Sunday, July 30, 2006

Decisions

I've spent the past day deciding what to do with this blog. The simplest answer would have been to delete it entirely, but it left an unsettled sense that I would be running away from things and leaving them half done.

I've now deleted all of my archives except three posts which have been highly linked-to and the posts from this July. I wanted to make sure my more infrequent readers had a chance to see the progression of this, and what has led to my current state of blogging malaise. I made backups of all the content for my own personal use and stored it on my harddrive.

I think the turning point, for me, was the earlier debacle with my post about what kids need. The part that I did not mention publically, at the time, was the behind-the-scenes behavior of the woman whose post I deleted. I had decided that her post was inflammatory and unfortunate and rude, so I chose not to approve it. I simply deleted it. She then posted five more comments, each one increasingly rude and abrasive, calling me a coward repeatedly for not posting her comment. I then banned her IP range. She responded by emailing me, telling me again what a coward I was for not posting her comment and making other increasingly unhinged remarks.

And I am thinking, as I deleted her email, that this is what the blogging world brings. People who are seemingly "normal" who engage in behavior that is in no way acceptable, simply because it is the internet and they have lost their sense of boundaries. Everyone has an opinion, and they insist that it must be aired, must be heard, someone has to KNOW what they think, dammit.

It's madness. This idea that our individual opinions are so sacred, so important. Four million people on the internet shouting ME ME ME in various keys.

It reminds me nothing so much as a huge "Letters to the Editor" section crossed with a private diary and filtered through a boring account book.

And I am as guilty of it as anyone.

I am not, however, guilty of stalking and harrassing someone who refuses to post my comments on their blog. And I don't really want to have to deal with those people anymore-- I have had many trolls, over the years, and they have all been unpleasant. I'm tired of expressing my opinions in this format-- if you see them anywhere, from here on out, you can be assured that I will be expressing them for pay. I would deal with trolls a lot more cheerfully if I knew that I'd been paid for every word I'd typed and they were merely blathering for free.

At this point, I feel that Scattershot Direct will probably migrate to a passworded webspace, where I will use it to keep a journal of my life, available for close friends and family members to read. I'm not sure when I'll do that, however. I know that my blog is going to be much more personal and much less socio-political. All my ideas about social issues are going to be used for books and articles-- assuming I can get some editor to pay for them, which will probably come with time and credentials. I am still considering getting a second bachelor's degree when my first is finished. But again, that is in the future.

It's been a long strange journey, writing this blog. I read through the archives as I deleted them, following the progression of my own thoughts and the maturation of my children. I said things, three years ago, that you would never hear from me now. I'm older, a little wiser, and I'm more experienced. And, frankly, I don't buy into it anymore-- blogging, American culture, simple answers, and the popular ideals among my Catholic brethren. There are things, at this point, which I can only begin to understand by the sort of careful in-depth study that requires advanced education and good sources. The popular media isn't enough. The latest bestselling non-fiction isn't enough. Blog links and rumors aren't enough. I want more.

I've spent too much time indulging this hobby. The time would have been better spent with my family, or studying, or working. It's time for me to cast off the water-wings of uninformed opinions and venture into the deep end of real adult discourse. It's intimidating-- man I am starting so late! But reading blogs lately has left me hungry for the real data, the real information, the people and statistics and science that describe the real world in a meaningful way. The way it is now, scientists conduct some important research or longitudinal study, they present it to their peers, some AP writer turns it into a 250 word article for dissemination around the world, some commentator turns it into a soundbite, and then the blogging world argues about the soundbite. It's just not enough anymore.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading. If you're still interested in following the blog as it becomes more a journal of nursing school and such, shoot me an email at mlynnish @gmail.com.

Until we meet again . . . .

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

expenses and ideas

So I am still waiting for the financial aid office to disburse my scholarship funds. I'm wondering if they're going to do it in time for me to order my scrubs. If not, well, things are going to be hideously tight again. It's tax free weekend, next weekend, and the way things are looking, we're going to be too short to take advantage of it. Unless, of course, that guy buys the body of our old Buick this weekend, as he said he would, in which case I can pick up a few things.

Elsa, being thirteen and on her way to 8th grade, is thinking of back-to-school shopping with a gleam in her eye. People can say all they want about spoiled kids of Yuppies and how this modern life is just so evil and wrong-- I was thirteen once, not so very long ago, and I remember the thrill of buying that ultra cute outfit. And my designer jeans-- Guess?, back when they were still $70 a pair. They fit like a glove though, comfortable and sleek, and they made me feel like a supermodel, no matter how bad a hair day I was having. Of course, I'd already gone through my growth spurt when I got them-- that's the only reason I hesitate to buy Elsa the cute "boyfriend crop" jeans she wants from the Gap. She hasn't finished growing yet, not by a longshot. It would be my luck that I'd buy her a pair of $68 jeans and she'd outgrow them before October. Until she finishes growing, she's going to have to make do with less expensive jeans. (And honestly, my parents were kind of Yuppies, you know. My dad is only 56, only 8 years older than my husband.)

The great thing, now, about shopping, is really the internet. I can surf over to the Gap, let her look at the cute outfits and choose the looks she wants to emulate (they have two pages of different "looks", some of them really cute), and then I can surf over to the websites of more reasonably-priced retailers to look for lookalike components of the outfits. Then, list in hand, I can have her go try on the clothes at the mall, knowing ahead of time what we need to create the outfits she wants. Her choices are really classic and really simple, actually, so they should be easy to duplicate-- a pencil skirt, corduroys, cropped jeans, Oxford shirts layered over tanks, and the oh-so-desirable and desperately-wanted ballet flats to finish off the look. Slightly preppie without being snooty, casual but able to be dressed-up with the right combination.

And, as a bonus, very much a look driven by mix-and-match. A different color of Oxford shirt and tank and the outfit looks fresh and different. And Oxford shirts, thank goodness, are easily found and reasonably priced.

The Little Guy, being 8 and a boy, is much simpler to dress. He's getting some new shorts and a couple new t-shirts, along with some new sneakers. Out the door for hardly anything, and no worrying about torn knees in jeans for another three months, at least.

It's one thing, I think, that people who don't have teenagers tend to overlook when they look forward to the future. No, your child doesn't need designer jeans, but they are going to want to look nice-- and your child's definition of nice may range from tattered jeans by virtue of wearing the same pair every day . . . or the tattered jeans that are at the Gap, and no, they're not going to be happy with the plain pair of store brand. And a teenager's way of rebelling against clothes they hate is simple-- they just won't wear them, and before you know it, they're outgrown. Something as simple as clothes can escalate into a horrible, stressful, angst-ridden exercise in teenage drama.

