Monday, April 6, 2015

The Plight of the Upper Lower Class

I'm not one for labels, though, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't read them whilst in the grocery store.  What is on sale this week that doesn't also contain high fructose corn syrup?  Cheap popcorn!  Oh wait... it's GMO.

I flip through the weekly flyers, but don't obsess with a coupon folder ( anymore.)

I wait until payday, and hope the milk not treated with growth hormones is still on sale - if not, I only buy 2 instead of 3 - certainly can't go without milk. 

When I check out at the cashier and hand her a few roughly ripped coupons, I hope I did alright.  Slyly I leave the Oreo's in the stack of baskets under the conveyor along with the cute travel mug, bag of chocolate bars, the second box of cheese-its, and few miscellaneous things the kids tossed in while I wasn't looking - or, that I tossed in spur of the moment.

The nice old couple behind me, surely with only good intentions, points out my discarded items bring them to my kids's attention - I suppose the battle over the Oreos is really not one I feel like fighting; I get the Oreos.

The total: I'm sure we have it in our account.  I check to be sure. There are few things more embarrassing then a rejected card.  We just paid a month of day-care for two kids, the rent, life insurance, car insurance, health insurance, the phone bill, the power bill, the cable bill, the water bill, the trash bill, a month of Netflix, filled the car with gas, and of course two student loan payments.  It's what everyone pays, right?

Here's where I bring class back into it. 

My husband has an amazing and stressful, yet fulfilling career as a University Professor, and I work two part time jobs and teach one University class.  I'm overeducated and underemployed. 

Surely due to bad money management, thousands of dollars in unexpected medical expenses, and another family move, we're almost breaking even at the end of each month - putting off larger bills and paying them off bit by bit.

We make too much money for any assistance, and not enough money to get ahead. 

We're stuck.

And so are thousands of other working families.

Daycare costs a good deal more than our rent.  Basically, I work to pay daycare costs.  I tried staying home, but I suck at being a stay at home mom.  There is no assistance for families like ours - and really, we're not asking for any help, but it would be nice to get a break every once in a while.

I call this the plight of the Upper lower class.

We give to those who have less than we do, and respect what we do have.  We are a loving family, but fight about a stupid cup of fancy coffee, or a meal out towards the end of the month. 

We're planning a family vacation and cant seem to agree on how to bring it to fruition.  Hourly workers don't get sick leave.  Hourly workers don't get vacation time.  Hourly workers don't get paid when they have to stay home when the kids are sick.

How do we fix it?

Can we pare down our expenses anymore?

Can we get a home loan with very little if any cash down, so our mortgage would be less then the rent we pay? Hell no, no one will loan to us.

Babysitters charge more than I make per hour, but I stay because my boss is flexible, lets me work when I can, and take time off without giving me too hard a time.

We need a second car to allow more freedom to take  more work and allow children transport, but I drive a motorcycle and get 70 mpg and pay $11/ month in insurance.  It's also paid off.  The one car we have gets dozens of miles a day getting everyone where they need to.  We do what we need to do.

What's the solution?  Pay teachers more? Sure.  Have daycare subsidized by the government? It's a dream.  Allow low rate loans for families with good intentions and big dreams?  Unlikely.

We're not alone, and we will all continue to do our best.  We will continue to give back to the community when we can. We will be the best friends and parents we can be, and try not to fight about money too often.

I'm sitting on my couch watching my kids pretend to take a vacation - their school is closed today due to "staff training"; we still paid for the entire week.  I love their imagination, they are arguing what they can take in their carry-on purses, and it seems everything has to be orange.  Not sure why.

Perhaps they know something I don't.  When you're a kid, you have everything you could ever want, ever need, or ever hope for.  There is a song for everything.  A piece of clay has infinite possibilities and a piece of paper an emotional expression.

I envy their existence, and strive to emulate it. 

If only the Barbie credit card were real, The Hi-Ho Cherries were cash, that Matchbox Minivan was fueled and outside, the Lego Jet was at our disposal, and that Little People's 5 bedroom house were ours.

"Stop jumping on the beds!  I know the floor is shark infested lava, but you don't have to jump to avoid it!"

Gotta go...







Sunday, August 31, 2014

Actors Vs. Children

I've worked in theater a very long time;  much longer than I've been a mom.

Behind the scenes, I've worn a variety of hats including those of a stage manager, a director, a set designer and scenic artist.  As a mom, I suppose the same can be said of the kinds of pants I've worn - though, slightly different.  Indulge me the dinner at home pants, the bath-time pants, the changing the diaper pants, the projectile vomit pants, the arts and crafts pants, and perhaps the play on the floor/dirt pants.

The above wardrobe has most certainly qualified me to say, with some exceptions of course, that talking to children is exactly like talking to actors.

Below are a list of 10 statements.  Read each as though you were talking to a child, then read again as though you were talking to an actor. Specific references to children are without parenthesis, substitute reference for an actor within the parenthesis. 

