Friday, February 27, 2009

Drumroll please

Charlotte will be attending Kindergarten next year. Ok, so that probably doesn’t surprise anyone. After all, I’ve been stressing and talking about it for, like, 2 years. The difference today is that it's official. She was accepted by a very nice private Catholic grade school that we like a lot.

What a pain in the rear end this has been. If there’s one educational reform I’d like to propose to the new administration (local, state, federal, every last one of them) it's that ya’ll need to actually standardize requirements for children attending school. Or allow some wiggle room in existing requirements. Or both (yes, I know I'm contradicting myself). I wouldn’t have been so darned annoyed by the process if we lived in the Metro East (Illinois). Or if we lived in Indy where I grew up. Or many, many other states in the US. But in Missouri, Charlotte is 24 days too young to start public Kindergarten the year she’s 5 years old. And several private schools that I talked to hold to the same date, and so many people expressed surprise that I would even question it. Many folks tried to lecture me on the negatives to pushing a child too fast.

Frustration aside, I think sometimes things work out for the best. I had walked into this school prepared to 1) get a lecture on the proper age of a kindergartener and 2) be annoyed by elitism (they were the most expensive school we talked to, by a good %). I got neither. I attended a tour led by 2 eighth graders who were polite, respectful, helpful, and knowledgeable. Good kids. We were allowed to walk through classes at all grade levels that were in session, and the kids were well behaved, attentive, polite, and calm. Every kid who passed us in the hallway said "excuse me" or "hello" and looked us, the strange parents, in the eyes and smiled. There was a pleasant happy hum to the place. The staff were well prepared for their informational meetings, well organized, thoughtful. Basically, the whole place felt right. And no elitism.

I was still apprehensive about Charlotte’s admission. The school screened her along with all of the other prospective students, and we were confident that she would test well compared to her peers. We then had a chance to talk to the head of the school about family, religion, and educational goals, and got a chance to share our experiences with advanced placement. I skipped the 4th grade and feel that it was a good decision for me. Academically I might have gone even faster. Socially, I found a group of friends to belong to and was mostly happy (as happy as a teenager can be...). My husband was not advanced, but always given advanced and extra work, and frequently got bored and then into trouble when his active young mind would wander away from the less-than-challenging task at hand. We'd rather have Charlotte challenged to be an average student, then find everything too easy and too boring to bother with. And I would fully have understood if they had decided that they'd prefer her to wait a year. I would have been disappointed, but I would have understood.

Yesterday, the admissions packet arrived. I was as happy as if someone had just accepted *me* into the school of my choice. After dinner, we celebrated by going out for ice cream as a family. And we began prepping Charlotte with the name of her new school (something we've been deliberately vague about lately, knowing that it might change on us).

Now I enjoy a quiet breather. A short breather, because pretty soon I will begin stressing about school schedules and uniforms and drop-off and packing lunches, and all the other things that come along with being the parent of a school-ager :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Thing: Vanilla

My name is Kristi and I'm a chocoholic.

Except during Lent. I'm quitting cold turkey. For 40 days + 6 Sundays.

While definitely not an addict, I also enjoy a good cup of coffee every now and then. Especially when I'm writing, or just relaxing and surfing the web.

Today, I'm at Starbucks for a little break between work and a step aerobics class. And I'm drinking a vanilla latte. One might think I'd have had one before, but I really don't think so. I'm normally a skim decaf mocha with whip kind of girl :)

And, lest you chide me for drinking a fatty, sugary beverage right before exercising, and thus contradicting my otherwise healthy aspirations, let me share a little nutritional info:

90 calories
0 calories from fat
14 g carbs
30% of your daily calcium

This is a tall skinny vanilla latte, in case you're wondering. Other nutrition information can be found here on Starbucks website. Yummy. And no guilt here :)

Thursday Cookbook Series -- Finger Food

Today is a double bonus: a New Thing and a Cookbook. Last weekend, for the first time since beginning my Thursday Cookbook Series, I bought a book specifically to talk about on my blog. That is not to say that I have run out of cookbooks at home. But, I was at Barnes and Noble, and they have such a nice Bargain Books section, and I was just itching to buy something...

I did not yet own a book dedicated to appetizers, and Finger Food looked like a wonderful little candidate. Its not big, as in tall or wide (its about 5x7), but it has around 200 recipes all with full-color photos of appetizers, snacks, and tiny desserts. I was drawn in part to the variety of foods. Many have Asian or Middle Eastern influences--spring roll or wonton varieties, hummus variations, etc.

