Updates of the life variety

We’re still not ready to get back to regular posting– ask the grumpies will have to wait at least another week to get back on the schedule.  Here’s a few life updates while you wait for our wisdom to return.

  • My friend with secondary infertility who has been trying to get and stay pregnant for more than 2 years and many many IVF cycles has a pregnancy that has been sticking so far.
  • DH’s relative got a new job pretty much right away (via networking!).  It has better benefits and pays $1K more than his old job.  There’s also a little less hard labor work and a little more desk work which is good given his arthritis.  He’s disappointed because they decided the salary by asking him what he got paid and then adding 1K to it, and he is pretty sure he’s underpaid.  BUT it’s a better job and he won’t have an employment gap.  He did negotiate for another week of vacation and they didn’t blink.
  • #2’s father-in-law died recently of a stroke.  Really really sad.  :(  I remember seeing him at #2’s wedding and he was so very proud of his son.  Such a great family.
  • Went to the doctor and got lots of blood tests.  I have high cholesterol.  Doctor said to eat less fat and less dairy and to exercise more.  I already don’t eat much fat other than dairy (and use things like olive oil when cooking).  Last time I had my cholesterol tested my overall level was high but my good cholesterol was making up most of that– the bad cholesterol was normal.  I didn’t ask about that this time.  It is always true that I need to exercise more.  :/ .  Also my Vit D levels were low despite my daily supplement, so now I’m on 2000 instead of 1000.  That seems to have gone a long way to reduce the almost constant fatigue I was feeling.
  • action item for today: https://twitter.com/gaileyfrey/status/799380085610450944

Random life updates

Do any of you follow the story threads of our lives and then wonder what happened since we forgot to update?  Here’s some updates:

Little Kitty’s IBS and health:

  • She had idiopathic elevated calcium levels (meaning they don’t know why).  This was the best possible outcome since the other outcomes where they know were all bad.  First she got steroids for two weeks.  Then she got taken off the hydrolized diet and put on a low calcium diet and now her tummy seems to be all better.  No more IBS even when she steals her favorite people food (chicken).  It is mysterious.
  • Once her calcium levels got balanced, she got to have her teeth cleaned.  Unfortunately 7 teeth also had to be pulled.  Also it is insane how even though these costs are expensive, they are waaay less expensive than costs of the same thing in paradise.

DH’s relatives:

  • The one with the abusive baby daddy has moved back home.  She’s not getting along with her dad because he says she frequently does dangerous things when taking care of her son and he tells her not to.  Her step-mom is doing well with chemo and is really enjoying taking care of the baby while her step-daughter works at the Walmart a few towns over.  I have no idea how the menu planning stuff went down or if now that the oldest girl is back she’s taken over some of the responsibilities.
  • The other one who was a teen mom is still living with her two kids with her husband near her biological mom across the country.  She seems to be doing fine.

Kitty saga:

  • I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but my sister ended up taking a second kitten from our back-yard cat saga since we were only allowed to take two cats with us to Paradise.  Her two still love each other and my sister seems to have bonded with them.  Problem:  her new roommate brought a bully cat and boy kitty started peeing on things in protest.  So now her two cats stay in her bedroom suite during the day, mostly sleeping while the bully cat roams the rest of the house.  :(

DC1 at public school:

  • In the end, DC1 transitioned well to public school for 5th grade in Paradise.  I think it was good that it was still an elementary school.
  • Zie seems to be doing fine at middle school for 6th grade so far this year.  Zie has to do some testing to get admitted to the GT pull-out program.   One of hir friends from private school is in orchestra with hir, which helps.  They should both transition from 5th grade orchestra to 6th grade orchestra at the semester.  (DC1 decided against another year of trumpet, which means zie has to have weekly violin lessons to ease the transition since zie is a year behind.  Zie is surprisingly not that awful– much better than my memories of that first year of my sister practicing.)
  • Zie tested into 7th grade advanced math, which is really nice.  This and orchestra are two big advantages over private school.  I do miss having a foreign language though.  DC1 had Spanish as an after school program last year (they also had French, but only for native speakers(!), so we dropped that), but it doesn’t appear that anything like that is available here.
  • The after school program is cheap ($115/mo and goes until 6:30pm) and the bus stop is literally at the corner of our house.  For now we’re doing after school instead of having hir take the bus home so we don’t have to worry about hir being latch-key when DH is out of town for work.  The law in our state is vague… it basically says, you’re ok so long as something bad doesn’t happen, but if something bad happens you made the wrong decision.  If we still had a home phone I’d feel a bit better about a latch-key situation.  If we do go latch-key DC1 will need a cell-phone.

DC2:

  • Returning to the Montessori here has been great.  So great we decided not to start K this year and to leave hir in Montessori another year.  Then we may skip K next year if zie doesn’t get into the dual-language program.  We’re playing it by ear a year at a time.
  • Zie really does miss hir friends, but many of them were heading off to public school anyway (either K or Pre-K), so…  And we’re happy zie is back to more academics and less of the creepy religious stuff.  (Nothing against non-creepy religious stuff, but even though DC1 and DC2 both attended a year of preschool from the same Lutheran branch, DC1’s was not at all creepy and DC2’s was full of not preschool appropriate stories.  Just comparing the children’s bibles they each got was pretty crazy.  Like, it wasn’t our imagination.)  Hir reading and math abilities have skyrocketed since we got back.

