Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baby Hats

My daughter’s band director sent home a letter the other day saying that the various school bands he works with are going to be auctioning off gift baskets to raise money to reduce the cost of running the band programs. He is asking parents to donate items for the baskets. Bethany’s band is doing a “family game night” themed basket, and I so wanted to crochet one of these fluffy dice floor pillows (from the book “Kooky Crochet” - checked it out from the library), but I don’t have the yarn/materials I would need for it, and I can’t spend any money on yarn while I’m not working.

Parents can also donate items for any other bands’ basket (the money raised all goes to the same place anyway), so I decided to crochet some baby hats with stash yarn for a baby-themed basket. Here’s what I came up with:
What do you think?

I used some patterns from magazines for inspiration, and then heavily modified them. The pink hat is Strawberry Cream Cotton-Ease, and the blue one is Red Heart Soft in Blue Sky, White, and Chocolate. I think the pink hat looks closer to a toddler size, and the blue one is definitely newborn-sized.

When I was pregnant last year, my mom gave me some baby spoons (the coated kind) and a musical rattle – obviously I never got to use either one since I had a miscarriage, so I’m going to donate those too if I can remember where I put them.

Well, I’m still job hunting, with no luck, and getting ever more frustrated, depressed, and worried. I found a couple of more government jobs to apply for here in the Cleveland area – one with the Social Security Administration, and one with the Coast Guard (civilian job), but the hiring process for government jobs is notoriously slow. I've applied for a bunch of other private-sector jobs too, but haven't heard from any of them yet.

My sister’s wedding is 12 days, and I still have to figure out how I’m going to afford to pay for the alterations on mine and Bethany’s dresses - a whopping $140 : ( not to mention having any money to get our hair done on the wedding day. I don’t even know what to do with my hair half the time on regular days, let alone for a special occasion. 99% of the time I have it in a ponytail. I only took it down for my blog hat photos, because I can’t wear a hat with a ponytail.

Did I ever mention that I hate my hair? If not, here it is: I hate my hair!!! I’ve always hated it. I told my husband that I've been cursed with bad hair. The color is fine (well, I dye it regularly so I get to pick the color!), but I hate the texture. I hate that it can’t decide whether to be wavy or straight, and that it always insists on curling up in the worst possible places - think about me growing up in the 1980’s, when big, heavy bangs straight across the forehead right above the eyebrows were in style for little girls, and mine would always curl up on the side ends and look like wings. I'm still mad at my mom for getting my hair cut like that, LOL! I have long sideswept bangs in the front of my hair now and I won’t leave the house in the morning without scorching them with the hot iron and hair spraying them into submission, because I can’t stand for them to curl up.

Anyway, as much difficulty as I have with my own hair, I have about twice as much with Bethany's - extremely thick, very tightly curled, black/white biracial hair is no picnic for a white woman to deal with. My husband can get her hair a lot neater than I can, but neither of us can manage anything beyond ponytails or the occasional braids (which she hates anyway – she says braids look babyish).

So, I don’t know what to do now, because I can’t drop out of the wedding this late, but with only one income (even with my husband working all the overtime he can get), we're still barely able to afford the basics, let alone any extras. What lousy timing for me to have to lose my job when I did.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Jury Duty & Crocheting

Well, I finished my jury duty this week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get put on a trial, but I did get this certificate commending me for my “conscientious, diligent and meritorious service”, LOL! I wanted to be on a trial though - waaah! (WARNING: Blogger messed up my line spacing on the rest of this post - I can't figure out why it always messes up on long posts).

I got called to a courtroom on Monday morning, and didn’t even make it into the jury box – I was seated in the back with the extra jurors. It was a civil case – personal injury from a car accident, and the lawyers took about an hour and a half questioning jurors, and dismissed at least 6, but got the jury picked before they got to me. Then I got called up to a courtroom for a criminal case after lunch, and sat in the jury room with about 25 other jurors for half an hour, until the judge came into the room and said the defendant had just taken a plea bargain, after the case had dragged on for almost a year. He said the defendant had gone to his ex-girlfriend’s house with a shotgun, was threatening her, fired a bunch of shots through a window, and hit her mother in the stomach. The mother’s intestines were hanging out (I wouldn’t want to be the paramedic who had to see that) and she went through 33 surgeries, but ended up dying anyway. The defendant was getting 21 years to life. I didn’t get called for anymore cases that day.

