Introducing The Esteemed Ms. Tutu

How I Was Unwittingly Pranked By A 4 Year Old

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

I am going to mix things up a bit and share a quick story with you about a moment of total embarrassment that my 4 year old inflicted upon me today. If he was older and had masterminded it, I would give him some massive props. However, he just lucked into one of the bigger pranks that have been played on me in quite a while. And it all revolves around the upcoming Teacher’s Appreciation Week and trying to decode a 4 year old’s brain.

As parents around the country know, we are quickly approaching Teacher Appreciation Week. And given how each teacher has taken a boulder and a half of burden over the past year navigating this pandemic, they deserve it. My emails have been full of coordination emails amongst the other parents in my 2 children’s classes. Themes, sign up lists, updates, coordination of each step have flooded my inbox and brain for the last 3ish weeks. But we are almost there and like a pack of lemmings, we are rushing for that finish line to show our gratitude. And I am incredibly fortunate that both of my children have AMAZING teachers. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Now let me back up for a moment. Given Covid Protocols, things have changed at my kids’ school for safety. The class sizes are smaller and classes that used to have 2 teachers, may now only have 1 as a result. In addition, each class has specific substitutes and helpers that are allowed in the classrooms to keep everyone safe. Back in February, my son was going through his Valentine’s cards and gifts from his class and we came across the one from his wonderful Teacher and “Ms. Tutu.” I asked my son, “Who is Ms. Tutu?” since I didn’t know a teacher or staff member by that name. Especially given it is a name you would remember. My son, very animatedly tells me, “Oh! Ms. Tutu watches us when our teacher is out. And that is her cat!”

I am appeased by this answer and assume she must be a new addition at the semester. A few weeks later, my son mentions Ms. Tutu again and I ask about her cat. He says she is good and we move on. I start looking around the school for a new teacher/staff member so I can figure out who she is. I even browse the school staff website (twice!) to see if anyone has been added. Everything looks the same. I just write it off as either she hasn’t had time for her photo to be taken or maybe she is not parent facing enough to be on the website. Plus, my son mentions her only in passing so I assume she just isn’t in the classroom all that often.

So fast forward to Teacher Appreciation Week and I am buttoning up the last bits of my tasks. We have signed up to bring his teacher lunch for one of the days and sent her an email to get her preferences. I realized this morning that I hadn’t seen Ms. Tutu mentioned on any of the emails. Which would not be surprising given she is just an occasional helper. But with the spirit of appreciation and celebration for our amazing teachers, I decide that I needed to ask his teacher if we should be including her for lunch. And if so, would she mind getting Ms. Tutu’s lunch order for me.

The following is the conversation I had with his teacher at pick up.

Me: *general chatter to my son and teacher about how the day went* “Oh! I sent you an email about lunch next week. Would you mind letting me know what you want?”

Teacher: “Oh! You really don’t have to do that. But I appreciate it and will get that back to you.”

Me: “Also, I realized we didn’t include Ms. Tutu on the order. And (son’s name) mentioned that she helps you out when you need to step out for a minute…”

Teacher looking at me like I suddenly started barking instead of talking.

Me: “He said like when you have to go to the bathroom or just need to step out…” my voice trails off and my friend who is waiting for her daughter starts laughing out loud. I think I heard her say “Oh I know who Ms. Tutu is!” between coughing and fits of laughter.

Teacher looking at me like I have 3 heads says, “You know who Ms. Tutu is, don’t you?”

Me: Staring there dumbly as the realization hits me that Ms. Tutu may not have a cat, but BE the CAT…

Teacher: “Do you see that picture over there on the wall? That is Ms. Tutu. She is my 14 year old CAT.”

Photo by Koda on Unsplash (Not the real Ms. Tutu)

We all start cracking up and my son just looks at us all bewildered on what is so funny.

She explained that she talks about Ms. Tutu to the class and graciously tells me, that “No, Ms. Tutu will not be needing lunch next week.” But she would be sure to tell Ms. Tutu that I asked.

I, with a beet red face and giggling from my embarrassment, took my son to the car. He has still yet to admit that Ms. Tutu is a CAT.

And now, I will be looking for a cat toy to add to the end of year Teacher’s Gifts. I mean, we can’t forget to include the best SubstiCAT in school.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go crawl under a rock for a bit. 

Photo by Callum Wale on Unsplash

Declare Your Own Renaissance

Tulips in Amsterdam. Photo by Lily Latson

Each year, I declare the theme of a year. It is an idea I got years ago from a friend of mine who always did a remarkable job of declaring the motif that would permeate the following year. He probably spent way more time thinking about it than I ever gave him credit for. But his choices were always profound and inspiring. I used to anxiously wait to see what he would declare the year’s theme to be and jump on board with the enthusiasm of a child in a bouncy house. 

This eventually evolved into me declaring my own personal themes. I admit they were not nearly as aspirational, influential, nor even as realistic as some of his were. But they were my own personal anthems. Ones that fit me and applied to what I needed in that year. 

Now my friend’s annual theme always had a poetic ring to it, such as “The Year of New Beginnings” or “The Year to be Courageous”. Mine, well, mine were more, shall we say… blunt. One year, it was “The Year of Yes!” and it was followed by “The Year of No.” If I had been more eloquent, I would probably have called it “The Year of the Pause.” However, at that time I needed to know I had the empowerment to say no… to EVERYTHING. And as you can imagine, after a year of saying YES to all things that came my way, I NEEDED a year to say NO to almost everything and reestablish some boundaries.

St. Francis covered in vines. Photo by: Lily Latson

Last year, I tried something a little different. I used just 1 word to describe something I wanted my life to have more of in 2020. Oh, optimistic, naïve, wonderful, little me. In January of 2020, having no idea what was coming at me like a jet plane with rocket boosters and no brakes, I chose the word “Patience.” I might have just snorted from laughing so hard just thinking about how I painstakingly picked that word. Thinking at the time that I just wanted more patience with my kids. That it would make me a better mom and be less cranky about things. Never in my life did I think the ENTIRE WORLD would try my patience, at every turn, like 2020 did. Ironically, while my patience for much of the rest of the world and a LOT of people in it is pretty much gone, my patience with my family is actually better than ever (most days).

