Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Adventure Can't Party

THUMP! All partied out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because I do. Every single day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life and Taxes

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

Unless of course the forms somehow go missing.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got this notice…”

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

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

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

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

I guess in a way, it was…and we were.

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

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

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

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

Wow, wow, wow. We’re in business.

Friday, November 21, 2008


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

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

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

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

Instead, I’m…puttering.

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

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

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

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

You know how it is.


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

I just keep puttering.

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

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


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


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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Self preservation: FAIL

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

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

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

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

Booklet Back Cover

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

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

Then last night, I showed it to my DH.


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

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

“Uh, OK. It’s a what, a jacket?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Preservation: FAIL.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Snot Rags and Universal Balance

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

Again. And again. And again.

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

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

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

I mean, really now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Postal

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

Today in the mail I had the following:

One knitting magazine (this was the bright spot)

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

One bill for $190.76 for a ten minute doctor visit

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

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

Home owners insurance renewal forms. Meh.

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

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

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

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

Holy crap.

That’s it.

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

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

I have spoken.

Hail Pharaoh.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breaking it to the kids

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

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

You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We matter.

And we will be just fine.

Big hugs, everybody.

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah. Yeah. I feel so much better now.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Well. Isn’t that special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now…I’m investing in us.

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

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

Friday, November 07, 2008

If you give a kid a dornfeel…

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

Go, mommy!

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

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

“Oh,” he commented. “What dat?”

“That’s cornmeal,” I told him.

“Oh. Dornfeel.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh! What do next?” he asked.

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

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

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

“Waaaaaaan…dooooooooooo…TEE! TEE!”

“Perfect! OK, in the bowl!”

“In da bowl! I DO IT! I DO IT!”

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

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

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

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

The batter went into the pan. I DO IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah. Dat right. I made it.”

“You sure did. Good job, buddy.”

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blast from the past

I just found an invoice from October 2002, from “Crafts Americana Group, Inc.”

The Artists Club.
Connecting Threads.

Heh. I bough 18 balls of Plymouth Yarn Indiecita Baby Alpaca for $2.99 a ball. Now it goes for about $7 a ball; even back then, I believe it was $6.

Anybody else remember KnitPicks back then? They carried other people’s brands, but had this “try it, you’ll like it” deal where one or two or three of their yarns would be on, like, a 50% discount?

Oh yeah.

I made myself an Irish Diamond Shawl out of that stuff – and I still have a few balls of it floating around in the old stash. Warm, soft, buttery, and cost me $53.82…free shipping

Suddenly I find myself thinking…that shawl could probably use a good washing and re-blocking…(anything to get out of dealing with the huge mess on my desk…)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, we LIKE him…

So, one of the things we’re scrambling to get is health insurance. We tried to get individual family coverage and were turned down flat, five of the six of us. Only Eldest is deemed an acceptable risk to the major insurers here in California – the rest of us decrepit disabilities-waiting-to-happen had seen the doctor for something and/or been diagnosed with something and/or been given a ‘red flag’ prescription.

Obviously, Just Doing Without is O-U-T for us…so I started digging around. There’s got to be some association or other through which I can get my family insured, right?

Turned out, I can do it through our Enterprises. Since we are a partnership, a real, official, we have documentation to prove it partnership with two or more employees, we can do group insurance.

In addition to the fifteen thousand pages of paperwork, all we need to do is provide copies of our Official Documents:

The partnership agreement. (No problem.)

The business licenses. (No problem.)

Last year’s K1 filing. (Um…not applicable…?)

Oh, right. OK, then cleared checks from the business account payable to the owners as proof that we are taking a real, regular draw from the business… (…oh…uh, well, see, the business is what you might call a fledgling, soooooo, that whole ‘draw’ thing? Not really going down right now…)

Our cash flow is actually really, really poor right now. Really poor. Poorer than poor.

Nonexistent, is probably the word I’m looking for here. We have covered November’s usual and customary needs (whew!), but December is still a bit on the “iffy” side, OK? Each new expense is causing tears of anguish to start up over here. Not to mention ranting, raving and other assorted Angry Noises.

