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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

You Already Own Some Great Green Toys

I swear, I am not going to put even one paid ad in this post. :-)

This isn't because I am against making money on my blog--oh, no, no, no, my friends. It's because I don't want to steer you into the common trap of thinking you need to spend money to be green.

The best green toys are not toys at all. Today I followed my kids around a little and noted what they did. Here are the favorites:


  1. Putting things in and out of other things. Like: clothing in and out of drawers, plastic dishes in and out of cabinet, silverware in and out of dishwasher silverware holder.
  2. Housecats. Just petting them and making meow noises at them. When you pull the kitty's tail, it screeches and runs away--this toy teaches social skills!
  3. Blankets. They can be used for peekaboo with people and objects.
  4. Siblings. People like to pick on me because a large family isn't conventionally considered green. However, my kids entertain the baby as well as any Baby Einstein video, run without electricity, and didn't have to be imported from a third world country.
  5. Anything that makes a noise, placed in a securely closed container. I like to put random stuff in cylindrical oatmeal containers for the baby to shake and roll around.

In other words, if you have a baby, don't buy them toys. Just childproof enough that they can explore and then get out of their way.

Preschooler/Elementary Schooler:

  1. Drawing/painting/cutting and gluing. My husband brings home scratch paper from work, so this is zero impact. Plus, we recycle.
  2. Chilling in the dirt pile. We actually have a dirt version of a sandbox. It's just as good for trucks, gets awesomely messy when you add water, AND it's easier to find and remove the inevitable cat offerings.
  3. Bubbles. I don't bother with the glycerin you see in most recipes; I just add water to dish soap. No complaints yet.
  4. Helping me cook. This is a HUGE deal in my home. My children have came close to killing each other over who adds the dried blueberries to the granola. Whenever I cook, I choose a helper. The others get to lick the bowl and the beaters.
  5. Dress up. This is only ecologically sensible if you DO NOT wash the clothes until they are thoroughly filthy. I buy nifty stuff at garage sales and thrift stores--no expensive costumes here!


  1. Reading library books. My kids l-o-v-e to read, and if yours don't, it's time to cultivate this passion.
  2. Drawing. Just like the younger kids, but with nicer colored pencils and paper that doesn't have old invoices on the other side.
  3. Crafting. Now is the perfect time for your not-so-little one to learn the gift of productivity, and maybe work up to their own Etsy business.
  4. Social networking. People pick on Myspace, but I love having all of the preteen mischief be a matter of public record. I can investigate my son's friends and tell from the comments what stuff my kids are up to when I step out of earshot. Plus, they can visit almost constantly without Mom having to haul everyone around town.
  5. Playing sports. Remember those round things called... balls? They don't have to be nice, just bouncy and well inflated. Hours of cheap fun, and I bet you already have one somewhere.

So, that's what we're doing at the Marshall home while educational and commercial toys alike sit untouched in their bins. No batteries needed!

Monday, July 28, 2008

MacGuyver Monday: Muffins for the Munchkins

With gas prices somewhere up in the nonexistent ozone layer, most of us aren't running to the store every time we run out of eggs. Now, more than ever, Mom needs to have a few tricks up her sleeve. The next time you find yourself without milk, cereal, or Pop-Tarts (tell me you don't really eat pop-tarts!), invent your own homemade muffin recipe from this template.

  1. 2-2 1/2 cups grain (like flour...)
  2. 1 cup milk, soy milk, or fruit juice
  3. Up to 1/4 cup fat (oil, butter, peanut butter. This can be partially omitted if you are using a wet addition)
  4. 1 egg, or 1 Tbsp soy flour with 1 Tbsp water
  5. Up to half a cup of sweetener
  6. 2 tsp baking powder
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. Up to 1 1/2 cups additions

The additions can be anything... purees, applesauce, shredded carrot, spices, fruit, bacon, cheese. I've made cheddar chive muffins with this template that were awesome with soup. The key is maintaining the moist/dry ratio. For example, if you are using honey to sweeten, use the higher amount of flour.

Instructions: Combine dry ingredients, then mix in the wet ingredients until the batter is mixed but still lumpy. Bake in greased muffin tins in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

The only thing that can't be substituted is baking powder, making this a highly versatile recipe. I got this recipe out of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, which is one of my absolute favoritest books because it is almost 1000 pages of these MacGuyver-esque ideas. You'll save the price of the book in the first week of implementing Amy Dacyczyn's advice, if not the first hour.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Listmania--Do Not Read If You Have a Low Tolerance for OCD Behaviors

Have I mentioned that I am a compulsive listmaker? I have lists, sublists, and cross-references to other lists. So far it has worked for me--the house is clean, the children thoroughly educated, and I always know what I'm having for dinner. However, I have been spending a lot of my time making, finding, and managing lists, so I decided to make a weekly master list that encompassed everything I need to do in my home throughout the week. This way, I thought, I would have a little more flexibility, and not feel like I have to make my kids skip ballet because I am behind on laundry and I just can't bear to leave that item un-crossed-out. I'll be taking on a few more responsibilities this fall, too, so I need a new routine, one that allows me to keep my act together without necessarily being home all the time. So I set about making my list by, err, making a list of how I was going to do that.

