Friday, February 27, 2009

Sooooo, does this mean I’d get $4,000?

OK, so. Yes. From the You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me files…the following.

Woman answers ad for bird by offering kids as payment.

Paul and Brandy Romero advertised that they were selling their pet cockatoo for $1,500.

A woman named Donna Greenwell responded and said she wanted to buy the bird. Greenwell then told the Romeros that she was taking care of three children whose biological parents were going through a separation.

Greenwell proposed selling two of the couple's children to the Romeros for $2,000, saying that her job as a truck driver made it hard to take care of the children, said Capt. Keith Dupre of the Evangeline Parrish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana.

The parties allegedly negotiated a trade involving the two kids, the bird and $175.


YA KNOW…there are things that never cease to amaze me. One is that some people insist on going into childcare in the first place. Another is that other people would be so…reality impaired that they’d think it could possibly end in anything other than Being Arrested. Not only because DUH, it’s wrong, but c’mon. These kids were 4 and 5 years old! They weren’t even so small they’d have no ability to blab their little heads off, to everyone they meet!

Even Captain Adventure would manage to blow the whistle on this kind of arrangement.

Which is a darned shame, because I saw this really cute kitten at the adoption center the other day, and I was thinking Hmm…too bad I can’t afford the $150 adoption fee….saaaaaaay, I wonder if they’d take a KID in lieu of CASH?

(Honestly. What were they thinking? I’m just trying to get my arms around what kind of reality you’d have to live in, where this kind of thing could Make Perfect Sense…)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ah, togetherness!

Once a week, Captain Adventure has a minimum day. Where most days don’t see his bus rumbling up until almost 4:00, minimum days have him home between 1:00 and 2:30 (depending on how many of us forget it’s a minimum day and have to be called on our cell phones by an impatient bus driver to rush home from wherever we’ve gotten to so we can collect Poopsie) (hasn’t happened to me personally [yet], but he’s been here late almost every time because at least one parent forgot).

On these minimum days, well. My “working” day always ends when he gets home, because Captain Adventure has entered a highly sociable stage.

He is no longer content to sit in a corner and play by himself. He wants witnesses to his genius. He wants someone to comment on his cleverness when he colors, he wants someone to tell him how smart he is when he counts to twenty, twice!, he wants someone to applaud when he sings ‘The Wheels on the Bus.’

And by ‘someone,’ he means mommy. Daddy, as mentioned before, is currently as popular as bedtime. Pfft. We are all mommy, all the time around the old Den right now.

It’s a wonderful stage. We have a great deal of talking going on during all this, as His Majesty makes clear his wishes; and the fact that he’s interested in showing me everything (everything) he’s up to is another one of those groovy ‘typical socialization’ signs we get all thrilled about around here.

It’s progress. And it’s mostly delightful. Occasionally frustrating, because it’s only 1:30 and I still had work to do, and that work is the difference between keeping all the bills paid and not keeping all the bills paid.

But mostly delightful, because for a while there I wondered if I’d ever know what his speaking voice sounded like. I wondered if I’d ever hear him call for me, or know what he wanted without having to go through the twenty questions guessing game.

Today, from all corners of the Den, a little voice pipes out. “Mommmmmmeeeeee! Mommy, come pway wif me! Mommy, I haf it cway-ONS, Mommy, BLUE cway-ON. OH! OK! MOMMMMEEEEEEEE, come co-wor wif cway-ON, on dah ‘ap-ER!”

And if I don’t come to his side quickly enough, he seeks me out. (Locking the bathroom door has become extremely important…otherwise he, uh, will want to help, which, erm, uh…no thanks, kid, I work alone…) If I’m trying to work on the computer, he’ll make a blessed nuisance of himself…climbing into my lap, lightly stroking my cheek, saying softly and persistently, “Mommy…pway wif me…mommmmmeeeeee…pwaaaaaaaaay wif meeeeeeee…”

Even watching a video is a Social Event. My lap is his throne, from which he confidently shouts out the answers. “It’s GWEEEEN! Mommy, it a GWEEN car!”

“That’s right, buddy. It is a green car all right. You’re a smart guy.”

“Yeah. That’s right. I knowed dat! Good job!”

And he settles back against me, one arm wrapped around mine to prevent any chance of my slipping off to do anything else.

Hard to imagine I ever would want to…and hard to imagine not wanting to, as one of what I swear are only five Dora episodes in existence sears into my retinas again.

Parenting is full of such things. Wishing it would never end, simultaneously wishing it were already over. Angrily longing for the day when stuff stays where you jolly well put it, knowing I’ll miss those little shoes in the middle of the floor and topsy-turvy backpacks someday.

Not too sure I’ll miss Dora much, though.

Or her map.

Might miss Swiper a little bit, though…although why does he always throw away the stuff he swipes? Not too good a thief, if you ask me…

Sorry. Gotta run. My Lord and Master would like to watch de ODDER Dora now.

(eyeballs…melting…are we done with this stage yet?!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When your inner child runs amok

The DailyOM today got a good laugh from me. Inner Child Meditation: Treasures From Our Past enthusiastically talks about meditating our inner child forward to reclaim “the wisdom and innocence that we possessed when we were children.”

There’s a lot of the usual talk of centering and focusing and mushy stuff about loving and protecting blah blah blah.

They make it sound so serious. Whenever anybody talks about getting in tune you’re your inner child, they always want to use words like wisdom, wonder, hope.

And they always want you to hug your inner child.

Maybe it’s just me, but my ‘inner child’ seldom holds still long enough for that kind of sentimental crap. She’s verrrrrrrry busy playing, and thinks all this grown up woo-woo stuff is stupid.

She’s also very seldom on the inside, really. She lives right out here with me, making impudent remarks, pointing out that we could so totally swing on that tree branch right there, screaming, “ICE CREAM! Ice cream ice cream ice cream ICE CREAM!!!” whenever the tinkling chimes of the ice cream truck are heard…

Not a whole lot of meditation needed on my part. In fact, it’s usually hard to get her to shut up a minute, so I can do grownup-stuff.

She doesn’t want to watch the news, she wants to watch cartoons. She doesn’t want to deal with taxes, she wants to play a video game. She wants to play with the Denizens. She wants to go in the backyard, she wants to run, she wants to play jump rope. (She’s not very good at it anymore, either, but don’t tell her I said that.)

She notices bugs and rainbows and drops of dew on grass. She manages to simultaneously appreciate them, and take them for granted. They’re all hers, because she is there and they are there…obviously, they are gifts meant for her, and her alone.

It seems kind of sad to me that some adults have to “meditate” to pull that part of themselves forward. Worse, that they have to be told how.

I’ve grown older…but I surely haven’t grown up much.

Whether or not that means I’ve got some kind of ‘inner child wisdom’ is a matter of great debate…but it does mean that I laugh an awful lot. And I don’t take things seriously-seriously. And also? TAG, YOU’RE IT!

{…runs off giggling…}

Monday, February 23, 2009

Money Monday: February 23

I know I’m not alone in the whole reevaluating my relationship to spending thing right now. In that one thing leads to another kind of way, I’ve been reevaluating this week is my relationship to money this last week.

Which led me to realize something rather surprising about myself that I honestly hadn’t realized before: I actually have an aversion to the idea of being wealthy. I’m fine with ‘comfortable,’ I’m good with the old middle class thing.

But when I start thinking about things like having enough cash to buy a rental property and start being a landlord, things that start smacking of actual wealth building…I turn all skittish and start making excuses. I diss my own strengths, call myself stupid, and tell myself that I should be grateful we can manage to have merely enough.