On Tuesday morning, I was called to a courtroom for a criminal case – felonious assault against a Cleveland police officer and receiving stolen property - was seated in the jury box, was one of the first to be questioned, and assumed I would be put on that jury. The prosecutor and judge dismissed a few people, and the prosecutor said he was fine with the makeup of the jury then, but the defense attorney dismissed me. Darn! I was soooo close! I still wonder what it was that made him want to dismiss me. There was a suburban police officer in the jury box (interestingly, from the same suburb where I live), and I knew he would get dismissed – as soon as he stated his occupation, the defense attorney wanted to speak to the judge and the judge ended up dismissing him. A woman whose father is a retired Cleveland police officer, and a man who said he will always 100% believe everything a police officer testifies to, also got dismissed. No surprise there either.

I came in on Wednesday, and ended up not getting called to a courtroom at all. I spent the day sitting at a table crocheting and reading and talking to four other jurors. It’s funny how five strangers, of different ages, races, and genders, can find enough to talk about to occupy 6 ½ hours – we talked about jobs, families, kids, news, sports, society, and of course, jury duty. A guy sitting at the table (who was part of the potential jurors in the case I was called for on Monday) is a corrections office with the Cuyahoga County juvenile detention center, and he had me cracking up when he said the kids at the center complain about the meals they’re served, and he told them they should be glad they’re not in the adult jail (upstairs in the same building where we were sitting), because the prisoners there get two slices of bologna (and he said the kind with the rind, not the good stuff, ha, ha!), two slices of white bread, and a warm white milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day, LOL!

Interestingly, it turned out that a lady sitting at our table is the wife of one of the correction officer’s cousins, who he hadn’t seen in a long time. He had no idea who she was until he said his first name, and she recognized it, and asked him if he knows her husband. While waiting to be called for cases, I also met a woman who knows one of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop leaders – the troop leader used to teach this lady’s kids, and I met a woman who works with one of my sisters in law. This same lady had also ended up sitting in a jury box next to a woman who she knows from her daughter’s soccer team. It’s funny so many people who know each other or who are connected somehow end up being on jury duty at the same time – I guess it’s just a small world here in the Cleveland area.

Anticipating having a lot of sitting around during jury duty, I brought along a few crochet projects to work on. I was concerned about whether I would be able to bring metal hooks into the building (bags are run through a scanner), and the guard at the front entrance didn’t say anything about them on Monday morning, on Tuesday, a guard opened my bag and looked at and felt them and said they were OK, and then the guard on Wednesday didn’t say anything. I would have brought some plastic hooks, but one project I was working on is in single crochet, and I’ve broken a few plastic hooks when working single crochet, because the stitches are tight. The corrections officer I was talking with said he was surprised I was able to bring hooks in, because they could be used as weapons. I showed him one and said it’s not sharp, and he said women can’t have crochet hooks or knitting needles in prison because they can rub the hooks against the brick walls, and sharpen them. Well, apparently they are allowed in at least some prisons, because Martha Stewart left prison wearing a poncho that a fellow inmate had crocheted for her.

Right after we got done talking about the hooks, one of the court employees brought up knitting and crochet during her morning announcements to the jurors, saying that some jurors were wondering if they were allowed to bring knitting an crochet stuff with them. She said some women were stopped by the guards downstairs, and some weren’t, but that it should be OK. A lady sitting at a table next to mine saw me crocheting, and said she also crochets, and wished she had brought her stuff with her. She said she likes to crochet with two or three strands of yarn held together, and that she had crocheted a red, white, and blue blanket with three strands of yarn, and a G hook. Ouch! My wrist aches just thinking about working three strands of yarn with a tiny G hook!
Here’s one of the projects I worked on during jury duty.
It’s the back of a hoodie sweater for my daughter, done in Cotton-Ease in “Bubblegum” and Red Heart Kids (the stripes) in “Playful”. The pattern calls for a single crochet/chain 1 stitch pattern, and I tried it, but it was so hard to see the chain spaces in single crochet, and so I kept missing stitches, and just decided to make the thing in regular single crochet, with half-double for the stripes. I used a K hook for the ribbing, and a J for the body.