I think those are the big things in my online blog persona life.  If anybody cares.

How did you learn how to handle making meals?

Specifically, I mean the entire process of procuring and preparing food.

DH’s relative’s household is currently having trouble because the wife in the family got brain cancer, had brain surgery (has an amazingly good prognosis, considering) and can no longer do all of the stereotypical wife things that she had been doing.  That leaves DH’s relative and remaining 3 kids at home completely helpless when it comes to meals.  She did all the menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.  Since she got sick, they’ve been eating a lot of rice and beans because they’re income limited and that’s all he really knows how to make.  He also has to work overtime to pay for everything so it’s not like he has a lot of time and ability to put into the process.  He says he’s pretty terrible at it.

He does have three teenage kids at home who are perfectly capable of taking on some of this work.  Which my DH suggested.

So with the relative’s permission we sent the kids a copy of our favorite easy to use cookbook for beginners without a lot of money (unfortunately Faster! is out of print) with instructions to double the recipes, along with a giftcard from Walmart (which is their local grocery store) for $100.  To give them practice menu planning with a budget.  I don’t know if it will do any good, but maybe it will.

I learned how to use grocery circulars for sales, how to build up a pantry, and how to comparison shop at a very young age.  My father would take me to the market and show me the process he went through.  I learned cooking from both my parents and have a repertoire of both of their weeknight meals.  At a slightly older age I took over cooking a few nights a week and once I got a driver’s license I was in charge of a portion of the grocery shopping.  (Before then I would occasionally be sent on my bike or by foot to get missing ingredients if necessary.)  I experimented with recipes and menu planning during long boring summers.

DH never really learned how to shop or cook until he married me.  In college he spent one year on the meal plan and then survived the remaining three years with a combination of eating out at cheap restaurants (usually Schlotzky’s and Pizza Hut) and getting free day-old bagels from the bagel place next door to his dorm.  After marriage I showed him how to comparison shop because when you’re living in a city and using public transportation, shopping requires muscle.  At first, I did most of the cooking, but one day when he asked me to make (my father’s) chili for him, I realized that that was probably something he should learn to do himself.  So I taught him.  Then he taught himself more.  Then he took a cooking class to get better knife skills.  Now he’s a better chef than I am.

We’ve been teaching DC1 to cook, and when I remember I try to show hir how to comparison shop even though we don’t really do that much anymore (we have our favorite brands and can afford them).   Being able to eat cheaply is pretty freeing, especially when you’re starting out and so much of your disposable income is going to food.

How did you learn how to procure/prepare food?  Do you do it the same way that you learned?  If not, what has changed?

A sad update on the relatives

The babies were set to be delivered at 37 weeks, to be induced if necessary.  The smaller twin had had several scares and had forced at least one extended hospital stay.

Just before 35 weeks, she went into labor.  They rushed to the nearest big hospital, and then to the big city hospital two hours away.  The smaller twin had died.  They stopped the labor and recommended she try to keep the babies gestating a little longer.  A few days later she went into labor again and 18 hours later they were born.  The larger twin was 5lb 4oz and other than standard preemie stuff (not wanting to be touched, lungs not fully developed) was doing fine at birth.  They held a funeral service at the hospital and another back home for the smaller twin.

The other baby is now off the ventilator and feeding tube and is cuddly and should be coming home soon.

An emotional update on the relatives: Also, a love note to having money

So, long-time followers of the blog may remember that one of the things we’ve committed to doing is paying college costs for DH’s relatives (5 kids, though technically we’ve only committed to the two oldest) in the hopes that they’ll be able to break out of the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the matriarch of this family branch is about to be a great-grandmother at the age of 56.  Our connecting relative is to be a grandfather at the age of 38.  The great-grandmother is, in fact, expecting three bouncing baby grandchildren this fall and the grandfather two.  His second oldest is having twins.  (An 18 year old step-cousin is having a singleton.)

This is a real shame, because the second is smart and has a solid GPA and solid ACTs.  She could easily have started a regional state school in the fall with money and would have gotten into the flagship had she applied (though probably not much financial aid there based on her scores).  She’d decided instead to commute with her sister to the community college for a year and then transfer– at that point, with college credit from high school she’d be a junior psychology major.

Instead, she recently found out that she’s heavily pregnant with twins and due in October.  We don’t know if she suspected earlier but was in denial or if she’s been lying– she had a surgery 3 weeks ago on her face that she should not have had if pregnant.

It’s too late for even considering an abortion and she doesn’t want to give the babies up for adoption (she did not think of it as an option).

They’re high risk in many ways– she is 17, she hasn’t been getting prenatal care (wasn’t even on vitamins), lives in a house with a smoker, she and her sister were both premature, twins… twins are an expensive proposition even when the circumstances are perfect.  Chances are these kids could have special needs, though we will hope they don’t.

