Screen free week #screenfreeweek

Recently Miss Manners visited. She is a very well-read parent (on parenting books) and she brought her kid plus her kid’s friend (all my kids except Cousin It were away). The kids were awesome. They didn’t ask for screen time. They entertained themselves. They didn’t complain of boredom.

I was amazed.

I asked what she had drugged them with. Nothing.

I told her that my kids have gotten into the habit of expecting screen time almost constantly. Now, there are 24 hours in a day, and I think that allows for a little screen time but it had become habit. And once the screen was on, it was difficult (for me) to turn off.

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Read magazines, you say?

Miss Manners suggested a two week break on screen time. I said, “what if they complain or say they’re bored?”

She said, “If they say that, I would give then something to do. Like sweep the kitchen…”

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Not bored.

So I started on Tuesday. I laid out the expectations: they can’t have screen time for a week. If they say they’re bored or complain, I have a 3500sf house that is difficult to keep “clean.” Otherwise, they do not have to go above and beyond re: chores/cleaning.

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I did pull out as many games as I could find and told them where they could find said games and cards. But I’m trying not to run around like a cruise director. And I get screen time (duh), although I’m staying off the tv when they’re awake.

They seem to be having a good time, and they’re playing well together. I asked Mineral’s psychiatrist what she thinks is appropriate for daily screen time and she said 1-2 hours/day. Maybe I’ll implement that when the week ends.

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Please #spayandneuter your dogs

So here’s what happened. I love dogs and I adopted Bandit from a rescue after meeting him at Petsmart.

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It was impulsive, to say the least.

Bandit had been at the shelter for six years (!!) and was quiet and submissive, which is what drew me to him.

Except when he wasn’t quiet and submissive. In certain situations — like when he was in the car and didn’t want to get out, or when he didn’t want to get off the couch or go into his crate — he would growl and try to bite.

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I couldn’t reconcile it with the usual sweet and submissive disposition I saw most of the time. But it was there. He could be aggressive and I couldn’t keep him.

I surrendered him on Tuesday. I felt terrible mostly because I shouldn’t have adopted him in the first place.

So here’s what happened: Bandit was born because some dogs weren’t spayed or neutered. (He’s not an AKC dog and had no history.) Eventually he got picked up by a no-kill shelter which most people think are fantastic — except when a dog has aggression issues and keeping it alive = wasting resources that could be used on adoptable dogs. The shelter was so eager to adopt him out, they didn’t care about his history or do any background on me. (Yes, the shelter sucked.)

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And yes, I was the impulsive sucker who adopted a dog with no history.

As much as I hated having a puppy — they chew, they pee in the house, they are susceptible to viruses — Maizey and other AKC champion-bred dogs have a history. I have her entire line going back 5 generations and her breeder would have taken her back in a heartbeat if I had had any problems with her. (And tried to, but that’s another story.)

But dogs like Bandit, who have no history, are a crapshoot. They might be awesome and well behaved, and you might do well to get them as puppies when they are blank slates (to an extent) but you might not.

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Irresponsible breeding — breeding because you want your kid to see the miracle of life, or you want your dog to have one litter before getting him neutered or her spayed — is the root of the issue, for dogs.

For humans, it’s being a sucker. My friends have suggested I not adopt any more dogs. I can’t make that promise forever — I love dogs, always have and always will. But I can promise the next dog we own will either be from a foster with a history or from a AKC breeder. No more spontaneous impulsive dogs adoptions.

Instead, I’ll donate to a spay and neuter organization if I feel like spending my money well.

Here are two four-star rated charities (from charitynavigator.org) that support spay/neuter efforts:

http://www.petsmartcharities.org/

http://www.snapus.org

Introducing Bandit #rescuedog #thehavenfriendsforlife

The Informant and I were at a pet supply store buying some fish supplies, when we saw this

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He was at the store with an adoption event from The Haven–Friends for Life, a rescue organization in Raeford, NC. The Haven is a no-kill shelter housing hundreds of dogs from various pounds, or dogs that have been dumped by their owners. Also, dogs whose owners have been deployed (it’s near Ft. Bragg and Pope AFB).

The dog was black, schipperke-looking, about 40lbs and completely silent. That’s my #1 criteria for a rescue dog — no barking and no jumping (and also, neither huge nor small). But not shy or timid, just quiet. He’s an old boy, around 9, and he has had all his vaccines, is neutered, and has been given heart worm preventative and flea/tick medication.

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Maizey, the dog without a downside, has one definite downside: she is not happy about sharing her space. For right now they’re separated most of the time, so they can get used to each other’s scents.

He was nameless and we named him Bandit, after Leigh Botts’ dog in Dear Mr. Henshaw and also after Shirley’s nickname in China in In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.

