Friday, 4 July 2014

A Mouse Tale, Or: Vincent Learns About Death. Sort of.

So today was an interesting day. Here's what happened.

The boys and I drove all day yesterday and through the night from south Florida to Illinois. Instead of taking a nap once we got here we thought To Hell With Sleep, it's time to spend time with family. So my littlest brother Corben found a little nest of three mice in his four-wheeler, and instead of feeding them to the chickens or freeing them into the wild, he gets an old Folgers coffee can and puts the mice in there, because they are tiny and cute.

Vincent loved them. He carried those mice in the coffee can with him everywhere for hours, giving them corn to eat, picking them up by their tiny tails and petting them, cuddling them, and making elaborate plans for their future together. As he is not one to waste a good name, he named them all after his guinea pig Wilbert (who was named after the guinea pig at his daycare). So he had Wilberts 1, 2, and 3. And he was happy.

So once my niece and nephews showed up, there was much made over the Wilberts, and as is wont to happen when several children have mice to play with, there were a couple escapees. But Vincent was still content, because he still had Wilbert 3.

For a little while.

Because somehow during the fun and games with The Final Wilbert, he got drowned.

No one is quite exactly sure how it happened.

But, Wilbert 3 was dead, and let me tell you, my youngest baby was DISTRAUGHT. The other kids were all OOPS and poor Vincent was like NOOOO NOT WILBERT, NOT MY BABY.  So Vlad and my niece and my nephews decided that there had to be a mouse funeral, and the best place to have this was in Grandma's garden. Over Vincent's strenuous objections everyone traipsed out to the garden, a hole was dug, and I sat by my youngest as he wept and kept saying "he's not dead! Don't do this!" So all the other kids go back inside and I continued to sit with Vincent and try to explain what happened. And he doesn't understand. He is in tears, and thinks if he could just cuddle him and sleep with him Wilbert 3 will wake up and be okay.

So Vincent tells me we have to take him out of the ground and give him "one more chance." And against my better judgment (because who WOULDN'T be making sound decisions after going on about 36 hours with no sleep) I go along with it because guys, Vincent is distraught and I am damn near in tears myself.

Over a drowned mouse.

So we turn around and walk back to the garden and we exhume Wilbert 3. And it is just as gruesome as you can imagine, and at this point now I am starting to worry that maybe he WAS buried alive or maybe Grandma's garden is an ancient Indian burial ground and fucking Wilbert 3 is going to come back all Pet Semataried because when I don't get enough sleep this is just where my head goes.

At any rate Wilbert 3 is back out of the ground and thankfully his eyes are still closed. But he is damp and matted and dirty and Vincent still picks him up and tenderly cuddles him and pets him.

And I am crying.

Guys it was AWFUL.

So when Wilbert 3 doesn't wake up Vincent hands him to me and insists that I try to resuscitate him and guys when your tearful four-year old begs you to try to save his pet you can fucking bet that you will.

So I start chest compressions.

On a dead drowned mouse.

It doesn't work.

So Vincent carefully takes him back and tries to brush the dirt from his eyes which now gives him the creepy half-open eyes of a dead mouse.  Vincent refuses to recommit the body to the garden, so I talk him into walking over to the woods and we will "give" Wilbert 3 back to his mommy, which means we say a few more nice words about him, call out "Wilbert's mommy, come get your baby!" and toss this drowned mouse into the trees.

So on the way back to the house we talk about how dead means you close your eyes forever and you're really gone and there's no going back, and it's okay to be sad and miss him. And poor Vincent is crying again, and says he doesn't ever want anyone to die, not Bart, not me, not daddy, and not his brother.

And guys I'm crying too because THIS IS HARD.

But he seems like he's understanding what happened, and he's going to be okay. So we go inside and wash up and then Vincent goes back outside to play with his brother and cousins. And after a little while they all start shrieking, and I race back outside because my nerves are just shot.

And guess what guys.

They found one of the escaped Wilberts.

Except Vincent thinks it's Wilbert 3.

The one we tossed into the woods.

The one I did CPR on.

And he is thrilled.