What’s even weirder is, I have no problem with somebody else being wealthy. Somebody else builds a business, makes and keeps bank, and is then obscenely rich…well, good on ‘em. More power to ‘em. May the cork of their wine bottles never rot.

It’s just not OK for me.

Weird, huh? The things you realize, when a massive global recession has you thinking more about your money and how you square off with it. I have a certain comfort zone when it comes to how much wealth we’ve accumulated, and once we hit it I start doing things to ensure we don’t go over it.

I’m going to need to talk myself out of that little quirk, PDQ. It’s already shot us in the foot at least twice, and I certainly don’t want to be here again the next time a recession rolls around – out of cash, scrambling to keep the bills paid, and wishing with all my heart and soul we’d hoarded up more of the jaded dross back when the trees were loaded with fruit and we could eat ourselves sick with ease.

Anywho...I’m going to have to go to Costco tomorrow.

Pray for me.

I don’t wanna, but I gotta. We’re out of everything from milk to eggs and flour and even sugar. Ugh. I’m just not feeling the love for the journey, you know? These are the moments I wish they provided free delivery. Or even reasonably cheap delivery. Or that it would be less than twenty bucks for delivery.

I really am not looking forward to it.

This week I’m using beans a fair bit in the menu. They’re cheap, healthy and filling – a perfect food. Plus they can provide hours of cheap entertainment later. Especially if you have some arrested adolescence going on, which guess what? We do!

I’ve already made one batch of navy bean soup. It’s partially pureed, which gives it both velvety body and nice, firm whole beans to nom. It was supposed to be for dinner last night, but it sort of never got eaten so it’s magically transformed itself into lunch meals. Flexibility, it’s what’s for dinner lunch.

The other one I’m making later in the week is a honey-baked pinto bean as a side dish. Mostly I wanted to make that one because it will use up some salt pork I acquired a while back, ostensibly to make Boston baked beans but then it turned out they weren’t needed and well. The salt pork has been in the fridge ever since.

We’ll be having spaghetti tomorrow night because it is fast and cheap. I will be grateful for both because I will have gone to Costco in the morning. I will not want to look at or think about food for two DAYS after shopping at Costco. It sucks the starch right out of me.

Wednesday is a baked maple-honey chicken and a wild rice and mushroom soup. The grownups love that soup…the kids loathe it. Which is fine, because more for me, neener-neener. Wild rice is expensive, fancy food...which should erase the taste of the cheap, prepackaged food samples shoved at me from all directions in Costco tomorrow.

Thursday I’m going for pineapple-baked pork chops, rice and green beans. Gotten from Costco. So I will just have to get over my Costco aversion, now, won't I.

Friday is looking like a homemade pizza kind of night. And I won't even think about Costco at that point because time heals all wounds and all.

And Saturday I’m shooting for a roast chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Because it sounds like comfort food to me, and I have a feeling I’m going to need it by then. I’ve got a long week ahead of me (in addition to the Costco thing), and I’m starting it by staying up way too late writing a blog post.

Mixed up priorites – I haz them.

Good night, all. Sweet dreams, and may nobody else fart under your covers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh fer cryin’ in a lard bucket…

My ears are burning. BURNING. They are also bright red. Bright! RED!

And so hot they hurt.

@*^&@in’ perimenopause…like it’s not bad enough that you are making me feel old and messin’ with my monthlies so bad that my bodily water system doesn’t know whether to retain or make me pee every six seconds, like it isn’t enough that I’m wrestling with severe bouts of emotional weirdness, like it isn’t enough that I have apparently started this as early as possible on the ‘normal’ scale so I probably get to enjoy it for many, many years to come…you @^*&@in’ inhuman…celestial…design flaw!…LAY OFF MY EARS, OR-OR-OR…I SHALL HOLD MY BREATH UNTIL I TURN BLUE AND ALSO STOMP AND SCREAM AND CRY AND PERHAPS EAT AN ENTIRE TUB OF CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM SO THERE!!!!

Possibly I should hold the ice cream against my ears instead. Less damaging to the hips, in any case…and might actually help…hmmmmmmm…

(The ears thing? Yeah. It’s bugging me a lot. It used to be, like, one in every eight or nine hot flashes would include the ears, but now it’s not only every.stinking.time, but over the last couple weeks it’s started being the only hot part. Seriously hot. Painfully hot. And they are sooooooo red, it looks like I’m tremendously embarrassed or have a wicked sunburn or something. And with my new-ish short hair? No hiding them.) (Wait! Hang on! I’ve just decided my next knitting project is going to be a hat…) (Whiiiiiiich will undoubtedly make the ‘hot’ part unbearable.) (Plus I hate wearing hats.) (No, really. I’d rather freeze my ears off. And half have, on numerous occasions.) (So perhaps this is merely their revenge, for forty{mumble} winters of abuse?) (Also? ARGH!) (Carry on with your lives, citizens...nothing here but an insane woman ranting about things that can't be helped because really, nothing helps a hot flash like a heapin' helpin' of posting embarrassing personal facts on the Internet...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creeping along

Well, my knitting speed – never something to boast about – has been reduced to a dead crawl by a perfect storm of tennis elbow, paperwork of all descriptions, and being graced with some actual paid work to do.

Never have I been so happy to find myself wrestling with a SQL Server.

However! Although heavily burdened with the aforementioned, progress is still happening on the Sipalu bag. I’m on the last bit, which is making the i-cord straps and buckle loop. I want to wait until after I’ve blocked it to take pictures, because I have this wild fantasy that by then I will have found the camera’s memory card so that the true beauty of the piece is easier to see.

This bag had some interesting techniques to it. When I first started reading the instructions I had one of those moments of knitterly panic – it starts off with the cheery command ‘using scrap yarn, provisionally CO 240 sts.’

Now, wait just a second here, I thought. I didn’t agree to any provisional casting-on on this deal!

I’ve always hated the provisional cast on. It’s one of those fiddly deals that I always do, well, wrong. Somehow, no matter how careful I am, no matter how often I double check my work, no matter how many times I double check in the book that I am doing things “right,” I do it WRONG.

The last time I tried something with this cast on, I ended up tearfully doing a regular old double-tail cast on and picking up stitches from that to do the cuffs on the adorable little baby pants because people? I was going mental.

But I have grown since then. I have matured. I have blossomed into a Fearless Knitter. I have done STEEKS, people!, and I will not be put off by a @*^&@ing ‘provisional’ cast on.

So I went onto the Internet for help because we have that now. Internet help. Blogs and videos and yarn stores offering classes…it’s all right there at the tips of our fingers.

And lo, I found a video which knocked my socks off. You have to scroll down to get to it, but KnittingHelp.com has a video that not only demonstrates the provisional cast on, it shows this really nifty thing you can do where instead of ‘waste yarn’ you use a ‘spare circular needle.’

Oh. My. Gawd.

One of my favorite things about knitters is the way they come up with things that are sooooo simple and yet sooooo clever. This solved two of my biggest beefs with the provisional cast on method: The fact that I am not coordinated enough to keep my working yarn and my waste yarn in their proper places, and the way that you have to come along later and pick out the waste yarn, and put the stitches on a live needle, and only then! may you begin the fun part, a.k.a., the knitting.

So I used the cable of an Options needle instead of waste yarn, capped at both ends to prevent the yarn from making a break for it while I was busy with other things, and it worked beautifully. When it was time to pick up those provisional stitches, I just screwed on my smallest Options needle, slipped the stitches down and coolly started knitting.

