Friday, April 30, 2010

You know what I SHOULD have done?!

I really wish I’d thought to take pictures earlier today. Being nudged to do it now is like…you know how sometimes somebody will just be, you know, gah! and you really wish you could think of a really good zinger to hit them with but you can’t, and then two days later you sit up in bed at 2:35 in the morning and shout, “You know what I should have said?!” and you have this incredibly clever snark-back that you totally wish you’d said?

Yeah. Kind of feel that way about taking a picture of the Costco cart right now. And/or the back of Homer the Odyssey. And/or the kitchen table before I got stuff shuffled away to its many places of repose…because there are many, many places where food goes around here.

We have two refrigerators, one in the house and one out in the garage, plus a large stand-up freezer out in the garage. We also have a second set of kitchen-like cabinets out in the garage, and a tall wire rack in the playroom right by the kitchen where I keep a lot of the bulk flour, rice, beans, sugar etc. etc. etc.

Everything has a place, and nothing is ever in its place. Ever. I’m constantly changing things on myself, and then getting pissed off because nothing is where I think it is.

It’s a sick, sad cycle, it truly is.

At the moment, I think my kitchen looks fairly normal. Everything is put away somewhere, even if “somewhere” is a big cooler.

Which is where much of the meat is, actually, with defrosting chicken acting as the ice for everything else. (By the way: don’t mix raw meats up in a cooler all willy-nilly. I’ve got these guys separated from each other in sealed plastic trash bags, so if anything leaks it won’t get any further than, well, itself…I don’t want my raw chicken fraternizing with the ground beef, ya know?)

Today was really all about planning and acquisition of what-all I didn’t already have, plus a little tiny bit of actual preparation. I’ve got nine dinner entrees and eight lunches for the two of us done, all of them pork, all of them on the very simple side of the difficulty scale.

I bought two pork loins, about eight pounds each. (Yeah, not the little ones – the big ones.) One sharp knife later, they turned into 42 pork chops (about half an inch thick and a bit bigger than my palm – and for $2.49 a pound instead of $4.49), a pile of tiny bite-sized pieces and a larger pile of cubes.

For the chops, eighteen went into three gallon-sized Ziploc bags and were doused with a honey-ginger-garlic marinade; another eighteen went into three other Ziplocs and were drenched with an orange-cranberry-cinnamon marinade. Then all six Ziplocs migrated out to the big freezer to spend a couple hours on an empty shelf to quick freeze. (The cool thing about the Ziplocs is that if you freeze them flat, you can then stack your meals up in pretty minimal amounts of space. Same thing for Food Saver bags.)

The last six got eaten for dinner tonight. Because I know one of you is going to notice that the math doesn’t line up there.

The bite-sized pieces spent about half an hour marinating in the honey-ginger-garlic stuff while I got some bread started, then got stir-fried, spread out on a tray and put in the freezer to harden up. What I’m after is the ability to put the whole mess into a single Tupperware in the freezer while still being able to grab just a few bits out at one time – those are going to be lunches for the husband and myself, to go over rice laced with whatever I’m pulling out of the garden. (Peas and spinach right now…but a couple heads of broccoli look like they might be ready soon.)

Then I turned the cubes into three dinner’s worth of pork pie filling. It’s going to cool overnight in the fridge, and then I’ll split it up into Ziplocs as well and freeze them flat…that way, I can either make a traditional pie crust to put it in, or I can top it with mashed potatoes, or I can make a sweet potato topping…or just leave it as is and call it stew.

Which fools nobody but I like to pretend it does.

And then I made dinner-tonight-dinner, and put the bread into the oven, and then everybody ate and the bread came out of the oven and I set some beans soaking and called it a day.

Because it was a day.

And now it is night.

And tomorrow is another day…a day on which I want to get together stuff with beef, and stuff with chicken, and stuff with ham, and vegetable stuff, and pastry stuff, and bread stuff, and cookie stuff, too…


Think I’ll go put the camera’s battery in the charger. It’s going to have a busy day tomorrow…

Huff…puff…gimmie a second here…whew…!

I just got back from Costco. Which is pretty much a “nuff said” anyway because we all know how Costco is, right? Yeah. Well. This is the first time the staff at Costco has actually commented on the sheer volume of stuff I was buying. I had one of those hand trucks stacked clear up to “here” with everything from milk to meat. From the cashier’s assistant to the door guard, seemed like everybody I crossed paths with had eyebrows raised clear into their hairlines and some pithy comment along the lines of, “What are you, nuts?!” on their lips.

But, now I have everything I need for my insane list of cooking this weekend. How insane? Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and dessert for six people for two months.

Crazy…but of course, that’s why I scheduled these long weekends scattered throughout my contract at MegaBank, so that I could restock the freezer, get the Den back in something resembling good order, take care of any business needs that have been idling because I’m too busy to deal with them, fix anything that broke, upgrade anything that needs it, preserve harvests and try to keep us saving money by doing as much as we can for ourselves.

The temptation is strong to just put all of that kind of stuff on the back burner while I’m working. I’ve got a paycheck and the bone-deep exhaustion to prove I earned it, after all, hardly seems fair to have to bake my own bread from scratch so I can have a sandwich. But having just taken the family to fast food this week because I deserved a night off from All That and paid thirty bucks for stuff that I suppose was food (although I’d like to see the technical specs on that because I’m not sure it actually was)…paying more for one meal than I usually pay for a week’s worth of dinners…well.

It won’t do us a whole lot of good if half my take home pay starts going to food instead of strengthening our position.

And so, dear friends…I’m off to my kitchen. To slice and dice, marinate and bake, knead and shape, measure and freeze.

To the kitchen…away!!!!!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

No. Way

Dudes. I need to buy a lottery ticket tonight. The chances of getting a four-top all to oneself for even one leg of the journey are, like, a mazillion to one.

But BOTH?!

My calculator can't display that many characters...

If you need me, I'll be enjoying the legroom...
(sent from my Treo)


Right sized circulars. Freshly-wound ball of good wool yarn. Highlighted copy of pattern. Coffee. Train table all to m'self (for half an hour at least). iPod. is good...

(sent from my Treo)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


OK, it's still blurry. You'll have to take my word for it: that's newly sprouted broccoli. So tiny! I still marvel that a plant which will ultimately produce a crown bigger than both of my hands cupped together, and which will be as tall as my hip and so wide around I can barely embrace it (what? I like broccoli...) starts out as a seed so small they're difficult to handle (though not as bad as carrots that way), and sprouts as a tiny little clover a camera has trouble focusing on it.

Going well out there tonight. The diva carrots are popping up, more broccoli has shown up, all four hills of summer squash have signs of life, as do the beets and spinach between them.

Unlike the laundry, the garden is a lovely chore to come home to...

(sent from my Treo)

That's it, I'm sleeving

Heh heh…knitting humor…ahem

Look! I finished the first sleeve of Captain Adventure's Lillehammer on the train this morning! I even ran in all the ends!

4-28 Lillehammer

I feel so accomplished and some junk…except that I forgot my DPNs so how I think I'm going to start the next sleeve is a bit beyond me. I may have to {gasp!} not knit all the way home tonight.

I KNOW. I'm not sure I can survive, either. I tried to do a magic loop with the circular needles I do have with me, but there are two problems with this:

1) There are only 46 stitches cast on. They practically can't even fit on the needle part of the circulars, let alone by any stretch of the imagination, um, stretch. Even with the magic loops jutting out on either side of it like butterfly wings. It's so awkward I'm not sure I wouldn't make better progress by just waiting until I'm home and starting over.

b) They're the wrong size. Which should be a show-stopper right there but who ever let a little thing like {pfffft!} wrong-sized needles stop them? Not this knitter. So I'm all trying to figure out how many stitches I'd need to not cast on, and how many fewer rows I'd need to do in the rib, to end up with approximately the same size cuff. Which might take me the entire trip home, at which point I will be able to just use the right flippin' DPNs instead of attempting to do all kinds of alchemy around how to increase an extra ten stitches or so without it looking, well, stupid. You know, to balance out the fact that I had to cast on ten fewer to get…never mind.

Yeah. I'm kind of thinking…I should stick with working on the laptop all the way home. Hey, here's a thought: I could actually do work-work. Because I do have Friday off work, which oddly hasn't changed the due dates of anything (Dear MegaBank, in future I would greatly appreciate it if you could put all data migrations and mergers on hold for a period of not less than three days before and after any planned time off I have on the calendar, thanks in advance, all my love, Me.), and therefore any extra time spent, you know, work-working…would be a good thing.



BECAUSE, I was blathering non-stop at talking to my husband about the whole "yarn would 'only' be $121 but I'm kind of thinking that might be stupid considering I have half the WNP (wooly national product) of Australia in bags and boxes all over the house as it is, but see, thing is, I don't have anything that is the right weight for these sweaters, or the right color, and the chances that I could dye 8,000 yards of yarn the "right" red all in one dye lot given the constraints of my "dedicated amateur" equipment (better than many, not awesome like someone who does this stuff as a full-time career) are, like, pffffft, yeah right – I mean, they'd be close(ish) and all, but they wouldn't be exact which might be fine, you know, if I could get enough for each individual sweater done in one go (and that should be do-able, sure) but see if the thing is that these are supposed to be matchy-matchy sweater, well…"

I know. Everybody is wishing they were married to me, so they too could be listening to this kind of faaaaaaaaascinating stuff at 5:15 on a Tuesday morning before they'd even gotten their coffee because the woman doing the blathering was making the coffee as she blathered. Awesome!

