Category Archives: For Better or Worse

Land Not For Sale

First, I have a back-story, but you can skip to the break if you want the short story.

In 2004 Sparring Partner and I bought 10 acres of prairie. The 20 acres adjoining ours were owned by DrC. Over the next two years we built and moved into the home where we currently live. DrC decided to sell his 20. His Realtor, in a case of mistaken identity, asked Sparring Partner’s dad if he was interested in buying the 20 acres next to him. But those acres were next to him, they were next to us. Follow?

SP’s dad, an entrepreneur to be sure, instead of correcting the Realtor that he had the wrong Surname, decided on a whim to buy the 20 acres himself. My FIL never built next to us as had intended to make arrangements to either let us buy the property outright or leave it to SP in his will. Unfortunately, he never followed up on that intent before falling terminally ill and dying a couple years ago. The property became part of the family Trust by default.

A year ago we agreed to buy the 20 acres from that Trust. It was a very difficult decision financially because if FIL had “sold” it to us before his death, he would have done so at whatever his cost had been, which relatively and frankly speaking, was almost nothing. Instead we ended up having to pay appraised value because it was part of a Trust. I agreed to this with the stipulation that we would immediately turn around and sell 10 acres off to defray the cost.

My husband, being the sentimental kind of guy he is, even though the property wasn’t anything more than an acquisition to my FIL, had our Realtor list the property exorbitantly high. He decided that if I was going to make him sell the land, he wasn’t going to let it go easily.

We are not quite to the break, if you’re still following along. This fall we received our first offer, but nearly half of what it was listed. Sparring Partner was so insulted, he refused to even counter. A couple of weeks later, the same buyer made a legitimate offer, albeit still too low. We countered. They came back a little higher. We countered. They came back a little higher. We did not counter. Yes, it was a joint decision. We determined that the potential buyer made the offer because it was their first and preferred choice. Acreage in the area with distinct advantages like ours, are rare. We were convinced we hadn’t heard the last from them.

BREAK (FINALLY!)

Last week, we received an offer to buy 10 acres we had listed for sale. It was from the same people (with the same Realtor) who had made an offer several months ago. There was some countering on both sides, but on Friday we accepted their offer. Our Realtor emailed the paperwork to us to review, and then early this afternoon she forwarded an attachment of a map confirming the property that was to be sold. As soon as I opened the file, my stomach dropped. Due to an inaccurate description, the buyers and their agent had thought they were purchasing the 10 acres adjacent to ours instead of the lot furthest away.

We immediately called our Realtor and told her of the error. I am so disappointed by what I’m sure will be this as a deal-breaker. I’m angry at how careless and irresponsible both the Realtors were for not catching it and misrepresenting the property. Finally, I am just heart-sick for the buyers themselves. We’ve seen them walking the property more than once with a couple of small children and people who were likely their parents. They are a young family hoping to build a home. They’ve stood and watched the sunset on what they thought would be the location of their deck. They probably made announcements this weekend, and even when they went to work this morning, the week of Christmas, that they finally found where they will raise their children.

I wouldn’t want to be the buyer’s representative right now trying to explain how he screwed up, but I feel even worse for that family.

November 10 – Light Reno Scheduled

I have a contractor scheduled to come in this coming week to tear out and replace a part of the ceiling in our kitchen. Within a year of us moving in, we noticed a moisture stain, which now has spread down the beam. He’ll also be in the attic trying to determine why water is leaking through (or per the original builder of our home, it’s blowing snow) the vents and that it was the way we designed the home and there’s nothing that could have been done. Which come on?! What a crock of crap.

At this time, we will also replace the lights that hang over our peninsula in the kitchen. I was so scared to committing to pendant lights that I had the electrician install track lighting. Since it’s next to the beam, it just makes sense to switch it out now. I’m actually imagining a couple of these which are reminiscent of the lights we would use in the brooder house to keep the new chicks warm. My husband isn’t so sure.

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Just a short one for the day as I lost two hours to The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead. I won’t even facebook when those two shows are on.

November 9 – Emergency Date Night

Aitch and Doodicus are at those ages that my husband and I are comfortable going out for the evening for dinner and a movie. It’s nice to have the free time without worrying about rounding up a babysitter days in advance. Tonight we had made plans to go to our neighbor’s house for his birthday party. Keep in mind that this “neighbor” is a mile over, not next door. We make sure that the cell phone we keep in the house is charged and not muted and that Doodicus knows he can always call us if he needs something.

We first drove into town to get something for the cooler since the party was BYO, and then headed back out to their home, which all-in-all, took about 35-40 minutes from the time we left our house. We had just parked our truck when my cell phone rang. It was Doodicus. I answered and I immediately could hear Aitch screaming in the background. Doodicus quickly told me that the iPad had fallen on her nose and that it was bleeding quite a bit.

How does an iPad fall on one’s face? Those details are not important.

I got out of the truck’s passenger side and climbed back in behind the wheel and headed back home, leaving Sparring Partner at the neighbors. When I arrived home minutes later, Aitch was sitting on the couch, her face red from crying and a tissue held under her nose. She had a small pile of used tissues next to her, all with blood on them, but I could tell much of it was a mixture of blood and mucous from her recent head cold. She told me that Doodicus had advised her that crying would make it worse. He had even showed her how to pinch her nose and upper lip to slow the bleeding. She went on to tell me that “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me!”

