10 November 2007

Fundamental personal changes

Please bear with me in this post. Ironically, it is about chaos vs. order, but it is vary chaotic in its organization. I have not posted for a while here (big shock, huh?), but it isn't from a lack of thinking about it. Primarily, I have just been spending far less time on the computer in general. This last summer, I decided that my family would benefit from more structure in our lives, and less chaos. I started by simply adding a walk to the mornings. My routine then was to get up, start the laundry in the washer, make breakfast, hang up the laundry and go for a walk. The kids then had the rest of the day to do as they pleased, which usually meant arguing or fighting or being random balls of chaos run amok in the house. I then started taking them outside and actually sitting out there with them the whole time for a few hours each day after lunch. This of course meant I could not turn on the computer at 10 am and spend the rest of the day here surfing and researching. I had to actually sit outside. Now don't get me wrong. I love the outdoors. I just never felt fulfilled doing nothing, and nothing meant not actively thinking with my brain. I didn't know how to really enjoy the moment and just live. I read about living, I daydreamed about living, but I didn't actually live. It is kind of scary now that I think about it. I had noticed this tendency to not live a few years back, but I didn't know how to face the problem. I had always lived inside my head, from the time I was 4 and learned how to read. I read avidly. I even had a job where I could read a novel while I ran my machine (not that I was supposed to, but I was tucked away and had a great view, so I could hide my book if someone was coming). I could put away a short novel in one 10-hour shift, a longer novel could take up to 3 or 4 ten-hour shifts. Even when I wasn't working, I was reading. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I subscribed to Harlequin, and had an ample supply of "bodice-rippers". I would read an entire book while my husband was gone to work and I had nothing to do all day except watch TV or read. Goodness knows I couldn't do housework. Not for lack of capability, but for lack of knowledge. So I spent a good 25 years living in my head. When I was 28, I learned about Rudolf Steiner, and his warnings against living in one's head. But I didn't know any other way to live. Living entirely in my head, I didn't do any real living. So my venture to sitting outside while the kids played was "capital B boring." Then I read Sharon's post called Knitting for the Apocalypse, and decided that I could do some knitting while I sat outside. The weather was gorgeous, I was skilled enough at knitting to do it with my eyes shut, and I could feel like I wasn't just sitting there. Actually, my first sitting outside project was weaving the rug I posted about a few months back, but I quickly got bored of that and gave up before I considered it done. It was "good enough." After spending several afternoons outside, I noticed that I didn't feel so drawn to the computer to read my 300+ daily emails as soon as I got up. Reading was no longer my raison d'etre. I started getting other things done around the house. The first time I noticed a shift in my functioning was when I finished knitting a pair of socks for Eirik and was shocked that they were done that quickly. Every other time I have crafted something, my purpose for doing it was to get it done. I wanted to skip the doing it and just have it done. This often meant that I took shortcuts, finished it when it was "good enough", or just plain quit the project altogether. So I finished the socks and thought, Now what? I found a ball of yarn that I had bought last year to make mittens for a local charity, but I never got around to making any. So I decided to make some mittens. My first pair took only 4 days, and could easily have been done in 2 or 3 if I had committed more time to them. By this point, I was getting on my computer after dinner, and only occasionally turning it on earlier in the day, ostensibly to check the weather. We had also started the school year, and had a more structured day. I got up, started the laundry, made breakfast, started the kids on their chores, hung up the laundry, went for our walk, laid the baby down for a nap, and did lessons before having lunch and going outside. Now, I spend more time doing things around the house and far less time on the computer. It is rarely turned on now before the kids are in bed at 7:30, my email is down to 50 or less usually, and about half of those are usually from Freecycle rather than any discussion lists. I get my blog subscriptions via email, so I don't spend time checking all the blog websites to see if there is anything new, and I only have a small handful (not even) of websites that I visit on a regular basis because they don't have RSS feeds. Sometimes I will look up something specific, like when I wanted a recipe for Pumpkin Soup, and on those days I can get a bit more lost on the web. But usually after those few routine computer stops, I play World of Warcraft with my husband, and that is the extent of my computer use.

Wait, wasn't I talking about chaos vs. order? Oh yes. Sorry, the chaos isn't completely gone. What I have found lately through knitting is grounding. Knitting is a very base activity. It is a very rhythmical process, and I can literally do it with my eyes shut. I had always been curious what people meant by grounding, and I finally know. Knitting is literally a no-brainer. I can give my brain a rest, and get something productive done at the same time. A few days ago, I spent one day standing in the kitchen (my haven, my solace, my refuge) knitting a slipper for Rowan and reading _The Long Emergency_ by James Howard Kunstler. In addition to the normal daily activities of cooking and cleaning and refereeing the kids, I got one entire slipper knitted and 100 pages read. I decided that I am going to read this book before I have to return it to the library, unlike some books I have borrowed. The next day, I read and knitted less. I got about 2/3 of the other slipper knitted, and not nearly so many pages read.

Terry is making us a new trestle table, and it has been quite the experiment. I never realized how much care had to go into designing a table so that it would be stable. The first time he built it, we had to flip it over because we had assembled it upside down on our existing table. I suggested flipping it end over end onto the floor. As soon as its weight was on the end on the floor, that end collapsed and boards fell everywhere. Terry was mightily angry, so I put it back together myself. Then we flipped it over sideways and it stayed together. But it still rocks and I don't trust putting anything heavy on the ends, like my sewing machine. This process of building in the house has been very hard on me. There have been boards everywhere, and tools everywhere, and often times I could not maneuver in the house because it was so full. Disassembling the old table and putting it away helped greatly, but now he has brought more boards home to improve the design so it is more stable. I have boards all along my living room floor, and to top it off, I brought home new chairs from Freecycle yesterday. We had been seating one child in a folding chair that was falling apart, and when the chairs were offered up, it said there were four of them. When I showed up to pick them up, there were six. Our house is tiny to begin with, so when you add a gigantic trestle table (5'x7', it will easily seat 10-12), several 8' and 10' boards and 6 kitchen chairs that won't stack because they all have arms, there is no room to move. I found myself getting very frustrated this morning and asked the kids to take the chairs out onto the patio. They won't be hurt if it rains, which it isn't supposed to do for a couple of days, and Terry said we will finish the table tomorrow, so hopefully I can restore my world to order again after that is done. Being able to sweep is bliss.

I am craving order far more than I ever have before. Oh, I always desired order in my life, but I only gave myself chaos. I couldn't stick to any semblance of order for more than a couple of weeks. The fact that I have done so now for several months astounds me. I am less tolerant of chaos, and I have been getting frustrated much more easily at disorder. I actually cleaned my room yesterday. I have this urge to just take everything and ruthlessly get rid of stuff. I need less clutter, and I need more order. I am leaving behind my title of Queen of Chaos, and although I have a long way to go to become the Queen of Order, I am starting on that journey. I am learning to live in the moment, and when the day comes that I can no longer get on the computer due to the coming economic and social collapses, I will not be completely lost, wondering what to do. I am never bored anymore. It is nice.

19 October 2007

Funky funk

What a funk I have been in. I figure it is a combination of several things. First, PO sucks. Being aware of it sucks. Knowing that within 5 years, it is quite likely that die-off will have started sucks. Knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it really sucks. I should have taken the blue pill.

Another factor is that where I live sucks. I live in a project, and it is filled with negative people. Everywhere I turn, my neighbors lead very negative lives and it is contagious. I fought it for a long time, but it is finally catching up to me.