…the only thing better is when I've already read my Wall Street Journal and have a few Items I want to discuss…

Anyway, as I was (slowly) working my way around to not making the matchy-matchy sweater because it was stupid and I wasn't sure I could really justify the yarn purchase and all, my husband suddenly said, in tones that brooked no denial, "Buy the yarn. You have to make the sweaters. You have to. I want us to have the sweaters. Buy the yarn."

He may have put a certain word or two indicating great emphasis before the word 'yarn.'

You know, like, "gosh darned." Or possibly "danged."

So I've got a KnitPicks order to figure out and place. BWAHAHAHAHAHA… {ahem}, I mean, which I will do solemnly and only because I have been told I have to…

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Most. Awesome. Pillow. EVER.

My husband was putting Captain Adventure to bed, which since I had chosen to finally get around to changing the sheets on his bed...well. By "changing" I mean "taking all the sheets off to washing them and then getting distracted such that everybody headed to bed tonight only to find themselves confronted by bare mattress pads because I did all the changing stuff except for the part where you actually CHANGE the sheets on the beds."

Hey, at least they're getting washed.

Could be worse.

ANYWAY. This meant that we were making up the Captain's bed for him while he was bouncing around being hyper because he is so tired.

It's a thing kids do. I'm so tired! I must fly around the room like a hummingbird on Red Bull! Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-FLOP!

And then...daddy pulled out of the linen cupboard...the Power Rangers pillowcase.

"Hey Captain, look at this!" he called.

Captain Adventure skidded to a stop. He regarded the pillowcase with wide eyes.

"Oh. Mine. GAWD!" he shouted at last. "Dat de best piw-whoa in dey WURLD!! And I wannit dat one!"

And then I died laughing, the end.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Money Monday: April 26, 2010

I realized this week that I am about halfway through my initial twelve month contract at MegaBank. It was one of those moments where you feel a bit…taken aback. It was not unlike getting together with a friend after what seems like no time at all to find that the baby she “just” had is now eleven years old and trying on a teenager’s ‘tude.

Whaaaaaaat? When did THAT happen?!

To be honest, my first thought upon realizing that the contract was half over was a sturdy round of “oh @*&^@!!!”

I haven’t paid off as much as I wanted. I don’t have the savings I wanted to have. I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to show for all this crazy.

But as I was working myself up into a true and proper fit about it, I thought maybe I should take an actual look-see at how things were going. Maybe get some actual numbers together instead of just going with the gut feeling that nothing was happening.

Nothing is not happening. (…dude…wait…what?)

Let me put that another way (yes, please): Things are definitely happening. Good things. Very good things. We’re stabilizing and moving forward and paying things down and saving a little up and most importantly of all I am not performing weekly acts of Accounting Alchemy to keep checks from bouncing like a Pinkie ball on a playground full of hyperactive fifth graders.

But in the course of going over the records since I went back to work in November, I discovered something I hadn’t really realized before: The period between just-before-Christmas and April is kinda hellish for us, in terms of big ticket stuff coming due all at once.

I hadn’t realized it before because in the days before the Great Under-Employment Fiasco of 2008-2009™, I did this crazy thing called ‘savings goals’ to handle things like the property taxes and the insurance premiums. So each month when I was paying other bills, I’d set aside an amount equal to 1/12 of the anticipated bill. It’s just a virtual envelope in the savings account; Quicken makes this painlessly easy for me. It can even “hide” the cash so that I can forget all about it until the time comes to cash it out.

Then, when Due Date rolls around, you know, {shrug}. Transfer the money out of the savings account, pay the bill. No problem.

It had become so automatic for me that I didn’t really think about what it did for me, year after year…until it was gone and I was left with the alternative, which is to find yourself scrambling flat-footed with five days until Due Date on a $2,000 “pay up now” statement. Gah!

Needless to say, I spent some quality time this weekend setting up the savings goals for next year. The virtual accounts are set up, and the “bills” to fill them up scheduled, each and every month…and accounted for in my new budget.

And then I looked at the rest of the year and had to smile. The flipside of all those big expensive bills coming due all at once over that four months period is that we’re now clear of such things until December.

Sure, I can’t guarantee something stupid won’t happen that costs us a bundle (and in point of fact, it is entirely likely that even daring to post about not expecting big bills in the near future is practically inviting the roof to collapse or one of the cars to spontaneously combust)…but even if it does, it will happen in the absence of another big old bill for property taxes or insurance.

Which means I should be able to get some actual traction going, here.

Which will make all the crazy seem a lot more worth doing, don’t you think?

...not fair...

My poor little Captain is having EIGHT fillings this morning. Eight. EIGHT!! All way in the back, where nobody has ever been able to really look / x-ray because when he isn’t sedated he will clamp his mouth shut and GOD HELP the foolish person who has a finger in there to try to stop him doing it.


Thank GOD for the better dental insurance. It’s still going to cost a fair bit, but far less than it would have otherwise AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, is being done by a man who “gets” not only children in general, but autism in particular. No trauma, no fighting, no terror, no pain.


For the child, anyway. Mom…might need a nice sedative, here…


(sent from my Treo)

Friday, April 23, 2010

And the Wheel spins to renewal…

I finished up my work week a little bit ago (well, more accurately, I finished up for the day a bit early because once again I will be logging on over the weekend, but let’s not start picking nits, shall we?) and thought I’d take a quick tour of the garden before picking up the Denizens to get our weekend started.

Maybe, I thought hopefully. A few things will have come up since the last time I looked…

Have you ever had Life just sort of…rush up, grab your hand and shake it madly while screeching, “Hi! Good to see you! Awesome! Yeah! Hi! Great! I’m so happy to be here! I love you! I missed you! HI!!!!”?

All around the Den, in patches here and stretches there, are tiny little things like this:

spinach sprouts

Spinach sprouts. I’ve been tucking them wherever there’s an open space, from the front patch to along the “dark” side of the house (they don’t seem to mind if they only get partial sun – they’ll kind of prefer it, I think, when we get up into those triple-digits in a couple months) to the front patch between the blueberries.

Which, by the way, have gone from being dead-looking twigs to this:


Two are smaller, but this guy has just really decided to go for it!!

The artichokes are doing well…

Healthy artichoke

…even the one I thought was a donation to the Snail Hunger Relief Foundation…note the skinny leaves, which were chewed all the way down to the middle rib…

Snail Hunger Relief Fund Donation

The cranberries seem like to their new home just fine, too. They’re putting out bright green new leaves and starting to stretch a bit.


The surviving roma tomatoes are throwing off their nasty yellow color and developing new leaves. There are about fifty left; I’m still not sure about a few of them, but by jove I think the rest are going to make it.

Stubborn tomato

Sunflowers are saying “howdy-do” along the back fence.


There are tiny little broccoli “clovers” starting to appear in the mounds. They’re so small my camera can’t focus on them. Hard to believe something that small will get as massive as broccoli gets in the end.

The cucumbers…are bored by the whole thing. They’ll come out when they’re darned good and ready, and not a minute earlier. (Cucumbers. They’re such divas…) (So are the carrots. “I said fourteen days and I meant fourteen days…quit walking around here looking for sprouts, there ain’t gonna be any for at least fourteen DAYS…)

But the green beans didn’t want to be left out of the party…

Green beans

…and the butternut squash is feeling show-off-y…

Butternut Squash

…and the beets are all, We were here first, you know…

Beet Row

The peach / nectarine tree hasn’t lost the little fruits yet, either. I don’t dare expect them to hold on until they’re harvest-size, but I can’t help but hope.



Four thornless blackberry bushes are leafing up and spreading out.

Thornless blackberries

And the heirloom yellow-striped tomato? Put on a flower today, just for the occasion.

Mr. Stripy Blossom

Red potatoes.

Red potatoes

And white potatoes.

White potatoes

And purple potatoes whose plant looks more like an exotic flower.

Purple potatoes, close up

The milk/water spray appears to have worked well for the peas – there’s still white on the leaves, but there is significantly less of it. And the plants have erupted with new flowers and big, fat pods.

Recovering peas

Up in the front patch, I also have a tiny patch of green in one of the summer squash hills.

As I was coming back in the house, already overwhelmed, a scent wrapped its arms around me. Dizzying and sweet, familiar, like old songs remembered…

Lemon blossom

The lemon tree has blossoms singing from every branch.


The year-wheel spins around again, from the short death of winter to the new life of spring; what was stark and bare is lush and green, what was dark is light, what was cold is warmed, what was barren is fertile.

What blessed creatures we are, to live in such a world, where such miracles are commonplace!

…and where carrots occasionally come out of the ground looking like this…

Twisty carrot


OK! Onward, to the weekend! Ho!!

Haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but…

…I did determine that the yarn to make Lillehammers for the female Denizens (including me) would run $121.39 if I went with the Telemark from KnitPicks.

