Category: Around the House


A collection of closeups from Mim's 9th yearDear Mim,

Did you know that today you turn 10? We did. You may have reminded us a time or two over the last few days. A decade. Double digits. Wow!

This has been another year of growth and maturity for you. You are much more in control of your energy levels and you are more aware of what is going on around you. You’re almost done with Swing for the Stars (OT). We’ll miss Ms. Meghan, but she’s given you lots of tips and exercises to keep building your fine motor skills and your core strength.

In karate, you went from green belt all the way to first degree brown belt (3 promotions). You completed another year of Cub Scouts and are officially a Webelos 2. You’ve had a great year at school and every day we see behavior that shows you are able to handle more responsibility. It’s a wonderful thing.

By far, the highlight of your 9th year was the Disney Cruise we surprised you and your sister with last August. You will happily recount your adventures with anyone who is willing to listen. It was a wonderful trip. We also went to Ohio and you reconnected with cousins we don’t see that often. For you it was as if time hadn’t passed at all.

This year you spread your wings a little and tried chorus at school. Despite your extremely outgoing personality, you ultimately decided you didn’t like performing in front of people. You’ve expressed interest in possibly trying an instrument next year, but we’re still talking about that.

You’re still a bundle of energy but you are much better at managing it. You’ve discovered the outdoors is a really fun place to engage your imagination and work out the wiggles. You are still a morning person although lately you’ve been splitting your time between imaginative play and reading on the love seat with me.

This year as been full of experiences around making and keeping friends. I see in you many of the same struggles I faced. It’s hard when you feel things so strongly, but you have a good heart.

Your first decade has been full of joy and boundless energy I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

Happy 10th to my baby boy!



DIY Halloween Costume – Steve from Minecraft

It’s that time of year again. Halloween! Crafty Cathy I am not, and I’m also not fond of spending $$$ for poorly made crap. This year our primary costume makers were tied up with other obligations. Something about a son/grandson’s wedding. 🙂  So I was on my own. Said wedding did buy me a little time as we didn’t have our normal Columbus Day festivities at the lake, but there are still many other spooky celebrations to be enjoyed and opportunities to collect candy.

Fish is taking a pass this year. A combination of age and food sensitivities put an end to her trick or treating career. Mim announced he wanted to be Steve from Minecraft. If you aren’t familiar with Minecraft, it is an a video game that involves highly pixelated characters and structures. There are two different modes creative, where you can build all kinds of buildings and survival mode where you fight for your life against Creepers (green pixelated monsters). Steve is the main character.

A quick web search turned up a pre-made cardboard mask. $30 for flimsy cardboard?? No dice! Besides, I still had 4 days left, I could do this right?

Thankfully, I found this Instructables costume.  A little beyond my skill set, (he lost me at sheet rock screws) but definitely some useful information including downloadable “skins” that could be modified to fit any box.

Here’s my supply list

  • A recycled box large enough to accommodate your child’s brain case.
  • A package of full sheet mailing labels ($9.99)
  • Photo editing program (I used Adobe Elements)
  • An Exact-o knife & blades
  • A mental ruler and cutting mat


First I found a box and cut a whole for Mim’s ginormous head. No really it’s HUGE! The kid has been wearing adult sized helmets for at least 3 years.


Next, I sized the downloaded the skin files from the Instructables site to 8.5 x 11 and printed them using the borderless setting. I made a few extra copies and even created separate files that were flesh toned and t-shirt toned. So I could fill in as need be.

Steve Face in Adobe Elements

Then it was time to trim the labels and apply them to the box.


Meet Steve.


Here is a 360 Degree view of the head.

360 Degree View




Huzzah! It’s BLT season

Oh how I love the end of August and beginning of September. I LOVE fresh tomatoes. Really big, red, juicy, fresh tomatoes. Ours acquired a bad case of horn worms this year, but I digress. Ever since I read Harriet the Spy, I’ve loved tomato sandwiches with mayo. I love tomatoes with mozzarella, in a salad, or with just a little salt. But, by far, one of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes is in a BLT.

Turns out I was doing it wrong. I saw first saw this Life Hack on the Buzzfeed List 22 Things You’re Doing Wrong, but it’s worth noting it originated on Life Hacker

Last week I finally remembered to try the Bacon Basketweave method of BLT making.

