Testing My Endurance

It was so hot and steamy in there that I could feel sweat drip down the back of my calves. CALVES! Whose calves sweat anyway? Certainly not mine before, there’s nothing touching them. Except the plastic Tyvek hazmat suit I was inside of, which breathed about as well as a ziploc bag. Plus my face mask kept steaming up so that I’d have to use a tissue to wipe it clear in order to see out of it. But I’m not thinking about the rising temperature of the day, or even pending dehydration. I’m waiting for the next car to pull up.



Months ago, when Baltimore County had opened up drive through Covid-19 testing centers I “volunteered” (still paid, but not a part of my normal duties, and no one would force me to do it) to test. After 16yrs of telephonic desk nursing, I just wanted to feel like a real clinical nurse again. So I volunteered, twice actually, and I waited. And waited. Finally, I found out who was scheduling the testers, e-mailed her myself, and pushed to be put on the schedule. There were school nurses, and community nurses who could no longer do home visits, also being used in line ahead of me. But I wanted to be able to look back 30yrs from now and I say I got involved, so I did.

My first morning showing up at the testing site I found myself at the Donning Station where all the clean supplies were ready and waiting. I was given a white, plastic based hazmat suit to step into, and there were firemen waiting to duct tape my base layer of purple plastic gloves to my suit. They made sure to fold back small tabs on each piece of tape so that I could remove them myself afterwards.


Next came the blue plastic apron over my head, arms through, tying in the back. Then my mask (I had driven to the fire department to be sized for it last month), hairnet, pull my hazmat hood over my head, place the plastic face shield on my head, and finally, a second pair of plastic gloves. For the next four hours I would not eat, drink, or use the bathroom. Unless I wanted to waste PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and have all eyes on me as I doff my garments, then re-don them upon my return, as everyone else continues working and toughing it out. No thanks, I’ll wait.


We all have jobs, and are assigned to one of six lanes of traffic. I am paired with another nurse, who quickly teaches me the simple test requirements of the lab kit we are using that day. Today’s kits were manufactured by Labcorp, and only required a Q-tip to be inserted less than an inch and rotated for 15 seconds per nare. Much less painful than the original test kit, requiring a long swab to reach the back of the sinus cavity through the nostrils. That one hurts! But each day we use whichever kit we are given and proceed according to directions.


In the beginning the time moved fast. We nurses only test, as there are other people who fill out lab slips, run the samples to the cooler, direct traffic, and monitor supplies.  I hear stories of the week before, when there were about a thousand people in line (literally) and the cars were turning around and leaving because the wait was so long. It was the first day you didn’t need a doctor’s referral to come. Meaning, the first day people without insurance could be tested.

This day, about a week after that, the line was starting to space out and we even had 5-10 minutes between cars in our lane to sit down. My feet hurt. The guy next to me, the one who took my photo so I could remember this event even though I’m unable to have access to my phone, is a volunteer from the community. He works in HR during the day, and his mom raises standard poodles. He tells me about birthing poodles. His job here was moving the giant orange cone from in front of each car that tells the driver where to stop. It sounds boring, but the following week no one filled that position (the racism riots in the country took the National Guard away from directing traffic into our lanes, so those roles had to be filled first, and we ran out of volunteers), and it was a major pain to do it in gloves. You don’t want to touch the traffic cone in potentially COVID-19 dirty gloves, but once you touched it the gloves weren’t really clean either, so at what point in the testing process could you touch the traffic cone? It is ridiculously hard to put two plastic gloves on over top of each other, spraying hand sanitizer between pairs. I felt bad about all that waste.

The following week, the line was even more sparse. Administration added an hour to our shift (ugh, it’s now June and Baltimore is heating up), and cancelled the second shift. There is a longer wait between cars, so I start asking questions to those who have been here since the beginning. The (white) people with insurance all came at the start of the pandemic, which explained why I am now mostly seeing immigrants, undocumented,  and as always, the elderly. They scare us with their driving. The other nurse and I each test kids in forward facing car seats, and they don’t even cry.  But those two were the only little ones to come through. Not many children.

The process is that when a car comes through the gates to the fairgrounds they are given a piece of red paper placed on the windshield for each person in the car needing testing without an appointment. A green sheet for everyone needing testing with an appointment. Then they are to follow the lane of cones to the testing building (the Cow Palace) and there someone directs them into one of our six lanes. They drive in, a sign is held up telling them to turn off their engine (for our safety) and keep the windows up (for everyone’s safety). Place your drivers license up to the glass for ID and test result contact info. Phone numbers and birth dates are verbally confirmed through the glass. But people get confused and love rolling down their windows. By the time we get them to put them back up (the people taking contact info only have an apron and mask on) the information is usually captured on the lab slip, and it’s time to be swabbed. So I hold up a sign asking them to roll the window back down. For some reason in the new cars that don’t require a key in the ignition, NO ONE can put their windows down without starting their car. Now it’s a safety hazard again. We had one old lady come in to test without putting the car in park. Heaven knows how much she could see over her mask, let alone if she wasn’t feeling well.

But so far I have yet to see anyone cough or complain of symptoms. Most are just returning to work and need a negative test result.  In my contact tracing training by the CDC online, a person must be within 6ft of an infected person for 15 minutes to be considered exposed. I spend an average of 40 seconds with each person. Even in a car of multiple people (and the truck I had to crawl into the rear middle seat to reach the toddler in a car seat), I spend less than 5 minutes total exposed before we send them on their way. I’m not worried about exposure with all this PPE. I hand each person a paper bag with information in it and instructions on retrieving their test results online.

It is the PPE that makes testing so physically brutal. All nurses know what it feels like to go 6-8hrs without food or bathroom breaks. But to have a plastic mask on your face for even an hour is much more uncomfortable to me than those days as a busy floor nurse. Especially on a slow days. Slow and uncomfortable is the worst. Having air on your face makes a huge difference when doing a task, it’s kinda surprising.


