Saturday, January 31, 2009


In a strange twist of fate I received an email from a teacher at Kid's school today. She is having a baby and looking for a home based daycare setting... for only the 160 days that they have school.

Not quite 6 hours before I received that email, I had just been talking about how I'd love to have just ONE kid to watch during the day. But, I lamented, I didn't want to be tied down during the long summer break. I told Mr F "wouldn't it be great if I could get a teacher's kid?".

They can't afford to pay what I would have asked. They can't even afford minimum wage. But it's money and you know we need it! And it will be good for Baby to have some company around. It isn't enough to pay for Kid's tuition... but it will certainly help ease the financial burden.

Anyone who knows will tell you it is very hard for teachers to find a daycare that doesn't make them pay to hold their child's spot year round. I imagine it is just as hard to find a child to watch whose parent's don't mind you closing for 3 months in the summer. This would truly be a win-win situation!

Getting to love on a baby (after the colicky period no less) and not have to night parent them (or travel with them)?!! It's almost my dream come true.

The Cozy Coupe has been a big hit.  She insisted on having the "baby panel" put in so that it is like a bed inside and likes to be pushed around like royalty.  She even eats in there.
All preschool parents should recognize these characters.  Baby is a HUGE fan of "Max & Ruby". She is pretty much obsessed with them.  So I was stoked to find these Max & Ruby beanie babies online.  I made a replica of their house out of a cardboard box (yes you should be impressed.... sadly Baby wasn't).
So far Kid has gotten a little more milage out of our freecycle pink pony score.  That's fine... it keeps her away from the Cozy Coupe (which Baby enters Duke's of Hazard style despite it's fully operational door).

Kid has been pretty concerned about all things birthday and has some set ideas about how everything should go down.  This morning she started grilling me about the cake.

"But what kind of cake is it?  Max & Ruby, gingerbread.... what?!" Kid insists.

"I'm not going to tell you... you keep telling her everything." Mrs F replies.

"I won't tell." Kid promises.

"Okay, an ice cream cake." Mrs F reveals.

"But I don't like ice cream!" Kid announces at top volume.

Thanks for keeping the secret Kid...

How Did I Miss This?!!

Also known as holy fucking shit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Still Breathing

Thank you for all the comments and wonderful support. Really. If not for my blogging friends I don't know where I'd be some days. You all have seen me through more than a few hard times this past year. And I thank you for it. I sometimes question how realistically I should portray our life. It would be easy enough to post pictures and funny sayings and paint a very different look into our lives. But I think the risk I take in putting it all out there has more than paid off in making real genuine friends. My goal is not to get people's pity or to be melodramatic. My goal has been to share the full picture truth of our life. I know what it is like to read magazines and blogs that depict a perfect life and how inadequate that can make your own life seem sometimes. I have always hoped that by putting up our strengths and our weaknesses that you would see how common they are. And take comfort that you are not alone in yours. And through your comments and support I have discovered we are not alone in ours.

My dad is here.

He's taking Baby shopping to pick out whatever would make him the "greatest person in the world" to her. I finally figured out what that would be. I think he'll be getting ONE of these.

She's going to go bananas.

Where You See Emotional Eating... I See Little Nuggets Of Heaven

Two of those little beauties are filled with strawberry jam, almond meal & a few drops of almond extract. They helped... some.

Baby was partial to the ones filled with semi-sweet chocolate.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If You're Already Depressed Don't Watch This Video

It might not even be a good idea to put this up. But seeing as I'm always trying to keep things real around here I will. Long story short it's just another day wherein I wake up to find out we owe even more unexpected money to more people. It never ends. It just never freaking ends.

Oh... and... right after I shot that our brand new washing machine broke (I'm sure it's covered under warrenty... but still). It's like the Twilight Zone over here.


Ever since Baby went bipedal something in me changed too. Whenever I'd hear her quick little pitty-pat coming my way I'd be overcome with an irresistible urge... the urge to hide.

