Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Writing Goals

Many of you know that I am a (very) part-time freelance writer. I've been doing this for almost six years now, since my daughter was born and I realized that between her, my older son, and my many stepchildren, I was paying more in daycare and after-school activities than I actually made after taxes. For years, I worked about 30 hours a week, writing mainly copy for local businesses and nonprofits. I had another baby and kept plugging along. Between writing and a few little projects on the side, I earned almost as much as I had while working full-time, and my childcare needs were modest enough that I could trade babysitting with family and friends. Then I moved.

Two years and one more baby later, I am earning in the low to mid three figures a month. Sometimes I get all motivated and hunt down a few jobs, but demands from children, housework, husband, etc., always get the best of me. If you have no concrete goal, it's easy enough to let the month slide by and then be puzzled when you only make $300. Well, enough. May is going to be the month that I cut the crapola and set some goals.

This month I plan to make $1000 writing. I am going to increase my goal every month and hopefully work up enough momentum to make a tangible contribution to the household. I also am setting up a blog dedicated to the freelance writing lifestyle. Hopefully another mommy will be able to learn from my experiences.

If you're hooked on reading about the day-to-day foibles of my life, have no fear. This will still be my main blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Economic Whatever Checks

Economic Stimulation? Is that what they're called? It sounds like a Jenna Jameson film featuring naughty accountants. Anyway...

Most households are getting these windfalls of money from the US government because we aren't being as stupid as usual and all the businesses that feed on our stupidity are suffering.

But not mine. Not anytime soon at least. Because we don't know the baby's Social Security number, so we filed an extension on our taxes to keep the IRS off our heels while we figure out wtf happened.

For the record, I *know* what happened. When the baby's social security card arrived, I was going to put it in my purse. My husband said not to, because you aren't supposed to carry them around. I carry all of my children's cards in my wallet, and I am surprised at how often I need to show them. Several times a year, more than I have to show my Macy's card and insurance card which are also kept in my wallet.

Dear husband insisted that we file the card and told me to put the envelope on his desk. This made me nervous--if you have seen his desk, you know why. But I did it anyway. I am choosing my battles (pats self on back).

Fast forward six months or so. We are filling out taxes and dear husband asks for the kids' social security cards. I have all of them, except the baby's. He wants to know where the baby's card is.

Uh, that's your domain, Master of the House.

He searches his desk and can't find it. So we file an extension.

Do you know how hard it is to get a Social Security card when you don't know the number? You need complete medical records and the official birth certificate. Ironically, you need a social security card to get that official birth certificate.

I'm sure we'll get this ironed out, although it may require a discussion with various political reps. Whatever. I'm more worried about my economic whatever check. I am totally against this whole government-doling-out-allowance deal, but I have a car payment and medical bills and a houseful of kids that want to visit relatives in Okinawa. I hope they have some sort of provision for late filers.

Get Those Kids a Job!

My son completed the first day of an ongoing volunteering gig, cleaning up the properties of the aged and disabled for a local charity. He had a great time, and you can read all about it at Mrs. March's blog--my son is "T2".

When I was telling a friend about it, she said, "Community service? What did he do?" It took me a few moments to realize that she assumed the community service was of a court-ordered nature. I told her he was doing it with homeschooling friends as a volunteer project, of their own accord, just to be good citizens. It took me a while to explain what I thought was obvious: the kid's not being punished, he's just doing his duty as a human being.

When did volunteerism become associated with mandatory restitution? When did our children become so rotten that people react with disbelief when told about such an admirable project? I'm almost tempted to get the media involved--wouldn't it be a pleasant change to see "Kids Help Out, Without a Court Order" on the front of the Yakima Herald instead of the latest drive-by or arson.

Yes, my son volunteers. He also reads for fun, and right now he is playing basketball with his very annoying five year old sister. If you know of a young adult who can't see beyond his own zits and school dramas, get him a job--one that pays in self esteem and community pride.

The Brighter Side of Recessions

I belong to a budget homemaking Yahoo group with thousands of members. When I joined, I envisioned a huge change in my lifestyle and bank balance as I gleaned information from thousands of experts.

If you are familiar with Yahoo groups, you know this was not the case. Most of the members are lurkers, with only about 20-30 people (including me) posting regularly and actively. And most of the posts are from the newly frugal asking for help getting their household budgets in line. When the more seasoned tightwads offer advice, the newbies usually get angry or indignant. They can't envision a meal with a giant piece of meat at its center. They have no time to garden or cook from scratch. Their children deserve new clothes bought at full price. They have unusual health issues which demand that their house be 60 in the summer and 80 in the winter.

