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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Snug.

So this is kind of a big announcement.

I am honored to say that I am a Blogger Guest Editor at The Snug, a new online DIY community geared towards Millennials (haaaaaaayyyyy) curated by the editors at Time, Inc (you know, the people behind This Old House).

visit thesnug.com

It's like people my age are finally being taken seriously in the DIY and home improvement realm because we're actually adults now, kthnx. That, and in some circles we're being called the Maker Generation and I am here for all of that.

Sorry, excuse me while I get my sociology nerdery on.

ANYWAY, my first post is up over there and you should totally hop on over and check out all of the great stuff they've got going on and do all of the social media following and what have you.

I'm really excited to be a part of this new site -- I promise you it's different than Pinterest or Hometalk, think more Buzzfeed for a younger DIY crowd -- and I hope you all decide to come over and Snug with me on the regular. :)

(And yes, kiddies, this means you should see a wee more of me around these parts as well. Thanks for talking me out of quitting a few months back.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Dark Side of Late Night Single Mom Home Ownership.

There are just some things that you don't ever anticipate having to DIY, especially not at 2:30 some random Sunday evening/Monday morning while being circled by most of your seven pets and you try not to cry.

But let's back up a wee bit.

When we first moved into the house, I remember our old elderly neighbor mumbling something about it was a good thing we had cats (at the time, it was just two) because our part of the greater area apparently had a problem with mice.

I remember feeling uneasy, but assuming that we would never have a problem because ... why would we?

I thought about a time when I lived with my mom in college, when one night I heard a scratching in the wall next to my bed in her condo. I yelled at the cats to cut it out (there were three that lived with us there) but then two of them jumped up on my bed and began to stare at the wall where the scratching noise was coming from. They were not the ones making it. Something inside the wall was.

This went on for WEEKS.

I told my mom about it, because I was losing sleep over the scratching and the cats yowling at the wall. My mom kept telling me it was nothing, or that I was hearing things. I even crawled up into the attic to look around to see if there was some kind of critter trapped somewhere ... and found nothing. My brother came to visit and I tearfully told him I hear this scratching that never lets me sleep and Mom thinks I'm crazy but the cats hear it too so I know I'm not except for the fact that I'm not sleeping at all ever and I have no idea how to make it stop and right then he told me to shush.

Because, at that moment, he heard it too.

And I wept with joy.

He talked to my mom and she was really irritated, like maybe she thought he was just placating me so I'd calm down, but she begrudgingly admitted that maybe it was possible something was in the walls.

I get it. No one wants to think about living creatures in the walls of their homes. But her condo butted up against what was, then, a still pretty rural area right by some wetlands. I once came back late at night and found a deer standing in front of the garage and refuse to move so I could park my car. It was too late to honk my horn, plus then my mom probably would have opened the garage door and chaos would surely have ensued, so I just sat there for about twenty minutes until the deer decided to move along. So some small critter sneaking into the attic or something? Totally believable.

Anyway, so maybe a week after my brother validated that I was being gaslit by some wayward woodland creature, my mom woke up in the middle of the night because one of the cats was going crazy over a toy in her room. She didn't turn on a light, as she planned to go back to bed fairly immediately, so she just groped around the floor to find the toy and throw it out in the hallway.

Except it wasn't a toy. It was a dead mouse.

I never heard the scratching again after that.


Fast forward to about three years ago, and my feline brood is going insane in the kitchen by the pantry. I go in to see what's going on, make sure they haven't decided to go all Hunger Games/Battle Royale on each other and I see Nubs and Antonia lingering by the cat box. I ask Nubs what's going on (because yes I talk to the cats like they're sentient creatures) and he turns around all casually ... with a live mouse hanging out of his mouth, and Antonia's just all big eyed and timid looking like she always is and I'm screaming inside but frozen on the outside because WHAT IF I SCARE THE CAT AND HE DROPS IT.