And I don't mean cover my head with a blanket, but be otherwise completely visible, kind of hiding... as is more of the norm amongst toddlers' parents. No I'm not talking about peek a boo. I mean run for your life "you are being hunted by a predator" kind of hiding.

I can't even explain it. I love her. I'm not even trying to get away from her... I just have to do it.

So say it's 5 o'clock and I'm in the kitchen cooking and Baby knows I'm in the kitchen cooking. She wants a cookie. I hear her coming. Her pace is picking up and I start feeling antsy. I can't help myself. I take off running down the hallway and quickly (and silently) shove myself down in the bottom of the linen closet. And hold my breath.

I imagine a normal toddler would come in the kitchen look around and say "Mommy?!" somewhat befuddled. Not Baby. Baby is like a miniature Jason Bourne. She knows I'm not in the kitchen before she even gets there. She doesn't even slow down. It's like she's got a built-in homing device. Without breaking stride she keeps going straight to the linen closet. She gets down on all fours and presses her big chubby cheeked grinning face up to the crack... and says "Mommy... cookie."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dinner Is Served

I've been kicking this recipe around for the past couple of weeks. Every member of my house loves it... so I've decided it has passed the taste test and I'm putting it up. It's basically an asian flavored noodle dish... kind of reminds me of Vietnamese style noodles in that it isn't as saucy as say a lo mein dish and the light sauce is almost absorbed by the noodles. It is super light while still being flavorful. Once your pasta water is boiling this whole dish cooks in 10 minutes. Seriously.

Scallion & Ginger Shrimp With Noodles

12 ounces angel hair pasta (could of course use a package of thin rice noodles)
8 oz frozen raw shrimp
2 c frozen broccoli florets (could use 1 head of fresh cut into pieces)
2 bunch green onions, chopped into small pieces (white & geen parts)
3 T chopped ginger (medium fine dice)
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 c soy sauce, reduced sodium*
1 T rice wine vinegar ( I used seasoned)
1/2 c chicken broth (or water) used as needed

Start pot of water to a boil for pasta. With a pasta insert I throw the frozen broccoli in the boiling (salted) water for 2 minutes (you can do this with the fresh broccoli too). Take broccoli out, drain, and set aside. In large skillet heat oil over med-high flame. Add ginger and scallions and saute for a minute. Add soy sauce cooking the ginger & scallions together for another minute or two. Add the frozen shrimp and cook until cooked through (5-6 minutes for frozen about 2-3 for fresh). While the shrimp cooks and the soy sauce cooks down add chicken broth a tablespoon at a time to keep a small amount of steaming liquid. Put pasta in the pot and boil as directed (2-4 minutes). The pasta and the shrimp should be done at about the same time. While they cook chop your cooked broccoli into small florets. When the shrimp is cooked through I remove them and dice them and put them back in (it's easier for the kids) you can do that or just leave them whole. Season the shrimp and ginger and scallions with the rice wine vinegar. Taste your cooking liquid and season with extra soy sauce or salt if needed! There should be about a half cup of cooking liquid in the pan if not add more broth. When the pasta is done drain it and add it to the shrimp in the saute pan. Add the broccoli to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and toss everything together. I find tongs especially useful for this.

*Reduced (or Low) Sodium Soy Sauce is imperative in this recipe... because we reduce the sauce over heat the saltiness only intensifies as it cooks down... with regular soy sauce I found the recipe to be WAY to salty.

This makes 4 portions at 250 calories each (and it costs about $7)

Here's how to do all that in 10 minutes:

Dump your broccoli in the water
Peel and chop your ginger
Take the broccoli out and set aside
Put the oil in your saute pan and heat
Chop your scallions
Add ginger & scallions to pan
Chop your broccoli
Add shrimp to your pan
Adjust pan liquid as needed
Cook your noodles
Season shrimp with vinegar (and soy sauce if needed)
Dump noodles and broccoli in and toss

Baby really did like it...

Holy Schnikeys

Alright, I was doing my daily blog perusing and stumbled upon the best freaking deal ever!
First of all this is legitimate.  

