Throwing Our Money Away


I’ve come to the conclusion that things I have always known since I was a little kid are still true. I must be some kind of genius! The tendency to completely ignore all of the big expensive toys holds true for my kids, just like it did for me and my siblings.

Living in Western WA, we get a lot of grey days, a lot of chilly days, a lot of rainy days. So we have the boys sleep in one room and have devoted the other room as a play room. In our play room, the boys are  spoiled rotten pretty lucky, with nearly a dozen bins of different toys, divided up by category (i.e. blocks, dress-up costumes, tools, cars, etc.), plus they have an awesome climber that looks like this:

indoor climber

And yet, they mainly play with the laundry baskets and an old exercise ball. they sometimes push around the furniture in their room, and they DO play with the other toys, but only long enough to scatter them to every square inch of the room, then come to sit and stare at me with puppy eyes like they have nothing to do.

On the rare dry and (at least a little) warm days, they have plenty to play with outside. There is a tricycle, a small bicycle with training wheels, a scooter, a toddler ride-on toy, a water table, and another climber, which looks like this:

outside climber

Sorry about the size, I could only find a thumbnail of that one! But you get the picture. These kids are up to their eyeballs in fun toys. Up to their child-sized, spoiled little eyeballs, I say!

 

And yet today, when they were outside playing, they picked up some rocks, which they promptly began to throw all over the yard. I put a stop to that because I’m a mean mom who can’t stand happy children, or maybe because I don’t want the lawnmowers to catch a rock and send it flying through the window. Same thing. Next they found an old board my husband left on the back porch. It was about a foot wide, an inch thick, and three and a half feet long, maybe a little longer. You’d think this thing was a magic carpet.

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They were “surfing”, balancing it on a step to make a sort of lopsided teeter-totter, even just standing it up and watching it fall, giggling like maniacs at the loud bang as it smacked the composite wood deck. They also splashed in, and then pushed over, the water table. Incidentally, the water table was filled with cold, dirty rainwater that was about 55 degrees at most. So a hunk of wood and a glorified puddle (albeit a very cute one, with little scoops and boats floating in it), are the only items that hold their attention.

Why are we buying them all these great, pricey toys? I’m pretty sure the things I get for them are items I imagine I would have loved to have, but clearly I am just a sucker, because actual kids are happy with those things for a few days and then go back to the old stand-by classics. From now on when people ask what the boys want for their birthday or for Christmas, I’m going to tell them to send appliance boxes, piles of dirt, and hunks of wood, all the better if they’re delivered on a big filthy dump truck that the boys can climb on for a bit.

 

…On another note, I know I mentioned the water was cold. It was about 55 or maybe 60 degrees outside, and yes, my kids aren’t wearing shoes. If you’re looking carefully, you’ll notice there’s a discarded shoe in the frame, and it’s because this really is warm-ish weather for us, and Dash swore his feet were “sweating to deaf,” after which he removed his socks and shoes. Ozzie saw this and cried to have his off as well. I swear, I am not some monster who turned out her children into the shivering cold with no jackets or shoes. I’m just the terrible mom who lets them be a little cold if they want to be cold that badly :)

Becoming Crafty, Whether I Like It or Not


Bear made a custom storage bench for our house. It’s six feet long, roughly, and has two separate storage compartments, each with its own lid. I looked into the price of getting bench pillows and realized the size was nonstandard, and therefore custom pillows would be necessary. The hunt for them online led me to the discovery of how insanely expensive custom cushions for a bench seat can be. To create the entire storage bench cost less than $100, but the cushions alone would be over $100. EACH! And that was the no-frills, cheapest filling and cheapest material. More than $200 for something to soften a seat? That sounded absurd. I talked this over with my mother in law, lamenting the cost of something that I wanted but just couldn’t bring myself to buy at that price. I knew she was crafty, and she said she could make them. We agreed that I would go to pick out the materials, and she’d work the magic to make the idea a reality. The finished product was exactly what I’d pictured! The cost (even paying retail for the material and cushion padding and all) was about half what I would have paid online. However, instead of getting the cheapest thing available, it was exactly what I wanted. The cushion inside was even removable, to make for easy cleaning. Huzzah!

