4:53 p.m. — Tuesday, August 14, 2007
So we have a flea problem on our hands...a big one. Seems our escape-artist kitty, Honeybug, has brought home some new house guests, just after the last ones moved out. (Congrats, guys, on buying your new home!) And let me tell you, amid all the construction chaos the last few years, never have we been so desperate to be rid of something!
We tried many over-the-counter flea killing techniques:
...but the problem remains.
So this week, we took a new approach: call the vet. They hooked us up with a 6-month supply of Frontline (though we really wanted Advantage, which our vet doesn't carry) that supposedly kills all the fleas on your pet within 24-48 hours, and repels future attacks. I applied it yesterday morning, so hopefully, all her little inhabitants should be dead or dying by now. Frontline also claims to kill all the eggs and larvae on your pet, to break the lifecycle of constant re-infestation.
We'll see about that. I'm skeptical, and not about to go down to the basement a.k.a. the Land of the Fleas to find out. My feet and ankles have suffered enough, and just the thought of going down there makes me itchy. (Though nothing can ever, ever compare with the itchiness of a PUPPPS pregnancy rash — don't even get me started.)
Poor Honeybug, banished to the basement until she is completely bug-free.
Even if the Frontline works, killing and repelling the fleas on our kitty won't solve the immediate problem: fleas and flea eggs everywhere. Sure, they will all die eventually without a host (a.k.a. Honeybug), but we don't want to keep getting attacked for months. And let me tell you, nothing brings out the Mama Bear in me more than seeing a tiny black vampire jumping around on my daughter while she's happily crawling around on the floor. My claws come out!
Apparently, I'm not the only one...I've never heard Ryan pray for death at the dinner table before! Haha.
Having Lily around has intensified this problem in other ways — there are not many baby-safe treatments. As it is, we'll have to be vigilant in keeping her grasping hands away from the kitty for the next 6 months, while the Frontline is active, because we don't want Lily coming in close, prolonged contact with the chemicals in the cat's system. This will become increasingly difficult once Lily starts walking, since chasing Honeybug around the house is already one of her favorite activities, albeit on all fours.
Here are some other things we might be trying if we were baby-free:
As far as natural products go, the Nature's Guardian products didn't seem to work, and in hindsight, we could have tried the Diatect Flea & Tick killer, but that also seems too good to be true. So we took an oft-repeated suggestion and smothered the carpets with salt.
Yes, salt salt.
The ordinary, iodized, this-is-bland-can-I-have-some-salt salt. Apparently, the fleas eat it and get dehydrated or desiccated and die. And if a little of it gets on Lily? She's no worse for the wear. ;) We're obviously not letting her crawl around in it, but we don't mind it sprinkled throughout the house.
All in all, there were tons of helpful Web sites full of other people's ideas, such as these at eHow, but I was amazed that there was no one, sure-fire way to get rid of these pests quickly, effectively, and safely. And cheaply. We've already wasted a ton of money on treatments that did DIDDLY SQUAT. It seems when you have bugs relentlessly attacking you and your infant in your own home, you buy first, do research second. D'oh.
Fortunately, the Frontline only cost 5 billion dollars, so hopefully, that'll work...
10:18 a.m. — Wednesday, August 15, 2007
When I brought home the Swivel Sweeper, Ryan shook his head. "How many little vacuum things do we have now?"
Well, um, let's count: a Black & Decker Dustbuster, a EuroPro Shark, a Dirt Devil Quick Power, and now a Swivel Sweeper. Oops...seems I have a compulsion for lightweight, maneuverable vacuums that never work quite the way I expect them to. This doesn't count the other four vacuums we have sitting around: Ryan brought "Gimpy" to the marriage — our trusty hand-me-down, three-wheeled canister vacuum that works great but is a pain to drag around; the cumbersome upright vacuum with missing parts we inherited when we bought the house; and our two shop vacs.
Yikes, that's a lot of cleaning power. Too bad we're neater than we are clean.
So how did this all happen?? Let's see here...
We've had the Dustbuster since we got married — it's a good little vacuum for those small, dry spills, though time and again I've wished it came with different sized suction heads you could pop into the nozzle. A wider head could tackle bigger messes, and a thinner head could sneak into those hard-to-reach spaces. Given it's convenient size and strong suction, I'd probably use this more if it had these options.
