The Cat Came Back

The time has come for me to tell you a little about our boat kitty, Popcorn.

Rob and I got our first cat, Espresso, right before we got married, and we were happy to be a one-cat family.  Espresso was happy living in the trailer park with us, and adapted well to our move into the house.  She eagerly greeted us when we returned home from the hospital with a newborn Beanie in tow.

We lived in a small town in the woods, and once a week we drove 40 minutes away to the nearest non-tourist grocery store (the the farmer’s market and the food co-op!).  It was on our way home from this town that we noticed a dead cat in the middle of a rather busy road through farm country.  Rob slammed on the brakes, drove the car onto the shoulder, and threw it into reverse.  When we got to the cat, he darted out the door.

Before I could ask what was going on, he returned to the car and handed me a tiny grey tabby kitten.  Apparently, this kitten had been sitting next to her dead mother in the road.  She squeaked, and I set her in the back seat, next to a beaming two-year-old Beanie.

Some Internet research indicated that the kitty was 4 weeks old, and may or may not survive away from her mother.  We bought some cans of meat baby food and poured her some of Beanie’s Amish whole milk, which she happily gobbled up.  Within a couple days, she was eating canned cat food.

We ran ads in the paper and on Craig’s List, but nobody was missing the little barn kitten.  After two weeks, we had bonded with our little buddy and took the ads down.


Popcorn was much wilder than Espresso, and she escaped from our house for a few days one time, which resulted in our finding an Amish veterinarian to “fix” her cheaply.

Due to her wild disposition, Popcorn spent the summer of 2012 living with my parents, while Espresso joined us on Moonraker.

Espresso didn’t live long enough to join us on the move to Texas, but Popcorn and her litter box piled into the back of the Volvo.  In our apartment, she put our pet deposit to good use as she tore up the carpet, only escaping once for a few days.

In contrast, the life on the boat seemed to mellow Popcorn.  She could often be found curled up on a dinette seat, or sunning herself on the deck.  After falling off of the boat once–and swimming to the dock and climbing up underneath, so that we had to remove a board to free her!–she seemed to have no desire to travel to the land.

Then her food dish started to get empty.


She was outside when we went to bed, but we thought nothing of it.  She did that often, then either scratched at the door or let herself in when she was ready.  But, the next morning, I awoke, realizing that I had not heard Popcorn come inside.  We looked around and figured she must be hiding somewhere.

But, after two weeks, it became clear that Popcorn had ventured off the boat.

After that long, we figured that she was not coming back, and talked about getting rid of the dishes and litter box.  We pondered new uses for the quarter berth.

Then, we heard rumors of a tabby cat on the island in the marina, mooching food off of the boaters.  Rob spent some time looking for her there, to no avail.


We kept an eye out, until Friday, when Rob received an interesting call from the marina office.  There are almost no stray cats in Clear Lake Shores, so the owner of a local antique shop thought it was interesting when a cute little tabby with a collar (someone else she met on her adventures gave her the collar!) showed up, hungry.  While she lived there, the owner heard from the Boater’s Resale shop above that a family in our marina was missing a cat.  So they called the office, and Rob took little Popcorn home.

Enjoying her time in the antique shop, Popcorn was reluctant to leave.  But after filling her stomach and taking a LONG nap, she’s settled back into the routine on Breaking Tradition.  And she still likes to wear her new collar.

The Phone Call


Tuesday night, I worked late.  It was our open house, and I didn’t get home until 9:00.

Excitedly, I burst through the companionway, announcing, “Hi!  I’m here!”

The music of Beanie’s video game, Pokemon Ranch, played in the background, but the cabin was empty.

Thinking that they might be in the restroom, I sat down at the dinette for a moment, before deciding that the counter needed cleaning.

On the counter was a scribbled out note that appeared to be written in Beanie’s handwriting.  “Kiwi sucks!” it seemed to say, then other stuff was written underneath it.  I laughed, because Beanie had been getting in trouble for using “bad words” lately.

Then, I saw that the writing underneath it was something about the Wharf, the marina where Kiwi is slipped.

So this was definitely not Beanie’s writing.

Kiwi sucks?  Was there a billing issue with the Wharf or something?  I turned the note right side-up and took a closer look.