I try to calmly yell for Kyle, and between the two of us we catch the terrified thing and after realizing neither of us can kill it, I let it go outside.

The old neighbor kid watched me do that, he was about 8 then, and he tells me that it just ran right back towards my house. Awesome.

But we didn't see a mouse again, so ...

That is, until Sunday, when a full-size adult mouse ran across my living room floor at 10:30 at night.

And now that I am the only adult that lives here, and it was way past bedtime on a school night for my kids, I had the dark realization that it would be my duty and mine alone, to trap the thing and dispose of it.

*big gulp*

So for three or so hours, I stalk this thing and almost catch it while my cats look on from a distance like "Hey Mom, you should really catch that; it's freaking me out."


But finally, as I'm about to give up and go to bed, I notice that Nubs and Antonia are hovering by the big water bowl in the kitchen, the one that kind of resembles a bundt pan with little cut-outs on the sides to use as handles. They are stationed, one each, at each handle. They don't move as I approach, which is weird, but then I see it.

The mouse's tail is peeking out of the underside of the bowl, in the tiniest space between the bowl edge and the floor.

Knowledge gained: these two are the mousers. Max was kind of watching in a supervisory way, but he gets no points for that.

So I grab the closest GladWare container within reach and I trap the bugger, putting the lid on and then ...

It looks at me. Straight in the eye. And it's shaking.
cornered mouse - face - _MG_2995

And I realize I can't kill it.

But I can't let it go, either, because it will just come right back.

So I did what any overtired single mother would do at 1:30 AM.

I prayed to the Google Gods to send me direction.

And after reading many (MANY) things about how to quickly bash it's head in or drown it and being horrified while watching Antonia playfully push the GladWare container and its prisoner back and forth the entire length of the kitchen, I finally found an answer.

There's a way, approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, to euthanize small (under 2 lbs.) animals with household supplies. Namely, some sort of air tight container or bag, baking soda, and white vinegar.

It's all detailed right here.

But the crux of it is that combining the baking soda and vinegar in a certain equation creates CO₂, which functions for rodents like carbon monoxide for humans. It painlessly puts the animal to sleep and then they die. It's suggested for pet rodents, but also for rodents to be used for food for pet snakes or birds. It was the best option I had as everything I would need I had on hand (because I wasn't waking up the kids to go get poison or mousetraps or anything and I couldn't leave the bugger because the cats would terrorize it and probably accidentally let it go, unless I left it outside, where it would have slowly frozen to death) and because as someone who's now stayed in the room to hold an 18 year old porch cat as he was put down due to aggressive liver cancer (RIP Sylvester, I miss you), it seemed the kindest, gentlest option given the circumstances.

So at 2:30 in the morning I choked back tears as I poked holes in the GladWare container and placed it inside a garbage bag, followed the instructions, and then duct taped the bag shut as it filled with gas. My trash bags are white, so after the allotted time I was able to hold it up to a light to pretty clearly see the outline of the mouse in the GladWare container and confirm it was no longer alive. I then placed the whole kit and caboodle into another trash bag and took it outside into the freezing night.

It was the most morbid science experiment I've ever conducted. And yes, I cried a little. Because it wasn't the mouse's fault, it just made a bad choice, most likely out of a survival instinct.

But I also didn't want to be picking up pieces of mouse carcass throughout my house or worse, have the kids find a dead mouse (or part of a dead mouse, eek) and have to have THAT talk on top of all the other sad talks we've been having around here.

So. Not every DIY solution is glamorous or pinnable on Pinterest, even when it's a success.

And that concludes this week's lesson on The Dark Side of Late Night Single Mom Home Ownership.

Review your notes and expect a quiz next week.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The White Bastion Of Christmukkahs Past.

The Christmas tree is still up.

I mean, as of this writing (Sunday, pre Downton) I did manage to get all of the ornaments off of it and put practically everything away. Save for the actual tree, that is.