Sure, we all hope to have the Ultra Perfect Pious Kids, but who are we kidding. Most of our kids can be right proper little snots every once in a while, and you never know what they'll decide to have a hormone-driven outburst about. In my world, spending the time to make sure that the teenager likes the clothes we buy her is a simple step in warding off drama. I have enough drama in my life, thank you.

And besides. I love her. I want her to be happy. I want her to look cute. It's a win-win situation.

Oh yeah, and JC Penney has Oxfords for 1/3 the price of the Gap. She's a smart enough girl to see that three shirts is better than one.

Raising kids gets exponentially more expensive when they're teenagers. School lunches are more expensive-- by double, sometimes. Clothes are all more expensive. They eat more, they use more hot water, their clothes take up more room in the washer and dryer. They suddenly need deoderant and razors as well as toothpaste and shampoo. Haircuts are now at the adult rate. Admission to the movies is at the adult rate. Everything they do, in short, costs more than it did when they were a sweet 7 year old.

And that's not even mentioning college.

I, for one, have a strong belief that everyone needs a college education. Despite all our struggles with the teenager, our desire for him to go to college is the one constant which keeps us from making him move out on his own. He'd never be able to afford college that way, and he needs an education.

We used to be lucky here in Texas-- tuition at state universities was a fixed rate, set by the state legislature. A couple years ago, however, they de-regulated the tuition. Prices at desirable state universities immediately doubled.

Nowadays, financial aid is hard to come by-- I'm lucky in that my GPA is, frankly, damn good, as well as my test scores on everything. It's not an inconsiderable accomplishment, considering I started college at the age of 24, with four small children in the house. I'm proud of it. But not all of our kids will have a 4.0 and superb scores on their SAT and ACT exams. I'm sorry-- they just won't. Some of our kids will, but if you have four or five or six kids . . . not all of them are going to be salutorians. I know our teenager isn't. But somehow he has to get the money together to attend college. And as his parents, our income is figured against him when he applies for financial aid.

I'll probably finish college with about $15,000 outstanding in loans. That's considering that the last year for my bachelor's degree costs twice what my little local nursing school does. I expect that Elsa will have to take out extensive loans to finance medical school.

The thing is, though, that these are my kids. I don't want them living on the edge of poverty. I don't want my daughters going into a marriage without a viable economic support for themselves. I don't want my kids to have to pinch and scrape and struggle as we have. I'd much prefer that they go into fields where they will have decent incomes and livable lifestyles.

And so, because I love them and want them to be happy, I am going to make sure that they go to college. That means making sure they can do it-- this isn't the old days, where you could work a summer job and make enough money for tuition for the next semester. This is the twenty first century. College tuition is insane. I'm going to help them apply for grants and scholarships, and then help them decide on loan options. I'm going to make sure they have clothes to wear, a car to drive, and that they can afford to eat. They need to be learning, and it's hard to do while surviving on Ramen. I'm going to pay for as much of their college as I can afford to, to help keep them out of debt. This is my gift to them, my hope invested in them.

That is one of the major reasons that my own education has become so important to me. My oldest daughter is 13. In five short years, she'll be deciding what university she wants to attend. She'll be visiting campuses and looking at dorms and I'll be sending her out into the world to become someone, some adult with hopes and dreams and ambitions, someone who can change the world and make it a better place. I don't want to have to say to my daughter, "No, you can't afford to go to a good out-of-state university. You're going to have to cut your dreams down to fit into a community college."

If you will pardon my vulgarity, to HELL with that.

I had to butcher my dreams to make them fit into my budget, not so very long ago. Medical school, for me, was out of the question. I spent a decade living a life that did not suit me, just because I did not see any other option. I will work 60 hour weeks before I let that happen to my daughter. A mind as clever and compassionate as hers shouldn't be wasted. A heart as brave and generous as hers shouldn't be limited by the scope of a pocketbook.

Which is why I need to go to sleep, I suppose, so I can finish my lab report in the morning and work on studying about the initial immune response. 97 on my last exam. Not bad. Two more chapters tomorrow night and yet another lab. My brain sometimes feels like it's going to melt, but I keep trudging along.

It means that much to me.

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cultured, refined, and shaped

You see, that's what annoys me nowadays. We are, basically, creatures of our particular culture. When we explain a "why" of it, we really don't have a reason, beyond "Well, that's the way things are/should be/have to be/ought to work."

I've been reading a lot of working mother magazines and websites, out of curiousity more than a geniune belief that they have anything helpful in their pages. This is what I have found:

Result 1. According to working mother magazines and websites, packing lunches is only a concern for one's children, who should have a specially packed lunchbox every day, preferably with a little note from mom telling the kid how much you love them. Many cute ideas are put forth for how to make every day special and interesting and appetizing.

If this makes you suddenly flash on Japanese bento box culture, then you're not alone. I'm suddenly reminded of all those Japanese women, getting up a couple hours before their kids do so they can cook a fresh, highly-decorative, and well-balanced meal to send to school with their kid. Heaven forfend if it isn't harmonious and cute. You lose face, seriously, if it looks bad. No Doritos and mini bags of Chips Ahoy there!

If you look at the silence regarding food otherwise in working women's magazines, working women themselves shouldn't worry about taking their lunches. I don't quite understand why-- is it assumed that, because you are working, you can afford to eat out every day for lunch? Is it assumed that you're just sticking a Lean Cuisine in the office refrigerator, ready for nuking? What, are they starving themselves? Because every other "lunch idea" that I have come across requires one to be at home to cook the lunch. No cold dishes are mentioned which don't require you to have an office microwave, no handy tips for making your veggies appetizing and cute, nothing.

As well, dads come into this discussion not at all. We could be charitable and think that they're just trying to keep the single moms from being depressed, but somehow I tend to think that it's more a case of assumptions. It's assumed that moms are in charge of lunches. That moms are in charge of nutrition. That, while you're stuffing down a sandwich at your desk, you're really concerned that little Emily or Jack is eating a cute and well-balanced meal.

