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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Boys and their bits -- Guest Post

Donnelle over at The Never-ending Laundry has a funny and too-true post about kids...and their parents...and the things we all find ourselves saying.


Although my daughter is the twin who will matter-of-factly explain (to me, or the neighbour, or the supermarket checkout operator) that "Finn penis. Daddy penis. Me vulva.", nothing compares to the fascination small boys have for their boy bits.

I've previously shared the most memorable diddle incident from my eldest, but I'll quote it again here:

Disturbing parenting moment #4354:

Sitting next to your only-undies-wearing son, and looking over to realise he has stretched his penis out to over twice its normal length.

Disturbing parenting moment #4355:

He notices you looking and announces, "My penis is a string for a golden harp."

Disturbing parenting moment #4356:

He twangs it.

Aside from the instinctive "nappy off, party time!" grabbiness, the first understanding I had of the level of connection between a boy and his banana was when my eldest, at around age three, walked in on me in the shower. Eyes wide with concern, he exclaimed, "Mummy, your penis is broken."

While we'd talked about anatomical differences with him, it wasn't an everyday discussion like it is with boy/girl twins. That started early, mostly with strangers. "Twins?" Yes. "Boys or girls?" One of each. "Are they identical?" ....No, one has a todger.

"Your brother's penis is not a pull cord." I overheard that gem from the bathroom where hubby was tackling bathtime. A few months later it happened again. "No, only Finn can touch his penis. You're not allowed to touch any penises for at least 30 more years."

With it being "summer", we've been giving Finn lots of nakey-butt time in order to help with toilet-training (Vieve is not interested yet). That has led to some things I never thought I would say, things like:

"No penises on the table."


"Don't eat rice off your brother's penis."

Finn went through a period of anatomical confusion in which he muddled his bottom and his bratwurst. This led to a hilarious scene where, trying to explain to his Nana that her Manx cat had no tail but did have a bum, he kept lifting his shirt to show Nana his "bum" while Vieve chased him around in circles exclaiming "No! Bum here!" I even have video footage... but I might save that for their 21st.

(Apologies, by the way, if the willy euphemisms bother you. Like many of you, we use the correct terms around here, but the post got a bit "penis penis penis penis". I briefly considered using "Penis penis penis penis" as the title of the blog post, but then I thought about how "Penis penis penis penis" would look in the sidebar. Penis? Penis.)

I'm pretty sure the frankfurter fascination is universal for small boys. Do you have any funny stories to share?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fail Kitchen - Goldfish Frosting

My kids make this one. They GUARANTEE YOU my food is delicious. LOL

Caring for Special Needs Pets -- Guest Post

Today, Jill Redding from Pianissamma shares a compassionate story about her new pet and what to do with a special needs animal.


Atticus the Cute! Photo credit: Tejaswi Kasturi

Meet Atticus. He’s a three-month-old kitten who is as cute as can be. To the casual observer, he might seem like any typical kitten, but take a closer look. Atticus is not a typical kitten at all. He is considered a special needs pet.

Just over a month ago, Atticus along with his mother and one of his littermates were trapped in a crawlspace when a fumigator tented a house without removing the cats first. The trapped kittens survived, but their mother died during the fumigation. Four other kittens from the litter were not caught in the tenting, and they are healthy, but feral. A friend recovered the two injured kittens, and took them in for veterinary care. It was then that she was told that his left paw was paralyzed, and would remain so forever.

Upon closer inspection of Atticus’ X-rays, the vets noted that his elbow was broken and fused together possibly before he was born. The other recovered littermate had a similar injury, same prognosis. Yet, it is not an uncommon injury with cats or dogs. Many an adult pet can get similar traumatic injuries. In the old days, it wasn’t heard of to just put the animal down when injuries like this happened. Today however, the common treatment of this type of injury is amputation, and the pets recover, going on to live full and healthy lives.

Before you ask, “Are you sure?” it should be noted that for Atticus, amputation has already been recommended by several different veterinarians. It will not reduce his quality of life at all. More likely, it will make it better. It will reduce strain and muscle fatigue on the shoulders and right front paw. He will not become less agile, as he already does not use the paw.

Atticus won’t be an outdoor cat, but that isn’t a loss. Indoor cats don’t have to worry about cars or coyotes. And honestly, Atticus isn’t interested in going outside anyway. He prefers a warm lap to sit on, or a cozy corner to curl up in. With a child and two other cats to play with, Atticus is never bored.

