An Open Letter to Moms Complaining About Public Assistance

Delilah making mommy a silly-face
This was taken the month we started collecting food stamps back in 2008. We had no idea what financial strain lay ahead.

To Whom It May Concern:

Your posts on Facebook and Twitter (complaining about the hassles of getting free food) are hard to read because it’s kinda awkward to watch another person make an ass of themselves, even in writing. I hear where you’re coming from and suspect you just don’t know any better. Maybe you were spoiled as a child and are self-centered as a result. Perhaps you’re spoiled still as is evidenced by the fact that you post from your smartphone and spend a sizable chunk of your income on manicures and cigarettes while complaining about your unfair circumstances.

We can all sympathize- to a point- with whatever it is that’s wrong with you which makes you act this way. It’s understandable that you have a character flaw but may not be aware of it. How could you be? Such flaws generally cause a person to believe themselves infallible. Your constant need for attention practically forces you to broadcast all your perceived troubles on Social Media in shameless attempts to garner sympathy and attention. You’re clearly unaware of how your whiny indignation is annoying to those of us living in similar circumstances yet still managing to behave like responsible adults. We’re over here wincing at your loudmouth rants about a system which you benefit from and should be grateful for yet somehow are the opposite of grateful: entitled. You’re a mess of your own making. Please stop. Big girl panties, now.

One can only assume you have no idea how low class and selfish your public complaints make you sound. So, from someone who understands, I want to break it down from one broke Mom to another in the essence of Sisterhood, but mostly because you’re making the rest of us look bad. Oh yes, I’ve been in your shoes and can relate. You’ll find no self righteous condemnation here, my friend.

My husband & I received “Food Stamps” from June 2008 to just this past spring, 2014. We still participate in WIC for our son and each of our three kids are on Government provided health insurance. I’m what some people refer to as a “Welfare Mom”, though we’ve never actually collected Welfare, ever. The recession hit us hard since my husband was, at the time, working in new home construction and we had just bought a home 2 years prior. We fell hard, crashed & burned but learned a lot and are thankful for the wisdom and fortification that hard times gave us. So I have a lot of experience jumping through the hoops involved in benefiting from Public Assistance.

After all the years we’ve collected Foodstamps & WIC, I’ve come to appreciate how much red tape was involved in collecting those benefits. I figured all that free help was worth the hours it took to get someone on the phone-being disconnected over and over- or the hours spent waiting my turn at the DSHS office with two toddlers in tow only to find out I was in the wrong place or that I had the wrong paperwork. I decided to be thankful for what we received even though there were constant mistakes and hassle working against me to take advantage of that much needed help. My attitude was, “This is how I work for it”. After a while I got pretty good at navigating the system and it’s pitfalls.

Reality check: Be thankful. It would be in your interest to stop complaining about the hassles you endure in the process of receiving free assistance. Trust me, people will pay more attention to what you say- a benefit that surely appeals to you- if you sound less like an undeserving ingrate and more like you’re trying to make the best of it. I mean, we get it, but nobody’s impressed by your “hardship” so buck-up. Say thank you to a government employee and mean it. They’re overworked, understaffed and being chewed out by people like you who seem to think they’ve called Amazon Customer Service rather than DSHS. Funding cuts always seem to hit the programs we rely on most and so their job cannot be easy. It’s unfortunate for the un-manicured, unselfish, hardworking folks who are also collecting benefits to be painted with the same brush as you. However, due to that unfortunate character flaw which causes you to behave this way, I suspect this advice will fall on deaf ears. One can only try.

Warmest Wishes,

from Someone Who’s Been There

6 Reasons Moms Dread the First Day of School Too

I love when our kids are on summer break. We can play and explore while not having to watch the clock or stick to a rigid schedule. Another perk: casual dress and messy hair are totally fine. For them I mean. I’m a mess on the daily so more of the same here. Also I don’t have to be strict on bedtime which is nice because… laziness. Yep, summer is legit. Let’s itemize the reasons back to school sucks shall we?

IMG_2388

 

1. No more sleeping in I like the quiet summer mornings when my kids are sleeping in an hour later. I watch tv or do dishes, while slupring my mocha in peace. Me time, ya dig? And then when they do wake up all they want is to watch a show and stay in their pajamas for a while. This is the polar opposite of mornings during the school year.