So this brings me to this year’s theme. I decided to be a little more thoughtful this year. I scrapped the whole “one word” thing. ‘Cause let’s face it, anything that I started “new” in 2020 is going in the dumpster. I am usually only superstitious about sports, but 2020 is going into that category these days. I also took more time to really think about the themes I saw emerging over the end of 2020 and my hopes for 2021. I focused on what I need this year, and after that words can’t even describe year, I need some positivity. So without further ado, I present you with my theme of 2021:

“My Year of Renaissance”

Now bear with me. It might seem a little lofty or even straight up, “huh?” But let’s examine why this is a perfect theme for 2021. In January, I took an online Art History class with a focus on Renaissance Artwork and it got me thinking. The Renaissance period immediately followed the Dark Ages (and the Black Plague!) and was a period of great rebirth, creativity, and scientific discovery. It was about understanding and appreciating the beauty around us. Pushing and developing ourselves and our comprehension of the world we live in. There was definitely conflict in that evolution as opposing ideas waged against each other. But in that time, some of the biggest scientific advances emerged and some of the most amazing art was born.

Roses and Towers. Photo by Lily Latson

I have noticed that in the coping skills we all developed last year, many people turned toward their creative sides. I saw friends and family embrace new artistic endeavors, physical creation of items, and furthering an education in a new skill or subject. We all slowed down just a touch and returned to a more basic humanity in a sense as we dealt with the trauma that was slamming us in the face each day.

And like the Renaissance that emerged over a couple hundred years, I decided I want to grab onto that creative hum and hold on to it with all my might. I plan to use the next year to begin my own personal Renaissance. To focus my energy on creating beautiful things (that may only be beautiful to me, and that is okay.) To acknowledge the beauty in the world around me everyday in a more focused way. And to devote some of my time to further enlightening myself on the subjects that I have always wanted to learn, but never carved out the time for. I am using this year to carefully craft my own creative rebirth.

I know all this sounds very large concept and almost like a giant ball of kids slime that oozes over when you try to get your arms around it. And in some ways, it kind of is. But I have defined a few areas that I am working on to make this goal achievable. Here is how I have started my commitment to My Year of Renaissance:

  • Self-Enlightenment Through Online Classes: I enrolled in an online Art History class. I have always wanted to learn more about paintings in particular and expand my own personal knowledge past the VERY basic information given to me in my elementary school art classes. I enrolled through EdX, which is free for the majority of classes and it has been a wonderful experience.  Each lecture is 10ish minutes and I can take them as I have time in the week. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to picking my next class/subject soon.
Fountain of Fish & Dragons. Photo by Lily Latson
  • Appreciation of Natural Beauty Through Bird Watching: Not gonna’ lie, I had a kind of nerdy image in my head of bird watchers. My judgment definitely skewed my opinion of this amazing past time/hobby. And I am a big nerd, so maybe I just didn’t have enough self-reflection to recognize I was destined for this activity before. Either way, I have started appreciating the birds around me. Taking the time to stop, look, and enjoy them. They are such amazing creatures and it is a lot more fun when you actually know what they are! The COLORS of the birds that just fly through my yard is awe-inspiring. The yellows, golds, rich browns, vibrant blues, and scarlet reds now stop me in my tracks. I have been using the Merlin app from the Cornell Lab, which is awesome at helping identify birds. They will also help you easily track what you see and also give you information about the birds. Extra bonus, is the data you do log helps Cornell Lab’s research and aviary conservation. Plus, it gives me fun things to talk with my kids about when we go for walks and hikes. They also love it because it is a good excuse to carry around the binoculars they got from their Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin for Christmas.
Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash
  • Creative Outflow Through Artistic Expression & Creation: This one has perhaps been the most rewarding for me in the near term. At the end of 2020, I pulled out my old cross-stitch work that my Grandmother had taught me when I was young. It was calming to have something to sit quietly with and keep my hands busy. I also liked the connection it gave me to my Grandmother. There is something rewarding about engaging in an art form that feels more traditional, old fashioned, and in a way, dying. (Though from what I have recently been reading, I am not the only one embracing embroidery as it is seeing a resurgence.)  I have continued with new projects, some more rewarding than others, and am learning new stiches and new skills. It has given me a creative outlet I didn’t know I needed. Next, I would like to learn how to sketch/draw beyond my 3rdgrade skill level. I might try to marry my next online class with this one and enroll in a drawing class (and hey, I might even try sketching the birds I see!) Also, I continue to push my need to create in my garden and in my kitchen as I hone skills and experiment with new projects.
Photo by Santoshi Guruju on Unsplash

2020 was a hard year. And I don’t know anyone who misses it or wishes we could do it again. And real talk, 2021 hasn’t exactly started out much easier for many of us. But out of the dark ages, bloomed The Renaissance. While I know I can never be a Leonardo or Michelangelo, I am embracing my own personal Renaissance. And I hope you choose to join me.

What would you chose for your theme of the year? What are ways you can embrace your own personal Renaissance? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Garden Bounty

A Bruised Thumb’s Guide To Gardening Kits

The Go To Guide for Garden Kits to help deal with this never-ending quarantine. 

This post includes affiliate links. Please see the policies page for more information.

Photo by Chantal Garnier on Unsplash

Well we are almost into fall and I *can’t* wait to see what the final quarter of this dumpster fire year brings. Anyone else need a break from this year? Can we all collectively agree and just hit the pause button for a 5 minute reset? Please? I am asking nicely…

So do you want to know what this year has driven me to? Well let me tell you.

Recently, I found myself Q-Tip in hand, channeling my inner Barry White and serenading my squash flowers with “Let’s Get It On” while I swabbed pollen from one flower to another. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think there would be a possibility of me being stuck in Quarantine for 6+ months. And even further from that did I ever think I would be working so hard for a plant to get lucky. But here we are. C’est la vie.