Bandit is getting used to life here.

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The Blame Game #blame #fault #responsibility

My kids have responsibilities. My Chemical Romance can’t do everything — well he probably could but there aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t want to do dishes, EVER; we don’t have a garbage disposal here and that’s just disgusting.

So the kids do a lot.

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And they inevitably screw up.

Just like we all screw up — once, My Chemical Romance was installing a new lock in our front door and he used his drill too… hard? Fast?… and the glass around the door shattered. Recently I broke a ceramic-top range by smashing frozen vegetables on top of it.

We all screw up.

But my family seems to be caught in this blame game — it’s usually the FIRST comment. “Who left the peanut butter on a trail from the kitchen to the back door, and now there’s a family of raccoons eating at the dining room table?!?!”

That was a fictitious example.

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My goal as a parent is not to prevent screw-ups but to teach my children how to fix them when they inevitably happen.

First, of course, they happen. And if it’s a situation where someone is bleeding or a dog is running off toward a course full of golfers or glass has shattered all over the floor, I sure as hell don’t want to immediately start to BLAME someone.

I want to assess the bleeding, catch the dog or clean up the glass. Then, MAYBE, we can talk about what happened and how to prevent it in the future.

But, really, they usually know.

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note: that’s a frog they found at the pool; not a screw up.

So, I’m working on not immediately blaming someone when I witness a screw up. Nor rolling my eyes or sighing loudly. Because that’s just as much showing annoyance (that implies blame?) than anything else.

I’m going to work on it, as a summer goal for myself. I want to set a good example for them.

Also, I’m going to remind the kids that screw-ups/accidents happen. They happen to everyone. And that’s what makes is human, and we treat people with kindness, which is a lesson I hope they already know.

Wish us luck!

Country Living #countryliving #moving #unpacking

So we moved to a giant house in a tiny little village, right near a small retirement/golf resort town in North Carolina.

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The move itself was kind of hellish: Apparently, the moving company and I didn’t adequately communicate about the amount of crap important household items we have, and it took the movers 12 hours to load and unload everything. It rained the entire time they were unloading.

Also, they couldn’t fit everything in their truckS (!!!) so the next day My Chemical Romance had to rent a uhaul and return to our old house, then come back. He paid some Craigslist people to help him load up and I wish we had done that from the beginning, because the movers were so awful.

Moral of the story: have a moving company come to your house and give you a quote before promising they can do a job for a low price :X

But we live in paradise now. On a golf course! On almost two acres!

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Unlike in Cary, our neighbors are all older, retired folks. But I think they’ll get a kick out of a young family in the ‘hood.

One neighbor brought us homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Another neighbor helped unload the 125 gal fish tank. And another neighbor brought us a case of Kleenex.

Um…? It is kind of pollen-y here.

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This was in the garage.

The family who owns the house left us lots of furniture and other items, like a weed wacker and kitchen chairs and plenty of extra light bulbs.

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The house is so big. I love it! I seriously feel like I’m living in a castle. I still have to figure out my hacks — the house is a little quirky, like it doesn’t have a garbage disposal and the kitchen pantry is small. But I think we’ll love it here.

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Especially when I get done unpacking!

What we did all week

It’s spring in North Carolina! Suddenly it’s 80*. We went to the park

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I got a pic of all five kids (in chronological order, no less!)

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We went to free cone day at Ben and Jerry’s.

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My friend Lady Beaver came to Raleigh, and we took all the kids to Marbles

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Also to the history museum *** this was totally legal, based on the sign***

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Everyone was killed by a cannon

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But back to the giant canoe

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Then my friend’s daughter met Splash and Summer

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The day was awesome til Cousin It decided to wash her hair while I was in the bathroom

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Screaming ensued, ending our day like many.

Thursday I ignored all things Paleo so we could celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day with this recipe for Sage Fontina Grilled Cheese.

This weekend we’re packing!

Moving to the Country #movingtothecountry #countryliving

Things change fast. It seems like yesterday, I lived in San Diego and Animal and Mineral looked like this

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And now we’re moving to a country estate in North Carolina and they look like this

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It happened fast. I was browsing zillow, a real estate site, looking for rental houses anywhere but here, and I came across a really amazing house in the country, over an hour from here (but closer to My Chemical Romance’s work). Also, it was huge, and on land.

I called the rental agent immediately, we saw it the next day and I could not say no. Because, huge. And because, downstairs master bedroom. And because, moving an hour away, I will no longer have to wear this in public

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Though getting paid to dance on an intersection isn’t a bad gig!

We’re moving next month. I despair of leaving my proximity to Whole Foods Trader Joe’s everywhere, but I’m excited for this new adventure.

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