Just like that! Cool as a cucumber. Butter wouldn’t have melted in my mouth. Sans cussing, even.

It was a thing of beauty, not having to pick them up off the waste yarn…which invariably starts splitting and shedding and otherwise misbehaving on me. (Have I mentioned that I am rather disenchanted with provisional cast on in general? Oh, I have?)

One of the neat things about this ‘kit’ is that it comes with a massive amount of yarn. It’s $34.99 for the kit, which gives you 17 balls of Palette in assorted colors. The pattern comes with two colorways, and you can make both with the yarn provided…and the pattern states that “With your own color re-arranging, you should be able to make even more than just two.”

Now, obviously, I could very well be wrong…but, judging purely by how much yarn I’ve used to make just this one bag? I think you could easily get four bags altogether. I really do. Which would make your cost per bag only $8.75 (if I’m right), plus a big button for closure, AND lining material – they make it very clear that you’re going to NEED to line this baby. And you will. It’s got floats everywhere.

But look on the bright side – because you’re lining it, you don’t have to run in all those ends!

Let me say that again: You do not have to run in all whackity-majillion ends.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!

They suggest merely tying or braiding the yarn ends tightly together. And then it says those beautiful, magical words: “There is no need to weave in ends, as the lining will hide them.”

Swoon!

…of course, this does bring up one other teeny tiny problem. I can’t sew. Fabric, it hates me. HATES. ME. But undaunted (and comforted by the fact that nobody is going to be looking at the lining of my beautiful bag, thank you very much), I have picked the lining I want from the throw-away bin at WalMart (twenty-five cents, yes way) and fearlessly await my elbow’s leisure for finishing the i-cord so that I can not weave in all those ends (still charmed!), wash and block it…and then line it.

With the fabric.

Which I know hates me.

…but I’ll burn cross that bridge when I get to it…

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ouch, got me right on the nerve

The MomLogic website is not one I tend to waste a whole lot of time on. I find their “reporting” to be more like the nastier version of gossip, with loving attention slathered over people who are, you know, “just sayin’ it like it is”…a phrase which here means, “flinging soupy dung all over other people.”

I’m also not all that passionate about which movie star is having babies with what other movie star. I have enough trouble keeping track of my friends and family on that front, I hardly need to add keeping up with some ditzy bleached-blonde debutante’s sins to my day.

But someone pointed out a link to me today, and I followed the link, and man. Ouch.

Nothing but fast food and child harnesses for the Octomom's kids! features a snark about one of her children wearing a safety harness, and herself clutching a bag of fast food.

The octuplets' grandpa was snapped carrying one of Nadya Suleman's kids, who was wearing a harness. With 14, she'll probably have them ALL on leashes soon enough. Later, the paps caught Octomom after a fast-food run. Good to know she's concerned with providing a healthy diet for her kids!

Dudes. Quick question: How often in the last, say, month, have you gotten a quick bite from a fast food place on your way to and from something? Please. Not only does one stop at a fast food place not make fast food junkies of the whole family…even if she was feeding them mostly fast food, she is hardly alone on that. It is a terrible sin that pervades even the most comfortable of nuclear families.

But that’s not actually the part that stung me personally.

Yup. It was the harness thing. I look at that harness and you know what I see?

I see something I really wish I had.

Captain Adventure has outgrown his buddy harness (the kind with the cute fluffy animal ‘backpack’), and besides, he can unsnap it faster than I can. I need something beefier, like what her kid is wearing in that photo.

Because. He. Is. Autistic. I suspect perhaps the child in the picture is one of the special needs kids in the crowd…of course, I’m hardly an expert and even if I was I couldn’t diagnose somebody from one (1) picture on the danged Internet…but knowing that three of her six kids are “special needs” I’d be a little surprised if she didn’t have an assortment of adaptive tools in her home…from heavy duty strollers designed to take more weight and restraint for old children to yeah, safety harnesses.

The idea that a harness is somehow ‘convenient’ or a way to substitute medieval torture devices for, you know, actual attentiveness is such utter bullshit that…well, I’m on a bit of a peeved rant about it right now.

I don’t use the harness because it is convenient for me. Quite the contrary. It’s a pain in the tush. It’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, it’s yet another thing to keep track of whenever I’m going out of the house with Captain Adventure…which sometimes feels like I’m planning for a six week safari through darkest Africa instead of a half-hour trip to the danged mall.

What would be convenient for me would be having a four year old who responds to verbal commands like, “Come here.” “Walk with me.” “Give me your hand.” “WATCH OUT!”

A harness is an ugly necessity. He’s heavy and hard to carry when he’s being cooperative. When he decides he’s going to fight for his freedom, it’s like hanging onto a forty pound octopus on PCP.

When he decides he wants to run, he just runs. He doesn’t stop because I’m yelling frantically, he doesn’t pause to consider fast-moving traffic, getting lost, falling off cliffs or being mauled by the doggies he wants to pet – ‘pet’ being a word which here means ‘whack on the nose repeatedly while yelling “Oooooooooo, ICE OGGIE!” into its face.’

I hate the harness. And I love it. Without it, I wouldn’t dare take him to the mall, or the supermarket. No crowds. No fairs, no festivals, no Disneyland, no farmer’s market.

These are all things that are good for him. They expose him to different situations, encourage him to socialize, they give him things to talk about, get excited about, they can be used as excellent rewards for desired behaviors and punishment for less-charming outbursts…which again is an exciting development.

The kind of nasty judgmental attitude shown by this article is what I deal with, just about every single time I take him out for any length of time. He doesn’t look disabled, you know? He looks like a perfectly healthy, sparkling, intelligent little four year old dude.

It’s only when he’s trying to talk that it becomes painfully obvious that something is…off. Or when he suddenly melts down for no apparent reason.

Or when he does something so shockingly stupid that you’d swear basic human instinct should have stopped him.

“Christ, what is he, retarded?!” the witness yelled as I snatched him away from the huge moving wheels of the truck. Ten years off my life, because my little innocent wanted to get a closer look at the giant toy come to life. He would have gone right under those wheels, trying to play with the gas cap on a moving frickin’ big rig. Hyper-focused on what he wanted, he was oblivious to everything from my screaming to the fact that those really big wheels were moving inexorably forward…and of course, he utterly lacks the ability to think through such things as total rig weight versus his body’s ability to withstand crushing force and just how big an owie those things would cause…

My baby could be killed by something so bizarre and unlikely…all it takes is me thinking it should be OK to have him stand right next to me, just for a second, while I reach into the back of the van to pull out the shopping bags. When he has his harness on, I can loop the end over my arm – if he tries to dart off, not only does he not get far, I’m alerted the instant he starts.

Without it, well. He’s fast, and he’s silent. One second he’s there, the next he’s gone.

And you can call all you want…he doesn’t even hear your voice. Unless he wants something from you, in which case he still won’t respond to your calling by yelling back, or even call out for you in turn. At best, he’ll simply start to wail – a loud, undulating scream of frustration or anger…but seldom fear.

Even when lost in a crowd of hundreds in a strange place, my boy simply doesn’t grok the concept of fear.

“A child is not a dog,” other witnesses sniff when I snap him into his buddy harness so we can walk through a market or mall. “Ohmygawd, did you see that horrible woman?!”

It’s especially charming when they do that thing where they loudly comment to others about what a dreadful mother you are (studiously avoiding, you know, actual confrontation), and how in their day blah blah blah. Or, from the younger set, the ohmygawd, that’s, like, totally wrong and some junk! Gawd, when I’m a mom, I’d NEVER do that!