Not too shabby for four sweaters; the adult sized one is a hair under $42, the two bigger kids are just under $30 each and the smallest is $20.

Knitting is such an awesome hobby to have (she said, expressing a completely unbiased opinion of the sport) (ahem).

For $121.39, I can make four custom sweaters that would run, what, gads…well, quick Google search seems to indicate that if you were able to get a similar sweater pre-knit, it could run you as much as {gulp} $400 ($200 for the less complicated ones, more for the crazy-talk ones like the Lillehammer) (hey, found one for “just” $150 on eBay!)…just for the women’s medium. Each of the kids sweaters would run around a hundred bucks.

I’m just going to take a moment here to pause and reflect on paying a hundred bucks for a toddler’s sweater. HA! HAHAHAHAHA! HA! {snicker!} {snort!}

Ya know, maybe there are toddlers out there in the world who don’t instantly wreck their clothes.

I suspect they are considerably more “managed” than mine ever were. I’m afraid I just couldn’t be the kind of parent whose children were always neat and tidy…mine are always the ones with dirty pant hems, ink-stained sleeves, holes in their knees and splatters of Gosh-Knows-What all over. They come by it honestly, at least – that’s what my clothes look like most of the time, too, since I never pause to think about my clothes before dropping to my knees in the dirt to get a closer look at newly sprouting squash, or firing up my rangetop, or daubing dye on something.

Even if the thought does occur to me that maybe I should go change into my “junk” clothes, I always immediately follow that up with “nah, I’m only going to do this one thing, and I’ll just be Super Careful.”

Please see ridiculous number of references to my inability to learn from past experience, scattered throughout this blog.

ANYWAY. I could pay $500 for four pre-made sweaters, or I can make all four for less than I’d pay for just the adult size.

And then I get to knit them, a process that would take a minimum of 24 weeks of my undivided knitting-time attention…probably more.

So my entertainment tab is pretty much covered for at least six months.

And then when I’m all done, we have sweaters that nobody, not even a non-knitter, could possibly mistake for something that came out of the last chance bin at WalMart. Sweaters that say, “Wow! Matching wool sweaters, huh? In California no less. {pause} Dude. Your mom is, like…wow…have you ever thought of calling CPS or some junk…?”


You know what else? I will bet you a burrito right here and now that after I’d finished all these, I’d find that I had tons of yarn leftover (which I don’t dare count on and buy a few balls less because we all know how that ends) (weeping…gnashing of teeth…rending of hair…frantic screams for help on Ravelry, does anybody have two balls of Color X in dyelot ABC123 pleasepleaseplease, it’s an emergency!).

So I could then make the matching hats and mittens and stockings, too! It’s Dork-A-Palooza, folks, c’mon down and join the fun…oh-oh-oh! Maybe, I could even crochet little nose bags for everybody, because noses need love too, right?

DOUBLE awesome!

(I can imagine the call to CPS now. “Hi, ya, my mom? She’s, like, crazy or something? Ya…double-knit wool…California…six matching sweaters…we’re, like, refugees from a 1950s sitcom over here…with nose bags…oh, nose bags? They’re, like, little things that you put over your nose, and they have strings that tie behind your head, and…oh, the cop’s here, that was fast…”)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why I'm not blogging so much right now

It started so slowly. One night, one kid has finished her homework early and asks if she can get on the computer and go to…and I can't really think of a good reason why not. After all, she's done her chores and finished her homework…

One night I'm trying to make dinner and Captain Adventure is making it difficult and his father is so deeply entrenched in the Man Cave that I would need grease and a crowbar to get him out of there (actually, just a crowbar…to smash his Netflix-watchin' computer with…), so I hand him the Wii remote and tell him he can play until dinner is ready…and then I can carry on chopping onions without being rammed from behind by his hard little head. (That's my favorite of his little autistic tricks, the "I'm going to run up on mommy from behind and slam my head into her backside while she's cutting things with a big old honkin' knife…awesome!…)

I come home extra tired, and make the Critical Error of sitting down on the couch in front of the TV to watch the news. Just the half hour national one. Well, and maybe the top of the 6:00 local. Up until the weather. Oh, but I totally want to hear this local politician 'splain hisself, so I'll just leave it on until they get to that part of the 6:30 show…

The husband wants to watch his Netflix movie and when is he going to do that? Now, of course, because we have to get up early tomorrow and can't stay up late tonight…so into the Man Cave he goes, to watch until dinner is ready and then, naturally, he'll emerge…well, after this scene or that scene and can he help put the kids to bed because I'm kind of up to my eyebrows in dishes and laundry and cat puke on the stairs and…sure, sure, yeah, I'll do it in a minute {stares fixedly at computer monitor until movie is over an hour later}

Meanwhile, I'm upstairs staring at my monitor because I've got a lot of stuff to do. Email, blogging, reading, researching, paying bills, etc. etc. etc. (Amazing how "paying this bill real quick" can lead to a seven hour Internet odyssey, huh?)

Once a week becomes twice, twice becomes thrice, and thrice becomes Every Night.

It didn't happen overnight. It happened over a period of months, not a bit coincidentally the months between when I started working again and now.

Monday, I got an email from Captain Adventure's teacher asking if anything "different" was going on around the Den, because his classroom behavior has been eroding lately. And folks, we're talking about a classroom full of autistic kids – by the time the teacher is telling you your kid is being a pill, it's serious.

He's humming (tunes from his video games). He's refusing to participate in the class activities (because he wants to be playing the Wii instead). He's making weird hand gestures (which would probably be the same movements he makes to play his game – waving the wand and remote, pressing buttons, etc. etc. etc.). He grudgingly responds only when his teacher asks if she needs to pull his last card…which means she'll email me, which means no Wii.


More tantrums. More stubborn. More withdrawn. More anger.

Less communication. Less interaction. Less play, and therefore less learning.

Good Parenting Points: Negative 27,000,000,000.

This came on the heels of a nasty surprise we had a couple weeks ago with one of the girls (who shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty). Report card that looked like something you would never expect from a kid that smart. Downright bloody awful, across the board. How? How is this possible? She's done her homework, she's told us so…granted, we haven't been really looking at it much because we're so busy-busy-busy. We'd glance and see a filled-in page and say, "OK, good, yeah, you can go ahead and play on the computer now."

She'd been dashing off practically random answers. Did she actually know what 'perpendicular' meant? Could she pick an octagon out of a lineup? (She could when she was two, but now, {redacted} years later? Knowledge gone.)

She'd done the same thing on tests. Turns out that maybe telling her how smart she is all these years wasn't such a good idea – she thinks she's so smart that whatever answer she comes up with will be the right one. Duh. Because she's sooooooo smart.

She is smart. But Lord-Lord, is she ever ignorant when it comes to basic {redacted}-level math, science, English, social studies, art and even PE.

Good Parenting Points: Negative 26,276, 004.

And, last week I got another call from another teacher who wanted to Express Concern (teacher code for "scold roundly") about another child's sudden sloppiness around doing and turning in homework. Doing it but not turning it in. Not participating in activities. Not giving a flip about what she was doing.

Same basic thing: Dash off any old thing on the homework sheet, shove it under the nearest parent's distracted nose, and get the blessing to get on with the electronic f-u-n.

Good Parenting Points: Negative 8,000,007.

I relayed the email from Captain Adventure's teacher to the husband as we were settling in on the BART train. And we agreed right then and there that, no matter how much we didn't want to (because we knew he was going to be a seriously pissed off kid on this deal), we needed to cut him off on the Wii / computer playing on school / work nights.

But all the way home, I was thinking that the problem wasn't just Captain Adventure playing video games too much…and the girls' problems weren't entirely their problems.

Yeah, they do need to start developing their own drive and ambition. They need to care. They need to learn responsibility and accountability and blah blah blah.

But it isn't enough to take them aside and go, "Blah! Blah blah blah! Blah! BLAH! BLAH BLAH BLAH!!! Blahblahblahblah blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah…" and then walk away saying, "Wow. That was an awesome lecture about responsibility. I am the Parent of the Year™!"

I was pondering the old saying, Whenever you point the finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at YOU.

We came home this one time, probably a Thursday or Friday when the commute + working + late nights + early mornings starts to really catch up with us, and just didn't want to deal with the whole homework / housework / kid wrangling thing.

Then we came home another day and it was the same way.

Then it was every Thursday. Then Thursday became Wednesday and Thursday. And then it started on Tuesday, and if it's OK on Tuesday, why not Monday, too…

No need to really go over homework with the kids, they're smart, they get good grades, they don't need any extra help from us, shoot, they probably know more about it than we do anyway. Oooooooh, a two hour documentary about the derivatives market!

(Seriously? I can't even pick CSI:Anywhere? MSNBC? Seriously?!) (Although actually, I would watch CSI:Anywhere, but I can't with the Denizens running around. They have a knack for running in right when something really yucky is on the screen.)

And look where it's getting us. The Denizens are going feral. Their school work is suffering. Our son is getting less and less social. Yeah, yeah, we're tired and we just wanna sit down and have some peace and @*&^@ing quiet when we get home…but hey, guess what?