I don’t know about you all, but with the never-ending Shelter in Place, the West Coast burning down, the Gulf Coast being pounded with Tropical Storms, and the overwhelming loss of life (Rest in Power RBG), I had started running out of coping mechanisms. Not only have I run out, I am cycling back through the early ones. Oh yeah, I am baking bread again. However, they don’t work as well the second time around. But never fear, I have not given up on them. Oh no, I have actually doubled down on them and started expanding on them (more to come on that). 

For example, you may remember my little windowsill herb garden and the Fight To The Death against the Fungus Gnats. Well since then, I have progressed from a little windowsill herb garden to a container vegetable and “fruit” garden. (Scroll down to find my recommendations for some great Garden Starter Kits!)

First Tomato. Photo by Lily Latson

I say “fruit” because most of my fruit has given up on this year and straight up “quit”. And by “quit,” I might mean I killed them. The Goji berries FINALLY decided this year is worth it. They had a slow start and I could tell they were trying to decide if they were better off cashing out of this year or giving it a shot. Aren’t we all. Lucky for me, they were optimistic and that gives me hope that this year won’t be a total loss. Others weren’t quite so hopeful. Now I just applaud my almost 2 year old every time she waters the pot of dirt when she is helping me water the plants. It’s pretty cute watching her water the ground next to the pot with her Abby Cadabby (Sesame Street) watering can

My garden has evolved well over the past few month from some pretty epic fails, some weird twists (i.e. some very rude tomatoes taking over my strawberry pot), and some exciting wins. My kids argue over who gets our 1-2 Goldenberries everyday. I mean, if they are going to fight, at least it’s over a healthy berry, right?

Golden Berry. Photo by Lily Latson

I also learned some very valuable lessons about plant biology this year. Especially when it comes to squash varietals. I feel like they missed an important life science lesson along the way. You see, apparently squash have male and female flowers. But here is the twist; they don’t bloom at the same time. So you need some busy little pollinators who feed on the males and return for the females. Anyhow, my squash have been BLOOMING like CRAZY. So many beautiful, yellow squash blossoms. But, they are all Males. Every. Single. One of them. I have held out hope that the females are coming. But I am also losing confidence that the males will ever pollinate the females.  And THIS is how I found myself with a Q-Tip in hand, encouraging my plants to get busy.

What many of you probably don’t realize is, but I don’t exactly have a green thumb. I historically have had a very black thumb. Like I kill cactus, black thumb. And I would only buy the spineless ones cause I am clumsy and cactus can be quite a health hazard for me. So through this evolution of gardening through the Pandemic, my black thumb is turning less black. It is more of Bruised color I would now say.

Even despite my love of plants and their petrified fear of me, I have found some pretty fool proof gardening kits that can turn even the intrepid novice into a gardener. And here is the best part, all of these can be done in containers in small spaces, AND can be delivered to your door. And there is still plenty of time in most places to plant for a fall harvest. Just choose your plants wisely based on your climate (and save whatever seeds you don’t use for the Spring). Some are definitely be apartment friendly too.

So if you are looking for your next emotional Band-Aid during this Global Pandemic, or perhaps sending a care package to someone who needs a boost, or even just getting a jump on your Christmas shopping; I can recommend each of these gardening kits as awesome starting places. 

  • Plant Theatre: Funky Veg Kit – This is a GREAT and fun kit. We were gifted this for Christmas from my dad. I have no idea what inspired him (other than he loves gardens), but I cannot thank him enough. This has been a great project that has been a fun and EASY first adventure into a variety of vegetables. And every single plant sprouted and has done well.
    • Includes 5 Vegetables: Striped Tomatoes, Purple Carrots, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Purple Brussel Sprouts, and Golden Squash. 
    • Pros:
      • Comes with everything you need (pots, soil disk, seeds, markers) to get started so you literally need to buy nothing else. (**Note: if you are not going to plant into the ground, you will want a container to transfer them into once the seedlings get big enough – I recommend something like this or this.) 
      • The pots included are biodegradable so you can just plant the seedling pot directly into the ground or permanent pot. 
    • Cons:
      • You will need a plan (container or raised bed/garden bed) for the vegetables to transplant once they get big enough which will require soil and location. 
      • Some of these are more summer harvest plants, so you may have missed the window for outdoor planting this year. But you can always start some of them indoors or keep some of the seeds until next spring. 
Plant Theatre Funky Veg Kit. Photo Courtesy of Amazon
  • Plant Theatre: Forbidden Fruit Kit – This one has all the same benefits of the vegetable one (see #1). But if you are like us, then this is an easy sell. We LOVE berries. Every single plant sprouted and any failure in the growing process falls squarely on pilot error on my part. Also, what I like about this one is in includes a Goji Berry plant which is a multi year developing bush. 
    • Pros: 
      • Both of these kits, they came with plenty of seeds to plant some this year and keep some for next year. 
      • This goes back to my “bruised thumb”. If I can successfully grow these kits from seeds, you DEFINITELY can!
    • Cons:
      • Same as above.
Plant Theatre Forbidden Fruit Kit. Photo Courtesy of Amazon.
  • Garden Republic Culinary Herb Garden: So I love the variety of this kit, but it has been in such high demand, it is hard to get. I have noticed the price has bounced a bit, so if it seems a bit high and you are willing to wait, do so.
    • Pros:
      • Great Variety of Herbs (10!): Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Chives, Parsley, Cilantro, Peppermint, Dill, Basil, and Arugula
      • Germination Guarantee: if your herbs don’t sprout, they will send you more seeds!
      • Online Support Forum via Facebook for their growers which I have utilized and was helpful
      • Tons of seeds in each packet so you can save more for next year or plant in waves so you have a continuous supply.
      • Beautiful packaging which is great for a gift
      • Can be grown indoors – I started my herb garden in a sunny window in my kitchen and everything sprouted and grew wonderfully.
    • Cons:
      • Price and Availability – when I bought this back in March, it was pretty affordable compared to its competitors. Especially for the number of herbs. And, it was very easy to get. However, I have noticed the price has adjusted a few times since then given it is in high demand and often sold out.
      • Does require the purchase of soil and containers. I keep hoping they will change this as they keep updating their product line to include both pots and soil (disks). Fingers crossed!
Garden Republic Culinary Herb Kit. Photo Courtesy of Amazon
  • Planter’s Choice: Window Herb Garden: This is the one I got for my mom and it is so cute. I never saw it when I was looking for mine or I would have been torn. 
    • Pros: 
      • There are 9 herbs (vs. Garden Republic’s 10): Basil, Dill, Chives, Thyme, Cilantro, Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Mustard
      • Include cute reusable plastic pots that have a sleek and modern feel. I like that they come with a matching drip trays (the set is broken into 3s so you can adjust lighting needs or spread out around your living/growing space as needed). 
      • Soil (disks) is included
      • Printed Markers in a large font: As someone whose handwriting can be questionably legible at times, I really liked that about these. Also it is in a large print format that is nice for easy identification. 
      • Great price point and is a great gift. And after discussing with my brother who is a Chef, he was very happy with the herb variety and found it to be useful.
Planter’s Choice Herb Window Garden. Photo Courtesy of Amazon

