Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lemonade stands and ToysRUs

I know it's January, but we live in So. Cal and the kids decided to have a lemonade stand today.
It was awesome. It was their first time running their own business, so we had to teach them a few things, but Luc caught on pretty quickly.
I have fond memories of having lemonade stands out in front of my house in West LA. My friends and I would pick lemons from the tree in my backyard, add too much sugar and happily taste the concoction and add ingredients until it was just right. Then we would set up shop right outside my front door. We always had plenty of takers... the event must have gone well the first time, because I did it more times than I can count on my two hands.

Today's event was a success. We had two neighbor girls join our kids to help out. A few minutes after they had purchased drinks and cookies (yes, I made cookies and lemonade) they headed back to the stand with their own sign. They wanted to join in on the fun. I think that having a gaggle of kids helped with our sales. People couldn't pass up three adorable girls and one crazy boy. After about 90 minutes, the kids walked with a total of $16. For the record, we charged 25 cents for lemonade and 25 cents for two cookies. The kids got a lot of tips.

After we split up the profits, the kids wanted to spend their money immediately. We were already going to head to Toys R Us to procure a present for cousin Ben's birthday party (tomorrow), so we told them they could each put $10 in their wallets and pick out a toy. Man... I freakin' hate Toys R Us. Not because of the funky smell or all the rotten kids in there. I hate it because it is filled to the ceiling with crap. CRAP! If I never go there again it will be too soon. There are zero quality toys contained within the walls of this store. My kids picked up two toys and we couldn't decide on something for cousin. Everything is such a piece of junk. And I shop as a parent. I know what shit I would hate for my kid to get. I know what will be played with once and then cast aside into the toy chest, never to see the light of day again. So, we decided on some small trinket and a gift card. Let my sis-in-law decide what piece of junk she wants to let into her house.

Please, please let me remember this experience. Let me plan better for the next birthday party and give myself at least 10 days to look online for a quality (perhaps even made in the USA) toy for the birthday kid. I never want to go to Toys R Us again.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More HR-1... who wrote this shite?

I'm curious... who actually writes these proposed bills? I never really thought about it until now. But I'm sure the congresspeople themselves don't sit down and write out all the details. So, who does? Shouldn't we know? We do pay these people in a round-about way. I'm into a bunch of legal jargon of the bill that I don't understand, and that's why I'm bringing this up.

Okay... let's get to the money, baby! This is a summary only and doesn't contain all of the spending. I have a job and two children. My job isn't in the U.S. congress... if it were, then I would have every last detail for you fleshed out here....

Department of Agriculture:
For an additional amount for ‘‘Agriculture Buildings
and Facilities and Rental Payments’’, $44,000,000, for
necessary construction, repair, and improvement activities:
For an additional amount for ‘‘Buildings and Facilities’’, $209,000,000, for work on deferred maintenance at Agricultural Research Service facilities.
For an additional amount for ‘‘Salaries and Expenses,’’ $245,000,000, for the purpose of maintaining and modernizing the information technology system. For an additional amount for ‘‘Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations’’, $350,000,000, of which $175,000,000 is for necessary expenses to purchase and restore floodplain easement
For an additional amount for ‘‘Watershed Rehabilitation Program’’, $50,000,000, for necessary expenses to carry out rehabilitation of structural measures.

$5.8 billion for consolidated farm and rural development act.

$22,129,000,000 for loans to section 502 borrowers, of which $4,018,000,000 shall be for direct loans,and of which $18,111,000,000 shall be for unsubsidized guaranteed loans.

For an additional amount for the cost of broadband loans and loan guarantees, as authorized by the RuralElectrification Act of 1936 (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.) and for grants, $2,825,000,000

OK... I'm going to stop quoting here and add my own shit.
$1Billion dollars to the U.S. Census bureau. Wouldn't we do fine without a Censuse bureau?
Why do we need to spend a billion dollars here?

$35 Million for National Telecommunications and Information Administration. More administration... come on! This is to identify and track availability and adoption of broadband services within each state. Are you kidding me? Who comes up with this?

