Friday, June 19, 2009

Jon and Kate's Big Announcement: My Theories

By now, everyone with cable has heard that there is a big Jon and Kate announcement coming this Monday. I've been boycotting the show for a while, but based on what I've seen on the supermarket tabloid racks, I have a few theories on what these two plan to spring on us.

  • Kate plans to get rid of the dogs and instead use her super-sized property for a chicken farm. Between camera shots of Kate feeding the chickens, they will be cared for by one of the children’s nannies or her hottie-biscotti bodyguard. She will claim that she was inspired after noticing that her backward mullet looks surprisingly like a chicken’s tail end, and call the farm “organic” despite feeding the fowl a mixture of Juicy Juice, Lay’s potato chips and Domino’s pizza.
  • The house is so big it feels empty with just ten. This has inspired Kate to invite some family friends to visit—the Octomom and her brood of 14.
  • After being fined by the EPA for a garbage output that rivals that of a small European nation (Jon has to use his tractor to take out their weekly trash--no joke!), the Gosselin family will begin using real plates and cups.
  • The Gosselins will be homeschooled beginning this fall to accommodate their sixty hour per week filming schedule. Kate wants to use one of the Duggar girls, but Jon knows a local 23-year-old teacher who would be perfect for the job.
  • In yet another crossover special, the guys from The Deadliest Catch show up with a crabbing boat for each Gosselin kid.
  • Because former sponsors Gymboree and Baby Gap have been scared off by the scandals, Hot Topic will now be providing the children’s wardrobes. Maddy spends the show choosing between black and navy blue lip gloss, while the sextuplets run amok in coordinating AC/DC t-shirts and Converse All Stars with glittery skull appliqu├ęs.
  • And, in a perfect world… Jon and Kate have decided to quit the show and live comfortably for the remainder of their children’s youth on the millions of dollars they earned last year. They claim that their marital problems combined with the children’s increasingly bad behavior led them to realize that they need to refocus their lives. They move quietly to another area and lead simple, happy lives.

What do you guys think? Are Jon & Kate tacky enough to broadcast a separation or divorce? Is TLC? Will companies sponsor this (except Hot Topic LOL)? Heaven forbid, are they going to show the parents breaking it to their eight children?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life Doesn't Suck Thursday: All Done with Doctor Drama?

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while now have heard probably more than you would like about how much my doctor's practice sucks. Doctor D. is an awesome doctor... once you get past his staff of snarling hyenas. Honestly, if you were going to design a system with the express purpose of denying health care to sick children and adding more distress to a worried mother's life, CWFM would be the place to consult, because they do a world class job of both.

I occasionally *mention* to Doctor D. that I am frustrated with his system. By *mention*, I mean that I bring it up at every opportunity. Anyway, at the last visit, he asked why I had waited so long to bring in a sick child (who ended up in the ER). I told him it wasn't for lack of trying. In fact, I tried for over a week before the problem became worthy of an $800 trip to the nasty, germ-laden ER in the middle of prime swine-flu season. He told me that this was going to change, and soon, because they had hired a new office manager who was re-vamping the scheduling system.

Can you say YYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY????????

Honestly, would it be inappropriate for me to bring my new hero a bottle of wine or some homemade cookies? I am so excited. Because, this was the appointment where I was going to tell him I could no way see him anymore, great doctor or not. And now, I can avoid being doctor-less in this medically underserved area. Thanks, God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Super Yummy Banana Bars


Okay, folks, there is NOTHING healthy about this sugar and butter-rich recipe, but it's so good you frankly won't care.

Banana Bars with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a large pan, 10x15 inches or so.
To make bars, combine:

1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a separate bowl, mix:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Then, add:

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool and then frost with this awesome frosting.

