Monday, July 31, 2006


There is not enough caffeine in the world to help the kind of tired I am today; nor is there enough chocolate in the world to overcome the utter lack of ambition I’m experiencing.

All night long, I had the same dream, over and over again. It was not a bit complex or meaningful or scary or anything like that. It was painfully simple, and it went like this: “Ring! Ring! Ring!”

That’s right! All night long, my subconscious mind kept saying, “Psst! Phone’s ringin’!”

So all night long, I kept jerking awake and fumbling for the !*%&@ing phone. Which was not ringing.

It was like being the butt-end of a psychological crank call. And I will now draw a veil of decency over my feelings on this topic, because the words currently in my head are not acceptable in any society, polite or otherwise. I’m pretty sure hardened felons would pale if they could hear my interior dialog right now.

I am so grateful that my children are in daycare today. I am in the kind of foul mood that results in hard-core discipline being handed down over minor matters; the kind of mood that will then turn around and excuse such behavior as being a good life lesson in how unfair life really is.

Because life is unfair. How unfair? How about this one: The Tylenol I’m taking for the general pain…is giving me a headache.

Now, when you have a headache that has been brought on by headache medicine…what do you do?

I’d vote for ‘drink heavily’, only allegedly I’m working today. At this precise moment, in fact, I am waiting for a call to discuss why what is being asked of me is impossible due to a pair of equally omnipresent laws: those of physics, and those of Murphy.

I suspect that if I were even slightly wasted, I might actually speak my mind on this subject to the client.

Which would be…bad. Very, very bad. I am, in point of fact, planning to take a backseat on this particular discussion and allow my senior to lead. I’m just going to sit here, quietly taking notes and grousing to myself about how much I don’t give a @*^&.

Because I don’t. I will tomorrow, I’m sure. And the day after that. But right this very exact moment?

Not even a little @*^&.

Hey! Whaddya know? THIS time, the !*%&@ing phone really IS ringing...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Too fast...too fast...

My little man turned two years old today.

How this happened is beyond me. Because about eight seconds ago, he was >>this<< big. I could hold in him one hand. He slept in a bassinet beside my bed, when he wasn’t snuggled right up next to me nursing. I carried him everywhere, and it was like carrying thistle-down.

He was this.

And now…suddenly…overnight…

It’s gone so fast.

He’s traded in his sleep-n-play rompers for button-down shirts and blue jeans; rubber-bottomed socks have become miniature Nike’s; fireman-crawling across the playroom rug has become running full-tilt through the house.

My baby is a toddler. He is becoming more and more complex every day.

Funny – ever since I became a parent, it’s like the planet has sped up. Days go by in a blur; weeks and months and years shoot past. I see my children growing before my eyes.

On the one hand, I want to wrap them up in my arms and not let them grow any more. I want to protect their childhood, to lengthen it, to let them have as many hours as I can of this time. This time when things are simple, when the rules are clear, when mommy and daddy can fix anything in the whole world.

On the other, I can’t wait to see what they’re going to become. I look at Captain Adventure and I see a complex little person. Smart, adventurous (as long as Mommy’s around), sweet, funny, sensitive, stubborn, creative…I can’t wait to meet the man he will become.

Although I suspect, even if he develops a baritone voice and a mountain man’s beard, I’ll still hear his infant laughter and remember the butterfly-wing feel of his infant head against my lips.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I am SO going to hell

I asked nicely. “Please put me on your Do Not Call list, thank you,” I said. Polite, yes?

Well, they haven’t. It has been many days now, and still I am getting two or three calls per day from my scamming friends at 727-541-0001. About half the time, I simply hit ‘ignore’ on my phone and make them go bye-bye that way. Especially if they call while I’m actively working.

But the other half…well. Let’s just say I’m displaying one of the reasons why $DEITY doesn’t want me knocking around the pearly gates.

I am particularly proud of last night’s achievement. I kept the guy on the phone for almost ten minutes - which I consider to be a kind of public service. At the very least, he wasn't scamming somebody's grandmother while he was trying to work me over.

“All Star Funeral Concierge Service, this is Mother Chaos, how can I help you?”

{slight confused pause} “Hi, yes, can I speak with [my full name here].”

“That’s me. How may I help you?”

“Hi, [my full name], I’m calling on behalf of Mastercard to thank you for being such a good customer we’d like to offer you a $1,000 shopping spree…”

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t accept Mastercard. Check or cash only, sorry about that.”


“Uh, we’re calling about your Mastercard ending in 1234…”

“Hang on a second…” [tappity tappity tappity on my keyboard] “Um, sorry, I’m not finding that order number. There should be six numbers, and two letters…”

“No, ma’am, I don’t think you understand. I’m calling because, as a stellar customer for Mastercard…”

“We don’t accept Mastercard.”

“No, your Mastercard.”

“Oh, I think you’ve got the wrong number. We’re not Mastercard, we’re All Star Funeral Concierge…”

This went on for a ridiculously long time. How this guy didn’t realize he was being teased is beyond me, because I was struggling so hard not to collapse in hysterical laughter by the end of the call that my stomach hurt. Finally he blurted out, “We’ll call another time” and hung up.

This morning, I was Bruno’s Pizza. I had the slightest of New Yawk accents and chewed gum loudly into the phone.

“Izzat for pickup or free dah-livry?”

“May I speak to [my full name], please?”


“[My full name]”

“Don’t know ‘im. You callin’ in an order, or what?” [!POP! goes the gum into the speaker]

{click!} goes the line

I’m thinking that tonight, I may have to try the phone sex gambit. I’m not very good at it and alas am lacking in real-world knowledge as to how these things work, but I’m willing to give it a try.

{sultry voice} “Well hello there, big boy! You want who? Well, sugar, you can call me any name you like, it’s your $3.99 a minute hahahahaha…” {/sultry voice}

And I’d be speaking nothing but the blazing truth when I said I was hot. I’m in the Central Valley of California. How hot is it? The bats are falling from the belfries around here.

Oh yeah, baby. I’m hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhot…

My New Diet Aid

Pending the results of my blood work, I have been instructed to take an Uber Dose of Tylenol Arthritis Pain two to three times a day to keep the symptoms under control. Which it does rather admirably, actually – while I’m not getting the eight hours semi-promised on the label (in their defense, it does say ‘up to eight hours’, not ‘we absolutely guarantee that after taking this you will be completely free of whatever ails you for eight solid hours’), I do get about four hours of ‘wouldn’t know anything was wrong’ freedom, and another two hours of ‘I can totally deal with this’ discomfort.

And I’ll take it, thank you, because I am a huge wuss and pain is not my friend and besides – I am way too busy for this kind of crap.

But I digress.

I am having the most fascinating side effect from the Tylenol. This is a much larger dose than I have ever taken before; and besides, I’m usually more of an Advil/Motrin consumer. So it really caught me off-guard when I realized: I don’t want to eat.

