A Little Ray of Sunshine

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interior decorating

One thing I've learned from moving . . . six times in as many years of marriage. We regularly shift furniture (at least every six months). When we do someday (hopefully) own our own home, built-ins are not for us. Except for a pantry and closets, that is. One learns a lot from renting a number of houses. Such as: I really, really like a formal dining room. A great room (such as we currently have) becomes chaos. I might be happiest in a 200 year old house with a proper parlour! (Unfortunately, combining my antique tastes with my husband's modern tastes is . . . difficult. I like heavy, ornate wood peices, he likes streamlined metal and plastic.)

As my husband's business has taken off it has become necessary for him to have an 'office' where he can work on computers without being invaded by little boys. The invaders are particularly hazardous to the business when he's at his regular job. So we've rearranged one room to accomedate this. Now I just need to find a babygate. The ladies at the local thrift store know I want one. (Ooh, geek topic: is there anything cooler than a customer who needs an MS-DOS computer for his business? Or getting to rebuild said computer?) The office, unfortunately, has to share with the bed my mother uses on her monthly visits, and the pantry and other food storage (the pantry in this rental is not big enough).

This amount of rearranging has left me with homeless sewing stuff. This is a big deal. Tripping-over-in-the-living-room big. (Because as anyone who sews knows, the amount of sewing projects quickly exceeds any and all storage containers puchased to contain them.) So naturally, all the other rooms need to be rearranged, right? Plus baby's crib (which he doesn't much use yet) is over a heater vent, not a problem in the summer but now it's winter, it's not a good location. So our room has to be done.

The landlord is done with the vast majority of the interior affecting construction stuff. There is still roofing to be put on, and the mudroom is nothing but framing and pressboard, no interior wall yet, no doors either, but the windows are done. So now we can move most things around without regard for construction.

Our greenhouse is still hanging on, it's gotten down to about 22 in town so far. Still very few ripe tomatos, though plenty of green. It is probably just too chilly for them to ripen, we may have to pick them and ripen them indoors.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Where I start from

Arielle's comment on my last post got me thinking a bit about where I came from in starting preparing for disasters. I grew up in a place where winter storms regularly took the power grid down, so I came by it naturally. One useful link is this http://www.captaindaves.com/guide/ particularly the first chapter, entitled OK, but what do I prepare for? Another is this http://www.bob-oracle.com/ which gives lists of stuff to stash in various places just in case. Don't think you need to do all the things either author list, lots of them don't apply to your situation. For example, my husband has no use for the suggestions at the BOB oracle for a work bag. It's geared to the sort of person who might be trapped in an urban office building for an extended period of time, perhaps by the power grid going down. Well, he works two blocks from home. We have found the car bag extreemly useful, but if you don't drive, what's the point?
The Captain Dave site is a favorite of mine whenever we move (six times in six years) to reassess our situation. Where we are now winter grid-down and summer wildfires are our biggest concerns. We're so far from everywhere that we're unlikely to be targeted by terrorists, experience civil unrest, or be the ground zero of a pandemic. There're no chemical plants nearby. So you see where I start from. We need to be able to stay warm and fed for several weeks if there's a bad ice storm and the lines go down all over the place. Or, we need to be able to get out quickly if there's a fire. I have to say, I am not particularly organized.

Having a backpack with a change of clothes for everyone (in the children's case in the size bigger than they currently wear because I am cheap and will not buy an extra outfit for this purpose) and a few diapers, and making a practice of keeping shoes by the door and half a tank of gas in the minivan is enough prep for our peace of mind for a fire. Beau can do Hummer's seat belt, Hemi can do his own, so we can just jump in and go. The key to pulling this off quickly is having children who obey. Of course, that's also the key to liking your children, so I hope anyone reading this has already invested the time in it.
As far as winter grid-down, if you have a wood stove and a reasonable supply of wood, you're halfway there. If you don't, you'd probably better have a friend who'll let you camp out by theirs. Most fireplaces won't cut it, though the Rumsfeld type are supposed to. Have enough food that's easy to fix, canned chilli or whatever, to see you through, and sufficient bottled water. Plan on wearing your outdoor gear indoors. Sanitation: babywipes are good, but the toilet will probably crack. A bucket with a lid, like detergent comes in, can replace the toilet for a time. Take that stuff with you to your woodstove owning friend's.
That gets you through the disaster. It's not a huge amount to do. It doesn't take much organizing (except maybe picking up a couple cases of food and water the next time there's a sale on something your family eats).
Depending on what disasters you think most likely, your plans will be different. Planning is easiest if you're willing and able to drop back a tech level or two temporarily. (Generally if you're healthy, you can get by without electricity for a time, so skip the generator.)