Mix:

1 8 oz package softened cream cheese
1/2 cup softened butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 to 4 cups powdered sugar

Frost the banana bars and enjoy. Store these in the fridge if possible... it's a lot of dairy for room temperature.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Children and Summer


For homeschoolers, summer means little change except that random people no longer ask the kids why they aren't in school. For families with children in traditional school, summer is a massive upheaval. I was looking forward to spending more time at home after our first year in school, but most of the parents I have talked to don't share my sentiment. The two main reasons seem to be an increase in work for the mother, and dealing with sibling bickering.

I won't comment on the state of a society where mothers don't want to spend time with their children. Instead, I'll offer a solution that I have found effective in dealing with both messiness and bad behavior: work.

Free time is a wonderful part of summer, but everything has a time and a purpose... and a limit. Here's how you know your child has too much free time: they complain about being bored. They have time to pick fights with siblings, create mischief, and make a nuisance of themself. They don't enjoy very much and seem way too jaded for their young age.

My children in the summer are expected to do about 20 minutes per year of age in work and 10 minutes per year of age in schoolwork. An older kid should have a volunteer endeavor or a part time job, because you will quickly run out of chores for them unless you live on a farm. So, my six year old has an hour per day of mandatory schoolwork and two hours of chores. I split them up, but she is responsible for: making her bed, picking up her room in the morning, helping me with whatever chores I do that day, picking up in the family room in the evening , clearing the table after dinner, and loading the dinner dishes in the dishwasher. Similarly, my five year old does about 50 minutes a day in schoolwork and 100 minutes a day of chores. Even my thirteen year old works. Schoolwork is no trouble at all; after the tedium of traditional school, our homeschool curriculum is challenging and interesting enough to feel like a game.

Many people are shocked by the idea of putting kids to work. They think it is child slavery. Honestly, it's good for them. It puts the rest of their fun little lives in a proper perspective. The only way to learn a work ethic is by actually working, so I am preparing them for the adult existence that will constitute the majority of their years on this planet. Plus, I can look forward to spending time with them. They are literally no trouble at all; they make up for the extra work of having a house full of children, and they don't have the chronic boredom and dissatisfaction that have became an institution in modern childhood.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Meal Plans

Sunday:
B: Banana whole wheat pancakes
L: Crackers, cheese, cut-up raw veggies
D: Kung Pao Chicken, brown rice, watermelon

Monday:
B: Lemon poppyseed muffins from a mix, watermelon
L: Organic boxed macaroni and cheese, baby carrots
D: Greek crockpot chicken and couscous, the rest of the watermelon--it's HUGE!

Tuesday:
B: Cold cereal with milk, bananas and sliced strawberries
L: Pasta with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan, fruit from fruit bowl
D: Italian grilled cheese (it's just grilled cheese but with mozzarella, tomato, and basil instead of plastic cheese), salad

Wednesday:
B: Banana bars with cream cheese frosting
L: Broccoli cheese baked potato
D: Vegan red beans and rice, salad

Thursday:
B: Yogurt and honey toast
L: Cajun wraps (basically the red beans and rice from night before sprinkled with a little cheese and grilled in a flour tortilla)
D: Crab legs (on sale at Rosauer's!!!), rice pilaf, corn on the cob

Friday:
B: Cold cereal, oranges
L: PBJ and chips--on Fridays, we do errands all day and have a picnic at the park for lunch
D: Israeli eggs, whole wheat toast, cassava melon

Saturday:
B: Whole grain waffles, what's left of the cassava
L: Thai noodles (whole wheat noodles mixed with a sauce made of warmed chunky peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice, then topped with chopped green onions and peanuts), baby carrots
D: Green peppers stuffed with spiced brown rice and ground beef, garlic bread, salad

Are You Ready to Go Back to School?

With the economy being... what it is... many moms have told me that they are thinking about going back to school. Granted, it is almost a guaranteed way of increasing your income as well as your ability to compete successfully for work-at-home jobs. Nor is it un-doable; you would be joining me and probably millions of other mothers on the same path. However, there are a few things you should consider before enrolling for classes.

