Thursday, May 01, 2014

Living Within Our Means


This is what my fridge looks like right now.

In 2011, I started working full time.  Before that point, if we budgeted carefully, only went out to dinner on special occasions, and considered our purchases, we had enough money for our needs.  After 2011, we didn't have to worry about budgeting.  If I wanted something, I bought it.  If I didn't feel like cooking, we went out.  I fell out of the habit of checking how much I was spending every month.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going crazy; all those years of being a poor college student and thrifty bargain hunter definitely left their mark, but I wasn't being careful either.

Then in late 2012, I got pregnant and started throwing up, so I switched to working only one day a month. The only thing on my radar was survival.  Then 2013 comes and I have this small human who DOESN'T STOP CRYING FOR 3 MONTHS.

At the beginning of this year, once everyone started sleeping through the night, I started thinking, "huh, I wonder how our bank accounts are doing."  Turns out, we were spending at 2011 levels, but only making 2010 money.  Whoops!

We weren't in the red because we had money saved from my full-time days, but every month, we were spending way more than we were bringing in.  I freaked out and launched a family-economy sequester; buckling down, cutting spending, and asking around for someone to watch my kids so I could start working 1 day a week.

I made a food budget of $800 a month.  It's so high because I was including our Costco trip wherein I might buy socks or a new swimsuit or something, and our grocery store has pretty much everything you could ever need (lamps, pillows, huge toy aisle, art and craft supplies, baby clothes).  I have no idea what I bought, but we maxed out our grocery budget 4 days ago on April 26.  I decided I was going to see if we could stick it out.  I did make an emergency run for milk, apples, and bread, but other than that, it's been slim pickins.

We've eaten every piece of frozen meat in our freezer (I even MADE hamburger rolls to avoid going to the store), eeked out soups with questionable bottom-of-the-bag vegetables, eaten several tuna dishes, and forced my family to eat oatmeal when the cereal ran out.

I've learned several things- 1. Wow, food runs out fast when you're not constantly going to the store to replenish your stock. 2. Man, I'm thankful for the grocery store and I don't have to somehow otherwise procure food.

And 3. I waste so much food!  Most of the food we've been eating these last 4 days has been less than perfect.  Let's just say, I've been cutting some brown spots off.  If I had been able to go to the store, I would have totally thrown that stuff out.  Or, more likely, ignored it in favor of the fresher food and waited until it became completely inedible and then thrown it out.

Also I'VE NEVER BEEN THIS EXCITED TO GO TO THE GROCERY STORE!

Monday, March 31, 2014

I am not a flexible woman


I'm not naturally flexible.  This is me, giving it my best effort to touch my toes.  I'm not joking.

After I had Lillian, I took a Mommy-and-Me yoga class.  It was fun but I was so totally not as flexible as the other women in the class.  I asked the instructor how long I would have to do yoga before I would be able to do a simple down dog pose with my heels on the ground.

Ten years is what she guessed.

Ten. Years.  We're coming up on 8 years, and still I'm nowhere close.  She underestimated the power of my hamstrings.

The thing is- I hate yoga.  The whole time I'm doing it, I think, "I hate this.  I'm so uncomfortable. I don't want to breathe.  I'm so bored."  Plus, I now have a peanut gallery that says stuff like, "Mom, she said you're supposed to put your forehead on the ground."  "Mom, she said that you're supposed to be on one leg."  "Mom, she said to grab your toes."

Yet I do it.  Because I fear that if I don't, I soon won't be able to bend over to put my own pants on.  Which... actually... might not be a problem.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Almost Thou Convincest Me To Give Up Wheat

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she told me about how she has all these food allergies that went undiagnosed until she was 30.  How did that happen?  A few doctors suggested that she had food allergies but she didn't believe them because food allergies meant that you got hives or went anaphylactic... right?  Then she started having problems with her gums and her dentist asked her if she'd ever been tested, so she decided to get it done, and turns out, she's allergic to wheat, eggs, corn, soy, dairy, bananas, and apples among other things.

"What symptoms did you have that you weren't sure you were allergic to pretty much everything?!"