It actually said, “Kiwi sunk!!!  I’m at the Wharf seeing if ins will cover the fuel clean-up.”


I didn’t think Kiwi was capable of sinking.  As far as I knew, it had positive buoyancy, meaning that it is stuffed with Styrofoam.  It has an outboard motor, so there aren’t a lot of through-hulls anyway.  And it has no bilge.

But, shoot.  Apparently it had.  I wondered if the recent storms had swamped it, when water leaked through the windows.

So, off the the Wharf I drove.  I practiced deep breathing, so that I would be calm and collected when I arrived.

I saw my dad’s SUV in the parking lot, so I quickly walked down the dock.  I was greeted by a cheerful Beanie (in her life jacket) running down the dock, nowhere near our slip.  I couldn’t see Kiwi from where I was, and a smiling Rob greeted me.

“Do you want to see our boat?” he asked, grinning.

I figured it was a laugh-or-cry kind of situation.  And we were nowhere near our slip, so the boat must have drifted.

He and Dad laughed and pointed to a rather large sailboat.  At first I wondered if this had been a set-up, so that they could show me a very nice boat that Dad had bought.

But, no, this large boat was partially submerged.

As I stood, baffled, Rob pointed to the number on the dock post.  “We’re not the only slip 14,” he said.

Apparently, when this boat sunk, the harbor master looked into the records and found the owner of slip 14, which was the owner of our slip.  He called him, so the slip owner called Rob, without seeing which boat had sunk.  The slip owner was surprised, because he didn’t think Kiwi could sink.

The slip owner called Sea Tow, so they called Rob and let him know they were on the way.  He talked to them, as he made his way down the dock.  Kiwi’s mast was still upright, so he considered that to be a good sign.  He chatted as he made his way to Kiwi.

It was floating.

“My boat is still floating,” he told Sea Tow.  They didn’t believe him, and had him check to see if it was swamped.  It wasn’t.

He looked at the boats next to it, and did quite a bit of looking around, before he found the other slip 14, nowhere near Kiwi.

So, while our night was very late, it was better than the morning for the owner of the other slip 14.



The Key Story

I have very little experience dealing with keys.

Back in Harrison, the house remained unlocked, unless we were away overnight.  And the car keys remained in the ignition, unless we happened to be leaving the car overnight.  We lived in a town in the middle of the woods, with two traffic lights.  I found that we were more likely to lose keys, than to be robbed.  In fact, my classroom key was the only key I had any responsibility toward.

But, in the city, you get keys.

The day we moved into our apartment, we were presented with three keys each: our apartment key, the laundry room key, and the key to the gate.  (The gate, which has been the source of much amusement, will be the topic for another post…)  After we turned in our inventory, we were also presented with mailbox keys.

I added my four keys to the lanyard that holds my coin purse (replacing the rigging rope, that untied and caused our mishap in Ludington).  I’m in the habit of wearing the purse when I go out, so these keys were immediately assimilated into my routine.

This week, a new activity was added to our routine: I drove to work.  (Just training, not teaching, but it was a commute to work nonetheless).  Upon arriving at my training session on Monday, I locked the car and carried the keys with me.  The car keys presented an issue: they could not go on my lanyard and still make it easily into the ignition.  So I carried them.

I did fine, until after lunchtime.  I had gone out to the car, to get my lunch, then returned the bag (and locked the car) after lunch. I sat through my session, on the Texas IEP process (did you know they are called ARD’s here?). When it was over, I threw away my soda can (that STILL seems weird to me), visited the ladies’ room, and proceeded to my next session.

Halfway through this session–fortunately it was on case management, a topic I already know well–I realized that I did not have my keys. I searched through my papers, retraced my steps, checked my car (locked) and every bathroom stall. I asked both information desks, and peeked in the room I had been in previously. Not only were these the only keys to our only car, but the car is still registered and titled in Michigan, so getting replacements may be difficult.

There was only one place left, that I could think of, and it wasn’t pleasant. It may have gone into the garbage, with my soda can. I let the concerned administrators know this, and said I would have to look there, after I checked the parking lot once again. Alas, it was not in the parking lot.