1. Do you have time? A full time student takes at least twelve, but more realistically, 15 units. That translates roughly into fifteen hours per week in class. Well, I can carve that out of my schedule... you think. However, don't forget studying (3 hours per week for every unit, so 45 hours per week on average), transportation, the inevitable gaps between classes, and time spent in financial aid and registration lines. Don't kid yourself; going to school is a full time job and then some.

2. Do you have your house in order? If you are leading a disorganized life, you should focus on that before moving any of your energies outside the home. Do you have a reasonably organized home? Are your kids happy, healthy, and on some semblance of a schedule? Is your life as streamlined as possible (ie, you aren't grocery shopping three times a week to grab things you forgot)? Your household will need to function on autopilot occasionally to accommodate finals week or research projects, so don't head back to school before your family is ready.

3. Are your spouse and children supportive? Mind you, supportive can have different definitions for different people. My husband thinks it's super cool to have a smart wife and even cooler that we'll be able to retire comfortably thanks to my future income. However, I began to get annoyed a month or so into my first quarter when he didn't pick up a little more of the housework and childcare. It doesn't take Mother Teresa to help with the dishes when your wife has been in a lab for four hours. And a lot of my friends have husbands who help out around the house. It took me several months to get over myself. I have always done those things, and it isn't fair to change the rules a decade into our marriage. On the other hand, my kids have been more than eager to do a few extra chores, especially since this leaves more time for me to spend with them. Before you go back to school, make sure your kids are on board and your husband is at least going to tolerate the upheaval.

4. Do you know what you will do with your kids? If you are a homeschooler, do not assume your kids can homeschool themselves or each other while you go to class. And don't forget the little ones; they need not just a babysitter, but a situation where they are nurtured and loved. I am not against high quality childcare, but anything less will not be good enough. Many colleges have childcare programs that are top-notch and made to accommodate a student's schedule, but they still cost money (lots of it). If you live in a highly rated school district, as I do, dealing with older children may be a little easier, but don't expect them to get the education they would receive at home. In our case, the younger kids go to the college center and the older kids go to school, then homeschool to "fill in the gaps" on weekends and over the summer.

5. Do you have the money? Even community college has a staggering cost, and you will be spending roughly twice the tuition when you add in books, supplies, fees, transportation, and the occasional lunch. Apply for scholarships and financial aid early and then see if you can swing the difference. I do not recommend getting a student loan for your bachelor's degree. The amount you make with a bachelor's degree is low enough that your family will not come out ahead for several decades once you add in childcare, work costs, and a higher tax bracket. If you plan to work through your master's or doctorate--which is the only way going back to school would financially worth it in this job market--save the loans for graduate school, which is more expensive and has much less financial help available.

6. Do you have a plan? I would love to major in linguistics, but my passion for language will not pay the bills. Instead of thinking about what you like to study, think about what you like to do. I would love to be a doctor, so I am majoring in Biology, which will give me the solid foundation I need to get into medical school and excel there. After all, I'm not getting a degree for bragging rights; I am being purely practical. The only way college will be worth it for a mom is if a highly paid and flexible profession is waiting at the end of the long, hard road. Do yourself and your kids a favor by making a realistic plan.

7. Internet or traditional? Most employers and graduate programs consider a degree from one of the internet colleges advertised on television worth far less than one from a traditional brick and mortar university. Plus, the online ones cost more. However, many traditional universities offer internet courses and even entire internet degrees. Your degree won't show what format you chose for your classes, so this is the best of both worlds. In my case, although my major requires time in the classroom, I am learning to work my schedule around so I do at least one and maybe even two quarters per year on the internet.

I don't mean for this to be discouraging, not at all. I am glad I made this huge decision, and I think my family is stronger for it. However, I wish someone had told me a year ago what I was getting into. My advice: do the research, crunch the numbers, work out the cost/benefit analysis, and figure out a realistic plan before jumping in.