Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Truth, The Whole Truth... In Abridged Form, Of Course. Still Long, Of Course.

At my last doctor's appointment, he asked me if I have the support I need. I paused, and he added, "Honestly." I had to answer no.

(That second sentence looks like a punctuation nightmare. I know it already, so forgive me and keep your mouth shut unless you know how it actually should be.)

He was asking me about support because... I've had some stuff going on. And I had to say no, because only a handful of people even know what is going on in my life. How can people support me when they don't know I need support? Why do I keep hiding something that is in no way my fault? This isn't a dirty secret. It's just... my third miscarriage in six months.

The first two pregnancies occurred this summer. They both terminated very early--the first at seven weeks and the second at five. I take pregnancy tests the second my period is late, so I knew about both for a while. Long enough to start thinking about names. Long enough to go through the baby stuff in my basement and decide I would need a new crib, and maybe new crib bedding to go with the new crib. Still, I was over it after a week or two. Once the bleeding stopped, the grieving stopped. The first miscarriage I blamed on a genetic anomaly. It happens. It isn't a baby, I told myself. It's an Unbaby.

The second one worried me a bit. I did some research and found out the birth control method I was using to space out my children to a more reasonable two years apart may or may not cause miscarriages if a pregnancy does occur. I discontinued using it. After all, it wasn't exactly, umm, working, and I'd rather have a viable, albeit unplanned pregnancy than a miscarriage.

I found out I was pregnant again at the beginning of November. I was so happy. No, I was ecstatic. I was over the freakin' moon. I felt pregnant--unlike my last two unpregnancies. You have never seen a woman so happy to puke every morning. I made a doctor's appointment. I ceased drinking coffee (for the most part), exercising, eating anything artificial, anything that I might have done wrong the other two times. I worried at every twinge, but I told myself: no blood, no panic. I went to the first prenatal appointment bracing to be lectured about the nine pounds I had gained.

He didn't find a heartbeat. The doctor was nonchalant about it; I was in instant panic attack mode. When he was listening to--whatever they listen to on your back, your heart or lungs or both--he told me to breath normally. This is as normal as it gets.

Because no doctor likes hyperventilating maybe-pregnant-maybe-not women in their office, he offered to do a quick ultrasound. He found a water sac, a pregnant-ish uterus, but no baby. It's called a missed abortion. I lost the baby, and I never even knew it. 'No blood, no panic'? Apparently not a medically sound policy. I was almost ten weeks pregnant, but not really.

That is the biggest shock I have ever experienced. I felt bad for Dr. Davenport, because I knew he was counting seconds until this entire not-really-prenatal visit was over. Sheesh, he's like my baby brother's age. Just had his own first child. Such a nice guy, but he has to be thinking please, please, please, don't freak out. I started to cry, but stopped myself long enough to get out.

It was 5:30 PM and I had this to-do list. Pick up kids from preschool. Get daughter ready for her Christmas play. Go to Christmas play. Tell husband our baby is dead. Move the Pottery Barn crib set that the UPS man delivered while I was at my doctor's appointment. Complete two writing jobs. Study for second day of finals.

Did you know life keeps happening when your baby dies? It's really surprising when you are in the moment. Like, how come the Christmas play isn't cancelled? How come Christmas isn't cancelled? Intellectually, you understand, but emotionally, it just seems like the world should stop turning for a few days, maybe even a month or so. And no one knows why you are crying at your daughter's play or why you are rude to her teacher. No one knows why your writing assignment is late, or why you fail your finals despite being a straight-A student up to that day.

I'd like to make a note here. I had never considered that I would be hit this hard by a miscarriage, but it is the biggest and most terrible shock I have ever experienced. I have buried a parent at a young age, been unceremoniously dumped by my oldest son's father after working three jobs to support our fledgling family while he finished his degree... none of it even compares. When my son almost died twice earlier this year, I was so distraught that about three-quarters of my hair fell out. I can't wait to see what this does. (Please, God, spare my hair. There's so little of it left. It was just starting to come back in. Don't leave me ugly and barren.)

The day after my finals, I had another ultrasound at a facility with more sophisticated equipment. My doctor wanted to do more tests to make sure the baby was really gone. He also wanted more data on the huge growth in my pelvis that he found while looking for my runaway fetus. Did I forget to mention that? The possibility of having cancer was nothing compared to the reality of not having a baby. Mere background noise.

At the appointment, the ultrasound lady went and fetched her supervisor. They agreed to call my doctor. Then, they came back and did the rest of the ultrasound. I won't tell you what a transvaginal ultrasound is--that should be self explanatory. I will merely suggest that the 'wand' used for it is so long, I laughed when I saw it. Seriously, if it vibrated they could market the thing to lonely women.

They told me that my doctor would get the results by Monday and then call me. I was a little concerned about the whole 'call the doctor' thing. But then, I thought, if I really had a problem, they would fast-track the ultrasound to the radiologist, not let it languish in his inbox for almost a week.

What did I do in the meantime? I cried every day. I cried every hour. I went to my husband's company Christmas party and got ploughed on a Riesling with a silky honey aftertaste. Everyone commented--more than a year already and I'm not pregnant? I watched Tori Amos videos on Youtube. Did you know she had three miscarriages before she finally had a successful pregnancy? Now I know why almost every song on From the Choirgirl Hotel is about her miscarriages. If I could write a song that adequately expressed how shredded I am about this, it would be all I did. Song after song. Instead, all I have are my words.

I stayed home all day Monday and--no call. Then, on Tuesday, my doctor called. The growth was a corpus luteal cyst, which is something pregnant women get sometimes. It was already almost gone when they did the second ultrasound. Because, of course, I wasn't pregnant. That's why the techs were calling him so frantically. They couldn't find anything noteworthy and wanted to make sure they were looking in the right place.

My uterus was seven weeks pregnant, which I guess means that is how far I made it before the baby died. I tried to think what I did that week. What was so important that I didn't realize my child was dying? I can't go there... but I can't not go there either.

I was spotting, not so much spotting but passing a few tiny blood clots. My doctor expected that my next 'period' would be heavier than usual. Because, you know, I had all the baggage from a seven week pregnancy. Other than that, I was physically a-okay. Right, I thought, except that I have all this rotting tissue inside me. I told him that I was (am) going crazy. He thought that sounded like a normal reaction and offered antidepressants, which I refused.

Late that night, I woke up because something was... ummm... coming out. Like, several blood clots the size of golf balls, along with a lot of blood and cramping that felt like labor pains. I thought, wow--it all happened at once. Baby suite, dismantled. All over. Except that it kept happening, every twenty minutes or so. It was so freaky, I was afraid to call the doctor's on call guy. Afraid to go to the ER. Who is going to believe this? I couldn't fit all of those clots in my entire abdomen, so every time seemed like it had to be the last.

By morning, I had bled through two large packages of maxi pads and every pair of pajamas I own. I decided to take a shower (not exactly springtime fresh after my night of horrors), take the kids to school/preschool, and then call the doctor. My own doctor would believe me. I think he'd believe anything I said at this point; I'm a walking anomaly, but an honest one. Although, I briefly considered, I did just tell him not twenty-four hours ago that I'm going crazy.

I didn't get the chance. I passed out just after getting out of the shower. I awoke not long after, but I couldn't talk, and every time I lifted my head the room started to turn gray. After a few minutes, my daughter walked in. Why don't kids knock? But thank the heavens she didn't. Get Daddy, I whispered. She came back and said Daddy was leaving. I couldn't think of anything to say. My wise little girl, she went back and insisted that he come. By the time he walked in, I could sit up, hunched over. There was blood everywhere. He looked around in shock, and I said, I'm bleeding to death. It seemed a reasonable conclusion. He said he was calling an ambulance, and I told him just to put the kids in the car and bring me some clothes so we could drive to the hospital.

I looked bad when we got there, bad enough that they took me back while asking me what had happened instead of making me go through the triage thang. They started an IV and did a screwy job that left a huge bruised lump on my hand that is still there. I started to feel better, and a little sheepish. You see, the blood clots stopped coming as soon as I arrived at the hospital. Of course. But my blood pressure was low--90/60 after two bags of fluid. And I was bleeding like crazy, blood just pouring out of me. They knew something was going on.

They did a ton of tests, including an awkward pelvic exam throughout which I apologized to the doctor for how gross this had to be. I hope this is the low point of your day. I'd hate to think it goes downhill from here. The tests--including another transvaginal ultrasound, which wasn't so much funny as painful this time--showed I was full of baby detritus that was poised to exit, possibly taking a lot of blood and fluid with it. Seeing as how I didn't have a lot of either left to spare, the ER doctor wanted to do a D & C, which is this horrendous, invasive procedure in which they scrape your uterus clean while you are completely awake and without anesthetic. My doctor popped in, and thought that was unnecessary. I'll go with his opinion, thank you. They decided to admit me and give me medicine to make all this baby stuff come out while I was under their expert supervision.

It didn't go according to plan. As soon as I took the pills, the bleeding let up, which is the opposite of what it was supposed to do. My blood pressure kept getting lower. My blood count kept getting lower. The machine showed my blood pressure at 83/40, so the nurse took it by hand. That reading was lower, 80/37. The other nurse--who told me several times how crowded they were and how they needed my bed--came in and took it, saying it was 90-something over 50-something. She was so lying. But it was enough that I was sent home. I was happy to go home.

