Saturday, May 28, 2011

O'Elia's ;)

I had been wanting to have our pastor and her husband (also a pastor of another ELCA church) over for dinner, and last night was a good night for it. It was the last day if school, their youngest just graduated, the Easter season is winding down, and we have been here for one year. We visited our church the first week last year and liked it a lot. However, we did want to compare it with other churches before deciding. All summer we wanted to come back and visit Edgwood, and we finally decided it was the church for us. Pastor Beth was very much a deciding factor, and with our one year anniversary this week, we wanted to celebrate with her. We really had a great evening!

I knew that the local Lebanese lunch shop is one of their favorites here, and we miss Elia's so much that I've spent the last year trying to reproduce our favorites from their menu. I've gotten pretty good at it! I'll post the recipes on the sidebar sometime this week. We had tabbouleh, falafel with pita, tapas-style veggies, hummus, shish taouk (skewered chicken), marinated round steak, and tzatziki and toum sauces. Dessert was baklava, and I made everything but the pita. That would've been overboard; even I know that! I forgot to get the spanikopita out of the freezer, and I figured we already had enough food. I love to make all the dishes so that I can mix different flavors into each bite. It's all fresh and pretty darn healthy and definitely delicious! I had used up all the store-bought plain yogurt for breakfast yesterday and thought I'd have to run to the store, but I found a quart of unopened homemade yogurt that was weeks old in the fridge. It was fresh and yummy! I used it in the chicken marinade, tzatziki, and toum. Such a relief when I surprise myself by being extra-prepared!

We don't have any real plans this weekend. We feel like we've been hit by a bus every week, so making plans is not our first thought, I'll admit. We'll keep it mellow and see if we have it in us to do anything special with the kids. The Jedis can't play Wii for an entire 3-day weekend!

EDIT: we're Bethlehem-bound in the morning!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sometimes stuff does make life better, but only to a point.

I'm naturally drawn to some kinds of possessions. Kitchen gear that lets me make good food for cheap, for example. My mom gave me a used stick blender recently because she wasn't using it. We've been making frozen lemonade with strawberries blended right in. It even came with a processor adapter that I use for hummus. It gets far more use than my blender, but it won't replace my food processor.

I'm also a fan of useful technology. We all use the Wii, whether for gaming or for streaming good stuff on Netflix for $8/month. The iPod Touch I got for my birthday is an enormous blessing! I do almost all of my web-based activities on it. In fact, I usually thumb-type my blog entries on my iPod. The sad reason for the lack of photos on my blog is this: I can't get photos from my iPod to load onto my blog, boo! However, most other apps work fine. I love that my email, calendar, recipes, Facebook, skype, music, Netflix, pregnancy tracking, grocery shopping, weather, maps, and google talk are in my hands any time. The kids ask all kinds of questions, and I'm always looking for information to satisfy their burning desire to know whether bumblebees make honey (yes, but it is thinner, in smaller quantities, and ferments easily), Chancellor Palpatine's sith name (sidious), and where we can find a book about poisonous creatures (Amazon, of course!). The best part is that I can do this while sitting with them instead of going to the computer. This works anywhere with a wireless signal, like boring doctor's offices!

I love the This American Life app especially! It keeps track of which episodes I already have saved and lets me save one at a time for off line listening, which is great if I know I'm going to be waiting somewhere for a while. It's my favorite radio show, and the app let's me search for favorite stories or contributors. Great for insomnia! When we're home, Pandora's app is a fun way to enjoy a stream of music based on one song we type in. I leave my iPod on the speaker/charger and let the tunes roll!

On a more practical and low-tech note, I still love the Fuzzibunz diapers! M is not interested in potty training, and I'm so happy not to spend $$ on her diapers beyond the cost of washing! They're currently on a quick hot soak with 4T of Charlie's Soap to prevent stinky odors from settling in, a phenomenon that's more common with hard water like ours. I spend 2 minutes rinsing out the dirty ones at change time, 2 minutes loading the cold wash, 2 minutes about half an hour later to restart the load as a hot wash with an extra rinse and some detergent, but I leave the lid open or turn the washer off for the soak if they need one. After the hot wash and extra rinse I take 2 minutes to load them into the dryer on low or 10 minutes to hang them outdoors. Once they're dry, it takes 10 minutes to stuff them and put them away. An hour a week, maybe. Good deal!