Before cooking and after cooking pictures of 3 pieces of bacon woven together.


  • A much neater sandwich
  • No escaping bacon
  • Bacon in every bite


  • It takes longer to cook bacon in the oven than in a frying pan.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

The bacon weave on top of fresh tomatoes and lettuce on lightly toasted white bread with a swipe of mayo

Adventures in Chickening – Mites and that %#$#! bird

Overall, things are going well with our chickens. The eggs have been plentiful and yummy and on a day-to-day basis, they only require anywhere between 10-15 minutes of effort and their antics keep us laughing.

Occasionally, there’s a little more effort required. Such as cleaning out the coop every six months or so and other maintenance projects. Then there are those activities that fall under the category of “things, I never dreamed I’d do”.

The birds had red bums for a while and we just couldn’t figure out why. Becky another one of the chicken mom’s had the opportunity to pick the brain of an expert. She suggested patting them with tape. If there were flecks on the tape that looked like salt and pepper, the birds had lice & mites. Since the flecks were small, I let Becky handle the taping. Sure enough, the tape had salt & pepper. Oh joy. The same expert suggested dust baths in diatomaceous earth (a.k.a. DE). DE is a substance similar in consistency to powdered sugar, but much more bitter tasting. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

The Expert said she left DE out for her birds in a kiddie pool and her birds voluntarily hopped in and took dust baths in it. We filled a cheap kiddie pool with about an inch of DE and left it for the ladies to enjoy at their leisure. Yeah, um no. Our birds had ZERO interest in this fine dusty substance in the pale pink plastic thing. They avoided the pool like it was toxic waste. Ok then, onto plan B, mandatory dust baths for everyone.

dusting chickensWe collected the birds in the pen and I captured them one at time Becky stood by the pool of doom and scooped up handfuls of DE. I held tight to a squirming squawking fowl while she covered them. Then I let go and we ran like hell to avoid being totally covered in DE. Yeah, that worked, sometimes. I dressed for the occasion including old clothes, a scarf to cover my mouth, a hat and protective eyewear. Didn’t matter, I still had DE in every crack and crevasse. Let’s just say blowing my nose was interesting for the next few days and we’re running low on Q-Tips.

These are the times that I am SO glad we are raising these birds as part of a cooperative, because dusting birds is only funny when you are doing it with someone else. If it was just A-man & I, there would have been less laughter and more “what the hell were we thinking!?”. Not that Becky & I didn’t shriek that a lot, but it was definitely more along the vein of I Love Lucy adventure.

A week or so later, we involved our third Mother Hen, Jen and subjected the birds to yet ANOTHER dust bath. Oh the indignity I tell ya! This time they were wise to us, so they were a tad harder to catch. One in particular got her feathers REALLY ruffled and got away from me before my cohorts could get even a speck of DE on her. She also REFUSED to come back in that night when it was time to round up the flock. I think it took 3 separate trips to the coop to finally corral her. Her antics have continued on and off ever since. It’s been almost 3 weeks at this point.

At first we were in a bit of a tizzy because the dogs can’t go out until the birds go in.  So we’d make multiple trips over to the coop and enlist the assistance of anyone available. Finally, I just threw up my hands and said forget this sistah! You wanna stay out, stay out.

The funny part is that she paces around the outside of the run, but when you go to guide her in, not even pick her up, just guide her towards the door so you can let her in with out releasing the others, she freaks out. We’ve taken to referring to her as DB for Dumb Bird. I’ve also taken to letting the dogs out if the majority of the birds are in. We had a close call last week, but Fish was nearby and called Dory off. STILL the bird refused to be caught.

Later that night A-man went over to look for her.

Dumb bird


He found her. On TOP of the run.

She let him catch her and put her in. Yay!! She learned her lesson!

Meh, not so much, no, she’s been “out” two of the last three nights.

Dumb bird! I fully expect we’ll be down to 18 birds within the next few weeks. This sounds cold, and I assure you we continue to try and do what we can to coax this bird in as often as possible, but at the same time, she has to do her part.

It’s a good thing the eggs are so yummy 🙂



Dear Mim,

Mim in front of a forsythia plantAnd now you are nine. Wow, it was a great year for you. It was a year of learning and growing both physically and emotionally. Together we learned about engine speeds and we now have the words we need to talk about energy levels and how to manage them. You are working on strengthening your fine motor skills (writing) and your core strength and continue to improve. You are still the happiest kid I know. You meet the world with a big smile and a hearty laugh. You bring joy everywhere you go and frequently have memorable quips.

