testing a new compound in a Petri dish, to find out whether it can slow the growth of a particular bacterium in culture. That gives you the smallest dose that has an effect, known as the minimum inhibitory concentration, or “MIC”—the first M. Then you move to a living animal: Does the compound have any effect on the course of disease in a lab mouse? If so, you’ve cleared the second M, and you’re ready to test the compound in the third M, man. Each step leads to the next: No drug can be tested in man until it’s been shown to work in mice, and no drug is tested in mice until it’s been shown to have a reasonable effect in the dish. “The bad part of that,” says Barry, “is that no part of it is predictive:” A new compound that succeeds in the dish might flunk out in the mouse, and something that can cure tuberculosis in a mouse could wash out in people.


The fact that nothing gets to humans today without first passing the mouse test, says Barry, “has cost us a new generation of medicines.”

He doesn’t say so, but Raza alluded to it- this obviously means the converse is true- drugs that did pass the mouse text have made it to humans- and then failed.

Back to tuberculosis:

Indeed, there’s been no real breakthrough in treating tuberculosis—no major pharmaceutical discoveries—since the early 1970s. The first antibiotic to have any success against the tuberculosis mycobacterium, the first that could penetrate its waxy coating, was discovered (and tested in guinea pigs) in the early 1940s. The best vaccine we have was first used in humans in 1921. (It works pretty well against severe childhood forms of the disease, but less so otherwise[emph. mine- dhm].) And the closest thing we have to a miracle cure—the multidrug cocktail that doesn’t work against every strain and requires a six-month course of treatment with severe side effects—was finalized during the Nixon administration. Since then, almost every new idea for how to treat TB has come from experiments on lab mice. These have given us enough new data to drown the infected in a tsunami of graphs and tables, to bury them in animal carcasses. Yet we’ve made little progress—OK, no progress at all—in treating the human disease. Tuberculosis causes more than 2 million deaths every year, and we’re using the same medicines we had in 1972.

One major problem with the mouse model—and the source of its spotty track record in the clinic—is well-known among those in the field: The form of TB that mice happen to get isn’t all that much like our own.

Emphasis mine, again.

Why? Basically, we keep doing this because we started doing it in the first place. Because we started doing it in the first place, government grants, government contracts, and industries worked together to create a situation that feeds back into itself, requiring that we continue to do things this way:

The feedback loop began more than 60 years ago, when federal investment in biomedicine was growing at an exponential rate. To eradicate the last vestiges of infectious disease, win the war on cancer, and otherwise mobilize the nation’s resources for an industrial revolution in science, the government needed a more streamlined research model—a lab animal, or a set of lab animals, that could be standardized and mass-produced in centralized facilities, and distributed across the country for use in all kinds of experiments. An efficient use of federal research funds demanded an efficient organism for research.

In part because of their size and breeding capacity, and in part because they’d been used in laboratories since the turn of the century, the rat and mouse were selected for this role. As major research grants began to flow from Washington in the 1950s and 1960s, private rodent breeders picked up huge contracts with government-funded labs.

A few researchers are moving to other animals for research, but it’s hard, it’s expensive (the article says it’s almost like changing your religion), and it’s difficult to convince other scientists that it’s necessary.

It’s not clear how one might prove, in a satisfying and scientific way, that any given lab animal is better than another. We can’t go back and spend the last 50 years studying monkeys instead of mice, and then count how many new drugs came as a result. The history of biomedicine runs in one direction only: There are no statistics to compare; it’s an experiment that can’t be repeated.

One last quote, but you really should read both articles (the first is short, the second quite long):

Assembly-line rats and mice have become the standard vehicles of basic research and preclinical testing across the spectrum of disease. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to science. What if that one size were way too big?

Think about how this information applies to other topics as well.

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What is Art?

Fascinating read here.  


