Saturday, September 22, 2012

We're okay.

With Mark losing his job, the post-partum hair loss finally happening, and Burgundy in her Senior year, I feel like I should be falling apart. The storyline of my life feels Very Dramatic, and I can't help wondering what's wrong with me. The fact of the matter is that while I have my moments of panic and doubt, I'm really okay.

I need to make the world understand, though: I'm very dramatic. I'm the kind of person who panics and tells all her friends about the scary lump that turns out to be an ingrown armpit hair. I put drama on the map, baby. And I'm just not feeling it, not to the degree that I feel I should feel it. Instead, I feel very confident that God is doing something big and weird and a little scary in our lives.

As soon as we found out, we listed our van for sale. I'm taking it to the other side of Houston this afternoon; there's a buyer there who doesn't have transportation to come and look at it, but he says he has the cash to pay. I'm going through the house and listing stuff on Craigslist, and if anything, I'm excited about it. I'm eagerly anticipating the day that I wake up and my house is not full of unnecessary crap.

Once the van sells, we'll have a small emergency fund in place, and our monthly expenses will go down. No more van payment, for one thing. For another, our insurance cost will go down, and lastly, I won't be driving a gas-guzzling tank all over creation every day. Mark and I did a pretty harsh emergency budget last night; we need to try to survive on just unemployment and whatever I can earn with bread making, babysitting and tutoring.

Oh, the babysitting. The day after I posted on Facebook about the job loss, a friend from church contacted me because she needs part-time help in the childcare room during the week. I would just bring Ruby and Holden with me. Essentially, I'll be getting paid to watch my own kids with others' kids.

The next major step is to sell the majority of my crafting supplies. My spinning wheel goes first even though I haven't had the heart to list it yet. I'm listing my weaving loom as well and praying someone with the space for one this large is on the prowl right now. I'm selling my sewing desk but not the machine, and I'll sell the glass cabinets in which I store my yarn, but for now, I'm not going to sell the yarn.

Finally, we have to declutter. The goal is to get the house ready to sell now so that if he can't find a job, and we can't make ends meet, we can sell the house quickly and move on with our lives. The goal is that if we have to let go of all our Stuff, then we choose it, and we are in charge of it. We will sell the house, not lose it to foreclosure. We will sell and donate our stuff, not cling to it tightly until we have no place to put all the stuff we still have.

Overall, I feel a strange sense of peace that this will all work out in the end. I don't feel it all the time, and if I let my mental discipline slip, it can get pretty dark in here pretty fast. For the most part though, we're okay. And I'll just repeat that to myself over and over. We're okay. We're okay. We're okay. It's a prayer, a mantra, and a high-five all rolled into one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Financial Peace

Sunday at church I was sitting with my family just after Communion when one of the ministers approached me and quietly said, "I need to talk to you after the service."

Allow me to provide a little context. We've had a really rough week. Mark is losing his job, and I'm grappling with the physical and emotional implications of selling our house. I'm having trouble keeping up with all the blogging, studying, and grading I need to do for a class I'm teaching, and several people want bread that I don't really have energy to make. I had been up until after 1:00 AM that morning finishing the bread for Communion, and we were pretty typically late to church.

As Kevin, our minister, retreated, Mark leaned across Burgundy and said, "What did you do?" What indeed? You know that feeling; Mom and Dad found you out. They're going to sit you down and give you a stern talking-to. You're grounded. You failed. And I could not for my life figure out what I'd done wrong. Even as my mind told me he probably had an administrative question or wanted me to make bread more often, my stomach sank into my calves; tears welled up, and with a heavy sigh I slunk out of service to the bathroom where I hid in a stall and cried like a 15-year-old after her first break up. It was my first time to cry since finding out about the job loss on Monday.

After service, I approached Kevin and waited for him to finish talking to his son. Finally he turned and explained that the church was planning another Financial Peace University class, and they wanted to do a testimonial video for the class. In committee, he'd been given to understand that we are big fans of the program (understatement alert!), and he wanted to know if I would be willing to share our testimony on video.

I almost cried again, this time with relief and a little embarrassment. Of course I would record our testimony. I'd share it with anyone who wants to hear it. I want to write it out to send to the ministers prior to the recording, which will be Friday, so I am better prepared with what I consider the most important aspects of the class. I know I've blogged about that in the past, so I think I can dig that up, tweak it, and send it over.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


With Ruby's birth, I leveled up to a whole new playing field of chaos. I thought I knew exhaustion; I was a fool.

Right away, I figured out I'd have to get these kids on a routine, so I started with Holden. Almost overnight he accepted his routine and has been a much more pleasant little man ever since. Ruby's getting there. Most nights, she'll sleep from 10-ish until 6:30-ish. I am very pleased. And sane from all that sleep I'm getting.

