Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guarding the Food



A friend of mine recently decided to take the SNAP Challenge:

“The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant – $1.50 per meal.” 

Meg’s recording her results, thoughts, feelings, experiences on her blog, This Big Happy. Since three of my children and I are on SNAP, I have eagerly read her blog posts. And even though I’ve gotten SNAP benefits for a year now, a lot of what she’s experienced and written about has been eye opening for me.

Or rather, maybe I should say it’s made me realize things I’ve dealt with and felt, but hadn’t thought about them much, because they’re just an everyday way of life for me. And they're not pleasant. 

But as I was thinking about it today, I decided to write it down. And thus, this post. 

On Day 2 of my friend’s SNAP Challenge, she wrote: 

“I actively worried when my son asked if he could drink the last bit of milk because I knew I couldn’t just run to the store and get more milk, and I knew the baby would need at least one more bottle that day. How do you choose who gets the last glass of milk? Unfortunately these are the daily decisions people who depend on SNAP have to make.” 

~Meg, SNAP Challenge Day 2

And that’s when a flood of realizations came to me, of what I deal with but don’t really think about too much, because #1-I hate going through them, and #2-it’s too frustrating because there isn’t much I can do about it. 

I hate to say this, but I have had to watch our milk all the time, and the kids get into the kitchen and take it without asking and then we don't have enough for cereal in the morning (the boys' favorite choice for breakfast) or for a recipe I’m making for supper. 

I tell them to drink water, which I drink almost exclusively, but they have always complained that they hate it, that they don’t like the “taste.” I’ve always said, that’s the point, it *has* no taste. We use a filter on our kitchen tap to take out the chlorine taste and anything else bad in it.

So far Megan will drink one or two glasses of water a day, and Ryan has been drinking ice water exclusively for three weeks now! Yay me for bringing someone else over to my side!! ;) 

But back to what Meg said, about how you choose who gets the last of the milk? I feel awful about that, and I also feel stressed and pressured because I feel like I have to “guard” the kitchen. I can’t camp out there 24/7 to keep an eye on the milk, or anything else, and I can’t keep the milk in my bedroom.

Which brings me to that. Yes, food in my bedroom. Meg noted that she started worrying over the decrease in fruits and vegetables her family was eating due to the cost of those foods being prohibitive. 

All I can say is, every time I go shopping, the kids ask for fruit. I’m having a hard time writing this, because of the feelings it is evoking in me thinking about it. They ask for it, all kinds of it, every single time. 

And because of how expensive it is, I can’t always get it. If I get a bunch of bananas, and usually there are about 6 on most bunches, that’s 2 each, and I hardly eat it because I’m saving it for the kids. I haven’t had a banana in almost a year. 

I try to limit the fruits to one a day, and I have repeatedly told them when they ask for another that they can only have one fruit a day. If I let my kids eat all the fruit they wanted, they’d demolish a bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, and half a watermelon. But I can’t.

Thus, the fruit is kept in my bedroom, unless it has to be refrigerated, like the watermelon or #10 cans of peaches and fruit cocktail. I bought a bag of apples the other day because they were 98 cents a pound at Walmart. I put it in my room, and for the first day they ate only one. But the next day, they each ate one, and Timmy went and took a second apple a while later, without asking me (he knows I would have said no) and without me knowing. 

An hour later Ryan came and asked if he could have another apple. I said no, told him (again!) that they can only have one a day, and that’s when he told me Timmy had a second. I said that he didn’t ask, he just took it, and Ryan was upset. He was hungry and supper was a couple hours off. 

I told him to take another, but this can’t happen again. I didn’t really think about how it made me feel, because it’s an unpleasant feeling that I tend to stuff down deep inside me. 

I try to shop wisely. We get our bread, hamburg rolls (we rarely even have hamburgers anymore since the cost of beef is so high), and snacks for Timmy for school at a thrift bread store. The other day I hit the jackpot and got 4 loaves of bread, a box of snacks for Timmy, and a bag of bagels for $5.45. The bagels were free for spending $5, and the four loaves of bread were 99 cents each because the use-by date was the next day, but they do last beyond that date, and seriously, it’s not the end of the world to eat bread that’s not so soft. Besides, I can put 2 loaves in the freezer. 

I buy store brand or others if they’re less expensive. I compare prices down to the ounce if I have to. I always look over the shelf cart of what I call the Dead Foods, about-to-spoil fruits or veggies, items of food and whatnot that are being phased out or discontinued, etc. I check out the meats that are reduced “for quick sale.” Though we eat very little meat anyway, except for chicken, and I mostly get leg quarters $6.90 for a ten pound bag and bag it up for the freezer in meal portions. I use boneless chicken breast and cut it up smaller to make it go further. 