You know the attitude, I'm sure. It's one I have written about repeatedly. I have began ignoring the requests for advice because I'm tired of begging people to make the tiny choices that could mean all the difference in their own lives and our planet's future.

But now people on the group are starting to get more serious about saving, and it's not out of concern for the Third World populations who have been slaving away to make their brand new Nikes. No, they are going green from necessity. They actually cannot afford gas anymore, so they're combining errands. They can't afford as many new clothes, so they're gleaning hand-me-downs and foraying into thrift stores that formerly were considered dens of unusable junk and head lice. Some are trying to serve one (gasp!) meal a week without meat. Imagine! And of course they hate it, but I am enthralled. We all know that necessity is the mother of invention... perhaps it is the mother of common sense, too.

If you visit other countries, you know that even the poorest Americans have an unbelievable amount of expendable income compared to other first world nations. That's why we waste... we can afford to.

I never thought I'd say this, but Thank You Big Oil. Thank you, greedy corporate CEOs. By jacking up the rates of just about everything, you've forced the most wasteful culture on the planet to reign in the insanity just a fractional bit. Here's a virtual high five.

For the record, prices seem stable in my area, but everyone else is B@#$&ing about the recession, and if the scare alone is enough to clean up our act a little, I say bring it on.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Frugal Habit of the Week: Kicking Out Your Teenagers

Why would turning your adolescents into the cold, cruel world actually save the cold, cruel world? Consider the following specimin, taken from the first bedroom on the left in my own otherwise ecologically sensible home.

Areas of Waste:

  • P. cannot sleep without (everything in his room including) his television, laptop, and stereo on. Oh, yeah, and lights... but lights are small potatoes compared to the rest of the electronics arsenal.
  • P. takes half-hour showers and then finishes emptying the tank of water doing, undoing, and redoing his hair for up to two hours.
  • P. must have his own room and bathroom because everyone else refuses to share with him.
  • P. is the single largest garbage producer in this house. He works, and thus has a high expendable income, which is spent on stuff that he soon breaks or simply tires of.
  • On the rare occasion that he washes a dish, P. requires 15 minutes of constantly running hot water and half a bottle of dish soap to get the cup half clean. I'm surprised he doesn't dry it with a blow dryer... gues that takes too much time. Honestly, I think he is on a mission to be so wasteful in the most basic everyday chores that I am afraid to ask him to do anything because I can't afford the electricity.
  • He whines because he needs--yes, physically needs--for the house to be 62 in the summer and 82 in the winter (when I keep it at the opposite--62 in the winter and 82 in the summer). Yet another case of torture from yet another evil stepmother.

Am I really kicking out my young adult stepson this week? Of course not. But everybody needs to vent.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tonight's Vegan Meal chili.

Here's how I make it: I boil a pound of small red beans until they are soft. Then, I add one 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and a packet of generic chili spice mix. I serve with homemade whole wheat biscuits and a salad.

Cost for a family of seven (everything is bought on extreme clearance, of course):

  • 1 lb beans, $1
  • 1 can tomato sauce $0.49
  • packet of chili seasoning $0.50
  • flour, baking soda, etc for biscuits $0.50
  • salad stuff $1.00

Total: $3.49 for a filling, ecologically sensible, healthy, and easy meal.

Every mommy should have maybe twenty meals like this in her repertoire and stockpile the ingredients when they go on sale. Then, when said mommy is getting smacked upside the head with unexpected expenses, she can cut WAY back on the grocery budget without compromising health.

I serve one or two simple vegan dinners every week just to keep costs low and carbon footprints small. I've thought about writing a cookbook: Diet for a Small Budget. Or something cute like that.

Actually, you DO have the time

This is one of my biggest pet peeves: when people tell me they "don't have the time."

It's usually said in a whining voice--to elicit sympathy, for example, that they are unable to bargain shop and therefore MUST pay $1200 a month for groceries--or in a superior one (as in, I have better things to do because I am a VERY BUSY AND IN DEMAND PERSON and therefore you, Emily Marshall, will have to pick up my crap work).

To this, I can only say: we all have the same twenty-four hours. Everything else is a choice.