Both kids are now deep asleep. Aitch might have some swelling tomorrow, and she’s got some dried blood up the one nostril, but luckily she’s fine. Doodicus handled the situation, his first “emergency” on his own, exceedingly well. He addressed her needs first, getting her tissues and an ice pack, and then called us. He’s always made us proud, but there are these moments that help me see that he’s maturing and that he’s on his way to becoming a responsible adult.

November 4 – Nebraskan Goth

I am throwing myself into my new career as a Homemaker (I really don’t like the phrase “Stay-At-Home-Mom” (SAHM)) with gusto. Even though I have a job interview with a bank in a nearby community, I’m hoping that it goes poorly. In fact, I should have just declined the interview, but my sister said it will be good practice. Plus, who knows? They could offer me a crazy salary with obscene benefits and make it impossible to refuse.

Being a Homemaker on 10 acres of property outside of city limits means I need to be prepared to do a little more of the chores outside. If Sparring Partner is taking the kids to school and there’s a foot of snow in the lane, it very well could be me operating the tractor. Chances are slim because the snow-blower and tractor really are Sparring Partner’s toys, but common sense may prevail. I handle the yardwork in the summer, including the mowing on a 60″ mower (it really is a smaller tractor), and one can usually find me mucking about the property on the weekends using my RTV (rough terrain vehicle) (I’ve traded healthcare acronyms for farming ones). Unfortunately, I’ve only been a fair-weather-farmer since living here, content wearing a pair of sneakers, windpants and a t-shirt. Until this past weekend, that is.

If you are from one of the flyover states, you’ve likely heard of Bomgaars. As a child, if we drove the 20 miles into the city, we commonly made stops at Bomgaars. I remember excitedly heading to the lower level to ooh and aah over the gorgeous harness and tack department, which was next to the cowboy boots. Halters were intense blues and reds; saddle blankets were beautifully patterned; bits were brightly polished. Compared to everything we had in our horse barn, which was brown with sweat and dust or tarnished to black, Bomgaars was like going to a carnival.

I still anticipate trips to Bomgaars, especially in the spring. Their nursery items are inexpensive, and I love to show the kids the chicks and ducklings they keep inside stainless steel water-tanks, heated with hanging lamps. This store to me is what Target is to many of you.

Back to my shopping spree…my current cold weather arsenal includes a North Face quilted coat and a long, wool coat to wear over dresses. Neither are quite practical when it comes to laboring in freezing temperatures. Here’s a look of what my new career-wear consists of now:

I know. I'm a sexy beast in my Carhartt bibs.
I know. I’m a sexy beast in my Carhartt bibs.

When I feel like dressing "down", I'll wear just the coat.
When I feel like dressing “down”, I’ll wear just the coat.

I know. You'll all a'quiver now, aren't you.
I know. You’ll all a’quiver now, aren’t you.

The preceding images are from Carhartt’s website. Bomgaars is a great store to physically visit but there’s no on-line shopping. It’s so old-fashioned, one might call it quaint.

Pink makes me feel pretty after all that brown duck material.
Pink makes me feel pretty after all that brown duck material.

These are Muck boots and came highly recommended by our neighbor and her teenage daughters. I was skeptical. Until I put them on. And then I was like my kids should each have a pair! And then I saw the price and then I thought the kids would be fine with their Target brand snow boots since they only wearthem two or three times a season.

And finally, the sales associate with the slight brogue suggested I get a pair of the socks pictured below. I’m glad I got only the one pair because I see that Amazon has them for about 30% cheaper. When I got them home, I tried them on. They were like wearing weightless and non-clunky Ugg boots on my perpetually frozen toes. I’m not even kidding. In fact, I’m already putting the slipper versions on several Christmas gift lists for this year, not to mention a couple more pair for me. Aitch put the socks on and watched a movie wearing them. When I asked her to take them off so she could get into bed, she nearly cried. Seriously, these Heat Holders are perfect with the boots and for kicking up on an ottoman with a bowl of popcorn and a toddy.

I'd invite you to stick your hand in my sock, but I don't want to come off as weird.
I’d invite you to stick your hand in my sock, but I don’t want to come off as weird.

There you have it. I’m still pining for the perfect pair of leggings and a couple of slouchy sweaters to wear with my knee-high Born boots, but if I am to secure my position as a Homemaker, shopping for clothes that hardly anyone will see me in isn’t any way to get Sparring Partner completely on board with this plan. On the other hand, if I’m not careful this will be me come Spring:

And by "me", I mean the one on the right.
And by “me”, I mean the one on the right.

 

This is my therapy.

Lots of things happening, but either not feeling the urge to blog about it or lacking the time. Right now, I’m sitting quietly next to a digital dictaphone while it records the dictation from another dictaphone because I screwed something up at work. Sparring Partner has eradicated the louder humans from the house, so I’m doing what I can with the silence gratefully acquired.

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We were on vacation a month ago. We spent a week at my Southern-living SIL’s vrbo beach house. The arrangements were perfect for us; specifically within a very short walk to the ocean and our own private pool. We had invited another couple and their two children who are close to Dood’s age, but they weren’t able to accept. Instead my single, child-free sister was crazy enough to accompany. I think by the time she got back home to her two cats, she was thankful to be both single AND child-free. I often felt torn between letting the kids dictate the schedule and making sure my sister was able to take advantage of the local offerings.