But the fruits and vegetables are a hard one. Two nights ago I discovered that someone had taken a carrot, and it was a big one, and used a knife to peel it, carving big chunky strips out of it. I asked the kids who did it, and of course Not Me did it. Two days later, I found the rest of the carrot under something behind the waste basket,  chiseled and shriveled. <sigh>

I think the hardest part is that I feel like a shrew always telling my kids no, and especially because…I have one who “steals” food. I’ll call this child Spike for this. This one opens a small slit into a pack of cheap hot dogs and slips one or 2 out and eats them cold. Spike slips into the fridge and scoops out leftovers with the hands and shoves them into the mouth, furtively sneaking away. 

When I’m cooking, if I have any food out and walk away to go to the bathroom or get something from another room, Spike takes a handful of whatever food is left out. 

Spike says s-he is hungry, so I say make a PB&J sandwich, or some saltines with peanut butter, but later I happen to notice the bag of cereal in the living room, where it was surreptitiously taken, and there are only a few pieces of cereal left and then crumbs. I don’t know how Spike did it without me seeing, but it was done nonetheless.

Last night as Spike was using my laptop in the kitchen while I made supper, s-he went and opened the fridge and stuck the whole head in. I knew what was happening. I said to get out of there, supper would be ready in half an hour. Spike sat back down.

Today as I went to get the bologna and cheese for sandwiches for lunch, I pulled out the package of bologna (this used to be an almost never purchase because of all the fat, but now the ham or turkey is too expensive) and there were two slices in it. But underneath the package were 2 slices of the bologna stuck together, and with 2 bites out of them. That’s what Spike was getting into last night. <sigh>

I can’t guard the kitchen all the time. I do my writing in my room, which is open to the rest of the house, because it’s the coolest room in the house. Even when I’m not cooking, the kitchen is very hot and due to health conditions I have, heat is very difficult for me. So if I had to spend as much of my day in there as I can to guard the food, I’d be in a bad place health-wise. 

And there’s that word: guard. Guard the food. I hate having to think of all of this in that way. It’s like my kids are some kind of villains and I have to keep them from doing wrong. My kids are just hungry. They just want fruit. They want to drink milk without being scolded for it. I’d like to drink a glass of milk now and then without feeling guilty. 

I’m not writing all this to garner pity. I’m not writing it for any certain purpose, actually, except that as I was reading my friend Meg’s blog post, I was flooded with a bevy of thoughts and emotions. And I felt I just had to get it out. 

I haven’t always had to be this way with food or shopping, or my kids’ hunger. And I won’t always have to be on SNAP. At some point, we will be better off financially. I will keep reminding myself that this is temporary. 

And I hope this, as well as my friend’s blog posts about taking the SNAP Challenge, opens one person’s eyes about what it’s like to receive SNAP benefits, and maybe if you’ve ever had disparaging thoughts about people who use these benefits, maybe you’ll think differently now. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Swabbing the Deck

Carol Burnett as the cleaning woman. ;) 


It’s funny how you tell the kids to clean their room or go get any cups, bowls, silverware, etc. from around the house, and they act like you’re depriving them of oxygen. 

Then you go to wash the floor, and suddenly they want to do something. And not just some easy task, something that’s a lot of work and needs to be done a certain way to do a good job on it.

So the other day I was tackling the kitchen floor. I had somehow psyched myself up for the job. And I don’t mean “Oh goody goody gumdrops!!! I can’t wait to wash the floor!!”

No, let’s be serious here, I only mean I had come to terms with it and accepted the fact that I really had to do it, and was just determined to get it done. I mean, my feet were sticking to the floor and at one point I left a flip behind me as I walked through the kitchen.

Yep, it was time.

So I got about three quarters of the floor swept, which took me a considerable amount of time. There was a lot I had to tackle with a knife, chipping away at gum, Life cereal squares dried onto the floor, and once light and airy marshmallows from the bag of Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys now serving as speed bumps. 

That’s when Timmy asked if he could wash the floor. I’m not sure why it seemed so glamorous a chore to him; I was sweating so much just sweeping, that it was running down into my eyes and dripping on the floor every time I turned my head, mixing with the dirt on the floor and making mud. 

But, not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm for offering to help, I said he could but there is a certain way to do it; it’s not as easy as it looks. 

“Well, all you do is dip it (the mop) in there (the bucket of water and cleanser) and push it back and forth,” he said.

“No,” I replied. “You need to dip it in the bucket and squeeze the water out, which I just did so it’s ready for you.”

I indicated the area of floor under the table and about a foot outwards, where the chairs normally sit. “Then you wash this area, only halfway under the table because I still have to sweep over the other side yet. And you wash right here, this area in front of the table.”

Timmy tried to take the mop, and I stopped him. “Wait. Then you rinse out the mop 3 times in the sink, squeezing the dirty water out after each time. Three times,” I emphasized. 