I couldn’t bring scissors with me to the Justice Center (obviously – since they can be used as a weapon), so I quickly realized I couldn’t get far on the sweater without scissors to cut the yarn when I changed colors, so I ended up bringing another project to work on – this capelet.
The pattern is from the book Family Circle Easy Crochet (sorry the picture isn't very clear - I need to figure out how to use the "zoom" on my camera). It’s not a very recent book – it was published in 2003, but most of the patterns are really cute. I picked it up at the library. The pattern calls for Patons Grace, but being out of work, I’m on a yarn diet : (so I’m just using some of my Red Heart Hula from my stash. The funny thing is I had actually been thinking about crocheting a capelet or poncho from the Hula yarn before I came across the one in that book. I’m using a G hook, but if I made one again, I would use a smaller hook to make the mesh neater looking. I’m making the capelet longer than the one in the book. I got the capelet about half done by Wednesday afternoon, but then me and the rest of the Monday jurors (a fresh batch of jurors is brought in on Wednesday mornings) were let go at 4 PM, and told that we didn’t have to come back the rest of the week.

I was disappointed that I didn’t end up serving on a jury, but at least I got to serve on two other ones previously (in 2002 and 2006). I would have liked to have been on that jury I was dismissed from (the felonious assault). When the prosecutor read the name of the defendant to see if any of the jurors know him, and briefly mentioned the charges, the case didn’t ring a bell, so when I got home, I looked up the case online (obviously, if I had been chosen for the jury, I wouldn’t have done that), and found a newspaper article about it, and remembered that I had read about it in the paper when it happened.

Here’s the article:
Don't call him victim: Call him to catch a thief. Stolen Jeep recovered on personal stakeout
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) - January 24, 2008
Author: James F. McCarty , Plain Dealer Reporter
Britt Ahart didn't sit around and wait for police to find the thief who stole his 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee from his Shaker Heights garage early Saturday morning. He did his own detective work, using cell phone records, Google and a stakeout to help nab a suspect by Saturday night. "I didn't feel helpless, and I didn't feel like waiting for someone else to do what had to be done," said Ahart, 32, an accounting employee at NASA Glenn Research Center.
Fortunately, the stolen Jeep contained a cell phone belonging to his girlfriend. So he called the cell phone provider, where a sympathetic manager bent company rules and provided the only two numbers dialed after the theft. Then he ran the numbers through Google's online reverse-phone directory, and one of them spit back an address on East 136th Street in Cleveland. Ahart drove a friend's car to the home and knocked on the door. A friendly woman said a man with a shady past occasionally slept in her basement and had called earlier that day. Ahart flagged down a police patrol car and asked the officers to look for his Jeep inside a garage behind the house. But the garage was empty.
He left empty- handed, but returned hours later. He parked a short distance away and prepared for a lengthy stakeout. He didn't have to wait long before he spotted his Cherokee backing into the driveway. He dialed 9-1-1, followed by direct calls to police in Cleveland and Shaker Heights. "I found my stolen car," he shouted.
Within minutes, police cruisers screeched to a halt in front of the house. The first two officers approached the Cherokee with guns drawn, but the suspect didn't go quietly. He started the car and gunned the engine, sending the officers diving for their lives, according to a police report. The Cherokee struck the rear steps of the house and bounced into a fence, where it became stuck. The suspect ignored orders to get out of the car and threw it into reverse, barely missing one of the officers, the report said. One officer fired a Taser dart, striking the suspect in the forehead. Another sprayed the suspect with pepper spray.
Police pulled the suspect, identified as Djuan James , out of the car, handcuffed him and strapped him to a stretcher. He was treated for cuts and scrapes to the head, then released to police custody. James , 50, of Cleveland Heights, has a criminal record dating to 1977. According to court documents, he has been to prison 13 times for nearly two dozen convictions, most for automobile thefts, breaking and entering, receiving stolen property and drugs. James was charged Saturday with felonious assault on a police officer, receiving stolen property and resisting arrest, according to the report.
Police are holding the Cherokee until they finish processing it for evidence. Even if the car is a total loss, Ahart said he has no regrets. He was most concerned about the security of his two daughters, ages 10 and 7. As of Wednesday, he had not told them about the theft. "I'll be fine as long as they
don't find out that this guy came so close to us while we slept," he said. "As far as they know, the car had a few problems, and it's in the repair shop."

