dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
For Ms. Destitute, the sound of spring is the crack of the bat, the static of the AM radio and the voice of John Miller. Of course, we’re not tailgaters with season tickets (though we do have family friends who are very generous about sharing their tickets—thanks Steve and Karen!) but we express our fanaticism in our own way.
On the San Francisco Giants’ opening day last week, I dressed my smallest baseball fans in their Giants onesies to show their pride at the local playground. Oh, okay, so it’s really me showing where my loyalties lie, and using my children as adorable accessories… but, really, aren’t they adorable?
Since we don’t have cable television, for reasons both of principle and money, we listen to the game on the radio. And since we’re so strapped for cash, we don’t even listen to it on the internet—you have to have a paid subscription to ALL the games in Major League Baseball. I don’t care that much about any of the other teams to make it worth it, even if I did have the money.
So we listen to the radio talents of John Miller, Dave Fleming, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow on KNBR.
Ahh, that to me says SPRING! It isn’t just the score and the game being played that make my eyes tear up a bit (allergies not withstanding) but a touch of nostalgia as well.
I can remember lying in the back of my family’s 1972 Buick station wagon (complete with brown naugahyde interior) and driving home from a family road trip with the sound of John Miller’s voice coming through the single speaker. I was born in Virginia and lived there until I was almost seven, and in the early 80’s, John Miller was the radio broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles. I never became an Orioles’ fan– that would have led to much disappointment and eventual disillusionment– but I’ve always been a fan of John Miller’s voice. It lulled me to sleep in the back of the car, it was the soundtrack to my teenage days of (topless!) backyard sunbathing, and now it keeps me company in the kitchen during my favorite months of the year.
Here’s hoping that the recent World Series champs will make it to the end again, not only because we love our local boys (when did pro athletes all become younger than me?) but because it gives us that much longer to turn on our trusty little transistor and listen to the guys in the broadcasting booth.
Happy baseball, everyone, and GO GIANTS!!
Other fun and Spring-y stuff:
As many of you might have noticed, I don’t include my kids in my posts. That, however, is about to change—a little bit. I want to keep my little ones safe from creepy people. And because none of y’all are creepy, I’m going to post their pictures here and share with you about a little experimental picnic we had this winter.
Winter in Northern California can be a little chilly, windy and rainy, but no snow. Those of you in other parts of the country may scoff at us and call us softies, but occasionally, we do complain. This post is not a complaint. But, um, we were cold…
We are enrolled in afternoon preschool (thanks to a generous family scholarship fund) but my husband had a doctor’s appointment scheduled an hour before drop-off. We have one car and two places to be. So the kiddos and I dropped dear ol’ dad off at the doctor’s and then cruised down the street into the old ‘hood where I grew up. It’s located right near a golf course and a gated community—to keep out the ‘riff-raff’ like us.
The sign here even says we’re not technically welcome to picnic on this narrow patch of grass, but the neighbors walking their dogs didn’t seem to mind— it helps to have a few cute kids with you.
So, anyhow, we brought a container of raspberries, water bottles, some string cheese, and a bag of pretzels and called it lunch. The little ones looked adorable in their matching hoodies (check out the ‘ears’ on top!) and the oldest did her best to keep warm and not lose the Frisbee in the gale that was blowing. We lasted about 20 minutes before we decided to pack everything back up in the car and wait for in the parking lot for Daddy to be done.
It wasn’t a picture worthy of golden-memory status, but it’s the sense of adventure that counts.
As the mother of two new babies, there is nothing so helpful and appreciated like hand-me-downs. The purpose of hand-me-downs is two-fold: I receive much-needed clothing for my growing critters and somebody easily cleans out their closet. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the generosity of so many friends and their older children. And I certainly don’t know where (and can’t afford) to buy such cute, cute clothes.
Those clothes that were originally worn by oldest are then passed on to the consignment store in hopes of serving one last purpose as a few bucks in cash. A few of the generous free-bees make it into the consignment pile, too, but for the most part, I try not to be stingy with the karmic circle of generosity, and I pass it along to the next needy mom or donate them to a nearby charity. Please note that my motivation to accepting cast-offs is not to turn them around for a hefty profit—the last time I checked my balance at the consignment store it was less than enough to order a pizza. It helps pay down my school debt and bought me a dining room chair, from a consignment furniture store, incidentally. And most of it is used to clothe my two babies.