Unfortunately, I'm a poor reviewer in that I have no had time to actually make any of the recipes from the book. Yet. I should probably have waited to post it until I have had a chance to actually cook from it. I've spent a bit of time drooling over all the lovely photos....On this blog of this caliber, you get what you pay for :)

Upcoming programming note: It has been my intention, for a month or two now, to showcase a few of my old, out-of-print, or local cookbooks. I still intend to work on that. I just need to spend a little quality time with the digital camera and my laptop. Uninterrupted quality time :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

Happy Shrove Tuesday. Though maybe that’s not such a happy greeting, as "shrove" is a form of "shrive" which refers to obtaining "absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance." I think that modern folks far prefer to celebrate Mardi Gras or Carnival.

Today is also known as National Pancake Day. Why pancakes? Once upon a time, Catholics were supposed to eschew all rich foods like milk, butter and eggs for all of Lent. Pancakes are an easy and yummy way to use up those ingredients. Incidentally, IHOP is giving away free pancakes today, and requesting donations for the Childrens Miracle Network in return. (That was a completely free plug for them, btw, since I doubt we'll try to make the kiddos wait in line for "free" pancakes at a restaurant tonight. But it’s a decent idea on their part).

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent. 40 days of prayer. 40 days of no Alleluia in church, no Gloria. Lent is a reminder of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, being tempted by Satan. It is the build-up to Easter, which is both the saddest and happiest celebration in the Christian faith. Folks often give up something for Lent. In the Catholic church (and possibly others) we're asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on Fridays. Once upon a time, Catholics were required to abstain from meat during all of Lent, not just on Fridays.

Fasting these days refers to eating only one normal meal, with possibly two small meals, which together don't add up to the regular meal, and no meat. For me, that means something like a bowl of cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and then a meatless dinner. Compared to my normal routine of small snacks throughout the day (yogurt, a granola bar, maybe chips or fruit with lunch, a little chocolate sprinkled throughout), it makes for a noticeably hungrier day.

Father Gary, the priest at our church, has said that we shouldn't merely give up some token pleasure for a month, but to find something that is a daily reminder of Lent. I could give up Starbucks, for example, but I would only feel that lack once or twice over the next month and a half. I typically give up chocolate. Yes, I eat at least a little chocolate almost every day, and I miss it sorely when its gone. Peanutbutter cookies and lemon bars make a poor substitute. My husband often gives up shaving. He doesn't like growing a beard (though I don't mind it on him, once it gets past the prickly stage). This year he's muttering about giving up soda (with or without the beard). Some people don't give up anything, but rather add something in, like a daily rosary or prayer time.

Living in a landlocked state (no, the Mississippi does NOT count as a body of water for this argument), seafood is a bit of an expensive treat. So it’s a bit counterintuitive to me that it's ok to eat the most expensive items on the menu during a time of "abstinence." And, I've not decided where the line is drawn on poultry--in our family, we sometimes eat eggs on Lenten Fridays, but not chicken. Does that make sense? Maybe not.

If you managed to follow all of my meandering thoughts and snippets of history, thank you. How do you celebrate/keep Lent? Or do you? Any plans for wild parties on Mardi Gras?

New Things: Things That Are New

I wasn’t intending my "new things" for the year to be actual new items that I’ve purchased. That would get boring quickly (1 new box of pampers, 1 pair of holiday themed socks, etc).

But, I’m making an exception today, for silly reasons that amuse me. I have two new "things".

First, I bought a frying pan. Not that I didn't already own one. Let me explain. We got, as a wedding gift (a combination of gift cards, actually) a lovely set of All Clad stainless steel pots and pans. I love love love love them. Heavy duty. Even heating. Oven proof. Dishwasher safe. Lethal force (well, only if you swing them...but when I said "heavy" duty, I meant they give your arms a workout just to cook with them).

Nary a pan in my super-awesome pan set is non-stick. This is not a problem for 99% of all cooking that I do. In fact, I'm a fan of making pan sauces, which require a good fond (the brown bits of meat and veggies that stick to the bottom of the pan while you're cooking), which requires a stick-pan, not a non-stick. And I love that I can scrub my pans with steel wool if something goes horribly awry (and yes, it has!)

Several years ago I decided I wanted to eat an occasional omelet, and I really needed a non-stick pan for one. I found and purchased a little 8" pan that had all my requirements: stainless steel outside (I really don't like aluminum exteriors--too dishwasher unfriendly, and someone always puts them in the dishwasher), oven-safe handle, reasonably priced (this one was about $25). Too bad I didn't bother to pick up the matching 12" one at the time. This was pre-kids.

