Sunday, May 31, 2009

Moosebutter Fan Site--with SKOOK!

You know that old copy of somebody's fhe group singing "DI"? Well, there's a nicer version of "DI" online now.

A moosefan named Tyler Barrett runs a fan site ( and a moosebutter fan youtube channel (go see here: including only hard-to-find and obscure moosebutter recordings. And he put "DI" on there--including the original Skook Logo (with the dancing guy that I think Joe drew on his drum--how'd he get that?!).

Note to Bryant or Josh if they get word of this: Tyler needs some of the missing lyrics filled in on "Green Alien." Email him!

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite of the things he's posted for our benefit and enjoyment:

Home Schooling Resources: The Science of Cooking

This is an awesome website:

The recipes are fun (lollipops?), the science is clear, the site engaging.

Well worth a visit.

Friday, May 29, 2009

and, just to include everyone...and brag a bit

Caleb, Anda, and I took a reading test. I read 318 words a minute of 2nd-3rd-grade level stuff. Anda, age 5-almost-6 reads 270 words a minute. Caleb, age 7, reads 450 words a minute (course, he was getting it on a second read, but STILL)! I knew he reads faster than me, but I didn't know Anda could read nearly as fast as I can. I mean, she's supposed to be just finishing Kindergarten, and instead she's just finishing Harry Potter books 1 and 2 AGAIN!

my husband is a one-man band

my 4 1/2 month old tries to eat the camera and laughs at Dan

my barely two year old tries his hand at jokes...and crawls on my head

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Did I just read that?

Pretty tricky, here, since the letter in question was stolen between 1880-1940, and donated this week back to the government.

"It was ripped from the pages of his Treasury secretary's correspondence and bought at auction by a collector who waited for Lincoln's bicentennial year to donate it." (

And why would the thief buy the stolen article himself?

California's attempts to stifle Religion

California is trying to enforce laws that would make it impossible for religious people to have friends over to talk religion without a permit. In this article, they got after a pastor and his wife who hold bible studies at home.,2933,522637,00.html?test=latestnews

Just like the New Hampshire gay marriage law being under attack for trying to protect religious freedoms, this is outlandish.

If this went through, ALL missionary activity, home and visiting teaching, delivering the sacrament to homebound people, group family home evenings, cottage meetings, having friends over to watch conference...would be illegal without a permit.

If San Diego County doesn't immediately back down--if this actually has to go to federal court (where the first amendment rights surely will be upheld, won't they?)--I am even more scared for religious freedom than ever!

In a recent news article, a Californian lamented that other states have approved gay marriage before CA because "We're supposed to be the leader in social issues." If making it impossibly difficult to practice religion and home school children (which they have) is being a "social leader", I want out of that society!

Why I Love Improbable Research

Where else do you hear about studies like this?

"The Bohannon/Goldstein/Herschkowitsch study concludes somewhat perplexedly that (1) "human beings do not enjoy eating dog food" and (2) are "not able to distinguish its flavour profile from other meat-based products that are intended for human consumption".

The dog and cat food studies share a connection to wine. The dog monograph is published by the American Association of Wine Economists. The cat paper is written by a professor of biological sciences/wine science, and appears in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, which in 2007 featured a study called The Influence of Polyphenol Rich Apple Pomace or Red-Wine Pomace Diet on the Gut Morphology in Weaning Piglets."

Read more here:

I told you creative, not lazy, people prefer apple

From the Annals of Improbable Research (those Ig Noble Prize People):

"Automatic Effects of Brand Exposure on Motivated Behavior: How
Apple Makes You 'Think Different,'" Gr?inne M. Fitzsimons, Tanya
l. Chartrand, Gavan j. Fitzsimons, Journal of Consumer Behavior,
vol. 35, no. 1, June 2008, pp. 21-35.
The authors, who are variously at the University of Waterloo and
at Duke University, report:

"This manuscript first examines whether brand exposure elicits
automatic behavioral effects as does exposure to social primes.
Results support the translation of these effects: Participants
primed with Apple logos behave more creatively than IBM-primed
and controls; Disney-primed participants behave more honestly
than E!-primed and controls."

You can sign up for IgNoble News here:

or here:

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Most Encouraging Feedback I've Ever Received

A few weeks ago I had one of those moments that spurs me to action. I mentioned it before when I wrote about "Harry Potter" and the flaws I can now see. What I may not have mentioned is that the sum total of my experiences with Harry Potter this time around was the firm conviction, "I can do that! No problem." That experience, but with Terry Brooks books, is what made me start writing in the first place. I looked at the books and realized they were just words on paper, and not strung together very specially different than talking, and I said to my sister Beth, "I can do that." "So do," she said. So I did. (Interestingly, a parallel experience is what launched Tim into vocal music--specifically a cappella.)

So I started writing again. But what I realized is that where I started--writing for 12-14 year old girls--is where my heart still lies. And that that age group in writing worlds is called Upper Middle Grade, not Young Adult (the difference has a great deal more to do with writing style and content than simply age). And that my mother told me 2 years ago that the stories I create would be most interesting to Upper Middle Grade readers.

So I sat down and did the unthinkable. I started "Poison Spindle Problem" again. AGAIN. Why? Because the book is the right kind of story for that age. And I couldn't rewrite it to work. I couldn't bear it. So I took all I've learned about writing and started with a new blank page and Anda looking over my shoulder saying what I was thinking, "Mom, why do you just write that story over and over? Can't you tell a different one?"

Apparently I Can't until I get this one right. I've been trying for a full year now.

