The Seven-Year-Old goes shopping

Overheard at Bass Pro Shops…
HotDogSteamerWMThe Seven-Year-Old, excitedly: “A hot dog steamer? That’s my dream machine!”

We’ll make a camper of her yet.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Seven-Year-Old practices medicine

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Unpacking continues apace at Caterpickles Central. Only 52 boxes to go! (More or less. If you ignore the piles of boxes that I’ve decided what to do with — donate, move to basement, break down & recycle — but haven’t quite gotten around to taking care of yet.)

Literalistic caveats aside, a few days ago, we uncovered a trove of stuffed animals from my childhood. The Seven-Year-Old immediately adopted this battered old raccoon, and sent him to hospital for some belated rehab. Raccoony lost an eye in a regrettable incident some 35 years ago.

I honestly don’t remember the details, but I’m certain The Seven-Year-Old will pry some suitably grim story of my miscreant younger self out of Raccoony this afternoon.

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4th of July and a Moving Milestone

(Photo: Michael Howell)

(Photo: Michael Howell)

Happy Fourth of July!

Despite appearances, I have not in fact declared my independence from blogging. I am still madly scribbling down The Seven-Year-Old’s questions for future posts:

  • “How did people realize that there are colors that we just can’t see?”
  • “Are there jellyfish that can clone themselves?”
  • “Why do Rice Krispies pop?”
  • “Why do Daddyo’s day-old biscuits taste bitter?”
  • “How do you dry dock an aircraft carrier?”

OK, that last one may have been Daddyo’s, but it sounds terribly interesting, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to having the time (and the mental space) to look up the answers to these and all the other questions that have buzzed about The Seven-Year-Old’s brain these past few weeks.

Sadly, scribbling down notes is about all I’ve had time to do lately, as we have moved again. Happily, we are now in our (hopefully) permanent Chicago home, which means that once I’m through the press of unpacking this round, I should be good for a while. After eighteen months of nearly continuous contemplation and/or execution of one move or another, I’m insanely motivated to finally get this done, and have been working on it nearly full-time since sometime last May.

This week we hit a major milestone. Only 99 boxes to go before we can call ourselves settled and resume normal life. A discovery that prompted Daddyo to burst into song:

♪♫  99 boxes of stuff on the floor

99 boxes of stuff.

Take one down, scatter the stuff all around,

98 boxes of stuff on the floor… ♫

So that’s where we are. Singing about boxes of stuff as we slowly build each of the rooms in our new home, and grapple with life-altering questions like “Do we really need that 12th box of office supplies?” “What is that? A Cat 4 cable?

The Seven-Year-Old, helpfully, "Mommyo, I put your coffee cup on a coaster for you." (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Seven-Year-Old, helpfully, “Mommyo, I put your coffee cup on a coaster for you.” (Photo: Shala Howell)

In brief, we’ve been busy. We just haven’t been busy with the sorts of things that make for good Caterpickling.

With good luck, I’ll be done with (& recovered from) the current move by August, at which point The Seven-Year-Old and I will attempt to pack in an entire summer’s worth of fun into three crazy weeks. Checking my calendar, this implies regular posting on Caterpickles will resume in early September. In the meantime, it’ll be intermittent posting only, I’m afraid.

Thank you for your patience.

Happy Summer!

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Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, Out and About | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: My piano’s back!

(OK. Not wordless at all, but I’m too happy to only have pictures.)

When we moved to Chicago about a year ago, we rented a furnished place. Moving a piano is gruesome work and kind of hard on the piano, so we decided to store our ancient historically interesting (at least to me) Everett upright piano until we had found a place of our own.

My piano arrived Monday. There may have been some rejoicing.
b and the piano
On my part, anyway. As you can see, The Seven-Year-Old was extremely dubious about the prospects of getting the piano up all those stairs.

Our new condo is a third-floor walk-up, and turns out, The Seven-Year-Old was right. My old Everett wasn’t flexible enough to get around the turns in either the front or the back stairs, so the movers had to call a crane company to hoist it up to our back deck.
Piano hoisting
PianoAlmostThereMy piano wasn’t the only thing that had a bit of trouble making the turns Monday. It wasn’t at all clear that the crane was even going to make it into our alley.
CraneNaturally, once the piano was safely in its spot, I tested it to see whether it still worked (hey, you never know).

