Friday, November 21, 2008


That is the sound of the end of the week.


Tonight we'll enjoy some quiet family time, possibly in front of the TV, because we have all been running around like crazy. Maybe we'll do game night, maybe not.

Ryan's almost home, Tessa had a 4 hour playdate, and I made granola, baked bread, made soup stock with the chicken carcass from a couple of days ago, and folded way too much laundry.

Ryan did a quick assessment on our weekly budget and we came in UNDER!!!!! How is that possible? Yay, us! It makes the small sacrifices so worthwhile - hurrah for us.

I'm working on writing a press release for Alki because they won the Governor's Health Challenge; I'm prepping for my Genentech trip to San Diego in early December; I'm getting ready for Thanksgiving; Christmas lists are being made; I'm organizing the extended Dahl family gathering, and....well, you get the idea. Things are busy. The Hunts Point book is in there, too, and all of the usual cooking, cleaning, and carpooling.

Oh, and I'm writing a winter solstice play for church. Because I didn't have nearly enough to do with my time....! Still, it feels good to give back, to be involved in my community, to bond with friends and family over these activities.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

Our conference last night went even better than I'd expected.

Tessa's skills are up to par, she is doing well socially, and she's an "easy" student to have around. Her work is creative, she has obvious understanding of the material, and she's demonstrating growth in her understanding as she climbs the learning curve. Her work is detailed, and she demonstrates a strong grasp of the subject matter.

She sometimes is so focused on the details that she has trouble finishing her work. The teacher said, "This is about the best problem to have, though, so while we'll work on it, we're not worried about it." That's nice! We're also going to get her to volunteer info (raising her hand in discussion) about all subjects, not just the ones that fascinate her. (The teacher mentioned that as soon as there's talk of animals, Tessa will volunteer any amount of information about horses -no surprise there.)

So kindergarten is going well, and I'm delighted. She has no behavioral problems, she has lots of friends, she enjoys school, and she's learning. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

At home, Tessa is refusing to read things she once read with excitement - she wants us to read to her but does NOT want to read to us. The teacher said that is quite common, and to just let it go, since she's reading in the classroom. Tessa is in my reading group (I volunteer once a week and I work with two different reading groups) and she reads for me in that scenario....just not at home. This, too, shall pass. The advice was to just back off and let her be, and so that is what we will do.

(And fortunately, Tessa still begs for "just one more story!" no matter how many we read her, and this delights me.)

I'm prepping for a Genentech conference call so must run. Ciao!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Date night

I planned date night tonight, and I'm so proud of myself that I have to share.

It was parent-teacher conference night, and so Ryan actually got off work at a sane hour for the first time in weeks, in order to hear about Tessa's progress in kindergarten. (It was a fantastic report, and we are very happy with things.) We had also signed up for a parenting class from the Adlerian Society (a positive discipline approach) on Wednesdays, so the original plan was to go to the conference and then go to the class.

I realized that this is the wrong time for Ryan to have an additional class, so I canceled without telling him, and planned a surprise date instead. (I knew he'd be relieved, not offended, but that cancelation.)

I packed two bags - one with blankets, hats, warm coats, coffee mugs; the other with firewood and a lighter - and two camp chairs. We had an inexpensive Thai dinner at Alki, and then the best part - we had a beach fire. We set up chairs, snuggled up in our blankets, and we could see the twinkling lights of the ferries over the water, hear the gentle waves, and watch the stars in the sky. It was really relaxing there in the firelight, and a darned good idea if I may say so myself. I even snuck a little bottle of Kahlua, and we got coffees (decaf!) and added the Kahlua as a little warmer.

Stars, waves, fire - bliss. That bears repeating, and I recommend it highly. It felt like a mini-vacation, and it's only Wednesday.

A great deal!

Today I went to the pharmacy to refill a prescription (something we do pretty regularly here, unfortunately). I stumbled into a great deal that may interest others out there who are penny pinching....

Rite-Aid has a special coupon right now that gives you a $30 gift card per prescription that you transfer from another pharmacy to Rite-Aid. Ryan and I had four prescriptions at Medco, a mail-in pharmacy that our old insurance used, and so by transferring them to Rite-Aid for our new insurance, we're getting $120 in Rite-Aid gift cards. WOW! That's a nice little bonus at the holidays - they sell things we already use so we will certainly use the cards. Others out there might be interested in transferring, too. Our local Rite-Aid (on California in W. Seattle) has a really great pharmacist, bills directly to our insurance, and has been quite helpful, so I see no down side for us. Plus, they're only blocks away, so we can walk there.

I have been exploring couponing (which I never realized was a verb, by the way). I'm determined to be more frugal than I had been, and to speed up our debt reduction/elimination. I'm DETERMINED. And you know how I am when I'm determined - get outta my way!

I browsed frugal websites for about an hour last night; there are a lot of them out there. I signed up for CouponMom, and I've been learning about their programs. In general, couponing doesn't help my purchases, because there are very few organic products out there with coupons, and those products that are offered tend to be highly processed organic food, which is also not what I want. However, I am using the PCC 10% off coupon each month, and trying to shop their member days (the 15th and 16th of each month give a 10% discount to members). At the grocery store, I'm trying to buy only the sale meats when possible. I've realized that the only place I can afford eggs is Trader Joe's ($3.69/dozen for organic free range), and we'll live without eggs if we can't get to TJs before we run out. (I get slightly ill when I see the sale prices for non-organic eggs - under $1 sometimes. I just try to remember it's apples to oranges....)