$2.825 Billion (yes, billion) for broadband deployment grants. Didn't we do just fine before broadband? Yes, my job depends upon it, but my in-laws and my mother... not so much.
Oh.. this includes some junk about the conversion analog. I don't need cable and neither do you. In fact, I'm calling my cable company on Monday to cancel.

$3 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance. Love law enforcement (hi Dad!) so I'm not going to say anything here.. have some thoughts but can't state them for fear of retribution from family:) Oh... here we go, another $1Billion for community oriented policing services. What the heck does that mean?


Holy crap... I'm only 55 pages in. How much more can there be. I'm guessing a lot of waste in education -- no, I'm not saying education is a waste of time, just that education bureaucracies now how to waste money.

There seems to be about $1.5 billion spent on defense. $2 billion spent on the Army Corp of Engineers. $500Million spent for water reclamation and water related resources. $18.5 billion for Energy programs. $500million for Defense Environmental cleanup.
Federal building fund, $7.7 billion (yeah, you read that right).

Oh, and isn't this nice of them... a whopping $426million for small business loans. How sweet that they thought of the little guy. Oh... there are a bunch of pages of legalese regarding such loans... so beware. Almost 20 pages, whereas, most of the other government programs had 1 or 2 pages. So watch out little guy.

$500Million for aviation security. I hate to fly anyway, so let's cut that out:)

Wow, how generous... $200Million for emergency food and shelter.

Road and bridge repair gets a whopping $325 million in the bill. I would have thought this was one of the priorities, but I guess the congress things otherwise. I was thinking Roosevelt with the stimulus, but the government had other ideas.

Shit... wildlife services gets almost as much as the road and bridge repair -- $300million! Well... that seems wise.

Oh... let's not forget the national mall. Gotta spend at least $200 million here.

And then we need another $200 million for Geological surveys.
And then there is the $8.4 billion tribal assistance. Don't we have casinos on almost every block now?

Wildland fire management $850 million. I'm cool with that.

$550 Million for Indinal health services.

Yes, we must have $50 million for the national endowment of the arts. Because, right now, I am really needing the arts to sustain me. Really. Oh... I still have to pay $12 admission and $4 for a soda????

$4Billion for the dept. of labor.

$2.18 billion for Health and Human Services

I'm 156 pages in and I'm done for tonight. Please, comment! I'll post more details tomorrow. I'm not an economist and trying not to judge. I just want to hold everyone accountable. I was happy to see Obama elected but worried that he would have a congress of the same party so there wouldn't be many checks. I'm afraid that there is too much of a disconnect between Washington and the folks in middle America. I'm afraid there is going to be too much waste, so that is why I'm trying to read this stuff.

Stimulus, schitimulus

OK... I'm all for economic stimulus right now. My husband's job isn't entirely dependent on this, given that he is in the healthcare industry. But some folks do decide to forgo physical therapy, especially if they are out of work. In addition, the government has already proven itself to be ineffective in running a healthcare system, aka, medicare. My husband is so far behind on receiving payments from them it is disgusting.
My job is more tied to the economy, in that many businesses may decide that they don't need premium Web hosting at this time and some of our big contracts may decide to put big projects on hold. Right now my job is OK, but who knows what could come in the next year or so.

I'm currently reading an entertaining piece titled "HR-1 Stimulus Package". It is quite a long read and I haven't finished it yet, but what I have read doesn't excite me. What this piece tells me, is that the government in power, much to my chagrin, has no interest in helping out Joe the Plumber any time soon. They are cozy in their warm houses, with their private schools and Whole Foods entrees. They don't seem to see the need to move quickly. Well, maybe they do, but quickly for them means 3 or 4 years. Too late for many Americans, but fine for them, since many of them were just voted into office.
I'm still smarting from the news yesterday about the bonuses some wall street bankers received well after TARP passed. Yes, the bonuses that President Obama was going on about yesterday were handed out after TARP passed -- a bill he supported. He may not have been president, but he certainly was a Senator and helped the passage. Couldn't they have put a clause in there that stipulated what exactly the funds could be used for? Yes, if they had taken the time. But they impressed upon us how urgent the matter was and they were working day and night for us to find a solution to the banking woes. But the solution doesn't seem to have reached the average American. The solution seems to simply have lined the pockets of more of these money-hungry theives.
Now, on to the bill....
Off the bat -- before I even get to numbers -- something strikes me as wrong. The time-frame for this thing. They call it "Use it or Lose It requirements"
Recipients of grants must enter into contracts or commitments not later than a year after the date of enactment of the Act or not later than 9 months after the grant is awarded to make use of half of the funds awarded and shall enter into contracts or commitments no later than 2 years after the date of the Act or not more than 21 months after the grant is awarded to make use of the remaining funds.