Anybody can homeschool/clean their homes/crochet/volunteer/go back to school/hang out laundry/garden/keep a blog/write a novel/read great novels/cook healthy food from scratch/work from home/paint with watercolors/refinish the furniture/have a yard sale/go camping/have coffee/sleep/play with the baby/eat meals at a table together as a family/let the children do craft projects/mend worn clothing/etc.
and I refuse to feel guilty for doing one or all of these things while other people choose not to because they 'don't have the time'.

It is a choice.

I would like to see this phrase erased from our lexicon and replaced with, "I would, but I'd rather (watch Jerry Springer? give my dog a pedicure? talk on the phone? it's okay, just be honest)" or better yet, "That's just not a priority in my life right now".

Because people who give up washing their hair every day so they can spend more time dealing with the really important stuff don't need to hear the drama.

My Contest Winning Essay

I won!

Our local homeschool group had a "extreme homeschool survival" writing contest. My entry, though not actually a homeschool survival story, actually won! My prize was $50, which combined with the $14 I already had in my wallet paid for this week's groceries (emergency surgery is expensive--I'll talk about that another post...). Anyway, now I can say I am not just a professional writer and a published writer, but als an award-winning one!


Although I have no stories of extreme homeschool survival to offer after just two years of homeschooling, I have noticed that being a mom and a teacher requires a unique and diverse set of skills, including:

1. Teaching lessons in a minivan while driving, using an old cell phone and the non-driving hand as visual aids.

2. Fitting $700 worth of lessons and $500 worth of curriculum into the $300 miscellaneous line of my household budget.

3. When that doesn't work, making do with what I can find for free at the library and on the internet.

4. Teaching classes that I failed in high school.

5. Explaining to a police officer that what he perceived as an illegal u-turn was actually a demonstration of centrifugal force.

6. The ability to stop peeing midstream to more quickly respond to a chemistry experiment gone awry.

7. Planning educational field trips while in a labor room (as the key player) and embarking upon them the day I am released from the hospital.

8. Convincing one's husband that unusual purchases (such as four chihuahuas) are necessary as a learning tool.

9. Recycling ordinary materials into useful craft projects, such as turning old sheets into a braided rug, leftovers into a lesson on the discovery of penicillin mold, and dark chocolate into an antdepressant.

10. Conjuring dinner from an empty refrigerator, three dark brown bananas, and half a box of graham crackers.

11. Explaining to your surgeon that you are not "making" your child read The Red Badge of Courage while he is deathly ill in the hospital, but that it is actually his choice of reading material.

When (if?) I am ever finished with my foray into the wild world of parenting and education, I will have developed the communication skills of Winston Churchill, the propaganda skills of Adolf Hitler, and the economic prowess of Ronald Reagan. The way I see it, when we homeschooling moms are done governing our large and busy households, we should take over the world.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Sage Mommy! Bad!

According to this website, consumers "throw away about one-third of all the food they buy and at least half of this is food that could have been eaten."

Coincidentally, this happens to be my weekly cleaning out the fridge day, so I thought I would fess up. Here's what I'm throwing out:

  • 1 small tupperware container of leftover whole grain pasta
  • 1 medium tupperware container of curried lentils
  • half of a steamed artichoke
  • a small bowl of infant oatmeal that my baby didn't finish
  • a few moldy strawberries

plus...a tupperware container of cut-up fruit that fell on my foot and burst all over the floor while I was rifling through the refrigerator. Now I have to mop again .

This certainly is nowhere near one-third of the food I buy for my super-sized family, but if it wasn't spoiled, it would be enough to make a complete, protein-rich meal for a third world person.

Here's something I realized while I was cleaning out the refrigerator: some waste is almost inevitable, but the impact of that waste depends on what you buy in the first place. Those lentils were organic, vegan, grown fairly locally, and bought with zero packaging from a bulk bin at a local health food store. So a cup or two of them getting thrown out is nowhere near the waste of, say, a steak. Plus, vegetarian foods keep longer, so they had a longer lifespan in which to be cycled into a new meal before they had to be disposed of.

I think people who buy the more carbon-heavy foods with no thought toward wasted packaging or environmental impact are more likely to let things rot and throw them away. If you can afford to eat steak several times a week and you don't care about how it affects the planet, who cares whether it goes in your belly or the garbage can? On the other hand, people who conserve resources, even for purely economical reasons, will re-use everything and have no waste.

What are you throwing away today?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tricia Walsh-Smith

If you haven't seen or at least heard about this video, you must be living under a bale of hay.

