Tag Archives: Blogtoberfest

What I Didn’t Plant

What I Didn’t Plant

So, my garden didn’t do great this year.  I’m not sure if it’s because it basically drowned in all the rain we got or me not paying it enough attention to it or other factors that, well honestly that are pretty obvious in the picture above.  Because the one thing that I had a LOT of was sunflowers.  I didn’t plant a one of them.  They all self-seeded from the monstrosity I had last year, in every bed and even in parts of the lawn.  They were everywhere, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull most of them, so I let them go.

Turns out, sunflowers try to kill off all the plants around it.


But hey, at least they’re pretty.  And I needed some of that brightness this summer.  It was about the only sun we saw for months!


Rinse and spit

Rinse and spit

I’ve spent the past 6 weeks in dental hell.  And it’s not ending anytime soon.

Labor Day weekend we were getting ready to go to the beach when I noticed Xander’s right cheek was all swollen.  “Do you have a toothache?”  After a moment, he said sheepishly, “Kinda.”  I sighed.  “Okay, we can’t do anything about it right now.  I’ll call and make you a dentist appointment on Tuesday.”  A little while later, I said, “Here, let me see it.”  He pulls open his cheek, and I look in to see half his molar is gone.  “Why didn’t you SAY anything?”  He shrugs.  Kids!  What is worse is a few days later, after I scheduled the appointment but before the appointment itself, I asked the question I should have asked in the first place.  “When did this happen?”  “I don’t know.  Around graduation?”  Kid, that was THREE MONTHS AGO.  I don’t know if he just didn’t realize that pain wasn’t normal or if he was scared to tell me.  Either way, he and all the kids got the lecture that if they’re hurting, they tell me and I worry about things like how we’re going to pay for it.

That lesson didn’t sink in so good, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

So we went to Xander’s appointment, which to my shame was many years past due.  The first appointment was just a cleaning and x-rays, but he was pretty nervous as he couldn’t remember having been to the dentist before.  Everything went well, but there was no saving the molar, so that would have to come out, and he had 5 cavities that needed filling.  So I scheduled weekly appointments and got the name of an oral surgeon, which I also scheduled.  Every week for the past month I have been at the dentist with that kid.  He did great.  Didn’t have any problems at the oral surgeon, which surprised me, especially since I couldn’t stay in the room with him.  But then that kid always surprises me.  All his cavities have been filled, and his wisdom teeth come out on Monday.  After that he’ll heal for a month before we go back to the dentist to get a spacer in where his broken tooth was.  Unfortunately we have to wait a couple of years before getting an implant or bridge until his jaw finishes growing.

In the meantime, though, I’ve become very aware of my kids’ teeth.  I’ve been nagging them all about improving their dental hygiene (my parents were pretty lax about it when I was a kid, and that’s carried over into my parenting), and we got the water pik the dentist insisted on, and both Crow and Xander have taken to that pretty well.  So when I glanced at Crow the other day and noticed a black spot on her front tooth, I went uh-oh.  Sure enough, they have a big cavity right on the side of their incisor.  So, back to the dentist we went.

Their cleaning and x-rays were today.  The dentist said she could tell Crow was starting to use the water pik, so yay for that investment.  But they still have 8-9 full blown cavities, and half a dozen more “baby” ones.  Those we’re treating with prescription toothpaste, but the others need a whole lot of appointments, especially that front one.  It is millimeters away from needing a root canal, which none of us want.  So I have all THOSE appointments made, and will be at the dentist most of October and November as well.

I am so grateful I have what passes for decent dental insurance in this country and a health savings account to pay for all of this.  I know it’s largely my own damn fault, but when you live on the financial edge, going to the dentist is terrifying.  Crow needs braces, and has for a while, which I’ve known and just had no way of even considering before now.  But the fear of being told it had to be done and figuring out how I was going to pay for it kept me from getting even the basic care done for them.  That kind of financial insecurity is so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and the shame spiral that goes with it is impossible to escape.

Morgan goes to the dentist on Monday, the same day Xander gets his wisdom teeth out.  Fortunately Morgan’s teeth are rocks like mine are, so I’m not too worried for him.


Playing Chicken

Playing Chicken

The girls

The great chicken experiment came to an end in August.