Recently, I've been making breakfast for 4 instead of just 1. And neither scrambled eggs nor hash browns work for me in a stainless steel pan. My 8" one is just too small (hash browns require at least 2 batches that way). So, I've been on a quest for a new pan. Requirements: 12", non-stick, stainless-steel outside, oven-safe handle, under $50. Why didn't I just buy the matching All-clad pan? Well, at last check, carries exactly what I want...for $159.95. That's just too fancy for scrambled eggs and hash browns for me. Most of the pans I find in the stores are hard-anodized aluminum, or have plastic handles, or cost closer to $100 or more. Apparently, I have expensive taste in cookware.

Last week, I bought a new non-stick frying pan. It was everything I was looking for, and even on clearance for $16! Well, until I got home. I didn't notice till after I tore up the packaging that the handle wasn't quite all stainless, and inside the box, it says "oven-safe to 350" Hmm...not quite what I had in mind. Oh well. I guess I don't plan on doing a lot of stove-to-oven transfers of dishes that require a non-stick interior.

My second "new thing" is even sillier. I bought a Swiffer. That's not to say that we've never swiffered in our house. Sam's club knows just how many mega-refill packs of the cloths we buy in a year. But Sunday, just as my husband was laying some of the last remaining boards in the new laminate floor, our old swiffering-tool broke. The head broke off the handle. It was a generic brand, and the handle was kind of wobbly anyway, which is not helpful when you're attempting to scrub a stubborn spot on the floor.

So, I went to Target and stood gaping at the array of floor-cleaning tools until my kids got too antsy. I decided against the "wet jet" (as we have a FloorMate that can both spray cleaner and suck it back up again), and against the "sweep and vac" as I don't trust that cheap of a vacuum not to break too soon. And then there were the fancy "environmentally friendly" ones with washable mop head (tempting). Nope, plain Swiffer for us. The kids will be disappointed that the handle on this one is much harder to disassemble (our old one had a section removed to make it munchkin-sized). But, it seems a tad sturdier.

Ok, that's it. Unless you want to hear about my new shamrock socks :)

Monday, February 23, 2009


I think my month of stress is winding down. It’s not over, just on the downward slide.

I don’t handle changes in my environment well. I’m a creature of habits. Rutts even. Living for a week with our entire living room and kitchen packed into our dining room really irritated me.

Half the kitchen counters were covered by tools that had to be taken out of Trystan’s reach (for his own safety as well as that of the walls!). The other half of the kitchen counters were covered by the junk that’s always there: mail, school papers, lunchboxes and purses, random toylettes (little toy pieces, not to be confused with toilets or toilettes), etc.

Cooking dinner was a royal pain. Eating it was worse. It was a huge relief when enough of the kitchen floor was done that I could pull the counterstools back in. Before then, my husband and I were sitting on the (sub-)floor, with kids strapped into booster seats (we have 2, with trays, in lieu of actual high chairs). Even with the stools, we had to shove all the junk aside to make room for plates on the island.

And the only place we had to sit in a comfy chair was the basement. I have decided that I don't like my basement. It's cold. That's great in July. Not so much in June. And I might just remove the slipcovers from our old sofas that live down there. Those things are an imperial pain in the butt (imperial pains are somehow grander than royal pains in my mind). They constantly shift and move and bunch and expose the couch that I'm trying to hide. Especially when little people are using them to haul themselves onto said couches, or are running across the seat of a couch or hanging over the back to drop toys.

I'm not used to sitting in a room for hours doing nothing but supervising small children. Normally, I can be doing dishes, cooking, doing laundry, or other small chores while the kids play in the family room. None of those options are possible in the basement, and every time I'd leave the dungeon for a chore, Trystan would follow me, fussing. Have I mentioned that I don't sit still well? And that reading a book is impossible while the kids play because I'm constantly being interrupted (or small hands are stealing my bookmark)? And that there's a limit to the amount of choo-choo train and dress up I can play (and I had very little energy or patience during the first couple days of the project, recovering from being sick. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.). I am beginning to loathe Dora's voice.

Ok, enough bitching. Or is it whining? This was supposed to be a celebratory post. Our floor is basically done! And we have furniture in all the right places, and access to our front door! We have no baseboards or casing around the French door. But we have threshold strips between all but one join with carpet/remaining vinyl (have to figure out the top of the basement stairs still). Did I mention the furniture's back in place?