So now I am in the basement and can't sleep again and Vincent is snoring next to me. And all I can think is that He Who Walks Behind the Rows did a Pet Sematary on Wilbert 3 and now there is a zombie mouse outside and yes I realize I am getting my Stephen King mixed up but it is almost 3am here and I still cannot sleep and now I am waiting for Wilbert 3 to come downstairs with a scalpel like a deadly Stuart Little and say HE WANTS YOU TOO ALEAH HE WANTS YOU TOO!

So happy Independence Day people.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Awesome things about parenting boys

With pictures.

1. They pick out things like this:
at the store "for bein' GOOD!" What is this? Well, it has one of these in it:
and yes, friends, those are dog poop bags. Which my four-year old insisted he needed. No, we don't have a dog. He did, however, spend the rest of the day following me around the house asking for poop to put in his blue bags. "Can you just get me some? I need to put poop in here. Do you gotta go to the bathroom? When you go can I go?" (follows me into the bathroom): "Hey, are you poopin' or peein'? Can I see? Can I have some for my bag?" Failing to obtain fecal matter from me, an hour later found him scrounging in the catbox trying to stuff some of her poop in his awesome blue bags. Because clearly, since he now had a container intended for poop, by Merlin's pants he was going to get some poop for those goddamn bags. 

2. Speaking of containers, this is pretty much always an awesome present for a boy:
They can be any size, and made of pretty much any material. As long as it has a lid, they can put things inside. The possibilities are endless. And speaking of things boys like to put in containers -

3. Here are some of the things my boys have collected to put in various containers:

"He's my pet!"
"I need to build something!"
"It might be a DINOSAUR!"
"I need to CLEAN the ENVIRONMENT!"
"These are neat!"
"I need to build something!"
"I can't find some of my Legos and I need to build something!"
"I need the Vampire Castle. And Hogwarts. And the one that has Lord Business!"
"I love everyone and everything EVER. Also I need more containers now. For my THINGS."

4. They like "TO WRESS":
And basically what this means is that nowhere in your house you are safe. Sitting on the sofa? "It's time TO WRESS!" Trying to cook and monitoring a boiling pot of pasta on the stove? "WE'RE GONNA WRESS!" It means that any time you walk around a corner, you first need to attach a mirror to a stick and slide it around the corner to see if anyone is hanging from a rafter wearing a mask and waiting to leap onto your head TO WRESS. It means that whenever you go shopping you have to hog tie them (which is fun and part of the game!) and toss them into your cart and never, even for a moment, take your eyes off of them because the second you do they are hiding in racks of clothing waiting to leap out of them onto unsuspecting customers TO WRESS or crawling onto the top of the changing room partitions and waiting for someone to go inside and take their pants off so they can leap on them AND WRESS. I am now jumpier than a war veteran who spent nine days trapped in a fox hole waiting for a cease fire any time I have to venture downstairs. I can't enter a room without employing tunnel-rat tactics in order to ascertain whether one of my offspring is within, waiting TO WRESS.

5. They like to do things like trick their older brothers into wearing their dirty underwear:

Here was yesterday evening, after I'd told Vlad to get ready for bed:
Me (glancing over): "Are those your brother's Superman underwear?" Vlad (looks down): "Oh. I guess. Well they were in my drawer." Me: "Vlad, Vincent was wearing those underwear YESTERDAY. How did they get in your drawer?" Husband (wandering into the bathroom): "Wow Vlad. You know, your brother doesn't wipe his butt very well. You should probably check those." Me: "What I want to know is how Vincent's dirty underwear ended up in Vlad's drawer." Vincent (piping up from the doorway): "I think Daddy sorted the laundry!"

6. Speaking of wiping one's own butt, this is approximately how much toilet paper the youngest requires after one bowel movement:
 And this is where it usually ends up:

7. Also, did you know that all of these things are weapons?
 "I need this stick because it's my gun!"
 "Don't throw that away it's my gun!"
 "Well you can't watch the tv because I need my gun!"
"I tooked your makeups out because it flips open and it's my gun!"

8. They also need tape and screwdrivers "because I have to fix everything!"
 This is currently wrapped around a stair post. Because there was a crack in it.
This was screwed into a paper plate because by god he needed to put it in SOMETHING.

9. They are artistic. Everywhere. On all the things. My oldest, soon after he learned how to write his name, decided to tag all of my books, the backs of all of my pictures, my school papers, and yes, the wall above my bed, with this legend: VLADIMIR. When asked how his name had gotten written above my bed, directly above where my head usually lay, he offered this scenario: "Maybe Vincent did it?"