Unfortunately, the most memorable part of the trip for me was the harrowing return flight. I won’t bore you with details, but please for the love of the sweet baby Jesus, if you bring carry-on luggage with you, and even if you plan on not letting that item leave your side the entire flight, put one of those stupid little tags that are piled on top of the terminal’s check-in desk on your bag. Shit can, and will, happen if you don’t. I was so traumatized that I have cried each time I recount the details.

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I recently had a birthday. My mom sent me a birthday card and at the bottom of it she wrote, “Come get your rabbit.” I have no fucking clue what the hell that even means.

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My daughter turns five next week. I still get phantom let-down pains when I think about her infancy.

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Next month Aitch will start kindergarten. Not a big deal, certainly, but I’m mostly concerned about how my tu-tu wearing, pink! purple!, girly-girl will adjust to the navy/khaki school uniform requirements. I imagine it’s also more of a struggle with girls than it is for boys at that age. The worst part for Doodicus was teaching him how to tuck in his shirts and to button a fly. In the past year, Dood has worn one pair of pants that did NOT have an elastic waist, and that was for his grandpa’s funeral.

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Since my FIL’s death, my MIL has been holding my husband emotionally hostage. If before I didn’t care for her, I now want to kick her in her artificial hips. HARD.

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Sorry to end on what can only be the most somber of notes, but it is important to note that my son’s best friend’s dad committed suicide on July 4th. I had the chance to speak privately with Danny’s* mom the day after the funeral. While the dad probably had always had depression, it was both undiagnosed and untreated, however the circumstances that led to the self-inflicted gunwound were mostly acute in nature; an accumulation of events from the preceding handful of days. If the news hadn’t been horrific enough, Danny was the first on the scene.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Danny the day I talked to his mom, but I was utterly speechless with him. We made small talk as we admired the crucifix his pastor gave him at the funeral. While I am completely heart-broken for the family, I am also very angry at the selfishness of the dad. He left two young boys behind who are THE age they need to have dad around (not that there’s really an age a boy doesn’t need his dad…), but both currently face heavy bullying (one of the reasons my son gravitated to Danny in the first place because they were both picked on by the same kids when they first met years ago). Plus the younger child has emotional issues that likely will have to be closely monitored all his life. It all just makes my head and heart ache. It’s unimaginable the burden the mom carries. At the close of our talk, she said on top of everything else, she feels humiliated by what he did and knows that the community will judge her unfairly. Sadly, she is right. I know being there just to listen will help, but I really wish I had the ability to perform just one miracle…just the one.

*name has been changed

Display Wall for My Children’s Art

Last May, I started a project. I wanted to create a display wall to display the kids’ art. The idea originally came from a photo on Pinterest from this website.

chalkboardwall

 

However, I knew I didn’t want to use chalkboard paint because we currently have a real slate chalkboard in the mudroom and the amount of chalk dust it creates is asinine and I don’t want it constantly mashed into the carpet.

The wall is the hallway that joins Aitch’s and Doodicus’ rooms. In the photo, you can see the doorway to the bathroom that is actually between the bedrooms. This hallway is also right off the living room so it’s highly visible to anyone who visits.

The "before" picture includes my bag of supplies and a toddler potty seat. You're welcome.
The “before” picture includes my bag of supplies and a toddler potty seat. You’re welcome.

Knowing from past trips to the home improvement stores that the cork comes in 12″ squares, I measured the wall for length and then how tall I wanted it to go up on the walls. Simple math: 7 ft wide times 4 ft high meant I needed at least 28 squares. I also bought silicone adhesive, which is why I have the caulk gun. 
2012 006

 

As you can see, each square has a slightly different finish. Originally I considered painting it, but laziness won out. You might also notice that I had to cut around an outlet and a hallway light switch.

corkboard

 

We had left over window trim from when we built the house, which we used to cap the cork board and give it a finished look. A couple of things to note:

  • The corkboard is thin. A standard tack will be longer than the cork is thick so if I ever decide to remove this stuff, the drywall will probably need to be replaced. In hindsight, I could have put down an underlayment of foamcore boards (the least expensive) or doubled up the layers of cork.
  • The package may have said 12″ squares, but they were not SQUARE. I had to do quite a bit of trimming to keep the seams even all the way up and across.
  • The “Every child is an Artist” quote is made up of vinyl letters that I bought from Amazon.

When the kids aren’t paying attention, I’ll replace older pieces with more recent ones. Sometimes they even go hang their own as the mood strikes. I’ve included a list of the supplies *I* used for this project, but you may find yourself needing more or less (obviously). It took a couple hours to glue the cork to the wall, but as I said earlier, it was a year between when I started the project to when it got finished. I am the Queen of Procrastination.

  • Cork board
  • Heavy duty adhesive
  • Caulk gun (for the adhesive)
  • Box knife (and extra blades)
  • Yardstick or straight edge
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Wooden trim (if you want a more finished look)
  • Hacksaw (to cut trim to size)
  • Thumb tacks

240

Imagine this level of Crazy in YOUR home.
Imagine this level of Crazy in YOUR home.

Even though I’ve known his collection was extensive, I just found out that my FIL owned approximately 240 firearms.

TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY GUNS OWNED BY ONE MAN!

And now five children will split that collection between themselves. That’s just shy of 50 each, including to my husband, Sparring Partner. I’m furious.

Would you believe that S.P. thought I would be less angry if he told me that he had no intention of keeping them all? He’d sell most of them. This coming from the man who still has his sibling’s Christmas presents sitting on his desk waiting to be sent out…from LAST year. This coming from the man who hasn’t finished insulating his shop that he built seven years ago and yet recently informed me that he’s ADDING on to it this year (over my goddamn dead body, he is! (which if he gets 50 guns, he increases his opportunities and odds)). This coming from the man who adamantly refuses to let the kids have a trampoline because of how dangerous they are.