But the lines are slowing down considerably now, and more urgent care clinics are offering tests, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the County testing centers close sooner rather than later. I sure hope so, because July, in Baltimore, in a hazmat suit, is a lot to ask.  We close 15 minutes early and head to the Doffing Station. We stand in trash bags as the firemen assist us in taking off the dirty layers first, then the clean, and finally, we keep our mask and face shield and spray them down with sanitizer and bleach wipes. We’ll use those masks five times, or until they fall apart. I stick mine in a ziplock bag, where it will stay until next week. Any germs I missed will be long dead.

There’s water, soda, and boxed lunches for the workers. I never make it out of the parking lot before I eat and drink. Mostly drink. The eating there is just to avoid the ruckus that awaits me at home. I still have cases to work and calls to make for my real job. But the most important thing I will be doing for the rest of the day is re-hydrating. I’m blasted! But I’ll happily do it again next week. After all, it isn’t everyday you get to be a part of history.



I know I look grumpy, but I’m just tired and needing water.


Flinging Cats on Movie Night

I can not tell you how many times, and for what assortment of reasons, I have thrown live cats at my husband. But let me assure you, in 12 years of marriage, no animals have been injured or abused. At the most, some were left mildly perplexed.

See, it all began with Family Game Night. A compromise with the children who begged for a Family Movie Night, but due to their desperate pleas to be allowed to swim in freezing cold water during winds strong enough to elicit a small craft advisory, dinner was an hour and a half later than usual. Not enough time for a movie. But, thanks to the creative powers of public schools and the endless limitations of online education, the children had a new game they wished to play with us instead called Find It. The rules were simple. One person calls out something the others must locate from anywhere in the home, and present back to their lap. First one to Find It wins, and becomes the caller. It’s pretty easy online. It’s annoyingly harder when you are all in the same room with the same objects!

It began with me requesting something that starts with the letter Q. That transpired in to Manchild asking us to find something “old”, and Girlchild asking us to find “a nail polish color that would look good on Grover dog.” That lead to Manchild rummaging through her bedroom (she is the only one in the house owning nail polish), which to her abject horror, she learned about only after he brought her the requested polish. Am I the only one not seeing the benefit of thinking things through here?

But the real winner tonight was when Captain Schenanigans asked us to bring him a live yellow cat. Of which, of course, we only had one. Jax. And there were three of us. So, I lay on the sofa and watched the children tumble their way down the stairs to search the den, or Girlchild’s room, or anyplace mircofleece has been tossed down. After a moment of silence, I remembered the cat bed was in MY room, just down the hall. I stand up, and begin moseying down the hall just as the first child bounds up the stairs, and down the hall behind me. I reach the cat bed first, extricate the feline from said slumber containment unit, and hold him high above my head.

By this point, the second child has crashed into the room and has joined the first kid jumping at my shoulders. I am just hoping my arms are longer than the cats legs, as his claws and my eyeballs are dangerously close to one another. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to be in a “thinking clearly” sorta mood at this point. Cat high above my head with his belly soft and limp, I start my retreat to the living room with one dangling yellow cat, who seems to be stretching at an alarming rate!

By this point the young ’ems have figured out they are not tall enough to reach our prized pet, and have started a defensive technique instead. One of my loving children, I strongly suspect Manchild who tackles like an NFL player, throws their arms around my waist, launches all their weight against me, and attempts to drag me backward.  The other, I believe though I can’t clearly recall in the fog because at some point I started closing one eye to protect it from any swinging claws, seems to be alternating between hanging off my shoulder with grabby hands, and joining child #1 in their tackling attempts. At this point I have 166lbs of opposition pressing against me, and 10lbs of confusion hanging above my head, and my arms are getting tired.

I lock my elbows to protect my eyes, and slog forward into the dining room. My footless onsie pj’s are sleek against the sweaty mitts of my offspring, and their hands slide down my waist as I walk.  I think I see a flash of my husband’s red shorts near the finish line and joy surges in my chest. But when I look up he is gone. Darnit!! I’m not sure I can go any further, and he just added another 4 feet on to my expedition (later he admitted to coming into the hallway to watch the noisy racket like some smug spectator, but refused to assist my win, choosing instead to hustle back to his recliner and make me complete the entire journey). For this he shall pay.

I narrowly make it through the dining room, pivot 300 degrees on my right heel and face the corner of the living room. I then  hurl the cat with all my might at the no longer smug looking man comfortably observing from the lounge chair. Shockingly to us all, after a complete 180 of yellow fur though the air and around the corner, this priceless tabby is gently caught, safely and snuggly, in the massive arms of Captain Schenanigans. There’s no meowing or clawing. Truth be told, Jax doesn’t seem all that worked up about his flight!

Jax the cat did opt not to stay in the room with us upon gaining his freedom, he seemed to have time sensitive things to attend to in the basement after all. However, later in the evening, as I found him lounging upon Captain Schenanigan’s pillow in silent revenge, he really appeared no worse for the wear. For as much as I feared his claws digging into my flesh as I carried him like a shedding torch though my home, I never actually felt anything sharp. So while lesser cats may have panicked and clung to my wrists, it may be entirely possible that Jax the Charming has become used to our schenanigans, and even developed a low grade tolerance to the ruckus that becomes us. I know I sure have!


Some Days Are Stones.

David Ramsey, pastor of Rock Springs Community Church in Cortez, Colorado (not the finance guy, though both men are full of wisdom) used to say “Some days are diamonds, others are stones”.  Unfortunately, today just felt like pea gravel.

Apart from being cold and annoyingly rainy (JUST enough to make walking the dog uncomfortable, though not nearly as uncomfortable as quarantining with a un-walked dog), the day actually started out fairly OK. Virtual school in the morning, Girlchild had her class and Manchild did some online work. We are working on his handwriting right now, and so he has to write 4 sentences daily. At first he hated it, then we turned those sentences in to letter writing, and now he’s fully on board. Actually, he had been writing letters to friends and cousins, but after running out of those he turned to writing encouraging notes to our neighbors. Especially one elderly woman whose mother had just died, and he penned his love and affection for her and her dog, after telling her he was sorry her mother passed. I do love this 8-year-old boy!

