the hyphens that define my life

Squirrel With Me October 30, 2013

Ok. Ouch.  My wrist really hurt yesterday. I reached my pain threshhold and decided to go to the doctor today and get it check out.

Just to recap, eleven days ago, I hurt my wrist when I fell as the result of being attacked by squirrels. [see previous post:  Squirrel Attack! for all the details.]  The road rash on my knees has scabbed over beautifully and are nearly healed.  I still haven’t bought new gloves to replace the ones shredded in the incident.

At the doctor’s office today I told the nurse my story, (did you think I would just say I fell?) she said what I said, “Damn Squirrels!” She added, “That’s why I don’t feel bad when I run them over.”  She definitely has bigger issues than I do with squirrels.  I still have squirrel compassion but I’m definitely on the defensive.

The x-rays were a hot topic of discussion in the doctor’s office.  They were very concerned about a bone chip.  No need to fret, I informed, the bone chip happened when I broke my arm in the 5th grade.  The squirrel attack, however, resulted in a hairline fracture , less than an inch long running vertically up my ulna. (anatomy check:  two arm bones, radius and ulna).  The fracture doesn’t hurt from all the twists and turns the doctor tested me with; the wrist sprain and soft tissue damage is what hurts.

The brace I had been wearing didn’t provide enough stability nor did the braces the doctor’s office offered.  The doctor foolishly suggested that I just rest and not use my left arm.  Clearly he doesn’t know me.  I explained that I’m a mother of 4, I work full time, have too many projects and its the holidays. HELLO! I will use every available limb. Our only choice was to go with a soft cast, or in doctor speak, an ulnar gutter splint.  The gutter runs from the top of my ring finger on my left hand, also encasing the pinky finger, up to my elbow.  Finger tip to elbow is then wrapped in a couple of Ace bandages.

This is my Halloween costume:

squirrel injury

Why  did I go to the doctor?  Now I can’t move my left hand!  Do you know how hard it is to type with this thing on?

The bright side is that I won’t be able to do dishes for two weeks! Woo!  Happy dance!  The boys are going to be thrilled when they find out they are on KP duty.

I bought myself this theme perfect sweater for the holidays from TJ Maxx.  I’m certain this squirrel got their bling from some poor unsuspecting soul that was attacked and robbed.  Squirrels are capable, don’t be fooled by their cute faces and fluffy tails.

squirrel sweater

After my doctor’s visit, I watched squirrels dig in my small but effective bulb garden today.  T-Bone and Jerry, our boy cats, played a good game of chase with the squirrels.  The cats grew weary and the squirrels were determined to take my bulbs but were unsuccesful.  Break my arm, bruise my ego, but do not, I repeat do not, mess with my garden.  I could get a pellet gun and shoot at them from my office window.  Tempting.  Good to know my options.

I realize I’m a little obsessed with squirrels right now.  My arm will heal, snow will fall (maybe as soon as tonight), the year will end, the garden will grow despite the efforts of these ferocious beasts.  Squirrel with me as I obsess (why should bears get all the credit?).


Jack.O.Lanterns October 29, 2013

The entire pumpkin experience is one of our family’s favorite Halloween traditions.  Hands down, nothing beats a bag full from a night spent trick-or-treating, or getting dressed up in costume and playing the part.  In that order, running in third place is the pumpkins.

Going to the pumpking patch is an event in itself.  We went to Green Bluff this year to experience not only picking the biggest and freshest pumpkins we’ve ever had, but we also experienced the pumpkin cannon.

Bringing home six pumpkins weighing in at 138 pounds, we could have made an entire pumpkin person from our over zealous adventure.  Instead we stayed true to form and carved our jack o’ lanterns. At least, that was the plan.

This year I bought a keyhole saw. I read a Martha Stewart Facebook post that said she found keyhole saws to be the best pumpkin carving tool, aside from her entire pumpkin carving kit.  I went to Home Depot and sought help from the first orange apron I encountered in the tool section.  The orange apron showed me to the saw section and asked what project I was working on.  As tempted as I was to say that I wanted to cut a keyhole, I refrained and confessed my Martha Stewart pumpkin project.  He showed me the different options available and went on his way.