This doesn't strike me as urgent. 1 year... 2 years...? So, we won't even begin to stimulate the economy for at least 12 months from when the Act is enacted? And then, those contracts may be entered into, but they may not start for many months after. What are we looking at here? 3 years, 4 years before things even start moving? Sounds about right for government, but doesn't work for my neighbor who was laid off and is facing foreclosure now.

Okay, now we are getting to some meat. up to .5% of each amount appropriated in the act may be used for the expenses of management and oversight of the programs, grants and activities. Wouldn't these agencies already have management in place? Why the waste? Oh, now I see, because they "may be transferred by the head of the Federal department or agency involved to any other appropriate account within the department or agency for that purpose.

Next this Act will create an "accountability and transparency board". How do I get a job on this board? Sounds sweet! They are going to oversee the fund and make sure there is no abuse or fraud or waste. Wait... isn't the board itself a waste? This board will have 7 members. I wonder if the bill will list their salaries... haven't gotten to that yet, I'm only on page 20. Shite!
Cool, the board will be appropriated $14million to carry out its duties, including travel expenses.

OK... taking a break. More in my next post... probably later tonight.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Easy vegan dish the kids liked

I think this is vegan....
The kids liked it and it super easy to put together.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 block extra-firm tofu drained, diced
1/2 cup - 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 can black beans rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
oregano, cumin, salt and pepper -- I don't measure, just throw it in to my liking
cooked rice

Cook your rice according to how much you want and keep that warm.
Heat oil in skillet and add onion and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add tofu and carrots and cook that for about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring. Add beans, tomatoes and spices. Heat on low for about 5-10 minutes, stirring. Serve over rice.
It's got everything in there... no need for side dishes or anything, although my kids always demand fruit with their dinner.

Can I have this every night? Super cheap and easy!

Heading off to the Magic Kingdom this weekend for Amanda's birthday. We are going to surprise them with a stay at the hotel on site. They think we are going to stay with the grandparents -- they are going to freak!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Things you don't want to hear from your daughter at 5 a.m.

"Mommy, I peed my bed."
You roll over and realize she isn't sleeping in her own bed, she's in your bed!

Good morning!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I'm very lucky

When I was a kid, I had many sleepovers at friends houses. The one thing that all of these sleepovers had in common was that the dad in the house was never around. Not that they weren't living there, but if there was a sleepover, they quietly retreated to some other part of the house and let the mom take over all the duties of feeding the kids, calming everyone down if things got crazy, making sure everyone brushed their teeth and, of course, tucking everyone in.
Now our kids are having sleepovers -- granted, they are with cousins -- and my kids' dad is more involved in the sleepover than I am. He is right there ready to play games with the kids, help them pick out a movie and get them a treat to eat. For some reason, Phil is a kid magnet. They love to attack him -- pummel him with pillows, call him a silly-head, or pretend to chop his head off with a light saber. He is down with all that. Then, he rounds everyone up to brush their teeth. I gave everyone a quick kiss goodnight and now he is in there telling a long story. I can hear all this going on now. He is even asking for their input on how the story should go. Next he'll sing a couple of songs and then tell everyone goodnight.
This is how it always go and all I can think is that I'm so lucky.
There is something special about dads, especially if they are away at work all day. They come home and they aren't tired of the kids. They aren't looking at the clock counting down the minutes until they are "free" for a few hours. Phil often seems refreshed after a long day at work when he comes home to the kids and he can quiz them or help Luc with homework or read a book to them.
It sure wasn't that way when I was a kid and I wonder if it was just my dad or if it was just how things were back in the day.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll have to put the kids back to bed a few times before the night is through, but for now I have a few more minutes to myself as I can hear the story is still going on.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's resolutions, breakfast and curious things in the yard