Except… they had the makeup of a sham pillow, with the back opening for removal. I saw this as an awesome way for them to be cleaned and dried without fuss. The boys saw it as a would-be sleeping bag, with a comfy cushioned sleeping pad attached! The cover was nice and fitted to the pad, with no room for a child, but that was not stopping them. They stretched it out and got in, ignoring the sound of the seams bursting around them.

I should’ve known. My awesome, one-of-a-kind bench seat cushions were practically begging to be destroyed, because they couldn’t be replaced easily. We have some easily replaceable non-custom sized, non-pricey throw pillows that the kids barely give a second glance. Why would they? Those would present no challenge for me, so they’re safe.

Prior to having kids, I was genuinely baffled why people who aren’t really into crafty stuff would bother with it. If it isn’t something you enjoy, why not just pay someone else to do it? Sure the cost is a bit more, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around how their time wasn’t somehow more valuable than the mark-up.

Then I had children. Those children just happen to be of a specialized seek-and-destroy model, a far more destructive subset of the generally messy child species.

And now I get it. I would never be able to afford for my home to look even halfway presentable if I didn’t fix a stitch here and there, make some handmade art, refinish a table or a chair whose surface is scuffed to the point that would have earned it a spot on the curb at one point in my life. The sheer volume of little projects adding up makes it impossible to pay someone else to do all of those not-so-fun tasks. Now when I consider whether something is worth saving, I have to give real thought before chucking the broken, the torn, the scuffed, the ripped. If I tossed them all, I’d be replacing half of my home on an annual basis, if not more. It isn’t only my income that is no longer disposable since having kids. If I don’t want to live as a minimalist in a very dramatic sense, being at least a little bit crafty just isn’t an option!

Sick Kids Suck


Warning: this gets gross and graphic. If you’re of a delicate flower variety and grossed out easily, you should check out another of my posts instead. You’ve been warned.

I woke up at about 3 am to the sound of Dash sleepily pawing at the door to my room. “I frew up all over my bed.” I hoped that this was just a nonsensical statement related to a bad dream, but went to investigate. Bear gave him a cursory once-over to check for puke before letting him climb into the bed, then promptly tried to go back to sleep for a couple of hours before he had to get up for work. When I got to the boys’ room I found a cranky Ozzie standing wide awake in his crib and a race car bed filled with a whole lot of foul mess, conveniently spread all over the sheets, blankets, and even the pillow. I set about that delightful bit of cleaning, and let the kids into the toy room to keep them from making it any harder.

This was a clear sign that I’d have an excellent day. And yet, at this point, I was still able to convince myself this could be a singular incident, a fluke, and surely not a full-force sickness settling over our house. Kids do wacky things! Sometimes they just toss their cookies for no discernible reason, right? Of course I’m right. I decided I’d play it safe by sticking to serving bland foods to help settle his tummy, but otherwise I’d just let him go on about his day.

My hopes were reinforced by the boys playing happily in the toy room for a while and then eating a light breakfast. Whew, no problem!

We were sitting on the couch watching a little tv together. My kid started to retch, and I foolishly didn’t have a bowl or bucket close at hand. I scooped him up as he spat a mouthful of ichor onto the seat of the couch and ran to the bathroom, only a few precious steps away. As we crossed the threshold,  vomit sprayed all over the nice new bamboo floor, creating a slick path to the toilet. I was just trying to get him over the toilet bowl, and couldn’t see that the traction of the ground in front of me had been compromised. My bare feel squelched down into the slick mess and I slid like a cartoon character hitting a banana peel, barely managing not to lose my balance. I lowered Dash so that his face was directed at the bowl just as he spewed out another stream, and then turned to get the light on so I could inspect the floor to see how bad it was. I also murmured reassuring babble to Dash, because I know throwing up is scary to small kids. What I didn’t think about was that a three year old doesn’t concern himself with aiming, and when I turned to look at the floor, he turned to look at me. Without thinking I swooped down to catch the vomit. Why the hell did I do that? Oh, joy, now I have saved the disgusting messy floor from being splattered, and have a handful of half-digested goo for my trouble.

I redirected him toward the toilet and rinsed my hands, then stood over him, patting his back and talking him through the process. I hate to be touched when I’m physically ill, but that is apparently not his puking style.