While I can personally vouch for the 4 above, I wanted to highlight a few others that have peaked my interest and I will be curious to explore next year. I wanted to highlight them in case you were looking for a something a bit different or exotic. Or if you, too, just wanted to expand on the garden you already have going. And as I can attest, these all make great gifts. They are fun to give and fun to receive.

  • Plant Theatre:
    • Hot Chili & Sweet Peppers: Includes Chili Peach Habaneros, Chille de Cayenne, Chille Pepper Jalapeño, Sweet Pepper Corno di Toro Rosso, Sweet Pepper Etiuda, and Sweet Pepper California Wonders
    • Edible Flowers: Cause who doesn’t love flowers? And I can eat them? Double win. I also feel like it would make me feel fancy in the time of Covid. Includes Marigold Sparky, Cornflower Bachelor’s Button Blue Boy, Candula Orange, Dianthus Pinks, Nasturtium Jewel Mix, and Pansey Johnny Jump Up
  • Garden Republic:
    • Tea Kit: In case you want to take on a new hobby and make your own tea, this one looks pretty cool. It just includes the seeds and markers, but it does include 10 types of seeds. These are Cinnamon Basil, Peppermint, Marjoram, Echinacea, Lemon Balm, Dandelion, Lavender, Fennel, Chamomile, Catnip
    • Bonsai Kit: This kit actually includes 4 types of seeds (most only include 3), the pots, pruning scissors (because we all need to be adequately equipped for our new obsessions), markers, and potting soil. The seeds included are: Brazilian Rosewood (flowering), Flame Tree, Black Spruce, and Colorado Blue Spruce

And if you decide to get any of these, let me know how it goes!

Now, wanna’ know something kinda’ funny? My weirdo gardening obsession is slowly wearing off on my husband. He has become obsessive over the grass in our yard. He is now seen a few times a day wandering around and checking the yard. He is out there fertilizing, seeding, watering, observing, and fighting our resident Gopher. Queue the Caddyshack jokes (and please send me some if you have any good ones!). It’s like I am getting a sneak peek of what we are going to look like when we are in our 60’s & 70’s. 

And with that, I leave you with what I have been randomly yelling in our house for the past 3 days, “Freeze, Gopher!”

Until next time,



A Mother’s Guide To Temporary Pets: Options for when you are sick of killing fish

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase any of the recommended items via the links below at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Ahmed Hasan on Unsplash

What is it about becoming a mother than inherently makes us want more things to “take care of”? 

I have seriously less mental space or time anymore to do anything that doesn’t consist of my family and my home. Yet, like magic, I find that I have this uncontrollable pull to add MORE things to my mental load that requires caring for and keeping alive.

When our elderly dog passed away a few years ago, within a few weeks I went out and bought fish. I thought we needed a “pet” in our lives, and I had experience with fish. Even sickly pet store fish. And guess what? I am generally pretty good at it. 

Photo by Worachat Sodsri on Unsplash

We went super traditional with a blue Beta. We even named him, Mr. Fish for the main character of The Pout Pout Fish book (just the cutest children’s board book ever, and my kids’ favorite). He lived for a solid 3 months. 

I declared this a fluke and it must be the fish. After a few month break, we went for Fish, Part Deux. This time, I found a sickly one with a gimpy fin and declared him the winner. I figured if he was sick and going to die in the store, we might as well take him home and let him live out his last days in a better venue. Yeah, I know. I am a bleeding heart. Within a few days, our little weak finned Beta was thriving. However, this one too got sick and died at 3 months. 3 months longer than I ever would have guessed looking at that miserable little thing in the plastic cup at the pet store. But all in all it was defeating for me. I declared myself done with pets until we decided to reclaim our status as a “dog family.”

However, fate had a different plan for us. Enter what I affectionately have dubbed the “Temporary Pet.” And you know what, it works for us! Let me explain why and which ones I recommend in case you think that you too, may be a Temporary Pet candidate.

The appeal of the “Temporary Pet” is that they require minimal effort to feed, no effort to clean, and provide some element of excitement, entertainment, or education.

Ladybugs: Insect Lore Ladybug Land

One of our newly emerged ladybugs taking in the view. Photo by Lily Latson

We are new to ladybugs, but they may be my favorite. Firstly, we all learned something with these little insects. For example, ladybug larvae look NOTHING like I thought they would. They are not red, nor do they have spots. They are longer and are yellow stripped. Pretty, but pretty sure somewhere along the line I have killed them thinking they were some nasty, scary bug. Secondly, they have a very fast life cycle. Each stage of life happens every few days so even the youngest kids stay engaged. My 19 month old LOVES them. She calls them “Baba Bugs” (her best attempt at “ladybug”) and squeals with delight every time she sees them. She also dances in front of their little domed habitat and tells each of them “Hi!” The best part of these “pets,” at the end of 3-ish weeks, you get to set them free in your garden and they eat pests. Score for me. 

The ladybugs are very active and like to eat. So it’s fun to check in on them. The other nice thing about purchasing one of the kits is the larvae come with an enclosed habitat. After the initial investment, in the future you will just need to buy additional larvae and reuse the habitat.  As for feeding it is so simple. The larvae come with the food in the tube which all gets poured into the habitat. Once they become adults, just a few raisins soaked in water and they are happy little campers. Overall they are VERY easy, interesting to watch, and no mess/clean up. Only downside, the pupa stage is not cute like a cocoon. 