1.  Please, put that down! It is not a toy, it is a decoration (prop.) Stop touching everything you see!

2. You are the most beautiful person I have ever seen, you don't need to put so much marker (make-up) on your face.

4. (Answering a bellowing cry) You need another roll of toilet paper in your bathroom? Of course I'll get that right away. The soft one? Of course, I only want what's best for your butt.

5.  You work so hard, and are incredibly dedicated, don't listen to what other friends (reviewers) say, they don't know you the way I do. 

6.  Yes, of course, the green M&Ms taste the best, I'll make sure you only get the yummy ones.

7. I am so sorry, I thought your cup was the pink sparkly (thrown pottery) cup, let me go wash (run out to three stores) and get the one you want.

8. Circle time (Notes)!  Everybody gather up, let's talk about what went well today and what we can do better tomorrow.

9.  STOP! (HOLD!) Really, please, stop what you are doing.  STOP (HOLD) Don't. Please. Leave that alone. Go back. Just...stop moving. No, where you were, not there, go back to your mat/bed (spike mark).  PLEASE STOP MOVING!!!!!

10.  Did you wash your hands? Please make sure you shower/bathe (use deodorant) everyday.

---------------------

Please don't be offended.
I love what I do.





Monday, December 16, 2013

Salt Dough Wreath






As a family, it has become a tradition to make salt-dough ornaments both for our tree, and to give as home-made presents.

We enjoy making the dough, smoothing it out, and then using all the fun cookie cutters we want.

Since it takes so long to dry out/cook in the oven, we don't paint them until at least the next day, then, if you want to add sparkles, add another day.  NOTE: If you choose to use sparkles with your little ones, use one color at a time unless you want a huge sparkle mess on your hands.  Though, it isn't as bad a using fake snow in the theater, that stuff stays around year after year after year.

Oh, sorry,  it's late, the kids are asleep, and I'm rambling.

What was I going to talk about?  RIGHT, the amazing salt dough wreath.  You can do this, too!

Or, if you're lazy, send me $100 and I'll make one for you, too.

Again, sorry, I'm tired.

Let's just get into it, ey?

SALT DOUGH WREATH

The Dough:
Note: There are many iterations of salt dough out there, I've managed to combine most of them, and they turned out ok.

Combine:
2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Salt
1 cup water ( more if needed)
(try adding a bit of cinnamon for scent and color if you like)

Knead until a a firm smooth dough forms.

Roll out to 1/8 " or so ( up to you)

Cut as desired.

Bake at 250 degrees for 3-5 hours

Carefully turn items over half way through.

The Wreath:

I used these cookie cutters:

The Fun porcupine I used for his spikes, then used the tip of the snow flake to cut the rest away (it became the greenery behind the gingerbread men.

I assembled all the pieces first laying them out opposite sides, then in between.  I pulled arms and legs forward and laid all the porcupine pieces behind everybody.

Make sure you wet any connecting pieces well and press to connect them.  For the eyes et al, I used a paperclip to rough up the areas then added the slightly wet pieces.

Baked everything and...



Now, I have been known to go a bit overboard in the paint department, so I tried to be subtle this time:


After it was dry I sprayed it with a satin finish and added the only ribbon I had in the house.  I do however, suggest you use a cloth ribbon... if I can find a time to get out the store, I'll get one, too.



Let me know how yours turns out!!!

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

A turkey Day Thanksgivannukah - and a Turkey recipe hint

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, though far away from all our friends and family, we are thankful for each other, and the love that crosses the miles.

Never before had either Brian or Myself hosted a Thanksgiving.  We had some students at the University who couldn't make it home for the Holiday, over to celebrate with us.

And wow, did we prepare a feast.

We catered to both our omnivorous guests as well our veggie friends.

Might I add, the turkey I prepared was the best turkey I had ever eaten.

We prepared it a la Julia Child, but used the recipe in Cooks Illustrated

They suggested a novel approach.  Take the leg quarters off before cooking, Remove the thigh bone, season with sage, salt and pepper, and sew it back up ( not for the faint of heart, mind you.)





Remove the backbone, and pan sear the breast skin side down (without the leg quarters),, and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Then, remove the breast and lay it over the bed of stuffing you've prepared along with the leg quarters brush a thin layer of Olive oil and lightly salt and roast another 30 minutes.  Then, lower temp to 350 for 30 minutes to 1 hour 20 depending on the size of the bird, to reach safe temperature.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

It was juicy, flavorful, and so easy to carve the dark meat.

Brian prepared the sweets and mashed taters yesterday, and I roasted to bird, veggie stuffing, and glazed carrots today.

Overall a highly successful day filled with new friends, and thoughts of loved ones far away.

Happy Thanksgivannukah!!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In 5 minutes.

What can you do in 5 minutes?

Think about it.  Does it take you longer to use the bathroom? Take a shower? Get dressed? Prepare lunch?