Thirdly, one of my neighbors is a friend. She and her boyfriend split up earlier in the year, and he took their two boys. They are in a legal battle for custody and it is very reminiscent of the battle I went through 10 years ago for my daughter, which I lost. By being friends with her, I am reliving my custody battle, and all the agony and pain that goes with it. I am trying to help her all I can, giving her the knowledge and tools I didn’t have when I went through it. She is very much like me, and it pains me to see her go through this. I guess I have felt like if I can help her get her boys back, then my losing Cait and all its associated pain will not have been for nothing.

And so I find myself in a funk. I get through the day and hope I don’t yell too much at the kids. After they go to bed, I play WoW for a few hours, finally signing off when I start to fall asleep in front of my screen around 11 or 12 at night. Eirik wakes up at 6:30 or so, and my day begins. Not enough sleep hasn’t helped my mood any. I know it is ironic, to be aware of the causes and effects of PO and global warming, and yet playing WoW each night to numb my brain from that awareness.

On the other hand, I have started a productive new hobby. After reading this post by Sharon http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/09/knitting-for-apocalypse.html, I picked up my knitting needles. So far I have made a couple pairs of mittens, a pair of socks for the baby, a “mug rug” that I am going to felt up for Rowan, one for Terry, and next on my list is to start slippers that I am going to felt. It is good to have wool between my hands. Until just the last couple of weeks, I have been very impatient with the whole knitting process. I work to make a project, and it takes forever. But I was shocked at how quickly Eirik’s socks came together when I just knitted while sitting outside on my porch watching the kids play since they aren’t allowed out of the house without an adult. I swore I would never turn into a porch monkey, “hanging out” on my porch waiting for some juicy gossip (which is more than abundant here) or just doing absolutely nothing. Then when I had to start accompanying my children every moment they were outside, I needed something to do. I picked up the needles and started clicking away. I’m hooked now. (That was a better pun for crocheting, but it is my feeble attempt at humor right now.)

I’m taking a break from WoW tonight. Terry rented a couple of movies (Blades of Glory and Next), and we are going to spend some time together. And I can knit while watching TV, something I can’t do while playing WoW. J

20 September 2007

A couple of photos

Eirik has become my little "helper" in the kitchen a lot lately. He can reach all the knobs on the stove, he can race to the fridge to climb in as soon as I open the door, and he has started keeping track of my pantry inventory. Rowan taught him this talent, and he has been an eager student.

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"Hand me the beans, please?"

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"Mom, I can't find the peanut butter!"

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"Bad news, Mom. There is no more peanut butter."

These were just so cute, I had to share them.

Fun Lessons

This week we took a field trip to a local PYO apple orchard. We got ½ bushel of apples and promptly made apple pie. Yummy! I decided to include some of Moira's work this time, so here are the two fables from this week.

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Very beautifully done

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Unfortunately, you can see the first attempt she made on the other side of the paper through the writing side.

The format we have been following has been to read or tell the fable and draw the picture on day 1, then she retells it to me and we write a sentence about it on day 2. She already knew The Tortoise and the Hare, so she told it to me on day 1.

The after school program here started up yesterday, and the ladies who run it asked me what they should have Moira do during the homework time. So today I made up some "homework" for her. I made up some spelling words for her to copy. She is now very excited to have some homework.

I also realized that I need to be a bit more fair with Lauren's lessons. Moira whined today that Lauren always gets the fun lessons, and as I thought about it, I can see her point. Moira desperately wants to be independent in the kitchen, yet to whom have I given the kitchen lessons? To Lauren. The banana bread, the corn bread, the apple pie have all been supposedly Lauren's lessons, even though all the kids have helped with them. So I need to try to be less specific about what lesson is whose and let Moira have some "fun" lessons. Now that we have playdough (from one of Lauren's lessons) she has been more willing to play with that instead of begging for her own lesson. I think I will structure it more so that the activity is for every child, Moira gets the fables, and Lauren and Rowan's lessons are to make things out of playdough.

Next week we will take a break from fables to learn about St. Michael and St. George. I plan to bake a dragon bread with them. That should be interesting.

15 September 2007

2 weeks of school down

First, my rioting update. Nothing new. We are holding steady. Actually, I take that back. Terry has gone three days without soda. I think he might be detoxing, because last night and this morning he didn't feel all that great. I know this is really hard for him, and I am very proud.

Okay, on to school. Moira has already begun whining about having to do lessons. But she also whines about wanting to go to school. This week we covered The Fox and the Grapes and The Dog and His Shadow. For Lauren's "work" we made corn bread, planted some chives, and made playdough. I started knitting some toe-up socks for Eirik. I have finished the toes, plus about an inch or so of one sock.

Our daily rhythm is working out nicely. I have made it about three weeks now, I think that must be a record. We haven't let the rain stop us from our walks, either. The first rainy day, we took a "dash around the block" instead of a walk. It was pouring. The next day, the downpour stopped just as we finished up our chores, so we boogied out, and a few minutes after we got back inside, the skies opened again. This morning it was steady light rain, so we decided to try something a bit different. I put Eirik in the sling (as usual), then put on a massively huge cloak I just got back after my husband lent it out about 8 years ago. Boy, have I missed that cloak. :) So then the girls piled under the cloak with me, one on each side and one behind me, and we took our walk that way. I saw more than one driver smile as they drove by at the sight of an eight-legged green cloak holding a baby. The hood didn't keep him as dry as I had hoped, but he didn't seem to mind. He thought it was funny.

The rain has stopped and the kids want to go out, so it looks like I will get some more done on that sock today.

06 September 2007

Rioting update

Well here it has been several weeks without an update, and for that I apologize. I haven't made many changes since I have been struggling to get our day-to-day lives under control and preparing for the new school year (see my previous post for that). We got a new trash can, which I suppose adds to our consumer goods category, but really it was necessary to handle the trash category. Before the riot, we were using a 13 gallon trash can and filling it pretty much every day. When we cut back on the amount of trash that went in there, it could take 3 to 4 days or longer to fill up. That led to the disgusting problem of bugs. As I counted over 200 flies in just my two front windows alone and more buzzing around my kitchen and living room, my dear husband went out and got five fly traps and a smaller trash can. The new one is only 8 gallons and fits neatly under the sink. This solved the problem of bugs since we could now empty it more often, and also the brand new problem of the almost-toddler pulling up on the can and fishing stuff out of it for oral exploration.

As for heating and cooking, I moved the children's play area out into a more public part of the house rather than a bedroom. While it has not had a riot-related effect yet, I anticipate that we will use less heat since the kids won't have an opportunity to play with the thermostat. It also dawned on me that my toaster oven is also an oven (duh!) and will use less energy reheating leftovers than the full-size oven does. I feel so silly for having purchased an appliance for a specific feature, then not using that feature.

Washcloths in lieu of toilet paper are working great. I simply moved the bucket for the used ones in the downstairs bathroom to behind the door so the baby (again) doesn't get into them.

Gasoline usage has dropped a bit now that summer is over and I don't have to take the kids here, there and everywhere. I overbooked it in response to the complaint of, "There's nothing to do. I'm bored!" and I think I went overboard. Lesson learned. Terry can't ride his bike to work right now until we get him a headlight and a new pair of shoes so his feet don't hurt every day, so he has been driving. We will get there, though. If I am to cut down to 50 gallons per person per year, that gives me 350 gallons for our car per year. Picking up my daughter across the state on alternate weekends sucks up 234 of those, leaving us with only 2.2 gallons per week left. At 20mpg, that isn't much. I have two choices here. I can either exclude the trips to go get Cait and allot myself 300 gallons per year for the other 6 of us, or I can continue to try to scrunch down our gasoline consumption. Our second largest gasoline use is our biweekly trip to the farm 30 miles away for fresh milk. That uses another 70 gallons per year. That gives us 0.88 gallon of gas per week allotment. One trip out to visit family and we are over budget. I think I will count half of Cait's usage. That gives us 163 gallons per year, or ~3 gallons per week, after getting Cait and after the farm trip. In our car that is about 60 miles, which I think is very doable for us. I would love to get down to 1 gallon per week, with special exceptions for visiting family, who all live 18 to 60 miles away.