Vincent wasn't quite two.  However, once Vincent learned to grasp a pen, pencil, crayon, marker, knife, screw, stick, et cetera, he far surpassed his older brother in both the amount, placement, and quality of his artistic renderings on my walls.

And he elected to cover up his acts with
To "fix" them.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

10 Reasons Why You Should Not Get Your Vaccine Info From Idiots

Or, 10 reasons these 10 reasons you shouldn't get a flu shot are total bullshit. Copied from my Facebook this morning.

First, here's a link to the original post.

Next, here's why it's bullshit:

1. " There is a total lack of real evidence that young children even benefit from flu shots"

False. There is a mountain of evidence, gathered by independent researchers, that shows the opposite. This blog does not cite a source for its claim; however I'll show several in mine.  This article shows that children do benefit from the flu shot
Additionally, do you know who usually dies from flu? Infants, children, and elderly. Thus far this year, the pediatric mortality rate for flu is 28. Know how many have died from the flu shot? Fucking ZERO. Here's another source: THE CDC. I know the Tinfoil Brigade thinks the CDC is a gubment 'spiracy trying to turn your offspring and you into mindless zombies (just like I Am Legend!) but that's not reality.

2. "Medical journals have published thousands of articles revealing that injecting vaccines can actually lead to serious health problems"

Again false. Absolutely no peer-reviewed, reputable medical journal has published any studies with this finding. Guess what motherfucker? Naturalnews doesn't count as a peer-reviewed, reputable medical journal. Do you know what peer reviewed, reputable journals have published? Countless studies showing that any serious side effects from "injecting vaccines" are extremely rare. Here's a link to a literal fuckton of peer-reviewed scientific articles backing that up.

3. "Ever noticed how vaccinated children within days or few weeks develop runny noses, pneumonia, ear infections and bronchiolitis? "

Not only false but anecdotal (as is the greatest percentage of anti-vaccine bullshit I come across). Furthermore, if your kid did get a runny nose, you think that's worse than being on a vent for respiratory failure from influenza-related pneumonia? Are you fucking serious?

4. "It is a known fact that flu vaccines contain strains of flu along with other ingredients" - What point are you trying to make with this one? how the fuck do you think a vaccine works? It's not homeopathy. You don't take the flu virus and fucking water it down to one part per billion and Holy Shit! It works! Surely your google research can show you a third-grade example of how the immune system works when stimulated, and how you need flu virus particles - along with "other ingredients" - to make them effective and safe.

5. "The Flu vaccines contain mercury, a heavy metal known to be hazardous for human health"

The amount of ETHYLMERCURY in vaccines is extremely minute, and once again, Google Warrior, it's fucking different than METHYLMERCURY, which is the neurotoxin most anti-vaccine idiots claim is in vaccines, but is found in fish and shellfish. Take a basic chemistry course, and then shut the fuck up about this. You are wrong. 

Oh, and here's a study on the cumulative effects of ethyl mercury exposure in children from vaccines. Read it. Ponder it. 

 6. "There is mounting evidence that flu shots can cause Alzheimer’s disease"

Find me one - ONE reputable study finding this. The blog states there are plenty - yet doesn't post any citations? This likely stems from the previous concern that aluminum (again, fucking different than Teh Murkeries, geniuses) may be a causative factor in Alzheimer's - which has since resoundingly been ruled out. You know what causes Alzheimer's? GETTING OLD. Find a cure for that and you'll solve some problems.

7. "The Center for Disease Control appoints a 15-member Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This committee is responsible for deciding who should be vaccinated each year. Almost all the ACIP have a financial interest in immunizations."

Shut. The fuck. Up. On this shit. You know who has a financial interest in you not vaccinating and ingesting snake oils and shit? Mercola. Tenpenney. All their ilk. Here's the ACIP info.

8. "Research shows that over-use of the flu-vaccine and drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza can actually alter flu viruses and cause them to mutate into a more deadly strain."

Flu viruses mutate just fine on their own. That's why you get a new shot every year. This is well-known, well-doucumented, and anticipated. Bacteria and viruses have one goal: to survive in your body and replicate. 