Meanwhile, there are a few things I'm doing pretty regularly. Smoothies. Showers. Washing diapers. Drinking chocolate milk. Overall, I'm thinking I need to solidify some routines for myself. I want to get in shape so I can play soccer next season. I want to eat better so I have enough energy to chase these two. I want to make delicious lunches and snacks for my beautiful children, and I want my family to eat dinner together. I want to keep my house clean so I'm not mortified when I think of strangers meeting my pet fruit flies.

Starting next week, I'll be trying it out:

  • I'll get out of bed by 6 AM. Burgundy has to leave for school by 6:30 in just one more week, so this is necessary in the long run anyway.
  • I'll make breakfast and lunch all at once (assuming Ruby does not rise with me), including smoothies for myself, Mark and Burgundy; lunch for Mark; lunch and post-school/pre-band foods for Burgundy, and finger foods for Holden and I for lunch. Lunches might not be the most healthful; if I have to whip up a batch of Krap Macaroni and Cheese, so be it. I will pat myself on the back for Getting Stuff Done.
  • I'll clean the kitchen.
  • Once Holden is playing and Ruby's been fed, I'll run through my standby daily chores:
    • Make the beds
    • Spend two minutes on a crap-magnet
    • Run a load of laundry
    • Wipe down the nastiest bathroom surface
    • Start a load of diapers (work on it throughout the day)
    • Work on my dailies as time allows:
      • Monday: 30-minute blitz-clean
      • Tuesday: Dusting
      • Wednesday: 15-minute trash-toss and 15-minute declutter
      • Thursday: Lead homeschool English class
      • Friday: Pick up outside (20-30 minutes MAX)
      • Saturday: Clear out the car
Now look. There's no way I'll do all of these things every day. I have a toddler, an infant, and a teen. But I want to have a sense of where I should be and of some kind of plan to keep our home sane.

Meanwhile, my got-done list for this weekend:

  1. Cleaned the kitchen (with a little [a lotta] help from Mark)
  2. Took Burgundy birthday present shopping and to a party about 15 miles from here
  3. Bought myself a dress and a few shirts that do not make me look like a rabid "I Love Lucy" horror/fantasy clown (more on that another day, maybe tomorrow)
  4. Cleaned out the freezer (this was over 2 years later than needed)
  5. Washed, pitted and froze over a gallon of cherries for smoothies
  6. Washed and froze about a gallon of grapes
  7. Went grocery shopping
  8. Started a batch of yogurt for smoothies
  9. Cleaned up and reassembled the double stroller we got for !FREE!
  10. Responded to a fellow who might be looking for a room to rent

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I feel a little blue today. I had a haircut this morning, and I look much less shaggy now. I almost bought a tube of makeup. Well, tint-releasing moisturizer. Anyway, I was saved by the outrageous price tag: $21. Good grief. It isn't even real makeup. Just a tube of moisturizer.

Here's the thing: I don't wear make up. I haven't worn it with any kind of regularity in years. Recently, I decided to start using moisturizer just because my face has been feeling tight after washing. And I thought, "Hey, if I'm going to take the 30 seconds to rub something on my face anyway, I might as well even out the tone."  Apparently not. Twenty-one dollars? Really? Thank God I'm a cheapskate. That was a close one.

Many women choose to spend 30 to 45 minutes every morning carefully applying makeup, coiffing their tresses, ironing their blouses and putting themselves together. And it shows. They look great, have their own unique style, and they command a kind of automatic respect I really admire. Believe me, I want to be thought beautiful. I want my husband to think I'm pretty and to pursue me.

Here's the thing: I have very little free time. In that free time, I have a number of fascinating options: I can bake, knit, roll around on the dog-hair-carpeted floor with Holden, snuggle Ruby, or talk smack about music and art with Burgundy. I can write here. While I value appearance, I just don't value it as much as I do my knitting. Or homemade chocolate cake. Or the way Holden dances in place with glee when I stop what I'm doing, drop into a crouch, and say, "I'm. Gonna. GET. YOU."

Please understand that I'm not slamming women who do value their appearance in that way. Thirty minutes a day is not so much time that they won't know their kids or ever make a batch of cookies. I just don't value it myself. Not when I consider the progress I can make on a sweater in 30 minutes (not much).

Anyway, I feel a little blue today. I want Burgundy to come home; I want my house to be clean, and I want my husband to notice me in a way that I'm not really willing to put in the effort to make happen. And that's okay, I think.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Half-Baked Housework

I posted about this a couple of years ago, but I need reminding every now and then.

Half-done housework that covers everything works better than perfectly thorough housework done in one tiny spot.

My mama raised me right. We did not live in a barn, pigsty, pasture, et cetera; we were civilized people. As such, dishes always must be washed, dried (completely), and put away. The floors should be swept, mopped (including corners), vacuumed (move the furniture) and scrubbed (toothbrush and bleach on the grout; that stuff is gross). We must clean in the proper order. Vacuum first, then dust, because the vacuum kicks up more dust, and the furniture must shine all the time.

