Dog escaping fence requires unique solution

Our Beagle Charlie has forced our hand. Lately he has taken the art of breaking out of the backyard fence to a whole new level, so we had to get creative. This mission to keep Charlie at home has been going on a long time. After we adopted him five years ago, we asked a dog trainer to help us teach him to obey commands. Overall, the training went well. He learned to sit, shake hands and to high five with his paw. The only command that didn’t stick? “Stay.” The trainer warned us it would be difficult. Even though Charlie understands what we want him to do when we say “stay,” ultimately he obeys the wishes of his bossy [...]

National Day After Vacation Day

Today is National Graham Cracker Day. It’s also National Bikini Day and National Apple Turnover Day. These days, there are “national days” for almost everything. For example, July 28th is “National Talk in an Elevator Day.” According to my research, there are more than 1,500 national days to observe in a single year – everything from talking in an elevator to “National Do a Grouch a Favor Day,” which happens February 16th. Since it seems easy to get a national day set up, I think we need one called “National Day After a Vacation or Holiday Day.” I like to celebrate and vacation as much as the next person, but I’m nearly worthless when all the hoopla is over. For [...]

A turtle by any other name…

I got a postcard in the mail today. It was from our 10-year-old daughter, Kate. Oddly enough, it was Kate who checked the mailbox on the day the postcard arrived. She’d written and mailed it from summer camp two weeks earlier. When we picked her up from camp, she asked me if I’d received the postcard she’d sent, and I told her we hadn’t. I asked if she remembered the address correctly, and she dutifully recited it back to me with no mistakes. “And did you remember to put the zip code on it?” I asked. “Oh,” she said. “Maybe not.” I told her the postcard might still make it to us eventually and that I was glad she’d tried [...]

My husband’s other woman

There’s another woman in my husband’s life, and I’m the one who put her there. Her name is Alexa and she lives inside a device called the “Amazon Echo,” which is a speaker he can control with his voice. Physically, she’s not really his type. She’s short – less than 10 inches tall – and she’s got no figure to speak of. Just a black cylinder with a flat top. But what she lacks in curves, she makes up for in conversation. In the morning, I hear the two of them talking to each other in the kitchen. “Alexa! Good morning!” he says. (She literally lights up when he says her name.) “Good morning! And welcome to the first day [...]

No food in my food, please

When it comes to what I eat, there’s one rule I almost never break – no food in my food. Simply put, it means I don’t mix things. Gravy and mashed potatoes are about the only two substances I allow to co-mingle on a dinner plate. I typically eat one food at a time and then move to the next food on the plate. It’s boring, I know, but it works for me. I reject the theory about how different foods “mix together in your stomach anyway.” Perhaps they do, but by the time the food hits my stomach, my taste buds don’t have to know about it. My husband Tom, on the other hand, has almost no rules when [...]

Teenage tunnel

It’s happening. I’ve seen the symptoms before so it’s easier to diagnose it this time. And even though I know what it is and I know it’s not permanent, it’s still unsettling. My kid – my sweet, kind-hearted middle kid who always loved a good hug and thought I was smart and funny – has become a teenager. It became official a few days ago when we celebrated his 13th birthday, but he’s been accelerating up the teenager on-ramp for months now. The symptoms are all there. The dramatic eye-rolling. The heavy sighs. The increased skepticism that I know what I’m talking about. The conviction that anything I pick out for him to wear must be, by default, uncool and [...]

Women versus the machines

Sometimes I yell at inanimate objects. Usually it’s one of the electronics – the printer, computer, television, garage door, microwave, and even the remote control. And the question I yell most often is this: “Why do you hate me?” I try not to take it personally – the fact that electronics always seem to malfunction when I’m the one using them. But I’m beginning to see a pattern. And I’ve spoken to several female friends who’ve experienced this same type of phenomenon, which backs up my theory: Household electronics hate women. Before you assume that the real issue is me or some lack of knowledge into what makes things work, let me assure you that’s not it. I’m as techie [...]

I heart Band Geeks

Last night, I went to our middle child’s 7th grade band concert, and it felt like going home to my roots and my people. Like my son, I’m a proud “band geek.” Always will be. I had some friends in school who weren’t band geeks, kids who were in athletics or cheerleading. Those activities are great, too, and I’m sure they build character and make great memories. But there’s something special about the bond between band geeks – a bond you only get from marching down the road less traveled. One thing that hasn’t changed in the 32 years since I’ve been in middle school is the political pecking order. Football and cheerleading are still at the top of the [...]

Swim down memory lane

I read a magazine article today about a new type of portable pool you can install in the back of a truck. It’s called a Pick-Up Pool, and it looks like a sleeker version of a waterproof mattress cover sized to fit perfectly in the back of a pick-up truck. I can’t wait to show the article to my dad, who was apparently way ahead of his time when, in the late 1970s, he turned his new dump truck into a swimming pool in our backyard. Judging by family photos, I must have been about 6 years old, and my brother was 12. The forest green dump truck was new – Dad’s big investment in his one-man landscaping business. But [...]

Small cart, big dreams

I went to Wal-Mart yesterday while the kids were at school and glanced longingly over at the new, fun-sized shopping carts lined up outside the automatic doors. Have you seen them yet? They’re about half the size of the regular carts and they have an upper and lower deck. If shopping carts were cars, this new cart is the cute convertible – easily navigating around those tired old minivan carts we usually drive down the aisles. It’s the perfect cart to use when you’re popping into the store for “just a few things.” I grabbed one of the “cute carts” about a month ago during what I thought would be a quick errand. I zipped down the bread aisle and [...]