Category Archives: Jessica

Making Ends Meet

Making Ends MeetAs I write this, my laptop is sitting on an empty box of diapers, and a line from an Eminem song runs through my mind – ‘these @#$$#% food stamps don’t buy diapers!’ My next payday isn’t until next week, and I’m praying the diapers we have will hold out until then.

I work from home, because there is no point in getting a traditional job – by the time I finish paying for daycare, I might as well not be getting a pay check. That’s assuming that I can get a first shift job, or find a day care that has night hours. And most customer service work in this area (all my recent work experience is call center customer service) is 2nd shift.

So, between all of that, I kind of gave up on a traditional job a few month ago, after I briefly tried temp work which ended in disaster.

I read somewhere recently that it costs half a million USD to raise a child, not counting college expenses. If they are factoring medical costs and especially the hospital bills from giving birth (which thankfully insurance covered) I can totally believe it. Well, sort of. Even with medical costs it seems astonishing. One of these days I’m going to sit down and do the math myself. Because that works out to spending nearly $30,000 a year on one child – and I’ve known people who were successfully raising more than 1 child on an income of just $30,000 a year – and doing it without government assistance except for medical coverage.

Regardless of the real ‘cost’ of raising children, no one I know will deny that money is definitely a critical necessity. And one I’m struggling to keep up with. I try to avoid ‘creative bookkeeping’ (taking from one budget item to pay another) as much as possible, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Craigslist and Freecycle are G-d-sends, I buy as little new as I possibly can, which has the benefit of reducing the amount of waste getting dumped in landfills around here. I’m working on my sewing skills – I can do basic repairs and make simple clothing. I’m hoping within a few years to be making almost all our wardrobe. Bonus there – people are always putting up bags of old clothes on Freecycle, but rarely in the sizes we need. Once I’m good enough, I can take the clothes that are two big, and take them in, or cut the fabric up for kids clothes.

The one area that I don’t follow this philosophy in is diapers. Cloth diapers are reusable, cheaper in the long run then disposables have no chemicals, and are, in my opinion, all together the better option. ESPECIALLY from a financial standpoint. And I still shell out over $50 a month on diapers – well, I do, or my parents (who have been a big help in the money department) do it for me. Because bluntly, I’m having enough trouble keeping up with laundry as it is.

Which brings me back to this empty box of diapers, the couple handfuls of loose ones on the changing table, and praying they will last until next week’s pay check.

Health (baby) – Vaccines

My son got his six month shots last Friday. The next day, he was what the doctors call ‘irritable’. Which translates to upset, demanding, fussy, and very difficult to sooth. (In medicalese, the next step is ‘inconsolable’, when you just can’t sooth them.) He was also warm, though he never quite reached the point of having a fever, and there was mild swelling around one of the injection sights.

Welcome to ‘mild reaction’ to vaccinations. I couldn’t put him down for 2 days, without his screaming. The second day, he would accept being in the baby carrier on my back, and I could at least have my hands free and get some cleaning done. When we went shopping, I brought the carrier to, because the stroller was a no-go.

I debated calling the doctor, but he was getting better each day, and by Monday he was pretty much fine, though still a bit more clingy than usual.

When my first child was born, I read up on all the information on vaccination I could find. I wanted to make an informed decision. In the end, she was vaccinated, despite very mixed feelings on my part.

I don’t believe the horror stories about vaccinations. The whole ‘mercury in vaccinations causes autism’ thing may have made sense – if there was more than a single vaccination that included mercury (ok, Thimerosal, a mercury derivative), and if they didn’t have a mercury-free version of it. And yes, severe reactions to vaccines happen. Frankly, a 1 in several thousand chance of a bad reaction versus a 1 in 10 chance of dying . . . my math is bad, but I can crunch that equation.

Which doesn’t address the issue that with most of these diseases practically (if not literally) erased from the country, chance of having a reaction from a vaccine is way worse than chance of dying from the disease the vaccine is preventing. Except that if we stopped using the vaccines, the diseases would come back. Except that vaccines came into use at the same time proper sanitation was being introduced, and we really don’t know if modern sanitation would prevent the spread of these diseases without vaccines. Except that . . .

