Monday, September 29, 2008

First day jitters

Tomorrow is Captain Adventure’s first day at his new school. He is sleeping peacefully on the other side of the wall.

I…am not so much with the sleeping peacefully thing.

I hope they can see how special he is, those new teachers. That he’s smart and funny and silly and sweet and sensitive.

I hope the other kids are, you know, nice. They’re all like him, which is both good and bad…he can be rather socially insensitive, but at the same time he is a little bit sensitive himself…

I hope he likes it. When we visited, he wanted to stay. He fussed like heck when we made him leave. He wanted to stay. He liked it…then.

But that was a visit. How will he feel about, you know, staying?

Without…me…you know, to translate? To anticipate? To assist? (And with this fine example of motherly smothering, I expose the main reason why homeschooling is not the best option for our poor Captain…)

I hope they have puzzles, at the new school. He likes puzzles, he likes them a lot. He likes to dump the pieces out of the box onto the coffee table and then bellow, “Mommy! Hewlp pwease!”

“Do you need help, honey?”

“Yesh. Sit do’w, mommy! Dat way! Hewlp me!”

And then he proceeds to do the puzzle almost completely without my help at all. Each time he figures out where a new piece goes, he smiles at me slyly, glancing at me sidelong from behind those long dark lashes, and waits for a comment or question. Maybe about how clever he is, maybe about how smart he is to realize that the blue pieces would go together, or perhaps I’ll ask him what those two pieces revealed when put together.

If I say nothing, he’s not shy about soliciting what he wants.

“Hey! Mommy! Ooook! Izzzzzattttt…blue? Izzzzzzzzattttt…Mickey Mouse? Izzzzzzat…good job?”

“That’s a good job all right!” I’ll say, and he’ll shrug modestly and accept my accolades graciously.

“Oh. Dank too.” A good job? Really? You’re too kind…

What if some kid is mean to him, at the new school? What if he gets pushed around on the playground? What if one of the other kids is a biter, or a cookie-stealer, or…

What if you just LET IT GO, ALREADY, and went to bed…because for heaven’s sake, you are accomplishing WHAT, EXACTLY, with all this fretting…?

When I was six-seven-eight years old, I would lie awake all night, the last night of summer. My stomach would jerk and heave. I would think about what I was going to wear, and worry about what the kids would be like, what the teacher would be like, what the year would be like.

It just sort of stopped one year, right around fifth grade. And it stayed gone for the rest of my school days and even those of my other children…until now.

What should he wear tomorrow? I don’t want to dress him up like a little dandy, but then again maybe…jeans and button-down shirt? They look so dashing on him…but perhaps that’s too Yuppie. Yeah, too Yuppie. T-shirt.

…monster truck? pirates? surfboard with ‘ALOHA’ emblazoned on it?


Go to bed, Mommy. He’s going to be fine, for pity’s sake. He’s not Timid Mouse, or Shaking Sammy…he’s Captain Adventure! He’ll go into that school, and he will survey his new realm, and within hours he will have the entire staff wrapped around his little finger.

…as long as he doesn’t go into Supreme Meltdown Mode when they make him leave the puzzle-station…

...oh Lord...

You do help, so very much

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I have the best blog readers in the world.

Some bloggers talk about having to weed through the comments they get, making sure they keep the nasty trolls quiet. Or they complain about mean, judgmental remarks made whenever they expose their pain… “well, if you hadn’t done this, if you were better at that, and besides you’re just STUPID anyway…”

You guys always lift me up. Your suggestions are always sound and your comments so very kind…even if you’re giving me a scolding, it’s never mean. (About always, it’s well-deserved…) (although sometimes I’m not ready to accept that right at the time…)

Yesterday, I told the girls about this weekend. That they wouldn’t be going to school Friday, that Uncle Greg would be coming to watch them Thursday night and that Daddy and I would be going to Los Angeles until Sunday.

It was a little eerie. Usually when we say we’re going to LA without them, they start with the pestering. Are you going to Disneyland, are you going to see Grandma, why can’t we come, could I come, I’ll be good…

They said nothing. They just sat there, waiting.

They knew.

We grownups get this crazy idea that our little ones go through their lives blissfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations of their caretakers. What baloney. I always knew when my parents were stressed out, even though they never once argued in my presence, or shouted at each other, or burst into tears in front of me.

I think I saw my dad cry maybe twice, in my entire life…and my mother not much more often than that.

But I still knew when times were rough. Maybe mom wasn’t singing as she went about her chores, or dad wasn’t quite as focused as usual as we sat down for our evening ritual…he’d get a beer or Scotch and a bowl of peanuts, I’d get a soda (if I could con mom into it) or maybe some milk, and we’d play cribbage while mom finished making dinner.

Why I think my children would be any different is beyond me.

So I told them what happened, and how. They pressed their warm little bodies against me, hugged me, showered me with kisses. They comforted me, and made wild promises of all kinds of extremely good behavior, now and forever. And yes, they’d be good for Uncle Greg, and help him, and not be horrible.

I’m so blessed.

Thank you, all of you. My in-real-life friends who so quickly offered their help, my family who have called and also offered to sacrifice all kinds of plans for our sake, my readers who have put up with blog-silence and self-absorbed whining, and reached out with sympathy and good, meaningful advice.

You drive the shadows away, you really do. Depression and pessimism might like to get a foothold right now, but they just can’t…not with your lights shining into my life.

You’re better than a whole pharmacy worth of anti-depressants, or years on a therapist’s couch.

Thank you so much…and may what you’ve given me be returned to you, a thousand-fold.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rant a little, cry a little, and then…Onward!

This may come as a complete surprise, but I have had a really dark, rotten, miserable, lousy, no good kind of week.

Yeah, I know. You’d never have guessed by the complete blog-silence all week.

But then, I really couldn’t do much writing, because I really wasn’t myself.