“Then you pick the chairs up, do NOT push them back to their places at the table; you’ll just make marks. Pick them up and place them at the table, then you dip the mop into the bucket again, squeeze it out, and go on to another area. If you do it in a methodical and logical way, you won’t be missing any area or walking back on the clean floor and getting it dirty again.”

Now I handed the mop to Timmy. He didn’t do too badly; he pushed the mop around, and I did have to remind him of what area to do, tell him not to walk on the clean wet area he just washed, etc.

He turned to the sink and rinsed the mop like I said, albeit with me guiding him again on how, do it three times, yada yada yada.

Then he put the chairs back at that side of the table and worked on another area. I reminded him that if there is something stuck, he needs to scrub at it with the mop and maybe even use a knife to scrape. Timmy did so accordingly.

After that second area, he rinsed the mop out again, and started washing right in front of the sink, where up until now he had stood working at this task. What he ended up doing was backing up as he washed that area, until he had now “painted himself into a corner.” 

Ah, another teaching opportunity. I once again told him, as he turned and stood with dirty shoes on the clean wet area he had just washed, that it’s not as easy as it looks. “You need to figure out where to wash next, and do it in a logical and methodical way so you don’t end up getting it dirty and having to wash an area all over again.” 

He figured out that he should have washed areas away from the front of the sink first, and left himself a path to get back to it each time he needed to rinse the dirty mop. 

I told him what he needed to do was wash that area he had backed himself into, rinse, and then re-wash the area in front of the sink. Then use the rag towel I have set aside to dry the area in front of the sink, then move on to the rest.

Timmy happily complied, and had by now washed almost a quarter of the kitchen floor. Then the mop head flew off. I told him that it sometimes happens, and because it’s difficult to get back on, I’d do it.

It took me a couple of minutes, and I rinsed the mop out so it would be ready again for Timmy. 

But when I turned around, he was nowhere to be found. Whatever appeal washing the kitchen floor had for him had left just as quickly as it had come. <sigh>

I just finished the floor; it took me 20 minutes instead of half an hour. 

Maybe today I’ll clean The Dreaded Bathroom. And maybe I’ll pull a Tom Sawyer routine with Timmy…

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines (or How Men Pee)





So, my friend Meg shared this pic on Facebook yesterday, and I did get a chuckle over it, because not only is it true, but the “aim” of males in general can be described in other ways too. 

Or maybe it’s just *my* males that are strange. ;)

My first thought was that with some, it’s not like a shotgun, it’s more like a NASCAR driver doing laps. 



Around 

     and around 

          and around. 

*Turning left again…




Then there are some who are like kids with a Hot Wheels racetrack, who like to do crazy eights…

Loop de loop…cross over…and back around again.

And there are those whose ADHD carries over even into the bathroom. Where they are standing before The Throne, trying to take care of business, and SQUIRREL!!

Annnnd there it goes all over the wall, across the pedestal of the sink, and onto the heating vent. Come winter when the heat goes on for the first time, there gonna be a baaaaaaaad smell no one understands.

Ask me how I know. 

Wait, don’t ask. I think I worked hard to repress that particular memory. 

Then there are those whose insatiable curiosity as they carry out the interminably ho-hum task of emptying the bladder gets the best of them. 

See how they look exactly the same?
They both have, um....a hole?


As they stare at the cat litter box kept on the floor right next to the toilet. 

Maybe it’s the aura of mystery that seems to shroud a “hooded” litter box. It looks like a fort! little boys might think.





Or it just may be the wonderment of the clumping litter…

How would I know? Don’t ask that either. 

Let’s just suffice it to say, how males think they pee and how they actually DO pee are 2 totally different things. 

Yes, I did just write a whole post about how males pee. ;)



*Attention NASCAR fans: I really am joking; I like the sport myself. ;)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Waiting For the Sunrise

Photo: UCLA Faculty Association


                                                     Early morning wake-up,
                                                     the sky still dark
                                                     from the sun’s nocturnal rest…
                                                     All is quiet
                                                     but for the soft sighs
                                                     of the family,
                                                     curled up in dreamy repose,
                                                     tucked into beds,
                                                     snug in quilted cover.
                                                     Faces slack and cheeks flushed 
                                                     with warmth of the night,
                                                     sleepers rest in the bliss
                                                     of innocent slumber,
                                                     as I sit and wait
                                                     in the quietude…
                                                     Listening for my purpose,
                                                     my reason for being,
                                                     that still small voice
                                                     in the hush of early hours,
                                                     the lull between dusk and dawn:
                                                     A new day awaits,
                                                     pregnant with possibility,
                                                     laden with opportunity;
                                                     and my path,
                                                     carved before the dawn of time,
                                                     set before me
                                                     by my Creator,
                                                     eagerly waits at the ready
                                                     for me to step out,
                                                     confident in my role,
                                                     and embrace the day. 

                                                     ~VJC 9.6.14~