If you're just dying to see photos, check out my hubby's blog. He hasn't posted a photo of the finished product with furniture. Probably will soon. He did an awesome job, didn't he? Seriously, I did very little of the hard labor--I mostly whined about watching the kids. He's the brains (and fingers) behind the lovely new floor. And, he did our taxes last night. The refund basically pays for the improvements (hooray!). I mean, its probably not the best idea for us to be giving the treasury department interest-free loans, but man is it nice to get a little bonus check this time of year :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Cookbook Series: Online Resources

The web is not a cookbook, but I consult it as often as some of my paper versions for recipes. There are probably hundreds of online recipe databases and food websites. I have a few that I look to most often. has a massive database of recipes, both from their shows and from other contributors. Its nice to be able to search for a specific episode of a show and pull up the recipes. Their recipes print out nicely for inclusion into the binder that I use for my own personal cookbook. A great resource for healthier meal options, including many of the same features the show in their magazine (which I highly recommend as well). A huge all-around useful recipe database. They also have a new feature that I’m tempted to try. You can build your own cookbook online, and have it printed in either paperback or hardcover. The prints are expensive-- $24.95 for paperback and $34.95 for hardbound—so this would not be a good choice for creating a cookbook for a fundraiser. But if you were only printing one or two—for a gift for a child heading to college, or a wedding, or just a nice copy of your favorite recipes for your own collection—it might be nice. I’d love to see a review from someone who has actually bought one.

I also have a handful of Food Blogs that I subscribe to. Baking Bites, Joy the Baker, and Baking and Books are some of my favorites for the inspiring recipes and lovely photos.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

View from the trenches

When you have small children, the smallest household projects turn into fleet-sized maneuvers, complete with battle plans, contingencies, and an exit strategy. Try anything medium-sized (say, DIY floor replacement in the 3 most heavily used rooms in the house), and we're talking Independence Day. It's a desperate, all out struggle where we're throwing everything we've got from hijacked flying saucers to crop dusters at the problem.

No, its not that bad. But like several "military actions" in living history, this particular non-war is up way past its bedtime. And yes, I'm totally mixing metaphors.

We began moving furniture and toys Thursday night after the kids went to bed. As of tonight, Sunday at about 3 when we broke for a belated birthday dinner for my hubby, there has been probably 25+ more hours of hard labor put in, maybe closer to 30. And we're not quite 1/2 way done with just the floor. Baseboards, shoe mouldings, and door casing for the new french door need to be done as well. And maybe put the furniture back, if we're lucky.

Tomorrow's a holiday. For the kids. Not for our jobs. I'm already slated to "stay home" with them. My husband is debating working (and letting his hands heal) versus trying to power through a bit more flooring. I think he's looking forward to seeing his desk again.

I wonder if watching children during a remodel is anything like the military babysitting press in the middle of a battle. But, I can't just hand Trystan a flack jacket and hope for the best. He's prone to picking up the biggest, sharpest tool around and swinging it. I know he'll damage the new floor at soem point, but I'd rather he wait until after we're done installing it first. Or he could hurt himself.

For me and the diminutive duo, I'm considering starting at the Y. They can play in the daycare there for up to 2 hours while I exercise, maybe shower, and possibly read a book without fear of someone grabbing a hammer and whacking anything. After that, maybe another field trip before having another "carpet picnic" (more like "subfloor picnic"--the kitchen table's inaccessible) lunch, and naps. Anything to get us out of the house, and them away from the construction. And me away from Dora the Explorer on the 30-year old TV in our basement playroom.

The new floor does look nice so far...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Books and Toys

I read a blog post on recently about those Scholastic Book Club flyers that some schools hand out. Yep, those same newsprint sheets that we got in elementary school back in the "good old days".

A Boston-based group reviewed the flyers and concluded that they’re full of toys. Well, that for the series they examined, 14 percent of the items offered for sale were not books, and 19 percent were books packaged with other items. Apparently they found this to be a problem.

My kids’ preschool hands out the same Scholastic flyers every so often, and we almost always buy something (usually, many somethings). Now, we get a slightly different series than the one reviewed—I think that was for 2nd graders—but our flyers also have an assortment of "non-books".

I’ve never found anything to complain about. They’re not selling guns and candy. The "non-book" items are frequently flashcards, art kits, kits that include small models (like dinosaurs or bugs). And honestly, my husband and I control all purchasing from the pamphlets, so there is no opportunity for Charlotte to blow all her cash on stickers. Not that she has cash to blow just yet. She’s only 4.

Have I ever bought any of the "non-book" items? Just last month. I got a pack of Valentines Day books that came with a rolling stamper (with 4 different colored stampers). Charlotte loved it. So much that she roller-stamped the walls (and then had to clean them). Guess I need to get that back out again tonight for her to work on Valentines cards for her school party. Wall washing aside, it was a nice little packet—4 or 5 books plus the stamper for around $10.

