Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where I came from:

Where I am now:


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Whew, that was a long climb...

It's been a long climb back up out of the pit I fell into. But I'm back-ish. Blair is home, summer is over, the new school year is well under way, the Thanksgiving bird is eaten and Christmas is approaching much, much faster than I had hoped.

Part of what's been keeping me so busy is my new blog: Local Nourishment. I'll link to it from here, but I won't link back from there to here. Too much personal info here for the general audience I'm hooked up with over there. It kinda grew out of a dietary experiment and has become a fascinating, educating thing.

So, let's see. Where did I leave off? Goodness, but the finances were miserable there for a while! Still no regular "job", and none on the horizon, but we're still hanging in there. Hubby actually just signed a contract with Apologia (you might know them from their amazingly excellent science curriculum.) We finished book one of hubby's worldview series:

and we've started working on book 2. Here's a link to a much better picture and description. It was a lot like being pregnant. Exhaustion, swollen ankles, nausea, headaches, followed by several months of waiting, a final push and an exciting delivery. But, UPS brought this one, not the stork.

That's the biggest news.

Friday, May 22, 2009

When Life Gets Tough, Act Like a Cavy

Cavies are really smart. They eat lots and lots of roughage, some leafy greens every day and occasionally a piece of fruit for a sweet treat. They drink only water, no soda or juices and take a bath after eating. When they are happy, they just randomly leap into the air and twist around midflight. Several times a day they tear through their cage at top speed for several minutes. When they get sleepy, they find a soft, warm spot and curl up for a nap.

My life would be much better if I followed those simple rules.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Please forgive my long absence. I have been much employed elsewhere.

Like for example, we discovered mold in the girls' basement room and I am throwing my hands up in despair. We are all horribly allergic, but can't afford to get it fixed. Rose is all broken out again. I've moved her upstairs to sleep, but the spores are in the air and she's not improving. I'm hacking and coughing like a tuberculosis patient and we are all having headaches. Sometimes I wish a tornado would just blow this stupid house away so we could start over.

The garage I worked so hard to unpack, clean and repack has been attacked by kids and is now a bigger mess than it ever was.

Our "brand new" (used, but new to us) car is having brake problems.

Blair is doing well in CO and I've grown into a quiet missing instead of an acute pain.

The youngest two are complaining about the lack of schooling we do. What part of unschooling don't they understand? They're asking for book reports, spelling tests and the like. I know it's a transitory phase, but I'd really like to oblige.

Hubby's insomnia keeps me up until midnight, and wakes me frequently during the tiny hours. John's breakfast must be cooked at 5:30AM and I rarely go back to bed at that point. I'm getting a good, solid three hours of sleep a night, and have been taking long expanses of naps in the afternoon. It's still not enough and I'm incoherent most of the day. I'd like to just sleep all the time and escape all the dreck in my life.

There's so much I need to be doing right now and I just want to sleep.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

She's leaving home

Blair is leaving us. April 29th. Just a month before her 19th birthday.

She is going to Colorado to live with a married friend and help take care of the friend's two little ones for the summer. In return, the friend is going to help her get a part-time job and allow her enough time to hone her writing skills. Blair has a lot of friends in the Denver/Colorado Springs area. The friend is a woman we trust. She's stayed with us at our home, and we know her pastor. I guess it's a good thing.

But I know Blair. She won't be back. She'll fall in love with Colorado, just like I did and that will be that. I could be a lot more upset, but I think she'll do fine. She's a smart girl with a good head on her shoulders, and what I can't teach her here she will learn on her own. I'm relieved she has a friend to stay with and she's not all alone out there.

It wasn't easy to let my oldest go, but he was ready to be on his own. I've had ten years to feather my nest for my little birdies. But with Blair's departure, I know the next ten years will be full of leavings. See, my oldest is 10 years older than Blair, and Blair is 10 years older than my youngest. I guess, rather like the discovery of a whole crop of gray hair, this is kind of a turning point in my life. My days as a mommy are very quickly coming to a close.


It was hard for me to come to grips with no longer being of child bearing age, but I did it. I walked through it and am comfortable, finally, on the other side. I have a feeling it will be a little tougher than that to see them leave home.


