Saturday, October 11, 2008

Today's Harvest

The past 24 hours have been a little hectic, so we spent today digging potatoes in the garden, ripping up our sunflowers, corn, and tomato plants, and wondering what in the world to do with the bed still overflowing with prickly borage.

Last night wasn't nearly so much fun. I spent a couple of hours in the ER after not feeling the baby move for 48 hours and waking up at 7am with mild cramping. I'm not the type to run to a doctor, but The Husband was worried enough to come home early from work, so off I went. Before I left, The Husband pressed his cheek to my tummy and told the baby that he loved it and he knew it'd be all right. "Behave for your Mommy, okay?" One last kiss to my stomach. "I'd feel better if the baby had a name," I said without knowing why.

It took the nurse nearly 20 minutes to find the baby's heartbeat. I was sweating bullets, even though I know that ER nurses aren't nearly as adept at this sort of thing as a nurse or doc at an OB/GYN office. Finally, we heard the heartbeat, and at that exact moment, my little one let out an enormous kick and bounced that doppler right off of my stomach. I know, little one. I should never have disturbed you.

I was ready to go home at that point, but the doctor had different ideas, of course. I had a full battery of blood work drawn, gave a urine sample, and was wheeled in for an ultrasound, grumbling all the way. Once I heard baby's heart beating, I knew things were fine. It was glorious to see that baby moving on the ultrasound screen though! The first question from the woman doing the ultrasound was whether or not I wanted to know the sex. Daniel had made a point of telling me before I left for the hospital that I'd better find out the sex of the baby if given the chance. He knows all too well that I'd rather be surprised, but this pregnancy has been all about compromise, so I agreed. As soon as the image shifted to that secret spot between the baby's legs, I knew it was a girl. Though I'd been getting boy vibes for the whole pregnancy, I wasn't surprised. The one name we had agreed on had been for a girl. The baby had had her name all along.

Armed with new ultrasound photos to show the kids, a handful of Vicodin (what? Doesn't your doctor prescribe Vicodin for adominal pain that you've described as mild and a 2 on a scale of 1-10?), and a "diagnosis" connecting my normally low blood pressure with a lethargic but undistressed baby (yeah, right), I finally got in the car and rambled on home. The Husband was relieved, as was I. I still couldn't get her to move today until I decided to put some pressure on my uterus. Then she poked delicately at my hand.

Airius had some trouble adjusting to the idea of a baby sister this morning. After all, the boy had flipped a coin and been told our baby was a boy! He's coming around though. I told him we may still keep the baby in his room for awhile, which is what he really wants. He's jealous that his sisters always have each other for company. Maybe we'll move the twins back in together and let The Bean share a room with the baby. I don't know. Anyone have any suggestions?

Today's harvest, artfully arranged by garden girl Annie in a basket received from a Freecycle offer. I'll talk more about the results of the garden in another post, but for now I'm resting with my children, those in the here and now and those whose faces I have yet to see. Love, love, love.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sanitizing Your Gardening Pots

As I sat in the optometrist's waiting room a week or so ago, I thumbed distractedly through the pages of an Organic Gardening magazine. I came across a very short article on container gardens and began to read through their provided checklist. Imagine my surprise when it was stressed that sanitizing your pots with bleach was a necessary way to prevent diseases from year to year. I should have taken down the issue number, but I didn't. A search on their website quickly yielded up another article recommending the same diluted bleach to clean your pots. Ugh.

Not only is bleach bad for your plants, bad for you, and bad for the environment, it's corrosive and will break down your pots over time. Now, to be fair, household bleach does not contribute to the greenhouse effect or harm the ozone layer. There are all kinds of arguments about how household bleach begins and ends as salt water, and that may be true (though watch carefully in these arguments for things like "90-95% of household bleach breaks down into salt and water." What happens to that other 5-10%?). HOWEVER, this is a chemical I don't even keep in my home for three reasons: Airius, Annie, and The Bean. Whether it begins and ends harmlessly, it is most definitely not harmless while it's sitting in that plastic bottle in your house.

While I'd like to say that it's not necessary to disinfect your pots, that just isn't true. But I'll take my container veggies and herbs without the bleach residue, thank you very much. If you're like me, consider the following disinfecting/sanitizing options sans bleach:

1. When faced with anything calling for bleach, I first try that handy dandy standby: distilled white vinegar. Use a solution of half water, half white vinegar in your sink or other container and soak pots for an hour. This is what I use for all of my pots, especially plastic, but you can use it for glazed and terra cotta pots too. This is a good all purpose solution.

2. I have disinfected my terra cotta pots in the oven set on 220 degrees Farenheit for one hour. This will kill just about everything that might affect your plants. Obviously, this method is not best for large pots or plastic. It takes up a lot of time and oven space, and it uses precious energy too. I wonder if this can be done in a solar oven? Hmmmm... Please remember that, like any other crockery, the pots will be blazing hot when they come out of the oven!

Both of the above methods are effective and, in my view, safer than the use of bleach. Does anyone else have a garden pot sanitizing/disinfecting tip they'd like to share?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Break From the Seriousness

My first handmade preschool gift, from my sweet Annie. Be still my heart...