In the dressers, all shirts must be folded uniformly and stacked carefully in their rightful drawers. We have separate drawers for long sleeves, short sleeves, sweaters, t-shirts, shorts, pants, pajamas, underwear; if not for the limited number of drawers, I could divide and subdivide infinitely like some deranged maestro of the fractal wardrobe.

Yes, I'm a perfectionist.

A few years ago, I had something of an epiphany: I don't have to be a perfect perfectionist. If I redefine "perfect," I can do this without running myself ragged or guilting myself into craziness.

Yesterday when I swept and mopped the kitchen floor, here's what it looked like: I swept the crap on the floor into a pile and leaned the broom against the wall. I wasn't sure where I'd left the dustpan, so I switched gears and did the dishes. When I'd washed everything and set it out to air dry, I rinsed and wrung out my rag and threw it on the floor. Then I paced around the kitchen with my toe on the rag and scrubbed up any spots I could see while standing.

I assure you, my floor is still dirty. The clean dishes didn't get put away until much later. But the floor looks clean, and I had a clean sink for washing fruits and vegetables or rinsing future dishes for the dishwasher.

The idea is along the lines of my Got-Done list: I will do what I can and set aside my idea of what I "should" be able to do. Honestly, I have to give myself a break, because few other people in the world are going to do that for me.

Got Done List

Well, blogging did not make my got-done list yesterday. I promise, blogspot, I thought about you all day. I thought of all the things we would say together, the photos I would post and how proud you'd be that I MADE MY BED. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

Yesteray's got-done list is at the bottom. I want - nay, need - to post the list, but I won't expect the world to read it or even give a rip. I will say that part of yesterday's productivity was due to the presence of my saintly mother-in-law, who comes over at least once a week to help with the kids while I run errands, clean house or whatever else needs to be done.

The hardest part of this got-done-list thing so far is not starting a to-do list while compiling the got-done list. It defeats the purpose, though, to use it as a springboard for examining everything yet to be done. Self-control, I will exercise you! The most important things will float to the top; I have no doubt of this.

Under the list for yesterday, I'm posting today's list because I can; I'll update it throughout the day. And I'll post another blog today about my attitude toward housecleaning. And I'm out.

Yesterday's Got-Done List:
  1. Put fresh sheets on bed
  2. Picked up Margie
  3. Went to 6-week post-partum midwife visit
  4. Had lunch with an old friend (our friendship is old; my friend is not)
  5. Washed, dried, folded and put away a load of diapers
  6. Washed, dried, folded and put away a load of baby clothes
  7. Washed, dried, and hung to dry the cover and straps for Holden's car seat after he smeared them with spinach-pear goop and tried to rinse them with milk
  8. Cleaned Holden's room
    1. Put away the useless baby bed parts
    2. Made the bed
    3. Rearranged the furniture a little
    4. Put away clean clothes
    5. Moved the rocking chair and ottoman
  9. Started cleaning my room
    1. Picked up and sorted dirty laundry
    2. Rearranged furniture a little
    3. Picked up trash and emptied the can
  10. Cleaned the living room
    1. Picked up Holden's toys
    2. Picked up and put in the garage a bunch of cords and crap that Mark moved from one room to another
    3. Vacuumed the rug and the rest of the floor
    4. Spent some time clearing off the "crap-magnet": a knockoff Queen Anne-style side table
  11. Swept the kitchen floor
  12. "Mopped" the kitchen floor and parts of the living room floor
  13. Washed dishes
Today's Got-Done List:
  1. Made my bed
  2. Put together Holden's car seat
  3. Folded and put away a load of clean diapers
  4. Dried and folded a load of towels
  5. Made scrambled eggs for breakfast and forced Holden to eat them because I am a cruel, sadistic mother
  6. Made myself a mocha (saved $4.38 from Starbucks)
  7. Made peanut butter toast for Holden and I for lunch and chased it with leftover sauteed greens
  8. Made Holden's bed and straightened up his room
  9. Started a load of white clothes in the washer
  10. Laid Holden down for a nap (which he certainly is not doing right now)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What have you done today?

I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I don't mean that I simply get distracted easily. I mean that I can not listen to the radio and clean at the same time. I can not fold laundry and watch a TV show. I can't make dinner and have a conversation.

Most people in my shoes have coping mechanisms, and my mom taught me a big one; everybody does it: I make lists. I have a list of laundry loads; a list of large projects; a list of small projects; a list of vegetables and fruits I want to grow; a list of all my yarn, projects, and needles; a list of all the yarn, projects and needles I want; a list of things the kids need, things I want, things I want to do.