Still no word from my landlord about electric and water usage. I haven't made many changes in those categories since the last update though.

Consumer goods is doing okay. I think I may start categorizing snack foods as consumer goods, though. :) We can definitely cut down there.

So that is the update for this month. Stay tuned.

First week of school

We just finished our first week of school here at home. This year I am using Melisa Nielson's curriculum from A Little Garden Flower. They are fabulous. My biggest goal right now is to get a rhythm established so the children have more order in their lives and less chaos. Chaos is one of those things that if it's all you know, it is hard to break out of. Alas, it is all I knew growing up and I don't want to pass that on to my children. We are up to having a pretty good routine set down right now. We get up, have breakfast, do chores (all the way down to the 3-year-old), go for a walk, then come in and do our lesson. By then it has been lunch time, so after lunch the kids have free time until dinner. This has been working very nicely. I hope I can keep it up for the long term.

Moira is starting grade 2 and we are working with fables this month. I tell her a fable on one day and we draw a picture from it, then the next day she tells me the fable, we come up with a summary, and we write it on the paper with the illustration from the previous day. So far we have covered "The Ass and His Shadow" and "The Boasting Traveler." They all got together and acted out "The Ass and His Shadow", with Moira and Lauren being the traveler and the donkey owner, and Rowan as the ass. She crawled away very quickly down the hall and the girls had fun pretending to fight. They held their hands in front of them and kind of waggled them up and down very fast so that their hands collided.

Lauren is starting her first year of kindergarten, as well as trying to do everything that Moira does. Of course, Moira participates in Lauren's lessons as well. I have Moira on a four day schedule and Lauren on a three day schedule. This week for Lauren we read "The Great Big Enormous Turnip" by Alexei Tolstoy (I think), baked banana bread, and made corn husk dolls. I originally planned to make corn bread, but I had a bunch of bananas that needed to be used up pronto, so I made that instead. We made the corn husk dolls this morning from husks we shucked from last night's dinner. Much fun.

Eirik has already pulled out the arms of one corn husk doll, and it is sitting here armless on my desk awaiting reconstructive surgery. I also caught a few pictures of him in my little pantry cabinet which I will post later.

The other day I decluttered the kids' toys. I took about half of the toys and put them in my closet. The first time I decluttered toys it was very easy to chuck half of them. That time I just dumped all the fast-food kid's meal toys into the garbage and there went a huge source of frustration on everyone's part. The second time I purged their toys, I quietly packed away all the plastic disposable toys and waited to see if they noticed. They didn't really, so I chucked them after a couple of months. This time, though, we have been very good at not letting junk toys in the house, so all the toys are ones that I approve of. The problem now is not quality, but simply quantity. So instead of chucking, I plan to rotate through them. There has been far less crying about cleaning up now, and less need for careful navigation through the house. I rearranged the house so that they kids have a designated play area that is in a main part of the house, not behind closed doors anymore so it is easier for me to rein in the mess before it gets completely out of hand.

All in all, it has been a good week.

16 August 2007

Rioting, week I don't know

So I just posted my non-riot blog post and decided I should post my weekly (yeah, right) rioting update. It has been a busy summer, so I haven't done a lot these last couple of weeks.

Gasoline: I didn't keep track of exactly how much gas we used. It was more than ideal because my husband got pulled over for riding his bike to work before sunup without a headlight, so he had to drive in each morning, then come home at lunch to pick us up so we could drop him back off again, so I could take the kids to the Junior Ranger program run by the Army Corps of Engineers, then pick him up at work, then go back to pick up the kids! Lots of wasted trips. Fortunately, he only works 2 miles from home, so even lots of trips don't take much gas. Needless to say, we are getting him a headlight and tail reflector this weekend.

Electricity: Nothing new in this category.

Heating and cooking: I think I actually increased my usage a bit here. But it was with good reason. I started baking our own bread. I finally found a flour that works. I had tried many times to make whole wheat bread, but it always came out dense and crumbly. It wasn't good for much other than drying out to make bread crumbs. Then I got some very fine whole wheat flour from the food pantry (the local HFS donates there regularly) and tried making a loaf with that. It worked! It turns out that I had been buying Graham flour, which is not good for making a light fluffy bread at all. So now I am getting King Arthur brand whole wheat flour. The package says it is from VT, which is well within my 100-mile area, even if it isn't organic.

Garbage: I learned that I need a smaller trash can for the kitchen because putting all the soda bottles in the recycling makes the trash fill up much more slowly. I took it out only half-full yesterday because it got really stinky. And it was attracting flies. I know that can be remedied by a compost pile, but I don't have one yet. We have talked about converting our current trash can into a compost pile when we get a small trash can. I will keep you posted on that.

Water: I am getting disenchanted with not flushing. Not flushing has taken away my opportunity to clean the toilet. I used to swish it with the brush before I sat down and then just flush it away when I was done doing my business. Now I don't have the chance because I can't see through the yellow water to see if I got it all the way clean or not. On top of that, "letting the yellow mellow" also lets scaly nasty stuff build up at the water line. So I need to figure out that part. I might just find a really big rock and put it in the tank instead so that we use less per flush, but still flush each time.

Consumer Goods: This is so hard. It shouldn't be, which makes me feel guilty about it. I suppose I need to distinguish between investment and spending. I consider many of the books we have started buying to be investments since they are supposed to help us learn skills and techniques to become more independent. But it's not like our spending is high to begin with simply because we don't have much money to spend to begin with. I did buy a huge crochet hook when I bought some fabric for my baby sling business today. It will be much easier to make more rugs when I finish the woven one, which I think will be very soon.

It's so quiet

A friend took my three middle girls for two whole nights, so yesterday, Hubby, the baby and I went to pick up Cait by ourselves. It was very quiet. Cooking breakfast this morning for just two (hubby was at work already), was weird. So today Cait and I are spending time just us (Eirik doesn't intrude much). We biked down to the fabric store and had fun just browsing. Cait was (as most 11-year-old girls are) drawn to the bridal fabrics. We got girly and it was fun. There is a little bit of ice cream still in the freezer along with some carob fudge I made some time back, so we are going to make banana splits this afternoon. I wish I could have a day like this once in a while for each of my girls. That is one drawback to having a large family. Doing something for one child doesn't cost much. Doing it for five does. With just Cait here, I can say yes to a lot more that she asks because I know I don't have to say yes to everyone else, too. I don't mind letting Cait play a video game on the computer. She is 11 and old enough to play responsibly and she is mentally developed enough to handle it. Her younger sisters are not. So too often I have to say no when she asks to play a game because if I say yes, I have to say yes to everyone else, too, and I won't do that. I try to let her do it whenever they aren't around, but that isn't often. So today I think she may end up going computer crazy. But that is okay. I will let her splurge while her sisters aren't here. Maybe I will introduce her to World of Warcraft. Maybe. We still have banana splits to make, and some sewing to do, and we are going to the bookstore today, too. And I can buy her a book without having to go through the arduous task of saying no to nearly every non-book in the store that 3-year-old Rowan and 5-year-old Lauren want just because it sparkles or has a toy, or whatever. Because saying yes to one means I have to say yes to all. If all aren't there, I can say yes to just one. Normally I would feel all kinds of Mommy guilt about enjoying the fact that my kids aren't here, but I know they are having a blast at my friend's house. I just hope my friend is still sane when I pick the kids up tomorrow.