Which is fairly ludicrous if you have actual children and have watched them at all. Children have no interest in eating balanced meals. Vegetables invariably return home, no matter how cute, usually much the worse for wear. What kids want is chips and cookies. And, if you watch the sales at major groceries and mega retailers, that's what people are buying, too. But the culture effort is there, being pushed forth by the magazines. And when the cultural expectations collide with what people are actually doing, the result is guilt.

Result 2. This one is backed by research. Men do less housework than women, even when both the man and woman have full-time jobs. That's all studied and quantified and summed up in a million places. There are, literally, a million cultural "reasons" for this, none of which actually make sense in the context of a modern family. It is, apparently, a major source of tension in a large number of American families. People are tense, frustrated, miserable, overworked, and carrying that tension over into the bedroom, with the result of a general decline in the quality of the marriage.

And once again, the assumptions come out. The first assumption is that it is the wife's job to "manage" this situation, that by choosing "jobs your husband will enjoy" and delegating those to him, he can be controlled. The assumption is that the woman needs to treat her husband much like an overgrown child who cannot regulate his own activities. There's also a subtle thread in the articles that the woman will, of course, be responsible for making sure that everything works, and if your husband decides that watching tv is more important than loading the dishwasher, well, you won't divorce his butt but be understanding and try again to solve the problem.

Of course, you go to the more housewifely websites, and the assumptions are a little more culturally honest. Doing everything around the house *is* the wife's job.

Which is where the culture and the practice really clash again, leading to more guilt. There are, I assure you, no men's magazines out there right now which tell a man to "relax" after the birth of his first child, that he simply won't be able to keep the house perfect while he works fulltime and tends to baby. But working women's magazines and websites repeat that like a mantra-- don't feel guilty! You can't do it all! Something is going to fall by the wayside!

. . . . do you see, here, how something "falling by the wayside" is still her fault?

It's frustrating, to me. It seems to make no logical sense whatever. Man works 40 hours. Woman works 40 hours. They come home, and she does nearly all of the child-care and assumes the managerial type duties of the home. He "helps."

Logically, I know that it is the result of subtle lifelong cues from our culture.

Idealistically, I still have this stubborn hope for my children that it will be different. That they will be able to cooperate with their spouses in a way that makes sense, that frees them from all this cultural baggage, that gives them a family life that is more satisfying, more sensible, and more happy all around.

The key, really, seems to be expectations. Men are expected to hand over the running of the household to their wives. Women are expected to hand over the importance of their work to their husbands. And everything from there is expected to dissolve into this "who did and who didn't" power struggle over whose turn it is to do the dishes and drive kids to soccer practice.

I don't see why we expect the power struggle, why we don't "expect" cooperation, sanity, and maturity instead. So many women throw out the excuse that "he's just not good with the children." Well, then, he's not a very good breeding prospect, is he? Listen-- God is a father. Why would He make fathers incapable of loving and caring for their children? That makes zero sense. Breastfeeding is a year or so of a child's life, and only one small aspect of it. There's 17 other years in childhood, where Dad can do anything Mom can do. All it takes is time and practice and . . . most importantly, perhaps, the desire to do it.

And honestly, if your husband doesn't want anything to do with kids, I don't see why you would want that guy to father your children.

This stuff should start from the start of the marriage. Cooperation, planning, and sharing in responsibility. My sons are taught how to cook and clean, right along with my daughters. They will have no reason why they can't come home from work and scrub a bathroom or mix up some spaghetti for their kids. And if they are so selfish of their time that they gripe if they have to do more than mow the lawn and take out the trash, then my husband and I have failed in teaching them what is really important in a home, which is sharing in all the duties, burdens, pleasures, and terrors.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

real quick

I've been sick the past two days-- stomach virus of some sort. Nausea, vomiting, the whole nine yards. Today has been a struggle trying to study for tonight's exam-- my brain won't focus on anaerobic chemolithotrophs, no matter what I do. But it's better than yesterday, where I ended up losing my lunch in the street outside the real estate office.

So. Just a quick thought, before I trudge off, queasily, to take my exam.

Why do we want working mothers to feel guilty?

Why don't we want working fathers to feel guilty?

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Various, sundry

I've been reading more blogs than usual the past couple of days. The game server I usually play on is being shipped to a new location, so I am without the familiar comforts of my virtual pastime. So I surf from blog to blog, looking for anything that grabs my attention . . .

. . . only to find that blogging, really, is kinda boring when you get right down to it.

Reading through a hundred blogs, what really stands out is how little of importance anyone has to say. We're all just attitude, most of it a pretty standard blend of anti-whatever-is-au-courant. If we mention a celebrity, we're sure to diss them (we probably all scan People at the checkstand anyway, to see the latest gossip, but only to be able to mock the celebs later, right?) Politics is a distant concern, and when it does come up, it is usually mentioned as a sort of shorthand substitute for expressing a real informed opinion (for example, saying mockingly that one is a bleeding heart liberal or a staid conservative serves to reassure readers that they're in the right place while avoiding any actual messy political nuances.)

Most blogs are just . . . blathering. Mine's no different. I wonder sometimes if I should just password it and be done with it, admitting openly that I only ramble online because I am too lazy to write a proper journal. I've been at this for seven years. That's an amazing number. Seven years of posting my ill-informed opinions and arrogant screeds to a (largely) uncaring universe. Thousands of posts, hundreds of them written in the days before there WAS a Blogger, each of them hand-coded and uploaded to my personal webspace.

As I read through the blogs, I'm reading someone's personal account of a tragedy, a joy, a boring day at the office, or a terrifying scare. And really, since I don't know these people, it doesn't really connect. It does them a disservice, in a way, to read something so personal without really caring about them personally.

I start thinking that I really should study more about the current world political situation, check out a few more history books from the library, take the time to get up-to-speed on local politics, check into the local water district's budget, write my congressman about whatever issue is currently problematic, pull my head out of the sand and look at the real world around me instead of blowing my time reading about another typical day in some stranger's life, written in a carefully ironic style which is much the same as any other post composed in a carefully ironic style by any one of a million other strangers.

I guess the breaking point, for me, was surfing through some website where a woman was talking about her miscarriage in one of those carefully ironic styles. I know firsthand about madness due to mine-- I can't read my posts from September to April, because they're not written by ME. They're written by that crazy wench who took over my brain. But anyway. I'm reading this complete stranger's blog only to stumble upon some witty little paragraph where she describes how she and her family call the dead baby "SpongeBob." And how, gee, she's going to always think of you, "SpongeBob," when she sees that little yellow fellow.