Go to  Search for restaurants in your area.  This site typically offers gift certificates for dine-in restaurants for about 60% off.  So you can get a $25 gift certificate for $10.  But it gets better because from now until Saturday the 31st they are offering  70% off your total order (code: SUPER).  That means you can get restaurant gift certificates for 90% off.

At first I thought the restaurants would be cheesy chains... no... they are all independent restaurants.  Each one has their own restrictions (like not applicable towards alcohol... but some exclude weekends so check first).  I got a $25 off for $10 to one of the nicest restaurants in town.  Then I got two $10 off for $3 to a local pizza joint.  So that's $45 worth of food for $16... but after the discount I got $45 worth of food for ... get this... $4.50!!!  

The fancy restaurant requires us to order at least $35 worth of food to use the $25 off certificate... so that's $10 out of pocket for a nice meal.  The pizza joint requires a $15 order to use the $10 off certificate... so we can get a whole pizza and drinks for $5 out of pocket.  Craziness!  Add that all up and we'll pay $24.50 out of pocket (gift certificates and cash needed at restaurants to get a qualifying order) and have 3 restaurant meals out for a family of four.  I think that is a deal.

And we really needed something like this to come our way.  My dad is coming into town this weekend for Baby's birthday and offered to babysit the kids so Mr F and I could go out.  I was kind of upset since we couldn't afford to go anywhere.  Now we can!


"When I'm on The Biggest Loser I'm going to be on the pink team." Kid confidently announces.

I don't know what is funnier... what Kid said... or that when I told Mr F his first reaction was not to laugh, or say "hey she'd have to be morbidly obese", no his first reaction was ..."You don't get to pick your team".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Putting Perspective On Hard Times

THIS is fascinating. Trust me.

How To Blow Your Savings In 7 Years... The Furious Way

For long time readers who are wondering how things could have gotten so bad so fast for us... I'm going to walk you through it. It's been a steady combination of bad luck and bad decisions.

#1 Before we had kids we had some money in investments. That money was invested in a fairly aggressive manner in hopes of earning as much money as possible over the long run.

#2 When we moved to Michigan we dropped down to one income. But that income turned out to never be quite enough and we supplemented out of our investments. That was a decision we consciously made so that I could stay home but it means that for the last 7 years we haven't saved any money... we have essentially been living off our savings. Oops.

#3 Since Mr F had been self employed the majority of his working career he had no retirement fund. Our investments really needed to act as that. However, we needed them to cover his business taxes EVERY single freaking year. So that depleted them further. Oops.

#4 We lived life as we were accustomed to living it as two working people... on one insufficient salary. Oops.

#5 After struggling to make ends meet (unsuccessfully) we moved from a down turned housing market in Michigan to an expensive regional resort area that hadn't dropped it's prices yet. We bought a fairly equivalent home and it cost us quite a bit more to do that... not too mention all the closing costs on both homes. Oops.

#6 We took a gamble on Mr F's job, which didn't quite pay enough, but knew we could still supplement with freelance.... until we moved and the freelance job went under. Oops.

#7 Kid ended up at a private school the tuition for which was supposed to be covered by the aforementioned freelance job. Did I mention that we lost that one week after signing the school contract and making our deposits. That's okay Mr F's bonus should cover it.... but then he didn't get a bonus. Oops.

#8 Our new medical insurance has $60 copays and we have a daughter who sees a specialist just about every month. Oh and they didn't cover her EEG and now are contesting my injury treatments on the premise that they were caused by an accident. Don't worry I'm fighting it... cause that's 1000 bucks right there.

So that's pretty much the long and short of how we have gone from hopeful to desperate in 6 months. I mean we moved here because we believed it was our best shot at moving ahead financially. Our number one goal was to stop taking money out of our investments so that we could have a stable future. But that isn't how things have turned out. Factor in that our house didn't convey any appliances which we charged to a 0% Lowe's card (which will be due in July) and that we will owe SEVERAL thousand dollars to MI and the IRS for Mr F's freelance income back in Michigan (in... oh... 11 weeks) and you can see why we're selling his car.