But this time, it just flowed--the way things do when you finally get them right.

Until I got stuck, 50 pages in.

So tonight, when I had the kids gathered around my knees anyway, I told them I needed their help. I told them the story to the point where I'm stuck and asked their advice. "See, I think this is what should happen next, but I'm not sure. What do you think?" And I told them my ideas.

Daniel, who I honestly hadn't noticed was sitting and listening, popped up his head when I stopped talking and said, "Read some more, Mom."

So I told him what I thought might happen after that. "And does she turn out to be a good guy or a bad guy?" Dan asked, his eyes wide.

"A good guy," I said.

"Read some more," He said.

He urged me on, his eyes wide and his attention focused, until the very end of the story, which indeed went something different (and far better) than the first version and than I had thought before I started talking.

Dan climbed up into my lap and said. "Now read the next one."

So, at his urging, I started telling the second book in the series. And the motion level in the room started increasing, as Caleb and Anda started walking, and then running, trying to stay focused and get their poor ADD brains to think and create.

By the end of the third book, Dan was saying, "And does she be nice to the old lady?" over the din of both Caleb and Anda simultaneously, breathlessly, telling me what the characters of themselves are doing to solve the problems with the lady locked in the tower and the pirates battling to keep the good guys out, and how they're individually going to break the enchantments that hold the woman captive even after the pirate battle is over. "And then does the dragon come again?" Dan whispered. "Yes," I whispered back, the big kids still running, red in the face, sweating, and living the story. "And is it still a good guy?" Dan whispers back. "Yes," I say. "And it rescues Elizabeth just in time and flies her to a castle where she can have her baby."

Immediately, I get yells from the other kids. "But MOM!" Anda protests in a very teenage voice. "The PHOENIX was supposed to help with that, not the dragon!" I hadn't realized there was a phoenix in my story. "Have you been listening to ANYTHING we've been saying?"

"Well, you're all kind of talking at once," I protest feebly. Not to mention it's MY story. I don't say that. Isn't the point of writing a story for the reader to begin to own it? "I got distracted," I say.

"I thought Caleb got rid of the enchantments!" Caleb chimes in.

"Of course he does!" I say quickly.

"And then Kate, at least, must hold on to the phoenix's tale and follow the dragon," Anda insists.

"Naturally," I say.

"Read the next one now, Mom," Dan says quietly. "Can you read the next one?"

"I'll have to write it first," I say. "Let's go make cookies."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Penny Pinching Tip: Be generous

It might seem counter-intuitive to give when you don't have much, but I firmly believe that God helps those who help others.

Life isn't about just getting through. It's about having a rich and full experience, and being happy. Helping others is a great way to make yourself and others happy, even when you have to pinch pennies.

Besides, you don't have to give money. Share what you have--take a plate of cookies to someone, give away (instead of throwing away) or donate used but still useable items and broken but fixable items (try Craigslist, or give it to DI or Savers--they even sometimes give you a 20% off coupon when you donate!), invite someone over to dinner. Or share what you do--mow someone's lawn, mend or alter clothing, teach a skill you know, tutor, share your talents. Or share what you are--write a note, be a friend, make a phone call.

Being generous is not just about sharing our money. It's also about sharing our time, talents, skills, and other resources to make other people's lives richer, fuller, happier. And it does the same for us.

Did I just read that?

From an article about how Congress isn't as stupid as Obama in terms of national safety:

"In the months since, he has woven an uncertain course, occasionally angering liberals."


Mixed metaphor if I ever saw one!

Full article here:

Just in Case You were on the fence....

For years gay rights advocates have said they weren't trying to destroy religion, but merely secure their own "rights". And when religions brought up questions and issues, they were roundly ignored. Nobody would answer those debates.

Well, now they're talking, and what they say is scary.

Read here:

For those of you who don't click links, here is what the New Hampshire legislature was trying to do: "The legislature had been asked to approve language that would give legal protections, including the right to decline to marry same-sex couples, to clergy and others affiliated with religious organizations."

They failed by 2 votes.

Here's why: " State Representative Steve Vaillancourt, a gay Republican from Manchester, was a leading voice against the amendment securing religious liberties, saying that the House should not be "bullied" by the governor.

Vaillancourt said an earlier bill that did not provide protections to clerics or religious groups was the one that should have been passed, adding that the amended bill would allow discrimination to be written into state law."

So now they say religious belief can be mandated by law.

And I thought we lived in a country where even skinheads had the right to believe and teach their children!

This should send shivers up and down your spine.

If you weren't scared before, you should be now.

It's a good thing freedom of religion is guaranteed in the first amendment! Although, if things continue to go as they have, this time the freedom might be forced all the way to the Supreme Court before we are allowed to believe and keep the commandments of God.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Okay, so we've been reading "Harry Potter" books together. I openly admit that the Harry Potter books are some of my favorite and have been heavily influential in my life in general (hard to believe? Literature has that power).

I really think that "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is a classic.

Chamber of Secrets (book 2)? Not so much.

Spoiler Alert here--if you don't want to know the ending, stop reading here.

Okay, so I've been reading it out loud to the kids. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to spot flaws in a manuscript. Not only did we find an honest-to-goodness typo, the books is really full of holes. It's not very well written, to be honest.

The problems are scattered throughout the book, but I think one of the biggest of all is in the plumbing.

Yes. The Plumbing.

The Castle has plumbing.

Necessary in a school, right? Right.

But they clearly state that the castle was built a thousand years ago. BEFORE indoor plumbing.

So maybe they added it later? Possibly.

