Saturday, December 27, 2008

No cold feet!

This Christmas, I declared war on cold feet and made socks for those (thankfully few) adults on my gift list.

Christmas Socks

My favorite of the bunch has got to be these, which are made with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd sock in Country Christmas:

Lorna's Laces Christmas Socks

That’s the Waving Lace pattern from Interweave’s Favorite Socks. The lace broke up what would have been a plain stripe color and made it kind of funky fresh.

Typically, I was frantically finishing the toe of the last sock on Christmas Eve. Not only did Christmas pull its usual thing where somehow, in spite of being there in plain black and white ink on the calendar, December 25 snuck up on me and came at least three weeks sooner than I expected, but also…well.

It turns out that I apparently do not believe in the space-time continuum. Or at least, do not respect it as pertains to my knitting.

For perfect (and extremely recent) example: It takes me between eight and twelve hours (depending on complexity and size) of hands-on knitting to finish a (one, singular) sock. A pair of socks, therefore, takes me between sixteen and twenty-four hours of work to complete.

So when I cast on the last pair, which were for a man (larger size), and also decided to use the Retro Rib pattern both because it makes for a handsome finished sock and is interesting to knit, I said gaily to myself that Ha, ha!, these were probably going to take the whole twenty four hours to knit up, HA HA!

So I cast on Monday, and expected to be wrapping them Wednesday morning. Because in my world, one can find enough time to put in sixteen hours of work-work, keep the family fed and in clean clothes, do the last-second Christmas shopping, pay the end of month bills and deal with approximately sixty thousand insurance and contract related questions WHILE ALSO getting in twenty four hours of knitting and perhaps a few hours of sleep…in a forty-eight hour period.

Imagine my surprise when Wednesday morning rolled around and, in spite of neglecting the housework in a truly shameless way and perhaps attending a little less…attentively…to our business for two days, PLUS staying up until nearly midnight twice, I was only just turning the heel and starting the longer-than-I-expect-somehow jog to the toe.

Stupid space-time continuum. It’s so…inflexible.

However, by ignoring the housework even more (the Den looks like a dump truck drove through it with a troop of rabid monkeys having a party in the open back hatch) (also, nobody has any clean clothes) I did manage to skid my way to the toe as Christmas Eve was inexorably ticking into Christmas Day:

Gray Mens Socks

There were a few tense moments in our relationship – the purls felt too slow and I was regretting choosing an “interesting” pattern before I hit the heel of the second sock because I was on! a! schedule! dammit!, but I forgave them when they turned out so handsome and since they are inanimate objects, it turned out that for their part there was nothing to forgive.

And then I promptly tossed them into a box, wrapped them and handed them to my brother. Possibly still warm from the dryer, since I blocked them Christmas morning.

As I was grafting the toes, I told myself happily that now I could take some time off from knitting. Because really, that was an awful lot of knitting and whew. Yeah. A little break would be good.

Which is why, an hour later, I was squinting at five different skeins trying to decide which one was exactly right for a nice, lacy scarf, not too fancy but maybe just moderately, you know, interesting.

This knitting thing. It’s a disease. (But at least it is a warm and fuzzy one.) (REALLY fuzzy, as it turns out – I selected a 100% alpaca that is almost as furry as mohair, which would ordinarily annoy me no end but since it is not sock yarn, I am perfectly content to keep a lint brush handy and enjoy the novelty of the thing.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

“They'll blow their who-hubas! They'll bang their gardinkas!...

…Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise! If there's one thing I hate...oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!" - The Grinch

Guess what it’s like around here this morning? Go ahead! Guess! Need a hint?

Box wrapper

Do note that it is not even fully unwrapped. Ahem. Meet my son, the world rattling famous drummer:

Noise noise noise

This also came with a set of cymbals OH YES IT DID!

The worst thing of all is that this was not inflicted on us by, say, my rotten little brother their loving uncle or perhaps my revenge-seeking mother their doting grandmother, NO!

I bought this drum set for my boy. Me! Myself! Bought it, intentionally. I saw it at Toys R Us and I thought, “Oh! Captain Adventure would love this so much!” and then I bought it for him. And I wrapped it. And I put it under the tree. And then actually gave it to him!

…no, I don’t know what I was thinking, either…

Right now, the house is full of noise-noise-noise-noise.

Boo Bug and Danger Mouse are playing Twister for the very first time in their lives, with their father calling the moves. I’m not sure which is louder, the squeals from the girls or the shouts of laughter from their daddy.

Captain Adventure can’t decide what he wants to do most – bang the drum set? Play with the racetrack? Throw the new wooden trains through a window? SO MANY CHOICES! He’s buzzing around the Den like an over-caffeinated bee, literally careening off the walls and showing everybody his new stuff. (It doesn’t help that Santa stuffed their stockings with chocolate coins, gingerbread cookies, and a Rice Krispy treat in a size that defies description.)

There were whistles and plastic harmonicas in the Christmas crackers. The drum and cymbals. The Twister game, the racetrack set. New dresses…and if you think clothing is a quiet kind of present, you have not been around three fashion divas who do not receive many “party dresses” in the average year.

The squealing was epic.

The only relatively quiet kid in the house is Eldest. See, she received a new wireless card for her laptop (which is so old I think it is somewhat miraculous that a) any modern wireless card would work with it and b) it can actually, you know, surf the Internet with anything that could be called reasonable speed), and the whole entire world (or at least, that part of it our perhaps overly zealous parental controls will permit) is now at her fingertips.

We may not hear from her again for a week. Except when she emerges to yell, “GUYS! Come see the cool game I found!!”, which will be swiftly followed by pounding footsteps up the stairs and a pair of voices shrieking, “COOL!!!!!” from her inner sanctum bedroom.

Nossir. The Grinch would not be happy around here this morning.

But for us, it’s a glorious tintinnabulation, a raucous celebration of unbridled childhood happiness. The one time of the year when our children are indulged, immersed to their armpits in gifts, doted upon, permitted to eat solid blocks of sugar for breakfast, petted and pampered and spoiled absolutely rotten.

It’s a good day to be a kid around here.

And a good day to be a parent, too.

Hope your holidays are full of the noises you love best, gang.

…now. Where did I put the ibuprofen…?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am not very accepting

My Daily OM horoscope today is all about Accepting Uncertainty.

The important life decisions you are facing today could make you feel like being more cautious…Since we can’t control the ways in which our future unfolds, it is important for us to learn to find the balance between discretion and acceptance of uncertainty.


OK, OK, I’m having one of my “frozen due to excesses of Important Decisions” moments right now. And by “moments” I mean “months.”

Or perhaps I mean quarters, since really I’ve been in this kind of state since my husband’s “real” job went *poof!* at the beginning of October.

I am not accepting uncertainty particularly well right now – even though I have no choice. It’s not like me saying, “I don’t accept that I can’t know what is the right/wrong choice here” is going to change the fact that we are awash in factors outside of our control and that really, there is no “right” or “wrong” choice to make.

It’s all a matter of degrees. Whether I go with Insurance Choice A or B, there will be some percentage of wrong, and some percentage of right. Neither will be perfect. Neither will be unfathomably horrible.

What is horrible is the “none of the above” option. The option where I just sit here and do nothing, hoping that maybe it will all either resolve itself, or somehow become, you know…clear.

But I’m really struggling anyway. I know that the only bad choice here would be no choice at all, and that it will be OK because, well, what’s the worst that can happen, really? So, just…go ahead. Do the best you can with the knowledge you have now, and then just relax and enjoy the ride, right?

After all, my horoscope insists that:

By realizing that you can’t control the outcome of your decisions today, you will develop a greater peace of mind about what the future holds for you.


So. There you go.

I should be developing greater peace of mind aaaaaaaaany second now…here it comes…peace of mind…arriving shortly…

(hmm…maybe it’s stuck at the post office? After all, it is the busy season for them, right…?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Yesterday, I had an epifi-…effifin…epifan… made a realization, and it went like this: Holy @*&^@, Christmas is NEXT WEEK?!?!

That’s right folks, you heard it here first! Christmas is in fact next week.

As Dog is my witness, I had somehow convinced myself that it was still three weeks away.

I was convinced of this even though I know that Friday is the last day of school for the Denizens. And that they have two (2) weeks off, one for Christmas and one for New Year’s. Not to be confused with, say, three (3) weeks off before Christmas. Or five weeks off, two before, week of, and two after. Week of, and week after. Period. Starting next week.

I remained unshaken in this belief even though I have been making plans for all the assorted darting around we’re doing because of Christmas next week.

I maintained oblivion even though I not only own a calendar, but use the damned thing DAILY…I just…sort of…I don’t know. Convinced myself that this is not the Christmas you are looking for, and then I moved along.

And then yesterday while I was nervously fidgeting at the chiropractor’s office, I found myself fixated on the calendar hanging on the wall across from me.

Let’s see (she said to herself, trying not to think about the fact that the dude was about to come in there and manhandle a back that feels broken as it is, are we sure this is a good idea?)…there’s today, that’s the fifteenth, gracious me how time flies…soooooo, Friday is the nineteenth, uh-huh, surely is, now, I’m going to need to fit in a {shudder} shopping trip to Modesto between now and Christmas…not today obviously, not tomorrow, hmm, not this week I guess, so I suppose I could do that next week Wedn-HOLY CRAP, THAT’S CHRISTMAS EVE?!?!?!


Which, unlike the word that first popped to mind upon having it, does not have an ‘f’ in it.

I am making time for the stupid shopping trip tomorrow. I do not actually have the time, so I am hoping that I actually do have magic powers over the space-time continuum and can shove about three extra days into this week.

So. Just FYI: Christmas is next week.