So some possessions do make me a wee bit happier because I find them useful or meaningful. That said, I am likely to use things I like until they're worn to bits. We still hold onto grad school furniture because kids are hard on any furniture, and we don't want new stuff to get trashed. I like focusing on simplicity and utility rather than on chasing the next purchase. I like to bless my family with fun and useful things. I like to have some stuff, but I don't want my stuff to control me by dictating how much space we need or by requiring more time than I want to spend. I've known people, including relatives, who are really trapped and ruled by their possessions, and I don't want that feeling. I know someone who regularly accuses people of taking her stuff because she has so much that she can't keep track of it. There's just no reason to let my stuff come between me and my relationships, you know?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Making my summer more than survivable

All quiet on the blog means a nice week here. Lots of sun, lots of playtime, a visit with a lovely family to the zoo, and lots of grilling.

The inaugural playdate went about as well as I thought it would. The child who visited is I-M's best friend at school. He is an only child in a two-income household where he seems to be in charge, so visiting our home was a bit of a culture shock. He was pretty annoyed with my toddler for being a toddler and wondered aloud how we could like her since she's so pesky. Despite my quick rundown of household rules, he was perplexed by my actual enforcement. Friends seem to be in short supply here, so we'll give it another try, especially since it means a lot to my son. A big blessing today is that the Jedis got to go for a playdate at some slightly older church kids' home, and they had a great time! We're trying to make connections where it really matters, and this was a great thing for them.

The kids have been on Starfall a lot lately, crowded together all 3 on the chair by the computer with IM as the instructor, A-man as the star pupil, and M-girl as the little fledgling learner, hugging and kissing her brothers and giggling while they teach her letter sounds-- too cute! I love how close they all are and what affection they share!

My big fear for the near future is that I'll be in a messy house with all 3 kids bored all summer, so I'm filling out the schedule with planned meals and activities as I mentioned before, and I'm also working on a series of 3 quick cleanups per day: morning - bedrooms, afternoon - downstairs, and evening - finishing what is left in the chore jar. The chore jar will be for disciplinary purposes throughout the day (fight, sass, or disobey, pick a job from the jar) and will keep things from getting too out of hand when used with the 3 quick cleanup times.

I know enough about myself to know that I am less patient and loving when the house is crazy. Same goes for when my kids are unruly. My hope is that this system will help me keep things running smoothly. The goal will be for us to go somewhere 3 days a week. When our home is neat, we will be able to find what we need to get out the door. When we return, I will be tired from outings but not depressed to be returning to a cesspool of kid mess. That makes all the difference!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


So I have entirely too much familiarity with poo. There's your warning. Stop now if you'll get sick. You know who you are!

Okay? Okay. So the last few days have been really rainy, and princess Peaches the dumb dog does not like to go out in the rain. I put her out, but apparently to no avail. Last night she sneaked upstairs to go on the carpet since she had been holding it all day. No pee. Just pooped on the carpet in the Jedis' room. Twice. Never happened there before, but the door to M's room is closed all night. I found it this morning as I went in to wake the Jedis. We had heard footsteps upstairs last night, and they must've been hers. All is cleaned up just fine, but this was quite disturbing to my morning gestational sensibilities. The dog spent the duration of the morning in the basement and didn't bother to cry to come back up, so thorough was the shaming she had received.

M got up and had a stinky diaper around the same time I discovered the carpet incident. No biggie. She often does that when she wakes up. Still a little queasy, but making it. She needed a bath, and I knew I'd be worn out too quickly if I did that too, so I asked Dr. O' to bathe her while I dropped the Jedis off, and then I'd get a few minutes alone in the car. When I came home, she had dumped a gallon of water on the bath floor in the 2 minutes that my dear husband was busy. And she had pooped in the tub. We rinsed her, dressed her, and bleached the tub.

Our minions don't give us a moment's rest.

