Beardie Lost and Found

I, like many bearded dragon parents, like to let my lizard have time to roam. It’s adorable to watch her explore. Gives her some room to stretch her legs, too. 

But every now and then, when I’m tired (like today), I lose track of her. 

Today, she played hide and seek with us for four freaking hours! 

I searched all her usual hiding places, and then started on the UNusual ones. And then my kids had their back-to-school hair appointments, so I had to leave her in hiding for forty minutes. 

Got back and had picked up the spouse at work, so he helped to search for her, too. Check all the spots again. I put lamps on or near the floor to lure her to the heat. Made supper. Had wine, because I’m trying to reduce how much pop I drink, and damned if the wine didn’t lead me into a nap. 

Woke up and had a thought: what if the little stinker had come into the bedroom (which we’d already checked), but had gone deeper than we’d suspected? My husband has a swamp of clothing, magazines, boxes, and other assorted crap in front of our open closet (no doors), in which we have a bureau. From a lizard point of view, it’s a fun-sized mountain leading to a cave! 

And that’s where I found her. 

  
So, I have confirmation that I need to keep cleaning not just for me, and for cleaning’s sake (you know, health and sanitation), but also to give our little reptile a safe place to play AND to be easily found. 

Maybe I should get one of those phone/key finder tabs and make her a collar . . .

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Spring Break is upon me . . . 

As always, my list of things-to-do is easier to visualize than it is to carry out. Cleaning happens far more effectively in my head than in reality. I have a bag full of marking, a house full of clutter, dog hair, and a mountain of laundry. 

But it’s spring break! It’s nearly warm enough to throw the windows open and air the house out! The ski hill has special hours, and Cinderella is playing at the movie theatre in Timmins. Laser tag beckons! Sewing projects that need finishing . . . swag needs ordering . . . bills paying . . . packages to mail and phone calls to make . . . Really, the only difference between a regular work week and this one is that I don’t have to stand up in front of groups of teenagers three times a day and get them to do learning tasks. I only have to deal with one and a half — my own son and daughter.

I could make a long list of priorities, but I know what needs to be done. Sometimes those lists are discouraging because of the number of things that DON’T get completed. 

Here’s what I see myself accomplishing this week. Theoretically, the chore stuff should be tackled first so that a clean house can be enjoyed for the remainder of the time, but then again, all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.

Monday — medical and hair appointment phone calls, shopping for necessities (including crickets for Elizabeth), arrange for diagnostic / cleaning / repair of my MacBook — and if required, shipping it off — sweeping and mopping, finish marking Writer’s Craft stories (ooh, and all the other marking too — wouldn’t that be ideal? To get the marking out of the way?), work on something creative (snowmobile story, knitting, helping Bridget to finish her doll project — did I tell you that one of her little friends told her she should throw out the doll she made? So it doesn’t get up in the night and walk around and scare her? I reassured her, this doll won’t do any of that, because she made it herself. Silly little girls!)

I also need to see about my next tattoo (or current tattoo expansion), vacuum the couches, clean off the dining table so we can actually eat at it sometime like civilized people, look into the details of the trip to Ottawa ComicCon, plan a display at Merchant Mania, and determine how to attack promotions for my next novel, including contacting reviewers who enjoyed Book One: Wind and Shadow but who haven’t necessarily read Book Two: Blood and Fire, and who might want to look at a copy of the latter before Book Three: Crystal and Wand gets released later this spring. Part of me really wants to hire my publicist again, to save me time and energy, but my red-faced bank book is screaming at me to do it on my own so I can redirect my funds toward paying off one of my loans instead. (sigh)

Tuesday — The kids would like a trip to Timmins for laser tag and a movie (Cinderella! Dress porn, yeah!). I would also use the trip to purchase big pieces of foam so I can rebuild the cushions that Skittles has destroyed over time. Plus getting the cracked screen on my iPad repaired, seeing as I’m going to be using it for a while until my MacBook is functioning again (sob). This could also be done on Wednesday, and Tuesday could be Laundry Day.