Butterflies: Insect Lore Butterfly Garden

Butterfly from our 1st ever release. Photo by Lily Latson

Butterflies were our gateway Temporary Pet. They are very educational and exciting for kids because of the visual stages of life. Even my husband and I get into the rapid growth of the caterpillars. They arrive in a jar with food built in and the only food they require after they emerge is sugar water. They have a longer life cycle and there are more interesting transitions than the ladybugs. And who doesn’t love butterflies? From start to finish, it can take up to 5 weeks depending on how little the caterpillars are when they arrive. They do require a little more care in that you have to move the cocoons from the jar to the tented habitat. Also, our first time around, one of the cocoons fell off and that butterfly ended up with a deformed wing and didn’t make it. I learned this time that the lid where the cocoons attach is sticky so we were able to reaffix the one that fell this year. 

Newly formed Cocoons. Photo by Lily Latson

The best part of raising butterflies is the release. Both my kids got to hold them last year as we let them go. Luckily, my daughter was too young and uncoordinated to catch them or it could have been less picturesque. And like the Ladybugs, after the initial investment of the kit, you will just need to buy the caterpillars as wanted. 

Newly released butterfly resting on my 6 month old. Photo by Lily Latson

Needless to say, this is a fun Temporary Pet and one we will do every year for the foreseeable future. The downside is they are fragile creatures so they do require more adult supervision. Also, they are seasonal so pay attention to your local outdoor temperatures before purchasing.

Praying Mantis & Frogs:

We have not attempted either of these for 2 solid reasons. 

The Praying Mantis looks creepy. And I am not sure I want to have an animal living in my countertop that rips the head off it’s mate. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are awesome creatures and incredibly beneficial for the garden. But I just don’t know if I want to have my coffee with one for a few weeks. Tell me I am wrong. 

Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

As for the frogs, I REALLY wanted to raise frogs. I love frogs and think they have such a cool life cycle. I know my kids would be very engaged with these. And if we could find eggs/tadpoles in our back yard, I might be inclined. But as for the mail order ones, after a lot of research I decided it wasn’t the right thing to do environmentally. I didn’t want to be responsible for introducing a foreign species of frog into my local area that ends up upsetting the natural balance. So if you do decide to go this route, I just highly recommend doing some research on what your local species of frog/toad is and make sure you are getting ones that are indigenous. 

Photo by gary tresize on Unsplash

Sea Monkeys: Sea Monkey Kit

Photo by Lily Latson

I am conflicted on declaring these Temporary Pets. I think for most people they are, but our most recent experience left me staring at those creepy little aliens for 6 MONTHS. That was 6 months longer than I wanted. You see, these Sea Monkeys were a gift to my kids from their Grandfather and Uncle. After our fish died and our success with the butterflies, they thought this might be a good activity. And while I wasn’t super enthusiastic about having mini shrimp on my kitchen counter, I was game to at least try it. The kit came with water treatment, eggs, and food for the Sea Monkeys and 1 plastic reusable habitat. It does require some initial set up (treating the water 24 hours in advance with the solution provided), but once it is set up, it is pretty much all systems go. It requires occasional feeding, mainly in the beginning, and occasional topping off of water. Other than that, they are pretty hands off. 

After I got over the creep factor of those beady little eyes staring back at me, I kind of developed a fondness for them. The upside of Sea Monkeys is they eat algae. This means they literally require no feeding once you get a healthy algae bloom occurring. The downside is, you end up with a green habitat on your counter. However, the MAJOR downside is that all kids think sea monkeys are going to look like the adorably cute cartoon sea monkeys on the package. So there is some inherent disappointment for them when you show them the weird eyed shrimp swimming around. 

But for the bang for their buck, this one is a decent investment as far as Temporary Pets. Just don’t get stuck in the circle I did of having the lone Sea Monkey hanging in there at 5 months. It won’t die and you don’t want to kill it. I did feel a little sad when she finally passed at month 6. We were all rooting for her. And hey, if you want to try this one out, I might still have 1 set left.

Triops: Smithsonian Prehistoric Monsters

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Billed as a prehistoric animal, this one is perfect for the science nerd and/or slightly older kids. We were gifted this one too after so much success with our Sea Monkeys. The habitat is bigger and the backdrop is every kids dream (spoiler alert: it is a picture of a T-Rex as seen above). In my experience, this one was a little harder to manage than the Sea Monkeys. They require more active feeding and they will cannibalize the smaller ones. In appearance, they are essentially Horseshoe Shrimp. These do require tiny bit more effort and are a good option if you have a kid who is really into dinosaurs, is a little older and can help, or is just really into Science.

Now don’t get me wrong, a “Temporary Pet” is not a dog or a cat and will never fill that void. These are just great options when you feel that bizarre compulsion that every mom I know experiences.  So next time you find yourself compelled to take care of something, or feel the call to see if you cannot kill something, these are a good solution. Trust me, they are less effort than the Sourdough Starter you are forgetting to feed or the herb garden you overwatered and drowned. 

Until next time!



Lizards and Caterpillars: Is this how Dr. Dolittle got his start?

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

Hi All,

I hope everyone is surviving the Pandemic and handling the easing of shelter in place well.

Did you know that Hugh Lofting published The Story of Dr. Dolittle during the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1920? I never would have guessed his work would be so relevant in my life on it’s 100th anniversary. One recent experience made me wonder if it was during the quarantine of 1918/1919 that inspired him. Spoiler Alert, the short answer is no. He actually wrote it while in the trenches of WWI. He needed a distraction from the depression and carnage, and would send it home in letters to his children. But suffice to say, it is in tough times that we let our imaginations run wild and commune more with nature.

Photo by Blake Meyer on Unsplash

This experience inspired my most recent Medium post that was published in Home Sweet Home. You can find it here: Quarantine is Crushing My Extroverted Child: Now he aspires to be Dr. Doolittle.

