Friday, October 31, 2008


“Did I scare you? Huh? Did I? You know what? I’M A VAMPIRE! Yeah! HEY! I can’t wait to show my friends how NOT Hannah Montana this wig is – because, it isn’t very Hannah Montana, actually, it’s too curly. I don’t like these teeth, they feel weird, I’m not going to wear them…but then if I don’t wear them people might not know I’m a vampire. I can’t walk in this dress and I want to wear my dress-up shoes I KNOW I HAVE A PARADE, I STILL WANT TO WEAR THEM can I wear lipstick can I wear eyeshadow can I bring my sword and how come Captain Adventure is wearing his pajamas?!?!”

Ah yes. Another Halloween morning in the Den of Chaos, wherein all four children scream, run, make demands, can’t find their wigs / hats / fake eyelashes / shoes, and all talk/shriek at once and yet somehow expect their parents to understand every word


It’s going to be a loud night around here…but at least I should get a couple Snicker bars out of the deal!

Have a fun, safe, sugar-encrusted Halloween, y’all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hey-oh, chicken on a raft!

(Click the title – it’ll take you to a snippet of the song by Hard Times, one of my husband’s old groups. Hee!)

I was in something of a “oh gawd I have no idea” state when it came time to make dinner last night. I didn’t want to make a production out of it, since it was just me and the kids; I also didn’t want to make macaroni and cheese or frankly any pasta because we’d been there, done that.

So, I made creamed chicken. It’s fast, inexpensive, easy and what I consider to be darned good comfort food material. Then I cut five extra-thick slices of bread and toasted them, slathered them with entirely too much butter, cut them into “fingers,” ladled the creamed chicken over the top and grated a little Parmesan cheese over the top.

The children were skeptical. They sniffed at it and looked at me doubtfully. It smacked of something they probably didn’t like, see, and therefore they demanded names, ranks and identification numbers on the deal.

Coolly, I said, “Well, um…hey-oh, chicken on a raft!”

They ate every bite. This morning, I told them the bitter truth. What they ate last night was creamed chicken. Their breakfast this morning – eggs on toast – was actually chicken on a raft.

All of which is a digression. What I wanted to tell you is this: Dinner last night was one of those “found food” kind of things LBYMs gurus will go on (and on and on and on) about all the time. The last time I did a Big Cooking Day, I carved up whole chickens into serving pieces rather than buying pre-cut chicken – the backs, wingtips and meaty ribs went into my big stockpot and made both stock and cooked chicken meat. I put the stock in the freezer in one cup increments, and the chicken meat I dice and keep in two cup bags.

This works just as well with regular old leftover chicken, too - like if you've bought a pre-cooked whole chicken at the supermarket and then you only ate half of it? If you're not going to just eat it right out of the fridge in a timely manner, get the meat off the bones, put it into a freezer bag and freeze it. It will keep a good three months in there, and can be used for anything from a quick stir-fry to a fried-egg companion.

Now, almost a month later, I want something quick and easy for dinner. This came together in about twenty minutes, start to finish. It’s not exactly one of those nutritional powerhouses, but it’s tasty and warming…and it’s using food that otherwise might either have not been purchased (because I’d buy the chicken pre-cut and not have had the meaty bits in the first place) or wasted (because I didn’t know what to do with a chicken back, for heaven’s sake…it’s just so…ugly…)

So, how do you make it? Like this.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup flour

1 cup stock, warmed (not hot)
1 cup milk, warmed (not hot)

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1-2 cups cooked vegetables, if you want actual nutritional value desired

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the onion and sauté five to ten minutes, until softened and golden.

Add the flour and cook (you’re making roux here) another five to ten minutes, until it is golden brown. Lighter roux will have less “character,” darker roux has more. The primary goal is to eliminate the flour taste and replace it with a nuttier flavor.

Now. Using a whisk, gradually pour the stock and water into your roux. The whisk makes it much easier to create a lump-free sauce – if you see a lump, attack it with the whisk. This part still takes careful attention and constant stirring, but a whisk makes it much, much easier to get the job done.

Once the liquid has lumplessly thickened and come to a gentle boil, boil and stir for one minute. Then add your cooked chicken and vegetables, return to a boil, reduce the heat to a bare simmer and let it go for five-ten minutes while you make some toast to pour it over.

This is also really good over rice, biscuits, or mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t recommend eating it exclusively because it’s pretty high in carbs and all, but it surely is good on a cold night when you’re needing some (inexpensive) comfort.

Which has reminded me…I haz leftovers, and it is lunchtime. Woo hoo!

Crazy in a good way

'Good Samaritan' saves crying woman's foreclosed home

Mock says she's using one of her business dump trucks as collateral for the $30,000 sale price. "I can't afford to just give [the house] to her," she says.

As for Orr's payments, Mock says, "We'll just figure out however much she can pay on it. That way, she can have her house back."

Marilyn Mock?

You rock, ma’am.

Also? Your husband sounds like mine, and for the same reason: When she told her husband of 30 years that she'd just bought a home for a stranger, she says his reaction was: "Whatever."

"He's used to it," she says with a booming laugh.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Tonight, Captain Adventure really worked to keep me in his bedroom as long as possible. First, he wanted to read the book himself. V-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

“What dat, mommy? Dat fly, dat right! Good job, mommy! What color is fly? Noooooo, ee no gray, ee black! Good job, Captain Adventure!”


Then he wanted to argue for two books. Three books. TEN books. All the books there are! And then he realized he had made a tactical error because his name the colors and shapes book is, I kid you not, more than sixty pages long and loaded with endless, ENDLESS I TELL YOU, Q&A.

How many dots on the ladybug’s wings? What color is the BROWN lion’s NOSE? Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. SIXTY PAGES WORTH, PEOPLE

So he wanted that one. And I said, firmly, “No. We already read A Fly Went By. It is time for lights out.” (I also made a mental note to take the “educational and therefore loooooong” books out of his room.)

And he said, “No! Noooooo! Is color book! Is good book! Mommy! I wanna so smart boyyyyyyyyyy!”

Oh yeah. He is a so-smart boy. Will use blatant emotional blackmail to keep mommy in the room an extra half hour…

A few alligator tears later, I had the lights out and was rubbing his back. He sniffled a little bit and then said, “Oh! Mommy! Wait! No sleeping…is Oats!”

Hmm. OK. This is a new word, and I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about a nice bowl of oatmeal, here. Oats. OK, Tama, think…think…he tends to leave off the beginning and/or ending consonants a lot…

“Ghosts?” I guessed.

“Yeah,” he said.

“There are…ghosts…in your room?”

“Yeah. I scared of oats, in my oom!”

Alrighty then. This is one of those rare areas with Himself where I know exactly what to do – whether he’s really scared of ghosts or just using them as a way to keep me in the room a while longer, I know how to bring this game to a skidding halt.

In my best Mommy Voice, I addressed the room: “OK, listen up, ghosts! It is time for sleeping. You need to go home now and go to bed, because Captain Adventure can’t play right now. He needs to go to sleep, and so do you. You can come back and play tomorrow after school.”

I gave the ghosts a moment to say, “Awwwwwwww!” and trundle off to their ghostly mansions. Then I patted Captain Adventure confidently on the back and said, “OK, there you go! Everybody is going night-night now!”

There was a long silence as Captain Adventure pondered this solution. On the one hand, ghosts being Minions of Darkness and all, what are the chances that they’d just *poof!*, go to bed like that?

On the other…well…Mommy Voice…

“Oh,” he said at length, then stopped for a little more thought. Hmm. Well, nothing for it, really, because Mommy Voice Means Business and all… “Oh…well…night-night, oats.”

“Night night, honey,” I said, firmly, pulling his covers back over him and kissing him firmly on the cheek. There was a little whimpering, a couple half-hearted protests, and then a long-suffering sigh.

“Night night, mommy. See morning. WAIT! Is hug you! {attempts to throttle me, plants big juicy kiss on my ear} OK, is night night. See morning.”

“Night night. See you in the morning,” I replied, slipping quickly into the dark hall. A few sobs (purely for effect), and then silence.

Not a creature was stirring, not even the spirits of the departed…which left me free to ponder the many things I never anticipated motherhood would bring. The things nobody ever told me, the things I never read about in any of the (too many) books I read on the subject.


The ability to banish the Creatures of Darkness simply by telling them to go home to bed in a firm, no-nonsense, I will brook no denial tone of voice…definitely not something they tell you about in all those “what to expect” books.

But pretty darned handy, wouldn’t you say?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things I’m tired of dealing with already

Oh look, it’s Sunday morning and I’m reading pamphlets about group health insurance.

…oh goody…

On my desk also is the signature card for our new business banking account, the partnership agreement, the application form for the local chamber of commerce, the printout of a launch script for an application I’m supposed to be testing (oh hey, billable work?!), one time and materials contract to be signed and filed, one scope of work and a reminder to go back over the list of requested enhancements for a little Access database that needs some tweaking (wow, more billable work?! Is that allowed?!)