2. Handing Them Off to Total Strangers We’re asked to blindly trust the public servants who will have our children at their mercy. Trust that they are competent in their job as educator and not at all abusive or creepy in any way. That’s a tough one to swallow.

3. Breaking the Bank Our school has a uniform policy which will be sorely missed when our daughters start middle school. It’s affordable and it’s an equalizer. But for two years we were in a different district that did not have uniforms and so I can speak from experience here: Having to keep our daughters stylish in order to give the mean kids less fodder isn’t cheap. However we still buy nice new backpacks, shiny light-up shoes, hair accessories that they’re sure to lose… It all adds up so bend over and kiss your cash goodbye.

4. From Playing to Sitting Still All summer long I push the kids outside to run and play and be fit. To get their wiggles out and to breathe fresh air. Recesses today are much shorter than they were when I was in elementary school in the ’80s and, in some places, have been cut out altogether. Educational demands are higher and so things like recess and music are being squeezed out to meet those standards which means our kids are asked to sit still for far longer than is natural and healthy. And with the amount of classwork they bring home there isn’t time to play after school either.

5. Sickness My kids get sick more during the school year than any other time. There are two things which parents who defend sending their sick kids to school like to say that really makes my ass hurt:

“Don’t be a germaphobe! You can’t keep kids from getting sick, they’re all going to get it no matter what you do so why try?” and “If I kept my kids home every time they were sick they’d miss the whole year which is just unrealistic.” 

If this is you, rethink your stance on hand washing and contagion and stuff because you’re doing it wrong. How about I wipe a booger on every one of you awesome people for making my kids miss weeks of school and costing us hundreds in Doctor’s visits & prescriptions each year? Huh? And (And!) for compromising the child that has a suppressed immune system or weak heart who has to swim in that petry dish alongside your snotting, coughing, non-handwashing kid? I would gladly be the finger of justice if it weren’t completely gross to do so. Okay, stepping down off the soap box and moving on…

6. Fundraisers I’m a boxtop clipping FIEND and am more than happy to support the PTA but loathe having to hit up friends & family to shell out money for some cheap (expensive! $12 for wrapping paper? You must be trippin’) stuff that nobody needs just to raise money for I-don’t-know-what. Run-on sentences are my thing, okay? Also, I resent the school using my kids as little salespeople blatantly exploiting their cuteness to make a buck. Sure, for a good cause but still…

My list of complaints is multi-tiered and ultra whiny so I’ve summed it up for you.  No doubt you, The Reader, could add a few to this list or give me a good upbraiding for my crappy attitude. To each his own and all that. Yesterday I saw our girls off on their first day and it went well. They were both so excited to get to school- especially the Kindergartner. I took about 30 or 40 pictures to remember the day by and then followed the bus to school to get more pictures. I keep scrap books as momentos to remember their school years and therefore have to acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be the Mom who celebrates at the bus stop and chugs mimosas with the neighbor ladies out of sheer relief that the kids are finally back to school. Not quite there yet but I’m sure I will be. Someday?

IMG_2391

Saving Money on Diapers: Name Brand vs. Generic

IMG_1761

There’s a significant price difference between brand name and generic disposable diapers. I’ve done a price comparison of 5 national diaper brands to illustrate the savings. All prices are Wal-Mart’s and all counts are for a size 6, which our son currently wears.

I came up with the yearly total based on the number of diapers we use a week times 52 weeks rounded to the nearest hundred: 2400. I divided that number by the count per box then multiplied the price of each box by 52 to get the annual estimated totals. These parameters give us an example of the considerable price differences among brands. Save money, buy generic.


Large Package

  • Huggies Snug & Dry: 100 ct., $34.97 (34¢/diaper) =$827 
  • Parent’s Choice: 92 ct., $19.77 (21¢/diaper) = $514
  • Up + Up: 120 ct., $28.99 (24¢/diaper) =$579
  • Pampers Baby Dry: 128 ct., $45.60 (36¢/diaper) = $866
  • Luvs: 112 ct., $31 (28¢/diaper)= $682