What they often do *not* do is "mutate into a more deadly strain" - why, class? BECAUSE IT WANTS TO SURVIVE AND REPLICATE. IT CAN'T FUCKING DO THAT IF IT KILLS ITS HOST FASTER THAN IT CAN REPRODUCE. The H1N1 is a great example; started out quite deadly, and as the season progressed, it weakened, which increased the infection rate - people didn't get *quite* as sick and stay home; they were able to function a little better, which caused them to be out and about more, infecting more people. 

Want a great example of a virus that DOESN'T mutate and is pretty fucking deadly? The ones causing viral hemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, Marburg, Sudan, Bundibugyo). These are filoviruses, and they kill pretty fucking fast. No need to mutate, they're fabulously deadly on their own. In fact, they kill their hosts so quickly they really *can't* mutate. Filoviruses are non-segmented negative sense RNA viruses. They have only separated into Marburgvirus and Ebolavirus for about 10,000 years. In short, THEY ARE FUCKING OLD AND THEY HAVE BEEN THE SAME PRACTICALLY FOREVER. For those that still don't get it: in the case of flu virus, mutation = less deadly.

9. "In the 1976 swine flu outbreak, many who got the flu shots developed permanent nerve damage."

The vaccine in 1976 showed an increased rate of Guillain-Barre in vaccinated persons - ONE additional case per 100,000. Regardless of vaccination, there are approximately 100 cases of GBS per week. 

I'll state that number again: the '76 swine flu vaccine showed a correlation of ONE ADDITIONAL CASE PER 100,000 PEOPLE WHO GOT THE VACCINE. Go ahead, do the math. I'll wait.

10. "Trying to guess what strain to vaccinate against each season has proved to be no more effective than a guessing game."

JEEEEEZZZUUUUUUSSSS. There are over 100 influenza centers around the world that study this. There are extremely smart fucking people working in them. They do nothing else except study which strains are circulating. They then give this information to the World Health Organization centers in the U.S., Japan, China, the UK, and Australia. Each country decides which strains to vaccinate for and develops their vaccines accordingly. Is it a perfect fucking system? No. But it's a fuck of a lot more effective than sitting on your ass sniffing garlic powder and stuffing primrose oil up your ass while googling how baaaaaaaaad the flu vaccine is and reposting BULLSHIT.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013


This morning, after dropping my two boys (seven and three) off at their respective schools, I returned home and scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of the usual photos of cats and last night's dinner, I chanced upon this post, written by a godly and virtuous woman (no doubt) named Mrs. Hall. The essential message of this post was this: she has teenaged boys, and she doesn't want them looking at sluts online.

Interestingly, The Godly Mrs. Hall chooses to pepper her post with shirtless photos of her sons and husband, all the while chastising the various online sluts who post photos of themselves in their bedrooms and (gasp!) also wearing bathing suits.

Now I get that The Godly Mrs. Hall is horrified at the thought that at some point, her sons will probably see a naked woman. Even worse, they are probably going to have sex with a naked woman. As a mother to two young men myself, I'm having a hard time understanding why she's so preoccupied with thoughts of her own children's sex lives, but then again, if she's someone who has to constantly hover over her little cherubs in order to make sure they aren't trying to reach out and touch someone, I get that she'd be worried.

Oh, but make sure you check out how SWEET her kiddos look shirtless. It's totally okay though, because it's DIFFERENT - at least according to this comment:

Anonymous says:
September 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm
I can understand some of the posts referencing the boys without shirts. Modesty applies to all. However, just to provide perspective, it is known that men (and boys of pubescence and beyond) are stimulated by sight. Ladies (and girls) are not nearly ‘turned on’ by what they see and far more motivated by what they “feel” – either physically or emotionally.

After dealing with Christian teenagers for 30 years, one thing I have learned is that without proper guidance boys will say they “love” a girl just to get physical gratification, and girls will give up their purity just to hear boys say they “love” them.

God simply designed males and females differently.

Unfortunately, in our current culture, human nature is turned on its ear and the world at large is purporting lies as truth when it comes to purity and God’s design for human sexual relationships. The result is frustration and sorrow beyond measure.

While the author may have used different illustrations, the message is no less true or needed. I applaud parents who care enough about their children to provide distinct guidelines. As the father of two daughters, I could be no more blessed than to know that the parents of their future husbands made such an effort to keep their minds pure.