05 August 2007

Week 4 update

Yes, I know, my weekly updates have run a bit over a week each. This one is going to be real quick because there are 8 children running around my house. Aaaah! OK. We haven't really made any changes this past week, but we are doing well with keeping up with the ones we already made. We have been looking for real estate online and talking with a realto She has been very helpful and now we need to go see a lender so we can find out what first-time buyer programs will fit with hour plans best and then we can seriously look at properties that will fit the criteria for the programs we will choose. We had been looking in basically all of Cheshire County, but after visiting with his brother yesterday, my husband mentioned that he wants that particular part of the county so we can be near family. So that is that.

04 August 2007

Giving baby a nap - a primer

I realized today that I go through pretty much the same steps every day when it is time to give my son his morning nap. I thought I would share it with others so that they might see that it is nothing like "they" say it is.

1. See baby drooping in high chair after breakfast rubbing eyes.
2. Take baby upstairs to bedroom and lay down on bed with him.
3. Offer baby to nurse since this is pretty much the only way baby goes to sleep for Mommy.
4. See baby's eyes pop wide open and become suddenly wide awake.
5. Struggle to hold baby still so he can fall asleep on the bed in front of the fan instead of making him sleep on his mattress on the floor in the stifling heat.
6. Get frustrated, give up struggling and watch baby crawl off bed and head for Daddy's computer desk.
7. Watch baby pee on floor under Daddy's chair, then proceed to turn off the power strip for Daddy's computer.
8. Get up and remember that baby hates it when you sit at the computer because he always falls asleep there.
9. Pick up baby and turn on computer.
10. Start reading email while holding baby.
11. Pick up mouse and mouse pad that baby just threw on the floor.
12. Pick them up again and try to keep baby on your lap while he squirms to get down and play.
13. Pick them up a third time and put them at the back of the desk, then turn 90 degrees so that baby cannot reach them.
14. Listen to baby scream because he is exhausted and cannot reach the mouse to throw it on the floor, nor can he get down and bang things about.
15. Take baby back to bed and offer to nurse again.
16. Watch baby's eyes fall like lead.
17. Go back and finish reading email.

That's all there is to it, folks. 17 simple steps to get your baby to sleep. After you master these steps, you can skip steps 2 through 8. Ideally, you will figure out some way to skip steps 4-15. Afternoon naps require a bit more creativity since you already checked your email for the morning nap. One option is to save your favorite websites for afternoon nap, if those also make baby sleepy.

27 July 2007

Rioting, week 3

I am now three weeks into the Riot for Austerity. I didn’t post an update last week because I just got too busy. I am trying to apply the 90% reduction to computer time as well.

Gasoline: I blew it this week. We filled the gas tank last weekend and it cost $73! Holy Moley! I took Moira to camp and that was a 50-mile round trip. But swimming lessons are over, so that cut out 10 miles every day for four days. The problem was that today I had to go back and get her again. Even worse, we got almost home and stopped at the beach to go swimming. Then she discovered that she forgot her towel at camp. So we had to go back for another 40-mile round trip to get it again. Our tank is now almost empty. Terry only drove to work three days this week. He was ill on Monday, and didn’t feel like riding his bike, so he drove, then came home after just two hours. The next two days he felt well enough to work, but not well enough to ride.

Electricity: I still don’t know how much we use, so I am just trying to reduce in general. We moved the computers upstairs to our bedroom so it is much more inconvenient to be on them before the kids go to bed. It works – we are on them less now. Our freezer is chock full, which I understand helps keep the energy use down.

Heating and cooking: We got a woodstove on Freecycle. That also contributed to our gasoline consumption since it was also about a 50-mile round trip to get it. It is currently in the back of the van and we have no idea how we are going to get it out of the van, or where we will put it once it is out. But at least we know we will be warm this winter, regardless of where we are living. I have been trying to convince my husband to take the plunge and buy some bare land and go year-round camping. Our lease is up in one month. We will see if he goes for it.

Garbage: I still don’t have a scale with which to weigh my garbage, and I am not inclined to buy one, either. I am now taking the trash out every two or three days, and it is not full to the top, but it is heavy enough to threaten ripping the bag when I take it out of the can.

Water: We have stopped flushing for every single toilet use. I did have to start actually putting the lid down because the baby found the colored water fascinating. My girls learned the little rhyme I learned from a fellow rioter: If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down. They then started asking about if the pee turned brown, does it count as brown or yellow? I said they could flush it then. My husband flushes it when he can smell it from outside the bathroom (usually it also means the lid is up). I am also washing the dishes in a sink of water about half the time now instead of in constantly running water. I still don’t know, however, what our actual numbers are for usage.

Consumer goods: In addition to not flushing the toilet anymore, we stopped using toilet paper. My husband has brought home around 200 washcloths over the last two years from work, so I put them to use. I have a pile on the back of each toilet, and a bucket in the downstairs bathroom. The TP does come out when we have company, though. Consumer goods I am noticing is a tough one to kick. We went to the bookstore and spent far more money than I had originally anticipated. The sneaky part is that my brain has a way of justifying each and every purchase. Whether that justification is logical or not is a matter of opinion. The Field guide to edible wild plants and the book about tanning and skinning were based on our preparation for the future and self-sufficiency. Harry Potter, though, is Harry Potter. You can’t refuse. Next on my book list is a book that Sharon Astyk mentioned in her food preservation blog.

I am still plugging away on my rug, too. I want to finish it before I start any new projects. It is trying my limited patience. I am not one to finish things that I start, and that is something I have to conquer. I may not make it as large as I originally intended (which was 4’ by 6’), but I will go until I have used up all the sheets I assigned to it. It is already about 12-18” wide now, and maybe 3’ long.

We are also starting the house-hunting procedure. I am hoping to buy a piece of property this fall, before the dollar completely fails, even if the housing market does crash shortly thereafter. It would be very nice of the housing market crashes before the dollar, but I don’t know if I want to bet on that.

12 July 2007

First week on 90% Reduction

Last week I joined the Riot for Austerity - 90% reduction. Somehow I failed to find the actual rules for it until I asked on the email list this morning. So here is my first "status report".

A bit of background:
I live with my husband, our four children, a cat, and in the summer and on weekends, my oldest daughter lives with us, too. We live in a rowhouse, which I am guessing is about 1000 sq ft. We live on the outskirts of the county seat, which is a small city. We are fortunate in that we live in a very environmentally conscious and liberal county. Our city bus system has switched over most of the busses to biodiesel, most of the traffic lights are LED, and the mayor was elected as a write-in. As far as cities go, I absolutely love this one. We live 1.5 miles from my husband's work, and I stay home with the kids and homeschool. My oldest (who lives with her dad during the school year) just turned 11, and my children who live with me are 8, 5, 3, and 8.5 months.

Okay, on to the status report.
1. Gasoline. First I decided to calculate how much gas we currently use in our lifestyle. There was a time when we both worked 45+ minutes from home in opposite directions and drove out of state several times a year. We used to put 20k miles a year on our '1994 Chevy Astro. But then we had too many kids for daycare to be a reasonable option, I hated being away from the kids so much anyway, so I quit and that freed up quite a bit of driving. My oldest lives 90 miles away from us, and my ex and I split the driving evenly, with each of us making the trip back and forth to pick her up. We tried moving closer to her to cut down on the travel (everyone hates being in the car for a 4 hour round trip, especially the younger kids), and my husband got a job just 15 minutes from my ex's house as a first step to moving us out there. He commuted 1:15 each way every day for several months before we realized we were never going to move out there. That was a lot of gas back then. Now my husband works 1.5 miles from home in a nursing home. We still make that 90 mile trek every other weekend, but that is the only major driving we have to do. We even got a bike so hubby can bike to work. I only drive now to take the kids to swim lessons (over next week, thank goodness), and to run errands, which I try to consolidate. Some places we can walk, like to church (3/4 mile away). Some places we can take the bus, like the library. Over the last three months, we have spent $300 on gas. At just a few cents under $3 a gallon here, that is about 35 gallons per month. For a household of 7 (since much of that is going to get my oldest, I am counting her), that is 5 gallons per person per month. Considerably higher than the goal of 10 gallons per person per year. It is a 180 mile round trip, we get 20 mpg, so going to get my daughter every other weekend takes 9 gallons of gas each trip. That sounds about right since we have a 22 gallon tank and it takes almost a half a tank. If we subtract 9 from our 35, that gives us 26 that the 6 others of us use. That breaks down to just over 4 gallons per person per month. Still not down to 90%, but a lot better than it used to be. Once summer is over and hubby is biking to work regularly (not calling up at 2 and saying, "Honey, my legs ache after not riding a bike for 20 years and then walking all day. Can you come get me?"), and there are no more swim lessons or camps to take the kids to each day, I will see if I can get my driving down to just twice a week.