I sat there for a moment, thinking to myself. I don't really want an intimate look into people's minds. People, quite frankly, are usually idiots. Scratch that--people are usually people, complete with a set of behaviors that make me completely infuriated. And I'm tired of the whole mess. People write books about how to come up with interesting blog topics. People go to conventions to talk to other people that blog, about blogging. Everyone is searching for some way to be special, to be heard, to be different, to make connections, to reach out and find an audience.

I was reading through "David Copperfield" today and I wondered if I was, indeed, the hero of my own life story or just a minor character. Maybe I'm the villian.

Blogging, in a way, gives people a chance to write their own life stories out. The real tragedy of it, I suppose, is that, 156 years from now, blogging will be a few pages in a book about the history of the internet. But even then, there will still be someone curled up in a corner, reading a copy of "David Copperfield" and immersing themselves in the story. A novel, in many ways, is more honest than what we do blogging. It examines life, instead of merely regurgitating it. It weaves pattern in what is usually patternless. A spilled cup of milk, in a novel, means something. In daily life, it is just one more in a series of events, another reason to reach for a sponge.

I don't know what I am doing here.

I don't know where I'll go.

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Pfft

Feel really sick today. Meh. Notfun.

Anyway, that Time of the Year is upon us-- Back to School, with all its hassles, expenses, and hoops to jump through. I looked at the calendar today and noticed that we're on the last week of July already. So it was time to surf over to the school district's website and find out the important stuff-- when does the 8th grader pick up her schedule, what supplies will the second grader need, and oh yeah, when is the first day of school and will it conflict with my first day?

Answers to all of the above questions were readily available. Now the only question that remains is how I'm going to manage to finance the whole endeavor. I was so sick Thursday and Friday that I got nothing done besides my exam and the trip to sign the house paperwork. I'm always starving, but when I eat, I can barely eat anything and then I get sick. So I walk the balance between ravenous and nauseated. An example, in the truck as we waited for our lunch at Sonic, me shaky and irritable-- Tony says to me "You're that nervous about signing all that paperwork . . . or are you just that hungry?" A snarl from me, waiting for the bloody slow Sonic waitress to get there with our order. "Okay, just that hungry."

Anyway, I still need to talk to the scholarship people, hopefully tomorrow. No class tomorrow, but we have another exam on Tuesday, for which I need to spend most of the day studying.

Today, I just need to get out of the house for a while. I think we'll mosey on over to Target to see if they have any Back to School supplies for cheap. We have the luxury of three weeks in which to acquire the supplies, I can just pick them up when they're on some great sale. But it gives me an excuse to get out of the house with the Tribe. And maybe to take a second look at those skirts I saw there last week-- I could really use a new skirt in just a plain black. None of my trousers fit anymore-- I'm at 14 weeks now. Every once in a while, I feel a little tiny baby flutter. Not often, but it's a distinct sensation. Nebby, as we're calling him or her, is moving around in there.

(And umm, Nebby is from our current joke about the baby. We can't decide on a name, so I threatened that if it was a boy, I would name him Nebuchadnezzar. One of my friends said, "Great, name the kid after the biggest tyrant in the Bible." Which, you know, would kind of fit in with the rest of my tyrannical Tribemembers, but hey. Another of my friends says I am a sadist. Which also fits, but meh. Until we actually CAN think of a name which we both like and isn't hideously trendy, Nebby it is.)

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mansions on the hill and whatnot

So we went down yesterday and signed yet another stack of paperwork about the new house. VA loan application and agreements for this and that, pages upon pages. And since we were down in Temple again to do the paperwork, we drove out to the development there that has the model of home we're building, to take a second look around at things we needed to consider when buying furniture and all that. The size of the various rooms, the arrangement of doors, the entryway space, the windows and their orientations-- we looked at it all, as well as the luxurious size of the hot water heater and the air conditioning unit.

Danielle Bean, of course, has a thread on her blog about people and the sizes of houses that they live in. There's lots of diversity-- big houses, small houses, people extolling space and people extolling smallness. Of course the usual thread of mixed feelings those sorts of topics generate-- people being people, and sinners all of us.

We've lived in a lot of houses-- in my lifetime, I've lived in at least thirty different homes. I'd have to sit down and count, but at least thirty. Probably more. We moved a lot. I've lived in Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Indiana. I've lived in everything from trailer homes to apartments to big haunted farmhouses in the country.

Some of the houses were really nice-- the one with the great swimming pool, the one on the Oregon mountainside. Some of them were pretty cruddy-- the tiny and poorly insulated house in Indiana, the miniature apartment in the bad neighborhood in Waco. Most of them had at least one huge drawback, and almost all of the floorplans were terrible. Our Colorado ranch house was small and the basement smelled like sewage. Our house in San Antonio had no closet space to speak of. There hasn't been one "perfect" house, nor have we ever had the luxury of time and financial freedom to select a rental house that we actually liked. We always moved fast, and moved broke.

Our current home is about 1600 square feet. It's proportioned badly, in an antiquated ranch style. The kitchen is shut off from the living room by folding doors. The dining room is shut off from the kitchen and the living room by doors. The living room has one entire corner wasted with a crumbling brick fireplace (which, in Texas, is about as useless as a snowblower.) The entry way is stepped up from the living room and has a strange half wall in the middle. The master bedroom has a tiny cell-like shower, no bathtub, and the sink is in the room itself.

Into this mismanaged square footage, we've attempted to shove a family of six, including one relentlessly antisocial teenager, one mentally handicapped child, and two kids who need to be able to get away from their siblings from time to time in order to retain sanity. It's pretty much impossible in the space we have. The teenager lives in the dining room. The living room has our entertainment cabinet, the toy train table, my chaise, and the dining room table and chairs. We're lucky we don't have any furniture, because that takes up all the available space. The kids's desk is shoved into the entry way near the parrot's cage. Elsa's room is taken up by four bookshelves and the antique bedroom set that my great grandmother left for her. The jungle room is stuffed full with the dresser, the bongo drums we've owned for a decade, the two twin beds, and the broken-down old wicker couch (which is piled with stuffed animals.)

And, since there is simply no space anywhere else, we have my computer desk in our master bedroom along with our bed and dresser and one of the remaining bookshelves. There's a bookshelf shoved in the hall, as well, and one crammed next to the garage door. The rabbit has to live in the garage, there's simply no space for him in the house.