Wednesday — The scaling of the Great Laundry Mountain! Not a pleasant task. It’s not just the strain of folding and sorting, which I find hard on my upper back and arms. Hubby has been using the deep fat fryer a lot — A LOT — lately. He’s opted to plug it in at the end of the kitchen closest to the window, although he hasn’t been actually opening the window for ventilation. Meanwhile, that’s the end of the kitchen which houses the washer/dryer, the dog’s cage, and the Great Laundry Mountain (on the dog’s cage — no, her hair doesn’t get on it). So aaaaallll of the laundry in the topmost layers of the mountain now stinks like fryer oil. This means that now I have to sniff test everything and rewash whatever stinks. As the good queen once said, “We are not amused.” (We, as in, me — apparently the man could care less. Grrrr . . .)

Thursday — Skiing! If we haven’t gone yet. What if we went skiing on Monday? Of course, the day at the hill means absolutely nothing gets accomplished at home. Either way, I’m going to end up feeling guilty and inadequate at handling all the parts of being a grown-up.

Friday — Yeah, honestly, I can’t see myself starting any projects on Friday. This will be my panic day, my dash of ice water as I realize that the break is coming to an end and I’ve only managed a quarter of what I set out to do. I should add going to the liquor store to my list on Monday. 

Saturday — More panic. I’ll have to remember to get the kids’ skates sharpened, the laundry pile will have reproduced, whatever mopping I managed will have disappeared into the ether as though it never happened, I’ll be racing to get through the marking I didn’t finish . . .

Sunday — I will sleep all day as an avoidance tactic, wake up to the horrible feeling that I’m not ready to go back to work, and play FaceBook games all night in self-loathing at not being able to complete my impossible list. Either that, or it will be the opposite: I’ll have developed a routine and be feeling great, in control and on top of the world for a fleeting space of time before the regular rounds of work and home and extracurriculars begin again, and whatever progress I’ve made slowly falls apart . . .

Spring Break, you are deceptive. You’re all, “Come here! No, go away.” Luring us in with false promises of relaxation and accomplishment; beckoning with fictions of new grass and fresh flowers, when we’re still surrounded by two feet of snow. But we love you. Because it is a BREAK, a chance to rest a bit and relax, enjoy the warming weather and slough some of the regular pressures as the pines and cedars are sloughing their blankets of white. I am just torn, as always, between doing what I think should get done — trying to meet some idealistic expectations of being a wife / mother /professional, and being realistic and accepting that I can only do so much. The problem is that with the latter, I just end up feeling lazy and not good enough. I want to be Leslie Knope and Mary Poppins and Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley, all at once. 

New Game: Furniture Tetris!

My family and I don’t live in a tiny house (although I think they’re super-cute and I’d love to do that), but the space in our little three bedroom, one-and-a-half storey is at a premium. Part of that has to do with the eccentric layout — I think the original dwelling has been added onto and altered at least three times since the original construction in some time in the 1920s — and with the fact that we have too much stuff. Decluttering is still a losing battle. But this post is not going to focus on the little things that cover surfaces and fill boxes and baskets — I’m able to deal with those. Sort of. No, this is about the big things that we need to arrange to make optimum use of the space available to us.

My friends, I give you Furniture Tetris.

The rules are simple:

1) You can’t get rid of any piece of furniture that you cannot replace. the_floor_is_lava__by_finnishfox-d4psdnt

2) You have to be able to move easily from one area of the house to the next, particularly the living space, without starting a side-game of Lava Floor.

3) You have to be able to move the furniture alone, without assistance from children or partner, who will just occupy the precious space needed to adjust the hulking pieces on the board: couch, love-seat, coffee table, bench, cupboard, side table, TV stand . . .

4) The game can only be played at night or on a weekend, and must be completed within a 24 hour period, or you run the risk of the pieces freezing like the screen on an overburdened computer, and possibly NEVER MOVING AGAIN.

5) The new configuration of furniture must be significantly different from what you had before — just moving ONE piece of furniture doesn’t count. The default number of moving pieces is three. Maximum points are awarded for moving everything.

6) Washing the floors and vacuuming at any time before, during, or after Furniture Tetris constitutes levelling up, with the reward being the ability to invite friends over for coffee in the brief 24-48 hour period during which the new arrangement feels workable and the house is still acceptably clean.

