Latest Innovations in our Household

June 25, 2012

Remember how I started drinking coffee? And how suddenly I became productive? I know you want to see what exactly all that coffee has led to. Here are three things, in order of how much coffee it took to complete them.

Provide Cheerios for your boys to throw into the toilet, and they won't pee all over the bathroom. From World of Julie

1. (1 cup of coffee) Who knew it was this simple? For years I’ve been enduring puddles on the floor and gross…well, just grossness on the back of the toilet. But you know, I don’t really understand fully how all the boy equipment works. I thought maybe it was an uncontrollable thing? The all-over spraying? I tried to teach them to clean up after themselves, but that wasn’t really working. Turns out all it takes is a sign and a bowl of Cheerios. Done! (And I’m totally kicking myself for not seeing the possibility of “Peerios” until two days after making the sign.)

A sign on the door tells the neighbor kids when you are homeschooling. From World of Julie

2. (1.5 cups of coffee) We are homeschooling over the summer. Mostly because, this being our first year homeschooling, I kind of did it wrong for the first 11 months, and if we stopped now, we’d all forget any of the things we happened to do right. I didn’t realize, though, that the neighborhood kids would have trouble grasping this concept. Which makes sense, really, since they’re on summer break. But that doesn’t mean they can swing on the swings in our backyard while we’re doing math. Or keep yelling my kids’ names into the front windows.

The extremely helpful community at the Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook page told me to make a sign. And I’m always looking for a reason to use my laminator. This was as astonishingly effective as the bowl of Cheerios on the back of the toilet. Sign went up, and no one bothered us. Done.

Sturdy gate at the end of your driveway keeps your kids in, other kids out. If that's what you want. From World of Julie

3. (4 cups of coffee) I’m trying to figure out how to word this so I don’t sound like I hate everyone in my neighborhood. Because I don’t! Really! I truly, truly love how many kids are in our neighborhood. We used to live on a street where no one left their houses during the day, and it was like living in a sad little ghost town. Where we are now, people are walking around and planting things and chatting on the sidewalk, and it makes me so happy.

I love kids. I wouldn’t have had four of them if I didn’t. But you know what? I have four kids. And sometimes I can barely attend to them. And then they are all miraculously occupied, and I sit down with a cup of coffee and the newspaper and suddenly there’s a kid I’m not sure I’ve seen before, standing in my garden, peering into my dining room window. Hello! Please leave!

Look, I know we have a really smooth driveway and a basketball hoop and an awesome huge playset. But, um: we have that stuff for our kids. And you all can use it, but ask first, ok? It totally stresses me out to be wearing my bathrobe and snipping at my kids about the importance of breakfast, and then turn around to see some kind of scooter gang doing figure 8s in the driveway.

Ok, breathe out. Also let’s not forget that we have wee children who shouldn’t let their newfound tricycling skills propel them into the middle of the street.

We’ve discussed various driveway barriers for years, but nothing really seemed feasible until I saw a picture of a free-standing gate somewhere. The hardware store sold single pickets, so we could build a custom-length fence that matches the fence on the other side of our house. This took us about 2 hours once we had all the materials at home. We still need to paint it, and I think we might put locking casters on the bottom to make it easier to move and get bikes out when we want to (you can still squeeze around the side, technically).

But now we have a nice fence that keeps balls and trikes in, and gives us some privacy. Done.

CATEGORIES: homeschool, housekeeping

Perfect Picnic

June 17, 2009

Today is Henry’s last day of kindergarten. I’m really looking forward to having him home again, to having long leisurely days, and to having him have time to do all the elaborate art projects in his head (and to work on our summer jar, of course). And to more days like the day a few Saturdays ago: the neighborhood posse was blissfully absent, and Dave was cleaning out the garage while I cleaned out the shed. I unearthed our beach umbrella. Henry stuck it into the yard, and I offhandedly said it looked like a good spot for a picnic. Henry then worked for two hours to set up a picnic: tablecloth, plates, silverware, glasses with milk or water, strawberries, mangoes, peanuts, and buttered bread. By the time he finished it was 5:15 which meant…that he had made dinner! I was giddy. It never even occurred to me that I could train them to make dinner at age 5. At any rate, it was a terrific picnic, and I’m hoping this summer inspires other activities like this (note: I do truly mean “other creative Henry activities” and not “other times when he takes over the dinner duties” although I won’t complain if that happens also).