I should mention that since he told me all of this about an hour ago, which immediately preceded me telling him that he’s fucking crazy if he thinks he’s bringing any of those guns into our house, he’s been trying to draw me into some small chat about Doodicus’s homework; the night sky; and now just a moment ago, a rerun of Frasier. Does he really think he can baffle me with bullshit?

(Image courtesy of The Guardian.)

Mama’s Got Some New Shoes

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this picture of Tina Fey with Snow White at Disney. We zeroed in on her shoes.

Tina Fey. Awesome. Tina Fey's shoes? Awesomer.
Tina Fey. Awesome. Tina Fey’s shoes? Awesomer.

We wanted THOSE shoes. We wanted red, t-strap, open-toe, clog-style shoes. I eventually gave up searching on-line because I’m sure they were probably a pair of custom-made in Hollywood shoes and cost $5,000 so it really wouldn’t matter if I ever figured it out.

I wish I could remember what I was doing a couples weeks ago when I came across a post about some clogs: Sven Clogs. I landed on their home page. I had found Tina Fey’s clogs in above picture.

It took a little surfing on their page to find the exact style, but they only showed them in a denim suede color and that didn’t trip my trigger enough to spend that kind of money on them. The order set-up for their shoes is not set up in a way that a first-timer will immediately figure out so I’m here to help you out with that.

First step is to decide if you’re a low, medium or high heel kind of girl. I found the style above in both the medium and high heel, but I thought I better ease myself into it (plus they had a one-day sale on them. Bonus.).

d2

Select your size, which is European based. I’m a solid 7 1/2 so I chose 38. You can mail an outline of your foot to the company if you want to make sure and have the patience. Now you need to select your “Base”: black, brown or natural. Here’s a snapshot of those colors, which I didn’t find on svensclogs.com but on a different clog blog’s site. The other picture is an example of the bendable compared to the bendable base.

download9download8

This is where things get fun because their leather and color options are phenomenal. Seriously. The only option you won’t have is vegan. Sorry. It’s all Moo, all the time, and I’m cool with that.

download5 download6 download7

I placed my order for a single pair (medium heel, brown base, red, smooth leather), and I’ll admit their shipping charges left me a tad cold, but they showed up a few days later and now I couldn’t be happier. I wore them last weekend even though it’s still too darn cold to really enjoy them. I love them. I’ve “Liked” their Facebook page, which provides discounts, examples, and notices of sales.

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I’m not being compensated in any way by Sven Clogs, but if they wanted to throw a free pair at me, I wouldn’t say no. I just noticed that many of my friend’s (the one who I mentioned above) friends struggled with the web site’s options, and since I didn’t feel like “writing” a real post, I figured why not, right? By the way, there’s a less expensive version that Hannah Andersson sells (Ugglebo). I have my own thoughts about the bases being so strikingly similar, but I’m not going to stick my clog in my mouth.

P.S. My editor informed me this morning that the Disney character with Tina is most certainly NOT Cinderella, but Snow White. My editor is four. She did not take kindly to the mistake.

Guns and Your Child’s Friends

I read today on Facebook that a friend of mine asked a mom if there were guns in her home before responding to a RSVP for a child’s birthday party. I was amazed by her audacity, her bravery, her awareness. Even though a day rarely goes by that I don’t think about the shooting in Newtown, it never occurred to me that as my children’s social circles expand that I need to consider more than the basic questions (what, where and when). As one of her other FB friends stated, it’s a question parents should “normalize.”

First of all, I am absolutely for gun control. I believe the 2nd Amendment is ridiculously outdated and grossly misinterpreted. It’s a topic that I know has lost me friends (if not, my name on a restricted list or two) because it’s one I’ll admit that I’m not flexible. However, what you probably did not know is that my husband, Sparring Partner, was a long-time member of the NRA, but while he’s no longer a member and his opinion about the NRA is now hardly favorable, he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on gun ownership. In fact, there are guns in this house. Right now. I couldn’t tell you where they are except I do know they are under lock and key, and that neither my 4-year-old or 11-year-old know we have them. Then there’s my husband’s father, who is a collector. Not just a half-dozen or so, either: we’re talking hundreds of guns.

I grew up with guns, specifically rifles. As a farmer, it was one of the tools of the trade and used for hunting, pest control and as brutal as it sounds, to humanely treat critically ill livestock. They were kept (and still are) in an unlocked cabinet in my parent’s house where even now my kids can see them and frequently ask about them when we visit. The only dangerous situation I ever recall happening was this incident back when I was still pregnant with Aitch (I never would have guessed it had been that long ago) when my husband had one of the old rifles misfire while he was handling it.

The point is, I’m not at all ignorant about guns and how they can be used effectively in the hands of a responsible owner, but I also know that there are a half-dozen less objectionable ways to protect ourselves or to put meat on the table. So simply put, I don’t like guns, under any circumstances. It wasn’t until I read my friend’s update mentioned above would I have ever thought to ask the parent of a child if they had guns before I considered letting either Aitch or Doodicus go to their homes. I then put the question to my friends (bear with me as I included ALL of the responses below):

I have to ask, and I do so respectfully (and expect the same in responses): would you ask a parent if they have guns in their home if your child was invited to a sleepover? And how would you address this with your child if the parent’s response was not favorable?