Thoughts, anyone?

I have a hard time feeling bad for someone who is getting just half a million dollars a year and an apartment in tropical paradise in which to enjoy it. I admire Tricia's style, though. I know many women who have been screwed in divorce settlements because people assume that all money is the breadwinner's money.

If you are marrying someone and they pull out a prenup, run-don't-walk the other way. You SHOULD stand to lose something in a divorce.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Food in Yakima

I think I could live in Yakima happily if there was decent food.

Yes, I could live with the bitchy farm-wife type women with puffy faces and no chins, who think the "C"s on my Coach handbag stand for Carriage House. I could live with Craftsman house after Victorian masterpiece destroyed by "the highest quality" imported from China floors. I could even the fact that no one on my street knows the names of both of their neighbors. All for samosas or a decent risotto.

It isn't for lack of looking. I have tried almost every restaurant in this town. Gasperetti's, which is supposed to be *the* expensive European restaurant, was out of half of their menu when I went there. It was a Friday night and the waitress had to show us what entrees were actually available. It came to about 20 % of their menu. Plus, the chairs were crammed so close together than I was slammed into by every person who walked by and kept getting hit by a faceful of hair from the hair-flipping blonde at the next table. The food was barely mediocre.

Yesterday I was craving Chinese. Now, most of the food here is mediocre, but the Chinese food is downright awful. When I tell people this, they say, "Have you tried XXX (name withheld to protect the tasteless)?" So I tried them, and I can honestly say that was one of the worst meals I have ever eaten. Everything had been put through a food processor until it was mush. There were no spices or flavorings, even in the Mongolian Beef. The pan fried noodles I requested were angel hair. Overboiled angel hair.

I can't even find fresh lemongrass in the local stores.

Sometimes I think, Okay, I can live here. And sometimes I... don't think that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Free Range Children

Today was my 12 year old's second day of taking the WASL. He was a little mortified yesterday because they made him and the other homeschoolers wait in the office (in front of a huge window looking out on the indoor gathering area) while the students milled around and stared at them, and then the homeschoolers were split up, one to each homeroom, and not allowed to enter until the class had settled in. Talk about a hostile working environment.

He also reports that:
*sitting for two hours sucks, and he's glad he gets to come home afterward instead of sitting for another five.
*it's intimidating to walk into a classroom full of strangers and he had a hard time getting started with the test, but
*so far it's much easier than the WASL study guide I bought him. Also,
*the average middle schooler is far less mature than his five-year-old sister, who previously was his least favorite person on the planet.

Yesterday a friend came over with her six children and our kids had a crazy good time running amok for five hours. Like my own, the kids in this family are imaginative, joyful, and relatively unstifled. You know, unsocialized. Later, as I vacuumed (little bits of paper that somehow are appearing all over my house even though I said scissors at the table only), I was thinking about how cool our kids are. They don't realize that they should be sitting all day. No one has informed them that history sucks and only nerds read for fun and they should communicate solely with people at their precise age and skill level. Despite the absence of roll call and group trips to the bathroom, they have become pretty knowledgable and creative little people.

It's interesting that we (as a society) get so upset about the plight of chickens confined to small cages and left to aimlessly peck at each other, but advocate this type of treatment for our children. I prefer my children and my food both cage and cruelty free, thank you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Son's Soon-to-Be Broken Heart

Some of you may have heard about my son's girl drama a few months ago. My 12 year old son thought this one particular girl R was cool. SHe likes Harry Potter, science, and all of the nerdy stuff he likes. It wasn't a romantic thing, just the last of those platonic crushes that middle schoolers get. R, however, had a friend M who liked my son. M is more mature than T, the way almost all girls this age are more mature than boys this age.

Anyway. It was a drama because M was clearly competing for T's affection while R and T were oblivious. We spend a lot of time with M's family, so this was a story I watched with interest.

Fast forward a few months. T has officially discovered girls and hormones. He starts spending a lot of time with M and her family. I think, how sweet, they have a crush on each other. But it isn't M that my son is interested in. It's her older sister, E.

I advise him to keep this one to himself. He does, until a few days ago when I am told he poured his heart out on Myspace. Sigh.

T says he likes E because she reads a lot and is smart and quiet. Awww. But E is not interested in boys, and if she was, she has the type of figure that would put her out of my son's league. Way out. I matured a little early, so I can safely predict that E is going to struggle with attention from older guys who assume she is five or even ten years older. Twelve-year-old boys will be completely off the radar. She's a sweet girl who seems kind of oblivious to her charms, and her breaking my little boy's heart will be purely accidental.