My stainless steel coffee cup has paid for itself about 100 times, by the way. I got it in Spokane when we went to Caley's graduation (I'd been looking for the "perfect" one and found it), and I've used it almost every day since. We make coffee each morning, and I refill it throughout the day from our home coffee maker, and that keeps me out of coffee shops unless I'm meeting someone socially. My metal water bottles are also in daily use, and I simply refill them from taps whereever I am when I run out.

Enough rambling about bargain hunts, but if you find something I should know about, please let me know. I'm determined to be a great budgeter, and I hae a long way to go.

On other notes....
Ryan worked until 3am this morning, then was out the door at 8 (and frustrated because he was "running late"). This is not sustainable, and I am equally proud of his great work ethic and horrified at the lousy hours. I'm praying for a break - he needs to be with his family and have down time. T his working 7 days a week business is RIDICULOUS and I really hope that the end is in sight. Thanksgiving is going to save his bacon! He'll get a few days off and I have to imagine that they don't expect him to work then (shudder).

Tessa and I visited Grammy & Grandpa yesterday with the intention of helping my mom out because her knee is giving her problems, but she made us a gorgeous dinner and we had a wonderful visit (and I didn't help a bit because Mom can be as stubborn as I am). Tessa and I got in a swim, and Tessa was part dolphin, swimming under my legs and doing somersaults and leaping off my shoulders and swimming to the side, etc. There was a lot of laughing, and I loved that.

Today I'm doing a Genentech call about some other programs, and booking a trip to San Diego for another speaking engagement for Genentech. I'm keeping busy when I'm not doing the mom thing, and that's a good thing, although I don't know where to find all the hours I need.

And speaking of which, my computer break is over. Please remember to send me your bargain info and tell me how to keep to my budget without losing my mind - I will look forward to your tips!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ethical Eating

This month's copy of UU World has an article entitled "Dinner Dilemmas: Ethical issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table," by John Gibb-Millspaugh. The article states the ethical eating argument as I've heard it stated before by the likes of Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver or David Wann - to me, the argument for organic, sustainable, local food is pretty darn compelling.

It's pretty hard to argue with the idea that animals should be treated humanely, or that humans should not be forced to ingest toxic chemicals on or in their food.

But I ran into an interesting discussion on a blog I read, "The Journey" about the problem of the ethical eating argument. In short? It's really expensive. And the argument to eat "ethically" is elitist as a result, and can't/won't reach the general public as a result. (And because of the publication, it goes to follow, if this is what 'we' are preaching, then UUs won't grow, either.)

Yes, it is expensive. I say this with a sigh. We're struggling to balance our budget, and to make good choices about how we spend our money. When I stand in the grocery store, debating which products to buy, I feel a knot in my stomach as I face the price tags associated with different products. I buy $5 jeans from Value Village, but spend double the cost for my food budget to get organic milk, apples, and the like. We eat a lot more lentil soup than we used to, as a result. And eggs for dinner about once a week, in great part to cut our food bill.

So, on a personal level, I get it. Not as much as some people, of course. I know that I will get enough food; I am not struggling with poverty, but with choices.

Yet I feel deep within my heart that ethical eating is what we must do. I feel that it will save our bodies, our planet, and even our communities if we start to eat more ethically.

But we do have to figure out how to make it sustainable for our pocketbooks, too. And approachable for average people, not just passionate foodies like me, who have the means - including time - to follow through on their ethical eating desires.

The first step, I think, might be the hardest. I'm certain that it is possible to return to ethical eating practicies - hello....that's how people have eaten for all eternity not including the last 150 years! - but not unless people want to. The first step is for individuals and communities to decide that what they deeply want is ethical eating, and that they want to find creative solutions to help the less fortunate to eat organic, sustainable food, too, because it's good for ALL of us.

Right now, the crazies like me are committed. It's becoming mainstream to buy organic - WalMart and Safeway carry organic lines, so I believe that the ideas are becoming more mainstream, too.

But we have a long way to go.

We have a long way to go.



That's the sound of me actually accomplishing work on the Hunts Point book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Grading the day

Tessa to school on time, breakfast in belly, and lunch in backpack: check

Dog walked: check

Laundry (mostly) folded: check

Floors mopped: check

Home made dinner using inexpensive ingredients that we already had: check

Remembering that it was early dismissal: check

Playdate after school: check

Tessa getting outdoor time (in the yard with playdate, playing in leaves and on swingset): check

Number of books I read to Tessa today: five

Volunteer time: about a half hour

Number of games played with Tessa: three (Break the Ice, CandyLand, and Dominoes)

Money spent today: $0

The kitchen is tidied, the floor is mopped, the dog and cat are fed. So, by many accounts, it was a good day, that I can feel good about.

I also have a list of what I didn't do today:
- work on the Hunts' Point book
- Call the PolyClinic to set up a payment plan for our latest big bill
- Make myself a dentist appointment
- Make granola
- Get some "real" exercise (the dog walk was only a mile or so)

Still, today I was relatively productive. I give myself a B. Tomorrow, the Hunts Point book is a priority in the morning, and visiting my mom is a priority in the afternoon.

Now, back to matching socks. Yawn.