The way the house is set up now doesn't, as you'd suspect, bring us closer together. Instead, cramped and unable to find private space, we all retreat to various corners to try to escape the omnipresent company. We're introverts, most of us, trapped in a small crowded house. Without space to spread out and find our niche, we're unhappy.

The new house will be almost twice as large as our current home. But really, the big difference will be the WAY in which it is set up. You see, I thought a lot about the way we live before we decided to buy a new home. There are some aspects which I simply had to have in a house. One of them, well, the primary consideration was actually not the square footage. You want to know what it was? I'll tell you-- it was a modern-style kitchen and family room, set up for the needs of a modern family.

I hate cooking alone. I despise it-- spending hours trapped in a small space while everyone else is in another part of the house. I feel put-upon and miserable. Most houses we've lived in have those awful overhanging cabinets that cut the kitchen off from the rest of the dining room or breakfast area. I hate that. I want to be able to talk to people while I cook or while they cook, to be able to see what the kids are doing instead of shouting through the house.

The great thing about our new house is that its setup solves this problem. There is a huge combined kitchen and family room with a breakfast nook and a curved island with a bar in the middle. The television can be on for the kids, they can be watching it, and I can keep an eye on them. If they're playing a video game, I can watch, comment, and make suggestions. If they have homework to do, they can sit at the bar and work on it while I chop vegetables and stir sauces. If they want to have a snack after school, they can sit at the bar and watch tv without having to take their KoolAid on the carpet.

And now, of course, with wireless internet, I can sit in the same room with them while I am surfing the Net or doing my homework. And if I need more privacy, I can move to a desk in the living room or I can move upstairs to my room.

The toys will hopefully remain upstairs in the game room, which will be set up for toy storage, easy cleanup, and the larger baby gear. Mere will probably have her computer set up in the gameroom, in order to keep her out of the noisiest part of the house but still in a "common area." This should solve some of her bad habit of moving from the kitchen to get a snack back to her computer-- if she has to go up and down a flight of stairs, it makes it less appealing to her. She doesn't much enjoy stairs.

Everyone will have a private space-- I can hide in the nursery with the baby to nurse and cuddle without kids blaring the tv and asking me pointless questions (My favorite is the shouted "Is the baby asleep?" . . . well he or she WAS until you yelled, doofus!) Elsa can hide in her room with a book or her laptop, far away from her younger siblings. The Little Guy can go to the Jungle Room and relax with his toy cars or move from gameroom to family room as the mood takes him. Tony can turn the living room into his relaxation spot or go lounge in our spacious (and computer and television free) bedroom. Mere can choose a stimulus level that she can tolerate-- if it's too intense in the family area, she can go decompress on her computer.

And really, it will be wonderful to have the space we need for once. This floorplan has closets galore-- no more piling things in corners because there simply is no space for them anywhere else. I am overjoyed at the thought of having all that space. It gives us room to breathe and grow, room to have some privacy and relaxation, room for our house to be less cluttered and claustrophobic. Room to put the Hoover in a closet instead of sticking it in a corner. Room to stop shoving the boxed cereal on top of the fridge. Room to move Elsa's dresser out of her closet.

There is just a certain minimal amount of stuff that you need with six (going on seven) people in one house. There has to be room to store clothes and shoes, backpacks and books. We're a literate family, we own thousands of books-- there has to be space for bookshelves or built-ins. Children, even older children, have toys that need storing. If you're buying groceries for even a week with seven people, you will need cabinet space in abundance-- cans of tomatoes and beans take up a surprising amount of shelf space, leaving nowhere to stow the cereal and the syrup. People need a place to SIT, something we don't even have right now. There's space for two people to sit on my chaise, to watch a movie together right now, everyone else has to sit on the floor.

You can make do without these things-- trust me, we have and we do. We've lived crammed cheek-to-jaw at various times. Our vacations in our travel trailer are exercises in microscopic life-- you learn tricks for storage and maximizing space.

It is a wonderful luxury, though, to be able to anticipate life being different. To anticipate being able to cook a meal in the kitchen, with the baby safely stowed in a swing or in a playpen which isn't stuffed into some corner, and being able to keep an eye on the big kids as well. To anticipate having a bathroom which can fit a mom lounging in a bubblebath, a baby cooing in an Exersaucer, and a husband shaving at the sink all at the same time. And that's not even considering the benefits of owning our own actual backyard-- being able to put in a garden, to plant whatever flowerbeds I like, and to build an aviary for the long-suffering parrot.

Do we need a "McMansion?" Well, no. We don't need a mansion, but we're not building one. We're building a house for seven people who live a certain lifestyle. Even with all the improvements and upgrades, we're still spending only about $60 a square foot to build this home-- it's no mansion. Don't look for marble countertops and $5000 stoves in this place. Elsa's big excitement is that the stove is a flat-surface stove-- no more scrubbing stove trays!

No one knows what the future holds for them. Our future is no different-- we anticipate living in this house for at least three years. At which point, we could have a twenty-two year old, a sixteen year old, a fourteen year old handicapped child, an eleven year old, and a three year old. And who knows, maybe another baby or two-- it's within the realm of possibility. I think the house is flexible enough to accomodate those changes. I think the way it's set up will allow us to have some valuable family time when we're stretched by our competing demands of work and school. I can see living in this house for years beyond that, if we chose. We probably won't-- we would like to move somewhere cooler, once I have my BSN and some work experience. But it's a house that we could live in if we had to, for many years to come, a house that will adapt as our family changes with time. With five bedrooms, there are many possible combinations, no matter what ages and stages of children we have to accomodate. Some combinations simply don't work, as we found out with the teenager who was keeping his kindergartener brother up late at night, letting him watch inappropriate movies and video games. Nightmares from watching midnight horror flicks are not something you want to deal with in a six year old.

I'm looking forward to our new home.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Urgh

Had a bit of a nausea and exhaustion setback over the past two days. Really struggling just to make it through the day right now. I have a lab that's due this evening, which I should be working on, but it looks decidedly unappealing at the moment. I'll have to scrape it together, though, can't afford to lose 20 (basically) free points. She grades labs on "completion," not perfection.

Oh well, got a 96 on my first exam. Tonight we're pounding through another chapter of material and doing a sort of DIY throat culture. Wheee. Not.

Last night's lab was Gram stains. We actually didn't do that badly, had good specimens of each of the samples, stained the correct color.

