Friday, October 30, 2009

The price of cleanliness

With flu season in full swing, my son's daycare decided to be proactive and encourange frequent handwashing and hand sanitizing among the kids.

I found this out the hard way. Last week, Trystan had a false-sick day. He threw up at school on Tuesday, so had to stay home all day Wednesday. Of course, by Tuesday dinner time, he was fine, eating, and happy. Wednesday was a play at home with mommy day. That's very very aggravating for a working parent who has (had) a total of 20 sick hours to spend. (Note, after this week's strep/flu/ear combinations, I think I'm down to about 4, and I had to re-arrange my days to keep from hitting 0).

So, I was aggravated. I'm still no convinced that Trystan didn't just eat something he wasn't supposed to at school. But I have no idea what it would have been. Yep, this is all backstory, so we're all caught up.

Thursday, at work, my phone rings. One of the daycare workers tells me that Trystan has a rash. Mainly on his hands, a little on his bottom, and a small spot on his tummy. They're wondering if we were worried about strep, given the puke two days before. Um, no. He was eating and completely fever-free. Not strep.

I ask if there's anything he could have gotten his hands into (playing outside? Dirt? Flowers? Cleaning supplies?) No, they say. But we did start using hand sanitizer on the kids. "Its really nice stuff. It smells good."

Ok, big red flag. "Smells good" equals allergic reaction for probably 1/3 or more of the beauty products on the market, for me and the kids. "Smells good" usually means "we added bits of plants". Plants make us itch. There is a short list of scented products that I can use. Very, very short. And I'm not interested in adding to it. I buy fragrance free or hypoallergenic or "baby" everything. Though even "baby" products can cause problems--I went to one postpartum checkup after Charlotte was born, and I was covered from head to toe in hives from scented baby wipes I was using on *her*.

This afternoon, at Trystan's school Halloween party, the teachers sat all the kids down and squirted all but Trystan with their hand sanitizer before their snack. One teacher showed me the bottle. "See, its good stuff. Spa originals". Nowhere on this bottle are the words "hypoallergenic" or "fragrance free". It smells flowery. And no, I didn't care to try it on myself, just in case.

I got the impression that the teacher was still doubtful about the cause of his rash. By the way, they quit using that stuff on him on Thursday when I asked them to, and by the time he came home that night, the hives were all but gone, and haven't returned.

I think I'm buying them a new bottle of sanitizer for next week.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I spent today cleaning the house. I figure that with 2 confirmed cases of flu plus two bacterial infections, and a week of sick people, that we could use a little freshening.

I cleaned all of the bathrooms, including wiping down the faucets, light switches, and door knobs. The kids each got new toothbrushes. I had done a mini-clean of sorts on Monday night (after the strep diagnosis, before Char had taken enough antibiotics to be considered non-contagious), soaking them in Listerine and then rinsing well. Honestly, I don't know if that did anything, but figured it couldn't hurt.

I then washed all of the sheets and blankets on all of our beds (we were due anyway). We have those zippered covers on most of our pillows, so I removed and washed those as well. Then I bought my husband a new pillow.

When I removed the cover from that feather pillow, the pillow was brown. Yuck. Double-yuck to me, as I really don't like feathers (animal materials in general tend to act up various allergies...). But that pillow used to be white. And it was NOT.

That got me thinking: How often do people really replace their pillows? I've read that you're supposed to do it yearly, or to wash them every 6 months, and a million other variations.

How about you?

I'm attempting to embed a poll in this post. Vote and let me know if it worked!

H1N1 update

Charlotte is back at school. Yesterday was basically a play day for her. Amoxycillin is a miracle drug. No, it wasn't prescribed to treat the flu--it was for the strep throat. I think the flu was on its way out, and the tamiflu finished kicking the virus out.

Trystan is home today, for the second day. He got both the flu and an ear infection. Probably the same buggies that infected Char's throat, and he has the same amoxycillin to fight it. Plus the tamiflu. Plus, he has asthma that only acts up when he's sick. So we have instructions to give him breathing treatments and an oral steroid just in case. He's fever-free this morning and playing well, so I'm sure he'll be back at school tomorrow.

Now that Char's back to classes, its time for her fall break. School's out Friday and Monday. Just what we need after expending so much sick time with the two of them the past week. I remember the days of earning more sick days at work than I could possibly use, and taking "mental health" days just so I didn't have to give away my paid time off. These days, as soon as I accumulate 8 hours, it's spent.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Charlotte has H1N1. Joy joy. Actually, think I might have gotten it as well, but mine wasn't accompanied by an actual fever. More like four hours of almost-fever followed by a week of coughing.