Happy New Year!
We're two days into 2009 and it is already simply splendid:) Yesterday we went on our holiday hike up the treacherous Tarantula Hill. The weather was beautiful and I think we only heard one child request to be picked up ... I pretended I couldn't hear her. In the afternoon we headed over to the house of some good friends and had a really nice visit. We got there mid-afternoon and suddenly I looked at my watch and it was 7:30. With 5 kids bouncing around a house, that is a sign that things went really well.
Today we picked up cousin Ben and the three kids played, made crafts and ran around to music. There was only one little tiff between the boys and they quickly worked it out themselves. I managed to make a dinner that everyone liked and even found time to bake two loaves of bread -- they are cooling now (yum!).

Okay... on to new year's resolutions. I only have 3 this year and they aren't too tough.
1. Attempt to learn how to sew. I put attempt here because I am about the least crafty person you will ever meet. I could spend an hour trying to wrap a birthday present and it would still come out looking like a 3 year old did it. Anyway, I'd like to be able to sew some little clothes for Amanda's dolls or little purses for her to play with. My mom has a sewing machine that is collecting dust and she said she'll give me a few lessons. So, next week I'm going to attempt to learn the basics.

2. Grow something edible in my garden. We have a large yard compared to some houses around here. It's no ranch or farm, but the house is small, so there is quite a bit of dirt. Along the same lines of the craft business, all previous attempts at trying to grow things have met with disaster. This year, though, I'm going to plan things out and really give it my best shot. I think that is part of my problem. I'm not a planner. I want immediate results and I try the quickest way to do things. I now know that growing things takes time and work and planning. I'm going to get the right tools, the right ingredients and find out the right locations for the plants I want to grow. I won't know if this resolutions pans out until later in the year, but my planning starts now.

3. Purchase a bike and go on weekly rides with Lucas. Luc and I have a blast when we get a chance to spend one-on-one time. He loves to ride his bike, but it's not as much fun by himself with me walking behind. So, I'm going to save up a bit each paycheck and then find a nice used bike. I'd like to set aside special time for him and I to spend together. Amanda and I already have plenty of that because she is out of school before him and also he is involved in sports sometimes and I get to hang just with her.

That's it. I think these are all doable, but not so lame that they won't take any effort.

On to breakfast... I've got two loaves of bread cooling right now and I can barely keep Amanda away from them. I told her to look forward to breakfast tomorrow when she and I will have some nice toast with butter and jam on the bread. It's been a couple of months since I've baked bread because I've been so busy. I don't have a bread machine, so it does take a bit of time. But Amanda and Phil and I love to have the homemade stuff. Luc does not eat bread, so he won't be invited to breakfast tomorrow:)

There are curious things going on in my yard this winter. The apples on our tree did not come in this year and the few that did, never matured. Then, our tree sat there with leaves all fall. In fact, I was just noticing a couple of days ago how all of the leaves were still on the tree and they were mighty green. I went into the yard this morning and the leaves are all now yellow and suddenly half of them are on the ground. Normally this would have occured more than a month ago. Also, my camilias bloomed again about a month ago. They bloom in the spring (I love them) but that is it. They've never bloomed in the late fall or winter before. Very strange. I just cut back all my roses, even though they were still blooming (I had to do it while I have the time). I'll fertilize them this weekend. I know what you are going to say, "I thought you couldn't grow anything." Well, all of these plants and trees were here when we bought the house. All I have to do is water and ferlitize them. For some reason, if I personally put something into the ground, it decides to die.

Hope your 2009 will be happy and healthy!