So, I turned in my scholarship paperwork yesterday, by mail. Going to call on Thursday to check about getting a tuition refund. If I can get that, back-to-school clothes for the Tribe would be taken care of.

Urgh. I really feel less than wonderful at the moment. Tempted to go lay down for a while, but then my lab won't get done. I still have to cook dinner before I go to class at 5 . . . Elsa, while she is learning, still doesn't have the knack for getting a lot of ingredients ready in a short time, which is an art you really must learn in order to put together minestrone quickly. And it's minestrone tonight, like it or not, because those veggies need to get used before they become squishy puddles in the bottom of the fridge.

Okay. Maybe I'll open Word and start transcribing my lab notes.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Impromptu surgeries, and other excitements of the parenting life

There are a lot of things you find yourself doing, once you're a parent, that come out of the blue and force you to ask yourself the omnipresent question: How in the hell did they pull that one off?

They being the children, of course.

Today, we decided to splurge and stop by Wendy's for lunch before we made our week's shopping trip to the grocery. So we took the Tiny Car (it's a V-6 Chevy Malibu, it isn't that tiny, but it inherited the name from the Volkswagen.) It only seats five, of course, so the Deadly Trio was all pressed up against each other in the backseat.

Mere objected. Whether she objected to the trip itself, the choice of eating establishments, or the presence of her siblings, who knows. She decided to express her dissatisfaction with the arrangement, whatever it was, by grabbing Elsa's right ear and trying to tear her earring out.

Elsa was quietly crying in the backseat after this, and seemed to be in more pain than one would expect from just a pulled ear . . . so I asked her to show me the ear. Only to find that, in twisting the earring, her sister had actually pulled the emerald stud through the skin, into the earring hole itself. It was dripping blood from the swollen earlobe and the stud itself was not in sight.

So I carefully pushed the stud back out of the hole . . . ouch. Poor kid. Then once we got to Wendy's, Tony dragged the wicked ear-mutilator and her little brother off to order while Elsa and I went to the ladies' room to see what could be done.

No medical kit, no wipes, nothing in my tiny purse. All I could do was scrub my hands with hot water and soap and carefully remove the earring before rinsing the caked blood off her ear and neck.

Once we got home, of course, we cleaned it out with rubbing alcohol, numbed it with ice, and carefully inserted a French hook earring, to keep the hole open without aggravating the ruptured skin too much.

At least it was a reminder to find the first aid kit that belongs in my purse and put the first aid kit back into the truck. Hopefully Elsa's ear will heal up without more infection and without her losing the piercing. Mere . . . *sigh* . . . what can you say about Mere? We told her that it was a mean thing to do, hurting her sister, but it is like talking to a toddler. The pleasure of French fries undoubtedly erased the entire incident from her mind.

Now, if only it was that easy for me . . . .

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Moving on . . .

Well, we signed the initial paperwork for the house this week. We picked a lot (the deepest one that didn't have a lot premium, right down near the end of a cul-de-sac,) and put down the money to reserve it. It backs up on a buffer zone, so no houses will be right behind us. We picked out the brick and the paint colors for the exterior and marked where in the house we want all the cable outlets and phone outlets to go. We selected all the structural upgrades we wanted-- including the 9' ceilings but not the bullnosed corners. Our paperwork gets turned in Wednesday to the main office, now all we have to do is go to the design center and pick the interior colors and the cabinetry.

And wait. And wait. And wait. Our closing is scheduled for February. It will probably be earlier than that, they say, but it seems like forever to be stuck in this house with the temptations of all that square footage so tantalizingly close. Imagine not having to have the dining room table in the corner of the living room! Not having to have the teenager living in what used to be the dining room! Having a garage where the truck will actually fit inside! And a pantry! And an oven that isn't built for Munchkinland!

Of course, in the meantime, money is ridiculously tight. Which makes it all that much better that I won another scholarship, eh?

Yeah, I got my scholarship notification in the mail yesterday. $2000, half payable for fall 2006 and half for spring 2007, to be used for books and tuition and fees. Since I have already paid my fall tuition, I am wondering if I can get them to refund me part of it so I can go buy my scrubs and such. It's rather silly-- my scholarship funds don't disburse until August, but tuition is due by July 3rd. Whose plan was that?

Anyway, that should cover all the rest of my school expenses, once it's released to my account, so I can stop worrying about how I will pay for the fifteen different textbooks and manuals and resource books that are on the required book list. I need to really find out about getting the tuition I paid back from the school-- that's over $900 right there that I could surely use in my bank account. Once I sign the acceptance letter and write the thank-you note, I guess it is time to call the scholarship foundation and start bugging them. $1312.50 per semester, not bad for a small local nursing school. Pretty much pays for it.

Woooo . . . I can probably buy my books soon then.

That's actually a cool thought. Nothing like a stack of books to investigate.

Speaking of books . . . the kids' summer reading program is well underway. Elsa has finished The Outsiders-- now we have the movie coming from Netflix. With Gone with the Wind, we took the opposite tack and watched the movie first so she would understand the general gist of the story and not be so daunted by the thickness of the book. She's also got Wuthering Heights in line, as a compare and contrast exercise. It's fun to finally have her in the teen years, where the books get a little more recent in my memory and I can discuss them more in-depth with her. Of course she's also working her way through the Redwall books and she's got a stack of Dungeons and Dragons books which she's reading and I am pretending not to notice. She's already finished a series of YA fantasy books by Tanith Lee, no idea what they're about and no real intent to find out.

The Little Guy is doing a 2nd grade reading book that features Little Critter, just to keep his reading skills on track. Elsa is reading him The Indian in the Cupboard and his dad is reading him The Mouse and the Motorcycle so he's doing pretty well in the literary sphere.

Anyway, time to go shopping.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A reminder

Ahem. Read the description. Ire forms a large part of this blog. You're not being forced to read it.

I have gotten one extremely negative comment on my post about families, and I felt that the author would probably regret it if I posted it, so I simply deleted it. A good rule of thumb in comments is: If you start out saying "I don't know if I should respond to this", the answer is always No.

Which is why I moderate comments-- people post in haste and repent at leisure.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled posting. And, err, my homework, which I should be doing instead of talking to a buddy on MSN about the roleplaying game we both spend too much time on.

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microbial life

So anyway, today is day three of my microbiology course. Days one and two covered four chapters of material and we did two lab assignments. Tonight will be a long chapter, with copious notes, and then the review for tomorrow's exam. We're moving right along-- there's only thirteen class days left in the semester and we have six exams, a term paper, and six more labs to go. I'm sure we'll cram it all in somehow, our instructor is a cancer researcher and she is leaving on her honeymoon the day after class ends, so there will be no dawdling. Onward, as they say.