This month has been beyond dreadful, in a lot of ways. There’s the obvious emotional upset losing someone so young brings on, but there’s been…a lot more.

We’re at a pretty rotten place financially, and it’s got me pretty pissed off…mostly because what finally tipped us over the “nope, can’t do it on one income anymore” is not slowing down at all but rather accelerating…I’ve paid just over $6,000 out of pocket so far this year for medical / dental / vision combined, I’ve got another $850 in the bill drawer right now and damned if I don’t have at least $3,000 in orders in the “pending” file.

“Pending” me being OK with spending $3,000 I don’t have, that is. Let’s just say that things for the kids are receiving a slightly higher priority than things which are for the parents.

I’m having a lot of trouble getting any work, too. No surprise, really, the entire business world is basically hold its breath right now, waiting to see where the chips are going to end up falling. The same thing is going on with my husband’s company too, and we’re having to face the fact that his job is not terribly secure right now.

Nice. Right when you find yourself performing on the high wire without a safety net, somebody sets the damned support beams on fire…

And because life is mean that way (and also because my stress levels were impossibly high, and no matter what issues you may have, stress is never helpful), my perimenopause went from “mildly annoying” to “will someone please just shoot me, because I can’t take this for even five more minutes.”

Perimenopause started for me last year, and is apparently planning to settle in and stay for a while. It’s usually just a little annoying, one or two symptoms, the occasional (and always inconvenient, what’s up with that?!) hot flash, a little trouble sleeping, a little moodiness, a little more anxiety (catastrophizing) than is my usual…but generally speaking I just kind of roll my eyes, grouse a little and get on with life.

Well. These last couple weeks, and last week in particular, it was like suddenly perimenopause decided no more fun and games and just…slammed me.

Whew. Hot flashes suck. So does the deep-freeze that follows, when you’re wallowing in sweat and have kicked your blankets all the way to Bermuda during the burning up alive phase.

And insomnia is worse.

Except that you do get more knitting time, when you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 2:15 and can’t get back to sleep…and you might as well get to knitting, because the anxiety attack thing isn’t going to let you just doze around in bed until morning…

Fun, huh?

So now that I’ve ranted and raved…well. Time to roll up the sleeves and head onward.

We’ve got a new situation here. As prices continue ratcheting upward for everything from gas to eggs, I’m less and less able to absorb even small crises. We’ve already slashed retirement and college savings to keep the boat on a more or less even keel…which is one of those ‘short term gain, long term loss’ propositions.

Toss in average medical/dental/vision out of pocket costs of almost $12,000 each year for the last three years, and folks…we need to get ourselves repositioned, budget-wise. (Or one of us needs a job with a better benefits package…this is definitely a major topic of conversation around the Den right now…)

Also, we need more income, and we need it now. We need both of us working, we need that emergency fund rebuilt yesterday, we need the security of knowing that if one of us does find the old pink slip in the envelope, at least the other one is bringing home enough bacon to see us through the next job search.

It’s annoying as hell to be back in this position. We’ve done without a lot of things to avoid it. We haven’t taken vacations, we haven’t bought new clothes or cars or signed the kids up for after school crap or replaced broken appliances. We resisted the siren call of refinancing again and again and again…argh

It feels a bit like getting up the morning after a bad storm and finding your property got somewhat messed up. It isn’t a devastating total loss, it isn’t a Katrina-level event…but damned if it didn’t wipe out a lot of hard work anyway, and put a lot of new hard work before you.

Maybe I should have made the fences stronger. I surely should have heeded the warning signs a little sooner, put up the storm shutters, laid by more supplies. Lesson learned, eh?

And now, well, there’s really only one thing to do: Roll up my sleeves, put on some heavy duty gloves, and start cleaning up the mess. Turn the crap into fertilizer, plant new seeds, get the party started…get us back to that happy place where we have enough, plus a little bit extra…

Life is full of these kinds of cycles. Success and failure, good times and bad…we make our own mistakes and have to clean them up, or we might even do everything Just Right but some other person makes mistakes and we get to enjoy the fallout all the same…

I’ve got some serious thinking to do, once we get the initial mess cleaned up.

And I’m not even sure how big that mess will end up being. I don’t think the storm is over, not by a long shot…in a lot of ways, I’m wading out into it to start trying to secure property already being torn apart.

I won’t be surprised if the setbacks are many, and brutal.

But…well. I’m not the quittin’ type, push come to shove. I rant, I rave, I agonize, I complain about unfairness and wish it were otherwise…but come right down to it, there’s only one way to go, for this little white chicken: Onward!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When words fail

Last week really sucked, from start to finish…which while rather bad for free writing time was awesome for building a list of future post topics. From returned paychecks to flat tires, being stood up on interviews, I had developed a list of good blog fodder that could have kept me in posts for weeks.

With a single, simple email from my mother in law, they all became impossibly trivial.

Last Friday, my brother and sister in law lost one of their children. She was a beautiful young woman, just stepping out into her adult life. So full of promise, so full of hope, so full of good things to come.

What happened isn’t completely clear. It never will be clear. It may or may not have been an accident; it may or may not have been suicide.

We’ll never know.

I can’t seem to do much of anything without thinking about my brother and sister in law right now. What they’ve lost is…unspeakable. Unthinkable.

And yet…there it is. Undeniable.


Often we think that whatever we’re going through is the worst possible thing. Our woes seem vast and our worries important ones and our trials a terrible unwieldy burden…

Right now, the worst of my assorted pain-points seems so trivial I’m embarrassed to even admit it exists.

I’m not even sure I know what pain is, right now. I can’t even imagine the kind of pain searing through my brother and sister…

I’m hugging my Denizens a little tighter right now…and aching all over thinking of parents who can’t do the same tonight…dear God, it’s just…there’s no…how do you…is there any way to…?