Cast: my 5 year old daughter G, her 5 year old friend B, and my son's 12 year old friend T.

G: Look, B, I have Dora yogurt in my lunch.
T: That's teasing, G. You shouldn't tease.
G: How is that teasing?
T: Some people can't afford that kind of yogurt.
G: My mommy got it free with a coupon.
T: Some people can't even afford to buy it when it's free.
(G and B look at T quizzically, then return to lunch.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let's Talk About Laundry!

It doesn't seem like there would be a lot to discuss, but there must be because it is a universal activity. Wherever there are people, there is laundry. Wherever there is laundry, there are moms trying to get it done with as little fuss and energy as possible.

If you are looking to save time, this is the wrong post for you. This week, I decided to modify my laundry habits so they used the least amount of resources possible.

There are three key components to laundry's ecological impact. First, we use water, often hot water. While my mother (who has every nifty green gadget available) uses her gray water for laundry, we aren't set up for that. I did, however, decided to use cold water only instead of warm for pastels and hot for whites.

The second key expenditure is electricity. Using cold water cuts down this aspect, but I upped the ante by doing line-drying only. I usually depend on an electric dryer during cold, damp spring days.

The third component is laundry soap. Obviously we need some sort of cleanser for our clothing, but storebought laundry soap is full of fillers and noxious chemicals. There's also the packaging factor.

I hoped to find a great cold-water formula, but none surfaced. I made up a batch of my favorite homemade laundry soap. Here's the recipe:

1 cup grated bar soap (I used some we had saved from various hotels, but any soap would do)
½ cup washing soda. NOT baking soda, although it is also made by Arm and Hammer.
½ cup Borax. I already had a partial box.

Mix and use sparingly--keep in mind that unlike commercial detergents, there are no fillers. I've been told to use 1 Tbsp but I generally use two.

Here are a few general notes from my experiment:

  1. If you are using cold water, the homemade detergent may take a while to dissolve. I mixed it with a tiny amount of hot water before adding to my washer.
  2. A 1/4 cup of vinegar added to your rinse cycle makes your clothes softer and helps with stiffness. No, they won't smell like vinegar.
  3. I could only get two loads dried every day TOPS, so I fell behind on laundry. If I decide to line dry exclusively in cold weather, I will have to evaluate my home for a good indoor drying area.

Other than that, it was problem free. Because laundry is a major user of electric, I should see about a $10 difference when I get my electric bill. Wow! That's a decent bottle of wine, which I desperately need with all of these kids. Plus, I did one thing, however small, to minimize my effect on our very small and very struggling planet.

If we all do one small thing, it will make a BIG difference. I recommend trying this for a week to see how it works for your family.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Sounds of My Life

A cereal commerical on TV really bothers me because it is obviously dubbed. Why do that? My husband agreed that the voices sounded 'fake', but we couldn't figure out why. Finally, I realized: there is no background noise. The couple is walking around a presumably hard-floored kitchen, eating cheerios, and you hear nothing except their voices. Where are the footsteps, the breathing, the outside noise, the clink of spoons against cereal bowls?

Every life has its own unique background noise. Here is a sample of mine:

  • click-clacking of hard toys as kids build with/play with/smack each other with them
  • someone whining or crying--not a pained or afraid sound, just an annoyed (and annoying) one
  • water running. For showers, handwashing, laundry, dishes, filling pots with liquid to boil pasta, etc.
  • mumbled prayers. This will surprise people who know me because I tend to be quiet-ish about my religious beliefs, just because so many people I know are loud and pushy about theirs. I talk to God all the time. I mainly say Catholic novenas and Jewish daily prayers.
  • electronic whirring, from computer, microwave, VCR/DVD, etc, or conversely, a car engine.
  • the pitter-patter of little feet upstairs.

As you would expect from a mommy whose children literally never leave the house without her, my life is never silent. I exist with a constant soundtrack. Just an interesting thought.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Enough about Homeschooling... Let's Talk about Garage Sales

Because I'm having one in 1.4 weeks. Any tips? I am going to advertise in the paper, put up signs, and then just throw everything on tarps in our driveway. I'm thinking about selling everything but furniture for $1 each. Judging from the prices I have seen in my area, this would be a good deal even for the miscellaneous crap one sells at these affairs. I have piles of (too stained or worn to be passed down because the relatives I hand down to are picky) children's clothes, the usual baby paraphernalia, and a melange of unwanted household items. That's all worth about a buck, right?