Pop culture luddite

May 6, 2009

Is it wrong of me to encourage Henry when he gets facts about kid culture wrong? Today he was talking about how some of the kids in his class have Wepkin pets, and why don’t we have any Wepkin pets? (For the uninformed, he’s talking about Webkinz, which are these stuffed animals that have a whole online gaming component.) I didn’t correct him, because I don’t really want to buy any Webkinz, and also because I like the way Wepkin sounds like Rumpelstiltskin’s jolly cousin.

Henry has also gained a basic knowledge of Pokemon from the neighborhood posse, and he has taken this Pokemon framework and made up everything else to suit himself. So he draws his own Pokemon cards, and will sometimes venture into the yard as a Pokemon hunter and will return with a scrap of paper, or a bit of garbage, or, once, a dead bug, and say, “I found a Pokemon!” My knowledge of Pokemon is maybe 2 on a scale of 1 to 100, so maybe a lot of what he’s saying is true, but it sounds insane, and I’m pretty sure the whole point of Pokemon is to buy the cards, not to draw your own and collect dead bugs. However, I fully support self-made Pokemon cards and random garbage cleanup, so I don’t really say anything one way or the other.

He’s not going to be traumatized later on when the Other Kids realize he doesn’t know his Elmo from his elbow, is he?



I should have handed out multivitamins at Halloween.

December 2, 2008

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t make anything especially fancy-pants for lunches here, mostly since I make them 10 minutes before I go to bed, and I’m worrying much more about the allergy-free ingredients that I’m putting into the lunchboxes and less about what the actual foodstuffs are. But whatever I’m doing, it was enough to get accolades.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty out of it when it comes to what Everyone Else is doing in terms of parenting. I’m barely just treading water here with what we’re doing; I don’t really have time to figure out what Pop Parenting says I should be doing. I will say, though, that the food items the Neighborhood Posse brings into my backyard are so horrifying that I’m beginning to see why a handful of walnuts and a piece of provolone (Henry’s actual lunch today) are noteworthy. First, there’s the brother and sister who apparently eat nothing but candy. They have brought over candy necklaces and candy bracelets, and cups of marshmallows (seriously). Once the sister came over with chocolate all over her face, and when I asked her what she’d been eating, she said she’d had chocolate for breakfast. During the summer they came over with those Fla-Vor-Ice popsicles, and gave one to Eli (it was a turquoise blue one), who excitedly took a big bite, and then looked very frightened and stuck his tongue out of his mouth yelling, “Get it out, Mommy! Get it out!” I had to scrub his tongue with a towel before he’d calm down.

Some other kids brought over some of that yogurt-in-a-tube, and left the wrappers lying around (the Neighborhood Posse has a littering problem), and so I got to see that the yogurt was cotton candy flavored.

Once I announced that I was making peanut butter sandwiches (in a desperate attempt to get some kind of protein/fiber food into these kids) and many of them said they loved peanut butter sandwiches. So I made about a million, and Eli and Henry were the only ones who ate them. One boy looked all disappointed and said, “Um, I don’t like this peanut butter sandwich.” I’m such an idiot…if you’ve spent your life eating sugary Jif on white bread, my little Teddie All Natural Super Chunky Unsalted (ingredient: roasted peanuts) on whole wheat bread is going to seem like a big hunk of lentil loaf. During the peanut butter sandwich picnic, one girl had gone home to ask her mom if she could eat one of my sandwiches. The mom obviously felt bad about me feeding everyone, so she gave her daughter something to eat…the girl came back to our backyard munching on a Smuckers Uncrustable, which is the dumbest take on a peanut butter sandwich I’ve seen (how hard is it to make a sandwich? who needs to buy pre-made frozen sandwiches?).

By far the most disgusting thing, though, was when some of them were drinking Sunny D in our yard, and (of course) left their empties behind. I read the ingredients and was staggeringly disgusted to see that canola oil is an ingredient. I can’t for the life of me imagine why oil is an acceptable ingredient in a “juice” that barely has any juice in it anyway.

With this post, I have officially become my mother, the original Label-Reading Food Policewoman.


thirty second post

October 30, 2008

Last week I asked one of the neighborhood posse what he was going to be for Halloween. “A knight,” he said. “Oh, that sounds good!” I said. “Or maybe a gunman,” he said. I told him: “I vote for knight.” Gunman! I mean, really.