I had a mess on my hands at home when I arrived at 11 PM. I had to change my sheets, scrub the mattress, and get all the bloody laundry to the laundry room. This was a challenge when I couldn't walk five steps without getting dizzy. Finally, I went to bed. I'm still bleeding heavily four days later with some frankly disgusting stuff coming out of me. I had a follow up appointment and my doctor was so quiet and gentle instead of the all-business type thing you usually get with doctors. When he found out I did poorly on my finals, he wrote a letter to my teachers requesting that I be allowed to retake them. He even printed it out right away because I have to go visit my dying grandfather two states away and didn't know when I could pick it up. It's such a compelling letter (yeah, I read it, before I even started the car in fact) that I wondered if he worked his way through medical school as a freelance writer, the way I am doing it right now. But who cares? I doubt my dillweed professors will let me retake the tests because they are jerks that way and all men besides.

The doctor has been such a rock star through all this. I forgive him for his rude office staff, for the giganto pain in the tokhes it is to make an appointment, for picking on me about my weight gain when I was pregnant with Rachael and not exactly bathing in love for my swollen thighs. I hope his wife is super nice and makes him homemade baklava and rubs his stinky, hairy feet at night. He's that awesome. He's cute, too, but don't start seeing him. He has enough patients. It's easier to get a papal audience than to get a routine well child visit with this guy.

So, that's what's been going on with me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Few Thoughts On High School

When I started back in college, I honestly thought I could homeschool and go to school myself. After a few weeks, one kid flew the coop and started school. Then it was like a mudslide, and before I knew it, all of my kids were in school. We're like, well, normal people. at least on the outside. But we remain homeschool rebels on the inside, which is why I want to scream when I hear the following:

1. "Homeschooled kids are weird (pronounced weee--yurd). There's more to education than reading books."

This girl, L, is the daughter of teachers and has probably never actually met a homeschooler beyond a quick "hi". She was a straight-A student at the best public high school in the area and is now failing college level math because--oops--they don't teach real math in schools now. Being able to write an articulate essay on the meaning of a quadratic formula is an interesting skill, but it does you no good when it comes time to solve for 'X'. But I digress...

Judging from what my eighth grader tells me about his school, here are a few things that would be 'weee-yurd':

Enjoying learning
Reading
Having any religion
Having dreams for your future that include an Ivy League education
Volunteering
Having political opinions you didn't get from MTV
Knowing that corn syrup is the devil
Caring about babies stuck in the Darfur situation
For girls, looking like your clothes weren't bought at Frederick's of Hollywood
Not having sex with someone after dating for two weeks

I'm proud of my weird kids. They're kicking ass at school academically and have a ton of friends. Some people think they're a little weird--whatever. They're proof that, while traditional schoolers may have a hard time adjusting to anything BUT traditional school, homeschoolers can do well anywhere. They're used to dealing with a variety of people in a variety of contexts, and kids their age in a classroom setting is just one of those contexts. Compare this to many public school kids, who really can't identify with people who aren't their age and grade.

My kids could learn in a cave. Which is good, because the celebrated West Valley School District offers very little more than a cave would. I consider it free babysitting. My kids still do their homeschooling curricula after school and on weekends--they're hungry for knowledge after all day in an environment devoid of it.

Next thing:

2. "All mainstream Christian churches believe in evolution. It's only closed minded extremists and uneducated people who don't."

First, I believe in evolution. Second, I jumped down this professor's throat. Lutherans aren't mainstream? Really? What about Pentecostals? How many millions of people are Pentecostal or Evangelical? He's marginalizing a lot of people. I bet he believes everyone who didn't vote for Obama is a closed minded extremist too.

Making broad negative statements about people just because they have to disagree with you... now THAT'S what I call closed minded. I believe people have the right to have other opinions. That's okay with me. I think evolution is fascinating... but if you don't agree, I still respect you as a person. My Bio professor should extend the same courtesy.

3. "I think all kids should go to public schools. There's more to an education than getting good test scores."

There was a time when public school advocates said that homeschoolers and private schools could not get the education they needed. Now that the facts about homeschoolers and private schoolers have been pretty conclusively proven--that they outperform public school kids, that is--the story has changed. Now, getting an education is beside the point. School is about more than learning. It's about:

  • learning to deal with people from different backgrounds
  • being 'socialized'
  • learning to be socially conscious
  • learning to, you know, be normal

It's amusing because most public schools are not even close to a homogeneous mix of backgrounds. The West Valley School District is almost entirely white middle and upper middle class kids. My children were learning more about other cultures when they spent the morning with a lady from the Philippines with some other homeschooled friends. They learned about what she loved about her home, why she still had to leave, and that Filipino food rocks. This is just one of hundreds of examples I could give. The point: no freakin way are public schools a good place to learn about different kinds of people.

The only other place you'll be stuck in a small room with other people your age all day is a nursing home.

And 'socialized'? For what? To learn to be bullied? To get in fights? My kids have been taught to be civil and respectful. They're popular with their classmates and their teachers adore them. Apparently not being smacked around (except by me... lol, jk) hasn't left them unable to deal with their peers.

Socially conscious? I won't even go there. It doesn't take a pre-med student to figure out that watching Star Trek every day in honors social studies isn't going to give you this profound understanding of world issues. As for being normal, see #1.

Why do public school advocates come up with these cheesy arguments? Because they are failing. Our public schools are getting worse by the day if you look at the statistics, and the only way they can justify the billions of tax dollars that go to this failed experiment is to say they are offering things that can't be measured.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Getting back in the saddle

Usually my Macguyverings have to do with reusing materials and unwanted items, but lately I am short on another commodity as well: time. I had to give up blogging, posting freebies, and cleaning and cooking other important activities I enjoy. However, I am reorganizing my life to allow more time for these things. So here is my newly MacGuyvered daily schedule:

5 AM: Get up, showered, and dressed
5:30 AM: Make bed and turn on computer. Answer email, post freebies, and blog if these have not already been done the night before.
6:00 AM: Start laundry and clean that day's morning cleaning area (see chart below).
6:30 AM: Wake up kids. Eat breakfast with them and get them ready for daycare or school if they are in the group that go to one of these places.
7:00 AM: Wake up kids that don't go anywhere. Review the day's plan. Load lunches and stuff into car.
7:30 AM: Leave the house and take everyone where they need to go.
8:10 AM or so: Arrive at college, park, and go to pre-calculus.
8:30 AM: Rue the day I decided to be a Biology major, because you know they don't make liberal freakin arts majors learn what f(x) means Precalculus
9:30 AM: Catch up time. This is usually when I do my homework or type up whatever lab report is due that day.
10:30 AM: Biology. Not your sissy Biology, but Biology for Science Majors. Please note: on MWF, this class ends at 11:30 and I eat a hurried lunch while running to the computer lab so I can work on paid writing. On TTh, we have a longer period to allow for lab work and it ends at 12:30. On these days I eat lunch with a friend or read.
1:10 PM: Chemistry. Again, not the Chemistry most people take. That Chemistry was two or three pre-req's ago. On MWF, this ends at 2 and I spend an hour in the library studying afterward. On TTh, it ends at 3--lab again.
3:30 PM: Pick up kids from their various places. We're all home by 4 if it goes well.
4:00 PM: Take people to lessons if it is Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday. Try to squeeze in quality time with children who are not in their lessons; otherwise, do homework or go grocery shopping.
5:30 PM: Home from lessons. Start dinner. Turn over laundry. Correct children's schoolwork and oversee homework while it cooks.
6:00 PM: Eat dinner. Sometimes DH isn't home, but eating any later means people (me) get to bed too late.
6:30 PM: Clean up from dinner and clean up that day's cleaning area.
7:00 PM: Pack lunches and bags for the next day.
7:30 PM: Children's bedtime routines.
8:00 PM: Study schoolwork.
9:00 PM: Do an hour of paid work
10:00 PM: If not passed out, write the next day's blog and post freebies.

There are a few downfalls to my system. First, areas of my home may need cleaning more often than they actually get cleaned. Tough cookies. Pre-med is hard enough without adding endlessly repetitive cleaning tasks.

Second, I should be studying 45 hours per week according to most calculators. Ooops. I count two hours a day TOPS. Weekends are spent catching up with loved ones and more paid work--did I mention my childcare bill is in the four figures? I'm scraping by with mid to high B's--and, yes, I know that's not good enough for med school. I'm trying to find more study time, or at least a more effective study method.

Third, I suffer from overproductivity syndrome. In class, my eyes are darting around and I have trouble concentrating on JUST the professor. Why? I'm used to doing three or more things at once. I'm used to keeping track of a horde of little people while performing these multiple tasks. One man talking is simply not enough to command my attention.

I bet they think I'm on crack.

Oh, the cleaning schedule:

Morning: Monday: Living room
Tuesday: Upstairs bathroom
Wednesday: Kitchen
Thursday: Landing and Laundry room Friday: Master bedroom

Evening:
Monday: Dining Room
Tuesday: Downstairs bathroom
Wednesday: Finish kitchen
Thursday: Family room
Friday: Kids' rooms

Weekends: Fold and put away laundry, do the week's shopping and planning. Breathe.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

State of the Union Address

Oh dear, has it really been more week than a week since I posted? It's been so long since we caught up, so I figured I'd give you a head to toe account of how I'm doing lately.