I think Scholastic is doing a fine job, and if they’re making money on the deal, that’s wonderful! I find it incredibly convenient to buy their books. There are usually 1-2 items per flyer for only $1 each (I usually buy these, plus other stuff). I love shopping in bookstores too, but the bookstores tend to carry more hardbacks. And while the hardbacks are nicer quality, I love the quantity and variety that buying all the little paperbacks affords us. And their packs introduce us to authors and series that I might not have chosen individually.

Each of our children has a bookcase overflowing with books (we’re talking 100’s, not even counting all of the early readers Charlotte just inherited from her "little aunt"), and they request to read more every night than we ever have time for. That doesn’t mean that we buy more than we read—but if you don’t cut them off, they’ll request to read every book in the place. Annoying as it is when you really just want the kid to sleep, I love that. I’m a huge reader, and we’re rearing two huge readers. That’s a good thing.

If selling a few educational trinkets helps entice a kid to read, what’s the harm?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Cookbook Series -- The Best Recipe

It is entirely possible that I've mentioned Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen before. Now, I shall do so again.

I have an excellent cookbook of theirs called The Best Recipe. This is a large, heavy, comprehensive cookbook. Unlike their America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, the pages are black and white, with hand-drawn diagrams and tightly packed text. Like that other book, they include large article-like discussions of each recipe, giving the cook the background of *why* they consider each recipe to be the best.

I can't help making the comparisons to the Family Cookbook, I guess. There is some overlap between recipes--probably because many recipes & articles were originally published in the Cook's Illustrated magazine. This cookbook has more recipes overall, and is skewed toward fancier foods rather than the "family" ones. Also, it is a bound book and not a binder.

Overall, I love the book, and consult it frequently.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I shouldn't be surprised that, with all we have going on, and with Charlotte's recent bout of strep, I am now sick.

This sucks. Or rather, I wish it didn't, because sucking (on a thoat lozenge) and swallowing hurts. Add a cold with draining sinuses, the kind that drip down your throat all night (yummy, huh), and I haven't slept much in 2 days.

In the mean time, we still have plenty to stress about. The new french door in the kitchen is mostly installed, minus the door casings which we can't put back on yet. The rotted-out hole in the floor has been repaired, and after last night's hard rain we don't see any new signs of water seepage. Hopefully that means that the old door was the only problem.

My husband was wanting to get started laying the new laminate floor on Friday, but after taking 1.5 sick days off this week, I won't be able to help. And it's going to be a fairly disruptive job--causing us to move many large pieces of furniture, and basically rendering our entire main floor unusable, as all the furniture will be crammed into the dining room (the one place where we're leaving the carpet for now). Hopefully the whole project won't take more than a day (though my money's on 3), or we're going to have a huge headache keeping the kiddos entertained, fed, and out of trouble. This is one reason I'm kind of relieved that we're not demolishing the whole kitchen now--I can't imagine policing a busy nearly-2 year old for months during construction.

We should hear from one of the two Kindergartens in another week or so. We're hoping they'll let Charlotte in--we really like them, and they really like us. Their only potential sticking point is the birthday cutoff. But, we've had a chance to talk face-to-face with the school's head, so she understands our own experiences and expectations. Its the best we can do.

And, at work we're being "strongly encouraged" to work overtime. Given that I work "undertime" normally, once again I don't really know what they expect of me. Between my sick days this week, and Presidents Day next week (when our daycare is closed), I'm not going to be clocking over 40 hour in a single week. Possibly not over my required 32.5. But I guess I just do my best when I'm there.

Monday, February 09, 2009

How to make your mommy sad

Charlotte has been trying my patience. Tantrums and whines, fusses. Outright refusal to do even the simplest things. And then the tears.

Tonight started simple enough. She was still awake with the babysitter when I arrived home after my class at 8:30. I let her stay up for about 20 more minutes, watching the dungeons & dragons game of her daddy's that had been temporarily moved to our house for the night. I gave her ample warning on times, counting down 10 minutes. And then I took her upstairs.

We went first to her bathroom, where she refused to brush her teeth, choosing to spin in circles on her stepstool. Then she decided she had to go potty, and tried to refuse to wash her hands, after making a big show of sticking her hand between her legs while peeing (and frowning defiantly at me about it). No, hand washing is not optional in our house. Ever. Especially after going to great pains to dirty one's hand.

More refusals to brush her teeth lost her first books (from 4 books or chapters, down to 0), then snuggle time. Then she got picked up and hauled to her bed. She came running back to the bathroom insisting on brushing, and finally did. Then, crying heartbrokenly, she padded back to her room with her shoulders drooping sadly.