Really? Males just can't "help" it? Ladies aren't as "turned on" by sight? Anonymous AND The Godly Mrs. Hall have a piss-poor understanding of human sexuality and relationships if they truly believe that males and females fit so neatly into those narrow little packages. 

Here's an idea: if you have children, period, teach them that their bodies are their own, and no one gets to touch it without permission. When it comes to sex, nothing less than an enthusiastic yes is what they should wait for - you want your partner to be as ready to take that step as you are. And no, the female form is not an object to degrade, or use, or control. It is her own, just as your form is your own, and you are the one responsible for your thoughts - not someone you see prancing around in her pjs. 

Oh, and - 

Update: According to Jezebel in an awesome rebuttal post, The Godly Mama Hall reposted her blog with appropriately attired sons. Good thing, because I'd hate for some lustful cockmonster (in the apropos words of Chris Kluwe) to see those. Additionally, I found another post at Unchained Faith that has a fantastic reply as well. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

"His mom says we can't be friends anymore"

A couple weeks ago, Vlad came home from daycare and told me that his best friend's mother had told her son that he could no longer be friends with mine. They're six, by the way.

At first, I was pretty stumped - I mean, it's not like Vlad skips school, deals drugs, or is a bully. He's an energetic boy, a bit of a class clown, doesn't know a stranger, and is always ready with hugs and compliments ("Chief, those are my favorite sweatpants that you wear! You know, I like how your hair sticks out of your head like that in the morning!")

Then I reflected on some odd conversations we'd been having lately. He came home from school one day and told me dejectedly that someone had told him that since he didn't know who Jesus was, that he was going "down below". I was a little taken aback - who tells a six-year old they're going to hell? When I asked him a little more about the conversation, Vlad told me that his friend had asked him if he knew who Jesus was, and when he said "Oh, no, I don't know him", his friend said that people who knew about Jesus went "up to heaven and lived forever" when they died, but people who didn't, or who did bad things (these "bad things" weren't specified, so I'm sure this could cover any number of things in the imagination of first graders), went "down below" where they never got to see their families again, and "lived forever being punished."

What. The. Fuck.

First, a bit of background, in case you don't already know. I am an atheist. My husband is spiritual (meaning he's meditative and reflective when he has big decisions to make, and probably more of an agnostic when it comes to things like whether there's a bigger creative force at work on the universe). We have some really interesting discussions on religions, reincarnation, what happens when we die, energetic forces at work, science, aliens, and pretty much anything thusly related. And one thing we very much agree upon is that when it comes to belief systems, we will allow our boys access to any and all schools of thought, we will only share our personal beliefs with them when asked, and that the boys will be encouraged to think about their own beliefs as they get older. We will not impose our beliefs (or lack of) on them (at least as little as possible; it's pretty much impossible to discuss such things without outlining why you do or don't ascribe to certain systems - however we do think that by being as neutral as we can, this will help foster a mindset of "think for yourself" rather than "this is what you should think".)

But back to the issue at hand. I don't think I can adequately express to someone who hasn't experienced it what it feels like when your child has been hurt - and not physically (because that can be dealt with in its own way). But when your child has been rejected by a grown woman and told by his best friend that they can't be friends anymore, you can't exactly kiss that away.

Here is what I find most interesting though: if your belief system is so frail, so weak, that a six-year old boy who is born an agnostic (as all children must be; you aren't automatically born with religion as an instinctive behavior sewn in) can derail what you're teaching your child, you're doing something wrong. If you're so frightened of outside influences making your child question the things you're telling him, you're doing something wrong. If you need to control things like who your child plays Legos and Super Heroes with in order to indoctrinate them into your way of thinking, you need to send your child to a religious school or keep them home - because I can assure you, my child will not be the only one yours encounters who is, according to your twisted ways of thinking, going "down below".

Vladimir will get over this; he makes friends easily, and fortunately he doesn't seem as bothered by this as I'd initially worried he might. I hope we handled it well; both his father and I have talked with him about it, and reiterated with him that while what happened was not okay, we accept that people believe different things, and we respect that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to peruse my Recipes for Heathen Cookin' book; I have Sunday dinner to make.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

No, formula-feeding is not going to turn your child into a criminal (and stuff)

The other morning, I was skimming Facebook while sipping my morning coffee and stumbled across this little piece while wading through numerous election day posts. The author, who styles herself as The Alpha Parent, churned out an Ann Coulter-esque rabid lactard post rife with judgment on formula-feeding mothers - and while this certainly isn't anything new from that camp, she had a few interesting points that were so blatantly false I felt they needed addressing (even a year later).