“Duchamp also popularized the tradition of the transgressive that has made so much “advanced” contemporary art a tired exercise in dreary but predictable histrionics. In 1917, Duchamp shocked the more decorous precincts of the art world with Fountain, a urinal signed “R. Mutt” and presented as a sculpture. It takes a lot more than a plumbing fixture to shock the jaded palettes of today’s beautiful people. But behind every beaker of bodily fluid you see in an art museum, behind all the pathetic outré exhibitionism of anti-bourgeois bourgeois animus masquerading as art, you can discern the sinister rictus of Marcel Duchamp.

To a large extent, the art world today represents the institutionalization of Duchamp’s early-twentieth-century pranks. The great irony is that Duchamp intended not to extend the boundaries of art but to short-circuit the entire project of aesthetic delectation. “I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into to their faces as a challenge,” he noted contemptuously, “and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.” Duchamp had the courage of his contempt. He gave up on art entirely and devoted himself to chess.”


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Why We Read Good Books

book and candleFrom the forward of The Lifetime Reading Plan, by Clifton Fadiman

“The books here discussed may take you fifty years to finish. …they are intended to occupy an important part of a whole life, no matter what your present age may be.  Many of them happen to be more entertaining than the latest best-seller.  Still, it is not on the entertainment level that they are most prifitably read.  What they offer is of larger dimensions.  It is rather like what is offered by loving and marrying, having and rearing children, carving out a career, creating a home. They can be a major experience, a source of continuous internal growth.  Hence the word lifetime.  These authors are life companions. Once part of you, they work in and on and with you until you die. They should not be read in a hurry, any more than friends are made in a hurry.  This list is not something to be ‘got through.’ it is a mine of such richness of assay as to last a lifetime….

The Plan is designed to help us avoid mental bankruptcy…. to fill our minds… with what some of the greatest writers of our Western tradition have thought, felt, and imagined.  Even after we have shared these thoughts, feelings, and images, we will still have much to learn; all of us die uneducated.

We will have disenthralled ourselves from the merely contemporary….

We will know how we got the ideas by which, unconsciously, we live….

Just as important, living in an age  which to its cost has abandoned the concept of the hero, we will have acquired models of  high thought and feeling….

I do not wish to claim too much for The Lifetime Reading Plan

It is not magic. It does not automatically make you or me an educated man or woman. …. It will not make you happy– such claims are advance by the manufacturers of toothpastes, motorcars, and deodorants, not by Plato, Dickens, and Hemingway.  It will simply help to change your interior life into something a little more interesting….

…it’s easy enough to say that they enlarge you, but rather difficult to prove it in advance.  Perhaps a better metaphor is that they act like a developing fluid on film.  That is, they bring into consciousness what you didn’t know you knew.  Eve more than tools of self-enhancement, they are tools of self-discovery. this notion is not mine. You will find it in Plato…. Socrates called himself a midwife of ideas.  A great book is often such a midwife….”

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En nuestra escuela hay muchos discípulos. Carlos, Enrique y Pablo son discípulos. Ana, María y Elvira son discípulas. Juan es diligente. Carlos no es muy diligente. Algunas veces está muy perezoso. Elvira es más diligente que Juan. ¿Quién es más diligente, el discípulo o la discípula? Juan está atento y es obediente. Carlos está desatento y es desobediente. No escucha atentamente. Cuando el maestro habla y explica Carlos no escucha. Él no aprende nada. En muchas escuelas hay discípulos y discípulas. En algunas escuelas hay sólo discípulos y en otras escuelas hay sólo discípulas.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of A First Spanish Reader
by Erwin W. Roessler and Alfred Remy
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This Happened.

So. For my birthday my sentimental husband took a bunch of old family movies we had recorded on a tape format which we haven’t been able to play back for well over ten years and mailed them off to a company that converts them to DVD. The company sends back the DVDs with image grabs from the videos on the cover so you have some idea what the contents are.

Which is how I learned that we still owned the very detailed, quite explicit video of the birth of one of my children- the one that I had done strictly for medical purposes and that I meant to throw out because, since I never had another baby I didn’t need it for the medical purpose it was intended for, and it was entirely too detailed altogether.

And it doesn’t look any better captured in play by play image grabs on the cover.