Except that the entrance to the hidden chamber of secrets that was put in when the castle was built is...through a SINK in the bathroom. And the monster? It travels through the pipes.

And since they clearly state that the first time the chamber of secrets was even FOUND was a mere 50 years before, you can't really argue that someone added the sink-entrance later when they added the bathrooms and the plumbing. They would have merely walled up the old entrance, not knowing it was even there.

Plus, the plumbing that exists isn't very reasonable--an enormous gigantic snake travels through it. Through pipes that are concealed in the walls. Of the castle. Separate from the pipes somehow getting INTO the walls of the castle nearly a thousand years after it was built, it doesn't make mechanical sense to insert enormous gigantic pipes that a monstrous snake can slither through. You know how thick those walls would have to be? We're talking pipes the size of tube slides at water parks. That makes awfully thick walls, don't you think?

America's Got Talent

I've been sitting on this for a month, waiting until we at least got to the end of a chapter to write about it.

And the first chapter in this adventure ended today. Next one starts--TOMORROW. (We always do things down to the line, don't we?)

So here's the story:

About a month ago, out of the blue, Tim got a call from a casting director at America's Got Talent. He said he'd found moosebutter's myspace page (which they haven't updated in over two years) and wanted moosebutter to submit an audition for the show. Please send video.

Tim did.

Didn't think much of this, since it happened once before with moosebutter and nothing came of it. Besides, moosebutter was functionally retired. (Notice I said was?)

About a week later, Tim's group Wonder Voice did a talent show benefit concert. They sang one song. They lost. BUT one of the judges was involved with entertainment at Station Casinos and had connections somehow--and she got everyone who performed in the talent show private auditions for America's Got Talent.

Very cool. That semi-live (you go and sing, but they film it and take it to the producers) audition got scheduled.

Then about two days later, a DIFFERENT casting director called and said she'd seen King 4 in the Harmony Sweepstakes in LA, and could they please come audition for America's Got Talent. That got scheduled in Vegas the day before the Wonder Voice audition.

So...casting scramble. We have multiple casts for everything, but had to deal with who was available short notice and could they learn the parts for new songs, etc.

The cast that ended up doing the King 4 audition literally met each other for the first time in the parking lot outside the building--it was parts of a couple different casts for that group.

So the audition went well.

Then the next audition went well.

Afterward, the producer caught them and explained that they were flooded with a cappella groups this year, so no promises, but she personally thought they were FANTASTIC.


Turn out there are a TON of factors involved in getting a group onto that show.

These were things that affected the outcome for us, despite the fact that the producers clearly loved all three groups:

1. Any single person CANNOT appear in more than one act. (So we'd have to do the great Casting Shuffle yet again if more than one group got selected).

2. (And this is standard for any job interview/audition/manuscript submission--it's slush pile normalcy) It entirely depends not only on who else applied, but what order the applications/audition materials were viewed, since context does determine how we view things. With them being swamped with a cappella applications, they all start to look mundane and boring (and therefore less likely to get on the show) unless there is some sort of gimmick that makes them stand out. That's why King 4 and moosebutter caught their eye--they are DIFFERENT from your average contemporary a cappella group. Different is, of course, Tim's specialty, so no surprise there.

3. Permissions. Copyright law only applies to written sheet music. But intellectual property laws come heavily into play here. AGT is a show that is performed before a live audience AND broadcast. So they have to get both performing and broadcast permissions for any song that is performed, and pay the appropriate licensing fees.

4. Auditioners only get 90 seconds. And comedy is tricky to pull of in 90 seconds--it requires a set up for the punchline to work, and that takes time.

Despite all this, we heard back about King 4 and moosebutter (but not Wonder Voice, and no answer means no "audition"--really call back to sing in front of the live judges)

But just hearing, "We love you and we want you" wasn't cause for celebration. Not yet.

There was that permissions issue. See, when you get accepted, you turn in a list of songs you can use and the first one that comes through with licensing is the one you must sing.

AND (and here's the stickler)--the estate of Elvis doesn't give permission. They don't like their songs performed in a tongue-in-cheek way, like by Four guys in bad Elvis glasses with sideburns attached. So King 4 got put into permissions limbo (we still haven't heard how that came out, but we're assuming it was a no)--they'd have to sing something that Elvis sang but not only didn't sing first, but that his estate hasn't since bought all the publishing rights to (publishing rights in music doesn't mean printing the sheet music--it means using the song for anything). Like "How Great Thou Art", which the guys would totally do an awesome job on...but it doesn't really feel right to perform a sacred hymn with elvis side burns dangling from gold sunglasses, and it wouldn't really highlight the funniness of the concept.

King 4 wasn't the only one with permissions problems.

moosebutter had them, too.

See, the permissions/licensing issue is thorny with parodies, so they disallowed any use of parodies in the show. And that happens to be where all of moosebutter's best music is.

Also disallowed (for licensing issues) is any reference to any pop culture product or other licensed or copyrighted entity. So...Star Wars. Harry Potter. Psycho--all out, even if they wrote new music for them.

AND they really seriously discourage the use of original music. They say this is because they end up swamped with singer-songwriters singing boring songs. I personally suspect (and this is just speculation) that they don't want to delve into the legal mess of licensing the original music (and therefore paying the performer to compete, which is ethically iffy), especially since 99% of the original songs out there just aren't good enough and wouldn't get past the "audition" (call back in front of celebrity judges) round--so it's a complete waste of resources for the staff of the show.

But I'd say 95% of moosebutter's music is either original or parody.

Which left us with just a few choices--and they would still have to be licensed.