But at the same time, in order to have our health insurance start on January 1, we need to have regular checks being drawn by the principals (that would be the husband and I) by November 15.

Unless those checks are, like, $300 apiece (the draw is supposed to prove that the business is really supporting us because it is our full time job, which makes a monthly draw of $600 for the family a little on the unrealistic side), we’re in trouble. Invoices just went out Saturday, and with a net 30 term on them…gah

Today, my husband went to a client site for a lengthy meeting. He mentioned that his wife was making herself a frickin’ nutcase with the worrying about the draw we couldn’t start taking what we were facing with the health insurance thing and the “been in business three months” and “must show proof of draw” thing…and he came home with a check for the invoice they haven’t even received yet.

I tell you what: This client just earned himself a very high spot on our gets downright eager customer service list.

I can’t wait to go to the bank tomorrow…eeeeeeee…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amber Goodness

Chalk this one up to an example of how frugal does not automatically equate to cheap: One of the luxuries I might cut back but never eliminate from my grocery budget is real maple syrup.

That’s right. I’m a syrup snob. I despise the maple-flavored liquid plastic IHOP serves up as “maple syrup” to the point of no thanks, I’ll just have a couple eggs and some toast.

I don’t care how awesome the waffles are, if you don’t have real maple syrup – fughettaboutit.

Of course, pure maple syrup is the Cadillac of pancake toppings. A “serving size” most commonly begin defined as a quarter cup, one serving of Mrs. Butterworths runs you about 36 cents. Hence the popularity of the stuff at tables around the world (and particularly at restaurants, who have to watch the bottom line so hard and constantly it’s a wonder their collective eyeballs don’t pop out of their skulls and get stuck to their desks because fake maple syrup definitely has at least some percentage of Krazy Glue in it).

Buying a bottle of the generic real stuff on sale at Safeway of the real stuff sets you back up to $1.67 per serving. Getting it a quart at a time at Costco can give you a slight break, down to $1.25.

Which means that when I make waffles, each $0.16 waffle gets $0.63 in syrup poured over it (yeah, I’m cheap, I only give the kids maybe two tablespoons of syrup over their waffles…sometimes less…Captain Adventure gets maybe two teaspoons of the stuff because a) he doesn’t complain and b) he tends to wear more than he eats).

Seventy-nine cents a person for breakfast, what is the world coming to?!?!?!

I kept thinking I had to be able to buy it, you know, cheaper, perhaps by buying in bulk. We go through a quart a month easily, even with me being all scanty with the good stuff.

I kept shopping around. I thought about Amazon (super saver shipping takes the sting out of the shipping charges – a gallon of maple syrup is heavy), but eventually settled on Vermont Trade Winds. They offered free shipping on orders over $50, and they make pies. Not that I’m going to be ordering pies since, well, duh. Why wait two days for shipping when I can whump one out in two hours including time spent picking up missing ingredients at the market?

It’s just that I have an irrational trust thing when it comes to people who bake pies. And they offered free shipping. And discounts on two or more gallons.

So I crossed my fingers, ordered two gallons, and waited.

Impatiently waited, because we ran out of maple syrup (the horror) last week.

Today, a large heavy box was deposited by our smiling (or perhaps it was a grimace…the box was rather seriously heavy for its size…). Inside were two gallon-sized jugs. In the interest of science, I immediately opened one and dipped a finger into the amber fluid.


Sweet, crisp and loaded with maple flavor. It’s not just good because it’s real maple syrup – this is good real maple syrup.

And a full quarter cup would run about $0.91. Sweet! (Literally!)

This is not to say I’m going to go ahead and let the kids have a full quarter-cup serving on their waffles tomorrow. Heck no.

I’m just going to enjoy the feeling of paying only $0.62 per kid while they praise my incredible cooking skills.

…and I will pretend not to notice that I am an incredible cook when we’re talking waffles, mashed potatoes and gravy and cookies, and a barely to be tolerated one when broccoli, peas, carrots and/or anything “spicy” is on offer…

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday Madness

In a few moments, I will be switching from this laptop to a different laptop so that I can begin doing some {gasp!} billable work for a client.

What. A. Concept.

But first, I wanted to take a moment to say something.