When I was back in the parking lot, the admins had, for me, the garbage can, and an empty one for me to place the items in. By now, the training was done, so I had a sympathetic (and probably secretly amused) audience. One by one, I removed the items, which were mercifully mainly soda cans. Finally, I got the the sludge at the bottom. As I plunged my hand into it, I heard the clank of metal! I removed my (rather grimy) keys, to the cheers of the crowd.

And so, lesson learned. My keys are only on a small ring, so they immediately go into my coin purse, as soon as I lock my car’s door.

This Country Mouse is going to make it in the city!

Key clip art

Tales from the (Decluttering) Trenches

Well, Great Purge #2 has been underway for quite awhile.  I am not yet ready to post pictures yet, but I will share our progress by the end of next week.  We have gotten most of the more challenging areas emptied out, and we’re now going to start moving into and living in the motor home.  It’s been a slow, frustrating process, but it has had its funnier moments.  So, today I’m going to share a few tales from our adventures.

Will Potty for Chocolate Chips

The stress of packing (and not being on Moonraker) caused Beanie to regress with her potty training, until she would just stand in front of us and pee on the floor.  Nothing seemed to get her back into the habit of using the potty, so it was time to bring on the chocolate chips.

Chocolate chips were what we used to potty train the Bean, initially.  We put them in a drawer, and she would get herself a small handful after doing her business.  So, we let the Bean know that we had chocolate chips, and she immediately sat on the potty and tried to go.  Sometimes, she would sit for a rather long time, hoping to earn chocolate chips.

Well, Beanie is a bit more sophisticated than she used to be.  She started going into the bathroom, flushing, and asking for her treat.  We were suspicious, but gave it to her.  Then, she started walking into the bathroom, walking out, and asking.  Finally, yesterday, she didn’t even bother walking into the bathroom.

She just walked up to me, and said, “I get chocolate chip.”  I asked her if she went potty. “Yes…No…”

So my Bean knows how to lie, sort of.  But at least she isn’t peeing on the floor anymore.

A Narrowly Avoided Embarrassing ER Trip

Two days ago, we were working on the basement.  Suddenly I heard a loud clamor, followed by Rob saying, “Oh no…Why did you do that?”

Beanie was standing at the top of the stairs.  Rob was sitting at the bottom.

There’s no way.  My 35 pound kid did not just do that.

It turns out that Rob had been walking down the stairs, and Beanie closed the door at just the right time, when Rob’s balance was off.  The door hit him, and caused his rapid descent.

I thought, great, now we’re going back to the ER.  This time, a tiny adorable kid in pigtails pushed a grown man down the stairs.

Fortunately, nothing was hurt but his pride.  Poor guy.

Mommy Fails

Rob and I are both fans of Fail Blog, so we often use the word “fail” in humorous contexts.  Apparently, Beanie has picked up on this.

To get away from the decluttering, I took Beanie to a certain evil fast food establishment, with an indoor play area.  (Yes, I am a hypocrite).  Beanie sat facing the play place, while she ate, and I sat across from her, with my back to it.  When it was time to play, I took Beanie’s seat and moved her stuff to the place where I had been sitting.  Beanie came back, to nibble on her substandard apple slices.

She looked at the food, looked at me, and said, “No.  That’s not right.  You failed!  Oh, poop!”


Happy 4th!

Well, I can’t believe the 4th of July has come and gone already.  It was strange not to celebrate it on the water.  We watched our town’s fireworks on the 3rd, which was nice and laid back.  We intended to watch a parade yesterday, but I thought it was at 1:00, when it was really at 11:00.  So we missed it, but Beanie got an ice cream cone and a trip to the beach out of the deal, so it worked out well.  Beanie loves fireworks, so we’re going to take her to see them in the next town over, tonight.  Here are some pictures from our adventures.

Through the woods, on our way into town.

Through the woods, on our way into town.






Life With a Bean

Living with the Bean is certainly not boring.  Nor is it always conducive to having a productive day, packing.

Case in point: two days ago.

Rob and I woke up with high ambitions.  We discussed our plans over coffee: begin the day by going to the bank and getting a new ATM card (oh, yeah–we lost my wallet somewhere in our decluttering adventures.  Hopefully it will turn back up!) taking a carload to Goodwill, then filling up the car so that another load could go the next day.  We hoped to have more rooms emptied out. 

Well.  First, enter the flying ants.  The previous day, when Rob was cleaning out his hopelessly cluttered workshop, they kept biting him, leaving horrible welts.  Now, remember that Beanie encountered fire ants last spring.  After such an exposure to ant venom, she has developed an apparent sensitivity.

So, there Beanie was–while we were making plans–lying on the floor in the hallway, whimpering.  On her back was a huge, infected bump, surrounded by other obvious ant bites.  The flying ant had found his way into her bedroom.

I will spare you the details, but the bump needed to be dealt with.  Which was hugely upsetting for us, and even moreso for the Bean.

We snuggled her, and set her up in front of the laptop, with some They Might Be Giants podcasts playing.  The Goodwill trip wasn’t going to happen right away, so I started hauling some items out to the motor home.  When I approached the house, to get the next load, I heard Beanie crying.

Inside, Rob was snuggling Beanie, sitting next to the linoleum kitchen floor.  Beanie had thrown up.

After cleaning it up, Rob told me that it had looked like coffee grounds were in it.  He wondered if she had eaten dirt.  I consulted Dr. Google, and learned that this was actually blood, and was horrified by the litany of serious ailments this could be.

I was afraid that we were in for another trip to the E.R.

But then, in small, non-highlighted print, it said “GERD.”  It turns out that minor bleeds are quite common with GERD.  Beanie has had a number of reflux episodes lately, as we have not been as careful with her diet as we should be (actually, we were challenging to see if she had outgrown it, which apparently she has not.  I think she’s a lifer).  After more research and phone calls, I learned that the little bit we saw did not make this an emergency.  So we watched her, figuring that being upset from the ant bite caused her to have an episode.  She did not throw up again and gradually got her energy back.

So, by the afternoon, we knew we would be safe to make a Goodwill run.  First, we stopped at the food co-op to drop off two bicycles, with “free” signs on them.  Seeing where we were, Beanie insisted on going inside.  And she did not feel that a trip there was complete, without making a purchase.  So I armed Beanie with a dollar, and she selected 4 miniature organic chocolates.

Off we proceeded to Goodwill.  After we dropped off our donations, Rob decided that he could benefit from buying some shorts that actually still had buttons.  So we drove around to the front.

Then we looked into the backseat.

Beanie’s face and arms were completely covered in melted chocolate.  In true SPD style, she decided that the candy bars would make an excellent facial treatment.  She was in the process of licking it off her arm, and took offense to being called “chocolate monster.”

In the end, Rob found a shirt and shorts.  And Beanie didn’t have time to get ornery or get into mischief while he was shopping, because she was busy getting cleaned off in the restroom.

And I got a few more grey hairs…


Mr. Bat

Well, today I’m going to tell you a story about a frequent visitor to our house.

When we bought our house, back in 2004, it had sat vacant for 10 years.  (It was a repo, which it is likely to become again.  Ah, the circle of life!)  During those 10 years, a number of animals had taken up residence in it.  The owl moved out, as soon as we moved in.  We used live traps to catch the squirrels in the attic.  After we plugged the holes (made by the pilliated woodpecker) in the soffet,  the robins quit building their nest there.

But Mr. Bat still wanted to pay us some visits.

We were never quite sure how he got in.  But I remember that first night, hearing this strange noise on the main floor, while the cat was going nuts.  We came down, and there he was, flying around the living room and kitchen.  It took awhile for him to notice that we had opened the door, so that he could make his exit.

The next time, the cat had him cornered, on the floor by the computer.  Rob removed the cat, which led to Mr. Bat flying around on the main floor again.  He wouldn’t go out the door, so Rob caught him with the vacuum cleaner, and helped him outside.

Beanie was born, and I went through a short stint of reading mainstream parenting magazines.  One of them had a scare story about rabid bats biting children in the middle of the night and killing them.  So I completely freaked out during Mr. Bat’s next visit.  Beanie stayed asleep in her cradle, next to our bed, while Rob employed the Electrolux canister vac once again, sending Mr. Bat on his way.

During Mr. Bat’s next visit, he was actually sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.  Worried that we killed him, we set the vacuum outside, to see what would happen.  Surprisingly, Mr. Bat was gone by the next evening.

