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Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Freedom

We have no credit card debt.

It's mostly thanks to circumstance. We have no credit cards, except one that is actually a debit/credit card. We put money on it when we need to. We use it for Internet purchases.

The fact we have no credit cards is thanks to the bankruptcy we had to declare after Michael nearly died from flesh-eating bacteria three days before our insurance kicked in... (wish we'd been in time for Michael Moore's Sicko! Bet he would have loved that story!)

But the result of our financial nightmare is a sort of freedom that, at least statistically, most Americans don't have. We have no debt. No mortgage, no credit cards. Which means, if we can't afford it, we don't buy it. There's no such thing as living beyond our means.

The littles got way too many electronic toys from Grandma this year to suit me - in spite of all the lead warnings... *sigh* They got (mostly) educational, wooden toys from mom and dad and "Santa." Already, one of the electric guitars that Grandma got them has fizzled out. I hate the thought of boxing it up and shipping it back to return it. What a pain. She also gave us a ton of batteries to go with all the noisy electronic toys that was akin to carrying a bag of anvils home.

But it's actually quite gratifying to know that everything they opened from Santa and Mom and Dad on Christmas morning is already paid for. And will probably last a lot longer than the plastic noisemakers Grandma will be paying on until next Christmas and beyond. Why didn't we live like this before? When we had credit cards, we used them. Boy, did we use them! Now that there aren't credit cards to use, we simply adjusted to our newfound poverty - which is actually just reality. We make what we make, we buy what we can afford. Period.

Doing it this way requires planning, and thinking ahead, and keeping a budget, and really considering what you're buying and why and how long it will last. It makes impulsive shopping a thing of the past. Every purchase is carefully considered and weighed before it's made. And in the end, the kids didn't feel deprived. And we're not broke. And I don't have a load of cheap Wal-Mart toys that I'll be throwing away in a month.

Now if I can just get Grandma to stop the insanity...

what do you think are the odds? :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #15: 13 Unusual New Years Resolutions

13 Unusual New Years Resolutions

1. Spend more time with other people's friends and families.

2. Give up assassinating fascist dictators for money.

3. Volunteer at a date-an-inmate fundraiser.

4. Give up playing "Tickle The Wild Polar Bear."

5. Learn how to fly airplanes into tall buildings.

6. Quit licking frogs at pet stores to see which ones are hallucinogenic before I buy them as kids' pets.

7. Cut up other people's credit cards.

8. Make time to stop and smell the armpits.

9. Stop going to random funerals just to get the collectible cards.

10. Have mercy on Peeps and stop exploding them in the microwave for stress relief.

11. Smoke only when on fire.

12. Get a gym membership for my gerbil.

13. Lose every other pound.


Thursday Thirteen Participants
1. Nicholas
2. SandyCarlson
3. ellen b
4. sobeit
5. On a Limb with Claudia
6. susiej
7. Susan Helene Gottfried
8. Moondancer Drake
9. pussreboots
10. Mom in Training
11. Grace
12. Natalie
13. Alice
14. maryt
15. Michelle (Un-Mainstream Mom)
16. Harris Channing

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Visions of Sugarplums?

Twisted but amusing. Love the "stockings". :o

(Click the picture to see the artist's site.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dreaming of a White Christmas...

Rain, rain, go away...

It's all melting! Melting! Ahhhhh!
All our beautiful snow is melting and we're being pummeled with rain and high winds. So much for a white Christmas! It's supposed to freeze later (oh yay... not!) but we won't get any real accumulation. Just lots of ice.
Just in time to go over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house tomorrow... (it actually is over a river - the Rouge River - which smells like... well, like the Rouge River. You really have to be there. It's not pleasant.) Then Christmas Day we'll spend with my family at my sister's, because she's got the most room.

