Product Review: Shark Rotator Lift Away

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that we go through a lot of vacuum cleaners here. A LOT. My husband takes over the chore on the weekend and he’s just plain rough on vacuum cleaners I guess.  Long story short, he killed my Shark Navigator and the replacement motor (he REALLY killed it!) would take 3 weeks to arrive, so he went out and bought me a Shark Rotator Lift Away. Why not try a new model he said? The Rotator Lift Away was the other one I had been looking at when we chose the Navigator.

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Anyway, after having the Rotator Lift Away for 4 days, I can say that I’m glad we originally went with the Navigator. The Rotator has better suction (though the Navigator had a faulty motor from the get-go), but the design is just… well, there’s room for improvement.

The vacuum has what I lovingly refer to as the crap-trap. It’s my most-hated part of the vacuum. What is the crap-trap you ask? It’s this awful hairpin turn where the flex hose meets the handle.

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Let me tell you, the first time you suck up a kid sock, a Matchbox car or a small plastic screwdriver, you’ll be cursing the crap trap. Any small, non dust-bunny-esq item you vacuum up from the depths of your couch or under the kitchen table will get lodged there, at that lovely corner. But you’re wondering what the problem is, you can just pop the hose off and fish it out, right? WRONG. Because to the best of my knowledge, that hose is NOT removable. Ugh. Why, Why, WHY would they make a vacuum like that?

The other thing I’d like to touch on is the weight of this vacuum cleaner. Yes, it’s the professional model, so yes you would expect it to be a bit bulkier and a bit heavier than the regular model, but this sucker weighs a TON. The lift away feature was one of my favorite things about this vacuum, BUT after about 5 minutes your arm is dead. The weight isn’t such an issue for my husband, but for me it sure is.

Oh, and one other little design snaffu — the “floor nozzle” is higher than the gap at the bottom of the couch. That means you HAVE to remove the cleaning arm to vacuum around the couches. We have a higher than average gap to work with, so I’m sure this is a pretty universal issue for Rotator Lift Away Pro owners.

Seriously, Shark could gain so much valuable insight by shipping vacuums to random households and having people use them IN REAL LIFE and submit feedback on the design. I’m sure in a lab setting or even in an office park, none of these things are issues, but in a house with 3 young kids, a dog and a cat, the design feels lacking.

Overall, I’m going to give this vacuum 3 out of 5 stars. The cleaning power is there. It cleans SO WELL, but it’s severely lacking in the design department.

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Struggling to Stay Positive

After this crazy weekend, I’m really struggling to stay positive.

It started on St. Patrick’s Day. My crock pot died… in the middle of cooking dinner. I didn’t notice until it was time to eat. Needless to say we had a very late, very tough corned beef dinner.

Strike one.

The next day I tried to put the St. Patrick’s Day catastrophe behind me. I started researching crock pots. My husband wanted to go run some errands, so we piled the kids into the car and off we went. I realized I left my phone at home before we got to the store, so I couldn’t look for coupons. Bummer. As we pulled into the parking lot, white smoke started pouring out from the hood of my car. Bigger bummer.

Parked the car and popped the hood. Holy smokes. No, really, there was a lot of smoke. Ok, went in the store while that cooled down and came back to discover that all of the coolant was gone. “Oh,” my husband says, “I just filled that up like 2 weeks ago.” Ok then. We have a problem. We drove home (probably not wise) and then unsuccessfully tried to diagnose and fix the problem.

Strike two.

My middle kid is in preschool and there’s no bus. I am the bus. Because of snow, she hasn’t been to school in a while.  My husband said I should just drive her to and from school and it’ll be fine. We can bring it to the shop on Thursday. I called my dad (he works for a car dealership) and he said no. It’ll get much worse and if you overheat the car apparently it’s super bad. So, no school for the middle kid on at least Monday.

Strike three.

We decide to deliver the car to the shop on Sunday afternoon so I didn’t have to wait for it with the kids. I made it halfway there before it was hot enough that I needed to pull over for fear of overheating it. We put water in the coolant reservoir (because we ran out of coolant) and continued the rest of the way. Pretty sure using water instead of coolant in New England during the winter that won’t quit is a bad idea.

Strike four.

So I’m trying to stay positive. The leak didn’t seem to be near the radiator or the water pump, so maybe it’s something cheap. A girl can dream, right? My crock pot died, but in a few months when I’m not so darn broke I can look for a new one. I’ve heard great things about the Ninja 3-in-1 cooker and if I can fit into my finances I’ll get one of those. You all can look forward to the review and possibly a video of using it if I do! Silver linings, silver linings. Something good HAS to come out of this weekend, right??