Sadly, you lost a grandmother this year. We weren’t able to ease you into exposure to the emotions and rituals of death like we were with Fish. Still, you handled it all like a champ. You had some questions, and tears, but mostly, you just went along with the flow and provided some bright spots in the bleakness.

You dabbled in Star Wars this year, but your interests moved to Hot Wheels and Battle Force Five (a.k.a. BF5). Not too long before she died, you were talking on the phone with Muzzie. She asked you about your interest in Star Wars and you replied “Actually, I’m more of a Hot Wheels kind of guy.” I could hear her laughing from across the room.

Mim jumping on a rockYou and your sister still get along. There is the expected grousing once in a while, but overall you’re good to each other. You share a game on the iPad called Virtual Families. You two have these in-depth conversations about who is sick, who needs more vitamins, who got a job, who is going to college and who died. They are very funny to listen to and occasionally very random. For example, “I accidentally sold the couch.”

You have very distinct ideas about how things should be done and who is responsible for what. Sometimes I wish you’d set those classifications aside and just do what needs to be done with out thought to whose turn it is, but hopefully that will come with time.

Mim and his karate instructor with Mim's Red/white/blue beltYou are now a green belt in karate and just celebrated two years of perfect attendance. You’ve signed up for six more months and I’m hopeful you continue beyond that. This summer promises to be an exciting one with stints at Cub Scout camp, Lego camp, and NOAH Camp and knowing you, LOTS of reading.

You are still my early bird although lately, you’re beside me with the iPad building your empire on Minecraft. I’ll take snuggles however they come.

You are a bundle of energy and life with you is never dull. Thanks for always being a ray of joy. Looking forward to all the coming year has in store for you.

Happy Birthday!




She didn’t call

My mother and I and my college graduation.My relationship with my mother has been tenuous at best over the last 20 years. In many ways because of the distance between us it doesn’t feel like I have the right to grieve and yet, I grieve anyway.

When she was alive there was a small sliver of hope that maybe she’d get better, become more emotionally balanced. With her death, that hope is snuffed out. I didn’t expect her to ever apologize for the crazy things she did (like not attending my wedding), but if she could have stepped away from the role of the victim … If she could have evaluated her life, reached out for help AND accepted it. If she could have stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped blaming everyone else for her problems. Hell if she could even have answered the phone more regularly that would have been an improvement.

None of this was EVER going to happen. But still with her death, now it’s NEVER going to happen. To me, that’s a powerful difference. In any specific situation, when hope is gone, all is truly lost

There are many great memories from my childhood and a few good moments in the last 20 years. I wish there could be more. She was a challenge for sure. I don’t miss the trips to Boston and the associated schedule juggling. I don’t miss being asked to advocate and then being told I was doing it wrong (even when she got the outcome she was looking for). I don’t miss the drama, but the fact that I’ll never hear her voice again gets me every time. Yesterday was my birthday. She always called and usually sent a card. Yesterday was the first time in 45 years I didn’t hear her voice on my birthday. It was an unexpected blow.

The last words I said were “Love you.” and I meant them even if they were tinged with a hint of frustration and exhaustion. There were still more words to say. We ended on a good note, but neither of us really thought that would be the last time we’d speak.

Despite all the anger and frustration, I did love her. I think I’d convinced myself I didn’t in the last few years. These last few weeks have convinced me otherwise. There is no one who loved me more. That all consuming love was in many ways her Achilles heel but I was the beneficiary and I feel the loss far more than I expected to.

Regrets are wasted time. This is especially true in this situation, because there is no way to go back and change things, The truth is I don’t think I would even if I could. The changes weren’t mine to make. I tried to help her. So many people tried, family, friends, medical professionals. Eventually, they all came to the same conclusion: She wasn’t able to accept help. Still, that’s not a tremendous amount of comfort. I have this unrealistic belief that I can move mountains if I try hard enough. It’s helpful in some situations, but in others, it is a devastating shock when I can’t actually move the mountain. I do take comfort in the fact, that I gave her my all, it just wasn’t enough. To save her, I would have had to sacrifice myself and I know that wasn’t want she really wanted. I just wish the mother I had in the second half of my life could have been the mother I had in the first half of my life.

