2. If My Husband Made as Much as Yours – Surviving on a Single Income Pt. 2

 

Welcome back to part two of Surviving on a Single Income.


Just stumbling in here? Read Part 1.

Before you take the plunge, it is crucial to define a purpose.  Why exactly are you doing this?  It’s hard and exhausting work being at home with little ones.  It’s easy to lose your sense of identity when your life is suddenly defined by your husband’s job or your children’s milestones.  The tangible markers of success are gone.  As the cars age, and aren’t replaced, your neighbors and friends begin to realize you don’t have as much money as them.  And in American culture, that can be tough.

Let’s talk American culture a bit.  Why, you ask?  No matter how you look at it, choosing to be a two-parent, single-income family is counter-culture.  Going against the tide of modern culture can be empowering, but it can be draining.  Here’s the rub.  Americans have big houses, newer cars, matching stainless steel appliances, and fashionable clothes.  They also have college degrees, careers with titles, and company swag.  There is an emotional sacrifice when you leave behind the intellectual conversions and feelings of importance that come with a job.  Equally, there are poignant costs to giving up the material items like cars and multiple team sports for your kids.  Some days you’ll feel great about bucking the culture.  Other days it will seem like its sucking your soul away.

A purpose anchors you when you start to second guess your choices.  I have my eye on a $2200 refrigerator.  It’s pretty.  It has everything you could possibly want in a fridge.  LED lights.  Drawers galore.  A working icemaker!!!!  Trust me, every time I pull out the duct tape to “repair” my 18-year-old ugly beast, I think, “If I had a job, I could get a new one.”  And then the pity party starts.  And sometimes I even get a little mad or pouty.  At times like these (and trust me they come), I have to go back to my anchor, my purpose.  Why am I really doing this?

Everyone’s purpose for living on less will vary.  If you’re like our family, there will be multiple reasons, and they will morph over time.

Some purposes to consider:

  • Staying Home with Your Children – American culture is fairly accepting of mothers being home with their babies.  Dads, good luck.  I know fathers do it, but let’s be honest.  Dads will face much more scrutiny if they stay home.  Be prepared for it.  If it’s what your family needs, do it.  Just know that dads may face more opposition than moms.  What about older children?  American culture seems to expect both parents to work once children are school-aged.  In our family, we disagree.  Children face a whole new set of milestones once school starts, many of which will factor in to the adult they become.   You can read more about influencing your child  here.
  • Special Needs or Ill Child – Perhaps your child has a chronic illness that requires frequent doctor and therapist visits.  Juggling work with this type of demand can leave you feeling like a failure both at work and at home.  You may have a child that requires extra attention or recurrent parent meetings at school.  In these cases, it is often simpler for one parent to not work.  However, don’t discount the financial strain.  Both our children had medical needs that were financially draining and time consuming.
  • Living on Less – You may decide to reduce your income simply to force yourself to live frugally.  Reduce your footprint on the world.  Enjoy the simple life. Perhaps you have hobbies you want to pursue.  Also, don’t forget that both can work while only living on one income.  This is an excellent way to eliminate existing debt or save for a home or retirement.
  • Launch a Business – You may be ready to fire your boss and launch your own business.  When starting a new business, you can expect to not make any money, and maybe lose some, the first 3-5 years.  Living on a single income will be critical in the early years of your endeavor.
  • Aging Parents – I never thought this would be the case for us since we have young children.  However, cancer struck both our mothers.  My mother had no one to care for her except us.  For two years (and counting), we have been her caregivers.  Currently she’s in a nursing home, but there is still a time and financial commitment, though not as much as when she lived with us.  As your parents age, they will need help with yard work, cleaning, appointments.  They may eventually need your full time care.  We firmly believe the family is the first line of help.  Our culture has mistakenly moved away from adult children caring for parents.
  • Homeschooling – With more and more schools focusing on standardized tests while failing at educating our children, families are turning inward for education.  Most parents, with enough commitment and resources (curriculum, support groups, co-ops, etc.) can educate their children.
  • Hobbies/Giving Back – Maybe you are ready to pursue something for yourself.  Hobbies often are exchanged for the rat race of the career world.  Or perhaps you’re ready to volunteer at your local school, homeless shelter, or library.  Giving up an income to give back is a noble sacrifice.
  • Retirement – One day we’ll all be there.  With inflation, it’s not a bad idea to learn to live on less so that our retirement fund lasts us all the way through.  Who really wants to come out of retirement because they ran out of money?  And if you’re at retirement age, you know that the retirement check is less than the paycheck you’re accustomed to.