Having a sick kid sucks. Just the part where I had someone’s vomit on me is bad enough. That I would have to clean it from the couch and floor was no picnic either. That I had a half-crying, half-pathetic-whimpering child to strip out of soiled pajamas and to steer clear of spreading it everywhere while also trying to keep Ozzie from playing in it was just the icing on the cake.

I looked over at the clock and saw it was only about 6:30am. Why does a day have to have so many hours in it?

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Once upon a time, when the flu hit the house,  it meant I’d spend some time kneeling before a toilet, and some time snuggled up in some blankets and watching tv, and maybe sipping some broth or Gatorade.  I’d likely attempt to sleep away some of the day. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t anything to get excited about.  But when your kid is sick, and also young enough to not have the routine down, it is magnified a hundred times.  There is puke all over the house. There are at least three extra loads of laundry, but probably more like five by the end of the day. Even when they aren’t actively causing a vile mess, they want to be right under my feet, so they’re keeping me from accomplishing the clean-up in any reasonable timeframe. It SUCKS.

And then my own stomach started to turn queasy. Party on!

My Little Salesman


My eldest is wonderful and skilled in many things. He can give a mean hug when I’m grouchy, he can ride his bike with training wheels like a champ, and he is an excellent alarm clock on days we have no reason to get up early.

Some things, he does not excel at. One of those things is helping me to sell my used couch. A few months back, we bought a new couch, and so the old couch had to go. This was originally a pretty pricey one, so we were hoping to still get about half to a third of the original price.

A woman was over to look at the couch, and she was sitting down and testing it out, feeling for any secret problems hiding behind the cushions.

Dash comes down from his room where he was supposed to be napping and asked who this stranger was. I told him she might buy our couch.

“My mom hates this couch.”

I laugh, a little awkwardly, “Of course I don’t! It just wont fit in our new house!”

“It’s too squashy!”

The woman starts to get that look in her eyes that tells me I’m caught. She doesn’t want this hated couch. Suddenly she’s looking at the way she can really sink into the down cushions and seeing that they aren’t just cozy and comfy. They’re unsupportive. This couch doesn’t hug you, it sucks you into it. When she first sat down, it was, “Oh, the feathers inside are so soft!” Now, she was clearly not feeling it.

I knew the deal was officially broken when she stood and said, “I’ll have to think about it.”

…Is it possible to give my kid a negative commission?

 

Playing Tea Party


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Dash and I played tea party yesterday. But the only genuinely tea-party-like part of it was the teapot, which was a Christmas present from Bear. I requested it when I realized I didn’t have one, and that a tea party requires it.

Although I love tea, Dash isn’t yet a big fan, so we really drank lemonade. Every tea party worth attending must serve tea and crumpets, so we still called it tea. He wanted to use an ice cube tray to serve the “crumpets” which were mini crackers and apple slices, because the only time I have actually seen crumpets in person, they were in a little european grocery specialty store in California (we live in WA). I suppose a better party planner would pop right over and pick some up, but I’m just not that committed.

We have coffee mugs, but he wanted “a special cup.” I offered a mug, he said no. I offered a cup, and he laughed, “I can’t drink tea out of that!” I asked him to point out an appropriate tea cup, and he directed me toward a small sauce dish. The kind they serve dressing or butter in at restaurants.  I’m sure there is an actual name for them, but the last time I worked as a waitress was in 1999, so I’m drawing a blank.

So I made a pot of steaming lemonade, and served it to him in a sauce dish, with crackers and apples divvied up into the sections of the ice cube tray.

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He said it was a wonderful party.
It was a little unconventional, since I let him call most of the shots, but if he wasn’t weird, I’d wonder if he was really mine ;-)

How to Ruin a Perfect Meal


As you may have seen, this weekend I made Crazy Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets. They were crazy-easy, and work wonderfully. If you haven’t, check ‘em out. No, wait: after you’ve read this, check ‘em out. Anyways, I mixed them up in a big bowl, which made the kids circle like sharks scenting blood, giving my big puppy eyes and asking if they could help me “wick da spoon.” I gently told them to get the hell away from that disgusting soapy fork, and scooped out the semi-spheres onto an aluminum foil sheet on the counter, where they had to sit to dry for a few hours. I’m a big sucker for the cute begging looks, though, so I promised them a special treat later.