*Tired all the time (I'M tired all the time)

*Stomach hurt a little all the time, but not that bad (MY stomach hurts a lot at random times)

*Sensitive skin and always had a rash (I do not always have a rash, but I do have really itchy skin)

*Gum problems (I do not have gum problems, but I do get big ugly canker sores inside my mouth that appear at seemingly random times)

She went on an elimination diet and suddenly felt about a million times better and had so much more energy, no more stomach pain, could fly, etc.

I told her that I had these things, and she said it sounded like I had a wheat allergy.  Bah! I say.  I don't go in for all those pseudoscience food fads!

She shrugged her shoulders and said that there'd be no harm in trying it and that I might feel better.  "Pfffft, you can have my pizza when you pull it from my cold dead hands," I said to myself because that would have been rude to say out loud.

Then I talked to my sister and she told me all about how her husband's doctor put him on a grain-free, dairy-free, fun-free diet along with enough vitamins to justify buying a pill case to lower his cholesterol.  And now he's lost a bunch of weight, feels better, can fly, etc.

Maybe there was something to this?  I decided to give up wheat for a week, and maybe I'd feel better, and if I didn't, I'd know that I don't have a mild wheat allergy.

I started on Wednesday and I felt the same until yesterday afternoon when I hit a wall.  I was so tired, I worked for about an hour to get everyone to take a nap at the same time so I could lay down, and then the baby woke up and I cried.  My eyes were droopy at dinner and I went to bed at about 7:30.

Not the miracle cure I was hoping for.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

They can take their well-meaning concern elsewhere


You might remember that I live next to a small-ish man-made lake.  My backyard is small and boring for a 3-year old boy, so he has taught himself (and his sisters quickly learned from his example) how to scale this fence.  The lake is .5 miles long and we live about in the middle, so he'd have to run for a quarter mile in either direction before he hit a street.  They have those exercise stations along the way that hardly anyone besides little kids use (monkey bars, balance beams, pedestals for doing lunges, etc) that he likes to screw around on.  Plus, there is the timeless pastime of throwing stuff in the lake.

I cannot scale the fence, so I sit in the backyard and watch him run around.  He occasionally gets farther away than I can see, but he always comes back.

This thing we do FREAKS OUT all the walkers and fishers.  I get that they are concerned and ask him where his parents are, but I wave and say "I'm right here!" and they still look like they are deciding whether or not to call CPS.  I don't doubt they would... remember our old dog Daisy and how they called the police on us because she spent too much time in the backyard where she had fresh water and shade?  And also it was spring so it was 70 degrees outside?  And also she's a dog?

Mostly they are concerned that he's going to fall in the lake and I'm behind the fence and wouldn't be able to grab him.  We've lived next to this lake his entire life and he's never once fallen in.  Also, it's only a few feet deep.  Also, he could grab onto the side and hang out until I could get to him... or just climb out.

Aside from the need to get out of the house and run around, I've always sort of felt like I'm doing Ethan good by letting him be over there by himself or with his sisters.  Like he's learning independence and exploring.

Yesterday, I read a very interesting article that TOTALLY PROVED ME RIGHT.

It's called "The Overprotected Kid" in The Atlantic.  (HT Bridget).  It talks about how kids these days are so supervised that they don't experiment with risk or being on their own or trying things and failing that they overdo it with the risks and end up addicted to drugs, don't know how to be on their own and get depressed, and freak out when they fail.  My favorite part was the following:

Sandseter began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.

This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

Letting Ethan play on his own outside the fence hits numbers 1 (sometimes he sits on top of the fence, which is about 7 feet tall), 3, and 6.

So while I'm glad that these people are concerned about my child's safety, I got this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Only first-time parents deal in absolutes


I was totally guilty of it.  I had Lillian and she was a Goldilocks Baby- not too easy, not too difficult.  She cried some, was happy some, didn't sleep that great and then we worked on it and then she slept great, ate OK, breastfeeding went badly for a while, then it was fine.  I had a problem, and then I'd solve it, and there would be much rejoicing.

I was one of the first in our group of friends to have a baby so they all asked me for advice when they had their first.  I was totally the expert.  "This is what you have to do..." I'd tell them with total confidence.  Do not let your baby sleep in your bed.  You must get a swaddling blanket.  10/10 buy a Moby wrap and an Ergo carrier.  You need both.  Do not let your kids sleep in their car seat, they will die.  Let them cry it out, they will stop crying and then they'll learn how to go to sleep by themselves.