Annie hadn't even made it all the way down the aisle of the bus before she was excitedly saying that she had a gift for me. When she put the sparkly plastic beaded bracelet in my hand, I admit that I choked up just a bit. How I love this child. So considerate. So thoughtful. So very loving.

Thank you, my sweetheart. I won't take it off. Promise.

EFFAK-- Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

I know, I know. I've been posting around the issue of the economic crisis lately rather than addressing it directly. The truth is, though, that I honestly believe I'll be raising my children during the next Great Depression. I could outline my thought process for you, but there are a million other bloggers out there who are already doing a much better job at it than I could. Let it just suffice to say that my thoughts of late have been almost exclusively bent towards emergency preparedness, be it immediate things that we need (warm pajamas for the kids) or more longterm items (a year's supply of food). Maybe it's the blogs I read, but I haven't seen many posts at all geared towards financial preparedness. Everyone seems to simply be in lockdown mode.

So here I am to share a wonderful tool with you all. It's called the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, or EFFAK. Basically, the EFFAK helps the user to identify key financial documents and organize them effectively so that financial stability can be maintained during an emergency. Think of it as a quick reference when you need to have things at hand right now.

One kit per household should be sufficient, but be sure that all of your various accounts and assets are included. If you and your partner(s) or child(ren) have separate bank accounts, for example, make sure they all make their way into your file, not just your joint accounts. It may take you awhile to complete the kit, but believe me, it is well worth it. I recommend that you do this together with anyone who will be sharing your kit. Not only will you both be aware of what is included and what the importance of each item is, but it will give anyone who isn't always the most involved party in the finances a chance to get an overview of things.

One more piece of advice. It's always best to have a backup of your backup, so please consider making a copy of your EFFAK and storing it in a safety deposit box at your bank, credit union, or other institution. Though I didn't think of it myself, I've seen it recommended that you mail a copy of your EFFAK, in a sealed envelope, to your attorney to be opened in the case of personal incapacitation. Don't forget that your personal home EFFAK copy should be stored in a fireproof safe or other reliable storage container.

To print your free EFFAK, visit Not only do they provide you with the kit, they also provide you with more advice and helpful information than I provided in this post. The linked page will also give you access to their Personal Disaster Preparedness Guide in case you need a jumping off point for general emergency preparedness as well.

Here's hoping you never have to use this kit, friends. Good luck.

Anyone else with tips on preparing your finances or financial documents to weather any storm?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Craigslist vs. eBay-- When to Use One or the Other

When I decided earlier this year to begin The Great Declutter, my immediate thought was to sell on eBay. I'd both sold and bought items there before without any problems, and I didn't really know anything about craigslist. I should have done my research, but I was eager to get started and jumped right into an eBay selling bonanza!

Things went well until I started to sell larger items that I wasn't willing to ship because of the cost to the buyer and the inconvenience to me for having to haul a humongous box to the post office while also ensuring the safety of three small children across a busy parking lot. It was here, with the "Local Pickup Only" option, that I ran into a wall. Again and again I would sell an item, only to be sent a message, sometimes days or even weeks after the auction had ended, stating that the buyer hadn't noticed that the item was for local pickup only and that they couldn't drive from Florida or Oregon or Maryland or Wherever to pick it up. Oops! So sorry. Oh, and can I have a refund of my money? I put "Local Pickup Only" in bold, red letters on these listings. I threatened that money would not be refunded if buyer reneged on pickup. I sent messages to people before auctions ended if it looked like they were going to win and their address was listed outside of Ohio. All to no avail.

*sigh* This may seem like no big deal, but consider this: each time this happens, I have to relist the item, incurring double the eBay fees. It may be only $0.15, but I'm trying to make money, not lose it. Besides, with someone as inherenty frugal as I am, any fee makes my heart race a little faster. Double fees make me violently ill.

Enter craigslist. At this wonderful site, there are no fees (unless you're posting a job ad, I think). The buyer must contact you for information on pickup or shipping. You know you're getting someone local. Another feature is that you get to set your price. There is no bidding, so you don't have to wonder what you're going to get at the end of a sale.

Woah. Back up! Did you say there were no fees!? Then why don't you just sell everything on craigslist and tell eBay where to go? The answer is this, my friends: $$$$. I know, it sounds horrible, but it's true! When you have an item that is collectible or where you're really unsure of how much you should list it for, eBay is usually the better bet, especially if it's something that is easily shipped. Remember, with eBay, you can sell both nationally and internationally. You're catering to a much broader customer base. Maybe your town doesn't have a huge Star Trek fanbase (yeah, I don't know how that's possible either), but there is a fanbase out there. With eBay, they'll come to you. With craigslist, your customer base is much more focused and limited. If your item is large or you have a definite price in mind, craigslist is probably your best bet. So, to summarize:

--If your item is small, easily shipped, collectible, and/or you are unsure of its value, eBay is probably the wisest choice.

--If your item is large, expensive or unwieldy to ship or transport, or is worth a definitive amount of money, try craigslist first.

It took me a few painful run-ins with the wall before I learned this lesson, but thus far things seem to be working out much better now that I'm utilizing both of the above mentioned options. The attic is clearing out a little more every day, and our emergency fund is growing once more. With the economic downturn our country is in, I'm sure someone out there will benefit from this simple formula.