Caption: THOMAS ONDREY THE PLAIN DEALER Britt Ahart of Shaker Heights didn't just recover his stolen Jeep and help police arrest a suspect. He also recovered his stolen Social Security card, trailer hitch and tool box from the suspect's basement bedroom.

I can’t imagine what the guy’s attorney could possibly say to defend him. If that jury doesn't find this guy guilty, I'll be totally shocked. It would have been interesting to be on that case and hear his defense. Oh well.

On my bus ride home Wednesday, I was working on my capelet, and was sitting next to teenager in a big t-shirt and baggy jeans – definitely not someone I would think would be interested in crocheting. He looked at the project, and asked how long I had been working on it. I told him I had just started it that morning, and he was amazed that I had gotten so much done, and asked what it was. I showed him the picture from the book, and he asked how I got the colors in the yarn, LOL! I told him I’m using a multicolored yarn, a different yarn than he one in the book. We got to his stop, and he told me before I got off that I should sell my stuff. That made me feel really good, because I tend to compare my work to other people’s and feel that mine doesn’t look too great in comparison.

Anyway, even though I didn’t end up serving on a trial, I’m still glad that I got to go to jury duty, because at least it got me out of the house for a few days. I’ve been so depressed not working and just being home every day. Yeah, I’m still busy with the kids, and housework and homework and my online grad school class, but it’s feels weird not working, and I’m just completely stressed out about money and bills and the remaining expenses coming up for my sister’s wedding on May 10th.

I registered with a temp agency last week (a long, tedious process), and they had me take a bunch of computer and typing tests. I did very well on the computer tests (all Microsoft Office programs I have a lot of experience with from work), and I found out that I type 76 WPM (and that’s even adjusted for errors). I knew I could type fast, but I had no idea I was THAT fast. I felt pretty proud hearing that, LOL!

I guess I got fast from all that damn tedious data entry my boss had me doing. I worked for the national offices of a church, and my department would put together a yearbook every year – a directory of all the churches, staff, pastors, etc. in the denomination, with financial and membership data for all of the churches. We’d send out several thousand forms every year to be completed by the churches (6,000+ churches in the denomination, but some would enter their data themselves through an online system and some just would not return the forms for various reasons, but we’d still get back about 3,000 forms every year) and returned to us to be complied for the yearbook, and I would get stuck entering the data from most of the forms.

Plus, my department would receive completed surveys sent out by other departments of the church, and I would end up dong the data entry and running reports (in SPSS – a statistical software package) for those as well. I had just recently gotten done entering the data from 1,700 surveys on health care in the U.S. I hated, HATED, all that data entry, but at least something good (my increased typing speed) ended up coming out of the three years I spent doing it.

So, now I’m just sitting at home applying for jobs, and waiting for calls from the temp agency and employers. I applied for a job last week with my alma mater, Cleveland State University. It’s just an administrative secretary job, and it would be a pay cut from what I was making at my last job, but the university is a fantastic place to work if a person can get in there. Nearly all of their jobs are unionized, and they are considered government (state jobs), so their employees are in Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (which means a pension – a rarity with most jobs nowadays). They also have very cheap, but excellent medical insurance, and are generous with paid time off and holidays. After a person applies for an hourly job, if they meet at least the minimum requirements for the position as listed on the job ad, they are called to take a civil service exam (I know I way more than meet the minimum requirements for the one I applied for), and then the top scoring people are called for interviews, and then second interviews.