Thus came a week of back and forth with the producers, who had to look at all their covers and all their original music to see if any of it was usable, and then get Tim to send video of live performances of the songs they liked, get that approved with the executive director (who, fortunately, loved moosebutter or they would have ended up in the 'too hard to work through the issues' pile), then submit the material for permissions.

Miraculously, all the backing-and-forthing of it all ended up with...licensing came through for the song everyone agreed had the best chance of coming across on TV. So moosebutter gets to go to the "audition" (really call-back) round. Remember, though, that half the people who get through to that round are put through because they are so bad that it'll make great TV. So Tim has the double challenge of making sure everyone gets there and that they are good enough that nobody puts them into the "worst of..." reels.

So THEN we had to do the great casting shuffle again, this time with the travel coordinator (by now Tim has talked to and emailed half a dozen people who work on the show as he gets through each step of the process). Tim is here in Vegas, but had a today (Saturday) singing in the finals of the Harmony Sweeps. AND he had a gig on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Orleans with Toxic Audio. Chris is home with his family in Oregon right now. Weston is home with his family in Cleveland right now (both of them going on family vacations, I think). Glen is unavailable for the run, so Tim had to find a replacement for him all together (and two of his regular stand-bys were unavailable as well, so he went with one of the guys from the newly-formed Vegas cast of moosebutter--who is an excellent choice, I might add). I think just selecting guys from the 3 casts-plus-understudies of moosebutter in itself gave Tim ulcers! And AGT needed them in LA sometime between Monday and Thursday of this coming week.

What a nightmare.

Thanks to the flexibility of everyone involved, they got a day and time, got travel arranged, and should all be there for their audition, even though they have to show up the day before (and that might overlap a job interview Tim had scheduled--singing with a dance band, of all things).

So there you go.

Watch AGT's audition rounds and see if you see Tim!

(no promises. this is TV after all. We had friends who got this far and then didn't even get on TV--the judges didn't like them at all, despite the fact that the producers LOVED them).

Still, things are never quiet around here, are they?

And now I know a whole lot more about auditioning for TV shows than I ever dreamed.

Oh, and don't too excited. Even if we win, we won't have money to lend. The winning group gets a million dollars--over 40 YEARS. What with having to divide it among all the group members, if we WON (which is a seriously long shot), we'd get $5000 (before taxes) every year until we were 75!

Blessings in Disguise

It's been really really really hot here (nearly 100 degrees in the shade), which, I suppose, is no surprise since we live in an inhospitable desert.

Cooling is not a luxury here, but a necessity. And we can't afford the $500 a MONTH it takes to cool our house to 80 degrees using the ancient air conditioner that's on the roof.

So last year we prayed ourselves into a $50 swamp cooler that actually worked, once I'd done a little maintenance on it.

But this year I turned it on and it was working...sort of. Worse every day.

Naturally, there are none on Craigslist right now since everyone needs them. And we didn't have much cash to replace all the parts I thought might be bad on ours--not even just the pads, which was going to be my first attempt.

So I prayed that we could find a way to get it working and get the house cool.

So OF COURSE the pump died today.

But then it turned out we had just exactly enough money on hand for a new pump ($20), and that seems to have fixed all the problems--and I didn't have to buy ALL the new parts I thought I'd need (and would have bought instead of the pump had it not died). We didn't even need new pads, which are up to $8 EACH this year.

So it was a blessing, and an answer to my prayer, for the part that was causing the problems to break--so that I'd know which one it was and not waste my time and meagre resources on useless fixes.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fantastic free home school resources

I just found Owl and Mouse--great stuff. Free reading software; build a castle, town, or forest from paper complete with links to information about each of those things, etc...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Did I just read that?

Most of these are not outright guffaws, but they all came from THE SAME newspaper today. First, the headlines:

On the front page: "Survey links economy to hard times for many"

Also on the front page: "Public, private schools feel financial pressure from economy"
"Official says trauma can affect performance"

"Group to Welcome Signs of the Zodiac Author" (any little footprint would be welcome...)

"Romance Author to Discuss Backstory with Cactus Rose" (she has a backstory involving a cactus?)

"Study: Men the worst smelling gender, and women can definitely notice" (this is news?) (Oh, and the women can notice, but don't always?)

"Although it makes us fat, fast food makes us happy, study says"

Love the spelling here: "USC Study Sayd Folic Acid Supplements Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer"

"Smoking Pot makes you more accident prone behind the wheel" (This is news?)
And the first line: "Guys: you may think smoking pot makes you look cool. But in actuality, it just make a stumbling dude who gets into more accidents." (Eh? English your second language?)

"Men are the fragile sex when it comes to birth, study says."
The article goes on to say, "Turns out, baby boys cause a lot more damage than baby girls," not that they themselves are fragile. (And damage to what? The living room? the windows?) The article cites this wonderful bit of confusing wordiness: "...male babies were more likely to end up being born prematurely and rupture mom's embryonic sac." (How did they do that, especially after they were born prematurely, and even more especially since they were obviously not around when mom was in her own _amniotic_ sac? And the next sentence: "Researchers likened these birthing complications to similar problems men face their entire lives." (Men face prematurity and breaking their mom's amniotic sac their whole lives? Fascinating. I'd like to know how they do that? Or do they mean what they said, that they have problems with birthing, which means "giving birth", not "being born"? So men tend to give birth to their own mothers and break their mystical embryonic sacs in the process?)

And this whole article had problems, separate from the unbelievable wordiness (it's like they used the longest, most convoluted way to say anything):
"Study says red meat and processed meat may affect death rate" (so you don't die _ever_ if you don't eat it?).