RN: I wouldn’t even think to ask this question, but I think it’s a really important one. If there is a gun in the home, I would follow up with asking how it is stored (is it locked up in a gun safe?) and if it’s loaded and where the ammunition is stored. If everything is locked up in gun safes and only a responsible adult knows the combo, it is probably ok. Right?

KA: No, because although it’s not completely unheard of here (we live in quite a rural area and next to a big game shooting area), legally they would have to be in a locked cabinet, inspected etc.

TGM: i don’t know if i would think to ask but then again i am not sure. if a parent asked me that i would answer them honestly. yes we have guns in our home. they are kept in my room, in a closet where the children can not access them easily. they are kept unloaded and the ammunition for them is not kept in the same area as the guns. if they objected to their child being there, i am ok with that and don’t see it causing any hard feelings on my part. i know that not everyone is comfortable with guns. i am not that comfortable with them. all of the guns we own are my husbands, used for hunting (no hand guns) and some are from his grandpa that were handed down. however, i don’t have an issue with my child being in a home where responsible gun ownership is being practiced. responsible being the key word. and of course i assume that i would know that family pretty well.

MG: Never thought of it before..

XV: 1. Yes. 2. I’m worried about a lot of kids in the same house with guns. Yes, I know the parents are very responsible, and I know you are careful, but you know as well as I do, darling child, that kids can be crafty and get excited in packs, so…I’d rather not risk it. I love you.

IPK: I would absolutely ask and if the answer was yes I would not allow my child to visit that home. I once visited a home and discovered after half an hour that my three year old was playing with duplos in a room with a shotgun leant up behind the door. I died ten times inside.

EGM: I don’t know that I would think to ask normally but if I did, I would follow it up with asking how they are stored and locked away. If the answers weren’t satisfactory, I would be honest with the other parent and say that I’m not comfortable with it and ask if the child could sleep over at my own house first. Then I’d address it with my child. With a child of [Dood’s] age, I’d be honest and explain my concern and the solution (hopefully the other parent would be OK with the sleepover at my house instead). With a younger child, I’d probably just say that we’d decided to change it to our house. For the record, we have a gun–it’s kept locked up in a coded safe, unloaded, and the ammunition is under separate lock-and-key. Only Jxxxx and I know the code to get to the gun itself, so even crafty kids couldn’t get it.

KA: I let M spend the night with a friend who I know the family has guns. They live on a rural property, and the guns are locked away. I think the dad usually does carry on his person though. I grew up on a farm though, and my father had guns, so my comfort level might be different.

KJW: I would ask. I’ve personally known 2 families that wish they would have asked as well. You can’t be to careful. You don’t get a “re-do” with a gun.

KA: Also, I’ve had some pretty blunt discussions with my M about guns and gun safety. I agree that there are people out there who might be careless with guns–and careless with other things too. Trust your gut. If you’re not comfortable, for any reason, keep your child home and do something else.

EMM: Yes, I would absolutely ask! If they were locked away and secured appropriately, fine. If not, explain the rules of gun safety with him (treat every gun as if it is loaded, etc.)

JF: Oh honey, I ask even if we have a play date and I’m staying. It’s an important question to ask.

EC: I have the gun talk with my boys A LOT. Their Dad and his brothers all have guns. They are locked up appropriately, but I’m paranoid. There are three houses in the neighborhood where my kids play and have sleepovers. I’m nosy enough to know that all the parents are crazy liberals like me and don’t own any guns.

MGK: Never would have asked that I grew up in a home with guns was educated starting at an early age (5) my daughter has been shooting since she was 5. I feel it is very important that our youth are taught about guns what is proper handling and how to act around guns. People can get hurt around guns if they don’t know proper handling and how to act. If children are brought up and taught to respect guns and that they should not handle guns without an adult present I believe you have a lot less to worry about. When kids are introduced to something and taught properly they are less likely to investigate on their own it becomes second nature. When I was growing up my dad had all of his guns in his gun room and I knew I couldn’t go in there and when I had friends over they were not aloud in the room and it was never an issue.

KY: We have guns and they are locked in a gun safe. I wouldn’t be offended if someone asked me about it but I have never asked, nor have I had anyone ask us. We have lots of sleepovers.

KA: [Yo-yo Mama], the more I think about this, I had to add that A LOT of things make me nervous about sleepovers. (Older siblings, drugs, other safety concerns, and so on.) I think for me, it comes down to how well do I know the family, how comfortable am I with them, and do I have a high enough level of overall trust for my son to be in their care for any amount of time? When I lived in Boston/Cambridge, guns probably would not have come up. Living in rural NH, I tend to assume that almost everyone, regardless of political leanings, likely has a gun. I went to get a permit myself recently, and had to go back, because the PD has run out of applications. I don’t currently own a gun, but I wouldn’t be offended if I was asked politely if I did, by a concerned parent.

CC: Yep. And if I wasn’t comfortable with the answer, my kid wouldn’t go over to that friend’s house. I’m the mama. I don’t give a fig about the other family. There are houses that are off limits to my children because I think the people are too stupid to be responsible (with and without guns). There are houses that are off limits to my children because I know drugs are present. There are houses that are off limits because the parents allow movies and videogames that my children are not allowed. My job is to do what I think is best for MY family…not be politically correct. And how I handle it…I’m honest with my kids about it.