Funny how children hit so many buttons, huh? For we parents, someone else suggesting that we are anything less than perfect is mortal insult…for those of us making the, erm, suggestions, any parental failing (real or imagined) is fair game for snark-festing.

I can’t play holy. I’ve done my fair share of it, too…ironically, most of it when I was younger and had no children of my own. I’ve lightened up considerably since then, but still I have my moments of sitting in judgment on other parents for not doing what I, the Holy and Most Righteous Of Mothers (snort!), would have done.

And I have to say – ‘Octomom’ has really kind of invited this kind of constant negative press, hasn’t she. Good grief, madam, seems like every time you say something it only confirms my hunch that you are a few tentacles short of a sushi roll, there, doancha know.

But at the same time…as a mom with a special needs kid of her own…well. MomLogic Staff, I tell you what. Why don’t you try walking a mile in my moccasins, before you start accusing me of bad parenting because I use {gasp!} a harness on my autistic boy. Why don’t you just take him by his sweet little hand and try for a quick little trip somewhere. Anywhere. One of his favorite parks is, in fact, almost exactly one mile from here.

Why don’t you try walking with him, hand in hand…through the neighborhood, up the parkway, past his old school where his favorite teacher still works, past the siren call of the busily rumbling construction site, down the street to the park.

Betcha you’ll be begging for a harness before you even make the first quarter-mile marker.

Betcha you will.

(Thanks for listening to my ranting...I know I'm preaching to the choir with y'all, and you can't know how much I appreciate the way you put up with me when I'm like this...)

Digging out

The conditions outside are merely wet – a nice rainstorm is dumping much-needed water all over the valley, swelling up creeks and causing the usual spat of panic as long-neglected gutters overflow and the water-control systems invariably clog up with all the debris we were “too busy” to deal with before the rains hit.

But that’s not my big clean-up issue of the day.

Mine is inside.

See, yesterday was a holiday. This means we had a three day weekend. It was also one of those stormy kinds of weekends, which means that our backyard is a solid mud-pit, which means that the Denizens pretty much stayed indoors for the whole 72 hours.

Hilarity ensues.

Yesterday was particularly fun. They had the day off. We did not. The children are rather well-trained by now when it comes to leaving Daddy alone while he’s working…but Mommy?

Mommy exists to tend their every whim, doancha know. That’s why about every eighteen seconds, somebody was erupting into my office with their hair on fire because somebody else had sinned, yea verily and required punishment.

Or had hurt themselves and required cuddling.

Or was hungry and needed food.

Or had something hilarious they needed to share.

Boo Bug bonked her head and was crying. Boo Bug dropped her milk and was crying. Boo Bug was thinking about how she bonked her head earlier and was crying. Boo Bug didn’t know why, but she was crying.

Boo Bug is our weeper. She cries frequently, and often for no danged reason at all. Which leads to people starting to, you know, ignore the fact that she’s weeping…even if she’s being quite loud about it…which means that sometimes she really does do a number on herself and is hard-pressed to get anybody to give a darn about it.

And she doesn’t see what a sheep-boy and wolves has to do with it. WAH!

Danger Mouse was feeling talk-y. She had a lot to tell me. Stories, little gleaming bits of information about this one time? When her friend? From schooo-oool? He did this thing? And it was, no, seriously!, it was hilarious? So her other friend? Who had this toy? Did this other thing?

At one point I rather testily informed her that I was kind of working, here. Could she save the story for, you know, later?

Oh sure, she said cheerfully.

And then she sat down right on the other side of the door and rehearsed the telling of the tale.

Eldest had a paper to write. Which is why I started hearing her Nintendo beeping, buzzing and twanging. So I got up, walked down the hallway, busted her, took away the Nintendo, pointed at the laptop and snarled, “Report! NOW!”

A little later I heard giggling, stalked down the hallway again, and there she was, with both her sisters peering over her shoulders, creating animated stick figures with her CAD program.

“REPORT! REPORT! And if I catch you doing this again…!”

Meanwhile, guess how much work I was getting done? Yeah, that’s right – none.

Captain Adventure gave me one hour of blissful silence while he watched a Dora DVD. And then, he decided that he wanted to hang out with Mommy. Because he is all about Mommy right now. Daddy? Pfffft. Daddy is largely useless. Mommy is The Person.

Obviously, this is mostly something I cherish. But there are times when I find myself wishing that Daddy were a little more…well, interesting. By the end of the day, his fiendish frolics were becoming most inventive. The last email I sent out was a bizarre pair of sentences that I suspect made absolutely no sense whatsoever…but since he was at that very moment whacking me on the back of the head with the flyswatter while riding an office chair wildly around my bedroom, I suppose I’ll just have to forgive myself any…oddities…around my email compositions.

And then, there is the problem of me being the sole keeper of the arcane knowledge around where stuff goes. This annoys me no end. Why it is my job to know where pictures should be stored or extra pencils kept or cookie cutters placed or books of random music displayed, I really can’t say.

Which is a lie. I know why it is that way. It’s because, like cleaning bathrooms or doing the ironing, there is only one person in this house who will do it. And that’s me.

We’ve lived in this house over ten years, and I don’t think my husband has cleaned any of the three bathrooms more than once. Nor has he filed a single slip of paper, paid a bill or put away a picture.

My desk looks like a stationary store threw up on it. It’s covered in shards of art work, pictures, invoices, Den Dollars, real dollars, labels, a cookie cutter, a flash drive, a first aid kit, several small balls of yarn, a whack of earrings Eldest made, a scattering of DPNs and a notebook full of smiley faces and crooked houses, penned in ink.

Plus a few other things that I can’t clearly make out without disturbing the piles – messing with the piles is a hazardous activity best undertaken only by fully-caffeinated and attentive people.

Which I am not at the present time.

I am merely grateful for the silence that will become burdensome later. For the peace I’ll look forward to ending, for the lack of constant interruptions that I’ll so gladly bring back when it’s time to pick them up from school.

Ah, parenthood! What a messed up world of contradictions it can be…

Monday, February 16, 2009

Money Monday: February 16

I took a rather large hit this week, but it’s one of those instances where a larger up-front payment gives you a really good return on the investment: I rejoined our CSA, Fresh Edibles, for the coming season.

I’m paying $250 for twelve weekly deliveries of fresh, organic-method produce – the average cost per delivery is $20.83. Having enjoyed their produce very much last season, I know I’m in for generously-portioned boxes of really good produce.

I’ll admit I pondered it for a bit before I hit the ‘buy’ button. With things being as tight as they are, nothing is automatically sacred…and the more emotionally attached I am to them, the harder I inspect them.

But ultimately, I felt it was worth doing. I’m not willing to cut fresh produce out of our diet, so I’m going to be buying it one way or another…and I know the value received will be extremely good on this CSA deal.

These sorts of deals can be awesome, but they do require a pretty significant cash outlay at the outset. It’s a lot like breaking into the bulk-buying racket; sure, you pay a lot less per pound of flour when you buy fifty pounds at a time instead of the five pound bags at the supermarket, but at the same time…it’s $13 bucks for the fifty pounds, instead of $3 for the five.

It can be hard to build up the capital to break into this kind of buying, but the rewards can be tremendous. When I’m doing it right, I can bring our weekly grocery bill down under a hundred bucks, with one huge outlay each quarter followed by tiny nibbles of under $40 a week at the supermarket.

When it comes to building up that capital…well, there are lots of ways. The fastest is to indulge in a spending fast – don’t buy anything for a while. Make do with what you have. Make it a game! Pretend that the social order has completely broken down, and you can’t buy anything! Just you and your wits, against a savage new reality in which there are no supermarkets, no malls, no Amazon.com…how will you survive?!