And the article had these enlightening sentences (keep in mind that death is not an optional part of life as you read these):
"It's a fact. Men love their red meat. A new fact for the equation--that red meat may be bad for you." (Okay, but there was no equation mentioned in the first line, and that was the beginning of the article....)
"Men who eat more processed meat may have an increased risk of death because of meat-related complications like cancer and heart disease." (I think they meant "from", not "because of"--and I'm not sure how cancer or heart disease are "meat-related" or "complications"--complications to what, life? Oy--the whole sentence needs a doctor.)
"While processed meats and red meats seemed to have had a negative effect on participants in the study, white meat was actually believed to be a decreased risk for death."
"The participants were between the ages of 50 and 71 years old during the beginning of the study." (I think they meant "at", not "during." Those little words can really trip you up.)
"They were then followed for 10 years and researchers tracked who died from what in hopes to make correlation between the peoples' diet and their rate of death." (Death to the People! Oh, wait--maybe this wasn't supposed to be a marxist "the people". I might be mistaken, but "the people" is not the same thing as "people", and _people_ all have different _diets_, and the usual rate of death is 100%. You know, it's that other inevitable thing beside taxes.)
"Researchers found that the 20 percent who ate the most red meat had the highest overall risk for death, due in part of heart disease and cancer." (Huh? There's those little words again, causing a ruckus. And, again, the risk of death...there is no risk of death in general. It's a certainty. I believe this sentence was supposed to read, "....ate the most meat had the highest risk of death from heart disease or cancer.")
"Researchers said that about 11 percent of deaths in men could be avoided yearly if they cut back on their consumption of red and processed meats." So 11 percent of men can avoid dying every year? "Deaths in men" is a funny phrase, in an of itself. Like there are many kinds of death? Causes, yes. But deaths? And who does that "they" refer to, the researchers? The Deaths? WHO is supposed to cut back on their consumption of red and processed meats?

Of the 12 sentences in the article, 9 had major problems that ANY copyeditor, even one from a high school paper, would have caught.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Did I just read that?

An ad from One Hour Heating and A/C came today. Right next to the coupon for "$38 off" (seriously? $38? Why not $35 or $40?), it stated, "Free. Buy the world's best Air Conditioning Rejuvenation for only $79 and get the furnace safety check for FREE!"

Below that, in small print, "$69 value".

Penny Pinching Tips: Know Where to Shop

Knowing where to shop is a big part of living cheap.

For example, you don't buy groceries at Albertsons if you're on a budget. A concrete example: Today I got the grocery ads in the mail. Albertsons had, right on the front, that they were dropping their everyday prices, so hot dogs that used to cost $2.19 now cost $1.39. Thing is, I get that SAME BRAND, SAME SIZE package of hot dogs at an everyday price of $.88 at WalMart, and on sale everywhere once a month or so for $.79.

Likewise, we've done tours of all the local Thrift Stores and Rosses. They aren't all created equal, and knowing which thrift stores have good prices, and which have good products, is a big deal. One thing we've learned is that Savers and Ross stores that are on the edge of wealthy neighborhoods have good stuff (two reasons, I figure: good donations and fewer shoppers, since people living in those wealthy neighborhoods don't shop at the thrift stores). The Ross on the Strip here in Vegas is the best one in the state--huge and kept well-stocked with the latest of the fashions they carry.

I've also found that it's a good idea to know which stores mark things down. For example, Saturday night at Smiths on Flamingo and Jones in Las Vegas, I can almost always find dairy products that are 2 days inside their "sell by" dates marked down to less than half price. Since most dairy products freeze well, it's a way to buy and stock up on things I use a lot for cheaper than sale prices. Just last week I got 20 lbs of cheese for $1.75/lb. Since I follow the ads faithfully, I knew that was a good deal--cheese goes on sale here for $2.50/lb usually. So I bought it and froze it. I've bought and frozen dozens of eggs dirt cheap, too, from that Smiths. The Food4Less on Decatur and Flamingo is the place to go for marked-down candy and dishes (go figure!).

Knowing where to get things is second only in importance to the key to living cheap:

Know what a good deal IS.

You get that by studying the ads and paying attention to what you paid last time. But if you can't figure that bit of information out, you'll never live cheap.

Monday, May 11, 2009

With this in the mail, who needs Cyrano?

When I was on my mission, Tim used to cut pieces out of cereal boxes and write on the back and send them to me as post cards. I thought it was great.

Today, one of the kids pulled down one of my mission photo albums that I haven't looked at in 10 years, scattering the pages. As I put it all back together, I found one of those old postcards tucked in the back with a few carefully selected items that made me happy (a piece of paper that was just the right shade of blue, a picture of Elder Tim Jones with a banana on his head, a sign that said, "Dance Barefoot," etc.).

On the card, I read, "The man that hath no music in himself...." and immediately recognized it as Shakespeare. I skipped the rest of that quote and moved on to the tiny messages scrawled around it in the margins.

What I found were what Tim thought were notes on his day and what I think now are gorgeous poetry:

"October 21 1998 am
Exquisite blustery, flustery morning.
Gargantuate frigid blast-the-leaves-off-the-trees wind and power that sucks the breathe out of you.
Clear, pale sky.


"Oct 19
feasted tonight
on Fulghum
(rediscovered, but was
me who sought him
out), soggy stuffing
and dry turkey, and
a brilliant sunset
blazing over the
Great Salt Lake."

He didn't sign the card, but I knew who sent it.

How could I not?

With a soul like that, who needs a Cyrano?