Grocery shopping with summer break in mind

Shopping day finally arrived, which is usually the first non-weekend day following a payday, but can be delayed if I haven't properly organized my list, my coupons, and my menu yet. So today was a bit delayed since payday was Friday. I got my coupons organized this morning, my menu planned yesterday, and I still didn't have more than a mental list, but I went anyway.

I did have my little rant on coupons the other day, but I do use them. I saved $40 today using them. I just operate on the principle that a good deal on stuff that isn't good for us isn't a good deal. We do eat plenty of treats, but we avoid the really processed stuff. My rant the other day was over someone who was insisting on a coupon site that it was worth it to brave the Saturday crowds to get junky cereal (okay, it was Corn Pops) for $1 a box, and most of the coupon deals on the site are for toxic chemicals or junk food.

We were out of cereal and lots of other self-serve snack items. I tend to make more of the snacks in cooler months and when I'm not, well, gestating. Now it's one thing I'm happy to find on sale with coupons. I stocked up on Go-gurt with no dyes or HFCS and on granola bars with no HFCS. Other snack and lunch side items are string cheese, fruit, carrots and celery, applesauce, and crackers.

The Jedis and I came up with weekday lunches for the summer, with plenty of sides/snacks that we'll keep on hand. We also came up with a dinner menu for the summer. We'll have Tex-Mex, pasta/Italian, Mediterranean, Indian/curry, barbecue, and pizza. We'll keep the basics around for each variety and vary the flavors with fresh and hopefully local food. Most nights we'll be grilling part of the meal in order to keep the kitchen cooler and because grilled food is delicious! I'm hoping it keeps me from having to make unplanned trips to the store in 90 degree weather with 3 kids. Dr. O' has agreed that he should stay home with the kids while I shop in the evenings or early mornings. Then he can unload the car. Anything beats shopping with A-man in the summer because he gets moody when we go in and out of stores and he gets too cold and too hot. Miserable!

We made up a daily schedule for the summer that includes reading time and quiet time, 3 short cleaning spurts, craft times (because I hate craft mess!), outside times (trying to avoid exposing Irish skin to midday sun!), and times when it would be best to go out for an activity. Our weekly plan will involve looking at the various options available and planning 3 outings per week. IM can go to day camp for free every Tuesday, and they'll pick him up near our house! We'll probably buy a city pool pass and buy a zoo pass again. We're planning to buy a children's museum pass as well. In addition to those venues, there are lots of other activities to go to throughout the summer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Update on appointment

So we're doing well, apparently. I don't know if I paint too rosy of a picture or what, but IM is improving and is functioning well at school and home despite some very consistent behavior glitches that occur at predictable junctures. However, thanks to all the tiring behavioral modification and dietary monitoring and sleep accountability, we are doing what the medication would probably do, which is giving him the ability to calm himself and to think before acting. Which is good. But we're also tired, and I was a teensy bit ready to hear that he might need something for anxiety or impulsivity. I was surprised that the doctor actually did have some fairly high-ish scores for oppositional defiance, which I know is present but is far more of a concern with another child.

Instead, the doctor wants him to continue therapy for the summer, monitor the transitions to second grade and to adding a sibling, and reevaluate the need for meds if that transition is not smooth. The primary treatment is therapy for his age anyway, so this is good. It's the right thing to do in this case and in this timeframe because his stress level will go down when he doesn't go to school. We don't want to attribute a gain to medication when it's actually from a reduction of stress and stimulation.

The hard thing is that I can't help feeling like this is all moving SO SLOWLY! I don't want him to fall further behind in maturity, and his anxiety and impulsivity do get in the way of peer interactions. However, we do have good news on that front as well. IM has his best friend coming over on Thursday, and he's completely obsessing about it! Mellow out, dude. It IS exciting, but you can't drive mom crazy for days in advance.

Time for a nap.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

95% is good, right?