More, there are many other dogs and cats just like Atticus waiting for the perfect forever home. Unfortunately, many pets are looked over for adoption if they appear any less than perfect. Elder cats and dogs are left to languish in shelters in favor of puppies and kittens. Injured companions are seen as dead weight, even if they are able to fully recover. Yet while they may seem imperfect to the casual observer, they are almost always so full of love.

Since Atticus came into our lives, we have learned that not only is he sweet, but he’s very resourceful. While we did have to spend a little longer showing him how to use a litter box, and how to properly groom his face after eating, he figured out how to do so within the week. He even got a little help from one of our elder pet companions. More, he functions quite well with just the three paws.

I wanted to introduce you to Atticus, because I want to appeal to anyone hoping to adopt a pet. If you wish to welcome a companion into your home, that’s wonderful! Please don’t discount a potential companion because they lack a limb, have a disability or because they’re older animals. Rather, consider this. They will love you, for who you are- a companion. None of us are perfect, but we are unique and wonderful individuals. As we conclude “National Dog Day” today and await the arrival “National Cat Day” in October, I hope you will celebrate all dogs and cats with me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Model what you want to see

As my girls age, I notice that they sometimes work out their issues through role playing games. These are spontaneous. They occur basically out of nowhere. One girl will perhaps do something that reminds her or her sister of us, their parents, and it spins off wildly from there.

When this happens, I believe my husband and I don't make the best of it right yet. I noticed it this evening.

Dulce had started play acting that her daddy was her, and she was me, and they had to go to school (something she's been having trouble with this week). Her dad, thinking it was funny, was making a show of protesting, moving slow and not listening.

And it hit me.


I shouted jovially that in this game we did what mommy said, we walked quickly, we paid attention, we got to school on time. Dulce was having a ball bossing her daddy around the way her perspective sees me as the evil overlord, but from that point on, her daddy was a very obedient little boy.

Lilly took her turn with me, and acted out the scene from this weekend where she'd had to be away from her twin for the first time ever. I played her, and gave validity to her anxieties, but went along willingly on the adventure and told her that she was right, I had had a good time afterward.

These games might not mean anything to the kids. But if they do, if my kids are trying to process correct behavior through this, I hope that we can guide them in the right direction so that they feel comfortable during the real deal.

Who knows...maybe we'll even get to school on time tomorrow. One can always hope.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Intuition in Divorce Court: Paying Attention to the Judge - S post

If your divorce requires you to actually go to divorce court, which is what happens if you, your spouse, and your lawyers can’t seem to agree, then it’s very important that you pay close attention during the proceedings. Knowing what’s going on at all times and being visibly present is important and could potentially help you win your case and get what you want.  Here’s how.

First impressions are everything.
Although a judge is supposed to stick with the facts and not make judgments based on first impressions, it can be hard to do so. For example, if you are waiting patiently in court dressed in your very best, it will have a better effect on the judge than if you were to arrive late wearing sweats and a ripped t-shirt.

Paying attention shows how responsible you are.
Judges want to make sure they are handing out responsibilities appropriately. If you are asked by the judge to do something, and you come back the next day proving that you completed the task, it will show that you’re responsible. This can go a long way in helping you win over the judge. For example, if you and your ex are in court for child custody, proving that you are responsible will help the judge see you in a positive light and be more willing to give you custody of your children, especially if your ex is proving that he or she is not very responsible.

Paying attention shows respect.
No judge wants to be disrespected in his or her courtroom, and paying attention to the judge and following his or her orders shows respect. This can go a long way in divorce proceedings, especially if the judge believes that you and your spouse are both equally deserving of a certain asset.

Paying attention can help your case.
Listening intently to everything that happens in court is extremely important in order for you to walk out feeling accomplished. Listen to everything that your ex and his lawyer have to say, no matter the topic. If you heard something that you know is an absolute lie—and if you have a way to prove that this is a lie—it can help out your cause in court.

Paying attention can also help to speed the process along.
Divorce court is expensive, and nobody wants to be there any longer than they have to be. By paying attention to what happens in court, you can help to speed the process along. For example, if an item comes up in the divorce proceedings and you truly don’t care about it, then offer to give that item to your spouse. For example, if the ownership of an art collection your spouse had before you were married comes up, and you truly don’t want the collection, then just pass it on to your spouse.National Family Solutions reviews this on Facebook as well. The different techniques about this about politely getting your word heard.  Not only will this help to move the process along (saving you money in the long run), but it will also put you in a good light with the judge.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Moment of the Week - The Separate Day

We all survived our first separate day. I suffered a few injuries, but after that, everything went smoothly. I couldn't be prouder of the girls, who were pretty scared to try this out.

I brought Natalina to the Natural History museum.