Mother's Day

Mother's Day Sacrament Meeting=the only time mothers are praised and thanked, formally or informally, all year.

Mothers sacrifice so much, from their sleep to their education to their dreams to their ice cream, in order to take a hands-on role in building the future of our world. Mothers work harder, longer, more selflessly, and in more difficult circumstances than anyone else on earth I can think of. Mothers sacrifice, bleed, die for the world to continue to grow and hopefully be a better place than even they grew up in.

And for what?

Not honor. Not praise. Not glory. Not thanks.

Oh, no. Not in this world.

What we usually get is belittled, mocked, degraded, criticized, and condemned.

Why? Because we chose to put our children--YOUR future--ahead of our own needs. Ahead of, incredibly, a career.

Yes, we consent to be not queens, but second-class citizens because we chose not to do secretarial work, shelve books, read other people's research papers, and insert endless numbers of commas into other people's papers. Because we give up our figures, our youth, and our salary for so much more important work.

Interestingly, most of the persecution of mothers is done by other women, not by men. Other women are the ones who laugh in our faces and tell us outright that we are less of a woman for bearing children (instead of what? being a middle manager? teaching someone else's kids in pre-school instead of our own? serving in congress?). Women who chose not to have children.

But THAT is where mothers will, in the long run, be vindicated.

See, the career women who are, at best, condescending to mothers--they have what they chose, and they can't really do both. But we who chose motherhood first? We also can have a career because children are forever, but diapers aren't. Those "career women" will get, at most, two children when they are too old to really enjoy them--and maybe, if they do motherhood right, they might realize what they missed. And we who stay home and raise our babies, however many we choose to have? We can have a full, rewarding career, too, after the babies get big.

And they, who mock me now for my choices, if they pursued their choices the best way they know how, when we are all 90 years old, they will be surrounded by dozens of books they wrote that nobody reads anymore, dozens of papers that were published in journals that have been outdated, disproven, and forgotten, or dozens of employee of the month certificates. Oh, and I'll have those, too. But I will also, if I did it right, be surrounded by dozens of people who love me.

And Mother's Day, and the little flower I get (whether made of cookies or tissues or wilting in a little pot) reminds me that I'm not just investing in the world's future, but my own as well. It reminds me that I CAN have it all--we all can have it all--but only if we do it in the right order.

And it's worth it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Penny Pinching Tips

Calculating cost per diaper and also how much a diaper holds (some diapers have to be changed more frequently than others), the cheapest diaper you can get is Parent's Choice--the Wal-Mart store brand. And, if you have your kids in the right sizes, they leak less frequently than other brands, too.

Granted, Pampers are probably the best diaper out there. But they cost at least twice as much, and you just throw them away in the end anyway.

Penny Pinching Tips

Food really does take a huge chunk of people's income, but there is a cheap way to get it and a not-so-cheap way. How to do it cheap?

First of all, always cook at home. I can feed a family of seven for about $75 a week at home. Eating out--even the cheapest way I can find--costs at least a third of that for just one meal, which often doesn't leave anyone feeling full and usually isn't terribly nutritious. Not only cook at home, but make things from scratch whenever you can--hamburger helper costs more and feeds fewer than buying noodles, sauce, spices--you have to buy the hamburger either way!

Secondly, don't bother to clip coupons unless you MUST have the name-brand product. Then coupons can save you a bundle. But you can get the same products significantly cheaper if you wait for the store brand to go on sale and buy it instead. Most of the time, the store brand is just as good as (or better than) the name-brand product. Even when it's not, if you're shopping for small children like I am, they don't care.

So, instead of clipping coupons, watch the weekly ads. If they don't come to your mailbox each week, watch them online. Then, when products you use come on sale, stock up. I still spend about $75/week stocking up (like when I buy 50 lbs of hamburger in a week because it is $.99/lb), but I don't buy a single weeks' worth of groceries--I buy a bunch of what's on sale and then make good use of the cupboards and chest freezer. Doing this, I can make dinner for all 7 of us for $5. For everything.

Third, if you can muster the ability and space, plant a garden. A packet of pea seeds costs less than a dollar. You can't buy a pound of peas for that. Grow your own. We can't do this in Vegas easily, and I can't garden when I'm pregnant very well, but it really is a good idea to pay in work instead of in cash when you can. When you do plant a garden, we've found that it's wise to save some seed for next year so that you don't have to buy seeds each year. For example, we made jack-o-lanterns one year and saved a handful of seeds. I let them dry and then stored them in a ziploc bag. Come spring, we planted them and had TONS of pumpkin plants. We moved before we got to harvest the pumpkins, but the lesson was well learned--from one $2 pumpkin we got one halloween, we would have had enough pumpkins for each kid to have a jack-o-lantern the next year. For free.

By growing your own, if you can stand the work, you can have a winter's worth of canned or frozen fruit or veggies for pennies.

Penny Pinching Tips

Don't buy a full-sized version when you want to try a new product. Get a free sample.

How? There are lots of websites that promise free samples. One that I know is safe and reliable is There's a link for "free samples" right on their home page--and they offer lots of samples, and the offers change frequently. Currently, as I write this, you can get free samples of Pull-Ups, toilet paper, baby formula, two kinds of shampoo, doggie treats, and other products. Try it before you buy it.

Another way to get free samples (or coupons for heavily discounted products) is to go to the company's website. They often have promotional offers listed there. If not, click on the "comments" or "contact us" button--many sites allow you to fill in a form and make a comment/complaint about a product, and they often (but not always) reward your efforts with free samples/discount coupons.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Conductor vs Conductor

I have long been a fan of Tim Conway as the World's Oldest Conductor. Now Rowan Atkinson has come to my attention as a competitor for the title of world's funniest conducting performance....