Friday is the day our cleaner comes (I know my weaknesses, and seek help when needed). Cristina has become a friend, and I am SO proud of her for launching her own business, Fresh and Shine Cleaning Services, newly licensed and insured! However, this means the kids and I need to scamper out of her way, while Captain Schenanigans hides under the stairs working in his dungeon. So we got sandwiches from Subway and ate them in the car while I read aloud from The Magic Bicycle chapter book.

We stopped for groceries and snowballs (for you non-Marylanders, picture a sno-cone or shave ice with flavor pumped on to it, and maybe marshmallow topping), then high tailed it home to catch Manchild’s online class.  We got there just as Cristina was wrapping up, and she gave us a shiny new folder with the name of her newly minted company on it. Inside was information including her new website: http://www.freshandshinecleaningservices.com,  which is a huge step for her.

She asked me to leave a review, which I did. Then I perused her gallery of photos and low and behold, there was Manchild’s old room with a before and after picture (he has since moved to a different room)! Wow! I did not expect to see that. It makes sense, there is definitely a dramatic change every Friday in this house. But to see your home as an example of “dirty” online is not adding the polish to today’s diamond. Oh well, I hope it helps her gain clients. To be fair, that rug doesn’t get any cleaner than she got it, and those stains weren’t coming clean no matter how much she vacuums.

Manchild’s conference call started off educational, then at the last minute switched to a fun game where the teacher called out for the kids to find something (old, red, flat, whatever), and they race off to be the first to bring it to show the class.  Girlchild seems to be causally observing, when I hear “Something with holes? Mom’s laundry basket!” And before I knew it the entire second grade class was staring at my dirty laundry.

“Uh, Girlchild? Tell me my unmentionables were not visible, please. ”

“Oh, I don’t think so, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

*Facepalm* Carry on.

Soon Manchild’s class was over (I can always tell when it ends from anywhere in the house because I loudly hear him asking “CAN I GO NOW? CAN I?)”  That’s my boy. Crazy smart, can fix things with his hands to rival any businessman, but academia was not holding his interests. I’m on the phone when he comes into the kitchen, opens the freezer, and pulls out a bag of half used frozen peas. I motion that he was certainly welcome to eat them and was silently pleased that my urging for healthy food choices was FINALLY influencing his decisions.

Until something whizzed past my leg. Or I thought it did. It was hard to tell. Until the dog, standing in the foyer, turned his head to look at something flying past in him as well. I hear a few more things hit the hardwood in the living room before Manchild saunters into the kitchen and holds up this… ! 20200508_211458

It’s the top half of a PVC sword my husband had made him and painted silver. Manchild cut a piece off, and made a pea shooter. In the house. By now peas are flying left and right and I astounded that he foresees no bad ending to this story.  Frozen peas. Flying through the house.

“Manchild! What are you doing?!” I yell/ask, stepping on peas while spotting more peas down the hall and into the bathroom. “These are going to get smashed and rot!” Cristina had not left more than an hour ago. It was right about now I was cursing the dog for not eating produce. Any healthy, American mutt ought to be all over this food fight like white on rice! Stinking Grover.

After a threat of losing privileges, and with the delegating supervision of his older, wiser, sister (“YOU MISSED ONE OVER THERE! MANCHILD! YOU MISSED THAT ONE! GET IT!), most all of the peas did seem to disappear. Curiously, so did the pea shooter…and about a cup of un-popped pop corn kernels with it. They turn up in his bed at bedtime. I let his father handle that. After all, it’s nearly Mother’s Day, and why should mothers have all the fun of parenting. That mess needs to get spread around! Like peas.






“Dad? Daaaaaaad! Can I have a cookie before breakfast?” Manchild yelled from an empty kitchen to his missing father.

“No!” Yelled back both Captain Schenanigans, and the voice from the open laptop on the table. Captain Schenanigans had been called away from his conference call to solve an internet problem for Girlchild. His co-worker in Pennsylvania (who had never met Manchild, but had a set of twin boys and a younger boy at home) voluntarily took over parenting for a moment, albeit virtually. Because all parents know, ya can’t have cookies before breakfast, doesn’t matter whose kid it is. Blue ribbon for that dad!

Don’t you ever wish there were more awards given out in life? I could certainly go for one every time I drag my pajama clad body in rubber boots out to the coop in the rain, wind, cold, dark nights, and early morning hours. Twice a day for ten days, just to fight with Hank-the-hen who looks at me and annoyingly runs away. Again. Like she doesn’t know the program yet. Hrmpf.

Right now as I type, there is a black and white chicken out there in the chicken coop with bubble gum on her breath. Not from cracking gum of her own, but because she happened to have a slow healing foot infection at the same time as Girlchild was being de-escalated (learned this word today, medically speaking it means to be taken off a prescription intentionally yet prematurely) from Amoxicillin because it wasn’t a sinus infection after all, it the wrong daily anti-histamine. Which was the first thing I told the doc when she came on the video chat last week… But diagnosis’ aside, this bubble gum flavored liquid gold was just in time to treat Hank once and for all. So I took Girlchild off the drug, re-calculated the dose (sorta) and switched to a tiny veterinary syringe. No needle, just down the hatch while her protesting beak attempted to swing from side to side.


Girlchild has set her sights on becoming a veterinarian (can’t imagine why), and earlier in the week requested permission to administer a dose of medicine to Hank. Seeing as how it was Manchild’s bird, I sent them both out to conquer a 5lb chicken with a dose of antibiotics. The chicken totally won! Sadly, Girlchild trudged back to the house to inform me that Hank had bested them, and they lost the entire dose down her feathers. Manchild was still outside trying to wrangle up the other hens who slipped out of the gate during the poultry rodeo.  I re-loaded her syringe and we gave it another go. Hank’s a tough old bird, but I’m a nurse. We. Don’t. Skip. Doses.