Here we are in the butterfly garden which is how I managed to calm her down.

By the end of it, she was happy as a clam.

Dulce and her daddy went to the movies. They did not see Cops. I promise.

Love them.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kindergarten Kids - Separating the Twins


Even though the girls are in different classes in school, and have been for a year now, they still exist in a weird continuum where they don't feel as if they can be a full, unique person. Every decision must be passed through the counsel of the sister, and every treat must be evenly divided. Not one individual thing is allowed to pass, because both twins feel that individual things mean better things. Particularly if they are not at the same time. So, if Dulce wanted an ice cream cone at 3 p.m. but Natalina didn't want one, either they would both have one or neither would have one. Either Natalina would cry about not getting a cone so much that Dulce would decide to forego it, or Dulce would badger Natalina so much that Natalina would decide to eat one. Either way, they would not, of their own free choice, do something different. So much so that if one gets one extra bite of graham cracker in the morning, she will throw it away. (This JUST happened). Or if one gets a candy while the other is sleeping or otherwise engaged, she will tell her twin immediately after she sees her again, so her twin can collect her prize.

It's weird. And it's hard to navigate.


My friends have been telling me for literally years that I have to take my children out separately. It's been impossible to pull off. My husband works until 8 p.m. every day, and on the weekends, we like to do things as a family.

Today, we are going to take the girls out separately.

And already I'm plagued with, 'what if one of us does something the girls deem 'more fun' at their outing than the other? How can we keep this as even as possible? Should my husband and I talk about this, plan where we're going, come up with ways to prevent tantrums? Each of us do the same number of activities during the outing? Leave and return at the exact same time?

It's taking everything in me to NOT do these things. I will not. We are going to take our kids out separately like regular people take their kids out separately.

In order for this to work, I must not cater to their instinct to compare at all. Otherwise it will just become another instance of strange twin equality competition. And we will have wasted our day.

The goal is for them to be able to have a Saturday when they are older, where one goes swimming at a friend's house, and the other stays home reading or goes to the movies with her buddies. End. Like it's a normal and okay thing to do.

Because right now, as we sit in this house today, that scenario is an utter impossibility.


Friday, August 22, 2014

How much have I messed my kids up?

I want my children to reason like adults, and this is causing my entire family endless stress. One of them is full of attitude and contempt right now, and trying purposefully to upset me, so that from sun up to sun down, I must be in battle mode to make it through the day. She lobs bombs and shoots gunfire my way, and will sneak in at least a half dozen ambush attacks where she starts a normal conversation or shows a sweetness, only to lure me in before turning the whole scene into a mess of negativity.

And when this happens, I first react calmly. I tell her what she must do and I make her do it. But eventually, I lose it, and I shout. Sometimes I bully her into doing what she should be doing. The next phase is reasoning and explaining, where I tell her my side, then ask her about her side, and try to figure out, or get her to figure out, what her deal is.

None of this works, obviously.

As parents, we're supposed to be calm, inflappable, upholding the rules because they are rules. Not letting emotions in. Not making it a bigger deal than it is. Either put your pants on and go to camp, or don't and stay home. Why isn't it that easy when I'm not typing? One is that I have twins, and I can't just keep punishing one for the other's behavior, but it's more than that. I want them to do the right thing because it's the right thing. I want them to be able to tell when it's wrong and bring good, solid points to the table as to why it should be another way. I want them to feel like their feelings are valid.

I do not want them to call me stupid, throw things at me, or willfully disobey me.

But I've got both.

And what's messing me up is myself. I'm SCARED I'm messing them up. If one is acting out because I'm spoiling her and letting her do what she wants whenever, then I have to crack down.

But if she's acting out because she's craving loving attention from me (and she DOES need a lot of loving attention which she has been foregoing to do this crap), then cracking down on her will only prove to her that I don't love her? But should she need such explicit validation all the time? But if I stop hearing her out, will she decide she's totally unimportant?

How much have I messed my kids up, is the question, to be honest. And what the hell do I do.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My autistic child is not your inspiration - Guest post

Originally titled: "She's no angel (but feel free to say something nice about her)"


My two-year-old scrunched up her face and frowned in concentration. She balled up her chubby fist, extending her pointer finger, and selected icons on her iPad screen.

"I. Want. Banana. Please. I want banana, please," said the childlike computer voice. My daughter looked at me, expectantly.

I frowned. "You can't have a banana right now," I told her. "You still have chicken and broccoli on your plate." Months of giving her any food she requested because we were so excited to encourage her language skills were starting to backfire on us.

"I want banana, please," she insisted, selecting the sentence over and over. "I want-- I want-- I want banana, please."