The selfish part of me wants to make her stay. Whatever will life be like without her? I can't imagine. But I know it's time.


I think I'm gonna cry a little now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Garden plans get scaled down, too

I had planned a larger garden this year. The plan included pole beans, chard, four kinds of lettuce, peas, bell peppers, tatsoi and tulsi for tea. Instead, I re-upped for the vegetable CSA and scaled the garden down to two kinds of lettuce. Lettuce is something we eat daily that isn't available through our CSA.

Our farmer has loads and loads of kale, especially in the early months of deliveries. We love kale, and most of it gets used. At the end of the season last fall, I had two batches of kale cooked and frozen. Both were used within a couple months. He also has tomatoes in great supply. There were a few strawberries last year, but not nearly enough.

I got the lettuce planted today. I have two kinds: salad bowl and black seeded Simpson. Both should do well in our warmer weather, and both should be good for cut-and-come again, which is how we use our lettuce more often than not.

I plan to start some bell peppers in the Aerogarden, and perhaps some strawberries to take outside later in the season. Once the bells and berries get a good start and I move them to the garden, I'll put some lettuce in the Aerogarden to feed to the guinea pigs. They love leafy greens, but go through a pound a week. My little garden can't keep up with that demand on top of ours.

While I was at the home center yesterday, I picked up some easy-to-grow annual flower seeds for the kids. Our yard is starting to look pretty ratty and I'm not convinced the decorative (?) grass will be back this year. I'd like to dig it up and plant ornamental edibles. But for now, we've planned some simple seedings for summer.

Unless I invest in soil, I have one more pot available for planting. I'd like to grow something for tea. Mint is always good, especially in a pot where it can be controlled. I like the health benefits of tulsi. I had considered stevia, but I hear it can be difficult to grow outdoors. Maybe that's a better Aerogarden plant.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Melted Snowball

Well, I had to do it. We've been doing a debt snowball for the last couple years, and at our present rate, would have been debt-free (except mortgage) on September 1, 2010.

I just melted the snowball so we could have some more to live on each month.

Lord, please, I don't want to start using plastic again!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stimulus package fails to stimulate this citizen

No, we don't qualify for help with our mortgage. Because we've been working hard at freelance jobs, selling what we can, cutting back to make do, and paying our debts each month, we don't qualify for the benefits provided for those in arrears. We don't qualify for the mortgage rate reduction because we have no W-2 for the last two months to prove income, a requirement of the program. The reduction would have reduced our monthly payment by a full fourth while reducing the length of our loan by ten years. We "might" qualify for what our lender called a "governmental loan restructuring modification," words that sound very much like "bankruptcy" to me. We will, of course, check into this option.

But you know what? President Obama ain't our rescuer. We don't need his stimulus package, because we have already qualified for (and are receiving benefits from) a much better stimulus package signed into effect by Jehovah Jireh Himself. So shake your head, roll your eyes, and sigh, but don't worry about us. Instead, rejoice with us that, unlike so many other Americans in grave financial straits, we have a bottomless supply of provision from One who loves us and knows our needs even before we do.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Rejoicing in Philippians 4:19-20 today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

At the rope's end once again

Frustration is boiling up in me again and I need to spout a little. So please, forgive me, close your computer window and don't read on.

The more that happens to me here, the more convinced I am that moving here was a HUGE error. Let's do a quick recap:

1) December 2005: Hired for a job to start up a homeschooling division of a large, stable company, we moved clear across the country, away from a place that felt like home. Interesting note: a year after we moved away, oldest son moved to within a couple hundred miles of where we moved from. Hubby stressed he would need my help, and the help of the whole family to do this new job. That was a selling point: it would bring us together and ease the pain of leaving somewhere we loved.

2) November 2006: The company decided to scrap the idea of a homeschooling line. I was very disappointed as I watched the opportunity for us to work together fly out the window. But, at least hubby was given a job developing a fiction line for the same company. We weren't unemployed, and hubby had a job doing what he has wanted to do for years.

