Saturday, April 29, 2006


The saga of my in-laws continues. I know that I will get static about this post, from you men, but I can deal with that.

Last fall, Ma sold her delapidated Twin Cities duplex for $237,000. She originally paid $28,000 for the house, 35 years ago. Ma managed to pay off her house with $300/month from Social Security Disability and $90/month from her union pension. Renters occassionally supplemented Ma's income, but her schizophrenia kept her from keeping any long term renters. All of her kids have lived in her rental unit at one time or another. We lived there for 2 years, while L attended business school, when we were first married.

When Ma sold her house, she paid off her credit cards. None of the credit card debt was her own. Ma has excellent credit and several low interest cards. She had transferred 3 of her grandchildren's high interest car loans over to her credit cards, so the kids would have a lower car payment. Her 32 year old granddaughter skipped town and left Ma holding the bag on her debt. Nice show of gratitude, huh?

After paying off her cards, Ma kept $70,000 to supplement her income, and divided the rest among her 4 children's families. I think this is Ma's way of trying to make up for the miserable childhood she gave her kids. We divided our money evenly between the 4 of us. SME will use her money to further her education. Z's money is safely invested in bonds, in my Dad's name, with Z as the beneficiary. We paid off our house and truck loans, bought a couch and entertainment center, and still have $4,300 left to help pay for our garage. We have been debt free for 8 months! D and T enlarged their garage, bought a swimming pool, and blew the rest of the money on God knows what. They could have PAID THEIR BILLS for 3 years on this money!!

Ma has been bailing out 3 of her kids for the last 30 years, on her pathetic income. L's siblings have ALWAYS earned at least twice what we earn. We have NEVER asked Ma for a cent. Ma insists on being totally fair to her kids. When she gives money to one family, she gives an equal amount to all the families. Every year we get several checks, from Ma, ranging from $25-$1,500. This is an indication that she has, once again, saved one of the other 3 families from financial ruin. If we refuse to accept the money, Ma buys us something that we can't possibly use, with the money.

Last weekend, Ma kept insisting that we had been shortchanged at Christmas. We kept telling her that being debt free was the world's BEST Christmas present. Saturday afternoon, Ma had D and T take her to Kmart. They returned with the monstrosity pictured above. Don't get me wrong; we love to grill, and have a lovely 2 year old, 2 burner gas grill, which is perfect for our needs.

The grill Ma bought is designed for a patio or deck, NOT yard use. We DON'T WANT a deck or patio! The wheels are tiny, and there's no sturdy place to grab onto the grill to move it. The wheels have already sunk into our soggy yard, so that the sheet metal frame is in full contact with the lawn. I can't fathom the need for drawers on a grill. The only thing you could possibly store in the drawers are a grill brush and wood chips. The mice are going to love building nests in these cozy drawers! The grill's 714 sq inches of cooking space are equipped with cast iron grates. The weight of the cast iron makes this monstrosity IMPOSSIBLE to move! I can't wait to see how long it takes the cast iron to rust. Fortunately, the grill is equipped with 3 burners. This means that we'll only have to light one burner when we BBQ, as we'll NEVER fill 714 sq inches of cooking space! L BBQd for the 6 of us on Sunday night and only used 2/3 of the grill space.

In addition, D and T bought us a canvas grill cover, and a "professional" set of BBQ tools, to the tune of $50, which they added to their credit card. The BBQ tools are HUGE and unwieldy. The tongs alone weigh 1 1/2 lbs! In addition, they're so long that the tools won't fit in any of our cupboards. Where the hell are we going to store them?

True to Tim Taylor's (Home Improvement) theory of "more power", L LOVES his new grill. I personally think it's obscene to pay $379 for something we'll only use 5 months out of the year! We only paid $399 for our new radiant kitchen range, complete with self-cleaning oven.

Go ahead men; let me have it. Tell me how this grill is EVERY man's wet dream of outdoor cuisine. Enjoy the following picture of L happily cooking away on his MONSTROSITY!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Budgeting 101

I'm recovering from a 3-day visit from L's brother(D), sister-in-law(T), and mother (Ma). Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws; they're good people. BUT, like all of us, they have issues! I'm sorry, but, sometimes their issues DRIVE ME OVER THE EDGE!

D and T are 58 years old. They own a duplex in the Twin Cities. T makes $500/month in Social Security Disablity. D has been unemployed for 3 years. Ma recently sold her house and is currently living in D and T's rental unit for $800/month. D's nephew is renting their basement bedroom for $300/month. This income covers their $1600/month house payment.

In addition D and T's 27 year old son is supposed to be paying them $300/month for room and board. Unfortunately, sonny boy has refused to work for the last 3 months! He prefers to sit in his room playing video games and entertaining his friends.