Char didn't get hit that hard at first either. She ran a fever last Thursday, and had two distincting vomitting sessions. By Friday mid-morning she was fever-free and by Saturday was in great spirits.

Then came Sunday. The fever was back, but lower, and she began coughing, sneezing, and sleeping for long stretches.

Today I took her to the pediatrician, and they confirmed the H1N1. And strep. Two for one. Tamiflu plus amoxycillin.

So far, Trystan has no symptoms for either plague. I'm knocking on every piece of wood that I can find, though, because he's been clingy and fussy tonight, glueing himself to whichever adult is closest.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I might have done a bad thing...

I showed Charlotte how to work the TV remote.


She can read, just enough, to do some of the basic functions.  Like choose the “Watch TV” button, and remember that “ch+ and ch-“ change the channel.

Char is sick with the flu, and today is day #2 of laying around the couch watching TV.  My husband is working from home, and I thought I’d spare him the trouble of frequently starting up shows for Char, so he can stay productive. 


Maybe it was a bad idea.  My husband is reporting that she refuses to relinquish control of the controller.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

White Dress 1.0

Char was really cute yesterday, if I do say so myself. I am quite proud of the dress that I made. The construction of it was pretty easy, but I did have to re-draft the sleeves. Unfortunately, I am calling this dress 1.0, because I expect that there will be a 2.0. Much as I like the dress, the design has a few drawbacks.

The pre-gathered fabric that I used was not as full as I think the pattern expected, and I didn't notice until I had it sewn together.. So Char's dress is kind of narrow and long. Hard to run in. It would be fine for just going to church, but even on white-dress days at school, she gets to play and possibly have gym class.

If/when I get around to another dress, it'll be shorter, with a fuller skirt and a better lining (or I'll buy extra fabric to make a slip out of). In the mean time, she does have a beautiful dress, and I have a pattern that could be used for a different color of pre-smocked fabric.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Today's post is about underwear. Not mine. Charlotte's. Actually, its about underwear she doesn't have. Because no one sells it.

Tomorrow she wears her new (made by me) white dress to school. When she tried it on last night, I realized that the skirt is a little bit see-through. It has two layers already, so I hadn't really checked for that, nor had I bought fabric for an additional liner (and I'd have to engineer a solution to add one).

I thought I'd go today and buy her a slip. Um, I guess I'm about 3 decades too late. No one sells little girls' slips. Actually, there aren't a lot of grown-up sized slips to be had either--a small handful of grannie ones (I briefly considered buying one and using it as yardage), and some tummy shapers. That's it. Apparently no one wears a slip anymore.

My backup plan (I'd guessed before the mini-shopping trip that I'd have trouble finding a slip) was to buy Char a camisole and some white panties. Now, the kid has probably 2 dozen pairs of underwear. And not one of them is plain white. There's Tinkerbell, hearts, stripes, bright purple, and probably a few princesses. But no white. In fact, across two different stores, I found exactly one pair of plain white undies in her size. Not one kind or one brand. One pair. In a package with a bunch of purple and green striped ones. And when I opened the package at home, I found that the top of the elastic is actually purple and green striped. But at least there isn't a magenta fairy on her rear.

I'm sure if I checked online, I could find several places that sell slips, or at least plain white underthings. And there might be stores in town that do. And I can certainly make a slip, assuming I have time to drive to a fabric store (because they keep moving farther and farther away, and lord knows Wally World doesn't stock something as basic as slip fabric). But I didn't have all day to devote to this--I had about 30 minutes, and one stretch of commercial road with a Walmart, Target, Kmart, and Kohls. You'd think that would be enough options...

So, kids clothing manufacturers and large discount retailers: stock basic basics! White whites! Yes, even 5-year olds sometimes need granny panties and slips. Please!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fun News

I found out today that I won a bake-off, and I'm tickled pink. Ok, so my skin tone is basically pink normally. But you get the idea.

This is not really a big deal--it was through Charlotte's school fair last weekend. And there might not have been many entries in the adult category (I really have no idea). Hopefully there were at least 2 :)

It wasn't listed as a "recipe" contest, so I can't claim that the recipe itself (Triple Chocolate Pecan Pie) is originally mine. But it is yummy and tends to disappear every time I make it. And I do diverge subtley from the recipe and directions, so its fair game for a bakeoff.

Charlotte did enter the kids' division (with rice-crispy-like-bars made of Fruity Cheerios with white chocolate...she did all the stirring and pan spraying and decorating herself...and chose the ingredients!). Too bad she didn't place, but I'm guessing she was the youngest (or one of the youngest) entrants, and she had fun licking the bowl.