JF: We have a lot of potentially dangerous medications in our house. For my child’s safety and the safety of those visiting our home, we purchased a medication lock box. We keep all of our daily meds in there (the scary stuff – not the vitamins). I think it was $30 but it gives us peace of mind. We also put it up high when we have kids over and our son does not know the combination (though he’s tried to get it out of us LOL)

KCN: Vitamins can be fatal too if ingested in high quantities. I would lock those up too.

JF: True [KCN] – they are kept out of reach as well. However, I’m more concerned with seizure meds and stimulants than vitamins and space is limited.

CMS: The harder part of your question is explaining it to your child. They really have no comprehension of the finality of gun accidents. If a parent is offended by you asking, I would wonder why. Shouldn’t they be just as concerned if the sleepover was at your place? I think an open discussion is never out of place.

KY: I agree that we don’t do sleepovers with people we don’t know very well – my son is just uncomfortable in that situation. So, with that said, we know the families and where they stand on the issue of guns. Now, one of my son’s best friends has parents that “act drunk” in his words, or leave the kids home alone often at night. He himself chooses not to stay at their home overnight.

KF: Do I have to let my kids go on sleep overs? . Never thought of that now I have another reason to be paranoid! . I am not sure if I personally would have the guts to ask but I wish I could! Good luck with that one!

KSB: Sleepovers aren’t what they used to be. I fear the older sibling or the older sibling’s friend or the creepy uncle who swings by for pizza. Medications, drugs, guns. I recognize that I can’t control every environment my children enter, nor do I want to limit their experiences. We haven’t reached sleepover age yet but I’m sure it won’t be long. We’ve already agreed that sleepovers aren’t allowed unless we are friends with the parents. Not just friendly. Friends. My nephew went to a sleepover and their house phone was turned off that night. The mother didn’t want to use up all her minutes letting the 10 yr old boys contact their parents, so my SIL had no way of contacting her son. The next morning the mom took the boys to a splash park without asking permission or notifying anyone. The police found my nephew in a parking garage outside the park. He was fine but terrified. Some if our close friends have guns. My kids could sleepover at some of their homes but not all. Not all gun owners are safe and responsible. In fact I am terrified that the house next door to us has four unlocked guns and two mentally impaired/unstable preschoolers. We don’t do play dates at their house. It’s likely nothing bad will ever happen over there, but why hang around to find out? I understand we will encounter tears and drama and “it’s not fair!” The first time W isn’t allowed to go to the big fun sleepover but I’m okay with that. It’s my job to keep her safe. Not keep her cool.

JLK:  It, coming from a no gun culture, scares the Willies out of me that people would have them in their homes. No matter how they are kept.

SR:  I absolutely would ask but I wonder how many people are going to tell you if they have guns but don’t store them properly? I didn’t grow up with guns and I’m scared of them but I know people who are responsible gun owners so I don’t think that anyone who has a gun necessarily is bad or irresponsible. As other people pointed out, there are so many things surrounding sleepovers that are troublesome for me but it all really boils down to how well do I know the parents (which I know isn’t a guarantee either).

ALH: Sigh. I would ask, if I was an American. Don’t know how I’d respond to a yes — and I come from a hunting culture and have handled plenty of guns.

JL: I ask, saying something like “you know how interested kids are at this age.” And he doesn’t go if I’m not comfortable with the answer. I also have a good long talk with him about what to do if the subject of seeing a gun comes up.

Even after reading the comments, I’m still not sure if it’s something I won’t feel awkward asking about, but it really is a question that shouldn’t be uncommon (“normalized”), and therefore shouldn’t be a question that anyone would find offensive. On the other hand, it makes me wonder how I would feel if a parent who was a hardcore NRA member refused to allow their child over to our house because I wouldn’t be the person willing to arm myself to save their baby in an event that would be a hundred (if not a thousand) times MORE unlikely than an accidental gun-inflicted injury.

And while we’re talking about accidents, it never occurred to me that we should have my son’s stimulants secured in a lock box, which we are now going to remedy. But what about the beer in the fridge? What about the carkeys on the hooks? What about the stairs to the basement? The toilets, kitchen knives and glassware? Sure, *I* know there’s a huge difference between a gun and a glass, but the difference comes in teaching Responsibility. For me, that is something I can teach and don’t have to have a gun in my hand to teach it. NOT talking about it isn’t going to make it go away or not happen, and that’s hard for me to remember because open discussions often feel as if I’m erasing innocence.

Ice Marbles via Pinterest in a Moment of Insanity

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If you’ve been on Pinterest for any longer than an hour, you’ve probably seen this image. I would like to first say, you have no idea how annoying it was to try to find the original post for this idea. Even now, I can’t even be 100% this is even it, but let it be known, I tried.

I discovered a stash of balloons the other day and I decided to give this a try. Without the help of the kids, because I just don’t have that kind of patience nor am I quite that insane.

The balloons I had were “standard” size but I discovered that this means smaller than expected marbles. Cheap balloons are meant to hold air, not necessarily dense, heavy water. I’m warning you now.

I filled up the first balloon with water at the kitchen sink at our drinking water tap faucet because I figured the higher pressure would make quick work of it. The balloon’s opening did not fit tightly over the spout, it filled the balloon but wasn’t enough to expand it. The water simply overflowed back out. Since the kitchen faucet had a sprayer head, it wouldn’t fit over that so I moved into the bathroom, which had the only spout in the house that the balloon’s end would fit snugly on.

So now I’m in the bathroom with my balloons and food coloring. I used the cheap liquid drops – the kind that comes in the bottles that look like garden gnomes. You know the kind I’m talking about.

