The Chinese Tortoise Torture

A home for a tortoise (IF we can have one).
It all started innocently enough with a question. “Can I have a tortoise for Christmas?” he asked. “No” I said, “The cat will eat it, and if it survives I will be the one who ends up looking after it”. You would think that would be the end of it, but it was just the opening volley of his finely-honed “Wear you down with chatter until you agree to do something you don’t want to do, just to make him stop talking about it” battle plan.

He talked about nothing but tortoises for two days straight. He discussed cages he would get “..if he was someone who would eventually SOMEDAY be lucky enough to own a tortoise”. He gave discourses on the difference between Greek and Russian tortoises, and asked my advice on which kind he should get IF he ever got one. He researched tortoise ownership on the Internet and enlightened all of us as he discovered each new fact about heat lamps, ideal temperatures, feeding regimens, and growth rates. Every pronouncement was prefaced with the words “Mom, if I do get a tortoise…” Eventually our conversations began to go like this:

He: “Mom”
Me: “Is this about tortoises?”
Long silence Continue reading “The Chinese Tortoise Torture”

Gadget Joy

The Awesome Machine

There are certain things that there is no pleasure in owning. things like dryers, ironing boards and dishwashers. I like having them, I would miss them if they were taken away, but they do not usually bring me joy. I don’t really even like using them. Until recently I would have insisted that washing machines belong in this category as well. A category of utilitarian, mundane, unexciting, and tediously necessary possessions.

I hate to buy things that belong in this category. Its dull to shop for stuff you know you won’t enjoy. So I tend to keep these kinds of items for a long time. With our old washing machine I think I might have overdone it. It belonged to my husband before we were married, and he had it a good few years before that, so it was more than 18 years old. Bits were starting to fall off it, it had dial with no known purpose (or none that we can remember), and there was a hole where the bleach compartment used to be. It gave us years and years of faithful service, but this summer it spun it’s last inadequate spin, spat out a sock we hadn’t seen in a while, and died a watery, sodden death. Continue reading “Gadget Joy”

Shopping in Hell

Look! A Sale!

I suppose we got off lightly in the end. Our final tally was three baseball bats, a golf club, two snowboards and a pair of crutches. I suppose it could have been much worse. We narrowly missed ending up with a recliner and an ancient typewriter (for Grandpa) as well.

Luckily I was there to head off the typewriter acquisition. Ever since we got Grandpa a computer, my children seem to think that he is a collector of anything with a keyboard attached. If you haven’t guessed already, there was a village-wide garage sale here this weekend. One of my children is an inveterate bargain hunter and ever since he spied the first “sale” sign last Thursday, he has been itching to get out there and see what treasures he can find.

As soon as he awoke this morning, he jumped out of bed and headed out on his bike with a pocketful of change. “He’s on a bike” I thought, “He won’t be able to buy anything big”. Unfortunately the first thing he bought was a big bag, and he managed to fit a golf club in it. Continue reading “Shopping in Hell”

What Did You Just Say?

We all know that it is sometimes best not to say the first thing that comes into our minds in reaction to something that we hear. Sometimes this is to spare someone’s feelings, sometimes it helps us to avoid saying something foolish, and sometimes it spares us from interfering where our opinion is neither required or desired. Part of growing up involves learning when to speak and when to remain silent. Still, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t speak at all” and “think before you speak” are lessons that we sometimes have to learn the hard way.

It seems to me that parenthood is giving me plenty of practice in the area of thinking before I speak, especially as my children become tweens. In the past I have made a lot of mistakes by speaking too bluntly when I could have said something more diplomatic and supportive instead. Now I am trying to listen harder and talk less. And I am getting plenty of practice because my children like to talk a lot. A LOT. Quite often I find that I have to say one thing, while my brain is actually thinking another. Continue reading “What Did You Just Say?”

Good Books for Pre-Teen Boys

A good book can be hard to find.
Harry Potter is a hard act to follow. My older son (12) has now read all seven books, some on his own and others we have read aloud together. It is our habit to read together at bedtime and, since finishing Harry Potter, it has been a bit of a struggle to find books that we both like. We have been spoiled. Before HP we were content to read books that appealed only to him (I discovered to my surprise that it is possible to read a whole Scooby Doo book while thinking about something else the entire time.) After HP we are always a bit disappointed if we can’t find books that we both like.

He loved Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, both of which I hated. He considers “Where’s Waldo” a book but I do not. I love Asterix the Gaul; he is lukewarm about him and doesn’t get the jokes. We started the Odyssey but it was hard going for both of us last thing at night. We tried A Series of Unfortunate Events but somehow that never caught our interest. We tried the famous five and the Hardy boys but again, nothing inspired us.

When we were ready to give up he found Percy Jackson. Continue reading “Good Books for Pre-Teen Boys”

The Benefits of Cat Walking

Colin outside staring at something.
We have two Maine Coon cats. Colin and Kirsty. Colin has not realized that he’s a cat yet. I think he thinks he’s a dog. he follows people around the house, keeping them company wherever they go. He doesn’t sit on our laps, but at our feet. he rarely asks to be petted, but on the occasions when he does lie beside you and let you rub his belly you feel somehow incredibly honored. He is curious about everything and has never met a stranger he didn’t like. Kirsty is the opposite–the original scaredy cat. When she is around the rule is “No sudden movements”, in fact she prefers no movement at all. She is terrified of new people, and of people she likes who rush about, but she loves to be petted. When she can get up the courage (usually when you are asleep), she will snuggle up beside you and head butt you until you wake up and pet her. She will also try to wash your hair for you, and she is good at unravelling knitting.

When we got these cats I wanted to train them to walk on a leash so that they could go outside safely. With Kirsty’s fear issues, I abandoned the idea straight away, but Colin, being afraid of nothing, seemed like a good candidate for training. He tolerates the leash well and loves to go outside, but going for walks has turned out to be a bit of a pipe dream. I used to wonder if Colin was a dog trapped in a cat’s body, but after having tried to leash train him I now know that he is undoubtedly and wholeheartedly a cat. And cats do not go for walks. They wander randomly around the garden, they chase insects, they stare at things, but they do not walk. They go where their heart leads them, and their heart rarely leads them in a straight line along the sidewalk. If Colin sees a bird he takes off without warning at a speed the leash holder cannot match, practically strangling himself in the process. He also takes an unreasonable amount of “rests” during his time outdoors. A walk with Colin goes something like this: Continue reading “The Benefits of Cat Walking”

The Time of the Singing of Birds

April Flowers
You know that the winter has been too long when, on the first sunny day, you go outside and lie in a sunbeam on the driveway, oblivious to the neighbor’s stares, until either the wind or the discomfort of the concrete on your back forces you back inside. A couple of weeks ago we had a beautiful day like that. The first warm day of Spring. After we tired of the driveway my son and I walked round our yard checking for buds on the trees and making plans to spend time cleaning up the flowerbeds. Hope. It’s a beautiful thing. Spring appeared to have arrived. The next day I went to work without a coat, only to be surprised by a fairly heavy snowshower in the morning. That’s Spring in Wisconsin. Continue reading “The Time of the Singing of Birds”