2. Electricity. Our electricity is included in our rent, and my property manager hasn't emailed me back about finding out how much we use. When we were paying for our own, I seem to recall we used 7-8 kWh per day. We now have an upright freezer and a mini-fridge that we got to help us to buy local and in bulk, and we also now have a washer and dryer, though I only use the dryer on rainy days, in the winter, and on days like today when the baby has a double ear infection and won't let me put him down long enough to hang laundry. I'm sure my electric usage is now higher than 7-8 per day, but I think it is still below average, especially since we don't have A/C. The baby did find the electric heater controls though, and every once in a while I get to wondering why I am roasting alive. If the goal is 90kWh/month, that breaks down to 3 per day. I have a ways to go on that one, too. We are pretty good at shutting off lights and box fans in empty rooms, and I am doing well at not having my computer run 12-16 hours a day anymore. It's progress.

3. Heating and Cooking. These are both electric here. See above. I have gotten better about keeping the temperature down in the winter. I grew up with a woodstove and got used to being able to be 85° in the middle of winter just by sitting near the stove. I am now down to being comfortable at 68°. Hubby would be happy if we dropped it more, but I am still struggling with that. On the other hand, I can tolerate more heat in the summer than he can. He relies on strategically placed box fans. We have 3 box fans and one window fan. The window fan is in our bedroom and is on whenever the baby or we are sleeping. So probably 12-14 hours a day. Two box fans are in the girls' rooms - one each. They are on when they are in their rooms - probably 12 hours a day. There is also one downstairs for during the day and when DH and I are still up after the kids go to bed. It is on probably 8-10 hours a day. For reference, we live in southwestern NH, so although we don't get 110° weather, we did have 95° and 95% humidity just a couple days ago. I'd like to experience the desert sometime, just for comparison. :)

4. Garbage. We finally got off our duffs and started taking advantage of the recycling center. Our city couldn't have made it any easier without coming to our house to pick it up for us. All we have to separate are the papers from the corrugated from all other containers, including all plastic #1-5 and #7, glass, steel, you name it. The problem was that we have a dumpster on site here (included in our rent), and it was very hard to make it a priority to do the right thing instead of the easy thing. One day last month, DH surprised me, though and brought home two huge plastic totes. I popped them in the mudroom, labeled one "Paper, cardboard" and the other "Glass, plastic, metal" and we drastically cut our trash. Dh has a soda drinking problem though, so we have a huge amount of plastic 2-liter bottles to recycle. Two 2-liters a day is typical. He has been trying to quit for years now. I try not to nag him about it because that is his worst vice. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, doesn't womanize, doesn't gamble. He is wonderful. I just wish we could eliminate that source of trash. Before recycling, we would fill a 13-gallon barrel about once a day. Mostly with soda bottles. Now we are filling about 2 a week. I decided that I have to take it out that often whether it is full or not (it usually is), because once I waited longer and found icky maggots between the bag and the can. I don't know what they were doing there, but I didn't want them around at all. Ick. Yuck. I have never weighed our trash, and I don't have a bathroom scale with which to do so. I will have to find some way to weigh it though, since the goal of 1/2 pound per person per day is by weight. For a family of 7, that allows us 3.5 pounds per day. If a bag of our trash weighs about 20 pounds or so, then we are about twice the goal. Still not bad, though.

5. Water. Again, this is included in our rent, so I don't know how much we use. I shower 1-2 times a week, DH showers 2-4 times a week (depending on the heat), and the kids get 1-3 baths during the week (depending on how dirty they get), which they double up in, i.e. 2 kids per bath. My oldest showers about 1-2 times a week. DH shaves about twice a week. To improve there, DD and I can take shorter showers (mine are about 20 minutes, hers are about 40 - I have no idea what she does in all that time! She doesn't have anything to shave yet.) We can also turn off the water while we lather. DH takes pretty quick showers, about 10 minutes. He shaves before he gets in. I just asked him and he uses running water to shave instead of filling the sink. He also just volunteered to start filling the sink to save water. I have no idea how much water our washer uses, but I use it probably 7-8 times a week. One load a day handles all our clothes and towels and whatnot. The occasional extra load comes from sheets. We have no bedwetters, and even the baby will wake me up in the middle of the night when he needs to go potty, so our bed stays dry, too. Unless he is sick, like last night, when he had a fever well over 101. For dishes, we wash by hand. We only have enough dishes to last one meal, so we wash after each meal. I confess that I allow the water to run while I wash dishes. I have always hated washing dishes. Hated it with a passion. It was so bad that I used to let the dishes pile up literally for days and there were flies all over my kitchen. I just could not face a sink full of soapy water. So to keep CPS away I had to start washing dishes. Doing it with the water running was the only way I could face it. I do need to start saving water by using the plug in the sink.

6. Consumer Goods. Here we probably are closest to target. Our income is only $23k/year, nearly all of which is spent on rent, food, gas, and child support. After some inspiration from some of the others, we will be cutting out our toilet paper expenses. We have probably 200 washcloths that DH has brought home from work. He puts them in his pocket to mop his brow at work and then forgets them there and brings them home. So we have quite a stock for using as TP. We have not been using more than maybe a roll or two of paper towels a year, and we can now eliminate even that. We have never bought napkins. My kids recently lamented for some, so we found some white muslin, ripped it into 17" squares and hemmed them. (Ripping ensures straight threads.) They are having great fun using them. I use only local castile soap (from Vermont Soap) for shampoo, soap (duh), and nearly all household uses. I will soon be using it for dishes (once I start filling the sink and then finish using the Seventh Generation dish detergent I have), and *maybe* laundry. I am currently using Sun and Earth brand laundry detergent. I have used Borax and washing soda in the past, but wasn't thrilled with the results. I don't know if it was the soda or the washer that was the issue, so I should try the washing soda again. Vermont Soap can be used for laundry it says, so I wrote to them and asked how much to use. They said 1/4 to 1/3 cup. I nearly fell over. I would only get 8 loads of laundry out of the 16 oz bottle and it costs over $7 a bottle. I started experimenting with not using any detergent in my laundry, and no one has noticed yet. I do use detergent when there are poopy diapers in there, though. Too much icky factor for me there. But my son only poops once every day or three, so that isn't very often. And sometimes I even manage to catch it in the potty. Our biggest consumer goods costs are buying DVDs at Walmart, and our WoW accounts. All total it is far far less than $10k per year. I will have to do some more research to find out where we stand in relation to $1k per year.

