Tweens at Work: Summer Updates

It has been a crazy summer around here these last few months. First, I must update the The Prodigal Cat has returned. He was looking very well kept and fed so we suspect maybe he had made his home somewhere else and perhaps the guilty party had second thoughts when they saw our signs all over the neighborhood. Needless to say, we’re doing our best to turn him into an indoor cat these days!


Another big piece of news is that I haven’t done a load of dishes since June 30th. Let me tell you, it’s delightful. Yep, I finally wised up and put my children to work this summer. Off and on we’ve tried allowances and chores but no system ever seemed to stick and so I’d be back to schlepping their stuff and cleaning up after them all day every day.

This summer we have a new allowance system that is chore dependent but we’ve gone one step further. While there are certain things, like dishes and trash and laundry, that they get their payment for, the payment doesn’t come at all if their rooms aren’t neat and their toys and accessories aren’t put away at the end of the day. So far, it’s been amazing. Not only are they cleaning the kitchen, but every night before bed they’re scanning the house to put all their crap back where it belongs. No more Lego accidents at midnight or tablets plugged into every outlet in my living room. Genius!

See? Ready to Work!

See? Ready to Work!

You would think all this chore activity would give me some free time to blog more, but alas it does not seem to have done that trick. I have a bunch of piece in draft form but they need a bit more research so I’m putting my kids to work on that too. There are some books and apps that I want to recommend to fight summer slag but I figured they would be that much better recommended after my kids gave their input, so this week they’ll be “playing” on the computer at mom’s request. They’re over the moon at the prospect!

There you have it-mid-summer brings all our cats to the yard and my dishes are sparkling clean with  my manicure still in tact!

Not a bad way to send July packing.


Saying Goodbye to Our Pet…Maybe?

wendellSeven years ago, after an out-0f-state-move that never came to pass,  we adopted a giant grey cat from a shelter. I chose him because my then 1 year old came with me into the “meeting room” and kept trying to yank the cat by the tail to drag him closer for hugs. The cat did nothing but allow himself to be dragged so I figured he was the perfect pet for 3 small children.

He was.

For over a year he was an indoor cat. He never even attempted to get out except for once where get got so scared he literally clung to the side of our brick home like an ornamental fixture.

Imagine our surprise then when we moved to New Jersey and he started knocking out window screens to get outside. We fought it for a while, but eventually gave in to save our rental property from certain damage! Grifcat

For the last five years he has roamed our neighborhood daily, always returning at night for a meal and a good overnight snuggle in one of four beds. Every now and then he’d disappear for more than one night, but always just long enough to make me nervous before he’d saunter back onto the porch with the swagger of a man who’s eaten two or three dinners.

When we introduced the dog into the house, he was not thrilled. In fact, the dog mostly ignores him but the cat still hates even being in the same room.  He’s managed to stake out new territory that the dog was forbidden from, and the yard was always his for the taking as we walked the pooch to do his business. kidsandcat

Lately, we’ve been training Riggins to play fetch. We let him off leash in our back yard and sometime during the game he always has to relieve himself. He has two spots (sorry grass) that he pick every time so he’s not marking the whole yard, but he has marked some.

And our cat has disappeared.

The timing doesn’t match perfectly, so my theory may be a total miss. We started taking the dog in the yard at the beginning of summer and our cat started staying out a few extra days here and there. But still, he returned for meals and was still sleeping in beds. We just figured he was adjusting again to life with this new family member. After all, he still gets fed and loved on regularly and he wears identifying tags and a collar so a stray he clearly is not.

Yet, here we sit with missing cat posters and broken hearts.

_152Spring09The kids and I have decided he’s moved on to a place where he has free reign and no pesky German Shepherds who always want to play with him. We’re trying to accept that over two weeks gone probably means he isn’t coming back. We’ve all cried and we’ve called and reported to everyone we can think of. We’re trying to say goodbye the only way we know how.

While still checking the yard every morning and night for our friend to return.

It’s some kind of crazy pet limbo. It stinks a lot.

Enjoy the Silence

Not a bad place to be quiet and listen.

Not a bad place to be quiet and listen.

This week, I’m at  what I’ve jokingly referred to all summer as “church camp”.  The real name is One Bread One Cup Youth Leadership Conference at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana. St. Meinrad is home to Benedictine Monks so there has been a good deal of chanting happening this week. There has also been unprecedented kindness (Mid-West you have earned your reputation with me), incredible grace shown through the high school and college kids who run this show as well as the participants, and of course, there has been a whole lot of quiet.