So I’m thinking I’d like to collect an award for doing my due diligence with Hank. I’d also like to give one to the driver  who was driving slow enough, and paying enough attention, to hit the brakes in time to avoid running over Manchild yesterday,  His first time riding his new electric scooter, with the whole family watching, and our hearts nearly stopped.


There is a house across the street with a driveway that does up a small hill to a carport. Just the right size for a boy to bike up, and coast down at top speed. Which he had been granted permission to do, with supervision, Unfortunately, there was also a corner with a stop sign about 200 feet up the street from this driveway, on the same side. It was just the right timing for Manchild (wearing his dirt bike helmet which covers his ears so he couldn’t hear our voices) to swoop down this hill, out into the street, and right in front of this car that wasn’t on the street when he left the top of the driveway, but was most definitely there when he got to the bottom. Praise God, and thank you Jesus, for protecting my boy!! Big old blue ribbon to that driver. Huge. And very blue. Maybe even gold! Whichever is the best.

I’d also like to give an award to 8yr old Manchild, for learning to use a sledge hammer to pop the 12ft boards of our deck from the underside, and thus sped along our little deck project. We were taking off the old wood boards and replacing them with composite decking. Trex brand in Tiki Torch brown, since you asked. I mean there’s no time like a pandemic for attacking those nagging home improvement projects, and since I knew my husband had all his week-ends free for a while, why wait?

One particularly stressful day I just went out and started pulling up boards. Manchild’s radar went up at the sound of hand tools in use, and he showed up about the second blow of my hammer. We had the first railing off in about five minutes, and the second and third about three minutes later. We raced each other, I won. 🙂 After about two hours I was done with the project and went inside. But the opportunity for demolition nagged at Manchild like a kid waiting for Christmas. Every chance he got, he asked if we could work on the deck. When he woke up in the morning. When it was too dark and past bedtime. At the intermission of family movie night. All he wanted to do was pull up boards. And he was good at it! Half the deck was removed by Manchild alone. We may have botched up homeschooling and had him doing the wrong assignments online, but he certainly learned a few other life skills this week! Red ribbon for Manchild (I know, I’m switching between ribbons and awards), because while his skills and enthusiasm were unbridled, don’t interrupt movie night to ask me to do demolition work. I’m in my jammies already, and we all know I can only doctor birds in that attire!


One final special award would go to all the good doggies in the world. The ones who comfort their boys and girls when the world seems unfair. The ones who curl up beside tired mamas at night who are perpetually cold, who fight husbands for the front seat of the car where they always ride, and suddenly go on multiple walks a day when parents need a break. The ones who pick up all the dropped food off the floors so mama doesn’t have to, and are the only ones in the house obeying when we speak.  You puppers are God’s gift to us.







Tabby King

“Meeoooooooow!!!” I heard coming from the basement bathroom as I carried an overflowing basket of dirty laundry to the washing machine. I turned and looked to see Jax, our dopey tabby, laying on his side on the tile floor, batting his paw half-heartedly.  Now, I’d watched enough Tiger King to know that this was clearly not normal cat behavior, Jax favored micro fleece and my pillow as his relaxation locations of choice, not hard floors. Something was up.

After starting an endless load of sheets and towels, I sauntered into the bathroom and saw a small puff of brownish fur, about the size of a moth ball, chillin’ like a tumble weed on my floor. It wasn’t there yesterday. Jax had now changed positions, and any good Joe Exotic apprentice would know that he was in prey position. Crouching like a not so hidden tiger. Something was definitely under there!

Since I’d spent my morning self-learning how to express my dog’s anal glands via a vet on Youtube (Grover’d been obsessed with his poop chute for days), and recruiting Girlchild (who wants to be a vet) to help me put these new skills in to play, I felt it was perhaps Captain Schenanigan’s turn to take one for Team Pet. I lured him from his dungeon office with promises of unknown adventure, and then bravely stood in the bathtub behind him as he laid on the floor and peered under the shelf.

“Yup,” He declared, “There’s something under there, and it’s not coming out with Jax around.” He threw the cat out of the bathroom and closed the door. Magically, Jax opened the bathroom door and walked right back in like he was one of the kids. Taking this as my out from the crap show that was about to go down (picturing rabid, mutilated squirrels zooming around the room at break neck speed and requiring painful vaccines), I snatched the yellow dummy, handed Captain a plastic bag for his defense, and gracefully exited the room.

Hauling Jax upstairs, I declared his misdeeds to the kids, and deposited him in the living room. I noticed my shirt is unusually covered with cat hair, and informed Manchild he needed to brush his cat, since it’s spring and he’s blowing out his winter-ish coat. Part-time outdoor cat = part-thick winter coat.

A few moments later Captain Schenanigan, ever our hero, ascended the stairs to present to us Jax’s prey. A tiny baby bunny. Having raised only about 8 billion baby rabbits in our backyard, I recognized that this one was big enough to make it on his own, not dependent on milk anymore, and could survive without his mama. Which is good, considering we don’t actually know where he came from (or how he ended up under the shelf in the basement bathroom, for that matter), and I had zero interest in wildlife rehabilitation.

The bunny, save for a little blood under it’s nose, looked reasonably okay. It’s skin was intact, it was alert though frightened, and per Captain Schenanigans, all it’s limbs appeared to be in working order. Yay for small miracles.


We selected the perfect location of brambles with no foot traffic or dogs, and lots of weeds and trees on our neighbor’s hill to release baby Thumper. It only took a second before this tiny bunny had hopped it’s self away and out of sight from our four pairs of staring eyes.  A success story! Well, at least for the rabbit.

Back inside the house, Manchild trapped Jax and proceeded to groom him with a pet brush, for maybe the first time in either of their lives. I’d never seen a cat grimace before, but Manchild was all business at his task, and despite my demonstration on gentleness, preferred his utilitarian methods of cat ownership. I felt little sympathy, to be honest.20200410_150004

I’d settled back into my typing, when the sounds of a crying cat registered from some far off place in the house. Since Jax is a very vocal cat, this was nothing new. I figured Manchild was giving his grooming skills another shot. It barely registered in my mind as Manchild cruised through the kitchen, asking where we kept the rabbit nail trimmers, and disappeared again. I had tried trimming that cat’s nails alone exactly once. Jax could handle himself against an 8yr old boy with a set of clippers and a dream.