I was baffled, then, when I'd ask my mother about a problem I was having.  Surely she, a mother of 7, would have experienced this.  She would say, "hmmm, I don't know.  None of my kids ever did that."

What?

I now know that I wasn't a baby expert.  I was a 2006-Amanda-and-Tyler-in-San-Luis-with-the-infant-Lillian expert.  Things that worked for her didn't work with my other kids.  Things that worked for me in that time of my life don't work for me now.

Someone asked my opinion the other day and the best I could say was something like, "I can tell you what worked for Nora, but didn't work for Ethan, so I don't know if it will work for you."

That said, my new piece of advice is to wait for allergy season to have your baby cry it out, because then you'll be strung out on allergy medicine and can totally sleep through the crying.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's happened again

Yesterday, my book vanished.  Vanishing things are different than lost things.  Lost things are like when we went on a hike and at the start of the hike, the baby had two mittens, and then by the end, she only had one.  I know what happened to that mitten and if I really cared about it, I could probably back-track and find it on the trail somewhere.

No, this is when you had it, and now it's just gone.

  1. 2007.  My watch goes missing.  I look everywhere, which, in our small 2-bedroom apartment, doesn't take long.  In the looking, I find several other lost things, but no watch.  It is assumed that a then-toddler Lillian threw it out somehow.
  2. 2008.  Tyler's watch. It was one of those "he had it this morning, we haven't left the house, and now he can't find it" things. We again look everywhere and this time, we look through the trash.  Not in the trash.  Not anywhere.  Just gone.  We moved shortly after this and assumed it would show up with the packing.  Nope.
  3. 2010.  The shapes to the shape-sorter toy.  In the toy one day, gone the next.
  4. 2012. Library book.  We were going on vacation and I went around and found all the books and stacked them by the door.  Took them to the library on the way out of town.  A few days later, got an email that one of them was late.  I assumed that one of the kids had messed with my pile and that it would be in the house somewhere.  No.  It was nowhere and I had to pay for it.
  5. 2014- yesterday.  ANOTHER library book.  The Fourth Bear, by Jasper Fforde.  I was reading it in the bathroom while Ethan and Evie were taking a bath.  I almost dropped it in the tub when I lunged to save Evie from drowning when Ethan pushed her over.  Now, it's gone.  It was just getting to an exciting part and I can't find it anywhere.  Not under the beds, in the changing table, in the piano bench, by my nursing chair, in the bathroom, under the couches or between the cushions.  Not on the kitchen counter, in the car (for some reason), or stuck in the kids craft stuff.  Not in the fridge or cabinets or under the dressers.
Where are these things?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Dinnertime


I'm not sure where Ethan was during these shots, probably in time out.  He spends a lot of time there, mostly for whining.  He whines SO MUCH.  Yesterday, I was on the phone with the dentist who called to discuss my new teeth I'm getting next week, while simultaneously making Ethan a ham sandwich.  I put Ethan's sandwich on the table, being careful to use the orange plate to avoid a meltdown, when he melted down anyway.

Turns out, he wanted to WATCH me make the sandwich, and I just made it without even asking him if he wanted to watch.  I'm so selfish, I know.  He told me.


Anyway, dinner used to be so awful.  Fights galore.  Lillian doesn't eat anything and was always pissed off that I wouldn't just serve her cheese and crackers for dinner.


I don't care if they eat.  And mostly, they don't.  I'm actually surprised that they gain weight appropriately and have energy to survive on how little they consume.

But they do.  All the kids used to eat-- they ate whatever baby food.  Lillian ate kiwis and tofu as a toddler and Nora used to eat tomatoes like apples.  Then once they had control over their food choices, things started dropping out.


Now they all have their quirks.  Lillian doesn't eat fruit.  At. All.  Nora doesn't like anything that is spicy or has a strong flavor, Ethan doesn't like pizza (?!) or mushrooms.  Evie is taking it to the next level by not eating baby food at all.  She's a few days short of 8 months and will eat about a half a teaspoon of food before pursing her little lips and turning up her nose.


All this hasn't stopped me from making pizza or curry or pasta with tomatoes and mushrooms.  I make it, the kids don't eat it, but we all sit around the table anyway.
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