3) July 2008: Less than two years into that job, the company started panicking about the economy and made a series of cutbacks. On the fourth round, we were laid off. We got a fair severance package, which helped take some of the sting out of the sudden, totally unexpected loss. How could it have been unexpected with three rounds of layoffs behind us? What publishing company scraps its entire fiction line?!? That's what they did. Unbelievable (at the time. Of course, since then, many publishing companies have stopped acquisitions altogether, ostensibly putting themselves out of business for the near future.)

4) Hubby immediately had four job possibilities. He went on two interviews in the first three months and both were writing up contracts for him when suddenly the jobs...disappeared. One company had cutbacks itself and decided it can do without that particular job. The other had cutbacks and moved someone in from another place in the company.

5) Aware we couldn't go long without income, Hubby wisely started contacting people for freelance assignments. He secured three, enough to get us through the end of the year; plus one long-term assignment in a field he's never worked before. He was working the phones, the email, the freelance jobs, and all the while, those other two job possibilities were starting to fade.

6) December, 2008 The third job possibility dropped out just before the holidays. That was okay though, we still had one more, and it was someplace closer to "home." Hubby started working on the long-term project.

7) The homes in our neighborhood stopped selling. "Bank Owned" started appearing on the for-sale signs. On our cul-de-sac of 8 homes, 5 now have at least one unemployed adult. The cutbacks in Hubby's industry are so deep and wide, that now there are no jobs in his field, but a glut of unemployed professionals. This glut means more competition in the freelance market, which has now also dried up.

8) Our biggest expenses are: mortgage, food, insurance, in that order. When we left the job, we decided to continue our insurance only for Hubby because of his medical problems, and the kids' teeth. I'm totally uninsured, and the kids have no medical. I fussed and fumed about the "stimulus package" passed by Congress, but then I heard that there is a subsidy for COBRA which might help us afford some minimal medical coverage for the kids. I just heard from HR. The company "allows us to continue health insurance, but as a religious organization, does not subscribe to the COBRA plan." In other words, that'll be $700 a month, thank you very much, no stimulus for you.

9) March 2008: The last job possibility dropped out this week. "That's okay," I rationalized, "because if we had to move again, we would be stuck with two mortgages and no way to unload this house."

10) Hubby is working long hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair that hurts his back, working on a laptop, cooped up in a bedroom all day with bad lighting and a screen that is stressing his eyes, doing a job he was untrained to do. He's doing a wonderful, amazing job, even the people he's working for are very impressed. It's taking him longer to do the job that he ever dreamed, and the money is barely stretching. According to the estimates on paper, we should fall about one month's income short in the next four months.

11) It's not all bad news. Somehow, miraculously, we are surviving. For the next 45 days at least, the mortgage and bills are paid, there's money for groceries, gas in the car and electricity in the house.

But my frustration and anger are building up. I want to whine like a child. I want to go home. I want to cry. I want to hit and kick and scream. I want it to be over. I hate where I'm living. I hate the company that laid us off. I hate this economy and the job market and insurance. I hate money. I hate not having money. I hate that my birthday present to Kate had to be underwear. I hate that my birthday presents to Rose, John, Blair and Christy will also be underwear.

I'm scared. I know God will take care of us because He promised to. And I've been living, breathing and eating that for the last seven months. But the numbers don't work on paper and it's a scary thing to see.

I'm hanging on, Lord, how about a little ray of sunshine?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Am I really THAT old?

While watching the Oscars tonight I was stunned by the report of the passing of an acquaintance of mine: Robert Do Qui. I met him about 25 years ago, when I worked for Columbia Pictures. His wife at that time, Shea, came to work under my supervision. It was at a Christmas party at their home that Robert and I had a long heart-to-heart talk.

He had just turned 50, the age I turned this year. I remember it like it was yesterday. Can I really be so old that it's time for my friends, acquaintances and mentors to be shuffling off this mortal coil?


Oscar Strikes Again

We took a break from our health diet to enjoy Oscar-theme related food tonight. We had:

Hot Dog Millionaire (like the dollar sign?)

Wall*E Micro Chips
Tropic(ana) Thunder with Frozen River Chunks (ice)

Benjamin's Buttons

Frosty Nixon ice cream with Heath shell

Now, on to the broadcast!