Of course, we had to leave the school's fair before the prizes were announced, so I have no idea what (if anything) I actually won, besides my name in the newsletter.

Quote of the Day

This morning while I was driving her to school, Charlotte told me:
God gave me the idea to be a rock star, but I dont even know how to get to the stage!
I, being the supportive and loving mother that I am, laughed. 
And then I suggested that she keep singing in church, and pay attention in music class (its one of a few “specials” that they rotate through at school), and we can look into piano lessons after Christmas.  We also have Rock Band for the Wii, and she’s quite the enthusiastic singer (its hilarious to hear a 5-year old girl belting out 80’s heavy metal…). 
With the immense popularity of Hannah Montana, I predict that Char will have lots of competition from other budding rock stars as she grows.  But a girl’s entitled to a dream, and as a parent, I can definitely support one that involves education (I’m thinking music lessons, either now or in a few years, won’t do her any harm!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sew nice

Last night, I did something I haven't done for a really long time. I got to spend about an hour and a half sewing. Well, most of it was cutting and pinning, not actually sewing. But I did thread my sewing machine and do a little basting before I had to close up shop for the kiddos' bedtime.

I'm not sure I've spent more than an hour or two since Trystan was born with my sewing machine. Its really sad, to me, because I enjoy sewing. But when Char was born and we converted my craft room into her bedroom, I moved my stuff into the office that had previously been my husband's alone. Between adjustments in sharing the space (adjustments we're still making, LOL--we both have a LOT of stuff and our own preferred environment), general schedule constraints, and the fact that the office shares a wall with Char's bedroom (thereby restricting after-bedtime sewing because it affects her sleep), I haven't had much time to sew.

Charlotte attends a Catholic school, and they have a certain number of special masses throughout the year where all of the girls must wear an all-white dress to school. The first one's coming up next week. I could buy her a dress, but outside of Easter season, the only stores that carry all-white dresses for little girls are bridal stores and fancy heirloom shops, both of which are expen$ive. And I can sew. Sew I am.

I bought the fabric and the pattern from Walmart over a month ago, but since the date is coming fast, I have to actually work on it (or go shopping). The style is pretty simple--the fabric is a pre-smocked and pre-hemmed, with two layers (a satin underneath with an embroidered organza on top). The body of the dress is all one piece, with the stretcy smocking at the top. The sleeves will be kind of 3/4, leg-o-mutton style with the smocking part toward the cuff and a puffy cap. I modified the original pattern for these, as it wanted short sleeves with 3 separate pieces, and I thought their design would be a pin in the a$$ with the 2 layers of fabric. Of course, it might have taken me longer to draft a different sleeve than to just do the extra basting and sewing, but whatever.

I'm a little worried that it will be a bit fancier than they prefer (it sounds like they want all-white, but not mini-bride), but I'll take the chance for now. Because it will be cute, and it has sleeves (sleeveless dresses are not allowed, which rules out one already in Char's closet), and because Walmart had no other all-white fabric and I had no time to go to a real fabric store. If I have to sew another because this one is too fancy, I'll do that later.

So, I got kid-free time to sew while my husband took the kids for a playdate. AND I got to watch a couple of episodes of Project Runway as inspirational background noise while I did it. Come to think of it, there's a strong chance that watching Project Runway inspired the whole sleeve-redesign....

Friday, October 09, 2009

New thing: Scotchguard

I had one of my blonde moments recently, where I realized something kind of obvious. 


For years, I’ve gotten annoyed at getting new shoes dirty.  I am wary of fabric shoes because they look awful after the first wearing.  And with kids, I’m always getting food and drinks spilled on my clothes and shoes.  I have a pair of lavender canvas flip flops that got coffee spilled on them on their second wearing, which immediately moved them to the “bum around” pile and out of the “cute shoes” pile.


Revelation:  you can buy scotchguard at the grocery store.  This morning I sprayed a pair of beige colored mostly-fabric shoes that I’ve been really careful with all summer.  They already have a spot or two, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll have prevented a few more.


Now, I guess there’s no guarantee that it’ll work perfectly.  But its got to be better than splashing through a muddy parking lot and hoping for the best, right?  And I might check out the kids’ shoe collections and see if there are any likely-looking targets for my spray can.



Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Thing: Blood

I gave blood today.  First time ever.
I’ve just never gotten around to it before.  I remember volunteering to help with a blood drive in my high school, but I was too young to donate.  And they frequently have them at work, but in the last 2 years that my group has been located in a building near one of the cafeterias, every blood drive has been when I’m out of work or on antibiotics for strep.
I think it took longer to fill out all the paperwork than for the blood to actually flow.  Or rather, to wait while my information was typed into the computer. And it’s funny that I was nervous beforehand.  After 2 pregnancies (they take like half a dozen vials of blood early on…right when I had morning sickness) and 2 c-sections (With IV’s and spinals), this was nothing. 
And they give you cookies and juice when its over. J

Monday, October 05, 2009

I want to spend someone else's money for a while...

I spent about two hours on Friday shopping for clothes. Mainly for myself. In the mall. And I've decided two things:

1) I want more money to spend on clothes. Trying to keep total purchases down to, say, well under $100 doesn't go too anymore far when you're in the mall (not that it ever did). As usual, when I have little or no money allocated to spend on clothing, I find bucketloads of things that I'd like.
2) I want a lifestyle that allows me to wear more of those cute clothes that I didn't buy.

No, the self-imposed $100 limit wasn't my only issue with clothes shopping. It never is. I have a love/hate relationship with clothes.

Growing up, as the second kid in a larger family, I didn't get as many new clothes. Until I grew taller (and larger in general) than my older sister, I received many of her hand-me-downs. And by the time that happened, I started being able to earn my own money (through babysitting, and later, a fast-food job), and ended up funding most of my own wardrobe. Alas, I was always the responsible kid, and saved a lot of my money for college expenses instead of blowing it all on the latest fads.

In college I had zero money for clothes. I'm not talking zero money for new clubbing clothes or for designer clothes, I mean zero money for something-relatively-clean-to-wear-to-class. The staples of my wardrobe were free t-shirts, clearance rack flannel shirts, and about 2 pairs of jeans a year. I hated going to any event that called for "dressing nice" because I never had "nice". I barely had "presentable". Yes, in the mid-90's, grunge was in, but I was quite a bit more grungy than was probably fashionable.

At the same time, I have always loved fashion magazines, and fabrics, and learned to sew and do a bit of pattern drafting with the idea of dressing better. It never worked that well because "better" involved better fabrics than I could afford on my shoestring budget, and the freedom to make mistakes. In college, I had no money to waste on "wadders", and these days I have no time.

Anywho, you get the idea. Poor me, yada yada. These day, I have more of a clothing budget, when I choose to spend it on myself. I just have mommy guilt that drives me to buy the kiddos more stuff than I buy myself.

Which brings me back to Friday. I'm still down that 10 pounds that I worked off this summer, and in mostly single-digit sizes for the first time since I can remember (I think I passed right through them in the free-t-shirt days). My closet is full of tops that are a bit too baggy and pants that will fall off of my hips without a belt. The 60-pound rollercoaster ride of pregnancies and breastfeeding didn't help much either (actually from now to my heaviest is closer to 70 pounds).

And suddenly, I can put on an expensive (to me) outfit and like how I look in it. But then I read the care labels and tags, and feel like I have to put things back on the rack for practicality. "Eveningwear" in my lifestyle is sweats or jeans (when your kids use your shoulder as a Kleenex, you don't wear dry-clean-only clothing). And I could dress up a tad more at work. Suits would be out of place as are many skirts and dresses, but I could definitely trend away from jeans more.

But, I have to allow myself to spend more money on clothes. That's a toughie for someone who's a cheapskate, who doesn't believe in credit card debt, and who has way more things on her wish list than just clothes (like kitchen appliances...). Too bad fairy godmothers are hard to come by these day :)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Dinner: Beef and and Mushrooms

Beef and Mushroom Noodles
Serves 4
Total time: about 30 minutes


  • Olive oil (about 4 tbsp, divided)
  • 1 lb round steak, sliced into 1/8" thick slices
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms (or a combination of fresh and re-constituted dried--I used some white button mushrooms plus some dried shitakes)
  • 1 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
  • 3/4 cup (1/2 can) skim milk
  • 1/2 pound wide egg noodles (4 servings)
  • salt and pepper


  1. Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Sprinkle thinly sliced steak with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Cook steak in skillet until browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl and cover loosely.
  4. Add another tbsp of oil to the pan, and heat. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until translucent.
  5. Add the mushrooms and remaining oil (the mushrooms soak it up very fast) and cook about 1 more minute.
  6. Pour about 3/4 cup of water into the hot pan, and stir, scraping the bottom to deglaze (Note, if you're using a non-stick pan, you might be able to skip this step).
  7. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the cream soup and milk. Mix well.
  8. Add the meat and any accumulated juices to the mushroom soup mixture, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Toss with the egg noodles, and serve warm.