Medium Package

  • Huggies Snug & Dry: 64 ct., $20.97 (33¢/diaper) =$796
  • Parent’s Choice: 60 ct., $13.97 (23¢/diaper) = $558
  • Up + Up: 60 ct., $16.99 (28¢/diaper) =$679
  • Pampers Baby Dry: 64 ct., $24.94 (39¢/diaper) = $947
  • Luvs: 54 ct., $15.97 (30¢/diaper)= $718

Small Package

  • Huggies Snug & Dry: 23 ct., $8.97 (39¢/diaper) =$941
  • Parent’s Choice: 23 ct., $5.97 (26¢/diaper) = $626
  • Up + Up: 23 ct., $6.99 (30¢/diaper) =$733
  • Pampers Baby Dry: 21 ct., $8.97 (43¢/diaper) = $1,031
  • Luvs: 21 ct., $6.97 (33¢/diaper)$801

I think that a lot of people don’t consider the cheaper brands of diapers because they assume that the quality must be sub-par. Truth be told, some store brands are junk. For example, I can vouch for the fact that the Parent’s Choice brand (sold at WalMart) used to be total garbage several years ago when we were diapering our first baby. However, since then they’ve redesigned and are now comparable to Huggies in fit and absorbency much like the Target Up + Up brand. Parent’s choice is the brand we use because it happens to fit our son well, Target’s didn’t. Luvs is way too perfumey so I skip those as well. Every brand has a different fit so I say,  give a few generics a tryout to find a good fit for your baby and your wallet. Your homemaker paycheck could get a raise of several hundred bucks a year!

Butter Wrappers, Cereal Bags & the Income of a Homemaker

use-it-upAs a homemaker, my “income” can be how much money I save by “making do”. I’m inspired by past generations of resourceful homemakers when it comes to making do. In WWII folks were encouraged to plant “victory” gardens and make do on rations to support the troops. We could learn a lot from those women who could feed and clothe a family with very little.

Look, I may not be cashing a pay check anymore but I’m also not spending anywhere near as much as I did back then. I can’t walk and chew bubblegum, that’s to say I kind of suck at multitasking anymore than necessary… so if I was working, we’d spend more money just buying the convenience items that allow many a busy Mom to take care of her family as well as bring home the bacon. Yes that was a major run-on sentence because I also suck at writing. We’d be spending more on gas, my wardrobe, makeup, my hair (gotta look good in the office) not to mention childcare, and still take care of the home. Working Moms are amazing.

So, spend less money. That’s the goal. In order for me to stay at home with the kids, I didn’t just quit working; we didn’t just lose an income, we had to change the way we live or else it wouldn’t work. And for a while there it damn near didn’t… There are a million & one things to buy when you’re shopping for a household, especially one with kids in it. Those supplies add up and become a huge chunk of the budget because there is just so much everyone needs. So, cutting costs is the goal.

I make money by saving money and one way to achieve that is to really get your money’s worth from the items you buy; squeezing every last drop out of things and being a total cheapskate. I admit though, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone and if you don’t do as I do, that’s super! High-five! You’re doing everything you can to make a home for your family and you’re rocking it your own way. Get it girl. This is just my way. You’re all awesome. I mean it.

IMG_1897

In earlier posts I mentioned cutting costs by not buying cleanerspaper towels & plastic baggies. That is my mindset- what can we do without?  How can we make do? Do we really need to buy that or can we use something we already have to get the same result? In that vein, do you remember Home Ec. class? Do they still have that? I took Home Economics in the 9th grade and still remember many of the lessons from that class because I actually use those lessons in real life. One trick our teacher taught us was to use your butter wrappers to grease baking pans or griddles and I practice that to this day. I keep butter & margarine wrappers in a plastic container in the freezer to use as needed. Keep in mind that butter is a perishable and will go bad on you. So I store the wrappers in the freezer and then when I need to rub down a pan the heat of my hand thaws it immediately. Nifty, huh? After reusing a wrapper once, I finally do throw it away.

Another thing I save is the plastic bag that cereal comes in. Someone once told me they make great piping bags for frosting & stuff but that turned out to be a bust- literally. The seams on the side of the cereal bag won’t hold up to the pressure of piping which, if you think about it, makes sense. Those seams are designed to open easily so you can get the cereal out.