Words fail.

All that remains are mute tears only God understands.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A rose by any other name

After a week of Crazy and Craptastic misadventures (seriously? rotten week…no spare time, no real progress, lots of drama, very glad it’s over…), we had Captain Adventure’s annual IEP meeting today. The big topic was around having him moved to a different school. It’s a longer (full school schedule) day at a school much further away (as in, almost twenty miles away!), but the program is much better suited for his needs.

The current program is a little more general, with a huge variety of kids with a huge variety of needs all in the same classrooms – everything from profound mental or physical disabilities to the absolute mildest of speech impediments, with one teacher for every four kids.

His teacher is an absolute peach, and has worked wonders with our little Captain – but he demands a lot more attention than she can possibly give. Not without neglecting her other charges, which surely isn’t fair to anybody.

The proposed program has one teacher for every two students, and is designed entirely around kids like Captain Adventure. We toured the school this morning, and I really liked it. It seemed as though every thing they showed me had me thinking, That is so perfect for Captain Adventure!

They “get” kids like him. They know how to handle his quirky behaviors, they know the best ways to get him to focus and do what he’s supposed to do. I was thrilled to see all the cool things they had in place to gently get their kids to move from teacher-makes-me to I-make-myself…exactly what he’ll need if he is ever going to mainstream…

Now, in some stubborn part of my mind I still don’t accept that my son is autistic. I still even hate saying the word. It’s incredibly hard for me to say it, to use Mr. Tongue and Mr. Lips together to say, “He’s autistic” when someone asks what’s wrong with him. (Believe me, they usually have good reason for asking…sigh…)

It clings to my tongue like a drunk hanging onto a barstool when asked to leave, and usually leaves my mouth with the same amount of grace as said drunk leaving the watering hole.

I stumble over it, every.single.time, and frequently erupt into this twenty minute spiel cataloging how PDD-NOS is not necessarily autism-autism blah blah blah…it’s horribly embarrassing and in the back of my mind I am usually screaming, “SHUT UP, TAMA! JUST…SHUT…UP!” and yet I can’t because I can’t just say he’s autistic and leave it at that because he is so much more than that!

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

Of course, by the same token, stinkweed still smells like stinkweed even if you call it star jasmine – so you can’t go around pretending one thing is another. It is what it is, and you’ve got to accept what it is and act accordingly.

Whether I like the word or not, whether he’s “high functioning” or “mildly” or whatever other rationalization and/or mitigation I can come up with autistic, Captain Adventure is autistic and needs a program that knows what to do with that specific disorder.

Right? Right!

So! Here we are! My husband and I, touring the autism program and talking about his progress (or lack thereof, depending on the category) and everybody is on the same page and having him transfer to this other school is all but a done deal in our minds. We’re excited! This is good! This is what we need! This puts new fire beneath our cauldron of hope! We’re all united behind what we need to do, parents and teachers and therapists and coordinators applauding the Great News that he can and should be transferred to this program which better suits his unique needs!

We talked for over an hour about how his autistic behaviors interacted with his therapy and how with his autism diagnosis it would probably be better for him to be in an autism program which is based on the most recent autism research and hey! Let’s see if we can say it ten times fast! AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM AUTISM!!!!

And then suddenly, out of nowhere!, the meeting facilitator suddenly poised her pen over his IEP and asked, “So, you’re OK with me changing his qualifying need to autism, which would qualify him for the new school and program?”

{deer in headlights}

My head said, “Yes, of course. This is a needed step to open the door to Appropriate Program Changes.”

But some other part of me…somewhere right around my womb, I think…said…no.



You are not to put that down as my baby’s ‘qualifying need.’ No. That’s not OK. No. If you write it down…it will be…real.


Really official.

PDD-NOS lets you sidestep the a-word. It’s a definite maybe. It could be refuted later. “Yes, they thought he might be autistic, but obviously, heh heh, he wasn’t.”

But to say he qualified for special services because he is, undeniably, irrefutably, and all of us do herewith say aye to it, autistic

I had to say yes, and I did say yes. Yes. Please do change it, so that he can be transferred. That is the best thing to do.

But that ‘yes’ almost tore my tongue out, it held on so tight.

It hurt. Almost physically.

Just like adding a new label for this blog did.

Welcome to the 'autism' folder of the Den of Chaos blog.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go find a corner and have a good cry...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I am a TERRIBLE guru

Well, here it is. September. Only two (well, one and a half, anyway) months remaining in my LBYMs 2008 challenge.

I suck. I’m looking back over this year and going, “Ummmm…you may have done a lot of LBYMs but honey…you didn’t say a whole lot about it along the way…”

Partly it’s because the book I’ve been working on is pretty much all about it, which meant that when I turned to writing for the blog I was not only a bit weary of the subject, but had this feeling that I had already bored the world to tears gone over it pretty thoroughly.

And partly, it’s because it’s so old hat to me that none of it seems worth writing home about. What, so I just bought twelve whole chickens for $0.69 a pound and then did that thing where you freeze a few and recipe-ready a few and then spend the week making triple recipes of family favorites and freezing the other two meals against future Crazy Days. {yawn} So what?

Nothing to see here, folks, move along…

And then a friend is visiting when I’m making a menu plan and looks at my freezer inventory tracking sheets over my shoulder and says something, “I have never seen anything like this in my whole life…this is fascinating…oh my gawd, you probably save thousands doing that! TEACH ME, OH MY MASTER!”

…and I think, Do you remember that whole thing you always say, about how you don’t mind boring 2,000 people if even ONE PERSON has their life significantly improved because of some ‘trivial’ thing you threw out there?

I read every day about the economic pressures crushing the life out of my fellow creatures and I think, OK, people NEED to hear about the LBYMs lifestyle! They NEED to know what I know! It can not just save them, but help them THRIVE through this!