I doubt I'll make a fortune, but I will finally get to be on the selling side of one of these fine events.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Here We Go A-WASL-ing

$%#^%$ the WASL. That's all I can say.

Okay, maybe I can say a little more. Because my 12 year old is in a virtual school, he has to take the WASL, which is Washington State's big, bad standardized test. This was news to me. This test, from what I'm told, tests for such a huge amount of unrelated information that teachers here teach only to the test. My kids are getting a thorough, well-rounded education and Tyler scored in the college freshman range on last year's Woodcock-Johnson (another test), so I wasn't too concerned. But just to be on the safe side I bought one of the Grade 7 books from the giganto WASL prep section at Borders.

Here's a sample math question:

Explain in short answer form why the area of a triangle is calculated differently from the area of a polygon.

My kid is doing Algebra and he was baffled. I earned an A in college trigonometry and I can see why they are calculated differently, but I don't think I could explain it coherently. Certainly not in the two-minutes-or-less that the book says should be given to this type of questions. This was not one hard question, but rather a good representative of the questions on the sample test.

I won't even get into the reading portion. I'll just say that a twelve year old can be well-educated and well-rounded without knowing what a précis is or how an author's schema (yeah, they used that exact word) affects his style of writing.

We've been too busy learning real math--you know, the kind with numbers and formulas?--and writing commentaries on some of the world's greatest literature to address these points. I'm glad we bought the book, so we at least know what kind of foolishness we are in for. We will spend the next two weeks memorizing what every other kid in the state has been drilling all year, and I'm sure he will do fine on the bugger because he's a smart kid.

But I'm a little concerned for an educational system with such an interesting set of learning priorities.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Extra, Extra! Homeschooled Children Not Antisocial Freaks After All, Says US Department of Education

Just kidding. They would never publicize that, or their whole anti-homeschooling position would be blown out of the water. But here are a few interesting notes from this large government study:

*Homeschooled students are generally white and from large families with at least one parent holding a bachelor's degree or higher. However, homeschooling is developing a growing base in minority communities. Which may be in part because...
*In public schools, there is a significant performance gap between white and black students. In homeschools, there is no difference.
*72% live in urban areas. Now that is a surprise. I would think that more choices in schools equals less homeschooling. Hmmm.

Now if they had found that we were antisocial freaks, or that the kids were suffering academically, that would have merited space on the website.

Hallelujah, It's Raining Handbags!

It's raining handbags over at An Island Life. I entered the drawing, and you should too. Wait, wouldn't that reduce my chance of winning?

Mmmkay. Don't enter.

My handbag obsession is legendary, but I gave a few to my mother so I have this sad, bare space in my closet. I bought a Coach signature bag at Value Village yesterday, but that only fills part of the void. These handbags are bright, sassy, and unlike most of my others, so I simply must win one.

What I'm doing to save the world this week...

I'm greenifying my laundry.

We do a lot of laundry around here, so this one choice can have a huge ecological and economical impact. How am I greenifying it?

1. I'm hanging out all of it. Even though it's cold and this will require doing laundry around the clock seven days a week. I already hang out my laundry, but only as much as weather permits.

2. I'm washing in cold water only. Normally I follow the standard 'cold for darks/warm for lights/hot for whites'.

3. I *may* be making my own laundry soap. I've done it before, and it saves plastic because all of the ingredients come in non-plastic containers, plus there are no additive/fillers/fragrances/frankenchemicals. It's VERY cheap. I'm hoping to find a special 'cold water' formula.

Use me as your guinea pig! I am open to suggestions for next week and the weeks thereafter. Remember the rules: not expensive, not worthy of a CPS report.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fish Mobile

Here's a fun craft to make the next time you have a few minutes. It's made with garbage and stuff most mommies have laying around the house. Mom will have to do most of the cutting, but an older kid can definitely help and younger kids can paint. If you have a new baby on the way, this would be a great present from the older siblings.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday's Feast, On Friday This Time!

Invent a new flower; give it a name and describe it.
It would be fuzzy like an African violet but grow as rampantly as dandelions. It would smell vanilla-y/lavender-y and be some exquisite shade of purple. My favorite flower, Queen Anne's lace, has none of the above qualities.