IMG_1920IMG_1919

So, no, to piping bags but YES to freezer bags! When I open a bag of frozen vegetables and only use part of it, a handy cereal bag is a great way to store what’s left without having frozen corn rolling all over the inside of your freezer. I seal it with a twist tie or just fold it over. Also, I use freezer bags- excuse me, cereal bags- to wrap baked goods like banana bread, meatballs, what-have-you, and freeze. If you’re a little paranoid about freezer burn (I am) then wrap the food in plastic wrap, aluminum foil  or both, first. How much money did you save this week? Well what if I told you that’s an income? Nice, huh?

Lactation Cookies to Boost a Mother’s Milk Supply

 

P1010263
March 2006

To be honest, if baby formula had been within our budget (or free) when we had our first child, I’d have gone that route. I found breastfeeding to be miserable and very, very difficult. My poor baby didn’t gain weight for the first 6 weeks and even after that she wasn’t chubby. She nursed every 30 minutes to an hour because my output was so low. But I had to stick with it to save money and ultimately am so glad I did. I found that a Lactation Consultant is worth their weight in gold and that any breastfeeding problem, no matter how hopeless it may seem, can be fixed with their help.

IMG_1699
June 2008- tandem nursing

I continued to nurse that first baby through a pregnancy, her 2nd birthday and alongside her baby sister to spite the fact that I promised myself I’d quit after 5 months. I went from hating it & counting the months until I could quit to loving it and wanting to help other moms succeed like I had.  With our second baby I was suddenly a high producer and it. was. AWESOME!

IMG_5631
May 2012- Struggling to make milk again

Then… with our 3rd, I barely made enough to sustain a flea and sought help from a Lactation consultant again. I was given a supplemental nursing system to feed my little one his formula while getting the stimulation I needed and avoiding getting him hooked on bottles.

That combined with taking a lot of fenugreek had me exclusively breastfeeding by the time baby was 2 months old.  I would not have been able to do it without the help of professionals and now I’ve nursed 3 babies through toddlerhood. Can you tell I’m proud? 🙂

Medela's "starter" SNS
Medela’s “starter” SNS

I enjoy these cookies with a hot cup of Mother’s Milk tea and some Jane Austen. Don’t fret if your husband and children want some, they won’t suddenly start lactating as a result and this recipe makes more than enough to share. I like to make up a batch and deliver along with a box of tea to anyone who has just had a baby. You can type up the recipe and put it in a card for a baby shower. I don’t need much of an excuse to make cookies though. Happy baking & milk making!


 

IMG_1803

Lactation Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Preheat your oven to 325° and grease your cookie sheet.

Combine then set aside to soak :

  • 4 T water
  • 2 T flax meal

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine then set aside:

  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 12 fenugreek capsules, open, sprinkle powder & discard capsule (optional)

With a stand or hand mixer, combine:

  • 1 C softened butter
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar

Once those are creamed, mix in:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 T brewer’s yeast
  • pre-soaked flax meal

 

Add dry mixture, stir (mix gently). Then add:

  • 3 C oatmeal
  • 1 C chocolate chips

Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto a lightly greased (or use parchment paper) cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. After removing from oven, allow to set for a minute before moving to a cooling rack.


Tips

Oven Temp: You can bake these cookies anywhere from 325° – 375° depending on how crispy you want them to be. Keep in mind they’ll cook more quickly at the higher temp. My family likes them soft so I cook them at a lower temp. If you consistently burn or under-cook foods, use a thermometer to test the true temp of your oven and then adjust accordingly.

Chocolate: It’s not a good idea to omit the chocolate chips from this recipe. They mask the flavor of the brewer’s yeast which is sharp and somewhat bitter. You won’t taste it at all with the chocolate in there, though!

Special ingredients: I find flax meal in all my local grocery stores either in the cereal or baking aisle. Brewers Yeast and fenugreek can be found in organic/natural food sections. Kroger, Safeway & Albertsons stores all have these special sections or you can go to a vitamin supplement store. As an added bonus, the fenugreek adds a pleasant maple flavor to your cookies.

Oats: Whole grain oats are great for helping stimulate milk production. That may be where the idea that beer is good for milk supply comes from! In addition to these cookies I eat a ton of granola bars when nursing an infant.

