Early Summer Yard Update

Last year was my first year with a grassy yard. I also had a number of plants around the edges of the yard. Then, in September, I got a puppy. Not only did I have way less time for yard maintenance, the puppy thought the plants were “playing” with her, and jumped upon and bit every single one of them until they died.

Destructive puppy in the yard! (From last fall.)

Now, she is almost a year old and and maybe won’t kill them as much if I replanted? I’m also thinking I would like more hardy plants, if possible. Perhaps a rose bush or some other kind of shrubbery? But before I plant anything, I would love to have an area of the yard delineated for non-grass plants.

The sadness of now (mid-mow).

There is one long edge of my yard that’s against a fence that I think would be perfect for this. So, without much planning (besides measuring–I’m not totally inept!), I went and bought concrete edging materials, brought them home, and then attempted to dig. After a half hour of digging and a few inches to show for it (the total space is 35 feet), I called some contractors. The lowest price I was quoted was around $1,500. But I don’t want to pay that much, so now I am thinking of going back to digging.

This entry is me, setting my intention and trying to get up the courage to dig!!!

Spring Camping (sort of) Trip!

I love writing about my vacations with family, as it helps me to remember and appreciate them more, and some day I imagine I’ll be able to look over past blog posts with fondness. That is why I hesitate to write this one.

Having spent a portion of my life living alone in a rural area, I am not easily freaked out by animals or whatnot that one might find in the woods. I have come very close (too close!) to bears while hiking, almost stepped on more than one rattlesnake, had a litter (I know it’s not a litter–what is it?) of garter snakes hatch in my linen closet, had a tarantula appear SOMEHOW in my closet on a day I moved into a different apartment (I tried to trap it for a year, but only saw it again the day I moved out). I’ve been bit by a Northern Widow spider (fortunately a baby) and a Wolf Spider while camping. None of those things bothered me that much.

But there is one thing that very much bothers me and that thing is ticks!!!! Despite many hours of hiking, and a lot of that going off trails, I have seen maybe a dozen ticks in my life. I wish I could go back to those days! But let me tell the story from the beginning.

Ziggy perhaps sensing she is not alone in her skin.

My family of five (two parents, two kids, and a dog) left the relative tick-less safety of New York City on a Thursday. After stopping to see the kids’ grandma for lunch, we got upstate (near Kingston, NY) by late afternoon. Almost immediately, I was reunited with my very good friend who I haven’t seen in almost a year and a half. We got everyone situated and left to go grocery shopping. After a joyful but quiet night, we all went to sleep.

The next day, I was my birthday! I wanted to celebrate with a morning hike, lunch at a restaurant, mini golf and go-karts, shopping, and then dinner at another restaurant. Basically, I wanted not to cook or clean up! Well, we went on the hike on the trails near where we were staying. The trails were marked but a bit overgrown. I didn’t think anything of it, because the dog is on flea and tick preventative and we all sprayed ourselves.

“Kids, go stand by that Murder Shed!”

The hike was underwhelming until we got back and saw we each had varying numbers of ticks and the dog probably had 35 or so. UGGGHHHHH. After tick picking and showering, we had lunch in town, which was nice. After lunch we decided to go back to the campsite and take stock but ended up falling asleep somehow. When we all woke, we realize there were more ticks on the dog and ourselves, and even just on the ground where the dog was going to the potty. So we left. We sealed everything in plastic bags and went to Target for new pjs and a new dog bed (the old one was discovered to be full of ticks). Then we went to eat because it was somehow after 9pm and most restaurants were closing.

My friend offered for the five of us to sleep in his apartment, and it was very much appreciated. We all showered again and gave the dog a bath in flea and tick shampoo. Then we went to sleep. The next day, somehow, more ticks were found, albeit not on Ziggy. I think the preventative was killing any that landed on her. We made breakfast and spent the day walking around Woodstock, which was fun. The flea market and most of the stores and restaurants are very dog-friendly. But that night, we found more ticks, which made me think we picked them up either in Woodstock, or in the yard where I took Ziggy to go potty.