The girls had a rough summer.  They were attacked by a fox in June and we lost two of them.  The other two I brought back to my place to recover.  Dora, the Buff Orpington, had a sprained hip and couldn’t walk, while Minnie, the Arucana, had a bunch of pulled feathers on her back.  Minnie was so protective of Dora.  Every time any of us would go near Dora, Minnie would run in between to stand guard.  It took about 2 weeks for Dora to get back on her feet.

We were getting ready to take them back to the farm when another disaster struck.  Minnie developed a prolapse.  I do not recommend Googling this, because it’s pretty disgusting looking.  Prolapse isn’t an uncommon condition in chickens.  Their egg plumbing shares real estate with their excretion plumbing, and sometimes pushing all that stuff out pushes some of the plumbing out, too.  The only thing to do for it is to keep pushing it in and set up conditions so they don’t lay as often.  This is why most large scale chicken farmers just cull them when that happens.  It’s a lot of intensive manual work.  Literally manual, as you have to shove your finger up the chicken’s butt.  But after almost a week of pushing it back in, it wasn’t staying and I, a new chicken keeper, panicked.  I took her to the local chicken vet, who said I’d been doing good, shoved everything back in, put in 2 stitches and charged me $250.  Ouch.  (Thanks, Mom!)

We kept them home another week to finish the recovery.  Minnie ripped her stitches out 3 days later laying another egg, but everything stayed where it should be, so we started making plans to relocate.

When Dora prolapsed.

There was no way I could spend another $250 on this, so I committed myself to more chicken fingering and started researching the best ways to put down a chicken.  This time I just kept on, and after 10 days, when I was just about to give up, she started getting better.  It stayed in longer every day, until finally it didn’t come out anymore.  So the key to prolapse is, apparently, endless patience.

But by this point, I’d had two chickens living in my kitchen for 6 weeks (remember, chickens are illegal in my town), and I was pretty done.  So I reached out to my friend Deb up north.  Deb has an actual farmette where she raises alpaca and has in the past had quite a flock of chickens.  She had gotten out of the egg business, but apparently had gotten into chicken rescue.  She had just taken in 4 from a friend whose landlord had decided chickens were a no-no, and so was willing to take on my two girls as well.  So with a heavy but hopeful heart we packed up the girls, their food and their goodies and drove them up to their new home where I hope they are still living a happy chicken life.

Do I regret having done this?  No, not at all.  I loved those girls, and I learned so much about chickens and about myself while raising them.  I can’t wait to have my own farm where I can see them every day and really be part of their lives instead of a once a week chicken farmer.  They have so much personality and are so engaging (even though yes, they are pretty smelly!) that I really need to have them as part of my life.

I saved a dozen of their eggs and blew them out.  Now I’m trying to decide on a good way to decorate them for ornaments so I can always have a reminder of them.



First day of Blogtober leads to absolute mental vapor lock. I either have to much to talk about or not enough. I’m still not sure which!

I think sometimes about what I want this blog to be. Of course I’d love it if it went viral, generated a ton of hits and a bunch of followers, but I’m just not interesting enough for that. And this isn’t a traditional journal. I’m not sure what a journal entry should be but it doesn’t feel like what I do somehow.

In a lot of ways, it feels more like a correspondence, me writing one sided letters to the universe. I always wanted to live that kind of literary life, sharing letters back and forth, documenting the lives of two people separately and together. I email a thousand times a day with Nikki and Deb. This is how we stay connected and in each other’s lives. But they’re more like snatches of conversation without the gravitas of the written word.

This blog is more like all those letters I imagined sharing with some unknown someone. If you’re reading this, you are who I want to share with. You don’t have to write back. It’s enough for me to tell the story, share the thoughts, put it out there.

So we’re off with Blogtober. Don’t know what I’ll talk about, because that would require more planning than I’m capable of at the moment. But I hope it’s entertaining anyway!

Blogtober Past

Blogtober Past

Those monthly blog challenges are always so hard!  I did pretty well, but not as well as I would have liked.  I missed a total of 7 days, most of them unsurprisingly towards the end.  I’m not sure how I managed to miss two days in a row last week.  I just lose all sense of time.  It’s why I have to automate all my bill paying.  Otherwise I think I just paid my bill when it was really three months ago…  Yeah, I’m a mess.