Hair: Falling out, which it has been doing on and off for the last year or so. My hair will just start growing back long enough to get extensions, then fall out before I can make the appointment. I even started eating meat every day--a desperate measure for me--and (sigh) nothing. I feel like people are always staring at me and hoping whatever exotic disease I have isn't contagious. A friends assures me it isn't that bad.

Brain: Over tired. Precalculus, biology, chemistry, repeat as necessary. Most of my classmates are either youngsters supported by their parents or have these phenomenally supportive spouses and families. Mine are supportive in theory, but they aren't willing to do anything crazy like... the dishes.

Face: free of makeup. No time. Plenty of stray eyebrow hairs, though, if you're into that kind of thing.

Clothes: clean. I do have some standards. I'm getting more casual by the day, however. I walked into class on the first day of the quarter wearing a silk designer shirt with a lot of fussy folds held together by a belt and shoulder seams, topping True Religion jeans and adorable suede ballet flats. Eek? Everyone else was in the baggy sweats and torn jeans that apparently comprise the uniform of this generation. I'm not going that far, but I have definitely downshifted into jean and tee mode.

Nails: decidely unmanicured. Short. Boring. Like my hair, but not falling out.

Shoes: a whole other issue. A professor who shall remain nameless has a few simple rules for lab day: closed toed, no cloth or other easily permeable material. Sound simple enough? I wore some adorable kitten heeled loafers and the 'no heels' caveat was added. Fair enough, but I actually own not one pair of shoes that meets all three criteria. Out of maybe one hundred pair of shoes. I keep looking for something cute and suitable, but nothing has surfaced. I do have ballet flats, but I think they rather miss the point because they leave my feet unprotected.

I feel like an ambassador to another planet. Academia is hostile to homeschooling, ignorant of the grassroots organic/environmental movement of which I am a proud part, and generally a yin to my yang. These are people who think Al Gore deserved that Nobel Prize and that the average person needs someone in power to tell them how to manage every aspect of their lives. Can I get a side of ration with that intelligence? I am an oddity in the crowd of fresh, impressionable things. A thirty something mother who has experienced the real world and came back to report. I have a young face, so sometimes I feel like a spy. Does my math teacher know that I have eight-count-them-eight children? He likely thinks I am tired from a kegger, which would explain the dirty looks every time I yawn during his early morning lecture.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's Like Netflix, But For Cool People

I used to get Netflix, but I was a little frustrated by the experience. They had a lot of mainstream movies, but a rather thin selection of the artsy foreign movies and obscure documentaries that I prefer. I ended up cancelling the service because the only people finding movies they liked were my children, who can get that twenty-four hours a day from Noggin and PBS kids.

Then I found GreenCine. I am in love! They have thousands of movies that I have never seen or heard of--which means less of the 'hollywood machine' formula films that are pushed down our throat at every turn. Plus, they have a huge selection of documentaries to enrich our homeschool lessons, and those strange Japanese anime movies that my almost-13-year-old loves.

I think they have some sort of free trial, but I'm not sure. Regardless, this is worth every penny. I haven't seen my favorite french movie since I broke the VHS tape from overuse when I was seventeen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Easy Meals

Sorry I bailed on you guys for a week or so. I started college classes this week, and it was a fast and painful transition. Academia is very different from my everyday life; very different from everything but academia. And since I hope to plough right through graduate school, this is going to be a huge part of my existence for the next decade or so.

Unlike my classmates, I don't go home to a dorm with a cafeteria. I go home to a house of crazy, momma-love-deprived kids who have lessons to be driven to. And immediately after those lessons, I am supposed to magically produce dinner, somewhere between making a chart of the electron transport system in the mitochondria and figuring out what the tabernac my math teacher was talking about. This last week was not exactly the well-oiled machine I like for my life to be, and issue number one is dinner.

This weekend I planned ahead. I boiled a big pot of beans that became two dinners worth of chili. While they were cooking, I took a family pack of hamburger bought on sale and made another four meals: Swedish meatballs, Italian meatballs, and two packages of taco meat. One of the taco meats we used for taco salad that night, but this leaves a freezer with healthy options for the rest of the week. I also made a batch of whole wheat dinner rolls and froze the dough.

We aren't big meat eaters around here--not because we wouldn't like to be, but because finances and the needs of our planet dictate otherwise. My dinner plan is to eat 3-4 meat meals per week, 2 bean based meals, and 1-2 egg or cheese based meals. Every weekend I plan to prepare those 3-4 meat meals with a family pack of whatever is all natural and on sale, plus cook the beans and spice them accordingly.

Are we going to eat hamburger all week? Of course not. We're going to eat one more of those hamburger meals and then I'll scramble for the rest the way I did last week. But it won't always be this way. I figure that if I make 3-4 chicken breast meals this weekend and do something with, say, pork the weekend after, by the end of the month I'll have a freezer filled with a variety healthy homemade options for dinner.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tough Places

Just a little complaining...

I belong to a Budget Homemaking group through Yahoo. I love this group. I think they have the best ideas, and usually ideas that cut expenses are ecologically sound. There are a lot of great women on the group. But then, there's the... others.

You know the type. Unresourceful. Provincial. When the going gets tough, they whine and put it on their high interest credit card. One person was asking for tips on living on the less than one thousand dollars a month that her husband makes. Someone suggested she, um, get a job. I mean, there's a point where you just need more money.

The $%&# seriously hit the fan. The person who said it was called judgmental and uncompassionate. I recently was called this when I suggested that someone move. They said that there are no jobs in Michigan and that the only job her husband could get was working part time at Wal-Mart.

I told her: been there done that. Not at Wal-Mart, but I've lived in some pretty dismal job markets. I educated myself so I was more hireable and eventually moved to another area that was both cheaper and had more jobs. I told her she should move to Yakima. There seem to be lots of jobs here. My husband can't keep good employees at $10 an hour.

So that's when I became the less than compassionate one in her eyes. Because she, of course, doesn't think she should get a job, or that her husband should get a second job. She doesn't want to leave Trailer Park, Michigan, and she's not interested in school either.

She blames the government. After all, a completely uneducated man working part time at an entry level job for decades on end should be able to support a large family in style, buy a nice home and have two car payments. If he can't, it's a government problem.

Fine, you're trapped okay? I pity you and I think the government should just cut you a fat check because you are too unresourceful and unwilling to adapt to survive in any economy, much less our current one. Is that what you want to hear? Vote Democrat. They have a whole political party set up for that philosophy.

I didn't say that. I gracefully bowed out of the discussion. The mods soon closed the topic anyway, but not without a dig at 'judgmental people'. That would be me, for suggesting that earning more money is the answer to not having enough money. (btw, I don't think the Republicans are much better, so please don't be offended)

We've all been in these tough places. You just figure it out. And, believe me, it's easy to figure out how to move to another state than how you're going to pay $750 in rent from a $600 monthly income. Once you're settled or just no longer in financial crisis mode, you should be thinking, how can I make sure this never happens again. For my family, this meant finding ways to beef up dh's resume, even if he is 100% happy with his current job. Learning Spanish, taking irrigation classes, becoming more hireable in the field he loves. And I'm taking college classes so if something happened to him or his job, we could pull a family switcheroo and I could be the breadwinner for a while.

Resourceful people almost always make it, regardless of the economy. Unresourceful people almost never make it, regardless of the economy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Picture Here

Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday was supposed to feature pictures taken by my six year old daughter on her digital camera.

Her auntie bought her this camera about a year ago, and I hope dear Auntie doesn't read this, because it was taken out of the package for the first time just a few days ago. It was buried under some construction paper and found when I re-organized our school supplies.

She took pictures and filled up the 25-snapshot memory card. I went to load them on my computer and... couldn't. Not on any of our computers. I looked online for support and found out it is a WalMart camera and that it doesn't work for anyone.

Very disappointing.

I also saw the original cost, and was (a.) surprised that Auntie spent that much on one of my kids--there so many of us that I don't expect extended family gifts, especially not pricey ones--and (b.) mad that WalMart has gotten away, once again, with selling crap that doesn't work for an inflated price and people still think they are the 'low cost leader'.

I have been thinking of getting the kids digital cameras for Christmas because they seem like a useful tool that will outlive the toys and candy. But they won't be from WalMart.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tis the Season...

... to collect and save seeds.

If you grew your veggies with organic or heirloom seeds, you have a better chance of this working. Even with conventional vegetables, it can't hurt to give it a try.

First, collect the seeds, rinse them, and let them dry. Take a few out of each group of seeds and put them in a damp paper towel. Keep in a warm, moist environment. If a few of them sprout, you know you have useable seeds. Put them away in a safe place for spring.

Next spring, germinate them like you would any seed. Wasn't that easy?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hallelujah, Hear the Angels Sing

Last week I actually got a doctor's appointment for two of my children. And it doesn't conflict with anything else! Two down, two still needing check ups. Better than nothing.

MacGuyver Monday: Baby Wipes

I recently found myself without baby wipes and in desperate need of them. It wasn't the drama it sounds like because I had a back up plan. Here are a few things you can use in place of them.