Then there was the day I came home from work, and Rob directed me to the bathroom.  Under the sink, in a jar, was Mr. Bat.  Tragic events had ensued.  Rob had been cleaning out the area in front of our walk-out basement, when he heard a rodent in a pipe.  Thinking it was a mouse, he banged on it with a hammer.  Out came a very stunned Mr. Bat.  Hoping that he hadn’t killed him, Rob put him in the jar, to sleep it off.

I remember thinking, that day:

There is a bat.  In a jar.  Under the sink in my bathroom.  This is my life.

Mr. Bat recovered, although he was never right in the head after that.  He took up residence in the area in front of our basement, and we would often hear his abnormal chirping in the evenings.  We’re not sure exactly what he ate, as he preferred to walk around, rather than fly (although he still could fly).

Yesterday, I was enjoying an e-book (I finally got my own e-reader, but that is another story!), when I heard the kitty running around after what sounded like a large insect.  Curious, I went to take a look.  I freaked out, because it looked like she had cornered a black mouse, or perhaps a shrew.  Rodents creep me out.

But no, upon further examination, it was just our little buddy, with his wings folded up.  After we restrained kitty and opened the door, he spread his wings, and we saw that he had grown to a larger size than most bats.  Whatever he had been eating, it was working for him.

We wished him good riddance, as he flew away.

Portable “Time Out”

I am not a hardcore behaviorist.

I practice attachment parenting and gentle discipline, which are ultimately based on Glassar’s Control Theory (for any of you who happen to by psych nerds, out there!).  We treat all behavior as communication, and try to figure out what need the Bean is trying to meet, through her behavior.  (Then, we teach her more effective ways to meet that need).  We don’t use time-outs, per se, but we do sent Beanie to her room to calm down when she is overstimulated.

That being said, there are occasions when what is needed is an old-fashioned punishment.

Riding in the car, is one example.  The Bean loves to unbuckle her seatbelt.  Of course she is meeting a need–she is bored and wants to move around, rather than sitting in that uncomfortable car seat.  The long-term solution might be to find more diversions for her.  We’ll keep problem-solving, of course.

But, the more immediate concern is Beanie’s safety.  Explaining it doesn’t work, because her understanding of language is so limited (and she has no sense of danger).  We don’t believe in spanking or hitting (and Beanie has sensory issues, so she would have no reaction to physical punishment anyway).

So Rob had a stroke of genius.  He gave her a time out.

Rob said, “If you unbuckle it again, you will be on time out.”

She unbuckled it.  Rob buckled it back up, held her hands, and said, “Now you’re on time out.”

I bit my lip, to keep from laughing, and looked away.

Beanie was furious about this injustice, and once her time out was over (after a minute or two), she absolutely kept that seat belt buckled.

Sometimes it’s not the action, but the spirit behind it, that makes all the difference.


Surprise Adventure: A Trip to the “Hobsibal.”

Once upon a time, Rob was riding his tall bike around the block. I was cleaning the house, and watching the Bean, when Rob hobbled in, through the door. “Honey!” he said. “I think I broke my leg.”

Yeah. He was walking. We looked at it, and his knee was a bit swollen. I suggested that we get it checked out, but Rob of course wanted to sleep on it.

It turns out that he had encountered some college-aged kids partying, and they had urged him to pop a wheelie. Of course, Rob thought that was a grand idea and gave it a try. He landed on his feet, while the bike went down, and held his hands in the air, Olympic-style.

Then, he realized he’d fallen really hard on his left leg.

This morning, his knee was even more swollen, and kind of funny shaped. So–as much as we wanted to finally get some work done at our house–we made a family trip to the ER.   We got Beanie dressed, and told her that we were going to the hospital.  She danced around, and exclaimed, “Hurray!  Going to hobsibal!” 

I’ve always said that she would have her birthday party there, if she could.

This time we were wise and didn’t go to the closest ER, as we did when Beanie had MRSA.  We went to the hopital that Beanie had spent the night at, twice (read about that here and here).  This was definitely Beanie’s favorite hobsibal. 

So, off we went.  I figured I would use the waiting time to finish a guest post that I needed to write, for another blog. 

Here are some pictures from our journey.

Using a stick as a cane.