In some other exciting news, I found out yesterday that one of my stories will be featured on Scary Mommy this weekend. For those of you who are not familiar with Scary Mommy, it is one of the largest online resources for moms/parents. It is really exciting to have them pick one of my pieces. I will definitely share the link once it is published.

I also promise to have some more things coming up that are exclusive to the blog in the coming days. My kids have been having fun helping me prepare for the next one. Although, my kitchen might have mixed feelings on this “fun”.

Until then, Peace.

Photo by Denis Nicolae Ispas on Unsplash

Love, Lily

Talking to Your Preschooler about Coronavirus, Or just traumatizing them with pepper

Hi Y’all,

I have some very exciting news. I just had a new piece published on Home Sweet Home (a publication on Medium). Here is the link* to the article.

small glass bowl of pepper
Photo by Lily Latson

I had a lot of fun writing this one and I hope you enjoy it.

Stay away from the pepper!



P.S. – The link above is my “friend link” so will not count against your monthly Medium usage for non-members.

P.P.S. – I had another article go into publication in Mom, Interrupted today as well (another Medium Publication).


Photo by Lily Latson

Do you want to know what I miss? Like really miss? Strawberries. I know it sounds weird. And no, I do not have an allergy and I am not on some special diet where I can no longer have them. I miss them because I NEVER get them. Oh, I buy them. 3 weeks ago I bought 2 POUNDS of them. I even bought a carton today! But I have yet to have 1. It is because my children love them and devour them.

You see that is what being a parent is all about. Having the opportunity to have something that you love. Then intentionally doing without so your child, who loves it equally (or at least in that moment claims to), can have it. I never understood that like I do now.

And I am not saying I give everything to my children. I sit up late and chow down on their chocolate when they are not around. I really am looking out for their best interest since they do not need all that sugar, right? I am a responsible parent after all. I admit that I have even hid, I mean wandered, in the other room to enjoy a delectable cookie or some other treat out of sight (and sound- my 18 month old has developed the same keen hearing for candy wrappers as my 3 year old).

Lone Strawberry
The Lone Strawberry. Photo by Lily Latson

But with strawberries, I don’t even get a shot! Those little munchkins ate an entire carton (save 1 lone strawberry) within an hour of me PURCHASING them. And that last strawberry, those little snipers got it before I could even make it back to it.

Anyone who knows me knows I do NOT share food. It just bugs me. I am finally coming around to sharing plates “family style” at restaurants. But that is only if I am with people who like the same things as me. I have this weird anxiety that I won’t get enough of what I want. I blame it all on my family’s first trip to a sushi restaurant. I ordered the “safe” chicken teriyaki while they all got roped into trying ‘new things.’ Why they decided trying sushi for the first time in a mountain town in Utah when we lived on the coast is beyond me. Either way, my 13-year-old self was having none of that. All the food arrived, and I got 2 bites before my bowl of food was whisked away from me only to return with 5 grains of rice and the dregs of sauce. I think it scarred me for life.

And as I have gotten older, I have gotten less inclined to share the things I actually want. Like a dog with a bone, I guard my favorite foods. So you can imagine my own surprise when the impossible happened. We were at lunch when my son was about 11 months old. I had ordered something that came with a Parmesan garlic crisp. Something I would normally savor and nibble to prolong the wonderfulness of it. And would never dream of even slightly considering the notion of sharing a tiny crumb with someone else. As I prepared to take my first bite, a chubby little finger came up into my peripheral and pointed to MY crisp.

I swear it was like an out of body experience. I saw my hands move back and break the wafer in two. And one of those pieces floated across the space, in what looked like my own hand, into the small-outstretched fingers of my son.

I knew in that moment exactly how much love I have for my son. I did what I never would have done for any other human being on the face of the planet. Lucky for me, he is a picky eater, so these days he rarely asks for anything. Except for my strawberries. His sister, on the other hand, she eats it all.

Someday, I know I will get to eat a strawberry again. Or not have to share my slice of cheesecake. At some point, I’ll get to stop shoving the giant piece of chocolate I was slowly enjoying into my mouth all at once because I hear little feet running towards the closet I am hiding in.

I know that day will come. Ironically, I am dreading it. For I know the strawberry will then be tainted with sadness. Because my babies will be all grown up and no longer be stealing my strawberries.

The Great Hunt – How I spent Day 43 of The Great Quarantine Squishing fungus gnats

This post includes affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Greetings from the depths of “Shelter in Place,” aka “SIP”, aka Quarantine, aka the Pit of Despair, aka I am stuck at home with my 2 children under the age of 4 and I don’t know how much sanity I have left. We are on week 6+ here. And today, well today was a GLORIOUS day. I stood at my kitchen sink for 20 min methodically and obsessively killing gnats. Fungus Gnats to be exact. Did you know that those exist? I didn’t even know there were different types of gnats. Well I guess I assumed there were probably different types of gnats, but I didn’t know those kind existed. Or at least I didn’t before my Google search today of “how do I kill these obnoxious &*$!% in my house!” There might have been profanity (in my head), before I opted for a much more eloquent “how to get rid of gnats in plants”. And that, my friends, left me on the riveting research spree of how to trap these tiny, annoying jerks that have taken over my latest Pintrest fail. I spent a good hour of my day, catching, squishing, trapping, and plotting the death of these tiny little gnats that have invaded my kitchen window.

During Quarantine 2020, in the initial weeks of the WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING, I decided that we needed things TO DO. And with the panic over how to keep a functioning daily life, I decided that we needed to have an herb garden: logical, rational, forward thinking. Pat myself on the shoulder for my proactive stance. I don’t want to have to cross my fingers and hope that my online grocery delivery that I might get to pickup some time in the next decade will have the sprig of fresh basil or thyme I need. And trust me, I will end up with the packaged picked out for me that looks beautiful on top and is completely rotten and inedible once you open it. So, proactive me is going to plant this beautiful herb garden that I am going to put on my windowsill of my kitchen. That way, as I sit there with my cup of coffee or tea, looking at my hellions, I mean children, running joyfully in the yard (read: screaming like maniacs throwing pebbles and trying to eat worms and dirt) I will be embraced with the lovely scent of my fresh herb garden. Ah, the mental picture… my hair perfectly done, makeup fresh as a daisy, wearing a beautiful billowy dress (you know the ones that ONLY look good on complete waifs… which I am most definitely not), and each nostril full of the sweet aroma of peppermint, sage, basil, etc.