I think I have a great shot at getting the CSU job, but the whole process from application to hiring can take at least 6 weeks, and I don’t have time for that. I need a job ASAP. I’m just feeling totally frustrated and worried about finding a job. The job market here in the Cleveland stinks, and seems to just be getting worse, and then I realized too that with college graduations coming up in May, that the job market is going to be flooded with new graduates also looking for work. Arrrgggh! Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers about my job search.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that last Saturday (April 19th) was my wedding anniversary! My husband and I have been married for 6 years now (we’ve been together for 16 years total). Before I lost my job, we had planned to go out to dinner and a movie, but since I’m not working I didn’t want to spend the money on it, so we just stayed home, and my husband made a (delicious!) grilled chicken salad, rolls, and a red velvet cake (my favorite dessert), and we rented a movie from the video store. We almost always rent our videos from our local library, which has a great selection, but new release movies get snatched up so quickly. Speaking of the library, my library is implementing various “green” initiatives and decided to stop giving out plastic bags at the checkout counter. As an alternative, they are selling these cloth bags for $4 each, so I bought one. I think it’s pretty nice for $4.
While I’m on the subject of "greening", when I came home from jury duty on Wednesday, I saw that this flowering tree in my front yard had started blooming. I swear it had no blooms at all on Tuesday, and by Wednesday evening it was covered with blooms. I have no idea what kind of tree it is – you probably can’t tell from the photo, but the leaves are red (they’ll turn green later in the year). Dogwood, maybe? Here's another photo, of "Casa de Red Haired Lady" (my house, LOL!).
My cat (Stormy) has been enjoying the sunny (albeit chilly) weather we’ve been having the past few days – here’s her rolling around in the backyard. Yes, I know my backyard looks torn up but my defense, it’s not my fault! My husband and I are renting the house, and I think whoever lived here before us must have had a wading pool or something in the backyard, which caused the grass to die in that area. My husband had some grass seed and a spreader, and is going to go out there one day and cover the backyard with grass seed.

Well, I’ve got to go get the house cleaned up before I go to bed (Hurricane Dominic and Tornado Bethany hit today).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thank You

I just want to thank everyone who left such kind and encouraging comments on my last post about losing my job. I am very much appreciative. I've been feeling depressed about my job situation the past few days, but reading your comments really helps me feel better.

I have an appointment with a temp agency on Friday, so hopefully I can at least find something through them. My husband got his current job (he was laid off from his last job) through a temp agency (they hired him permanently after a few months), and it's a great job - much better than anything he anticipated getting, so I'm trying to feel hopeful about also going through a temp agency.

Now, on to some good news...my son went to an appointment with a urologist yesterday, and it turns out that his testicles are fine. So, no surgery is needed. That's a huge relief for me.

Also, I found out that Caron has a new line of natural blend yarns - check it out at http://www.naturallycaron.com/. They look really fantastic - such pretty colors. Must_resist_the_urge_to_buy_more_yarn_while_I'm_not_working, LOL!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bad News

Well everyone, I got let go from my job on Wednesday. I was kind of expecting it to happen, so it didn’t come as a total shock. I’m also scared about how my husband and I are going to manage on just his income until I find another job. I’m also feeling like a total loser for losing my job in the first place, although I was unhappy there for a long time, and should really have found another job a long time ago.

I was expecting to be paid for my unused vacation time (nearly 4 weeks), but the HR department decided that the time was “unearned”, meaning that it accrues throughout the year, so they are not going to pay me for it. Oh well. I got my last paycheck on Thursday. I have a little over $15,000 in a pension fund (not bad for only having been there 3 years), but I could only withdraw it if it were less than $10,000. Basically the money will stay in my account until I turn 55. I contributed a small amount of money to an annuity while I was working, and will probably be able to withdraw that, so that will help a little, plus my husband and I will be getting our tax rebate money in May. If you go the IRS (IRS.gov) website, there’s a chart showing when the rebates will be sent. People who got their tax refunds direct-deposited will get their tax rebate money deposited to the same account. My husband is going to try to pick up as much overtime at his job as he can, and that will help too.

I applied for a few jobs, and am hoping to find a temp job in the meantime. I would really prefer to stay in the nonprofit field, or get into a government job, but if I have to take something with a private company, I will. A friend of mine works for the IRS in Cleveland, and told me they are hiring, so I applied for a job with them. They don’t pay a whole lot to start out, but employees get free bus passes, plus get 3 raises a year, including an annual cost of living increase, which sure beats anything most private companies here in Cleveland are offering, unless of course you work for the famed Lincoln Electric,
which has its headquarters right here in the suburb where I live. Lincoln Electric is famous for its mammoth year-end bonuses, averaging $27,000 per employee. Yep, that’s right - $27,000 per employee. Not to mention that their manufacturing employees often earn six-figure salaries. Of course, the good pay means you practically need a shoehorn to get in there. Well, I can always fantasize about earning that much money, LOL! Right now I’d be happy with anything that pays enough to cover my bills. My husband's company though, is going to be paying for him to take a welding course at Lincoln Electric in May, and hopefully once he completes the training, he'll get a nice raise.