I also have a growing list of networking events.

I may be drinking a lot more coffee than is probably good for me in the coming days, here.

I haven’t run a full-on business like this since 1994. I’d managed to forget how much time you spend on administration. Well, I hadn’t really forgotten so much as managed to pretend I wouldn’t have to, this time.

I know it’s early days and all, but criminey. I feel like I’m spending six-seven hours a day on paperwork.

And I’m sick of it already…mostly because I’m getting excited about getting this business off the ground. I want to be getting on to the parts where we make money, instead of endlessly tinkering with the parts where we spend money - on insurance premiums, on licenses and fees and permits and dues.



Oh well. It’s just like anything else, you know? There’s always parts you love, parts you merely don’t mind that much, and parts that on the whole you’d love to hand off to someone else…if you only could.

Most housework falls under this category for me, frankly…

Speaking of housework…

…double sigh…

Right. OK. Laundry, ironing, bathrooms…gee, you know what? Suddenly the health insurance paperwork is ever-so-fascinating

Friday, October 24, 2008

OMG…I needed this…

There are times in life when you think your problems have got to be the worst problems ever. You think you are the dumbest chicken in the henhouse, the dimmest bulb on the Christmas tree and also…you’re not terribly bright.

And then…you get to read things like Rudolph the Boob-Nosed Reindeer.

Heh. Yeah. I am so not the dimmest bulb…

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh coffee, how you do torment us!

The Yarn Harlot had a post today about some misadventures with coffee.

First, I laughed. Then, I cried. Then, I shook my fist in the air.

Oh, coffee, you temptress! Those of us who are addicted to appreciative of your bitter goodness are just…so…easy to torment, are we not? Withhold from us the succor of your taste, and behold…very bad things happen, not only once, but repeatedly.

Like the morning a few years ago, when I was working a wicked early shift. So there I was, at 3:15 in the morning (groan!), attempting to make coffee.

I ran the first basket with no grounds in it. Uhhhhhhh…whyfor is coffee-stuff not black? Why is clear-like-water…?

Then I got distracted by interior dialog while running the grinder and over-ground the beans (making it more of a coffee powder than grounds) and, without pausing to consider what usually happens when you attempt to run coffee powder through an espresso machine, ran it again – naturally, it backed right up and flooded the counter. (There is a fine line between “espresso fine grind” and “powder”…believe me, I am an expert in this line and where it lies…)

Eventually, persistence won the day and, steaming cup of frothy latte goodness in fist (I forgot both cocoa powder and sugar but decided that a nice latte sounded just fine), I headed out to the car.

Got in the car. Drove away.

Discovered a few minutes later that I’d left the travel mug on the roof of the car. ARGH! OK, you know what? I don’t care anymore. Hang the expense. I am buying myself a mocha.

So I paid $4 for a ridiculously large cup of motivation. We’re talking about the Super Big Gulp of mochas, here. HUGE. Took two hands to lift it.

I got about two-three sips of it, and the lid popped off. Instead of saying, “Oh my gracious, look at that, the lid appears to have popped off” and popping it back on, I went, “AAAAAAH! LID LID LID! AAAAH! LID! COFFEE!! OFF-LID-COFFEE-AAAAAAAAAH!” and during the accompanying spasm of panic dumped the entire 429 ounces of hot liquid all over myself and the interior of the car.

You’d think that would have been enough. That I would have acknowledged that the Universe was clearly saying, “No coffee for you today, honey” and maybe gotten myself a nice cup of tea at the office.

Oh no.

I angrily veered off the freeway, into the nearest Starbucks, ordered a mocha, grabbed about six trees worth of napkins, vigorously smeared the last accident into my clothing (I was too tired and furious to remember that I should gently blot at rather than violently grind in the stain), and stormed out…without my mocha.

The barista, bless her, chased me down in the parking lot, brandishing my mocha and shrieking, “Ma’am? MA’AM? YOU FORGOT YOUR DRINK!!!!”

At this point, I realized that I simply should not be attempting Life uncaffeinated. So, I sat in my car, in the parking lot, and drank it down to the last drop. I watched the sun rise over the hood of my car. I contemplated everything I was not getting done at work. I thought about how the traffic was exponentially backing up in front of me.

I thought about going ahead and, you know, getting on with the old commute.

But no.

The message was clear. I could either get on with my life, or, I could drink some coffee.

I have my priorities, people.

I was very, very late to work that day.

After taking one look at my sticky, mocha-covered person…nobody bothered to ask for an explanation.

Gee. I wonder why

Monday, October 20, 2008

A most productive sulk

One of the neat things about being a knitter is that when we sulk, things have a way of popping into existence:

Halloween Vest

Isn’t this cute? You know, for a six year old? This is the Seasonal Fair Isle vest from KnitPicks circa 2006, in the ‘Halloween’ pattern. This particular pattern is no longer available from them, which is a bit of a shame. Goodness knows there simply aren’t enough Fair Isle patterns out there as it is. Ahem.

But seriously, what I really like about this one is that in one small booklet there are six potential vests: There are three patterns to choose from (Crayons & Chalkboard, Halloween, and Snowmen and Skates), and two flavors you can make: button-up or pullover. And they are sized for everything from four years all the way up to a great big 52” chest! Righteous!

I mean, think of the possibilities!!! I could have all six of us clad in identical Halloween vests at the pumpkin patch next year!!! Wouldn’t that just be ever-so-spiffy?!

(And with that, the phone lines at the local CPS are lighting up and frantic voices are screaming, “She must be stopped! For the good of the children, indeed for that of SOCIETY AS A WHOLE, she must be stopped!!!!!”)

I also like that they are worked in the round with steeks – no having to travel back and forth (by which I mean ‘purl’), which I hate because I am lazy not all that talented with color-work a bold and adventurous kind of knitter who likes a good challenge.

I’m doing the button-up version, and am pondering adding sleeves to it to make a full sweater out of it. I should have plenty of yarn left to do stripy sleeves…I’ll keep thinking about it as I go and decide when I get there.

The thing is, Palette is not my favorite of the KnitPicks yarns for clothing because it is WAY on the scratchy side of the equation. It is not soft and/or buttery in the slightest – it is warm and hard-wearing and works up with nice, clear stitch definition and all…but, well, scratchy.

This is actually for Captain Adventure next year (Boo Bug and/or Danger Mouse may give it a trial run this year, if I finish it in time), and I find myself thinking that if it remains a vest, he will likely always have a turtleneck under it.

If I make it a sweater, though, there may be a temptation on his part to insist on wearing it over a short-sleeved t-shirt. Our area can go either way around Halloween – it is supposed to be 86 degrees later this week, for example, while a few years ago at this time we were barely clawing our way into the 60s.

I don’t want this bundle of sugary cuteness to end up stuffed in a bottom drawer because it is itchy.

I spent an awful lot of Friday on my sofa with my lower lip thrust way, way out working on this. And almost all day Saturday, because we spent four hours in a car in order to spent twelve hours playing D&D. Ahem. Yes, well, did I ever claim to be sane? Even once?

Didn’t think so. Also, this was the first time I’ve ever played D&D, and it was fun! Except that I realized about halfway through the game that I totally knew the entire plot. Not because I am just oh-so-clever-that-way, but because my husband and the DM had not only discussed it in front of me months ago, but had even asked for my advice/input on the plot.

Oh. Um. Well. I’ll just…sit here and quietly go along with whatever y’all want to do, then…because otherwise, I am that jerk who turns to you halfway through the movie and says, “Rosebud is a sled…”

And now, I suppose I should get to work, huh? Even though I don’t have anything billable to do yet? Still have forms and such that need dealing with…and health insurance companies to hassle…and a few tons of ancient paperwork that needs sorting and/or shredding and/or re-filing…

…ooh goody! I feel another sulk coming on!!!!!...

FO Roundup!!!

Well, I was getting ready to post about the little vest I worked on all weekend, and suddenly I realized…I totally owe you guys some finished object pictures!!

So. Here is the Pacific Northwest Shawl, take III, in KnitPicks Gloss Lace, a 70% Merino wool / 30% Silk blend (you will, of course, pretend not to notice the garbage bags stuffed with shredded statements and whatnot from 1994, because you are classy that way) (sigh…yeah, when my husband cleared out the office closet, guess where it all ended up?!):


This is the one that has seagulls and pine trees and sand dollars…


…and then waves and fish…


…and then the “oh, wait, I’m not actually ‘almost done’ I’m more like ‘sort of close-ish to done’ knitted-on border.


It remains a fun knit. Difficult enough to be interesting, not so difficult that you’re ripping hanks of hair out of your head screaming, “OH MY GAWD, WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS?!?!” It took two skeins of the Gloss Lace, which runs only $4 a skein so, hello, $8 in materials – my kind of project! It’s not the kind of yarn where you fall down in a swoon due to its buttery loveliness or amazing hand-dyed splendor, but the project turned out beautifully. It blocked easily, and when you drape it over your shoulders it is both light and yet warm - 70% Merino and 30% Silk.