Not only am I not hungry, I flat-out don’t want it. Yesterday it was almost 3:00 before I suddenly thought to myself, “Hey. Have I eaten anything today?”

No, no I hadn’t. And I wasn’t hungry, and nothing in this world sounded good. Not even California Brittle sounded good. Pretzels? Naw. Ice cream? Eh. Big Mac? Ewwwww.

But of course, I’m not going to let me get away with that kind of crap. So I marched out and grabbed a Lean Cuisine and heated it up and told myself, sternly, that I was going to eat the Lean Cuisine, and I was going to like it.

I ate about half of it and then pushed the other half around for a while, forced myself to eat all the vegetables and rice and tossed away most of the beef. And I felt stuffed. I felt like I had just competed in a hot dog eating contest – and won. Bloated, uncomfortably full, and tired – the kind of tired you are after snorking down Thanksgiving dinner.

I looked it up, and sure enough: Loss of appetite is one of the stated potential side-effects of acetaminophen.

I never thought I’d get so…lucky. Give me a list of potential side-effects, and the ones I’m most likely to get are insomnia, nausea, vomiting, ‘may cause you to plant yourself face-first into the Golden Skillet buffet table even though technically you despise barely warm buffet-style food of dubious origin’.

But something that might help me stay on a diet? Never.

*sniff* I’m so happy…

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Too much empathy

I am the Great Fly Killer. I hate the things. I hate the way they buzz around my face while I’m knitting (I think they sense my hands are busy, because they will wait all day long until I sit down in the rocking chair before they start buzzing me – never while I’m folding laundry or working on the laptop). I hate the way they {shudder} crawl on my kitchen counters, searching for food.

They’re dirty, horrid little insects and when I see one in my house, I turn into the Great Fly Hunting Ninja of Doom. I’ll stalk around like I’m hunting a fox or something, crouch and all, until I finally get the quarry in my sights. Steady…steady…aaaaaaiiimmmmm…


But today, I was sitting here in my office working when I heard the most tremendous buzzing commotion from the windowsill. What the…?

I look over there and I see a fly that has made a grave, grave mistake. It is frantically trying to free itself from the spider web it wandered into.

We’ve got a Code F, in the office! I repeat, Code F!!! This is not a drill!!!

So I dive out of the room, grab the flyswatter, and come rushing back in…just in time to watch the spider pounce on the poor thing.

Big, fat, hairy and all business, that spider swarmed out from between the wall and the window and had that fly wrapped up faster than Shelob enrobed Frodo, then dragged the twitching thing deep into the window runners.

I felt unspeakably sorry for that poor fly. That poor, poor fly that I had been about two seconds from squashing out of existence, yes. That one.

I felt stomach-churningly bad for it.

Spiders and snakes both bother me that way. A cat pouncing on a mouse doesn’t bother me a bit (unless the cat then drags it into my house and shows it off proudly: “Look! I caught you a mouse! Aren’t I clever?!”), but a snake unhinging its jaw and swallowing one bugs me infinitely.

My whacking a fly into the fly-afterlife with a plastic swatter not only doesn’t bother me, it gives my poor shallow life a kind of meaning. Sure, I didn’t do a darned thing to further world peace today, but by GOD! I sent four horrid nasty flies to the fly-hereafter!!

But watching a spider get one made my toes curl up. Ugh.

Poor thing.

Poor disgusting, horrid little thing…

With due thanks to Tylenol Arthritis Pain…

I have finished Danger Mouse’s socks. Behold!

It’s funny – when she first chose this yarn I was a little surprised. I have a lot of ‘girlie’ colors in the box, but she chose the one I was thinking I’d use for Captain Adventure. Because it’s blue and yellow and red, I said to myself. Kinda ‘boyish’.

But as I got to working with it, I discovered that the color I thought was red is actually mauve (and a rather pinkish mauve to boot) and by golly – these really are ‘girl’ socks.

Which is why I am not an artist. I have little-to-no color sense whatsoever. “Why don’t you work in colors?” people ask me. “Why don’t you do more Fair Isle knitting? Something with twelve colors no longer available in the yarn the designer used so you have to substitute things using your own intuition as to whether or not you’ll be able to get gauge and color matching?”

Um…because I think ‘antique’ and ‘white’ are the same thing? Because I can’t tell you if something is more orange or more yellow? Because I mistake mauve for red? Because I have been known to create the most monstrous of things when I thought I was doing something beautiful, and not realized it until someone else pointed it out? (Like the infamous sweater I knit on our honeymoon, which upon reflection was so ugly it should have melted the needles but which I thought looked great until my poor newly-wedded husband finally said something, at tremendous personal risk but for the good of humanity.)

And, now that I’ve said how rotten I am at color-work in general and substitution in particular, I’ve taken it into my head that nothing else will do! for my boss’ impending new arrival but to make the beaded fair isle cardigan from Debbie Bliss’ book ‘The Baby Knits Book’.

Can the yarn she used be gotten, for love or money? No, and maybe-if-you’ve-got-a-lot-of-it. Which I don’t, alas.

So what am I doing?

Substituting, yarn and colors both.

Oh. Lord.

The poor, innocent little baby. I’ll probably produce something that looks like it belongs on something out of Nightmare Before Christmas. And wrap it up and give it to them anyway.

Mismatched beads and all...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Not as bad as I feared...

I can take this. I was afraid it would be far, far higher...

I am nerdier than 72% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

And now, some (more) self-absorbed whining

I had seven vials of blood drawn about an hour ago.

SEVEN. 1-2-3-4-5-6-…7.

I thought she was joking. I thought there had to be some mistake. Four of those suckers were pint-sized. I’m serious. Three of them were the normal smallish size. But four of them were the size of a milk jug pint glass shot glass!

I laughed nervously after she had pulled three of those big ones down and started to say something cunning like, “Wow, how much blood do you think I have, anyway?”

But then she, without looking up from the THREE PAGE list of orders, whisked another four vials out of her rack, dropped them into her holding bin and said, “Hoooookay, make a fist please…”


Which, as those of you who know me in person can attest, is sayin’ something.

I just sat there staring at all those vials while she found the smallest, most nerve-encrusted vein to jam the rather large torpedo needle into.

And I was so floored by the whole concept of how many vials she intended to fill I forgot to yelp.

I was actually lightheaded by the time she was done. And a little queasy. And also, pretty sure that the bruise I’m watching develop was on its way. About the size of a dime now, but I’m betting it’ll make at least nickel, possibly quarter before it’s done.

We’re checking for autoimmune issues – my sore joint issues are out of control right now, and starting to impact my life in meaningful ways. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I can’t button a shirt, braid little girl hair, or pick up a jug of milk by the handle. We’ve got a lot of potential diseases to get through, hence the large number of vials.

But still.

Holy carp.

They’d better not lose or mangle or otherwise do anything to those vials that requires me to come back in and do that again.