Some of these purposes will apply to you, or you may have a completely different reasoning for living on one income.  No matter.  The important thing is that you know WHY you are doing this.  Write it down and keep it in a safe place.  Decide what you will tell family and friends who think you are nuts or simply want to know more.  And what will you tell the nosey stranger in the grocery store?

A final note on coveting.  Exodus 20:17 is the 10th commandment.  It reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  I’ve never paid much attention to this one.  I always thought of coveting someone’s house as wanting a Hollywood home.  And I don’t have neighbors with 10,000 sq ft homes.  So, nothing to covet, right?  WRONG!  Let’s be realistic.  I may not want my neighbor’s wife (because I don’t want a wife), but I do find myself sometimes wishing I had the income she brings in and all the things that come with it.  And I’d love to have someone mow my yard or clean my house.  Hmmmm, maybe this commandment is more applicable than I’d like to admit.  Coveting gets us into all kinds of trouble.  We spend more than we have.  We get angry, jealous, moody.  We feel like we’ve failed or our spouse has failed us.  It leads to whole host of negative feelings that only bring harm on us.  Fight the urge to want what others have.  Remember, they too have sacrificed to gain those things.  They may very well have sacrificed things you aren’t willing to forfeit.

Next time, I’ll dive into the nitty gritty of it.  You’ll get to see what we actually do to survive on one income!  Until next time…

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1. If My Husband Made as Much as Yours – Surviving on a Single Income – Pt. 1

 

I started writing this as a single post, but quickly realized it was dragging out.  There is so much to say on the topic of surviving, and even thriving, on a single income.  I decided to break it into a series, though I’m not sure how many parts yet.  So here we go….

I knew a woman who would make occasional comments regarding our wealth, usually when we had something that she didn’t.  “If Bob (named changed, naturally) made that much, we could go for a weekend trip to the river.” HA! this makes me laugh hysterically!  We’re not wealthy.  I don’t think she meant to be rude, but she seemed to think we had loads of money, and she made of habit of saying things like, “If my husband made as much as yours, we could have a nice house.”  One of my favorite shirts that I sleep in I bought at The Gap when I was in 8th grade.  Let’s just say that was well over 20 years ago.  I still have clothes from college, though few of them fit well.  By American standards, we aren’t wealthy.  Living on a single income isn’t easy, and it’s a conscious choice that we made and prepared for.  There are trade-offs, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes.  Here are a few ideas that have helped our journey.

There are many who say that you can’t raise a family on one income these days.  Tell that to a single parent!  However, the choice for a two-parent family to become single income is not an easy one.  It takes work, planning, and discipline.  Even if you choose to be dual income, it is wise to put yourself in a situation in which you could make it on one income.  Kids get sick.  Babies arrive.  Companies downsize.  Spouses pass away.  Parents need care.  Better to be prepared than caught off guard, especially when it comes to providing for your family.

In the end, it is important to be at peace with your decision.  If you decide to be single income, don’t whine about it.  You chose it!  Embrace it!  Living on less isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding if you CHOOSE to accept the rewards.  The rewards are not tangible, which is difficult in a materialistic society.  People know your wealth based on the things you own.  Time with your children, on the other hand, cannot be measured with dollars or new cars.

Before I get into how we do it, I want to debunk a few myths on single-income savings.  Some experts say you can save tons of money by Mom (or Dad) staying home.  And some of their examples are totally bogus.

  • Get rid of a vehicle.  Um, ya.  That’ll be peachy.  You go from working in an office, having social contact to being trapped in a house  All.Day.Long. with small children.  The savings on the car payment won’t even begin to cover the cost of your therapist.
  • Gas Savings.  These experts say you won’t be commuting, so you won’t be buying as much gas.  Ask any mom how much gas they spend driving their kids around.  If you stay home with your kids, you’ll be heading to the park, the pool, play dates, and anywhere else that helps everyone stay sane.  The increased gas cost will reduce the need for the therapist.
  • My favorite, however, is the clothing savings.  I guess these experts think stay at home moms will dig through the neighbor’s garbage for fabric scraps to sew their own clothes.  I don’t even know how to work a sewing machine, so I either go naked or buy them.  No you don’t need career apparel, but you still need clothes to wear to the grocery store, church, the occasional date with hubby, etc.  Unless you live in a nudist commune.  Then by all means, enjoy the savings.  But don’t invite me over for a visit.  If you’re anything like me, your butt gets bigger every year and you have to replace those clothes.  That, or the kids decorate your favorite shirt with Sharpies.
  • Dining out will cease since Mom (or Dad) is staying home to prepare nutritious home cooked meals.  Ok, my first year at home was the exact opposite.  I manage to scrape the spit-up off my third outfit of the day, spray on some perfume, and have the diaper bag packed by 5:18.  That’s exactly when hubby walked through the door.  Before he could sit down, I turned him around, headed out the door, and said, “Where would you like to go to dinner?”  Of course, only places that served margaritas were permitted.  We spent a fortune eating out in the beginning.