I still have to make Banana Split Cake to take to my sister's. My brother-in-law's special request. Twenty minutes of mixing. Twenty minutes! Thank god for my Kitchenaid. And Neiman Marcus Cake to take to my in-laws'. I'm using lemon cake mix this year. Michael loves lemon. Plus Jello and Santa cookies. Why am I always in charge of dessert? Like I need more bowls and spoons to lick clean? (and wash!?)

Next time I'm going to volunteer to bring cans of crescent rolls!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas Irony

Amazon assured me that I could buy four books for the price of three. Not only that, I could select Super Saver shipping and still get my items by Christmas! Woot!

Then, they sent me an email. "We're sorry..." I hate emails that start that way. Apparently, my items wouldn't arrive until December 28. So much for all my deals! So I had to cancel the order and get to Borders. No four-for-three deals. Granted, no shipping, but I had to pay for the gas to get there - and back. And since we live out in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't negligible.

Plus the cost of the migraine from driving in holiday traffic.

Then, I got this coupon today.

Sigh. Can you say "irony," boys and girls? I knew you could...

So in the spirit of giving, I thought I'd share it here. In case you have book shopping left to do. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

School's Out

We had a snow day this week, and I forgot what it was like having the littles home full time. They had a half day today, and now they'll be home until after the New Year.

When I was going to Weight Watchers with a friend (a million years ago) there was a group of us who would go out to eat afterward. (Don't even start on the twisted logic there, alright?) One of the women said she couldn't wait until her son started first grade the following year, because he'd be in school all day, and what a relief that would be! Then she asked me when mine started preschool, and I replied, "Oh, we're homeschooling."

You would have thought I had five heads.

But now that they're in school, and we're getting used to that whole thing, I didn't realize how much I missed them until they were home again all day during a time they were usually in school. Granted, I get a lot more done with them gone. Dusting, laundry and dishes can be completed without interruption.

But still... I have to admit. I miss them.

Am I strange, that I miss the endless interruption, the "Mom, will you tie this cape around my neck? I'm Super Anteater man!" and the "Can you put this (impossibly small and made for dolls whose arms actually BEND) shirt on my Barbie?"

Do most Moms simply wait for the day that the state relieves them of their charges for half the day? Am I the only one who finds that rather strange? *sigh*

Anyway, I'm glad we've got the next week together. They're building a dragon fort right now and they have all of Dmitri's firetrucks lined up outside the fort to put out the dragon's fire. Barbie's manning the hose. Can't wait to see what they're going to do with all the new Santa toys. Should be an interesting week!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #14: Thirteen Family Christmas Traditions

13 Family Christmas Traditions

1. Oranges in the bottoms of our Christmas stockings. The kids love this tradition. I love it because it keeps that "stocking" shape and they eat it for breakfast!

2. Using the same wrapping paper for each child. This eliminates the need for name tags (hate those things!) on gifts from mom and dad, because each child has his own wrapping paper and knows which gift is his.

3. Setting out the Santa cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. Doesn't everyone do this?

4. Leaving carrots for the reindeer. In the morning, there's always one left with a "reindeer bite" out of it!

5. Santa's boot-prints by the fireplace. More proof that Santa really exists!

6. A letter from Santa. He leaves one every year for the kids, right by the milk and cookies. Nice of him to take the time, considering all he's got to do on Christmas Eve, isn't it?

7. Reading "T'Was The Night Before Christmas" before the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve.

8. Opening one present on Christmas Eve - it's always Christmas pajamas for them to wear to bed so pictures on Christmas morning won't reveal that we normally put them to bed in old t-shirts with moth holes.

9. Going to see Santa - to get the "Santa picture" and to ask Santa for what we want for Christmas.

10. Santa always leaves "Lifesaver Storybooks" in the stockings

11. Stockings have to be opened first, before we start presents

12. Presents are opened one at a time, and we take turns, so we can all appreciate each gift.

13. Finding the "Christmas Pickle" ornament - every year Santa leaves a small gift for the child who finds the Christmas pickle hidden in the tree.