She's worse with me all of a sudden, probably in part because of my class, which is taking time away from her. Partly, I think, because she can see how sad I get when I don't get to read to her before bed. She is taking a privilege away from me, and she's well aware of it.

It sucks to tell a kid no. It sucks to refuse to read, or to snuggle. It sucks to see a bright, capable child make such a fuss and act out that way.

I wish I knew how to fix her behavior. But all I can think of is to do what I already am. Sticking to the rules ("no whining" "no tantrums" "wash your hands" "brush your teeth"). Applying a consistent routine every night. Not giving in once I've revoked a privilege. And hoping that she'll grow out of this stage soon.
There is an article in StlToday about a new measure in Missouri that would allow school districts the option of having a 4-day school week, with longer days (8 hours instead of 6). It sounds like something that would mostly benefit rural school districts that spend oodles of money transporting kids from way out into school (only run the busses 4 out of 5 days a week, you know). Most urban/suburban schools interviewed aren't interested in the switch.

The topic is interesting to me as is the comment thread that follows it. I couldn't believe how many responders were outraged at the potential cost of babysitting on that 5th day a week.

Um, hello. If all pertinent parents work full time (assuming 40 hours in a traditional work schedule), aren't you already paying for babysitting? I know that if I dropped off kids at 8am and picked them up at 3pm, there's no way I could put in a 40 hour workweek. I would guess that most families are already either flexing time (one spouse working early, one working later), or relying on before/afterschool care for their kids. Instead of adding to the cost, it seems to me that going to school for 4 8-hour days would just consolidate it into 1 day a week. Move, not add.

I guess this caught my interest because as we look into Kindergartens for Charlotte for next year, we're already struggling with how the scheduling is going to work. I only work 4 days a week (well, 32.5 hours, in however many days that takes me), so we have a little wiggle room. But that doesn't account for a 7:50 drop off, a 2:50 pickup, and commute time to work. Plus teacher inservice days. And holidays. And spring break. And summer. God forbid someone should ever get sick or have a week-day doctor appointment.

Ye gads. How on earth do 2-job families do this stuff? It seems like we'll be paying through the nose for after school and summercamps, and will still have no way to accrue any vacation time for an honest-to-goodness vacation at any point.

I know some parents look forward to elementary school to help ease the financial burden of daycare. But as we add up the cost of private school tuition (our choice, I know, though I'm not content with the alternative in this case) plus all the extra care, I don't think we'll be saving anything. We'll be possibly even upping our yearly cost. And that's saying something.

In short, I think its overblown for parents to feel "outrage" over a change in schedule, when the original schedule is no more work-friendly than the proposed alternative. Existing school schedules seem to be holdovers from the sole-provider days where Mom always stayed home. Summer camps and before/after school programs are just a patch job on the issue, not a solution.

I wish I had a good fix to propose. We don't even have a fix for our own family's schedule. And winning lottery tickets are scarce on the sidewalks around here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Zombie Paranoia

There was an article this week in msnbc about people hacking into those electronic traffic signs. Apparently, there are Zombies and Raptors on the loose in at least three states.

And, right here, right now, I'm stating for the record that:


Maybe I'm paranoid. But the article specifically mentions three places where the signs have been hacked. Collinsville, IL is about a 20 minute drive from where I live, just on the "metro-east" side of St. Louis. Carmel, in Hamilton County IN is about a 15 minute drive from where I grew up and is near where my mother and two of my four sisters still live. And one of my sisters lives in Austin, TX, the third location cited. I'm waiting for a report from Chicago--where my other sister lives. Surely there are mummies or zombies or something running amok in the Windy City, right?

What a strange coincidence. And, to the police of all of those locations (and the FBI, and whoever else investigates this kind of prank), I seriously, honestly, truly am not connected. And I sincerely doubt any of my family members are either. If you doubt me, just check my schedule for this week. There hasn't been enough time for keeping up with the dishes, let alone driving all over the country hacking traffic signs.

Thursday Cookbook Series -- A Basic

I was tempted to call this week's cookbook "boring." Basic is probably a better word. I use my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook weekly. I know off the top of my head that it's got the basic (non-buttermilk) pancake recipe that I prefer to make, and a white chocolate cake recipe that is divine for birthday cakes (better than a plain ol' white cake..the white chocolate makes it moist). The book has everything from soup to nuts (Why do we say "soup to nuts"? Wouldn't "apple to zuccini" or "appperitif to coffe" make more sense? Just my 2cents...)