The only thing I can do now is be patient with myself and make sure history doesn’t repeat itself with my kids.


Meet Quin

In all the chaos that was April, I’ve forgotten to introduce you to our newest family member. Interwebz, meet Quin.

a black 2012 Chevy Equinox

She’s a 2012 Chevy Equinox.

So, what happened to Lexi you ask? You aren’t alone in your curiosity. Lexi just wasn’t happy with us anymore. She was a little spoiled by the mild winter and mud season we had last year. This year’s heavier snow falls and the resulting messier mud season were overwhelming for her. Don’t get me wrong, she was a trooper, and she was holding up fine, she still had a lot of value left in her, but I was worried about her long-term health and well being. She was almost 4 years old and already starting to show signs of the strain. She was running fine, but she just wasn’t cut out for a long life on a dirt road. It’s a minimum one mile drive to reach the pavement and certain times of the year, that 1 mile can be the hardest part of the trip. Truth be told, a lot of the pavement round these parts ain’t all that great either *cough* Concord secondary roads *cough*. The biggest issue was the ground clearance. Poor Lexi was only four inches off the ground. Hell, we regularly have ruts deeper than that! I was afraid that she just wouldn’t have the longevity that Emmy, my Honda CRV had. We had Emmy for 8 years and almost 170,000 miles.

When I really evaluated what our requirements were, it became clear that Lexi was really more car than we needed. In the 21 months we had her, we used the seating for 7 maybe four or five times. That’s a lot of extra car to be hauling around for such a rare occurrence. I scoured Consumer Reports looking for smaller, all-wheel-drive vehicles that had above average ratings for gas mileage, long-term reliability, and safety.

In one afternoon, we sat in or drove the Nissan Rogue, the Ford Escape, and Toyota Venzia. The Rogue was tight and visibility out of the rear window was virtually nonexistent. I liked the 2012 Ford Escape, it reminded me a lot of my CR-V, but it was redesigned for 2013 and again the rear visibility was atrocious. I liked the Venzia, but it was big and really more than I needed.

The next time out, my husband convinced me to look at the Equinox. He’s a Chevy guy, I’m not as devoted to the brand. But, CR liked the car, so I agreed to take it for a drive. Later that day, I drove the Subaru Forrester and the Subaru Outback. I lasted five minutes in the Forrester. It has awesome visibility, but I really felt like I was in a tin can. The Outback was ok, but I didn’t like it as much as the Equinox. I considered my old flame the Honda CRV, online, but in the redesigns since I’ve had one raised questions about the rear visibility and I had other concerns including gas mileage.

The Equinox handled well, it had decent cargo space but the clincher was estimated MPG. Chevy is advertising 30 MPG, Consumer Reports says it’s closer to 26MPG, either way, that’s higher than the 19 I was getting in the Flex.

It’s worth noting that the Equinox comes equipped with a 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder engine. The gas mileage on the six isn’t as good and I found since it was significantly smaller than the Flex, it is still well powered with the four cylinder engine. She definitely gets out of her own way even loaded with four people and the AC on.

We had decent luck buying Lexi used, so I was on the lookout for a 2012, with low mileage and a few bells and whistles I wouldn’t have been to able afford otherwise. I was excited, our local dealer had a few that met my criteria.

I crunched the numbers and went in armed with data and the knowledge that it was the end of March. Not only is that the end of the month, but it’s the end of the sale’s quarter. I had a number in mind, if they hit it, they’d have a sale, if they didn’t I still had a car I liked and I had seven months before the next winter road conditions to find a car I wanted.

They met my number. I’ve had it six weeks and I’ve already put about 2000 miles on it. I’ve noticed the decrease in cargo space once or twice, but it’s not a show stopper. It just means I have to put the seats down more than I did in the Flex and that is a very easy fix. It is literally the flip of a switch to release the seats.

Quin got OnStar, remote start and Sirrius/XM and heated front seats (standard on the LT2 trim package). I’m only seeing 23 MPG, but honestly, I haven’t had a chance to read the manuel and play with the settings to see if there’s something I should be doing to increase the mileage.

She had the chance to experience the end of mud season and that extra inch and a half of clearance has made a difference. Quin just seems more at home on the dirt roads. I hope Lexi finds a family who lives on a paved road who will love her as much as we did.