This can make for really interesting conversations around the office, especially if you start stalking “prey” in the break room. Hours of entertainment!

Ahem. Anyway. A spending fast is always an interesting exercise for me. Every time I start thinking that I run a pretty tight ship, thank you, well, a spending fast will clear my head right on up.

I have countless luxuries, especially if I’m counting the home-made ones. I may not buy very many coffees from Starbucks, but I make an awful lot of them here at home. Running out of coffee in the middle of a spending fast brings me to my knees lickity split. Likewise diet Pepsi. I can become…rather irate…when I go to grab a stupid diet soda and there are no more sodas in there WHATEVER SHALL I DO?! {swoon!}

I find it to be not only a great cash-saving device, but a marvelous way of keeping perspective on things. What a blessing it is, to be able to run to the store for a pound or ten of coffee! What luxury it is, having enough to eat, warm things to wear on stormy days, enough yarn to keep me amused when the working day is done!

It really helps me love what I already have, when I have to say ‘no’ to all the new things clamoring for my attention.

I’ll have to do my menu later…it’s getting late, Denizens are demanding hugs and cuddles before bed. They’ve been home all day thanks to the holiday, and friends…well. Working with all four of those kids home?

Adventure.

The last email I sent out today was interrupted no fewer than six times…and it was only a two sentence email! By the time I hit send, Captain Adventure had skidded into my bedroom and:

1. Pulled the drive-belt off my spinning wheel and then announced, “Uh-oh, is broken, mommy!”

2. Stuck a stuffed snake into my harp, wedging its head between the soundboard and the support arches…and then started walking away still holding the tail of the snake, and thus dragging my harp behind him like a puppy on a leash. Ack! (Also, he is one strong little buggar!)

3. Given me heart failure by announcing, with great feeling, “I need-it wash my haaaaaaands…OUCH, THAT HOT!!!”

4. Hit me several times in the back of the head with a fly swatter.

5. Gotten an office chair from the student center, and ridden it like a race horse around and around and around my office, shrieking wildly and smacking everything within reach with the damned fly swatter.

6. Pulled an random half-dozen books off the shelf in a fit of pique because I was not playing.with.him.

Sometimes, I really wish he’d move on from this ‘mommy is my goddess and the center of my life’ phase. What about daddy, huh? Why can’t daddy be the Favored One for a while?

Friday, February 13, 2009

How hard could it be?

At the end of last year, I found myself becoming a bit overwhelmed by paper. Partly it was just the usual, and partly it was because in a fit of “I should do something useful rather than fretting about the work I’m not getting,” I tackled the thankless, tedious and otherwise meh task of the filing cabinets out in the garage.

A lifetime of paperwork, people. Paycheck stubs, work contracts from 1997, insurance paperwork from 1992…you get the idea.

As I sifted through it all I began thinking about why we hold onto such things. Because they might be useful one day? Because someday, someone might need the account number on the Blue Cross policy I cancelled back in 1993?

The more I thought about it (and the more paper I shoveled), the more I got to thinking about how computers were supposed to end All This.

Yeah. Remember that? When they said email would put the post office out of business, and we would all live in a world positively rotten with trees because of the new, paper-free society we were building?

Whatever happened to that, I wonder…

ANYWAY. One thought led to another and suddenly I found myself vowing, before $DEITY and all ye little golden fishes, that I would stop the madness.

I would (I said) scan each of these precious, can’t-toss-em documents into PDF files. I can do that easily (I theorized) seeing as how I have an all-in-one printer with scanner/fax and more than a smidge of computer know-how.

This way (I enthused), I would not be faced with the annual debacle of what to do with all this paper. I would not be faced with having to store it, file it, figure out what really needed to be kept and what could be tossed.

Moreover (I burbled), how much safer would this be – considering that my electronic files are backed up nightly to an off-site storage solution. If the Den burns down, my precious contracts, insurance forms, paycheck stubs and the other things I would need to do, uh, whatever it was that required me to produce them, would still be there.

I congratulated myself on my brilliance and further vowed that I would take care of this scanning as things came in, thus rendering what might otherwise be a burdensome afternoon of scan-save-repeat a mere hiccup of time out of my average week.

Furthermore, I resolved that every so often, on slow days perhaps, I would make a point of dealing with a folder or two from the garage. (Conveniently, this meant that I could stop shoveling content in the knowledge that it would get dealt with…eventually…)

It was a brilliant plan. It is a brilliant plan.

Unfortunately, I am incapable of doing things the easy, simple way…and thus I have spent the lion’s share of today doing what?

Scanning.

Scanning insurance forms, scopes of work, paycheck stubs, policy declarations, GATE paperwork, and a wide assortment of miscellaneous other things that need to be kept for an undetermined period.

None of it, mind you, from the forest-killing files of the garage storage. That’s right. It’s all current stuff.

Stuff I have been dropping into my biggest drawer and ignoring for days weeks months.

Sigh.

But, on the bright side, I’m nearly done now. Ready to move on to other things.

…like taking out the huge pile of recycling, or emptying out the shredder bin…

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I meant to change the sheets today

…but…uh…there was…well, there was a problem…

Quiet! Cat Sleeping!
Silence! Your Master sleeps!

Ahem. And then when the flash went off? She gave me this look.

you wanted something?
You vex me, human slave…

And then she went back to sleep on the pillow so I still couldn’t change the sheets, the end.

In other news, there is a particularly cheap eat that is, IMHO, severely underrated.

Behold, the grilled-triple-cheese-sandwich!!

grilled cheese and crunchies
And also perhaps some cheese that I threw on the griddle and crisped up because it is tasty.

A lot of people seem to think that grilled cheese sandwiches can only be made by putting a slice or two of yellow plastic American cheese on buttered white bread and slapping it into a frying pan until toasty.

That’s fine, sure. It’s good. It can make for excellent ‘comfort food,’ it’s cheap and relatively fast and goes very well with tomato soup.

This cheese sandwich, however, is homemade honey-wheat bread with a sharp cheddar and gooey mozzarella cheese inside, buttered with a mix of freshly grated Parmesan and soft butter. The Parmesan gets all toasted-nutty on the outside of the sandwich, giving a nice crunchiness, mozzarella makes it pleasingly chewy while the sharper cheddar gives it a little extra punch.

I didn’t do it this time around, but you can also add a little stone-ground mustard or fresh-cracked pepper to the middle. I’ve also been known to put bacon or thin slices of deli meat into the mix; they can lead to sogginess so you have to make sure you don’t go too crazy with the fillings (thick slices of tomato, for example, don’t always end as you’d like).

It also goes well with a bowl of tomato soup. But frankly, it also stands all on its own; a very satisfying lunch that would have cost, what, six bucks or so, at a deli. (Three bucks for ‘grilled cheese’, six bucks for ‘three cheese sandwich, lightly toasted on honey-wheat bread’, or twelve if they called it sandwiche du trois frommage, even though that would probably be completely not the right way to say ‘three cheese sandwich’ in French.)

In other news, I got a brace this morning and have been wearing it today.

In other-other news, I am apparently not as evolved a species as I think I am. I spent the whole day scratching at it, fidgeting at it, and otherwise messing with it. I started to wonder if they had something like one of those big cone-head collar-thingees they put on dogs to keep them from chewing at their stitches, that I could put on to keep myself from messing with my new brace.

Or taking it off in absent-minded moments because it was “bothering me,” a term which here means, “doing its job.”