So, I do what any panicky person did at the beginning of all of this- I go on amazon and search for a seeds- BINGO! They sell them. Now, what to plant them in… HELLO PINTEREST! Now this cues into my “we need something TO DO” panic of the early days before Frozen (all of them) and Wall-E moved into my living room. When I was focused on structure and had “activities” for everyone (HA! Old me from 6 weeks ago had so much energy and naïveté. I miss her.) Well on Pintrest, I see the MOST BRILLIANT idea. Beautiful in that it will fit PERFECTLY with my mental image of my perfectly manicured hands (did I mention I haven’t had a professional manicure in 1.5 years?) cupping my mug of steaming tea as I gaze lovingly at this charming little window garden. What is so brilliant about it is not only does it LOOK beautiful, but also it can be a “learning” experience for my 3 year old. We can have this be a science experiment for him to learn about plants, food, etc. while I get my picturesque moment. Are you ready for the idea… it is to use MASON JARS as the pots! TA DA!! Clean, beautiful, crafty, and resourceful. My son can see the roots forming so he will learn all sorts of science-y things and impress his other preschool classmate when they return from the apocalypse. I will get a windowsill NOT decorated in chic toddler/preschooler painted terracotta pots.

My mason jar seedlings
My Mason Jar Herb Garden. See how cute they are?

I then spend the next 48 hours scouring the interwebs for the perfect mason jars (and cheapest) with the fastest delivery & for the right seed kit that includes my herbs of choice. Done & Done. I decided to use Garden Republic’s Herb Kit and have absolutely loved it. They offer support and replacement of any seeds that don’t sprout. Now… I wait patiently (if you haven’t figured out this already, I am not a patient person) for everything to arrive. And I dream a dream of my windowsill.

Now, I will note, I did hesitate for a hot second when I seemed to remember that drainage in pots for plants was kind of a thing. But hey, this random person on Pintrest did it, so it MUST be fine. Cause I have NEVER failed at ANYTHING I have found on Pinterest before (please excuse me while I catch my breath and pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard). But again- remember, I am an eternal optimist… or blindly, stupidly, stubborn and don’t know when to quit. To-Mate-O, Tow-Mot-O.

Once everything arrived, I pulled out my gardening gloves (which last on my hands for a whole hot 30 seconds before I toss them aside and just stick my hands in the dirt), pulled out my old leftover gardening soil from previous failed gardening attempts (yes, my best friend did ask how old it was… no, I did not fully grasp the importance of this), and got to work. That whole beautiful daydream of my 3 year old and I lovingly planting the seeds- yeah, that was crushed weeks before (more on that to come in The Hunger Games: Tukel Edition). So I let my type A self take over and let the 3 year old run around like a banshee. His contribution to the effort was to dump his 50 small cars in the grass an hour before the gardener came. That was a fun scramble of hoping and praying we found all the cars before the lawn mower came. And yes- I have a FANTASTIC gardener who takes care of my yard and plants — he protects them from me.

Now, my initial potting method was one of my standard gardening Hail Mary’s. I filled the jars with dirt, toss in all 15+ seeds, and then cover with dirt, dump water, and Ta Da! I gardened! But a moment of clarity hit- these are small pots and I don’t want a forest of basil growing in that small opening. I also actually WANT basil so it matters to me that I get this right. Also, I had just had the lovely experience of trying to repot other seedlings and sorting out a mess of roots. So I dug out all but 5 seeds and put them back in the lovely little package. I kept with that method with all 10 herbs. I carefully covered them with soil (and had JUST ENOUGH of the old soil finish them all), gave them a wonderfully indulgent drink of water and placed them in their new homes. Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t just ask my Gardener to get me some small herb plants and new pots/dirt from the nursery. Cause that, my friends, would be logical… and easy… and I am bull headed. I am an independent woman who had a successful career and an MBA, and I CAN DO THIS! I CAN GROW PLANTS. Also, I now feel a strange little twinkle in my gut every time my kids watch Wall-E. When the Captain talks about Pizza Plants, I fear I might be looking into our collective futures if I can’t figure out how to do this.

Plus, there is the most amazing sense of wonder, beauty, and accomplishment seeing those first little green leaves opening up to the world. I get so excited every time. My husband asked me if I was compensating for not having a 3rd child or a dog. Possibly. But I also get SO excited about all nature (except spiders) that I am just not going to think about his hypothesis too hard and live in my excitement.

Within a few days, VICTORY was mine! The herbs were sprouting. I am a GARDENER. I had a NEW hobby and I was starting to look into a raised garden bed — cause I am going to CRUSH this thing. Go Big or Go Home!

Now, this would also be a good time to mention that my Best Friend (remember the one who questioned the soil I was using) is a horticulturist. Like trained, went to school, knows her stuff, legit gardener. And she is GOOD at it. So it was around THIS time that I am asking her for advice. Yeah, I know- BEFORE I embarked would have been the right time to ask these things. But hey, I am learning. And isn’t the whole thing about science is you start with a hypothesis, then you set out to prove it using trial & error. Well, my hypothesis is I can grow plants. I can be a gardener. We are now in that whole trial and error phase. And man, there is A LOT more to this than I ever knew. And it is SO much fun to figure it out. With each failure, I am learning so much on how to overcome. With each wrong thing I do (which is EVERYTHING), I am finding out all the ways to fix it. And all without being able to leave my house!