I have received more gracious gifts than I can practically use. Here’s how I add a little organization to the chaos of tons of baby clothes:
The best way to give and receive hand-me-downs is to be involved in a moms group, or church group with other mothers. Neighbors are wonderful connections as well, since we can easily see their crammed garages and pregnant and then un-pregnant bellies. It helps, of course, to be in a group with kids at least six months older (the givers) and about six months younger (the receivers) in order to make the perfect circle. But I have been blessed enough to receive gifts from friends of friends, hundreds of miles away. What a wonderful, wide-spread village!
Being well-connected, organized, generous and grateful are all essential in the great recycling circle of hand-me-downs. Believe in them and their usefulness and you may never have to buy kids’ clothes again… well, maybe not never, but certainly less.
I am currently on maternity leave until September. It will have been a year since I was fully employable and four months since I left work completely. I may or may not have much of a job when I return.
Such is the working life of the self-employed. My income never has any guaranteed minimum, and after taking all this time off to be large and pregnant and then care for two newborns, it’s bound to take a hit.
Being self-employed, I am both the employer and the employee and am taxed accordingly—nifty, no? I am the dancer, dance instructor, promoter, and financial organizer. I am lucky to have a live-in, free web designer—thanks, Hubby.
I’m hoping that with a couple of emails here and a few there, I may resume my teaching once a week without much change in my enrollment numbers. Classes are typically slow in the summer, so coming back to teaching in September shouldn’t impact that income. Since leaving the restaurant back in November, due to wracking morning sickness and my rapidly swelling mid-section, the owners have since decided not to have dancers. I’m hoping that through a few connections, I may be able to do restaurant gigs once a month—or at the very least make a regular sub list. But then again, my more-than-full-time gig as the mother of three children may make that difficult. We’ll see. The problem is, my mommy gig doesn’t help pay the bills or pad the savings account. I hope to keep accepting private party opportunities (bellydancers make birthday and anniversary parties fantastic, by the way; people will talk about your event for years to come, I swear…yes, hire me) the way I did last summer and fall. Once my abdomen began to swell, I had to stop with that, though. The twins did make an appearance at a birthday party, albeit cleverly disguised in an alternative costume that covered my stomach.
And then there’s writing. Which I can do while sitting on my living room floor, or propped up in bed with a babe at the breast—though I have yet to really master one-handed typing. It’s my hope that my writing will provide more and more over the years, as it fits into the schedule of carpooling, dinner-making and bedtime story- reading much better than having to pile on the mascara and sequins and going out to perform. Though I would miss the dancing if I didn’t do it. Another dilemma of self-employment—when to retire.
Whether dancing or writing, the Destitute and Obscure keep creative and persevere, cobbling together a living and a lifestyle that keeps food on the table and our souls well nourished.
Ms. D is currently on maternity leave of sorts (more on that subject shall come later) and is recycling a bit of writing she did for a mothers’ group a couple years ago. She hopes you continue to enjoy the subject, despite the fact that the writing is not current. You may look forward to more of Lifestyles’ wit and charm in the future, as soon as she has enough sleep to operate the articulate parts of her brain. Cheers.
My husband was at work a few months ago, talking with a customer who was shopping with his toddler. The two fathers exchanged a few pleasantries about their kids, and then the other dad asked my husband when his wife’s ‘shift’ began, meaning when did my husband go home to take over child-rearing while I got ready and went off to work.
“Oh, my wife doesn’t work,” my husband replied. “She’s a full-time, stay-at-home mom.”
“Wow,” said the other dad. “She’s lucky.”
Ah, yes. Lucky.
When my husband recounted this little exchange, my first reaction was to refrain from verbally ripping his head off in self-righteous anger, since after all, he wasn’t the one who naively blurted out such a loaded cliché. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked if he could instead tell people that I was a dance instructor. This would alternatively categorize me as a part-time-working-stay-at-home-mom, and come closer to increasing my title to an entire line of hyphenation.