Item One: List everything I do in a week.

It took me a few weeks to do this. Basically, I made my normal lists and compiled them, then gradually added all the little things I had forgotten. For instance, I wipe down the moldings in my living room every other week. It doesn't usually make it on any list; I simply do it while dusting if I notice it needs done. But imagine if I didn't do it at all, in a house full of dust-producing children? It's on the list now--phew! close call.

Item Two: Put list items in a logical order.

This was more difficult. I would like to think that I clean from one corner of the house to another... it's the most logical way. But, really, I clean from most important to least important, from most used rooms to least used rooms. And this prioritization method would offers no help with tasks like writing, laundry, and baking, unimportant little things that make up over half of my weekly list. I can't just throw in my weekly 15-20 loads of laundry while I'm dusting the laundry room. So I experimented with making the list roughly in the order that I do things throughout my week, except--oops--now it looked like the old daily list system that I was trying to abolish, except squished together is a messy kind of way instead of neatly separated by day.

Item Three: Cull daily stuff.

Honestly, if I do it without needing a reminder, why is it on my list? Because I want the gratification of crossing it out. I want a list full of checkouts and ink-marks so I know that I did something today, even if the laundry is all dirty again because my daughter decided to help by cramming five loads of folded clean laundry in the dryer with the contents of the diaper pail (true story). But sacrifices must be made... so daily routines and things like washing dishes were removed from the weekly list. As a side note, I may still have a daily list, but it will be cross-referenced with my weekly list. Which is exactly what I'm trying to get away from...

But if I don't write down every little thing, I have no proof that I didn't sit and watch the Steve Wilkos show all day. I don't know. The daily list issue will have to be tabled for now because I am still on weekly list mode.

Item Two Point One: Put list items in logical order (again).

So, I took the newly culled list (down to three pages front and back--wow! is that all I do? and it takes me all freakin' week? but, wait, there's the daily lists too, take a deep breath...) and I listed first cleaning items in a logical order, then laundry, then errands and phone calls, then writing and web design stuff, then things that don't fit in anywhere. That's roughly the order of priority in my life, if you leave out childcare and husbandcare and miscellaneous relationship maintenance. I tried to list the items within each category in the order that I do them where logical (ironing after washing) or else the order of importance (calling for doctor's appointments before asking friends to come swim with us).

Item Four: Test drive the list.

This has taken two weeks so far, and it's still very much a work in progress. Each week, I re-evaluate and modify the list. My goal is to produce a master list masterpiece that will be the ultimate organizational tool and allow me to take over the world before returning home to a clean house that smells like homemade baklava (evil laughter and rubbing of palms).

In an interesting experiment, I have started marking the days that I do things on my list when I cross them off. I'm not sure how this will help me. Maybe my problem isn't the daily lists themselves, but the way I am asisgning the tasks to each day. Here's what I did this week and when:


  • moved the contents of three bedrooms (one time job THANK HEAVEN)
  • washed, dried, and put back the living room slipcover
  • scrubbed down high chair and wash chair pad
  • cleaned out bird cage
  • stripped, washed, remade all beds
  • washed upstairs bathroom towels and rugs
  • did two other loads of laundry


  • picked up living room and dusted living room
  • picked up and dusted dining room
  • moved homeschool textbooks to laundry room, which will now be the school storage area
  • dusted hall
  • picked up Tyler's room
  • dusted Tyler's room
  • vacuumed all of the above
  • cleaned the bottom shelf of Tyler's closet--it was my stuff; I was hijacking the extra space, but he needs it back now
  • picked up and dusted laundry room
  • organized the homeschool shelves
  • swept and mopped the floors
  • called around about preschools for Malcolm
  • picked up and dusted master bedroom
  • unpacked a box left over from move
  • vacuumed master bedroom
  • picked up and dusted nursery
  • decluttered the toy box
  • vacuumed nursery
  • bought and sent gift card for a relative's birthday on the internet
  • washed, dried, and put away five loads of laundry
  • called to RSVP for a friend's party
  • registered my car


  • scrubbed upstairs shower, sink, counters, and toilet
  • wiped upstairs bathroom walls and moldings
  • organized hair things
  • scrubbed upstairs bathroom floors
  • shined upstairs bathroom mirrors, glass, and fixtures
  • same for downstairs bathroom, except for hair things
  • organized stepsons' hair products and various toiletries in downstairs bathroom
  • four loads of laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away