…and then I promptly blog about how I bought yarn at this adorable yarn store, or needed a new hair curler, or some cute thing one of the Denizens did…I post about the yarn purchases, but not about what I didn’t buy so that I had the money free and clear to do so. I whine about clients not getting back to me (at great length) (believe me, y’all are lucky you’re not here in person, because you think the whining on the blog is bad?! ain’t nothin’ compared to the loud ranting issuing forth from my actual lips…), but I don’t talk about the things I’m doing to build the business, what I’ve learned about starting one, about when to go ahead and invest in that Critical Whatnot, and when to say Not Yet.

I don’t talk about investing, I don’t talk about savings, I don’t parse out how to take charge of your banking…coupons…reward programs…where to spend so you can save


Worst. Guru. Ever.

Well, I’ll try to do better. I’ve got two months left on this challenge, then a two month breather, and since 2009 doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better than 2008 or 2007 before it…I think it’ll be time to ramp it all right back up again.

So, for September. Most of my thinking for September’s Main Point is around food.

The first goal is to not buy any new meats until the freezer is completely empty. This goes a little counter to how you’re “supposed” to use the freezer as a Frugal Friend, but I have a purpose beyond just not spending money right now.

Usually, the way it works is something like this. I’m flipping through the weekly circulars and see that one of the supermarkets is selling whole chicken for $0.69 a pound – usually $1.40. So I head on down and pick up, say, twelve of them. Some I cut into ‘recipe ready’ parts, some I freeze just as they are, some I cook right away and then either freeze the cooked meat for later, or go ahead and cook a few meals to be frozen as ‘heat and go’ dinners later.

This is a continual process, which means that at any given time I’ve got plenty out there in the freezer.

However, the freezer has a way of accumulating things that, for one reason or another, just aren’t getting eaten. Over time, even well-packaged things will start to degrade, even when kept at precisely 0 degrees…so you want to make sure you’re rotating as you go and not constantly passing over that ham in favor of something else.

Due to an utter lack of motivation on my part, the freezer is actually looking about the sparsest it has looked since we bought it – which makes this a great time for a complete purge. I keep the money in my pocket, and the goal is to have a 100% empty freezer out there by the end of October.

Then I can start rebuilding the stock via the buy-on-sale-and-freeze method.

Same concept applies to the pantry. We have cans of tomatoes, soup, dried beans and pastas, all kinds of stuff up there. Instead of buying new things to make dinners, I’ll be focusing on using only what we already have until the pantries are cleared out and we’re down to just the staples.

And again, I can then begin to rebuild the stores with sale-priced stock.

Meanwhile…I want to start thinking about next year. We made great progress in some areas, but got caught by a few unexpected (costly, shocking, holy-crap-we-hafta-pay-WHAT-for-that?!) smack-downs in others. Knowing that there will be more of the same next year, I want to spend some time thinking about how we can better handle these things as they come up.

Having an actual income wouldn’t hurt, for one thing. Sigh. Right. Well, back to work-as-such, I suppose. A big part of living below your means is having some means to live below

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eeeee! I already haz one!!!!!

OK, so, while compulsively checking email yesterday I got a thing from Interweave about Franklin’s new book.

If you pre-buy a copy, they will give you a free tote bag. WITH A FRANKLIN CARTOON ON IT!

{bouncing up and down like over-sugared six year old} eeeeee….I already haz one!

SEE, my publisher went to that big Book Expo thingee down in LA back in June? And then we met, you know, in person and some junk to go over my book-stuff. She is guiding me through the process, which is a big job folks because I am one of them-thar blog-essay-message-board type writers? And I do things like actually put them-thar into a sentence and junk like that? And use acronyms like LBYMs and am rather surprised that you can’t just, you know, include a hyperlink in a printed book.

I mean, WHO KNEW?!?!



(Like I haven’t totally already given it away…)

My Franklin knitting tote!!! MINE! FOR ME!!!!!


It was so funny, too. See, she isn’t a knitter (yet) (give me time) so of course she has no idea who Franklin is or anything. So she has no idea that I’m like some kind of creepy Franklin Fanatic, and that I have even Paid! Full! Price! (OH YES I TOTALLY DID!) for Café Press shirts with his cartoons on them.

I laughed so hard over Sheep on a Plane I almost hurt myself.

And then she comes over for her I Am Thy Publisher And Behold I Have Some Notes Which Is Not To Say You SUCK, Exactly, But Let’s Just Say There Is Room For Improvement In A Few Minor Areas session and says, casually, “Oh, by the way, I was watching for knitting swag at the convention, but I’m afraid all I found was this little thing…”

…and produces this bag which I could have seen from across the room without my glasses, even, has a Franklin cartoon on it…

I shall gloss over the more embarrassing parts of what happened next and merely inform you that she is a very talented sort of woman, and fortunately for all of us can still type with just three fingers on each hand.

I love this tote. Love-love-love it. It is made of 100% recycled materials, is very light-weight but weirdly strong, comfortable to carry and holds a surprising amount of yarn. I’m slightly worried about how well it will hold up over time, but so far it seems far sturdier than you expect given how light the fabric is.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that this bag is the same one they’re giving away with the book. But…seems unlikely to me (says the woman who knows nothing whatsoever about how big publishers actually work) that they’d have one set they’re giving away at the convention promotion booth, but different types for the online promotion.

And, speaking of the highly coveted free-with-pre-order Franklin bag…I think I’m going to go knit for a while. Because I have a project in it! I’m making another Pacific Northwest shawl, this time in KnitPicks Shadow Lace 100% Merino, in (apparently discontinued) Aegean.


Yes, I’ve been holding out on you. Frankly, I’m stunned that I’ve gotten this far, because my knitting time has been practically zero! since June. But we had that looooong drive down to LA for the family party, and looooong drives all over the LA basin (why everything is ‘ooooh, 40 minutes or so’ from everything else down there is a great mystery to me…), so I’ve actually made very good and quick-seeming progress.