CATEGORIES: thirty second post

The Neighborhood Posse pulls it together

October 24, 2008

The best use of the neighborhood posse thus far: the other day they raked the leaves in our yard. They had a great time raking them into a pile and jumping into it, and they actually did a fairly fantastic job of clearing the yard. Some ran home to get rakes, some just bent over and swept the leaves with their hands. I kept hearing screams, but every time I looked out the window, expecting to find them setting one another on fire or something, they were just gleefully playing in the leaves. When I went out to tell Henry and Eli it was time to come inside, they were grabbing handfuls of leaves and putting them in the neighbor’s yard, which isn’t strictly ethical, but – ahem – might be kind of a little bit ok with me as long as the neighbors didn’t see it happening. I mean, it could have been the wind, right?



I have the key to life, I just left it in the house.

October 21, 2008

Saturday was a typical day in the neighborhood. We spent the day half-parenting the posse and full-parenting our own kids while trying to finish up one more house project before winter (getting siding on a last little bit of our refurbished back porch). At around 4:00 we decided to go mattress shopping (we’re perpetually mattress shopping here at World of Julie). It generally takes out 73 trips to the car to get everything packed for the two mile trip to the mall. I’d made about 52 of these trips, boys were in the car, when Dave was buckling them in. I started to go back in for Trip #53, when Dave looked at me and said, “Oh! I locked up the house!” All I could do was stare and say, “What?” “I was trying to get us moving along,” he said.




I get the creepy feeling someone's watching me.

September 26, 2008

One of the hardest things about parenting is the constant observation. My 30s are really all about me having essentially no idea who I am and trying to figure out who I am, trying to reconcile the 20s me with some imaginary future responsible adult me. Why this coincides with parenthood I have no idea. But I do think a journey of self discovery has got to be easier without a 2-year-old asking, “What, Mommy? What happened? Why did you slam on the brakes?” or “But why did you hit your toe on the chair leg?” or “Why are you trying on all your pants to see if any of them fit today?”

The other day Dave took the boys to the beach, so I took advantage of being almost alone to blitz clean the house (yes, that’s right, me time now means all I want to do is clean – sometimes the future adult responsible me comes to visit). A sweet 4-year-old girl from the roving neighborhood posse chose that time to want to play with Henry. When I told her he wasn’t home, she proceeded to stand on my front stoop and stare into my house. I continued on my cleaning flurry, but it certainly wasn’t helped by this little observer elf standing at my door, occasionally calling out my name as I ran by with a load of laundry (“No, honey, Henry’s not back yet, you’re standing right there on the stoop, don’t you think you’d see him if he walked in?”). I know she’s only 4 and doesn’t understand that this was my only time all week in my own head but for pete’s sake LEAVE ME ALONE. Of course I didn’t say any of this but just let it fester inside until she inexplicably decided to ring my doorbell and run away which caused me to do my best unintentional impression of an insane angry lady, running out the door and yelling, “Don’t do that! It’s not funny! You may think Ding Dong Dash is funny, but it’s not!” (Yes, I’m considering the possibility that I could do the impression of the angry lady because I am the angry lady.) But really, why can’t she go watch her own mother for a change?


CATEGORIES: housekeeping, Parenting

Return of the Bad Seed

September 24, 2008

The Bad Seed is back. Two days ago he was riding his scooter around my driveway (scooter? that’s what those things are called, right? the two-wheeled skateboardy thing with a big handle?) (worst description of an object ever, sorry). I gave him stinkeye the whole time, and Henry very helpfully told him, “I’m not allowed to play with you ever again for the rest of my life!” To Bad Seed’s credit, he burst out laughing, and in a good-natured “kids say the darndest things” way, not in an evil “bwa ha ha ha” way.

But then yesterday he actually rang my doorbell and asked if he could come over and play. I said, “No, Henry needs a snack” which makes little to no sense but I decided that Bad Seed is just a kid and so maybe it’s not nice to say, “Hell, no, and never ever again you little twerp.”