So we're still not medicating anyone for the hyperactivity or the general defiant stuff. We do have a big reevaluation of this situation tomorrow for IM. I'm feeling open to some antianxiety meds for him because he constantly chews his shirts, which I think must be a nervous habit. The theory in his case is that he's generally an anxious kid, and when the anxiety builds up, it leads to impulsive behavior. It's generaly not vicious or mean, just really immature and goofy. We've spent the last several months working through several other issues including sleep and allergies so that the emotional evaluations could be more reliable. The choice to medicate is so thorny for me! We find our Jedis generally delightful 95% of the time, so I have a hard time justifying medication for kids who are very difficult or nutty only 5% of the time, and the cost can be rather prohibitive. Side effects bring a whole other range of issues that I can't even anticipate. I was on antidepressants 10 years ago, and I had trouble with side effects and with finding an effective drug and dose. As I became better able to cope, I was happier off the meds. I worry that we'll have the same problem with meds for my kids.

They do extremely well in school, and the only problem areas are any time we are transitioning from one activity or location to another, when their imaginary play seems to take over most of the county, and when we are at church. Most of this is manageable, but it is truly miserable on the rare occasions when the behavior gets out of hand. A-man's difficulty is a control issue. He gets angry, primarily at me, and continues to ratchet up the hostility until Dr. O' or I put an end to it. Sometimes I can head it off with gentle words in a behavioral script and gentle touch. Other times, I have to see his bet and raise him, ending the argument with punishment such as a loss of privilege, time out with work to do, or a spank if he truly will not relent. Sometimes he responds better to the serious consequence than to the gentle intervention. Definitely makes me second-guess myself!

Despite all this, I find my children so sweet and loving and fun! I can't wait for summer so I can be with them all day! I find behavior much easier to manage when they're with me all day because I can squelch the first sign of stinky attitudes or impulsivity. I love their fascinating minds and the creative ideas they dream up. I love seeing them play together and enjoy their little adventures! These high-maintenance monkeys are what God blesses us with, and I've chosen to accept that and to continue to give them additional siblings because I think the large family dynamic really does foster compassion and thoughtfulness and the ability to work through differences. I'm happy with our choices so far, and I want to parent in a way that lets me feel that we're all a pretty good team.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Attachment parenting post for someone who would be good at it!

One of my most thoughtful and conscientious former students asked me what makes my parenting style unusual.  We stumbled backward into what is known as attachment parenting, which is becoming less hippie and more hip, even though it is still counter-cultural in many parts of the US.  Where we live in a blue-collar industrial region makes us even more unusual.   We live this way because it is less about stuff and more about time and connection with the family.  I've gone whole pregnancies without so much as a trip to Babies R Us or Motherhood Maternity, despite the way that magazines portray the bearing of children without these stores as near barbarism ;).

The most distilled explanation of our parenting philosophy is at this link. It's just brilliant and concise.  The best point is that AP is not a rigid set of rules to follow or you'll screw up your kid.  Instead, it is a starting place that each family can customize according to the needs of parents and children.  I've seen people dive into every fringe aspect of AP/natural parenting wholeheartedly, only to burn out later.  

I think it's best to start out with the 7 baby b's and add other holistic parenting elements as parents feel comfortable.  Example:  as much as they're good things on their own, it's probably not practical to simultaneously do ecological breastfeeding, elimination communication, co-sleeping with a whole family, all homemade meals from one's organic garden, line-drying all clothing, homeschooling for each child in the family and to expect to have a larger family.  There has to be time that a mother does not have to live on high alert and have a child perpetually on her body, and she needs to maintain a loving relationship with her husband if they are to remain an effective team.  I've seen mothers get very depressed or more than a little crazy trying to be Supermom, and that leads to a lot of unhealthy isolation.  There's a lot of fear at the margins, both for attachment/natural parents and for their more mainstream fellow parents. These fears lead to irrational and unbalanced parenting, rather than a relaxed enjoyment of the blessings of home and family.

Here's how we got to be Attachment Parents---

Having been raised in a pretty authoritarian church environment, my husband and I had gotten the impression that babies were manipulative and sinful creatures, and parents needed to show them who was in charge.  

However, every authoritarian/Babywise-type method we tried (briefly) felt like a betrayal of our little baby.  We were naturally attachment parents without knowing it.  When we moved to Notre Dame, we were suddenly in a Mecca for natural and attachment parenting.  I spent time with moms who seemed comfortable in their own skin and avoided those who were critical or who knew how everyone else should raise their kids.  We had another baby 18 months after the first, and our attachment parenting instincts were cemented, particularly after a very positive birth experience and an easier time nursing.  