Man, that piano booms. I’d forgotten how loud it was. So very great for me. So very unfortunate for my neighbors, especially as we don’t have any rugs or couches in that room to dampen the sound–yet.

I don’t know whether to practice more so that I’ll become a tolerable enough player for an audience, or to subject my neighbors to only infrequent bouts of increasingly subpar playing. What to do, what to do… :)

Oh yeah, you know what I’m going to choose. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go choose some more of it.

Happy Wednesday!

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Wordless Wednesday: The Seven-Year-Old drops a hint

Or, what I found on my desk when I sat down to work this morning.

(Art: The Seven-Year-Old Howell)

(Art: The Seven-Year-Old Howell)

Guess she’s tired of waiting. I know this breaks the rules of Wordless Wednesday, but I haven’t been around for a while. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Managing painters, plumbers, electricians, and flooring guys
  • Hiring movers
  • Packing up our current place
  • Cleaning/prepping our new place (we move again in June)
  • Paying taxes (in three states!)
  • Camp NaNoWriMo (a mini-National Novel Writing Month event held in April)
  • Trying to figure out how donations work in Chicago
  • Trying to figure out how emotions translate into body language and how body language translates into words on a page
  • Binge reading Elizabeth George mysteries
  • Debating with Daddyo on the ideal functionality of a master bathroom

Here’s what I’ve not been doing:

  • Caterpickles

Sadly (?), all my spare words have been going to my novel lately. Hopefully I’ll return to my regularly scheduled blogging output soon. In the meantime, enjoy the spring!

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What do you serve to a party of dragons?


The Six-Year-Old has been inspired by Hiccup to create her own Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons. This is her diagram of a Captain Hook Dragon. (Art: The Six-Year-Old Howell)

It’s March, which means that any day now, The Six-Year-Old will morph into The Seven-Year-Old. The Six-Year-Old is slightly obsessed with dragons (and their Viking trainers) at the moment, thanks to Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon books, so we are planning a dragon (and Viking)-theme birthday party for her.  Naturally, the topic of what kind of birthday cake we should serve came up.

Years ago, I made an Icelandic Devil’s Cake in conjunction with United Nations day at my daughter’s preschool. I can’t remember if I actually carried the cake in to share with others. I might not have, because that cake was AMAZING. And frankly, I’m not good at sharing AMAZING.

Since the Vikings settled Iceland, I thought our Dragon and Viking themed party would be the perfect time to trot out that cake again.

The Six-Year-Old, flatly: “No.”

Mommyo, pleadingly: “But I could shape the cake like a dragon’s egg and decorate it with little swirly spots of frosting to look like spots.”

The Six-Year-Old, firmly: “No.”

Mommyo, curiously: “Why not? It’s an authentic Icelandic recipe. Something the Vikings might have eaten. I thought you’d think that was cool.”

The Six-Year-Old, decidedly: “That cake was disgusting.”

Mommyo, calmly: “You must be remembering a different cake. That cake had layers of deliciousness, dark cocoa, chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, butter…”

The Six-Year-Old, disgustedly: “And bananas. I hate bananas.”

Mommyo, sadly: “Are you sure you’re remembering the right cake?”

The Six-Year-Old: “Ask Caterpickles.”

So I did. Come with me into the Caterpickles Way Back Machine. Mind the gap.

In Which The Four-Year-Old Takes an Unwanted Trip Down Memory Lane

Posted on October 26, 2011 by Shala Howell

One Devil’s Cake: 3 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/4 cups of butter, 1 1/2 cups of very dark cocoa, 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 3 Tbsp of (decaf) coffee, applied to 4 1/2 year old after dinner = 2 1/2 hours of continuous galloping. Priceless. And not in a good way.

Mother, after mashing up a banana to use as the middle layer in a traditional Icelandic devil’s cake, thinks, “Mashed bananas were the first food I ever fed to The Four-Year-Old. I bet she’d think that was cool.”

Without putting any further thought into it, Mother digs in the silverware drawer for a Gerber baby spoon leftover from those halcyon early foodie days. Prepping it with a bit of mashed banana, she carries it into the playroom where The Four-Year-Old is relaxing in front of a Clifford cartoon.

Mother, excitedly: “Look, The Four-Year-Old, it’s the first food I ever gave to you as a baby! Want to try some?”

The Four-Year-Old, totally repulsed, scrambles under the couch cushions in her haste to get away from the scary slimy spoonie thing: “What. Is. That?”