"No banana," I said firmly. "Chicken and broccoli."

She shoved her plate away, arched her back and let out a series of piercing shrieks, kicking her legs angrily.

My daughter-- "Ham"-- is nonverbal and developmentally delayed (with a diagnosis of autism that I'm considering potentially 'in flux' for a variety of reasons I won't try to get into right now). She'll be three in a few months and has about as many speech sounds as the typical ten-month-old. This hasn't changed  substantially in the seventeen months she and her sister have been in Early Intervention, or in the nine months since they started applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. In the meantime, though, we saw that she was clearly intelligent and easily frustrated when she couldn't communicate, so we got her an iPad and a communication app called "Speak for Yourself" and the rest is history. It's no easy road, but she can use her iPad and communication app to make simple requests, comments, or even tell jokes (like saying "booboo sad crying" or "oops! oh no! what happened?" and then laughing).

Things I would like to say about my girls: they love swimming, popsicles, Elmo, soccer balls, tutus, toy cars, books, the ocean, never napping ever, visiting their grandparents, going for a walk, and watching our dog go nuts running around on the hardwood floor and slamming into furniture.

But I will never post any of those sparkly GIFs you see plastered all over people's Facebook pages or say the things written on them, like, "my daughter is my Autistic Angel!", nor will you ever hear those words escape my lips.

Here's the thing: my kids are not "angels."

Geez, no one ever wrote this glowing an acrostic poem of ME.
Geez, no one ever wrote this glowing an acrostic poem of ME.
I don't mean to say that they're badly behaved-- no more so than any other soon-to-be-preschooler. It's just that I don't see their deficits as being so devastating that I need to balance them out with a friendly but equally dehumanizing characterization of their personhood.

Calling someone an "angel" as a term of endearment is one thing. We all call babies any number of sticky-sweet, often food-related nicknames-- "pumpkin," "cupcake," etc. That's adorable and I'm the first to admit that my kids have a lot of nicknames,  including the "Chicken" and "Ham" I use to talk about them online.
"Autistic angel" and its ilk are different. It's a personality trope-- a designation that limits a person with special needs to something more palatable than their diagnoses.  I think it makes logical sense that people would want to balance the more negative messages about disability in our society with positive ones. But when the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, it's just as far from its origin as it was before. I'm not the first person to make this observation.

By talking about the value of a disabled "angel" as mitigated by what she has to "teach" you about yourself, you reduce her to a functional tool in your own development-- something less than a full and separate person on her own. See what I mean about how damaging even positive attributes can be?
Why not, "Never Ignore Somebody With a Disability Because That's Super Rude and Uncool"?
Why not, "Never Ignore Somebody With a Disability Because That's Super Rude and Uncool"?

My children are still young, and I don't know what the future holds for them. But I do know that 83% of women with developmental or intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted (and only 3% of assaults are reported). I know that people who are nonverbal or have limited communication are often unable to tell anyone that they have been abused or feel unsafe. The problem isn't the disabled person, but everyone else, when accessibility, safety, and access to resources are limited or nonexistent. This is the other thing that happens when we don't treat disabled individuals as people, the thing we don't like to talk about-- the other side of the pendulum.

Before saying something or sharing an "inspiring" image, ask yourself: does this statement or image turn a disabled person into a tool for boosting someone else's self-esteem or remind them that their own life could be worse? Does it distill someone's personhood and identity down to something that makes everyone else feel better about their disability? Does it "fix" the disability by neutralizing it and balancing it out with something palatable?

Instead of sharing these messages, you could listen to disabled people tell us about themselves. More and more, disabled teens and adults are speaking up and letting us know what they think and how they feel, including addressing the tendency of non-disabled people to be "inspired" by disabled people living their ordinary lives. Rob J. Quinn's book I'm Not Here to Inspire You: Essays on Disability From a Regular Guy Living With Cerebral Palsy, excerpted in his article here, and Stella Young's funny and powerful TED Talk "I'm Not Your Inspiration, Thank You" are two examples.

Please choose to share these messages and not your own manufactured ones. Let's amplify the disabled self-advocates's own thoughts and take a backseat on creating our own. Share the messages that will help them feel good about themselves, not the ones that help us feel better about them.


Jules wrangles toddlers, herds therapists, and eats cereal hastily over the sink. Follow her occasionally-updated blog at The Adventures of Chicken and Ham.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Ask a Cleaning Lady: All about vacuums

Today resident cleaning lady from Smibbo has written up an important post about vacuums you didn't even know you needed. But you do.