In the next post I’ll talk about setting a purpose.  Probably more than that.  I’m still writing this all out and trying to divide it so it’s actually useful!

Stay tuned….

Raised by the Herd

Let’s be very clear, I’m not a scientist.  However, I do know that every species raises its young differently.  Some hatch from eggs completely independent while others are nurtured by one or more adults.  As for humans, we think our young are raised in small family units.  Realistically, in America, as throughout the industrialized world today, children are raised in herds.  But not the typical animal herd.  Look at herds in the animal world.  The young aren’t separated.  Instead they are surrounded by adults.  Of course, adults leave the herd to hunt or do other things.  The human herd is opposite.  Humans group 20 to 30 young together with one adult.  In a good scenario, there may be only 10 young in the herd.  Each herd of children will have an adult who is likely not related to anyone in the herd.  We don’t want bias or favoritism, do we?  The rest of the adults in the herd leave this single adult to handle everything.  Keep the young safe.  Teach them how to survive and thrive.  Help them discover their place and purpose in the herd.

I know I’m not the only who sees the flaw in this thinking.  Every species that raises its young that I know of (again, I’m no expert here) does not isolate the young from the adults.  Plainly, even creatures with less cognitive capabilities understand that  offspring require a lot of guidance, time, and energy.

I began to see the effects of this in my daughter.  No matter how stellar the adults caring for her were, so many of her decisions were influenced by the rational of fellow 9 year olds.  What better way to learn decision-making skills than from a group of 3rd graders?  And then there is the concept of group thought and group emotion.  That starts in infancy.  Test it yourself.  Place 6 babies in a room.  When one begins to cry, watch how the other five follow.  Why?  Because children haven’t learned to think independently.  And they won’t learn it from other children who can’t think independently.

Children need adults.

We are a drop off society.  We drop off our children and go about our own lives, separate from them.  School and daycare are the most common.  But let’s not forget dance, sports, gymnastics, scouts, church, and the list goes on.  When we attend something, it’s often as a spectator.  We go to the concert, meet, game, or recital….and watch from the sidelines.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think children should spend every moment with their parents.  Good grief, I’d have a 42 year old “child” living in my house one day if I believed that!  Children NEED to interact with peers and other adults.  I plan to launch my children at a healthy age.  To do this they must learn to socialize, work in groups, stand up to a bully, deal with a slacker, say no to pressure, and make mistakes.

What I am questioning is have we gone to far?  Do we rely on other people so much that we have little influence on our own children?  I’ve found it very empowering and liberating to take control of this area of our family life.  It takes a lot more time on my part.  To be honest, sometimes I don’t want to be there for everything.  I have things I need wish to do.  But then I remind myself that I WANTED these kiddos.  And I only get a few years to do this.  Once they’re launched, I can travel, have more hobbies, have a better social life.  For now, I like being an active participant.  If something goes wrong, I see it before its out of control.  If I’m failing at something, it’s evident sooner.  And best of all, I’m shaping their worldview.  There are things I’m passionate about that I want them to learn.  To fully understand.  Faith.  Peace.  Family.  Role of government.  Self-Image in the skinny-and-sex-obsessed society.  So much to impart.  I’m not giving up that precious little time.  I’m sure our kids won’t get the world view I desire from their peers.

So what does this look like in our family?  Both our kids are competitive gymnasts.  They spend 6-9 hours a week at workouts.  Most of the time, I’m sitting on the sides watching.  I hear the coaches.  I can see where they are struggling and their achievements.  I make mental notes and start conversations on the way home while the events are still fresh.  The teams they workout with range from first graders to seniors in high school.  Car conversations vary from goal setting to skills to boyfriends to pubic hair.  Was I standing over them the when someone told them about pubic hair?  Nope.  But I’m there enough that it’s comfortable to talk about it.  Our children attend a half day private school.  This places a greater responsibility on the parent while maintaining a traditional classroom setting.  After 4 hours of school, they can still remember what they did at school.  After 7 hours of school, I got blank stares when I asked “So, what did you learn at school today?”