I like playing this game at least twice a year, but I don’t always get my fix. It all depends on my personal energy levels, the degree to which clutter is covering the working surfaces, whether visitors from out of town have been scheduled, a holiday requiring space for a large fake tree and the requisite spread of gift-wrapped boxes underneath it, or the approach of a child’s birthday. It’s tricky, too, trying to make sure that the rest of the family is amenable to the proposed changes. After all, what works in winter (put a couch right next to or just over a heating vent and we will fight over who gets the “warm seat”) doesn’t necessarily work in summer (couch + window = HOT seat). And heaven forbid the new arrangement of furniture make it difficult for the watching of TV . . .

For example: I would love to move my dining area, making it adjacent to the front window to encourage us to actually eat at the table instead of the couch. Then I could make that nice cosy corner into a separate office space, move the couches by flipping them in the opposite directions they currently face, and putting the television in the spot where the filing cabinets are. Trust me, it all makes sense. But certain family members are resistant to my Master Plan. They might have a point about the location of the internet connection cords, but still . . .

I’ve also envisioned moving the dining area to where the computer desk and filing cabinets are — I know, I know, same problem. Damned plugs!

Honestly, I think that computer desk has been in every other corner of the room than that dining area!

I find myself envious of those who can afford or obtain those awesome pieces of fold-away furnishings. Like this stuff:

And this stuff . . .

And these things!

http://www.amazinginteriordesign.com/5-incredible-folding-furniture-designs-saving-space/

But something interesting to note: we’re looking at magazine-photo-op-ready spaces. I do know of people who are able to live and function in spaces like that, but I’m not one of them. My world is not built that way, as much as I’d like it to be. I just think that if I had some fold-away pieces, maybe my Furniture Tetris skills would improve exponentially. I’ve often fantasized about doing away with the couch and love-seat altogether, going to big fluffy floor pillows and hammocks instead, but when you live in this climate, floor-oriented furnishings simply aren’t practical. (Unless you have heated floors — heated floors are Da Bomb. I covet heated flooring.) And I doubt my lower back would appreciate the journey up and down, although I am the first to admit that I get more done before I am comfortably ensconced in my couch groove.

I am hoping to complete a successful round of my game soon, although I haven’t yet worked out all of the details. Tonight would be perfect as it’s garbage day tomorrow, making it a perfect time to declutter as well as shifting large objects. It’s also necessary, as we are looking at adopting a bearded dragon in a few days and we’ll need room for the tank. But it requires following the rules as laid out above, so at the moment, it’s a waiting game. I must wait for the room to be cleared of children and spouse. I must be able to find my steam-mop to attack a certain sticky spot left by the dog and her find of a chewy candy or drink box or whatever it was. I have to find new homes for a massive pile of random books that I’ve moved out of a cupboard I shifted in order to store my record collection under my record player (I could probably put the books into the trunk currently housing the record collection but then they’d sit unused and unseen and that’s not the point of having books!), and I’m thinking of putting a row or two of books on the top of the TV cabinet but that will require moving the framed photos and lamp and assorted thingies on display up there and where on earth will they go?

Sometimes, just sitting with things as they are seems like the simpler option.

But then I would not have the victory that awaits me — winner of another round of Furniture Tetris . . .

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No, teachers don’t sleep at school like bats. And, a poem!

Went out to get a very-late-night supper for the family (trying to see my lapse in “schedule” as delightfully bohemian) and spotted some of my current and former students sitting in Tim Horton’s. Chatted with the latter (thoroughly enjoyed the rolling of eyes and slumping into chair at my approach) and walked over to the former, who did not see me at first but looked around as though suddenly uncomfortable. When two of them noticed me at last, looming up behind, one remarked, “Geez, I was wondering why I suddenly felt like I was back in English class.” I laughed, “What did you feel the cold chill running up your spine?” The other responded, “Yeah, but we weren’t supposed to feel that for another two weeks.” “Don’t you sleep at the school?” Chimed in the first. Hardy-har-har. Good times!