Let me repeat, there has been a lot of time for silence.

How often does that happen in my world? I’ll tell you, about as often as I hang out with Monks. So, yeah, never.

My view all week. I think the sky is a special kind of blue here.

My view all week. I think the sky is a special kind of blue here.

It has been interesting to watch what has happened to me as the week has gone on. The first few days I was wildly unsettled. My phone has terrible reception. There is no television and my room, while lovely, is a study in simplicity, so distractions are very few. I am clearly someone who is used to distractions, which would explain why I was on edge for two days. Soon enough though, I settled into all the thinking time and started to question why I was so uncomfortable with it. I got some answers I didn’t really like but luckily there was still plenty of quiet to work that out too.

Now I’m here on the eve of returning to “normal” and I’m finding I am anxious again. I’ve rather learned to enjoy the silence. It turns out being quiet allows time for exponential growth through listening and really hearing what is around you. I have promised myself when I return home to build myself some silence into my day. I don’t need to fill the time with chanting prayer or even quiet contemplation. I just need to enjoy the quiet and really listen to whatever I am meant to hear.

Reinvention and ID Theft

LifeLockLast week I had the great fortune of hearing my money-hero speak. Jean Chatzky has been my personal money guru since we started to get ourselves out of the mega-money jam of aught 9. (She hates the term guru. She told me herself. We’re besties now.)  I could gush for the entire page about how much I admire her intelligence and the way she balances financial know-how with feminine sensibilities and more than a little style. But I won’t gush. It’s not attractive. I should know, I gushed unapologetically when I chatted with her face to face.

The reason that I won’t go on and on about all things Jean Chatzky isn’t because it’s annoying (it is), but rather because the topic she was speaking about is so important, I have to address it first.

I spend a great deal of my life online, not just here, at the blog but elsewhere on the great big internets as well. I love the convenience of apps on my tablets and phones and the older I get the more it seems I shop from behind a screen. I have always been a little wary about internet security, but for a very long time, no one would have wanted my identity so I didn’t spend too much time worrying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always taken precautions, but I never thought it could happen to me.

Here is the simple truth: it can happen to any of us, and it isn’t just as easy as a stolen credit card. Identity thieves literally steal your life and then make it a living hell.

The stories from a LifeLock study on Identity Theft were harrowing. People went years without knowing the full extent of the damage being caused to their credit. Some even told tales of their children’s identity being stolen years before the kids were even old enough to need to to know.

What does identity theft have to do with reinvention, you ask? Well, it turns out the times you may be most susceptible are times when you’ve reinvented yourself. Newlyweds, New Parents, Newly Single and New Homeowners are among the most in danger of having their identity stolen, simply due to the amount of information they are sharing with broad audience.

So what can we do?

A few things, it turns out.

  1. Watch what you share and with whom. It should go without saying, but know that nothing is ever really private. Turns out, it’s not just passwords and sitekeys thieves go after. Really what they do is gather as much information as they can about a person so they can piece together a complete identity. Sharing a picture of the new house? Hide the address. How about your sweet newborn’s face with the instagram world? That picture may alert someone to a new baby social security number to locate. Tweeting about a sweet new pair of shoes you scored on sale? Keep location out of the photo. Shopping habits, inadvertent locations, children’s names can all be pieces of a thieve’s puzzle. Guard them online as well as you do IRL.
  2. Check Your Credit. It’s often hard to know if you’ve had any problems if you don’t know what your credit report looks like. I check mine pretty obsessively because it has been my job for the last five years to build my credit score (Also, Jean Chatzky told me to). You should make it your job too. Know your credit so you know if someone is trying to wreck it. You can do it for free so there’s really no excuse.
  3. Vary your passwords. I mean, duh, right? This seems like a no brainer, but I was pretty shocked to learn the number one password is still ABC123. Seriously, people? Surprise, surprise, Ms. Chatzky had a suggestion for passwords wherein you think of an important sentence then use the first letters of each word along with a number and symbol for a pretty hack-proof password. I know, I know, it’s impossible to remember a million different passwords for your million different accounts. I’d argue it’s a heck of a lot easier to remember passwords than it is to try to rebuild your identity after it’s been hacked an stolen.


LifeLock invited me to lunch to hear the results of their study on identity theft. All opinions are my own.  LifeLock is a company that offers services to keep your credit safe or restore it if it’s too late. There is a lot you can do on your own, but LifeLock is an extra step for extra security.