What’s with the name you ask?

How I Cut My Laundry in Half

'laundry' photo (c) 2009, Martijn van Exel - license: Does anyone actually “like” doing laundry? I suppose there must be someone out there who enjoys sorting, lugging, washing, drying, more sorting, and more lugging, I just know it’s not me. I’ll take a daily trip to the grocery store over weekly laundry any day.

Still, knowing how to wash and dry clothes is a skill that is required to live independently as a successful adult. I can remember getting to college and watching some of my classmates pondering the coin operated washers and dryers as though they were some of life’s greatest mysteries. Oh, the shock when they pulled blush colored socks out of the same load as the new maroon sweatshirt emblazoned with the school insignia. Oh wait, silk isn’t washable? What happened to my wool sweater?

I figure it is better for them to practice on their childhood clothes. A Star Wars shirt is replaceable at a low cost. The dry clean only blouse that goes with the interview suit not so much. Of course I hope to educate my daughter in the beauty of machine washable fabrics, but that’s another blog post. We aren’t moving to a nudest colony (can you imagine how much sun screen we’d go through?), so the kids need know how to do their own laundry.

My list if laundry directions for the kids. In October, I handed over responsibility for their laundry to them. I had a meeting on this particular day, so I left instructions and made sure Mim knew that he was to be as equally active in this chore as his sister.

It’s been a few weeks and a few laundry cycles and so far, things appear to be going well. They sort their clothes and then alternate who is responsible for which load. Teamwork for the win! I am enjoying my lighter work load and while I won’t go so far as to say they are “enjoying” their new responsibilities, the clothes are getting clean. The part about folding and PUTTING THE CLOTHES AWAY might need a little tweaking. I found a pile of clean clothes on the floor by Mim’s door this morning. *Sigh* Baby steps. Baby steps.

Eventually they’ll need to learn to iron. I may need to hire a tutor for that lesson, cuz mama don’t iron except under EXTREME duress.

Hmmm, *racks brain for ironing tutor*. Oh GRAMMMY!

What chores are your children responsible for?

Boys and Guns

'Gun' photo (c) 2011, Pedro Alonso - license: Mim is 8 and recently, his focus has switched from Lightening McQueen and Cars to Luke Sky Walker, Star Wars and Nerf guns.

The dog does her part to discourage the Nerf guns by nibbling on any foam bullets that get left on the floor (I take them from her before she swallows them), but it’s not even the shooting that he’s that enamored of. It’s more about holding the gun, cocking it. He has a Nerf rifle (a gift given to him by a family member with my permission) and the other day, I watched him cock it by dropping it to his side, like some macho military hero. Oh dear Lord I’m raising a Terminator!

Before you jump down my throat. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-careless gun use. We don’t have a gun in the house, but that doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t have a gun it yours. So long as guns are cared for and treated with respect, I’m fine with them.

Respect is the issue I’m struggling with. How do I teach Mim to respect guns and their power. I don’t want to restrict his imaginary play by saying “No guns”, but I want to inform it. I understand the feeling of power when you hold a gun. He’s 8, he has so few opportunities to be all powerful and in control, he should be able to do so in his imaginative play. At the same time, imaginative play is where kids work out the issues they are struggling to grasp. It’s where they role play and try on different personas. It is were they practice being citizens of our society. I need him to understand that real guns come with responsibilities and if you aren’t responsible with a gun, there can be real and dire consequences. How do I do that in an age appropriate way?

I also worry in today’s bully aware society that a child who plays at pretending to shoot a gun and says “I’m going to kill you.” could land in real trouble. Mim is not a malicious kid, but he is not always as aware of the feelings of those around him as he could be. At times, he’s downright oblivious. I’d hate for some other child to be scared of him or worse take his play as a serious threat.

There is so much gun violence on TV and in video games. I don’t believe either is inherently bad, but like anything too much exposure to fantasy without any comprehension of reality is unhealthy and counterproductive to functioning as a successful individual in society.

I welcome feedback on this issue so long as it is respectful. You are entitled to your opinion, just as I am to mine. I don’t have to be wrong for you to be right and vice versa. The underlying question I am trying to address is how do I foster a healthy respect for guns in a manor that is age appropriate for an 8 year old and going forward? Be warned, I will delete comments I believe to be inflammatory. It’s my blog, I can do that 🙂