Back to blogging, I finish and post for the day when my son proudly stands before me and declares ” I washed the cat and trimmed his nails! I was nice, I even used hot water!!”.


Our jaws go slack and drop open like cod fish. What?! How did we miss this? But the look on the face of one soggy, angry, shame-filled tabby let us know our sins would not soon be forgotten! Manchild proceeded to tell us in great detail how he went about his pet grooming process, which included a purple loofah and a bar of homemade hand soap I’d received as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law. We dissolved into laughter, we couldn’t help it. This child was determined and amazing, and we were lucky to have him.  The cat, on the other hand, had decidedly learned his lesson about bringing baby bunnies into the household, and moseyed off to lay low for the rest of the day. He spent the next hour licking his fur and waiting for it to dry.  Lesson learned about not flying under the radar of enthusiastic cat owning boys.

Ya can’t say he didn’t earn it!



This is why we can’t have nice things. I set this brand new bar of hand crafted soap out YESTERDAY!


Laptops and Windshield Wipers


My Hero!

“You need a new laptop”. My tech savy husband informed me, yet again. My old slow one had kicked me off Citrix for the millionth time, and as I yelled for my personal tech support to drop what he was doing and help me sign in before I was late for telecommuting, it was clear this work from home thing wasn’t working for me. Or him, by default.

See, I’m a technology hater. I have grown accustomed to every magical device that works wonders in the commercials failing me royally IRL. This new computer would be no different. I promise you. But since working from home was a must for the foreseeable future, I’d do anything to make it run smoother.

As a public health nurse during COVID 19, I am noticing that while the front line medical people are true heroes (not me, I agreed to help test, but they didn’t need me after all) it’s honestly the computer guru’s who are the unsung heroes for the healthy.

See, when my unit was finally allowed to work from home (after much begging), we were sent a few e-mails with instructions, and told NOT to call OIT (the help desk) for help. We were to each use our own computers and our problems and issues would overwhelm tech support. I get that, but most health departments are not known for their technology skills or youth, and ours was no different. So it was good luck, Suckas!


Guess who wouldn’t be able to talk to her class online without such a capable computer loving dad!?

Thus, my amazing husband set to work ordering me a new laptop for curbside pick up at Micro Center one morning.  By noon it was in a cardboard box laying on my bed, waiting for me to get excited. I ignored it. Hours later, Captain Schenanigans couldn’t wait anymore and ripped into it.

“How are you not more excited about this?”  He asked in disbelief.

“Honestly, computers to me are about as exciting as windshield wipers. They should do wonderful things to make my life easier, but in my world they only ever half work. I am quite used to squinting through the rain, with blades that aren’t yet trashed, but leave half my view smeary and limited. That’s basically computers to me. They never work right”.

He said nothing. Maybe blinked a few times. Then proceeded to attacked my laptop like a fox in a hen house. Meanwhile, I still don’t even know what kind it is, even as I type.


Last night we lost power, meaning we lost internet. Wind was whipping around outside causing a tree to fall on the power line next door, making it smoke and smolder.  The whole Schenanigans clan when through entertainment withdrawal.  Manchild can’t fall asleep without a British woman online speaking calm meditations to him. Not kidding. SO, so, so very much not kidding.

OK, I thought to myself, I’ll just use this time to type up a fresh blog on a blank document and copy it to my page after the power resumes. Seemed easy and reasonable to me. Nope. Forty minutes later I’ve up used all my mom-allotted angry words, and threw in the towel on finding  ANY way to put words on the screen of this over-priced coaster before me!

Lo and behold, twenty minutes later Captain Schenanigans had finished his group chat  and pulled up a note pad on the computer for me. By then I was already knee deep in watching Valentines Day, and bawling over Julia Roberts missing her Manchild-aged son while deployed. The moment to blog had passed like a thief in the night. Or my memory of any given password. Gone.

So while this pandemic has thrown everyone’s plans into an uproar with it’s merciless behavior, if you are able to carry out business as usual (or close enough to it), thank a computer person. Because despite being a public health nurse during a massive pandemic, my job hasn’t really changed that much. But as a sound engineer who supports teleconferencing technologies, Captain Schenanigan’s been busier than a one armed paper hanger! If we all have to telecommute (and Girlchild just got diagnosed with a sinus infection over the phone- after three tries to get the camera working), I’m thankful that at least some people know how to do it! Now please, could you help the rest of us?


Guess who wouldn’t be able to do any school work without Captain Schenanigans in the houzzzzz!!?



Of Mice And Making Men


http://www.Centralpc.org streaming live over Youtube.

I don’t know about you, but we are sleeping in later and later each day of this pandemic. Some people may be losing sleep right now, but we are not them. Bedtime has become a bit of a slippery slope, since 8yr old Manchild and 10yr old Girlchild have absolutely no where they need to be, so most nights the kids are in bed about a half hour later than usual.  It’s not a huge deal, but what I don’t understand is how they are sleeping two hours later in the mornings to make up for it? Rest assured, there are no dark circles under the Schenanigans family’s eyes!

After reading in bed til midnight myself, it felt like the dead of night when I heard a loud crash and thump, like falling toys or plastic on a carpet. I bolt from my bed and launched myself into Manchild’ s room, where I find Jax the cat with Sally the mouse in his mouth. This was Manchild’s pet white mouse, and she was dead. I looked at her cage and it was still  locked up tight. I look around the room and see nothing that would make a huge crashing sound (a few scattered toys, but that’s our norm around here).  I have NO IDEA how that stinkin’ cat got this mouse out of her cage.