I put a couple drops of the coloring in an empty balloon and then fit the end over the tap and gently turned the water on. It expanded as I had hoped, but I didn’t try to fill it very full for fear of it exploding. I didn’t want to reuse that balloon, either, so when I turned it over to empty it, the water violently erupted and red water went everywhere! It was a mess.

After I cleaned that up, I took a new balloon, added a couple drops of the coloring and tried again. It got about the size of a very large grapefruit when I carefully removed it from the faucet and tied off the end. It is crucial to NOT fumble-finger this part unless you are outside and you don’t care about the mess. I ended up with four filled balloons, which I gingerly placed in a bucket (again, because I kept imagining one would burst) and then set it outside overnight.

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Sparring Partner said that they would end up sticking together when the latex froze, however they did not, and really? It wouldn’t have mattered if they had. This morning, I cut the balloons away and I was left with my ice marbles.

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They are not perfectly round, so don’t expect them to be if you try this. The food coloring actually settles while the water is freezing, which resulted in a more ombre affect. Don’t put the final product anywhere you don’t want stained when it melts, like your deck rail or porch or steps. Of course, I don’t care, so I did sit mine on top of the deck.

OH! And I almost forgot: there’s no need to wait until the outside temps reach and maintain freezing. Since the balloons don’t get THAT big, you could just put them in a bowl or container and put that in the freezer, especially if you have a chest or storage freezer. I would recommend you put them inside something, just in case the balloon gives way.

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Will I Do Better the Next Time?

I went shopping yesterday in The Metro at a mall that has a Scheels sporting goods store. As I walked past the boy’s department, I overheard this exchange between two of its employees:

“Did you see this coat? It says it’s a Boys!” She held up a dark pink jacket. “What are we going to do with it??”

“Better put it in Girls”, she replied with what I interpreted as annoyance.

I thought I should have said something; called them out for gender stereotyping, but I didn’t. I replayed the exchange over and over again in my head, and I hated how it smacked of bullying by proxy. They made a judgement of gender simply based on the color of the coat. What if it had been an eight-year-old boy walking by wearing that coat? In the best case scenario, they wouldn’t have said anything, but they would have had those thoughts. Worst-case, they would have said something offhandedly, i.e. “That’s quite a coat you got on there, son!”, if not something totally ignorant along the lines of “Only girls wear pink!”

My son’s hair, since he’s no longer under a private school’s appearance policy, has grown long enough that he can almost sweep his bangs behind his ears. He has protested quite loudly when the topic of a trim comes up. However, a couple of weeks ago, he told me that a classmate had said that only girls grow their hair long. Doodicus suggested that maybe he should get his bangs trimmed. I said we could schedule something for the weekend. I knew he just needed time to get over the teasing words of his peer. He’s had to do it before because his grandparents and aunts and uncles have made similar comments. I always quickly vocalize my support of Doodicus’ hair, and I would have thought by now they would have stopped hassling him, but apparently it may require the more obvious approach by telling them to simply fuck off about the whole hair-thing already.

But I wonder why I didn’t come to the defense of the faceless and nameless boy who may have fallen in love with the pink jacket. I could have said something knowing that neither of the employees would have been able to defend themselves against the crazy customer, not to mention I was simply an anonymous person they could later describe with scathing detail to other like-minded employees on their next break or maybe even in their staff meeting (I have no idea which end of the spectrum their management falls under, but I couldn’t help but pick up on the VERY traditional Christmas music that was being piped over the speakers during my hour in the store), but I kept my head down, so to speak, and walked out of earshot. I had a chance to be an advocate for tolerance and I wonder if I had had my son with me, if I still would have failed to provide him the upstanding role model of what we expect from him as he matures.

Grandma Wanna Be

Tonight we were at supper with my in-laws and their visiting family. My husband’s niece was there as well with her children, including their youngest who recently turned two. One of the visiting family members, Sally, repeatedly requested that the two-year old come over and sit on her lap “…because I don’t have any grandchildren yet.”

The first time she said it, I didn’t think anything of it, but by the third time I was ready to smack her. As if saying that would suddenly convince the two-year-old that “Oh! Hey! I could totally pretend to be your grandchild, Strange Lady I Just Met Today…if I knew what a “grandchild” was, but you know how it is, being TWO and all!”

You know how people make vague announcement, like “Man, could things get any worse?!! *sigh!*” and you know the only reason their doing is is to get you sucked into whatever woe-is-me story they have going on? Well, I just knew that’s what she was doing with that “I don’t have any grandchildren yet” lead. However, since I’m totally antisocial and of the I-don’t-give-a-fuck personality, she unfortunately was barking up the wrong tree.

Luckily (??) someone else finally picked up on her sad sighs and asked her about her children. As I helped Aitch cut up her food, I eavesdropped.

“Well, I just really want a grandchild, but you see, my son, he’s been married now for a couple of years. He’s 31 and I just know that if they haven’t had children by now, they never will.”

I can’t really explain why this made me unreasonably angry, but it did enough that as soon as Sparring Partner and I were in the privacy of the car, I screeched at him. “Maybe they CAN’T have children?? Did she ever think of that?! If she’s constantly moaning about it to us, what kind of guilt trip is she laying on her son and daughter-in-law?”