And yes, this is the third time I’ve made this shawl. Which is a record, because I don’t think I’ve ever made anything more than twice, other than preemie hats and sweaters. But it was a special order, and this pattern is a lot of fun to make soooooo…Pacific Northwest III it is!!

Next, however, I think I need to make something with BIG yarn…all these lace patterns are great and all, but they do not clear out much in the way of yarn stash.

Also, you know what makes for good, clean fun?

Doing a spit-splice in the middle of a very large crowd of parents waiting for their children at gymnastics.

Hee. I think the guy sitting next me almost popped, he was sooooo desperate to know what the @*^&@^ that crazy knitter-lady just did…did she just…no, no, surely not, she couldn’t be…no. No, I must be mistaken. A trick of the light. She wasn’t salivating on her yarn, on purpose, she must have been…biting off a loose thread or…something…

And then, of course, a woman behind me leaned forward and quizzed me about it, so he had to acknowledge that yes, I had put the join into my mouth and sucked on it intentionally getting it wet with EW, SPIT!

And then, Lady Behind Me and I got way into TMI territory by discussing how many worse things there were in the Mommy World, and how we only wished the worst thing we had to wash out of our clothes was, heh heh, clean old spit, and furthermore

The poor dude was trying to physically climb into the glossy advertisements for relaxing Hawaiian getaways in his magazine by the time we got through reciting the Parental Catechism of Stain Sources and Removal: Best way to remove blood from cotton…best way to get vomit out of a mattress…best way to remove poop stains from carpeting

FURTHERMORE. She crochets, but would like to learn knitting…ESPECIALLY since we knitters have such a wicked-cool join. And seeing as how we have a whole entire hour every Wednesday (and the occasional Saturday), perhaps we could craft together


Muggles Shocked: 1.
Crafters Given Knitting Virus: 1.

I’d call that a seriously good evening’s work…

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Things To Do Today

  1. Compulsively check email to see if anybody has gotten back to me yet about anything.
  2. Clean something. Halfway, anyway.
  3. Compulsively check email.
  4. Clean other half of whatever I started back up there under #2.
  5. Compulsively check email
  6. Make a list of other things you could be doing other than…wait…it’s been, like, four minutes…maybe…
  7. Compulsively check email.
  8. Work on list for a minute.
  9. Compulsively check email.
  10. Wonder how many unread things are on Bloglines. Holy crap.
  11. Compulsively check email.
  12. Read blog post.
  13. Compulsively check email.
  14. {repeat steps 12 and 13 nine hundred and fifty seven times}
  15. Wonder if you are depressed. Because honestly, you’re not feeling any too good right now.
  16. Compulsively check email.
  17. Decide you’re not depressed, you just feel like crap. Reconstituted, microwaved, low-fat crap.
  18. Compulsively check email.
  19. Twiddle with list a little more.
  20. Compulsively check email.
  21. Look at list.
  22. Compulsively check email.
  23. Think about maybe doing one of the things on the list.
  24. Compulsively check email.
  25. Get up to do something on the list. Decide back hurts too damned much and also my shoulder is aching plus I have a headache…and sit back down.
  26. Compulsively check email.
  27. Tell self that your back always hurts and the best thing for it would be to get up and DO something. Something other than…well, maybe just once more…
  28. Compulsively check email.
  29. Do something on the list.
  30. Compulsively check email.
  31. Do something else on the list.
  32. Compulsively check email.
  33. Get annoyed because HELLO! PEOPLE!! I am waiting on you, all SIX of you, who have work for me to do that you were all hysterical about NEEDING but now NONE of you are sending back the necessary blessing so that I can get started on it…
  34. Compulsively check email.
  35. Compulsively check email.
  36. Compulsively check email.
  37. Cuss.
  38. Compulsively check email. Because all that cussin' took at least thirty-eight seconds and all...
  39. Get really pissed off.
  40. Out of pure spite, refuse to even acknowledge that I even have an email account for something like Four. Whole. Hours.
  41. Except for checking for new messages on my Treo every eighteen seconds.
  42. Work through list.
  43. Knit something.
  44. Start dinner.
  45. Pick up kids.
  46. Play with kids.
  47. Feed kids.
  48. Go over Kid Homework
  49. Put Captain Adventure into the tub, and tell girls to bathe.
  50. Argue with girls about the necessity of bathing.
  51. Remind girls that being stinky is not a good way to remain popular.
  52. Tell girls that if they don’t get into that bathroom, RIGHT NOW MISSIES, and clean themselves, you will never make cookies again and this time you REALLY MEAN IT.
  53. Congratulate yourself for yet another moment of brilliant parenting.
  54. Make cookies. Because actually, the threat was almost a promise, right?
  55. Knit something.
  56. Distribute cookies to reasonably clean children.
  57. Put Captain Adventure back into the tub to remove melted chocolate chips from his little person.
  58. Tell children to get ready for bed.
  59. Tell children to get ready for bed.
  60. Tell children if they do not get ready for bed, and you mean NOW!, there will be Hell. To. Pay.
  61. Tell children it is not a bad word, but that ‘Hell’ is a collection agency based in Ontario, California, which specializes in the collection and redistribution of annoyance surcharges incurred by children who disobey their parents.
  62. Tell self to enjoy these years because pretty soon, none of the kids will buy lines like those.
  63. Put children to bed.
  64. Put child(ren) back in bed.
  65. Put child(ren) back in bed.
  66. Put child(ren) back in bed.
  67. Tell child(ren) that if they get out of bed again, you will make them eat your cereal for breakfast tomorrow.
  68. Congratulate self on brilliant use of threats.
  69. Watch a show and/or knit something
  70. Get ready for bed.
  71. Check email one…last…time…
  72. Cuss. Creatively.
  73. Reprint above list…you’ll need this same one again tomorrow…
  74. Go to bed.
  75. Be not discouraged. This is nothing new, however old it may already be. Laugh, love, and live...and worry about tomorrow when you get there.
  76. ...surrepticiously check email just one last time using the Treo charging right there on the nightstand...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Oh, MAN! Science PhD Mom busted me!