Meanwhile, I finished those Tofutsies socks. The pattern is from Interweave’s Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs.


This is the Uptown Boot Socks pattern. Nice simple cable, and the finished sock is very comfortable from a pattern standpoint. I’m finding them less comfortable for all-day wear, though…the Tofutsies is a 50% Superwash Wool/25% Soysilk Fibers/22.5% Cotton/2.5% Chitin blend, which doesn’t seem to wick as well as Just Plain Wool does. (Or perhaps it could be that I am just a tad biased.) (It is very unfortunate, being that I live in California, that I just don’t like wearing cotton that much…cotton t-shirts, great. Denim, love it. Cotton sweaters or socks? Eh. No thanks.)

THEN, when we went down to LA last, I cast on and made these little babies:


These are from the same pattern book, the Retro Rib socks. The “rib” pattern is a simple series of purls and k1b, and it creates a sock that is very comfortable. It is a stretchy pattern, so the same number of stitches can make either a man or woman’s sock, but at the same time it hugs the leg nicely and feels like it will stay up (these are going to be a Christmas present, so I’m not actually wearing them…I tried to talk myself into believing that ‘road testing’ should be considered a high level of quality assurance, but couldn’t quite manage to make it stick).

I have absolutely no idea what yarn this is. It is sock yarn, without a label. I dug into my Some Assembly Required Sock Drawer looking for a boring man-type color sock yarn, and found two label-less balls of dark navy sock yarn. It's super-soft and feels very high quality, and I think it might be Lang Jawoll...but I just don't know.

Here’s a close-up of the “ribbing which is not actually ribbing therefore I am putting it in ‘quotes’”:


OK. And that’s all I have finished lately. Now I’m going to go finish the post about the vest I started Friday…

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Aw, come ON!!!!

You’re my friends, right? You’d tell me if, you know, I had spinach in my teeth? Or maybe smelled like a rancid pat of month-old butter?


I am starting to feel maybe a tad not loved or something.

For the, uh, hmm, well lots of times (I only have ten fingers and ten toes, so I’ve now lost count), yet another contract has fallen through.

For me. My husband, thankfully, has gotten two under his belt in the first flippin’ week he’s been “on board.”

This morning he says to me, “Hmm. Next week is going to be a challenge…I’m going to have full time work from two clients, plus this third thing.”

I agreed that this could be, you know, tough, especially considering that I had an interview yesterday that went very, very well and all the feedback I’ve gotten has been basically along the lines of “keep your bags packed, we’re going to be a ‘go’ any second” on this deal.

I’m expecting the call any minute.

And then I get the call.

And it isn’t the call I was, you know, expecting. Or, put it another way: The call, I expected. The conversation was a surprise.

Basically, while they worship at the feet of my greatness feel that I am indeed an excellent fit and have mad skilz and blah blah blah it isn’t you it’s us…they’re deciding to explore other options.


Seriously? Do I smell bad? Month-old spinach in my teeth? What in the @*^&@ is going on around here?!?!


Actually, I do know what’s going on, at least in part. With the economy in such a rotten state and their credit lines frozen, when employers get to the part where they sit down and calculate how much it will cost to get work done they blanch, maybe throw up in their trash can a few times, and then decide that since things have been staggering along more or less OK for the last eon, by golly they can jolly well keep staggering on for…a little bit.

Nobody has particularly deep pockets right now.

So. Guess I’m back to square one yet again.

I got off the phone, muttered a few choice words to express my feelings, and then reached automatically for my omnipresent list pad. I’ve never been big on wallowing when things don’t turn out as you expect. Disaster can often be opportunity in disguise – like the price of certain stocks right now, which I feel have ‘opportunity for truly embarrassing returns’ written all over them. (No, I won’t tell you which ones…I might be wrong, and I would feel beyond horrible if somebody ran out and bought a bunch of stock in some company because Tama said, “Wow, that’s going to be worth millions someday!” and then they promptly went bankrupt.)

I looked at it. Full of super-mundane things today, household things, things I wanted to get done now because, shoot. If I’m taking a regular old contract and going to be gone Monday through Friday for a couple months, we’re going to want these things done before I start…

Suddenly not so urgent.

Suddenly, I have all day today, and tomorrow. And all next week. Even if I got a call today with a Hot Opportunity, the whole process seldom takes less than a full week.

Change of plans.


I stared at it for a while. A few things occurred to me, but I just sat there.

Too bummed out to boogie, I suppose.

I’m bummed, and tired, and just feeling kind of…blah.

I think…I’m going to go knit something. Possibly while eating chocolate and watching something mindless on TV.

It might not be particularly constructive, but it’s better than brooding or whining. Or drawing random geometric patterns on your to-do list.

That’s…not particularly constructive, either…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fundraiser blues

It’s Fundraiser Season, everybody!!!


OK, it’s true. I hate fundraisers. On my desk at this precise moment are the following:

Walk-A-Thon pledge sheets: 3

Sally Foster Wrapping Paper Fundraiser envelopes (thick suckers, these): 3

Cookie Dough & More Fundraiser envelope: 1 (ah yes, new school…new fundraisers!)

I used to love fundraisers, back when I was their age. I’d go door to door through my neighborhood (and I knew everybody - I was a very social kid, and also we didn’t have crime back then {cough, cough}, so I spent 99% of my free time wandering wild through the neighborhood making a nuisance of myself friends with all those lovely adults who didn’t see me coming and run back into their homes, draw the shades and quiver in fear behind some furniture were gardening or making dinner or something else that might be interesting), and some people would sign up and some people wouldn’t and usually I’d be one of the Top Sellers because I had sturdy little legs and I would hit up literally a thousand houses each and every time.

No guts, no glory.

Well. What happens to a kid who can’t go door to door because we don’t know a living soul in our neighborhood…except other parents who are all desperately trying to get orders for the same fundraiser? AND, both of your parents work from home, and thus have no office full of coworkers who, fully understanding that you will return the favor when their little Precious has to sell 5,500 boxes of cookies to win a Nintendo Wii, will immediately pledge $0.25 per lap for the walk-a-thon or order a tub of $13 cookie dough? (I do not even want to think about how much more per-cookie this is than homemade…I might vomit…)

AND FURTHERMORE, what happens when said kid is one of four siblings, all of whom have the exact.same.fundraiser in their hot little hands?

Is Grandma supposed to buy something from each of them? Shoot, that can run a hundred bucks, easily! If Mommy doesn’t buy something from each one, does that mean she loves the one(s) she did buy from more?!

You can see why my love for fundraisers has not merely cooled, but frozen right over.


Well, this year, I instituted a new rule on fundraisers. It is sitting on the Denizens about as comfortably as a hair shirt at this point, but in time I think they will understand the beauty of it (which is that Mommy is a less-crazy person, which is a good thing for their little futures).

The rule is this: We will take these things on a rotation basis. Eldest got the Boxtops (hey, don’t scoff – we sent in about $18 worth of the things with her, in a quart-sized baggie!). Danger Mouse got credit for the bake sale purchases. And now, Boo Bug gets the Sally Foster order.

Captain Adventure going to a different school, well, he’s not in rotation.

And I’m pissed about his fundraiser because I have been hungry for éclairs for about a week now, and his fundraiser is selling frozen éclairs, eight to a box for {gak!} thirteen bucks, and I looked at that and I went, well, “GAK!” and then I was thinking that really, it doesn’t take that long or that much to make them from scratch and now all I can think about is éclairs and their creamy, custard-filled goodness and I have been able to think of very little else all day today and I’m kind of thinking that probably it would be best, you know, purely in the name of getting my brain back on business…if I went ahead and, you know…made some.

stupid fundraisers!...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jazz hands!

Captain Adventure has this mannerism that is pretty common in autistic kids: He will “flap” his hands in front of his face. Basically, he’ll lift his fingers up in front of his eyes and then flop his hands back and forth, really fast and hard, so that his fingers are flashing in front of his eyes.

He tends to do it when he’s tired, agitated, confused, overstimulated or otherwise not feeling 100% comfortable with his environment.

Unlike a lot of autistic kids, it’s pretty easy to get him to quit it…as long as you’re willing to approach the issue in the spirit of playful redirection rather than making him quit it.

Tonight, he was tired and a bit annoyed because Daddy put him into a timeout for excessive wild screaming. (The nerve of some people! Just because one is shrieking in a way that causes eardrums to rupture does not mean one is in need of a timeout…harrumph!!!)

After the timeout, I was easing him back into polite society and getting him settled with a nice bowl of macaroni and cheese. Naturally, the phone chose that moment to ring, so I left him with the bowl while I answered the phone…two seconds later, I peeked over my shoulder at him and saw him wildly flapping his hands in front of his face. Ugh.

I can’t tell you why that particular twitchy thing bothers me so much, but it does. It really bugs me. Maybe because it’s so…unmistakably not right. It’s just not a behavior you see in ‘typically developing’ kids, and since this whole thing still sits on me about as comfortably as a pair of size 000 jeans would…my hackles go right up whenever he starts doing it.