With all these lists, I feel pretty defeated most of the time. I will never get to do ALL THE THINGS. I will never have the laundry, dishes, dinner and housework all done at the same time, and I honestly start to beat myself up a little bit about it! Now I have a six-week-old baby, a nineteen-month-old baby, a sixteen-year-old baby, and a husband. Where am I supposed to find time and energy to be superwoman AND do yoga daily?

This morning I was chuckling to myself about that thing that we list-o-philes all do: when we complete a task not on the to-do list, we add it to the to-do list just for the sheer joy of crossing it off. And it occurred to me: Why don't I make that my list-habit instead?

I think this is the best idea I've had in at least 72 hours. I hope that by keeping a list of everything I've done instead of everything I wish I could do, I'll actually feel a lot better. I work my tail off; I should feel accomplished at the end of the day, not defeated and hopeless! So here goes. So far today, I have:

  1. Fed Ruby, changed her diaper
  2. Made my own dang mocha - no Starbucks! That's $4.38 of my husband's hard work I did not waste today
  3. Taken my daughter to the airport and gotten her through check-in for an internship IN ANOTHER STATE OHMYGODNOMYCHILDCANNOTBETHISOLD
  4. Fed Ruby, changed her diaper
  5. Cleaned stuff out of the van
  6. Changed Holden's diaper
  7. Made scrambled eggs and French toast for breakfast for Holden and I
  8. Fed Ruby
  9. Changed both babies' diapers
  10. Killed several dozen zombies on my cell phone
  11. Fed Ruby
  12. Changed diapers, but did not re-diaper Holden fast enough
  13. Cleaned pee and poop off the floor 
  14. Fed Ruby
  15. Washed, hulled, quartered and froze a pound of strawberries
  16. Made myself a fruit, spinach and yogurt smoothie
  17. Made orange juice
  18. Folded a clean load of diapers
  19. Run a load of diapers through 2 of 3 cycles
  20. Gathered dirty diapers from throughout the house for another load of diapers
  21. Washed out the blender pitcher and started cleaning breakfast dishes
  22. Wrote two journal entries (as of 2:00 PM)
  23. Brought the dog in BEFORE it started raining
  24. Fed Ruby
  25. Cleaned up Holden and Mark's bed in the nursery
  26. Folded a load of blankets
  27. Started the third cycle on the 2nd load of diapers
  28. Put away the diapers I folded earlier (updated at 2:50 PM)
  29. Fed Ruby
  30. Set up bed in Holden's room
  31. Put diapers in the dryer
There, I feel better already.

Busy Mama

I recently wrote a course description for a home school writing class I hope to teach this fall. In the description, I indicated that students must keep a journal for class, and then I pointed them to this one, explaining that I will keep a journal for class, too.

Therefore, here I am again. I've been super crafty this year. I made about half a sweater, two baby layettes, two knitted Llama Llama dolls, a couple of lined, zippered pouches, a ridiculous amount of bread and another baby.

Ruby Catriona was born six weeks ago on June 28 at home after only two hours of labor. I still cramp up thinking about it. One of my blog entries will be her birth story.

Burgundy has been kicking [profanity redacted] and taking names. I took her to the airport this morning to fly to Arkansas for an internship at the University of Arkansas with Dr. Christian Goering. She and Dr. Goering will be working on his website, LitTunes, after she interviewed him for her project last semester teaching 8th grade English Literature using pop music and videos.

She's starting her Senior year this month. I can barely wrap my head around that. She had one set of Senior Portraits done this summer, and she's planning another set later in the fall. Of course, she and her current beau are planning prom already; they'll no doubt be delighted to learn that wither they goest, there also shall I be. Fun! I haven't been to a Senior Prom in 20 years. I'ma git all gussied up.

We've spent the summer working on three college entrance essays. All three are pretty generic: someone who influenced your life, an issue you care deeply about, and something you'd like to tell the world. She has done a great job on all three, writing about the teacher she mentored with in the spring; her views on modesty, and her father. When she returns from her internship Sunday, we'll pull up the national common application for colleges nationwide and start that work.

Holden started walking in February at 14 months old. He loves to run and dance, and he has so much of his father's attitude and spirit that I can't help but reevaluate what I think of Mark. Today he got in trouble for hitting me when he couldn't get my attention. I scolded him, and he squinted his eyes up and tried to stare me down with this hilarious toddler-rage side-eye look. When I burst into giggles, he burst into tears. Oops. That pride gets in the way early!

I have one more post brewing in my head, so I'm going to stop this one and start it. I suddenly have so much to say! 

Monday, April 23, 2012


I slept only 3 hours last night. My back aches uniformly from bottom to top, and my arms have that clenched, burning sensation in the triceps that I associate with sleep deprivation. I prowled around the house this morning cursing the people I love for whatever random offense I could lay at their feet. I must be getting a little better, because I recognized that I was irrational. I still have a ways to go, though, because I didn't quite get it under control before I got in the car with Burgundy for the ride to school.