Do you have to be a single income, 2 parent family to make this work?  Not at all!  Find the time somewhere.  You may need to be creative, but you can do it!  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer regularly in their school class.  The teacher will come to love you, the kids in the class will know you, and you’ll get the inside scoop on how your child is doing academically and socially (the kids will tell you more than the teacher!)
  • Stick around and watch them practice.  Basketball, soccer, dance…whatever they’re in, be there!
  • Help out in their church group, even if it’s once a month.  Sunday School, Youth Group, Choir, AWANA.
  • Make your house the hang out place.  Allow your kids to invite friends over for play dates and sleepovers.
  • Set aside special time with your kids.  Take them on dates, play games, make a craft.
  • Help them with their homework.  Or just sit at the table while they work.

So get busy and enjoy the freedom of taking control of how your kids develop!

Top Notch Curriculum

Family Time Fitness
Fitness 4 Homeschool PE Curriculum

Have you ever asked yourself…

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Can I teach physical education, even though I don’t know anything about it?

Family Time Fitness says: Absolutely!

Current Customer Feedback 11/1/2011
Name: Lisa C
Subject: Testimonials

After reading an article in a homeschooling magazine about the importance of a structured P.E. program, I signed up for the free trial here at Family Time Fitness. Shortly thereafter, we purchased the program. My children and I are all loving it! I have four children, ranging in age from 4 to 15. They are all fit and active, and involved in some sort of organized sport (my daughter is in ballet and the others are in karate). I had thought between those activities and playing outside, that counted as our “P.E.” Since they are all so active and generally healthy, I was surprised during our first few lessons at how many exercises they weren’t able to do as well as I had thought they would. It just didn’t seem they had the body coordination or control for certain activities. Well, after just two or three weeks of having regular P.E. I’m amazed at how much control and coordination they’ve gained! Their performance at karate and ballet has greatly improved also! They are having so much fun each day, and are on their way to a lifetime of healthy living!

Thank Lisa – We could not have said it better!

Family Time Fitness – Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum

The Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum allows homeschool parents to teachphysical education without previous knowledge of physical education and athletic development. Our program, designed by experts in fitness training, nutrition and body movement, is designed to suit every age and ability level while affordably fitting into your budget. Our program combines flexibility and fun with a comprehensive curriculum to give your children a foundation for strong bodies and minds. Best of all, you get all this with a guaranteed lifetime of updates for only $79 dollars for all your children!

Think you have spent your entire curriculum budget? What about your family health budget? Not only is this program a fitness curriculum, it is a family health plan. Gym memberships can cost $150 a month for a family, and a single doctor visit for one can be around $120. Our program costs $79 one time, that’s only $6.58 a month over a year’s time; and it is available to you for a lifetime! Forless than a bag of snacks per month your family can be on the path to a healthier and happier life!

Family Time Fitness

Physical Education (PE) is structured physical activity that develops an organized mind and body for students. Many homeschool parents commonly mistake any physical activity for a PE class. Unfortunately, unstructured physical activity does not give a student the building blocks for proper fitness development. Activities like one day co-op play, Wii Fit or Wii sports and individual sports are not considered physical education because they do not comprehensively teach and manage physical fitness in students.What is Physical Education?

Why does my Homeschool Curriculum need Physical Education?

We created the Fitness 4 Homeschool curriculum because of a lack of fitness programs for homeschoolers. We started this program because we couldn’t find any at all! With the child obesity epidemic on the rise in the U.S., now is the time to give our children the exercise guidance they need while building the skills necessary to stay fit for a lifetime.

We believe that a PE curriculum is absolutely essential for a balanced homeschool classroom. Our expertly designed program has been created to maximize the benefits of spatial awareness, body awareness, environmental awareness, enhanced neurological development, mind-body coordination, stress reduction, social engagement, poise and confidence.

We created this program to solve some of the common problems that arise from leaving a thorough PE program out of your family’s curriculum. Some solutions this curriculum can help with include:

• Knowledge and teaching on how to exercise
• Improvement of gross motor skills
• Childhood obesity prevention
• Diabetes prevention
• Weight management
• Develops self-confidence
• Increases energy and focus for academic studies
• Provides family fitness experience
• Increases PE/ Fitness options

How Does the Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum Work?

The program is designed to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for fitness. The 260 planned lessons teach you everything you need to know with minimal preparation time, and the lessons are also designed so that they do not require a large investment in equipment.