7. Food. We receive food stamps and also patron the two local food pantries. It took me a long time to start using the food pantries, but once neighbors started bringing me their unwanted organic foods from there, I started going. We get our milk raw from a small commercial dairy (maybe 50 cows, all of whom are named and loved), just under 30 miles away. We get our honey from a farm stand/market about 20 miles away that gets it from an apiary somewhere here in NH. I think it might be Littleton, but I'm not sure. They sell it in bulk, and I just bring back my glass jars for refilling. My spices are all organic, from Frontier/Simply Organic, which I get at either that farm market 20 miles away if I am there already, or at my local supermarket 2 miles away. My supermarket has a huge organic/natural food section. I am very lucky. I visited my local farmer's market last week for the first time, and we brought home some salad greens and some strawberries. Yum! I have been getting my eggs from a neighbor down the road, but she got rid of her chickens because she is afraid she is losing her house. She offered to let me grow a garden in her yard, but if she is selling, I don't want to lose my garden. Grass-fed beef is available at the dairy, but we haven't bought any yet. We eat way too much meat to afford grass-fed. I don't know any other way of eating. As in, I haven't experienced any other way of eating, not that I don't know there are other ways out there. When I met DH, he ate red meat probably 5 times a week. He still would if we could afford it. Our food efforts have focused lately more on organic than local, but if we can achieve both at the same time, I will jump on it with both feet. I have no yard that is safe from vandalism here except my patio, so I need to get off my duff and plant something in containers. I just need to get containers. We almost never eat out, so we are doing well there. I cook almost entirely from scratch. Whatever processed/package stuff we get almost always comes from the food pantry.

I think that's it. That is where we are at the end of our first week.

04 July 2007

Eye Opener

I have been doing a lot of reading about peak oil, global warming, and overpopulation lately. Most of what I have read indicates that we are currently about 5 billion people over the sustainable population of the Earth. The sites I have visited talk about how there will be massive scale deaths as we run out of resources to support ourselves. That many people will have to die and not be replaced to being us back in balance with the Earth.

Now, I have often ranted about the incompetence of the FDA. I see them approving drugs that have not been satisfactorily tested, or the tests have been horribly biased. I see too frequent drug recalls because the products were not tested or were tainted. I see more side effects listed on drugs than conditions they are meant to treat. I see our society trading in acute, usually non-fatal diseases (if good hygiene is maintained) for long, drawn out chronic disease. We vaccinate our children, pumping them full of mercury and then wonder why they get brain-damaged. We have chosen autism over mumps. Our medicines often cause as many problems as they treat.

For the longest time, I thought this was sheer incompetence or arrogance. Now I think I understand why it happens. We have known that we have overpopulated the world for some time. But of course, we aren’t going to just have a mass suicide to bring our population down to a sustainable level. Nor can we advocate mass murder to do the same. But we can impoverish our health, dropping our sperm counts and fertility, thus reducing our reproduction and slowing our population boom. We couldn’t do it ourselves, but we could allow someone else to do it for us. So now I just have to wonder if they are arrogant for assuming that we would be okay with this or that they could do it without our catching on, or if they are genius for figuring out how to swindle our numbers without our knowledge.

28 June 2007

Playdough Discovery

Originally posted 6/14/07

A little while ago, I made some homemade playdough for the children. I colored it with turmeric (great dye for yellow/gold color) so that it wouldn't look completely blah. The children enjoy playing with the playdough using rolling pins, cookie cutters, cookie sheets (which I later discovered when I preheated the oven for dinner), butter knives, you get the idea. All this cutting to the playdough ends up chopping it up into crumbs, and a lot gets lost to the floor.

Fast forward to yesterday. I have been letting Eirik go naked because it is nice and warm, and we have been doing a pretty decent job of getting him to the bathroom when he needs to go. I do better at night than during the day and we do inevitable miss some during the day. Eirik also likes to store up his bowels for a couple of days at a time, so it is not at all unusual for him to wait 3 days or more before moving them. So yesterday I was sitting here checking email and I turned around to see what he was doing because he was being rather quiet. I looked just in time to see him stuff some poop in his mouth. Horrified, I jumped up and scooped him up, only to discover that it was not poop at all. It was playdough that had fallen on the floor and gotten a wee bit of water spilt on it to give it that perfect breast-fed poop consistency. The turmeric matched the color perfectly. He did not appreciate my stuffing my fingers in his mouth to scoop it all out, though.

Living life

Originally posted 5/24/07

I haven 't posted in a while, in case anyone had noticed. I went from posting 2-3 times a week to maybe once a month. What happened? I got a life. We have had a lot of beautiful weather so I have been spending more time outside with the kids. I also made a real life friend just up the road and have been spending time with her and her kids. I am trying to kick my internet addiction, so I took up a project. I decided that I could do better things than spend 6-8 hours a day on my computer. My house now looks a lot better (though it is still far from perfect), and I have been making a rug. Today Rowan is sick, so we are inside, and I thought I would post a picture of my rug and my two youngest kiddos. So as of today, here they are.

And now my little helpers...

I am making the rug out of some old worn out sheets, which I thought was a pretty clever use for them. It is plaited. I have never seen a braided rug like this, but I really like it. I already made one out of washcloths to use as a mat for beside the tub. I decided that 150-200 washcloths in the house was too many and we needed a bath mat. That came out pretty cool. This rug is going to be much bigger and go in the living room. I really like that this one is completely interwoven. It isn't one long braid that is then sewn up into a rug. That will make it more durable, I think. I also love that I will be able to just throw it in the washer and dryer when it gets dirty.

So that is what I have been up to lately. I will write again when I am stuck inside for some reason. :)

Mother's Day Story

Originally posted 5/13/07

Here is a very cute story that came into my inbox this morning.

This is a GREAT children's' story!

So, we had this great 10 year old cat named Jack who just recently died. Jack was a great cat and the kids would carry him around and sit on him and nothing ever bothered him. He used to hang out and nap all day long on this mat in our bathroom.
Well we have 3 kids and at the time of this story they were 4 years old, 3 years old and 1 year old. The middle one is Eli. Eli really loves chapstick. LOVES it. He kept asking to use my chapstick and then losing it. So finally one day I showed him where in the bathroom I keep my chapstick and how he could use it whenever he wanted to but he needed to put it right back in the drawer when he was done.

Last year on Mother's Day, we were having the typical rush around and try to get ready for Church with everyone crying and carrying on. My two boys are fighting over the toy in the cereal box. I am trying to nurse my little one at the same time I am putting on my make-up. Everything is a mess and everyone has long forgotten that this is a wonderful day to honor me and the amazing job that is motherhood. We finally have the older one and the baby loaded in the car and I am looking for Eli. I have searched everywhere and I finally went round the corner to go into the bathroom. And there was Eli. He was applying my chapstick very carefully to Jack's . . . rear end. Eli looked right into my eyes and said "chapped." Now if you have a cat, you know that he is right--their little butts do look pretty chapped. And, frankly, Jack didn't seem to mind. And the only question to really ask at that point was whether it was the FIRST time Eli had done that to the cat's behind or the hundredth.

And THAT is my favorite Mother's Day moment ever because it reminds us< that no matter how hard we try to civilize these glorious little creatures, there will always be that day when you realize they've been using your chapstick on the cat's butt.

Perfect Day

Originally posted 5/8/07

I have just had the perfect start to a perfect day. I made a new friend just up the road a few days back, and she invited us to breakfast this morning. So this morning I got up, played with the baby for a minute or two before kissing my husband goodbye as he left for work, then took a quick shower. I put on a load of laundry then the kids and I got dressed and left to go visiting. The kids skipped and galloped on the sidewalks, then walked along the stone walls and retainer walls lining the sidewalk as though they were balance beams. I wore the baby in his sling and held Rowan's hand so she didin't fall.