Excuse me, I am supposed to be how intelligent, again…?

(Also, if I’m so smart, how come the cat is sleeping in my bed all day while I’m working to buy her food and litter and toys and such? Huh? Huh? HUH?)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And I don’t even play tennis

A couple months ago (after, it must be confessed, several weeks of hard-core harp-practicing, knitting and child-wrangling, working through the pain because “I had to”…stay with me, it becomes important later…), I woke up one morning aware that my right elbow was throbbing. Much like waking up with a headache or toothache, it was a tremendous surprise to me. What (I wondered quietly to myself) could I have done in my sleep that gave me a throbbing elbow?

The pain was impressive, and got worse with things like knitting, or playing the harp, or picking things up (even just a coffee cup, which really got my attention in a hurry), or even using a mouse.

“A-ha!” I said to myself. “Obviously, I have pulled a muscle in or around my elbow, or perhaps I smacked into something I don’t remember smacking into!” (You laugh, but at the same time…I don’t organize my life with lists and calendars and assorted electronic things that beep, chime or administer a slight electric shock to keep me on track down to the quarter-hour mark because I’m organized but rather because my brain is so full of holes it wouldn’t even make a decent sieve, which by design does hold at least something, while my brain can’t be relied upon to hold onto a boulder-sized piece of information for two seconds, let alone all the little bits of trivia I demand of it in the average day.) (Longest. Run-on. Sentence. EVER.) (But I digress.)

Eventually (pronounced, ‘over a month later’) it dawned on me that perhaps this wasn’t going to just, you know, get better. And that perhaps I should look into it.

Look into it being a term which should here be pronounced, ‘look to the Internet for a diagnosis because goodness knows I wouldn’t want to bother an actual doctor with these things.’

I had a sinking feeling I knew full well what was going on here. Lo these many moons ago, my harp teacher had launched forth into a lengthy diatribe about the evils of tennis elbow, a condition which she had contracted from, you guessed it, playing (and moving, and lifting, and toting, and otherwise futzing about with) the harp.

She had described the way it felt in gruesome detail, and guess what? My elbow now felt exactly the same way. Even picking up a coffee cup hurts a little; picking up bigger things hurts a lot.

And the repetitive movements that likely brought it on? Hurt like gee-whiz-gosh-darn-it-billy-OH. (Which should be pronounced…never mind, I wouldn’t want to lose my ‘G’ rating around here…)

From the article linked above: Most of the time tennis elbow is caused by overuse. You probably got it from doing activities where you twist your arm over and over. This can stress the tendon, causing tiny tears that in time lead to pain.

Ahem. Activities where I twist my arm over and over again. Let’s see. Knitting, using the keyboard/mouse, picking up children, doing laundry, playing the harp…hey! That’s pretty much every minute of every day of my life, thank you very much…

So I ignored it until I couldn’t ignore it anymore immediately began home treatment, which in my case means…rest.

Just…rest.

Because I’m already weeks past the first few days, making the ice applications kind of pointless; and besides, I take a prescription anti-inflammatory for my back/hip issues. Since I can’t do the anti-inflammatory part any more than I’m already doing, what’s left, then, would be…rest.

That’s it. That’s the Miracle Cure. Just…rest the elbow. Don’t do things that hurt. If it hurts, stop. Give it a break. Take a load off it. Just let it hang out, without demanding much of it.

Rest. The. Elbow.

Which is hell on earth and I hates it I HATES IT about as simple a course of treatment as one can ask for, right?

Of course right! I should be grateful that it is so simple!

So I set down my knitting (wah) and ignored my harp (WAH!) (I was just starting to get good proficient acceptable not offensive again!) and Took Measures to keep myself from picking up the small horses people around here, and otherwise tried to minimize activities that caused, you know, pain.

I have been “resting” the elbow for almost a month, and I have thoroughly lost my mind and am about to go utterly stark raving mad and also if I don’t figure out a way to rest my elbow while knitting I may just start chewing on the carpets around here, seriously! it really isn’t much better.

I am way behind on my knitting (which I say as though I have a quota or something, which I don’t). I am getting a bit on the snarly side these days, because come on! Seems like just about everything I need-need to do (like earning money, which I do using a computer or [according to theory, although I am currently thanking $DEITY that I have no actual engagements right now] the harp) or need-want to do (like knitting) is on the no-no list.

My ratio of fun:not-fun is getting seriously whacked around here.

So tomorrow, I’ll pick up one of those counter-brace thingees, because I read on the Internet that “You don't need a health professional's advice before trying a counterforce brace.”

That should be pronounced, “You don’t have to spend $365 to have your doctor tell you to try a counterforce brace, you can just try it on your own.”

Of course, the same article also says this: “Most cases of tennis elbow respond to rest, ice, rehabilitation exercises, pain medicine and splints. This injury does take from 6 months to 12 months to heal. Patience helps.”

LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA.

Seriously, did it really say that? Six to twelve MONTHS? “Patience helps”?!

…seriously?...

Sigh.

I am not particularly well-known for my patience, yo.

Not that the elbow particularly cares whether I’m patient or not. Which is rather infuriating of it, but then what do you expect from a traitor?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Money Monday: February 9

Is it just me, or is time speeding up? Granted, the vacation last week sort of through me into a fugue state; every day of the vacation was Sunday to me. Sunday = Sunday. Monday = Sunday. Tuesday = Sunday.

You’d think I would have gotten tired of it being Sunday by then, but ooooooh no. Wednesday was also Sunday, and then I was stunned to discover that the next day was Thursday and the work week was over.

Also, I was most displeased to discover that we couldn’t take three days off and still have at least thirty hours billed to clients. Stupid space-time continuum!!

ANYWAY. This week, I’m returning to a pretty cut-n-dry budget. I’m taking away my extra forty bucks from the holiday season, which leaves me $200 a week for all the things that are not automatic payments – food, gasoline, entertainment, etc.

However, I don’t want to continue using cash. First of all, the one (1) free ATM in town is in a darned inconvenient location, and secondly I want to be getting that 1 to 5% cash back my UPromise-branded card puts into the Denizen college funds each month. I already funnel as much as I can through that card, paying for everything from cable to life insurance with it…but every little bit helps, so I’d like as much of that $800 ‘everything else’ to go through the card as well.

Credit cards are a great example of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they are convenient and can have wonderful reward programs. I’ll admit it, a lot of the cooler stuff I own I only have because of credit card reward programs – like my Roomba and Scooba floor cleaning robots. I would never have been able to pay $300 for one with, you know, cash. But redeem 25,000 points for one? You betcha.

But the very things that make them helpful tools also make them dangerous. They are so convenient that it’s easy to overspend. They can make your spending “invisible,” because you go around charging and charging and charging, and don’t necessarily realize how it’s adding up until SURPRISE! that big old statement arrives in the mail, with fourteen pages of ‘negligible’ $20 and $30 purchases. Ouch.

Even the rewards can become a pitfall, giving both a rationalization for the spending and an encouragement to spend more. “But I’m getting 5% back, which makes this an even better sale!” or “…I need 3,000 more points for that plane ticket…” can somehow make spending $3,000 to get the points an excellent idea. Or at least an acceptable one.

I thought I’d share a credit card trick I use to help prevent that “SURPRISE!” thing from happening at the end of the month. This trick is made much easier if you use financial software, like Intuit’s Quicken or Microsoft Money or Mint.com (which is free, and I’ve been hearing pretty good things about it, too).

Instead of waiting for the bill to come in, I keep close tabs on it – daily.