Our program is the only professionally planned comprehensive curriculum for Physical Education and Athletic Development designed with the needs of the parent in mind. Our PE curriculum works for any homeschool because it is easy to follow, can be customized to any schedule, and can fit in almost any space, outdoors or indoors. It’s even easier to follow with our tips for integrating physical education, progress logs and instructional videos.

The Fitness 4 Homeschool program is structured to be integrated into your teaching a minimum of three days per week, but we strongly recommend five. It takes 30 to 45 minutes each day, and we’re certain that it is so fun and engaging for the whole family that it will be the highlight of your student’s day.

The 260 lesson plans utilize repetition, but they are also progressive and sequential. The program is designed for all age levels and abilities, and because we believe that the learning process is most valuable with family engagement, the lessons are designed so that the whole family can join in the lessons.

What is included in the Fitness 4 Homeschool Package?

The Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum includes a startup guide, PDF lesson plans, video demonstrations, assessment tools, reminder emails, lifetime curriculum and video updates, access to online webinars and certificates of completion. One curriculum purchase can be used for all your children, and we never charge any subscription fees or annual renewal fees.

Startup/Training Guide – The Startup Guide is a guide for parents and includes an introduction to physical education, information on what to expect from the program, safety information, how to integrate physical education into your curriculum, teaching tips and equipment information.

Lesson Plans – Each of the 260 professionally planned lessons arrives in PDF format and includes a List of Supplies, Warm-Up, Activity, Cool Down and Suggested Outdoor Activity. Each exercise is described in a detailed, user-friendly format for easy access.

Video Demonstrations – Each exercise includes a demonstration video with real kids doing the exercises. There are over 200 instructional video demonstrations available to you with this curriculum, and you are guaranteed lifetime access to these videos as we update them.

Assessment Tools – We provide tools to help track progress of the basic fundamental movements. Other downloadable tools include nutritional logs and meal planners for a comprehensive fitness approach.

Encouragement Emails – During the first year of your course, we send you reminder emails each week day to keep you and your children motivated on your fitness journey. We also always include nutritional and fitness tips in the emails.

Curriculum Updates – You are guaranteed lifetime access to curriculum updates in addition to the video demonstration updates. We don’t know of any other curriculum program that gives lifetime free updates!

Online Webinars – You have access to our regular online webinars and our webinar archive for further in-depth instruction and tips on the curriculum.

Testimonials and Reviews

John Ratey of the Harvard Medical School states that “Exercise, good fitness-based exercise, makes our brains more ready to learn.” We have gotten excellent reviews from our customers who love the fun, flexibility and learning environment that Fitness 4 Homeschool provides. Our own President of Family Time Fitness Jeremiah Knopp speaks about how his 7-year old nephew Braedan went from being able to do zero jumping jacks to 100 jumping jacks at a time after three months of the Fitness 4 Homeschool program. Dr. Minke, another of the expert curriculum designers, reports that his son now has confidence in playing catch or other physical activities, before which he was not at all interested in sports.

Take a look at just a few of the product reviews published online about our physical education curriculum:

• TheHomeschoolVillage.com
• The Johns Family
• HipHomeschoolMoms
• HomeGrownLearners
• Soaring Creek Academy
• Chicagoland Homeschool Network
• Kathy’s Cluttered Mind

The Fitness 4 Homeschool Advantage

Fitness for Homeschool builds strong minds and stronger bodies, so make an investment in your homeschoolers’ futures. Team sports, recreational facilities or dance class, for example, simply can’t compare to a comprehensive fitness package. Designed by experts in body movement, kinesiology, training and nutrition, this program is more affordable and can be utilized in your own home.

The entire Fitness 4 Homeschool package with lifetime access to all program updates or revisions is available to your entire homeschool family for just one payment of $99. Online schools, Co-op pricing and licensing programs are available.

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our founding members at (979) 209-0778to discuss why a physical education curriculum is right for you and how our Fitness 4 Homeschool package can meet your needs.

PE Curriculum

It’s Both Patriotic and Profitable to Keep the Laying Hen

I confess.  I want chickens.  My daughter does too, if that helps my case any.  A year or so ago, I had my first yard egg.  Those things in the grocery store cannot hold a candle to yard eggs.  These yard eggs came from chickens that didn’t get shots or hormones.  They wandered around the yard and ate bugs all day.  They slept in a safe little hen house.  The kids petted them and looked after them.  Happy chickens make good eggs.  The eggs tasted GOOD!  They had flavor.  And it wasn’t just me who noticed.  My picky eater, the tween daughter who wants chickens too, loves them. She loves them so much that she’d rather raise chickens than hope that Mrs. G has enough extra eggs to sell.  And it’s not just the eggs either that draw me to chickens.  My best veggie plants are the ones that grow in the bed fertilized with chicken manure. The bed with cow manure had to be torn out.  It grew so much grass (cows eat grass, doncha know?) that nothing else could survive in it!  And don’t forget, chickens provide free, chemical-free pest control.  With kids, dogs, a cat, and a desire to garden to organically, this is just the bees knees.