Name someone whom you think has a wonderful voice.
Josh Groban. Sometimes I listen to his CDs and cry. No reason, not even sad. It's just a tear-inducing sound for me.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how clean do you keep your car?
Oh, jeez, how about negative 5? It's not that it isn't important to me, just that it isn't nearly as important as keeping my house clean, my children educated, etc.

Main Course
How do you feel about poetry?
I like it, but I get bored with it. I think it encourages mulling in your emotions to a point where it can be unhealthy for the writer and alternately embarassing and tiring for the audience. I write poetry sometimes, and it is the most intensely personal of my work.

What was the last person/place/thing you took a picture of?
I have kids and someone has to ask this? I took pictures of my daughters in their Easter dresses.

Naughty Children

I am raising a pack of unruly hyenas. Seriously, just getting my kids through a grocery store requires the skills of a drill sergeant and a logistics expert combined. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.

I used to be all smug about my children. When other people's children had screaming tantrums in the shampoo aisle of Target, I could point to my sweet little cherubs with genius-level IQ's and good hair as proof that this parenting thing was not as difficult as people made it out to be. Just start with a loving relationship, use consistent discipline, keep expectations age appropriate, and be calm. There, now, isn't that simple?

Now I watch screaming brats on Super Nanny and think, "That's nothing. My kids act that way in church. With God watching."

And sometimes, they do.

My children have good hearts. It's just that being naughty is, well, fun. It has great shock value with adults and wins instant respect from peers. It requires no effort whatsoever. It's hard to stay by Mommy in the grocery store. It's fun to run in circles knocking peoples' grocery carts into each other and clearing entire shelves. Rice-a-Roni makes a fun sound when it hits the floor. And once one kid figures this out, another is sure to join them.

There is no naughty chair in Target. That's why you never see Super Nanny taking four kids on a shopping trip. She knows her limits.

If you've been through this, please PLEASE tell me how to dig my way out. And if you haven't, well, get off your high horse. This could be you, as soon as tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Where Is Our Society Headed?

Perhaps this is my incurable optimism speaking, but I really believe human existence has improved throughout history and shows every sign it will continue to do so.

Consider crime: sure, it has increased--reported crime, that is. There was a time when child abuse was not even against the law. The first child abuse case was prosecuted as an animal cruelty case.

Consider the environment. Historically, we have leeched the Earth of all of her resources to the best of our ability without restraint. The only difference between developed and undeveloped societies was the ability, not the intention. I think mankind has learned its lesson. The world is so much cleaner than it was 100 years ago, and people have only begun to truly care. Green is not just the new black; it's a massive revolution in the way we operate our daily lives, in our values and priorities. I see a bright future for our planet, with technology's biggest gift to us being the convenience of modern life with no geo-impact.

Even teenagers. Sure, they suck. They always have--people were complaining about them in ancient Greek times ,and it was the exact same bad attitude, lack of respect for others, and lack of manners we whine about now. No change. I'm sure they had teenaged pregnancy and drug abuse then, too. These are timeless issues that plague the leisure classes of every society and era. Except--oops--now we are all leisure class, at least in the United States.

We are the most comfortable, safest, and best educated generation on Earth. There is no reason to think this upward trend, which has continued for several centuries now, will not continue. Our biggest problems will be managing the accoutrements of modern life and dealing with economic and health problems that plague those final decades we didn't use to have. Waah.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Clean House

Does anyone else watch this show?

Where do people get so much stuff? How do they afford it? How do they navigate their lives in such a mess?

I am a reformed neat freak, reformed not so much by a change of heart as by the fact that my life will no longer accommodate the amount of time needed to maintain a sterile house. I LOVE clean. I LOVE order. I feel physically ill when my house is messy. So I just don't get it.

I grew up in a messy house and one day I just snapped. No more. Not ever. So I have a hard time understanding how people live in clutter and why dispersing the clutter would not be #1 on the list of things to do.

I mainly watch the show to assure myself that, messy kids rooms and piles of clean laundry aside, my house is actually quite clean. You couldn't eat off the inside of my toilet bowl, but would you really want to?

My PageRank

It used to be a 3. Now it's a 0. When I checked backlinks, quite a few weren't listed. Hello, Google?

I guess it doesn't matter. This blog is not a commercial venture, and there's no reason that I should care how I'm ranked. It's probably leftover junior high angst, wanting to be popular.