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Vaccination Wars

Here’s a fairly thorough pro-vaccine post that recently made the FB rounds.

This is one rebuttal (I agree with some, but not all of it)

I liked most of this rebuttal, but especially this point, which is the one that matters most to me:

The reason I have decided to put this into a blog post is because as the fear-mongering revs up, and the propaganda is in full force right now, my husband and I have both recently seen some uncharacteristic behavior in people. In the past, we never really worried about mentioning our choice out loud.  But now, there is a firestorm occurring and the fear being generated in the media is creating a witch hunt for those of us who choose an alternative schedule with our children’s vaccinations.  But there is more.  Our rights as parents are being threatened.  Your rights.


I do care about this kind of vitriol being put in its place:
“Dear Anti-Vaxxers: You Want Pure Nature? OK, Die Young.
Wow. So much hatred (and ignorance- nice strawman there). I don’t want ‘pure’ nature, I’d never heard of Jenny McCarthy until years after we’d made our vaccination decision (pretty sure she was still in high school when we did, too), and our decisions actually have never had anything at all to do with autism.
I care about responding to this kind of vicious, illogical attack because this whipping up the hatred against those who make different choices than you creates a hostile climate for your victims, one where people are quite comfortable bludgeoning us into submission using the law as a club

Some of our kids have had all their vaccinations (except Hep B, unless it was given in the hospital without our consent, which is regrettably entirely possible).

Some have had some but not others.

Some haven’t. There are different reasons, some of them specific to the child, some to what was available when and where we were at the time- when the FYG was born, the base hospital was still only using the live polio vaccine, which we didn’t want, for one example.

Choosing not to go with the flow and just do what the doctor said without questioning it at all was probably the hardest, scariest decision we ever made. I do not wish any of that on anybody.

So I don’t really care whether or not somebody else vaccinates, and in real life, I have never tried to convince anybody else about anything, except, fairly briefly one of my own daughters with one of the grandchildren, and then she reminded me sweetly who was mom and who was grandmom, and I backed my way out of that conversation.

I do care about the freedoms of parents to make the decisions they think are best for their children. And that’s really why I bring this topic up – to keep that point visible, to do what I can to normalize the idea that parents ought to get to make these decisions without fear of losing their kids.

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A few good reads, free4Kindle

2.99 for Kindle version of Elizabeth Goudge’s Gentian Hill

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Free: The Secret Garden

A classic children’s book that is fun to read and reread.

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Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God

It is an incredible thing to get even a tiny glimpse of the real Jesus. Not the watered down Sunday school Jesus. Not the Jesus a TV preacher who wants you to give money talks about, but the one found in the Bible. Read Astonished and then go back and read your Bible with fresh eyes. Ditch the religion and rekindle the relationship.

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Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson

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War and Peace: With bonus material from Give War and Peace A Chance by Andrew D. Kaufman

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The Mysterious Islandby Jules Verne

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This has over 200 five star reviews, and only 15 1 and 2 star reviews. On the other hand, those low reviews all seem to like the plot. They have some criticism about the writing style and flaws in execution- a common one being that the main character has trouble with figures of speech, and yet, she uses some herself. I think it looks like it might be worth taking a chance on if you’re just looking for a new writer and some escapist reading:
The Gauguin Connection (Genevieve Lenard)

As an insurance investigator and world renowned expert in nonverbal communication, Dr Genevieve Lenard faces the daily challenge of living a successful, independent life. Particularly because she has to deal with her high functioning Autism. Nothing – not her studies, her high IQ or her astounding analytical skills – prepared her for the changes about to take place in her life.

It started as a favour to help her boss’ acerbic friend look into the murder of a young artist, but soon it proves to be far more complex. Forced out of her predictable routines, safe environment and limited social interaction, Genevieve is thrown into exploring the meaning of friendship, expanding her social definitions, and for the first time in her life be part of a team in a race to stop more artists from being murdered.