Normally, I consider it bad luck or juju or whatever to have it up at the turn of the year. Something about dragging the remnants of the last year along into the new one, allowing the space for it all to continue to haunt you. However, I used to also ritualistically remove all of my unwanted body hair and HAD to have a mani-pedi because heaven forbid I enter the new year anything less than aesthetically perfect.

Anxiety is a really funny bitch, sometimes.

(I can't even promise I showered this year, before the ball drop. Let's all just believe I did, mkay?)

I only had a couple of hours to tackle the white beast on the 31st, while my children napped ... and I just sat on my couch, trying not to cry.

This year's decorations were nothing like last year's. Sure, it's the same stuff, plus or minus some, but the same aplomb, the same enthusiasm, wasn't there. If it wasn't for the two little sparkling sets of innocent, expectant eyes, I probably wouldn't have set anything out at all.

But, the kids. And Mommy, Santa comes and brings the presents for Christmas? So, out it all came, bit by bit as I could manage by myself through physical effort and emotional fortitude.

As I sat on the 31st, however, tasked with the monumental job of removing it all from view to fulfill a silly superstition, I fought back tears.

Last year, I wondered if it would be our last holiday season in this house.

This year, I know it was.

Taking down the tree for very well the very last time was an unexpected surgically sharpened nail into the coffin that was this family and this home built around and for it.

I know there will be other trees, other homes to decorate with some of these same baubles and trinkets, other holiday seasons that my little trio will see come to pass. The yearly ornaments will continue to follow me, now us, as they have done since leaving my own childhood home so many years ago. Some, perhaps, may never find their place on the tree again, markers of occasions that have lost their meaning, perhaps for one of the kids to claim with some sort of hallowed reverence for the places from whence they came, before they came.

But I look at this tree, and remember that first holiday season. The beat-up box with the clearance white tree under all of the display trees, from before white trees were a trendy thing to have. Haggling with the sales associate at Home Depot, with Kyle that this was it, this was perfect. I don't remember how we got it home -- it was back before car seats, so maybe it fit in the back of one of our sedans. I remember how triumphantly I set it up that first year, with our small hodge podge of cheap (glass, oy) ornaments from Meijer and other sundry discount stores, save for the five fancy ones I'd snagged a deal on at the Pottery Barn Outlet.

I remember the next year, being 6 months pregnant but measuring nearly 8, setting up the tree by myself after Kyle dragged it from the basement for me, and losing my breath so extremely while doing so that I feared I'd go into labor. He was working two jobs, then, teaching by day and serving by night, so it was me or no tree, and no tree was unacceptable.

I remember the year I called my brother to come help me put the star on the top because I couldn't reach, not even with a step stool. I remember the first time each child, as infants, sat mesmerized by the twinkling lights and shiny decorations, and the subsequent years of telling them not to touch and the inevitable breaking of those first cheap ornaments. I remember every time guests came over and were delightfully baffled by the turning of the tree, even if you could hear the cheap base grinding itself into malfunction. I remember receiving gifts of homemade ornaments for each child and committing to making the same as gifts, of our family, for our loved ones. I remember the first time ornaments came home from school, something I felt silly not anticipating but marveled at nonetheless.

And I remember the tradition I wanted to start, I did start, of our family in front of the tree, all of us, to be our annual holiday photo to send in holiday cards and later, post to social media.

I managed this much, this year.

This is the closest I'm coming to a holiday card this year.   Sidebar: my children are hams. No idea where they get that from. Ahem.  #holidays #instakids #kidsofinstagram #christmukkah #firstsingleholidays #myheart

I remember so much, so much of the building of this home and this family around this silly artificial tree that is just a shadow of the thing it once was, yellowed at many boughs from time and proximity to incandescent light bulbs and only actually lit about halfway as so many bulbs have burned out it would take a whole day to replace them all.

And to pack it away for the last time, knowing we will never put it up again, lays another weight upon my heart, which already sags tremendously under it's current leaden load.

It comes in stages, in erratic waves, this letting go.

And for now, the tree still stands.