Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Letter to Stacey

I was reading this post by Stacey at anymommyoutthere.com, and I am now trying to control the deep well of emotions that are threatening to burst through a carefully constructed wall of denial. I have three boys, four during the summer, and up until a few months ago I was a full-time working mother. I think my story started changing a couple of years ago...

June 2009

Baby Nestor is born after almost 30 hours of labor and an emergency C-section. Surgery lasts longer than expected (and therefore freaks out DH about any more babies), and it turns out all my girl parts need a deep cleaning before I can be done with having this (last, unbeknownst to me) baby.

May 2010

OB "strongly suggests" (mom and DH fanatically jump on the bandwagon) that I have a hysterectomy. I've already had two surgical procedures in three years, continuous girl-pain, and all kinds of other fun stuff. I fall for the guilt trip about being healthy for the children I already have and for my family. I have the surgery.

October 2010

Dark times... very dark times...

November 2011

I officially quit working (although I have not been working since September).


I read Stacey's post. I cried. I read every single comment, I couldn't help myself. It was like water to a person in a desert. It was a salve to the wounds I've been carrying for over two years, hidden from my loved ones because of their disapproval and their inability to comprehend... these wounds have been festering and poisoning my role in the lives of everyone I love.

I am no longer the same mother, wife, daughter, sister, woman that I was that fateful May. I am slightly bitter, passive-aggressively angry, resentful. Most especially resentful: of my mother's glossing over having more children, "you aren't even a stay-at-home mother, you already have a bunch of kids, you don't need to risk your health, it's not a big deal"; of my husband's ease with a choice over my body while his is still able to procreate even though he supposedly does not want any more children PERIOD; of my beautiful children, so wrongly, but still because they mention their own desire for another brother or sister and make my heart bleed with their innocent request; of my sister because she doesn't have children and finds it so easy to say, "Oh well!" as if she didn't know me as well as she does; of myself...

I'm especially resentful of myself.

Why did I say yes to the surgery? Why?! I have three healthy, wonderful boys (four during the summer). Why can't I just let it go? Am I tempting fate or insulting God and asking for something awful to befall my family before I can be satisfied? I am not an ungrateful person. Why can't I let this go and just be grateful for what I have? I'm an educated woman. I am a rational woman. I am a logical person. I know what I have, and I know I have a lot. Why can't I let this go?

I don't have the words, or the talent, to express the sorrow... the overwhelming sorrow that threatens daily to drown me. Therapy, medication, time, life's little joys, my kids... I keep waiting for all of these to help me reach a resolution... to help me find peace. I keep waiting to become - no, to return to - the person I once was. I don't want to pretend to be happy. I want to actually be happy - all the way, not just on the surface. I want to swim the ocean, not just tread water. I want to laugh easily.

Stacey, thank you for putting into words something I struggle with every day. Thank you for opening your comments so that I could take solace in finding that I am not alone in my desires and sadness. Thank you for sharing your gift with words on such an intimate subject. Thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent

A couple of years ago, I became a mother for the third time and realized I was finally going to have to start budgeting, being frugal, etc. The most obvious place to start (for me) was laundry. I have three active, messy boys who change at least twice a day. My husband is a mechanic so his work clothes are especially dirty. Like many others, I took to the internet to find a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Here is my recipe and hints to make everything easier.

1 bar of soap, fully grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)

1 large pot (like what you would make stew in)
1 clean 5-gallon bucket WITH LID
1 wooden spoon (it can be any spoon, this just works better for the slippery parts for me)
your stove

1. Fill your pot about 3/4 of the way with hot water and put it
over a medium-low flame. Add soap shavings and stir frequently,

2. While your mixture is on the stove, take your clean bucket
and fill it a little more than half way with HOT water. Cover
the bucket with the lid.

3. When the soap shavings are completely dissolved, turn off
the stove. SLOWLY pour the soapy mixture into the large
bucket. Mix the water and soapy liquid together GENTLY.
Cover the bucket again with the lid.

4. In the same pot used to "cook" the soapy mixture, add clean
hot water to about 2/3 full. Add the Borax, then add the
Washing Soda. Stir until both powders are completely

5. SLOWLY pour the new mixture of Borax and Washing Soda
into the large bucket. Now SLOWLY add more hot water
to the bucket until the liquid is about 2" below the top.
Mix everything gently and thoroughly. Put the lid on the
bucket, and make sure it is well sealed.