As the older two grew, I became more concerned about their diet and ours.  Our scant food budget plus our health drove me toward bulk shopping and cooking from scratch. I learned about the health issues caused by many common food additives, and I resolved to do what I could to eliminate them.  We also had some food allergies that made careful label reading essential.  

By the time our daughter came, we were managing some behavior issues with our sons by diet, but we had a lot of work to do.  I was blessed with an easy birth and great nursing with her.  She was the only one so far who never slept in our bed or even in our room, which was a surprising adjustment for us.  We added cloth diapering with her, which necessitated using biodegradable detergents and the elimination of fabric softener and dryer sheets.  We began researching natural cleaning in an effort to get more toxins out of our home.  

We continued to puzzle through the behavioral issues of our boys, which changed as they developed and grew, eventually figuring out that they do struggle with attention and impulsivity issues a bit more than is typical for little boys.  Because we have tried to parent peacefully, we've kept communication open with them and are able to help them manage their behavioral concerns with diet and behavioral modification.  

Now that we're welcoming #4, adding one more seems like no big deal.  We probably won't try for any more, but we do feel that we have a responsibility to respect life and to honor God's sovereignty.  

Most of our conclusions for our family are a reaction to the consumerist / medical / easy-fix ideas that are part of modern mainstream parenting culture, much of which is based on either an appeal to fear or to laziness.  We refuse to be corporate sheep because we've seen corporations not take human health and safety seriously.

Disposable diapers contain toxins, formula can be tainted and can cause long-term health problems, baby containment systems (playpens) stunt emotional and intellectual growth, food additives exacerbate behavioral issues and cause immunity problems, chemical birth control harms our bodies and our shared water systems, and materialism teaches our children the wrong values.  We have found that the most natural methods of living are the ones that work best for our family.

Although we can now afford to do more and spend more money, we generally choose not to.  We don't want to be trapped by our possessions or to shuttle our children from place to place out of fear that they won't have as fun a childhood as their peers. We do what we can, take their input seriously, and make the most of our time together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Outside is good! Except for all the people...

We have been so happy to enjoy hours outdoors every day for the last few days! If only they didn't have to come in and do pointless homework :(. We've been getting crazy with chalk and bubbles and tumbling down the hill and playing in the sandbox. So much fun!

This morning I kept IM home a bit longer so he could go to an appointment with his therapist. He sat in the living room and watched PBS with M-girl this morning while I got a shower. Then I did a few house things and loaded up IM and M-girl to go to the appointment. We had the $.75 ready to pay the weird parking attendant who stalks people in the parking lot (not his fault, they just have the parking lot set up strangely). We got upstairs and past the first waiting room remarkably quickly and then checked in at the therapist's office only to find out that the secretary had written today on the card but had entered tomorrow into her computer. She and I have an awful lot of misunderstanding, and the blame doesn't seem to lie with me as she seems to be in flustered minor conflict with everyone I see her speak with. She tried to fit us in, but the therapist had a new client and couldn't make any adjustments. We rescheduled for just before he sees the doctor in the same office, saving ourselves a copay. The only real problem was that IM was worried he'd be in trouble for not being in school or going to an appointment, so the secretary wrote an excuse, and I attached the appointment card to it. No worries on the school's end, but it was kinda funny since he goes to this office to alleviate his anxiety, not to increase it!

I dropped IM off at school and stopped by Dr. O's office to share my latest fiasco. Then M and I made a quick stop at the big park where she played until she got a significant boo-boo that panicked her. We returned home, where she held a wipe on her little knee scrape for 2 hours as she ate lunch and watched too much Caillou before going down for a late nap.

I worked on laundry, started the breadmachine, hung diapers in the sun, and did some minor clean-up before getting my small dose of sun for the day. My neighbor was in a foul mood and was cursing pretty badly at another neighbor two doors down, but I decided to continue doing what I wanted to do. I kept my door open, played some music, and made some noise so he'd know I could hear him. It usually works, and he did calm down. Worst case scenario is for me to yell his first name, and then he's extremely apologetic and quiet for days.