Beanie called these fish “Piranhas.”

Rob kept tormenting me with the camera. Which is only fair, since I brought the camera with the sole purpose of doing a blog post about his misadventure.

The nurses laughted at Rob when he told them his story, but they did get him a wheelchair.

One thing hospitals have is good wifi!

Beanie logs some tablet time.

Then, after the PA heard Rob’s story  (and laughed at him), it was time for x-rays.  Beanie took a walk around the ward, flirting with all the nurses.  (Nurses are the best thing about the hobsibal–their primary job duty is to pay attention to Beanie!) 

Meanwhile, Rob got to enjoy being Superman.  The special thanks to the x-ray tech for providing us with this picture.


The verdict?  A bruise.

After getting one more laugh, the nurses decided he was being a typical man, gave him an Ace bandage, and let him walk out the door.

We returned home, and Rob hopped right up on his tall bike, to do a victory lap.

Raw Meats! (And an Epic Tricycle)

Jelly Bean has never named any of her toys.  Often she’ll just call animals by what they are, as in the case with “Monkey Friend.”  Or the toy will already have a name, such as Theodora the teddy bear. 

But, at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, she finally got the chance to name a toy.

While they were baby-sitting her, Grandma and Grandpa took Beanie out to Target, where they found a good-sized stuffed horse.  Beanie loves horses, so this was a must-have. 

When we came to pick Beanie up, she was sitting on the floor, feeding this horse the cloth carrot that came with it.  Curious as to what Beanie’s reply would be, my mom asked her, “What is the pony’s name?”

Beanie thought about it a bit.  Then she answered, with all the confidence in the world:

“Raw Meats!”

My mother started laughing so hard, that she had to leave the room

Rob and I, questioning Beanie’s resolve with the choosing of this name, has frequently asked her about her pony’s name.  Her answer is always the same.

Last weekend, when it was time to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, Beanie started jumping around, excitedly.  “Pony time!”  she exclaimed.  “By the name of…Raw Meats!”

Gotta love that kid.

Beanie also got a very epic tricycle, from Harbor Freight.  She has been learning to balance on a bicycle, but her distractibility and lack of leg strength have made it difficult.  We found this trike, which is designed for older kids, and able to go off-road quite easily.  It looks cool, and we think it will help her build up her leg muscles.

All in all, it was a good weekend!

Happy Crab Day!

The problem with holidays, is the pre-packed picture of what they should look like. They are supposed to be these magazine-perfect days, set up to follow a script straight out of Hollywood.

Well, guess what. We’re not in Hollywood. We’re not actors. We’re real people.

And this is real life.

There is absolutely no reason to fill our calendars with “joyous” occasions that are nothing but buckets of pressure and stress. There is no reason to be perfectionists in trying to orchestrate something that can never be good enough.

So, instead, do what we’re doing. We don’t like the book, so we’re rewriting it. We’re doing it our way.

We’re making it fun. And silly. Because life is so darned serious and heavy all the time. Having a fun day with your family is actually not a matter of life-and-death. It’s time to loosen up.

So, we began with Sweetest Day. Now, there’s a Hallmark holiday, if there ever was one! On a radio commercial, we heard someone jokingly refer to it as Swedish Day. So we decided to honor Rob’s heritage! The only requirement for celebrating Swedish Day is to drive the Volvo or Saab on an adventure.

All right. Up next was Christmas. Remember, I have to work, right up to the day before Christmas eve. So I didn’t feel like scurrying around, trying to get everything ready by the 25th. So we decided that the 25th is xmas. Christmas, on the other hand, is on the 27th in our house. Come on, Santa can’t possibly make it around the world in ONE night!

And now, the newest holiday that needed fixing was Valentine’s day. Candy hearts and the like have never been our idea of romance. And I certainly don’t need another ring or necklace–I have one of each, thank you very much! You’ve read my commentary on love, but that doesn’t answer the question of what to do about Valentine’s day.

What to do, what to do?

We have decided that, in our house, we celebrate Crab Day on February 14. We will eat fake crab and crabcakes, we’ll e-mail each other crab emoticons, we will draw paper crabs, Beanie will act crabby…

So, if you, too, are sick of Valentine’s day, celebrate with us. Happy Crab Day, everyone!