A few hours passed, during which I slaved over a really tasty homemade meal. It involved simmering turkey bones to create stock as a base for the sauce, preparing fresh veggies, browning the turkey, and making mashed potatoes to top the other items. The dish was similar to a sheppard’s pie, but a little fancier, a lot more labor-intensive (no canned mushroom soup and frozen veggies, for once). I was on a roll! Homemade soap! Scratch-made awesome tasty dinner! Damn, I’m the best housewife in the history of the world! But of course because I was feeling so good about winning the day, the day had to have other plans.

I plucked my dried finished-product detergent tablets off of their foil sheet, and then the dinner was ready to come out of the oven. I folded the foil sheet over so it wouldn’t get soapy bits on anything, but forgot about it as I went to pull the food out of the oven and sprinkle some cheese on top for it to sit and melt. I plated up some for the kids so that it could sit and cool for a bit to prevent them from digging into it and burning themselves. Self-control isn’t their strong suit, nor is patience.

As the kids ate, Bear and I decided we weren’t really hungry yet, but I put a small serving onto my plate because they won’t eat as well when we don’t eat with them. We all sat and I had one of those moments of such satisfaction, knowing that this meal would not only feed us tonight, but also serve at least one more meal, or make up a few lunch servings for the hubby to take to work.

I’m sure we’ve all had those moments: every housewife I know has those days where they’re just particularly happy to have accomplished something more domestic than what was necessary. A particularly craft day, or a real deep-cleaning day, or (as in this case) a day where the food wasn’t from any processed starter ingredients. To be frank, most of our meals involve at the very least some frozen veggies, and although I know that’s equally nutritious, it’s just not as satisfying to show off.

I took the kids to wash their hands and get them out of the kitchen so I could clean things up and I noticed Bear had placed foil over the food, so it wouldn’t get too cold before he decided to eat later. I wiped down the table and the boys’ chairs, then started to wipe down the counters and realized the soapy foil was gone from the spot on the counter where I’d left it. I looked back over at the dish on the stove top. No. Surely he didn’t…

“Hey Bear? Did you put the foil from the counter on top of the food?”

Sensing the tone of defeat, he asked, “Should I… not… have covered it?” I could tell he was mystified as to why this wasn’t a good move.

“The foil had all kinds of soap coating it… so… uh.” I double checked, not wanting it to actually have been the same foil. It was. I pulled up the foil, and the steam still rising off the food had formed a layer of dew over the foil, wetting the dried out soap and dripping it back down onto the meal, making sure that even the parts that didn’t touch the foil directly were affected. “At least it was soap side-down, so it destroyed the food.” Despite the sarcasm, this was said without attitude. I didn’t want to make a big deal, because it was an honest mistake, but I was also wracking my brain to try to think of a way that this was not actually happening.

“I thought it was foil you’d put over the food to bake it.” I asked him if he wanted to test it to see if it was gross, because I wasn’t going to. He declined. With a big sigh, I dumped the remaining food into the trash.

This only reinforces the idea that pouring so much time and effort into a meal will only be punished. Hot dogs and chicken nuggets from now on.

On the other hand, the detergent works pretty great.

Crazy-Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets


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Let me just start this post out by saying I’m not suuuuper crafty. When people who know me think of me, I sincerely doubt it is because they’re thinking of anything crafty or do-it-yourself; it’s much more likely they’re thinking of my ridiculous facebook posts or my zany antics with wild hair dye colors, or (no brainer) my amazing ability to create such adorable and funny kids. But since leaving the military and embarking on my domestic adventures in being a stay at home mom, I have more of an interest in attempting pinterest projects, and without my second income I also have the drive to be a bit more thrifty. My point is, even a novice like me could mix up a batch of these babies in less than five minutes, so no, you don’t have to be crafty to accomplish this.