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1. SusieJ Burning Calories
2. burntofferings
3. Nicholas
4. SandyCarlson
5. Sherrie
6. Comedy Plus
7. Nicole Austin
8. greatfullivin
9. Susan Helene Gottfried
10. pussreboots
11. Joely
12. Smiler
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14. Tiffany Aller
15. DrillerAA
16. The Pink Flamingo
17. marcia v
18. Lara
19. jenn
20. Emma Petersen
21. maryt
22. Rian Fike
23. Holly
24. Mommychicky
25. Penelope Anne
26. zenmomma
27. Rae
28. Michael Schurmann
29. julia

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Fossil Fuels Suck!

My brother-in-law in Kansas was without power for three days, and apparently, there are still people in Oklahoma and Kansas who don't have power. And unless you have a generator, without power, you don't have heat. Which makes it pretty cold, even inside the house, right? Since we've moved out in the middle of nowhere and now heat our house with propane, we've become much more aware of our energy consumption. Our tank is now depleted down to 20% - and it's not even January yet! Which means we're going to have to buy more propane soon. Again. In bulk. Which means another $500 we're going to have to pull out of thin air. (I wish!)

So Michael got the idea... why don't we just turn off the propane? Let's see how cold it really gets? I mean, nevermind the blizzard we just had and all. Really. Because our bedroom and the upstairs are SUPER warm when the heat's on. Sometimes we'll even crack a window at night. We have steam heat, and man, does it rise! Maybe we don't even need heat, we reasoned... I mean, the people in Oklahoma have gone ten days now... how cold can it get?

Let me tell you. Really fricking cold. Finger-numbing cold. I can barely feel mine as I'm typing, actually. Standard framed houses were built for fossil fuel heating on the grid, period. Cold seems to seep in from everywhere. So, no luck on the "Let's do winter without any heat" idea.

The thing is, when Michael turned it off, the pilot went out. And since we haven't had this kind of setup before, he's not sure how to get it back on. So he's going to call today and find out. In the meantime, I'm freezing. Two sweaters, two pairs of socks, a down comforter, and my nose and toes and fingers are still frigid.

So I decided to start a fire. I've started fires before. How hard can it be?

You see where this is going, don't ya?

No, I didn't blow up the house. Thank god. But my fire sucked. It sucked so bad I called Michael at work, my teeth chattering, to complain about my fire-building skills. He said, "Let me call you back in ten minutes."

Instead, he came home. Nice, that he works only six miles away still. He came home and built me a big, warm, toasty fire that is still burning two hours later. All I have to do is keep putting logs on it.

Don't I have the sweetest husband ever?

And thankfully, I'm not blue-faced and chattering like Alvin and the Chipmunks anymore. Now I just have to cough up the dough for more propane. *sigh* I'm seriously considering Michael's talk of moving off the grid and building solar!

Wordless Wednesday: December 19. 2007


Wordless Wednesday Participants
1. Calamity
2. Drowning Me Slowly
3. liza
4. Megansgot47
5. RecycleCindy

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Sunday, December 16, 2007


And I don't mean the Dairy Queen kind.

We actually have a real live blizzard warning in effect for our county. Is that cool, or what? I wouldn't be saying that if this wasn't a Sunday, I suppose, but it's kind of nice to be out here in the middle of nowhere with all this snow around. And since I don't have to shovel it (yay for husbands!) or even go out in it...

The weather outside is frightful.

But the fire is so delightful.

And since we've no place to go.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

This is the normal amount of snow we usually get. Three to four inches or so at a time. But this picture is just the blowing snow on the porch, which is under an overhang!

This is actually how much snow we have.
Cars? We have cars?

The kids playing in our backyard.



Long way to go!

Hi Mom!

The wind is swaying the trees like twigs, gusting up to 50 mph.

And what would a blizzard-y day be without hot chocolate and mom's homemade cookies?