  • cleared landing of stuff--it's where everyone dumps things they are too lazy to carry up or down the stairs
  • swept and mopped the tile half of the stairs. They are half tile and half carpet... hard to explain
  • scrubbed kitchen counters and stove
  • cleaned out refrigerator
  • swept and mopped kitchen floors
  • scrubbed sink
  • polished refrigerator, glass, and fixtures
  • one load of laundry, didn't fold or put away
  • got car washed
  • went grocery shopping
  • sent in college transcript request, which required printing papers at the library because my printer is broken, then driving to the PO because I was out of stamps (sigh) how overcomplicated
  • friends came over and went swimming
  • one writing job done--a paying one :-)


  • picked up and dusted family room
  • vacuumed family room
  • washed family room walls and moldings
  • did two more loads of laundry, didn't fold or put away


  • worked on homeschool newsletter
  • got email that writing job needs serious revisions, put it off
  • called numerous people about homeschool newsletter stuff
  • one load of laundry
  • finally folded all that laundry I've been saving since Wednesday, but didn't get it put away
  • went to grocery store


  • husband decided to let me sleep in until 7:30; meanwhile, he also decided to let my daughter 'clean' the laundry room, which meant destroying several loads of laundry
  • three loads of laundry
  • washed and remade children's beds
  • wrapped present for friend, helped kids make a birthday card, went to his birthday party
  • went to Target for new keyboard for Tyler
  • got about halfway through making next week's big weekly list
  • continued working on newsletter
  • noted amount of incomplete tasks from last week:41. Plus, there's still the revisions to make.
  • contemplated whether I am just a total slacker, or if my life has truly grown beyond my ability to deal with it. Questioned my decision to stay home. Questioned my decision to homeschool. Questioned whether I want to start taking college classes. Questioned my ability to question my ability. Decided to make those daily lists after all because the weekly list implies that I do much less than I actually do.

I'm still test-driving this weekly list idea. Interestingly, I seem to accomplish quite the most on Mondays and then taper down to very low productivity at the end of the week. If this is because I am just more motivated, then I should come up with a way to increase morale after Wednesday. My gut feeling, however, is that I do the fastest tasks first and leave the more time-consuming stuff for later. I need to somehow squeeze in those last 41 items; they were all worthy pursuits. Yet I need my social life, in fact I need MORE social stuff, not LESS, so I don't want to cut anything there. Maybe I could cut back on daily tasks like cooking? but we do like eat. Hmmm.

I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How could life suck with all this cool stuff?

Today, I am being thankful for gadgets.

I don't have a lot of them because I have chosen to fill my house, my budget, and my life with children instead, but the ones I have are pretty darn nifty. I have a sandwich-pocket maker that makes the most awesome grilled cheese sandwich pockets ever. When you bite into them, the cheese explodes into your mouth in this oozy, comforting way. I love my hair straightening iron, too, although I rarely have time to use it. Ironically, my hair is already straight, but the straightener makes it silky smooth and... just better.

American life is full of nifty stuff. Diaper Genies were the bomb when I used disposables, which I now realize smell worse than cloth diapers. Martini shakers are awesome for any mixed drink, even if you aren't a martini person. Sponge mops and other non-disposable cleaning tools are a green mommy's best friend, since we are all too socially and environmentally responsible to use timesavers like Swiffers and cleaning wipes. Have you ever paused to consider how everyday things like nail clippers and tweezers are truly feats of genius and engineering?

So today I am going to look around my house at all my crap, and be glad I have that crap.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Call Me Mrs. Brady...

There was a time when Mrs. Hannigan was the only other blogger I knew.

I love blogs. It's the ultimate multi-tasking tool; I can keep a journal, give advice, maintain a huge social network, disseminate information and gossip about my household, even make money... all in one small entry a day.

Mrs. Hannigan loves to blog, too, so much that it's contagious. Literally. Blogging is now the rage in our little mommy circle. If you don't get a clear picture of Central Washington homeschool families from us, you can check out Mrs. Pevensie, Mrs. March, and about eight others whose blog names don't immediately come to mind. Yep, they are all 'Mrs', too.

Mrs. Hannigan seems to have started some sort of literary-mom-alias fad as well. Personally, I'd be a little annoyed if my friends chose Blue Mommy, Red Mommy, Green Mommy, Chartreuse Mommy (etc) for blogger names, but she is used to being a trendsetter. After all, I've been copying her by cloth diapering, and soon I'll be copying her by starting a co-op for preschool homeschoolers.

Which got me to thinking--blended families are under-represented in classical literature. The only mom I could come up with was Mrs. Brady, who isn't a literary figure unless you count this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cloth Diapering: An Epilogue

It's been over a month since my daughter and I made the complete switch to cloth diapers. Before, I used them when I was feeling guilty or short on cash. I didn't have the proper supplies or any kind of routine, so it all seemed like a giant pain in the tukhes. Surely, I thought, I can do more good by putting my energies elsewhere.

Of course, this was a big fat excuse and I knew it. Mrs. Hannigan makes cloth diapering look so dang easy, so when I found the basic supplies on sale at an internet boutique for less than $20, I put a portion of that month's diaper budget toward cloth.