  1. A warm wet washcloth.
  2. A warm wet rag.
  3. DIY disposable wet wipes: Using the strongest paper towels you can get, cut one roll in half and remove the cardboard roll. Make a solution of 1 cup boiling water, 1 T baby lotion, 1 T baby soap, and 1 T baby oil. Place ½ roll of paper towels in a reusable container (an empty baby wipes box is ideal.) Pour solution over towels and allow to cool before using.
  4. Another idea (and one that may replace commercial wipes in my house) is to cut up old rags and used clothes, put them in a wet wipe container, and cover with the solution from above. Because you paid nothing for them, you can toss them if they get really grody, or wash and reuse if not.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ecology Without the Effort

I just wrote the funniest article--Green Living for Lazy People. I was a ghost writer, so I have no idea where it will end up published, but it's an interesting idea.

Can you be 'green' without putting in a lot of time and effort? When you think of low carbon living, the first activities that come to mind are time consuming. Time consuming as in: hanging out laundry, rinsing and washing cloth diapers, sorting recycling, walking to the store. Green living can be expensive too, especially if you believe the commerical machine pushing ecology as something you can buy via a Prius, solar panels, and shade grown coffee.

I'm not picking on shade grown coffee; I drink it every morning (..., noon, and night...). But we are doing our beautiful Mother Earth a terrible disservice if we allow green living to become another unreachable goal. Most of the time, it's a simple as using less. Does it take more time to not buy those smooth, silky high thread count sheets at Macy's? Of course not. It's cheaper to not buy them as well. And while they may be organic cotton or bamboo from a fair trade alliance, the sheets you have in your closet are still greener and fairer.

Most of green living lies not in the things we do or the things we buy, but in the things we don't do or buy. In this spirit, here are a few things I am not doing or buying this week:

1. Individually wrapped snacks.
2. A new blanket for the baby (saw one I loved :-( ).
3. A new eyeliner I've been coveting.
4. New flannel sheets to replace my slightly thin and decidedly un-fluffy ones.
5. Birthday invitations for my 12 year old's party. We already have paper, thank you.

Here's a green challenge that won't cost you a minute or a dime: every week when you make your shopping list (mental or written down), cross off three to five things you can physically live without.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: We've all had these days


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cheap Organic Food Wherever You Happen to Be

I admit that, while I try to eat local, there a few necessities that are not grown in my area. Namely, cereals. I love some of the organic cereals out there, especially the ones made by Kashi and Bear Naked, but I can't seem to find them reasonably priced in my area.

Which is why this sale at Amazon is so exciting...

Amazon is giving $15 off every Kashi purchase of $39 or more when you use the promo code KASHIDIS at checkout. They have the same deal for Bear Naked Products with the code BEARNKED. Don't forget that free shipping.

When you buy food from Amazon, it seems like a lot of money because you are buying by the case. It is a shocking amount of food, but still a usable amount. For instance, I am buying--right now, in another window--a case of Kashi granola bars from Amazon. It's $49 for 12 boxes with six granola bars in each box. That's already a lot cheaper than the full store price. When you take off my $15, it will be $34, or less than $3 a box. That's an awesome deal for a snack I can feel good about. Because the kids aren't in school, we only eat about a box a week, so that's 3 months worth. It will definitely keep on my pantry shelf for that long.

They do sell Kashi and Bear Naked at my local Costco for a similar per-unit price, but they sell only multi-packs, and my family hates raisins.

Amazon has deals like this all the time, and they deliver almost anywhere.

MacGuyver Monday: Quick Breads

"Wait--it's not Monday," you say.

"Umm, yeah, somewhere in the world it probably is," I reply. "And I don't want to hear any international date line garbage. Just read about my biscuits."

It's the perfect time of year for kitchen sink soup, with cool evenings and garden full of lovely veggies begging to be used up. But man cannot live on soup alone. What can you serve with your MacGuyvered soup when you don't have time to bake? MacGuyvered bread.

The following three recipes are staples in my house. They are easy to make and I almost always have the ingredients for at least one of them.

Basic Biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tablespoons butter or oil
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3/4 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter or oil. Add milk gradually and stir until a dough is formed. Turn out on slightly floured board and lightly "knead" for 30 seconds, enough to shape. Roll about half an inch thick. I cut them into squares instead of circles because it's so much easier, but you can cut them into any shape you want. Then, bake on ungreased sheet in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. This makes about a dozen.

I spice mine up with whatever we have in the pantry. Garlic cheddar biscuits are a hit at my house, as are rosemary parmesan. They sound and taste gourmet, but it's just a matter of throwing in a few pinches of extras.

Basic Cornbread

2 cups corn meal
1 cup white flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Honey to glaze the top if desired

Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add sugar and melted butter.
Beat eggs and add to mixture along with milk.
Mix well by hand.
Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for
20-25 minutes until top of bread is light brown in color.
Spread a thin glaze of honey on the top of the cornbread and
return to oven for about 10 more minutes.
Cool slightly before serving.
This is a family sized recipe that makes a medium pan of cornbread. Again, the magic is in the add-ins. I like cheddar and green chili.

Crisp Flatbread

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/4 cup more all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing (optional)
More chopped fresh herbs (optional)
More fresh ground salt
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Place a heavy baking sheet into the oven. Preheat to 450F.
In a bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and herbs. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil and water with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and knead gently four or five times.

Break the dough into three parts, then divide each into four pieces to make twelve. On a sheet of parchment paper the size of the baking sheet, roll the dough as thin as possible, working from the center out to fill the sheet. Brush the top with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs and salt, any other toppings. Slip the parchment onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy and the top is golden and browned in places. For the most crispness, err on the side of brownness. Remove the parchment from the oven and let cool. Cover tightly to store. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Lying With Dogs...

You'll be sure to get a few fleas.

Are your friends and acquaintances keeping you from making necessary changes to your life? Just something to think about. It's an issue that has arisen a lot in my life lately, with one of my stepsons to be exact. Now, I have yet to be fond of one of my stepsons' girlfriends, with one exception. (Hi Diana!) But Petar has reached an all time low with this one. And it ain't doing him any good.

Girlfriend seems, um, spoiled. Rotten. And not as a term of speech. I mean, she has no grounding in reality. She honestly thinks people should give her whatever she wants, and right now, thank you. For instance, she drives a very nice new SUV that her parents bought her. She told me they were going to buy her a different very nice SUV and she threw tantrums until they got her the exact one she wanted.

:-\ It's wearing off on Petar. Heaven help us.

She lives at home, does as she pleases, and doesn't seem to have a plan. Her parents are okay with that. More and more, that describes Petar as well--except for the parents part, and, no, we're quite ticked off about the whole thing. He has become very difficult to live with and is spending more money on clothing and room decor, less money on saving. More time on hanging out and fiddling with hair, less time doing his only assigned chore and working toward a future that does not include living in your parents' house. College? Doesn't fit neatly between hanging out at wine bars and whatever else they do.

So they both work at Macy's and that's where they'll both be for the foreseeable future. But enough about my kids.

I've noticed I also have a certain tendency to copy my friends. Some of the similarities are because like attracts like, but, for instance, I stopped wearing surf-brand t-shirts every day a few years ago because I had a friend who thought tees were juvenile. Suddenly I felt too old for them. And I know I am most tempted to fall off the simplicity path when I am surrounded by people with a lot of nice things. If someone tells me they don't believe in global warming, I just smile and nod. I am easily swayed, and I don't think I'm the only one.

What has worked for me so far is to remember why I do what I do. It's not to prevent global warming or because I like feeling deprived. It's because I don't think it is morally acceptable to take more than my share. When I picture different places on our planet in my head, I see a lot of need. We probably have enough food for everyone except--oops--we throw so much of it away. And it's the same with everything. There just isn't an infinite supply of stuff, so I try to take only what I need, and be thankful for it.

There are other reasons for being green. I don't like the thought of our earth being one big landfill and, as a lifelong asthmatic, I do appreciate breathing more than most people. But the taking-only-my-share is my personal mission. And it's what I hold onto in a sea of wasteful people who may or may not think less of me if I don't fall into step with them.

It's good to examine your heart and know exactly what your principles are. You see, I can feel comfortable rolling my eyes and walking away when people try to engage me about global warming. Global warming is so beside the point to me. I'm about being equitable, and no one can argue with that. That's my stand. And it has saved me from a lot of backtracking and slippery slope-ing.

And here's another good thing to remember: if people only accept you when you consume or waste at the same level as they do, who cares about their shallow, close-minded opinion anyway? If Petar had a backbone and a mantra (I'm saving for culinary school, so no Dolce and Gabbana tees for me), he would be able to stand up to Miss Thang. She would fade away, which she'll do eventually anyway, and he could move on to someone with substance. And get an education, too.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just a Lazy Saturday

So, it's just a lazy Saturday around my house. A day to relax and...

  1. Clean out the entire house. And I mean: The. Entire. House. It's a freakin' pigsty. All of it. Each one of the 3400 square feet. A mess.
  2. Finish a writing job. I just have to revise a sales letter, mainly add a few fake reviews. Ah, the marketing world. Since being in it I believe absolutely nothing. It is all a lie, even Santa Claus.
  3. Make this week's to-do lists.
  4. Fix up the homeschool organization's website.
  5. Figure out what classes I need to take this semester, and how I will pay for them and childcare.
  6. Line up some more writing jobs. See #5.
  7. Plan this week's lessons.
  8. Work on an afghan I am making for my stepdaughter. Several hours into it, my dh walks by and says, "Is that for Alison? She hates that color." Maybe it'll be for someone else.
  9. Play with my website. Do something so it makes money. I have a lot of traffic, but no revenue. I need revenue, see #5.
  10. Buy evening primrose oil and flaxseeds. You see, my hair has been falling out lately (AGAIN) and Dr. Andrew Weil says a lack of certain fatty acids can cause this. I'm willing to try anything. Protein, vitamins, getting off certain hormonal treatments--none of it has worked. He says it may take as long as 6-8 weeks to see an effect. Let's just hope it works faster, because if my hair keeps falling out like this for another month I'll be bald. I wish I could talk to my own doctor about this, but he's busy and I have no insurance anyway.

