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Manic Monday

Today, during dinner prep, 3yo held up a large plastic spoon and asked “Why dis a spoon?”


After a day of work, picking up kids, exercising dogs, and squeezing in a workout, this simple question broke my brain.

Why IS this a spoon?

Thinking back, I should have said, “It has a long handle and a small bowl on the end, making it a spoon instead of a fork or knife.”

At the time, my brain just couldn’t handle coming up with that simple explanation. Instead, it malfunctioned.

My inner monologue:

Why IS that a spoon? Is it really a spoon? Is it only a spoon because we say it is a spoon? Could it be something else? Why can’t we just decide it is a fork or a knife? Despite its shape, I can still ineffectively pick up food, cut food, and stab you with it. (“Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe something?” “Because it’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more.” Miss you, Alan Rickman.) Can’t I call it a miniature shovel? It works the same way. Do labels really mean anything? Why do we even HAVE names for things? This spoon has slots, so it doesn’t even do the one simple job a spoon is SUPPOSED to do! How can it be a spoon if it doesn’t even HOLD all the FOOD?!  It should be in a completely different category of objects, one filled with things that only partially do their jobs. Like a doily. What the hell is a doily for? It’s a covering that doesn’t cover things. It gives the illusion of covering things, but really there are more uncovered spots than covered spots. It’s like a rain coat made of fishing nets. It looks like a coat, but it’s not keeping any water off your body! That’s why I don’t have any doilies.


Because I did not respond immediately, she asked again: “Why dis a spoon, Mommy?”

My answer: “Because it is.”

And it’s only Monday.


Universal Bathroom Stools: a Beautiful Parent Dream

The Census of 2010 reported that 20% of the population of the United States was 10-years or younger. 21 million of those children were under the age of 6. reports that the average 4-year-old is 40 inches tall. That means approximately 1 in 7 people living in the US are 3 feet or shorter.

So WHY on earth doesn’t anyone put stools in their public restrooms?!?

Taking a newly-potty-trained toddler to the restroom is hard enough as it is. They don’t fit on the seat, they’re terrified of the self-flushing toilets, and the two of us barely fit in the tiny stall together. Despite my insistence they don’t touch anything, they manage to rest their hands on nearly every surface. After wrangling their clothes back on, then trying to use the toilet myself while repeating “don’t you dare open that door until I’m finished!” at least 4 times, I am then forced to balance my 30lb toddler on one raised knee while simultaneously turning on the water and squeezing the soap dispenser while they do a half-assed job of washing their own hands.

bathroom stool

I’ll delay my rant about changing tables for another day, but at least one can argue that those are expensive ($400 or more). But a stool? 50 bucks, and you only need one in each room. I have great appreciation for businesses who provide a lower sink, but they are few and far between. I adore business that provide a mini-toilet for little butts (thank you, Knoebels), but I’ve seen that maybe three times in my life. Trust me, moms and dads know what each public bathroom in their community provides and we are more likely to patronize a business if we know we can easily change a diaper or avoid bathroom acrobatics.
No, bathroom stools won’t solve world hunger or house the homeless, but a hungry homeless person with a toddler would probably still appreciate a stool then next time they have to take them to a public restroom. 

Why I Write Online Reviews (and Why You Should, Too!)

I’ve written them all: campground reviews, product reviews, restaurant reviews, book reviews, and amusement park reviews. Some have been paragraphs long with accompanying pictures. Some have been only a sentence.

Years ago, when I was attending a book club meeting, one of the members commented, “Oh, I never read the online reviews on books. I can just imagine what kind of person actually writes them. I mean, have you ever written one? No, because you’re normal.” At the time, I simply smiled and nodded, not having actually written any reviews. If I heard that comment today, my reaction would be much different.

Now, whether I’m shopping for a new bra or looking for a nearby restaurant, I rarely make a decision that will cost me money without first checking online reviews. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and the comments sections of my favorite online stores play a huge part in whether or not I purchase an item or make a reservation. Often, if no reviews are available, I won’t consider purchasing a product at all. I so heavily rely on the recommendations of others, that it feels only right to return the favor by describing my own experiences.