At one point I was struck with the beauty of the day. It reminded me of the (old?) TV ad for Claritin - the one where they peel a film off the picture and all the colors are brighter and more vibrant. The sky was a deep royal blue with not a single cloud in sight, the grass was lush, my children's blonde hair truly glowed in the sunlight. The forsythia were the brightest yellow, and exactly matched the few specks of dandelion yellow in the lawns. Rhododendrons bloomed their pinky purple color and birds were singing to each other in their joy for the day.

I wonder if this is what Buddhists refer to when they speak of "being in the moment." I was just overcome with joy and beauty and exuberance. If the kids had asked for a huge box of candy, I might even have said yes.

Now I am off to put the baby down for his nap since he fell asleep here on my lap. It is time to make lunch for the kids, which we will eat outside, and then more play outside. All is right with the world. What a perfect day!

My first sale

Originally posted 5/3/07

I just posted this as a bulletin, but then I thought I should have made it a blog entry. So if you read the bulletin, you've already read this.

For those who don't know, I own a business making and selling baby slings. My brand is called Natural Caresses, and I have been struggling to really get started for nearly a year now. But last month I got my business cards, and then I printed up some flyers and brochures at Staples, and I have started putting them in appropriate places around town.

So yesterday I was wearing Eirik in the sling at the playground (he's 6 months old already!) and another mother came up to me and started asking me about it. I gave her my card (which I now alway have on hand), and told her to give me a call if she was interested in one. This morning she called and said she would like to buy one. I nearly dropped the phone to jump with glee! I arranged to meet her at the playground again, packed up all my slings (my very meager supply), packed a picnic lunch for the little'uns, and we went to the playground. I apologized for my lack of variety (I haven't had money to build an inventory and only had four slings - 2 of each style), and offered to loan her one while I made one special for her, but she fell in love with one I had on hand and tried it on. Her 1-month-old baby took to it nicely, and she bought it on the spot. I gave her a discount since all of the slings I have have been used for demo purposes, so none are brand new.

I am soooo excited! I have only ever sold two others, and really, my hubby sold them, not me. I am going to take this money and go buy more fabric to make more. I can get fabric enough for 2 more slings with the money I made on that sale, and will continue this process until I have about 30 slings on hand. That's only 15 sales I have to make to do that. Then I will open a website to sell them, too.

I attribute the ease of this success to the Secret. It took me a year to get out of my inertia with this business idea. Three weeks after watching The Secret I got my business cards (and they came two weeks earlier than the website said they would), a week after that I got my flyers and brochures printed up, and one week later I made my first sale. Yes, I worked hard to get here, but if I hadn't watched the Secret, I don't think I could have broken my inertia.

So by the end of this month, I expect to make 5 sales. I will report back then. Go me!


Originally posted 4/8/07

My husband's brother-in-law passed away 6 days ago, and yesterday we went to the celebration of his life. This was the first time in 3 years that we had seen anyone in my husband's family. Longer for some. My husband has been unhappy that his siblings always seemed to expect us to do all the traveling for visits, and frankly, so have I. Only once has anyone in his family come to our house to visit, and that was for Moira's first birthday party back in 2000. My husband and his brother have been polite to each other, but no more for several years, and I have lamented this. Religion stepped in and reared its ugly head and there were heated discussions between my husband his his brother's wife, who is a Catholic convert. But yesterday, we got to see all of his family. No one recognized one sister who has lost 271 pounds and is getting herself put back together health wise. This was a wonderful thing (though embarrassing since we felt like we should have recognized her, after all, she is family). we had a chance to reconnect with all the sisters (except one who has nothing to do with any of the family) and it was great to see how much the kids have grown. One of our nieces is almost 15, no longer the little girl she was when we last saw at age 12. She is now a young woman. His sister is now grandmother to a 6-year-old boy who played most of the time with our almost-8-year-old daughter. But I think the best part was seeing my husband's brother and his family again. Their youngest daughter is 5 months younger than my oldest, and I last saw her when she was probably 5 or 6. She is now 10. They didn't even know about my youngest two children. There was no hostility (that I felt) like there has been in the past, and we learned that they just moved much closer to us. That will make travelling for visits nuch easier, and maybe we can start again to become more family. Ironically, we discovered that we both patron the same dairy farm, and they bought their house in one of the towns we have been looking for property to buy. Although the reason for the reunion was unfortunate, I am very happy with having reconnected with family again.

Throwing her to the wolves

Originally posted 4/3/07

Moira and I have reached a compromise. She believes that public school is so great, so awesome, and homeschooling sucks. After all, she has *no one* to play with, and her sisters are "annoying." Public school is all about coloring and workbooks, and playing in the playground. So I agreed to enroll her in public school for two weeks. Then I take her out again. I had hoped to be able to do it like a class audit, but the teachers and principal aren't really agreeing with me. They only want her there for a couple of hours, but that is not long enough to give her a good idea of the public school culture. So I am enrolling her in the other elementary school here. We have a choice of two schools to pick from here - both are about 1/4 mile from us.

I am so scared. Part of me is scared that she will be miserable since she obviously forgets the misery she had in kindergarten. Part of me is scared that she will love it and hate me when I take her out again. But I am afraid of school violence (the local high school has a full time police officer there), I disapprove of their teaching methods, and I remember how ostracized I was in public school. I feel as strongly about public school as I do about nuclear radiation. How much is safe? None! But I hope that two weeks will not cause any irreparable harm, and should hopefully give her enough time to understand the public school culture, which I think is what she craves. She seems to think that simply joining a class will instantly give her friends, that she won't have to work at making friends. But she has a hard time making friends because she is mean to other kids. She is very bossy and other kids don't like that about her. I fear she will come home miserable after just a couple of days. It is ironic that to make her a happy, well-adjusted adult, she will be an unhappy child because she thinks I am stifling her. I want to make her long-term happy, not short-term happy, and I am afraid I won't succeed.

I remember when I was homeschooled, I begged my parents to let me go to school. Just like Moira does to me. Why? I had no friends. But I had no friends because we moved all the time and lived in the middle of nowhere. Moira has lots of kids around here to play with if she treats them nicely. She also goes to Brownies on a regular basis, and church every week, so she does have access to other kids, as I did with 4-H and church when I was young. When I did go to public school, I was tormented by the other kids and completely miserable. In four years and three high schools, there is only one person that I still keep in touch with regularly. One out of 1300. I am now glad that my parents homeschooled me because I learned how to learn. School doesn't teach how to learn, it teaches how to obey. Children don't remember jack that they learn in class. I remember very little from the academic part of school. Which is interesting since I am such an overachiever and graduated 5th in my class of roughly 100.

School isn't about learning the three R's anymore. It is about learning to survive in a cruel world. I was hoping to shelter her from that cruel world until she is psychologically old enough to roll with the punches instead of taking everything deeply personally. Enrolling her in public school feels like I am throwing her to the wolves. I told her that I will not force her to do her homework, but if she doesn't do it, she will get in trouble with her teacher. I will not strain our relationship for anything as stupid and pointless as homework. I'm probably the only parent who wants her child to fail at school.

Prayer, spells and The Secret

Originally posted 3/27/07

What do these three things have in common? I have often said that pagan spellcasting is exactly the same as prayer, just with different terminology. Prayer is asking God to do something for you (yes, I know, Christians also praise God in their prayers and thank him, but that is not the kind of prayer I am referring to right now). The Christian (or Muslim, or whoever is doing the praying) has a need which they put in the hands of God. (This is my understanding of prayer from growing up in a very fundamental Christian family.) Spellcasting is having a need, and putting it forth to the Universe. Both involve some minor ritual. Christians bow their head, fold their hands, close their eyes, kneel, and speak their need. Pagans' rituals vary dramatically, but usually involve casting a circle, lighting a candle or five (Catholics often light candles, too), and speak their need. I have always been amused by Christians' arduous attempts to segregate themselves from pagans, and yet, the customs of each are so similar. I am not trying to put down Christians, in fact my best friend is Christian. I am simply trying to point out a theme here.