So that's my lazy, no-stress Saturday. I hope your weekends are similarly relaxing!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Blog Tags

I'm really trying to put labels on my posts, but I keep forgetting. I remember with the doctor stuff. I don't know why I label those, except perhaps to make it easy to remove them when they discover my covert whining and sue me for libel. Except it isn't libel if it's true.

Warning: my opinions about everything on this blog, including my doctor's office, are just that: opinions. They are true, at least from my perspective, but ya know how perspective can be when you have a sick baby and a rude scheduling lady.

That aside, I want to remember to label my blogs because that would be a very organized thing to do.

The difference between libel and slander? Libel is in writing, and even private correspondence counts.

Doctor Drama, Anyone?

My life as the star of a medical drama continues. I guess everyone has to have a purpose in life, outside of working, raising children, and coming up with ways to save the planet between episodes of Clean House. Here, in the order that they disturb me, are the latest vignettes in this episode of my life:

1. I called Doctor D.'s office back on Wednesday as instructed by the Tuesday girl. The Wednesday girl told me that he had nothing open and reminded me that I should call at the beginning of the week. I did, I told her. Monday was a holiday, and I called at precisely 8 AM Tuesday morning. Actually, I had called the previous Monday and there were no openings then either. I shared this with Wednesday and asked, If I call back Monday, will there really be an appointment available? She said (and I quote exactly here): You can call whenever you want, but that doesn't mean you'll get an appointment.

I can feel my hair falling out from stress, (sigh).

2. When my mother was calling repeatedly on Tuesday morning, it was actually my stepfather using her phone. She was admitted to the hospital and it ended up she needed (guess, c'mon, you can do it...) a ruptured appendix removed. She had heart issues due to anesthesia also. Go, Mom! She just needed to outdo Tyler.

3. Female issues. I'll spare you icky details about my girl parts. You can send the thank you cards to my email address.

4. Rachael's eczema is back. She is late for a well child visit, too. It's that one I keep trying to schedule. If I can't get one this Monday, I'll go the back door route and call Docta' D's medical assistant. I always feel like I'm cheating when I do that. But we need our check up.

What shall I call my masterpiece? Emily's Anatomy? Mommy MD?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Morning in the Life of a Very Frustrated Mother

Right now I am on the phone with my doctor's office to make an appointment. So far I have heard an folksy remake of Sting's Fields of Barley, a possible Steely Dan song about Daddy don't live in New York City no more (sic), and now, some sort of elevator music.

If I am going to be left on hold for hours at a time, here are a few things I would like to hear:

Dane Cook's comedy bit on Kool Aid (Oh yeah? Oh no!)
Yael Naim
The new song by Ne-Yo, the one from the Overstock.com commercial
Fiona Apple

Seriously, who likes elevator music? Is it supposed to be calming? Several times the phone has sounded like someone was picking up--music pauses, office-y typing sounds in the background. But then, more elevator music. I've missed two calls from my mother while waiting this morning. Tyler is wondering what to do for school (just READ, okay, read a book, this is a literature based curriculum so there's no way you can go wrong by READING).

The elevator music has faded away, and now there is jazzy piano. (vomit in mouth) I am not kidding about the Dane Cook. It would put me in a good mood for when the rude scheduling people arbitrarily withhold health care from my child because it's the only power they wield in their minimum wage existence.

Okay, that was mean. I'm sorry.

Can it be? A person! Oops, I was sent to wrong place, I guess. She's transferring me to where I should be. Back to jazzy piano. Okay, another person already, that was fast. And when I try to make an appointment, this is what I get.

"He'll be in tomorrow, but he's full. Beyond that, I just don't know... Can you make an appointment with another doctor?"

When I explain, umm, NO, and ask if I can call back for an appointment with my own doctor, she says...

"You can try. I mean, I don't know when he'll be in or when he'll get his schedule. "

I can try? How kind of you. When can I try? I mean, last Monday you told me to try today. And since when do people try to make doctor's appointments? It is really simple, right? Like trying to jump, trying to blog. You just do it. I pick up the phone and call you, you check his schedule and put me in a slot, not so hard. Why don't you have his schedule anyway, you're his scheduling lady?

Don't worry, I didn't say that.

"Tomorrow, maybe later in the day? Maybe. I'm not guaranteeing it. I'm sorry."

At least she's sorry. The last scheduling lady was never sorry. She acted like I had done something wrong. I told you to call when we opened, and now it's 8:27. Of course I can't give you an appointment now.

Well, now you have witnessed in real time (kinda) a morning in my life. My doctor has told me that when this happens, I should ask to talk to his medical assistant and that she can usually fit me in. But his medical assistant is apparently not aware of this recommendation. She is always a little confused about why I am talking to her and not his scheduling girl. I save the MA trick for emergencies, for times when we honestly will be in the emergency room if the sitch isn't dealt with and soon. So I'll be calling back tomorrow. This only took 27 minutes of my morning.

Monday, September 01, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Back to School Wardrobes

What does a homeschooling family know about Back to School shopping? More than you would think! We didn't always homeschool, so there was a time when I had to get six people fully outfitted every August. I still try to celebrate these little cultural rituals, although the pressure is definitely lower. So how am I keeping this big family in stylish clothing? The same way I ran charity events and the same way I manage a writing career: by being organized and making lists.

The list making comes first. Your first list should be a "need" list for each child. Never mind what they have, just list the bare essentials of a passable back to school wardrobe for your area and social class. For a homeschooling family in Central Washington, this might look like: 5 everyday/play outfits, 3 nice outfits, 2 church outfits, tennis shoes, boots, coat, snowpants, 3 pair pajamas. For a family in school, you would probably need 'nice clothes' every day, so adjust as needed.

Now, inventory all of the potential school clothes you have on hand from last year, hand-me-downs, and the deals you find here and there. I am always on the look-out for free and cheap clothes, so I usually have a substantial pile for each child. Have your children try on their clothes. Things that are too big go back to your clothing storage (whatever that may be), and things that are too small get passed down. Compare your "have" lists to your "need" lists and note any shortfalls. This is your shopping list.

If I was determined to spend no money, I would now begin looking for ways to repurpose. My love of pillow case dresses is legendary, but pillowcases also make nice skirts and jumpers. Pants with torn or worn knees can be cut off and hemmed to make shorts, or sewn into a cute skirt like this one. Sewing clothing is usually more expensive than buying, but if you have fabric on hand, even in the form of unwanted sheets and curtains, free patterns are all over internet. You can also request clothing on Freecycle, or ask friends what they are doing with their children's cast-offs.

Next, I would hit thrift stores with a very specific list of what I need. I actually did this today and my list read something like:

White turtleneck--Grace
Hot pink top--Rachael
Off-white top--Rachael
Black snowboarding pants--Tyler
...

And so on. It was a long list.

A tip: do not buy anything not on your list at this point. List items are receiving priority because they are immediately needed.

Another tip: many thrift stores regularly publish coupons or have special days when certain items are cheaper. Don't be afraid to ask!

If you have tapped the thrift stores and still have items on your list, move on to cheaper stores like Target, T.J. Maxx, and Old Navy. If you have an outlet mall nearby, hit that as well. I find amazing deals at Nordstrom Rack, so check there if one is near you. I know there are environmental and social implications to buying mainstream retail garments, but if you have managed until this point to get everything used, a few fill-in items will have minimal impact. As for WalMart, I avoid it like the plague because I need my stuff to last.

Done? Hopefully you have found everything you need at this point. I did this routine today, and my Back to School shopping came to $56 for four kids and their clothes horse mommy. Not too shabby! There are a few items I'm still keeping an eye out for, but we'll all be on-trend when we sit down to the kitchen table for Latin tomorrow morning.

A tip on buying ahead: I buy things before I need them, but without a framework, I would end up with lots of disconnected items that don't translate into outfits. My policy is to limit buying ahead to basics (like jeans, khakis, polos, cardigans, etc) and matched outfits. If I see something adorable at a great price, I'll pick it up, but only if it is worth having to buy a matching piece at full retail price. Of course, if it's free, just take it and say thank you. Another good way to weave scattered clearance deals into a cohesive look is to plan a wardrobe theme. Not everything has to match the theme, but, for example, my 6 year old daughter loves animal prints so I bought her leopard print ballet flats, skirts, and tops as I found them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Back to School" Impact

Is it possible for Back to School to be green?

If you're a traditional schooler, I just don't know. Really. Here are a few ways that public/private schooling affect the environment:

1. Driving. Whether bussed or driven by mom, millions of children have to go to and from somewhere every weekday.

2. Waste. Because of the nature of serving large numbers of people, most schools use disposable products. Disposable dinnerware, papers used on only one side, paper towels. A cafeteria garbage can is full of perfectly eatable, untouched food. And wrappers; moms who send lunches have the food wrapped in plastic because we all know kids can't seem to fit the gladware back in their lunchboxes.