For anyone who's ever dealt with an editor....

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Biltmore Who's Who?

First, read this article on "who's who" scams:

Since I'd already read that (I regularly read the Writer Beware Blog to keep myself scam-free), I knew when this letter came what it was.

But it still surprised me.

Here is what it says,

"Dear Rebecca S Jones,

You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent the professional and business community of Las Vegas, Nevada in the Biltmore 2009 Honors edition of Who's Who Among Executives and Professional Women."

At which point I let out a guffaw.

"Professional Women" doesn't mean what they think it does. At least, not in Las Vegas. Here, "Professional Women" are also called "prostitutes".

Later, it says, "The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate, based upon your current standing" (as a stay-at-home mom?) "as well as criteria from executive and professional rosters." (they value diaper-changing, baba filling, and soothing nightmaring toddlers? Who knew?). "Given your background, the Publishing Director believes your profile would make a fitting addition to our Honors Edition publication." (Why, because I had 5 kids in 7 years? Because I didn't cry when I received my 60th rejection for a novel I think is really pretty good?)

And, still later, "Your listing will share prominent space in the Biltmore Registry with thousands of fellow achievers..."

Right. "Prominent space...thousands of fellows." Do they know how little sense this makes?

So do I send their confirmation with "MOTHER" as the job title, "Jones Family" as the company, "Home" as the industry, and "staying up all night, not tripping on toys, and homeschooling" as my specialties? Or would "Americanized Mexican Food" be a better specialty? Or "Not cleaning house"? "Blogging when I should be cooking dinner?" "Baking cakes at midnight"? "Teaching small children"? Or just "nurturing"? "Homemaking sans housekeeping"?

If you read the blog post I cited at the top, you might find this statement a little suspicious, "Biltmore Who's Who is not associated or affiliated with...any other Who's Who Publication." Why is this small print suspicious? Well, the letter I received was word-for-word the same as the one mentioned on that blog in 2007. From a different Who's Who company.

Same scam, different name.

I think I'll throw it away.

Dark Creatures Make Me Happy, too

Another to bring a smile to your face:

Pirates make me happy

I rediscovered this today, and just thought I'd share it again--just to lighten your day. Doesn't Tim have a gorgeous voice? (He's singing all the parts except the piano).

The Pirate Song, by Mister Tim


Before this year, I could count the times I took the the kids to the doctor for anything other than well-child checkups on my fingers. Seriously. In almost 8 years and 5 kids, we've not had much go wrong.

Apparently the fates have realized things were unbalanced in our favor, and we're making up for it now.

In the first 4 months of 2009, I have been to the doctor with one kid or another almost every week--and sometimes twice a week.

We've had:

A new baby
A few well-child checkups
A couple of catch-up-on-shots visits and the accompanying week of torture after
SEVEN cases of RSV on seven different people
Bronchiolitis (in the newborn, so it came with a bunch of visits)
FOUR middle-ear infections in two children (and two of those infections won't go away after 3 courses of antibiotics)--and we'd never had this before ever
One ear canal infection
One new prescription for eyeglasses and the accompanying glasses purchase
Allergic nasal rhinitis (stuffy nose due to hay fever) in one of the kids
Several colds each (which didn't go to the doctor)
Disappearance and the reappearance with a vengeance Eczema
TWO plastic surgeries on two different little boys' private parts--and the accompanying preop and postop visits
A massive yeast infection (in one of the boys, no less!)
Diagnosis with a major, untreatable and incurable sleep disorder
And your usual assortment of bumps, bruises, scrapes, punctures, sports injuries, head bangs, and cat scratches that kids always come in with.

Oh, and our usual, everyday fibromyalgia and ADD that are just part of the background in our lives.

Anda is the only one who hasn't had a doctor visit yet, and that's only because I haven't found a week for her annual checkup yet that didn't have another appointment already scheduled.

On top of all that, we lived on tour for a month (while we had RSV) and, in addition to that month, Tim has been out of state working I think 8 or 9 times. So far. More to come.

So when the doctor asked me why I hadn't taken the kids all to the dentist yet, I nearly hit him.

I mean, that would open a whole nother bag of worms. Giant, flesh-eating worms, most likely, since all of the kids need dental work, not just a cleaning.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

If I didn't really believe it deeply, I wouldn't go....

Church today:

We got approximately 5 hours of sleep, interrupted, of course, with nursings, bad dreams, retrieving bottles, and "I can't sleep". Then we got up to get ready for Church.

Everyone needed showers or baths. I showered first and made it only into my underwear before I started everyone else. Caleb and Anda cooperated just fine. We had to pull the sleepy toddlers out of bed, take their diapers off, and plop them into the tub mostly asleep. Both refused to bathe and cried. Benji wouldn't even sit down, and screamed through a very fast shampoo. I couldn't even get Daniel shampooed.

Then just getting clothes on everyone, hair fixed, shoes found, diaper bag stocked is rough, especially since I couldn't let Nathanael see me or he'd want to nurse. I thought everyone else was ready to walk out the door when I realized I was still in my underwear only, and so was Dan. So we threw our clothes on and fixed our hair and ran out. Sans breakfast for anyone, but with a half dozen oranges in the diaper bag.

We were still half an hour late and missed the sacrament. Because a) Benji won't sit in the meeting and b) he thinks all those people are there as an audience for him and c) I was too tired to chase him and nurse the baby at the same time, we sat in the lobby. I used to swear I'd never do that. Now I'm just grateful I don't have to sit on those hard chairs in the back. Tim ran laps after Benji while I nursed.