Or maybe it’s just because this is a relatively new ‘twitchy thing’ he’s started doing. It just started in the last few months, which has made me wonder if maybe he’s picked it up from other kids in his program or something…he’s quite the copycat truth be told, as the story to follow will clearly demonstrate.

So I got off the phone double-quick, turned to him and started flapping my own hands. Copycat!

“Mommy!” he shouted, his eyes twinkling happily. Already, he’s broken out of the hand-flapping trance. “Why DO dat?!”

“Jazz hands!” I announced, holding my palms toward him and shaking them like a tambourine. He grinned and copied me. Excellent!

“Put ‘em up high!” I shouted, shoving them skyward.

“Uh-HI!” he yelled back, putting his hands above his head.

“Down low,” I murmured, dropping them below my waist.

“Own oooo,” he agreed, dropping his as well.

“Clap! Clap! Clap!”

“Crap! Crap! Crap!” {Mommy about choked to death trying not to laugh on that one.}

“Saaaaaaaay, ‘What a smart boy am I’!” I held my hands out, palms up.

“Yesh. Captain Adventure is mark ‘oy! Yesh!” He held out his hands to emphasize his own cleverness.

And behold, there has been no more hand-flapping tonight.

(There has, however, been a bit more ‘crap, crap, crapping’, which is cracking me up to the point where I’m afraid I might actually die of oxygen deprivation or something.)

OMG WTF: A cautionary tale for parents

This weekend, Eldest had a sleepover at her BFF’s house in honor of BFF’s birthday. Her birthday present was a gift card to Hot Topic, so thither they went in search of t-shirts with (appropriate) cartoons on them.

BFF wanted to buy a shirt that said, “OMG WTF?!” on it.

Her father said, “Eh, no. Inappropriate.”

To which BFF replied, “Oh, c’mon, Dad! Nobody at school will even know what that means! They’ll think it means oh my god, where’s the fudge. You know. Because I like fudge. A LOT.”

“Yeah, nice try,” Dad said, putting the shirt back on the rack, firmly.

“Seriously! Even Eldest doesn’t know what it really means, right Eldest?”

Eldest smirked. Then she snickered. And then…she spoke.

“OH…I know what it means. My mom is the F-word champion.”

{awkward pause} {Dad busts out laughing so hard he almost ruptures his spleen}

“…but only in private…” Eldest slips inter-guffaw. {now everybody in the store is on the ground rolling and gasping in laughter-induced pain}


OK, so, maybe I have, in the heat of battle, once or twice…murmured…a Certain Word that apparently has been overheard by Certain People who really should not be hearing these words from, you know…me.

You know that saying about little pitchers and big ears?


Big ears? Denizen’s haz dem.

double sigh

What makes me even more put-out is that honestly, I restrain my tongue most of the time. Or at least redirect it…you know, I’ll actually say “gol dang it all to heck” when what I really want to say is a little more…direct. Or I’ll yelp “oh fudge cakes!” when I’d rather say oh-f-it, or God Bless America and ALL THE SHIPS AT SEA when really, I’d rather be requesting Divine BLASTING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH of whatever object is currently irking me.

And you know that this will be Common Knowledge among all 200-some-odd students AND their parents at school within 48 hours. “Eldest’s mom has a potty mouth!” they’ll say. And their parents will say, Oh, REALLY and then my name will be scratched off the play-date and fundraising volunteer lists and…



@*^&@^&@ it! I am so ^*@&^ing upset about this @^*&@ing situation! @^*&@^! I really need to clean up my @*^&@*&^@ing act, here!!!!!


Monday, October 13, 2008

{blink, blink}

So, one of the things I needed to do PDQ was get a new bank account for our new business. When it was Just Me I operated under just my name…with my husband coming on board, we went ahead and made it an “Enterprises” and I scurried around getting the permits to reflect the new name.

And of course, if you’re operating as Us Enterprises, well, doggone it, people are naturally going to want to write their checks to Us Enterprises…in which case, you need a business banking account that understands such things as what a partnership is, and that checks made out to any combination of Him Us, Her Us, and/or Us Enterprises are acceptable for deposit.

I waffled a bit about where to put our business banking account, but eventually I settled on one of the Mega Banks for three basic reasons:

1. Branch locations – one is right around the corner from the Den, and they have additional branches about everywhere you look.

2. They had a rather nice offer going with free checks and transactions, and no maintenance fees – I hate maintenance fees, they give me hives.

3. I thought they’d probably be easier to deal with, seeing that they are a Mega Bank and have constant and heavy exposure to every conceivable cross-section of the American business world.

That last one is huge for me. As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t the first Official Home-based Business I’ve run. This old hen, she’s pecked in this poop before. The only thing more irritating than having to figure out what the requirements are for your specific “flavor” of business (home-based or otherwise, by the way) is having to argue with a teller about whether or not you have to file form XSS44-176E(be) with the State.

We actually have a very simple deal going here. It’s a basic partnership with pass-through taxation (meaning, the “business” doesn’t make money, my husband and I do…we pay taxes on the money we earn as individuals…well, actually as a married couple filing jointly, but you know what I mean), we’re using our real names as our business name so there’s no DBA requirements…easy-peasy, really. Minimal paperwork. I’d checked it over fifteen times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, annoyed the hell out of several employees of the City, County and State by phone and fax, etc. etc. etc.

Eventually everybody said, “YES! OK!? YES, you’re FINE, we don’t CARE, we’ll see you on April 15!!!!!!”

Let the games…begin!

I decided to go ahead and take advantage of the online enrollment, because I made this decision at 5:45 on a Thursday evening and had plans for Friday that did not include a two hour ordeal at a branch sporting a Business Banking Specialist™. I scanned copies of our partnership agreement, business license, business cards and SS-4 showing our EIN from Los Federales.

Late the next day, I got an email from Buddy, my new best friend over there at Mega Bank. I kid you not, this is what it said:

Thank you for fasing your partnershp agrement but unfortunetly it is too small for me to read please fas in a clearer copy thanks-buddy

{blink, blink}

For a moment, I thought I was being scammed. I thought maybe someone intercepted the online application and was now phishing me. But, it all checked out…the bank really is letting someone with proofreading skills that bad send emails to customers.

I have to admit, my opinion of Mega Bank just took a quiver downward. But, hey. You know. Maybe Buddy ain’t from around here, maybe I should consider just how bad my Farsi or Mandarin or Spanish or Whatever would be and just send Buddy what he says he needs.

Wait…if ‘fasing’ means ‘faxing’ (it did)…I didn’t fax them, I sent him a scanned JPG of them…hmmmm… (another slight confidence-dip happened right around this point…)

So I look at my JPG files and wonder what the hell Buddy’s problem is. They’re clear as a bell. And then it hits me: When you double click on them to open, the default view is 25% - at 25%, it looks like a smear of word-like ink blotches.

Hmm. C’mon, you’re kidding, right? Surely anybody who had worked with file attachments for, you know, three SECONDS would know all about the ‘zoom’ and how it affected the view ability of an image file…?

So I reattached the same exact files and sent them to Buddy again, telling him that if they seem blurry to check the zoom on his reader. At 50% or better, they should be crystal clear for you there, Buddy.

I hear nothing from Buddy for a bit.

Then Friday, I received this gem:

Thank you for your partnership agrement, which is clearer thank you. I do not hav biz. license or faticous name certificate also I need DBA copies from newspaper and the other docs to State this is the last document I need thanks-buddy.


Friends…there are times when you really start to find your confidence shaken. I’m starting to have a baaaaaaaad feeling about Mega Bank at this point. That Buddy writes like my six year old I can forgive (mostly) (except that seriously, Mega Bank? WHY would you let this guy write emails to end consumers?! Let him practice on internal clients for a while first, dudes! He’s making you look baaaaaad, here!), but I find it much, much harder to forgive a business banker who doesn’t understand when a business does, or does not, require certain forms be filed, stamped, and otherwise validated.

So I sent him our business permit again and reminded him, as gently as possible, that we are a simple partnership (husband/wife, no less), and had no DBA, and therefore no need for a fictitious name certificate. (That I resisted adding, “FICTITIOUS, not FATICOUS, you twit!” is, I think, proof that I have the Zen of a master…or else that I am really, really passive-aggressive non-confrontational.)

To which he replied, I still needing DBA copies from newspaper and other docs to State. I cannot open biz account without these docs. Any questions please call. {number}. thanks-buddy.

I pondered a few choice responses, but finally settled on this one:

Buddy, thank you for your assistance with this. I think it will be best if you close this new account request at this time, and I will make time to sit down with a business banking specialist in-branch so we can go over the requirements face-to-face.

It was soooooo hard not to put because I suspect you are a complete twit and the idea of you touching my bank account in any way gives me a rash on my brain. on the end of that last sentence.

Fortunately, my Zen mastery passive-aggressive nature won out.

I left it off the email…and posted it here, instead, without actually revealing who Buddy is or what bank he works for.