Do I feel lucky– lucky to be living back at my parent’s house again, at the age of thirty-five, this time with husband and child in tow? Or am I lucky to be a stay-at-home mom (this command-infused label makes me feel a little like a dog in obedience school) because the cost of full-time daycare far outweighs my wage-earning potential? Am I lucky to stay home and do the laundry, the vacuuming and the cooking, all while being responsible for the developmental, social, and physical well-being of a toddler, all in a manner that is both entertaining and efficient?
Lucky—like I tripped over a four-leaf clover and ended up with this life, or like I didn’t have any particular opinion or power over what happened.
Did my lifestyle ‘happen by chance’? It sure doesn’t feel that way to me; I vaguely recall having an active part in creating it. Luck is where you find it, or maybe it is what other people have that you don’t. Luck is the name we give to something when we don’t have the courage to call it hard work and sacrifice.
But do I want to be considered unlucky?
My cousin is a paramedic and her husband works for the county sheriff. When her little girl was three months old, she had to go back to her twelve-hour graveyard shifts. She and her husband work lots of overtime hours in order to pay down the debt they accrued to buy land and a house in which they could raise a family. When she found out that I wasn’t working after having my first child, she gave a half-sigh and said knowingly, “Oh, you’re so lucky.” Perhaps I am, but she’s lucky enough to own a home in a community where she can raise her children and where they all can live for years to come. My cousin also is extremely lucky to live next door to her mother, who cares for her the children when both parents are at work.
Perhaps I am just old-fashioned, or perhaps I am setting a new trend. Mostly, I just feel poor, and this is the way my family and I have chosen to live, so that we can provide for our child and ourselves in the best way possible. Every bit of it, however, is a choice.
So, am I lucky? You bet I am. I am lucky to have a fully engaged part in raising my own child, and lucky that her dad is there when I have to go to work. Her grandparents are lucky, too, that they get to spend two years of her life under the same roof (a roof that they have heaven’s graciousness to provide) and get to watch her learn, and grow and explore. I am extremely lucky to have a career, however small, that I could easily return to after having a baby, and about which I am still quite passionate.
Lucky? I guess, but I planned it that way.
shamrock courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How does the government seek to support the Destitute and Obscure? Well, I signed my lil’ ol’ self up for the WIC (that would be Women, Infants and Children) program, with all my documentation in tow—sonograms, blood tests, power bill, passports, proof of (lack) of income and first-born child.
As a WIC participant, both my child and I receive checks that I can use at the local Safeway to buy certain wholesome foods. At least that is the general idea. In practice, however, the selection options aren’t that good. I get $17 total for the two of us to buy produce, and I buy organic, so that gets me a red pepper, an avocado and about two separate weeks worth of bananas. We eat A LOT more produce than that. The only other option I have to buy organic is tofu, which I do, and we get two blocks per month, which takes care of two meals for my family. I have options to buy juice, bread, lots of cereal, dry beans or lentils, peanut butter, canned fish, milk and eggs. And one block of cheese per month. None of these options can be organic, which translates to the following: bread made with high-fructose corn syrup (um, really?! In bread?) cereal that can contain high amounts of sugar, dried beans that are too time-consuming for me to use (okay, that’s pretty much my own thing) peanut butter that will contain sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup unless I get the ‘natural’ variety, which I do, and dairy that is loaded with hormones, antibiotics and heaven only knows what else. The juice is sugar regardless, so sometimes I buy it and sometimes not, but they allow for the two of us to get up to six 32 ounce bottles of it.
So, in this review of items, the WIC program seems to be pro-sugar and supportive of lots of processed cereal. The inability to buy organic dairy is what irritates me the most, considering California’s Senator Diane Feinstien has introduced legislation that would ban the use of subtherapeutic (and already intensive) use of antibiotics in the dairy, egg and meat industry. It seems that a state-run program should follow support this legislation, but no. It’s the politicians (at the state, not national level) who make the rules (not the mothers, children or WIC nutritionists) about what I can or cannot buy with these checks. It seems like a great idea—to offer low-income moms and kids free food— and for some, it may improve their nutrition and the ability to provide for their families, but it doesn’t go the extra mile. Maybe more like an extra inch or two.