And now, a poem:

Just three nights before Christmas, (’twas Solstice in fact),

And all through the house the children were crack’d.

Screaming like banshees, running upstairs and down,

Rampant play-fighting, pillows smacked on their crowns.

Dishes lay undone from supper, lunch, breakfast;

Wrapping paper strewn over presents amassed.

Price tags scratched poorly from plastic vacuum-formed,

Ripped bits of scotch tape littering hardwood floor.

When out in the kitchen there rang the wall-phone,

I debated pretending no-one was home.

Away from the tv I slogged with my wine,

Nearly knocked over twice by those children mine.

Loud voices all chorused right when I answered,

From both the phone and my offspring so hyper,

When what in my over-wrought ears did I hear

Six more people will come to dinner this year?

Just little more shopping should do the trick,

A Timelord could do it, and so could St. Nick.

But I gazed at the mess and against the wall sagged,

Gazing blearily at my kids through eyes bagged:

“Now daughter! Now son!

Let’s get to cleaning up!

On vacuum! Do mopping!

Garbage picked and dust cropped!

Write labels for the gifts!

Your playtime is over!

Pretend it’s a photo spread

For a magazine cover!”

Greeting cards flew before whirling brooms and bags,

Animals fled from the snapping of wet rags

We attempted some resemblance of order

Like two Hobbits finding their way through Mordor.

First the clutter: fliers and used envelopes

For listing priorities like getting soap.

Then puzzle pieces, markers, glue and felt bits

Swept into a basket and cleverly hid.

Random socks and hairbrushes, lint and dog hair,

Charging cords, fast-food wrappers, crap everywhere.

In the midst of nonsense, gift wrapping going on,

Turn off the TV; Mom’s productive with songs.

The lamps! How they sparkled! The dust wiped clean away!

The floors clear of debris at least for one more day!

I wondered, how long can I make this clean last?

After all, the mess always returns way too fast.

If Santa showed up tonight all would be well

Visitors tomorrow? Welcome! Ring the bell!

But THREE days of clean to be had, in a row?

The kids stared at my laughter, much concerned now.

We could go to Grandma’s, I thought with some cheer,

Until I remembered — she’s going to come here!

Refilled my wine glass with a sigh as I grieved,

Knowing we’ll have to clean again Christmas Eve.

But our house is warm and snug, that’s got some pull;

It’s lived in and comfy, though cluttered and full.

No magazine spread, nor model home is it,

All visitors welcome, just move stuff to sit!

Good impressions aside, this season’s about life,

Conversation and games, forget stress and strife.

“Off to bed, kids!” Peace finally arrives here.

Quiet joy in the longest night of the year.

(Based on “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore)

Semi-Annual Paper Freakout

Every six months or so — well, actually, every break from work or when valuable papers are needed — I determine that I will get organized, use my filing cabinets, recycle what is useless and properly label everything that needs it.

It never actually happens, of course. Or, if it does, the effort lasts approximately 48 hours, and then random “filing” (read: stacks and piles shoved here there and everywhere) resumes.

This means I lose things. Not all things. Sometimes I find things long after I actually needed or wanted them. But it’s annoying and frustrating and unnecessary.

But rather than make some kind of resolution to once again get my papers in order, because it will just suck when I can’t stick to it, I am going to breathe in and out. Pick a day (maybe tomorrow) to at least go through the random piles and stacks of envelopes, old bills, new bills, correspondence, fliers, etc. Watch a few episodes of organizer shows to bolster myself. And maybe move a filing cabinet closer to the door, alongside a recycling bin.

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Three steps forward, one step back…and Ostara around the corner!

I promised an update! Here’s how my break has been going so far:

-Haven’t had daily walks — I blame the weather. Yeah, it’s a cheap excuse, but it’s snowing again, third day in a row.

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

Welcome to March Break in Northeastern Ontario!

I did manage to take the kids to the pool but it wasn’t great fun once my daughter started crying because she missed her grandmother. (Hope my parents are enjoying their cruise! According to their itinerary, they should be in Aruba right about now…)

-Have improved my egg boiling skills, thanks to advice from Tara Fox Hall! Now they are both edible AND tasty!

