Stuck at home: Are the kids bored?

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Walking around the neighborhood.

I’m on day 29 of sheltering in place. I think about parents who used to drop their kids off to school and go to their offices. Now they’re home — with their kids — trying to teach and do their jobs. How do they do it all? I fortunately am not in that situation. I have myself to keep going and I don’t have kids at home who are bored or need to be taught.

I ran into an interesting article on this subject written by psychologist John Rosemond called LIVING WITH CHILDREN: Bored kids at home? Stop parenting. You can read the entire article in the Gazette-Virginian by clicking here.

Here are a few excerpts:

One website is titled “How to Cope with Kids During Coronavirus.”

Another, featuring a staged photo of an obviously frazzled mom with a toddler on her lap, tells the reader that “Parents are losing their minds having kids at home during coronavirus!”

There’s yet another, advising on “How to Keep Kids Entertained During the Crisis.”

On and on it goes, website after website counseling parents on how to deal with being confined at home with one’s kids.

The early 21st century may be remembered as the “Age of the Personal Soap Opera.” A person makes a soap opera out of a life situation, claims victimhood, garners sympathy, manufactures more soap opera, garners more sympathy, and so on. Soap opera begets soap opera. Forty-plus years of counseling experience has taught me that once a person becomes caught in the soap opera loop, it is harder than hard to get out.

For thousands of years, it was normal for children to be at home. It never occurred to parents that they might need “support” or advice to deal with that circumstance. Everyone was in the same sturdy boat. Furthermore, the boat had two paddles and was helmed by one or two adults who obviously knew how and in what direction to row. No one went running pell-mell down the road screaming that their kids had pushed them over the edge.

Rosemond explains in his article that the concept of “parenting” is new. Parenting is putting our children in the center of our lives. We live to make things easier for them. We want them to be happy and not struggle. It’s not that our parents didn’t care, they understood viewed their role as a parent differently. They new life was never perfect and at times hard. They understood that their number one job was to get us out of the nest and to be able to fly on our own.

Here’s a bit more of the article that I seriously can relate to, since my mom was the queen of chore lists:

Growing up, I was blessedly deprived of a mother who “parented.” My non-parenting mother, who was a single parent during most of my first seven years, did not put me at the center of her attention and hardly felt it was her job to keep me occupied. That responsibility fell squarely on my little shoulders.

“Bored, eh? If you can’t find something to do, I’ll find something for you to do.”

And just like that, I found something to do, knowing that Mom’s solution would not be at all to my liking, as in “You’re going to wash the kitchen floor and if you’re still bored, I have plenty of other things with which to un-bore you.”

Chores were a part of my daily life as a kid as well.  But I wasn’t given a choice of entertaining myself or doing chores. Chores came first, then we got to play. Also, my mom had a secret weapon. A timer. We practiced piano to the timer. We weeded to the timer. We vacuumed to the timer. And then she had the nerve to tell us that we had it so much easier than she did as a kid. I’m sure she’s right. We had all those new-fangled inventions like washing machines, dryers and refrigerators. She grew up in the day of ice boxes where an ice truck delivered chunks of ice to keep the food cold and wringer washers.

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A wringer washer

For parents who are home with their children, it’s a perfect opportunity to instill some chores into their daily routines. I do believe a routine is helpful to get through the days that seem to run together.

What type of chores are you having your kids do while you’re sheltering in place? What games, books or other activities are they doing to keep from getting bored?

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Who can be bored with this nugget around?

Learn more about family psychologist John Rosemond at johnrosemond.comparentguru.com.

 

Day 17: It’s a Good Day to Shelter in Place

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The Wellness Park during my morning walk.

I’m in a great mood today! I finally sent off the last of four magazine stories that were on deadline. It fills like a great weight has flown off my shoulders. WooHoo! Now what?

I feel like I can do all the things I’ve been wanting to do, but didn’t have any time, like cleaning out the laundry room, my closet, do the taxes and make tamales with my daughter. We’re also going to try DIY pedicures later today.

The stories I’ve been working on were for trade magazines and I found them interesting, but challenging. I had to call to interview various business during “Shelter in Place” for most of the nation. I made a ton of calls to get a very few live people on the phone. Mostly businesses have a message that they are closed due to COVID-19. But, I eeked out enough and talked with some very interesting people. I learned how they are coping with these strange and uncertain times in places around the country very different from where I live. It was educational to say the least.