Yeah, that’s right. Every single day. Now, Quicken makes this painfully simple – a couple clicks, and all my transactions for every account we have download straight into the program; my version even downloads from my brokerage, handling everything from simple dividends to those complicated deals where Company A splits into Company A, B and C and now you have 1:1 of A, 2:1 of B and 6:1 of C…of it tax-exempt because they went with the blah blah blah method of whachamawhizzit (sometimes, I’d swear the stock market came straight from Alice’s Wonderland).

Before I had Quicken, I just kept my receipts in my wallet and added them into an Excel spreadsheet. Well. Actually, at the time it was a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, but you get the idea. (I also used WordPerfect and swore I would never, ever switch to that most pffffffbt! of Made For Idiots ‘Word.’) (Seriously, no ‘reveal codes’? How, pray tell, were you supposed to fix formatting when it went horribly awry?!) (And then I wonder why basic HTML seems so, well, basic to me…all that ‘bracket-i-bracket’ WORD ‘slash-bracket-i-bracket’ stuff was just how you did that back then. Good times, people, goooood tiiiiiimes…)

Right after I’ve sent last month’s payment, I open up a new transaction in my checking register for next month’s payment. Every day, I update that total to reflect the new balance on the card. I can see the money coming out of my checking account right away – even though it won’t technically leave until the end of the month.

The daily reminder that the money I’m spending with my little plastic card is real, hard-earned money (as opposed to the ‘maybe I might want to ponder the possibility of paying for this someday’ kind) goes a long way toward helping me take my daily spending seriously.

This week’s meals are super-simple, which is good because I am not in the mood for anything that will take more than a few minutes of hands-on time.

Monday: Beef stew, slow-cooker style. This is beef stew meat plopped into the Crockpot with some carrots, potatoes, a can of tomatoes, some dried herbs and water to cover. Cooked all day, it makes for a “fast” and easy meal. I’ll probably make biscuits or dumplings to go along with it. If I feel like it. If I’m feeling fancy (snort! Ya, I suppose it could happen…), I’ll brown the beef and onions before I put them into the Crockpot. (Don’t hold your breath.)

Tuesday: Pork chops (rubbed with salt, pepper and paprika), rice and broccoli. Broccoli is in season around here, and being sold on the cheap by most of the supermarkets.

Wednesday: Roasted whole chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Can you say, ‘comfort food’? If I’m feeling the love for it, I might make some butter rolls – like the Pillsbury crescents, only, uh, homemade for about ten thousand dollars less.

Thursday: Chicken casserole, ‘shepherd’s pie style.’ This is the leftover chicken put into a creamy homemade white sauce with a bag of frozen peas and carrots, topped with mashed potatoes and a generous handful of cheddar cheese. More comfort food…although made with low or non-fat milk and margarine, it isn’t nearly as fattening as it sounds.

Friday: Spaghetti night!

Saturday: Beef roast, baked potatoes and hey look! There’s that broccoli stuff again!

Sunday: Individual beef pies – not soupy pot pies, but beef crescent “pockets.” Make a regular pie crust, but cut it into smaller circles. I usually use an inverted bread plate, which should give you an idea about the size. The filling will be diced leftover roast, thinly sliced onions, mushrooms, diced potatoes and carrots. Put a scant quarter cup of the filling slightly off-center on each circle, brush one edge with milk or melted butter, and fold in half. Ta da! Crescents! Crimp the edges with a fork and bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes, until they’re nicely browned.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

All things bright and beautiful

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all


...and California got way more than its fair share of them, too.

We started our trip by heading north. Getting a fairly late start Saturday, we ended up crashing in a motel in Woodland…where we discovered two alleys we couldn’t help but note:

dead cat alley
I am relieved to report that there were NO dead cats in Dead Cat Alley

dog gone alley
But there were no dogs living or otherwise in Dog Gone alley, which makes it fairly accurate a name.

By lunch Sunday, we were charging into the redwoods. If you’ve never seen a redwood grove…well. How can I put this…

redwood grove

They make you feel very small, and awfully recent. Walking through a redwood grove brings the immensity of time very close…as close as your outstretched fingertips brushing on tree bark, as close as the scent of a tree that fell over a hundred years ago and still bears life on its imperceptibly decaying trunk, as close as the dizzying sight of a tree whose tops are a hundred feet or more above your head. Walking through the grove, with these massive trees above and lush ferns below, the overall feeling is so primordial you half expect a dinosaur to amble into view.

It had been a long time since I last walked among these giants…I’d almost forgotten that feeling of awe, and wonder, and privilege.

redwood

Another night spent in a motel, and the following morning we zipped north to Trinidad. A quick stop for smoked peppered salmon at Katy’s Smoke House resulted in a brief conversation that led us to Turtle Rocks Inn, where the price was reasonable enough that we decided to spend both of our remaining nights there, wallowing in having nothin’ to do and nowhere to be.

We spent a good portion of the next day exploring Patrick’s Point, especially Agate Beach.

Agate Beach

The tide pools were a blast. They had anemones all over the place.

anena-anenah-ameno-flowery-thingee
I managed to get my foot completely and utterly soaked getting this shot, because I am talented that way.

And starfish. Tons of them.

starfish

And snails with intensely purple shells.

purple snail

And some of my personal favorite of the sea-critter people, hermit crabs.

hermit crab
He did NOT want to come out and say hi.

It is probably very juvenile of me, but I found this hilarious. What we have here, folks, is a real crab feed:

crab feed
Get it? They’re crabs, eating crab…?

We got a lazy afternoon coffee at the Beachcomber CafĂ© (so serious about their environmentalism that you will not find a paper cup anywhere…if you need a coffee to go, you can either bring your own mug or pay a buck for a glass Mason jar), ate lunch at the Eatery and returned to our room for a serious bout of loafing around on the deck in our bare feet because people? It was over 70 degrees out there, YES WAY.

I cannot explain this, I truly cannot. We got married in February fully embracing the Fact© that we would never, ever have, you know, “nice” weather for our anniversary. At the time, my main source of income was the harp – I didn’t have an open weekend from March to December, because I was playing for other people’s weddings. Why don’t people get married in February out here? Because the weather is what might be called unchancy. January is usually our rainiest month, sure, but February ain’t no slouch, either.

When we get this annual anniversary trip courtesy of St. Grandma, we tell ourselves for weeks that we mustn’t be upset if the weather is, you know, rotten.

And just about every year, we have been blessed with either fantastic, unseasonably warm weather, or the kind of weather that blusters like heck the way you expect in February, but suspends its bluster while we’re driving or hiking or whatever, and then promptly starts up again when we get where we’re going.

This year, we had beautiful, sunny, warm weather for our trip – and the minute we got home, it promptly clouded up and commenced with the rain. The last two days have been miserably cold and wet – thank goodness, because we are headed for another epic drought around here.

There was, of course, knitting. My husband worked on my wedding present, both of us refusing to bring up the fact that twelve years on…there have been…certain changes to my…ahem, yes. Well. If $DEITY hasn’t decided to zot me back into my pre-motherhood condition by the time it’s finished, I’m sure it will look awesome on Eldest.

For my part, I took on the KnitPicks Sipula Bag, in the ‘cool’ palette.

Sipalu Bag

And while we knit in companionable silence, the sun began to set.

view from the deck
This is right from the deck of our room. Holy smokes.

It’s a big world out there. A world full of wonders small and large. Just because I’ve seen them before doesn’t make them any less miraculous; just because I’ve seen the forest doesn’t mean I’m done with trees, just because the ocean has always been there doesn’t mean it isn’t still a vast-deep mystery.