3. Chemicals. Again, this is caused by the nature of serving large numbers of people. You need bad-#%$ cleaners to make those bathrooms usable, and lots of them. Lawns get sprayed with toxic chemicals for weeds and bugs; plastic, paint, and other fumes float through the air.

4. Paper. Teachers are not amused when you hand in an assignment written on the back of another assignment.

5. Clothing, and keeping up with the Jennifers. When my stepkidlets were in school, they needed a constant influx of stuff. Not just clothes, although clothes were definitely part of it. Sunglasses, specific brands of backpacks, uni-ball pens because they just feel nicer, accessories. Shopping at a thrift store was an appalling idea; they wouldn't even go inside. This is not only ghastly expensive, it also creates waste as perfectly good items were discarded to make room for the latest thing. Luckily, I saved a lot of it and it is now used by my homeschooled junior high schooler and my husband. My 13 year old has been dressed for two years from one teenager's senior year wardrobe... dressed well, and I still have a few huge boxes of other stuff for when this round gets stained, torn, or otherwise ruined.

That's one kid, one year. And I have personally seen kids brutally teased for not having this stuff, so I wasn't willing to put my darlings in that sitch.

Anyway, let's compare this to a homeschooler.

1. Driving. Yes, we do some driving on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I combine lessons with errands and one of these days Mrs. March and I are going to work out a carpooling plan. I'd say I drive around half as much as I did when I had kids in school, and it still feels like a lot.

2. Waste. Very un-encouraged. In fact, it's one of the only ways to get mom to blow her top. Creative leftover use is encouraged, and if you are getting a cup of water, put that glass where you can find it the next time you're thirsty. Disposable? Are you kidding me? I budget about five bucks a month on paper products, and that needs to include toilet paper for a family of eight.

We don't throw away food, we eat food. And it's real, recognizable agricultural products that are usually less than a week and a few miles removed from their origin. No canned stuff and what-is-in-the-chicken-nugget-cuz-you-know-chicken-isn't-spongy-like-that.

3. Chemicals? I clean with vinegar, sometimes diluted bleach. My husband has our lawn sprayed, though, and I get so mad about it but he's the manager of the company that does it so I can't cancel behind his back. I can live with crab grass; he thinks it reflects badly on our family and his job. Other toxins are just not here, partly because we gravitate toward used stuff that has already released its icky chemicals, and partly because I won't buy anything with a chemical I can't pronounce. Heavy duty cleaners just aren't necessary in the average household.

4. Paper. We mainly use the backsides of memos from my husbands job.

5. Clothing. Handed down, freecycled, bought on sale or used, and assigned to the Marshall family's complicated hierarchy of clothing. At the top is church clothing, which is fancy and usually matches the siblings' outfits. Then there are 'town clothes' which we wear out in public, to doctor's appointments, to lessons and co-ops. If they become less-than-perfect, they are re-assigned to everyday clothing. Last are the mud clothes: stained, mended, barely covering our backsides... these are not just for mud, but for painting and other super messy tasks. They are practically disposable.

The hand-me-down hierarchy is just as complicated. Church clothes and town clothes are handed down, everyday clothes go to the garage sale or freecycled, and mud clothes become rags and quilts.

As for 'stuff', I am against it and don't buy it. My kids have no one to impress. The other homeschoolers are just as cheap as I am, and they won't care if my daughter has a brand new Hannah Montana folder or an old file folder with a scribbled out label. They get 'stuff' as presents and from Freecycle, but I refuse to put a line in my budget for it.

Whether you are a public schooler, private schooler, or homeschooler, there are ways to make your stay on our little planet just a little less wasteful. What are you doing for our Earth?

Exes and Hexes

Grrr.

I just need to vent here.

My oldest son, Tyler, is from a previous relationship. He visits his dad and stepmother for a month in the summer every year and comes back with a lot of general information about how I am viewed by my ex and his wife. I like to call it "Melinda Said". As in:

Melinda said you should send me to public school because she went there and turned out okay.

Melinda said you are ripping off companies by ordering freebies. She says it's fraud. (This came after the question, "what is fraud?" and I said, "well, it's when you steal from a company in a sneaky way. Why?")

Melinda said your house must be a mess with so many kids. (Tyler said he tried not to laugh because I keep a very clean house and he can't get through their living room without tripping four times)

Melinda said you don't feed me healthy food. (At least I feed him at all.)

Melinda said you shop at thrift stores because you are cheap, and that all Jews are cheap. (Melinda's of Arab descent and has a lot of opinions about Jews, Muslims, and the interaction between them.)

Melinda said I don't have enough socks. (I only sent a few pair because he wears flip-flops all summer. And then she bought him a package of socks to prove how dire she felt the situation was . They came home brand new and unworn. Thanks for the socks, guys. He already had about thirty pair, but it's a nice thought.)

And it goes on and on. It's not worth picking a fight over, and it really makes Tyler dislike her. It actually has the opposite effect than what I think Melinda intends, because most of it is obviously untrue. When he tries to argue with her, he gets scolded and told not to talk back. Fair enough; he shouldn't be sassing his stepmother. She's still an adult authority figure.

It's been a good lesson for me, because it makes me realize how easy it is for a well-meaning person to say things to a child that are upsetting. For instance, several years ago I bought some square white dinner plates. I bought them at Macy's for a hefty price (for me), and I was really proud of them. So, the first time I served dinner on them, my stepson informed me that I should have bought black. Why? Because his mom has square black plates.

His mom is one of those people who over-shops at cheap stores. Know what I mean? Some people buy plates once a decade at Macy's; others buy them every year at WalMart. They end up spending about the same. It's a matter of habit and perspective. And I should have said nothing, but I instead said something like: Who wants to eat off black plates? How unappetizing. And they don't even have that stuff at the stores where I shop.

In retrospect, it was very bitchy of me, and I'm sure it was carried home to mom and made to sound like I mounted a detailed attack on her dinnerware and her preferred retail establishments. I don't feel too guilty, though, because I know she uses her visitation to indoctrinate her children against their dad and me. And the kids see it as : look how much these people upset Mom, what is wrong with them? Or else, they think she just needs a friend and they should try to be there for her. So totally not a kid's job, not even an adult kid. And she knows it.

I try to keep my mouth shut. I try *so very* hard, and most of the time I succeed. But I'm getting it from both sides here: his ex and my ex.

It's more important that the kids be spared this crap than for me to come out 'right'. I just have to keep that perspective.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Freecycle

Boy, am I thankful for Freecycle.

This week we got three big bags of toys (four? was there a fourth?) from Freecycle and found another Yakima Mommy blogger. TJ at http://dtkmkihn.blogspot.com/ lives less than a mile from me, and her kids had some decent hand-me-downs. Here are a few of our faves from the loot.












Malcolm likes dinosaurs and dragons, so he was happy to add a few to his collection.











Grace thinks the purple cat is a Bratz kitty, which is so thrilling for her because I won't buy anything Bratz... we have enough brats in our home, thank you. So, Bratz or not, this little plastic kitty has a place of honor on her bookcase.


Rachael is in love with this Elmo phone. Ironically, I gave away this exact phone on Freecycle about two years ago. Could it be the same one?

Ignore the furniture in the background, please--it's our family room, which is outfitted exclusively in hand-me-downs and Freecycle finds because we go through furniture like a winery goes through grapes. The antiques and Pottery Barn splurges refuse to enter.

Other things we've been gifted on Freecycle? Hangers, clothes for the kids (five separate occasions this year in fact), new bedding sets for the girls' room, an entertainment center, a mahogany armoire (not sure why they were giving that away...), old records, maternity clothes. Lotsa stuff. Even better is having a place to give things away. I don't usually post because I tend to give away things to people I know, but I always check people's 'wanted' ads. It's nice to email someone who has no baby stuff and tell them you have everything from crib to onesies if they want it. So check out Freecycle if you aren't already dialed into it... there's one in almost every community.

A few pet peeves about Freecycle: it's an environmental thang, but some posters have refused to give me items because they were holding out for someone who sounded needier. So, they basically want a story writing contest? lol. I also get a little annoyed when I drive across town for a bag of boys' size 4 clothes and it ends up to be a bag with one size 4 stained t-shirt and the rest adults XL (really happened). Or when I pick up three bags of size 2T clothes and they are all 12 mos or smaller. But usually I can find someone who can use the surplus (in both cases I did), and I love the constant flow of new stuff into our house. It inspires me to increase the flow of stuff out of our home, and there's no cost, financial, environmental, or otherwise.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To Cool Off... My Baby Sister in the Snow Last Winter

video

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crockpot in the Morning, Crockpot in the Evening, ...

This morning I woke up and a hot, healthy breakfast was ready to eat. No, my husband didn't get on a helpful streak (those of us who know my husband are laughing right now... he has many fine qualities, but he's happy to leave all housework to me). I made crockpot oatmeal. And it was SOOOO good. Here's the recipe I used:

Ingredients:

  • Butter or oil
  • 2 cups of oats, not instant or quick. Just plain oats.
  • 5 cups of liquid--we do half milk and half water
  • If desired, about one cup of add-ins, like: nuts, dried berries, etc

Instructions:

  1. Butter or oil the inside of the crockpot well.
  2. Add oatmeal and liquid, plus add-ins
  3. Cook on low 6-8 hours

If you are the type who actually gets a good night's sleep, this recipe will be no good for you. Those of us who are creeping by on 5-6 hours will find this recipe a good way to soak up some of the black coffee.