I bet I know why the whole "new cut" that works with your hair won't work. It's the frugal thing, isn't it? As a woman who gets her hair cut maybe twice a year, I just can't stand paying $50 a pop for a decent haircut. And the thought of doing so every six to eight weeks gives me the heebie-jeebies! 'Fess up, that's you too, isn't it Tama? Don't worry, there are lots of us out there--women who start with a new short haircut and make it last in a passable style until it's shoulder length. You're not alone!

Yeah…my hair is one of many victims of my frugality thing. There was a brief period when I thought I should pay the extra money and get, you know, a style-style. Something that fit my then-psychotic work/school/mommy schedule and all.

Basically, it cost $110 a month for cut and color (welcome to San Francisco, please leave your common sense in your home state…) and didn’t really save me much. It would start out low/no maintenance, but pretty quickly I’d find myself going from just mousse and round brush to mousse, round brush and hair dryer…then mousse, round brush, hair dryer and hair spray…then mousse, round brush, hair dryer, curling iron, hair spray…crap, still not right, OK, so, mousse, round brush, hair dryer, steam curlers, hair spray…

Even when I started going to cheaper salons (welcome to the Central Valley, you can have part of your common sense shipped to you now), it was still $50 to $65 for just a cut (…but not all your common sense…) and hello…still with the having to futz around within days of getting the “no maintenance” cut.

And to add insult to injury, I couldn’t “fudge” on the length without looking like a scarecrow! It was every four weeks, or POOF! Scarecrow Hair!

Supercuts costs me $15 every six weeks, including tip. Most times, I just get it “neatened” and the bangs trimmed back. Every so often, I’ll loiter around until my favorite stylist is available and have her re-style it…again, $15, and she fixes any of the lopsided or heavy issues that have come up in the meantime.

The current so-called style is actually very versatile. Most days, the whole routine involves brushing it out, and picking out a hair tie to keep it out of my face (I loathe having hair in my face…drives me insane!). It doesn’t look good, exactly, but it’s presentable.

When I want to doll it up, I can. And even there, I have a whole spectrum of choices…I can put it in a braid or bun and have it look good with just a couple extra minutes, or do a quick hit with the curlers and look nice, or I can go whole-hog with letting the curlers fully heat and then let them set the full five minutes and use the hair spray and all and have it look fabulous.

And in terms of relative costs…an allegedly low/no daily styling needs haircut costs about $50 and needs maintenance every four week. That’s $600 a year, right?

The Supercuts route every six weeks is $135 annually. That’s $465 in savings for me, which in my mind is easy money. Suitable for use elsewhere, or investing…at 6% annual return and given twenty years to grow, that’s an extra $15,600-ish in my pocket. Sweet!

(Tightwaddery…it has so many uses…)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Plus, for only 50% more, we give you what you’ve already got…

I lost a faithful friend last week. It is the one and only thing that can ever get a curl into my hair that a) doesn’t cause my hair to immediately split all the way up to my scalp [for examples please see my hair after I use any of the following: dry rollers, curling irons, blow dryer] and b) will last long enough for me to grab hairspray and squirt it onto my hair: The Caruso Molecular Steam Hairsetter. (If you want one, do NOT pay more than about $30 for it…that $50 price tag is ridiculous. Just sayin’.)

I plugged it in one morning because I wanted to look a little less ratty and ::POP!!::

No more curler. It had shorted out, and all my attempts to resuscitate it were in vain.

The grief was so overwhelming that I wept.

OK, not really.

But I did cuss. Rather stridently, too.

Stop laughing. It was serious! Seeing as how I am having to frequently go about among the fashion-judging public these days (read as: I’m interviewing and networking like a crazy person) (hence, by the way, a certain amount of Blog Silence on my part), it was kind of important that I have some way of getting my hair to look, if not good, at least like I gave a @*^&@.

Of course, this comes to you from the woman who went to a networking event all dressed up and only on the way home noticed that not one, not two, but THREE enormous, long, ugly, BLACKER THAN BLACK hairs were waving from her chin…nice…you know what made it even worse? The makeup. I’d put on makeup, right? (And I am just ever-so-adept at that, too…) This did not cover the chin hairs I didn’t notice, even though they were as thick as 000 knitting needles and as black as tar.

Oh no. No hiding under the makeup. No. I highlighted the @*^&@ers. Big black hairs, with a light powdery coating of “urban beige” or whatever that ‘not ivory because ha-ha, your “ivory” days are SO behind you now’ color is actually called.

If you missed them when they were just black wires, you couldn’t possibly miss them as black-with-not-ivory-makeup-highlights wires. NICE.

You know…I thought I told myself never to think about that again. And yet, here I am. Still obsessing about the stupid chin hairs. Probably because I had gotten all smug and self-congratulatory, thinking (as I did) that the reason the guys at the networking thing were looking downward was that their attention had been drawn to my…well, a little lower than my chin because, yeah, ha ha, this is not something that generally happens to me unless a child has just walked up and yanked my top down and exposed areas that are Not Generally For General Viewing due to having a chest like a ten year old boy and I was all, Wow, I’ve got to remember what style of bra it was I got on sale that last time, because baby, it’s Workin’ Fer Me!…and then I get in the car and look at myself in the mirror to make sure I don’t have coffee-foam smeared on my nose or something and HELLO! GIANT BLACK HAIRS WAGGLING AROUND ON YOUR CHIN LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A HORROR MOVIE!!!