We recently lost our source for yard eggs.  Some varmints killed off several of the girls.  Combine that with the cooler weather (I won’t say cold because this is the craziest warm winter ever), the girls left are barely laying enough for her family.  So we’re waiting for her chicks to grow up and warmer weather.  Hopefully then, we’ll have yard eggs again.  Buy somewhere else, you say?  I’ve tried.  We can’t afford the exorbitant prices some people charge.  Hey, who isn’t on a tight budget these days?  Once we get past the price obstacle, I have basic questions about feed, hormones, vaccinations, living conditions, etc.  Then I like to meet the girls providing my eggs.  I’ve had trouble finding a local family with yard eggs that can meet my criteria.  Why so meticulous?  If I’m going to spend more money and drive extra, I don’t want to go to that trouble for something that is similar to what I’d buy at the grocery store.

The loss of our egg source makes me want our own chickens more.  But alas, it’s against city ordinance and deed restrictions.  I go more into dealing with that HERE.  So when I found these images of WWII posters, I was a bit surprised.  I’m no fan of government in general, but it seems government had a bit more sense back then.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent? Ya, Seriously!

I did not come from June Cleaver’s family.  (For you young’ens, she was the picture-perfect model of wife, mother, woman, etc.)  My mom was a single mom.  We ate lots of mac and cheese and ground beef patties.  She did not use salt, pepper, or spices (having kids, I understand this better as they never agree on what is good).  Eating out was at Burger King.  Flame broiled was better than fried, of course.  Mom wasn’t the crafty type.  My dad worked.  A lot.  He didn’t quit until the job was done.  Granddaddy loved to cook and feed people.  He made things from old discarded stuff.  He up-cycled before the term existed.  Once he built a scooter from an old lawnmower.  He liked it better than the ones sold in the stores because he put a seat on the back for his wife!  Nana cooked and cleaned.  She kept a perfect house.  She sewed, read books, and watched basketball.  She ironed.  My granddad died when I was young, but from what I know, he worked on cars and was handy.  Mamaw was a good southern cook, but she preferred anything pre-made.  She didn’t believe in all this “back-to-basics” nonsense.  She lived in a time when she made everything from scratch.  Hamburger Helper was just fine, even if you couldn’t pronounce the ingredients.  Why does this matter?  Because, like you, who I am was formed from a variety of people.  I want the clean and pristine house like my Nana’s home.  I love cooking and experimenting, though I hardly have enough time to.  I wish I could make things and sew.  I’m not crafty.  In fact, crafts are scary.  I’d rather have dinner with Freddy Kruger than figure out the latest craft with my daughter.  I also picked up a little of the “why make it if you can buy it?” attitude from Mamaw.  Not so much with foods.  I prefer real, live food.  Beyond food, I can do without making things.

So why in the world would I make dishwasher detergent?

Some history, first.  I hate grocery stores.  The ones that are nice are too expensive.  As much as I love the ambient lighting, organized shelves, and the pleasant smell of higher end stores, I can’t justify paying 10% to 30% more just for the shopping experience.   The middle of the road stores are a bit more tolerable for my budget.  Most of the prices are decent.  On average, maybe 5% to 15 % more than Wally World.  It’s decently organized and they still give wine samples to frazzled moms.  They tend to be a bit more crowded than the finer stores.  And then there is Wal-Mart.  Most of the time, I can’t beat the prices.  But its crowded.  Always.  And the clientele can be iffy sometimes.  Think I’m pretentious?  There are entire websites dedicated to those who shop at Wal-Mart.  We’ve had several bad experiences at Wal-Mart in regards to being a transracial family.  So every time I need groceries and household items, I go through the mental debate.  The pricey store would be so nice and I’ll still be sane at the end of the trip.  But which family member will need to fast this week so I can afford it?  The mid-grade store is ok, but if I’m going to deal with the crowds, I might as well go all out and survive Wal-Mart.  With the money I save, we can eat at a restaurant.  I won’t be sane enough to cook anyway.