Mother, still trying to keep that sentimental feeling: “Mashed bananas. You used to love them.”

The Four-Year-Old, hand over mouth, just shakes her head and looks vaguely sick.

Mother, abashed, walks back to kitchen, and dumps the rejected bananas into the sink. She pulls out a five from her wallet and puts it in The Four-Year-Old’s Future Therapy tin. We may not be able to fully fund her college, but by George, her therapy sessions will be completely covered.

It’s not actually a good plan to have The Six-Year-Old bake her own cakes for her party in her Easy Bake Oven, right?

Oh well. At least The Six-Year-Old has the party decorations well in hand.

The Six-Year-Old's homage to Toothless. (Art: The Six-Year-Old)

The Six-Year-Old’s homage to Toothless. (Art: The Six-Year-Old)

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Dinosaur Pet Guide

Back in the day when we had one arthritic cat and one merely very old cat, the Then Three-Year-Old wanted to know, “How much arthritis would a Giganotosaurus have to have to be a safe pet?” A cursory examination of the various weapons systems (size, teeth, claws) makes me inclined to answer a lot. Far too much to be compatible with life, in fact.

Last week, one of our favorite Norwood correspondents alerted me to this Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (via I Love Charts). Although the Giganotosaurus doesn’t appear on it, I think it’s safe to assume the experience of owning a T. Rex would be pretty similar.

Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (Via I Love Charts)

Dinosaur Pet Guide by John Conway (Via I Love Charts)

Posted in Can we do that sometime?, Funny Stuff My Daughter Says | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday: My View This Morning

WinterTreesSnow on trees is my favorite part of winter. And I’m ridiculously happy that I get to see it again this morning. Even if it is March.

Morning, y’all.

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Classic Caterpickles: Daddyo’s Winter Survival Tip: “Don’t taunt the hand plague.”

Desperately hoping that this renovation doesn’t morph into another Project Bob disastrophe. Remind me to tell you that little horror story sometime. For now, here’s another Classic Caterpickle to tide you over.

The way I'm eulogizing this canister makes me think I should call it by name. But we really never named it. Oh well. (Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Once upon a time we had a lovely green canister that we used to keep sugar on the counter for coffee, tea, and the odd spot of baking. Daddyo and I both adored it. Note the little wooden spoon that lives permanently in a holder on the side. So convenient (as long as everyone obeys the do-not-stir-the-coffee-with-the-sugar-spoon rule).

But over the course of many years of faithful service, the canister’s hermetic seal began to go. I ignored it for as long as I could, but once the canister began leaking sugar every time we moved it, it was time to say goodbye.

So I brought home this beauty. Gorgeous, right?

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Guess what she’s missing.

Yep. No integrated wooden spoon. It took about three seconds of use before Daddyo and I figured out that integrated wooden spoon was one of our favorite features.

The bleary-eyed, pre-coffee solution? Pluck the spoon from the old green canister and plunk it right into the sugar. Handle up, of course, because you know, that’s how you hold a spoon.

All was golden until one snowy morning when Daddyo came traipsing downstairs and discovered this:

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Daddyo, exasperatedly: “Shala, can we at least agree to only ever put the spoon in the sugar handle side up?”

Mommyo, defensively: “But when the sugar canister is full, it takes too long to wiggle the spoon in that way. This way you can just shove it down. Much faster.”

Daddyo, didactically: “But you know what you’re doing, right? You’re shoving down all the germs from your hand into the middle of the sugar.”

Mommyo, queasily: “Oh. But if we survived the Bubonic Snowflake, surely we can survive the hand plague.”

Daddyo, definitively: “There is no reason to taunt the hand plague. The immune system helps those who help themselves.”

So now we keep the spoon here.

(Photo: Shala Howell)

The approved placement of the sugar spoon. (Photo: Shala Howell)

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(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: Turtle on Trial

Over the weekend, The Six-Year-Old put her turtle on trial. She has not yet made the full list of his nefarious deeds public, nor has the jury — comprised of various dragons, cats, and of course, reformed Super Criminal Grace Elvis — decided his sentence. But based on what I found when I cleaned house this morning, things don’t look good for the little guy.

Here's hoping it's a short sentence. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Here’s hoping it’s a short sentence. Maybe just a fine. Or some community service. We could put him to work cleaning up the paper slicks that keep appearing around here. (Photo: Shala Howell)

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