How to Handle a Narcissistic Sister-in-Law

My post about quitting my abusive sister-in-law has gotten a lot of views since I published it. It would appear that there are a lot of people out there looking for ways to deal with their problem in-laws.

In preparation for this post, I did quite a bit of searching on the net for information on dealing with narcissistic family members and I was shocked to find that most sites recommended people go along with the delusions.

Excuse me, but what the actual fuck?

THEY have the problem, not you and it’s not your responsibility to cater to their delusions. They need to get help and coddling them will only play in to their little fantasies that they’re something special. Don’t be an enabler.

Don’t get me wrong, I see where a lot of that advice is coming from. They’re assuming you actually want a relationship with the crazy fuck and that pandering to their delusions would be enough to achieve this. Some of us are past the point of wanting a relationship with the other person or couldn’t possibly do enough to appease them to have a relationship of any sort.

Look at my situation for example. Crazy-train hates me because I had the gall to finish school, get married, buy a house and then have children. She somehow didn’t see that last one coming and honestly thinks I only had kids to one-up her. Not because that was the natural progression of my life at that point or anything. That’s the problem with a narcissist, they actually think the world revolves around them and that everything you do is either done to appease them or hurt them. There’s no possible way that they wouldn’t be a factor in one of your decisions.

So what do you do if you’re in a no-win situation like I am?

You let it go. Let them go. Wash your hands, close the door, let Jesus take the wheel, etc. You’re never going to make them happy enough to stop the crazy. The only way for the relationship to be fixed at that point is for them to wake up and realize just how fucking nuts they are and to seek the appropriate help. Unfortunately, those with narcissistic personality disorder won’t seek help because they don’t think anything is wrong, or they know something is wrong and they assume it’s something else. They can’t be a narcissist because that’s a personality flaw and they don’t have those.

Odds are that you have a narcissist in the family because you have an enabler. In my case it’s my mother-in-law. There’s nothing I can do about the situation, so I have to walk away. It took me many years to figure that out.

Don’t waste another moment thinking about the person or trying to salvage a relationship that can’t be fixed at the moment. Walk away. If you’re married to the person that’s another issue, but if it’s just an acquaintance, a sibling or an in-law, walk away. You’ll feel better getting away from them.

*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a psychologist and this post should not be construed as mental health advice. I don’t know if I need a disclaimer on a post like this, but better safe than sorry.

How I Quit my Abusive Sister-In-Law

It’s no secret that my relationship with my sister-in-law is non-existent. It’s that way for survival purposes. Sometimes a person is so toxic to you that you just have to distance yourself from them to avoid going into a downward spiral of depression. For those that follow my blog, I’ve had a very bad relationship with my now sister-in-law for the past nine years. It was a vicious cycle of the two of us seeing each other at a holiday (because she chose for it to be a holiday-only relationship form the beginning), then her finding something I did, didn’t do, said or didn’t say so incredibly offensive that she had to give me the silent treatment until I reached out and apologized for whatever transgression she imagined. Sometimes it was a bad gift, sometimes it was asking if her kid was sick, sometimes it was just having the nerve to be pregnant. Regardless, I was always the one reaching out and it eventually go to the point where I had enough. Holiday gatherings were so incredibly stressful that I would get a migraine or get physically ill thinking about them. One day as Christmas approached, I found myself Googling divorce lawyers and filling out the request information form because leaving my husband seemed to be the only way to make the nightmare end. It was that bad.

Fortunately, I found a way to make things better and my husband was supportive. The stress in my life is much lower, particularly around the holidays and we’re still married, happier now than before. Apparently the situation was stressful for both of us. So how did I do it? Here are the 5 steps I took to deal with my “difficult” sister-in-law.

1.) Identify and articulate the problem to my husband.

My husband is the most non-confrontational man on the planet. He hates disappointing people (I’m not including myself in this grouping), especially his mom. He would see these interactions happening between crazy-train and I and he wouldn’t say or do anything, hoping the whole thing would just blow over and we could make it work until the next holiday. He loves his little brother and he didn’t want to terminate that relationship because his brother’s girlfriend (now wife) and I couldn’t get along.

I know that to him it just seemed like petty disagreements. I had to really think about all of our various interactions over the years to try to find the root of the problem. Once I did, my husband immediately recognized that I was right in my assessment. In case you’re wondering, my sister-in-law has to be the center of attention at all times. We got married shortly after her prom and then we announced our pregnancy 4 months after she got pregnant. Granted, she was a teenager and had only been seeing my brother-in-law for about 6 months at that point and we had been married for 6 months, but obviously I was stealing her thunder. I’ve been told this she shows the symptoms of having narcissistic personality disorder.

2.) Identify abusive behaviors and why they bother you.

I’m a big communicator (just look how long this blog post is!) and my sister-in-law’s methods focus on shutting down communication. She gives me the silent treatment, blocks me from calling, texting or messaging her on social media and demands that everyone keep any news of hers secret from me (like when she and my brother-in-law bought a house or had a 4th child, for example). Family members go along with the secret keeping because she threatens to withhold access to her children and she follows through on it. Basically, my mother-in-law is afraid of her.

Once I identified the abusive behavior and why it bothers me, I was able to express that to my husband in a way he understood. He knows me, so he knows how damaging shutting down communication can be for me.

3.) I refused to take responsibility for her abuse.

At first, I blamed myself. I think the abuse went on for so long because I would listen to my mother-in-law tell me that it was my fault because I didn’t treat her with kid gloves. She’s younger than me and she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so she was not taking her medication and was therefore not responsible for her actions. Be the bigger person because my mother-in-law’s mantra and I thought there was something wrong with me because no matter how big of a person I would be, she would still find something wrong with what I said, didn’t say, did or didn’t do and the abuse would continue. I felt like I was constantly apologizing and I would have anxiety about holiday gatherings because I knew that my mere presence would trigger her and then I would be blamed for her abusive behavior.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have taken responsibility for the way she was treating me. I shouldn’t have ever thought it was my fault or a result of something I didn’t do well enough. I shouldn’t have let my mother-in-law tell me to suck it up so she could have the postcard-perfect family Christmases she was after. I’m not mad at my mother-in-law, I know she couldn’t have stood up for me without losing visitation of her grandchildren. I understand WHY she approached the situation the way she did, but I also understand that it was not the right way. I wound up internalizing the psychological abuse and I shouldn’t have.

4.) I removed myself from the situation. 

Unfortunately, the only way to stop the abuse was to remove myself from the situation. I tried to get my mother-in-law to alternate holidays with us, but she wouldn’t. Although she won’t come right out and say it these days (she did in the past), she’s afraid of losing contact with her grandchildren. It’s a valid concern, but it also shows just how messed up my sister-in-law is. She uses her children as a weapon without concern for their own well-being because it’s effective.

So, I stopped going to my mother-in-law’s holiday parties. I stopped putting myself in a situation where the abuse would continue. It pisses off my mother-in-law because she doesn’t have the picture-perfect family holidays she wants, but it’s better for my mental health.

5.) Get support from a trusted person.

When you’re leaving an abusive situation it’s important to have support from at least one person. Things are going to get worse before they get better and it’s important to have someone in your corner that knows your story and only has your best interests in mind. In my case it was my husband and my best friend. When I doubted myself, they told me I was doing what had to be done to save my sanity. When I wanted to just go back and suck it up for the benefit of everyone else, they told me I deserved better. You won’t always be able to be strong, so you need someone that’s willing to be strong for you.

Looking Back

Looking back, I’m able to recognize the abuse for what it is, but at the time I questioned everything. When a woman is being beat by a man and emotionally abused by a man, everyone asks why she didn’t just leave him. This is the same situation, but my abuser is my sister-in-law and not a man I am romantically involved with. Instead of congratulating me from escaping the abuse, my mother-in-law and her husband are berating me to go back to her. My mother-in-law has told me that I’ve ruined her family. She has tried to guilt me into going back to the abuse. Her husband has told me I’m childish for knowing that the situation won’t improve and for walking away for my own mental health. I’ve been told by both of them that I’m hurting my children by not letting them have a relationship with their cousins (this relationship cannot be independent of my abuser). I have not seen my sister-in-law in over 2 years and there is still immense pressure from my mother-in-law and her new husband to just go back to the way things were when I would get physically ill thinking about seeing this person because she’s so psychologically and emotionally abusive.