Brer Rabbits

September 18, 2008

There is a roving posse of kids in my neighborhood. Most of them are fine, nice kids, though they’re all older than Henry and Eli, so sometimes their play styles don’t quite mesh (see above: “roving posse”). There’s one in particular, though, who is a certified Bad Kid. His older brother broke into a car across the street from us (not that older brother’s actions mean younger brother will do the same, but it didn’t make me necessarily want to open my arms and welcome the younger into our home to look through my underwear drawer). (The car break-in was the final straw for older brother, apparently, and he got sent off somewhere and we don’t see him anymore.) Younger brother (whom I’ll heretofore refer to as Bad Seed) and his sister are completely free range. I’ve never seen them with any type of parental unit. Bad Seed is one of those kids who just doesn’t seem to have any sense. He’ll be in my driveway spraying everyone and everything with water from my hose, and I’ll say “Ok, time for you to go home!” or “That’s enough spraying with the water!” (i.e., “wow, I can’t deal with you at all anymore!”) and he’ll comply for 45 seconds and then there he’ll be back in the driveway spraying water into the open living room window.

Our fabulous new playset in our backyard has resulted in the posse making frequent visits. They always ask first, so I let it go, though frankly the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. There were my two little boys playing on their own playset, and they were being pushed out a little bit by the more gymnastic older-kid antics (you know you have to worry when you hear the older kids saying, “Kids! Don’t try this at home!”). The whole point of the playset (ok, not the whole point, but a major point for me) was for me to be able to make dinner (or secretly eat chocolate) inside while Henry and Eli played happily in the backyard. Not to be Neighborhood Mom.

It all went down on Monday. It was one of those tired days where I knew I couldn’t deal with the posse at all, so I decided to take the kids to Fort Williams after school. I got them all packed up in the car and suddenly realized I’d left Zuzu’s carseat in Dave’s car, so we weren’t going anywhere. I should have just burst into tears then and gotten it over with. The house was sort of a mess, though, I figured I’d make the best of it and we’d all happily putter inside for the rest of the afternoon. Ten minutes later Bad Seed’s sister drops Bad Seed off in our backyard. Henry and Eli went out there to play with him. Everything seemed generally fine; I continued to putter inside. I had to run out to check on them every 12 seconds, because they refused to stay right in the backyard where I can see them, and I don’t like Eli wandering too far because I think he’d try to walk to Portland or try to take the bus or something. Next thing I knew they were down at the storm grate, and apparently Bad Seed had grabbed Eli’s hat and shoved it down the storm grate. The minute B.S. saw me coming he took off running. When Henry and Eli told me what he’d done, I’m pretty sure flames actually shot out of my ears. He’d left his skanky sneakers in our backyard, so I grabbed them and found Bad Seed. I said, “Why did you throw Eli’s hat down the storm grate?” and he said without missing a beat, “Because Henry told me to” which I just don’t believe at all, and I said so. I also added something about, “If that were true, then you have a HEAD why don’t you USE it to make a GOOD DECISION and have some SENSE.” Not sure exactly what I said because my entire head was essentially on fire. So the good news/bad news of it is now I have a reason to ban Bad Seed from our yard, but that also means I have to actually enforce it, which is terrifying.

If only the day ended there. Eli and Henry started playing happily together in the yard (they took off all their clothes, which is usually a good way to keep the prudish Posse out of our yard). I was making dinner. Eli came in all covered in mud, so I threw him in the bath. Henry also came in all dirty, also into the bath. I went in to scrub with a washcloth, and when the dirt wasn’t coming off I suddenly realized they were covered in TAR. They had taken shovels and dug in the nice, fresh tar Dave had carefully and neatly placed around the posts under our back porch. I went completely bonkers. It was a whole combo of not having had a chance to properly yell at Bad Seed, of knowing Dave was going to go nuts (common theme of annoyance with Dave: he works hard making things look nice, the nice things get messed up 8 minutes later), and now I had no idea how to get the tar off of everything.

Sigh. After it all I managed to clean the boys up with some of that citrus cleaner stuff (certainly more skin-friendly than paint thinner, but still fairly toxic, no?). Since they were naked there was a lot of tar to deal with, in places you don’t want to know about. I did end up giving the bathtub a thorough cleaning by virtue of scrubbing off all the tar, and that probably needed to happen anyway. Dave did come home, and gave them a Stern Lecture that was so much exactly what I said that it’s clear we’ve been together a long time.

I probably yelled too much, but I tend to go nuts when I feel like I’m on top of things and then get handed a Giant Platter of Mess to deal with. I do forget that they’re only little kids, though. Luckily Bad Seed hasn’t tried to come back (so maybe he has some sense) and when I’ve run into him (several times, it’s not like it’s a huge neighborhood) we’ve not said a word to each other, which is fine by me.