On one of our camping journeys, we travelled to Little Pine State Park near Waterville, PA. It was a beautiful, clean, quiet park and we loved camping there. We had gone on the recommendation of a friend, but I had been unable to find any online reviews. Because I loved the park so much, I made a point to take lots of pictures of the facilities and surroundings. I believed this little park deserved a voice online apart from the cursory information available on the State Parks website. Others should know that this is a wonderful place to visit. As soon as I got home, I wrote the first Trip Advisor review for Little Pine.  It even took them a few days to post my review because they first had to determine it was indeed a real place. Since then, several others have added their comments. Together, reviewers have been able to share a small gem of PA with others who may not have even known it existed.

Certainly some reviewers can’t be taken seriously and one must be discriminating when reading comments, but if there are enough reviews for a product or business the true value will be clear. I write reviews because I want to help good businesses find patrons and protect patrons from bad businesses. I want to help people know what they’re getting for their money because that is what other reviewers have done for me.

Reviews don’t have to be long essays. The next time you get an email that asks you to write a review of a recent purchase, please consider typing at least few helpful sentences. We’ll all be better off in the long run.

Not surprisingly……

So, the government shut down this morning.  Luckily for my family, my day was completely different in absolutely no ways at all.  Still, the whole thing is so frustrating – no matter which side of the aisle you lean.  Even more depressing is this clip from last night’s Jimmy Kimmel show:

Jimmy Kimmel – Six of One

Whether you’re for or against Obamacare (and I think many people are for AND against Obamacare), you should at least know what you’re talking about if you’re going to answer a reporter with a camera.

I did, however, enjoy some of the comments below the video:

“Most of America is Lenny and the rest of us are George, just trying to keep them calm and stop them from destroying something.”

“If we had the government we deserve, we’d be living in Thunderdome.”

“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”



Remembering Shirley

This morning, I’m thinking of a dear friend.  I’m reminded of her because we’re nearing the second week of August.

For years, while I was in high school and college, I would spend the second week of August on vacation at Treasure Lake.  Treasure Lake is a golf community with two highly-rated golf courses that also offers boating, swimming, and many other fun summer activities.

I originally began going as a helper to my Aunt (my father’s sister) and Uncle.  They had young children and I spent several of my summers babysitting them.  At the end of each summer my Aunt and Uncle would generously bring me along on vacation so that they could both enjoy some rounds of golf together.  I would take the kids for bike rides, to the beach, and to the pool while the adults played their 18 holes.  My relatives covered all of my expenses and the kids were a dream to babysit.  I was basically being paid to go on vacation.

We were joined every year by another couple, Shirley and Wayne.  Technically, Shirley was my uncle’s aunt, but they were so close in age she seemed more like a cousin.  Still, all the kids (including me) referred to her as “Aunt Shirley.”  She was kind, generous, and a great deal of fun.

After a few years, I stopped babysitting, but I was still invited to come along simply as a family member.  I was often invited to join them for their daily rounds of golf.  My Aunt, Shirley, and I would golf together while the guys (who took their scores very seriously) went on ahead.  Our team motto was “Hit it toward the cart path!”  Shirley was actually a very skilled, avid golfer.  She taught me everything I know about golfing (which, admittedly isn’t much).  I always golfed better when I was with her.  Her most important advice was repeated to me year after year in a sort-of mantra she had learned from a golf instructor once-upon-a-time:

“Keep your head down.

Keep your head down.

Keep your God-damned head down!”

Outside of our vacations, I didn’t see Shirley and Wayne that often.  I would attend picnics at their house and run into them at some family functions. They both danced at my wedding.  Still, there’s a familiarity that develops when you spend a week with people year-after-year – a bond akin to those one develops at summer camp. I considered Shirley and Wayne to be good friends and was extremely fond of them.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

A few years ago, Shirley succumbed to cancer at an unfairly young age.  She left a gaping hole behind in the community and in the hearts of her loved ones.  Her funeral was beautiful, yet terribly painful.  She was a nurturer, a leader, and a doer.  She is fondly remembered by all who knew her and her memory continues to live on in her friends and family.

Often, not just in golfing but also in everyday life, I can still hear her voice telling me to “Keep your head down!” and simply trust that, if I do what I’m supposed to, things will go the way they should.

We miss you, Shirley.