Because I’m not gonna.

Not. Ever.

I will change my name, dye my hair black and move to the wilderness of Montana first. I swear, I really will…

Monday, July 24, 2006

I just don't understand me, sometimes

Captain Adventure cried a lot last night. He’d wake up every hour or so and let off a few yowls – just enough to make sure I was fully awake, not quite enough to get me out of bed.

I’m pretty sure he was hot and pissed off about it. Because we were all hot and pissed off about it. Why? Because our lousy rotten piece of crap ancient excuse of an air conditioner can’t cool the house down. It does a pretty good job on the downstairs hallway (where the thermostat is), but upstairs or in the playroom? Eh. Not so good.

My parents actually complained about it the last time they stayed here with the kids. “Honey, we tried to figure out the air conditioner…” my mom said. “But it seemed like it just didn’t work upstairs?”

No. No it doesn’t. The ducts are falling apart, and the unit itself is barely puffing along. It also doesn’t heat well in the winter. Costs about $50 per instance to even look at the thermostat, but doesn’t actually heat or cool the house.

Thanks for noticing.

And for a mere ten thousand dollars, I can have it all fixed. The ducts (or lack thereof), and a new HVAC unit to push cool and/or hot air through them.

These are the times that take me back to my misspent youth. Misspent as in, “I misspent so much money it absolutely boggles the mind!”

Because right now, as I sit here allegedly working but really thinking only about how hot it is and resisting the urge to wash my hands for about the six hundredth time today because they feel sticky, I’m more than ready to spend ten thousand dollars I don’t technically have on the theory that I’m only going to go through this life once, and I don’t want to do it with sweaty hands.

271% interest? $700 monthly payments for ten years? No problem. As long as it means I can go to bed tonight without feeling as though I’m going to sweat to death, I’m sold. I don’t care that this is only going to last another month, or that it’s only two-three months out of twelve (plus another two-three months of the ‘now I’m too cold’ part, which I guess makes it up to six months out of the year misery is upon us because of the stupid piece of crap HVAC unit and associated poor ductwork).

I want it fixed, and I want it fixed now.

Being a grownup sucks.

It’s like when my husband says, “You’re getting all stressed out. Why don’t you take a weekend away, I’ll stay with the kids, you just go do a spa trip or something” and I, as CFO of the Den, have to say, “No, that would be fiscally imprudent at this particular time.”

That’s just wrong. Because of course I resent it, but who am I going to resent? Who’s the big bad guy creating this problem?

Me, that’s who. I’m the one saying I can’t go. And how am I supposed to punish myself for being such a stuck-up jerk? Whine at myself? Refuse to make me coffee in the morning on the basis that I am not, all appearances to the contrary aside, my slave?

Which doesn’t work anyway, because then I just say to myself, “OK, fine, go sulk. I’ll make my own damned coffee. When you want to discuss this like a rational adult instead of being a petulant little brat, come see me. I’ll be in my office researching tax-exempt bonds.”

And then I go stalking off with my coffee and leave me kicking dirt clumps and slamming kitchen cupboards.

I just don’t understand me, that’s the problem. I never have understood me. I probably never will, any more than I understand why I put up with me. Anybody else would have left me long ago but no! I stay with me.

Most of the time, anyway.

Even though I make me so mad sometimes I could spit nails…

The Unwanted Envelope

I knew I didn’t want it, the moment I saw it. When I walked through Center #2’s door this morning, the director gave me a big smile and began digging through the box of envelopes as I went to drop my two youngest in their respective rooms.

I tried to sneak out the back door, but couldn’t figure out the child locks – since I’d already dropped off my four year old and therefore had nobody available to help me figure them out, I had no choice but to give up and go back through the main door.

Past the director.

And her box of envelopes.

One of which was handed to me.

{dramatic music} Rate. Increase. {/dramatic music}

I’ve known it was coming for weeks. I had eavesdropped shamelessly while pretending to mix up a cup of complimentary coffee happened to overhear part of the discussions between the director and her assistant. And these things tend to go in waves: if one center raises rates, the others are sure to follow. And it’s almost approaching the months before Fall, the traditional time of year for such things.

The envelope sat on the seat next to me all the way home humming ‘neener-neener-neener, I’m a raaaaaate increeeeease and there’s nothin’ you can dooooo about iiiiiit’.

I’ve been ignoring the envelope for several hours now. I’ve gotten a few projects out the door. Fixed a broken stored procedure, updated a mis-targeted URL, figured out why I was getting 4,000 rows when obviously there shouldn’t be more than, say, twelve, and checked my email. Twice. Responded at great and unnecessary length (that ought to teach ‘em not to ask dumb questions!). Started a load of laundry. Reorganized my task list. Discussed solar panels with my husband, to include how much rebate we’d get from the glorious and power-deprived state for them, and how much heat each air conditioning unit was adding to the overall mess.

All of which has nothing to do with the topic of the day. Which is that finally, inevitably, I gave in and opened the envelope.

The best I can say about it is that overall, as increases go, it wasn’t all that bad. A mere 6%, $25 a week for the two kids.

I’ve had worse. I think I’m becoming numb to such things. Or maybe it’s just the heat giving me a big old case of Couldn’t Give A Tinker’s Cuss. But I looked at this increase and just had to shrug.

It is what it is.

I suspect the envelope feels a little let down by my lack of outrage.

And yet that too, is what it is. I can’t feel the least bit sorry for the envelope and how let down it may be by my lack of outrage.

It’s like trying to drum up enthusiasm about finishing the socks for Danger Mouse. She chose the yarn out of the box. She’s been pestering me to finish them for over a week now. She has worn the one finished sock for an entire day while asking, repeatedly, if the other one was finished yet.

No. No it is not. I’m about to pick up the gusset stitches and charge down toward the toe – but can I just point out the following:

These are tiny needles.

I am getting nine stitches and 11.25 rows to the inch, here.

I have six inches of instep / toe to go. Which is a lot.

My hands are swollen and rather painful, thanks to all the heat. (In a few months, they'll be painful because of the cold...I can't win on that front, it seems.)

Speaking of which: These are wool socks. Quick temperature check: it was 115 out here yesterday.

The crazy child will want to wear these socks to school the instant they are done. Which is going to mean that she is going to take them off, because it is too hot to wear wool socks to school.

Which is going to mean that one or both of them will promptly get lost.

Which makes it even harder for me to drum up the enthusiasm to finish knitting them. Even if they are kinda cute. See?

And inexpensive, too. One ball of Simple Stripes 'Crayon' from KnitPicks for two Little Girl Sized Socks, $2.99.

Which for no logical reason makes me feel better about paying $25 more a week for Center #2. Well, I say to myself, I may be spending another $1,300 this year on childcare BUT! I only spent three bucks (and sixteen hours of work) for this pair of Good Wool Socks...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Would you like some scam with that?