Because I am kind and gentle that way…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Oh, and...

...I made the pumpkin pie. The smell as it baked was sooooooo good, heavy and warm and spicy. It filled the whole house, smelling of Fall, at last, tantalizing my nose with promises of holidays still to come, hinting that the rich smell of turkey and roast beef will soon be here.

Nights cuddled up in thick socks and sweaters, hands cupped around a hot cup of Something, a rich soup simmering on the stove...coming soon to a Den near you...

And then the Denizens got home.

And now there is no more pumpkin pie.

But I did at least get one (1) slice of it before they hit it like a plague of very cute locusts and left me with an empty, pumpkin-scented pie plate...

Resisting the feelin’ wealthy high

You know one of the fastest ways to get poor?

Feel rich.

I went to KnitPicks today for, you know, a couple little things. I have an order in for a kid’s sweater and needed 500 grams of a nice machine-washable DK-weight wool (hello, Swish) in two colors…and also, some of those little ‘needle markers’ would be nice. Oh, look, books are on sale. Sweet, check this out, heyyyyyy, $35 for the yarn and pattern for two market bags?! That’s $17.50 apiece and they’d make awesome Christmas presents…I could probably whump those out in nothing flat, too…

And a few balls of this and how convenient, I can auto-order the yarn for this sweater with a couple clicks and…whoa. $205? How did I get to $205, for 500 grams of DK-weight blue yarn and some needle markers…?

I almost shrugged and bought it all anyway. It was a very close thing.

See, I’m feeling very wealthy right now. Practically high, truth be told. The checks are on their way and I just heard that I’m the one and only qualified candidate for the “potential” contract and hot diggity damn, I’m practically a millionaire already!

And then suddenly, my common sense reached out and belted me upside the head.

I know better. Recent evidence to the contrary aside, I really do. Spending money I don’t have on the basis that I will have it “soon” is inane, and I know it.

So I went into my shopping cart and clicked on “remove all.”

Then I started over…with a phone call. How would Mom feel about a sweater that had to be washed separately on ‘delicate’ in her front-loader and laid flat to dry? S’okay?


One quick stash-dive later, I had 500 grams of DK wool laid out on the bed. 300 grams in a hand-dyed blue, 200 grams in cream. It isn’t machine wash and dry, but it is soft and warm and lovely.

And already bought and paid for, years ago. I can’t even remember where and when I bought it, to be honest. It’s been in the stash a long, long time…I think it might have been 1999, the first year I went to Stitches, with an infant Eldest staring wide-eyed at all the madness from the safety of her Snugli.

It was a near thing.

Hopefully, I’ll soon have the cash in hand to go a little nuts at KnitPicks and my local yarn store and so forth. But until it is actually in my bank account, and not immediately needed for other things (oh yeah…bills and such…), I’m going to have to keep a tight rein on my feelin’ wealthy high.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…my long-neglected list of knitting projects is calling.

And I owe you some pictures, too. I finished the Pacific Northwest shawl a while ago, and the Tofu-swirl socks, and I even started another pair on the way to LA in ‘mystery sock yarn’ from the Some Assembly Required Sock Drawer…


……where has the camera gotten to this time?!……


(And thus are my dreams of an orderly and even well-organized home office once again dashed…)

Got to a Yes at last!

I just finished writing up our very first official Fee for Service contract agreement.

Have you ever tried to be all lawyer-speak with the parties of this part agreeing that the parties of that part shall blah blah blah with Agreement capitalized and such while bouncing up and down in your chair giggling inanely because HELLO! We’ve been in business precisely three (3) days and we’re already booking up our most expensive partner (that would be my husband) at close to our top billing rate for a four month engagement?!

It is not easy, people. Lawyer-speak is short on things like “squeee!” and “thank $DEITY!” and “yes-yes-yes-yes-YES!”

Furthermore, I have finally managed to get past the initial contact, the first interview AND a review of my technical skills on a nice contract right in my own backyard (for once). If things continue on their current course (and I don’t stick my foot all the way into my mouth during the final signing session and tickle my uvula with my toes while whistling the Star Spangled Banner, which could understandably cause a potential client to back nervously out the door muttering “We’ll, um, get back to you on this contract…”), I could be signing another contract for our less-expensive partner (uh, me) and starting more work-for-pay-hooray by next week!

Praise $DEITY, and pass me another diet Pepsi! I’m in a celebratin’ kind of mood, for a damned (and welcome) change!

In case you hadn’t noticed from the gloomy posts lately, the last few weeks (months, actually) have been pretty tough for me. Our bills have been mounting like crazy for a variety of inane things, most particularly around medical care. We’ve managed to rack up some impressive bills since summer began, and are charging into another round of expenses as the weather changes to Boo Bug Allergy Season. That’s at least another $300 a month in prescriptions, plus the inevitable “need” for a chest x-ray to rule out asthma (again), and probably a few other tests for good measure.

When I reluctantly admitted that we need more income than we’ve got and started beating the bushes for work…again and again, the same thing. My skills are impressive, my references solid, my education highly desirable, my personality a good fit for the team, BUT, unfortunately, our budget our client our hiring freeze blah blah blah.

As lead after lead fizzled out and died…and the bills mounted…and emergency after emergency had me writing bigger and bigger checks, seemingly hourly…I’ve kept telling myself again and again in my best Cheerful and Optimistic Tone of Voice…I just need one (1) phone call.

Just one phone call, just one word on the other end of the line. That’s all I need. Just one little word.

Just one yes.

Then when the yes-count stays stuck at ZERO for week after week, you start to wonder if, I dunno, you smell bad or something…I was actually starting to wonder if one of my references was torpedoing me…I’ve never had this much initial interest followed by this much silence, after all…where the heck is that “just one yes”?!

And then, glory be, we finally got one. Whew. That one yes means that the bills will get paid, our investments accounts are safe for a while yet, and we could actually start to sneak some cash into our emergency fund…vital to keep that fund plump now, because there is one thing that is completely certain about our new line of work, and that is a constant cycle of feast and famine.

If I can get that second yes, I could likely repair most of the damage we’ve taken by the end of the year.

Christmas will still be a touch on the, uh, cautious side…but at least we won’t have to cancel it.

Yessir. Gonna get me another diet Pepsi. Sure, it’s an extra $0.25 down the old hatch, but like I said…I’m celebratin’!

(Shoot, I might go whole-hog and make me a pumpkin pie! I’ve got a can of solid pack pumpkin in the cupboard, why the heck not! Live for today, that’s MY motto…at the moment, anyway…)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nooooo…dat WAH-DER…

Captain Adventure has discovered the joys of the tea party.

I suppose it was inevitable, being as he is drowning in big sisters who are all of the Girly-Girl persuasion. Apparently, while we were down in LA, the sisters had a tea party (complete with chocolate crinkle cookies) and he became entranced with the little porcelain tea set.

I mean, really…can it get much better than this? You’ve got a teapot with a spout for pouring water, and little cups to pour water into, and you can refill the pot from the refrigerator water spigot (conveniently located near the ground, in case you happen to be a bit on the short side due to being only four years old).

Furthermore, custom dictates that anybody you pour for must say, “Thank you!”, which is rather gratifying, and then courtesy demands that they drink at least some of the water, which means that you can trot back and forth from the spigot to the table until your little legs wear out from under you.

ANY four year old might do this until the adults in the crowd were thoroughly tired of the whole sport. Captain Adventure brings to bear a level of single-minded dedication that is truly…mind-numbing.


He’ll get over it eventually. All new groovy things are like this for him: When he decides he likes something, he likes it intensely. For a while, he would watch the same Dora DVD over and over and over again. You weren’t allowed to change it. He didn’t want to watch a different one. No. THIS Dora. This SAME Dora. AGAIN.

…and again…and again…and again

Last night, the first thing he did when he got home was make a beeline for the tea set. He took out the cups and the teapot, filled up the teapot and then began carefully pouring out water and bringing it to each family member.

“’Ere’e’go, Eld-st!” he sang out, shoving the cup at her.

“Thank you, Captain Adventure,” Eldest giggled, taking a sip while he stared at her with slack-jawed adoration. “Yum yum!”

“OK! OK!” Ah, the party is going well so far! He poured another cup.

“Ere’e’go, Mommy!” he shouted, shoving it at me enthusiastically. Serving Mommy is The Best, see, because usually, Mommy does everything? So it’s like, proof of Big Boyhood and stuff to do things myself around here right now.

The cup, naturally, sloshed its entire contents onto the table. “OH NO! OH NO! IT PILL!!! I DO IT! IIIIIIIII DOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIT!!!!”

It is important to scream these things very loudly, otherwise someone else might pimp your gig by getting a towel and mopping up the spill instead of letting you do it yourself. Alone! Because, hello, Big Boy! Geesh, like I couldn’t handle this all by myself

He ran for a towel, threw it in the general direction of the spilled water (not to be confused with onto the spilled water, because he actually missed that entirely), rubbed vigorously for a moment (screaming, “I DO IT!” anytime I tried to point out that he was missing the spill), then refilled the cup and set it gently in front of me.