A few thoughts on crockpots: New ones cook much hotter than the old ones. My crockpot was five bucks at a garage sale--this is the only way it matches my other appliances--and is, I assume, an older one. I'm not sure, though. If anyone would like to try this recipe in a confirmed new crockpot and report back, I'd be much obliged. I don't know if you've seen the cost of bulk oatmeal lately... it won't be an expensive experiment.

I recommend using dried apples, pecans, and apple pie spices as extras. Dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips are always good; just add the chocolate chips when you serve.

Crockpot 365 is a blog dedicated exclusively to--you guessed it--using the crockpot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The In Group and the Out Group

Even though I am a practicing Christian, I really dislike hanging around other Christians. Almost every church I've been to has seemed swept away in jargon--Have you been born again in the blood of the lamb?--and totally self-congratulatory--We are so Awesome. We worship God in this totally unique way. Wouldn't ya know, it's the only way He wants to be worshipped, and I know this because I have Him on speed dial and also I have this little used translation of the Bible that isn't accepted by any other church...

This is how I ended up Catholic. Not because I think they are right about everything, but because Catholics feel so guilty and inadequate. It cuts down on the smug.

So, anyway. A friend, an intelligent Christian friend, whose beliefs I would respect just because they happened to be hers, said that she has hesitated to join a local homeschooling group because of the statement of faith. The statement of faith is loosely based on the Apostles' Creed, which many people (I'm told) feel is a tool of exclusion.

Oh, I hate exclusion. I have been the popular girl, the girl who the popular girls hated, the girl who hated the popular girls... Adolescence sucks, and I feel no need to recreate it in my adult relationships. I don't think it's a requirement to be a Christian. Christ was inclusive. He included everybody who came with an open heart, and even a few who didn't. I try to emulate that.

On the other hand, I think we can believe things, and have a group based on said beliefs, without excluding others. But if the others feel excluded, we have effectively excluded them just by failing to include them. Is that confusing enough? I don't want cool, funny, smart families to be afraid to join our party. And, apparently, they are.

How do I fix this?

MacGuyver Monday: Money, Money, Money

Grow a garden.
Buy in bulk.
Drive a more fuel efficient car.

What do the above have in common? They, like many money-saving tips, require more investment and waiting time than a strapped family has. When I was twenty, my then-husband and I split up unexpectedly just before we were set to move to another state, and I found myself jobless and moneyless with a small child. What do you do if you are hit over the head with a sudden financial shortfall? You MacGuyver your finances.

Step One: Cut Your Food Bill

The priority is to keep a roof over your head and keep any wage earners earning (or get them earning again). Where do groceries fit in to that? They don't. Most Americans have pantries full of food, yet we head to the grocery store every weekend for another cart full. If needed, most of us could squeeze two weeks' of meal out of our kitchen. You may end up with some unorthodox combinations toward the end, but if you treat it like an adventure, your family can have fun with this.

When your pantry is running low, the Hillbilly Housewife has a $40 emergency menu and shopping list that, while not nutritionally optimal, is certainly as healthy as the average American diet and is dirt-cheap.

My friend Mrs. Hannigan gets just about everything for free with coupons, but she has a few years of this lifestyle under her belt. If you are new to the world of couponing for free stuff, Couponmom.com can help guide you. Just remember: you cannot afford to "spend to save". If you can combine coupons and sales to get things absolutely free, take advantage. But beware of becoming one of those coupon freaks who spends $400 a month on shampoo but swears they are saving so much.

If your cupboards are truly bare and you don't see a paycheck in your near future, go to a foodbank. Many of us donate to food banks because we know some people find themselves in dire situations through no fault of their own. Save what little money is left for things like housing and electric, things that aren't readily available

Step Two: Impose a Spending Moratorium

That means no Starbucks, no non-work-related driving, not even a trip to the Goodwill. As long as you have clothing to cover your back, you don't need anything else. Remember that this is temporary. Eventually you'll bounce back, but until then, your kids may have to enjoy homemade birthday presents or go to school without supplies. This too shall pass.

Step Three: Cancel Everything

Be smart here. Cable can go, high speed internet can go, but if you have to pay $200 to cancel your cell phone, do the math. How long will you need to do without? Does your breadwinner need that phone? Can you cancel your landline and use the cell instead? You want to pay as little as possible, so keep your calculator at hand.

Step Four: Cut Your Electric Use

Pretend you are in a third world country and have no electric. Would you have television? No. A dryer? No. A toaster? Most likely not.

It's easy to live without a toaster. It's hard to live without a refrigerator. The longer you can do without things like toasters and clothes dryers, the longer you will have money for things like refrigerators. Focus on what you physically need. Everything else should be unplugged and put away.

Step Five: Increase your Income

It's as easy as it sounds. In my case, as a 20 year single mother, I took a low-paying job as a nurse's aide trainee (every community needs nurse's aides because no one wants to do that kind of work). It allowed me to work nights, when relatives could watch my toddler. It was the worse job I have ever had... the worse job I have ever even heard of, but it brought in a regular paycheck and now I have a unique perspective on what makes a job truly horrible.

It wasn't enough to live on, at least not with the upper middle class lifestyle in which I was raised, so I told everyone I knew that I was looking for work. I organized houses, cleaned group homes, and sewed Halloween costumes (among other things). I did surveys in my spare time. I traded farm labor for rent. And while I was doing all this, I took college classes so I wouldn't have to live like that forever.

If you are determined not to leave your children, there are a lot of things you can do for money at home.

If you have a quick way to save money or earn it, leave me a message and I'll add it in.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Something from Nothing Saturday: Pillowcase Dresses

For my daughter's sixth birthday, my good friend Mrs. Hannigan gave her all the ingredients needed to make an adorable stylish dress: a pillowcase, a length of ribbon, and some elastic. The dress we are making is like the one here except that it has ribbons instead of fabric ties on the shoulders. You can find cool pillow case clothes all over the web, but my favorites are at:

Maya Made
Molly Coddle
Mothering.com

If you want to buy one, or if you are an awesome seamstress and can copy designs from sight, there are some cute pillow case apparel ideas at Pillow Case Dresses. If you get bored with them, check out these easy homemade onesie dresses and t-shirt dresses.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Normal Lives Don't Suck

My mother and stepfather left this morning after a week-and-a-half visit, and I exhaled for the first time since we put away our schoolbooks late this May.

Homeschooling moms should look forward to summer. Even if you are the year-round schooling type, the pressure to progress is significantly lessened; after all, your neighbor's kids aren't learning anything. Most lessons are put on hold to allow for family vacations. Communities seem to bloom with fun activities. If the whole world homeschooled, this would be what our lives looked like year round: concerts, gallery openings, and hordes of children milling around every conceivable public place. This is a time for traditionally-schooling to reconnect with their children, and a chance for homeschooling families to relax. Or it should be.

If your summer has been full of rest and naps in hammocks, God bless you. Mine has been a long series of disruptions, from a variety of illnesses both exotic and mundane to a parade of obligatory visits and visitors, all set against the backdrop of an anxious nation waiting to behold their political and economic future.

But I'm not complaining. I think the events of my summer have led me to make some very positive changes. I look forward to jumping back into our normal routines and seeing how the new twists add flavor and spice.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Suck/Rock(!) Awards for the Week

If you're wondering why the freebie updates at my website have been so few and far between, I have a variety of explanantions to offer. First, I have been busy between the relatives in town and the run-ins with the law.

Second, Yahoo (my webhost) had some weird glitch whereby I would update and upload the changes, but they weren't actually, umm, taking. As in, the website wasn't showing the changes. Because I've been busy, I just went along my merry way assuming that we were all on the same page, and now I've probably lost half of my itty-bitty audience to frustration and ennui.

Yahoo wins this week's You Suck (!) award, no surprise there. But you know who wins the You Rock(!) award? Mary Kay.

Yeah, seriously, like the blond lady with horrendous blue eye shadow. I can move on--it was the sixties, after all, and my grandma still wears that color too. And don't worry that I'm trying to sell you the stuff, because I couldn't sell bottled water in the Sahara Desert.

My friend Mrs. March is a consultant (or whatever they call the salesladies), so I'm getting a crash course in Mary Kay-ology. I now know that it's not MLM, which is cool. I know that Mrs. March's boss ladies are super nice to her and that she needs more of that in her life. Don't we all. I know that she's all smiley lately and strutting around in cute black dresses as if she didn't grow up around here, where women actually have 'church jeans'.

Now my mother wants to sell it. Half of me says GO FOR IT because she could use a few nice boss ladies and she already has the cute black dresses. Part of me worries she'll invest time and money and not recoup it, because she is already strapped for both between two frail elderly parents and various parasite relatives. And of course, I wonder why do this with her level of education. Am I going to finish a doctorate and still need to sell cosmetics from my garage?

btw, did you know Mary Kay was one of the first cosmetics companies to start recycling on a corporate scale and to stop testing on animals? You have that from someone who has never, will never sell the stuff.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Life Doesn't Suck Because No One's Hurt and We Aren't In Jail Either

I've been accused of being a lenient parent, especially by people within the uber-conservative homeschooling community. If you consider letting my children make their own decisions on issues like hairstyle lenient, then I certainly am. If you consider letting them watch mainstream, age-appropriate television lenient, yeah. I'm not saying there are no rules in my home; quite the contrary. I firmly believe that children (and people in general) should be responsible, respectful, and fun to be with. We all have our standards, and those are mine.