I arrived home about 6:45 and made myself a latte. I took off my pink pajamas with the sudsy rubber ducky print and put on jeans and a t-shirt. I slipped out the front door as I heard Holden stirring in his bedroom (where he sleeps with Daddy) and ensconced myself on the swing in the front yard with my computer.

Here I sit with my now-empty coffee cup. I posted some thoughts on The Hunger Games and its third book, Mockingjay, on Facebook; my mouth tastes like a dirty disposable diaper smells. Off-putting, as aftertastes go. Is it the milk, the coffee, the lack of sleep or the pregnancy?

I miss my blog, and I miss journaling. I miss writing for an audience, the anticipation of knowing they'll love it, wondering if they'll hate it, or not giving a rat's ass because I need to get it out. My connection feels broken, though, and when I sit at the computer, I think of the to-do lists, my schedule, the ways I should be playing with my children, and I give up trying to figure out how to connect. How to make myself care enough about an audience to write something for it.

I suppose that's all. I don't feel connected, but I have written, and now I want to knit. La vie est si bonne.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


While eating my lunch today, it occurred to me that eating at McDonald's should register on my "sin meter" somewhere up there with pornography and drug abuse. It's abuse of my body, abuse of the animals, supporting a corporation that encourages slavery (the toys, wrappers, and boxes) and destruction of the environment (through CAFOs, cross-country shipping, and the excessive wrapping that becomes litter and landfill fodder) and ever-narrowing genetic selection of God's beautifully wrought plant and animal creations (every hamburger should not taste the same, and high fructose corn syrup is not a "real" food).

Sadly, lunch was a quarter pounder with cheese and french fried chased by a manky Dr. Pepper. I need to permanently make the shift in thinking that eating this food and supporting these practices are offenses against God, against Creation-with-a-capital-C, and against my own self. It is Destruction of the worst kind.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kind of a boring update, but I did it.

Well, it seems 30 minutes is harder to find than I thought it would be. That's a good thing for me to know, though. What's the point of planning my days if I have no concept of how my time flows?

I'm doing moderately well at holding on to routine. My worst enemies are procrastination and errands. On the one hand, it's hard to make myself set the timer for two minutes. But I know how important those 2 minutes are to keeping the house clean. The idea is to work on 1 horizontal surface that somehow collects crap for just 2 minutes every day. I did it back in early 2010, and I swear it worked miracles in my house. All I have to do is set the timer. But then I think, "I can find 2 minutes any time of day. I'm going to play another game of sudoku." And I go to bed with more clutter on the crap-magnets than was there when I woke.

Meanwhile, the longer routines like vacuuming and sweeping on Monday or making a menu on Friday are pretty straightforward in theory, but get bulldozed by changing diapers, taking Burgundy places, feeding Holden, lunch dates, etc. All the same, it's slowly getting done. Monday's routine didn't get done until Tuesday, and Tuesday's routine (dusting) didn't get done at all, but I did Wednesday and Thursday's on Thursday. I even cleaned out the fridge and found two containers of leftovers from Thanksgiving. I had to stop for a while to bring my heaving tummy under control before proceeding.

Last night my little brother called me for our weekly tag-up. We agreed to be accountable to each other this year for our goals: He wants to pay off his debt and buy a house, and I want to walk for 1/2 an hour every day to prepare for labor. He also decided to quit drinking for six months to see what his life is like without it. He seems really upbeat and is running full-steam toward his financial goals. Of course, I haven't walked for exercise at all in the last week. When he asked how it was going, I said, "Oh, I walked a lot. I walked from the bedroom to the bathroom; living room to the kitchen; kitchen back to the baby's bedroom;" he was amused, but gave me the encouragement I needed. Today, I'll walk.

I haven't done any serious knitting in a few weeks. I'm ready to start on a pair of socks for my dad, and I've been ready for over a month. I just can't seem to make myself cast on. I owe another pair of socks to my friend Lizzy, an independent dyer whose yarn will be featured in trunk shows of sample products for a book. I must get these done; the first is a gift, and the second is needed by someone I love.

I'm working hard on planning the trip with Burgundy to New England during Spring Break. We have a ridiculous list of colleges and universities she wants to visit, and I need to call them for their schedules, for tour appointments, etc. Originally, I planned for us to visit New York City, too, but I don't know whether we'll go now. It's expensive, dangerous, and I think the only university she's interested in there is Columbia.

Holden changes a little every day. The last couple of days, he has begun using his tongue a good bit when he tries to talk. The resultant babble remains fairly unintelligible, but he's definitely saying, "Thank you," (tae te) "I love you," (I yuh yuuuh) and "I did that," (Ah dee dah). His new favorite game is kissing. In the morning, he crawls over me and drools open-mouthed across my face, saying, "OOOOOOOM-MAH." He does this until I get out of bed. No amount of kissing in return will satisfy him. Only my eventual capitulation and desertion of the warmth and comfort of my bed. Once I'm up, he does the same to Mark.