Usually I end here with some witty comment. Sorry. All out.
The book is a binder, and though I'm starting to lose the outermost pages, its standing up to a lot of wear. Binders are nice because they lay flat on the counter while you're cooking. And, if you happen to subscribe to the Better Homes & Gardens magazine, their "prize-winning recipes" every month fit into the binder. (I do get their magazine, but don't save the recipes that often. Just pointing the feature out)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My aplogies...

...To most instructors/teachers/profs who have had to deal with me. In some things, I am just fast. You're not doing anyhthing wrong.

This week, I'm taking the first of several web design classes. Kind of for work. Kind of for the fun of it. But this first one is an intro class. It's pretty basic. I could have arranged something so that I could claim prior experience and just skip the class, but that takes coordination (phone calls, alternate scheduling, hassle). I'm hassled enough at the moment. How bad could it be to sit through a few hours of review of basic HTML?

The answer: not bad. For me. I think I'm bugging the teacher, though. He gives an assignment such as produce a web page with a simple nested list. I'm done in about 30 seconds. He allowed 15 minutes for the exercise. Have I mentioned that I'm a fast typer? Lightning fingers. I'm not bragging. I'm sure my high school typing teacher would be proud (though I make ample use of the backspace button--a huge no-no in high school typing class).

I'm also always always always one of the very first ones done with a test. Its not that I'm smarter than everyone around me. Heaven knows that at Wash U that was far from the truth. More that I don't re-visit answers. I've found from experience that my fist guesses are usually right. If I don't know something right away, I skip it and come back. No getting stuck. And if I spend a lot of time checking things, then I second guess myself and end up doing worse.

Nope, I just do the work, give a quick check and turn it in. Sometimes, this habit does cause trouble (have I ever mentioned that I'm a horrible proofreader?)

Teachers think they're boring me. In a class like this one, where the instructor spends three minutes explaining how to open a file with TextPad in excrutiating detail, they're sometimes correct. And yet, sometimes taking a class is the best way for me to learn. I have to get out of my regular environment in order to concentrate on something new. If I just picked up a book and tried to read it at home, I'd spend my time doing laundry and playing with the kids, and reading all my fun fiction books. Therefore, I'm here. And other students ask questions that don't occur to me, but from which I learn things. Group classes are good.

The next few classes get into more detailed stuff that I haven't hacked at previously, and should keep me a bit busier. I hope.

A week in the life...

Subtitle: Why I'm not posting much this week

9AM Kindergarten screening for Charlotte for prospective school #1. Grandparents watch Trystan
11AM Charlotte misses swimming lessons
Eat lunch with grandparents before they go home
Kids nap
Go to Lowes to attempt to buy a new patio door. Get sent home to measure by annoying sales guy. Even though we know it’s a completely standard 72” door.

Make two breakfasts. Trystan eats two. The rest of us eat one.
Go to church at 11
Go to lunch after church with husbands's family
After lunch, while kids nap, I go to Sam’s and Walmart for Diapers and other essentials (and score a winter coat for Trystan for next year for $13 on clearance)
After naps while I make dinner and turn on the SuperBowl for the kids, husband goes back to Lowes. Gets the same salesguy. Now finds out that the actual installer will come and measure as part of the installation process. Pays the $35 fee to get the install process started. Meanwhile, Trystan shouts “football” everytime the Superbowl trophy is shown on TV.

I take both kids to preschool, and arrive at work close to 9.
Husband gets call from installer midday and drives home to allow him to measure for the door. Surprise, surprise, its’ a standard 72” wide door.
After work, I drive straight to an evening class.
Husband picks up kids, makes a pizza. Babysitter comes over. Husband goes to weekly gaming with friends.
I get done with class early and am home shortly after 8, early enough to put both kids to bed myself.
Husband arrives home around 9:30

Trystan wakes up really early and totally messes up my morning routine.
Husband takes kids to daycare. I still arrive two minutes late for an 8AM meeting.
Late in the day husband gets call from Lowes saying they received the details from the installer, and that we can come officially buy the 72” door now.
Late in the day I get a a call from daycare saying that Trystan is having loose stools, and they’re concerned about stomach virus. I’m skeptical, as he regularly takes a stool softener, whose dose we sometimes have to tweak based on his diet.
I pick up kids, get dirty diaper details from preschool.
Husband has 5:30 wallyball game
I make a quick dinner for kids. And Trystan poops on the potty. A lot, and its loose (aren’t you glad to be reading this?). But it was on the potty. Did I mention he’s not even 2 yet? And that he has serious bowel complications that could potentially prevent continence? On the potty.
Husband arrives home from Wallyball at 6:45, scarfs down the few scraps of dinner that the kids left him
We all go to Lowes to pay for the 72” door. And pick out handles. And be tempted by a 50% off sale on electric fireplaces (no mantles, though, just the “firebox” part). We decide against it (though a space heater in the basement could be kind of useful)…
The kids run in circles through the door and widnow displays and are completely tuckered by the time we get home.