When I realized we were almost out of dishwasher detergent and I’d already been to Wal-Mart three times in the last 10 days, I knew something had to give.  So I analyzed the situation.  Am I happy with the detergent I buy?  Sort of.  I pre-rinse the dishes and most of them come clean in the dishwasher.  These stupid high-efficiency dishwashers are crappy, so what does the soap really matter anyway?  Or maybe my water is too hard. Or too cold.  Heck, it’s way too complicated.  My glasses aren’t clear anymore.  Besides the people who buy new glasses every year, we all have cloudy glasses, right?  What about price?  I hate spending money, so it’s too much.

So I got on Pinterest and found a nice little recipe.  Of course, its powder.  I hate powder.  I always had chucks of powder stuff in soap dispenser that I need a knife to dig out.  And then I’d find powder on my dishes.  Who wants to eat soap?  Or rinse all the dishes again?  Needless to say, I was skeptical.  But alas, I had enough dirty dishes to fill two dishwashers and was now out of soap.  It was Wal-Mart or make the powder.  I gave in and made my little batch of detergent, crammed the dishwasher as full as possible, and away we went!  Dishes were clean.  Glasses were still cloudy, but not as much.  No powder on the dishes or chunks in the dispenser.  It seems to dissolve better.  The detergent was way cheaper (some estimate 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of store bought soap).  Best part by far, it was freaking easy to make.

So here you go:

  • 2 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 2 cups of Washing Soda
  • 1 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1-2 cups of Lemi Shine or Citric Acid

Borax, Washing Soda, Kosher Salt

Put it in a jar.  Close the lid.  Shake it up.  1 TBS (tablespoon for the non cooking types) per load (your soap dispenser won’t be full).  Fill your rinse aid dispenser with white vinegar.  There ya go!

Lemi Shine

Other tips.  If you have hard water, use more Lemi Shine/Citric Acid.  My bottle of Lemi Shine didn’t list ingredients which annoys me.  So I looked for alternatives.  Lots of people recommend Citric Acid.  You can buy food grade citric acid on Amazon for a decent price.  Buy in bulk and save (5 or 10 pounds).  I found some with free shipping.  And Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax, making them one of my favorite retailers!  I have hard water, but only used 1 1/2 cups of Lemi Shine, as that was all I had.  It did the job.

My opinion on rinse aids.  Honestly, I quit using them when our last dishwasher exploded.  Yes, it exploded.  A good deal of dishwashers have been recalled due to the rinse aid dispensers leaking in the door.  When they leak, they fry the electrical components in the door.  The result of this depends on what is damaged.  Our heating element exploded, blew a hole through the side of the dishwasher and melted the door.  Whatever component shuts off the heating element when it gets too hot probably shorted out.  It overheated and exploded.  However, for the sake of following instructions, I used the vinegar.  My gut feeling is I’ll regret it someday.  Just something to keep in mind regarding rinse aids.  I was pretty sick that I was spending $4 a bottle on a product that would eventually lead to a rather unsettling explosion and the demise of a 4 year old dishwasher.

Where to find this stuff?  Kosher Salt is on the baking aisle with the other salts.  Borax and washing soda should be in the laundry aisle and Lemi Shine near the dishwashing detergents. I emphasize should because my local Wal-Mart had them in weird places.  They also only had baking soda, which is NOT the same as washing soda.  You can order all of it from Amazon and have it delivered to your home and avoid the dreaded stores!

Some people use cutesy letters and put the recipe on the jar.  Good idea.  Maybe someday.  Also, you can add a small stick-on hook to the jar for your measuring spoon.  Someday.  Today I have dishwasher detergent, and I’m content.

Kosher salt box for size comparison

Did it work for you?  Better ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

Semantics, Connotation, Denotation, and Hospice

Last summer, we were faced with the decision regarding Hospice services for my mother.  Going in, I had little knowledge or experience with Hospice.  Two of my grandparents were on Hospice at the end of their lives, and there was some family turmoil regarding it.  But I was young, living in another city, and either pregnant or had a new baby (they were on Hospice at different times).  The nitty gritty of it all was far removed from my world, though I loved them dearly and tried to be there near the end.  My mom, however, feared Hospice.  She felt they speeded death.  Or allowed family members to speed death.

As the decision approached, an Oncology Nurse at the hospital met with me to explain the differences and see what our goals were.  What I found was that Hospice means different things to different people.  As a doctor told me a few weeks ago, his impression was that Hospice speeds death in a comfortable manner.  He was the first professional to ever say that to me.  In some cases, I believe he is correct.  But back to my discussion with the Oncology Nurse.  Basically, there are two camps of Hospice.  On one side, all medicines are discontinued expect those for pain and nausea regardless of the patient’s terminal condition.  The other camp believes that, while a patient is terminal, life should be as full and as  long as reasonably possible.  In other words, you may have terminal cancer that will take your life 6 months from now, but you shouldn’t die 4 months earlier from a Urinary Tract Infection or have a stroke because you no longer take medicine for your high blood pressure.  To us, one side’s goal was to approach the end quickly and peacefully.  The other’s was to enjoy it to the fullest until the patient was truly at the end.