In the evenings, Mark comes in, and if he does not pick up Holden and love on him right away, Holden throws a fit. Once in Daddy's arms, Holden kisses him all over his face repeatedly. Anyone who tries to come near is violently repulsed. Only Daddy will do. He also insists on kissing whoever is feeding him during his meals. These are without a doubt the most disgusting manifestations of physical affection that I've endured. Except for maybe Burgundy's corn-laden kisses.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Holden's First Birthday Party

Oh, man, yesterday wore me out. I woke early, fed the baby, and packed my family off to church. I stayed home for a decadent morning of (wait for it) housecleaning. Oh, yes. I know how to live it up.

We finally threw a 1st birthday party for wee Holden yesterday afternoon, and I panicked over the state of my house. Thankfully, Mom drove down from north Houston on Friday, and she joined me Sunday morning to finish the preparations. Together, we vacuumed and shampooed all the carpets, swept and mopped all the floors, scrubbed the bathroom, cleaned the kitchen (several times), washed walls, cleaned cobwebs from corners, dusted, and made the house magnificently presentable. We even Windexed the front hall mirror and the glass on the front door.

I made cream cake on Saturday: a two-layer, six-inch round cake for Holden, and a two-layer, 10-inch round cake for everyone else. I made the quick fudge buttercream icing featured a couple of years ago on Smitten Kitchen, and I was pretty impressed with my results!

The party was a great success; Holden's friends from Kindermusic, from our childbirth education class, and from my knitting group came out to celebrate with him. My friend Tabby led a Kindermusic class, and we sang songs, played with musical instruments, danced and tried to catch bubbles.

Of course, the best part of the afternoon saw Holden's introduction to sugary, chocolatey goodness. Daddy prepped the camera while I put the candle in the cake. And because pictures are worth a thousand words, I give you the photo story:
Happy birthday to you;
happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday,
dear Holden!

Happy birthday


Most satisfying 1st-cake experience, ever.

This is how we do it, yo.

Papaw, you want a kiss?

How we convinced him to keep that hat on for so long is beyond me. Actually, I think he was a little distracted by the MMMM CHOCOLATE CAKE.

Apparently, Holden does not like getting his hands dirty. Never mind that I dug chocolate boogars out of his nose 24 hours after the party; his hands were clean! Once he determined that face-planting in the cake would yield minimal chocolate ingestion, he employed Papaw's hands to get to the rest of that elusive delight.

We opened presents much later, after most of the guests had left. Holden usually found it hard to divert his attention from one gift (or its box) to rip the paper off another one. He received and has had a great time playing with a number of awesome gifts, but that will have to wait for another post; I have work to do!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

Burgundy's former school, Clear Lake High School, has been hit with a pretty big cheating scandal. It appears that about 200 seniors were caught cheating on their English IV semester exam. The result is that all the English IV exam grades have been voided, and students have the option to retake the exam or to have their grades calculated without the exam grade. Because the semester exam counts for 20% of the semester grade, this is a significant decision. Basically, by cheating on an exam the students otherwise would have failed, the students have ensured their GPAs won't be impacted at all by the grade.

Now according to the article linked above, it appears that the district still is investigating and has not decided yet on punishment. However, I don't understand what the delay is. From the CCISD Student Handbook, which students must sign every year certifying that they have read and understand the rules:

Academic Dishonesty will result in academic and/or behavioral consequences.
A. A grade of zero will be given on the work involved, and the grade of zero will be averaged with the other grades.
B. The building principal will be notified of all incidents of academic dishonesty. C. Other actions as determined by building principal such as assignment to In School
Suspension (ISS). (Page 68 of the Parent-Student Handbook from the website)
I don't understand why there's any confusion about what to do to the students caught cheating. They cheated. They do not deserve to choose not to take the final exam. They deserve a zero averaged into their semester grades. Yes, that impacts their college acceptance. Yes, it's a harsh penalty. And yes, they understood the risks when they decided to engage in the behavior. Voiding the final is not a punishment; it's a reward.

For example, take my daughter's Pre-AP Physics class. Her first nine weeks' average was an 82. Her second was an 86. Unfortunately, her semester exam was a disaster, and she earned (after many hours of hard work and study) a 76. This brought her semester average all the way down to an 82. If we could void that exam altogether, her semester average would be an 84. While this seems insignificant on the surface, Burgundy's GPA literally is within hundredths of a point of being in the realm of Ivy League eligibility, and the difference between her average without and with the exam is .2 GPA points. That matters.