Manchild had crawled into bed with Captain Schenanigans and myself at some point, so when I gently relayed the events to him in his sleepy state as I climbed back in bed, he registered no emotion. When I reminded him what transpired this morning as we sat on the couch waiting to watch church, he remembered but didn’t react much. But as I lay with him at bedtime tonight, the sadness came. It always does at night. He told me how he had just gotten used to Sally’s squeaking (she was ridiculously loud hosting raves in her cage all night for being a single tiny mouse), and that he wouldn’t be able to sleep without her sounds now. It was pitiful. Then, on my way out of his room, I was nearly eighteen inches from freedom, he dropped the pet bomb. It never fails.

“I want another pet”. He asked, sadly, yanking on my irrational heart strings. “I want something else to be responsible for.”

Thankfully, my sarcastic side stepped up and kicked the heart strings in the throat. Not gonna die on this hill of empathy, we’ve got 16 other animals to care for on this property.

“You mean like a rabbit?’ I say dryly. We all know the fight that ensues daily to get Manchild to put his shoes on, go outside before the bus comes, and feed his bunny, Hops. Every. Single. Day.  Why on earth would this kid need more pets?

“No, ” Manchild begins, but I cut him off before he could get farther.

“How about a chicken?” I offer a bit too far on the snide side. We are up to our armpits in chickens, WHICH I LOVE, but I can’t replace some of my lower producing breeds with better egg layers because half my flock belongs to my children. They take them to the fair, and love earning ribbons and prizes (Manchild cleaned house with a Grand Champion layer last summer). But do I have to twist their tiny arms behind their backs to get them to gather eggs, or heaven forbid, throw feed out for them (not literally of course, we have cameras everywhere on this property)!? Chickens, to my children, are pets of convenience. Because I love being out there messing with them every day, the kids rarely have to pay attention to their birds (although that has changed now that they are home all day due to Corona, and have waaaaaaay more time for chores like gathering eggs – WOOT)!

“No”, Manchild begins, and I head him off again because we are rapidly losing animal categories, and I don’t need anyone setting their hopes on a terrible plan at 9pm.

“No more rodents! We aren’t getting a hamster”, I declare. Something we’d discussed at one point in the past once we saw how non-bitey they were and just all around better BFF’s than mice.

“I want a fish” Manchild declared.

“A fish? Only if it’s in a bowl and you feed it and you change the water!” I lay the guidelines hard and fast because deal breakers are best found quickly.

“And AFTER all this (Corona) is over!” Captain Schenanigans chimed in from another room in stealth mode. He has learned to monitor my animal conversations with the children as this dramatically cuts down on the volume and variety of furry souls we drag home without his knowledge. I’m still trying to get him to agree to a nice, silent alpaca. They max out at 5 feet tall and we’ve got a 6 foot privacy fence,  boo yeah! Hellllooooo suburban alpaca homesteading!

photo of a llama

Photo by LARAINE DAVIS on Pexels.com

It was agreed. We’d get Manchild a fish. It’s ALWAYS the first night after a pet death that this type of bartering occurs. I simply can’t say no to a sad child who wants to love an animal. I can not. But I can put up boundaries on acceptable species, and it’s not my fault if you don’t like your options. That only took ten years of parenting to achieve.

I pictured a nice little blue Beta fish for Manchild, and am taking bets on how long it will be with us. Sally the mouse made it a year, and considering Jax doesn’t like seafood, this fish has a real shot! This time I really, really, really won’t feed this pet for my son. I promise to make him care for it alone and feel the weight of this much desired responsibility. Granted, Sally’s cage was stupidly hard to clean, and when your pet buries it’s food you have no idea when it needs more. But those days of Mrs. Nice Mom are over. This is the Fish of Tough Love! The Responsibility Enforcement Fish! The Beta of Life Goals!

So yes, I will pay another $10 for another shot at my son learning responsibility. Like a carnival game where you’re pretty sure the first 4 tries are a waste of money, but by the 5th time you hit your groove and win the stuffed banana with a slow leak out the back where the seams don’t quite meet. I want him to win the prize of a tiny, fish sized burden on his carefree, unfocused little shoulders. It’s needs are tiny enough for his little hands to meet. It’s environment doesn’t change with the seasons, demand heated water bottles, or require extension cords. No nail trimming, vet trips, or fear of being bitten. This is actually, quite a perfect pet for an independent experience. It you can care for it barefoot and shirtless, then Manchild will have no problems!

Of course, there is the little matter of timing. Cause now I’m pretty excited about a new fish in the house, and Petco has curbside pick up, and I’m not really sure what waiting for the Corona virus to pass has to do with marine life anyway. I mean, if anything, now is the time for new indoor entertainment, right Captain Schenanigans?! 😉

close up of a siamese fighting fish

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Sweet Warriors and Sleepy Chickens

In this time of lots of time on our hands, I am very much enjoying the disruption in our busy lives. I LOVE having everything cancelled. I LOVE having my kids home (most of the time), my hubby around, and no commitments to keep. It’s an introvert’s dream! Well, except that my nursing job still makes me come in to an office building filled with hundreds of people (where they send me e-mails telling me to stay away from crowds of 50) to make my phone calls from my desk. But thankfully, I work part-time…

Anyway, over the week-end it was SO bright and SO beautiful here in Baltimore, that we were just making up excuses to be outside. Nearly 8 year old Manchild invited me to join him in spending time with our chickens in the backyard. Naturally I jumped at the invitation, and settled into a hammock chair while my wild man tore around the yard chasing my hens like he was the Corona virus and they were germophobes. Eventually, after several reminders that the birds would hate him if he always scared them, he stopped chasing the seldom caught ones, and just picked up the few tame favorites that we always held. Like Squeaker.

Squeaker is a bantam (miniature) White Crested Black Polish hen who is a family favorite because of her wild hairdo and pitiable live choices. Polish Crested chickens are all a bit special because of the bouffant crest of feathers around their head that tend to limit their vision and block their brain waves. Think hawk bait. We have two of these Mensa rejects, Squeaker and Phyllis (Gold Laced Polish Crested), both of whom tend to get so busy scratching and pecking in the yard that they fail to notice when the rest of the flock has moved on.  Suddenly they raise their poofy heads and they are alone! Panicked chirping and squawking from these two is not unusual as they try to get one of their brainier henfriends to holla back and Marco Polo the gang’s new location. Once again.