I picked up the EuroPro Shark Vac at a yard sale a few months ago and have yet to try it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I got it home, it reminded me an imitation Dustbuster. I'll probably resell it (for more — hehe) at the next family yard sale.
A woman at church recommended the Dirt Devil Quick Power to me (photo at right). She said it works great on both carpets and floors, and it's super-light to push around. She brought it to church every time she was on cleaning duty, and I saw for myself how well it worked. Always one to trust a personal opinion, I went to my nearest Walmart and bought one — after all, it was only 20 bucks, so what did I have to lose?
Well, 20 bucks, apparently. This little vacuum was not all it was cracked up to be. Sure, it vacuums the low pile church carpeting just swell, but on regular padded carpeting or area rugs with different weaves and heights...? Forget it. It seems to work OK over hard surfaces (our wood and tiled floors), but it really doesn't have the suction I would have liked and the battery charge time is waaay too short. It always seems to be running out on me. If they're going to provide you with piddly battery life, they should at least include a corded option as a backup.
So that leaves the Swivel Sweeper. Thank you, Uncle David, for purchasing this buy-one-get-one-free deal and giving me the free one at the family yard sale. I would have never bought this As-Seen-On-TV gimmicky looking thing otherwise.
This little sucker picked up freshly-cut grass we had tracked through the house, dirt stuck on the doormat, cat hair under the furniture, and dust galore. I don't want to even think about all the fleas and flea eggs we picked up. Sure, it's not a regular suction vacuum (it flicks dirt, instead), but for the money (FREE!) and for the weight (SUPER light), it's certainly my favorite of the bunch. It's small to store and easy/quiet to use — I have no hesitations about starting it up while Lily's sleeping.
Here's where the Swivel Sweeper really really came in handy:
Here's where I couldn't quite go:
All in all, I was really impressed with its performance. And not once did the battery sound like it was going to run out while I was using it. And as for clean-ability...? We just took it outside and emptied it out! The best thing about that was not only being able to see all the junk it had sucked up —
— but knowing any fleas caught in its path were now safely OUTSIDE the house, not sitting in some vacuum bag plotting an escape back into our carpets.
9:54 p.m. — Friday, August 17, 2007
For a while, it has bugged me that my blog does not have comments. If I were using a traditional blogging software, like Blogger, comments would come standard, but writing my own code has made certain things difficult in the blogging world.
A few years back, Bill @ Enon Hall helped me figure out how to write an XML page to hook this HTML site up to RSS feeds. And now...? My talented sis-in-law Heidi* is writing me some PHP magic that I can add to my code to create comments. I'm so excited! (I call it "magic" because I have no idea how it works.)
I especially feel the lack of comments when I write a blog like I did the other day, on fleas. I'm sure many people have some great ideas on how to combat them, but no easy way to share them with me or anyone else reading my post. Sure, there's always e-mail or my guestbook, but traditional comments are so much simpler, easier to share, and somehow less committal.
So HOPEFULLY sometime in the very near future, you'll be seeing a comment feature included after most posts. Comments will have to be approved before they show up. I'm not planning on rejecting lots of negative comments; I just don't like the idea of spam sitting around until I notice and delete it (kinda like what currently happens in the Guestbook). I can't wait to see what everyone's been thinking for all these years!
*Thanks, Heid — I'll take you out for more Thai food next time you're up! ;)
11:59 p.m. — Monday, August 20, 2007
Recently, one of the two black Xenon under-cabinet lights above our kitchen sink stopped working. Ryan inspected the bulb and realized it was still good, so he went online to figure out a.) what went wrong, and b.) why those two lights (on a Lutron dimmer) always hummed while dimmed. He discovered we needed 120-volt lights instead of 12-volt lights to go with the Lutron dimmer, and that was the source of our problems.
SO, in another case of the while-we-are-at-its, since we had to switch out the two existing lights, I recommended we install under-cabinet lighting under the rest of the cabinets, as well. It was something we had always wanted, and the dark corner by the fridge was especially in need of some illumination. "Gentleman, a little illumination, please!"
The wiring process brought back dangling electrical wire nightmares of construction past:
But it was well worth it:
Say it with me: "Oooooh."
We also purchased three kitchen counter stools a.k.a. "Something Else to Climb" from Lowes:
...Although we are still in need of the actual counter. Details.
P.S. For the first time EVER, comments will be added to posts, starting with the ones on this page — so comment away!