I think CCISD has several reasons for its apparent leniency:

  1. CLHS has an Exemplary rating, making it one of the best schools in the state, not just the district. Handing out 200 zeroes would significantly impact the school's overall competitive performance statewide. I'm not certain whether the Texas rating system impacts a school's budget allocation, but  I think it does, and everything comes back to the money, honey.
  2. CLHS has the highest concentration of moneyed families in the district. I swear to God, I am not exaggerating when I say that the parking lot at that high school has nicer cars than the parking lots at NASA. Parents with money have influence; I learned that firsthand.  I just did not have the money to compete, to hire a lawyer, to campaign at the district level for action. I didn't have the money to run in the right circles to get people with power to give a damn about Burgundy's situation. The school and district administrators will be hurting their own and their friends' kids, and heavens, we can't have that.
  3. CLHS is a high-pressure, extremely competitive environment. Giving 200 zeroes to seniors who won't have time to recover their grades will wreck some students' college aspirations and plans. Moreover, it will reduce the admissions rate that the school enjoys to some of the best universities in the nation, and students like Burgundy suddenly will be able to compete with the kids at Lake. Oh, the horror.
Frankly, none of these are compelling reasons to void the tests and let the kids choose whether to retake them. If they live in a world where they don't have to be responsible for their own actions, well, we're all screwed.

In closing, let me say this. If you really want to be fair, CCISD, why don't you reward the kids across the district who didn't cheat? Who studied hard and did their best? Why don't you let the kids who actually took responsibility and did not cheat either drop or retake their lowest semester exam? Oh, but we can't have that. Everyone here gets what they deserve. Unless they have money, apparently.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Much Less Depressing Update

I'm at a crossroads. 

I'm pregnant again; Holden is a year old, and Burgundy's almost done with high school and suddenly in love with all her opportunities. Yesterday she got herself appointed to the prom committee; today she picked up an application to join student council. Her Gold Award project is gathering its own momentum with one of the Assistant Principals now advocating with the district to allow her to use its facilities and advertise district-wide free of charge. She's spearheading an effort to get an elected student advisory committee for the Class of 2013 booster club, and she joined the district's robotics team, the Robonauts.

Meanwhile, we're trying to decide where to allocate our meager funds for traveling to potential universities over spring break. Rice remains her first choice university; she plans to apply there for early admission. Her second choice is Harvard, and Stanford and University of Chicago are tied for her third choice. After that she's lumped Princeton, University of Colorado, University of California, Abilene Christian University, University of Houston, Southern Methodist, Vanderbilt, and God Knows Where Else into her pile of, "Sure, we can try that," options. Since we live next door to Rice and they're already involved in her Gold Award project, we can tour there anytime. Her remaining, "OMG MOM I HAFTA TOUR THERE," options are in Massachusetts, Illinois, and California. We do NOT have that kind of money, so we have some tough choices. Harvard also is involved in her Gold Award project, so it seems prudent to tour there, and we can hit Princeton while we're at it.

I didn't mean for this entry to ramble on about Burgundy's school stuff, but I suppose that's the brain dump I needed.

How does all this put me at a crossroads? I guess because I don't know what to do with myself (other than survive). I would really like to bring in $500 a month regularly in home-based income by the end of the year. There are so many ways for me to make this happen that I feel like I can't possibly make any of them happen.

My options: Let me enumerate them for you:

  1. Pampered Chef. I've done it before; I like their merchandise, and I like doing the parties. It feels crazy, but the tools sell themselves, and I really love cooking and teaching others how. 
  2. Continue selling my bread. I have a couple of customers who would buy regularly if I baked regularly. So far, I haven't been able to make myself churn out a batch a week, much less the batch a day I would need to sell $500 in bread every month. It's do-able, though.
  3. Tutor high school and early college students in English and writing.
  4. Teach a class on finding and cooking local, sustainable foods.
  5. Freelance writing and editing.
  6. Prostitution. Ha ha, just checking to see who's reading.
  7. No really, prostitution. Without a pimp, I could make a killing.
  8. Okay, that took up three numbered options; any respectable list should have 10; surely I can come up with two more.
  9. Home inventory: basically, I would help people inventory and document their homes' contents for use in the event they need to file with their insurance for hurricane, flood, or fire damage.
  10. Life coach (because mine is going so brilliantly well). I seriously think the world could do with an attitude adjustment about fat people, and it needs to start with us fatties. Fat is not the problem; self-image, love of others, and poor nutrition and health are the problem.
Things I WON'T do:
  1. Prostitution. Jeez, people. Give me a break. Nobody's going to pay a fatty for sex. I mean, I have WAY too much self-respect for that.
  2. Knit for money. Just to make minimum wage, I'd have to charge something like $250 for a pair of socks. Too much work, not enough dollars.
  3. Substitute teach. I am not a fan of other people's children at large. I love lots of individual offspring of other people. I do not want to endure abuse from the population of children at large in return for bureaucratic nonsense and $8/hour. Christ, I could do better with less abuse at Starbucks.
  4. Work outside the home. I am qualified to make pretty decent dough working in the professional world, and I voluntarily gave that up to stay home with my children.
  5. Ghost write someone else's blog for $.01 a word. Seriously? I can't even keep up with my own damn blog.
I have some pretty consistent problems (personal problems) that get in the way of making any of the money-making ideas work.
  1. Follow-through. I no can haz. Really. My last order for bread (pizza crust, actually) was in October. I still haven't delivered. She's being very patient.
  2. Enthusiasm. I get really sold on an idea really fast, and then I realize that in the grand scheme of things, I don't actually give a flying fart. See also #1.
  3. Everything Else Life Demands. I usually don't have the energy to wash diapers and cook dinner in the same day. Running a business, even at 10 hours a week, seems a foolish idea if I can't keep the basics taken care of.
The foregoing lead me to a second conclusion: I have to do something about my energy and fitness levels. Please don't mistake this for, "I have to go on a diet and start exercising all the time because I'm FAT OMGWTFBBQ!" However, regular exercise contributes to better sleep and better energy levels, and I know it will make my next labor and delivery less agonizing. Better eating also contributes to better energy levels and improved overall health, and given my near brush with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy with Holden, it's imperative for health reasons to eat well right now. 