“Ere. Ere’e’go! MOMMY! Ere’e’go!!! No, not like DAT!” Mommy had to be chastised for inappropriately attempting to sop up some of the water he’d missed…which was most of it. “I DO IT!”

“Oh. OK. YOU do it.” Oh well, at least I’d gotten the towel positioned over the spill, so his efforts were actually doing something…

“Ere’e’go!” he reminded me, then stood and watched wide-eyed as I drank the sip of water from the cup.

“Very nice, thank you,” I said.

“OK! OK! I’s’get’a’MOH!”

“Actually, I think I’m good…oh dear…”

Several pots of water later, we were all extremely anxious to bring the party to an end. Suggestions were made. Games, coloring, turns on a Nintendo, potty break, c’mon, kid, work with us here, we’re DROWNING…

“Captain Adventure, sweetheart, I’m full up!” I announced at last. “No more tea, please. All done!”

He peered into the teapot, then looked back at me with an expression that clearly said What…an…IDIOT.

“Nooooo, mommy. Dat not right. Dat wah-der. Not is eeeeee. Is. Wah. Der.” He said it very slowly and carefully, because obviously, Mommy is a tad on the slow side. Sheesh. Thinks it’s tea in here, what a crayon

Just think…in a few years? There will be a heavy sigh and an eye-roll to go along with such declarations.

But I’m planning to record him saying it, so I can blackmail him forever. “It was sooooo cute, the way he used to say it…here, let me play it for you, didn’t he just have the cutest little voice ever?”

{click} Dat not right. Not is eeeeeee. Is. Wah. Der.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Doode kent gettum, JERK FACE!!!!

Have you ever read a comment like that somewhere? Say, I don’t know…YouTube? Or Yahoo! discussion boards? Or just about anywhere else people are permitted to just BLURT OUT WHAT’S ON THEIR MINDS, right through their fingers, comfortable in the knowledge that nobody at work is likely to turn around and say, “Hey, you’re that guy who keeps leaving the JERK FACE comments!”

I’ll admit it…I’ve been irked far more by such comments than they deserve. Sometimes it’s the fact that no attempt at all is made to even consider that we have such a thing as spelling. Sometimes it’s because you get the feeling the comment was left by someone who either didn’t give the matter half a second’s thought before hitting !!!POST!!!, or someone who really should just…not…post…ANYTHING…ever

Sometimes it’s the vitriol. Sometimes it’s the @^*&@ing bad language. I’m not a prude (and hardly innocent as the driven snow when it comes to the occasional outburst of @*&^@, or *@&^, or even {gasp} ^!&^*@), mind you, but gee whiz. Must we use Those Words all the time?!

And by the way…in my humble (and OK, prudish) opinion…never, EVER on discussions involving little ones. Leaving a comment that could not be uttered out loud on the airwaves on someone’s video of Precious taking her first steps…bad form, old beans.

ANYWAY. I have often wondered if the folks leaving the comments, especially those vicious negative ones with the @*^&@s in them, had any idea what they sound like. (You know, maybe, like…ill-educated buffoons with the social graces of a rabid boar and also there is a strong suggestion that they probably smell bad?)

I have also wondered if, had they taken a precious moment to read their comment aloud, would they maybe have…reworded a bit. Noticed that they spelled “can’t”, “kent”, stuff like that.

Perhaps there really is some kind of hive-mind going on out there in the computer-geek world, for lo! YouTube has also wondered. And they have implemented, shall we call it assistance, for those who might need a little help seeing how the world sees them: YouTube Commenters Hear Their Own Gibberish.

Basically, for those who aren’t going to read the article, YouTube now has a button on their comment posting form that reads you comment back to you.

Bloody. Brilliant.

Purely in the interest of science, I went to YouTube and tried it.


Seriously, I could probably spend hours just typing in the foulest, meanest, weirdest, most poorly spelled witticisms and listening to the deadpan, computer-generated voice reading them back to me.

Except that I am terrified that I might accidentally hit “post comment” instead of “discard” and then people would know I know such words.

I cling to my veneer of civility, people.

Also, Hi Mom! Hi Grandma! Love you both! Haven’t used any foul language lately (that you know of!)! OK! Kiss-kiss!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Again with the price comparisons…

I ate some pudding white stuff that alleged to be vanilla pudding tonight. I’m ashamed to admit I not only bought this white stuff, I bought it for my children to take for school snacks. Eh, they were on sale, one dollar for four little cups of the stuff. No refrigeration required. Perfect for the snack box we keep for their school-snacking-pleasure.

Oh. My. Dawg. I mean…they’re just…um…EW!

The Denizens, naturally, love them. They are smooth, and sweet, and Mommy has only bought them maybe one other time in ten long years of Denizen Existence.

They are a treat.

Or so they tell me. These being the same short people who tell me that crisp, farm-fresh green beans tossed with !butter and bacon! are icky…large grains of salt should be taken along with their opinions.

As I polished off the thankfully tiny little cup of glop, I found myself pondering how good a deal these little suckers actually were. I mean, $1 for four 3.5 ounce cups seemed pretty cheap, considering that the regular price for them was $2.79…but…hmmm…

First, I thought about the old busy-mom standby: Jell-O Instant Pudding. One package of that for $1.89, three cups of milk for another quarter and for $2.15-ish I’ve got six half-cup servings with almost no effort. And it goes on sale frequently for a dollar a package. $1.25, six slightly larger servings, it’s a better deal. Simple, too. Dump the mix into the milk, whisk, refrigerate, divvy into serving containers, done.

But could I just leave it at that? Of course not. I had to wonder about homemade pudding. The from-scratch stuff.

{somber priestess expression} Let us consult The Spreadsheet. {/somber priestess expression}

The following ingredients, put together in the right order and stirred carefully over medium heat until boiling, makes about four cups of pudding – a little over double the amount of one four-pack of the prepackaged glop. The price per unit comes from my price book. (The vanilla, by the way, costs me about half what a wee bottle from the supermarket costs…when you buy the stuff a gallon at a time, you tend to get a price break, go figure.) Multiply the quantity by the price per unit and what do you get…

Vanilla Pudding, 4 cups

IngredientUnitsCost/UnitTotal Cost
Sugar, Cups0.75$ 0.20$ 0.15
Flour, Cups0.125$ 0.09$ 0.01
Cornstarch, Tablespoon2$ 0.03$ 0.07
Salt, teaspoon0.25$ 0.01$ 0.00
Milk, cup2.5$ 0.09$ 0.22
Eggs yolks 4$0.13$ 0.53
Butter, Tablespoon1$ 0.05$ 0.05
Vanilla Extract, teaspoon1$ 0.12$ 0.12
Total Cost$ 1.14

Well now. Isn’t that fascinating.

Of course, the main selling point here is convenience. The glop is prepackaged, requires no refrigeration and is a grab-n-go proposition. Grab the glop, and a spoon, and off you go. They also don’t require any particular skills with a wooden spoon, which I understand is a huge selling point for a lot of folks.

But my frugal point is this. Let’s say you’ve got four kids hungry for a sweet treat. Let’s say you’re a weak generous kind of parent, and you don’t mind letting them have one, once or twice a week. Let’s make it twice, because that math is easier.

You can pay $2.00 on sale (or $5.58 not on sale) for them to have not-quite-half-a-cup of artificially sweetened, smoothened and otherwise tweaked about glop, or $1.14 for nothing-you-can’t-pronounce-in-it homemade pudding. (I’m not biased, I swear!)

If this is every single week, that’s as much as $230 a year in pudding-savings.

How inconvenient is it, really? Well, I’ll grant you, the first couple times will be annoying, and possibly messy, and something may very well go wrong. Although frankly, pudding is one of the easier things to make…the main thing is to keep stirring constantly as you warm it gently up to boiling. Having the fire too hot (e.g., being in a hurry and deciding that it probably won’t hurt things to, you know, nudge that temperature up a bit) will give you nasty burnt milk flavor, getting distracted will give you lumpy pudding.

But I’ve been making puddings for a while. Start to finish, it takes me about twenty minutes to make a batch of the stuff. It takes no longer to make a triple batch than a single, so I can make an entire week’s worth of indulgence in the same amount of time. Package it up in, say, a couple sets of Rubbermaid ‘Twist and Seals’. They stack up in the fridge, the kids can still grab-n-go, and I’ve just saved myself a whack of change, done my small bit for the environment (wash and reuse, people!), and partially assuaged my guilt for sending them to school with sugary non-nutrition in the first place.

Because this right here, is homemade, all natural sugary non-nutrition, people!

Infinitely healthier than the other stuff.


And because somebody is going to ask…here’s how you put those ingredients together.