All standards aside, we are and always have been the loud and perhaps obnoxious family on the block, and that has just become exponentially worse. I went grocery shopping today and came home to find my road blocked by a police car. There was no one in the car, and my driveway was just feet away, so I squeezed by it in my minivan and pulled into my driveway, where there was yet another police car and a police motocycle to boot. Men with guns were milling around on my front porch and my stepson was leaning against the railing looking very guilty.

Apparently, he was bored, and with the little ones gone, he decided it would be entertaining to set off a few firecrackers he had saved from the Fourth of July. (No, I am not cool with the fact that he had fireworks stashed away in a house full of small children.)

The neighbors thought they heard gunshots and called the cops. The cops arrived en masse expecting to find a shooting. And that's when I returned home with a trunk full of organic ice cream and veggie dogs (which were disgusting btw).

My stepson has a hefty fine to pay and my neighbors have something exciting to talk about. Hopefully we'll escape without fallout from the landlord, and of course I am so grateful no one was hurt or arrested as a result of this total lapse in judgment. I'm sure I'm not the only parent whose kids have, umm, lapses in judgment, and if trying to deal with this in a calm and rational manner makes me a lenient parent, I guess I'm there.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The Duggar's

I don't have a big family. Now that (see above) is a large family.

I am amazed by the Duggar's because they run their lives. Period. That's a lot of people, and they seem to be growing into functional human beings. For the record, I am not evangelical. I don't wear long skirts unless they happen to be in style that season. I have a paltry eight children and only four of them actually share my DNA (and I would never name them all with the same initial). I encourage free thought and use mainstream science curriculum. But I think Michelle Duggar and I could sit and have coffee (if that's allowed by her religious beliefs) and get along. I don't have to agree with everything she stands for to admire a bright and well-organized mind. I read their website sometimes just to see whassup wit' dem.

If you haven't checked out the Duggar's, you should. You'll be dismayed or inspired, and it's an entertaining read either way.

It's never Wordless Wednesday around here. Just can't shut up. :-)

Monday, August 04, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Doing stuff with yarn

If you knit or crochet, you probably have a few skeins of yarn lying around. What can you do that's useful and doesn't require buying yet more yarn? Here are a few ideas.

1. Amigurumi are an easy and cute way to use up yarn in a productive way. Basically, they are cute little crocheted Japanese stuffed animals. I am going to make some for Christmas stockings, and maybe Etsy.
Here's a link with lots-a amigurumi tips and a pattern for a little guy.

2. Crochet or knit dishcloths, potholders, and hot pads.

3. Make little flowers to decorate clothing.

4. Make pom-poms--no knitting or crocheting needed, and it's so easy a little kid could make them.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Menu Planning for Non-Meat Eaters

I was looking around at menu planning sites today, searching for recipes to feed next week's house guests.

Houseguests make for difficult meal planning in the Sagemommy household. On one hand, I want to knock their socks off with my gourmet skills; on the other hand, I would like to spend some time with my family outside the kitchen. Then there's the ingredient issue; we are mainly meatless around here, but most Americans are conditioned to think it's not dinner without a slab of flesh taking up half their plate. I want to introduce people to the delicious fresh tastes of a Yakima summer, but I don't want them to go home grumbling. Also, my houseguests are highly allergic to, among other things, milk and milk products.

I've discovered that most meal planning sites either recommend rotating the most boring traditional American meals--as in Monday is spaghetti night, Tuesday is taco night, etc.--or they plan meals around meat, as in Monday we'll make something with chicken breast, Tuesday something with pork chops, and so on. All of these work wonderfully if you really, really enjoy traditional American foods. If. My houseguests happen to be my parents--a European/Jewish heritage stepfather, and a Middle Eastern/Central Asian/Eastern European/non-practicing Jewish mother who grew up in China. Did I mention they're Buddhist? Only in California...

Then I had an epiphany: why not plan meals according to cuisine type? As in Monday--Mexican, Tuesday--Thai, Wednesday--Italian, and so on. I started searching, and I found low-meat, dairy-free, budget-friendly meals from every nation I could think of on the web. I think this is going to become my new strategy. As a bonus, this plan made it easy to plan side dishes, as Thai food just begs for sauteed noodles and it isn't Mexican night without Spanish rice. As I am fond of pointing out, third world cuisine is generally cheap and easy to prepare, because they are even more strapped for time and cash then we are.

I plan to incorporate more adventurous cuisines into my family's diet this summer. It will keep us out of the sandwich/salad/fruit rut we seem to creep into when it gets too warm to properly cook. Don't worry; I'll share recipes as I find good ones.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Maxing Out your Meat

That sounds like a Enzyte commercial, but, seriously, that's not where I'm going with this.

The price of meat is going up with the price of, well, everything. I think the price is going to increase faster than other food prices, and here's why:

Meat, even local meat, is rarely entirely local. Cows, for instance, have to be shipped from where they are born to where they are raised, then from there to where they are fattened just before slaughter, then to where they are slaughtered, then to where they are processed and packed, then to a store's distribution center, and then to the store. Whew! that's quite a run-on sentence, and it's quite a lot of traveling for an animal whose sole function is to lay quiet on your plate with a side of Yukon Gold fries.

Animals don't fit neatly in the back of a Prius, and with oil prices going up every second, it's fair to say that these intrepid world travelers are not getting any cheaper. So how do you cut your meat budget in times like these? By cutting your meat intake. And here's how:

1. Experiment with vegan meals. Even meat lovers will like some of them, so try a few out. Instead of making spaghetti without the meatballs, try checking out a vegan cookbook and trying an altogether new dish, one that won't feel like it has something missing.

2. Do the meat limbo--lower, lower, lower. In the spaghetti with meatballs example, make your meatballs slightly smaller, with slightly more fillers, and use slightly less. Go a little lower every time you try a recipe, and bump back up a step when people start complaining. You can halve your meat usage this way without your family noticing.

3. Experiment with cheaper cuts of meat. Chuck roast may not be ideal for barbecuing, but it sure makes a nice pot roast. Tougher cuts of meat are often more flavorful, and therefore better for casseroles and stews.

Meat is always tastier and greener when bought from local farmers and butchers, so call around about options other than the corner supermarket. Sometimes these sources are cheaper, too.

If you're worried about protein intake, remember that most Americans are getting two to four times the protein they need. Unless you're a strict vegan, you ought to be okay (and what strict vegan would be reading this?).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life Doesn't Suck. Really, It Doesn't. Really.

Two visits to the emergency room don't ruin your week, really. Never mind being unable to conduct your life because your cell phone charger is lost and the hospital doesn't have wi-fi. (freakin' Safeway has wi-fi and the hospital doesn't...) Never mind getting two small children to sit still for hours. It was fun, like I was Supernanny except I can spank and threaten them. Never mind waiting five hours only to be told to return in twelve hours, then being scolded for 'abusing the emergency room system' when I return. Never mind having my doctor (the incredible, disappearing Dr. X) unreachable and the ER doctor making decisions based on the advice of the resident on call at CWFM (I've seen the residents; I have older-looking children and I'm only 31). Never mind all that.

No, my week isn't ruined. I made a gorgeous newsletter for a local homeschooling organization and got it to the printer only a week late. I still can't reach the person who is supposed to actually mail the finished newsletters because I don't have her number and I can't reach anyone who does. And I'm doing a really awesome job not freaking out about that, at least on the surface. My house is a mess, but it still has four walls, a roof, clean dishes, and clean laundry if you aren't particular about outfits matching. It's my stepdaughter's birthday and I still haven't mailed any presents because the kids misplaced them while Daddy was watching them while I "slept in" for a half hour last Saturday. I haven't had a chance to buy anything else. I don't have the money either. But that doesn't mean life sucks.

Right now I am trying to get ready for houseguests. Two of my kids are in their bedrooms screaming because they were brawling over who ripped a sticker left over from the ER visit. I sent them to bed for a nap. They aren't tired. But I am.

Right now, my son should have already had a follow-up visit with his family doctor. The ER people obviously have never dealt with CWFM. According to the scheduling bitch person, who I swear snickered when I told her I need an appointment either that day or the next, I can call next Monday for an appointment in two weeks, or I can see one of those preschoolers, with my luck the same one who advised the ER doctor to thoroughly tongue-lash me before sending me home with a child who might need his third abdominal surgery in five months. And whenever I reluctantly agree to see a doctor who is not Dr. D, he/she magically becomes my primary care provider and I have to throw several hissy fits and beg medical assistants for mercy before the schedulers switch me back.

Right now my baby has a croup-y cough and a stomach bug that is causing diarrhea. It's just one more service to the community offered by Yakima Memorial. Seeing my doctor is, uh, impossible, and I'm having panic attacks whenever I think of returning to the emergency room. But life doesn't suck, because, darn it, this is Life Doesn't Suck As Much As I Thought It Did Thursday.