6. Put the bucket away overnight, preferably somewhere cool
and out of the way. I put it in the garage, right by the door.
You could use your laundry room, pantry, or whatever. The
next day, VOILA! You have your own laundry detergent!

Now, the type of bar soap you use will affect your detergent. I have found the Zote, Ivory, Fels Naptha, and Kirk's Castille soap work best. I did this with Irish Spring one time (DH loves the scent), and let's just say I had to go right back to the kitchen to make another batch of detergent. So, stay away from oily or perfumed "fancy" soaps because they won't work.

If you're like me, you're annoyed because you don't know what bar size is right. Should I get the 6 oz. one or the 10 oz. bar? RELAX. The first few times you make the detergent, give yourself room to compare recipe changes (trust me, you will tweak it to suit your own family's needs once you get comfortable making it). I happen to use the extra large, pink, 14.1 oz. Zote bar mostly because I like the fragrance and because our water is just hard enough to need a little extra soap to get stuff clean. Most recipes call for the regular-sized bar soap that is about six to eight ounces. Just buy a regular-sized bar of soap - whatever you consider "regular" is fine.

Also, the Borax tends to clump into fist-sized, hard rocks. I strongly suggest using your hands or a wooden utensil to break up the large clumps of Borax before trying to dissolve them in the pot. Similarly, break up the Washing Soda before dissolving it in water. It makes for a lot less stirring - both in the pot and the large bucket. Many recipes skip my extra "pre-dissolving" step and just add the powders directly to the soapy mixture in the bucket. I made my detergent that way at first, but I find it's really hard to get things mixed well with such a large quantity. It's difficult to maneuver in that big bucket, and I don't know about anyone else but I don't own any giant-sized spoons. Plus, I couldn't really tell if the powders had dissolved all the way without getting all soapy. Pre-dissolving the powders in water I was going to add to the bucket anyway just seemed a lot easier. And it does not affect the detergent in any way.

One small side note: I know that WASHING Soda can be kind of hard to find. I used to buy it at my local grocery store (FoodMaxx), but they aren't carrying it anymore. You can buy it online, but it's a slightly heavy box so shipping can get expensive relative to the frugality of this recipe. Try other grocery stores. I've seen it at some of the newer Walmarts in town, it's a hit-or-miss endeavor but well worth it.

When the detergent is ready, it's usually congealed into one big, soft, jellyish lump. I usually use my hands to break this up and really mix the detergent well. Then I put the detergent into old containers of liquid detergent. I like to put it in the old containers because it's easier to handle in pouring and putting away. The big bucket kind of gets in my way in my tiny laundry space.

When actually using your detergent, you will have to "break it up" on the day you do laundry because the mixture tends to congeal somewhat. This is another reason I like reusing old detergent containers. They are easy to shake vigorously - rather than getting my hands soapy in a big bucket every time I do laundry... which is almost every day in my house. Many recipes suggest using 1/2 cup per load of laundry, and this is fine. However, instead of using a measuring cup, I just use the dispensers on my containers because it turns out they are about 1/2 cup capacity.

Your five-gallon wonder detergent will yield about 150 loads of laundry! For those of us on a tight budget, let's do the math:

1 box Borax = $2.98 @ Walmart for 76 ounces (4 lb.)

1 box Washing Soda = $2.99 @ Grocery Store for 55 ounces (3 lb. 7 oz.)

1 bar Pink ZOTE Bar Soap = $0.99 @ FoodMaxx for 14.1 ounces

With my recipe, I will get almost seven batches of detergent from a single box of Washing Soda. Since it is the ingredient which will run out before the Borax, it will be the limiting factor in our calculations. Using that as our starting point:

7 batches of detergent = $2.98 + $2.99 + 7 ($0.99) = $12.90

150 loads per batch of detergent = 150 * 7 batches = 1050 loads of laundry

COST FOR EACH LOAD OF LAUNDRY = $12.90 / 1050 = $0.012

That means it only costs me ONE PENNY to do a load of laundry! And that's not even considering that I have another two or three batches of laundry I could do with the Borax I still have left! Other recipes (and your own particular water supply) may use less Washing Soda. I use a large bar of soap, other recipes use smaller quantities - couple the smaller bar with a good sale or some coupons... You could easily pay less than a penny per load.