-Have made cupcakes with my lovely daughter, and both children had fun decorating them.

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day -- perfect for cupcakes!

It was a drizzly-wet snow, cloudy, cold day — perfect for cupcakes!

(I think I may have eaten the bulk of them… *bites lip)

-Have cleaned my living room, my dining table is visible at last, and while I haven’t gotten to folding my laundry yet, it’s almost all clean.

The trouble I am having is with maintenance — keeping up with the order and organization once it’s all done. My daughter can destroy a room in 10 minutes or less. But we’re all improving on working together to clean and keep things clean, so that’s something.

It’s occurred to me, too, that Ostara is getting closer and I’ve not made any plans for celebrating it. I find it somewhat ironic to mark the equinox with springtime decorations because we’re still locked deeply in winter’s grip. That lovely warming we had last week is completely gone.

My children haven’t yet known what it’s like to hunt for Easter eggs in green grass and flower gardens, like they’ve seen on TV. They’re the opposite of children who’ve never seen real snow at Christmas. So my solution, in the past, has been to lay out trays of soil and grass seed on shelves by the window around Ostara, as well as planting potted flowers indoors and starting my seeds for outdoor planting later on in the spring. It’s actually quite lovely to hunt for eggs around an indoor garden. And since I’m getting back into boiled eggs, this year I can plan for some decorating fun in the coming weeks. Maybe we’ll focus on egg dying and colouring on Ostara, as a fun family activity. One year, I cut out a tree using brown packaging paper and taped it to the window, so we could hang little decorated paper eggs from it. I probably should have taken a picture of it…

But that was before we had our lovely pooch who likes to stand at the window when we’re not home…

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

Sometimes, passersby have wondered if Skittles is even a real animal, or just a stuffed dog!

If we tried the same decorating now, it would get wrecked in a day.

I would definitely like to start adding springtime decorations to the rest of the house, once I get my long list of chores caught up. If the house can stay clean, that is. I don’t think I used any of my Easter things last year. Maybe even bring in a likely branch to make an Ostara tree in a pot.

Reminds me also that Beltane is six weeks away. Typically, we still have snow on the ground by then, although the temperature will be much warmer. Ah, the challenges of being Pagan in the north…

So, my goals for this evening therefore include:
-finish cleaning off the dining table
-wash the floors
-sort the laundry to assist my children in folding and putting away their stuff
-editing at least two chapters of my novel, Wind and Shadow (come on, April!)
-marking journals for my Drama class

Feels like a roulette wheel is spinning with my choices marked on it. What will I accomplish? Stay tuned!

And… Enjoy some cupcakes!

Decorated by my 12 year old -- tasty good!

Decorated by my 12 year old — tasty good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old -- tooth-achingly good!

Cupcakes by my 7 year old — tooth-achingly good!

Will she or won’t she? Darn those March Break Resolutions!

Every year, it’s the same. I start my spring break filled with goals and aspirations for accomplishing a multitude of tasks, some of which need doing (e.g., spring cleaning) and some of which I just really want to do (e.g., read a good book). However…I am a consummate procrastinator. Without fail, my good intentions burn away as quickly as I make them. How many of us are lulled into complacency by the prospect of a whole week before the routine returns?

I am determined, though, to make it happen, Cap’n. This time, procrastination will not win out. I will be victorious over my nemesis, with your support. Here, dear readers / fellow bloggers / friends, is my to-do list for the next seven days:

In no particular order:
1) Put away the clean laundry so I don’t have to fish through the pile every day for socks. (Sometimes, I call it Laundry Diving.)
2) Help my daughter to clean and organize her room so we can find that Dora the Explorer library book she lost two months ago.
3) Pick up the first layer of dog poop being revealed by the spring melt.

Hubby has once again promised to help with cleaning up her winter poop this spring! Erm -- all of it this time, right, honey?

Hubby has once again promised to help with cleaning up her winter poop this spring! Erm — all of it this time, right, honey?