Banana Bread

IMG_1488

So tired of dry, bland banana brick!!! Excuse me, had to get that off my chest. Here is my tried and true recipe, modified many times until I was satisfied with the result. Eat it warm from the oven, butter melting on a slice, or cold from the fridge with a cuppa joe. This bread is so irresistible that I need to make 3 at a time just to have it last more than a day. In fact the loaf in this photo was pulled out of the oven a little too early and didn’t get the usual high crown on top. It just smelled too good and we couldn’t wait any longer to drop the hammer on the warm, cakey goodness. With ice cream. Mercy.


Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease your bread pan.

With a stand or hand mixer, combine:
1/2 C softened butter
1 C white sugar

Once those are creamed, add:
2 eggs
4 bananas, smooshed (a good task for the rugrat hanging from your apron strings)
1/2 t coconut extract (if you don’t have just double the vanilla- no sweat)
1 t vanilla extract

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine:
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg (if you don’t have, or don’t want, these spices, feel free to substitute apple pie spice, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, whatever you like)
1/2 C chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. A dry spaghetti noodle stuck into the center should come out clean, not gooey. Cool for about 20 minutes before running a knife around the bread and gently loosening from pan. I like to shake the pan back and forth and feel for the bottom to release before inverting.


Tips

Baking powder: It causes your banana bread to rise and gives you that nice crown on top. If the powder has been open more than 6 months you will not have as good of a rise so if you don’t know how old it is, use a new can. Also, it’s not a good idea to buy baking powder in the bulk dry goods section because there is no way to know how long it has been sitting there.

Flour: When measuring flour you want it to be light and airy, not heavy and packed. Before measuring, I use my scoop to toss the flour about in it’s container. Some bakers swear by using a spoon to gently measure it out or to sift it. Keep this in mind if you end up with a dense or dry baked good.

My Kitchen’s Makeup-Free Selfie

I had to cut back on Facebook. The constant whiny updates, bragging and drama were kinda bringing me down. I don’t need to be that involved in every random thought that comes into a person’s head… times 180 persons. First I went down my friends list and unfollowed everyone except family and close friends. I only want to be involved with people I actually see in real life. That helped. It was like unplugging a bit. And the nice thing about unfollowing is you don’t have to unfriend the annoying people in your life. Offended annoying people can be awful. Awfully annoying. This way, they’ll be none the wiser.

It was time for a reality check. I had to stop comparing  myself to the constant boast-posts. I had to back off and get perspective. Get real. Us Mommas shouldn’t be ashamed of the natural state of our homes. Unless you’re a Hindu Goddess with 8 arms I don’t see how a person could keep all those balls in the air without a break. This morning, I walked into my kitchen and looked at my mountain of dishes and all the things stashed behind the sink, out of the precocious toddler’s reach, and thought This is how my house always looks. I should share this. So these pictures are like my makeup-free selfie to the world. Not a quick spruce up followed by Instagram editing to make things look magazine ready.

So look everybody! Here’s my messy kitchen. It’s clean, yet messy. I won’t be ashamed as long as we can eat out of it- and eat we do. Lots of good homecookin’ takes place here and if you stop by to find the dishes piled high that means I haven’t done them yet. I cook & bake a lot. We go through a buttload of dishes.

IMG_1467

IMG_1469

This doesn’t make me a slob and if your kitchen looks like this I hope you don’t feel like one either. I didn’t put that coat on the floor or that one on the counter, or those toys.  But I’ll pick them up, at some point. Probably after I step on one and hurt myself. Maybe one day I’ll even show you my bathrooms in which the surfaces are covered in toothpaste, dirt smears and toys.

Another thing that makes a girl feel inadequate is watching Giada de Laurentiis on TV. I don’t cook like her. I just don’t have the time. Or the budget. For lunch today, I didn’t feed my kids any whole grains, or perfectly measured out portions according to MyPlate.Gov’s guidelines. They got a heated up can of generic Spaghetti Os, a can of green beans and some toasted cheese sandwiches. Nothing trendy, no bento boxes or dates stuffed with goat cheese. Just plain old kid food, and I served it up hot.  ‘Aint no shame in my game!

IMG_1482

If Better Homes & Gardens ever stops by I’ll probably get out the pledge and start polishing… but not today. Today we’re doing schoolwork. I hope this inspires some of you to feel proud of the job you’re doing too. A good woman doesn’t need to be weighted-down by doubt and needless guilt. Your doing a great job and your family is very blessed to have a Momma like you!

IMG_1483