9:30 p.m. — Tuesday, August 21, 2007
After some initial worrying, this year's garden can officially be declared a success.
Every day, I go outside and pick new tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. The squash plants mysteriously died while we were at the shore — maybe they died of loneliness — but they were tasty while they lasted. The pumpkin plant is gigantic and especially impressive because I grew it from seed (never grown pumpkin before). I'm looking forward to watching its progress as the fall approaches. The tiny eggplant finally has a flower and may produce a fruit just yet.
8:46 p.m. — Wednesday, August 22, 2007
It's been a little over a week since we treated the cat with Frontline, and we've seen a marked improvement in the house's flea situation. Instead of feeling overrun with fleas, we are finally able to relax in our own house again...enjoy a movie on the couch or not be paranoid about little ankle biters (besides Lily) as I type at my desk.
I am still not brave enough to go down to the basement for any period of time longer than feeding Honeybug every morning. Needless to say, the laundry is suffering. Darn.
We have employed another flea-killing technique in the meantime.
Apparently, fleas are attracted to bright lights, especially ones that shine in the dark, and are so blinded by their attraction that they drown in the process. I know this isn't a huge "kill them all at once" solution, but every bit counts. We were going to add some Dawn to the water, but were afraid the cat would drink it. Now, all we have to worry about her drinking is the fleas — but I've seen Bugs eat bugs before, so that doesn't have me worried.
We're not sure whether the salt on the carpets / couches did anything. We left it down for three or four days before vacuuming it up. Who can tell what's worked and what hasn't, with everything we've tried all at once? At least we finally feel like we've made some progress, and that there is an end in sight. And it's nice to know the cat is not suffering anymore. Poor kitty.
9:30 p.m. — Sunday, August 26, 2007
When we originally designed our front portico, it included two bench seats facing each other. But after we saw this front porch swing a few weeks ago — and couldn't get it out of our heads — the plan had to be changed.
It's solid wood with a high gloss finish.
Ryan had to test the strength of his hooks.
Lily and I took the swing for its inaguaral run. We love it! Though Lily would have rather crawled around in the swing box all night...
I still like the idea of having two swings facing each other, like the benches were going to be. We have the room, but Ryan thinks it would be overkill. I'm not so sure. The verdict is still out on that one...
10:30 a.m. — Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Very Hot Wok + Cooking Oil = INSTANT LARGE FIRE!
That's a new equation I recently learned. And will never, ever forget. One night not so long ago, I was being my diligent German self, following the exact instructions for chicken stir-fry from a trusted major cookbook, which said, "Heat wok to very hot; add oil."
It's been a long time since I've had Home Ec. I had completely forgotten what a grease fire was or how one started. I never once stopped to question the recipe. After all, certainly this recipe knew much more about cooking and kitchen safety than I did.
There were two babies in the kitchen nearer to the stove than they should have been (one in the exersaucer, the other climbing the outside of the exersaucer). I had been thinking they were kinda in the way, but they were having so much fun together that I didn't move them.
Ryan was just walking in the door from work, and Lori & Jay were nearby in the living room. I took my first tablespoon of vegetable oil and turned it over into the [very hot] pan, just like the recipe said. The instant the oil touched the pan, one gigantic ball of flames sprung up as high as the microwave and consumed the entirety of the pan's surface area.
I had never imagined it could happen so fast — it was like a scene from a movie! I froze, half expecting it to go out as quickly as it had lit up, like a dessert they set on fire for an instant as they're bringing it out to your table in a restaurant.
But it didn't go out.
I panicked. The immediate thought repeating in my head was, "I can't add water! I can't add water!" As opposed to what I SHOULD be doing. My fear paralyzed me and I couldn't think straight, but I knew enough to yell, "Ryan — do something! Do something!"
By this time, he was running into the kitchen, stumbling around the babies, who I hadn't thought to move. In one hand, he held a big bag of kitchen garbage he was just about to take out (he would later say he forgot he was holding it the whole time), and with the other, he shoved the pan to the middle of the stove between the four burners. The flames had been licking the bottom of the cabinets to the right of the microwave and his first thought was preventing the untreated underside of the wood cabinets from catching fire and spreading.