According to my figures, their son's $300/month is all the money they have to pay utilities, car expenses, food, and everything else. I don't know about you, but I can't run a household on $300/month.

This situation sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? Don't worry; when the going gets tough, fly off to Vegas for a vacation! And don't forget to buy a shitload of expensive souvenirs. We are now the proud? owners of the 18 inch, plush, vibrating dolphin, pictured above. WHY would a dolphin vibrate, other than for purely kinky reasons? We can't get rid of this "souvenir", as D and T visit us on a regular basis.

What bothers me the most about the dolphin, is that every time I see it, I'm reminded of how close my in-laws are to being homeless.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Rednecks No More

I haven't been in the blogworld much this week. I MISS all you guys! It's been a hectic week, but we've accomplished a LOT!

Z has been hogging the computer this week, doing his schoolwork. What a bad boy! I think Spring has helped get his creative juices flowing. He is currently working on a short story. I'll have him post it to his blog when he finishes.

We had beautiful weather, early in the week. In our spare time, we managed to get 3/4 of our yard raked. The other 1/4 is still too wet to rake. We finished raking just in time for it to dump rain on us for 2 days. The frost isn't completely out yet, so the water is standing in pools EVERYWHERE!

After MANY trips to the courthouse, we were finally granted a building permit for our garage. Now we're busy clearing the area for construction. We have several bushes to uproot, and a bunch of firewood residue to clear away.

L's brother, sister-in-law, and mother are here for a 3 day visit. Yesterday I had L and his brother load up the old water heater, two gas grills, an old wading pool, and other assorted clutter, to haul away to the recycling center. Our side yard is now officially DE-rednecked!

Z's room cleaning project got siderailed while we were working outside. Hopefully we will be able to finish it before garage construction begins.

I've got MANY blog topics running wild in my head. I hope that I will have time to write them soon. I hope that I will be able to catch up on your blogs this week.

Right now I have to go start breakfast and laundry, before my guests haul their butts out of bed.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

Today marks the end of our decorating season, that started with Halloween. I know, I COULD decorate for the 4th of July, but that's always seemed like an outdoor holiday to me. So we settle for hanging out our flag on July 4th.

The pictures are of art projects Z did in kindergarten. The top pic is Z's "Elegant Egg" hanging from our kitchen ceiling. Z actually made this egg in the fall. His class studied a letter of the alphabet every week and made an art project that started with that letter. I can still remember how proud he was of his beautiful, "Elegant Egg".

The bottom pic is a bunny made from 2 eggs. One of the eggs is cut in half to make the ears. As always, my kid's artwork is my favorite decoration.

As usual, we had my parents over for brunch this morning. I served the traditional egg bake, Danish coffee cake, and Easter eggs that Z and L dyed last night.

Z got season 1 of RobotChicken on DVD, from the Easter bunny. He and L are currently laughing themselves sick in the living room.

We'll be having Easter dinner at my parent's house. This year we're having prime rib. My Dad makes the world's greatest prime rib! I'm so grateful that my whole family is healthy and happy for another holiday.

Easter will always be the holiday of eternal love to me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bottled Water

Wednesday's Duluth News Tribune had an interesting article on the popularity of bottled water.

Corporate Accountability International conducted a test at UMD to see if students could tell the difference between AquaFina and Dasani bottled waters and the tap water from Duluth and Minneapolis. Most of the students couldn't correctly identify 1 out of 4 of the samples. Most of them identified Duluth tap water as Dasani.

Here are a few facts about bottled water:

A 2000 study found that 1/4 of bottled water had higher levels of bacteria than Cleveland tap water.

On average, a gallon of bottled water costs the same as a gallon of gasoline. Vending machine bottled water is 3 times the cost of gasoline!

Americans are the largest consumer of bottled water, using 56 BILLION, 16-oz plastic bottles each year!

It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil per year to make the plastic for bottled water. That's enough fuel to power 100,000 cars for a year.

It takes more water to make a plastic bottle, than it does to fill it.

86% of plastic water bottles in the U.S. aren't recycled.

I can understand buying an occassional bottle of water, instead of pop, when you're away from home. But many people stock their refrigerators with these bottles.
I also realize that many areas of the country have nasty tasting tap water. There are still options other than individual plastic bottles.

Most of us have tap water that's virtually identical to bottled water. Start drinking it! You'll save yourself a bundle and be helping the environment at the same time.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I'm Still Here

I'm writing my 114th post, on the 1st day, of my 2nd year of blogging. What an interesting year this has been!