It may save us a little bit of money, maybe $20 a month, which is something, but when I factor in the fact that I have to drive 20 minutes to the WIC office and spend a couple hours of my time per month to save the money, I begin to wonder if it’s really worth it. The hours spent at the local WIC office aren’t just waiting for the slow, overburdened grind of a government agency to process my checks. In addition to showing proof of my pregnancy (do think I swallowed a basketball?) and my health, I have to attend short classes about baby care. Perhaps I am being a bit snobbish, but um, I know what it means when a baby cries. I know how to breastfeed. I’ve done my own research, I read at least 50% of what’s been written on the subject by experts and non-experts alike and not least of all worth noting— I’ve done this baby-thing before. I already have a child. But I suppose they have to cover every possible range of informed or uninformed mom, and I try my best to check my attitude at the door. I try, really, but I pride myself on being well-read, and I don’t like to be herded into the shallow end of the informed.
The WIC program, like any other government-sponsored program does the best it can with the funding it’s got—which is never much—and progresses at the snail-pace of legislation. It’s come a long way over the years, but it’s still woefully behind in terms of nutrition. With all the recent journalism and research about processed food and nutrition moving at a dizzying pace, WIC is getting left in the dust. I appreciate the help, believe me I do, but my first consideration is the health of my family and that of the environment, second being saving a few bucks. I’ll save another way, not at the expense of our long-term health.
I don’t know if my dear grandmother made this recipe up, or whether it comes from one of those curious 1950’s cookbooks, or even further back to the war-time cookbooks with all the meat alternatives. In any case, it was passed down to my mother, and she taught me how to make it once I had a family of my own. It’s cheap and easy, delicious and nutritious, and like meatloaf, you can put it in a sandwich the next day for lunch. You can garnish it with a bit of lemon juice, but we use ketchup or tartar sauce in my house.
1 15 oz. can of salmon (usually pink or sockeye; it’s better than the red salmon)
1 sleeve Saltine crackers (watch out for Nabisco brand—they contain high fructose corn syrup. Why, I’m not quite sure.)
Start with the fun part: smash the Saltines in a plastic bag. Smash ‘em to smithereens—nice pea-sized crumbs, not dust. Open the can of salmon, pour the liquid into a measuring cup and set aside. Then move on to the nitty-gritty part, which is dumping the contents of the can of salmon into a bowl and going through and meticulously removing all the skin and most of the big bones. Messy work, but it all the skin and bones down the garbage disposal. It’s okay to leave a few of the little bones, as they’re already cooked down and they’ll cook down even further when you put it together and bake it. Plus, you get a bit of added calcium. My mother nibbles on them while she prepares the recipe, but I’m not quite that bold. Now, with cleaned hands, add just enough milk to your reserved salmon juice to make ½ cup of liquid. Note: any milk substitute will work here if you don’t do cow’s milk. Add the egg to the liquid and mix it all up, then add to the salmon. I mix it with my hands, because I’ve already gooped them up once, so why not do it again? When the liquid and the salmon are mixed together evenly, and all the fish chunks are broken up, add the crushed crackers and mix those in—again, I use my hands.
Press the whole mixture to a greased (I use olive oil) loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the top is vaguely browned.
OR how the destitute save by using cloth diapers on their babes…
This article first appeared on my friend, Kristin’s blog– http://www.kickedoutofmomsclub.com/ which will appear on my blog roll as soon as I figure that part out. Thanks for giving me my big blogging break, Kris!
In these days of environmental consciousness, we’ve all heard the statistics about disposable diapers in landfills- 50 million every day. What if cloth diapers were easier on your bank account, and not just the environment?
When my husband started doing research on-line and found out that the cost of disposable diapers would come to roughly $2,500 during her first two years, he was all for cloth, too, even if it meant changing a few (okay, way more than a few) himself. $2,500!! I knew raising a child was expensive, but disposable diapers are thrown out!
I wanted to use cloth instead of disposables, primarily because of the environmental impact, but also because of the desire to have something more natural on my baby. Disposable diapers are made of plastic, and chemical gels and are frequently bleached with chlorine, and I didn’t want that in constant contact to my baby’s skin.