By basic supplies, I mean as basic as you could get. I had enough diapers for a day, two velcro covers, and no pins. But we got through it, and soon it was routine. This month I bought some snappi fasteners, more diapers, and two adorable covers. Now it's like second nature, and the small pack of disposables I bought for when we leave the house sits virtually untouched. I still use a disposable at night, although now that I think about it, I'm not really sure why. That'll probably be the next habit to go.

So, for the last two months I spent the same on diapers as always. For the rest of Rachael's diaper-wearing career, I can use the diapers we already have and spend nothing. There is a bit more water and laundry soap used, but I off-set that by taking even shorter showers. I use only a tiny amount of detergent in diaper loads because I don't want any residue to irritate my baby's skin, so the financial impact there is minimal, especially if you are making your own detergent. And think of all the diapers we are keeping out of landfills! I get excited just thinking about it.

I called this an epilogue because it is the end of a story, a comedy about my love-hate relationship with cloth diapering. But really, it's a beginning. I'm hoping I can make this look as incredibly simple as it (usually) is and be someone else's Mrs. Hannigan.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

MacGuyver Monday

From now on, Mondays at this blog are going to be MacGuyver Mondays, dedicated to creative and extreme reuse of materials.

This week's topic is plastic shopping bags. We all use cloth around here, right? But sometimes you stop in at a store and forget them in the car, or have a jerky clerk, or whatever. You get home with a ton of plastic, and throwing it away just seems wrong. Here are a few re-use options.

1. Save it for a garage sale.
2. Slip it into your diaper bag for a used diaper.
3. Cut into smaller pieces and use to wrap sandwiches (you'll need tape).
4. Take the bag back to the store the next time you go, and have them put your groceries in it once more.
5. Make clothing and purses. omg, did you see the octopus bag on that site? I am soooo making one.
6. Use as mini-trash bags for cleaning out litter boxes and other messes you want contained.
7. Crochet into a doormat.
8. Your idea here... just leave it in the comments.

If you have no use whatsoever for a plastic bag, you absolutely can have clerks put your groceries straight back into the cart, a la Costco.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Pricey Oil

Imagine, in your head, a restaurant. It is owned by two people. They work hard, build the restaurant, and after a couple of years have built up one million per year in sales. The couple grosses a little more than eighty-thousand a year.

Not bad, right? It's a decent living, but not enough to imply that they are gouging prices or doing anything dishonest. I bet my hypothetical restaurant owners are good businesspeople and hard workers. I don't begrudge them their profit; eight percent is less than half a percent over the average profit for businesses.

So why are we all over oil companies with their similar margins? Because our politicians, in an attempt to take the pressure off themselves and the blame off our own shoulders, are eager to point fingers at the evil capitalists.

This is a result of the fair market system, said Elizabeth Edwards rather snarkily on Colbert Report tonight.

Right, we should totally go social like the Europeans. Look what it's done for their gas prices. Aren't they up to almost $10 a gallon now?

I hate it when politicians pander to class envy. They know the big bad oil guys aren't to blame, but they'll let you think that if it might buy them your vote. They think we're too stupid to see their deception, or too indifferent to care that we are being deceived in the first place. Attention candidates--if you can man up (there's no women left, so I can use this phrase) and look at the camera and say, there is very little oil left, and a huge demand, and it's no one's fault. It's a challenge we are going to have to deal with, and here's my plan... I will vote for you. I don't even care what your plan is.

My problem with getting government involved is this: governments never do anything right. Seriously, can anyone give me an example of a government, any government, running a program economically and well? The only examples I can think of off-hand involve the government backing off and letting free enterprise take over. Giving them control over oil will be a move in the wrong direction--away from American $4 per gallon gas and toward European $9 a gallon gas.

In my opinion, for what it is worth, the best thing they can do for us is to keep us safe, provide necessary safety nets, and let us adapt to less oil and higher prices however we must. Most people I know are making really positive changes to deal with the rise in oil prices. People are carpooling, taking public transportation, walking, or staying home. (clap, clap, clap). Yay, us.

If I can't afford to eat out whenever I want, it isn't the restaurant owners' fault. If I can't afford to drive wherever and whenever I want, it isn't the oil companies' fault. It isn't the government's fault either. Part of being an adult is knowing that I won't always get what I want.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things That Don't Suck: My Husband

I am still a little (maybe more than a little) ticked off about the birthday fiasco. In an attempt to just get over it, I am going to post all the things I love about my dh. If life doesn't suck as much as I thought, maybe marriage doesn't either.

1. He likes kids. He doesn't just tolerate them; he really genuinely likes them.

2. He is a hard worker who takes his job very seriously. So far this has meant a relatively comfortable life for all of us, and I am thankful for that as well.

3. He used to be a single dad, which means that he realizes on some level how hard it is to do my job. He may not help or be particularly supportive, but he knows.