I worked with two other women in the lab last night, preparing and staining smears of Staphlococcus, E. coli, and Pseudomonas. We couldn't find nary an E. coli in the bunch, but we got some nice images of the other microorganisms.

It is somewhat reassuring-- 90% of the students in the class are either starting the nursing courses or they are going in as second year nursing students in the fall. One of my lab partners is a second-year student. In her words, she was "three weeks out from my C-section and not cleared to drive yet" but, of course, she was there in the class, infant and toddler at home. We talked about the challenges of nursing school while pregnant for a while-- tough but do-able seemed to be her opinion. Which I can work with.

So, today's work is reading through all those chapters with my "key words" sheet in hand and making notes. Heaven forfend I should forget what a biofilm is, or mix binary fission up with something else.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What do you need, kid?

Over at the largerfamilies blog, they're talking about what kids NEED.

Forgive me if I am . . . a little unimpressed by the topic, and how roundly everyone so far seems to be missing it.

As far as I can tell, what kids NEED is pretty simple. They need a sense of stability in their lives-- knowing where they're going to sleep that night, trusting that they'll be taken care of. They need food to eat, clothes on their backs, and a safe place to rest and play. They need love.

And, mommy bloggers of the world, calm yourselves before you work yourselves into a tizzy arguing about what is the BEST way to give a child all of this. Because there are millions, millions, and millions of children in this world who are lacking one or more of these things. The fact that mommies like us have the luxury and the resources to blow time blogging on the internet about the Right and Proper Way to Parent just shows how little danger our actual children are in of being one of those kids.

You see, the thing is, you can't just "give" these kids what they need. You can't swoop in, superhero-esque, and give a child a sense of stability, a parent who has their head screwed on right, and the financial resources to keep them safe and comfortable. All the arguments about whether or not wearing disposable diapers instead of cloth will scar a child for life seem pretty ridiculous when you think about the children out there who are left in one diaper all day because their parent is mentally ill, drug-addicted, or just plain neglectful.

You know what the funny thing is? These kids are growing up, right alongside our own kids, and they too are forming the next generation, as they form part of our own generations. People might not talk about it much, but this is real life, real history, and the real world to a lot of people. And some of those neglected kids will end up in prison, some will end up on the streets, but a lot more of them will end up just living alongside our own kids, working and struggling, raising their own families for better or worse, and trying to feel their way through things the best they can. And some of our children, even if we give them the "best" parenting, the right toys, read them the right books, shuttle them to the right activities, and in general play along with the current middle class mores and ideals about parenting, will STILL end up in prison or on the streets. Some of them are going to get hooked on drugs. Some of them are going to have relationship problems of the epic and tormented sort. We're clinging to an illusion that if we give our kids these things they "NEED" that they will be okay, that we'll be good parents, that everything will be all right.

Mommy bloggers, much like politico bloggers, have an unfortunate tendency to choose one side of an issue, be it breastfeeding, diapering, homeschooling, or dairy products, and make that the Right Side, the Cause, which they then defend with all the vigor that any Southerner ever displayed against the Yankees. Instead of becoming more flexible, more compassionate, and more adaptive, they become more rigid and hysterical about the virtues of their choices and beliefs. Which, I hate to say, is about the opposite of what I have found about truly good parents.

The good parents I have met and talked to are open about the fact that most of raising children is a mystery, a gift, a strange bizzarre fruit that you try to nurture as best you can, but which still produces an unexpected bounty some years and some years is barren. They're flexible, realizing that there is no One Right Way to do anything, that humanity's greatest asset over the milennia has been its very adaptability. Some of them did not realize this until late in life, when their grandparenting years came along and they saw their own children repeating the cycle of rigidity and worry.

I suppose the thing that bothers me is that no one I have read recently among the mommy blggers has seemed torecognize and appreciate the basic . . . luckiness . . . that we all display. We're all firmly middle class-- we own computers, we have internet service, most of us have hard-working well-paid husbands who give us the luxury of not having to work to help support our families. Raise your hand if your husband is making $10 an hour while you stay at home homeschooling your six children. Anyone? Whomever you are, I salute you for mad bravery. The rest of us are home because our husbands are making enough to support our families while we blog, carpool, and act virtuous because we cook more than we eat takeout.

We're the lucky ones. We're not working two minimum wage jobs while we try to raise our children, we're not deciding if the electric bill gets paid or the groceries get bought for the next week, we're not scraping together pennies from between the cushions of the couch to try to get enough money together just to buy that bag of generic disposable diapers. We should be giving thanks every day, even the days when everything seems to be a hellish daze of disasters. It could be a lot worse. For a lot of people, it is a lot worse, every day. And we should be sparing a lot of compassion for other people-- we're women, we're mothers, we are supposed to be fountains of mercy and compassion. Spare some for the women who can't imagine themselves breastfeeding, who have to go to work when their children are infants, who make choices you think are crappy.

And relax . . . your kids don't need any of that stuff. Just love them, care for them, and let them develop into the people that they're going to be. We can list the consumer excesses that we commit while we're claiming that we're really cutting back, honest. But in the end, wouldn't you rather have your kids say about you, "Yeah, you really need to meet my Mom. She's a great person to talk to, she doesn't just tell you what she thinks you should do, she really listens and cares."

That doesn't take money, friends.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

We went today to see a model of the home we'd like to build, already built down in Temple. Needless to say, it was huge compared to our current home, with some features that were drool-worthy. The master bedroom is giant . . . we could actually fit something besides our four-poster oak monstrousity into the room. Maybe even a chair and end tables and, who knows, a dresser!

It would need some upgrades-- the bigger bathtub, the conversion of the den and half the gameroom into bedrooms, taller cabinets . . . but it would be a complete lifestyle change. The family room/kitchen area is open and airy and spacious. The gameroom upstairs, even after making half of it into a nursery, would be more than roomy enough to put the kids toy table, desk and computer, and video game systems in. The downstairs bedroom would be perfect for Elsa, isolated from the smaller kids and next to the half bath.

All in all, though, we had a very positive impression of the floorplan. Now we just have to get it financed somehow.

I filled out my application today for my subsidized Stafford student loan. That money should arrive just in time to purchase all the baby necessities, with another check arriving at the due date. It might mean the difference next semester, when things will be tight.