Back at home, my husband and I pulled the dining chairs away from the table (standing room only), lined the dining room table with  towels, a flannel backed vinyl table cloth and plenty of newspapers.  Then I called in my muscle men to carry in their pumpkins.

Our two older boys refused to participate unless someone agreed to scoop out the insides, the pumpkin guts, because the smell makes both of them gag.  Before I could volunteer, our youngest signed up to be the official Pumpkin Gut Cleaner.   My husband and I looked at each other with “this ought to be good” looks as our youngest notoriously bails the scene when the real work begins.

Our youngest did need a step stool but they all got busy.  I love this picture.  Three boys with knives and saws, fantastic.


As soon as the older boys cut out the tops, our youngest jumped right to task and cleaned out four pumpkins!  We were all stunned.  The gooeier the better.  He loved playing in the muck.

Our middle son was the only one to carve two pumpkins.  One free form, working with the odd shape to create his “old man” pumpkin.  The second, like his brothers, was carved using stencils.

I, from the same Martha Stewart Facebook post, made a Mouse Motel.  Let me tell you, a keyhole saw is a must have for pumpkin carving.  Fast, smooth, easy circles and clean lines.  How have I lived this long without one?

My husband was in charge of safety and assistance.  He did a great job.

Here is our final products.  On the left are the two our nine-year-old carved.  Second from the right is our eight year olds handiwork and on the right is the work of our twelve-year-old. We did bring six pumpkins home. One is small, uncarved and cute. We decided to leave this one alone.


And here is my eeky mouse motel:



Do you have your pumpkins carved?


Falling October 28, 2013

Fall leaves are quickly falling.  The temperatures are dropping, the north winds are blowing and fall is in its glory.  Leaves have changed from shades of green to a spectacular rainbow of magentas, reds, oranges, golds and browns.  The air is crisp with the earthy smells of crushed leaves and wet dirt from recent rain.

Today I realized I had not one picture of fall foliage.  At lunch my husband and I walked a couple mile loop, purposely avoiding the bakery and the tap house, to get away from our desks and to enjoy the splendor of our new hometown in autumnal glory.

Then there’s us, the odd couple.  My husband is a skinny white boy from Southern California.  He has spent plenty of time in cold weather, skiing, hunting and living.  Yet, he shows up for our walk wearing waterproof hiking boots, flannel lined jeans, two shirts covered with a lined windbreaker shell, gloves and a hat.  I’m in regular jeans, tennis shoes, a long sleeve t-shirt, a fleece jacket (no hat, no gloves), and my camera.  I asked where he was going because I only had 25 minutes, he said he was prepared.  Good for you.

To his credit, it was 44 degrees and the cold wind was whipping, stinging your skin.  Ok, that was the first block.  Once you got your blood pumping, the weather was perfect.

I took a bunch of photographs but none do justice to the amazing fall colors.  Plus I’m late, I should have done this last week.  This is the best that I could capture:

Our pathway to the park.



At the park, in full golden opulence.

As we walked, I scuffed my feet through the mounds of leaves on the sidewalk, kicking the biggest mounds into the air.  I pointed out every squirrel we saw to avoid attack.  My husband does not believe my squirrel attack story.  I was there.  He wasn’t.  The squirrels and I know what happened.

Fall is upon us.  Halloween is just days away (still not ready but keep feeding me Brach’s candy corn and mallocreme pumpkins for increased endurance!).  The boys came home from school ready to turn in their hoodies for warmer jackets.  They are anxiously awaiting the first snow fall and leaves falling to the ground and dropping temperatures takes them one step closer to snow.

I will be certain to remind them of their snow dreams when they are raking leaves this weekend.


Monster Mash October 25, 2013

Filed under: Family,Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 10:46 pm
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Spokane schools, as a district wide rule, do not celebrate or acknowledge Halloween on the actual day.  Instead, the Parent Teacher Group hosts a Monster Mash where all students are invited to attend, in full costume, for two hours of fun that includes pumpkin bowling, dancing, a shockingly great science station and snacks.  Having had kids in public schools for 15 years, this is the first I have ever experienced not including a nationally recognized holiday and the first I have ever experienced a Monster Mash.