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Dickens: Great Expectations

David Copperfield

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1918 British mystery, a little slow, but that’s not always a bad thing: The Hunt Ball Mystery

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Not great literature, but great escapist reading for me: Grace Livingston Hill’s: Phoebe Deane
Lots of other titles by GLH are only .99

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Choosing ideas

 I read this today:

“….ideas are presented to you in the most plausible way possible. Some of the ideas are perfectly valid, while others are total rubbish. By using your magic powers of “Deduction” and “Logic”, and “Intuition”, you can gain or lose points by trying to identify which idea falls into each camp. But beware, because some of the ideas that are rubbish can also contain a few grains of truth that can help you decide if another idea is good or bad.”

And it made me think of this:

Therefore children should be taught as they become mature enough to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests upon then: as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas presented to them. To help them in this choice we should afford them principles of conduct and a wide range of fitting knowledge.

From Miss Mason

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FYG and FYB Hijinks

dining room to sun roomThis is is our sunroom as seen from the diningroom.

Incidentally, this picture (the one on the left) was taken before we finally got walls up in the sunroom.  For about six years it was just insulation and boards, and what an eyesore it was.

Then the HM was given a bunch of light green boards that were perfect for the sunroom walls, and while I was out of town with the youngest two on a camping trip, he hired somebody to come put in walls.

This is what it looks like now, if you are standing in the doorway looking straight in:

sunroom front
The doors between dining room and sunroom are sliding glass patio doors because I could not make the builder or my husband understand I was serious about having a second story deck with a sunroom beneath it until the last possible moment.They lock on the dining room side. (Incidentally, one wall of the sunroom is the same outer siding as the rest of the house, and there the only light the building put in is a porchlight on that wall, but that’s not part of this story).

Looking to the right (you can see the siding and the porchlight here, btw):
Sunroom right

The FYG likes to do her schoolwork in the sunroom during the winter because the wood stove is there.  When there’s a fire in the stove, it’s obviously the warmest room in the house.

schoolwork by the fire

Keep in mind that the doors between dining room and sunroom lock on the dining room side, and surely you see where we’re heading?

Yep.  This last winter (by which we mean up until last Tuesday or so) the FYB was been locking his youngest big sister in the sunroom for fun.  She doesn’t mind, because he’d forgotten that one of the windows has no screen, thanks the Equuschick’s dog Benny (a stray who was dumped here a while ago).  She just waits until the Boy is not around, opens a window, steps out, closes the window, and then lets herself in one of the side doors to the house.

Why does she wait until he is not around?  To keep him guessing.  It worked for a while, too. The Boy has been most puzzled, and she had him convinced he just wasn’t locking the door properly.

One day he finally figured it out, so he locked all the outside doors, too.

The FYG had her cell phone with her, so she just called one of the other big sisters, who was upstairs, to come release her.  She tried calling me on the landline, too, but the FYB saw that one coming, and ran to answer the phone. He told me it was just the FYG, harassing him.

Later that same day, the foolish lad went into the sunroom to get a school book.

You see where we’re heading?

FYG locked him in.


He climbed out through the window that has no screen.  He must have tried at least one door, then remembered  they had all been locked by himself, when he’d previously locked them to keep the FYG noona out.

Memory verses for the day:

Psalm 57:6: … they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.

Psalm 7;15- He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.

Job 4:8
As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.


However, instead of trying all the doors, he got the ladder, climbed up on the roof of the garage and then slithered in through an upstairs window.

the ladder stayed there a long time.

the ladder stayed there a long time.

Next he tried to get me to side with him, tattling that not only had the FYG locked him in the sun-room, but making the accusation (which he half believed by this time) that she’d locked all the outside doors, too.  She scoffed at that one, telling him she hadn’t touched any of them, they were all just still locked from when he did it.

boy derpface

“No, I-”

“Ohhhhhhhh.  Yeah.” He grinned.

"I did do that, didn't I?"

“I did do that, didn’t I?”

I sometimes wonder what sort of exaggerated stories they are going to tell their own Progeny about what they did to each other when they were young.   But I guess they probably won’t need to exaggerate.

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