Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Am Weary, Let Me Rest

Yesterday, in a fit of hoarders induced de-cluttering (seriously, if you haven't checked out this show, it's worth a peek, if only to inspire you to clean out that closet that keeps getting more and more stuffed) I dug through the various hidey-holes in our little apartment (you wouldn't think there would be that many opportunities to amass stuff in this little space, but that's where you would be sorely mistaken....) and cleaned out a lot of the junk that I keep thinking I'll need someday, but never, in like 5 years, have I needed any of it. 

So, yesterday was a good day.  Today is looking less good, and here's why.  The Professor and I just returned from a consultation with an orthodontist for Miss Serious' apparently giant teeth.  Said giant teeth do not have room to fit in her tiny, almost 9-year old mouth, so she will soon be the proud owner of braces.  And we will soon be the proud owners of a monthly fee deducted from our credit card to pay for said braces (not to mention the 1/3 down-payment).  This isn't a crisis, it's why we save our pennies, and Miss Serious really needs to have the work done.

To add to the financial fun, I began the exciting process of refinancing our mortgage this week.  We had gotten a 7 year adjustable mortgage under the (apparently incredibly misguided) notion that we of course wouldn't still be living in this little apartment in 7 years.  Lo and behold, 7 years have come and almost gone (as of March), and as I'm not too excited about what the whole adjusting mortgage payments will do to my bottom line, we are refinancing.  Refinancing is expensive - like braces expensive.  However, we got a good rate, it's a fixed-rate 20 year mortgage, so it even shaved some time off the total loan, and now we don't have to deal with any adjusting.

And, after 20 years, if we're still here (and as the magic 8-ball would say, "All signs point to yes") we'll be paid in full.   Now let's hope the dog won't need braces.....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'd Like to Phone a Friend....

In an effort to go green and streamline (you'll soon see the fallacy in this intention), I have gone paperless on as many bills and statements as I can.  Unfortunately, every single account and website requires me to come up with a user name and password.  This is where the trouble comes in, because as I have gotten older, my brain has slowly turned into mashed potatoes (I blame the children) and I am incapable of remembering all these little tidbits of information.

I finally started writing them all down (I know, I know, not supposed to, but if someone is willing to break into my home, get on all my various website and find the paper with the information, more power to them...they can have my tiny amount of worldly goods - they clearly want them more than I do), but didn't start this process until about 6 months ago.

Therefore, any accounts that I haven't heard from in a while have retained only a vague, hazy memory in my head, which is often somewhat less than accurate.  Especially since some sites require numbers, some sites won't let you use numbers, some need special characters, etc.  I know you all feel my pain.

Fast forward to today.  I have put off checking on the kids' 529 college funds since the whole economy decided to tank, but thought I'd give them a peek yesterday.  I couldn't remember the entire user name (for some reason, they won't accept partial answers...), so sent an email which was dutifully returned with my new info to log on.  Over the years I have sent and received so many of these "reminder" emails (which should really just have the words "Here, idiot" in the subject line...) that The Professor has created an entire file in our email program for them.

The kids' accounts are held by the same company I have an IRA account with, leftover from my time teaching and actually making money.  So, I go on to the site, and can't remember (imagine my surprise!) any of my log-in info.  Luckily, they have a helpful section for those of us who are memory challenged.  However, when I go to said section, it requires me to have my account number.  Now, even though I keep just about every scrap of paper that has anything to do with anything in my little files, I have NO file for this IRA.  So, I decide that maybe the username is the same as the kids' accounts.  Then, when it starts asking me security questions and I get them all wrong and it locks me out of the system, I am finally forced to get on the phone.

The phone call goes something like this:

"Hi, I have an account with you, and have forgotten my log in information.  I also don't seem to know my account number.  And, I'm now locked out of the system for getting the questions wrong."  This is not a particularly high point in my attempt to make others believe I am a competent human being.

The chirpy voice on the line says, "Oh, no problem.  I'll just need you to answer your security question.  In what city were you married?"

I have drawn a blank.  And, I'm on the phone with a person who is doing her best to act like I am not a complete numbskull.  I finally remember, and tell her the city.

"Hmmm...," she says, "that's not right."  It actually is, so now I have no idea what I did when setting up my security questions.  "How about this one - What's your paternal grandmother's first name?"

I am now so appallingly embarrassed that I make sure I take my time and figure out that, yes, this would in fact be my father's mother.  Thankfully I get that one right, and am allowed access.  I did ask her what I put down as the answer to the wedding question, and I seem to have given them the city in which I was born (you know, born, wedding, same difference). I also found out that I was not locked out of the system, meaning that I locked out some other poor, unsuspecting soul.