Well, since I got my final paycheck for a while, I paid as many bills as I could, and bought my kids some spring/summer clothes, since they’ve outgrown nearly all of their clothes, and I figured I’d better get them some clothes now before I’m completely broke and can’t afford any at all. My husband and I went to a kids’ resale shop, Once Upon a Child.
I love that store! I always find so many great deals there. They only sell clothes that are in like-new condition (some stuff is brand new) and in style. I got my kids 20 shirts, 14 pairs of shorts/pants, 2 jackets,1 dress, and a couple of toys. The grand total? $189.00 including sales tax (yep, here in Ohio we pay sales taxes on everything except for food). I think that’s pretty darn good, and a heck of a lot cheaper than what I would have spent at the mall. And everything was name-brand, mall-store type clothes – Gymboree, Tommy Hifiger, J. Lo. (didn’t realize she even has a line of kids’ clothes), Talbots Kids, Limited Too, etc. A lot of my daughter’s friends shop at places like Limited Too, and I checked out their prices, but I can’t see spending $25 for one kids' shirt. Fortunately Bethany doesn’t mind wearing second-hand clothes.

My favorites are this dress and pants for Bethany, and shirt for Dominic - I love bold, bright, colorful prints. The dress is new, and was only $7.50, the pants were $5.50 each, and the shirt was $3.50.

Bethany and I also met my sister downtown today. She was going to the salon to get her hair colored, and a trial hairstyle run for her wedding. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera with me to take pictures. She was at the salon for a long time, so Bethany and I walked over to our one shopping center in downtown Cleveland, Tower City Center to get some lunch. I bought Bethany a dress from the Children’s Place to wear to the wedding rehearsal dinner: The tag on the dress had it as marked down to $14.99 from the original $29.99, but when the cashier rang it up, it came it at $10.99. The matching headband rang up as only $1.99. The Children’s Place is one of the few non-resale shops where I will buy my kids’ clothes, because they are not that expensive to begin with, and they have such fantastic sales. I love that they put their clothes on clearance while they are still in season, so I can actually buy spring clothes on clearance in the spring. I also get coupons from them in the mail, where I can save an additional 15-25% off the already reduced prices.Well, since you’ve been patiently reading so far, I do have a crochet project to show.I finally finished my mom’s poncho that she asked for last spring. I know, that's terrible. I should have made her one a long time ago. I started it in the fall, and got bored with it halfway through, and put it aside. Now that I have some extra time since I’m not working, I pulled it out and finished it. Hopefully it will be big enough – my mom gained a lot of weight when she quit smoking. I used a K hook, 6 skeins of Bernat Softee Chunky in “Nature’s Way” and a partial skein of Softee Chunky in “New Denim Heather” for the trim. Since I just did the poncho in boring double crochet, I wanted a fancy border. I got the border design from the book “Cozy Crochet”. It was actually a thread crochet design. I’m probably going to hold onto it until Mother’s Day, and give it to her then.
I’m also trying to finish up my sister’s wedding shawl. I should be done with it in a few days. I’ll post pictures when I’m done.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not Much Crocheting

I was just looking at my blog, and realized that I haven’t posted since March 26th. I’ve been meaning to post, but had been sick with a really nasty I don’t know what it was. Whatever it was, my kids caught it too, and we had fevers, chills, body aches, nausea, runny/stuffy noses, etc. etc. My kids got flu shots in the fall, but they don't protect against every strain of the flu. We stayed home from work and school on Friday and Monday. Two sick kids + one sick parent + one too tired from working nights to do much + a lack of extra money = one boring weekend. Between being sick and just generally depressed about my job situation and my daughter’s school situation, I haven’t gotten much crocheting done lately.

I took my daughter to an appointment last week with her pediatrician for an ADD evaluation. My kids normally see a different pediatrician in the same practice, Dr. S., but I decided to take her to Dr. G. instead, because she is so much more thorough than Dr. S. Dr. S. is very nice, but just not thorough. Dr. G. is the one who found my son’s problem with his testicles.