But the itch to blog more regularly is at least there.  As always after one of these things, it won’t be every day, but it will be more often.

And now it’s November.  No matter how tempting Nikki makes it, I am NOT doing Nanowrimo this year (what moron put it in the second busiest month of the year, anyway?)  Although I am going to start collecting ideas and possibly do my own Nano in March.

Instead, my goal this month is to track my eating every day for the month.  I know how important that one simple tool is for weight loss and maintenance, and I have gotten woefully out of the habit.  My weight has been creeping up, so even though this is a major eating holiday month, it’s time for me to get things back under control.  Yesterday’s tracking only proved my point.  I should be eating between 12-1500 calories a day.  Yesterday I had 2200.  Yeah, that’s a little heart stopping.  Time to be a responsible grown-up again.

How Thin the Veil

How Thin the Veil

I’m spending a quiet Samhain this year.  For our family, death is too close.

This past weekend, the kids went with their dad down to Delaware to visit their great aunt, who went into hospice care last week with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  It was a mixed occasion, acknowledging the passing of a truly kind and loving person but also getting to celebrate the family that she leaves behind.  I didn’t go, just because they didn’t need to be dealing with weird vibes of a former family member while dealing with their own grief.  Instead I stayed home and knit, waiting for the kids to get home in case they needed their mom.  They were fine, of course, but still I worried.  I didn’t have to deal with my first family death in any kind of personal way until I was in grad school.  My grandmother passed when I was in high school, but she was a thousand miles away and I didn’t get to go to the funeral, so it wasn’t until my grandfather died that I had to truly face it.

I know there are more funerals coming, though.  For a family the size of my extended family, we have had relatively few passages.  But health and age are creeping up on all of us.  I try to be calm in the face of our mortality, but some days it’s harder than others.

Sal passed into the Summerland yesterday morning, surrounded by her family and knowing she was loved.  That’s about the kindest death can be.




In the spring of 2010, we adopted two kittens from the SPCA.

kittens kittens2

Normally I prefer to adopt older cats, as it’s harder for them to find homes, but it had been almost 3 years since we’d had any cats, and the kids had never had a kitten, so this one time we made an exception.

We were lucky to find two littermates, who we promptly named Lewis and Clark.  They were so tiny and sweet, but incredibly independent.  As they grew, they developed their own personalities.  Clark was the hunter.  Our mouse problem disappeared as he got big enough to keep them intimidated, and we would occasionally find “gifts” on our back porch.  Lewis was the explorer, always wandering further and further afield.  They were indoor cats for the first year, but once they were old enough and knew where home was, we started to let them have outdoor time.  Lewis became more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  He would insist on going out every morning when we did, then would come home for a few hours before going back out to patrol the neighborhood again, only to come home for dinner and the night.

But time went on, and when they were about 3, the worst happened.  Clark was hit by a car.  I wasn’t home, so Morgan was the one who got the news.  He did a good job of collecting the body, but he was devastated. The kids all took it pretty hard.  We had our traditional pet burial, with everyone sharing a good memory of the pet and asking him to send us our next one.

Lewis took it hard, too.  He seemed….lost.  Like he couldn’t figure out where Clark had gone.  He moved in with Morgan and became pretty much exclusively his cat.  He spent more time outside, even during the winter, really only being in the house at night.

I could understand that, and I’m entirely about letting a cat be a cat.  I’m kind of a laissez faire pet owner.  For me, pets aren’t children.  They’re animals we share space with.  Cats are hunters and explorers, and I respect that.  We tried a couple of times to keep Lewis in, but he managed to escape every time, and it just became too frustrating for both sides, so we let him do what he wanted.

But I wanted a house cat.  Hence our trip this winter back to the SPCA and the adoption of Hudson.  Who has been a great addition to the house, except for one thing.

He and Lewis hate each other.

I’m used to cats not getting along when they first move in together.  In all my past experiences, after a couple of weeks they adjust and, maybe not become good friends, but at least learn to cohabitate.  Not these two.  Lewis would hiss and yowl every time he saw Hudson, and Hudson would sit and stare at him daring him to try anything, or else stalk him, never initiating contact, just always being in Lewis’ space in a “Mom, he’s touching me!” kind of way.