I can’t wait to come back, dragging the Denizens with me.

And a really, really big tent.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Invisible Alien Menace: THWARTED!

My “office” is in my bedroom, right?

So is my bed, which Dharma has claimed as her personal property. She likes to spend her day – all of it – curled up among the pillows, alternating between regally watching me work and snoring.

A few minutes ago, I became aware that she was not merely snoring, but sawing some logs. That’s right. The cat was raising the roof with her zzzz’s.

{snork} mew! {snork!} mew! {snork!} mew!

Then, just as I was getting over a very immature bout of giggling about how cute her snork-mew snoring was…she suddenly jumped to her feet, eyes wide, hair on end, hissing wildly, and CLAWED DESPERATELY AT THE…uh…the nothingness that was, erm, you know…there

She felt my helpless laughter at her expense was in very poor taste, indeed. She gave me a scolding for my poor breeding, informed me that while I might think there was nothing there, it was actually an Invisible Alien Menace that only her alert response had kept a bay, then promptly curled back up, put her tail over her nose, closed her eyes, and went back to sleep.

This was, oh, two minutes ago?

And right immediately now…she sounds like this:

{snork!}…mew…{snork!}…mew…

Huh. Probably trying to lull the invisible alien menace into a false sense of security, so that she can again leap! to the defense of home and hearth, claws a-blazing…

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Well, DUH

When we got home, a letter was waiting for us. Based on her test results, Eldest did qualify for G.A.T.E. “under the following category: High Intellect (95+%ile).”

And thus is her mother’s completely unbiased opinion that she is “wicked smart” backed up with statistics.

Well done, Eldest. I’m not a bit surprised, but I am delighted all the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see about having this ego of mine deflated a bit. It’s making it hard to get through doorways, and don’t even start me on how hard it is to stuff myself into a car right now...but don't worry, a few minutes with the tax paperwork will cure me...

How to earn $1,440 an hour

…for ten minutes annually.

OK, yeah, the full disclosure part kind of takes the wind out of the old sails. Still! In ten minutes start to finish, I got $240 taken off my annual car insurance premium.

Back when one or both of us was commuting daily, we put a lot of miles on the vehicles – especially our little Civic. It was being driven a whopping 25,000 miles annually, sometimes even more.

Since my husband started working almost exclusively from home over a year ago, that’s dropped considerably. Last year, we put less than 9,000 miles on the car.

So I called up my faithful representatives and mentioned this fact, and about three seconds later my annual bill was $240 less. Sweet.

In somewhat related news, I do not see why it is necessary to emblazon Twenty-five years together all over my cards. Why don’t they add, We’ve been with you through ten vehicles and over a million miles! or Gee, you really are getting past the dewy-fresh-youth thing, aren’t you sweetie while they’re at it?

I’m gratified that they recognize our long-term relationship and all, but at the same time some of us are perhaps a tad sensitive about things that make plain the fact that if we look thirty-something, it is probably Maybelline.

...but perhaps I am just a little extra-super-sensitive at the moment because a sweet little girl-child on the beach Tuesday asked me if I had GRANDCHILDREN...ooooooh, SNAP!

Anyway. If you haven’t really looked your policy declarations over in a while, give it a squint or two. There might be some money waiting to be found on it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Money Monday: February 2

This is the ‘on the road’ edition of Money Monday, coming to you live from sunny shady Garberville, in the heart of the redwoods of California. Much to my surprise, we are on an anniversary trip – I’d thought it was off due to grandparent unavailability and what might be called a cash crisis here in the Den…but crazier cooler more organized heads than mine prevailed, and here we are.

Twelve years ago yesterday, I married the guy who asked me to marry him on a Disneyland rollercoaster.

I suspect I deserve every minute of the wild ride I’ve gotten ever since.

But I digress.

ANYWAY. My focus for this week is to not spend wildly while on vacation work my way back to bimonthly shopping. (And that other thing, too. We’re staying, eating and playing on the cheap this year, which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. This is how we were twelve years ago – ready to camp in the van at all times and just sort of seeing where we ended up. More Chez de Taco Bell, my love?)

I’m afraid I’ve fallen into a bad habit lately. My business mail box is conveniently located next to our supermarket / pharmacy, so each day I swing in to check the box…and maybe drop off / pick up a prescription, or pick up whatever I forgot or didn’t realize I needed yesterday.

It encourages me to be lazy about things. It lets me just sort of, you know, whatever.

It also means that almost every day, I’m facing the Gauntlet of Temptation around the cash registers. Not only am I endangering my wallet, I’m putting my waistline at risk as well. Between bags of Skittles and “irresistible” sales on Hostess goodies, I’m in for a world of hurt. Oh sure, I say I’m loading up on cupcakes as a ‘special treat’ for the kids and that obvious, being a mature grownup and all, I will be eating nothing but maybe some organic salad and perhaps a carrot or two…but, um, well, yeah. Right.

Or should I say, Riiiiiiight …and also, I am up for Pope in next week’s election! Vote early, vote often!

Bad habits are amazingly easy to carve into stone. I’m already whining about the ‘inconvenience’ and why is it such a big deal, I mean, if I forget milk or something, is it such a bad thing if I just pick up, you know, just a little milk, when I’m going to be right there anyway, picking up the business mail? Oh, I promise I won’t buy anything else, just the milk I need…

Also, have I mentioned a bridge I have for sale? Big orange one, right outside San Francisco, a real bargain at only $3,000,000, CALL ME!

So. Since I’m out of town half of this week anyway (did I mention that The Lady My Mother is a saint?), I’m considering this to be my ‘off’ week, shopping-wise. I’ll also be playing catch-up at work, which means that meals will probably be extemporaneous, a word which here means, whatever can be defrosted and on the table in less than an hour, hallelujah amen.

And now, I’m going to go pretend to be my 20-something self again. I’m finding it fascinating how much, and how little, has changed in the 20-something years between Then and Now.

I did a lot of this kind of travel back then. Spontaneous, unplanned, devil-may-care and if we can’t find a motel we can afford, well shoot. That’s why I own a van! Put down the back seats, pass the sleeping bags and let’s all be glad I have plenty of fuel for the camping stove can I get an amen? AMEN!

It’s playful, and fun. We’re spending very little money, we’re seeing a lot of stuff, we aren’t anxious to get anywhere…and I’ll admit it. It’s making me feel younger. The lack of planning, the ‘hey, let’s see where that road goes!’, stopping at the kitschy little ‘see the world’s biggest hairball’ roadside attractions (or not) – it’s invigorating.

But at the same time, I’m more anxious. I’m worrying about the kids, about my parents, about every dime we’re spending…even when the total for the day, for gas and food and ‘lodging’ and, well, everything was less than $50.

I didn’t worry about tomorrow very much, back then. Today, it feels like I’m in an opposite mode – I can’t stop thinking about tomorrow, and sometimes find it makes enjoying now difficult.

But overall, I think the changes aren’t that bad. Back in the day I got myself into a lot of trouble by not thinking about tomorrow…while it’s a bit annoying right now that I have a constant ledger sheet in my brain totaling everything up and figuring out how I’m going to pay for this by foregoing that and all, there is also the comfort of knowing that I’m not going to have to go through “all that” again, because I wasn’t paying attention to what the final bill was going to be for all this fun.

And with that, my dear ones…I’m off for the breakfast of champions.

By which I mean, the super-breakfast-plus pancakes at McDonalds.

Because this is a vacation, and we are pulling out all the stops on this one.