You might want to pass it on, in case somebody you know is also an idiot date-challenged.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Selfishly holding on through gift making

I was sitting in the gallery at Eldest’s gymnastics center, galloping toward the toes of the then-current sock in progress, gleefully checking off another gift from the list of Christmas knitting and busily pondering the riveting and all-consuming question of which yarn and pattern would be best for the next person on the list, when I was approached in that sideways direction Muggles often take when they’re about to make a comparison between what you’re doing and something they saw recently at WalMart.

“I’ve never seen anybody doing that,” she exclaimed. “So, is that…weaving?”

“Ah, no, it’s knitting.” Weaving, huh? That’s a new one.

“I thought knitting was two needles?”

Blah blah blah socks on four DPNs, yadda yadda in the round yes it is pretty cool.

“So, where do you get the, uh, the stuff, to make those?”

“Oh, well, we have a really nice yarn store right downtown – she carries everything you’d need to get started. Sock Hop on Friday nights, come on down, she’ll teach you how and everything!” Just call me the walking Yarn Store Billboard…

“Sooooooooo…how much does it…you know, how much is that…” Ahem. Yes. Here comes the WalMart comparison…

“Well, that depends. The needles you only need to buy once…” (unless you lose them all the time like I do, in which case you buy them four or five times and then you start finding them all again and then you have Storage Issues because for heaven’s sake how are you going to keep thirty-seven 2.25mm double pointed needles “neatly contained” somewhere, but let’s not talk about that right now) “…so, you know, that’s about five bucks once and you use them forever. The yarn…”

Oh, the pause that happened there. It hung heavily in the air between us. I knew I was inviting the squeak of, “But you can buy six pairs for three dollars at WalMart!” explosion.

Still, there are no two ways around it. Making socks instead of buying them at WalMart is not economical. I’m not making socks for Christmas gifts because I’m trying to be cheap, and if you factor in the number of hours it takes me to finish each one, Good Grief.

These are, like, a $900 pair of socks.

(I’m not a fast knitter – determined, yes; fast, no) (willing to overlook the housework as much as I must to get the job done? oh hell yes!, because as all’y’all know, I am all about the noble sacrifices…my gracious, I would much rather be scrubbing a toilet right now, but it is my sacred duty to handknit something with love in the stitches for my rotten little beloved and only brother)

The silence hung there and grew for a second.

“Wellllllllllll,” I offered at last, right before the Bubble of Silence popped and spurted Awkward all over us. “See, OK. You can get enough sock yarn for a pair of socks for anywhere from, uh, well, let’s see. This here is from an online store called KnitPicks, and it costs about $4 a ball…and you need two of them for a pair, so that’s $8 for the pair.”

“Wow,” she said. I was waiting for the WalMart comment, and sure enough…I got one. Different store name, and a different sentiment, though.

“Wow. And that’s so unique. It’s nothing like what Old Navy is selling for five bucks right now. That’s only three dollars more, but they look really expensive.”

I almost yelled, “HA! YOU’RE NO MUGGLE!!!!! REVEAL YOURSELF, CRAFTER!!”, but figured blowing her cover in public like that might not be my most tactful move ever.

“Well, yeah…so, this is about the least expensive you can go, and then, well. OK. So, I made this other pair a little bit ago? I used a hand painted [brief digression while the concept of ‘hand painted’ yarns is discussed] yarn, see, and those…well, those cost $25 just for the yarn. But, OK, so, the thing is? I made them for my grandma because I had made her a shawl for her birthday out of a silk yarn that was painted in the same exact colors.” There was a pause while we both contemplated the crazy that this is. “So it’s like…you know…a theme gift. Sort of.”

There was another long pause. She watched me twiddling the yarnovers, moving around and around and around the four double pointed needles for a while.

“That is really smart. I mean, you go out and buy something for twenty five bucks and, what are you going to get? I could get my sister one of those $10 scarves at Old Navy but, you know, she’s going to know it’s a cheap $10 scarf. She shops there too, you know? I spend $25, it’s still going to be on cheap crap.”

You are SO TOTALLY a crafter, I thought. What is it, beading? Scrapbooking? Quilting? C’mon, give…you’re SO not a Muggle…

“Do you do any crafts?” I asked casually. (Because I am not a bit nosy, just making idle conversation and all.) (Shut up.)

“No. I don’t have the time,” she tucked her hands under her armpits, snickered and corrected herself. “I don’t make the time. Look at you. You’re making the time, huh?”

“When I’m sittin’, I’m knittin’,” I admitted. Soon I was whizzing around the toe decreases. The socks would be blocking before bedtime, and I’d be rooting through my sock yarn drawer searching out the next pair.

As I began grafting the toes together, she leaned over to watch. I showed her the crazy-talk that is the Kitchener stitch, and explained that it made a good strong seam that wouldn’t let any cold in (unlike drawing up the stitches, where there’s often a little hole right at the tip), or leave an uncomfortable lump under my Undisclosed Future Recipient’s big toe.

“You know, I really need to learn how to do that,” she said, with surprising force. Usually those words are spoken dreamily, in tones that make it clear this is merely a social nicety, and should not be construed as an invitation to inform the speaker of all the various ways and means by which they could learn before sundown this very day.

“Well, Kathy would be delighted to show you how,” I said. “Her yarn store is right downtown, by the big Bank of America building.”

“I think it’s the kind of thing everybody should be doing,” she insisted. Before I could admit that there were people who would rather hang by their thumbs than take up knitting, she reached out and poked at the sock. “This takes a lot of thought. I mean, you have to think about size and color, and…and…what stuff to use, and things like lumps in the toes…”


“You have to think a lot about each person on your list, when you make things for them.”


“It’s personal. It’s really, really personal. It’s…well, it’s like…I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

Well…I’m afraid I do know where you’re trying to go, there. I’m terribly sorry, my dear, but you’ve been bitten by a rather dangerous little bug. The symptoms might be purely seasonal, and may go away on their own…but then again, they might not.

So, uh, you might want to think about clearing out some storage space for whatever craft you’re about to take up. Just in case.

Because, girlfriend…you’re feeling the need to give yourself to the people you cherish. You’ve got that vague itchy feeling that you want to give things that aren’t merely things, but things you’ve created specifically for this one person.

Something with some of your own sweat, and blood, and tears, and maybe a choice cuss word or two, woven right on into the fabric. With love, dammit!

It isn’t about trying to spend less money. Shoot, if it was, I wouldn’t have moved on to the Lorna’s Laces for the next sock, trust me. This particular infection is an utterly selfish, utterly absorbing need to hold onto the experience of giving to this person longer. To think about them as you dig through the yarn store (or your stash, if you’re lucky enough to have a big enough one to be able to “shop” it) to find a color and fiber that suits them, to hold them in your mind as you flip through pattern after pattern, matching the style to them and the yarn…and then each time you pause to look at what you’re doing, to think about the next steps, as you’re creating the Something for them, you’re bringing them back into your mind again and again and again.

Some people just get the seasonal version. After the holidays, it fades for a while. Lies dormant through the summer, and only returns when the festive seizure season is upon us and we’re trying to find gifts to express our love and affection for those closest to us…and finding everything comes up short, somehow, no matter how high the price tag goes.

Some of us get the incurable form of the disease. In the ‘knitting’ version of it, we’re shopping for Christmas-gift yarn by January, and putting sticky notes on patterns all year around. We’ve got drawers dedicated to stashing the gifts we finish in February, and are constantly on the lookout for sales on empty gift boxes.

We also manage to tell ourselves that spending caps don’t count if you use stash yarn. Sure, granted, the cap is technically $25 for this particular gift exchange and technically the Schaefer Andrea is $52 a skein but!, see, I bought it, what, two years ago? So it’s a sunk cost, and I’m sure if you add in a little depreciation, it’s sure to be under $25 by now, right…?

Besides, what the Muggles don’t know won’t get me busted. And if there’s one thing Muggles really don’t grasp well, it’s how much a skein of hand dyed, 100% cultivated silk runs out there in the retail yarn world.

It’s a sad, sad condition. And worst of all, we think we’re happy, enfolded in warm fuzzies, aglow with the happy task of making by hand that which could be purchased for five bucks at a discount retailer near us.


And Lord, I hope they never do find a cure…because those socks are the perfect color for my Undisclosed Future Recipient, and I think they turned out rather well. For the inquiring minds, they were the Girly Girl socks designed by Robin Fouquette, from Interweave Press’Socks. The yarn is KnitPicks Essentials, in Burgundy.

The sock blockers are relatively new, and I am amazed that I went without them for so long because having owned them for, what, four months, I can’t imagine life without them:

Girly Girl socks

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exciting news, or what passes for it around here

Captain Adventure has finally started using the potty again. I know, I know. HOW NICE, THANK YOU FOR SHARING GEEZ WHAT IS IT WITH PARENTS AND WANTING TO TELL US ALL ABOUT THEIR KIDS’ TOILET HABITS?!?!?!?!

But what makes this exciting is that, well, first of all, he’s four, for Pete’s sake. FOUR. 1-2-3-4. Almost halfway through four, actually, and he has steadfastly refused to even admit a potty exists since a brief flirtation/fascination with it a year ago.

I was beginning to wonder if I would be packing the Pull-Ups in his briefcase when he headed off to work.

But what makes this extremely exciting to me is that he has started not only using the potty, but insisting on using it, RIGHT NOW because he has finally, finally, finally begun to understand the if-then statement.

One of his developmental delays has been around this ability to grasp things like, FIRST we do this, THEN we do that.

IF you do this, THEN you get that.

IF you do that again, THEN I will scream until my voice gives out, you little @*^&@.

He had trouble even with very immediate, very direct things. FIRST sit at the table, THEN I will give you juice.

Honey, sit down. Sit down, and I will get you juice. No, don’t start crying, I’m getting you juice – but I want you to sit down first. Sit down. See? I’ve got the cup. I’ve got the juice. You sit down, right there, at the table, and I will hand you the…sit down. Sit down first. If you sit down, I will hand this to you.