4. He has never done anything that might land us on a cheesy talk show, like: cheating, beating me, drunk driving, etc.

5. He only pouts for a few minutes when I tell him he absolutely cannot buy those red leather shoes unless they are a present for his grandfather.

6. He treats my son from a past marriage like his own. Which is not *always* a good thing, but usually is pretty cool.

7. He's good at guy stuff, like pool maintenance, yard care, changing oil, etc. So I don't have to be.
8. He's not a cocky jerk the way many white men are. That is, he doesn't think he is inherently better than women, non-whites, etc. He was my first long-term relationship with someone who was entirely Caucasian, because I am so done with that mentality.

9. He puts up with my environmental mania even though he thinks it's all hoo-ey. He might not want to hang out laundry, make homemade organic cleaners, and garden, but if I want to... whatever.

10. He's amazed by how frugal I am. He brags about it, in fact. He'll let me go on and on about how I got 30 packages of hot dogs for free. And then he'll eat the hot dogs for a week and a half without whining. (Of course, he really likes hot dogs.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Revolutionaries Will Be Homeschooled

John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year on three separate occasions.

The climax of his career came when he shocked the country and publicly announced he was quitting in the OP-ED section of the Wall Street Journal in 1991.

All while still holding the title of "New York State Teacher of the Year," stating he was "no longer willing to hurt children".

How was he hurting them?

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Because I Love to Hear the Sound of My Own Voice!

I was really excited about becoming a Suite101 writer, but I haven’t exactly had a ton of time to write. When I received a notice this Sunday warning me that I had just a few days to fulfill my writing quota for this quarter, I knew it was time to buckle down.

I had eight articles to write. But what could I possibly write about that hasn’t been so… done?

After a lot of deliberation, this is what I came up with:

Breastfeeding for Working Moms (Yes, I did this when my oldest was small.)
Cloth Diapering for Working Moms (Ditto, and I dealt with it as a childcare worker as well)
A Royal Tea Party for Your Favorite Princess
When Your Child Is in the Emergency Room
Organizing Your Preschooler’s Bedroom
Finding Fabulous Freebies
From Frump to Fab in Four Easy Steps

I wrote an article entitled 'When Is Your Child Ready to Wean?' that somehow turned to gobbledy-gook when transferred from Word to the web. It'll be fixed and back up in a few hours and I'll pass on the link then.

I have two older articles as well, one on Morning Routines and one on Childcare for Work-at-Home Mothers. So if you ever find yourself wanting more of Emily Marshall’s opinions in your life, you know where to turn. Those quotas just keep coming, so the articles will too!

I get a lot of hits on my articles, but almost no ad revenue. Anyone know whassup with that and how to fix it?

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Super Sweet 31

As far as birthdays go, this one wasn't exactly a bomb. It wasn't great either, but it was just sufficient enough that I feel guilty about being so t-ed off about it.

Phone calls: 0
Presents: 0
Cards: 2, both generic type cards bought by my husband at the grocery store that day when he was there for something else
Dinner: Kentucky Fried Chicken. Did I mention I don't really like KFC? The extra crispy breasts are decent if I have no other choices, but my dh always buys original and all dark meat. I don't trust the gravy, so I ate a biscuit with "buttery spread" and a little mac and cheese. I always wonder what that "buttery spread" actually is, since I'm sure they would call it margarine or butter if they legally could. Maybe it's made of steroids, because I gained four pounds. No kidding. Even if the chicken had been super delicious, I have given up meat for a few months for a big long novena I'm involved in.

So, here's a rundown of my day. We awoke early, went to church with the kids, then came home and changed. DH had to run to the store. He took two of the kids and was gone fffooorrreevvveeerrr. So there was hope, I thought, because he could have fit an extra errand in there. I mean, he went to the store around the corner, was gone an hour and a half, and came home with bread.

I took Grace to the farmer's market where I witnessed a woman with one baby--just one--being assisted with said baby by no less than four family members. I vaguely know her, and I bet she gets a lot of help. She's the type who expects to be catered to. And I hate her for it (not for expecting the help, but for actually getting the help; that's unforgiveable). My family is in another state, and my husband wouldn't even go with me. He thinks he is doing me a favor by keeping the baby, who was sleeping.

He made a big deal that I shouldn't worry about making dinner. In our house, I am the only one who makes dinner EVER, the only one who cleans EVER, the only one who does laundry EVER. Even on my birthday. So I thought he had something up his sleeve. I was thinking maybe he would take me out to this new-ish Indian restaurant I've been wanting to visit.

Grace needed a swimsuit, and we're particular about them because I don't want my baby girl looking like a hoochie, like everyone's daughters seem to nowadays we have modesty issues. So I took her to Costco, where all the swimsuits were either too small or bikinis, then to two cheaper stores, and finally to Macy's. There, we found the ugliest darn swimsuit I have ever seen, but it's a modest-enough one piece that my daughter will wear because it has Hannah Montana across the front in metallic gold. And it was on clearance.