My first vision of disposable diapers made me think I would need to wield diaper pins and be able to fold cotton like an origami master. After a bit of research, considering ease of use and availability, we settled on using the gDiaper system, and then ended up modifying it to fit our needs. Here is a short, but not definitive, list of cloth diaper possibilities:
gDiapers– a system that combines cloth and disposable. They call it ‘the new hybrid’. This system consists of a cloth pant with a snap-in plastic liner, and either a flushable or compostable insert that resembles the inside of a disposable diaper or a washable hemp/cotton one. Here’s why I love them: the cloth pants are doggone adorable, making that cute little bottom even more wiggly and squeezable (okay, maybe I’m nuts, but just look at the pictures on the website, and you’ll see I speak truth) but because they’re easy. No pins (that’s so last generation) and the Velcro closures make them go on just like a familiar disposable.
bumGenius– these cloth diapers are an All-in-One variety, meaning the cloth and the waterproof outer layer are already put together for you, and you won’t need waterproof plastic pants like you would with traditional cloth diapers.
Bumkins– this company offers a wide variety of products, with plenty of colors, styles and accessories to choose from. They carry the All-in-One’s as well as cotton diapers with Velcro closures that also require a plastic cover.
Snazzipants- my sister-in-law turned me on to these guys, and is useful for ordering only if you live in New Zealand (and I did a lot of it when I lived there), but it’s also a fantastic, honest resource for what’s out there. They candidly review and carry products from Canada, Europe and the US, as well as their own brand.
Now that you’ve gone shopping, you’re ready to make it happen, with your baby’s help, of course. Where else did you expect to get the poo?
15-20 cloth prefolds or flats (thinner, bigger, and not folded)
6-8 cotton boosters- these are inserts that can increase absorbency, and are great for a heavier wetting period, especially through the night.
5-8 pairs of cloth pants- gdiapers sells these as gpants, and has them in a constantly updated and dizzying array of colors.
10-12 plastic liners- for gdiapers, each pair of cloth pants comes with a couple, but it’s worth having a few extra.
4-5 pairs of plastic pants- just in case of leaks for bigger babies and through the night
For cleaning: A five-gallon bucket of water with one cup of white vinegar, baking soda and eco-friendly laundry detergent.
If you’ve just got a wet one, rinse the cloth insert in the sink, then dump it into your bucket. If the cloth pants got wet, dump them, too, but leaks are pretty infrequent.
If you’ve got a dirty diaper, it’s going to take a little more work (about three minutes) and some down and dirty cleaning. Start by washing the plastic liner and let the cloth pants air out, unless they’re dirty, too, in which case, they get washed with the rest. Just like our mothers and grandmothers before us, I dump what I can from the cloth prefold into the toilet and flush it down, just like the adults doo, I mean do. Using a little bit of liquid soap, rinse, and toss into your bucket. Some stains may remain, but it’s well on it’s way to getting clean, and either the washing machine or a little added bleach (for cloth only, not the pants or plastic liners) will help.
Don’t be turned off by these down-and-dirty details. It’s not that bad. Really. If you’re going to have to wipe up a dirty bum, cleaning out the diaper isn’t any worse. And at least the diaper doesn’t wiggle while you’re trying to clean it.
And, of course, after all this, WASH YOUR HANDS!
Every two or three days, dump the bucket into the washing machine, with plenty of detergent and a little baking soda, maybe a tablespoon, and wash in hot or warm water. The best way to dry cloth diapers is the old-fashioned way, out in the sunshine. Sunlight and fresh air are two of the best disinfectants, and they’re easy and free. Drying racks are great, because they’re less obvious than a backyard clothes line, and mobile, which is especially nice when it rains.
I haven’t kept an exact count over the years, but a quick glance at all these numbers has me calculating that by using cloth diapers and washing them myself, we’ve spent less than $400 on diapers. And we can use them on consecutive children, too, which of course, you can’t do with disposables. By using cloth, we’ve saved over $2,000!
So go Green, and save some green! Everybody’s dooing it cloth it’s so fashionable these days- just think of all those cool hybrids running around full of groceries in reusable bags. Yes, that’s right, poo can be fashionable, too.
Cotton Babies .com http://www.cottonbabies.com/
(the link’s so stinkin’ long because you’ve got to get through all the patio furniture, baby clothes and expensive disposable diapers first. You may have to copy and paste.)
Good luck with this crap 🙂 and let me know if you have any questions or comments. I’ve been at this for a few years now– I’m a pro!