My cell phone has been ringing at odd hours the last couple days. By the time I’ve gotten to it, the call has been routed to voicemail. No message has been left, and when I attempt to call the incoming number I’m told the number has been ‘disconnected or is no longer in service’. Hmmmmmm…

So this morning, wonder of wonders, it went off while I actually had it with me. I looked down and saw the Mystery Number, which, by the way, is 727-541-0001.

Oh my, did I just put somebody’s phone number on the Internet? Why yes, yes I did. Why would I do such a nefarious thing?

Because it is a scam, gentle readers. A rather large one, apparently, and one that has caught altogether too many people in its web already.

The vermin on the other end of this number enthusiastically tell you that, as a valued {Mastercard, Visa, AmEx} customer, you’ve won a $1,000 (or $3,000) shopping spree! They just need to confirm your address and your security codes and they’ll send it, and your free puppy, right out…

Because I am paranoid, the moment I heard the bubbling voice on the other end of the line I knew they were trying to sell me something; the mental alarm bells roused themselves from their work-imposed stupor and shook the dust off warily.

When he said he was calling from Mastercard, every alarm bell in my brain was going ring-a-ding-ding. Mastercard is not going to be calling me. The bank issuing the Mastercard might. But Mastercard itself is not going to be calling me.

And as he went on to describe my Fabulous! Prizes!, the alarm bells stopped ringing and went back to their nap. Because they knew the job was done. No further need to ring, the Common Sense Police were on the scene.

I snapped, “Not interested, thanks, don’t call again” and hung up. Then I got on the horn double fast to my actual issuer and said, “Hey. You guys know anything about this?”

They said no, but hey – sounds like a new card number to me! And I said thanks and they said no problem and now…I’ve got a new card coming.

And some precious time will not have to be wasted contacting all my providers who use this card for their auto-billing.


Stupid phishing phone scamming bus turds! May the fleas of a thousand camels invade their armpits!!!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crazy Talk Tip: Cloth Napkins

There are some things I’ll do to save a buck or two that seem really obvious to me, but which I’ve been told don’t necessarily occur to people as potential ways to save money. I’ll throw them out, you use them if they make sense to you…or ignore them if they don’t. Most of them are nickel and dime items – but you put enough of them together and they start adding up to tens and twenties pretty quick.

We’ve used cloth napkins for the last twelve years. I’ve bought paper napkins precisely one time in all that time, for a party. We still have more than half the package out in the garage.

Cloth napkins are marvelous. They can handle anything you care to dish out to them – you know that thing paper napkins do, when you’re eating something even moderately messy and you try to wipe your hands? The shred and cling thing? A cloth napkin won’t do that to you. Well, maybe if you’re eating sulfuric acid or something they will. But normal food? Never.

They feel good, too. Like comfortable clothes, they get softer and easier on your face with each washing. We think they feel luxurious; there’s something just kind of loving about cloth napkins, something paper napkins just can’t approach. This is not McDonalds – it’s Mom’s Kitchen.

Best of all, you buy them once and use them forever. We still have about half of the very first set of twelve napkins we bought – and we use them, every single day. Twelve years of constant use, and they still look pretty darned good. Granted, if the Queen were visiting, I’d probably use the ‘nice’ napkins I keep put away for just such an occasion, but for friends and family they’re still tough, absorbent, and reusable.

So, what’s the cost savings?

From what I’ve observed when paper napkins are present, each member of my family would go through an average of four napkins per meal (more for the younger ones, fewer for the older ones). That’s 24 napkins per meal for the six of us, or 72 a day (holy cripes). So we’re looking at using up about one 400 count package per week (given that not all meals are eaten at home or require a napkin anyway), at $4.29 for the cheap brand. That’s $223 a year for the paper napkins for this family.

The cloth napkins run about a buck apiece. One napkin per person per meal will do you. I’ve got 32 in my napkin drawer right now, plus two sets of twelve for ‘fancy’ occasions and probably about eight in the wash. I’ll call that a total initial investment of about $70.

The maintenance of them is, I feel, negligible. Half a load of laundry a week? Hardly worth thinking about. I once figured that a load of laundry ran me about $0.50, so a quarter a week to wash and dry half a load of napkins, or $13 a year.

That’s $210 a year difference, minus the one-time $70 investment. I can think of a few things I’d rather do with $210 than fill up a landfill with my family’s discarded napkins…

Things I Have Learned About Cloth Napkins:

Choose absorbency over ‘cool pattern’ for your daily-use napkins. Those slick, shiny, gold-ribbon-runs-through-them deals are neat for your Occasions, but on a day to day basis what you want is a good sturdy cotton-like feel. It needs to be able to wick moisture away from your greasy fingers. If it feels like water would bead up on it, give it a miss.

Look for napkins with a good cloth thickness. The Dollar Store cloth napkins – eh. Not so great. You want it to feel like a good-quality t-shirt between your fingers. I once bought a set of 24 napkins at the Dollar Store, and they were worth every penny, if you get my drift. (Positively shredded within a matter of a couple weeks – I think paper napkins would have held up better in the wash!)

WalMart usually has good deals on napkins; but don’t diss your local department stores or out of hand. My favorite set of napkins I got at Linens-n-Things a couple years ago (when it became painfully obvious that we needed more than twelve napkins to get from laundry day to laundry day) for about fifty cents apiece on sale.

If you’re going to be drastically upset by stains on your napkins, get sturdy white ones. Put them in the bathroom sink with a teaspoon or two of bleach for half an hour or so before washing, and even the most stubborn of chocolate stains will come out. No evidence, no crime, that’s what I always say after I’ve scarfed down an entire box of dark chocolate all by myself in the darkened playroom while everyone was out. Or, uh, what I would say, if I’d ever done such a thing…

Under normal circumstances, I don’t iron my napkins. Martha might tell you it’s a must-do kind of thing, but then again she also re-panes her own garden shed windows and only sleeps a few hours a day. I just fold ‘em and stick ‘em in the drawer. It isn’t that they don’t look nicer after ironing – it’s just that my four year old really doesn’t appreciate the effort and I have a life outside of laundry.

When a cloth napkin begins to die, it makes a great rag for a long time after it ceases to be ‘table worthy’. They do a good job at ‘scrubbing’ jobs, like getting apple juice remnants off the Pergo or ketchup off the windowsill.

Give them a try. Of the crazy talk things I’ve done to save a buck or two over the years, this one has worked out really well for us.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Spending Fast

OK, so, this is probably about something exactly opposite to what just about anybody reading that title would expect. It’s not about spending money fast – it’s about not spending money at all.

The first time I went on a spending fast was nine years ago almost to the month. We were desperate – behind on almost every bill we had, my father-the-CPA had just gone over the situation and even he thought perhaps we might want to consider the idea of {whisper} bankruptcy oh the shame of it! {/whisper}, the weekly paychecks were being spent long before they hit the bank…something had to be done.