If HE is 31, then we can safely presume she’s 31 or younger. Hell, I was 34 when I had my son! My husband was 37!! It always makes me uncomfortable when parents talk about their children giving them grandchildren because that means they are thinking about their sweet baby getting it on and conceiving. I don’t want that visual. Aside from that, some couples may not even want to have children. Being 30 seems so, so young to me. Many 30 year-olds don’t even a career, for heaven’s sake.

Having gone through years of infertility and miscarriages and dozens of embarrassing medical procedures, if I had to add my Mom’s (or Mothers-in-law) disappointment over the lack of grandchildren, I’m sure I would have gone straight to Batshit Crazy Hell. Someday, I hope I do live long enough to have grandchildren, but I would rather my children simply have fulfilling and rewarding lives that DON’T include me.

I don’t cook often, but when I do, it’s friggin fast: Poached Eggs

I’ve become such a bore, haven’t I? I promise to not disappoint with this post, either!

Let me introduce you to the perfect poached egg. Perfect because it can be done in the time it takes to make toast and the technique means little to clean up in the Dishes Department.

One extra-large egg and a microwavable rice bowl

Break egg into bowl. Start over if you break yolk.

GENTLY add water to bowl so as to not break up the yolk or white. You’ll need enough to *just* cover the egg.

Microwave on High for 1 minute. Now’s the time to make toast! This is right after the ‘nuking. The heart was just a happy accident.

Carefully drain off all the water. If you break the yoke, start back at picture #2. I use this “fryer” spoon.

Tada! One perfect poached egg! (If you overcook it, it’s a “soft-boiled” egg. If undercooked, it’s a “sunny-side-up” egg.)

Since eggs are cheap and all microwaves are different, you can afford to tweak this a bit to make the egg turn out the way you like. The only egg I toss is one that doesn’t have the white cooked. This simple process means that we can serve breakfast for four in less than 15 minutes. I’ve never tried cooking up more than one egg at a time. On the other hand, we’ve never had breakfast ready in 15 minutes. There’s bacon to be cooked up, and Aitch is a bacon fiend.

It’s Been A Long Time Since I’ve Used “Penis” in a Post

I take an ambien every night. I have been for months. I fall asleep in a blink and then I sleep solidly until the alarm goes on in the morning. Even if I have to get up because I have to go to the bathroom or if Aitch is having a nightmare or if Doodicus is scared of a storm, I can always go right back to sleep. I love my ambien.

I recently had it refilled and while I dropped like a fly on Monday, Tuesday night I tossed and turned. I was awake more then I was asleep during the night. I ended up dropping Aitch off at school, coming home and sleeping for another three hours straight. Wednesday and Thursday (last night), I again struggled getting to sleep and woke with every snort, wheeze, and exhale from my husband, which eventually sent me to the silence of the couch. Still I tossed and turned. I also hadn’t been feeling well, waking with headaches and stomach cramps.

Last night, sometime around 3:00 a.m. I started wondering if I hadn’t got a bad batch of ambien with the recent refill. They couldn’t ALL be bad because Monday I had no problem with sleep. This morning I pulled the bottle of white pills from the cabinet and realized that for the past three nights I had been taking Paxil, an antidepressant and I had started and then stopped after a couple of months but hadn’t thrown out. It explained the headaches, cramping, even the jaw-clenching! Not to mention my inability to sleep.

Of course, it also explained how I was able to accept my mistake with little more than a “aw shucks!” kind of attitude, and why I am completely incapable of imagining a penis. Not that I’m always trying to imagine penises, but ADs really pulled the plug on my sex-drive and being unable to concoct any sexual imagery confirmed that I had been taking the wrong stuff. 

Thank goodness I had this week off from work or I’d be even a bigger wreck. I marked the Paxil lid and moved the bottle (I can’t bear the thought of disposing of them yet). Tonight, I will sleep.

Tomorrow

Things have been not so good lately, but each time I sit down to draft it out, 600 words later I have deleted it and closed the window. One of my friends from Facebook posted on one of my wall updates how I never seem to be happy, and frankly, the words stung with their accuracy. I have not been happy.

It’s not because there is a sense of “buyer’s remorse” over our moving Doodicus from a private school to a public in the hopes he would have access to more…more what? Yeah, well, that’s hard to explain. And the remark about Buyer’s Remorse came from the psychologist, not from Sparring Partner, myself or Dood, but it kinda sums things up nicely.

It’s not because Sparring Partner’s dad is slipping slowly away in a too-small nursing home room. The giant man whose presence in any room could not simply be ignored – not just because of his size – but because his distinct Bostonian voice could drown any cacophony of Midwesterners, has become an almost empty, cancer-riddled shell. Or that my mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing in what seems like light-speed ever since Aitch started going to school and we see her less frequently. Talking with her about how the kids are adjusting to school, or the home projects, or just little stories about day-to-day happenings is like trying to write on a chalkboard in the middle of a rain shower.

My unhappiness is not because my son had a crisis that shook us all to our very quick; that incurred a standing appointment with the behavioral health department every other week, that made me ache to go back in time and tell him a thousand more times a day that we love him more than anything. I should have hugged him more even though he always wiggled or turned away. Especially when he wiggled and turned away.

It is that culmination of emotional weight and stress and a feeling your life is spinning wildly off course even though there was never a course to begin with to follow. I know it will slow down enough so I can catch my balance. Yesterdays always seem much simpler, and certainly less of a burden. They are the days that no longer have long lists of things to-do and the things un-done. They are just simply the days that were. Tomorrows are hard because they are filled with expectations, anticipations, dread and worry.

I am hoping just for better tomorrows. Maybe even happier.