We can't. Not unless we'd like to sit down and redefine what we think is really important. Scratch out things like "good family life" and replace it with "four hours TV nightly" or "at-will Internet fix." Get rid of the whole thing about self-sufficiency (which is hard work that has few shortcuts) and homemade meals and replace it with nightly pizza delivery or Chinese takeout. (One of the most dangerous discoveries I've made in the last month is that my favorite Indian place delivers. GAH! NO! No you don't! YOU DO NOT DELIVER! Get thee behind me, Satan…!)

Instead of sending four kids to college with a scholarship or two, we can put a more reasonable goal; say, "at least one of the kids will graduate high school."

And while we're at it, we can just downgrade our hopes for Captain Adventure. Instead of "eventually mainstreaming and being able to live a happy, independent adult life," we can just go ahead and say, "will end up making macaroni art in adult day care, still in diapers, unable to communicate with other humans unless they speak 'autism'." Awesome!

It doesn't feel like we're doing anything that bad at the time. It just feels like we're having a pleasant evening. The kids are happy; we're happy; sure, the food situation is dreadful but just this once it won't kill anybody to have, let's see, whatever this is…because it's fast and gets me back to my documentary so much faster than actually making dinner would…

So as we were getting into Homer the Odyssey at the train station, I cleared my throat and proposed that we extend the ban to all the computers, all television, all video games. Even if homework is done. Even if he's being a royal pain. Even if there's a show we really want to watch. Even if we're tired. Even if I do need to pay a bill or my email inbox is bursting at the seams.

None of it goes on until the kids are all in bed…so that we're forced to focus on taking care of family business, forced to engage with Captain Adventure even if he's being a pill on a Thursday night when we're tired and there's an awesome show about the great Wyoming wildebeest migration on, and to actually look at the girls' schoolwork, to do chores together, to actually make dinner instead of being perpetually about to get around to that at the next commercial…

And we agreed to it. Just like that. Both of us.

The regrets didn't start kicking for almost twenty minutes.

I'm not kidding: I think I'm taking it the hardest. Even Captain Adventure seems to be adjusting better than me…especially when the kids are in bed and technically I could be flipping on the switches, but if I thought I was tired before? Ha. Yeah. Astonishingly, it is a lot more, um, draining to spend the two hours between getting home and bedtime alternating fending off a feisty Captain Adventure and chasing him around the house trying to stop him from doing whatever inappropriate thing he's decided to do instead of playing with, I dunno, how about…toys?!

Pffffft, toys. Please. There are so many better things to do with your time than play with the $42,000 worth of toys-as-such he owns! There's dragging all the bedding off all the beds and piling it up on the stairs. Finding things he can pry batteries out of, and then sucking on the batteries. Getting an onion out of the fridge and sitting on the couch to carefully peel all the skin off it, then crushing and scattering the skin all over the room. Opening up the gallon-sized refill of liquid hand soap and pouring ALL of it in the sink.

The possibilities are endless. Every room a playroom! Every object a fun-source! Every shriek from his parents boundlessly amusing!! And it only takes having your parents' eyeballs off you for 0.0003 seconds to get the party started…which isn't hard to do when there are three other kids competing for their attention while you're trying to sneak away from it…

Yeah, for some reason? I'm a lot more tired this week than usual…way too tired to sit down at the end of the day to turn on a laptop or even the TV…yes, please, I'd like to just go to bed now, thank you…

But it's OK. It's better for all of us, and furthermore I'm almost probably certain that I likely won't actually die from the abrupt withdrawal of incessant technology. (Probably.) (Although I think I read on the Internet once about this guy? Who had an iPhone? And it broke? And he died, I swear! Hang on, let me see if I can find that link… {click-click-click-click-click-click-six-hours-and-several-million-funny-pictures-of-cats-later}…nope, can't find it…)


(It never gets old.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 3

This - the whole "no TV / computers / video games thing - is DEFINITELY harder on me than anybody else in the Den. Even Captain Adventure is making a faster adjustment to the New World Order than me.

Last night was hellish for him. Tonight was merely token whining, followed by vigorous playing with sisters...while I had to keep lecturing myself with many cheerleading phrases like "Eyes on the prize" and "bedtime starts at 8:00, how hard could it possibly be to get through the evening routine in, say, ten minutes, so I can flip on my laptop..."

And suddenly it's 10:00 and MY bedtime and did I ever get my laptop turned on?


Instead of blogging this morning on the train, I knitted. And did it again on the way home. And now the body of the little sweater is done and tomorrow, I sleeve.

But tonight, I need to go to bed. Computer-less, and without a comforting (or not) glance at my stocks, or a scan of my VERY over-enthusiastic spam-catcher (it has two settings: kill just about everything, or invite every Spambot we know to the party).

No news. No CSI:Anywhere.

I KNOW. It's barbaric.

But somehow, I suspect I will actually survive.


(sent from my Treo)

Monday, April 19, 2010

In our typical impulsive way, the husband and I agreed during th commute home - with no real thought or pause for consideration - that electronics such as computers and televisions, hand-held games and other things that flicker at us are herewith BANNED on school/work nights until after the Denizens are all in bed.

Not "except when Deadliest Catch is on." Not even "except when I have to pay this bill real quick."

I can't argue with the need to do it, especially since, as with most of the craziest schemes around here, it was MY blasted idea.

But I do wish I could just keep my mouth shut once in a danged while...

(sent from my Treo)

It's all a blur

I know I had a weekend. I know I did. But it all kind of…went by…in a big old blur

We consolidated the surviving tomatoes into one smaller block of the back forty(yards). Picked another bucket of peas, two BIG heads of broccoli, two small golden beets, and the very this-time-we-mean-it last of the red onions.

Then we weeded like crazy people around the little trees. We have been sort of lazy less-than-diligent back there on the theory that weeding is a pain in the neck it wasn't that important seeing as how the trees were tall and the weeds not so tall.

But this weekend I finally admitted to myself that it is a very bad idea to allow the weeds to grow wild anywhere like that. They encourage the spread of the powdery mildew and other ickies, they attract all the wrong bugs (cutworms in particular, they love all that juicy green cover) (and aphids…grrrrrr…aphids…), and of course it looks pretty awful.

Besides…I'm thinking I could probably get a few other crops in there. Right now the trees are so small I don't even have to worry about the sun/shade thing, but going forward I could be planting shade-tolerant goodies all around their bases.

What? Why are you looking at me like that? I'm not obsessed or anything, I'm just…um…trying to utilize my scarce land-resources to the absolute best of my abilities.

Also, I found an interesting potential cure for the powdery mildew, and it's just so unlikely that I couldn't not try it: milk.

Milk. Nine cups of water to one cup milk, spray liberally on the leaves. Allegedly, it can actually cure it…most things merely slow it down a bit, but if the infection is already widespread you're pretty much doomed.

I sprayed in the morning, and by evening I noticed that it did seem to be falling off the peas! Falling off! Like a fine powder.

I will be so excited if this works.

Lillehammer Jr. is coming along splendidly. I made it through the main body and am working through the last few rounds before the neck shaping…the part where suddenly I'm consulting the pattern every row again. After all those inches of pattern repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat, it's a refreshing change.

Except for when I'm trying to juggle it all on a crowded BART train. Yeah. That part isn't so much fun.

Lillehammer Jr 4-19

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kvetch and you shall receive…

I was grumbling about my lost time last pay period. My stupid tooth cost me four days. Denizen illness another two, plus a half day here and a quarter day there for appointments and whatnot – my paycheck was so light this last time it was in danger of floating away.

And, because I’d been out so much, I wanted to go into the office a little more diligently because I didn’t want anybody to forget I worked there.

Which meant my hours were even more down because going into the office means I’m spending between four and five hours of my day parked in a train or a bus or a car on my way there or back again.

It’s hard to get even seven hours of time billed…and that’s if I don’t take a break through the day but just charge straight on through, eating my lunch with one hand while coding with the other.

Not a fun way to go through an entire week.

So I was grumbling about my hours. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

And lo! The god(dess) of hourly workers heard my laments, and took pity on me, and made with the magic, and lo…

My team is doing a production data load this weekend. Which is why I was working until 9:00 last night, after a full week of other ‘up until 9:00 working’ and ‘logging in at 4:15 a.m. working.’

And which is also why I’m sitting at a computer right now instead of doing housework. (Wait…actually…is there a downside to this…?) (Oh, OK, I would rather be doing housework…but only because I love a clean house, not because I have any affection for housework whatsoever.)

I’m tired, cranky, and possibly beginning to turn a little code-blind. All the numbers are starting to blur together, the queries all look alike, the combines and the entities and the tables WAIT, that one is a view but is it the view of a view or is it just a, wait, is this the select-splat-from, or is this the one with that fourteen-layer-crazy-cake join in it…yawn…blink…stretch…squint…

No, yeah, it’s the crazy-joined view, of that other view, that summarizes the select-splat view.

Riiiiiiiight. I totally knew that.

Ah, the bittersweet life of the hourly contractor. On the one hand, I’m tired and a little cranky and very definitely NOT feeling the love for error counting and data quality research…which takes “detail oriented” straight past ‘art form’ and into ‘masochistic myopic madness.’

