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.