Today, October 13th, is a special day for me. If my grandmother were still alive, she would be turning 116! But it is also a special day because it’s the fourth anniversary of our adoption of our cat, Oz! When I clean the litter box, like most people, I use plastic bags. I’ve always saved the plastic bags from shopping for this purpose. But since the great move of the plastic bag ban in NYC, I’m finally out of plastic bags!
After reading a lot of reviews, I bought some biodegradable ones here. Having used them for about a month, I would say they are easy to use, affordable, and big enough. Recommended!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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!
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!
It feels like a fail to do this, but I am going to have to pause the Minimizing Game until next month. On October 24-30, I will pick up where I left off this month. Between school starting and my job being busy, it was difficult enough to complete. But then this morning, my cat Oz ran out. Usually when he does this, he runs under the car and stays there. But this morning, we had people over from the insurance company fixing the cracked windshield (it’s a minor crack from two years ago). He probably would have gone down the driveway, but there were also construction workers cleaning up the abandoned house next door.
Anyway, Oz went through the block and got all the way to the back and my neighbors yelled for me that he was in their yard, so we were able to get him. But by then, it was afternoon, and I had a work meeting, a piano class, and a tutor to think about, so I could not fathom also looking through closets and drawers for items to minimize. Also, we are going camping this weekend, so the next three days would also be near impossible.
Not wanting to abandon my efforts entirely, I am just moving those days to October, so I can enjoy our camping trip!
Long ago, I was an apartment dweller, and wished I could get a large fish tank. But I did not, as I was afraid something would happen in the apartment and it would break or spill and the people under us would have stuff wrecked, and I don’t know. When we bought our house, I almost immediately got a 20-gallon tank and gradually, a bunch of fish. Samir was about three years old and enjoyed it as well. Actually, you can read all about it in this post.
So, yeah, I no longer had a fish tank. But years ago, before I had bought that 20-gallon tank, I also bought a small, 5-gallon tank, but never used it, because I wanted a bigger tank. That small tank was still in a box in the basement, and I took it out and set it up. Why did I do this? Samir still is upset about the fact that I got rid of the larger tank and had been asking for a Betta fish forever. It is a corner tank, and I realized I have a corner in my kitchen that goes pretty far back, so it’s not like you would use it for preparing a meal anyway. Plus, being the kitchen, it’s right near the sink, so cleaning the tank will be much easier.
The two kids had a great time picking out the gravel and tank decorations, and of course the fish himself. For the first ten minutes or so, they were very excited about having a fish. Then they were way less excited about having a fish. Feeding time came, and they fought over the privilege to feed the fish. Then they fed the fish and soon were no longer excited to feed the fish. Eventually, we decided to name the fish, and Samir suggested Joey Ramone the Second, which was unanimously approved.
We’ve had Joey for about a month now, and the kids are mostly uninterested. Oh well. So much for my rule of, “If it’s your fish, you have to feed it and clean the tank or it will die.” I do enjoy watching him swim around while I cook dinner or do the dishes. And Bettas are pretty smart, so to cut down on debris in the tank, I’ve trained him to take individual pellets of food from my hand. A friend watched Joey swim up on my command, and said, “If you have trained a fish to eat from your hand, then that fish is clearly your fish.”
For the October Sustainability Swap, I focused on cat litter! This is particularly appropriate as our cat, Oz, joined the family two years ago, on October 13, 2016 to be exact. I have lived with at least one cat for most of my life, and I have to admit that I’ve never really thought about cat litter before.
When I was young, my parents used whatever litter they used, and I was not involved. When I was 18 and I moved out with my first cat that I adopted myself, my parents actually still bought all my household items, including cat litter. The next time I adopted a cat, I was a full adult, and continued to buy the same litter, just out of habit. (Fresh Step, if you are interested.)
It’s only now that I’ve started doing these sustainability swaps that I have thought about switching cat litters. Why switch? Clumping clay litter doesn’t biodegrade in landfills, and, from what I understand, is not sustainably sourced.
What I started using instead is Feline Pine. This litter is completely biodegradable (it’s pine!) and also sustainably sourced. You can read about that on their website, which is linked above. I have used this litter for a bit, and there is a learning curve to cleaning the litter box. In fact, I had to watch a YouTube video before I could figure it out! But, it doesn’t smell at all, and Oz seems to have taken to it! This is the video I watched: see someone cleaning a litter box!