When sacrament meeting was over, we collected the scattered stuff and then things got really difficult. Turns out someone offended Caleb in his class and the teachers didn't let him come find me--2 weeks ago--so he refused to go to primary. Daniel still prefers nursery, so he cried and refused to go to primary. Benji begged to go to nursery, though, so we split up. I took everyone but Benji to primary, and Tim went to nursery with Benji, who still won't go himself.

Anda went right to her class and sat down.

Caleb and Daniel hung on me in the back, protesting, while I juggled the baby. Eventually, the protesting boys got too loud, so we went in Daniel's classroom and set up the chairs and table for them. Then we heard a movie go on (Jesus' baptism, from the Bible), so they consented to go back and sit in the back.

I was just relaxing when I turned and looked back and found Tim holding a sobbing Benji. Apparently my decision to test and see if Benji would stay in nursery by himself 3 weeks ago was a BIG BIG mistake--now he is terrified of it and won't go at all!

So then we had four boys, all out of their classes. So I told Tim if he would take th baby, I'd be fine with the three in primary. We settled a protesting Caleb in the back row and said, "Don't go to your class, but stay here." Then took Dan and Benji to Dan's class, where they were having cookies, so they wanted to stay. Until Tim left. then Benji absolutely fell apart. So Tim sat with Dan in his class and I tried to take
Benji and baby to nursery, and Benji climbed the stairs into a classroom above the gym. I couldn't follow him, so I waited until the teacher noticed him and sent someone carrying him down. I took him into the nursery and he screamed bloody murder, so we left again. Back to Dan's class, and Tim took the baby.

A few minutes later he was back. The baby had exploded all over. First it was the diaper out the back--worst leak Tim said he's seen in all 5 kids! Then, while the baby was lying on his tummy on the counter in the bathroom (happily, even though that sounds horrid) and Tim was trying to get cascaded baby poop off his clothing, the baby started screaming. Tim turned to look and found Nathanael had vomited all over and was wiping his face in it! AND I had left the diaper bag in the hall by the nursery and forgot to tell Tim that, so we had a little bit of a circus getting the necessary supplies to clean up.

By then I decided I'd better check on Caleb, and I found him--crouching under a folding chair on the back row in Primary.

That problem addressed (he grudgingly got back on his seat and agreed to draw pictures), I found Dan and Benji refused to go back to class. So we found Tim and a naked-but-for-the-diaper Baby in an empty classroom, where we gave up. We let the boys draw with chalk on the blackboard while we tried to catch our breath until a class came in and kicked us out. (The teacher had written 'I will say I'm sorry' on the blackboard, so we were rather surprised when a group of 18-24 month olds walked in. Most of them are not only pre-literate, they're pre-verbal, too!)

We gathered our stuff and went to another room, fetched some chalk, changed another poopy diaper (Dan this time), and resumed our staring at each other, waiting for it to get past the awful point to the funny point. Daniel happily drew a huge picture of a skeleton firefighter who had a massive pumpkin in his firetruck and a hat that "always blows off". Benji eventually resumed running laps in the hall, with Tim at his heels, while I nursed again. And just as we were ready to gather our stuff and get the big kids, Caleb ran by in the hall. Primary was over.

There was a great deal of confusion as we tried to sort out who was coming with mommy to get Anda and who was going with Daddy right to the car. Somehow we managed to find everyone, get out of a building that has only single-wide doors as exits (no big quadruple doors into a foyer in that building!), and get to the car with no fatalities, although we did have to wait for a car to move so we could retrieve Anda's three pine cones that Benji had thrown under another car.

Oh, and did I mention Tim had already been to church once before this (6 hours in one day!) and, to get to church on time for the earlier meeting, he hadn't gone to bed the night before at all.

So, home again, he, Nathanael,and Benji all collapsed into bed. I asked Caleb how church was for him, and he said, "Great! I drew a picture of Hogwarts and planned five new levels for the computer game I'm making!"

Like I said, if I didn't know for sure that this was a true church, directed by God, I think I'd give up!

As it is, I took a deep breath and am trying to figure how we can get there on time next week, even if we only get 5 hours of sleep again. At least I ought to get the sacrament out of all this!

Did I just read that?

On the back of the new USB to Parallel printer cable we got, made by Gear Head:

"Portable Design: This compact and lightweight design requires minimal space for convenient travel."

Um...It's a CABLE. Only 5 feet long (so you have to be really close to your printer for it to work). Of COURSE it's portable and lightweight. Duh.

And how often do you need your PRINTER cable to be convenient for travel? Especially a parallel to USB converter cable!

That's not the only feature this cable has, though. The back of the box also claims, "Our Bi-Directional printer cable allows direct communications between your computer and your printer."

Wow! So that you can send print jobs to the printer, right? I'm glad you told me the printer cable does that, since that IS what a printer cable is for, after all.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I can't believe WalMart printed this!

This came in the mail today. I took these pictures myself (thus the poor quality--sorry), just so you know I'm not making this up, and it's not a photoshopped job I found on the internet somewhere.

Look at the entire page layout. See where the thin, pretty ladies are looking?

Now, up close on their expressions:

Maybe they're mocking the plus-size model because her teeth are crooked? Or is it because they get their clothes in petite sizes? Or perhaps it's that their sale prices for t-shirts are exactly half those the plus size woman has to pay?

Can someone tell me why the copy editor let this through?!

my baby