Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pictures from my mom

Family picture, taken two weeks ago when we dropped B off to camp with my parents for a couple days:

B doing his # 1 favorite thing in the whole wide world, climbing rocks (OK, maybe rock-climbing would come in second to eating candy):

Miss Z with her parents, also at the beginning of the camping trip:

Z and her dad, taken at my aunt & uncle's house a month or so ago:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Yard work day

I spent all day today -- 6 hours all together -- working in the yard. My first project was to weed the rose garden. The weeds weren't bad, but I was surprised to find my roses in the early stages of a very late second bloom. Obviously I don't give those guys the TLC they deserve, or I'd have known weeks ago that this was coming. Now I'm really hoping that first frost stays away for a couple more weeks so I can enjoy them!

Next project: pruning the tomatoes. I cut off all the low branches that weren't bearing fruit, and thinned them by cutting out anything that was looking old & unhealthy. Believe it or not, it took me three hours to do all this! I found hidden pockets of ripe tomatoes all over the place too, so now I've got three full bowls of tomatoes to eat/freeze/get rid of. Once again, I'm hoping that first frost is a ways off, because there are lots of tomatoes still to ripen. Added bonus: I managed to expose B's pepper plant to the sun. It had been hidden by the tomato jungle. The kid loves yellow bell peppers, and what kind of vegetable-pushing, gardening mom would I be if I didn't grow him some?

PS - Do you think it's crazy to talk to your tomatoes as you're pruning? Any time I accidentally cut off a branch with tomatoes on it, or broke one, or knocked off an unripe tomato, I apologized. Yes, out loud. I think they like it.

Next project: start work on the new, giant vegetable garden we're prepping for next year. It'll be 10' wide by about 15' long. I measured it out, moved the butterfly bush that was growing inside the garden-to-be to a new location, then sprayed glyphosphate on the grass to kill it. In another week or two, we'll build the sides (it's going to be a raised bed, at least on three sides) and transfer the remains of our giant compost pile into the new garden. I'm hoping I won't have to buy a single vegetable next summer. We're even thinking of coordinating with the next-door neighbors when we plan our gardens in the spring, so we don't grow all the same stuff & can share.

Next up: moving a few things in my xeriscape garden. One little veronica and a wine cup that started out as three leaves and is now a foot in diameter were getting crowded, so I moved them to a more open spot. I still need to move some ice plant that is totally underneath the yarrow now. I can hardly believe it's only been about four months since I planted this garden. It's grown like crazy! I credit the magic compost for most of it. Seriously, I hardly ever even water this garden. Once every 2-3 weeks at the most. Look at that sage -- it's about waist-high!

And I love sedum in all its forms. This is currently my prettiest sedum:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Why McCain's afraid to debate

He doesn't want you to be thinking about him so much right now while this economic crisis is eating up your retirement savings, further devaluing your home, and generally scaring the bejesus out of us all. It's why he pulled his campaign ads (come on, who really believes that running ads would keep him from doing his job as a senator this week?), and it's why he's afraid to show up tonight. See, if the media spends too much time talking about McCain in conjunction with this debacle, you might start learning something about him that you may not have known, and you may not see him so favorably.


1. Mr. McCain has admitted publicly on more than one occasion that he doesn't know much about economics.
2. Mr. McCain surrounds himself with advisers who bear a very real burden of responsibility for putting our economy into the crisis it's in today.
3. Mr. McCain himself has been directly involved in nefarious dealings that led to an economic crisis in our country's recent history.

Let's explore each of these a little more fully. First, his admission that he doesn't know much about economics. Instead of me explaining this one, why don't you just get it straight from the horse's mouth. Do you really think this guy can provide leadership in tough economic times if he doesn't understand WHY they're tough, much less HOW they're tough for the average American (Mr. Seven Homes and Eleven Cars)?

Next, McCain's advisers: three of the biggies are Phil Gramm, Carly Fiorina, and Rick Davis. If you're mad about our collapsing financial markets, a good person to direct your anger at is Phil Gramm. In 1999, then-U.S. Senator Phil Gramm sponsored and passed a sweeping deregulation of the banking industry. He followed that up in 2000 with a second new law that forbade the Securities and Exchange Commission from regulating certain kinds of commodities trading. The lack of regulation in the banking industry, specifically in commodities trading and mortgage lending, is what really got us to where we are today (aka deep financial doo-doo). Thanks Phil! I bet a lot of CEOs just love you, but I don't so much.

What did Mr. Gramm do when he left the U.S. Senate? Well, he went to work as a lobbyist for banking giant USB. Wasn't that a convenient turn of events for Mr. Gramm? And what does Mr. Gramm do now, you ask? He recently had to resign as cochair of Senator John McCain's election campaign because people objected when he publicly called Americans a "nation of whiners" and said we were only suffering from a "mental" recession. This is one of the main sources McCain goes to for economic advice. Do you think he's looking out for you and me in his off-time from lobbying for USB and schmoozing for McCain? I doubt it.