Nine more days until Christmas... the kids are counting down... Maybe we'll have a white one after all!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dead Fascist Horses

Not to beat a dead horse to death or anything, but... (well I guess you can't beat a dead horse to death, can you? It already being dead and all... unlike the nipping pony in the Verizon wireless commercial, who apparently has a taste for dog houses...)

What the hell is wrong with New England? Are they planning to break off and form a fascist state or what? First Maryland with its "Vaccinate Or Go to Jail" policy, and now New Jersey's "Preschoolers Must Have Flu Shots" mandate? What's next, Big Brother?

Not to pick on New England or anything. Really, all of America seems to be either passionately embracing or just laissez-faire accepting all the tenets of fascism that currently exist in our country without any more than a casual, indifferent shrug. Even those outraged by the personal freedoms and liberties being taken away from Americans at every turn feel pretty powerless to stop it.

Not to beat another dead horse... but those foul Star Wars movies have stuck like Exxon on a duck in my brain, and all I can think of is Amidala's line in Star Wars episode-something-or-other: "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."

Do you think I'm crazy? An alarmist? Sometimes I feel a little like Mel Gibson spinning Conspiracy Theories but while I learned what I did within the public education system in spite of itself, my tenth grade history teacher, Mr. Tymrak, would be appalled if I simply herded myself along like the rest of the sheeple in the pen.

* The truth is revealed once and only once.
* Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn't represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader.
* Doctrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect.
* Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values.
* The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies.
* Argument is tantamount to treason.
* Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of "the people" in the grand opera that is the state.

Is it just me, or does this sound eerily familiar?

We're fiddling.
Rome's burning.
No one cares.
Pass me a heaping helping of Oprah's Favorite Things and a double dose of Reality TV so I can ignore the terrible reality right in front of me, would you?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Verizon Wireless Miniature Horse Commercial

Commercials this time of year usually make me feel like I'm chewing on tin foil. But this... this one... oh my god, I laugh every single time I see it. Maybe it's because I was actually one of those girls who wanted a pony when I was little, who knows. But this commercials cracks me up. The girl on the right - her timing is impeccable! LOVE her!


Nothing will make me ill this time of year more than watching Oprah's Favorite Things.

I missed it this year. Oh darn. Not!

But yesterday, I had a headache and was too tired to find the remote to change the channel when Oprah came on. And guess what? Of course. It was an "encore presentation" of the Favorite Things show.

Just great.

I hate that she's completely perverted one of the songs I always sang to my babies when they were little.

My Favorite Things: Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...

So much for sentiment.

Now it's all about the stuff. Camcorders and watches and a bunch of other crap no one ever needed in the first place. A three thousand dollar refrigerator with a TV/DVD on the front? Really? We need this? A $7 cupcake? What?!

Here's a list of Oprah's Favorites this year:

MELAMINE BOWLS, MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS FROM WILLIAMS-SONOMA - Bowls $32 (set of 3); Measuring Cups and Spoons Set $18 (cups $14, spoons $8)
KAI BODY BUTTER and BODY BUFFER - Body Buffer $28; Body Butter $55
CIAO BELLA BLOOD ORANGE SORBETTO - $4.99/pint at select grocery stores
RACHEL PALLY SWING TURTLENECK AND SAILOR PANTS - Swing Turtleneck $141; Sailor Pants $194
O'S GUIDE TO LIFE - $29.95

TOTAL: $7274.34

That's PER audience member, of course. How many people in the audience? Oh I don't know... let's go low and say two hundred people. That's a total of 1,454,800.00 worth of STUFF. Correct. Almost 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS worth of stuff. And remember - that's a low estimate.

Of course, Harpo is getting a tax write-off for giving it away. And much of it is probably donated in the first place, because to get on Orpah's "Favorite Things" list is practically a guarantee of a huge sales increase after the show airs. Yep, it's true. People line up in malls across the country to buy overpriced gizmos that no one really needs based on the opinion of one overpaid guru talk show host.

And now there are shows everywhere playing follow the leader and doing what Oprah does. Ellen, for example, is doing the 12 Days of Giveaways - giving away, of course, her favorite things.