Kind of a stressful day, and a step backwards in nausea. Oh well, not all days are ones where you feel good. I just feel particularly bad at the moment. Gonna shower and hit the rack, later.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jungle redux

Oh I forgot to mention that Tony and I finally got the dresser finished for the littles' Jungle Room. We stripped and sanded and all that and eventually got bored of sanding and just primered the darn thing. Tony put on two coats of primer, then a couple coats of khaki paint.

You see, to fit the jungle theme, we decided that their dresser should look like a trunk or crate that has been hauling items to their expeditions. So we painted the dresser khaki and printed out a variety of travel stickers from exotic locales-- the internet is great for this kind of thing, we found some excellent "stickers" from Cairo, Casablanca, the Queen Mary, Mexico, and other far-flung destinations. We cut the travel stickers out and glued them to the front of the newly-painted dresser, tossed about like they'd been carelessly slapped on by some dockworker. Tony found five cool maps on the 'net, New Guinea, the Amazon, the Congo, Madagascar, and Africa itself, printed them and cut them out, and then glued them to the top of the dresser as if they'd been left there by someone who was deciding on the next destination. All the maps and stickers were then coated with spray-on polyurethane.

The last touch was stenciling-- Tony stenciled on the words "FRAGILE" on one side, "HANDLE WITH CARE" on the front, and a "USA" in one corner, in black paint. It really completed the look, making it look amazingly like an old crate. He put plain unfinished wooden knobs on all the drawers, making it look nicely rustic. And it looks . . . great. I am amazed how well it came out, really.

So the jungle explorers now have somewhere to stow their gear. Now if only they would do it!

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Plans

Okay, so.

I have always "planned for the worst." I am the mom with an emergency bag with a change of clothes for everyone and water and non-perishable snacks in the back of the SUV. I am the mom with a three-day supply of water in the closet and plenty of canned goods on hand. I am the mom who assumes that the kids will get sick on vacation, the cut on your hand will get infected, and the state police will decide that you really don't need that extra money in your checking account, thank you, if you drive over the posted speed limit.

It's still hard to look forward six months and plan for the worst-- I can't afford for the worst to happen. I really need everything to go smoothly, but my ingrained habit of seeing the worst possible outcome is hampering me from a simple faith that all will be well.

You see-- things are going to be insane in January and February. Let's leave aside another semester's crushing tuition payment and new supply of books. Let's just look at the practicalities. I can't miss more than 3 sessions of clinical experiences, which means about a week and a half of class I can miss, if I beg and plead and whimper. So, the new semester will start the second week of January. My due date is the third week of January. Assuming I go post-due a bit (as always), that might push the birth back to the first of February. That still means trying to attend nursing school in the fog of the ninth month of pregnancy, giving birth (please let it be uncomplicated and easy and quick), then returning to nursing school in the postpartum period, when all one really wants to do is lay on the bed with one's newborn and sleep.

All sorts of hideous scenarios spring to mind. Nipple confusion, as the baby has to use a bottle while I'm at school and I will be breastfeeding when I am home. Grades slipping-- post-partum attention spans are not the best and I have to study, retain heaps of information, and spew it back out successfully. My husband going insane as he takes FMLA time off to care for the baby and finds himself using our entire vacation time allottment and all of whatever savings we manage to accrue. Any little tremble could make the whole house of cards come crashing down around my head.

And yet dropping out of school is not a viable option. I just have to find some way to make it all work out.

There are some things we are working on. We're scrapping our old Buick, keeping the engine, and selling the other viable parts from it (the transmission, mainly, which Tony rebuilt), then we're going to clean the travel trailer up and sell it, too. It's too small for us anyway, without any slideouts and with only a full-sized bed in the back, but it is a Holiday Rambler and we've put in new A/C and carpet and tile and a microwave, so we'll be able to hopefully sell it for a fair price and put that money into savings.

We've begun looking at newer, bigger, better houses to purchase or rent. If we could get the financing arranged, there is a 3100 square foot house that I would not mind building-- 5 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, 2 living and dining areas, and a gameroom upstairs. With the VA financing, we would only have to pay a pittance to move in. Which is good, because we literally have no furniture for one living room, much less two. Battered wicker is simply not going to make the move with us-- we bought it cheaply to decorate our old house with while we tried to sell it, but now it's all falling apart and it's STILL the only furniture we have. Imagine four children and a wicker couch, chairs, and coffee table. Now move that picture forward two years. Yes, it is a mystery how the furnishings still hold together with so much of the wicker broken off.

Even if we don't get that house, we still need to move into a newer, bigger, better home. Rent if nothing else-- we've been in this crappy house for two years only out of apathy.

I might have to take the Stafford loan option-- it's only 1750 a semester, but it might make the difference in survival.

Ah well. So many things could go wrong. All I can do is try to forestall them with things I can do now-- taking care of my health so the odds are better that I have an easy delivery, getting our finances arranged so we have some money in savings to cover problems, getting everything ready for the baby well in advance (I am looking at buying all the layette items in October, when I'll have hopefully a free paycheck's excess and still be lively enough to do it), and just letting all the rest of the worries go.

I really shouldn't worry too much about the breastfeeding thing-- the problem before has always been an excess of production, so pumping should go fairly well. As long as I have that first week to get things settled in, the baby should be fine. And if nothing else, Tony can drive the baby over to the campus on lunch breaks so I can sneak in a feeding. I wonder if pumping during class would be frowned upon . . . *snickers*

Okay, this weekend's priorities are set-- we need to get that car disassembled and have the scrap yard come haul it away. Then we need to get that trailer cleaned up-- it's still full of sand from the beach. I am going to go over to one of the Bed-Bath stores and buy a cheap comforter/sheet set for the master bedroom bed in it (easy way to make it fancier) and some potpourri and new pillows, maybe tack up some inexpensive new curtains in the living area and bedroom. Need to take all our things out of it and scrub the bathroom out really well . . . ehh, Tony might have to do that, I don't like the chemicals. And that puppy can go into the newspaper next week.

Tomorrow-- orthodontist visit for Elsa (we don't have to PAY anymore, yay!), and I need to go give the Red Cross $90 for my registration for their professional CPR course (which is in August.) I also need to stop by the bookstore and pick up my microbiology textbooks, to the tune of $200.

Did I mention that none of my pants fit anymore? *sighs*

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