The good news is that we still have some money invested (it's just tanked at the moment). And if we are unable to scrape things together we will use that to pay off the taxes and the Lowe's account. But that is a last resort tactic. Mr F's new job does not have a retirement savings program and we need what we have to remain untouched and give it time to recoup what we lost... which will take YEARS. We also have NO cash whatsoever and really need to have that money in case things get worse. Until then I'm just going to do whatever I have to do to try and get things to balance out and still be able to stay home with Baby.

If we can make it through the next 6 months I am confident we will be in a much more stable situation. I still have hope that in the next couple of years we can move forward financially. If anything this time has taught me how many ways there are to cut back... and that you don't have to suffer (too much) to do it... and that's a positive lesson.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Don't Even Know How To Feel About This Crazy Development

I just found out, from our old neighbor Angie, that our Ann Arbor house just got put back on the market. WTF?! That crazy lady practically forced us to move out in less than 3 weeks and now she's selling it?!

And she's asking 30K over our selling price.

It's been 6 months... in Michigan... good luck with that!

Video Update

The Great School Debate

Things have been going well mood wise around the house... but just under the surface I am starting to really sweat the school issue. We just can't afford to continue to send Kid to her current school. Private school is shockingly expensive here and we needed Mr F's bonus and an anticipated yearly raise to make ends meet. Neither of those are looking very likely and things are beyond tight. There is really not much more we can do. I'm struggling to lower our food costs and Mr F is selling his car... so when I say things are tight I really, really, mean it.

Taking her out of school is an unfortunate necessity at this point. She'll finish out the year but there is just no way we can swing another year's tuition. This year's has already pushed us past the point of comfort. But pulling her out isn't easy either. Kid suffers from pretty severe social anxiety. And I'm not just saying that. I mean it's a real problem.

We held her back from Kindergarten in Michigan, which was the best possible decision we could have made for her, and that extra year did help her... some. But being the "new" kid is excrutiatingly difficult for her. She has made herself comfortable at her new school. She is doing very well socially and has become a social leader among her classmates. That is a triumphant accomplishment for a sensitive kid who compares herself to others in a very self-depreciating way... on just about every single level (except looks... she's pretty into her long golden hair!). Her current social comfort is a reflection, in no small part, on the particularly wonderful group of kids she just happened to be placed with. Kids, who due to the very small nature of the school, would be her classmates all the way through the 8th grade. She has taken great comfort in that thought.

Even still Kid is a kid who rips up her artwork if it isn't perfect enough. She comes home and announces (daily) that she is the only kid who doesn't know how to: read, spell, add, play violin, swim in the deep end, climb Mt Everest. She refuses to preform on any type of test, and is routinely under evaluated because of it. Long story short the girl has got ISSUES. She is intensely observant... and to her... everyone else's strengths exaggerate her weaknesses. She's smart (and hysterically funny)... but school isn't as easy for her as it is for others.

Right now, with LOTS of coaching from yours truly, she has got a set of teachers who (for the most part) get her. She is thriving (beyond my wildest imagination). She's still got her issues but they are not holding her back as much as they used to. She wants to go to school everyday (unheard of!) and loves all her friends. And lets face it... happiness should count for something. She is in an environment that has nurtured her quirks and allowed her to blossom in spite of them. At the same time, we can't jeopardize our financial health when there are other schooling options. And while I don't know that the other schools will fail to bring her out of her shell... I fear it... and that fear can be almost paralyzing.

It's a hard time for me since I will be the one to make and carry out this decision. The completely ridiculous school system here isn't helping matters. It would be one thing if I could know what school I was preparing her for. I have filled out the Magnet application and will be submitting it next week. It will be another couple of months before I find out her placement. In the meantime I will also apply to all the charter schools and hope (against hope) that she manages to snag a spot (available only if someone vacates a spot and then we win it by lottery). In April or May I will weigh our options (including homeschooling) and see where I think her best interest lies.

But I know she will be heartbroken to leave the small comfortable space she's made for herself among friendly faces. Especially since not even a year ago she said goodbye to her childhood friends in Michigan. That's a lot of unwanted change for a socially anxious kid... any kid for that matter.