It was an act of sheer desperation. For two weeks, I didn’t spend any money. No groceries, no vending machine, no new (or used) anything. No garage sales. No ‘saving’ money shopping the sales.

It did us a shocking amount of good. We cleared out the kitchen cupboards (which had a surprising amount of food in them) and the fridge (which then got the good cleaning it really needed), and at the end of the two weeks I had enough money to at least pay something to everyone standing in line for it.

We went off the fast for two weeks, and then after much discussion, went back on it ‘until we’re current’.

We stayed on it for almost two months. We limited our spending to only what we needed. I planned our meals and bought only and exactly what I needed for them each week. We cancelled cable, dropped the cell phones, turned off the air conditioning in the apartment – any spending we had immediate control over, we stopped.

At the end of the two months, though, we were current with all our creditors, the phone calls had stopped, and we were actually making headway instead of merely treading water.

But here’s the weird part: when we said, “OK, we’re current! Let’s get some of that good stuff back!”, there was a lot of stuff that we just never put back in. All the kicking and screaming and crying and whining about giving up such things as cable television and the daily pilgrimage to Starbucks…but once they were gone for a while, we discovered we didn’t really miss them.

We talked about what kinds of things we did miss, and added those back in. And we were happier than we had ever been. We had peace; we had everything we needed, and a lot of what we really wanted. We had enough. It was like a spiritual epiphany, to realize just how much we didn’t need.

This week, my mission is to start another spending fast. It’s hard, especially when you’re working and ergo under hefty time constraints, to give up things that feel good. Just this morning while getting dressed, I dreamed up about $750 worth of stuff I’d like to treat myself to, from a spa treatment to getting my eyebrows waxed to sitting in the air conditioned splendor of Starbucks with a frappucino to work instead of sweating my butt off here at home. (Mostly because I look like death warmed over this morning – eyebrows like great big fuzzy caterpillars, saggy behind and pasty dry skin that looks like I sneak around in the night biting people on the neck.) (Also, because they keep advertising things on the radio like laser hair removal. For only $300, I could never have to shave my armpits again? Oh Lord, where do I sign up?!)

But we’re spending way too much on our conveniences and pleasures. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were worth the price we’re paying to us; but they aren’t. They’re nice, sure. And yes, we enjoy them. I’ve enjoyed my maid service so much it’s downright disgusting.

However, we don’t enjoy them as much as we want other things. Pretty high ticket items, too, thank you very much. A major house remodeling project, a new minivan, college funds for four children, early retirement. All of these things are at the top of our list of things we’d really like to have…but we’re basically pissing away all the resources we need for them on other things that we want, uh, now.

It’s easy to give up the future for the Now. Now is much louder than Later. Now is immediate. Now is easily grasped. You know how good a double scoop of chocolate ripple is Now – it’s hard to put your arms around the concept of how good it will feel Later, in ten-fifteen years, to be sitting on our patio drinking coffee at 10:00 in the morning reading the newspaper while everybody else is scurrying off to work.

We tend to appreciate the things we have more, though, when we've either worked hard for them or have carefully chosen them while letting other things slide. I like knowing that we can afford what we have, that I'm not a few dollars away from being in over my head.

Besides. I don't like being owned by anything. Not even my own hedonistic delights. I like to think I can give up darn near anything, if I want something else more. It makes me feel free.

I don't feel very free right now. I feel encumbered by wants, weighed down by all the stuff I "have" to do, to pay for the things I "must" have.

Letting it go isn't a matter of depriving myself. It's a matter of giving myself more.

By spending less.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


The next day, take that herbed Parmesan bread and slice it. Mash some Parmesan cheese into some soft butter and coat the outside of two slices and make yourself a grilled cheese with some more Parmesan, maybe some mozzarella, and/or some grated Pepperjack.

It does not suck. It really, really does not suck at all…funny, too: people are paying $15 for a sandwich like this at some bistro today. OK, granted, they also got a slice of lemon in their ice water and probably a salad. Maybe some curly fries.

Myself, I just stood over the sink and ate it while the kids had their version, minus the Pepperjack and laughed hysterically. You might not know this, but melted mozzarella is the funniest of all cheeses. It stretches. Really, really far, if you’re six years old, determined, and have no other goals in life.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bread is so easy

OK, I know. I also think pie is easy. But this really was easy. I was making this mustard-Worcestershire-garlic glazed steak tonight and I thought to myself, Hey, you know what would be good with this? A nice crusty bread…with herbs of some kind in it…

I’ve gotten arrogant enough with my bread making that I don’t rush for the cookbook to find the appropriate bread recipe any more. I’ve got several excellent bread cookbooks, all of which go into excruciating detail about balance and blend of ingredients, proper kneading techniques, double-rising, misting my oven, etc. etc. etc.

Eh. OK, if you want the perfect crumb and sexy crust etc., yes. You’re going to want to follow those more exacting standards. But I don’t have time or inclination for all that. I have a KitchenAid with a dough hook, and am a tool using kind of primate with sore wrists.

So I put the following into my mixer bowl:

2 cups flour
1/4 cup (or so) grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one package, if you're not the type who has a 4# bag of bulk yeast in the fridge) (ahem)
2 teaspoons dried oregano, lightly crushed so it smells extra good
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

I stirred the dry stuff together, then ignored it for a minute while I mixed the following in my Pyrex:

One cup warm water
Two tablespoons sugar
Two tablespoons olive oil

Boldly, I added the wet to the dry and gave it a few good stirs with a wooden spoon, until all the dry stuff was wet.

Then I added one more cup of flour, set the bowl under my KitchenAid with the dough hook, turned it on and watched intently. What I was watching for was, the dough should be moist, but not sticky-wet. If you (after turning off the mixer, of course) rest your finger against it and it sticks, it need a little more flour. Add in scant quarter cup measures until you get a dough that is moist, but not wet. Remember: it’s easy to add a little more flour. It is not at all easy to take the flour out again if you add to much – so err on the side of caution here.

Then turn your back on it and let the mixer do it’s thing for a while. Five minutes is good, ten minutes is better. (If you’re doing this by hand, knead until it forms a nice, elastic ball under your hands. Or until you’re sick to death of kneading, whichever comes first.)

Plop it into a greased bowl, flip it over so you’ve got a greasy top, cover with a kitchen towel and ignore it for anywhere from half an hour to an hour – however long it takes it to rise up good and fluffy. Tends to take less time in warm, humid kitchens, longer in the dry, cold winter.

Then toss it onto a greased cookie sheet and give it a little pat to make sure it knows who’s boss – pat it into a round shape, like a big fluffy cookie. The fatter it is, the more tender inside you’ll have. Cover with the towel and ignore again for another half hour or so. Then put it in a 375 oven for about half an hour – until it’s good and brown on top.