Yeah, nice little headache in the making there.

For what it is worth, after seven years, and three kids, here’s my take now: if modern sanitation were enough to prevent the spread of childhood diseases, dangerous or not, chicken pox wouldn’t have been a normal rite of childhood until the vaccine came out. That said; in the UK children receive 23 vaccines before they turn 18, in Australia 28, in the US over 40. I haven’t heard anything about children dying in droves from preventable diseases in the UK or Australia, and I know several people who lived in the UK until very recently. So while I think vaccines are in general a good thing, and are our best defense against some very dangerous diseases; I also think there is ‘too much of a good thing’ going on in the US right now. We’ve seen the danger to too many antibiotics, to much dieting, too much exercise, to many vitamins . . . practically every other ‘good for you’ health thing has been proven to be a bad thing taken to extremes. I’d be surprised if that doesn’t apply to vaccines.

Looking after more than just baby

Some days, I feel like a single parent. My fiancé is disabled. He can’t walk without a cane most days, if he holds baby for more than a few minutes, his arms give out. Often he can’t bend down to pick baby up if he is crying, or hold a bottle to feed him.

And for the record – no, I didn’t know what I was getting into. When I met my fiancé he was apparently healthy. Had some stomach troubles and his knees pained him sometimes, and yes he was young to have knee problems, but he had a rough-and-tumble childhood, and neither of us thought much of it.

We realized there was a real problem shortly before I got pregnant, but at first the problem was all in his legs. He had trouble walking, needed help standing. Fine, it was a problem, but we could work around it so he could still help with baby. We set up a kind of ‘baby station’ around his chair – everything he could possibly need to take care of baby, all right within his reach. Diapers, burp cloths, changing pad, wipes, bottles and bottle warmer. Heh.

After baby was born, I went back to work – well, found a temp job, actually, since the job I was supposed to return to belonged to a department that got cut from the company. He did well watching baby for a week. When the temp job was over, he collapsed and could barely get himself to the bathroom for most of a month. We’re told there is a group of disabilities like that – MS, fibro, CFS, and a half dozen other things. You can push yourself for a while, do more then you really should, mind over matter stuff. Then the disability pushes back, and it becomes matter-over-mind, and by-the-by you are too weak to stand up until your body is fully recovered. Or as fully recovered as it ever is.

So, yeah. A lot of the time, I’m on my own.  I need to do everything, and sometimes take care of my fiancé as well.

But as much as I feel like a single parent sometimes, I’m not one. Because as little as he can do, he is still there for me. I have the constant emotional support that makes it so much easier to get through each day. If baby is taking a nap, I don’t need to wake him to run to the store, just leave him sleeping while my fiancé keeps an eye on him. He can’t hold baby and give him a bottle, but he can sit next to baby in the high chair and feed him carrots (when he can get into the kitchen, that is).

It’s hard, having a disabled partner. In some ways I think it is harder than being a single mother, because it is one more person I need to take care of, one my person I need to worry about. Because the doctors still can’t figure out what is wrong, and he could be slowing dying as I type this and we wouldn’t realize it. And god knows the emotional weight, the constant depression he fights from losing all the activities he loves, from not even being able to hold his child, from feeling useless, weighs on me too.

But I am grateful he is here, not just because I love him (though I do), not just because he is a good and wonderful man who is coping with an impossible situation in a way that awes me sometimes. But because I am not alone. I have someone to go to, always, for a hug, for reassurance, right next to me, or right in the next room. Because however much or little he can do, he does it. Because we are in this together, every step of the way.

What’s Happened to the Babysitter?

I suppose it’s silly of me to call the babysitter every day to make sure that we are good for her to watch baby, but when she has three kids of her own, a sick friend she pinch hits for, and a bunch else going on in her life, well, it just seems courteous to make sure everything is ok – and it saves me time because if there are problems, I know before I show up at her door.