Now that I’m done, I’m proud to report that our Shelter in Place is going well. We are all getting along. That’s remarkable, since we have three adults working under one roof.

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Too much raw pork makes pup’s tummy ache.

The only problem we encountered was Waffles, who ate last night’s dinner of pork chops while it was defrosting. I had the package out on the counter. My husband moved it into the sun on a bench in the back yard. Waffles jumped up and ate a pound of raw pork and plastic wrap while nobody was watching! He’s finally getting back to normal a day later.

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My new scarf-mask look when I leave the house.

What’s going on in your part of the country with Coronavirus? Are you sheltering in place and working from home? 

 

Day 14: Shelter in Place

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Waffles heard he had to shelter in place for another month.

I’m a little disappointed. I was doing fine with shelter in place and we made it for two weeks without much of a hitch. Then today, when I thought we’d have a couple more weeks to go, we hear on the news that it will be another month. At least.

Truly, I’m thankful for so many things. My daughter is home with Waffles. We have our health, so far. I did have a fever and sore throat for a couple days which led to some scary thoughts. My imagination and worry had me taking my temperature every hour and waking up in the night to take its some more. I’m never one to slow down when I’m sick. But I went to bed and stayed there for the better part of two days. So, maybe bed rest is a good thing when you’re not feeling well? Who knew?

I also read two books during my hours or rest that I can highly recommend: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. 

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I’m going to be here for how long?

The weather is gorgeous. We’re all thankfully working and able to do so from home. Things are not that bad. The news is scary and the unknown is worse. How long will this last? How many people will get sick or die? Is it going to hit us personally with our friends and loved ones?

In the meantime, I will share a few pet peeves about Sheltering in Place. One, we lost the garage clicker and one fob for a car complete with necessary keys. We have no idea where they are. They disappeared around Day Two of Shelter in Place.

Next, I have a relatives and friends who are thankfully keeping me up-to-date on how everyone in Washington state is doing with Coronavirus. But every message includes a political swipe. I also see this on Facebook from friends and on Twitter from complete strangers. I don’t like the constant complaining and griping during such scary times of a global pandemic. I think we need to take this time to be grateful for each other, realize what we do have — and try to come together. Maybe it’s because people are angry and fearful in these uncertain times and they need to vent their frustrations. Just my penny’s worth.

One other thing, I’m jealous of my friends who are sheltering in place but not working. They are clearing out their homes like there’s no tomorrow. Literally. I’m working everyday and only get to clean out the occasional cupboard or two. If I can get my writing assignments done soon, I’ll be clearing out junk and organizing with the best of them.

How are you getting through the Coronavirus? Have you been sheltering in place and for how long?

 

A Stinky Day in Paradise: Literally

I’m reposting a pet story from the two months my daughter was studying abroad. I’m enjoying looking back at what I’ve written about our pets while we are in “shelter in place” for the Coronavirus. Pets make our lives better and it’s easier to cope in these strange times with a cuddling creature. A neighbor I chat with on my morning walks just adopted two Irish Setter pups and I can’t wait to meet them. I also read that the animal shelters are having record numbers of adoptions. I think that is a wonderful consequence to COVID-19.

Here’s the story when I was in charge of Waffles over the summer of 2018 and loved most of it — except the day we lost him camping — and the day that really stunk! Here’s what happened on that stinky day:

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Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing I’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside. We tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like burning chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

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Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

Warning: Adorable Pug Puppy Pics

It’s Day 10 of Shelter in Place and I’m posting my pet stories this week because our wonderful cats and dogs relieve stress, make us smile, and add generally to our health. Here’s the story of Waffles the Pug and how he’s added to our lives.

Three years ago, my husband and I drove up to the high desert and adopted this adorable creature our daughter named Waffles. At the time, she was going through anxiety and we felt this puppy’s unconditional love and enjoyment would benefit her. Some questioned whether a college student could handle a pup, but we did our best to train him for a few months before she took him to school. We did our research and learned that pugs are the perfect “apartment dogs” because they sleep all day when their owners are gone at work or school. 

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Waffles at 12-weeks old.

I think we bit off more than we can chew! We thought it would be nice for our daughter to have a companion in the form of an animal. She’s out of state in college and busy with academics plus D1 swimming, and we thought a puppy would bring a lot of joy and fun into her daily life.

She asked permission of her landlord, and even though her lease says “no pets,” he agreed to a small dog. We decided the puppy would be a present for Christmas.

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Waffles turned into a pancake when I tried to walk him.