I hesitate to say, "From now on, I will take a 30 minute walk every day and eat only wholesome, local foods." I won't do either religiously; however, I've cooked every night this week, and tonight I made a delicious quiche with homemade crust and mustards harvested from my backyard five minutes before they were needed. 

Thus my crossroads. It isn't as easy as, "just commit." Even with healthful eating and daily exercise, sometimes I just don't give a rip. However, I only have two real resolutions this year, and both of them require me to be better organized, to increase my energy, and to put some routine and self-love into my day to day life. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holden's First Birthday; What Will I Remember in Ten Years?

Holden's first birthday was last week on the 28th. We're having his party this Sunday at our house; let the stress rain down.

God, our house is a dump. The garage is full of crap. Shelf upon shelf of musty, dusty, often mildewed books "rescued" by Mark from other people's trash line two of the walls. At least 20 large boxes are stacked four and five boxes high, forming a wall barring access to the books and housing all the things Mark can't throw away: movie stubs, binders of his work in high school and college, boxes of pens and reams of paper. A third wall houses all the games we never play and with which Mark can not bring himself to part. A large, never-used table saw, an air hockey table (likewise virginal), and a dining table and six chairs given to us by Burgundy's grandmother eclipse any hope of actually parking in the garage, and our cats live in there. Enough said.

Inside the house, our pantry's contents have found their way out and onto the floor in front of the pantry. The laundry room exists in a perpetual state of overflow. Our dog lives mostly outside, but at night he sleeps in the guest bathroom. Guess what that room smells like? Well, dog and dirty diapers; Holden's diaper pail provides a heady, pungent aroma that permeates the back half of the house, eclipsing the fragile wisps of candle smoke competing for recognition in our olfactory palette. My craft room has a treacherous, 3-foot long, winding path by which I can reach my desk to sigh over unpaid bills and pray for a rain of money. The hallway is crowded with about 10 boxes of Christmas decorations, more than half of which never went up in the first place.

Throughout the house, baseboards are mismatched in both size and color, and walls bear the distinctive striping of people rubbing against them in an attempt to traverse a pathway without knocking something over. The front and back yards are overgrown (in January!); our lawn mower is broken, and I have no idea where to even start with getting them cleaned up.

Somehow I must organize, clean, disinfect and somehow apply the mask that I keep in a jar by the door to my whole [profanity redacted] house by Sunday while attending to all doctor appointments, keeping Holden fed; keeping him from sucking on electrical cords; keeping him in dry, unsoiled diapers; keeping him from eating the dog and cat food (in all honesty, I sometimes give up on the latter in order to buy myself a precious 5-10 minutes in which to wash, dry, fold, and put away all the laundry in the house); making and cleaning up from dinner for the family; driving Burgundy all over creation with a happy smile on my face, and employing grace and dignity while dealing with all the minor emergencies that populate every human being's day to day life. All with 3-5 hours per night of sleep interrupted every 60-90 minutes by Holden's near obsessive need to suck on my teats. It goes on. And on. And on.

Once I've disguised our trashy hovel as the respectable suburban manse the world expects, I have to bake a cake for everyone and a cake for Holden, ice the damn things (can you believe the standards people hold me to?), and decorate the house for our illustrious guests.

I'm honestly tempted to pick up a cake at Wal-Mart, set the house on fire, buy a plane ticket to Paris (France, y'all; I don't think Paris, TX has an airport. Holy crap. Paris, TX has an airport), and let Mark handle the rest of the birthday party.