And he stands there reaching out imploringly, screaming like someone is driving bamboo under his toenails. Why won’t the woman just give me the juice?!


So the other night, he was skipping around and around and around the coffee table…and then he suddenly stopped and assumed an expression most parents of toddlers recognize immediately. A look of extreme concentration.

Definitely there is some action going on.

“Hey, Captain Adventure, do you need to go potty?” I asked. He shook his head no and grunted. Uh-huh.

“Hey, buddy, I think you need to go potty,” I suggested. This is a delicate thing. Push too hard and he’ll go into meltdown…but at the same time…COME ON, KID!!! I’ve been changing diapers non-stop for more than ten years, cut me a break, will ya?!?!

“No,” he gasped. Not gonna do it. No way, no how, I like me m’Pull-Ups…

“Hey. Captain Adventure? If you use the potty, then you can pick a treat from the bas-” ZOOM! He was in the bathroom with his pants down working mightily toward getting a treat. “-ket.”

Whoa. Behold the power of the Reward Basket, people! He did it twice yesterday, and this morning flat out refused to come out of the bathroom until he had done some business…and collected a reward. He was within moment of having to get on the bus without any breakfast, but by God, he went in the potty and got a bag of fruit snacks.

I almost sprained my wrist giving Daddy a high five.

These are the things that you just never think you will get all swoon-y about, when you envision raising children. I mean, sure. There’s a definite thrill involved as a child graduates from diapers to potty for the parents. Each time, I was relieved that there was one more little bottom I didn’t have to wipe five-six-ten times a day, ya know?

But Captain Adventure adds a unique kind of joy to these mundane domestic moments. Things that our typically-developing daughters achieved to little more than a sigh of relief, or an absent-minded, “Wow, smart kid, huh?”, from him bring tears to our eyes.

Each time we can talk him away from a meltdown, each time we can use reason when he’s heading for a hissy fit, each time he thinks something is cool and wants us to see it, too…little things I frankly took for granted with my other children.

Each time he hurts himself and comes to me for cuddles and kisses…each time he asks for a favorite show by name…each time he uses specific words to tell me what he wants…each time I understand him…each time he understands me…it’s a thrill of victory.

He understands that if he uses the potty, then he can select a reward from the basket. And he understood it without me having to get the basket and lead him to the potty, and hold the basket in front of him saying, “IF you use the potty, THEN you can have something from this…” and physically leading him through what I was trying to say…with him just not getting it and going hysterical because he doesn’t want that potty-thing, he wants the reward, he wants the reward, he wants the reward, why are you not giving me the reward, it’s right there, RIGHT THERE IN YOUR HANDS…!!!!! NO, NOT THE POTTY-THING, THE REWARD! ARGH!!!!

He could see the basket in his mind’s eye, and understood what I was saying without having to be physically taken there. He got it, and he acted on it.

My God, it’s exciting, heady stuff.

Or what passes for it, around these parts.

Tune in next time, when I’ll get all dewy-eyed because Danger Mouse remembered something she was only told 7,176 times to do.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A cut above

Right before the cold weather descended in earnest, I got a haircut. Not my usual haircut. Not the ‘why don’t we just neaten up the ends’ request my Supercuts team is accustomed to, oh no.

I went and did it.

My hair is now officially short. Really short. Short-like-a-boy short.

Right before winter. Because I am always thinkin’.

It has been what you might call an adjustment. While the cut has gotten good reviews from people (once they pick their jaws off the ground, anyway), it still…well, it kind of freaks me out. In unguarded moments, I forget I’ve gotten a haircut, and then I’m all, “OH MY GAWD, TERMITES HAVE EATEN MY HAIR OR SOMETHING!!!!!”

OK, I don’t actually forget-forget. I remember the instant after I’ve done a startled double-take upon passing a mirror. Whoa, there’s some short-haired chick in my bathroom! Oh wait, that’s me…

I’ve been pondering getting this haircut for months. Months. I’ve been carrying around a picture of a model in my iPod for months-months-months, telling myself that c’mon, now, really – if you’re not going to “do” your hair, for Pete’s sake, do something about it.

I had the kind of long hair that looked fantastic, if I spent, you know, half an hour or so messing with it.

No, I don’t really know what that means. “Spending time on your appearance” doesn’t really appear in my dictionary, either.

I also regularly neglected to shampoo it, even though in recent years my scalp has gone from “normal” to “oily” and there is simply no way that I can go a day without a shower and honestly believe that nobody will notice.

They may be too nice to say anything, but I’m pretty sure they do notice.

Then finally, things began to really go downhill with my hair. It was heavy, dull, had split ends all the way up to my scalp, made me look tired when it was down and lazy when it was up, I hated it with the mad passion of a thousand burning suns…so I burst into Supercuts and got the super-short cut.

My stylist almost fainted.

But even though I did this over a month ago, it still feels weird.

I still find myself occasionally startled because something! touched! my! neck! (It’s called a breeze, and we get them occasionally around here).

I try to stick DPNs into my ponytail. Whoops. No, heh heh, no ponytail back there anymore, heh heh, yeah, I knew that…

My head also still feels lighter, and I find myself reaching up and toying with the shorn ends at the back of my head compulsively. Ohmygawsh, there used to be, like, HAIR…back there…

At this point, I’ve run into about everybody I know in town…but I tell you what, you don’t realize how many people you know until you do something shocking to your appearance and have to explain it to six thousand people, everywhere you go.

“Hey, how’s it going,” I’d say casually.

{Incoherent shriek} {sputter!} {gasp!} “Oh I mean wow! YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!!!!!!!!!”

Why yes, yes I did. Thank you for noticing. And then we’d go through the whole discussion of our hair and how much we hate it and yes, it was a pretty big move and so forth and so on and seems like everybody I know wants to do the exact.same.thing but doesn’t think she has the guts (you don’t need guts to slash your hair short…just momentary insanity will do…) and then four minutes further on into the store, “Hey, how’s it going?” {SHRIEK!!!!!}

Ahem. Yes. I know a lot of people in town.

And now I know this.

Today at drop off, I learned something else: There is a pool going among all this people I know here in town.

One has already been won, which was the how long until she gives up on that whole ‘what a great opportunity to just let it go gray’ natural-kick and dumps a box of dye on her head pool. Yeah. Hair dye happened already. Vanity, thou art my nemesis.

Although actually, it isn’t so much about appearance as feeling. That stupid gray makes me feel old and also tired. I feel tired and old enough just from General Conditions, y’all, I don’t need to look in the mirror and think, Wow, look at all those gray hairs…I must be tired, if I’ve got that many gray hairs… (I don’t know. A psychologist would probably have a field day with me, doancha think?!)

The other pool is whether or not I’m going to keep the short cut. I cut it somewhat shorter last summer, and then let it grow out again right away.

Apparently, a fair number of people are betting good coupons (we don’t bet money around here, we bet coupons, and the occasional $5 Starbucks card if you’re loaded) that I will be sporting a ponytail again by the end of summer.

Oh ye of little faith…besides, I’ve got a $5.00 off $50.00 purchase at Savemart on myself to make it at least to Spring Break 2010…

Coming up this week

One of the things we’re doing to try to keep the overall costs down without making the kids feel like they didn’t get to go or do anything is keeping a sharp eye out for low or no cost fun things to do with kids.

Last week we had the dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker, which could be a little hard for the general public to duplicate – we got our tickets through Captain Adventure’s autism program, and most of the other people in the audience were friends, family or students at the college where the performance was held.

This week’s “big” thing is a bell choir performance being put on in a local library – out in Ripon, California. It’s free, and family-friendly. As a former bell ringer, I’m loving this opportunity to expose my kids to what the heck I’m talking about when I reminisce about being in a hand bell choir.

To find these sorts of things, I look first at the library’s own website. From preschool story time to professional clown performances, bell ringers to arts and crafts, the library offers a nice array of family-friendly stuff to do for little or no cost. In our area, these things are often poorly attended, as well – I suspect because many of us commute long distances, and frankly getting home and organized enough to go back out again in time to arrive by 6:00 at the library is a task beyond most of us.

Another good place to look is in the local newspaper…if you have one. Our little corner of paradise is so small we no longer have a daily newspaper (it comes out a couple times a week these days). You don’t need to subscribe to get the events, just go to Google and put in your nearest big dot on the map. You can easily find stuff like Holiday cheer, a listing from the Stockton Record of parades, festivals, cool places to see bright lights and so forth.

Speaking of which, we’ll probably be giving them just one more week to put on their finishing touches, but it is almost time for our annual “putter around town looking at lights” night. We have some very enthusiastic Christmas decorators around here, with one entire neighborhood taking the thing to extremes each and every year. So, I load up the Denizens and we go for a good old fashioned “little drive,” puttering through the neighborhoods to shriek and giggle about all the lights and statues and whatever-all-else our neighbors have scattered all over their homes.

Sure, a lot of these things are hardly Cirque. The parades aren’t Disney, the craft projects aren’t Martha Stewart, etc. etc. etc.

But they are inexpensive, and local – the thing that made the holiday parade fun wasn’t that it was just ever so brilliant a performance. It was the kids saying, “Oh! That’s officer Steve, he talked at our school!” or “Isn’t that our mayor? He talked at our school, too!”, not to mention the wild screaming and waving when friends from school were in the parade oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh, performing with their cheer squad or gymnastics or church groups.

Yeah. My ears are still ringing from those encounters.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

At the end of the week…

…I have $16 still in my wallet. Not too bad, all things considered. And I suppose this is a lot like casino gambling: If you don’t lose more than you intended to lose when you left the house, you’ve won.

This week was light on groceries ($12) and gasoline ($0 – no fill-ups this week!), but heavy on clothing needs. Two days after I’d done the laundry and put it away, my girls were all running around barefoot claiming they had no clean socks or tights. A drawer inspection concluded that my gut feeling that I had thrown away “an awful lot” of toeless tights and unraveling socks was correct – they were down to about two pairs of socks apiece, and no decent tights.