Sadly, I think I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh Yeah - It Plays Music Too!

I am not a particularly techie person.  I know how to use the aging electronics that we have, and I'm not interested in getting the newest, shiniest, most up-to-date gadgets.  That is, until Apple wormed their evil way into my home via my (ancient, giant, not flat screen, LCD, etc.) television.

This evil influence came in the form of a commercial for the iPhone.  Now, I almost never use my cell phone.  I got it so the school could contact me in an emergency, and mine has pre-paid minutes and costs me about $5 a month.  I have no interest in actually talking on an iPhone.  What immediately captured my attention, however, was the touch screen.

I was entranced.  I couldn't look away.  Every time the commercial came on, I would call The Professor in to come and see it (a request which was met with not a little eye rolling....).  I loved the way you could flick the pages with your finger.  I loved that you could just touch the screen and make it do what you want.  I even loved the level application they showed on the commercial (you know - so I can check to make sure everything is level when I'm out and about).

However, I'm cheap, I don't want an iPhone, and I tried to move on.  Then, I saw the iTouch.  All the cool touch screen features of the iPhone, but without the whole phone thing (which also requires a giant monthly fee - something I always try to avoid).

Again, I let it go.  I already had an iPod, it worked fine, and it was silly to yearn for this ridiculous toy.  The Professor, however, had other ideas.  He's been doing some consulting work (which sadly pays almost as much per hour as I get all day subbing) and at this point my old iPod started refusing to interface with my computer.  So with a little (sadly only a very little) prodding, I am now the proud owner of a shiny, sleek awesome little box of ridiculousness.

I downloaded a whole pile of (free!) games and apps (including the level thingy, of course), and it is amusing not only me, but my children.
I'm actually embarrassed to own it, because it seems to go against all the things in my nature I hold near and dear (the cheapness, the unwillingness to change, the lack of techie-ness - you know - all those wonderful qualities that make me into the odd package that I am).  Now, off to make sure the world is level....

P.S.  I added fish to the blog (silly, I know, but again, it amuses me, and that's really what it's all about....); you may have seen this before, but if not, if you click on the tank it gives them food....

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This year Big Trouble joined the Cub Scouts.  So far it has required very little on our parts (except for the $65 I had to spend on a shirt and patches....) as the meetings are only once or twice a month, and are held at the church just down the street. There has been some parade marching, and a popcorn sale, but we took all of that easily in stride.

That all changed this week however, with the email that came entitled "Cabin Campout".  It seems that the Cub Scouts are going camping this weekend; they will be staying in cabins, so everyone will be warm and snug at night.  The best part of this scenario for me is that the Cub Scouts require everyone to have a parent companion, and I'm not it!!! The Professor has that gig, so he will be accompanying eleventy million little boys into the woods. 

The daytime activities include a hike and a Nerf Gun fight.  We don't own a Nerf Gun, but apparently we will soon be the proud owners of two of them, as the adult helper is also involved in said Nerf Gun fight.  The kids are required to have safety goggles for the activity, and when I mentioned this fact to Big Trouble, he announced that he had formed a strategy.  I asked him what that was, and he calmly replied "I'm going to shoot everyone in the safety goggles." 

Ah, the lessons a young boy takes from Cub Scouts....

Monday, January 18, 2010

You're Looking for What?

The job hunt continues, and I must say, I'm become less and less enthused with the process.  The window for obtaining a full-time teaching job is absolute and short; as school starts in September, if you haven't gotten your job by then, you get to wait until the following year to try again.  In the meantime, there is always subbing, but as I've waxed rhapsodic on that topic once or twice, I shan't bore anyone again.

I was looking up job postings this weekend, and one caught my eye.  It was for a teacher at a charter school, and under the section labeled "Qualifications" (where you usually see degree required, experience needed, etc.) they listed that the applicant should have "zest, grit, and entrepreneurial spirit."  Hmmmmmm..... I get the reason for the zest and the grit, but entrepreneurial spirit eludes me - are they looking for someone particularly good at bake sales?

I decided that this job probably wouldn't be for me, as I'm not sure I actually have any of the aforementioned personality traits - do you think there's a job for someone with the qualities of anxiety, trepidation, and a judgmental spirit?  Yeah, I didn't think so. 

Now I have to figure how to make my cover letter zesty, gritty, and entrepreneurial - maybe I should ask them for money in an excited yet slightly street-smart way.....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring....

So, instead of actually doing much today, after church we hustled home and holed up inside doing our various activities.  The Professor took a much deserved nap (he had co-op board nonsense to deal with early this morning - someone broke one of the windows in the building, so he was contacting the Super and the police - good times....), the kids were playing on the computer, and I was playing with paper.....