Monday, February 16, 2009

You're KILLING me here!!

You're killing me here! Or, as Job would say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

We get so close to finding a job. There'll be an interview, paperwork, right up to the signing of the contract, then...

pfffft. Gone. Someone else gets hired, the job gets axed, or the entire company is put on a hiring freeze. It happened again this week.

It's been a tense month. Our severance pay ran out three months ago, and it's been challenging (but satisfying) getting by on freelance pay. But we have several "exceptional" bills that come due at the first of the year: property tax, auto registration, home warranty, to name only 3 of 6. Plus all our family birthdays fall between January and June. We had one child who totally outgrew her underthings and needed new right away. Another tore a hole in the seat of her last pair of jeans. These aren't wants, they are needs. I had just enough in my "business" checking account to cover both, but that money is now gone. Hubby has expressed a desire for me to not continue my business, because the pay is so low (I average about $1 an hour) but I gotta say, $1 an hour is better than $0 an hour.

We have freelance work lined up that will provide living expenses through March 15 now. So, I'm not going to think about this again until March 15. I hope.

We are almost over this round of colds. I'm still low energy, Kate's nose is still red and raw, and Christy's cough isn't gone yet, but we're all on the upswing.

Blair has gone to Atlanta for an Irish Step Dance competition. She's staying with a friend for a couple weeks. We've put her on notice that when she comes back, it's time to get a job. We've been laying low, giving her a year after high school and not pushing her to get a job, but I think it's backfired. She's become disinclined to do even the simplest of chores, surly with her siblings and disrespectful to her dad and I. She does manage to bounce between the phone and computer during her waking hours, where she chats endlessly with her friends. She talks about taking the SAT and getting into college, but doesn't do even the simplest preparatory tasks toward that goal: it's all talk. Perhaps homeschoolers don't need the year off as much as institutionally educated children do.

We are gearing up for our annual Oscar party. The kids have nominated their food choices and are putting together a play. If I can figure out how to do it, I'll get the play posted on YouTube.

And finally, my politcally-motivated rant. There is something for us, personally, in the stimulus package! Apparently, the government is going to step in and help us with our COBRA payments. This is wonderful news, since we really can't afford them. It's awful news because had we known, we'd have covered the kids who, right now, are uninsured. I don't mind being uninsured, I'm pretty low risk. Hubby can not go without insurance because of his medical issues and prescriptions. But the kids being uninsured is very uncomfortable for me. Even so, I hate the idea of the stimulus package. I'm afraid I'm landing squarely with Ron Paul on this issue. I don't like the idea of us spoiled baby boomers pushing our bad economy off 20 years at which point it will collapse, perhaps finally, on our children and grandchildren.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Allergies strike again

Rose's allergies have been sneaking up again on us since Christmas. They peaked this week with her eczema attacking her neck to the point of oozing and bleeding again, just like when she was a baby. It hasn't been this bad since she was about 2.

Her worst allergy is dairy. It's not lactose intolerance, it's actual allergy to milk protein, called casein. We have her on a casein-free diet until the crisis is past, and will restrict casein for several weeks to empty her bucket.

An allergy doctor explained allergies to me this way: An allergic person has an allergy "bucket." When you eat foods you are allergic to, it fills the bucket. If you eat just a little, just a little is in the bucket, and if you eat a lot of it (or a little several days in a row), the bucket can be filled to overflowing. When the bucket starts overflowing, that's when you see reactions. If you empty the bucket, chances are you can have a little of the trigger substance before you see a reaction. The trick is that some substances clear out of the bucket in hours, others in weeks.

So, no milk for Rose for a while. I did find some hemp milk at the store, and we'll give that a shot. We've tried almond milk, rice milk, oat milk and soy milk, but she has severe allergic reactions to all of the above. When she was little, I made her some cashew milk for a while, but I didn't like the nutritional profile of that very much.

Of course, if it were just milk and cheese, it wouldn't be such a big problem. But there is casein (and corn, a food that three of the seven of us are allergic to) in almost every processed food these days. McDonald's finally admitted not too long ago that there is even casein in their french fries.