So I spent $12 on food, and $83 on clothes – but get this. The first almost $60 was on nothing but socks and tights (twelve pairs of the former, nine pairs of the latter). The second $23 got twelve long-sleeved shirt or sweaters for the girls, plus two for me – one of them a dark brown cashmere, hello!, courtesy of the local thrift stores.

One of the shirts I got for the girls is currently sold at Target, right this very minute, for $6.99. New with tags, for $2.50 $1.25, because it had a green tag and on Wednesday, everything with a green tag is 50% off! Which is also why the $5.00 cashmere! sweater cost me $2.50 at the register.

I simply adore green tag Wednesday, don’t you?! (Soft warm milk-chocolate-colored cashmere-ness…I haz it…)

We got our Christmas tree ($65) and went to see a dress rehearsal performance of The Nutcracker ($0). We also half froze to death enjoyed watching our hometown Christmas parade last night (but $0, again) and I just got back a little bit ago from the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea Party, the tickets to which I bought a couple months ago (sunk cost).

Apart from the tree and the foot-coverings at Target, the biggest ticket items this week were actually from the charity auctions and like that. The tickets to The Nutcracker were free, but we did end up putting $20 into the donation box, and another $10 went to stuff from the fundraising table. Pretty good value in exchange for six tickets to the production…even if it was technically a dress rehearsal. It was the perfect venue for our Denizens, who are fidgety and otherwise not exactly cultured.

Captain Adventure was entranced…for the first twenty minutes. Then he wanted to sit on my lap. Then he wanted to chat about Things. Then he wanted to get down, and also he was DONE…which I know, because he turned to me and bellowed, “MOMMY? I DUUUUUUUN!!!” at the top of his little lungs.

Ah, these are the moments in parenthood that you just treasure always. But the girls really enjoyed the performance (in spite of their brother being DUN! DUN! DUN!) and were blissfully unaware of the little things that marked it as a dress rehearsal environment – like the performers’ siblings running up and down the aisles, the ‘interesting’ sound handling and the occasional long…awkward…pause on stage, smiles glued desperately to their faces, arms held stiffly upward…waiting…for the music…to…start…again…aaaaaaaaaaaaany time now…

At the parade, the Red Cross had a silent auction running. I put in a ridiculously low bid on a lot with three handmade bracelets, a bottle of wine and a pair of wine glasses, fully expecting that I’d be outbid within moments.

Instead, well, apparently nobody knew they were there or something. I felt a bit like a thief, but since I was down to my last two twenties and still hadn’t gotten the kids any of the promised hot cocoa or snacks, sheepishly handed over my crummy $20 and took my ill-gotten goods prizes.

$14 in cocoa and hot snacks later, I loaded up the Denizens (and the extra young friend who had come along), came home and counted up my remaining cash. Sixteen bucks and a little change. Not too shabby…granted, I was hoping I’d have a bit more leftover, but hey.

Lots going on. I’m just glad it wasn’t worse – I had the opportunity for a fair bit of madness that I took a long, deep breath and said, “No thanks!” to over the course of the week, from buying new video games to a severely tempting sale at Webs.

The best cheap thing of the week has got to be the cashmere sweater I got for $2.50. WOOT!

The thing that makes me say, “Oh, man!” the most would be the Christmas tree…but frankly, it isn’t that big a groaner. I prefer to support community efforts where I can, and the supermarket conglomerate is not what I would normally consider a Worthy Cause. Their trees stank, the boy scouts had gorgeous ones, and while I really wish my husband had noticed the Douglas firs were less than half the cost and gotten me one (because they are, in fact, my favorite Christmas tree)…oh well.

It is a beautiful tree. It fills our home with that wonderful pine scent, and its trunk will make a nice Yule log for the rest of the year.

It was a good week.

Here’s hoping next week will be better, though, because we have travelin’ to do around Christmas!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Really, I'm working hard...

The cool thing is, this is totally one of my favorite games! Snagged the link from wilderness witch knits...

You Are Boggle

You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.

You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.

You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions

You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

(The training videos? Take boring to whole new levels. Seriously. I was actually nodding off. On the bright side, however, I have finished about 3" of a sock! Yay, instructors who can't see you knitting while they drone on and on and on about management studio and query windows and something about blah blah blah k2b, yo, k3, yo, k2tog, p2...)


The above title captures my entire brain activity right now.


I can’t explain it. I really can’t. It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to do. I have a ridiculous amount to do. I have Christmas decorating and knitting to do, I have housework that has been neglected a tad too long, I have business-related tasks coming out my ears…but somehow, each day goes by and I find myself looking back over it and saying, “Tsk!”

I didn’t get this or that done. The laundry is still all over the coffee table in the playroom. The counter hasn’t been clear of dishes for a fortnight. My bedroom floor hasn’t been swept in weeks.

I mean, really. Pick a task, any task. Pick one! Do it! Finish it! Go-go-go!

But instead…{blank}…

Thus far this week, the only really constructive thing I managed to do was pick up fourteen cold-weather shirts for the kids at $2 apiece from local thrift stores. And three loads of laundry. None of which have been put away, which kind of makes them useless. I mean, if the kids can’t wear their clean clothes, what good is it to wash them?

It’s like having a bad cast of start-itis. I start to do things, but then veer off into something else (or nothing else) and it isn’t until I’m trying to get to sleep that the fact that I didn’t actually accomplish anything occurs to me.

Each night I go to bed vowing to do better tomorrow.

Tomorrow (I say confidently) will be better. Tomorrow, my children will not be allowed to forget to brush their teeth or hair. Tomorrow, I will put away all those clothes, and scrub that whatever it is off the front hall tiles. Tomorrow, I will not give up on everything by 12:30 and spend the rest of the day sulking.

Tomorrow, I will watch the training videos so that I can take the practice tests so I can take the real tests and be named a Microsoft Certified Professional. (Ooooh, aaaaah.) (Gag me, OK? Just gag me. My disdain for such things is rather long-standing, and yet lo, they are becoming the new if you have it, so what…if you don’t, WHY not question. Argh!)

Tomorrow, I will fix our ugly company website. Tomorrow, I will get around to researching liability insurance in case our code brings down the global banking system. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

And here it is, yesterday’s tomorrow, and I’m just all…{blank}

I’m not sad or hopeless or actively avoiding work because I am lazy…I’m just a walking (or parked in front of the computer-ing) null space.

I’m dithering and thinking about maybe getting on with one thing or another, but the rubber just isn’t meeting the road, somehow.

And I suppose that blogging right now probably falls in the “dithering instead of getting on with things” category, huh?


OK. Fine. Training videos it is. But I reserve the right to make gagging noises, roll my eyes pointedly and snort frequently as they enthusiastically tell me how SQL Server 2005 is a powerful data management solution and that Microsoft engineering provides state of the art power to business intelligence.

And then there will be diagrams showing the Magic Circle of data input, storage, retrieval, mining, ‘meaningful reporting’ and so forth and so on. And probably some pictures showing hip young smiling people looking intelligent in carefully pressed shirts with more charts in the background showing profits are up-up-up and a caption about how Analysis Services makes it possible for hip young people in carefully pressed shirts to sit in meeting rooms smiling intelligently at each other with joy and enthusiasm because with the help of Reporting Services they have made a chart! GO TEAM!!!!!!!

(I’m sorry, was that sarcastic…?)

(It’s just that I hate training videos. And taking tests in things I know that I know, but now I have to know what they want me to know, and then there are ten ways to get the same answer and somehow my way is never the way they want me to do it and then they tell me my way is WRONG even though it isn’t wrong because hel-LO! Do we get the same result? YES WE DO. And my way is usually faster. So there. Nyah.)

(I swear, I’m not procrastinating. I’m just sayin’, is all.)

(Fine. Be that way. I’m going. Seriously. This is me, reaching for the training disk…extending my hand…toward the disk set…oh yes! It’s a set! A hideously long, twelve CD set of pictures and charts and sales pitches for Microsoft products training material.)

(I just suddenly remembered that I have something else I need to do right now. Something, uh, downstairs. Something else, which is downstairs, which needs doing right away…)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Attention Coin Collectors

Coinstar has a promotion running right now: Cash in $40 in coins in one go onto one of their participating gift cards or e-certificates, and they will give you an extra $10 when you mail in the bottom of your receipt. Through December 7, 2008 only, so grab those jars and get moving!

Read all about it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rolling up my sleeves

Oh look. Another holiday in the rearview mirror, Christmas on the horizon, four sparkly-eyed Denizens who by their very unselfish and forgiving natures make the idea of disappointing them unthinkable, and I’m on a “just opened a new business” kind of budget.

So! Game plan time! The question is simple: How to get through this festive season without going into the red.

The first thing I’m doing is opening up my wallet and taking out every last credit card. Believe it or not, it is possible to stagger through a day without one.

The second thing is, I’ll be taking a cash draw at the beginning of the week. That cash is for everything that doesn’t involve an online payment or automatic charge. Groceries, gasoline, gift buying, taking the kids places, everything.

Cash – you know, actual tens and twenties, that stuff? – has an amazing power. It can really force you to reorganize your priorities, when you know that what you hold in your hand is it. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

If you blow through your stash by Thursday, say goodbye to those weekend plans, friend.

Thus far, I have bought precisely one (1) present for the kids. I love the rhyme eclair shared a couple weeks ago…

Something they want
something they need
something to wear
and something to read

…and I’m sticking to it. Unfortunately, I’m still short three wants, four needs, four wearables and four books. Ahem. Well. Nice time to be starting a cash-only accounting method, huh?

But, I do love me a challenge.

So! Each week I will be giving myself a very generous and seasonally adjusted $240 for the buying of Christmas wants, needs, wears and reads, as well as the mundane, routine groceries, gasoline, and all the other etceteras of daily life in these United States.

What I hope to accomplish isn’t so much a trimming down of Christmas as keeping myself in check during a very frustrating and emotionally simmering time. The job market remains tighter than my purse strings, I’m still without my own work to do, we’re all just waiting-waiting-waiting. There is every danger that a bored, frustrated Tama who was just told for the umpteenth time that, while she is exactly what the employer was hoping and dreaming of finding, she is not going to get the job, is going to wander into Big Lots one day while her squirrel-mind is bent on hoarding against a hard winter to come and come home with yes, really, some 8’ or bigger lawn-frackin-ornament with its own generator and lights and holy Moses, what was I thinking?!

Well. What I would have been thinking would be something like this. We’ve worked long and hard, and it is not fair that “everybody else” (oooh boy, here it comes) has Christmas Spirit stuff bedecking their halls while our house looks like (oh yeah, it is on now, baby!) some kind of semi-abandoned Scrooge Lives Here place. We’re both college educated, we both work in high tech arenas where big salaries are normal, surely we deserve and/or can afford a few little things, right?

Next thing I know, I’m backing up a truckload of jingling whatnots we now “deserve” to store for 330 days a year in anticipation of The Season. Nice.

And then I’ll start in with just a few “little” things for the Denizens and before I know it, I’m up until midnight on Christmas eve wrapping crap they don’t want or need because I am not a loser!

Yeah. The Care Bears DVD proves that, for sure. Ahem.

There are times when you have to just know yourself. And I know that even in the best of years, I get somewhat, um, pensive in the wintertime. I have a long, convoluted theory involving sunlight, lack of same, and wearing of long sleeves all the time around it, but the upshot is, I go through “winter blues.”

And no, knowing that it is common doesn’t make it a bit better. I get testier than a bear that should be hibernating, and as irrational as a squirrel when it comes to hoarding. Oh yes, I hoard things through the winter. You slap a sale sign on it, I’ll probably toddle along and pick up a box or three within minutes. Doesn’t have to be something I need, want or even like…if I’ve got an empty inch of space at home, I’ll buy something to cram into it.

The worst part is the food. I buy food like this is the last opportunity, ever to buy it. That’s right, after this sale, I will be forced to survive by wild-crafting along the Delta. Sigh.

Yarn, clothes, food-food-food, books…there’s no real rhyme or reason. I just feel the need to pack my Den with stuff. It doesn’t “make me happy,” in fact it just makes me more anxious…but I do it anyway.

Unless I stop myself, look myself in the eye and say, FIRMLY, “Tama. Honey. You’re doing That Thing again. Knock it off.”

In good years, I can do that. Even in “eh” years, I can keep myself mostly in check.

This, though, has been and continues to be a very bad year. Between the financial stuff and the emotional stuff, and now it is getting cold and the sunlight is getting weaker by the minute (I’m telling you, California Girl over here needs her five-ten minutes of direct, more than 5% of skin exposed sun-cuddling at least a couple times a week)…I’m really worried that I’m going to actually break the hinges on the freezer stuffing it with on-sale stuff, or overload the upper story of the house with all the new toys I felt I just had to get, seeing as how they were 50 to 70% off and all…

It’s just better for all concerned if I ensure any damage done is limited to cash actually on hand, right this minute.

In slow doses, so I don’t blow the entire wad in a single mad romp through Goodwill.

And I do believe I will want to start with a nice weekly menu and a carefully controlled trip to the supermarket, if needed.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving was a blast. We drove down to LA to be with my husband’s insanely large family – I believe this is the first time in ten years that we’ve been there instead of here for Thanksgiving.

My mother-in-law lives twenty minutes from Disneyland. Go ahead, guess what we did Wednesday?

That’s right. Disneyland. The Denizens had a blast. Thanks to the threat of rain (which never really hit the park much…a few heavy drops a couple times, but the actual rain-rain hit us Tuesday night), the crowds were really light, and thanks to the handicap pass, Captain Adventure got to do a lot of really fun stuff. He went on Toy Story (which he didn’t really get) and Peter Pan (which he did totally get) and Soarin’ Over California (, he loves that ride soooooo much!).

Carousels? So last year. He wanted to go on the boats, and the airplanes, and the “castle” ride…which doesn’t actually exist but see, the castle is currently heavily decorated with lights? Which means it must be a ride! So we kept wheeling back and forth through the castle gate showing him that it was not a ride.

We also went on Pinocchio and Snow White more than a few times, because they had almost no lines whatsoever. The handicap pass is not like a magic pass that gets you immediately onto the more popular rides – it cuts your wait at least a bit and occasionally dramatically (Toy Story, for example, had over an hour wait but the pass got us on in literally about ten minutes) and lets you wait in a quieter area (the real selling point to yours truly), but it doesn’t mean you just saunter in and hop right on.

You have to wait, too. And for rides like Peter Pan and Mr. Toad, where the “normal” wait time is between thirty and ninety minutes, you could very well wait twenty or more minutes in the ‘handicapped’ line. (I know, big whoop – but when you’re an autistic four year old, even ten minutes can lead to mind-numbing screaming and the parents having to beat a hasty retreat, which of course leads to even more screaming, now in stereo, because the very disappointed sisters are adding their voices to the chorus…)

So! As the lines got longer, we gravitated toward rides with shorter lines or “almost immediate” handicap access.

He had another awesome day at the park. He had another day of new words and happiness and he still loves the Tiki Room (I spotted a Tiki bird pin on a cast member’s lanyard and traded for it – Captain Adventure wore it for the next two days straight, pointing to it and yelling, “Hey! Is BOIRD! Is Eeeki BOIRD!” at people.)

After the fireworks, we went back to our hotel room and ordered in the Thanksgiving pizza. Captain Adventure ate one slice, threw away his plate, thought about things for a minute, staggered like a prizefighter after a fifteen round loss to the pizza box, selected another slice, stumbled to the trash to retrieve his plate, put the pizza on the plate and took a tiny bite of it (the pizza, not the plate), meandered back to the bed so he could sit and eat and watch cartoons…

Captain Adventure Can't Party

THUMP! All partied out.

The next day, we bundled everybody up and puttered over to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. I can’t begin to describe the combination of weird and wonderful it was, to be sitting at the kitchen table with my knitting, a glass of really decent red wine, and a whack of family I don’t see that often going, “Blah! Blah blah blah blah! NO WAY! BLAH are you serious?! HAHAHAHAHAHA! BLAH BLAH BLAH! I KNOW!!” while the scent of a turkey I did not have to purchase, store, defrost, trim or baste every twenty minutes for four and a half hours baked itself to perfection in an oven I did not have to clean before or after the event.

Funny the things that pop to mind when you start trying to catalog the things for which we are thankful. For me, it usually ends up being a “too much to list here” kind of thing. Even with things being a bit less flush than usual, I still have so very much to be thankful for…starting with the fact that I know that I do.

It’d be easy to forget right now, I think. It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways. It’s going to continue being rough for the foreseeable future. I’d hoped to have a looser budget going into the holidays – instead, I’m trying to nip and tuck as hard as I can, trying to hold onto what cash we have as long as I can, in case.

But we’re still here. Everybody is reasonably healthy (ear infections and coughs aside), we have plenty to eat and drink, we can afford new jackets for the ever-growing children, we can easily manage our mortgage and good grief, are we ever busy with fun and inexpensive things to do next month!

Life is good. Life is very, very good – even when “times” are hard. Sure, we’re not going to be getting that better TV I’d hoped for this year, nor are we replacing the mostly-works DVD player, I won’t be calling up the satellite company and upgrading our program so that we have the “good” cartoon channels again, and there will not, in fact, be a gaming system under the tree. (Darn. I really wanted one. Uh, for the kids…)

But thankfully, I don’t really mind. I’m thankful that my life has taught me that none of that matters. I’m thankful that the things I really do need I already have in abundance, and am in no danger of having to go without.

I have love, and laughter. I have family. I have friends. When it comes to “stuff,” I have enough, which is not only as good as a feast, but better. Gorging tends to lead to hangovers and regrets and solemn vows that we will never, ever do that again.

Having “merely” enough is deeply satisfying, requires less Tylenol (and dusting) and allows us to cherish the things we do have even more.

Last but not least, thanks for being part of my lengthy list of stuff to be grateful for, gang. I have the best readers in the blogosphere, and don’t think I don’t appreciate that.

Because I do. Every single day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life and Taxes

Last week, I drove up to Sacramento to get a seller’s permit for our partnership. Oh, yes, you can mail in the forms, and then in “about two weeks” you should get your resale certificate.

Unless of course the forms somehow go missing.


So rather than wait four more weeks to learn that the forms had gone missing a third time, I finally got my lazy behind into the car and drove on up there to shove my paperwork under the nose of a very nice young man who handled it all for me in about five minutes flat, after I’d knitted for about twenty minutes in the lobby.

Businesses were being bought and sold. Accounts were being opened and closed. Stories were being told, small dramas unfolding at each of the windows.

I found myself wondering about the clerks behind the windows. The blinds would go up, and there would be the business owner. Some angry, some confused, few of them knowing what, precisely, it was that they wanted.

“I was told I’d need this…”
“Sooooo, if I have no sales, do I still file?”
“I’m selling this business…”
“I’m closing this down…”
“I’m just opening up…”
“I’ve already been in business for two years, is that bad?”
“Nononono, he no speak-it zat, I speak for him is good OK?”

Did they ever feel like priests taking confession? Did they ever feel like throttling the morons on the other side of the glass? Did they ever wonder how they ended up here, listening to this, day in and day out?

Did they ever remember that once upon a time, it had all been new and confusing to them, too?

I’m guilty of that myself, altogether too frequently. I get impatient with people who can’t remember how to make a purl stitch, or find myself wanting to smack the daylights out of someone who, after spending twenty minutes sobbing about their dire financial straits, proceeds to tell me they just can’t possibly live without the 250 cable channels and twice-daily latte.

A younger man began screaming at the Franchise Tax Board window. Did the State not understand what he was saying?! He’d already lost his house and his job…he didn’t have the money and he wasn’t going to have the money and what did they want from him, anyway?! Seven hundred and forty-eight dollars, son…seven hundred and forty-eight dollars…

An Indian lady alternated speaking softly and politely to the clerk assisting her with screaming into her cell phone. Whoever was on the other end of that phone was in troooooouble…she was so angry that her tirade into the phone switch back and forth between English and her native tongue almost at random. I gathered that somebody had sort of forgotten to send the sales taxes they’d been collecting to the Board. Whoops. The Board gets testy about that kind of thing, after a while.

“Yeah, OK, so…see, here’s the thing, OK? So, basically, I’m mowing lawns. That’s my business. But this guy I know? He said I need this. Because, you know, if I buy lawn chemicals and use them for my clients? Then I don’t pay sales tax because I have this, but I charge them sales tax for, you know, the portion of the stuff I use on their lawn, right? Is that right?” Hoooooo, boy. Keeping track of how many ounces of each bottle you use for each customer would be SO much fun…

“No, that’s right, I’m no longer in business. I had a couple sales in October, but nothing since. {long pause} Yeah. Nothing since. I’m done.” Ouch.

“But we paid the previous owner $250 for this permit!” OUCH. Seller’s permits are FREE to the business owner…you was HAD, sweetie…

Finally, my name was called. I went to the window and handed over my paperwork. My clerk asked a few questions, was pleased that I understood most of the process (this isn’t the first time I’ve had a seller’s permit), entered some codes on the computer, which sent a command to the printer, which spat out a bright yellow piece of paper with the words DISPLAY CONSPICUOUSLY AT PLACE OF BUSINESS FOR WHICH ISSUED at the top.

“Here you go. You will file annually, with your first filing due July 2009.” (“You will file annually” is Board of Equalization-ese for “Ha ha, how cute, you’re opening a little business-y thing!”) “We recommend using our e-file service, it is fast and free. At that time, and at each subsequent filing, the Board may review your filing status and require quarterly or monthly filing instead. This handbook explains the do’s and don’ts of your seller’s permit. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call or write – we urge you to send all questions in writing, so that in the event you are given misinformation you will have protection against wrongful pursuit by the Board.”

“Great. Thanks.” I took the form and the heavy envelope of instructional material.

“All right. Well. Good luck out there,” he nodded pleasantly.

“Thanks,” I repeated, nodding back. He reached out his hand and dropped the shades over his window. Well. That’s a pretty clear “OK, thanks for coming – now leave”, huh? I gathered up my things and headed back toward the elevators, shreds of other people’s problems clinging to me as I went.

“So if we pay this $2,400 today, you will lift the lien?”

“Look, I don’t know why I’m even getting this, I paid for August AND September already!”

“I got this notice…”

Anger, anger, anger…and then, as bright and unexpected as a shaft of sunlight in a thunderstorm, an exultation.

“Wow, wow, wow, honey! Look! We’re in business!!”

Right in the middle of the sterile floor, they huddled together and beamed at their permit. Excited, happy, embracing, almost giddy. Since you need to have your DBA filed and business banking accounts and so forth in place before you can get the permit, it’s often the last barrier to entry for a California business.

The whole room stopped. We all smiled, even those who were wrangling with implacable clerks. More than a few of us extended our congratulations and best wishes. You’d think it was a maternity ward, and we were admiring their newborn.

I guess in a way, it was…and we were.

It’s a terrible economy for starting a new business. Recession, deflation, market uncertainty, each new day bringing a new and terrible surprise nobody saw coming. Furthermore, nine out of ten small businesses fail in the first two years even in good times, for one reason or another. The market wanted buttons but the business only sold pins…the owner thought “setting your own hours” meant something other than “any eighteen out of twenty-four you’d like!”…bookkeeping wasn’t their forte…the reasons for failure are endless.

And yet, here we are. Small business owners. Micro-businesses, most of us. Tiny little boats launching into a rough and wild sea, hoping we’ll find gold in the New World we sense is out there. You know…out there in the uncharted part of the map, the part that says, Here there be dragons.

It’s a miracle we can survive the peculiar energy mix flowing through us, each and every one. We’re anxious and hopeful, optimistic and terrified, trying to keep a realistic head on our shoulders even as we say we’re going to be that one in ten that doesn’t fail in the first two years.

We’re going to make it work. We’re going to do this thing.

Wow, wow, wow. We’re in business.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Today is the last day of after-school care for the Denizens. School is out for a week starting Monday, the girls’ after school program doesn’t run on days school isn’t in session, and Captain Adventure’s daycare is closed for most of the week for Thanksgiving…so really, this is it.

This is the last day I have a block from 8:00 to 5:00 for, you know, stuff.

I feel as though I should be doing one of two things: Everything, or nothing.

I should either be doing all those things that are difficult to do with young children pelting up and down the hallway, or I should be out there at Starbucks sucking down peppermint mochas and knitting until 4:59 tonight.

Instead, I’m…puttering.

I’m playing at working, followed by a little Internet surfing, then I say, “Hey! Wake up, stupid! Either do something, or go do nothing!!”

And then I do neither something nor nothing until suddenly I realized that I am once again puttering around.

I think a large part of my problem today is that I have absolutely zero motivation. I woke up this morning already dead tired, and it has only gone downhill from there. About the only productive thing I’ve done all day long was creep out a fellow mom by staring fixedly at her precious toddler, muttering to myself, while my husband and I waited for our coffee at Starbucks.

Her adorable child was wearing an equally adorable knitted poncho. Which I could so totally make, probably with something already in my stash.

You know how it is.


I just really can’t seem to light a fire under my behind today. Not even to do something vacation-y.

I just keep puttering.

I’m going to be pissed next week, when I can’t do anything because I’ve got four Denizens charging around screaming and carrying on. When I can’t leave the house alone, when I can’t string two thoughts together and call it a chain, when I can’t sit down in my comfy chair and knit for more than five minutes without somebody bursting into my life with some Urgent Thing Or Other.

But even knowing this…I can’t make myself focus.


Right. OK. I’m going to go check the mail drop. Maybe if I just leave the Den, Inspiration will strike I will suddenly find myself passionately engaged with…something.


And if nothing else, there’s still $8.55 on that Starbucks card I got from MyPoints last week…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Self preservation: FAIL

I’ve been knitting a lot of lace lately. Having discovered that I am, too, Knitter enough to handle it, perhaps I’ve gone a little crazy with the lace-knitting thing.

The only “problem” with lace knitting is that while it consumes vast quantities of cussing wine time, it does not consume a vast quantity of yarn. (You can see why “problem” is in quotes, right? Actually, especially with the KnitPicks $3-4 a skein lace weight yarns, lace knitting is a very economical way to go and hence I am even more fond of it – hours and hours of pleasurable work on something that makes people go, “Oooh! Aaaah!” and it cost me $6?! Ship it!)

So as I was digging around for the next Great Thing, I said to myself, firmly, “Let’s see if we can’t find something to do with one of the bulkier yarns in the old stash…reduce the overall footprint of the stash and like that.”

There then followed about four days of flipping through patterns and guesstimating how much yardage was left on each ball and pondering and other such things before finally I got a kerchunk: a jacket from Sweaters for a Lifetime from Leisure Arts, shown here on the back cover:

Booklet Back Cover

I had exactly the right yarn for it, too: Ten balls of Classic Elite Skye Tweed (100% wool, in almost exactly the same green as the jacket on the back cover) I got up at Mendocino Yarn Shop last year during a huge! “happy birthday to me” sale put on by the owner (who is a doll – if you’re in the Mendocino area, you really must check out her shop…go ahead, it’s OK, you can blame me for whatever happens…).

So I cast on and happily knitted away during the news for a few days (nothing helps temper the distress of the national and local news lately like a new knitting project). It’s a simple pattern, easily memorized and pleasant to do even for those of us who have recently decided that really, what we need to do is stop taking all medications and see what happens. (Pain. Pain happens. But so does ‘better concentration’ and ‘less anxiety’ so, uh, well…back to the ‘which finger shall I cut off’ questions, huh?)

Then last night, I showed it to my DH.


(Trust me - the color is greener in real life.)

“This is coming along really well,” I crowed. “It’s going to be a great little jacket – look at how this fabric is coming together, nice and sturdy, not too stiff but I betcha the weather is going to just bounce right off it.”

“Uh, OK. It’s a what, a jacket?”

“Yeah, like this.” I showed him the back cover.

“Oh. Who’s it for?” I mean, it goes without saying that it probably isn’t for me. This close to Christmas? Please. It’s got to be for someone else.

“Actually…” (I am a rebel, yes I am…) “I think I might just keep it.”

“Oh! Wow, you’re knitting something for you?” He was impressed. Then…he snickered.

“What?” The frosty tone really should have been a warning…

“Hee hee hee…it’s just…hee hee…you’re knitting something for yourself, that is, you know, modeled by old people…so you’re ready for Old Person stuff now? I mean, you have been all about Coldwater Creek lately…”

Self Preservation: FAIL.

“Oh. Oh. Oh-oh-oh, no you did not…OK, buster, that’s it – you just totally made the blog!”

He howled with laughter. (Self preservation: double fail.)

Then, my beloved DH raised a finger into the air and bellowed, “The ‘D’ stands for ‘damned’ tonight!!”

Oh, yeah, he thinks he’s soooooo cute.

Wanted: One vest pattern depicting Oldest Man In The Universe, preferably toothless and looking cranky, to be toted around publicly while wearing my Old Person jacket and Coldwater Creek comfort-stretch jeans, with big Post-It note on it saying, “Perfect Vest for Darling Husband!”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Snot Rags and Universal Balance

Captain Adventure caught a cold two weeks ago. It was apparently the equivalent of a volcano clearing its throat before erupting.

Again. And again. And again.

As per usual around here, we didn’t all get it at once and be miserable all together for a couple days and then we’re back to real life. Oh no. First, the boy. Then me. Then, Boo Bug. Then me again. Then Danger Mouse. But I was fine! Then Eldest. And me again.

And now, the husband. And as of about 4:00 yesterday, I had to admit that it got me a-frickin-GAIN.

A steady flow of snot is covering the household. We have gone through not one but two Costco-sized packages of Kleenex in less A WEEK.

I mean, really now.

Naturally, with all this recent Kleenex-consumption going on, I’ve found myself thinking about handkerchiefs. I actually prefer handkerchiefs to Kleenex. I know, I know, ‘ew, snot rag!’ and all that.

But dudes...seriously...why is a Kleenex any better?

We have for some reason in our collective minds bestowed some kind of Mystic Powers on Kleenex. Behold, I shall sit at my desk shooting my snot into this little piece of heavily bleached, soft and pillowy paper, and due to its magic-imbued 20% recycled fibers, I shall not need to de-germ my mitts afterward!

We sit at our desks filling up boxes of (apparently) unicorn-horn-healing-powers-blessed paper with our blatantly germ-ridden excretions, and feel as though we have thrown the germs, all of them away with the balled up paper.

AND YET, it has been my personal experience that a Kleenex is far less sturdy a shield when it comes to keeping the wet stuff off my fingers than a decent handkerchief. Point being, I don’t really feel that a Kleenex is any more sanitary than a handkerchief. It’s all in what you do after you use it. I mean, if you’re going to wad up the soaked cloth and stick it into your shirt pocket…OK, ew. Granted. Ew-point goes to the anti-handkerchief camp.

But habitual handkerchief-users are prone to thinking ahead. When I was commuting and using handkerchiefs, I kept a little stash of them and a little zip-up makeup bag in my purse. After I used one, I’d stuff it into the makeup bag, use a little hand sanitizer (see? thinking ahead...) and go on with my life.

Now, let’s say you’ve got one of those little packages of travel Kleenex in your pocket or purse or whatever. What do you do if you’re out and about and OH MY GAWSH, I gotta blow, right now…and there isn’t a handy trash can? (Because obviously, you are not one of those disgusting apes who just drops it on the ground. You have class and breeding and don’t want me to have to exhale noisily and mutter under my breath about class and lack thereof and what is this world coming to, anyway.)

You end up shoving the used Kleenex into your pockets or some other random place, don’t you. And then, an hour later, having completely forgotten you even have a nose, you stick your hand into your pocket and then, uh, remember that whole nose-blowing incident of 8:45 that morning.

Ew. I hate that. Now you’ve gotten your own cold germs on your hands not once, but twice…and now you’re going to go about the rest of your day touching things I’m then going to come along and touch, and really…is that nice?

What?! Why are you looking at me like that? Oh, OK, yes, I’ve got Germ Phobia. I don’t wanna get ‘em, I don’t wanna share ‘em.

But hey, in my defense: Check out how many times this one bug has reclaimed me in the last two weeks! I’m over it, hey, no I’m not! Yes I am! Nuh-uh, it’s back…gone…back…gone…back…it’s like my immune system is the Tender Heart Homeless Virus Shelter or something. It’s never met a germ it didn’t feel deserved a another chance. “Oh, you poor shivering little bacteria! Why don’t you come on in and rest a spell, have something to eat, make yourself at home for a week or two!”

Everybody else has a mere sore throat…I will end up with strep. Everybody else is over it in two days…I spend two weeks playing “better/worse/better/worse.”

Everybody else doesn’t even catch the fool thing in the first place…I catch it, like, fourteen times.

It doesn’t fit in with my personal perception of Self, which is a bit more robust and could totally survive in the Arctic Tundra with nothing more than a survival knife and a tinderbox, but hey.

There it is.

I would probably die within ten minutes of being dropped into the tundra because I caught a damned cold from a caribou.

ANYWAY. Here’s the other thing about handkerchiefs: They don’t have to be, you know, “handkerchiefs.”

In other words, while getting a package of twelve basic handkerchiefs for $9.95 is a pretty good deal, you can also DIY with scrap fabrics you’ve got lying around.

A worn out dishtowel, a favorite shirt that got the Immovable Stain, those sheets that finally frayed to the point of no return…they all make perfectly good handkerchiefs. A quick hem around the edges and you’ve got custom snot rags! What fun!

Which is the exact opposite of having a cold! Which would totally balance the Universe, right?!

THEREFORE, I suggest we all dig through our “I’m not sure this is good enough to donate but I surely hate to just throw it away” piles of clothing and make ourselves funky handkerchiefs, thus restoring balance to the Universe, reversing the global financial crises and freeing millions from the need for antidepressants!

Why yes, yes I am on pretty heavy duty cold medication right now…why do you ask…?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Postal

I need to quit getting the mail. If I just stopped faithfully going out there every day and opening up that frickin’ little dungeon of doom and gloom, I would be a much happier woman.

Today in the mail I had the following:

One knitting magazine (this was the bright spot)

One jury summons for the week of, YES WAY, 12/22 (oh, ack)

One bill for $190.76 for a ten minute doctor visit

No fewer than five desperate pleas for MONEY from assorted charities who are all “feeling the pinch” and who have clients who “need us now more than ever.”

The newspaper thinks it is going to be hitting me up for $20 a month every four weeks, which would make my local rag $260 a year, which is BWA HAHAHAHAHA, no, I don’t think so. (What are they smoking down there at the old pressroom?!)

Home owners insurance renewal forms. Meh.

Oh look. American Express has decided to lower our credit limit.

Notice from our business banking account informing us that, as new customers, they are going to be putting extra long holds on our deposited checks. Yeah, I knew that and all…but still. Is it National Poke Tama With A Stick Day today, and nobody told me? I mean, I would have dressed nicer if I’d only known

Chase has a change in terms…lessee…soooooo, if I were to use their card and have a balance, I’d pay 20.9% interest on it? Memo to me: Tell Chase to go chase their own tails…ha ha ha…

And then! I get the COBRA notice. Nine hundred dollars a month.

Holy crap.

That’s it.

No more mail. I mean it! I am never going out to that stupid box again. It’s nothing but trouble, and I’m sick of it.

From this day forth…no more mail here in the Den.

I have spoken.

Hail Pharaoh.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breaking it to the kids

Our local news ran a segment on how to let the kids know this might be a somewhat less jolly Christmas. As I watched, I found myself growing more and more dismayed. Most of the advice was subterfuge.

Buy them lots of little presents. Lots of $1 and $5 things. So, you know, they still get open fifteen thousand boxes…start a co-op with other parents…enlist Grandma and Grandpa to buy-buy-buy for you, and you’ll pay them back when things improve…

You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!

Now, I’ll admit that in terms of how many toy boxes they get to open, this Christmas will go just like every other Christmas for the Denizens. I hand each of them a toy catalog and a pen, and they get to circle up to ten things they want.

They will get two of those things, maybe three if what they’ve chosen is inexpensive enough.

They’ll also get some clothes, clothes they need. This is another part of the segment I found disturbing: How to “trick” your kid into “accepting” something “practical” as a “present.”

Sorry. That was way too many quotes. It’s just that the whole concept seemed so unreal to me that…it had to have “quotes” telling you that it wasn’t “really” what they were “saying.”

My kids always get clothes for Christmas. And they don’t question that they are presents, and darned good ones, too. Granted, I’m not boxing up the new underwear and pretending it’s the best gift, ever! or anything crazy like that…but hey. Boo Bug has been pestering me for weeks, months even, about wanting a new nightgown.

She’s going to be super excited to get two warm, fluffy nightgowns with matching slippers and headbands, no less! under the tree at Christmas.

But the thing that bothered me the most was the whole feeling of the segment, which was basically, “How to fool your kid into thinking that nothing is wrong.”

Here’s a novel concept: How about sitting down, looking them right in their earnest little eyeballs, and telling them the truth, instead of trying to create a kind of bubble around them, a Perfect World in which there is no struggle, no worry, no mounting debts and unemployment and crazy?

You don’t have to dump the full horror into their little laps, mind you. I’m not going to tell my kids this is the worst economy I’ve seen in my adult life, that I’m actually a bit frightened about how it will all play out in the end, that even my hopeless optimism is having a hard time seeing a “quick turnaround” here.

But I did tell them that I’ve been looking for work a long, long time now – and have found nothing. That daddy’s job ended, and he’s just starting a new one and doesn’t have a lot of hours yet. That money is really tight, and that we need to be very smart and careful about how we spend it.

I told them another truth, too: We will be OK, in the end. No matter what, we will be OK.

Even if we end up living in an apartment with grouchy neighbors all around us, we’ll be OK.

The house doesn’t matter. The clothes don’t matter. The toys don’t matter.

We matter.

And we will be just fine.

Big hugs, everybody.

Now, go pick up your danged socks and do your homework and do not make me say it again!

I say this with love, my darlings, I say this with love…

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I applied a few weeks ago for a Reporting Services job. Reporting Services is part of the SQL Server application, and provides a relatively easy way to get pretty slick reports out to your Interested Parties. You can do dashboards, OLAP, all the catch-phrases of the hour.

I’m pretty slick with the Reporting Services stuff. Mad skilz: I haz them. This is my ker-chunk in the world of database work, the part where data is turned into actionable information.

So I apply for this job, and I go through the first interview: Solid.

I have a second interview with the “tech guy”: Solid. (In fact, I knew more about it than he did – he’s more of a .NET programmer than a database guy.)