“Weeeeee come to deeeeestroy yeeeeeer plannnnneeeeeettttt…weeeeeeeee burrow into your chiiiiiiiiins and eat your braaaaaains…”

…stupid chin hairs…GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!!!!...

Never mind. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah. Hair. Head hair, curling thereof. So! I went forth in search of a new molecular steam curler. Because people, I am going to say it again: This stupid thing is the one and ONLY thing I have ever found that can get a curl, or anything like a curl, to stay in my hair. Well. Unless I shampoo my hair, braid it tightly (like, in corn rows) and let it dry for about, oh, 24 hours. Or so. Then I will have some good wavy stuff going.

But it’s kinda time consuming, and also limited in look. And the ends kind of frizz up and wave at people yelling, “HI! SHE DIDN’T REALLY CURL US, YOU KNOW – THIS IS JUST A LAME ATTEMPT TO AVOID ACTUAL WORK BY UNDOING THE BRAID AND CALLING IT A ‘STYLE’!!”

So I finally ended up at a local beauty supply place where glory be, they had one (1) in stock. WOO HOO!! I grabbed it (and a set of extra curlers, which were FREE with PURCHASE of the CURLER, WOOT!) and ran for the counter.

The nice child girl fully working-age lady range me up and then asked if I wanted to purchase the warranty on the curler.


“It’s $12.99?” she added.

“Uhhhh…what does it provide?”

“Well, for one year? If it breaks? You can bring it back to the store? And they’ll replace it?” (Question: Why do so many people taaaaaaaalk? In draaaawling? Broken phrased? Questions? When they’re actuaaaaaaaaally? Telling? Yoooooooooooou? Sooooooooomethiiiiiiiiiing?)

So, under this plan, I can pay $13 to get exactly what I get free of charge through the manufacturer’s warranty.

“No, that’s OK,” I said cheerfully.

“Well, but, if it breaks? You can bring it back? And we’ll order you a new one? From the manufacturer?”

“But if it breaks in the first year, I can also just send it directly back to the customer service department myself get a new one!” I informed her. (Note: I did not? Ask? Her? I told her! Like this! With Exclamation Points!)

“But…you’d hafta mail it,” she said doubtfully. (Ah! No questions! Progress!) “And that’s? You know? Expensive?” (Damn.)

I looked at the curler. I figure maybe six bucks to mail it via UPS (this is an experienced eBayer talking, which is perhaps an unfair advantage and all but still – there it is). The chances it will break within that first year seem pretty slim to me, frankly. I’ve owned three of them and never gotten less than five years out of any of them – more when I’ve been diligent about keeping it clean.

“No thank you,” I said firmly.

“OK,” she said cheerfully and finished taking my money.

And then I realized why I am not in sales or marketing. I was envisioning a sales flyer for the ‘extended warranty’ offered on electronics at this beauty supply store.

“ASK ABOUT OUR EXTENDED WARRANTY PLAN! That’s right, for only 50% more than you are already paying for your Can’t Live Without It Doohickey, we guarantee exactly the same service you would receive under the regular manufacturer warranty…only pricier, and with the added convenience of having to keep track of another slip of paper, without which we cannot honor the agreement!”

Call now, representatives are standing by…(with big poofy hair, another thing the Caruso is very good at providing…) (shut up, in the 80s that was a major selling point…)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Filling my checkbook by filling a niche

First of all…you guys are so awesome for my ego! I’d love to be selling stuff on Etsy, and the thought that you think I’m good enough to actually do it makes my knitterly pride go all poofy!

Of course, first, I’d have to start making things that weren’t copyrighted and all…I am not a designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I suppose if I focused I might be able to come up with something…and it’s an awesome idea. Knitting being my best form of therapy and all, whumping together some “inventory” would be an excellent use of any idle time.

But I’ve also got another ace up my sleeve, and it is called short term contracts.

I don’t know how many of you are aware of the dark underworld of the IT Contractor, so here’s a brief overview of how it works. I contact some agencies, provide my current resume and tell them what kind of work I’m looking for, where I’m willing to work, and when I’m available.

They (hopefully) come back with a variety of available assignments. Unlike the average “temp” job, there is a contract involved. The language usually lays out the basic agreement between myself and the client of the agency – things like what work is expected, how much I will be paid, in some cases days and hours needed by the client will be laid out (for example, I had a contract once where my hours were very specifically 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – from half an hour before the stock market opened to half an hour after it closed, California time).

There is also generally an expected duration specified, anywhere from one week to “open” – meaning settle in, kid, we’re keeping you until we’re forced to give you up.

Most go by threes, though. Three, six, nine or twelve months. Frequently a “three month” contract is actually one that has no expected end date – the three months gives both the client and the contractor the ability to call it quits after 90 days with no hard feelings on either side.

The longer-term contracts are more desirable, the shorter-term ones are really hard to fill. After all, who wants to take a job that only lasts a week or two, for Pete’s sake?

Um…{raises hand} It’d be about perfect for me, thank you. Get in, get out, get paid. Got the cash I need in the bank, and I can get back home before things start falling apart around here.

Without months and months of endless grinding commutes and Monday through Friday obligatory appearances.

And the sad fact is, I need the cash. We just can’t quite make it on my husband’s income alone…we’re from a couple hundred to a thousand bucks short each month, depending on what-all we get hit with during it.

One trip to the dentist for the four kids is $660. Eldest needs braces soon-ish, Danger Mouse will need them later-ish, and Boo Bug has two teeth that are growing in not merely sideways like her sisters, but jutting straight out from her gum.