Found in a shop in Woodstock. Highly recommended!

The next day, we left, but obviously brought some ticks with us. I picked one out of my younger son’s hair on Tuesday afternoon. I don’t even know what to say. I’m still horrified. I washed everything ten times and sent the dog to the groomers (they found nothing on her). We are supposed to go camping two more times this summer (different areas), and I don’t want a repeat!

Sustainability Project: June 2021

Not stinking up the beach, due to my plastic-free deodorant.

Trying to keep doing these sustainability swaps, with a focus on reducing my use of plastics. Last year, I switched from regular Dove deodorant to a more sustainable one in a glass jar. I liked it, but the jarred product was not pleasant for me to use. I wanted something in stick form. I had heard about Native products, but they didn’t have their deodorant in plastic-free packaging at the time.

But I recently looked again, and now they do! I choose the two ones labeled “sensitive” because I believe myself to be quite a sensitive soul. I like both scents equally. I’ve had no issue with pit stink or skin issues. I may even try non-sensitive formulas next, because on second thought, maybe I’m not as sensitive as I think.

I really hope this company starts using non-plastic packaging for more of their products!

Day in the Life of a WFH Mom

When I wrote this last post, my kids were still attending online school, and I had to help the younger one a lot. Now, they are back at school full-time! Full time school is Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 2:00pm. Back in 2019, when I was commuting most days of the month, there was after-school programs that lasted until 5:00pm. But now, there is still no after-school available. I am fine with that for now. I’m just so glad they are having the opportunity to learn with their peers in person. And both kids (even the younger one who used to hate school) are really happy about learning in person!

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

6:30am: I wake up and quickly get dressed and feed my dog Ziggy. I’ve bought an automatic feeder for my cat and it’s changed my life. For awhile the cat would wake at 5am and yowl for food, waking the dog, who would then lick my face until I got up. It’s sad that I now think of 6:30am as sleeping in.

6:45am: I take Ziggy out for potty. Now that it’s spring (almost summer), I am trying to get my almost potty trained dog to the point where she doesn’t go in the yard anymore. This is extremely taxing since I’m the only walker of the dog.

7:00am: I wake up the kids, get them dressed and ready, and feed them breakfast. I also pack their lunches.

8:00am: We are out the door, walking the half mile to school with the dog.

Happy to be back to school in late April!

8:40am: I am back at home with the dog. I eat breakfast and drink coffee while reading a book.

9:00am: I have finished coffee and switch to tea, which I bring into my office, as it’s time to start working.

12:00pm: I take the dog around the block for a potty break, and grab lunch from the kitchen and bring it to my office to eat while working.

1:40pm: School is out soon, so I take the dog with me to pick up the kids. They play in the schoolyard for about 20 minutes before we start walking home. This is my official lunch break.

2:35pm: At home, I fix a snack for the kids (usually cheese or hummus and crackers, fruit and carrots, or pizza rolls).

2:40pm: Back to work. The kids have “free time,” which means usually TV or video games. On Mondays, the older has piano. On Tuesdays, their uncle takes them to the park. On Wednesdays, a babysitter takes them to the park or plays board games. On Thursdays and Fridays, sometimes one of us parents will be free to do something.

5:00pm: Off work! I usually go around checking in on the kids and then take the dog for a walk. Sometimes we’ll all go to the park briefly if the kids didn’t go earlier.

6:00pm: I feed the dog and cat and make dinner. Then we immediately clean up: do the dishes, clear off the table, clean the counters, go through the kids’ backpacks and clean out their lunchboxes and water bottles. We try to have the kids do most of this. I also check homework and help do it if necessary, but both kids seem to do their homework in school.

7:00pm: My new favorite time of day. The kids are allowed to play video games and the dog has already had three long walks, so I sit in my west-facing window and read a book. Usually, tea is also involved.

8:30pm: The kids are done with their game time. We watch one show together.

9:00pm: We head upstairs. I’ve started putting them to bed a little earlier than when they were in online school since now they actually have to be up and dressed before 8am. The kids take showers. I read to the youngest for awhile, and then the oldest gets an audiobook. I usually shower while this is happening.

How does a 23-pound dog take up most of my bed?

10:30pm: One last potty time for the dog, and then we head to bed.

For now, I am loving this schedule, which allows us to have plenty of time together, as well as plenty of independent time. I’ve also never had better work-life balance. Soon, however, summer vacation will be upon us and all will change again!

Sustainability Project: May 2021

This photo of my dog at the beach has both water in it and the cause of my increased laundry load.

Almost a year has gone by since I switched my dish-washing detergent. As I mentioned in that post, I was planning to switch my laundry detergent as well, and now I have. I really like the Dropps laundry detergent, but they have a new rose scent, and I might switch to that the next time I order.

Anyway, I have not much else to say about this swap other than I plan to continue with this product, but I also considering trying the laundry strips (made by a different company) in the future.

A Major Sustainability Swap

I have sadly fallen behind on my sustainability swaps that I used to do once a month. Mostly this is due to getting a puppy and quickly realizing that taking care of a puppy is a lot harder than I thought. I am going to try to pick them up monthly again, but it’s possible this may not work out.

When I was 18, my dad really wanted me to drive a stick shift. Right after this was taken, I crashed into the fence. That was the last time I drove stick.

However, since it is Earth Day, and the anniversary of starting these swaps, I wanted to write about a major change. We bought a new car! For the past few years, we’ve leased cars, because once you start to lease a car, it is easier to continue leasing. We wanted to stop doing that and actually own a car. We also wanted something that used less gas. It would have been nice to get a totally electric car, but also too expensive. So we bought a hybrid. I don’t actually have much else to say about that, because I have never been interested in cars. I try to drive as little as possible. However, I am grateful to have a car when I need it, and this hybrid car has not yet needed to be filled with gas in the two months we’ve had it.

Other New (sort of) Stuff

This September, I made two decisions, one of them being a major, life-changing decision. My older son has been alive for over ten years, and he has been asking me for a dog for almost that long. I had always resisted. Even though I grew up with many dogs (hard to remember, but maybe six), I only had a good relationship with one of them. Of the others, four barely tolerated me, and two actively hated me. Years went by, and I started to develop allergies to various animals. I’d sneeze all the time, but if a dog licked me, I would break out in a painful rash in that spot. Hence my hesitation. Also, I didn’t want to get a dog to just spend only about four hours a day with it (already did that with my kids).

Four months old and teething!

Then I started working from home and was home all the time with my kids (you know why–I don’t have to say it, right?). And I thought if I were to get a hypoallergenic dog, I could manage. And then I mentioned it to the kids and could no longer back out. So in September, we added Ms Ziggy Stardust the Wheaten Terrier to our family. She was only three months and I realized I’ve never had a puppy before, and it was almost as overwhelming as having a newborn human for the first month or so.

After a recent haircut. She looks like she’s sad about the bow, but she really just wants a treat!

Now, she is seven months old and almost a doggie teenager (I think?). My kids hug her fifty seven times a day, and she gets so excited when I put on my shoes, and loves laying on top of me to take a nap. I cannot imagine my life without her. I can’t wait to take her to the beach and camping!

More colorful than ever!

Also, the day before I met Ziggy, I dyed my hair blue! I’ve always wanted to dye my hair an unnatural color, and it was very freeing and self-actualizing to do it. It was also fun to go, in 24 hours, from a redhead without a dog to a blue-haired person with a dog. I occasionally like to shock my brain in such a way. Don’t be complacent, brain! Most recently, I dyed the front part purple for some more color, and I really like it!

Fall Camping Trip!

My favorite season to go camping is fall, and we usually go every year. I personally don’t like the winter at all (although both my kids love snowboarding and cold weather–go figure!), so the fall is my last hurrah in the nice weather before spring.

We were thinking about not going this year, with the pandemic and also the confusion of flu season starting, but camping, with being around hardly anyone else, is pretty low-risk, so we decided to go.

Exploring the woods on the where we camped. The kids claim they saw a bear, but I saw nothing.