Neighbors are the only fly in the ointment of our summertime outdoor fun. Two doors down, the neighbor's girlfriend wants to be my buddy, and it's just not gonna happen. The only thing we appear to have in common is that M-girl and her son are the same age, but M is very shy only interested in parallel play at best. Neighbor girl has no clue about the fine art of playdating, a series of rituals and norms that moms who want to hang out have to observe. I have a fourth on the way, loads of work to do, partial bedrest hours to comply with, and a parenting philosophy that I know would be either off-putting or carnival-attraction-strange to her. She's already commented on the cloth diapers on my line. I should probably get one playdate at the little park down the street out of the way and hope she doesn't ask again.

I have friends who make all kinds of parenting choices, and I support them gladly. However, most of my mom friends and I have at least SOME things in common. Neighbor girl yells at her little boy a lot, her boyfriend owns a discount tobacco store, they have two sattelite receivers on their obviously sagging roofline, and yet he drives a luxury car. They are just very different from us, upwardly-mobile Appalachian perhaps, and I don't want to spend awkward time with people I know we don't have anything in common with AND who constantly argue with our mutual neighbor. My goal is to be kind and to live a peaceful life with my family in order to maintain a decent Christian testimony, but I don't have to be every mom's friend.

Neighbor troubles aside, we enjoyed four hours outdoors. While I moved laundry, the kids fixed their own snack out back, using up the better part of a box of Honey Nut Chex, yet they were surprisingly hungry for dinner. We loved grilling dinner and eating outdoors last night, and by then the bugs and humidity were minimal. M looked like she was trying out for a part in Shrek XVII thanks to a coating of sweat and green sidewalk chalk dust. We rounded out the night with fruit salad, homework, and baths. Can't wait until school is out!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Will the state take my blog away if I keep neglecting it??

Last week felt long but went by fast in the way that busy weeks with small children often do. We found that our plan to get through the week with maximum productivity for Dan really went off very smoothly. The house was in chaos, but everyone was clean and well-fed, and the biohazards didn't get the upper hand, or at least not for long. (An incident in which M-girl removed her diaper during naptime was indeed harrowing but does not bear retelling. Suffice it to say that an Allen wrench and disinfectant were required before all was declared clean.).

Saturday did not begin at the lazy pace that it typically does thanks to Dr. O's observation that we were living in a cluttered mess. We got everyone started picking up items to put away upstairs so that Dr. O' could vacuum downstairs after he loaded the dishwasher. The Jedis put away their toys while M and I put her trashed room back together. By then Dan was ready to vacuum the upstairs, so we headed back downstairs to wipe down the bathroom. The Jedis do a great job shining the bathroom sink and wiping down the toilet, and I gave the shower a quick scrub and wiped the mirror. Then I-M mopped the kitchen and bath. I changed mop cloths and damp mopped the hardwood and laminate in the LR, DR, and our room. The Jedis emptied trash cans and ran items back to their places. All this took an hour and a half. This is why a small house works for us! Dr. O' went for a few things at the grocery and came home with an enormous thank-you bouquet for my being so willing to keep things under control at home while he put in some 10-12 hour days. Very sweet! He had to return to campus from 1-5 to give two exams, and the kids and I enjoyed a mellow afternoon.

Sunday morning we enjoyed coffee in bed and then Dr. O' prepared bacon, eggs, and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We enjoyed a peaceful breakfast together and got ready for church. My lesson in the chapel was about how stubborn and disobedient God's people were in the desert, just as we are prone to be. They took the first chance they could to cast an idol to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 commandments, the first of which was not to worship anything but God.

At home we ate a ziti that my husband had put in the oven before church. Then we put M down for a nap and told the Jedis not to play loudly so we could rest. For dinner he grilled a steak for me and the kids, and it was so good! When I'm expecting, I crave red meat! We had some yummy sides and peach crisp for dessert. The kids played all evening in the yard as we watched, chatted, and called our moms. I was catatonic by 8pm!