Squeaker is the front left, Phyllis is the one on the right, nearly camouflaged with the dirt.

Every time we let the chickens out to free range, Phyllis runs up and down the same fence, looking frantically for the nearest exit, while all the other hens calmly walk through the open gate like normal girls. Phyllis can NEVER find the exit on her first try. Ever.

But even better than Phyllis, is Squeaker, who can’t go in reverse. Because she can not see behind herself, this 1lb puff of fluff assumes she can not move backwards. Which is why when I do an evening head count, finding Squeaker turns into an Easter egg hunt. I usually find her wedged (barely) between a bench and the wall. Or a pallet and the fence, or any small space she thinks she can fit through, but then can’t, and so she stands there and silently waits for help. Bless her heart. Her tiny, special, heart.

So Manchild settled in his hammock chair and cradled Squeaker in his lap. He then began to swing, and his arms fell limp. Instead of noticing her big chance for freedom to leap from the lap of a “dangerous” boy, Squeaker instead hunkers down, puffs out, and falls asleep to the rocking motion of the swing. Manchild noticed, and he began to sing a lullaby to her. Not knowing any good lullaby’s, Manchild hummed the ABC song softly to himself, and that worked just fine. Squeaker was content, Manchild and his soft touch (he really is tender for a wild boy) had won over yet another little creature.


After a time, he sets the little hen down, and instead of running off to join her peers, she starts pecking at the dirt between our feet.

“Your turn!” Manchild instructs me.

So I scoop up the tiny bird and begin to rock her in my lap. Sure enough, her head bobs low, she fluffs herself out just a little and squats into a small sleepy ball. It was very sweet. I began thinking Captain Schenanigans needs to build a chicken swing in our run. Especially since we plan to plant new zoysia grass plugs this weekend, so the chickens are going to be on lockdown like the rest of us. No free ranging for quite some time. It’d be a great boredom buster!

After we set Squeaker free to run with her fast crowd, Manchild went back to catching hens we don’t hold often, and bringing them to me for cuddles like a toddler with a dandelion bouquet. He knows what fills his momma’s heart with joy! I check each girl’s feet for Bumblefoot (a common staph infection) when I get them, since some of these girls are rarely touched and wilder than feathered honey badgers.  I hold them and talk to them long enough to undue whatever stress my well meaning child had put them under, then hand back their freedom as I set them down to roam. They are generally indignant and full of attitude, but that’s not uncommon round these parts, let’s be honest.

So in this time of chaos I urge to to stay home, rock your pets, enjoy your spare time, and wash your hands. Because we all know that chickens carry Salmonella! 🙂


Hank, Manchild’s Silver Laced Wyandotte. This girl is a boy’s chicken! She’s survived being mauled by a dog twice, being sewn up by both myself with medical sutures, and my husband with sewing thread, and she still clucks on, laying and scratching two years later. Occasionally pausing for snuggles. #Survivor


Fan Club Manager


This week, I have been getting text messages from my cat’s friend’s. Dead serious. He has no cat friends (’cause he’s a jerk),  but the human ones he has in spades! People I do not know and have never met are texting me and calling to share their about their relationships with my socially promiscuous feline. Why now? Because this is the first week they’ve had access to my phone number.

It all started on Monday with a phone call. Someone had picked up my un-collared kitty and taken him to the SPCA as a charitable act of good will towards orphaned animals. Problem was, this cat has a home, and a massive social network, and he just can’t seem to keep his collar on!

At the SPCA I explained how my very friendly, uber popular tabby had gone through so many collars that we’d given up. The last one he lost was green. Then a few days later he come home wearing a BLUE one, I have no idea where that came from. But I figured surely everyone in the neighborhood knew he was ours by now, right? Especially if they’re helping him with costume changes and what not. Except for one thoughtful soul who was pet sitting in the neighborhood, and was approached by our fearless and chatty cat, who no doubt allowed himself to be lifted up and taken home like a giant dummy. Now I get to bail his yellow tail out of the clink downtown in the middle of a work day. Where they had re-named him, “Lil’ Sebastian”.

That’s not the first time this cat has been re-named. He came to us as Jax, but his medical paperwork prior to the rescue listed him as Mr. Mustard. And when I first met my neighbor down the street, she had pictures of Jax in her phone and was referring to her routine patio visitor as him as Mr. Wiggles. This cat gets around!


At the SPCA, I was given a tag for his new collar that read “JAX, indoor/outdoor cat”, and listed my name and phone number. The very next day, after wrestling him into his new collar and bright shiny tag, I get a phone call. It’s from a woman a few streets over who I vaguely recalled meeting about 3 years ago, with a couple of kids. She informed me that she had Jax at her house, and asks if he is supposed to be out and about. I assured her that he was. That he’s most likely hunting rodents and visiting his fan club, but that he is still within bounds. Thank you for the welfare check, though! 🙂

Two days go by, and today I get this text message.


It was very sweet. I responded with a little bit of Jax’s back story of being adopted out from a rescue as a barn cat who would never make a good pet, and tell her about his recent trip to the SPCA which earned him shiny new ID tags and a sparkly blue collar. I encouraged her to enjoy Jax, and love him up as much as she wanted.

Last year Captain Schenanigans and I met a couple while walking our dog who, upon petting Grover and learning where we lived, asked me “Oh, is this Jax’s dog?” After that conversation, I had a sneaking suspicion my yellow boy was being fed at another location. He’d gained weight, and the vet didn’t want him to get any bigger. I had assumed it was this couple, but on the off chance there were more handouts being given, I took a shot…



Yep, I was right. So we are not Jax’s only family. While he manages to make curfew at our house every night, and was inside enough this winter not to bother with growing a winter coat, I always suspected this kitty had relationships on the side. And I was glad for it! He really does brighten people’s lives. My neighbor who shows cats tells me that Jax has the personality the judges would love. I believe it.