Yet not celebrating Halloween in school isn’t my biggest issue.  What rubs me wrong is that the Monster Mash is one full week before Halloween, seriously cutting into my sewing, crafting and creativity timeline.  Sheesh!  October has been, forgive the use of this over used phrase, CRAZY BUSY!  Really.  Insane.  Toronto, Columbus, Cincinnati, Denver, Newark, NYC, Chicago filled two weeks of travel for work.  Then I spent three days in Seattle with my family for health issues.  In 30 days I have been home thirteen days.  Four of these thirteen days I had a cold thanks to those germy college students.

So what, suck it up.  Other than the cold, my month has been great, just not enough time that I would like to spend on Halloween costumes.  The past three nights have been extremely late nights.  Burning the midnight oil and multiple glue sticks, two of my three costumes were assembled with last-minute touches this afternoon before the big event.

My 9-year-old decided to be a Raven.  I had read Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven to him recently and he wanted to be an evil raven with talons and feet and feathers and wings.  He probably wanted to be able to fly too, but I had three nights.  Here’s what he got.


My biggest concern working with feathers was to not make him look like Phyllis Diller in her feather dress.  When my son had a fitting midway through the production process, his eyes welled with tears.  He was not happy when I thought I was more than halfway done.  The costume started as an old Voldemort pullover costume with hood and sleeves.  I glued feathers to the ragged fringe that hung down at the bottom and from the sleeves.  This is where he tried it on.  He wanted real wings.  I really should stop saying that I have mad skills.  My kids have the bar set really high for me and it’s my own fault.  With cardboard, a wire hanger and a whole lot of feathers, the wings on his hands were created, glued to black knit gloves and tied at the wrist for stability.  The mask was a crow’s mask with a yellow beak and gold sequins and black feathers.  I painted the mask black and glued the sides to the hood to create a more rounded look.  Getting his Hanes’ black sweatpants after going to two, not one, but two Wal-Marts to find them added to the time involved in pulling off this costume.  Not my best work, but considering the challenge and the time involved, I think it turned out pretty awesome.

Keep in mind that I have two in elementary school, so the raven was just half of my workload.  My young buck wanted to be Zombie Atlantis or a Zombie Diver.  My mother-in-law sent him this awesome round, costume plush and pliable diving helmet.  Add zombie makeup, green hair color, some hair gel and his own Hanes’ sweat suit (from the same two, not one but two, trips to Walmart), his costume was complete.

My youngest owns every gray hair on my head and there are plenty.  Last night he informed me, after loving his costume all week, that a black sweat suit, representing a black wet suit, wasn’t good enough.  He, being way to damn techno-saavy, pulled up some Google images of real vintage diving suits and he wanted the whole suit, not just the helmet.  Of course.  What was I thinking?

Today, I realized, he just doesn’t like change.  He wanted to wear his store-bought skeleton suit that he has worn two years running.  He just got caught up in the Halloween-I-gotta-have-a-new-costume-hype and had a new helmet costume to start and the ball just kept rolling.


The skeleton costume is too small too, but that doesn’t stop my youngest son.

The Monster Mash was packed with entire families, grandparents, extended family and pretty awesome.  The boys had a blast, my husband and I met new people and we became more familiar with the school.

The class won’t get to sample my fun Halloween wares like these that I made last year, but Halloween is off to a good start.

halloween ghosts

Now one more costume to go….


Roaring 20’s October 21, 2013

When you hear the words “company party” or “work party” some people groan.  I’ve done my time at these groan provoking parties and sympathize with anyone dreading their upcoming work commitments this holiday season.

However, the holiday party my company throws is not one to be missed.  Our young, fun, work-hard-play-hard company culture and collaborative approach to planning this party sets the tone for a good time to be had by all.  By all I mean bringing every employee together from fourteen offices from four countries throughout North and South America.  Everyone loves to see, in person, the people we virtually work with either in a neighboring office or thousands of miles away.