If the spirit moves you, you could probably sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan over the top before you bake it; or brush the top with some really salty water to give it a glossy, tasty glaze.

We opted for some fresh roasted garlic, squeezed onto it like butter. There will be no kissing in this house for the foreseeable future – but it made an awesome partner to the steak.

See how easy, though? The only hard part is having a roughly three hour block of time to be 'around' while it rises and then re-rises. And if you're time crunched, they make a 'rapid rise' yeast that will literally rise in half the time.

Yet another reason why I love my KitchenAid: it kneads bread for me while I'm busy putting garlic into the oven to roast and prepping a steak for broiling.

What a girl wants, what a girl needs…

…whatever makes me happy and sets you free…oh. Sorry. Hi. Ahem. Song was on the radio, and uh…never mind. What I was actually thinking about was knowing what you actually want, as opposed to what you think you want.

There are a lot of people out there who make their living by making us want things we don’t need or even want. “Find a need and fill it” has really become “create a need and fill it”, hasn’t it? From television ads to magazine glossies, they’re constantly hitting us with products we had NO IDEA we needed so badly. How could I have left the house without a tri-tone eyeliner on? Or staggered through life without an iPod? Hey, check out those Volvos, they’re safety engineered and you know what I could go for right now? A Sonic burger!

They make what we already have seem dull and old. I don’t think this is really any different from times gone by, but it does seem to me that our reactions to them have changed.

My mother would say things like, “Well, the new microwaves are nice, but this one cooks just fine.” She had the same washer and dryer for seventeen years, if I’m doing the math correctly; we never replaced things that weren’t broken.

Just because something was new didn’t make it a need. And it seems to me that we’ve lost that, a little bit. We don’t pick and choose from among our options, we just rush around like a bunch of dogs chasing squirrels, barking and drooling over everything from iTunes to sushi.

And then we sit back and fret because we can’t pay our bills, and we aren’t saving for retirement even though we know we ought to be and now I’m worried that I’ll never own a house and how come I’m not happy? Geez, maybe I’d better go buy a different pair of shoes to walk in for a while…

We stepped off that particular fun house ride a few years ago. We did it first out of sheer necessity – we were so deep in debt we could barely breathe and desperately needed to do something. Four seconds from bankruptcy.

But after it ceased to be a necessity, we never really got back into that groove. We’d learned something about ourselves: we need very little to be happy in our day to day life. We don’t need new cars, or antique furniture, or vacations or new clothes.

We’re on track for early retirement, even with having four kids underfoot and copious amounts of time off for me to have the babies and get them through those early months of life.

We can do it because we have a very clear list of what we need, what we really want, and what’s kinda cool – and we budget for them in that order. First the retirement and college fund savings; then, with what we have left, we do Everything Else.

It really doesn’t bother me to wear last year’s sandals or give a vacation I can’t afford a miss; I’ve got everything I need, and because I’ve thought about things carefully I don’t really feel all that abused because I didn’t get to go on a vacation. I didn’t want it as much as I wanted something else.

And for bonus points: I know it.

A lot of people who teach budgeting skip this step, and I think it’s a huge mistake. They’ll come up with averages and look at your current spending and say, “No no no, you shouldn’t be spending $X on groceries! For a family your size, you should be spending $Y! And what’s this for haircuts? Dear me, at your income level you shouldn’t be spending that much!”

Budgets are a very intimate thing. Very individual. Unique to each person and household. Averages are all well and good, but they only go so far. You have to live your life, and have joy in it.

And I really think that knowing what makes you happiest is the way to do it. We can’t possibly chase after all the things that are available to us. There isn’t enough money in the world to have it all. It breeds jealousy and malcontent.

When you can sit back and say, “Yes, but ring tones are about third from last on my list of stuff I can’t live without, and I’d rather be sunning myself on a Spanish beach next summer!”…it’s hard to describe how much peace it gives you. I can let all kinds of groovy things go, simply by calling to mind what it is I really want.

A new minivan…or shaving three years off my total years to retirement…hmm…

You know, old cars are neat. You get used to them. They’re like family…

If you feel like your spending is out of control and yet, somehow, you never have enough, give this a try. Just sit down and think about all the things you want to have, to do, and to be. Don’t worry about how likely they are. Just write them down. They can be Big and Important, or frivolous. It doesn’t matter – it’s about you, and what kinds of things you love and cherish.

Take a break from it, maybe a day or two, then come back and look at it again. Tweak it. This one isn’t really something I want, I forgot these two things…

Then you can start asking yourself which of these things you want the most. It isn’t carved in stone, so don’t be afraid. It’s going to shift and change with you. What seems incredibly important today might not seem so big a deal in a few weeks or years. Just give yourself an idea.

Once you’ve got that, you can start making your budget accordingly. If you want to retire early, you’re going to want to put a large part of your current income aside for that. If you want a new car, you’ll want to start putting money aside for that. If you want a fancy vacation, you might want to reconsider spending $1,200 a month on clothing, and so on.

It’s much easier to walk right on past the store window when you can say to yourself, “I’m doing this for Spain! Viva Espana!!!”

And viva libertad, while you’re at it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Cat Who Isn’t There

I just shot my rolling chair across the office to check on my other computer. Just as I punched my foot against the floor to send the chair off on its wild trajectory, I had a terrible, chilling thought: I forgot to check for the cats!!!! I flailed around trying to stop the chair, ‘in case’. Almost tipped myself over. Probably gave myself a pretty good bruise on the thigh from smacking the side of the table. Ow. Stupid cats…

Then and only then I remembered: we, uh, don’t have cats anymore. One died of age-and-mileage related complications, and we gave the other to a new home.

Not recently. Years ago.

It’s so odd. They’ve been gone for three years now? Four? And still I have these moments, still look for them underfoot, still find myself thinking as I shoot past PetSmart: Ohmygosh, I forgot the cat food…

The cats themselves are gone, but the habit of them remains. Hard-wired into my mind.

I’ve been freaking out about the debt we piled up this year; when I think about it logically, it’s not that big a deal for us. I’m earning more on the money in the emergency fund than I’m spending to let it ride while we gather ourselves. We could blast that bad boy in a matter of months by reducing our contributions to college funds and post-tax retirement investments. We have lots of options, even the worst of which isn’t going to do us all that much harm.

But no. After all those years of doing battle with the Credit Card Dragon, I react to carrying an unplanned balance on a credit card the same way I just did about the possibility of running over a long-gone cat’s tail. It is a habit hard-wired into my brain that credit card debt is an inherent evil that must be BURNED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH!!!!

How…primal of me.


You know what?

I’m tripping over a cat that isn’t there.

You know what else?

I need to stop doing that.

I’m willing to bet that if I go back to the very basics and compare where we’re heading right now with what we really want to have, to do and be, I’m going to find that we’ve been straying from that path ever since I left the job force two years ago. Ever since then, I have been so utterly focused on only what was right immediately in front of me, entirely wrapped up in the day to day operations. Making the coffee, the lunches, taking the children to and from school, scoring the deals at the thrift store, paying the bills…but not thinking much about overall direction.