When I arrived home, my older stepson was there visiting, the one we usually pay for babysitting. This supported my theory that I was going out. Six o-clock rolled around and I asked my husband if I should make something for dinner. He said no, that he was picking something up. He left.

I was a little disappointed not to be getting away from the kids for the first time since last September (!!!yes, it has been THAT LONG!!). But whatever. There are a lot of good restaurants out there. Okay, let me rephrase that: there are a lot of edible restaurants. This is, after all, still Yakima.

So, he came home with the KFC, and we ate and then I opened my cards, and that was it. Happy Birthday. He went to bed early because he was too tired to watch TV with me after... whatever he did yesterday.

Did you know KFC for my family costs like $50? It only adds to the pain.

I'm not really upset about the birthday itself. In my family, birthdays just aren't a big deal. My husband, on the other hand, makes a huge issue of his birthdays. He was all crabby this year because he knew what he was getting (he had to know, because it was a ski pass). He's gotten mad at me for making cards--he has this thing for Hallmark, like if you really really love someone, you will only buy them a namebrand card.

Neither of my cards was Hallmark, of course.

I can't help but feel that this is not just a birthday, but a symptom of something larger. I feel like I am disappearing, like I have become a utilitarian object whose greatest attribute is that I perform well and don't give anyone problems. It makes me wish I was a bitchy, demanding type who wouldn't go to the farmer's market without an entourage, who would get mad at my husband for buying the wrong handbag or a sweater not in my size. At least someone who didn't sit down and pick at their KFC and tell their husband thank you. But I'm not that woman. And maybe I should buy my own present, but I tried that last year and it didn't cheer me up any.

So that's my birthday, folks. Hardly worth an MTV reality show; barely worth a Cymbalta commercial.

Green TV?

In case you don't have it, there's a new network on television dedicated to green living called Planet Green.

In theory, I think it's a good idea. In theory. I was really enthusiastic about it, but due to my crazy life was not able to sit down and watch it until last weekend.

First, there was a talk show. It was kind of all over the place, and they kept bringing up Al Gore. My stance on Al Gore is that I'll start caring what he says when he starts hanging out his laundry, or having one of his underpaid third-world housekeepers do it for him. Anyone can write a book telling other people how to live their lives, but as long as the author lives in a giant house, drives an SUV, and flies a private jet all over the country, I refuse to consider them an expert on green living.

Okay, but a lot of environmentalists embrace the hypocrite. Whatever. Then there was a show on green eating. They were talking about... pineapple.

Pineapple is a green food if you live in Hawaii or Costa Rica. Otherwise, it has to be transported thousands of miles before it makes it to your fruit salsa. Considering that more energy is used transporting our food from field to factory to supermarket than transporting our giant American butts in our giant American SUV's from home to work and wherever else we go, it is very irresponsible to recommend pineapple as a green food. I won't even get into the environmental repurcussions of clearing rain forest to raise fields of tropical fruits, or the effect of agribusiness on third world economies. Nope, I'll leave it alone, and just say that pineapple is not a green food.

Planet Green=commercial tool.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Help Meet for Him

Here is something that really annoys me, being the nitpicker that I am: the term 'helpmeet'.

Here is why: I hate it when people purposely misinterpret the Bible for their own gain.

The phrase is from Genesis, where Adam is bestowed with a 'help meet for him'.

The Old English word 'meet' means worthy or appropriate. So, God was giving Adam a worthy helper. I'd like to think that, millennia later, I am a worthy helper to many people, including my husband.

Unfortunately, this, like many Bible verses, gets twisted around and turned into an excuse to subjugate women. A popular book with this mistranslation in its title advocates that women be totally submissive to and supportive of their husbands. If you explore the author's website, you can find instances where they advocate hitting four-month-old babies with sticks and recommend that wives remain with husbands who molest their children.

If you know any Jewish women, you may have noticed that they don't take crap from anyone. There is a rich Biblical tradition of this attitude.

For example, when Abigail's first husband almost gets them killed, she defies him and in effect saves their clan from slaughter at the hands of the army he was antagonizing.

Would she have helped him more by submitting to his stupidity and allowing their entire family to be slaughtered? Apparently many people think so. They think the Bible says this... somewhere. I don't know. I don't get it.

My husband and I disagree on many things. Sometimes I give in (like whether we should be 100% vegetarian). Sometimes I don't (like whether our kids really need well child visits). I think making all the decisions for a family is a huge responsibility and that I wouldn't be a help meet for him if I kept my mouth shut when I had wisdom to offer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

They Still Suck...

I was talking to a few mommy friends today and somehow our doctors came up.

(because the other mommies all have the same first name, I'll just call them A, B, and C)

"I don't know what's up with my doctor," said Mommy A. "I have to call and call and call just to get a routine appointment. And the office staff is so freakin' rude."

"Mine too," said Mommy B. "And they arbitrarily changed my doctor, then made me call eight thousand times to change back."