Meanwhile, Kate has been suffering from dishydrosis, an awful skin problem, on her hands. The skin gets small blisters, which itch fiercely. The blisters pop, bleed, ooze, then crust. Repeated attacks make the skin tough and leathery, then eventually shell-like. We tried like crazy to determine the cause of the problem, and finally came down to one suspect: nickel. Now, there is a little nickel in chocolate, and a little in peanut butter (two food groups, according to her), but the main source is her braces! We are very, very happy that her braces should be coming off this calendar year. I've spoken to her orthodontist, who says he can make her retainer out of tungsten or plain plastic. He says he is seeing more and more nickel allergies, something that he never saw as recently as 5 years ago.

We are working on shoring up the flagging immune systems in our family, and plugging any leaky gut issues, as those are reported to worsen allergies. It's been a nice couple months, just totally ignoring the allergies, but it's time to be vigilant once again.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy, um, yeah.

So remember I posted that I'm not going to worry about money until the day it runs out? We're two weeks away. I'm wondering if I should start looking for a job now. It's not likely the tax refund will be here by then, and the few bits of cash we are expecting are taking longer than we expected.

Moving on.

We had some yummy food yesterday. We had a turkey salad for lunch with the last of the frozen Thanksgiving turkey, mangoes and a salad dressing I made. The dressing was amazing, so I'm posting it for you.

Lime Ginger Dressing
Run a bunch of washed cilantro leaves through juicer. Peel and run a one-inch knob of ginger followed by a peeled lime. Mix with 3 tablespoons rice vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Particularly refreshing and warming at the same time.

For dinner we had a skillet gnocchi thing. I browned the gnocchi (yes, it was whole wheat, which made it taste a tad strange) and took it out of the pot. I browned up some olives and garlic in coconut oil, then tossed in a couple cans of cannelini beans, a couple cans of chopped tomatoes, some basil, oregano and marjoram. When it was simmering, I tossed in some spinach and let it simmer down a bit before I put the gnocchi back in. I served it topped with a sprinkle of mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. Out of all that, the only thing I had to put on the shopping list was the gnocchi and spinach. The rest I had in the cupboard and garage. Nice. We had it with a big green salad and Kate made chocolate meringues for dessert.

As for the rest of the news, there isn't any. Still looking for a job, still hanging on, still freelancing. Still trying to stay calm.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Love Dollar Tree, but be careful

With the shrinking economy, I'm looking to save as much as possible wherever possible. Because I maintain a price book, I know when I'm being bamboozled at Costco, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, etc. and when I really am getting a bargain.

During a recent trip, I found some strange toothpaste at Dollar Tree. It had a strange label on it an mentioned Canada. Canada? I asked the manager who said she puts on the shelves what comes in the shipments and doesn't know much more about her products than that. I came home and Googled it, and sure enough, found warnings like this one: Dollar Store Toothpaste

Okay. Now that is disturbing. I guess to save money, perhaps baking soda and salt with a nice hydrogen peroxide rinse after?

Friday, January 2, 2009

We love cereal

Okay, the below photo is NOT photoshopped, this was an actual flake found in my daughter's cereal bowl this morning:

I guess that proves it, cereal loves us, too!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

If you believe in resolutions, here's my list:

Focus on eating as many raw veggies in a day as I can bear.
Move at least once a day, walk if knees are up to it.
Be more vigilant about the kids' schedules.
Smile every time I'm annoyed.
Talk less. MUCH less.

If you don't believe in resolutions, that's okay too. I know what they say about goals, resolutions and the like, needing to be specific, but the above is all I can manage today.

I'd like everyone's input on something.

If I get up and cook for breakfast, the family will usually eat it, then come back an hour later to have cereal. If I don't cook, they have cereal and don't come back an hour later for anything. I'm not a morning person, but I can get up and cook if necessary. They just don't seem to like it, and they're eating the same amount of cereal on top of my cooking anyway.

Should I cook so that the better nutrition is available to them and hopefully wean them of the cereal habit, or should I just let them eat cereal and save myself the expense and frustration?