4) Wash the floors, curtains, and windows. May not be able to open them yet, but by gosh, they will be clean!
5) Clean the bathroom. Thoroughly. Like, on the verge of gutting it.
6) Check my friend’s novel for typos.
7) Read three books.
8) Edit and revise my own novel, because Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy is coming out this April! (Yeah, had to put a little plug in there!)
9) Make some candles out of the sheets of beeswax I ordered two months ago and have not looked at since.
10) Finish my course outlines for school.
11) Do the marking I brought home from school. (Maybe I should do this first, so it doesn’t get left until the night before we go back to class? o.O)
12) Go for a walk with the dog and children every day. A nice long jaunt. Preferably ending with a nice snack that is non-fattening but will likely be donuts.
Our wonderful family dog -- she is an enormous suck, loves garbage parties, sticks food in the corners of the couch, and is fat and happy.

Our wonderful family dog — she is an enormous suck, loves garbage parties, sticks food in the corners of the couch, and is fat and happy.


13) Decide whether to keep the blonde and purple (which has, btw, faded to a lovely pink) or go back to brunette, and head to the hairdresser for some pampering and a trim. Scalp’s been suffering a bit from my experiment with colour.
14) Pick up some tea tree oil and dose scalp a few times.
15) Attempt to run/walk 1 km every day. Or every other day. Maybe I could combine that with going on jaunts with the kiddies?
16) Reduce how much bread I eat — I am learning that I feel better when I don’t eat bread during the day. Something about that Wheat Belly thing I’ve been hearing about from friends.
17) Write my blog post for the March Madness Giveaway I’m doing March 25 on Mysti Parker’s blog Unwritten (SWAG! SWAG!! FREE BOOK AND SWAG!!! Another shameless plug, evil that I am…)
Visit for a Giveaway!

Visit for a Giveaway!


18) Take the children to a movie and/or a round of laser tag in Timmins.
19) Get the car fixed.
20) In the event that we get another 13 cm of snow, clear the driveway that we just had ploughed.
21) Paint my nails. Maybe have my daughter do them, like last time! And do something about my cuticles so I stop picking at them. Pedicure by 7-yr-old!
22) Call a local animal shelter about any small/tiny dogs up for adoption.
23) Write some short stories for coming anthologies.
24) Write some poetry for coming contests.
25) Finish (?) reading The Secret Garden with my daughter.
26) Do arts and crafts projects (at least 1?) with the kids (they got some great kits for Christmas/Yule!)
27) Play boardgames with the kids (especially the new ones they got for Christmas that they haven’t…even…opened… :/)
28) Enjoy what might be the last week of snow by sliding, building a snowman…Horribly enjoyable watching said snowman melting away…

Wow. I think that’s it! It’s a doable list, I think, if I can stay on top of it. So far, I’ve managed to keep up some of my New Year’s resolutions: I’ve made a loan through Kiva in January, February, and done it for this month (my plan is to help someone somewhere through Kiva with a $25 loan, once a month for the whole year — 3/12 loans complete!); I’ve been exercising / working out fairly regularly (well, until my gym shut down, that is. Back to the drawing board on that one…if I can get my house cleaned up, I can use the living room to lift my little weights for toning. Not sure I want to join the other gym in town, as it’s so crowded. My, this is a long parenthetical comment!)

So, for those of you who are staying home or continuing to work through Spring Break (whether it’s this week coming up, or a different time altogether), what do you hope to accomplish and what are the chances of actually getting your to-do list done? Do you think I’ll get mine done? I’m already stressing about it, to be perfectly honest… Last year, I virtually slept through the whole week, but I was anemic and depressed. This year, I am healthy and strong like bull! But am I setting myself up for failure with my mondo-list of things to do while I’m supposed to be resting and recharging for the rest of the semester?

I’ve made myself accountable, now, by posting this for all to see, commiserate, possibly mock… I will update as the week goes on. I must remember, in order to be successful at these things, to breathe. Take each thing one at a time, a step at a time. Maybe work in chunks of time — an hour at this, twenty minutes at that. Assign jobs to the children (HAH! Well, the twelve-year-old will probably want to help, but the seven-year-old can make a bigger mess while cleaning than the original clutter…but I must cultivate patience and remember to breathe.), and the spouse.

One thing at a time.