"My doctor's office is frustrating like that," I told them. "And I've told the doctor about it, and he's like (nonchalant shrug)."

"I still think I win," said Mommy A. "When I call on Mondays to make an appointment, they tell me to call back next Monday. Ad infinitum."

"Mine, too! But even though it's only 8:01, they tell me the doctor's full and that I have to call back next week because they only schedule two weeks ahead starting Monday. But if that's true, how can they be full on Monday morning at 8:01?"

This was starting to sound familiar. "Where do you guys go?"

"CWFM." But they said the actual practice. Name withheld to protect the guilty.

All of us are dealing with the same drama at the same practice, except for Mommy C, who doesn't see doctors at all because she's sick of this shizz. And I'm totally with her on that, except that my kids keep getting these emergency illnesses.

Why is it so hard to find sensibly run medical care in this town? It's not like I am a charity case; I'm paying cash here and I just want to see a doctor without stroking out from frustration. I'm polite, courteous, and when I worked, I was careful not to give people the run-around and subject them to a lot of arbitrary garbage. I want the same in return, thank you. And when those receptionists and schedulers are gigantic jerks, I smile and speak calmly, even when my eyes are filling up with tears because I feel so powerless and exasperated by the whole convoluted process. I mean, they are withholding health care from an infant FOR NO GOOD REASON and I keep my polite, inside voice.

That should count for something.

A few friends of mine see Dr. B., who is supposedly "mmkay" (that's a quote) although "her waiting room looks like a crackhead convention and I sit there wondering if I'm the only pregnant chick in Yakima who's over fifteen and has all their teeth" (another quote, word for word).

I always think I'm the only one at CWFM who speaks English as a first language. Although, I can't be, because Mommies A and B go there.

What do you guys think? Is a cool doctor worth the crappy treatment from his underlings?

Sometimes Good People Can Disagree (?)

Okay, friends. I have a dirty little secret, and I hope you don't hate me when you find out what it is.

I believe in evolution.

I thought you're a Christian????...

And I am. Many mainstream Christians and mainstream Christian churches believe in evolution to some degree. There are many different kinds of evolution, many evolutionary theories. I don't want to get into a philosophical argument or bring anyone over to my side. My vision of God is big enough to include Him possibly creating creatures capable of changing and growing with their environment. And that's all I'm gonna say on the topic.

I feel like a traitor to my beliefs sometimes, because most homeschoolers stand on the other side of that ideological chasm. I don't want to cause trouble. I don't want to debate. I've read their books and I still believe what I believe. I could never trust in a God who would try to trick me by making the world look older and more potentially diverse than it is. God seems, well, nicer than that, at least the Guy I talk to every day. But most homeschoolers won't let you join in their reindeer games if they see your bright shiny red scientifically modern nose. So I nod and smile when they tell me about the latest cool curriculum they found. I say nothing when they laugh about dinosaurs--you know, those fictional creatures.

Last year, my then eleven-year-old almost lost his religion entirely because several adults in his life presented religion and science as an either/or proposition. Thanks, guys. We talked it through, and my future physicist is still shaky in his faith.

That's okay, because I don't think adults should have to lie about what they believe. They had every right to share their thoughts. I wish I had the same luxury.

It came up again today at a play group. It always comes up. sigh And I kept my mouth shut. Part of me pats myself on the back for being so gracious; part of me feels like a big fat liar.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

When Are You Going to Quit Nursing That Baby?

It's a question I hear more and more as Rachael's first birthday fades into the past.

My father-in-law was visiting our family as Rachael and I prepared to fly to Colorado to visit my son. He was telling me horror stories of flying with babies--the horror being listening to other people's infants wail for several hours.

"I've heard it helps if the mom breastfeeds while the plane is taking off. Rachael's way too old for that, of course..."

No comment.

I used to be judgmental about nursing older children. Not because I didn't think it was good for them--it just seemed gross. I associated it with the more common trend of late potty training and thought the parents were trying to keep their kids babies too long. My oldest son nursed until six months, when I developed physical problems that forced me to wean. My next child, a daughter, nursed for eleven months before she started biting hard enough to draw blood at every feeding (ouch!). And then there was Malcolm.

Malcolm was a good nurser and a picky eater. He was very baby-ish, and liked to be cuddled. It isn't that I meant to nurse him well past his second birthday; I was merely waiting for him to be 'ready'. That readiness came a few months after he turned two. I potty trained him and weaned him at the same time, and it was incredibly easy because he was ready for both.

I'm not big on nursing in public, but I'm sure it caused whispers on the rare occasion I did. Malcolm has always been a tall, slender boy, and it probably looked like I was breastfeeding a kindergartener or strangling him with a dinosaur-print receiving blanket.

Fast forward a few years. My youngest is 13 months and shows no signs of wanting to wean. And why should I? She's a little underweight, so yanking a calorie-rich and nutritionally complete food from her diet is counter-intuitive. When I look at her, I see a baby, not a toddler or a preschooler. And breastmilk is the ideal food for babies, right?