So fast-forward 4 days, I notice these little gnats. I ASSUME they must have been fruit flies coming from a halo orange or something (cause there is ALWAYS ONE that gets stuck at the bottom of the bowl and starts to rot before you can find it. Or is that just my house?). I scour the orange bowl and find the culprit. This is highly annoying because we had just gotten them delivered the day before, but toss it out and assume we are past it. Even mention the annoying little fly while I am on the phone with the Bestie. The next day there are a few more gnats. They are all congregating next to my lovely little herbs that are all growing except Peppermint and Cilantro. Peppermint I am annoyed by, Cilantro- I don’t even like. It is there just so if I have to kill one, it can be it. I kill and capture the 4–5 gnats that are there and move on. The next day, there are roughly 3 more. Again- seek and destroy. Well today, I went over and there were now 8 gnats. And I got PISSED. Like REALLY PISSED, y’all. My first thought was to get my kids one of those ladybug habitats and just release them in my house. I was so fired up that THAT was a GOOD idea. Luckily, I realized 1- I would then have Lady Bugs annoying me instead of gnats, and 2, do ladybugs even eat the gnats? So common sense prevailed, and after killing the ones I could capture, I went to the interwebs.

So this is what I learned:

  1. I am an over waterer. There. I said it. I am SO scared of the plants being without water, that I over water. I think I have an ingrained fear around this. I am the person who walked around San Francisco giving out snacks I kept in my purse (even when I was pregnant and I NEEDED those snacks). And the sign that says “Hungry”- man, sucker punch right to the gut! My friends still like to remind me of the time I promised them homemade pomegranate cupcakes, but on my way to meet them, I gave them to a small child on the street. I told them they could enjoy an extra glass of wine that night instead.
  2. Plants need adequate drainage. Yeah- there is a reason for that. BUT, you can use things like mason jars if you DO NOT OVERWATER. See lesson 1.
  3. Too much water, then mold will grow in the soil. And you know what else comes with the mold- fungus gnats. Their larvae eat the mold. Whole circle of life, baby.

There is good news to all of this!

  1. The gnats are harmless, annoying but harmless. They will eventually start hurting the plants if left untreated, but that is more because the mold starts killing the plants. So basically, think of the gnats as your buddies cause they are alerting you to the problem of mold being in the soil. High five, little dude! Sorry I am now going to have to squish you.
  2. They are VERY common. So get over your shame. You are not a disgusting person who is breeding pet gnats. Unless you are, in fact, breeding gnats for pets. Then you might want to look for a new hobby since gnats only live for 24–48 hours. That must be a very depressing pet to have.
  3. Both the mold AND the Fungus Gnats are easily killed, I mean treated, with basic household items.

Here is how:

  1. Cinnamon! Yes- that lovely aromatic spice that is good for your heart and on your French toast. Sprinkle that on the top of the soil and it kills off the mold. While it won’t kill the Fungus Fly Larvae, it will kill the larvae food supply and you will starve them to death.
  2. Dry the plants out. Don’t water them. Let the soil dry out. Let me repeat this for the other recovering over waterers out there — Do Not Water Them. When that happens, the mold will die and so will the larvae. Make sure not to dry out your plants too, though.
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide mixed with water: 1part peroxide, 4 parts water. This kills the mold! AND it kills the larvae. But make sure to do this AFTER the plants have dried out some. You hear me over waterer in the back? I am talking to you.
  4. Fungus Gnats Traps: Warm water, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sugar, and couple drops of Dish soap. The first 3 ingredients attract the suckers, and the soap traps them. (Side note: can I tell you how awesome dish soap is? I might have traumatized my 3 year old with it and he thinks we are stuck in quarantine while the Dr.’s and nurses wash everything with soap. But that is a whole other story.)

There are several other methods that I know the All Knowing Google will tell you should you find yourself dealing with these annoying flying pests. But these are the ones I decided to try first.

2 things to note:

  1. If one plant is infected, most likely any that are close by (or in the house with it) will also be infected with these Fungus Gnats. So just get on it and treat them all at the same time.
  2. If you don’t want to deal with it, OR your mold problem is a serious issue, then best to uproot the plants and remove as much soil as possible and just start over.

So today, after my Internet intelligence mission and my huntress skills maxed out killing as many as I could capture (and let me know if you need an overview of those skills. I got pretty good at it and developed some expert techniques for seek and destroy). I put the above methods to the test. I removed any mold I could find. I was surprised to notice it on the wooden name stakes that came with the kit identifying the herbs. It was an important part of my overall aesthetic, though I am now re-evaluating a perhaps better method for this. I sprinkled that with cinnamon as well as the top of the soil of each herb. All the herbs now have a fragrant reddish brown hue to them. I set out my trap (already caught 1 little bugger), and have vowed to not water for a few days. I am suspecting the biggest culprits may be the 2 dormant herbs, but will keep a very watchful eye on them.

My basil seedlings sprinkled with cinnamon
My Basil seedlings covered in Cinnamon.

I am Lily. I am 38 years old. I spent my 43rd day of Quarantine hunting Fungus Gnats.

How are you?

Welcome to Love & Lily

I hope you enjoy your time here. I hope I can give you a smile or a laugh when you need it. I hope I can give you a feeling solidarity in the really hard times.

This blog has been a want and desire for me for many years. I just never had the guts to actually do it. Well here we are. Years and a multitude of challenges later. I finally took the step forward and am letting that voice that runs inside of me free.

The focus of Love & Lily will be on family, parenting, and the home. The stories will follow tricks and tips I have learned to overcome various challenges. They will cover the ridiculous things my children teach me, both intentionally and unintentionally. I’ll include the stories that are laugh out loud funny, and will be up front about the ROUGH times as well. But expect honesty, humility, and some self deprecation along the way.

Some posts may be more of a stream of consciousness style. It will feel like you are sitting on the couch with me having a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. I will be laughing, venting or crying. Some posts may just be more of a weird musing of what I noticed today. Taking time to appreciate the nuances of life. The stuff we overlook and pass by.

And finally, some posts may be a little more formal. These you will also most likely find on my Medium profile. You should follow me there too. And clap if you like the article. I apologize for that shameless plug. But someone has to promote this crazy adventure I am on, right?

Any way you cut it, I hope you enjoy what you find here. Leave a comment, I promise to respond as I can. Share the website to your other friends who you think would like it. Subscribe to the website so you get alerted to new posts as they come.

And last but not least, no matter if this is your first of many, or first and last time on Love & Lily. Please live the life you love, and love the life you live.

Love, Lily