Another person McCain relies on for economic advice is Carly Fiorina. You remember her -- she's the one who nearly ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground a few years ago and had to lay off 20,000 people. Then she took a severance package when they let her go that was valued at somewhere between $21 million and $42 million, depending on who you ask. Apparently four union pension funds are suing HP to get that back, by the way. I hope she goes broke and her house goes into foreclosure.

Then there's Nr. McCain's third favorite economic adviser, campaign manager Rick Davis. He's the guy who said McCain didn't need to "write down" an economic plan. Apparently winging it is good enough for the guy who has openly claimed he doesn't know a lot about economics. Guess what Mr. Davis does when he's not busy with the McCain campaign? He's a lobbyist. He owns a firm that has been on retainer with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to help them avoid government regulation. Well, that turned out well for us, didn't it? He said yesterday that it's been over a year since he did any work for the mortgage giants, but records found by media outlets including NPR have shown that the retainer fee was paid as recently as last month. Liar liar pants on fire.

And last but not least, let's talk about the Keating Five. Remember our last big banking crisis? In 1989, a bunch of savings and loans went under and the federal government had to come to the rescue. One of them was the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, headed by a "gentleman" by the name of Charles H. Keating, Jr. When that particular bank went under, it came out that five U.S. senators had been improperly aiding this guy in his illegal behavior. He gave them a total of more than $1 million in campaign contributions, and in return, these five senators went to work to keep federal regulators' noses out of Mr. Keating's business. These five guys came to be known as the "Keating Five." Guess who one of the five was? John McCain. He was one of two guys among the five that were ultimately cleared of blatant illegal behavior by the Senate Ethics Committee, but was admonished for exercising "poor judgment."

Isn't that what it really comes down to here? Judgment? I don't know about you, but I think Mr. McCain has a serious deficit when it comes to judgment on this subject.

So this is why Mr. McCain wants you to be thinking about things other than him this week. It's why he pulled his ads off TV, and it's why he doesn't want to debate tonight. Even though this debate isn't supposed to be about the economy, he just doesn't want to stand up in front of the American people as the guy who not only doesn't know how to solve this problem, but had at the very least an indirect hand in creating it and openly seeks advice from people who had a very direct hand in causing it. Coward.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A joke for you

Q. What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney?

A. Lipstick.

Sorry. I guess that's more scary than funny, isn't it? But seriously. They share a wicked vindictiveness. Both have a history of vicious retaliation against people who have "wronged" them.

I guess there's one other big difference: experience (John McCain's favorite word until he picked Palin as his VP, when it mysteriously disappeared from his vocabulary). But Dick Cheny is living (allegedly -- he could be undead, or a droid) proof that experience doesn't always equate with judgment, isn't he?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

7 months

February 17, 2008

September 20, 2008


A conversation B and I had a couple nights ago:

B: Mommy, when do people die?
Me: Well, usually when they get really, really old.
B: Like how old?
Me: Like a hundred years old.
B: (with a look of horror on his face) So you're going to die soon?!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Has America lost its mind?!

I don't know where this originated. M emailed it to me yesterday, and I heard Randi Rhodes read it on air yesterday afternoon. Maybe she's the original source; I'm not sure. But seriously folks, when you look at it this way, it seems a little crazy, dontcha think? [material in brackets was added by yours truly]


I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'
* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack, you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, and you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School, and you are unstable.
* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a constitutional law professor, spend 8 years as a state senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state senate's Health and Human Services Committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs Committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
* If your total resume is: local weather girl [I thought she was a sportscaster?], 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, and 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters [note that we plan for B to marry the younger daughter, so all the rest of you with young sons can forget about it -- she's promised], all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you advocate teaching responsible, age-appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control [and educating kindergarteners on how not to be the victim of a sexual predator], you are eroding the fiber of society.
* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence-only sex education in your state's school system, with no other option, while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate laywer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
* If you're husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

And just to reward you if you're still reading -- George W. Bush eats kittens!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A post with pictures

Two posts in one day -- I'm getting wild and out of control! But I know a couple people (hi Dorothy & Erin!) may be getting a little impatient waiting for some new pictures, so this is for you.

B is camping with my parents right now. We took him up into the mountains to meet them yesterday, and we all stayed for dinner. He comes home tomorrow evening. Here are a couple pictures from yesterday, but the best ones are on my mom's camera (ours sucks) and they're not going to be home for two more weeks. You'll have to wait for the good ones. In the meantime:

And a couple pictures from what was probably the last backyard pool day of the year (actually taken a couple weeks ago). Somebody apparently flipped the "fall" switch, b/c it went from hot hot summer to chilly wet fall pretty much overnight, and really hasn't gone back. Odd for Colorado, but it's nice. We like the rain. By "we," I mean my tomatoes and me.