One thing she has going for her that her parents didn’t was that even though she’s not marrying a boyfriend (hopefully they will work out paternity, hopefully the guy will pay support), her parents aren’t kicking her out of the house.  Her biological parents had to set up shop on their own when they were 16.  Unfortunately the previous matriarch who provided free child care passed away last year, and the current matriarch is still working.

There’s a supportive environment, possibly the more-so because the situation is so common.  The relative tells us that his other three kids and the extended family (on the step-mom who raised them’s side) have baby fever in anticipation.  They’ve been hitting up garage sales for baby things.

The oldest is still doing fine.  Her first year at community college went well and she’s proud she passed (with a B) her super-difficult science class even though most of the class dropped.  She’s still working her part-time nursing home job and the proceeds from that go towards her car so she can commute to school.  At 19, she’s broken the family not-getting-pregnant record.

The grandfather-to-be has no money.  The (step-)grandmother-to-be is finally working again, but as a waitress, so no time but not a huge income either.  The bio-grandmother-to-be has no money and owes years of back child-support.  The great-grandparents-to-be are also in huge amounts of debt– the husband is on disability, they own a farm (that they bought on credit from a scam artist… long story there) that costs them tons of money each year, the kids they decided to have in their mid-30s (instead of say, not kicking their 16 year old kid and his pregnant wife out of the house) are still living at home and not contributing to the family household.  There’s really nothing.  Nothing but family with no money and perpetual hands sticking out.  It’s terrifying.

If we didn’t have our own babies to consider, we’d do more.  As it is, we reminded the grandfather-to-be that we’d still be paying those college costs, so he doesn’t have to come up with $650 in tuition for the oldest or $200 in books.  Or $1000 for the second if they can make her going to school work.  (I think he’s not used to family members keeping promises, so he’s never thought of our offers as more than one-time deals.)

What this really makes us think about is how glad we are that we didn’t have children in our teens.  That we waited until we were out of school and had jobs that paid a good salary and a house and precautionary savings and an emergency fund.  We can handle emergencies.  We can send our kids to private school.  If, God forbid, one of our children becomes a parent in high school, we’ll be able to help without sacrificing our other child(ren).  We’d even be able to pay for daycare for twins if we needed to.  It will never be a question of who gets to go to school, or do we get to keep Netflix, etc.  Our children have a lot more second chances.

I love being upper-middle-class.  I wish everybody had the opportunities that we can give our children.  I wish it were easier to break out of cycles of poverty.  I wish we could do more, but we never know what to do, and there are things we could do that might make things worse.  And sacrifices we don’t want to make, not with us living on one salary and having a baby of our own.

Any suggestions for a 17 year old about to have twins?  Or a 38 year old dad who doesn’t understand why his kids are making the same mistakes he made, even though he’s tried his best to keep them from repeating the cycle?

Update on personal sagas: DH’s relatives, DC’s school

DH’s Relatives

It turns out that if you are truly poor and have a zillion brothers and sisters (give or take), the Pell grant covers 100% of community college, including books.  So… so far we’re not paying for any of the relatives’ schooling.  Although they screwed up with the books and forgot to order them, despite multiple calls to the people.   Because the books are being bought via the grant, the school orders them for the students instead of the student being reimbursed… and they never actually checked to see that they were ordered when DH’s relative called, so the eldest daughter doesn’t have them.  She is borrowing from a friend until they come in.

She got a nursing home job (yay!) and spent the summer working and saved up to buy a clunker.  She will be working p/t to pay for her gas.

Already she says she likes community college classes a lot more than high school classes.  I hope she does well.  Right now she wants to transfer to a 4 year school (to major in architecture, but I’m hoping she’ll change her mind as there are very few job opportunities for architecture majors and it’s really hard to get into the architecture programs at the state 4-year schools).

DC1’s School

Right now they have 1 student fewer than what they need with normal fundraising and minimal services (down 20 students from last year).  The hope is to make up for it with extra fundraising.

The new head of school is professional and refreshingly not crazy.

Even better than that, the ineffective board president has been replaced by an extremely competent woman who is new to the board.  She’s getting things done.  She communicates professionally.  She’s a pleasure to deal with.  This was a new and unexpected pleasure.  We foresee a positive trajectory for the school if these two women remain in charge of things.

There are 10 kids in DC1’s 2nd grade class, down from the 15 that were in the first grade class (including DC and hir best friend who were technically in K, but spent half the day in first).  10 is still a good number for a private school class and doesn’t require an additional aide, although DC says they have a student teacher helping out.  The syllabus for the year that was sent home is intriguing.  They’ll be starting junior great books and doing book reports and science reports and all sorts of exciting and fun stuff.

DC’s formal dress shirt for formal days still hasn’t come, so DH picked up a too-big used one that will do for hir while we wait.

So that’s our excitement.  I sure hope it is a good year!

And one more

Remember my cousin who didn’t have the Catholic wedding?  They’re expecting twins.  :)