In a nice heavy saucepan, combine:
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

In another bowl, whisk together:
4 egg yolks
2-1/2 cups milk

(If you’re not going to use the egg whites right away, I recommend freezing each one in an ice tray – thawed out and warmed all the way back up to room temperature, they can be used in meringues…or you can use them to bind your meatloaf, or to make a nice light omelet, or in glazes for your baked goods…point being, you don’t have to dump them down the sink just because you aren’t going to use them right that minute.)

Turn the heat on to medium. TRUST ME. No cheating and setting it to high to get it over with faster! Medium.

Pour your milk-egg mixture into the dry mixture, stirring constantly. I generally use my whisk for this part, to make sure I get things good and blended before the action gets started.

Stir constantly over that medium heat, resisting the urge to turn it up, until it suddenly, right when you thought it was never, ever going to do it and maybe I should just nudge this heat up a smidge or two here, thickens and starts to boil. Keep stirring for one whole minute, cursing loudly as molten splotches of pudding leap out of the pan and burn quarter-sized holes in your flesh being careful to avoid splatters.

Remove from the heat. Add one tablespoon of butter, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Allow to cool, then divvy up into your serving containers and there you are. Stack them up in the fridge, and feel smug about $230 in pudding-savings this year. If, you know, you’re giving four kids a twice-weekly pudding fix. Wait, is that just me…?

It will form a crust on the top. Big deal. Stir it in and ignore it – it doesn’t harm the taste any.

This particularly recipe is highly customizable, too. You want butterscotch flavor? Use brown sugar instead of white. You want bananas? Why not – add a few slices to the containers before you fill them. In fact, you can add just about any fruit to this, which has the added benefit of alluding to good nutrition. It’s not just pudding, it is pudding with blueberries, which have antioxidants, which makes this health-pudding!

OK, yeah, it’s a stretch. But speaking from the firm ground of almost complete scientific ignorance, it surely seems to me that my homemade stuff has got to be healthier (in a highly relative manner) than something with chemical compounds I can’t even pronounce in it, which exist purely to prolong shelf life and permit a dairy product to sit in the 80-degree-plus heat for weeks on end without “product degradation.”

…but again, I swear, I am not biased…

Monday, October 06, 2008

Curveballs and Continuance

Well. The last seven days have got to be pretty high on the “least fun weeks ever” list. Not a lot of income for me, my husband’s job getting more and more unstable, and oh yeah, my niece’s funeral.

Oh yeah.


One of the cruelest things about death has got to be that life goes on. It doesn’t even hesitate, not for a moment. My email was backing up and my cell phone ringing all day Friday, as we bumbled around the LA area trying to find the right freeways to get from our house, to his aunt’s house, to the funeral home, to the reception, and back to our hotel – which believe me, is a task. Especially if the driver is one of those guys who always has some clever route or other which will be “faster.”

Or was faster, fourteen years ago when he actually lived in the area. Ahem. Yes. Moving on…

I had a few moments when I wanted to just pitch my cell phone into the nearest convenient body of water. The people calling weren’t at fault, for heaven’s sake! At any other time, their calls would have been most welcome. “Hello, we’d like to hire you, and then pay you oodles of money for making our problem(s) go bye-bye!” is not a call people generally get pissed about receiving.

Quite the contrary. Under other circumstances, I would have been a squealing bubble of happiness to have my formerly silent phone ringing and ringing and ringing like that.

But we just spent three days on less than four hours sleep per day, arrived in LA at 2:30 in the morning, got hello, yes, again with the less than four hours sleep (thank you, tree trimmers…I am so pleased to know you arrive for work bright and frickin’ early, 6:30 on the dot, to start yelling, shouting and whistling to each other…and commend you for sticking so stringently to the rule about no chainsaws before 7:00 a.m. because yeah, I have to admit: those suckers didn’t roar into life until 7:01…) and then had to go to a funeral for a feisty, sunny child of only twenty-four years with my cell phone buzzing like a pissed-off rattlesnake in my bag the whole time, and I’ve known her since she was ten and I would like someone to, I dunno, recount the votes or something because a mistake has obviously been made, here and excuse me, but WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME RIGHT NOW, AGAIN?!?!

I came perilously close to actually spitting something like that out to a poor, unsuspecting manager looking for someone to help her underling figure out which end of his spreadsheet was up. It was very shortly after the service, as we were puttering through the inevitable LA traffic on what turned out to be the wrong freeway (don’t ask). Blah blah blah SQL something about reporting got the Crystal or the Brio or the look, lady, I really don’t give a @*(^&@ right now…I only answered the phone because I for some INANE reason thought you were Uncle Greg calling because one of the Denizens had fallen down a well and frankly my mind is filled with the image of my sister-in-law weeping because her precious baby is gone and can never be replaced…

But I didn’t. I just said that it was a really bad time, I was on the road and away from a pen, and if she could please send me an email with the specific-as-possible requirements in it, I would be more than happy to get back to her bright and early Monday morning with an estimate. Yes. That would be great. OK. I’ll be watching for that.

Thank you.



I’ll admit, I’ve had a really hard time paying any attention at all to business today. And I need to, I need to pay really good close attention to it, today.

Today, this very day, as of about 11:00 this morning, my no-longer-traditionally-employed husband and I are starting a real, honest-to-God no-really-BUSINESS-business, together.

Life. Seems the more I’d like it to just slow down or maybe even STOP for a second, the faster it likes to go.

Buckle up, racing fans…

New permits, taxes, fees. New business cards. IRS forms for quarterly tax filings. Partnership agreements. Health insurance applications. Business banking accounts. Website design. Website hosting that can handle SQL Server applications. Figuring out price lists for my husband’s more advanced skills. Setting up the new software. Resale license. Contracts.

People, it is serious, and I need to stay on it.

No matter how much I’d like to spend the next few days just sitting in my knitting chair staring out the window, thinking and rationalizing and trying to hold a flitted life in my hands, trying to figure out why, or what might have been done to keep it on this side of Eternity a while longer…I just…can’t.

There are bills to pay, Denizens to feed, homework that needs doing, flashcards I need to flip with brightly colored shapes and common household items…the cat needs her nails trimmed, the lawn could use a thorough mowing, we have new neighbors in the formerly vacant house next door who should be welcomed and furthermore if I don’t get all those frackin’ boxes of crap my husband dumped all over my nice! clean! bedroom! floor! put away I’m going to kill myself some dark night, trying to navigate from bed to bathroom…

…my little business just turned into the only income source for the Den…

…and dear $DEITY, I worry so much for my brother and sister…even surrounded as they are by the family down there, over three hundred miles away, still…I wish there were some way I could just…help…instead of just thrashing wildly in these foreign seas, wishing I’d paid more attention when they were talking about rowing and swimming and saving others from drowning…

Damn it, Life…could you quit with the machine-gun-propelled curveballs?! Those suckers sting when they hit, and there’s just no guessing which way would be the ‘right’ way to jump when they’re coming at me like that…

But I suppose in a way this is Life’s big promise, too. It was before we came along, it will be after we’ve bowed out. When I’m gone, life won’t stop for anybody else, either.

It will go on.

And better yet, it isn’t only the bills and housework and worry that continue. The laughter does, too. The hugs and excited tales of What Happened At School Today. The singing and dancing. The sweet scent of vanilla wafting up from a freshly-cooked batch of pudding. The warm contentment of a purring cat on my lap.

Friends and family, who grieve and laugh and dance and sing and yell and always reach out to catch you when you’re about to take a nasty spill…and then give you the honor of doing the same for them, when the circle comes around, when you’ve found your strength and caught your breath and are ready to take Life on again.

It goes on, for better as well as worse. It goes on, in sorrow and in joy, in laughter and in tears, in sickness and in health.

It goes on whether you ride it for all its worth, or get dragged along in the dust.

Suppose I need to dust off my chaps and get back in the saddle, huh?

Yup. Reckon so.


Right. Web hosting, with SQL Server database option…

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Not-Interesting apparently leads to Interesting

I lifted this from no-blog-rachel’s blog

You Are 92% Interesting

Believe it or not, you are a very fascinating person.

You're probably too busy being interesting to realize exactly how interesting you are.

You have a rich, full life. You are curious about the world, and you are very open to new experiences.

You have a lot to talk about, and people find you to be an amazing conversationalist.

And most importantly, you are truly interested in other people. How could anyone find that boring?

You truly listen and learn from others. You're not self absorbed or shallow.

Heh. What’s really funny is, it wasn’t always like that for me. Great Googly-Moogly, no. Fifteen years ago…well, now I’ve got to go take it again real quick…oh yeah…yeah…here we go…Tama, fifteen years ago:

You Are 36% Interesting

Truth be told, you're not the most interesting person in the world.

You don't put much effort into expanding your horizons. You're content to stay in your little comfort zone.

You tend to get stuck in a rut, and you often bore people who spend time with you.

You are predictable and somewhat narcissistic. You're too focused on yourself to see how boring you can be.

You have the potential to be an incredibly fascinating person. You just have to be a little more proactive.

Shake things up. Try something new. Take a risk. The worst that can happen is that you'll have an amazing story to tell!