Okay, so what about The Secret? I just got my copy of The Secret the other day, and realized that the barebones of spellcasting and prayer. The goals of The Secret, prayer and spellcasting are all the same: to effect change in our lives by asking the energy of the Universe for assistance. Visualization plays a major role in both The Secret and in spellcasting. I imagine that it is a major part of prayer as well, though my childhood church did not emphasize its importance.

I abandoned prayer when I had a major spiritual crisis and left Christianity in search of something that felt more right for me. But spellcasting seemed too artificial to me as I read it in the innumerable books of magic I read. Scott Cunningham's Earth Power set was the style that felt most comfortable for me. It is very simple, very unassuming, very humble. It is also probably the closest spellcasting style I have seen to The Secret.

I realized last night that I unknowingly put The Secret to work for the birth of my son. I wanted a particular midwife to be my attendant. It never even crossed my mind that anyone else might attend. I knew who I wanted, and that was that. There are several OB's and midwives on staff at my local hospital, so the chances of getting this one woman were not in my favor. But I told everyone who would deliver him, and I knew it in my heart that she would be there. Well, I went into labor two hours before the start of her 24-hour shift. 24 hours later, he was born on her shift. Amazing! (No, I did not have a 24-hour labor. After we checked into the hospital, the baby decided he wasn't ready after all and went back to sleep for the next 20 hours. When he decide he was ready, he only took 2.5 hours.)

So now I am putting The Secret to work for me. My family is going to look at a house that costs 20 years of my husband's current gross income, and I expect in a year to write in here that we are moving into our own home. If you know me and my circumstances, you know what a feat that will be. But we will keep thinking positive, stay upbeat, and dream in the present tense.

Pocket Taser Stun Gun

Originally posted 3/23/07

(reposted with permission)

Pocket Taser Stun Gun, a great gift for the wife. This was submitted by a guy who purchased his lovely wife a "pocket Taser" for their anniversary.)

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 22nd anniversary and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Toni. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized taser. The effects of the taser were suppose to be short lived, with no long-term adverse affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety.... *


Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two triple-a batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arch of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs. Awesome!!! Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Toni what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-a batteries,. right?!!!

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, taser in another. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5" long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference; pretty cute really and loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-a batteries) thinking to myself, "no possible way!"

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best.....

I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as to say, "don't do it master," reasoning that a one-second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad.. I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for the heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and HOLY MOTHER, WEAPONS OF MASS +!@$$!%!@* DESTRUCTION

I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs. The cat was standing over me making meowing sounds I had never heard before, licking my face, undoubtedly thinking to herself, "do it again, do it again!"

Note: If you ever feel compelled to "mug" yourself with a taser, one note of caution: there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself. You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor. A three second burst would be considered conservative.

SON-OF-A-.. that hurt like hell!!! A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. How did they up get there??? My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I'm still looking for my testicles. I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return.

Still in shock

Proud to be a New Englander

Originally posted 3/22/07

This came in my inbox last night. I just had to share it.

> Forget Rednecks ...here is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about New

> > Englanders...
> >
> > If you can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging
> > blizzard without flinching, you live in
New England.
> >
> > If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in New
> >
> >
> > If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 36
> > inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping it will swim by, you
> > might live in
New England.
> >
> > If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights
> > each year because
Mt. Washington is the coldest spot in the nation,
> > and
Boston gets more snow than any other major city in the US, you
> > live in
New England.
> >
> > If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you
> > live in
New England.
> >
> > If you instinctively walk like a penguin for six months out of the
> > year, you live in
New England.
> >
> > If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance, and they
> > don't work there, you live in
New England.
> >
> > If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who
> > dialed a wrong number, you live in
New England.
> >
> > And, you know you are a New Englander when "Vacation" means going
=""> > anywhere south of
New York City for the weekend.
> >
> > You measure distance in hours.
> >
> > You know several people who have hit a deer more than once.
> >
> > You have switched from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.
> >
> > You install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both
> > unlocked.
> >
> > You carry jumpers in your car and your girlfriend/wife knows how to
> > use them.
> >
> > You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
> >
> > The speed limit on the highway is 55mph -- you're going 80 and
> > everybody is passing you!
> >
> > Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with
> > snow.
> >
> > You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and road
> > construction.
> >
> > Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.
> >
> > You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
> >
> > You find 10 degrees "a little chilly."
> >
> > You actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your New
> >
England friends!

How do I do it?

Originally posted 3/15/07

Wow, I am finally starting to see how much myspace is geared to the young unmarried crowd. There is no category for parenting or even family to pick from, so I had to choose Life.

I think it is funny when someone sees how many children I have and asks me how I do it. I would like them to see my house first thing in the morning when I am trying to cook breakfast and see that I don't "do it". Part of my daily morning to routine is to acquire a headache from listening to 3 children all crying or screaming at once. The baby cries because I won't hold him while I am cooking. I burn myself often enough that I won't risk trying to cook one-handed while holding my precious baby in the other arm. So he lays on the floor and cries while his sisters make goofy faces to try to cheer him up. Then Rowan starts crying because Lauren took the paper she wanted to color on. I ask Lauren who had the paper first and she bursts out crying when I haven't even scolded her for taking something away from her sister yet. She just knows it's coming and tries to beat me to the punch. Then Moira makes some annoyed face and Lauren takes it personally and starts bawling harder. Then Rowan starts crying again because Moira won't instantly hand over the crayon she is using when Rowan wants it. I tell Rowan she needs to wait until Moira is done with it and she flops on the floor in tears. Then Moira asks if she can play outside in the pouring rain and I say no because it is raining. Moira drops her shoulders and juts her head with her eyes bulging out and incredulously demands, "What?!" as if I had just announced that I would soon begin chopping off people's fingers. Only 10 minutes have passed for all this. Then I smell the pancakes burning and the girls staunchly declare that they won't eat those pancakes. Meanwhile, Eirik is still crying because I am not holding him.

So to all of you who want to know, "How do you do it?" I would like to say, I don't. The children that you see when I am out and about are not the same children that I live with.

I hate daylight savings

Originally posted 3/14/07

Did you know that we are on daylight savings time longer than we are on standard time? Why is this? Some folks will tell you it is to help the farmers by giving them more time to get the chores done. That is bull. Farmers live by natural time, not the artificial time of a clock. Farmers actually get more annoyed than others I know about daylight savings. Some will tell you it is for energy conservation. This is partly true. Putting the high point of the sun (noon) in the middle of the work day (1pm is halfway from 9 to 5) does maximize our daylight working hours.

I think this is stupid and egotistical. It is stupid because the wise man would simply adjust his artificial-time-based working hours to 8 to 4 to maximize daylight hours during the official workday. It is egotistical because rather than adjusting ourselves to reflect nature, we try to make it appear that we have altered nature to suit ourselves. Instead of changing the workday to 8-4, we have simply renamed 8 am as 9 am and 4 pm as 5 pm. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, instead of calling it a duck, we dress it up in wool and call it a sheep.

So if it is a matter of semantics, why am I so bothered by it? Because we are forced by society to follow the stupid artificial time of clocks instead of the natural time of the sun. I understand the need for standardized time and time zones, but let's base it on the actual time please. Change America's working hours to 8-4, teach people to get up a little earlier out of desire rather than being tricked into it, and leave our poor clocks alone.

And why the hell do we try to save daylight in the summer when daylight is so abundant? Why don't we try to save daylight in the winter when light is more scarce? Pretty soon we will be on daylight savings time all year again, then they will introduce daylight double savings, to put our clocks into a 2 hour difference with the sun. Just you watch.