Just a little over a year ago, one of my best friends in the world, my cat Pyewacket, passed away. I wrote a post about how terrific he was right after his passing, and you can read that here.
A few friends and family members suggested that I get another cat immediately. I didn’t do that. I wanted a cat, but the only cat I wanted was my Pye back. It took many months, almost a full year, before I stopped feeling that way. I went to a few shelters, one with just my older son and one with just my husband. Neither shelter had cats that “were good with kids.” I contacted another shelter by phone, and they said they didn’t like to place cats in homes with kids, but maybe she had a friend who had a cat that might like kids.
At this point, I pause to say WTF? Are we just as a default going to say that cats and kids do not get along? When I was about four, my parents got a cat for the first time. I grew up with cats. Also dogs. Also ferrets. Also rabbits. I don’t think I ever had an altercation with a single one of them.
Anyway…. Finally we were put in touch with someone who had a young cat in a foster situation. After many phone calls, emails, interviews, and home visits, we were granted a cat. And while I am not saying this vetting process in unnecessary, what I will say is if you want a kid, there are way fewer hoops to jump through to make that happen.
So, without further adieu, I present Oz.
This photo is from his first night in the house, last Friday. He is in my kids’ bedroom. When they go to sleep (8:30-9 most nights), he also goes to sleep. He does not want to come out until morning. That first night, he slept on the floor, but every night after, he has slept in bed with my younger son. He usually likes to rest his head or a paw somewhere on him. So, take that, people who think cats and kids should not mix.
I am still getting used to the reality of having a cat again. A part of me still wants Pye back, but there are so many cats out there who do need a home, and it feels good to be able to provide for one of them.
One of my favorite book series when I was young was the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books. I read them at least once a year while I was in elementary school, and then every few years as I grew older. Now that my older son is almost five, I decided to start reading them to him. Of course, I started in chronological order, with “Little House in the Big Woods.” It was less exciting than I remember.
Poor Jack had to walk all over the prairie through the first few books!
For those who haven’t read this series as recently as I have, “Big Woods” basically goes through a year in the life of the Ingalls family, without having much of a plot. The most memorable part for me was when the kids blew up the pig bladder and tossed it around like a ball. The next book, “Farmer Boy,” about her husband growing up in upstate New York, was memorable for all the vivid descriptions of the food. In the next book, “Little House on the Prairie,” the family attempts to settle on the Osage Indian reservation, and there were a lot of very negative things said about Native Americans, so I ended up skipping over quite a bit. “On the Bank of Plum Creek,” which comes next, has my very favorite part in all the books, where Laura has a party and takes all her school friends to go wading in the crick, and there scares Nellie Olson with the crab who lives in it.
A few nights ago, we started on the next book, “On the Shores of Silver Lake.” There is a gap of a few years between the start of this book and the one before it, and Laura is now 13 years old instead of 9. The tone is very different, and a lot of horrible things have happened, such as Mary going blind and the death of an infant. I knew I had to read the part about Mary going blind, because it is such a prevalent plot point in the rest of the books, but I paused in my reading to make sure my son understood what blindness was before going on. (I edited out the part about the “Scarlet fever settling in her eyes,” because Scarlet fever doesn’t make one go blind. One theory is that she actually had untreated meningitis. But I digress.) And although I swore the part about the baby dying happened right away, I didn’t see it. Perhaps they cut it out of the book, since I have a very new edition? Whatever the case may be, the youngest sister is already born at the beginning of this book, and she was their last born child, so chronologically, it already happened.
The second chapter of the book is memorable because Jack, Laura’s childhood dog, dies. I was prepared for this and fully expected to be able to read it. It’s an important part of the book, because it’s supposed to represent Laura’s transition from childhood to adolescence. But I’m not deluded enough to think my four-year-old child would grasp the significance of that. So as it went on, I started breaking down and crying, and eventually had to stop reading at this part:
“Good Jack, good dog,” she told him. He turned his head to touch her hand with the tip of his tongue.
Then he let his nose sink onto his paws and he sighed and closed his eyes. He wanted to sleep now.
Strangely enough, I don’t remember crying quite so much about it when I was younger. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve definitely gotten more emotional, and everything I see I tend to imagine seeing through their eyes. And while I want to be able to talk to my sons about anything, the death of a fictional bulldog is obviously too much for me right now.