Whew. Glad we had this chat, OK, so, see you later…what do you mean, “That made no sense at all”?

OK, OK, it’s like this. We’ve just opened a new business, right? We’re in that phase right now where 99% of what I’m doing is what I like to call administrivia. Designing the logo. Getting “real” business cards. Putting together a website (eep). Networking. Dues and fees and all like that. Print out and mail the October invoices (yay).

Then today, I had the first monthly meeting with my partner. This is a tricky part of the business, because my partner likes to become a silent partner whenever the subject turns to things like how much money we do(n’t) have, and what we ought to do about that.

We have to make some calls and we have to make them pretty fast. There are three basic roads we can take on this deal, none of them are perfect…in fact, I’d have to say that each one is merely a different kind of imperfect. Risks and rewards. High risks, high potential rewards…but unfortunately, the low risk option is almost a guarantee of taking a severe smack-down eventually. Meh.

Getting my partner’s opinion on it was a bit like nailing Jell-O to a wall. I finally got it and I concur and now I have to make it so. Which is another whole can of worms. I believe I am now on twelfth guessing of myself on this deal.

Meanwhile, I spent most of Sunday watching House and finishing the Halloween vest. I’m all done, except for reinforcing and cutting the steeks, picking up the armholes, button and neckbands, and of course doing those parts, and finding and placing the buttons.

Other than that, it’s totally done.

I also cleaned 1/4 of my bedroom. That’s right! 25% done, baby! Which, pathetic as though that is, is tremendous headway compared to how much I had gotten done over the previous lo-these-many-weeks.

Also, I am now resisting the Cake Mania 3 urge something fierce. I just feel like I owe myself a little something for all this workin’ I’ve been doing all day, which has been not so very much fun, thanks.

Except that it is almost 4:00 and I still haven’t even logged in to the other client to see what, if anything, has happened over the weekend. (I’m voting for nothing because there is a certain trend there.)

RIGHT! Well. OK. I now have A Plan. I am going to shut down here and boot up there and confirm that yes, we still have no bananas over there and then!, I will come back here and play Cake Mania 3 until I have to go get Denizens attempt to clean the next 25% of the bedroom.

It is, as always, just a never-ending tumble of fun around the old Den of Chaos…

Saturday, November 01, 2008


So, I’m working on that Halloween vest, which obviously I did not get done in time and therefore feel utterly vindicated by my decision to make it the next size up – Captain Adventure will still be humiliated by it be able to proudly wear it next year.

However. There is a small problem.

This KnitPicks pattern has been discontinued. It cannot be purchased again for love or money.

Early into the project, Eldest and a friend were bouncing around in the playroom and dumped a glass of water all over my knitting bag. Being stupid bent on my mental destruction children, they didn’t think to grab the wet paper pattern and, you know, take steps to protect it and/or get it dry.

No. Their steps were all around not getting busted, so they left the soaking wet, irreplaceable pamphlet in a sodden heap in the knitting bag.

I was not amused. But, the pattern was still mostly readable and therefore I decided to let them live.

Last week, Boo Bug and Danger Mouse were playing “teachers on vacation,” which required mugs of water coffee being sipped while lounging on the sofa next to my knitting, reading.

Of course, they dropped and smashed one of the mugs. And naturally, the water soaked my pattern book yet again. And even more predictably, they didn’t even get a towel for the pool of water on the floor – they focused all their efforts on cleaning up the broken mug so that they could pretend the whole thing had never even happened.

The pattern…is shot. The pages glued together, chunks of the chart stuck to chunks of the abbreviations page…gah.

So, I’m going to be spending some time trying to re-typeset my pattern.

Can’t you just feel the joy and enthusiasm oozing out of your monitor right now?

OH yeah. THIS is what every knitter wants to spent a perfectly good Saturday doing.

If this pattern had been in a book, I would have made a photocopy, put that into a sheet protector and used that for my “active” knitting. But since it was a little pamphlet, already in “convenient” form and all…I didn’t think it was necessary to do that.


Oh well. It is what it is. And I do want to keep the pattern, so I guess I’d better quit complaining and start typesetting.

Chapter One. Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse…