MinsGame Fall 2021: It’s Over!

I needed nothing to appreciate this sunrise!

Another Minimizing Game month has passed. I have to acknowledge that doing this in September is very stressful, especially since this year I have the kids in two different schools. Maybe next year I will only do the Spring MinsGame, but clearly I don’t have to decide that now. My house still seems as cluttered to me as always, but every time I do this, I manage to finish at least one crazy reorganization project. This time it was the complete cleaning out of the garden shed, which took many hours a day for about three days, and also a few drawers in my bedroom I’ve been meaning to reorganize for years (which incidentally led to the discovery of my childhood diary)!

Almost Minimizing Month!

I’ve been playing the Minimizing Game for a few years now, but this fall I may have made it extra hard on myself. Want to know a secret? Usually I don’t do any deep cleaning or purging in the month of August, just to give myself a jump on September. But this summer I was extra antsy about all the stuff around me! I found myself tossing things left and right without a care in the world!

Oh strange bird on my camera roll, where have we met?

I’m sure that will make it a tiny bit harder, but I actually do have a few larger-scale cleaning projects in mind. But then next month is also back to school, and now I have two kids in two schools instead of two kids in one school. Can I tell you how stressed I am about that? Anyway, we’ll see if I once again am able to “win” this Minimizing Game!

Sustainability Project: August 2021

My girl Ziggy, the inspiration for this post.

Ever since I got a dog last year, the thing I’ve liked the least about having a dog is (and this is possibly really obvious), is having to pick up dog poop. But even worse still are the plastic dog poop bags. To reduce my use of single-use plastics, I found poop bags made from corn starch. The idea is that the corn starch (and the poop itself, of course) will completely biodegrade. Actually, there are a couple of different brands, but the only brand that I have tried and can vouch for is this one.

The bags themselves are, in my opinion, very similar in quality to the plastic poop bags that I used previously. Meaning that yes, they hold poop, but no, I still cannot easily get them open.

Summer Vacation: The Poconos

My family recently spent a week in the Poconos! This was my third time there. I also went once when I was 18, once just before or after I got married (so 15 to 17 years ago). The day we left for vacation, my younger son woke up saying his ear felt “wet.” I looked in it, and saw the expected and dreaded pus. Off to the doctor we went, who confirmed it was an ear infection, and told us he was fine to go on vacation, but no going in the water. Since most of what we planned involved water, we were disappointed, but tried not to let him see that. So only a few hours later and we were off!

Bushkill Falls–so pretty!

We were staying in a very nice AirBnB that had a creek on the property and allowed dogs. We had arrived so late, we went right out to dinner at an outdoor restaurant, since we didn’t want to leave Ziggy alone at an unfamiliar location. Then, we went to buy a few breakfast things at the grocery store and headed back to the cottage. Everything was fine until 3am, when the kids came into our room saying that our son’s ear hurt so much he couldn’t sleep.

I had a bad feeling then, but we gave him some pain reliever and hoped for the best. In the morning, we decided to do a thing that did involve water, but not going into it: hiking Bushkill Falls! I’ve been to this hiking spot (really, a tourist spot) every time I’ve been to the Poconos. We had a nice hike and then everything fell to pieces. My son wanted to go home, badly. You know when you’re sick and not in your own bed? It sucks. He asked to go to grandma’s house, which was much closer than our home.

A younger me at the falls!

With many tears (I tried not to cry but it was impossible), I said goodbye as my husband drove him to his grandma’s house. Skipping ahead, I want to note that we video chatted every day (although 90% of the video chats were just him asking to see the dog), and he is much better now and we have a follow-up with his ENT scheduled. It was the right decision, as my older son and I probably spent about two hours a day in the pool.

Same spot, years later, with three of my favorite Earthlings!

Other things we did included a two-hour canoe trip, waterslides, go-karts, mountain tubing, mini-golf, zip-lining, and lots of relaxing and not having to cook or clean up after ourselves. I really wanted to hike more, but it just didn’t happen. This was mostly due to the one other bad thing that happened: my older son got bitten by a wolf spider. There were many, many spiders in the area for some reason, and because I am the only one not afraid of spiders, I had to go in and remove a bunch from the cottage. When my son got bitten, he was down by the creek and throwing sticks, and the spider was on one of them. I’ve also been bitten by a wolf spider, and I know it really hurts. But we gave him a pain reliever and it was mostly gone (the fang marks were still there) the next day.

My son on the terrifying zipline!

Anyway, that was the trip! Mostly good but I will definitely have to make it up to my younger son in some way!

Sustainability Project: July 2021

Please enjoy this image from when I canoed in the Delaware Water Gap last week. It is only tenuously related to this post.

For my July Sustainability Swap, I got some really nice reusable cloth rounds. I bought them in the in-person store, and the only place I can find them online is here. I don’t use them for nail polish removal, only make-up removal (I don’t know if this is incredibly obvious.), so they should last a good long time. I don’t feel like I would do the best job rinsing them by hand, so I just throw them in the washing machine. After about three washes, they still look as good as new. Definitely recommended if you are looking to decrease your consumption of single-use cotton rounds.

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.