So, it’s been a while….

I’ve neglected this blog for a number of weeks.  I’m sure my three avid readers were slightly disappointed, but probably no one else noticed.  Summer is an unpredictable time for us.  Our daily schedules go haywire and I find that days go by without me thinking once about writing.

Here in NEPA, the summer is already winding down.  School starts in two short weeks.  Despite the common misconception that all teachers live for the summer, I am looking forward to returning to teaching.  6yo, on the other hand, has no desire to return to school because “It lasts for hours!”  She’s had a rough time these past few weeks with her health, so I’m just hoping she’s fully recovered before we head back.

It was a little over two weeks ago that we saw the spot.  It was on her leg, about the size of a half-dollar.  In addition, her eyes were starting to look sunken, her face was pale, and she started complaining that her hips and knees hurt.  She was constantly tired, despite getting decent amounts of sleep.  Her appetite was nearly non-existent.  The morning I took her to the doctor, she came crawling into my bedroom because she hurt too much to walk.

We never saw the tick.  According to our pediatrician, with Lyme disease that’s often the case.meds

Twelve days into her 21 prescribed days of antibiotics, she broke out into a severe case of hives.  Her knees, ankles, and hands swelled.   She could hardly walk.  She was prescribed a different antibiotic for the remainder of her treatment.  Slowly, she seems to be improving.

Through it all, she’s been quite the trooper. She plays through the pain and chokes down the hideous-tasting medicine.  She’s blotchy and itchy, but in good spirits.  Our greatest hope is that her treatment works this first time, and she doesn’t join the legions of people fighting this illness long-term.

Hopefully, she’ll be one of the lucky ones.

Throwback Thursday: Hand-Me-Down House

When my parents got married in the late 70s, they didn’t have much.  Fortunately, if you grow up on a farm, there’s likely to be a piece of land on it where you could build a house.  That was the plan all along, it just took some time to come to fruition.

My parents’ first house, the one I lived in until I was 6, was a used trailer left over from Hurricane Agnes. It had been a government-issued pre-fab home used as a dwelling by people who were displaced during the aftermath of the storm.  There was no insulation, so often in the winter our blankets would freeze to the walls in the middle of the night.  It was small, especially once we became a family of four, but my brother and I never minded.  We were little and it was plenty for us.

It took my father years to build an actual house all by himself.  Once he did, though, it was time to get rid of the trailer.  Conveniently, there was a nearby couple just starting out that needed something to live in until they were able to build their own house.  So, our house was handed down to them.

The trailer, in front of the new house

The trailer, in front of the new house

The moving day was one of the most exciting days I remember from those early years.  I can’t believe they pulled it off.  Basically, with help from both families, they towed our house away with a tractor and placed it on the property of the new owners.  The roads by us were hilly and curvy, and I think they almost took out a bus shelter.  Eventually, the trailer made it to its destination and served its purpose once again.

There she goes!

There she goes!


What was left when it was gone (this later became our driveway).

What was left when it was gone (this later became our driveway).

“Home is where one starts from.”   T. S. Eliot

Throwback Thursday: Swing of Death

This week, while I’m on vacation, I’ll be blogging from my phone. Expect some weak editing. But go ahead and judge. I’ll be in a beach chair soaking up the sun with my toes in the water.

You would let your kids do this, right?


This is my brother on a swing at my grandparents’ house when we were young. We would take off from a hill that you can’t see in the picture and fly out across a driveway lined with steel poles that helped store firewood. (You can see them jutting upward in the bottom of the picture.)

For a height reference, note that our mom and our uncle are standing on the ground by the house. Sometimes, we would shift our take-off spot over a bit so that we could slam our feet into the brown building (always referred to as “the shop”) and kick off as hard as we could.

Both the house and the swing are merely memories now. I cannot imaging letting my kids do this, but I have to say that this swing is one of my all-time favorite memories of childhood. We spent hours every summer on it, as did our mom and her siblings 25 years before that. The rope was strong and tied well by our navy-officer grandfather. We never feared for our safety, although it obviously wasn’t really safe.

I’m thankful to my parents for letting us take this risk because just thinking of this swing brings me joy. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying.

And, yes, my brother is wearing a cape. Wouldn’t you?