We opted for a company that was extremely life affirming.  My mother had cancer and heart failure from chemotherapy.  Therefore, we did not treat those conditions.  However, everything that she wanted treatment for, she received treatment.  Pneumonia, Urinary Tract Infections, Dehydration from Infections, High Blood Pressure.  The staff provided us great support and encouragement.  They contracted a physical therapist to train us in how to care for Mom as her abilities changed.  Unfortunately, a time came that my mom became too much for us to handle.  I was failing at the balancing act.  I couldn’t devote enough attention to my husband and children, nor could I devote enough time to her.  She recognized this as well and decided to go into a nursing home.

This is where my title comes in.  While I understood the differences in Hospice philosophies, I did not realize that the bulk of our local medical community had one view of Hospice.  The view contrary to the one we held.

Mom and I had many discussions before she became very ill.  We discussed feeding tubes and ventilators.  Cremation versus burial.  We discussed money and costs.  We discussed dividing her belongings after her death.  We discussed the impact of her end of life and death on her grandchildren.  Should she die in their home?  What if they were to find her?  Should they be present?  The conversations no one wants to have.  She decided not to put these into writing for the simple reason that there are too many contingencies.  Her idea was that she made her wishes clear to me and gave me the legal power to carry them out.

The funny thing is (not really funny), I always envisioned battles between doctors and patients regarding the removal of life support.  In reality, most doctors did not want to provide any care because she was a “Hospice Patient.”  It started with the need for antibiotics for a Urinary Tract Infection.  UTIs in the elderly can be brutal.  It’s not uncommon for a simple infection to cause changes in mental status along with a general shut down of the body.  Then it was the need for a food and hydration source.  The opinion was that since she couldn’t feed herself, she was ready to die.  We were told things like “you’re delaying the inevitable,” an argument that could be used for any life sustaining action.  Eat lunch today?  Well, you’ve just delayed the inevitable.  One doctor said she shouldn’t have any treatment because she hadn’t talked to him in three days.  He went so far as to refer us to a Medical Ethics Committee for the horrendous act of treating her UTI and Sepsis.  And having a feeding tube placed, as it was one of those wishes she had made clear to me.  And for clarification, feeding tubes will not grant you immortality.  If it was truly Mom’s time, she would have died regardless.  Her tube has been in for about a month now.

To admit Mom to the hospital, we had to sever our relationship with Hospice.  We decided not to go back solely because of the predominant view in the local medical community that Hospice patients should have high doses of morphine and anti-nausea medicine to ensure tolerance of the morphine.  I truly miss our Hospice team.  They were loving and compassionate, but we had to do what is best for Mom.

So what have I learned from all this?  In regards to Hospice, it’s important to understand the predominate view even if it conflicts with my own views or even the views of the Hospice provider.  On a larger scale, understanding the cultural connotative meaning of a word or idea outweighs my own understanding of the denotative meaning.  Example: I may know what a Classical Liberal is, but modern culture has a connotative definition of Liberal that is contrary to what I know about Classical Liberalism.  Telling someone that I am a classical liberal does not make me sound conservative, but liberal, regardless of definition.  I wore myself out trying to explain our view of Hospice to every nurse, doctor, therapist, and aid.  In the end, it was a battle that was killing my mom, and I could not accept the collateral damage.  Sometimes it’s best to use language everyone understands.

On a happy note, Mom has made improvements that we were told she would never make.  This is an answer to prayer.  Getting simple treatments proved monumental and impossible at times.  It was miraculous indeed that she was able to be treated at the level she needed.  Also, she is now opening her mouth for food, chewing, and swallowing.  She is moving both arms, one leg, and one foot reflexively (responding to tickling and uncomfortable stretches).  She is answering yes/no questions, though not all the time.  She also mouths things like “I love you” and “Goodbye” when we leave.  The blood clot in her arm seems to have passed with no medications or treatment whatsoever.  She makes facial expressions appropriate to the conversation.  All miracles in my book.  She’s not giving up, and God doesn’t seem ready for her.

If you are ever in need of Hospice Services, I would highly recommend Compassionate Care Hospice.