Meanwhile, my abuser doesn’t mind seeing me again. She enjoys being abusive. So because she’s more than willing to go back to that demented cycle and I’m not, my mother-in-law and her husband have decided that I am the bad person. I hope that one day they’ll understand that I had to leave the situation for my own mental health. My mother-in-law left her husband because he was a narcissist, so I really hope she can look at the situation one day and see it for what it was. Maybe then she will be able to forgive me for ruining her dream of perfect family holidays.

So mother-in-law, if you’re reading this, know that I never meant to hurt you by quitting your holiday parties. I just had to stop hurting myself.

Homesteading 101: Barn Cat Update

The cats are out of the bag… er… barn… er… shed? Yes, the cats are out of the shed.

In case you haven’t been following this harrowing tale, we adopted 2 barn cats from a local cat rescue. Cute little buggars from what I saw of them. One all black, one white with grey patches. Brothers. Only 6 months old and already deemed unsuitable for indoor living. They were fixed and all of that before arrival. My only job was to feed them and keep them cooped up in the shed for 6 weeks before releasing them into the backyard to catch mice and provide rodent control.

Well, I failed. About a week into it mother nature threw a bitch fit and blew the door to my shed in. The cats escaped. Fortunately, they’re pretty darn smart and they’ve stuck around. The kids saw them run across the back yard once or twice. I now keep a dish of food outside and some better (wet) food inside the shed. They eat both and the hay in their little cat shelter keeps getting smushed down, so I’m pretty sure they’re sleeping in it on the colder nights. They’ve stopped using the litter box in the shed and are now going outside (oh yeah, there’s a lovely aroma of cat pee all around the shed).

I’m going to call it a success. We haven’t planted the garden yet, so I can’t say for sure if the mice situation is under control or not, but the barn cats are out there and they’re still alive.

Product Review: Bella Stir Stick Popcorn Maker

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We’re all about freshly popped popcorn at my house and while we know air popped is the best for you, it just doesn’t have that extra layer of flavor that a little bit of oil and salt adds. For a while I was making popcorn on the stove in a big pot with a lid. There was a lot of waiting and shaking. It was honestly kind of a pain, but we liked the flavor so much more than air popped or microwave that I kept doing it. Then we happened across this little number at Kohls on Black Friday and I had to have it!

The Bella Stir Stick Popcorn Maker lets you pop your popcorn kernels in oil without the work of watching the pot or shaking the popcorn. The dual arm system keeps the popcorn moving so it doesn’t burn and the lid of the popper doubles as a bowl!

To use the machine, all you do is add a TBSP of oil to the base and your popcorn kernels. Put the lid on and hit the on switch. There are holes in the top so you can leave your butter up there to melt into your popcorn as it pops, ensuring even distribution and no soggy bits. We tried that once and it worked well, but we really just like a light sprinkle of salt with the little bit of oil from popping. There’s a cover that goes on the top (it’s black in this photo) to prevent any butter or bits of popcorn from escaping out the bottom of the bowl if you choose to use the lid to hold your popped popcorn.

The only thing I don’t like about this is that you have to shut it off and flip it upside SUPER fast to prevent the popcorn from burning. Once the stir stick stops the popcorn will burn in seconds, so you really have to flip it over fast. My husband pointed out that you could, in theory, do the flip while the machine was turned on, but that just seemed like a bad idea to me.

Despite that one small inconvenience (I only burned the popcorn once before I perfected the timing of the flip), I’ll still give this popcorn popper 5 stars!

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I have to mention that I was not sponsored or compensated in anyway to do this review. It’s just something I bought and HAD to tell everyone about. That’s how amazing it is if your family loves popcorn as much as mine does!

The Great Escape: Barn Cat Edition

I’ve posted a couple of times before about our new au natural mouse management system: barn cats. When they were placed, we were told they needed to be confined for 4 to 6 weeks. No problem, right?

Wrong.

We had a wind storm here the other day and it blew the door for the shed open (and broke the latch). Of course, the cats got out. Fortunately, they didn’t go far and I’ve been leaving the shed door open so they can come in and eat at night. I go out first thing in the morning and there’s evidence that they’ve been there (like using the litterbox), but they are probably not still inside.

I reached out to the cat rescue and they said to just see what happens, but that we can re-trap them if needed. Last night it was windy again, so I closed the shed door and taped open the cat door. It appears that only one cat went in judging by the amount of food eaten and deposits in the litter box.

Does anyone have any experience with barn cats? What can I do here? They’re young and it’s supposed to be very cold this weekend, so I want to make sure they’re in the shed and then close it up.