Last spring, some friends and I took over a deserted brown space and planted sunflowers to spruce it up. I wrote a blog about it -- perhaps you read it, perhaps not.
I guess we developed a deep-rooted connection to this space during our six months of sunflower rearing, because we returned to the location on New Yearâ€™s Day. This time, we created a "wishing wall," based on the concept of Chinese prayer flags.
Via Facebook, e-mail and flyers, we invited friends, family and neighbors to write a wish on a scrap of cloth and tie it to the fence to create public art, to gather as a community and to send positive energy into the world. We drank cocoa and mulled wine. Someone played a wooden flute. We froze our butts off.
But it was completely worth it.
Truth is, 2009 was a tough year for Riverwest. Even some of the heartiest inhabitants were shaken by the non-drug-related murders of two college students. A couple of longtime residents moved, and I don't judge them. But for those of us who continue to stay, 2009 brought a new, scarier reality, but also a recommitment to our neighborhood.
Iâ€™m not ready to hang up my hippie just yet, and so I am going to do whatever I can to make Riverwest peaceful. And maybe creating a wishing wall isnâ€™t much, but at the very least, it brought out dozens of neighbors -- mostly with their children -- on an insanely cold day to "tie one on" for the â€˜hood. Strangers became acquaintances. Children made wishes they truly believed would come true. (And some kids just wished for trips to water parks or the ability to converse with animals, but that is all good, too.)
I assisted in this endeavor, but my friends Anne and Karen did most of the work for this event. After it was over, Karen summed it up perfectly in an e-mail to me.
"I have no idea what we've started with this fence thing, but I love it," she wrote. "It's satisfying and weird and silly and important."
Last month, my family adopted a dog from the Wisconsin Humane Society. Heâ€™s a mountain cur mix and we named him Trail. Heâ€™s 4 months old now and, overall, a joy to have around.
Except, however, when heâ€™s gnawing on one of my shoes or digging holes in the backyard.
We tried spraying bitter apple on items that we donâ€™t want him to chew on, but he doesnâ€™t seem to mind the flavor. As a big fan of Sour Patch Kids candy, I can relate. Also, we try to switch out the household item with one of his chew toys, but he seems much more interested in munching on wooden items. He is losing his baby teeth right now, so I know this will improve, but I'm still looking for an insta-cure for the chewies.
The hole digging is another issue. My husband read on the Internet that one way to stop hole digging is to bury their poop in the area where they like to dig. That sounds really gross, and we have not gone there, but might if we canâ€™t remedy this via another plan. We are opposed to shock collars, but are trying spray bottles and voice commands.
My 7-year-old son and I signed up for a class at the Wisconsin Humane Society that starts in early January. Plus, weâ€™re crate training Trail and doing our best to be consistent and clear with our voice commands.
It has been 14 years since we last trained a puppy, and we are doing our best to catch up on all the modern practices. I must admit that puppy rearing is a huge ordeal -- way more than I remember -- and not that much different from living with a toddler child.
It has been said before, but I must say it again: good thing theyâ€™re so damn cute.
If youâ€™re still sans Christmas gifts at this point, youâ€™re a few hours away from being SOL. But wait, itâ€™s not too late to run to Walgreens and score a Snuggie for anyone -- or any dog -- lingering on your gift list.
Even though the Snuggie was around last year, it seems like the blanket with arms is more popular than ever. And now, you can buy â€˜em for your kids and pets. And they come with a book light.
You can get a Snuggie for about $15 at Walgreens or Wal-Mart. Kidsâ€™ Snuggies are $10.
I am hesitant to admit that my kids and I all own Snuggies. I like it, but I originally misunderstood its function, and I think a lot of people do, too. The Snuggie is simply to be used like a blanket: you throw it over yourself when youâ€™re reading or watching TV on the couch. Itâ€™s not a robe, because the back is open, so if you try to wear it around the house, it will keep flapping open.
My mother-in-law actually sewed closed the back of my boysâ€™ Snuggies so itâ€™s more like a mini monkâ€™s robe. I'm quite certain that, of all of us, my 6-year-old likes his fleece Snuggie most.
"It feels really good when I wear it with nothing underneath," he says.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love the idea of a product invented by a mom. On many occasions, sheer brilliance has sprung from the minds of moms who were bored or broke at home and finally had that One Big Idea that changed everything. Iâ€™ll listen to that story over and over again and never get bored of it.
But thatâ€™s not to say all "mom products" are genius.
I get a lot of cool stuff sent to me -- one of the many perks of my job -- but this week, I received two products for children that were just a few nappies short of a pack. And, after weeks of recommending gifts ideas for kids, I am going to introduce two items that, in my opinion, would make stinky stocking stuffers.
Gotta-Go Mitts. Kids are supposed to wear these polyethylene, disposable mittens before using a public restroom to avoid germs. Also, it's recommended they wear them anywhere else in public that might contain germs. (Like, everywhere?) The problem is, this product plays into the hypochondriac-moms-addicted-to-hand-sanitizer phenomena, plus, the mitts are an awkward shape and they smell funny, like plastic. I really canâ€™t see my kids agreeing to wear these, and if they did, I would feel badly sending them into a restroom dressed like little deli workers. (Maybe I should plop hairnets on their heads, too.) However, if this product sounds useful to you, by all means, check out the Web site. They come 20 to a pack and sell for a mere $3.99. The mommy who invented the Gotta-Go Mitts will appreciate your business.
Sniffle Buddies. The Sniffle Buddy looks like a hair "scrunchie" but itâ€™s intended to be worn around the wrist. The wearer can sneeze into it or blow their nose directly into the plushy bracelet. It's made from organic bamboo and organic cotton fabric, which is cool, but it doesnâ€™t seem particularly absorbent enough to collect all of winterâ€™s nose goo and, call me crazy, but I donâ€™t really want boogers loitering around my wrists -- or around the wrists of my children. Again, donâ€™t let my …