First, let's discuss some of the glaring problems that breastfeeding research faces. Current pro-breast research is rife with issues including selection bias, inconsistent outcomes, and confounding variables that cannot be controlled for when doing mere observational studies and relying on self-report. What this means, for example,is that for every pro-breast study that claims breastmilk raises IQ, another study points out that the mother's IQ, and not her breast milk, is the significant factor in a child's intelligence.  This holds true for virtually all (excepting one, preventing necrotizing enterocolitis, which I'll get to in a bit) pro-breast feeding claims - in fact, a meta-analysis of breastfeeding research on the prevention of leukemia found that "There are few high-quality studies that examine the potential for a protective effect of breastfeeding for childhood leukemia. Furthermore, the few studies that exist disagree regarding the association." (citation in previous link). Pick the claim - obesity, allergiesautism (this study suggests that breastmilk is a causative factor, and not the other way around); the list goes on and on - and aside from lowering the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in low-birth-weight infants, there is not a single study touted by lactivist extremists that cannot be definitively refuted by other studies. Don't take my word on it - Momma DataThe Fearless Formula Feeder, and Science-Based Medicine all offer balanced, well-researched articles on the myths and facts surrounding breastfeeding research (and parenting and health issues in general).

But back to The Alpha Parent - aside from her laundry list of conditions she claims are caused by formula feeding and offset by breastfeeding (all refuted in other studies, by other researchers), she makes a few other highly inflammatory claims that are not merely baseless, but are designed to shame formula-feeding mothers, and feeds into the smug, self-righteous rhetoric echoed by many other breastfeeding extremists. While this may be popular with her base, it alienates far more mothers from her cause; much like hellfire-and-brimstone preaching tends to repel an unbeliever, rather than causing them to "repent."

One particularly incitive claim she makes is that formula feeding leads to child abuse, citing this study (although she cleverly links several other publications that mention the study, effectively making it look like she has "numerous studies" to back this claim, though they're all actually the same study). However, there is one glaring problem with the study: the confounders. Among others, the researchers noted that issues such as economic status, substance abuse, whether or not the pregnancy was wanted or expected, and symptoms of depression or anxiety were all possible co-contributors, and with the reliance on self-reporting of the study subjects, the correlation between formula feeding and child abuse is no more significant than that between eating ice cream and drowning. Furthermore, she states that "an alternative, and in my opinion more compelling hypothesis, is that breastfed babies are less likely to be abused because they cry roughly half as much as formula-fed babies." - except this study found that exclusively breast-fed and mixed-fed  (combination of breast and bottle feeding) infants exhibited lower positive responses to stimulation, a reduced ability to regulate their own emotions (self-soothe), and higher emotional instability - in effect, per The Guardian, "breastfed babies cry more, laugh less, and generally have more challenging temperaments than formula-fed infants" (citation in link). Huh.

The blogger makes similarly inflammatory claims correlating formula feeding with higher crime rates (again not taking into account factors such as those listed above as contributing to abuse, and with much stronger associations), rising healthcare costs, taxes, and anti-feminism; really the only thing she doesn't blame on formula-feeding is climate change and homosexuality. And to what end? Do posts like this really influence a new mother's decision on how to feed her child? They don't - and that's probably not the point. These posts serve one purpose, which is to elevate breastfeeding to mythical proportions while simultaneously ridiculing and shaming mothers who choose not to breastfeed. That's not progress, people.