Our daughter wanted a pug and thinks they are so cute. They are. I’ll agree to that. We looked into suitable breeds, and besides the two negatives of snoring and shedding, pugs appear to be an easy-going breed requiring very little care.

But the puppy thing. I’m on day five and I think puppy is winning the battle. It’s like having an infant again. I have to watch him constantly. He doesn’t sleep through the night, and when he’s crawling on his belly through the yard, I never know what is going to end up in his mouth. I knew we were in for trouble when we drove Waffles home for an hour and a half drive. He was squirming all the way, nipping and licking my neck and fingers. Finally, as we drove into town he fell asleep. That’s what my son would do in his car seat during long drives.

I’m crate training, potty training and my daily life suddenly got very busy and tiring. Why we think our daughter can handle this is beyond me. Of course, she does have youth on her side. And Waffles is so darn cute!

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Olive the cat is not sure about any of this. What did we do???

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Waffles was famous for a day on “We Rate Dogs” Twitter account in his doggles.

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Graduation from College!

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Waffles was enjoyed by the university marketing department.

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I’m thrilled to say that prior to the shelter in place mandate in California, Waffles and my daughter drove eight hours from the Bay Area to home. Waffles is helping us all during these stressful times. I walk with him for two to three miles before I sit down to work each morning. He’s giving us all sorts of love and fun. I wish my daughter and Waff would stay forever, but they do need to get on with their lives….at some point.

Who Makes Us Happier? Cats or Dogs?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on eight years. We got her when my son left for college. He’s allergic to cats so we waited until he was out of the house. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though Olive would do well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. We figured Olive likes her life here and I don’t think she’d do well to move to a new house. So, Olive remains my only pet now. I like it that way.

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 studylinked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs, too, but currently are empty-nesters as far as the pups go. My daughter has Waffles the pug, who I get to babysit occasionally. I raised him from puppyhood for several months until she was able to come home and take him.  It’s kind of what I think grand-parenting will be like. I love having Waffles around and then I miss him when he’s gone. But, I don’t miss the daily responsibility.

Growing up we had big dogs. Golden retrievers, a doberman, German shorthair pointers and a yellow lab. As adults, my husband and I got Natasha as a gift from good friends. She was a rottie and a housewarming gift for our first home. That was before kids and she did make us happy. She was our baby.

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Natasha and my kids

Next pet was when someone found a kitten in their car engine on their way to work, and I ended up taking the poor sweet kitty home. That was Peabody, our second pet named for the cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle. Next came Sherman, who was a black cat that lived with us from kitten-hood to 17 years old when she wandered out of our yard and got attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Ugh. After we said good-bye to Natasha, we got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert. (I wrote about Angus here.) Angus lived until the ripe old age of 15.

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie, and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

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Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

Silly Cat: Olive Bear and Her Misadventures

During this crazy time of COVID 19 and “shelter in place” there’s nothing but doomsday on the news. I’m revisiting my favorite stories of cats and dogs written in years’ past. For some reason, kittens and puppies can brighten people’s moods, so I’m trying to do my fair share. Here’s the story of Olive Bear our cat along with her baby pic.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

Yesterday evening, when it was dark outside, my husband said he needed some nutrition bars to take to work. I got in the car to go to the store. I heard a faint scratching noise in the back seat. I wasn’t sure what it was.

The noise made me slightly uncomfortable as I backed out of the garage.

It sounded like the speaker had a little rasping noise. I turned off the radio. The scratching noise continued. Maybe it was a mouse or a rat? It definitely sounded like an animal of some kind!

I put the car in park, opened the door, and jumped out. I threw open the door to the back seat. I saw something gray dart around. It moved so fast it was a blur.

The creature moved to the front passenger seat and began scratching at the window to get out. It was Olive the cat.

kittens-in-carThe car is a hybrid so it had been silent, but at that moment the engine roared on. The poor cat was terrified. After she scrambled around, I managed to shoo her out the driver’s side door.

I called for her, but she was gone. She stayed out all night after that adventure. My guess is she was hiding in our hedge. Fortunately, this morning she returned home, safe and sound. She’s been clinging to my side ever since.

This was the second time she got into the car. I wonder what her fascination is with cars?

I also wonder how and when she gets in?

Our dog Angus used to love to ride in cars. He’d jump in anyone’s car if the door was open. Even the neighbor’s car. But, I’ve never known a cat to like to cars before. Have you?

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Please share your cat or dog photos or amazing animal stories in the comments below. We’d all like to see them!