So today we’re gonna talk about one of the most important tools in cleaning, the vacuum cleaner. Frankly I’m not sure I’d have ever become a house cleaner if it weren’t for vacuums. I get asked about vacuum cleaners probably more than any other topic besides “do you think you can get that out? Or at least make it look not as bad?”

Well, I suppose I’m going to disappoint a lot of people with this essay. Because I’ve got no recommendations, and I’m about to make vacuum cleaners a very intricate subject.

What do I use? I use a Bissell Powerforce bagged vacuum. Retails for around $50 at any Wally world or Tarjay or whatever. Its exactly what I need and its easy to maintain. I love my current vacuum but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. It’s perfect for my uses, but it has many issues that most people wouldn’t be able to handle. That’s how it is though: vacuum cleaners don’t have a “best” (so stop asking me).

First, let’s go over how a vacuum cleaner works.

Here’s a pretty good overview, but if you don’t feel like reading all that, I can sum it up for you: there’s a fan inside that whirls around sooper fast, creating suction which is funneled via tubes (kind of like the internet) through an area that catches debris (unlike the internet) either via a bag or a series of filters into a cup, and ejects the air all while rolling a brush over the surface to loosen and fling the debris towards the tube where the suction is coming from. That’s pretty much it. The roller has a belt which needs to be replaced every now and then and the cup or bag that needs to be emptied/replaced when its full. All vacuums have filters on them in various places as well.

So, to summarize:

1. Suction power is what makes a vacuum cleaner a vacuum cleaner.

2. The rolling brush is what makes a vacuum cleaner clean carpets and upholstery.

3. Filters are what prevent the vacuum cleaner from ejecting fine particles of dust right back into the atmosphere.

When you are choosing a vacuum cleaner, these are the main issues you need to address. They all have these aspects, but some will have more on one end than another. Obviously the main aspect is suction power. So let's talk a bit about suction power. Suction power isn’t something you can determine by price or name. Suction power is actually a sum of the fan's power, the type of cleaner it is and the seal on the cleaner. Within any type and brand you will have variations on both. Some are more powerful than others and some are less powerful but better sealed.

“Wait, what’s that?” you say. Well, part of the way a vacuum cleaner works is because it is a closed system. Air is sucked into the bag/cup and then emitted out. If there was no seal around the system, it would not be able to create enough power to suction up the dirt. You have no doubt noticed that the smaller the opening for the cleaner, the harder it will suck. This is physics actually. So those ads about cyclone cleaners "never lose their suction" is bunk. They do not lose suction any more or less than a bagged cleaner. What happens is that as the bag/cup gets full, the motor has to work harder because there is more resistance. So you will see that your cleaner is picking up less and harder to maneuver. But the motor cannot create a vacuum without an enclosed system. This is created by the hoses (which gets smaller) and the seal around whatever area holds the debris reservoir. When you open the compartment to retrieve the cup/bag, you are unsealing the cleaner. Some cleaners, especially bagged, seal through the entire front panel. This means that its easy for the cleaner to get less seal over time as the rubber around the panel begins to degrade. Some cleaners, like shop or wet-dry vacs seal around the top of the reservoir which due to the weight of the motor that sits on top creates a very solid seal. If you're curious about your own machine's seal, turn it on and then hold a piece of paper around it. Where the seal is, will probably pulls at the paper a little bit. If it pulls a lot, you have a bad or degrading seal.

Now let's talk about the brush. All I'm going to tell you is, it should roll easily. If it doesn't roll easily you will be sorry you bought this machine. No one should have to fight their cleaner to clean. Some vacuums are self-propelled (which is seriously nice, I swear its like the cadillac of vacuums) but most are not. IF the brush does not roll easily, if you have to lean on your vacuum to get it to move, either it needs to be cleaned or its for Arnold Schwarzenegger, not you.

So filters. All vacuums have filters. Read your manual. Even bagless have filters both disposible and reusable. You really will be happier with disposible paper filters. Washing a filter is just NOT what you want to be doing when its time to clean the house. If you have allergies, get HEPA filters and a machine that advertises as being HEPA. Hell, get it if you don't. HEPA filters are very nice.

Now, after suction, brush and filters, there are three more aspects to look at in order to determine which vacuum cleaner you want.