In the end, what matters in parenting is not how your children emerge from your body, or what and how you choose to feed them that first year (breast or bottle). What matters is how your son treats the women in his life, and how well your daughter accepts her looks and her body. What matters is that your children grow to be confident in their abilities, to be tolerant of others, and to be kind to people who can do nothing for them. I'm pretty sure you can instill those values in your children whether they were breast or bottle fed.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

How I Bought Lobster on Welfare

Basically, I never did. Interestingly, there is a persistent rumor among the Outraged Lower Middle TeaParty Class that single moms, AKA "Welfare Queens" (THANK YOU Ronald fucking Reagan) are living it up on the shitty side of town, driving tricked -out Cadillacs, wearing excessive gold chains, going to the hair salon every week, and buying lobster to eat in front of their flat-screens while wearing expensive new clothes. While this will certainly fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, as it were) for the loudest of the Outraged Lower Middle TeaParty Class, I am still compelled, once again, to attempt to inform the Outraged what it was, exactly, that I was doing with "their" money: yes, it is always "their" money - which, for the leech, I mean, welfare recipient, comes out to approximately $0.09 out of each federally taxed dollar. For some perspective: if you get $1500 gross per paycheck, are married, and claim, say, three allowances on your W4, then $68.70 is the federal withholding, which means six dollars and eighteen cents goes to these programs. Additionally, the Outraged also demand to know how on earth we, the leeches, managed to live so fly - in fact, the little remark I woke up to on facebook today, which prompted this post, went as follows (I'm leaving her name out; our mutual friend may share, or disregard, as she sees fit): "I'm ganna [sic] start asking people on welfare  foodstamps single mothers and the unemployed how they always have money for new clothes phones shoes concerts vacations and bars all the time. If you have any idea how to accomplish paying the bills taking cares of all the kids needs buying all the groceries paying for gas in the cars and still having money for luxury items every week let me know cuz we need on that wagon. Just sayin." (yes. typed just as it was this morning; I'm far more fond of commas and sentence structure, I assure you).

First, a bit of background. I was a single mom from 2006-2009. While I was only unemployed for about four months after my son was born, I was more "under" employed for much of that time - because instead of "pulling myself up by the bootstraps" a'la the Libertarian battle cry, and landing a sweet full time factory job for fifteen bucks an hour, I chose to (gasp!) work part-time as a bartender and attend nursing school full time. I know, I know. How fucking dare I eschew honest, full-time employment in order to take more of YOUR hard-earned $0.09-of-every-federally-taxed dollar and flash my shit all over the local Walmart while attempting to better myself in school? I apologize. I had a fucking dream, yo. At any rate, I also was not receiving child support, as I'd seen far too many women trying to chase down asshole men for child support, while some of these dudes parachuted in and out of their child's life when they felt like playing daddy, and then whining to their friends out at bars that "that bitch" who was taking care of their kid never "let" him see the kid (conveniently leaving out that WOW! sometimes these moms have their own fucking schedules and obligations, and HOLY SHIT! sometimes pandering to the needs of a piece of shit who was little more than a child himself came a lot farther down the priority list than taking care of the needs of the child in question).

At any rate, I managed school, work, and home myself. My grocery budget was about $300 per month, and while it was certainly tempting to stock up on cheaper foods in order to stretch that further, I, having never cooked before in my life prior to having a child, made a concentrated effort to make "good" food choices. What does that mean? Well, while I did purchase beef, I can assure you it wasn't steak. I chose mid grade beef that wouldn't cook down into a puddle of fat and leave me with roughly half the amount of meat I started with. I chose mid-priced whole wheat bread, because even though yes, the white bread was less than a dollar, nutritionally I was getting more out of the fortified wheat. I bought quite a bit of chicken and learned about a thousand different ways to prepare it. I bought rice, fresh vegetables, decent cheese, fruits, lots of fresh milk, and yes, for myself, I bought some fucking coffee and soda - why? because I went to school all goddamn day, and if I wasn't working until midnight on one of my shifts I was sure as shit studying until midnight, because contrary to some opinions, nursing school is actually kind of fucking hard and I had to keep my grades up in order to remain in the program (and side-note, I graduated with a 3.84 at the top of my class; and that was parenting by myself, working 3-4 nights a week tending bar, then getting married and having a baby in the middle of my last semester and having my new husband back in Korea; fuck you very much). At any rate, I usually tried to do my grocery shopping very late at night, because I have to tell you, few things suck as much as the cashier silently eyeballing my purchases and then giving that little sneer when they see you pull out that blue Link card. And what's more awesome? Those cards never fucking work on the regular swipe machine, so then the cashier gets to say "IS THAT LINK? I'M GOING TO HAVE TO ENTER IT IN MYSELF" and then everyone in line behind you gets to start shifting around, muttering to themselves, and eyeballing what's in your bags. Although I do have to say, the whole three years I was living off "your" money, never once did I buy lobster. Tilapia? Yes. Lobster? No.