How did 1 become the magic weaning age, anyway? We yank our babies off formula or breastmilk when they are still growing like crazy, and on top of that have increasing caloric needs due to increased physical activity. They are bald little babies, with just a few teeth, barely walking, communicating in grunts and wails--and we take their healthiest food away because the sun has circled the earth once since they were born?

Friday, July 04, 2008

A few vegetarian meals for this week...

As many of you know, my family eats local during warm weather months. Here are a few of this week's yummier dinners. Some are Northwest-specific, as we have a late growing season and are about 3 weeks behind the rest of the country.

Vegetable tempura with brown rice, cherries on the side
Zucchini quesadillas with tomato salsa
Whole wheat spaghetti with marinara, grilled veggies like asparagus and zucchini in sauce
Vegetable quiche with brown rice crust
Vegetable pizza

Eating locally is getting a little easier as the market stalls swell with items other than our area's trademark early crops: asparagus and blueberries. Both are good, but don't comprise any kind of balanced diet. Right now we are in the vegetable phase that my dear husband so dislikes, but melon season is approaching.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Not so Wordless Wednesday--Clean House

All day, I clean. I mean, I do other things--parenting, homeschooling, cooking, going to doctor's appointments, shopping, writing, and sometimes actual working, like for money--but, really, they are just divertissements between the main acts of my life, which are Cleaning and Cleaning.

And you'd never know it to look at my house. It being Wordless Wednesday and all, I should throw up a few candid photos, but I'm too embarrassed, so let me give you a very wordy tour.

Kitchen: table covered with mail, sink stacked with dishes from last night's dinner.
Dining room: floor needs vacuumed due to various food particles, table is sticky, chairs just look grimy, birdseed on ground by parakeet's cage.
Living room: Slipcover is dirty (I swear that's chocolate and not what it looks like), load of laundry on 'reading' chair, bucket'o'markers emptied on floor, stack of boxes in corner with hand-me-downs to be mailed to relatives in another country as soon as I pick up and fill out the customs forms.
Tyler's room: bed stripped, my suitcase from trip to Colorado on his bed waiting to be unpacked, another three loads of laundry on top of suitcase waiting to be folded and put away.
Bathroom A: discarded clothing and towels all over floor, various health and beauty products on counter.
Laundry room: looks like it was hit by an avalanche of clothing, crafts, and broken toys
Landing: floor is clear, but the decorative furniture is stacked with crap stuff waiting to be put away on another floor.
Stairs: need vacuumed badly, need stain treated and steamed even worse, dingy walls, sticky banister, chipped paint at base where the baby gate has worn it away.
Family room: need vacuumed, stain treated, and steamed; furniture needs dusted, movies and dvds out of cases litter floor by entertainment center, one picture grouping is missing a picture, Tyler's television is sitting on the pool table, box of hand-me-downs for Grace under foosball table.
Master bedroom: worse than all the other rooms put together
Petar's room: not my problem, he's old enough to clean his own @#$%ing room and if he thinks changing his sheets once every year or two is sufficient, he can just sleep in his own cooties.
Bathroom B: toilet needs scrubbed inside and out, sink has a layer of crusted toothpaste, counter is covered with stepson's hair product, rugs and mats are visibly worn, hair dye stains on wall and cabinet (also from stepson, I don't do Miss Clairol thank-you-very-much).
Younger kids' room: beds unmade, toothpaste stains on floor and furniture (don't ask), writing on one of the walls, toys all over floor, folded laundry on dresser tops where it is virtually guaranteed to be knocked off onto the floor.
Minivan: so filled with papers and miscellaneous junk that I need to deal with that it's hard to fit my three children in the back. Could use a wash, too.
Yard: littered with toys, lawn needs mowed, beds need weeded and replanted.

Granted, it's been a difficult few weeks. Houseguests, sick kids, traveling out of state, a birthday party, and now some female problems that I will spare you details of because it would just be TMI. Still, I have to ask, at what point does a valid reason become an excuse? I am a neat freak, but you would never know it from looking around this hovel.

You would never know that today I:

  • thoroughly picked up and dusted the living room and dining room
  • sorted and dealt with yesterday's mail
  • paid a few bills
  • talked to doctor's medical assistant about something I forgot to ask about at yesterday's appointment
  • cleaned out the refrigerator
  • took out trash
  • remembered to pull the trash to the curb
  • updated my website
  • did three loads of laundry
  • hung out and took down same three loads
  • folded four loads of laundry
  • planned and executed three meals
  • emptied dish drainer
  • oh, and cared for three small children.

And it's not even four o'clock.

Anyway, this is why I sometimes flop on the couch and watch Clean House even though my own house itself desperately needs cleaned. Because I want to see what it looks like when people don't clean their homes, just to know that it isn't identical to what it looks like when people clean constantly.