Some years’ the party is themed, some years not.  This year theme is based on The Great Gatsby and the 1920’s.  I love themed parties!! Themed or not, the question is always – What do I wear?

The instant thought of fashion trends of the day are long pearls, sequins, fringe, short skirts and feathers. Being the 45-year-old woman who gets attacked by squirrels that I am, this is not my look.  I have been all over the internet looking at 1920’s fashion images and reading all kinds of blogs and articles on fashion, hair styles and make up of the era to get ideas but nothing has grabbed my attention or sparked my imagination.

However, I did find the perfect pair of shoes which is a good start.  I have some vintage jewelry that will accessorize the perfect dress.  But what dress?

My mom reminded me of my grandparents wedding photo that I had stashed somewhere, but since our move, where could that be?  Thankfully I put my hands on the photograph tonight with minimal search.


My grandparents are seated in this photo taken on their wedding day, June 19 1928.

What I love about this photo is my grandfather’s smile.  You could always find him smiling until he passed at age 100. I truly love that my grandmother, the risqué woman, wore a short, just below the knee, dress on her wedding day.  How awesome!  She wasn’t alone.  Despite prohibition at the time, my grandfather made 400 bottles of beer and bought a bottle of whisky and two boxes of cigars for the reception!  What a pair!  They drove off in a 1922 Model T Ford for their honeymoon. Eight children and 60 years of marriage before my grandmothers passing at age 82, the 1920’s were good place for them to start.

My grandmother’s wedding dress is my inspiration to design my holiday party dress.  My pretty, young co-workers can flaunt the fringe and feathers.  I will represent an amazing woman in my life that lived and loved in the 1920’s.


[P.S.  Halloween costumes not done, barely started.  4 days to go until the Monster Mash.  Now that I have my dress figured out (for a party in DECEMBER) I can whip the costumes together].

[P.S.S.  I think my left wrist may have chipped a bone or is fractured.  I can do a lot of things but I can’t drive.  My side to side wrist action is limited and painful.  My wrist is swollen too.  Maybe I’ll get an x-ray tomorrow.  Maybe not, I could be too busy shooting squirrels – that’s how my paternal grandparents spent their honeymoon, but that story is for another day].


Pumpkin Chuckin’ October 20, 2013

Fall fun would not be complete without a trip to the pumpkin patch. Not just any pumpkin patch, we drove 40 minutes north to Green Bluff – where we had summer fun picking peaches and berries – to visit one of the many farms that sell pumpkins, Knapps,

Knapps was recommended to us as a local family favorite for one reason and one reason only – pumpkin chuckin’. New to pumpking chuckin’? Us too.  Pumpkin chuckin’, as it was explained to us by our neighbor, is where they shoot a pumpkin out of a cannon every half hour throughout the day.

I can not tell you what an easy sell this was to Vince and the boys.  We, our old dog included, piled into the car and headed to Knapps to witness this craziness ourselves.  I had a full day planned, pick out some pumpkins, pick some apples, see the cannon launch, eat some pumpkin doughnuts, drink some fresh pressed cider and go home.

We made it to the farm, without issue.  We asked the nearest employee for information and guidance on how pumpkin picking.  We were given the option for “regular pumpkins” and “large pumpkins.”  We opted for the large pumpkins.  Vince had been filling the kids heads with the idea that an 1100 lb. pumpkin wouldn’t fit in the car.

Here’s Vince with a smile and a pumpkin.


The boys ran all over the field looking for the best pumpkin ever. Turns out that you need two pumpkins.  Here they are with their goods:



All told, we bought 168 pounds of pumpkins and a couple of gourds that are bird house projects for another day.  This is how we support local farmers.

This was not a U-Pick apple farm, so we decided not to pick up any apples this trip.  We headed toward the main attraction, the pumpkin cannon.


This launcher, we learned, has been in operation for eleven years, shooting pumpkins every day on the half hour throughout fall.  The guy running the show told us that the safest place on the farm is the target because they haven’t hit it once, yet.  He explained that this cannon is powered by a 500 gallon tank at 32 pounds of pressure.  The pumpkin is launched 1500 yards out and incredibly high into the sky.  There was even a plug for the local John Deere dealer who donated the tractor that raises the launch into position.  This picture shows the cannon being raised, halfway to the desired angle.