1. The retrieval system (cup, bag) is what determines how much you can do before needing to empty it out.

Cups generally don’t hold a lot but the size of the cleaner is a good indicator of the size of the cup - the bigger the cleaner the bigger the cup. Still, I’ve never used a cup cleaner yet that didn’t need to be emptied at least once during a job. Most times its a constant trip back and forth to the garbage can. This is why I bring my bagged cleaner to cleaning jobs. Bags can hold far more than a cup. If you have allergies, bagged will also be kinder to you. Cups create a huge dust blowback when you are emptying them unless you are supercareful to do it with a plastic bag tightly wrapped around it. Even so, I’ve always had issues with dust blowback using a cup. If you have a really small place, no pets and very little mess, a cup cleaner is fine. If you like having more than one cleaner then a cup cleaner can be fine as well for specific jobs like non-pet hair jobs. But if you have pets and/or several humans living in your space, I suggest you will not want a cup cleaner. Skin detritus is a difficult thing for cup cleaners to handle. Cyclone cleaners advertise that they don't have disposible filters but the problem with that is that people tend to think the filters they are are forever. I am sorry but if you have a cyclone cleaner, you will need to occasionally open it up, take it apart and clean the filtration system. And let me tell you it is a nasty messy business. The main filters are foam rubber so they must be washed with detergent and water. The rest of the filtration system consists of plastic cones and tubes punctured with tiny holes. Those holes get clogged (REALLY CLOGGED) with detritus that contains sebum and oils. Which means it sticks. I've had to use scrub brushes to clean those things out. Overall, cup cleaners are far more hassle than they are worth if you use your cleaner on a regular basis. If you have a one-bedroom apartment that you share with no one, a cup cleaner could last you a long time before you have to clean it out. By then you'll probably be ready for a new cleaner anyway. I, however, will stick with bagged.

2. The style (canister, upright, wet-dry, stick, handheld) is what determines how you can maneuver the cleaner around and to some extent, how much suction power you will get.

I hesitate to say the style will definitely determine the suction power because really there are plenty of exceptions to that rule. The fact is, the fan, motor and sealing determine your suction power and you cannot know any of those things until you try it out. An expensive model can have a lousy seal and a cheap model can have a powerful motor. So don’t go by price alone. Expensive models do tend to be better but I am talking about the REALLY expensive models like Oreck and Electrolux and Sanitaire. They are considered to be commercial or industrial cleaners and their price reflects that. The problem is in the middle ground. I have used many many different vacuum cleaners and aside from the high-end ones mentioned, I have not found any consistant quality within any one brand or model.

However, the *type* of cleaner can really make a difference. As mentioned, wet-dry vacs have a heavy-duty motor (for suctioning water) and a very tight seal. But wet-dry vacs are cumbersome to manuever and loud as holy hell. If you seriously need the most massive suction power and don't care about anything else, a wet-dry vac is the way to go. If you have back issues, a lot of furniture, and stairs, keep your wet-dry in the garage and get a cannister or upright.

Cannister cleaners are nice for low or no carpet. This is because most of them do not have a separately powered head for carpets. So shag or deep pile will essentially clog up the head and get very little done. That is the biggest flaw behind cannisters. Otherwise they are probably my favorite type of vacuum - they maneuver easily, they suction just awesome and the bag is plenty big enough and easy to dispose of. What's not to like? Sadly, I have deep carpet. So no cannister for me.

One type of upright is the stick or "electric broom". Its the weakest, most basic vacuum ever. Get one and keep it in your kitchen. Its nice for quick spills that aren't very big. Much like a handheld. dont' think you can use it to vacuum anything larger than a 2x2' area because the receptible for debris is very very tiny. And it wont' work on dust; the motor simply isn't powerful enough. Dust clings. Not many vacs can suck up dust actually. Not unless you are wading around in it. I don't have one because I use a broom. I'm just weird like that. My biggest beef with "quicksticks" is that they start looking grungy over time. I guess its because they're kept in the kitchen. Nobody cares if a broom looks grungy. But quicksticks kind of look nasty after a while, as do handhelds. I've cleaned a lot of handhelds.

Uprights are what most people have whether its bagged or cup. It is easier on your back than a vac with only a hose because even lovely little cannisters will get stuck on the carpet and you'll be wrenching the head free. Wet-dry's have no roller brush attachment that is worth a damned so forget those.

I have to tell you, there is no one upright that is "the best". MY $50 Bissell is fine. The seal around the front panel degrades quickly and the motor isn't the most powerful BUT its cheap and light to carry. Which is important to me since I carry it a lot in my jobs.

I will give you a secret though: I am a meticulous vacuumer so I do not need a machine with the mostest suction evar.

I bet you remember those commercials where they would "compare" two vacs? THey'd both vacuum up something then show how much was left behind? Then they'd use the advertised vac to suck up whatever the first vac left behind? Those commercials make me laugh. ALL vacuum cleaners leave something behind. ALL vacuum cleaners will suck up whatever they left behind when you pass them a second time. ITs a matter of timing. Some cleaners suction hard enough you can move quickly (but you'll be fighting the head more) but others suction lighter so you can move slower and with less work. If you adjust to your vacuum, you'll get pretty much the same performance.