I didn't even have to make dinner, as we had leftovers from dinner last night; The Professor's college has a Christmas party every year, which we dutifully attend.  They have a raffle with about 5 or 6 prizes, and every year my children hold their tickets in their small, optimistic hands, and learn that they didn't win anything.  Well, this year changed all that - they actually picked one of our numbers, and we won a gift certificate to a lovely restaurant.  Last night we dressed everybody up, dropped the car off with the valet, and had a marvelous dinner on somebody else's dime (well, mostly).  Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spa Day

Unfortunately not a real spa, but every once in a while Miss Serious likes to play Spa Day.  She writes an appointment for me in a little book, and allots time for various spa activities (massage, hair, makeup, etc.).  Well, she's done now, and I'm a little disheartened to realize that her ideal look for her mother is that of an aging prostitute.....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dirt Is My Rosin

Well, it's been quite a week.  Last week, while putting away Christmas decorations, I fell off a chair.  Not like I was sitting on the chair and happened to fall off, no, I was standing on said chair and decided that I needed to find out what was in the back of the top shelf of my kids' closet.  Next thing I know I have fallen from midair and THUDDED onto the floor.  I cannot imagine what the noise sounded like from below, but as it was the middle of the day, hopefully my downstairs neighbor didn't have to hear it. 

It was one of those falls where it happens before you know it, and as I lay on the ground making sure everything moved the way it was supposed to, the only real thought that comes to mind is something along the lines of "Idiot.....".  I landed mostly on my left side, and apart from being a bit sore, no big deal.

Fast forward to today.  I made the mistake of vacuuming (see - putting things away, vacuuming - I knew they were dangerous, and thus why I try to avoid them at all costs...).  I was walking across my living room rug holding an empty coffee mug and took one step onto the hardwood floors.  Next thing you know, there was another fabulous THUD, and there I was on the floor again.  The mug was miraculously unbroken, and other than some bumps and bruises on my right side I seem to be ok.

Luckily, my bruises are now symmetrical, and I've sworn off cleaning until my skin has regained its former hues.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It has been really cold here the last couple of days (I know this is relative, so some of you who live in scary cold places will think I'm a big pansy....).  The temperature was 20 when I left the house this morning, and sadly I was not dressed at all appropriately.  This is not because I was unaware of the temperature, but rather that I had a job interview and had on the dreaded pantyhose/suit combo.  I am a person who does not handle cold well, so wandering around New York in the freezing weather while wearing the equivalent of NOTHING on my legs is not my idea of a good time. However, I survived, and after a really hot cup of coffee, I have thawed.

I also snagged the mittens I knit for my mother for Christmas when she was here so I could get a picture.  I gave away all the Christmas presents I knitted this year without remembering to photograph a single one, so I was glad to get this picture.  They're from Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch; I've made a couple of other things from this book, and her patterns are really nice.  I used Knitpicks Palette for the solid color (I got a sampler of all the colors long ago, and am desperately trying to use some up - it isn't working, however.  I think the yarn might be multiplying in its container, because I swear there's more in there than when I got it....), and I think Louet fingering weight for the variegated.  My mom seems to like bright colors on her hands and feet, so this combination seemed to fit the bill.

Now for another cup of coffee...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oooh, Sparkly....

My daughter, Miss Serious is 8 years old, and from about the time she could talk, she has loved anything that is sparkly.  The more eye-catching the better, and if she could, she would have something that sparkles on everything she owns, from bathing suits to shoes.  I'm hoping she can tone down her preferences a bit as she gets older, or she is going to be one fantabulous fifty-year-old.

So, when my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told her I wanted glitter, she commented that I sounded just like Miss Serious.  But, I very kindly received a sparkly package of all the colors of glitter I could stand on Christmas, and I finally got to try some out yesterday.

I must say, black glitter is really cool.  I originally put it on this card because I tried to just write the word "thanks."  Unfortunately, my handwriting leaves much to be desired, and I thought maybe if I made it sparkle it would look better (because, as my daughter often comments, "Everything looks better with glitter...").  After that, Miss Serious (of course) suggested that I make the tree sparkle, and we were off to the races!  I'm not sure if all the glitter will fall off onto the recipient's lap, (sort of negating the whole "thank you" thing), but who said opening cards was for the faint of heart?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is Subbing our Favorite?

No, subbing is not our favorite.  Quite a few years ago I had a little boy in my class with autism.  He was a really interesting little guy who had a particular aversion to gym.  When I would walk the class down the hall for gym, he would keep his eyes closed, I believe on the premise that if he couldn't see us, we couldn't see him, and therefore wouldn't make him go to gym.  Also, on the walk down the hall, he would repeat over and over, "Is P.E. our favorite?   No, P.E. is not our favorite." I think of this phrase often when I'm confronted with a distasteful task...