Husband takes both kids to school
I’m 4 minutes late for my 8am meeting
After work, I have another 5:30-8:30 class. And a writers group meeting from 6:30-9 with dinner afterwards.
I left my cell phone at home, so I will have to stop through between work and class.
Husband must pick up children.
And feed them.
And wait for Grandparents to arrive to watch Trystan.
And Husband and Charlotte will go to "meet the teacher night" for potential kindergarten #2.
I will hopefully get home by 10:30. Everyone will probably be asleep.

Another 8am meeting.
Normally I have a 5:30 step class after work. It’s still debatable whether I’ll make it or not. Yes if husband is willing to drop off and pick up the kids. No if I have to pick them up.
I think that’s it.

Husband, Charlotte, and I have 10am meeting with principal of school #1. Trystan goes to daycare.
Husband goes to work afterwards.
Char and I have shopping to do for a birthday gift.
And a pie to make for the next day

11am swim lessons. We typically all go so Trystan gets some pool time too
1pm Trystan at a minimum should be napping
3:30 Charlotte has a birthday party to attend
3:00 All 4 of us have an adult’s birthday potluck to attend.

Monday, February 02, 2009

One door opens (or is it two?)...

My kitchen-update freakout and I have called a truce.

In case you hadn’t read my previous post about the subject, we have to do some work in our kitchen. Our sliding door is leaking water into the house, which is damaging the floor and into the subfloor, and staining the ceiling of our basement bathroom. In order to fix the floor, we will have to replace the sheet vinyl that is currently there—we have already had to cut a square out of it just to see the extent of the damage. Plus, our adjacent family room carpeting is coming due for replacement. It’s cheap and it’s been well-used.

Because the kitchen, breakfast room, and family room are really all one big room, I have long wanted one seamless floor. The (12-foot long) threshold between the breakfast area’s vinyl and the family room’s carpet is in an aribitrary spot, and is the site of some of the worst wear and tear.

But, I’ve wanted to remodel the kitchen from almost the day we bought the house and I realized just how shoddy of a job the builder had done. And I’d long stated that I didn’t want to replace the kitchen floor without just re-doing the kitchen. Doesn’t seem right to fancy up what we’ve got, when I sometimes fear that the cabinet shelves will simply collapse in the night.

However, now is just not the right time for a full remodel of the kitchen. We have design issues to work out, including whether (and where) to move the existing laundry room (so that we can add its space to the kitchen or as a bigger pantry). And, of course, financing. If the world would stop spinning right here, then financing the kitchen is no big deal. But over the next year, we have kid(s) changing schools (possibly to much more expensive private ones), and possible job changes for at least one of us. And our (currently paid off) cars are aging. Our finances in 12 months may look completely different than today’s, and I’m just not comfortable taking out a second mortgage or home equity loan or whatever to finance a kitchen remodel that we’re not ready for.

The compromise: we need to replace our door, and then the floor. Those two items are not negotiable at this point. And the laminate is purchased. We picked out a new door—a French door this time instead of a slider, and it is much more reasonable in cost than I initially feared. Before installation, we’re talking about 2/3 of what I thought a barebones model would be. That door will be installed over the next 2-4 weeks, probably on the shorter end of it assuming there are no unforeseen complications to the install. After that, my husband and I will find a good long weekend to move all of our furniture, rip up carpeting, add underlayment, snap together floors, and reinstall/replace baseboards.

And, a year from now, we can re-evaluate where we are financially and possibly start real planning on a new kitchen. “Real Planning” involves more than sketches on paper and collecting free catalogs from Lowes. We’re talking actual appointments to design, order, install, schedule everything. That gives us time to adjust to school tuitions, salaries, etc, and possibly even sock away some cash so we’re not financing everything. Or decide to scrap the whole idea if we can’t afford it.

Yep, I’m doing what I never wanted to do: installing a new floor in the kitchen next to the old cabinets. And then planning to possibly rip it right up not long after. But it’s a good compromise. The laminate floors are very reasonably priced, so we aren’t wasting nice hardwood. And the snap-together installation makes me think that we could potentially re-use the flooring (back in the new kitchen, or elsewhere in the house). Possibly. And, I’ve wanted to replace the slider with a French door, so we’re already ahead of that piece of the puzzle.

All in all, a good compromise. Now, I just have to handle living for another month with a pallet's worth of laminate flooring boxes in my formal dining room.