Lastly, there is teh Roomba. Those things are great. So long as you don't have carpet and you don't have more than one floor, they are wonderful little machines. They will not substitute for a good washing though and thats the one beef I have with Roombas - people who own them seem to think they don't ever have to clean their floor again. A Roomba is a tiny vacuum, not a maid.

So far as choosing a vacuum cleaner, that's all there is to it.

Do you have deep shag carpet? A large brush roller and extra suction is what you’ll look for. Do you have pets? Attachments will be your friend. Do you have allergies? You need to be careful about your filters. Large house? Bagged. Small apartment? Bagless. Do you vacuum water? wet-dry vac. Fine particles? Hepa-equipped. No or low carpet but lots of tracked debris? Cannister. Wood floors only with no stairs? Roomba

Which leads me to the last but probably most important subject about vacuum cleaners and actually the whole reason I wanted to write this piece.


Your vacuum has hoses (they get clogged), roller brush (it gets gummed) and filters (they get nasty). You cannot simply ignore all those parts. ESPECIALLY the roller brush.

Let me share something with you:

See that? that was only one week of debris. ONE. Imagine what is wrapped around your roller brush right now. You might have to use scissors. I did. You might have to take the head apart and remove the roller brush (I've done this many times for clients) Do you want it to be worse? Bite the bullet and clean your roller brush.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Moment of the Week - Anniversary Date

We went to a steak house and had a wonderful dinner last night. Outside at the fountain, there was no one to take a picture, so a selfie has to do. Happy six years!


Saturday, August 16, 2014


We've been married six years today. The wedding was less than ideal, but the love was and is perfect. Happy anniversary to my husband!










Friday, August 15, 2014

Kids Don't Learn to Love Themselves In a Vacuum -- Contributor Post

With Monday's news, a lot of us on the team are trying to deal with our grief in our own ways. Today, Jerry Kennedy from Choosing the Truth looks to the future.


I had plans to write a different post today but, like many folks in my age bracket, the passing of Robin Williams on Monday rattled my cage. His death follows pretty closely on the heels of the suicides of three folks in my immediate circle of friends over the past year and a half, so maybe it’s hitting a little close to home. Whatever the reason, I’m a little sideways from all the reflection and thinking. Chances are pretty good that you are too. As evidence of exactly where my head is at, this post has already gone through three title revisions and I haven’t even finished the first paragraph.

I started out with “What I Want My Kids to Know.” It was going to be an inspirational list of life lessons that I plan on passing on to The Monkey and to any offspring of our own making that might one day happen on the scene. It was going to be a list of things for them to remember when the darkness seeped into their souls that would maybe, just maybe, cause them to reach for the phone instead of for a belt. Or a gun. Or a bottle of pills.

Then I expanded the title to “What I Want *All* Kids to Know,” because only a selfish prick would be concerned about just his own kids. The fact of the matter is that far too many kids have very little in the way of positive influences in their lives. Moms and dads who ignore them, or don’t have time for them, or who learned how to be dicks at the hands of their own parents and are just passing it along to the next generation. I wanted those kids to have the list, too.

And then I realized that my list really only had one thing on it. Only one item that I want all kids to know, no matter who they are or where they were born or what they grow up to be. Only one message:

Love yourself.

Some of you will be protesting at this point. “That’s so selfish!!” you say. “I want my children to love other people, not just themselves.” To you I say this: if you teach your kids to truly, deeply love themselves and that they are worthy of loving themselves by the very act of being born, you won’t have to worry about them demonstrating love for others. It will be second nature to them, and words and acts of love will flow from them like water from a bottomless well. They’ll be a blessing to everyone they meet.

Still others will be screaming that I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid of the “self-esteem” movement and that I’m enabling the “pussification of America’s kids.” To you I say this: go fuck yourselves. You seriously want to bitch that a bunch of five-year-olds got medals for playing soccer, even though they didn’t win, as if feeling good about playing is some kind of mortal sin if you didn’t earn it by winning the game? Yeah, you might be exactly what’s wrong with “kids these days.”

If you ask me, the “self-esteem” movement doesn’t go far enough, mostly because they focus on things that are external to the child (medals, awards, grades, etc.), instead of on teaching kids that they’re worthy just because they are. No need for external validation because, while it’s sometimes nice to have, it’s always temporary. Loving yourself should be a forever relationship, 24/7/365 until the day you die.