Pumpkin Chuckin’ is a thing.  People do this all over the country.  The guy told us to look up Pumpkin Chuckin’ Virginia to learn about a pumpkin chuckin festival that attracts people from all over with their personal pumpkin chuckers ranging from much larger cannons to catapults and sling shots.

From now on when I think whatever I am doing is ridiculous, I’ll think of the pumpkin chuckers and know that I’m in good company.

The pumpkin was launched and we all gasped and oohed and aahed at the incredible distance the pumpkin was blasted across the fields.  Again, the target was missed.


We had fun at Knapps and decided to check out some other farms in the area.

That was the idea.  The sunny skies and warm weather brought people in droves to the Apple Festival that was occurring down the road. Cars were lined up for miles to get to this event.  Headed the opposite direction, we bypassed all traffic and headed home.

We didn’t get our apples, doughnuts or cider, but we did get some giant pumpkins, had some good laughs and made some great memories.  We also witnessed and learned a little something about pumpkin chuckin’ too.


Under Attack. Proceed With Caution October 19, 2013

7:15 AM Saturday, 31 degrees farenheit

I leave my house to walk eight-tenths of a mile to the coffee shop and bakery to meet my co-room mom to make plans for the upcoming harvest party for our third grader’s class.

Though I cursed my alarm clock ringing on a Saturday morning, I was happy to be up and out walking in the brisk fall morning.

Leaves cover the landscape in a blanket of gold, red and brown.  The air is crisp.  The sun has not yet crested the South Hill.  Squirrels are hyper-active, preparing for winter, foraging food and running around in pairs.  I wonder if fall is mating season for squirrels.

Almost to my destination, I pass a three to four foot high rock wall and startle some squirrels. They rustle in the bushes as I walk past then WHOOSH, one squirrel leaps to the sidewalk behind me, so close to me that I feel his movement as he passes.  At the same time, WHOOSH, another squirrel leaps to the sidewalk in front of me, so close that I thought he was going to jump on me.

Startled and fearful that I was under squirrel attack, I yell out “AGH!”

Unsure of what just happened, I failed to notice that the elevation sidewalk in front of me popped up from a tree root, a common Spokane sidewalk hazard. Within seconds after the squirrel attack, my left foot tripped over the sidewalk.  Disoriented from the squirrel savages, I could not regain my footing.  Momentum pitched me forward like I was sliding into home plate.  No home run, only ice-cold concrete scraping into my hands and knees as I landed hard.


I laid on the sidewalk for a moment to assess the damage.  Nothing seemed to be broken and I was thankful that I didn’t ricochet my chin or forehead off the concrete.  I was also thankful that there were no witnesses, other than my psychotic squirrel friends.

I picked myself up and limped to the bakery, extremely in need of my first cup of coffee for the morning.  Yes, all this and I haven’t had coffee yet.

My right knee is skinned from bottom to top and makes my boys squirm when they see it.  Ouch.  My left knee isn’t a pulverized mess but is bruised and more stiff than the right.  Ouch.  My left hand is scraped, and my brand new workout gloves are shredded.  Ouch and damn.  The front of my down jacket was shredded and white fluff was flying out as I walked along. This I’m actually ok with because I wanted a new down jacket but couldn’t justify the purchase.  This is not how I wanted to get a new jacket though.

Meeting my co-room mom for the first time, I was quite a sight.

After our meeting, I limped home.  Up hill.  My husband asked what was wrong.  I showed him my wounded knee. The mistake I made in answering his what and how questions was starting the story with “I was attacked by squirrels.” He was concerned but had a good laugh.

The boys were grossed out and though they could appreciate my squirrel attack story, I had no nursemaids.

The only sympathy I received was from the grocery store checker who asked how my day was going as he rang up my groceries.  I started the story the same way with him as I did with Vince.  “I was attacked by squirrels.”  The checker told me his recent experience how one squirrel jumped so close to his head that he ducked and cracked his head on the door of his truck.

Squirrels are crazy right now, people, proceed with caution.