Now, for the skeptics out there... As I said earlier, my husband is a mechanic. He can come home pretty grimy sometimes. I also have a teenager, a kindergartener, and a toddler - each with his own wonderful twist on DIRTY. To complicate things further, my toddler has super-sensitive skin. I was sure I was going to have to get three different detergents: industrial-strength for DH, normal for teen & kindergartener, and something ridiculously expensive but super gentle for my fair baby. I. was. wrong.

For my DH's work clothes, the detergent works just fine. He's not a big fan of the fragrance, and he swears his clothes need "extra" cleaning - for this reason, I supplement only his work clothes with 1 cup Pine-Sol. It's a trick he learned from his mother, and I apparently can't break him of this habit. Still, I expected my humble little DIY detergent was going to be put to shame with the work clothes. Not so. Unless something is extremely greasy (oil spill or whatever), my detergent takes care of normal grime and grit from the car shop.

And my youngest with the skin that breaks out in hives at the hint of any product that could be economical? Just fine and dandy with this detergent. His skin does well - maybe because the pink Zote is formulated for delicates. Maybe because his little Mexican tooshie likes "Mexican" soap. Maybe because his skin took pity on my budget in this one area (Mustela baby cream is EXPENSIVE and the only thing that works for him). Whatever the reason, this detergent is sensitive-skin-friendly.

So!... Buying the ingredients is cheap. Mixing the detergent takes about 15 minutes total. And you end up paying about ONE PENNY PER LOAD! I love DIY detergent!

Note: I have a friend who wanted to make this detergent, but she has very hard water in her area. Arm&Hammer also has a powdered Water Softener, usually found next to the Washing Soda, that can be added to this recipe. Just add to the same pot with the other powders during that step in the process. You'll have to adjust the amount to the level of hardness of your own water, but it's well worth the effort!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Are you sure Obama did it?

My parents were at my house tonight BBQing with us after a particularly tough day with my... ahem... hunny (yeah, I want to call him something else right now, but I'm trying to keep things PG-13 here).

My Uncle Joe called from Arizona to tell us about the Osama Bin Laden news. Since we were busy enjoying the great outdoors (JC and I were busy staying away from each other), the TV was off and everyone was clueless.

As the child of a career Army serviceman (CPT RET.), I can say that our entire family took this news joyously. I busted out a bottle of Asti I'd been saving for a special occasion (it was supposed to be for our San Francisco trip, but that's an ENTIRELY different post). Neverthless, I dug out my wedding champagne glasses and my parents, Italo, JC, and I toasted to the demise of the wicked witch (warlock? demon? inhuman being?)!!

And then I was on FB like everyone else, and I was busy commenting and LIKING and basically rejoicing online with as much gusto as those lucky bastards in Washington D.C. in front of the White House... But of course, America comes with a price. And American are nothing if not party poopers.

Yep. I just called a bunch of people PARTY POOPERS! Not everyone. So all you GOD BLESS AMERICA people and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME people, this is NOT for you.

Now, the rest of you quasi-politico, the-sky-is-falling, doomsayers: STOP. IT. NOW.


OBL is dead. We've been waiting 9 years, 7 months, and 11 days for this to happen. And I can honestly say that nobody would have ultimately cared if it happened because he slipped on a banana peel in his cave, hit his head, and had one of those soap-opera weird strokes that kill because the 1 in a million spot on his skull got lightly bumped by a limestone pebble.

This man cost New York thousands of lives. He cost our COUNTRY thousands of lives... and he cost many others their future - their very existence. Does anybody remember our false sense of omnipotence over world events on September 10, 2001? Nothing bad would ever happen HERE. That was a thought saved for movie premises like Red Dawn. No one would DARE try to attack Americans on American soil.

Then the black smoke, the falling bodies, the explosions... we all realized that day that Americans could be victims of terrorist activities on American soil. It didn't just happen in Jerusalem & Iraq & the general Middle Eastearn part of the globe. It had happened to "" US.