That’s fine, if you’re the dock hand at the warehouse. But if you’re the COO of the company? You’d better understand the bigger picture, and act accordingly.

Guess what? The CFO, COO, and half of the CEO responsibilities for the Den belong to me. There are five other people who rely on me to be on my game, to make possible the goals and dreams we’ve come up with together. My husband in particular counts on me to be not only good at this stuff, but damned good at it.

I can’t be wasting time tripping over non-existent cats and screaming about dragons (especially when the ‘dragon’ is more like a ‘newt’).

Right? Right.

So let’s revisit Things, shall we…starting with that list of what we want to have, do and be in this short little life of ours…

Twinkle, Twinkle…

The Baby Experts™ wanna talk singing?

I tell you what, my boy, twenty-three months three weeks, can sing!

Your toddler can probably hum and sing songs such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and make three-word sentences like "Dog run out."

Um, well. He isn’t really doing the sentence thing. He’s still limiting himself to one or two words and a lot of pointing and going, “Uh-uh-UH! UUUUUUUUH!!”

But Twinkle Twinkle? Pshaw! My boy does Mozart. He does Queen. He can imitate any tune you care to hum at him. A while back, he was sitting on my lap humming…something…something familiar…and then I realized it was an Irish tune called Banish Misfortune, which I had played for him one (1) time on the harp.

This is not the easiest melody in the world to pick up, people.

He is driving me crazy with the not talking thing, though. He understands what you’re saying, even fairly complex things; and he’s an emotional sponge, picking up on fairly convoluted adult feelings. But he pretty much only talks when we’re alone together, and then clams right up when I proudly announce, “Honest, he was just telling me about how he feels Plato was overlooking certain key concepts – go on, honey, tell daddy what you were just telling me? About the nature of philosophy? Captain Adventure? Tell daddy…go on…”

Nope. Just sits there, staring straight ahead as if to say, “I don’t know what the crazy woman is talking about – I’m a deaf/mute.”

He especially does this at the doctor’s office. Won’t even babble. Just sits there.

So I babble instead. “Well, but usually, he’d be saying ‘sock’ and ‘shoe’ and ‘bye-bye’…but right now he’s shy or something I don’t know because usually he just babbles like crazy when we’re getting ready to go…”

And the doctor is looking at me like, “Oh boy, another loopy parent in denial about her child’s obvious speech deficiency…next she’s going to say he’s ready for preschool…”

C’mon. I’m not that far around the bend.

Julliard, however, now…that I think he’s ready for…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Speaking of socks…

Few things can approach this. This is a sock for a dainty little four year old (her foot is tiny – not much bigger than my two year old’s).

This is the knitting equivalent to instant gratification. About two hours to get to this point.

Now if only I could knit them fast enough to keep up with the Denizens, I'd be set...

Sock Wars

The Den regularly eats socks. It eats an astonishing number of socks. I just bought literally eighteen pairs of little girl socks, in addition to the $DEITY knows how many socks were already in the house.

So you can imagine my surprise when Eldest, after dawdling around for ten minutes upstairs while we stood at the door waiting for her, came downstairs and announced in tones of great exasperation: “There is a major sock shortage around here!”

How can this be? And yet it appears to be so. The child is out of socks.


After I dropped them off, I cleared out the inside of the van. Four pairs of socks, two of them Eldest’s, and three mate-less socks.

Then I moved through the house, cleaning up the debris left by the Denizens over the weekend.

Playroom: Five mate-less socks crammed between sofa cushions. One pair in a toy drawer.

Kitchen: One pair of socks on floor under table.

Front room: FIVE PAIRS of socks strewn on and under chairs. Eight mate-less socks tucked under the sofa and behind the wine rack (I don’t want to know how they got there).

But wait, there’s more!

Upstairs under beds: FIFTEEN mate-less socks. FIFTEEN! And an awful lot of their summer wardrobe, to boot. Question: WHY? Why are my children going to all the work of shoving their clothing under their beds, when the laundry basket is right there?

In the laundry basket: Four rolled up (as in, unworn since last washing) pairs. And about six million unwashed pairs, which were at least where they belonged. But still. I figure from the sheer volume of socks I found in their laundry basket that each child has worn about six pairs of socks per day since I last did laundry.

Upstairs in Eldest’s closet: The remainder of all her socks. In ones and twos. Under approximately thirty eight pounds of construction paper and clothes hangers.


So I say to myself, “Might as well do a load or two (or five) of laundry while I’m at it.” We had a houseguest this weekend, there’s extra linens to be washed…

And I start sorting the laundry baskets.

And I discover someone whose name rhymes with My Husband put a piss-sodden something into the downstairs laundry basket sometime early in the filling phases of same. As well as some damp towels, which somehow I suspect were used to handle the associated mess that created the piss-sodden something.

The entire bottom quarter of the laundry basket is damp and extremely aromatic. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!

On the one hand, I’m glad I decided to do laundry today. Given another day or two, that would have been a mold-fest I shudder to even think about.

On the other hand…He’s a smart guy. He knows that if you put wet cloth between layers of dry cloth, the wet cloth will not dry and will, in point of fact, transfer its wetness to the layers of formerly-dry things. And then this green spotty mold will develop all over everything in the laundry basket and we’ll have to throw out a few hundred bucks worth of stuff – because there is no power on earth that can get that green mold stain out. Not even bleach can touch it. It’s more permanent than telemarketing calls.

So may I ask: What gives? What is up with this?! Seriously! He’s smarter than this. He really is. He knows you can’t put wet things, especially pee-wet things, into the bottom of the laundry basket and expect anything good to come of it!


I’m thinking of my mom today. Remembering how she used to go on the occasional rampage around the house, shrieking about all the extra work we were making for her. “Who spit toothpaste on the carpet? Who put a sock in the chandelier? Who left their blocks in the middle of my bed? Why is there a half-eaten chocolate bar in the dog’s dish?! WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME A CRAZY PERSON?!?!”

Hmm. That reminds me. I didn’t check the chandelier for socks…

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Morning After the Night Before

DH and I were up last night talking over Things. (Followed, naturally, by a 6:01 a.m. phone call from one of our banks to confirm that the letter I sent them had, in fact, been penned by me. Geeeeeez, for-why do we have a signature card?!?!…)

Pros and cons were discussed. Possibilities were gone over. Rants were had. Complaints were aired. There-there’s were uttered. A rather impressive amount of wine was consumed (Orovales Rioja 2004), and ultimately…a half-assed action plan was developed.

It starts with just hanging tight for this month. We just paid for the month of July at the older kids’ center anyway, and there being no school right now…eh. Don’t really want the two of them banging around the house being bored for the next five weeks.