On the other…my next paycheck is going to be very sweet indeed…

Thank you, god(dess) of hourly workers…

Friday, April 16, 2010

Also not safe...

Can you even tell what this is?!

It's my weekly contribution to the local economy. The fact that it may APPEAR to be a gluttonous orgy in the form of BBQ tri-tip smothered in hand-crafted BBQ sauce from the eternally awesome heaven's portal of Shorter's BBQ in Tracy is just an illusion. I didn't get this for ME, so that I could devour its tangy-smoky-sweet-n-spicy goodness like a starved pig.

No, it is purely because I am ALL ABOUT the revival of the local economy.

Because I am noble that way.

(This thing is SO not safe for work. If IT knew I'd had this thing within 500 feet of my corporate laptop, they'd probably escort me from the building...) (wait...can they do that when I'm working from home...?)

(sent from my Treo)

Unexpectedly unsafe

I was in a phone meeting, twiddling my thumbs waiting for the two people fencing over who was doing what on something that had nothing to do with me to be done with their verbal duel.

And I thought, Hey. Powdery mildew. I wanted to Google that...

Ahem. Yeah. Apparently? Powdery mildew is a big problem for marijuana growers, too.

..we'llllllll just leave THAT research for later, shall we...?

(sent from my Treo)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh nos!!!

Look! Look at what is all over my peas!!



This is one of the banes of the San Joaquin gardener: powdery mildew. I've been afraid of this ever since the rain started...warm weather + persistence dampness = powdery mildew HEAVEN.

Last weekend, I cut off a dozen infected leaves. Tonight, there isn't an uninfected one in the whole patch...and two plants were like this.

Past gray, all the way to rusted.

(sad face)

Oh well. Time for the weekly neem oil routine...hopefully, it isn't too late for this poor little patch...

(sent from my Treo)

Happy Free Coffee Day!

Starbucks has a 'green' promotion today – bring in your own tumbler, and they'll fill it up with drip coffee free.

Which is one of my favorite words in the English language.

Knitting for children can be so satisfying. It's like almost-instant gratification…I'm already only four centimeters away from having to pay attention to the pattern again to do the tops of the panels on Captain Adventure's sweater:

Lillehammer Jr. 4/15/10

(Note the tumbler full of free coffee. WOOT!!!!)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Are they still casting for Pokeman?



OK, so – I dyed my hair last week? Which is a thing I do because I am too immature to take my gray hair like a woman all about keeping up appearances?

Yeah. So, I had picked out this color that looked kind of fun. A bit redder than The Usual but hey – life is short.

Oh. My. God. In. Heaven.

I look like…an aging anime character. It’s so red it’s just…just…well, it’s…it’s…


The only problem with this is, well, actually, there’s a couple problems. One is the “aging” thing; I suspect it looks more than a touch ridiculous on me because this is a color for someone who is twenty or thirty-something. While I steadfastly refuse to grow up and maintain a mental age of oh, about, eh, maybe seventeen (on a mature day) (go ahead, say the word ‘fart’ – I’ll snicker. I won’t be able to stop myself), the body looks like I should be loading up the kids into the gray minivan for soccer practice. Ssssssexy!

The other major problem is that I have no hair style.

No, seriously – I have no hair style. The ‘look’ goes like this: Dunk head under sink, apply goop, comb, hope for the best.

That’s my “hair styling” routine in the morning.

Like I said: Ssssssexy!

This color kind of needs a style. In fact, it rather demands it. It says, “Hey! You canNOT go around with me on your hair, but no style! You look like a complete ass. Fix it, loser!

So I looked at myself in the full-length mirror at work (memo to me: you need one of those – that’s how you would know your pant hems are way too long) (I kid you not, in my own bedroom / bathroom, there is no mirror I could use to even see how my shirt and pants go together; they’re too small and there isn’t enough room to back up enough to see from a distance. Not that I could, seeing as how I need new glasses.) (You know what, now I’m getting a little bummed out. Let’s move on.) and here was this too-funky-fresh-for-me color on that lame excuse of a style and I thought, You know what would be fun?

Yes. That’s right. I thought those six words again.

And then I started trying to figure out if I could do some kind of spikier thing with my hair. Something that had that “it took two hours of hard work to get this hair to look like I forgot to brush it after sleeping under a bridge all night” vibe going, maybe.

You know, something…style-like, with…I think they call it, um, “lift”?

…or something…?

And that, dear female coworkers, is why I was standing in front of the bathroom door holding my hair up in both hands staring at myself all wide-eyed like that with my chin down and a possibly somewhat wild overall expression on my face…as if I’d just learned some terrible truth and just couldn’t deal with the trauma of it.

I was just trying to imagine what I would look like, you know, if I had lift.

Lord-have-mercy, I should NOT be allowed out of the house without a keeper…

Happiness is a warm jacket

Yesterday, I washed my "good" jacket. I wore it out in the rain over the weekend while planting and predictably it got muddy / dirty / ew.

Also predictably, I did not notice this until I got to work Monday morning and hung it on the coat rack. Because nothing says, "Trust me, I'm a professional" like showing up to work in a jacket that looks like you ran behind the train all the way to work. Awesome.

I washed it first thing in the morning and hung it out on the clothesline to dry – but the weather chose to be a little cold and a lot humid and when I took it in last night, it was still very damp.

This morning, it was also very damp.

So even though it was supposed to be line dried, I tossed it into the dryer and gave it a twenty minute tumble on medium while the whirl of coffee and cocoa making, backpack inspections, "go and put on socks" and "where are your shoes?" and "wait, this form was due YESTERDAY?!" flew past.

Then I stepped out the door without my jacket. Because it was in the dryer instead of hanging on the hook behind the door and I really am that controlled by my routine.

Then I skittered back into the house because whoa nelly! I'm dressed for the 60-70 temps we're expecting later today – not the 40-something it was out there.

Then I stared accusingly at the hook behind the door because where is my jacket?

Then my brain went, "AHEM…do we remember what we did twenty minutes ago…?"

Then I got my jacket out of the dryer, groped at it and found it to be glory hallelujah dry, and put it on.

And then I just stood there for a moment purring because ohmygah did it ever feel goooooooood…mmmmmmmm….warm jacket….mmmmmmmmmmm…

And then I did my commute and got this far on Lillehammer II:

Lillehammer II 4/13/10

And then I thought the seven most dangerous words in the world: You know what ELSE would be fun…?

Making this same sweater four more times. In red and white, for the girls and me.

And then we could all go to family therapy! Wearing our matching sweaters!


(I do make them wear matching t-shirts when we go on "field trips" as a family – all of us wear the most vivid, glow-in-the-dark tie dye shirts you can imagine. It just isn't possible for them to get lost wearing those shirts. They can be seen from space. I can point at any one of the remaining Denizens and yelp, "He's wearing a shirt just like this one!", and someone will say, "Oh, yeah, I saw that kid, he was feeding the tigers popcorn…")

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lillehammer II

I finished my husband's Lillehammer a couple weeks ago. Then I was putting away the leftover yarn and found myself going, Hmmmmmmm…

An awful lot of it leftover, there.

So naturally, I thought six of the most dangerous words in the English language: You know what would be fun…?

Lillehammer Jr.

Father-son Lillehammers. Because nothing says, "Hi, I'm a kid who is going to need serious therapy someday!" like a little boy forced wear daddy-n-me matching sweaters in public. Awesome.

Now, this one for Captain Adventure is going to be less complex a pattern than Daddy's. The main panel on the Lillehammer is ornate and wide…like this.

Lillehammer Sr.

Can't get all that onto a sweater until you get up to the teenage sizes, alas. (Not at this gauge, anyway.)

I'm also using a different base yarn for the black and white; I had enough white leftover, but not the black; but I did have some black and white Knit Picks Telemark I'd reclaimed from another project. This is a slightly narrower yarn than the Merino Style I used in the other sweater, so I had to go up a needle size to get gauge…which was actually good, because now I can use my KnitPicks Options interchangeable, which means I have the giddy, immortal power of choosing what length cable I want to use, at my whim.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…the power…the powerrrrrrrrrrrr…

(OK, possibly, I need to get out a little more.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

WhatEVER, human...

Ten cups of shelled peas, huh? Ya. Thrilling.

Let me know when you're uncanning ten cups of tuna. Might be interested then.

But don't count on it.

(she WAS actually interested in them right BEFORE I grabbed my Treo...but then she sensed her sangfroid was in peril and quickly adopted her 'what-ev' pose. Cats. Oy.)

(took four to six people two hours to shell these...and there will be about this many AGAIN in a few days! Yowsa!)

(sent from my Treo)

Peas may we have another?

Bucket, that is.

This is only four day's worth of ripened peas. Good grief - they are the crowned champions of gardenly overachievers...

(sent from my Treo)

Ya, it's ugly NOW...

..but in about a week or so, there will be some scrawny seedlings.

A week after that, four hills of assorted summer squash, flanking rows of spinach and beets.

It's like a magic trick, ain't it?!

(Lord, I hope my coworkers like summer squash...last year just TWO hills had me scrambling...) (although one of these hills was planted EXCLUSIVELY for one of my neighbors, because she loves them and is one of the dearest creatures on Earth)

(sent from my Treo)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Those are peaches. There are also a few baby nectarines on the tree.