As you can see, Z has no problem with her appetite:

Last but not least, this was the AM crop of tomatoes I picked on Saturday. There was an afternoon harvest of about the same size. Holy tomato, batman. How many of these things can one family eat??? Some are grape tomatoes (mmmm, candy) and some are romas. No celebrities in this batch.

Frugal mama

[edited 9/22 to remove specific amounts of debt, at M's request; why he cares if I put it on here I have no idea -- either you're a random stranger and I don't care if you know how much we owe, or you're a good friend or part of our family, and again, I don't care if you know how much we owe. Oooh! Just thought of a third possibility: maybe you're a bored, rich dude with nothing to spend his money on, and you'll send me a check!]

I feel like we are drowning in debt. Adoption debt: $A lot. HELOC balance: $An obscene amount. Credit card: $Bearable, but I'd rather not have it. Student loan: $Small compared to other people's. And M's car is near death and will have to be replaced soon (like next week, it turns out). It makes me crazy. Before we started the adoption, we had no debt (except for the student loan) and $A comfortable amount in savings. Now we have $A substantially less comfortable amount in savings and debt up the wazoo. Considering that childcare + our mortgage together = half our take-home salary, it's hard to imagine when it's going to get paid off. The adoption tax credit will help next year, and believe me, I'll be filing our taxes the very day I've accumlated all the paperwork.

So I'm trying to be a frugal mom. Yesterday, I:
- Peeled, chopped and froze all the tomatoes from the garden that had gotten too soft to eat raw -- our garden is producing tomatoes at a rather alarming rate, and I've vowed that I won't throw a single one away. Look out basil, you're next -- I see batches & batches of pesto in my freezer soon. And parsley, oregano & sage drying in the crawl space.
- Made french toast using the 1/3 can of pumpkin I had leftover from making a cheesecake on Saturday. Why throw it away? Yummy + a little extra kick of vitamin A.
- Tore up all the heels from 2 loaves of bread & stuck it in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Instead of feeding it to the squirrels, I'll have bread crumbs ready next time a recipe calls for it.
- Went through the Costco coupon flyer & circled everything we routinely use. I'm going to go buy it all, whether we need it right now or not. It'll all keep until we do.

Today, I've spent ALL DAY washing, folding, hanging and tagging a bunch of the kids' outgrown clothes. I'm going to sell them and the baby gear we no longer need at a sale that benefits the PTA of a local elementary school. I do this every fall and usually take home about $100-$150 plus a tax deduction for a charitable donation. This year I'm hoping for twice that, thanks to all that baby gear.

I've started sewing & selling my stuff again, mostly baby blankets. I'm thinking of opening an Etsy store. Actually, I already have one, but there's never been anything in it.

I'm going to apply to teach a course at the community college where the kids' preschool is. The paycheck is only about $500/semester/class, but it will cut 2/3 off the cost of their tuition if I'm teaching there.

We moved the kids to a preschool that has part-time tuition, saving us about $75/month. Plus, I can ride the bus to work from there. I have a free bus pass from work, so the savings on gas & car repairs should be more than $150/month. Our auto insurance might even go down a bit.

Last but not least, I'm debating whether I should go back to work full-time. It would bump my salary by nearly $20,000/year. I think they'd let me cram it into four days (35 hours is full-time where I work, so it's not as bad as it sounds). The problem is that I desperately need my Mondays home alone. It's not only when I do stuff like cook and clean, it's when I recharge my batteries. I'm a classic introvert, and I need some time alone in order to cope with living in this zoo. The kids aren't in school on Fridays, so I'd be home with them on my day off work. No housework (although we could afford a cleaning lady with me working full-time), and no recharging. Once I go back to full-time, I don't think they'll ever let me go back to part-time again. A possible compromise would be to wait until next fall, when B starts kindergarten. Then I could send Z to preschool on Fridays and have most of the day to myself. But we need the money now!

What to do? Any advice or suggestions, anyone? What do you do to save money?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Girls girls girls

B And his dad have been playing superhero a lot this summer. A recently added feature in the superheroes game is girlfriends. Yes, the superheroes have girlfriends. Last night, I overheard this conversation between the two of them as they were playing a spaceman version of superhero.

Dad: Where should we go?
B: Let's go to Mars!
Dad: Should we bring our girlfriends?
B: No, they can go shopping while we're gone.
Dad: What are they shopping for?
B: Dresses and jewelry and high-heeled shoes.
Dad: Can't they be shopping for rock-climbing gear or something?
B: No, girls don't like to rock-climb.
Dad: What do they like to do then?
B: They like to plan weddings and stuff.

Can you say socialization?! Good grief. I think this boy needs to get into a ballet class or something.