I’d also like to give credit for the recipe I used to make these dishwasher tabs, and since I sort of picked and chose from a couple of sources, I will just say that it’s a mix of the ones I found here, here, and here. All of them were nice and actually damn near the same, really, but didn’t quite seem right for me. so I tweaked them just slightly, and voila! I have a super wonderful dishwasher tab that left my dishes sparkly and clean! The glasses had no spots, the plastic containers didn’t have any hazy film (which we did get from several of the store-bought tabs),  and they smelled clean and fresh without being overly soapy-smelling. That strong soap smell that you sometimes get from “real” detergents creeps me out, I don’t want to eat or drink soap. A whiff of it when I open the dishwasher is one thing, but when I’m tipping a glass of water to my lips, I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a belly full of suds.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup sea, kosher, or other coarse salt
1/2-3/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed or from a bottle

A couple things to note: Washing soda is not the same thing as baking soda. It’s in the laundry aisle, usually conveniently located next to the borax. As far as the salt, any coarse one will do. I used an off brand sea salt because it was cheaper, some of the recipes even used epsom salt, which would likely be even cheaper. I just chose what I happened to have onhand. The salt is used for the abrasive quality and to help soften hard water if that’s an issue where you live, so the type isn’t a deal-breaker.

Mix them all together and it’ll be the consistency of soggy sand. Add the lemon juice slowly, and once you get it to the consistency where it’s easily sticking together, stop. It’ll still work if it’s too wet, but it’ll be messier and harder to form. Next, scoop out tablespoons of the mix. As I scooped it out, I thought I must’ve been doing something wrong because the little half-spheres I was scooping onto my sheet of tin foil seemed a bit crumbly, like they’d fall apart at a touch. Don’t fret, dear reader, your tablets will dry out and somehow become more stuck-together as they do.  I let it stay in the shape of the 1 tablespoon sized scoop and just plopped them out onto the foil, but you can form it into little blocks if you prefer. You might want it to be a different shape to fit just so into your compartment of your dishwasher, it’s up to your preference. I’ve seen several versions where people pressed it into different ice cube trays or even cookie cutter shapes, so go ahead and get creative if you want to. Have an old bachelorette party penis shaped ice mold? Who doesn’t want a little soapy penis to do their dishes? Just make sure there isn’t more than about a tablespoon of the mix in each tab, or you’ll risk having too much detergent, which means that you may end up with soapy film on your dishes. And that would be a bummer, because it defeats the whole purpose of a quick, cheap and easy tab if you have dirty dishes at the end. Who wants to re-run a rinse cycle or some other nonsense? Not this gal. Pay attention and save yourself the headache.

Once you have your own special little creations, let them dry. You can use it immediately but it’ll be mooshy, which means that you can’t store them without them all drying together, becoming one big hunk of hassle requiring an ice pick and a strong arm. If you’ve scooped them out like mine, it takes a few hours for them to dry out. If you put them into an enclosed mold such as an ice cube tray (of any shape, naughty or nice), it may be better to wait a full 24hrs. Let them sit until fully dried out, then place into an airtight container. I reused the container that my old store-bought tabs came in: take that, cascade! This recipe makes 36 tabs :)

When I used mine, I just tossed it into the bottom of the dishwasher, because the little compartment wasn’t quite deep enough to fit mine. In the future I could flatten them a bit, but realistically, I doubt I will. That extra few seconds per tab is really not going to matter since they work great the way I am using them, but if you’re the type that will want it to fit, you may want to check that yours do before they dry out.

Also, here’s a shot of the fabulous results:

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Ooooooooh, sparkly :)

The exact breakdown of the price was about $0.04, yes, just 4 cents per tablet! I factored in everything according to what the actual used amount cost, so to be fair, I did have to spend a bit more upfront than what I actually used, but since those ingredients can easily be used to make subsequent batches, I’m not bothered about it. The store-bought ones we got from Costco were the cheapest we could find locally, and those were a pretty great deal at just $0.19/tab. Some brands at Wal-Mart are as much as .$0.35 each, which means that at the least they’re nearly 5 times less, and depending on the brand, can be almost 9 times less expensive! I get it that these aren’t likely a huge part of your budget, but it all adds up. I’d rather spend my extra money on something a little more fun and exciting than dish soap!

So good luck making your own, and be sure to let me know what you think! Also, feel free to share this link with your friends, family, and even a few strangers :)

 

 

p.s.- if you’d like to know about the minor disaster in my kitchen as a result of making these, read on!