Now we all get news that this wicked being is dead. And I start reading threads about Obama taking credit, about Bush needing to be acknowledged, about whether or not troops had been withdrawn from Afghanistan yet, whether our gas prices were going to go down...


Stop. Pooping. On. My. Party.

Better yet: Stop. Pooping. On. AMERICA'S. Party.

He's dead. Let's not get caught up in all the details of who (individual soldiers will NOT be identified in our lifetimes), why (duh, 09/11), masterminds (the entire U.S. government from Commander-in-Chief to every incoming soldier), or anything else. Let's pause to smell the roses.

Let's actually stop and think about today's significance in history, and in our collective American recollection. Let's give this day the importance it deserves.

It's not about who did what, what exact day it happened, who cooperated, who originally had the idea (I thought about OBL the day all the stuff happened, why didn't the Prez mention me too?)... it's not about that.

Today is an AMERICAN victory. It is an AMERICAN decision, mission, goal, whatever. It is an historic AMERICAN event. Don't pollute this day in history with conspiracy theories about the grassy knoll (where is the body? why did it take a week to hear about it? how do we know the DNA really is OBL's? who really gave the kill order? and on and on and on)

Osama Bin Laden is dead.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Wrinkle in Time

I bought anti-aging serum yesterday.

At Walmart.

Because I noticed, just that morning, that I was beginning to see the shadows of my very first age spot. For those wondering, it's a slightly dark, fingerprint-sized, barely there, spot under my left eye at my cheekbone.

I was horrified.

Hence the "serum".

I think the irony in this is that I don't really care about aging. I mean, sure. I've been lying about my age for the last 5 years (I ALWAYS say I'm 32, you do the math)... but I think that was actually more about wanting to be "officially" younger than my husband who looks even younger than he is (it's only 3 years, but I really hate it when he gets carded and I don't).

And I don't really care about the whole aging thing. I don't wear foundation - never really have. I don't wear eyeshadow or concealer or blush or eyeliner or whatever else women (and girls) are piling on these days. My idea of "makeup" is a double coat of mascara and a dab of Benetint on each cheek. Oh! If I'm feeling really creative, I'll add Benetint to my lips too! Same tube, double use! And all this "makeup" I put on in the car as my husband drives us to wherever we're going.

I've never pondered my reflection in the mirror looking for crow's feet or laugh lines or any other wrinkles. I do ocassionally obsess about blackheads, but acne is universal. No one wants icky, greasy acne - and that's an ageless truth.

But back to the aging & wrinkles & my new serum... So I'm plucking my eyebrows on my way out the door to the SwapMeet (where all good Mexicans go at least once a month). And that's when I see the spot. And.



I look at it with two mirrors. I run to the bathroom, curse the lack of vanity that means I don't have any lighted mirrors or one of those super magnifier mirrors. I contort all over the counter trying to get a better look through my glasses (I don't even wear my contacts unless I HAVE to... told you I wasn't vain). And sure enough, it's my first age spot.

Make note: I got my first age spot on February 13, 2011 at approximately 9:43 a.m. No one else was present to witness this event (or my freakout).

But since I'm cheap, and I don't really know about beauty products (my mom is my kind of makeup non-wearer, except she DOES use foundation - to hide, what else? Age spots.)... I figure Walmart is as good a place as any to start on the road to vanity.

I buy a $17.97 tube of Neutrogena serum that says clearly on the box "shown to lighten age spots". This miracle is encapsulated in a slender, long tube that sort of looks like the extra conditioner that they include in boxed hair dye (again, my mom. I dye my hair for color because I don't care about the gray, and I only do it about twice a year, gray hairs be damned).

Seventeen dollars and ninety seven cents?! I could eat at Jack in the Box for three days straight with that! Yes, I know I spent $79.99 on a single pair of shoes last week. But I enjoy them! There's nothing to enjoy about age-spot serum (I'm not calling it wrinkle cream because that's not why I bought it... I bought it strictly for it's age-spot promises). And I get immediate satisfaction with the shoes - I'm pretty sure I have to wait weeks, months even, to see results with the serum.

Plus, now that one age spot is there, it's sure to invite its friends to join the party on my face. Why didn't the age spots pick my ass instead of my face? I could care less if I had age spots on my ass. Plus, age spots on my ass could join the existing party with the cellulite.

Okay. Maybe I am a little vain.