I have a third interview with the client, who looks at my samples and asks me some questions and I ask him some questions and he says, “OK, this all looks great, I guess the next step is getting the paperwork together – if we get that in order today, can you start Wednesday at 8:30?”

That was last Monday. I called on Tuesday to say, “Hey, how’s it going, am I starting Wednesday and if so where do I show up?”

What? Who? For the which-now? Oh, yeah, that. Ummmmmmmmmmm…they’d have to get back to me.

In case you were wondering what a Kiss of Death sounds like over the phone? It sounds like this: Ummmmmmmmmmm…

I’ve now heard it about eight times. Eight times, in two months. We gallop right up to this same point. You are perfect for this job, you are exactly what we wanted, can you start right away this week, OK awesome we’ll just get the paperwork to our {accounting, HR} department, Ummmmmmmmmmm…

We appear to be experiencing technical difficulties in our checkbook queue. Please just sit around forever hoping it is temporary.

Oddly, I take great comfort in hearing the same thing from everybody. Usually, I don’t like to hear about anybody else’s misery, no matter how miserable I am. But in this case, it actually does make me feel a little better. I don’t personally suck, the whole market does.

Ah. Yeah. I feel so much better now.

Except for the part where we are in the red by, oh, I dunno, a couple thousand dollars each month? Yeah, that part has me taking these little white pills for anxiety-driven insomnia, which are, thank Dog, only $10 a month. Go generics!

Now, when they asked if I could start Wednesday, I made an assumption, and it went like this: I’m taking a six month contract with daily commute starting on Wednesday.

We began discussing childcare and what we’d do about that, because the situation we have is not ideal if both parents are working full time. We have the after school program for the girls, which shuts down at 5:30 (if we’re working at a client site, we’d have to leave their offices by 3:00 to be sure we’d get there in time), and which is closed if the school is closed.

School is closed at least two days per month. Through the holiday season, even more. Employers get kind of testy if you have to say, “I can’t come in next Tuesday – it’s National Polyester Appreciation Day, and school is out.”

I talked to the lady who provides daycare for Captain Adventure and, due to the spike in job losses out here, she’s got plenty of room for the girls. She quoted me a very good (but still nose-bleed territory) price for the three of them. I said, “OK. Well, since I’m going to be starting soon on this deal up in Sacramento…I guess we’ll go with that, then.”

But then I didn’t get that job. Or the two in Modesto. Or any of the half-dozen in Stockton. The two in Pleasanton. The three in San Francisco. The Oakland one. The two in San Jose, the one in Santa Clara.


As of 2:30 yesterday afternoon, the absolute last oar I had in the water snapped off and floated away from the canoe.

Well. Isn’t that special.

And now…well, major change of plans. We’re out of time, out of money, out of resources, out of ability to keep paying for daycare while I try to find full-time work.

I’m going to have to go to our daycare lady and say, “Ummmmmmmmmmm…”

Feels great. No really. I have to go to a lady I already know is being slammed, and slammed hard, by this frickin’ job-losing economy with the unemployment rates soaring and funding being cut left right and center, and tell her that instead of adding three more kids to her roster, I’m going to have to reduce her head-count by yet another.

I’m also going to have to break into our post-tax investment account, seal in the losses (ouch) and use that money to pay off the carpet loan and the credit cards that have been creeping upward while I’ve been doing all this running around looking for work.

But hey, between those two things, I’ll be plugging up the hole. We won’t have a whole lot of extra, granted, and I’m going to have to work really hard at bringing in as much income as I possibly can under the new circumstances.

What the husband is making will (mostly) keep the lights on, health insurance provided and the mortgage paid. I’ll be covering the food, clothing and so forth…so I don’t get to “just quit.”

I get to work as hard as I can in spite of the other full-time “mommy” gig.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. We are now crossing a zone of turbulence. Please return your seats and keep your seat belts fastened. Thank you.”

Oddly, I don’t feel half as bad about it as you’d think. This morning I’m filling out the paperwork closing out five years worth of hard work saving toward early retirement, and it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Granted, I’m not exactly skipping my way to the mailbox, either…but I’m not as upset as you’d expect.

Actually…I’m grateful. It isn’t what I thought the money was going to be used for – I thought it would be for that “gap” between 50 (when we wanted to retire) and 59-1/2 (when you can start withdrawing from your IRA without the tax gods frowning upon you).

Instead, it’s pulling our fat out of the fire now. It is giving us the base we need to keep the business going long enough to succeed. In a way, I don’t even feel so much like I’m cashing out investments, as simply moving them around.

I was invested in Chevron, in Johnson and Johnson, in Kraft and Heelys and Coca-Cola.

Now…I’m investing in us.

Incurable optimist that I am, I even feel as though this is going to be a good move, in the end.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fondle my stash and pick out something sexy to make for my very first Esty listing…

Friday, November 07, 2008

If you give a kid a dornfeel…

Tonight, I decided to make cornbread. Because it has corn in it, which is a vegetable, and hey, whaddya know: One baked chicken + one pan of cornbread = Balanced Nutrition.

Go, mommy!

ANYWAY. I got out the new sack of cornbread and fluttered around the kitchen turning on the oven and looking for my 8” square pan.

Captain Adventure wandered through, looking for something to break annoy mommy with do, and discovered the bag of cornmeal on the counter.

“Oh,” he commented. “What dat?”

“That’s cornmeal,” I told him.

“Oh. Dornfeel.”


“Oh! DORNfeel!” Duh, mom, that’s what I just said

And then he stood there looking at me, eyebrows raised, waiting for me to explain the dornfeel.

“For cornbread. I’m going to make cornbread for dinner. You want some cornbread? With butter and honey?” Oh yeah, I am ALL about the nutrition…

“Oh…” He’s not too sure, actually, and about to move on.

And then I created a monster had some kind of mental lapse, possibly due to exhaustion and/or household cleanser fumes an idea.

“Hey. Captain Adventure? Do you want to help make the cornbread?”

Is the Pope Catholic? Is the sun bright? Do monsters live in my closet? PLEASE! Of course I want to help make the cornbread – I DO IT!!!!!

I DO IT is apparently the Phrase of the Month around here. It applies to everything from things he can do himself (picking his own clothes, selecting his own Capri Sun from the fridge, getting a book from his shelf) to things he just so utterly can’t or shouldn’t (cutting apples with a paring knife, putting discs into the computer, driving the minivan).

It is non-negotiable (at least in his mind) and becoming extremely frequently yelled. He is suddenly developing a keen interest in controlling the world around him – I don’t blame him at all, and I have to say it really sucks how often we have to say, “Sorry, but no”

He actually did very, very well. It started with one cup of cornmeal, which I dipped out and handed to him in a metal measuring cup to put into the bowl.

“Oh! What do next?” he asked.

“OK, well, we need one cup of regular flour,” I said, taking the cup back and dipping up a cup of all-purpose.

“I DO IT!” he bellowed…you know, in case I had forgotten in the last eight seconds. Carefully, he upended the cup into the bowl and stared at the two flours. “What next?”

“OK, well, we need some sugar…” Uh-oh. Hmm. Three tablespoon is a little advanced here and if he gets direct access to the sugar bin…wait, I’ve got it. “So! Hold up your cup! Ready? We have to count to three, here we go…one, two…Captain Adventure? Are you counting?” I dipped the tablespoon into the sugar and measured them out into his cup.

“Waaaaaaan…dooooooooooo…TEE! TEE!”

“Perfect! OK, in the bowl!”

“In da bowl! I DO IT! I DO IT!”

Four teaspoons baking powder and half a teaspoon salt followed. What next?!

“Now, we stir,” I told him, and handed him a spoon.

“I DO IT!” he yelled. Habit can be such a…constant…master…while he stirred, I frantically whipped together the egg, milk and vegetable oil behind his back. What next? Why look! It’s magic! Mommy has wet stuff! (And didn’t have to deal with I DO IT and raw eggs, which she’d like to save for when you’ve got just a wee touch better fine motor skills.)

The wet went into the dry and was mixed under the constant bellowing of the new battle cry: I DO IT! I DO IT! I DO IT!!

The batter went into the pan. I DO IT!

The batter was scraped from the sides of the bowl. I DO IT!

The pan was proudly borne to the oven. I DO IT!

The oven door was opened. No, you do NOT do it…Mommy do it…

The pan was put into the oven, and the oven light turned on so that the chef could keep an eye on his creation. MOMMY? I DO IT!

He got bored pretty fast and wandered away to torture play with his sisters. He got into watching Animusic, ignored the dinner bell (yes, I actually do bang on a triangle when a meal is ready – hey, it gets old, yelling up the stairs “DIIIIIIIIIIINNER!” The triangle cuts through the noise no matter how bad it might be, and furthermore the kids have always just known, through some kind of prairie-pioneer genetic hive-mind thing, that it means soup’s on!), had to be called four times (oh well, so much for not needing to bellow up the stairs) and eventually be carried bodily down kicking and screaming the whole way.

“Oh. Dat dornfeel!” he announced cheerfully. “Mommy? I do dat dornfeel. Mommy?! I DO DAT DORNFEEL!”

“Cornbread, sweetie. You made cornbread with cornmeal.”

“Yeah. Dat right. I made it.”

“You sure did. Good job, buddy.”

“Did you make cornbread?” Daddy asked. “High five!”

Captain Adventure’s high fives could probably knock over a mule. He was grinning from ear to ear, infinitely pleased with his own cleverness.

“OK! I made it!” A brief pause, and then he looked at me with that same expectant expression. “What next?”

“Well, we’re done now, sweetie. Dinner’s ready!”

“Howwwwwwww ‘bout…hey! HEY! I wanna make-it cake! Yeash! OK! Mommy? WHAT’S NEXT?!”


If you give a kid a dornfeel…he’s gonna wanna make-it a cake…