Um, Mr. Teeth? Yeah, the food would be down. You need to point down, not out

…stupid teeth, can’t even find the food

Captain Adventure has an endless list of “useful” tools and therapies we ‘should’ be buying for him. Special picture cards to help him communicate when words fail, adaptive therapy devices like ‘grabbers’, hard plastic whatnots he can bite on instead of inappropriate things like toys and siblings, private assessments by highly regarded (read as: expensive) specialists…

Oh, and then there’s Boo Bug allergy season, coming around Thanksgiving. We’ll be paying just shy of $300 a month for her allergy medications, from mid-November until early March.

Don’t have it now, won’t have it then…unless I’m pulling it in.

With luck and a tailwind, all my machinations around here will start paying off soon and I will be able to pull in the roughly $600 we’re short in the average month without actually leaving the house all that much…but until we get there, I think contracting will once again be saving our bacon.

Or buying it, is probably more accurate.

So I contacted a few agencies today and now…we see what happens.

Now watch. Because I have thrown out the net, suddenly all the other lines in the water will start jumping…right when I started thinking fond thoughts about selling socks and hats and afghans on Etsy, too…

I suspect it will be quite comforting

This morning, I made waffles. Eldest sat at the kitchen table watching me with a profoundly dreamy expression on her face.

“Whatcha thinking about?” I finally asked.

“Mmmmm? Oh. I was putting something into my memories for later.”

“Putting what into your memories?”

“Someday, maybe when I’m on my own and feeling sad or when I’m old or something, I suspect it will be quite comforting to remember how you looked when you were making waffles, and what it smelled like and how the beep sounds and how you can hear it way upstairs and we all start brushing our hair super-fast so we can be the first one downstairs, and the way you always smile when we ask for extra-extra-extra butter and syrup. And that you always cut them apart into hearts and make flowers with them.”

What a funny little kid she is. I mean, the language alone: “I suspect it will be quite comforting”? What ten year old puts things that way? And to be ten years old and saying to yourself that sometime, when life isn’t being very nice to you, you will be looking back on something as commonplace as your mother making waffles on a school-day morning and find it…comforting.

She’s an old soul, that one. Ten going on fifty, in a lot of ways.

I made her heart-petal waffle flower, dotted with butter and drowning in maple syrup, and I found myself thinking: Someday when I am old, or sad, or feeling lost and alone…I will find this memory quite comforting, too. Remembering my little bouquet of children at the breakfast table on a Waffle Day, the way a collective shout of pleasure goes up when the first tell-tale shriek goes up from the iron, the thumping of little feet on the stairs, the jockeying for position at the table and insistent cries, “I was here next, mommy, I get the next one!”

The noisy squealing and laughing and getting syrup in their hair and on their nice clean clothes.

I suspect it will indeed be quite comforting to remember what they looked like, and how they sounded, and the way the butter melts on the waffles and how easily real maple syrup washes out of clothes and hair.

Comforting today, tomorrow, and Someday, too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Subtle, REAL subtle...

I had a tiny bit of work, maybe an hour, rattling in the inbox. But I had some questions and suggestions so I thought I'd give the client a ring and discuss the project a bit. know, before I got back to the business of deciding What To Do Next and all...

"The number you have reached has been disconnected, and there is no new number."


Have you ever had the feeling Somebody was trying to tell you something...?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Well, it’s spinning, all right…

I have spent most of today trying to find a positive spin to put on the last four days.

I, uh, well. I’ve got nothing, really. It was a rotten long weekend, and there just isn’t any way I can find to make it funny.

Friday morning I got up a little irritable because, to be brutally frank, my income lately has stunk like last week’s compost materials. The income in the ‘actually received’ column, anyway. Tons in the ‘coming soon’ column, but in terms of ‘actually received’…not so good.

But hey. You know. You get a cup of coffee and what do you do? You do your thing! Get through the work so you can get to the invoice which results in the income which makes the bank happy about all those checks you need to write!

Pretty basic stuff.

So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, chasing down my contacts and working on getting that magic “ok, do it!” I needed from most of them.

Clients are quick to say, “Wow, that would be awesome!” but really, really slow to add the all-important, “…and also, we agree to pay for it!”

Well. By Friday afternoon, I was down to only one remaining client with ‘coming soon’ income for me. I hadn’t heard back from them with particulars on what it was they said they had for me to do but hey! Last week they had said, in as many words, “We have some things for you to do.”

Practically a done deal, right? It’s there, and I’m here, so I’ll just send a quick reminder that hey – I’m here, just send me the details and I’ll get’er’done! (And get’me’paid, yeehaw!)

So I went off to collect Captain Adventure from his afternoon program and came home and checked email and…you can guess what.

Yeah. Go ahead and make the total in the ‘coming soon’ income column $0.

Essentially…I got the self-employed version of a pink slip Friday. Nice.

Oh-oh-oh! And the cherry on the Disappointment Sundae (Friday)? When I picked up Captain Adventure from his before/after school program, I had to pay his tuition for September. All $750 of it.


Granted, I’m only three month into things and, this being my third go-round with Employment of Self, I know full well that these things happen and all. I suppose what has got my knickers in a twist isn’t so much that I’m (ahem) between projects as the fact that 75% of what I lost was something I had considered a sure thing.

You’d think I’d know better. But then again, I believe the fact that I never learn is likewise pretty well documented, eh?

Oh well. It’s going to be an interesting month, I suppose…I’m going to have to Do Something, one way or another, PDQ.

Do I drop a few prescriptions, programs and therapies? Or put on my big girl panties and take one of the not-so-appealing choices that involve a lengthy daily commute for a while?

Lots of angst…not a lot of answers.

A lot of spin for sure, though, which I’ve noted is tons of movement but no actual progress.

Just…spinning. Around and around and around. Facing forward, facing back, looking left and looking right.

A necessary part of the progress, I suppose, but mighty irritating nonetheless.

Also, it makes me a little queasy.

I vastly prefer to just keep going…onward!

…and I would…if I could just pick a frickin’ direction