What really drives me batty is the audience reaction to these giveaways. People act like they're being given a new lease on life, like god Oprah's just granted them immortality or they just got a midnight call from the governor on death row. Women actually get on their knees and pray - over what, again? Body butter and digital camcorders?

Those are some seriously messed up priorities right there.

Not to go all Grinch or anything... well, okay, maybe just a little.

We just watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas last night. The Grinch steals all the Who's STUFF, and yet Christmas still comes, doesn't it? They still gather in a circle and sing and count their blessings. And the Grinch... his heart grew three sizes that day.

Maybe we all could use a little more inner-Grinch - the former Grinch, who eschewed the commercialism of the holiday, and the latter reformed Grinch, who realized something deeper existed beyond all the STUFF.

Somehow I don't think all those folks on their knees thanking god Oprah for their new Kitchenaid mixers would be squealing over her donating all of the money those gifts represent to, perhaps, a women's shelter or the homeless or a children's hospital - to someone who knew how to count their blessings and was thankful just to be alive this holiday season?

I wonder.... does the O's Guide to Life include tips on how to be the richest woman in the world and make yourself look selfless by giving out a bunch of stuff you get a tax write off for?

So bah-freakin'-humbug. Oprah's Favorite PBBBBBBBBBBT! Whatever. Let's all take a lesson from the Grinch. Strip away all the stuff and find out what's underneath. Because that's the only thing that really matters, during the holidays or any other time of year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shop-a-holic In Training

The kids' school is running a Christmas Candy Cane Shop fundraiser. You send your kid to school with $10 and they return with the cheapest plastic toys ever made (usually somewhere in China) for their brothers and sisters and the sort of perfume that comes in a gallon jug and stings when you put it on just for mom and either a #1 Dad keychain or mug for... well, dad. Sounds like fun, right?

Zoe sure thought so. She reminded us no less than a dozen times last night. "Remember, we need real money to go to the Christmas shop. REAL money. Dollar bills. Or a check."


This morning, twenty minutes before the alarm went off, she threw open our bedroom door, "Did you remember about the Christmas shop? Did you put REAL money in the envelope?"

Yes, Zoe.

Five minutes later: "Are you getting up yet?"

Five minutes after that, "Can I buy something for mybestfriendJordan?" It's never just "Jordan." It's always mybestfriendJordan - all one word.

We'll see, Zoe.

Michael groaned when the door opened again and turned the alarm off for good as Zoe asked yet again, "Is it time to go to school yet?"

In a minute, Zoe.

"She's awfully excited about this shopping thing," I sighed.

"She's a girl." Michael reminded me. "Isn't it in the genes?"

I shrugged. "I'm not that bad...am I?"

He snorted. "Shall I remind you of the $1400 vaccum cleaner?"

"Well, at least it's only $10."

"Yeah... this year... what about when she's sixteen?"

"Good point."

I think we're in trouble.

Thursday Thirteen #13: 13 of My Favorite TV Dads

13 of My Favorite Sitcom Dads

1. Jason Seaver – Alan Thicke - Growing Pains

2. Ward Cleaver – Hugh Beaumont - Leave it to Beaver

3. Charles Ingalls - Michael Landon – Little House on the Prairie

4. Gomez Addams – John Astin - Addams Family

5. Steven Keaton – Michael Gross - Family Ties

6. Tony Micelli -Tony Danza - Who’s The Boss

7. Charles - Scott Baio – Charles in Charge

(ok so he wasn't a dad--yet--but you knew he would be a great dad some day!)

8. Howard Cunningham - Tom Bosley – Happy Days

9. Dan Connor - John Goodman - Roseanne

10. Mike Brady – Robert Reed - The Brady Bunch

11 Cliff Huxtable - Bill Cosby - The Cosby Show

12. Tom Bradford - Dick Van Patten - Eight is Enough

13. Uncle Bill - Brian Keith - Family Affair

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