Oooooooh, snap! But pretty true, too. It was right around that time, give or take a year or two, that I had one of Those Moments, when suddenly you realize that you are Just. Plain. WRONG, about a lot of things.

The greatest of these wrong notions was my impression regarding my own relative importance in the grand scheme of things.

You can imagine the system-shock brought on by realizing that the earth, sun, moon and stars did not, in fact, revolve around me and what I {thought, felt, wanted, did with my weekend}.

Once I realized my own lack of earth-shattering profundity, well, suddenly…other people and new notions got a lot more important.

Amazing how that works. You realize you don’t have the most fasssssscinating story on the planet, well, by golly…somebody must…

Maybe I should try listening to that old lady who sidles up to me at the supermarket and tries to engage me in conversation. Is that a can of cat treats I’m buying? Why yes, yes it is…do you like cats, ma’am…? {twenty minute aria about the cats she has known and loved and how, back in the Depression, her father gave her a whipping for feeding her precious kitten a piece of ham}

Maybe I should try getting my head out of my own, uh, space, and see what some other realities look like. Go see things, accept invitations to parties, take the risk that the other person is, in fact, a little crazy, or wrong-headed, or damaged goods, or otherwise, well, Not Like Me.

Really jump on into Life, and see what-all it’s got. I don’t have the answers, but they’ve got to be out there somewhere, right?

I’m not that interesting. I just putter around trying to keep up with the modern world I’ve found myself in. Eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep…that’s pretty much it.

But Life surely is interesting, and endlessly so…so full of color and sound and scent and emotion and heights and depths of the living experience…sometimes I can find myself positively floored by the shifting depths of a purple skein of yarn, or charmed to my core by a child’s laughter floating through the air, or flattened by unspeakable sorrow when I hear of tragedies beyond bearing…and borne up again by tales of victories against all odds.

Weird to think that realizing how wrong I was to think I was ever interesting might have led to actually becoming interesting (if free online quizzes are to be believed), in spite of the fact that I don't really care about being interesting anymore because, hello, lots of things are so much more interesting than I could ever hope to be...and I'm far more interested in hearing about them than running around wearing a sign that says, "Hello, my name is Interesting!"

Allllllrighty, then. Right. This has been another episode of Tama takes a very simple thing and somehow makes it more complex than quantum physics. Tune in next time, when I’ll decide that toilet paper is actually a metaphor for Spiritual Awakening…

(Sigh…sadly, I wouldn’t put it past me…)

First Day: Tremendous Success!!!!

The bus showed up at 7:35 a.m. yesterday to take Captain Adventure to school. He did not get on the bus, however, because we did not know the bus was coming (they kinda forgot to call and tell us they had it all set up already), and he was still in his pajamas slamming down scrambled eggs and toast.

His new bus driver is a neat lady. She “gets” her charges, and is one of those smiling, easy-going types who deals very well with the extra noise and bother her charges make. Score! (We had some issues with the last bus company…among them the fact that the [substitute] driver recently let him out AND DROVE THE @*^&@ AWAY YES REALLY!) (I mean!!!! Would you do that with even a “typically developing” four year old? “OK, out you go sweetie, say hi to mom for me?” and VAROOM, off you go in a cloud of diesel?! Let alone an autistic four year old?! The daycare called to tell me they were looking out the window to watch for the bus and saw him wandering around in their driveway…we all nearly dropped our teeth, and some feisty calls were made to the transportation department believe-you-me…)

We dropped off his sisters and then drove him to his new school.

He. Was. SOOOOOO. Excited!!!

He recognized the school immediately. As we got out of the van, he tried to just take off running for the building (straight into the street, sigh…). I grabbed hold of his collar and held onto it as he twisted and yelled. Not with anger or frustration, but excitement. He got so excited he forgot himself, entirely and actually held my hand as we charged the school.

That’s right. He forgot that he loathes hand-holding in all its forms.

“C’mon, Mommy! GO DAT WAY!!” he shouted, tugging on my hand. His little fingers wriggled in mine, unable to contain their excitement.

“OK, all right, here we go!”


We stormed the beach walked into the building together and were directed to his classroom.

“Oh! Dat Ms. Crystal’s books!” he shouted, pointing at some books on the table in the conference room we passed through. Ms. Crystal is his teacher from his old program, and I’m a little worried that he’s going to miss her. With typical autistic mien, he kind of shrugs and ignores her when she’s actually there, but at home talks about her endlessly, asked to see her almost daily over the summer, and has memorized a lot about her. Ms. Crystal is pretty, Ms. Crystal laughs, Ms. Crystal has brown hair, Ms. Crystal sings songs…it’s very cute. Four year old lurve, there’s nothing quite like it.

ANYWAY. I agreed that those were the same books Ms. Crystal had in her classroom, made him put them back on the table (I think he was going to take them back to Ms. Crystal), and we walked through the building and out into the playground.

Gentle readers, it was a Herculean task to get the Captain to keep on walkin’, once he saw the playground.

But in due course and with a great deal of diplomatic negotiation on my part, we arrived at his classroom. His new teacher greeted him, and showed him where to put his backpack…well, showed us where to put his backpack. Captain Adventure was already exploring the room.

“Oooo! ‘Puter! I wan’play GAME, mommy!” he bellowed, followed immediately by, “Oh! What DAT?! DAT a GAME!”

“What DAT?! Oh, is CARS!”
“What DAT?! OH! MOH CARS!”
“What DAT?! OH! Is…is…TWAIN!!!! CHOO-CHOO!!!!! YESH!!!!!”

He bumbled around the classroom touching everything as his new classmates arrived (eyeing him nervously…I think they could sense his Alexander-the-Greatness…), exploring everything with a big grin on his face. Finally, he was getting to conquer this new place!

And then it was time for mom and dad to leave. Here we go. This is it. It’s all fun and games until Mommy leaves the building…

“Hey, Captain Adventure, can I have a bye-bye hug?” Daddy asked.

“No,” Captain Adventure replied shortly. Uh, yeah, he’s not big on the whole public displays of affection thing, both because of the autism and because, hello, I am four years old and also I am busy. Daddy laughed.

“Just one bye-bye hug?” he wheedled.


So Daddy swooped in and gave him a quick hug anyway and a peck on the head. ARGH! PARENTS!! Captain Adventure looked him square in the eye, frowned, and pointed at the door. “Go DAT way, Daddy!”

“Can Mommy have a hug?” I asked, kneeling down and opening my arms. His eyes became slightly troubled (wait…I don’t think I authorized you leaving…), and he turned around and backed into my arms, half-sitting on my bended knee. He tolerated my embrace for a few precious seconds, his cheek soft against mine, his freshly shampooed hair sweet against my nose.

“OK. Go dat way, Mommy!” he commanded, pointing at the door. Ah. Well. You are dismissed!

“OK. Have a fun day, sweetheart,” I said lightly, my eyes prickling and stinging. Aw, damn it, not with the crying-thing again. Have a good day. Have a productive day. Have a settling-in-just-fine day…

“Yesh. Is fun day,” he agreed. “Go dat way.”

“OK. See you after school.”

“OK.” Geez, will this woman never just shut up and go?!

We walked out into the cool morning air. We talked about many things over the drive back home and our quick breakfast at Jack in the Box: The economy both global and local, our own situation, his job situation (bad), my job situation (worse), what we might do next, the new school, the old school, the girls, the upcoming trip.

He had a great day. The bus took him back to his daycare in the afternoon, where he frolicked happily until we came to pick him up.

“Is your new school fun?” I asked as we sat on the sofa that evening with a brightly colored book of colors, shapes and simple words. (The learning opportunities, they never end around here…)

“Yesh,” he said happily, then jabbed a finger at his book. “STAR! BLUE STAR! Dat right! Good job!”

“What did you do today?” This is a toughie for him. Usually I just get a blank stare when I ask him such ‘open ended’ questions…he doesn’t know how to start, can’t think of a single thing to say…

“Oooooh…Is…dere…a ball today. Yesh. With Dora. And Boots. Is this way,” he held up his hand in an “OK” gesture and looked through the circle of his fingers. “Two ones!” he corrected, adding his other hand and peering at me through the finger-binoculars.

“Oh, like this?” I asked, mimicking him. He giggled.

“Yesh. And is ball…and is playground…did coloring today? Yesh. Is coloring today…is puzzle today? Yesh. Is puzzle today. Is snack today? Yesh. Is snack today.”

“Are you going to go again tomorrow?” I asked.


So casual. Yes, of course, silly woman. I like my new realm. They have puzzles, and snacks, and a kick-butt playground.

I’m sure there will be days in the near future when he says no. He won’t want to go for whatever reason. He’ll be tired of the routine, he’ll disagree with their assessment of what he ought to be doing, he’ll just feel like hanging around the Den with Mommy instead. The bus will stop being “cool” and the snacks will lose their sparkle and even the awesome new playground will, over time, become too small and ordinary.

But his first day was awesome, and he was eager to climb into the bus and head off again this morning.

And I slept pretty darned well last night, to boot.