It’s no mystery why most people don’t feel that way about themselves. From the second we came into the world, most of us were were greeted by a family that did everything in their power to get us to conform. They weren’t being malicious; they were doing what they believed to be in our best interest: teaching us to comply, to not make waves, to fit in so that we would be acceptable to the people around us.

How can you learn to love yourself when you’re taught from the very beginning that you need to change who you are in order to be acceptable?   

Before you think I’m advocating a “no-discipline” policy, please understand me: I’m not talking here about your child’s behavior. Children absolutely need to know acceptable from unacceptable behavior. They need to learn about when certain behaviors are approriate and when they’re not (check out the article “We Don’t Play With Our Vulvas at the Table” for some great tips on that subject -

But they also need to learn that they are not their behaviors, that even when they do something unacceptable or socially inappropriate, they are still worthy of loving themselves. And that’s your job, mom and dad. That’s your job, stepparents. That’s your job, grandma and grandpa and aunt and uncle and teacher and neighbor and family friend. Don’t fuck it up.

I know it’s hard for a lot of us because we haven’t figured out how to love ourselves yet, let alone how to teach our kids to do it. But does the fact that you don’t know how to play the piano mean that you shouldn’t encourage your kids to pursue playing the piano if they have a knack for it? Or does the fact that you’re not good at math mean that you should tell your kids that math is stupid, even if they have a talent for it?

Most kids come into the world with a leaning towards self-love. It’s their natural state, a seed planted in each of them. All the seed needs is a little coaxing, a little encouragement, a little tending and watering. Before long, it will grow into a beautiful, strong tree at the core of their being, a tree that will bear fruit in the form of loving words and deeds.

In loving memory of Mork from Ork, the guy who taught me that it was okay to be a weirdo. Na-Nu Na-Nu.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Entertaining your kids in the car -- Guest Post

Home by Hank has some great ways to keep your kiddos entertained on long rides. Thanks, Hank!


Long car trips can be very tiring and stressful in and of themselves, but if you have to battle rush hour traffic or bored, screaming children in the backseat they can be downright torturous. Unfortunately, finding new ways to help your little ones stay entertained so you can concentrate on the road can be tedious, time-consuming and create a mess of your car. Before you head out for your next road trip with kids, here are a few easy ways to keep your kids entertained, your head clear and your car clean.

Books on tape:
Take your kids to the library and let them choose a book on tape. Your local library will have (or have access to) many age-appropriate books on tape for your kids. Allowing them to help choose what they want to listen to will nearly eliminate all fuss and grumbles when it’s time to pop the audio book in your vehicle’s CD player.  If your family can’t agree on anything at the library, Amazon has a wide selection of books on tape here that is conveniently organized by age group.

Car games:
Teach your kids the alphabet game – finding  all of the letters of the alphabet on road signs, licenses plates and trucks – the person who reaches letter Z first reigns supreme. You can also try 20 questions or “I Spy” for a tech-free distraction zone.
Nothing makes a road trip as fun as a good round of sing-a-long songs. Let your kids choose their favorite songs and give your vocal chords a workout. It’s not important if you are in tune or even if you get the words right! What is important is that you are spending time together and having fun as a family. You can make a game of it by encouraging the next person to choose the next song that starts with the same letter as the last letter in the last song or choose another song that has one word from the previous songs title (For example: Old McDonald had a Farm to Down on Grandpa’s Farm.)

Car art:
When you are driving a particularly long time, having several activities to keep the little ones entertained will go a long way to eliminating the “Are we there yet?” complaints. A car activity organizer, like the one found here, will help keep all of your children’s activities in one place. The fun thing about this particular product is that it unzips and folds into a lap table so your kids can color or draw on a sturdy surface. Simply slip it over the back of the front seat and your kids have access to whatever games and activities you have prepared.

Portable DVD players:
If you run out of non-tech entertainment, don’t feel too guilty. Consider investing in a pair of portable DVD players for your car or van.  Since this technology has been available for a few years now, the prices on these items are very reasonable (remember: silence is golden).  Allow each child to choose a movie to watch before switching it off and redirecting to other activities. Bring headphones for each child and you may even be able to listen to your favorite CD once or twice during your trip!

These are just a few tried-and-true techniques to keeping your children occupied during a long car ride.  If you have any other tips or tricks not mentioned, be sure to let us know down below in the comments!

Author Bio:  Hank McKinsey is a lifestyle how-to blogger and SAHD located in Central California.  When he’s not at his computer blogging, he can be found at the park with his two Maltese or on the tennis court with his wife.  Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to.



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