Today, she didn’t answer, and she isn’t returning my call. Which is really fricking frustrating. I’d kind of like to know what is going on. I can be adaptable and change plans – especially when baby is having a good day and hasn’t been particularly fussy and difficult, it is possible for me to work around him, even if I won’t get quite as much done as usual.

But it’s really frustrating to not be sure if I should get started on my work, because she may call in 5 minutes, interrupting my train of thought. It’s a fact; I don’t deal well with interruptions. It is one reason why I have a babysitter in the first place – because interrupting myself constantly to deal with fussy baby really messes with my work.

So please, call me, let me know is going on – should I bring him down or not? Maybe something is wrong and she can’t take him today, that’s fine. If it works for her, we can swap today for Friday. Not a problem.

At the moment, I’m still annoyed with the whole thing. If I don’t hear from her in the next half hour or so, I’ll start getting worried. Cell phones and instant connection are like that. I remember when I was little no one thought anything of it, if it took you a full day to call them back. These days, mom gets frantic if I don’t call her back within 10 minutes.

So I should probably stop fretting about the babysitter – she’ll call when she can and tell me what’s going on.

In the meantime, baby is getting tired, nap time. I’m rocking him to sleep in his car seat (no we don’t have a swing, but this works quite well, takes up less space and doesn’t cost anything more than we had to spend anyway). Keyboard balanced on my lap, musical box stuffy playing its tune. Looks like he’ll be out in the next 3 or 4 minutes, after which I’ll have half an hour or so do work uninterrupted, while he sleeps.

Unless the phone rings, of course.

Health (Mine) – Needed a Break

I needed to get out of the house yesterday. I was ready to tear my hair out. I don’t know why everything that I have been dealing with every day for months was suddenly more than I could take, it just was. My older kids were constantly asking for stuff – snacks, drink, TV, attention, for me to play referee on their latest kerfluffle.
My partner, who was having a really bad day yesterday (in much pain from his disability) was on a short temper and couldn’t handle hearing the baby cry and not being able do anything about it.
Baby, usually pretty calm and happy for a teething baby, was grumpy and demanding and screaming every time I put him down.
So I left. Took baby with me, told the older kids to listen to Michael, and drove off. I had a good excuse handy – a friend had asked me to pick something up for her. I had already told her I wouldn’t be able too, but she was perfectly happy for me to change my mind.
5 years and 2 babies ago, I would have felt guilty for needing to get out of the house. Like needing a break made me a bad mother of something. Now? It’s just part of the deal.
So, baby and I drove across town – him asleep as soon as we were off our block. Picked up what we needed from the Freecycle drop, and turned around. Then in a burst of forgetfulness, drove right past my friend’s house to hit the book store.
My refuge, my sanity, my salvation – whether it was B&N, Borders, independent corner store, whenever life gets too much, I head for the books. If I’m lucky, and I time my trip right, baby is due for a long nap, and sleeps for 2 hours or so at the store, while I relax. Then, it I’m REALLY lucky, he’ll eat and then be happy sitting watching everyone else for another half hour or so.
Yesterday, I was semi-lucky. He woke from his nap before I found something to read, but he was in a good mood, as long as I kept the stroller moving. So we walked around the store for a while; then walked outside to look at some other stores. I figured I’d treat myself to a bit of ice cream from the shop at the other end of the promenade. On the way, I stopped to check out some jewelry that my grandmother would have loved – big and bold. Never thought it was my style, but found some of it catching my eye. Styles change, I guess.
We got to the ice cream shop and I’d forgotten how expensive they are. I’ll admit it; I ended up in tears when I realized I didn’t have enough money on me for a cone. Just all the frustrations of the day adding up and overwhelming me. I felt better for the cry, and ended the day on a good note- 15 years ago, I used to hide in my uncle’s basement on visits and read his collection of fantasy novels. For the first time since then, I found one his books that I loved. Now I have a new/old series to enjoy, and lots of afternoons at the bookstore to look forward to.
And on the way home, I finally remembered to stop at my friends place and drop off her stuff.