It's tough, too, since I have completely no control. I have to just wait and see what spots we're offered and hope that what is best for her presents itself. I am thankful that this transition will happen after the summer break so that she will have already spent some time away from her classmates and the adjustment won't seem so abrupt (I hope). But seeing as there is no way we could ever afford to send Baby to preschool (or have either child take any type of extracurricular class) and afford Kid's tuition we'd have to pull her out sooner or later. So hopefully sooner, while hard right now, will be easier in the long run.

Listen, I know to most people the decision would be a no brainer. Take her out and put her in whatever free school you get into. "She'll do just fine!" But when your child has an issue and you find them a place that allows for them to develop confidence (and is markedly happier than she has ever been) it isn't so easy to pull her out. She loves her current school because she is happy socially. Taking her out is one of the hardest things I'll have to do. It's killing me. I want to do what is best for her but can't. This is one case where what is best for the family isn't best for everyone in the family... and Kid is taking a hit for the team.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aw Yeah...

Warning: This post will have absolutely no meaning if you haven't spent part of your life in Southeast Michigan!

What does that look like folks?!

If you said an Olga than you know how astatic we all were to be having one of these babies grace our tummies this weekend.

How could it be?! You aren't back in Michigan are you?!

No! We're right here sitting in our little old house in North Carolina.

Last week I stumbled upon a posting of the Olga bread recipe and I just about had a coronary. There isn't a member of this house (is there anyone in the world?!) who doesn't swoon at the sight (and taste) of Olga bread served up in any fashion.

Since there is absolutely no chance that we'll be having a real Olga anytime soon I thought it was worth making a trial batch... just to see.

They were surprisingly easy to make (and I say that as someone who bakes everyday so keep that in mind... easy for me... not necessarily easy for everyone). It's basically like making a pizza dough and then rolling out small rounds and pan frying them (no oil) much like tortillas. So if you've made either of those you're good to go. This bread is slightly sweet, slightly yeasty, and more dense and chewy than a traditional flatbread. In highschool I'd go to the food court and eat nothing but Olga bread for lunch. It is seriously good. The home version was pretty close. I have a feeling some oil might actually be used to fry these up in the restaurant... they were missing a little something. Nonetheless we'll be making them again... probably next week.

Kid said "Mom these aren't like Olga's... they are better than Olga's!"

Without further ado the recipe...

Olga Bread
I have no idea where this was taken from... sorry!

1 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup margarine (I use butter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg

Scald milk, remove to large bowl. Add honey, margarine and salt to milk; stir until margarine is melted. Set aside to cool until lukewarm. Combine yeast, warm water and sugar; stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour to lukewarm milk mixture and beat well. Mix in egg and yeast mixture. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until sticky dough is formed. Turn out on a floured surface; knead about two minutes. Dough will be sticky, but don’t add more flour. Place dough in oiled bowl, turning once to oil whole surface of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough; divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece to a thin rough circle about 1/8 inch thick and 8-10 inches in diameter.

Heat a large dry skillet over medium-high heat; do not use any oil. Bake 15 seconds, flip and bake about 10 seconds on other side, until mottled brown spots appear. Do not over cook. Cool and store in a plastic bag, use them at once or refrigerate or freeze. Makes 16.

*I halved the recipe to turn out 8 - 8" ish small flatbreads. I also found the cooking time to be about 30 sec per side.
(wondering how you halve an egg?... I get that a lot... just beat it and then pour in half)

We didn't have any shaved lamb or olga sauce on hand but I managed to do a pretty good knock off of the Olga Burger.
We had these crazy 1/3 pound hamburger patties in the freezer so I used those up slicing them to fit (about 1/6 pound for each). I topped the bread with mayo and seasoned it generously with house seasoning (1 part garlic powder, 1 part ground pepper, 4 parts salt). I put ketchup under the burger and topped with sliced red onion. I swear to God it tasted exactly like the Olga burger you know and love. (I should know... I ate at least one a week throughout my pregnancies).

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