I'd wanted to start a website ever since Z was diagnosed with TS. I desperately wanted to talk to other people who are dealing with TS. I also wanted to help educate the public about TS. There's a LOT of misinformation and sensationalizing in the media about Tourette's Syndrome. I feel it's the responsibility of those of us affected by this disorder, to get the word out about what it's REALLY like to struggle with an overactive brain.

I checked out free web pages and found that they were too complicated. I didn't have time to learn how to produce a decent looking web site. THEN, my daughter discovered Blogger! She started her blog in January 2005. I lurked around for several months and finally decided that I needed a blogger identity. While setting up my identity, I discovered that it's just as easy to set up a blog.

I met my first blog friend, Wandering Coyote, on my daughter's blog. From WC's blog, I met Great White Bear. The rest of my first blog friends were discovered through GWB's blog troll, Logic Monkey, who has since converted his blog to an ad for long-distance phone cards. While arguing with Logic Monkey, I met Laura, Zydeco Fish, Squirl, Shawn and several others who have now quit blogging. Logic Monkey's only defender, Sam Woods, started his own blog (Underground Logician). While reading UL, I discovered the Zombieslayer. Through ZS, I met Bridget Jones, Notta Wallflower, Sadie, Vest, and many others.

I met my greatest mentor in understanding TS, Sagepaper, through a TS link. Our family will be forever grateful to Sage, for all her insight! My homeschooling buddy, Grizzly Mama, has been a great source of moral support.

In recent months several of my favorite bloggers have quit blogging. But, I have also made several new blog friends: Vancouver Voyeur, Candace(another homeschooler), Davey, and Faltenin. I guess that blogging reflects the great circle of life in some ways.

TS and homeschooling were my original missions when I started blogging. I'm happy to report that it has developed into way more than that. I have learned so much from all of you. I've developed a few lasting friendships; we can NEVER have too many friends. I routinely chat with people around the world. What a fabulous experience this has been. THANK YOU, MY FRIENDS!!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Boss returned to work on Thursday. We spent some time discussing her trip; the weather, what she thought of her daughter's new house, the status of friends and relatives she visited on the way. Then I filled her in on events that happened in her absence; births, deaths, hospitalizations, progress on economic developments in our area. Eventually, I eased into the topic of one of DW's minor indiscretions. Boss instantly went on the defensive. OK, if that's the way she wants it! I hope she doesn't expect me, or her other 3 hard-working, faithful employees, to sympathize when the situation bites HER in the ass!

Our Boss is a generous, hard-working woman, but she's a TERRIBLE manager. She never takes the time to properly train new employees, or clearly state the rules of employment. She avoids confrontations at all costs, and will take up the slack of shirking employees, by doing the work herself. She is also hopeless at prioritizing and money management. L and I have always hoped to buy the business from her, when she retires. With the condition of her personal finances, she'll be working until they lock the lid on her coffin. Oh well, I guess this gives us job security.

Thursday morning, L had an appointment with his hearing aid people. His left hearing aid had, ONCE AGAIN, broken into numerous pieces. To top it off, his right hearing aid quit working Wednesday afternoon. A word of advice...don't EVER buy a SIEMANS hearing aid! They're a piece of shit! Unfortunately, this company holds a monopoly with every insurance company, and Medicare, in northern MN. It makes me wonder who they bought off for this privilege. I have gone to pick up L's repaired hearing aids several times. You wouldn't believe the horror stories I have heard from ALL the other customers, while sitting in the waiting room! NOBODY is happy with their product! The last time they glued and melted L's hearing aid back into one piece, the technician? said that L was having problems because he was a "high end" user. This means that L is foolish enough to use his hearing aids, ALL day, EVERY day! WTF?! Isn't that the purpose of hearing aids; so you can hear during ALL your waking hours? Anyhoo, now we ALL have to suffer through TWO WEEKS of L without hearing aids, while they are being "repaired"!! I think it's time for a scathing letter to the State Attorney General's office!

Up until Thursday, we were making progress in Z's room. The floor was cleared and we had started sorting through his shelves. Thursday morning, L discovered that Z had once again filled his floor with clutter. Z's OCD, once again, sabotages our efforts! I threw a hissy-fit when I got home from work. Then Z and I sat down and discussed the situation. He now realizes that the cluttered state of his room is affecting every aspect of his life. He now realizes that he needs to gain control of his personal space in order to feel good about himself. This will pave the way for him to finish all the school projects that he has started. Z now understands why his psychologist insisted that organizing his room was a priority project.

After our talk, Z and I decided to take the rest of the day off and go shopping for some necessities that were on sale at Menards. While there, Z found a $50 D&D type computer game, that he had been wanting, for $6. I purchased a box of Pot of Gold chocolates for $3.99. Ah, the comforting effects of shopping!