We only traveled about an hour and a half north of NYC, but the area we stayed was very sparsely populated. Now is where I admit I use the term “camping” loosely. We stayed in an airB&B. There was no one else around, and it was very peaceful.

Fresh from the tree!

I’ve always wanted to go apple picking, but this is the first year we managed to do it. It was as fun as you would imagine picking apples to be (which is only slightly fun to be honest).

Scary sign!

We also went hiking to this neat looking cave that had an opening on the top that let the sun in. There was apparently a waterfall in the back of the cave, but the water on the ground was too high at the time, so we couldn’t access it.

And that’s all for traveling until the spring, most likely! It was more than I thought I would be able to do this year!

Very awesome cave view!

Summer Vacation (Pandemic Edition)

Way back 20 years ago in January, I thought I would be doing a lot of traveling this year and thought how it would be great to start using this blog to write about my travels, almost the digital equivalent of a scrap book. I had a bunch of trips lined up for 2020, and had actually paid for a trip in March to Seattle (didn’t get any money back on that one), a trip in April to Disney World (got a refund for the hotel and vouchers for everything else), a trip to a farm in June (got the entire refund), and a trip to Lake George in July. I got into a disagreement with the AirB&B host in April when I tried to cancel, and someone from AirB&B tried to intervene on my behalf, but I still couldn’t get any money back. When it came time for the trip, we decided to go. We brought our own stuff with us and wore masks in public expect for the four times we dined outside.

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Samir on a terrifying rope course. 

Was it the vacation I intended? No, absolutely not. I had been to Lake George when I was a child and literally the only thing I remembered was the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum. So of course I was very excited to take my own kids to a place that has haunted me for more than 35 years. Alas, even though it was open, it was all inside, so we did not go. We also arrived on a Monday, when our reservation was Sunday, in order to let the place air out for a bit.

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Being alone in the woods for many hours made me very happy.

Anyway, that’s the bad stuff. The good stuff is that I went for five days without cooking once! I had intended to cook, but the apartment had no pots and pans or utensils for cooking. (Later, I looked at the reviews and saw this was mentioned in a lot of them.) There was a refrigerator and microwave and coffee pot, so we ate granola bars and fruit for breakfast in the apartment, and then usually had lunch out and either picked up dinner to eat in the apartment, or had our lunch leftovers for dinner.

As far as activities, we went to a historic fort and got to hear them shoot a cannon, went in the motel pool, went to the beach, took the kids on a ropes course and zip line that they loved but nearly gave me a heart attack, and found a hiking trail so secluded that we only came across one other group in four hours of hiking (my favorite day).

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At the Lake George town beach.

So despite the fact that I have horrible insomnia when not in my own bed and one night only slept for two hours, I am glad we got away. The kids had a great time and a change of scenery was good for all of us. I probably would have preferred a cabin in the woods situation, especially at this time, but we are thinking we might do that in the fall.

Sustainability Project: June 2020

For this month, I am writing about dishwasher detergent. I am #blessed to have my very own dishwasher at home. Since the coronavirus quarantine, I went from eating at home about two breakfasts, one lunch, and five dinners a week to seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and seven dinners a week. And that’s for four people. So it’s a ton of dishes. I would possibly be crazier by now if we hadn’t gotten the dishwasher installed last year.

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My younger son watching the koi outside the columbaria in Green-Wood Cemetery. Yes, I could have uploaded a photo of my dishwasher, but this is more interesting and also water-related.

Initially we used whatever name-brand product we found at the store for dishwasher detergent. But I started to look around for something else and found Dropps. You may know Dropps from their commercial featuring the CEO in a bathtub. That commercial is just for their laundry detergent, but they also have dishwasher detergent pods. They are free of dyes and fragrances and plastics and are shipped in compostable, carbon-neutral packaging. Having used them for about a month now, I will also say I’ve been able to eliminate the use of a rinse agent. These are better than the brand name combined with a rinse agent. As soon as I am out of laundry detergent, I will be trying this brand as well!