I got back on that subbing horse today, and it was actually a pleasant day.  I was in first grade, the class was amazingly well-behaved, and there was a bonus assembly which took up a block of time in the morning.

Even though the day went well, I'm still not a fan.  And here are some reasons why:

1.  Sub pay is excruciatingly low
2.  You get phone calls at 5:00 AM to ask you to come work that day
3.  You never know if there will be plans left for you (my personal favorite is that empty desk when you walk in, and an entire day with 25 little kids that you need to figure out in 15 minutes or less)
4.  I think the main problem is that I'm just not a change-on-the fly kind of gal - I like going to bed knowing what I'll be doing the next day, and flexibility has never been one of my finer characteristics

Good things about subbing:

1.  If you don't want to/can't work, you just tell the computer not to contact you
2.  No lesson planning
3.  No parent conferences
4.  If the class is horrible, you only have one day with them, and don't have to go back

And, of course, the fact that nobody pays me at all when I stay home, so I could do worse than a class of cute little first graders....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2000 what???

I had to write my first couple of checks of the New Year this week, and it's always a struggle.  I'm amazed at how fast the years seem to flip these days.  (And, I'm disturbed to hear myself saying things like that.  Soon it will be "In my day....")  All in all, 2009 was a good year, with ups and downs like any other.

We got a new dog, I got (and finished) a leave replacement job, the kids successfully moved on to their new grades, The Professor hooked up our church with a soup kitchen and has done fabulous work arranging (and hauling) food deliveries, and I think everyone has generally been pretty happy. I even got some knitting done (although I didn't take pictures of all the Christmas knitting I did before I sent it on its way..duhhh). 

It's been an interesting year.  Sadly, this was the year I had planned to re-enter the full-time work force, just about the time that all the schools started laying off teachers, and people put off retirement because their 401K's tanked. As in many things, my timing was impeccable... I know I'm in a better boat than many, because we have been living off one income for many years (while I've been home with the kids), so nobody's losing their house or anything.  It's just that I had always assumed that when I was ready to go back to work, work would be ready for me.  Staying home with the kids was a huge transition for me, as I've worked since I hit high school.  I finally got into the groove with that, but, as kids do, they kept growing and ended up in school!  Ahh, outsourcing. 

Now I find myself having to write essays entitled "Describe a challenge that you had to overcome in your academic or professional career" and taking tests with 22 year olds.  While age has given me (I hope!) wisdom, it's also made me more tired (and way more intolerant, but that's a whole other post...).  Now, off to write 500 words on that challenging experience - do you think they'll accept an essay about potty training?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Never Ending Battle....

and I think I'm losing!  I had a commenter who asked about how we store the kids' toys in a small space.  We live in a 2-bedroom apartment (I think it's under 1000 sq. ft.), and it's a constant struggle to keep the amount of stuff down to an acceptable level.  Now, my acceptable level may be higher than yours, but I do what I can.

I think the biggest battle with living in a small space is keeping things from coming in.  I'm pretty good at going through old/outgrown toys and clothes and sending them on their way.  What is really hard is the constant stream of things that come in (the holidays are especially painful, although as the kids get older, their toys are getting smaller).

My kids share a room, and it's a decent sized space.  They have bunkbeds, and their room has quite a large closet in it (which is used by all of us, because the two closets in our bedroom are split up so you can't hang anything long in them - the previous owner was a man, and I think forgot that half the world might want to hang a dress....).

A couple years back, I got this for the kids room from IKEA.  I really like IKEA - I'm Swedish, so I'm amused by all the silly names on the furniture, and for something the kids are going to be banging on every day, the furniture is cheap enough that it won't break my heart if it doesn't last forever.  This unit is big (almost 5' X 5'), and I got the square drawers for the bottom squares - they each have a row, and they are supposed to use the cubes to organize (i.e. Barbies, cars, dinosaurs, etc.).  The top 2 rows have some tubs of things like Legos, and stacks of games.  It's worked out pretty well, although getting it up the stairs was a trick - the boxes were REALLY heavy, as The Professor can attest.  It also bolts to the wall, so I don't have to worry about anyone toppling it over on themselves.  It has a flat top, so all the pottery creations the kids keep bringing home (and can't bear to part with) have a place to live other than on my kitchen counter.

Dealing with "stuff" is definitely an uphill battle, but I've found some pretty good motivation - catch "Hoarders" on A&E - I've been watching it on the computer (being a cheapie, I don't have this channel on the actual television) and it always gets me going to clean out a nook or two!