This is what my son did in 5 minutes, today:

In 5 minutes, my son got into the stash of Christmas and Hanukkah presents and start opening everything.  Thankfully, he was so proud that he found a driedel,  he stopped what he was doing and came out of his room.  After disappearing for another 2 minutes, he came back with the packing material for the large box of Amazon presents.  Thankfully, he thinks that poppers are fun in and of themselves and likes to pop the in front of me.

In the next few minutes that it took me to move all the presents from their prior location to a new, out of reach location, my son took the entire tube of toothpaste and smeared it all over his room.  I came back into him room to discuss not opening presents, when I smelled an overwhelming scent of mint.

 Toothpaste.

"Daaaaaniel!" I saw it on the walls first.  Dripping light blue slime trails with silver sparkles.

"Daaaniel?" He pointed to the window sill.  There in the sunlight was a silver dollar size blob of the. same, with a thin line that began to drip down the wall behind his bed.

I found it on a sock.

I found toothpaste footprints on the carpet.

And I found it on his comforter.  I'll get the chunks, but that, he'll have to live with until the next time I have to clean it for a more serious, natural based mess.

5 minutes.  Today.

It took longer than that to clean it up.
It took longer than that to write this.




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Padded!

It's been a while since I posted about the kids, and all the fun and interesting things they get into.  I suppose over the years many things just don't surprise me anymore.

Then today happened.

I'm calling today's post "Padded" because that exactly what the kids were.  Covered in pads.

I caught them as they were saying "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch and ripping them mostly off themselves.

This is what I saw:




The box was empty.

The trail leading to them:




BUSTED!!!!





Please, child, speak no evil.




Speak. No. Evil.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

YOA: Year of Adventures - November

To quickly recap, I turned 40 this year, and for my birthday my husband is surprising me with a new adventure every month. Hence, my YOA, or Year of Adventures.

November's YOA began on Thursday morning.  Brian (my husband), said he needed the car to run an errand.  No biggie, except he is a terrible liar.  I knew something was up, but I wasn't sure what it was.  I pushed, I pressed the issue, I basically called him out on it, to which he replied "You said it was OK to lie to you if it were for a good reason," which or course, I don't quite remember saying it that way, but hey, I'm 40, I forget a lot of things...

Sitting at the computer minding my own business, procrastinating, I hear the front door open.  I'm not in the least divided from my work to look up at Brian.  But no, the voice from the kitchen is not his sweet tenor "hey honey!," but my best friend, AJ, who surprised me from NY!!!!!

The tears of happiness flowed.

But that wasn't the real adventure.

Saturday morning we woke up early.  I was told to dress in layers, but comfortable.  Check.

Brian watched the kids, and told me that he was too scared for this adventure, so AJ and I were going together.

The intrigue!

It took about an hour of driving out into the desert, past a stinky dairy farm, through miles of arid desert landscape, and finally into a tiny town, to get to our destination.

Before we arrived, a plane was blocking our path:


We drove around it.

Now at this point, I'm thrilled an terrified at the same time.  WHAT? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO??  Wait, am I going to need Dramamine?

AJ smiled, and said she was very excited.

We drove a bit farther until we came to out destinations:


YOA: November - Hang Gliding!!!!!!

After all the legal paperwork was signed - you know, in case you die...blah blah blah... at least my life insurance is current.  We sat down for a little "what's-what" and "how to" and all that school requirement 5 minutes worth, which resulted in our student license:


With that in my pocket, I was first:  

I was harnessed above the pro, helmeted, goggled, and given a quick rundown which boiled down to "it'll be a bit bumpy at first, but once up, your heart rate will slow down as you relax into it. Oh, and don't touch the aluminum, it's the steering wheel" 

Got it.

We were hooked up to the ultralight plane, and from there it towed us to 2,400'.  It took about 8 minutes to get us that high, and trip up was as close to being superman as I human could be - safely.




When the cable was released, the glider jerked back a bit, but then it was all us.  Just the sound of the wind in my ears, but other than that, it was glorious.

Bill, the instructor guy, showed me how he could swoop and turn, and showed my how to do it as well.  I opted for a smooth, straight flight.  If we could have just gone straight for miles I would have, but for some reason he wanted us to stay over the landing area.  *sigh

There were no tall buildings, no big houses, no traffic sounds, no babies crying, and not a cloud in the sky.  It was even warmer above 1,600', not colder like I had thought.  

We even saw a red tailed hawk flying on the updrafts.

Truly, an amazing feeling and an even more amazing surprise.

When I landed, I was a bit shaky but filled with awe of the glory of the earth.

So much so, that I even gave her a present, my breakfast;


I really should have taken that Dramamine.  Sorry, it is my blog after all... ;)

It was AJ's turn next, and she was every bit the adventurer I wasn't.  She didn't even leave a present for our Mother. heh heh.

Together we shared a memory to last forever.


Here is a short video AJ took, click HERE to watch me fly high into the clear crisp morning sky.

__________________________________________________

Lastly, if you are interested in participating in any future adventures, or would like to help Brian in the planning or paying for any little parts, please email him:  brian.m.smallwood@gmail.com.  Please put "A Year of Adventures" in the subject line.