On the one hand, I won't be surprised if they shrivel up and fall off - this is the little tree's first year in this ground.

On the other, would it not be AWESOME if a few of them DID survive?!

Just looked at my artichokes too. Looks like the one I thought was a donation to the Snail Hunger Relief Society has decided it wants to live after all. Heh. These things are actually weeds in some areas out here. Always trips me out a bit when they're two bucks each at the supermarket...tramp around the Delta for a while, you'll probably find a patch of 'em, growing wild.

Right. Back to it. So much to do, so little weekend...

(sent from my Treo)

Epic fail…

A few days ago as I was staggering out to Homer the Odyssey juggling backpacks, newspapers, travel mugs and the other sundries of another working day, I glanced at the rooftops around me and saw frost thickly blanketing them. There was a thin coating of ice on the windshield. The dashboard lit up and informed me that the outside temperature was 34 degrees.

And I thought to myself…rut-roh…

I also thought a few other things, but let’s keep the ‘G’ rating, shall we?

Usually, our temperatures right now would be in the mid to high 70s during the day, with overnight lows in the mid-50s. We might occasionally get into the 40s, but the 30s?

Not after February.

But right after I transplanted those poor little plants, winter decided to do a curtain call. It got cold, it got rainy, and even worse, it got windy - the kind of wind that blows down fences and trees, and even the occasional RV.

I watched the weather reports anxiously…but they never said anything about temperatures getting down into the thirties. Forties, yes. Thirties, no. So I crossed my fingers and resigned myself to losing a few more transplants than I’d hoped…

Needless to say, when I went out this morning to look at the tomato field it was a scene of horrifying devastation. Oooooh, the tomato-ity…

There are a few ragged survivors, grimly clinging to the last vestiges of life…but they are a strange shade of yellow and I don’t have high hopes for them. Especially not with yet another cold and windy blast about to descend on us tonight.

Oh, fie.

Welllllllllllllllllll…guess I’ll have to come up with a Plan B for the back forty(yards) for this first planting cycle. It’s a little late to start all over with the tomatoes, especially since I’m out of the seed. Maybe break it back up into the smaller beds for now and get a mix of spinach, broccoli and other cooler-weather things going. I dunno. I’ll have to ponder it for a bit.

I tell you what, though, this actually makes me really glad we’re doing this the labor-intensive way: My financial loss isn’t all that bad. The husband said, “Maybe we could go to the nursery and buy some of those six-packs of tomatoes?”

They’re $3.29 apiece, and if we wanted to replace all of our lost transplants, we’d be looking at a good $90 bucks by the time we’d paid taxes (pause to consider the irony there: if you buy tomatoes at the supermarket, you don’t pay sales tax…but buy the plants or their seeds, and you do).

The seeds cost me about $3. The peat cups I used to start them were $4.

So, I’m out seven bucks for this epic fail.

I’ve had worse. (Far, far worse.)

The white potatoes were kind enough to send up a couple sprouts to say “there, there” this week. The peas have been extra generous and we’re all dreading the shelling tonight. I’ve got another half dozen red onions and a couple random green onions that popped up.

The beets are happy, and the two remaining broccoli plants are in full bud and about ready to harvest in.

Could be worse.

Could be better, too...but could be much, much worse.

Friday, April 09, 2010

They ALMOST wear no pants

O.M.G. Just seen at BART: Pair of young men. Pants almost to their knees.

Trying to look cool while waddling like ducks, holding their pants up with a thumb looped through their BELTS.

You know...the ones around their KNEES...?


(sent from my Treo)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Some days are just weirder than others

This morning on the ACE train, a charming lady sat across from me and proceeded to carry on a lengthy conversation with me. We were having a lovely time. I was a little confused and maybe even a tiny bit irritated because I really would have rather plugged into my iPod and zoned out while knitting on the Sock In Progress but hey.

She was a nice lady, lovely to talk to, and I liked her hat.

Then suddenly she looked at me from across the top of her commuter mug, did a double take and said, "Oh my heavens, dear, you're not Carol!!"

By golly she was right. I was not Carol. But I was sitting where Carol was sitting, one car further down.

We laughed so hard about that I was afraid they were going to throw us off the train.

On the bus shuttle between ACE and BART, the generously-sized lady who sat on next to me kept apologizing for squashing me as she continually wriggled her hips and squashed me more. "I'm so sorry!" {wriggle-squash!} "Oh, can you breathe?" {wriggle-squash!} "You're so little, am I totally sitting ON you?" {wriggle-wriggle-squash-squash YES, STOP MOVING!!} "I'm just going to get my book out of my bag, I'm so sorry…" {gak…can't breathe…seriously…no book, no book, just SIT STILL…}

I really wish the people who design seats on public transportation would cotton on to the fact that we are no longer the same size we were back in 1930{mumble}. Seriously. I'm pretty petite. I'm only 5'3" (when I stand up straight) and precisely in the middle of the weight chart – well above "too skinny" well below "getting fat." And my backside hangs over either side of most of those seats. Add a jacket or sweater to the mix and I'm definitely encroaching on the seat next to me…and whether we like it or not, America, I am not in the majority on that "exactly right" weight thing.

Build bigger seats, dammit. She really was embarrassed (although I do wish she could have contained her twitchiness) (and gotten her damned book out before she sat down), and I really was squashed. She shouldn't have to stand because she's heavy, and I shouldn't have to because I'm not. BIGGER. SEATS. THANK. YOU. FOR. YOUR. IMMEDIATE. ATTENTION. TO. THE. ABOVE. PUBLIC. TRANSPORTATION. DESIGNERS.

Then on BART, the man sitting across from me kept fiddling with his iPhone. I didn't pay any attention to him – people are always fiddling with their phones on BART.

Then suddenly he leaned across (invading my personal space juuuuuuuust a smidge) and said in a rapid-fire singsong, with the biggest grin you've ever seen on his face, "Excuse me very much please, but I am hoping you do not mind me sending these pictures of you to my mother in India – she will be very much amused as she is also knitting and does not think Americans are doing such things. Indeed."

He had been videotaping (iPhone-recording?) me knitting a sock on BART. So he could send it to his mother. In India.


Then a man behind me got on his cell phone and started talking to his girl friend. In (ahem) very colorful terms.

Yeah, uh, dude? TMI.

Then just as he shut up, the man sitting next to me – who was definitely old enough to know better – decided that hey, you know what would be fun? Making a similar call to his main squeeze!

Awesome. Thank you for having this conversation with her right here next to me because I was just thinking this morning, You know what? I really wish I knew more about the sex lives of the random strangers around me…

But the weirdest thing of the day…well. Therein lies a bit of a tale. Which I will tell you now.

I made two tactical errors today that worked together in a most unpleasant way. The first was that, having had my stitches out yesterday and having experienced a fairly 'good' day yesterday with the whole tooth-pain thing followed by waking with only mild-to-maybe-bordering-on-moderate discomfort, I decided I didn't need the prescription pain medication anymore.

I'm fine. I'm awesome. This barely hurts at all! I'll just take a few Advil and I'll rock on

Yeah. Halfway through the Altamont hills, I was already regretting that decision. How your mouth feels right after you woke up after a night's sleep in a stationary bed v. how it feels after you've been bouncing along on a train for half an hour are two very different things.

By the time I'd finished two hour-long train rides and the fifteen minute bus shuttle between them I was practically in tears.

Undaunted, I tried to carry on with my lunch plan which involved solid food. I haven't had much of the stuff for a solid week now. My pants are literally falling off me today, and I'm what might be termed a bit peckish.

If "a bit peckish" means "hungrier than a newly-wakened bear."

Now mind you, I didn't bring a shoe-leather casserole on a bed of rusty nails with a rock salad. I brought nice, soft food that required minimal chomping to get down. Overcooked rice, diced chicken, cooked beans. Piece of cake.

No really, I brought a piece of cake. From Eldest's very late birthday party last weekend.

Well. Turns out that even minimal chewing is a bit beyond me right now. The pain had settled down in the three hours between getting off BART and heating up my lunch – it erupted anew and refused to settle down. It scoffed at Advil. It took over my whole life. I could think of nothing else but how much my mouth hurt. Argh, I thought I was PAST THIS…

I sat there cradling my jaw, trying not to laugh (which is hard – I have a fun and funny team of coworkers at this job, they're always cracking me up), trying to make it to 3:45 so I could begin the homeward odyssey – which at least had a prescription bottle at the end of it with my name on it. (Literally. Right there on the bottle. Along with permission to take 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours as needed. Mmmmmmmm, pain relief…)

Then I realized I wasn't going to make it. I just wasn't.

Now my options are a bit limited. The ACE train has three (3) trains a day. I catch the middle one usually; there's one an hour earlier, and one an hour later, and that's it.

So, big deal. I can leave an hour earlier. Ooooooooooo, aaaaaaaaaah.

But I took it. Oh yeah. I took it. I grabbed my stuff and split at 2:30. And I went into Starbucks and had them fill up my Contigo with an extra-hot mocha for the ACE ride home. Because the next best thing to Vicodin? Caffeine, and cocoa.