This morning I managed to get moving rather quickly and got everything from the morning rush put away. I thoroughly cleaned my kitchen counters and restarted a laundry load that had failed to make it past the washer since Saturday evening. I played out back, rested in the sun a bit, and put M down for her nap. The house was in B+ shape, which is fine because I can't have it perfect or I get cranky when little persons mess it up. I started brainstorming and decided to take the kids to the zoo this afternoon. I had time to be organized and feel ready for the adventure. I put out my intention on FB and got another momma to join us. However, I didn't know until we arrived that THE ZOO CLOSES AT 4. We got there at 3:30. Fortunately, everyone was fairly game to move the whole shebang to Wheeling Park, where we stayed until nearly 6! Such a perfect day to play! We came home to a freshly-cut lawn and leftover ziti. The kids are out back screaming like monkeys and getting covered in grass stains. Homework is increasingly difficult to get them to start on with these beautiful days, but they sleep so soundly after wind sprints up an down the grassy hill. Happy times.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The rant that I chose not to publish on a coupon site but needed to get out of my system

I really question the value of spending all this time and energy to stock up massively on highly-processed stuff that's barely food, the ingredients of which are often banned in Europe and Canada.  I do use some coupons, but there is tremendous cost to families in health care to feed them the stuff people get with these "deals".  Diabetes and heart disease are just the most common.  Makes more sense to me to plan a good trip or two a week to match up sales and coupons on healthy whole food and to spend time more profitably by cooking real meals from scratch.  

Who cares if you get a great deal on harsh chemicals to clean your home if you're making the environment of your home toxic?  I don't think the gas money it takes to make all these store trips is worthwhile either.  I stayed home with small children while my husband earned his Ph.D.without student loans, and I learned quickly how much of a time suck all this "bargain" shopping is.  I chose to play with my babies and cook real meals while they napped, and we saved a lot of money. I'm still home with my 3rd child (and with my soon-to-be 4th) and my mad money saving skills allow us to live quite comfortably now that he's out of school.  I think there's a balance, and missing some of these "deals" might be a good thing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dadda at Jedwit money

This is M-girl's summation of this week. Yes, Daddy is at Jesuit because he makes money for his family, although the pay obviously doesn't vary by the hours spent at work in the academic life. We explained to the kids that Dad puts off doing grading and planning so that he can get time at home, and he needs this week to catch up. This semester will likely be the worst because he's teaching all new material this year, and he has summer courses starting soon. As time goes on, he will have less prep to do because his courses will include more repeats. He wants to make sure to put effort into writing good exams that will accurately reflect student knowledge without being torturous essays to grade. I told him it's worth it because he'll be around to reuse the exams, and it will make grading much easier.

Part of the dynamic that works really well in our marriage is that we both would rather offer to be flexible than to wait for the other to ask for flexibility. When we offer to be flexible, we're starting with a positive mindset about the change or sacrifice, and we can't get upset about something we offered to do in the first place. It works for us because we both do this for each other as needed, so no one feels used. On the really busy weeks, we try harder to connect as a couple as well so that we don't lose touch with how the other is feeling.

In addition to academic work and family responsibility, over half of his small dept is moving on, so there are end-of-year and farewell dinners to attend. On the homefront we figured the best thing was to give the kids a consistent plan for this week: Dad has to work late, but only for this one week, and we can all make a sacrifice. It's actually going well. They understand that it's temporary, and I can do anything for one week! The downside is that the weather is miserable, so fun outdoor time isn't an option.

So we're doing baths, dinner, homework, and bedtime with just Momma, whose patience wears thin from time to time, but they also don't get as riled up when Dad isn't home to play in the evening. The Jedis are usually still awake when he gets home, so he sits with them until at least one is sleeping (usually A-man). Then he does the dishes and makes sure laundry isn't sitting in the washer. Last night he ran out to get milk for breakfast and some tin roof sundae ice cream for me. I was happy to see that he also got a 6-pack of some fancy-pants beer for himself!

We do the morning routine together, and this morning I asked him to do me a solid. I have a hard time getting a shower in the morning with M on the loose, so I asked him to take the Jedis to school and have her ride along. He takes the boys sometimes and then returns the car and walks to work, so this was one extra detail for him on a day when I really needed it. He agreed and was back in 15 minutes, and I was showered and happy. Ahhhhh!