His second thought was to MOVE THE BABIES. At the same time, Jay came running into the kitchen, shouting, "Move the babies!" and was grabbing Kirsten off the exersaucer. I snapped out of my don't-know-what-to-do-I'm-frozen-here reverie, grabbed Lily out of the exersaucer, and turned to run out the front door with her. By now, the kitchen was full of smoke and the [very loud] smoke alarms were going off throughout the house. The smoke/carbon monoxide combo alarm was eagerly telling us, "Ah-lert. Ah-lert. Fire. Fire."
As if we didn't know.
As I turned to leave, clutching Lily in my arms, the fire went out. Just like that. As quickly and suddenly as it had started.
Seems Ryan's pushing it off the burner to get it away from the cabinets removed it from the heat and caused it to burn itself out. The whole incident probably lasted less than 15 seconds. It felt like forever! I can't remember the last time I was so afraid. When I started dinner that night, I never dreamed I'd be thinking, "My kitchen is about to catch on fire. My house could burn down right now," before the meal's end.
We opened all the doors and windows, and fanned the kitchen fire alarm with a dishcloth to make it stop yelling at us. Needless to say, we were all pretty shaken up afterwards, and no one was about to go near the stove to make dinner after what had just happened. I put all the stir-fry ingredients in the fridge for another night.
After our bellies were filled with McDonald's and the adrenaline rush began to lessen (which took several days to wear off, actually), we surveyed the damage to the kitchen. There was a dark cloud on the formerly-white ceiling above the stove, and greasy black soot covered the bottom of the wood cabinets next to the microwave. We were so blessed that they never caught fire! Over the next few days, we would discover that all of the horizontal surfaces on that floor were covered in little spots of black ash, spots that smeared when wiped and were very difficult to remove. Only after trying every imaginable cleaner on the ceiling did Ryan read online that a simple white pencil eraser would have been the best way to remove grease soot from a painted surface.
My pan cleaned up OK after several good scrubbings involving lots of elbow grease from THREE different people. (Thanks, Lori, Mom and Ryan!) The front of the microwave suffered the worst damage. Though it still works perfectly, part of the plastic covering over the buttons crinkled from the heat and serves as a lasting reminder of what could have been much, much worse.
The four of us spent the remainder of the evening replaying over and over the events as they happened. We were all amazed that the sudden huge flame did not burn my face or my hand as I added the one tablespoon of oil with my little short-handled measuring spoon. Lori and I couldn't believe that neither one of us had immediately thought about the babies, and that it was the Superdads, not the moms, whose first thoughts were to get them out of harm's way. I guess Lori and I were both too concerned with how to put the fire out than what would happen if it spread.
Both of the girls — these tiny, little people — so adeptly realized something was wrong. Though they probably thought the fire itself was something pretty and new to gaze upon, they both correctly identified the fear in our eyes and heard the shouting and realized they, too, were very, very afraid. Lily's bottom lip was quivering as I lunged towards her, and she was screaming by the time she was in my arms. I'll never forget that look on her face. I'm sure Lori received a similar reaction from Kirsten, as she took her from Jay and rushed out the back door.
Here are some tips for dealing with a grease fire that will be ingrained into our brains forever and that I hope will stick into the brains of anyone reading this, because you never know when it could happen to you:
In our case, shoving the flaming pan off the hot burner and onto a nonflammable surface, like another (not hot) burner on the stove or in between the other burners, immediately stopped the fire. I certainly don't endorse touching a flaming pan or moving a contained fire to another part of the kitchen (potentially spreading the fire), but that is what worked for us, and we will always be extremely thankful that Ryan did not get burned by his quick-thinking.
For more tips, here's a helpful page at eHow for dealing with a grease fire.
...And as for the chicken stir-fry? I made it the next night. In a different wok. With a lid right next to the stove, the babies in another room, and motherly supervision. It came out tastier than I had expected, which was a good thing. Made me happy to know I didn't almost set the house on fire for nothing.
1:54 p.m. — Friday, August 31, 2007
In May, 2005, we decided to build a rock wall around an area of the yard that could be our patio. We had more rocks sitting around than we knew what to do with, so it seemed a logical idea. But two years later — after much, much weed pulling — Ryan decided he had had enough of our sorely-underused "patio", where chair legs sank into the mulch and where we are planning on building a deck instead.
So over the last week or so, he transformed this:
The low, dirt area will be grass and the higher, mulched area will be covered with something weeds can't grow through (like landscape fabric covered with something). Now our deck area is all ready!