But let's move on to those luxury items! I know the anonymous young lady above was quite curious as to how us single mamas managed to party it up all the time, so here's a quick look at how I managed to look like a million bucks: first, the hair. I had pretty highlights in my hair, and as everyone knows, good hair care ain't cheap. However, what most people didn't bother to consider, is that there actually are decent people who will do your hair for trade. My aunt's mother is a stylist, and while she would have done my hair for free, continuing to refuse to take even a few dollars (because I tried, and she wouldn't accept it), she did let me clean up her shop for her every once in a while. So there's that.

There's also the small matter of a cell phone. I know, I know; poor folk shouldn't have phones at all. However, Virgin Mobile and Cricket (and later Alltel) actually have some decent phones with pay-as-you-go plans, and while the phones are fairly cheap knock-offs, some of them look a little too much like iPhones and Blackberrys for the Outraged Lower Middle Class. So the next time you see one of the leeches/Welfare Queens/undeserving poor tapping away on what looks like an iPhone, DEMAND to look at it and ask who their plan is through. Those are your tax dollars after all! My Blackberry lookalike came from Alltel, and about $35 a month would get me minimal text and talk credits, which were mostly used to communicate with my parents and childcare. I know. I had a lot of nerve.

Oh, let's talk about that childcare! Yep, my kid went to daycare. I utilized a program called Project Child, that offset the majority of childcare expenses while I was in school, and left a small copay for me. The other option was for me to not go to school, and either stay at home on my ass watching soap operas and eating expensive seafood, or start that full-time factory job, making me completely ineligible for Project Child, and having a third of my take-home go to childcare every month. Again, Outraged Lower Middle Class, I am sorry.

What else... oh, the clothes! Looking back at photos from those years, you'll notice that both my son and I dressed very nicely. I had jeans from Abercrombie and Gap, and my son was dressed in Gymboree, Old Navy, Polo, and Gap Kids. *cue the outrage*  Well, first of all, I actually didn't have to buy a single article of clothing for Vlad for nearly a year. A lady who was friends with my aunt stopped by my house one morning (while I was still pregnant) and gave me every single bit of clothing her son had grown out of. These were very well-kept, name brand outfits. To say I was stunned and grateful would be an understatement. As for me, a couple times a month would find me digging through the bins and racks at the local consignment shops, and let me tell you, my perseverance paid off, because I could usually find nice name-brand khakis, jeans, and sweaters for less than five bucks each. Once Vlad grew out of the clothes he was given, I did the same for him, and as the shop ladies got to know me, they'd often put aside a few things for me, knowing I'd be in soon.

Now, I do have to say, I never did manage to go on vacation while I was living so "high on the hog". I suspect this is another "lobster" myth perpetuated by the Outraged Lower Middle Class, because I have known quite a few people on welfare, and never did see any of them take vacations either. *shrug*.  I also didn't go out very often, but when I did, it was usually at the invitation of a girlfriend or one of my sisters, who knew I was on a budget. In a small town, a wine cooler will only cost about $1.25, and someone my size can get by on about three before calling it a night. Again, I do apologize for that $6 (yes, I tipped) out of "your" hard-earned $0.09-of-every-federally-taxed-dollar. Welfare Queens, unlike the Deserving Poor, should not be hanging out with their friends, outside their home, ever.

The concerts kinda stumped me. I did go to one concert. A girlfriend scored some cheap tickets, invited me to go, and allowed me to pay her over a period of weeks. Again, I didn't see any of my fellow Welfare Queens out at concerts every weekend, but maybe we just preferred different types of music? At any rate, I shouldn't have gone, I know. I had a lot of nerve.

Well I believe those are the salient points; however if any of the Outraged Lower Middle Class have additional inquiries about "their" money (because I know, you know HUNDREDS of leeches living like kings on that money!), please, email me (contact info tab) or message me on facebook. I'd love to discuss my personal finances, again, with you, ad nauseum, because it absolutely is your fucking business.

(and for those interested; as I mentioned, I graduated school, am now a registered nurse, and have started a pre-med track. I pay plenty in taxes, and I do so gratefully).