The rest of preparation is mostly psycological. Who can you afford to help and under what circumstances? What if you get the evacuation notice and your children have friends over? If your next door neighbor comes knocking because he's out of food a week into the power outage? It's not stuff you dwell on, just consider when it comes up and make a decision. (Tell the neighbor you'll let him know in an hour. Throw the friends in the car and worry about getting them back to their parents later.) Having made the decision during an unstressed time (like now) means you don't have to make it then, when you may not be thinking clearly, and there will always be plenty of things you missed thinking of in advance.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A thought on preparing

Those of you who've 'known' me a while know that preparedness is one of my 'things'. Some of you it makes squirm, (Hi, Pretty Lady!) some, it's one of your 'things' too (Hi, Desert Cat!).

So many of the potential scenarios for trouble these days require similar responses. Depression? Peak Oil? Results run much the same. You know? We can almost put together a one-size-fits-all sort of plan. A one-size-fits-most plan, anyway. Or maybe it's a several-sizes-fit-all. There's the 'run away' class plans. It doesn't make much difference if it's a wildfire or a chemical spill, evacuation is pretty much evacuation. There's the 'long collapse' plan (that would be your generic economic collapse, peak oil). There's the 'hide-thru-the-worst' plan (pandemic or civil unrest), which in general is just an addition to the front end of the 'long collapse'. There's the 'personal disaster' (lost job) plan, where the rest of the world goes on functioning but your part stops. But aside from the run-aways, the preperations for the other three pretty much look the same.

I find that really interesting, and really a rather persuasive reason to prepare. Because while all of the above can't possibly happen, or would make others moot points if they did happen, the odds are pretty good that one of them will. And you don't have to do all that much to adapt from one to another.

So hop on out to the store and pick up some extra beans and grains. Food prices have already gone up, folks, and whether you prefer taxes, ethenol, crop failures, or greed as your cause, you can make a pretty good case that they'll keep going up. If nothing else happens, your food investment will save your money value for six months, right?

BTW, if you haven't had buckwheat, you're missing out. Yummy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As far as the local school goes

My husband, the computer guy, got caught by the elementary teachers this morning. Seems they were having some trouble teaching writing to their lefty students!

My thought is that after he led off with the line 'My three year old is left handed and my wife is teaching him to write by . . .' they probably all gave a collective sigh of relief that they would not be dealing with Beau, now five-years-old, in kindergarten next year. Kids who already know more than the year's material can be so disruptive.

Because of the cutoff dates Beau would have another year before kindergarten. He has a friend, just a month older, who is in kindergarten this fall. So far his buddy has been doing the same sorts of academic work that Beau did last year for 'preschool'. Mindboggling.

I got my brain picked by a fifteen year old bagger at the grocery the other day who wanted to know how to convence her parents to homeschool her because 'They don't even teach algebra anymore in High School.'

This is not a bad district. It is a very wealthy district. There are laptops for every child in every classroom from third grade up. Every room has a smartboard. Every teacher has a desktop in the classroom and a laptop to take home. You couldn't drive down the street by the schools all summer for the construction. But there's no Algebra class.

I am not sure what the root cause of the problems is. I'm not sure the system is fixable. The teachers have good intentions; I know many of them. But the schools are broken anyway. Kids are dropping out as soon as they turn sixteen. Unskilled labor commands an excellent wage, one many urban areas do not match. The school cannot match the oppertunity of the job market. Living expenses are very high, and I suspect a fair percentage of the dropouts are helping keep a roof over the family's heads. They certainly aren't moving out: there's no where to move to!

I suggested to the High Schooler that she needed to find a way to home school herself, and pay for it herself, and be very accountable for her schoolwork, perhaps by using her job to pay for distance university classes, because she said her parents were worried about cost and how much work it would be for them. She is a year younger than the cut-off for mandatory attendence, and obviously not stupid.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Teaching your Lefty to Write I

I've done a bit of looking, and there's just not much on the subject out there. Hemi, my 3.5 year old, is the lefty. So, fortunately, is Daddy. This leads to hasty phone calls to Daddy at work: 'Honey, am I doing this right?'

So. Teaching your Lefty to Write. Because there might just be some righty homeschooler out there with a lefty and without instant 'tech support'.

Most (all?) handwriting worksheets available online are designed for righties. You can use them, but ignore the directions. I like the www.donnayoung.org site for worksheets, but there are plenty of others.

The lefty holds his pencil in his left hand, but otherwise like a righty would. He will probably naturally curl his hand around over the line. This is not very important because of our quick-drying inks, but it used to be the way of preventing ink from smearing. If he's working in pencil, as most begining writers do, be prepared for smears on the page, his left arm, and his shirt sleeve. He holds his paper with his right hand. For lines: verticle and diagonal, the lefty starts at the bottom and goes to the top.