By the time spring came, Lewis had had enough.  He moved out.  Permanently.

For a while he would still come home, but would never come in the house, just camp out on the front porch.  Morgan and Eric set him up a shelter with food and water there, and would go out and give him attention whenever he’d come around.  By mid summer, though, even that had stopped.

We still see him around the neighborhood.  This is a relief in some ways, to know he hasn’t been hit by a car or anything.  He’s neutered, so he’s not adding to the neighborhood population.  But he won’t come near us.  This hurts Morgan the most, to have this cat who was HIS cat run away from him whenever he sees him, especially when Morgan has seen strangers able to approach him.  I also feel bad because we’re responsible for him, even if he won’t let us take care of him.  If we could, I’d like to catch him and try to re-integrate him into the house, but he won’t let us close enough to try.

It’s hard, mourning a cat who’s not dead.  He’s not yours any more, but you can’t mourn him and move on, either.  You just wait.  And think about how you let him down.


Parenting Success

Parenting Success

The other day I was talking with Morgan about his life goals, and half jokingly I said he should move to Germany to live with his boyfriend.  He looked very serious as he said, “I want to live on my own for a year first, just to know I can do it.  That’s what you always said.”

He repeated it to our family counselor tonight.

I just about burst.  This was something my mother always told us (well, at least me.  I can’t attest for my siblings.), that you needed to know how to take care of yourself so you never felt trapped.  My ex moved right from his dad’s home into mine, and it wasn’t until after we separated that he ever lived on his own.  He said to me a couple months after he moved out, “I wish I’d lived on my own sooner.  There’s so much I don’t know.”

So yeah.  At least one piece of advice will be carried on by the next generation.

I’m pretty chuffed.



My strongest sense is smell.  I have so many memories that get triggered by scents, real and imagined.  But every once in a while a piece of music can do that for me, too.  At church on Sunday, the offertory took me back to the summer of 1976, a pretty unexpected mental trip!

I was 9 years old, living in a small little town in the middle of Michigan.  My baby sister had just been born, it was summer, I had a bike, so I pretty much had all the freedom I could ask for.  This was back in the day when kids’ time wasn’t scheduled to the last minute.  My brother and I would ride for miles in all direction.  We’d go to the river a couple of miles north of us to go wading, or out to the Hush Puppy factory to steal bits of leather, or up to the cemetery to race down the giNORmous hill (Ben wiped out more than I did, but I took my falls.)

The biggest thing Reed City had going for it was the fact that it was the crossroads of two railroads, one running north/south and the other going east/west.  It’s how the town got its start.  There were tracks and sidings all over the place.  We learned that if you put a coin on the track, when you went back the next day it would be squished flat.  Much more exciting to do it that way than in one of those crank machines at tourist traps.

But that summer, the tracks brought the Art Train.

I think my dad took me the first time.  It was parked on the siding over behind the Yoplait factory, three beautiful train cars just sitting there.  My family has a long history with trains (my mother’s father was a railway postman), so getting to go on one for any reason was exciting.

But this one was filled with art.  Real art.  Museum quality art.

I wasn’t a complete hick.  We’d been to museums before, but mostly history museums.  I don’t know that I’d ever been to an art museum at that point.  Which of course was the point of the Artrain project, to bring art to smaller communities that didn’t have their own museums.

I was entranced.

The tour started with a movie about all sorts of art, with a backing track of classical music I hadn’t heard before.  Every time I hear Satie, I’m instantly 9 and wide eyed again.

I can’t even tell you now what the pieces were they displayed.  I think there was a Mondrian, and Tiffany glass, and Calder.  I couldn’t tell you what was actually present and what was in that movie.  I can tell you that I rode my bike back there every day for the whole two weeks the train was there, just staring at everything and feeling the world open up for me.

Reed City has of course changed since then.  The Yoplait factory is still there, but in a different location.  The east/west train line is now a rail trail (if we knew it came out near our favorite ice cream parlor, I think Ben and I might have walked along it a lot further than we ever did!).

But to my surprise, the Artrain program still exists.

It was envisioned as a short term project that has now been going on for over 40 years.  I’m so glad.  I hope some other small town kid has the same kind of epiphany I did all those years ago.

I may need to take the kids to the art museum this weekend…