But in August, they’re going back to school and we’re not going to pay for the after school care anymore. Saves us $850 a month right there. If it works, great! If not, well, I’m just going to have to give up the job. We can’t afford it, at that point.

The other thing is, I need to have more time to save money. There are a lot of things I’ve been doing that I don’t usually do, like buying a lot of our clothes at the mall instead of thrift stores, or paying a maid service to clean my house rather than doing it myself (I haven’t ‘needed’ them for quite a few weeks now…I just like having them do it…). That stuff needs to stop, PDQ. I need to be able to do this stuff during the day, during the week – a lot of my best frugal sources aren’t open into the night or on weekends. And vacuuming the house at 8:30 at night? Yeah, right.

So what I’m going to do is adjust my work schedule. We aren’t an 8-to-5 kind of company anyway; I’m putting myself on a split shift, with a large two to three hour lunch break, suitable for cruising thrift stores, ‘doing’ Costco and the meat market, and otherwise doing all the little tweaky things I’ve picked up over the years to trim dollars and cents off my budget.

Should make for an interesting quarter, anyway, huh?

Things are just never dull, around the Den…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Not exactly encouraging…

Remember how I ranted a couple weeks ago about how I thought I was losing money by working?

I now have an actual number. After a great deal of lying to myself about just how much less I could actually spend if I would only apply myself careful consideration, I have determined that I am losing roughly $511 a month by working.

Give or take $500.

It’s no wonder I’m suddenly on a rampage about simplifying and blah blah blah. Our lives took an exponential curve on the Complication-o-Meter when I went back to work. And while I didn’t have a line-by-line accounting for it, I knew that the bottom line wasn’t looking good.

Still, I was a bit surprised when I took my income, and all the stuff that would change without it (like train tickets, daycare, and so forth), subtracted the former from the latter and came up negative. It was almost $1,200 negative at first. I had to do a lot of “naaaaaaw, this one doesn’t count!” and “well, but I’m sure I wouldn’t change that particular thing THAT much!” before I wrestled it down to a mere <$511>.

I had hoped there would be more in the ‘fluff’ department than there is. I had hoped for, I don’t know, “we spent $6,028 on eating out!” or “did we really spend $650 on pillows?”

But it just wasn’t there. There was a slightly higher grocery bill, $570 a month compared to a norm of around $500, and a lot more pizza nights…but the number one offender is the one thing I can’t really get around while working: daycare.

The daycare is eating up 65% of my gross salary. Gross, not net. Throw in 28% going to taxes, and I’m left with 7%. Buy a couple trains tickets and a tank of gas, and I’m flat broke. And just to make sure I felt fully sick to my stomach, I got a rate increase notice last week. Instead of going down by almost $200 a week in August, it’ll be going down by a total of $67.

That hurt. That hurt a lot. I know all about rising costs blah blah blah, but can I just point out that your parents are not likely to have gotten a 20% pay raise lately? Which is the amount that Center #1 just raised its rates? And as I went past the office at Center #2 today, I overheard the director and her assistant discussing the ‘coming rate increases’.


(Jesus-Mary-an’-Joseph, for you non-fallen-away-Catholic-types.) (But you hafta say it like this: JAY-sus, Mah-ree and Joe-siff.)

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do. I’m really not. From a cold hard numbers perspective, it just isn’t working and I should bow out ASAP.

I can’t even claim that I love my job and can’t imagine life without it. I half love it, and half hate it. Which works out to an overall ‘eh’. Given that one of the joys is getting the paycheck…and the paycheck is promptly slashed to ribbons before I even get it into the bank…


I won’t be able to put anything into the 401k; I’m not due a raise for a long, long time (and even when it comes around, it won’t be for much); the $300 bill for fall registration fees is coming up soon…ick.

Well, I have a couple things I can explore. There is some fluff in there; and given that I’ve gone to a 75% telecommute schedule, everything from the commute to dress socks should cost me less. And I’ve contemplated bringing Eldest and Danger Mouse home from daycare – they’re only there a few hours in the afternoon as it is, I don’t see why they couldn’t just come home after school. They’re old enough not to need constant supervision; or at least to understand the phrase, “If you don’t stop pestering me while I’m trying to finish this, I will end you…”

Still. Feh. And, thanks to the @*^@&ing diet, there is no chocolate currently in this house. Except the cocoa powder. Which I suppose I could work into a batch of brownies or something, which means I’ll have dirty dishes to clean up…argh, will the torment never end?!?!

…plus, it’s cheaper

Don’t you just love how I respond to emails I get from various sources on my blog? Ahem. Anyway. Now that we’re on Wave 2 of the Sonoma Diet, the weight loss has slowed; so they’ve helpfully sent along some hints to help crank it back up. Eating more ‘Tier I’ vegetables (which are along the lines of celery – takes more calories to chop, dice, and consume than you get from said consumption), blah blah blah.

Then they threw out this: Lastly, buy real, whole foods instead of packaged stuff. That way, you eliminate the chance of consuming hydrogenated fats, additives, and refined grains.

Yes, and! It’s usually cheaper! Amazing, isn’t it? Bundled with the convenience is often a healthy dose of preservatives, hydrogenated fats, salts and other ‘!SURPRISE!’ things, for which you pay a hefty premium!

A single apple out of the bin costs maybe a quarter. One quarter of one apple, sliced and dusted with salts to prevent browning in the bag, will run you $0.75 to a buck.

This, to me, is pretty simple math. I can buy a single apple, slice it up and give it a touch of lemon juice to keep it from turning "icky colored" and put it into my kid's lunchbox. Yes, they want fancy packaging. Tough. (OK, I confess: I've been known to adorn the baggie with stickers. Any port in a storm, friends...)

I’ve been reading labels a lot more than usual lately; I think the thing that surprised me the most was bread. When I make bread from scratch, it contains mostly unbleached white flour, some whole grain flour, yeast, a sugar of some type (granulated, honey, molasses – something for the yeast to munch on), salt and water or milk.

That’s it. Five ingredients. All of them things easily recognizable by most humans. Shoot, I think if my ancestors were to drop in from 1200 B.C., they’d recognize what I’m putting into my bread (except the yeast, which I long ago stopped making myself – Red Star from Costco is cheaper, faster, and more reliable; the taste is very different from ‘wild yeast’, but then again I don’t have a bubbling cauldron on my counter all the time being washed out by my mother who thinks I’ve just forgotten about it and let it go bad even though I’ve told her at least six million times that it’s my WILD YEAST which took me FOUR MONTHS to get to bubble ‘just right’…but I digress…)

Read the label on your bread sometime. Holy carp. Forty ingredients, and I only recognize about six of them. Sure, my homemade bread will spoil faster than Wonder Bread (blech)…but it seldom hangs around long enough for that to happen.

And after you’ve read the labels, check the prices. Amazingly, sometimes…healthier food is cheaper.