Another neighbor who walks a black lab stops in our yard every day so Lincoln can sniff and visit Jax during their walks. Jax acts like he’s only tolerating Lincoln, but I noticed he’s not running away from the attention! Lincoln’s mom sent me this pic a few weeks back, and I love it! Screenshot_20200306-112916_Messages

It’s funny how my pets have their own relationships. Lincoln is actually Grover’s BFF. They love each other! It’s also incredibly First World that I am even managing my pet’s relationships. Who does this? But God made Jax with the gift of socializing, and as he trots on as the Schenanigans Family Ambassador, I’m sure there will be more texts and phone calls in the future. I look forward to it. I’m a huge believer in community and knowing, really knowing, your neighbors. If it takes my cat for me to meet the families two streets away, bring it! The more we network together, the better off and safer everyone is. 20200211_204015

C’mon Global Warming!


It’s not spring yet. I know that. But I’ve never been labeled a patient woman. Well, once I was by a Spanish interpreter while I on the phone with a young pregnant patient, but that was the ONLY time I can remember being complimented on my patience. Because I’m not. Even my blog posts are FILLED with spelling and editing errors because I’m so excited to finish, that I can’t slow down enough to be perfect. This is how I am, warts and all.

Ergo, this Sunday when the weather hit the mid 50’s in Baltimore, despite being February February, I had to get in the garden. So while my wonderful husband reluctantly took the kids to a poorly timed school ice skating event (which he immediately told me upon return was not enjoyable), I stayed home and got my hands dirty.

In an effort to be more responsible in my gardening and consume/waste less water, I decided to implement core gardening techniques to my beds this year. I learned about care gardening from Migardener.com, a blogger in Michigan who does incredible things with minimal watering (check out his blog and seed store). Here is their explanation for those of you who have not heard of core gardening.

coregardening– CORE GARDENING
Our #1 preferred method of gardening. We use this in combination with raised beds to provide the most amazing growing conditions for our plants. It is a method adapted from the people of the sub-Sahara desert  region who use Sahara grass in ditches that they then cover with soil and top with nitrogen rich manure to grow directly in. The soil holds on to water like a sponge for weeks at a time (once charged), the grass breaks down quickly feeding the soil, the nitrogen prevents any nitrogen from being taken from the soil during the breaking down of the grass, and the organic material adds good drainage, porosity, and loamyness. Here is a video of us setting us a core garden bed and one of us explaining what core gardening is.
PROS: Easy to set up, retains water, amends soil quickly, doesn’t mound soil like hugelkulture, breaks down faster than hugelkulture, loosens soil, increases drainage, and allows for microbes and fungi to colonize the straw and interact with plant roots.
CONS: Takes some water to charge the core initially”

I have two garden plots smack in my front yard, the only place the sun hits. I had lined the bottom of one with cardboard before filling it with soil, compost, and rabbit manure last year. The other I used feed sacks because I ran out of cardboard, and it does help with the weeds. That being said, my beds aren’t super deep, but just enough to grow non-root veggies.  Impatient people don’t do well growing food they can’t see anyway, so it’s that’s really not an issue. 🙂

I busted out my rake, made a trench down the center of both my gardens like I was laying pipeline, and filled each trench with straw. Wanna know where the straw came from? You’ll never guess. FAKE BABY JESUS! Yep, that’s right, my straw was upcycled from the manger scene on stage last Christmas at church. Round about January every church with a manger scene across America realizes that they now have 5 bales of straw and nothing to do with them! Thankfully, my crazy proceeds me and I got a text from a staff member asking if I could put five bales of straw to use. Heck yeah! First I was gonna use it for hen bedding, but I honestly didn’t need that much. I generally use old leaves, anyway.  Then I was going to use it for seeding my back lawn, but decided to go for zoysia plugs instead. Then once I remembered that I was planning to core garden this year, I was thankful once again for the amazing church I belong to. It’s the perfect garden sponge material. Check with your clergy, Homesteaders, there’s free straw up for grabs every Christmas! Jesus doesn’t need it. The pastor doesn’t want it. Speak up!

Anyway, it was just a few minutes and I was done. Granted, due to my shallow garden beds my front lawn now looks like freshly dug graves, but who cares. I’m now ready for seeds!


I stared at the USDA Planting Zone guide over and over again, wishing there was wisdom in straight sewing seeds in Feb for Zone 7. There’s not. It will freeze. My stuff will die. But just in case global warming was on my side, I chucked a few head lettuce and cauliflower seeds down on either side of my grave site for a little produce gamble. I didn’t plan on using those seeds anyway, so if they grew, awesome, if they didn’t, eh, they failed me last summer anyway.

I had a few extra cauliflower seeds, so I made indoor trays and spread them in a few locations to experiment. My house is fairly dark, so I have never had much luck starting things inside. I generally end up with a cat sitting on them, or the kids knocking the trays to the ground during a heated light saber battle. Man I hate those things. Poor seeds hold a better chance of life straight sewn in the ground against the elements than trying to sprout in my cabin of chaos.


So we’ll see if my efforts pay off. The water conservation will, I’ve no doubt of that. The seeds are hit or miss. They mostly kept me busy until the real spring rolls around and I can cut loose. I also planted two raspberry bushes yesterday, and a packet of dollar store poppy seeds. Third times a charm with brambles, right? I keep trying…

Next on the agenda is the Schenaniganlets division of crop seeds, which I imagine will go a bit like the NFL draft in with of planting rights. Girlchild wants melons. Lots of melons. All the melons. Manchild is gunning for tomatoes of all sizes. I am certain there will be literal turf wars once her plants grow into his. I have yet to come up with a barrier solution, but I am open to suggestions! Anyone? I’m not interested in a Paul Harvey rotten tomato fight re-enactment in my front yard. We’re a corner lot, for pete’s sake! 🙂

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