As I was heading down into the BART station at Embarcadero, I noticed a news truck sitting in front of our building. Hm. Whatever.

The station was crawling with extra security and…extra bodies. Lots of people, for 2:40 on a Thursday.


The train was fairly full. And it turned out that a big old protest was planned at Embarcadero, starting at 3:30 with the "festivities" to begin at 4:00 sharp.

You know, right when I would usually be trying to catch my train?



I found myself sitting on the BART train, lovingly patting my sore and slightly swollen jaw thinking, Thank God you were killing me, Tooth #30…

Now, y'all know you've fallen down a rabbit hole when you're intensely grateful that something hurt so bad you decided to give up your hourly income for the rest of the day, pack it in and go home.

Although I'm a little afraid to actually go home. On a day like this, and given that my home is kind of…ahem…other directed on "normal" days…goodness only knows what awaits me there tonight…

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Some lessons are pretty easy to take. Most of the Denizens giggled and sang their way through learning their ABCs. Learning to crack eggs and dump spoonfuls of cookie dough into their mouths onto a cookie sheet came pretty easy, too.

Other lessons…not so easy.

A few weeks ago, Eldest had new a friend over. They went to a garage sale up the street together. Ran through the house and yard like a pair of maniacs. And then they had a sleepover.

Great weekend.

A few hours after the friend had left, Eldest came to me in a fit of distress saying something really awful had happened: Her money was gone.

She had thirty dollars she'd been saving. Though warned with quotations to keep it someplace safe, she had put it on the windowsill of her bedroom.

And now it was gone.

We hunted for it. We checked drawers and bags and pockets. Dug around under the bed and desk. We quizzed the Middle Twain. We pulled apart Captain Adventure's room.

Neither of us wanted to bring up the possibility that her new friend had sticky fingers…even though it was by far the most likely cause of the fiscal disappearance.

Eventually, though, she began sniffling from her bed.

"Mommy," she said. "I really hate to even say this, but the evidence kind of says that maybe my friend took it, doesn't it."


It really did look that way. The Middle Twain aren't too likely to risk it, and if Captain Adventure had taken it, he would have immediately brought it to me demanding candy – thanks to the Den Dollar system, in his mind that's what cash is for. Get a dollar, get a candy.


So we talked about how not-right that was, and about money itself. She really doesn't have a whole lot of experience when it comes to having real money, and hadn't been ready to listen to me when I'd said things about it before – things like, "Don't walk around with your money out in your hands" or "Hey! Don't start yelling, 'DIDN'T YOU JUST GET $200 FROM THE ATM, MOMMY?!' in public like that!!"

That money had a way of making people do things they might not otherwise do wasn't new information, but it was newly important information.

We talked about how tempting that money would have been for a ten year old who doesn't even have her own allowance yet, who had just gone to a really cool garage sale, where one dollar bought two almost-new board games and another dollar got three hats and four stuffed animals.

And we talked about the concept of innocent until proven guilty. For all we knew, Captain Adventure would come running up to me later with the thirty dollars clutched in his sweaty paw yelling, "Mom-MEH! I haf it some maun-EEE, I wan-it some can-DEEE."

He's still pretty amoral that way. Totally innocent in his avarice, and blithely unaware that he's totally going to get busted on that deal – like I'm not going to know he must have stolen that money from a sister or my purse or something.

…unless he's got a day job I don't know about…oh, no, he doesn't go to kindergarten all day! He works in the mines, picking up the small slag…

Well. Last weekend, the new friend's older sibling took Eldest aside and told her that her little sister had come home with money she claimed Eldest had "given" her.


After they had left, Eldest sat down at the table looking thoughtful.

"So?" I finally asked her.

"Well, I told her that her sister had said she took my money," she told me. "And I told her that if it were true, I wasn't mad and I totally forgave her and everything."

She paused for a moment, then smiled sweetly. "…and then I told her, 'but I still want my money back.'"

Heh. That's my girl.

She hasn't gotten her money back, of course. There's still no actual proof, and Eldest isn't the kind of kid who is going to launch a Federal investigation into the matter. She isn't even the kind of kid who won't continue to give someone the benefit of a doubt, even when all the evidence and the hearsay of a third party all points the same way.

But she will be keeping her cash out of sight from now on…even when she's among friends.

Tough lesson. I'm sorry she had to learn it; but hopefully, she's learned it well and early and for a relatively small price.

I didn't really learn it until my twenties, when a "friend" swiped $600 cash from my apartment.

That was a really painful way to learn about the effect cash can have on otherwise decent human beings…especially with the rent due the next day.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Train gave me owies

Jiggling around for fifty minutes did NOT feel good on the jaw this morning. Stupid train.

I found this sock on my wire kitchen rack in a mixing bowl this weekend. Ummm...oooooookay...I think I'm sensing a Denizen-style "cleaning up the playroom" on this deal.

It's Claudia hand-painted in Copper Penny, which I was apparently using to make Retro Rib socks. BUT...I'm afraid I'm going to have to pull out. The put-up on the Claudia is less than the average sock-yarn ball, and I don't think I'm going to make it. Curses, foiled again...

(sent from my Treo)

Money Monday: April 5, 2010

I watched part of a show called Wa$ted last week. The premise was that the hosts would swoop in, fiddle with your way of life to make it more eco-friendly, and then turn you loose for three weeks to do your best. Then they calculated how much you had saved over that three week period, multiplied it out to represent a year’s worth of savings, and handed it to you as a cash prize.

It was entertaining, but mostly I was struck by how surprised people seemed to be by the concept that reducing your waste could directly increase your cash flow.

Seriously…this is surprising?!

I was kidding when I wrote about canceling our garbage pickup service, but folks…the fact that we put way more into the recycling tote than the garbage really does save us money. Most of the households with kids around here have to pay for the largest totes; a few of them even pay for two totes because one just isn’t enough. That’s an additional $120 to $600 a year to have your trash hauled away.

I’m willing to bet an awful lot of that could be eliminated without a whole lot of drama. Shoot, just remembering that most paper can go into the recycling bin can often slash how much ends up at the landfill…and if you’re having to pay for a second trash tote, shoot. It’s not that big a deal to start separating your “clean” recyclable paper from your greasy pizza boxes and plastic wrap.

I put fluorescent bulbs in the hallways (especially upstairs) and in the ceiling fan lights all over the house – not because I believe that I’m going to Save The World that way, but because the @*^&@ing things are always-always-ALWAYS on. ALWAYS! As I started to write this paragraph, I thought to myself, …I’ll bet you a burrito…, got up, went down the hall and SURE ENOUGH: The Middle Twain’s bedroom ceiling fan light was on, their bathroom light was on, and the hall light was on.

The fluorescents use so much less energy, I really did see actual immediate savings the month I put them in.

Still pisses me off that they get left on by Not Me all the danged time (seriously, ask any of the Denizens who did it…they will say Not Me did it, every single time)…but not quite as…vehemently as it did before.

Switching from prepackaged, processed foods to cooked-from-scratch definitely reduces the amount of packaging you’re having to dispose of every week – and it absolutely saves you money. Also, it’s not hard to be making stuff that is miles away better for you than what came out of your supermarket freezer.

And of course if you really want to go the cheap route…you could always convert your entire yard into a garden and grow most of your produce right there! Awesome!

(Whaaaaat? That’s not crazy, it’s just…well, it’s…OK. It’s kind of crazy. But it’s also fun, gets you some exercise out there in the fresh air and sunshine, and honestly you will never have finer tasting food than what you just grew in your own yard. Even if you just put a couple pots of tomatoes on your patio, you can save a lot of money over what you pay at the supermarket, and have some really good eats on your table all summer long.)

Granted, some of the stuff I’ll do to save money is a little…extreme.

Converting the entire yard to a little farm comes to mind. Ahem.

I also do little weird things like…turning down the water heater before we leave for work. One morning we were heading out to the car and I heard the water heater go “FaaahWHOOOM!” as it fired up its burners, and I thought…For heaven’s sake, don’t bother – nobody needs hot water for, like, twelve hours…

So I turned it down to ‘vacation.’ When we got home that night, the water was still plenty warm enough for someone to take a shower, and since it can heat an entire tank of cold water to scalding in less than half an hour anyway – we never noticed any impact to our lifestyle from my newest obsession.

I don’t buy a lot of cleansers. I use vinegar for most things…because it’s cheap-cheap-cheap and works-works-works. What vinegar can’t clean, baking soda probably can. And if I want a lemon scent, well…I have a lemon tree. And about three gallons of lemon juice out in the freezer.

Or I could burn some incense.

Or I could bake something. Glade has nothing that beats a loaf of bread in the oven…

More than once I’ve had a teacher gallop up to me on Earth Day to ask about my “green” ways – because they’ve been doing their thing with the kids that week and found out about my clotheslines and my sun oven and the scratch-cooking and uber-garden and the way I’ll go all ballistic if somebody puts a plastic grocery bag {GASP!} in the trash are you CRAZY, that would go in the RECYCLING BIN if you please, missy!

I hate to admit it at such times, but…it really has a lot less to do with “being green” and a lot more to do with “saving green.”

I don’t want to have to pay for an extra trash tote (or to rent a truck to drive the excess to the dump myself), so I do my best to recycle avidly and reduce how much crap comes into the Den in the first place. I don’t want to pay for energy to dry my clothes when the sun is right there anxious to do the job for me.

And then have to use the air conditioner that much more because now I’m heating up the house with the dryer.

I save the laundry and bath water for the garden because water is precious out here in California. Every last drop is precious. If I can harmlessly reuse it, I’m going to – and it’s worth having to use the “special” soap, especially since I tend to use less than half the recommended amount because lord have mercy, do they ever overstate how much of that stuff you “need” to get your clothes clean…

I consolidate my shopping trips and do a lot of walking from store to store to save at the gas pump, not because I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint. I buy in bulk for the best price, not necessarily for the least packaging. I cook from scratch because it’s cheaper, and healthier. I started gardening to take that next big step into frugal eating, to give us the fresh organic-method produce we love but really couldn’t afford.

When a single carrot is running two bucks, I’m priced out of the market. The seed package that produced carrots on demand from November to March followed by one big thirty-pound harvest that went into the freezer cost me…ten cents.

You never know what you’ll find at the dollar store, kids. I restocked big time this year – all my spinach, lettuce, carrots and green onions were ten cent seed packages. Righteous.

We’re all more aware of these things than ever right now. Some of us feel kind of caught between the two – I want to be “greener” but ohmygah, I can’t afford to because I have to be careful with the money right now…

I have been surprised to find myself labeled “green” when in fact all I was doing was looking for ever-more frugal ways to live well. I want my clothes to be clean and smell nice cheaply. I want to eat really, really well inexpensively. I want to have the absolute best when I do buy something, and I don’t mind not buying six thousand other things to have it. I want my Tupperware (real and take-n-toss) beautifully white even though I left spaghetti sauce in it for weeks (put it out in the sun for a few hours – seriously, it works, uses no-nasty-chemicals and is free).

Frugality doesn’t automatically lead to greener living, any more than greener living automatically leads to frugality. But they have a long love affair, those two, and they work very well together. If you follow either one long enough, you’ll find the other has moved into the house and made itself at home.

It should be no surprise that living by the mantra ‘reduce / reuse / recycle’ leads to cost savings, and that seeking cost savings will lead back to that same mantra.

This week (or so) in the garden:

Thirty pounds of carrots peeled, cut up, blanched and frozen. (Last weekend, actually.)

Four pounds of peas shelled and ready to be eaten – the first time any significant amount has actually been harvested instead of being eaten straight off the vine by night-stalking predators, probably ninja vegans or something me. Or the Denizens. But mostly me. Those vines are still heavy with immature pods, so I expect to be harvesting another four pounds or so in a few days. Woot. They’ll be blanched and frozen in boilable bags – kind of a slow-made-fast-food thing. Slow to grow, shell and bag, fast to reheat and eat.

The last two heads of broccoli are on their way to being harvested. Another week or so and they should be ready.

Fourteen beet plants decided to jump out of the ground, having apparently over-wintered as seeds. They almost got pulled as weeds before I realized they were growing in awfully straight lines. They’re supposed to need about 50 days from sprout and they’re already about ten in, so another month or so and we should have some golden beets. Mmmm, stain-free sweetness…

Six hills of white potatoes were started. No signs of life from them yet. The purple potatoes haven’t been properly planted yet. The first go-round got dug up accidentally due to an overenthusiastic crowd of helpers. Whoops.

Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are leafing out and acting happy.

One artichoke plant was mostly eaten by snails. The other two appear to be happy.

All three cranberry bushes are putting out new leaves and seem to like their new home quite well so far. We’ll see how they do when the heat hits this summer.

The cherry trees are happy, and so is the apple tree. The five-in-one stone tree appears to have lost two of its grafts – they might be fooling around and will leaf out later or something, but I’m kind of thinking those two grafts are dead wood at this point. We’ll see. But the surviving three (two peaches and a nectarine) are thriving away.

One yellow-striped heirloom tomato, and one cherry tomato were put into containers. They’re having a grand old time stretching out into their new cages, getting ready to climb like the dickens.

Nothing from the horseradish yet. I understand it’s slow to start but then tries to take over the world, so I won’t expect much for a while yet. Then I’ll expect to answer a knock at the garage door one day and {duh-nuh-duh-nuh-duh-nuh} the horseradish only rings once…

The bed for the zucchini / spinach has been dug up and is ready to go…just need a pain-free (or pain-reduced) weekend and I’ll get that planted too. Ditto the carrot / onion bed, and the newly designated because the tomatoes took less room than expected watermelon bed. (The Denizens are super happy about that one. They love watermelon.)

150 tomato transplants were finally put into the ground last week, where they were promptly attacked by unchancy spring weather. Right immediately now, they are being pounded by a cold northern storm – loads of rain, rather cold temperatures and (worst of all) a whipping wind. I’m afraid to look out there tomorrow when I get home from work…it may be an absolute slaughter.

The excitement continues…

Sunday, April 04, 2010

So thaaaaaaaaaat’s…good…right?

This surgery has been a whole lot of not-fun. Friday, I looked like I had a golf ball stuck in my jaw. Kind of felt like I did, too. Pain, random bleeding, etc. etc. etc. The area stitches up is Considerably Larger than I had anticipated – silly me, I expected the surgery would impact the areas immediately around the one tooth. Ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah. The stitches extend from my front lower teeth all the way back to my last molar. I’m also still numb from the center of my lower lip to my ear, probably due to the swelling (which is gorgeously awful) putting pressure on that nerve that runs along the base of your jaw.

It’s awesome.

BUT, it went well and hopefully things will be getting a little better every day and then someday soon I will wake up and realize that I do not have to pound back anything because my jaw is throbbing.

When I woke up at Ridiculous O’Clock Friday morning, my entire life was one large red smear of pain. I could feel my heartbeat in my jaw. I was pretty sure I was no, really, dying. DYING. This was it. And then the great Pharaoh died of a toothache, the end.

Relief was about twenty feet away, in my bathroom. A bottle of Motrin, and a bottle of Vicodin. Four of the former, one of the latter, and I should be feeling the will to live again in less than half an hour.

…but it was soooo…farrrrrr…awaaaaaayyyyyyy…

Eventually, I managed to overcome inertia. Staggered into the bathroom, got myself a swallow of water, tossed back my pills, and crawled back to bed to wait for the relief to wash over me.

Which it sorta-kinda-partially did, eventually. Still hurt like a @*^&@^&, but I was able to grudgingly admit that I probably was not going to actually-literally die of the toothache.

Saturday morning was more of the same. Waking up too early, pain too intense, can’t deal, relief is far, far, far away…

Saturday night, with those two experiences under my belt giving me wisdom and guidance, I set a bottle full of water and my pills right next to the bed – so that I wouldn’t have to actually get up to get the pain relief started.

So, when I woke up this morning after a fairly decent night’s sleep with my face sure-enough throbbing like I’d been kicked in the face by a mule, I rolled over and smugly popped my now-routine four-Motrin-one-Vicodin combo. Then I lay back, folded my hands on my stomach and began my Zen-like meditations on suffering and how each moment of our lives is like a drop of water into a holy crap I forgot to hide the Easter eggs last night, GAH!!!!

“Tim!” I hissed. “The Easter eggs! We didn’t hide the Easter eggs!”

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz,” he replied urgently. Curse you, Super Sleeping Powers…!

I contemplated the relative importance of hiding Easter eggs and lying in bed waiting for pain killers to come along and, well, kill the pain. I pondered the probability that any of the Denizens would be getting up soon. I calculated just how much light there was outside and how long it would take said light to penetrate into the Inner Sanctum of Captain Adventure’s room – he’s generally our earliest riser and seldom stays in bed much past dawn.

I didn’t have twenty minutes. Shoot, I probably didn’t even have ten minutes. If I didn’t get up and get those things hidden immediately, well, it would be a(nother) year of many good intentions and zero follow-through.


So I got up, went downstairs, and hid the 48 Easter eggs all around the downstairs – just in the nick of time, because I barely had time to slip back into bed before Captain Adventure’s little bare feet hit the floor with a thud and we were off to the races.

That I was able to get up and do this is, to me, a sign of considerable progress.

Friday or Saturday morning, if you had told me that Jesus Himself Personally was at my door asking for a cup of coffee, I don’t think I could have gotten out of bed to make it for Him. I’d’ve been all, If the dude can turn water into wine, I think He can @*^&@ing well manage to make His own damned coffee. Leave me alone, I’m dying.

But today, merely the thought that the Denizens would be rather disappointed if (once again) we had forgotten to “do” anything with the Easter eggs we’d fussed with so much was enough to overcome the throbbing and get me moving.

Which means it had to have been less-intense throbbing.

Which is progress.

Of a sort.



But man…I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. Not even the people who drive like jerks around schools when children are present.

Especially since they probably wouldn’t make the connection, you know? “Gee, this pain is awful! It must be because I drive like a jerk around that school every weekday while children are present!” – probably wouldn’t occur to them. So it would just be a wasted hex.

And what’s the point of that, I ask you…?