Anyway, I was very impressed with how well Dr. G. handled the assessment. She explained the process to Bethany and asked her questions, as well as questioning me and my husband, did a whole physical and family medical history, and gave me some questionnaires for me and Bethany’s teachers to complete about her behavior/school problems. She also asked me if I have considered putting Bethany in a public school, because she feels that public schools usually have more resources to deal with special needs kids than private schools do (Bethany attends a Catholic school).

I personally disagree with that. I believe that perhaps is the case with public schools in wealthier districts, but the public school district in our working-class suburb is chronically struggling financially, the schools are large and overcrowded, and all but two schools in the district (neither of which are in my neighborhood, so my daughter could not attend them) have been underperforming academically for years.

Although our suburb is overall working class, it has some middle to upper class pockets, particularly along the lakefront, where homes sell for as much as $300,000 (which here in poverty-stricken Cleveland where the cost of living is so much cheaper than many other parts of the country, easily gets you a 4 bedroom, 2,500+ square foot house). Bethany’s Catholic school is close to the lakefront, and draws a lot of kids from the wealthier families in the city, children of professionals, business owners, city politicians, etc., and so the school is doing very well financially. They do a mammoth amount of fundraising every year, and get a lot of donations. The downside is that some of the parents can be snobby, but I feel overall that the education is very good, and the school, despite being one of the larger Catholic school in our city, is small compared to the public elementary schools (it has about 420 kids from K-8th grade, compared about the same number of kids in a K-4th grade elementary school). I just can’t see Bethany doing any better academically in resource-poor public school.

In any case, Dr. G. wants to Bethany to undergo some other tests before she makes a diagnosis. She gave me a referral to a pediatric neurologist, just to rule out any other problems, and she also gave me a referral for Bethany to go to an occupational therapist to help with her handwriting and fine motor skills.

Now, this is where I’m starting to feel extremely stressed out. My husband and I are already a few thousand dollars in debt from the kids’ allergies and asthma, his diabetes, my breaking my wrist last year, my last pregnancy, miscarriage, and D&C, and his vasectomy, and this is even with having medical insurance. I’m shuddering thinking about what the total bill is going to be by the time we get our daughter’s school problems straightened out. Sometimes I think we’re probably going to be in debt with medical bills for the rest of our lives.

On top of that, as I mentioned before, I’ve been trying to find another job, but I’m going to have to take a lot of time off over the next few months for Bethany’s appointments, possibly for Dominic’s surgery (if he needs it) and all the other myriad appointments that go with Bethany’s math learning disability - I have several meetings per school year to review her progress and go over her IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) plans, And also having a kid who will be starting kindergarten this year complicates things - I have to take Dominic to a kindergarten screening and a few other things before school starts. Now, if I do find another job, there’s no way I’ll be able to miss work for all of that, and with my husband working nights, and having to sleep during the day, he can’t attend all these things. Sometimes I think life would be easier if I could just work part-time or not work at all, but neither of those is an option for me financially, even if my husband picked up more overtime at his job, and we cut our expenses down to the bare-bones minimum, we still just couldn’t afford it.

Speaking of work, I saw a really good documentary at work last week (there are occasional "brown bag" educational lunches that employees can attend) called
Kilowatt Ours, about energy usage and enviromental damage. It was quite alarming. There was one segment where a man was standing on a hill in West Virginia, I think it was, overlooking a valley and said that just a few years ago, there were mountains there instead of a valley - the mountains had been blown up to allow mining of the coal underneath. How messed up is that? I was already alarmed, before seeing the film, when I read this article, about the p0tential siphoning of Great Lakes water by other states that are experiencing water shortages and droughts. The film really made me think though, about all the small, daily actions that have a huge impact on our environment, and made me think about changes I can make. I was dismayed though that the film left out any mention of the effects of urban sprawl and automobile dependence on the environment, but perhaps the filmmaker will address it in a future film.

Well, now that I got all the negative stuff out of the way, I do have one small crochet project to show (warning - blogger messed up my line spacing below):

It's a hat I crocheted from Red Heart Hula yarn. I had bought the yarn a few months ago to crochet the “Cupcake” sweater from The Happy Hooker, but the sweater is done in HDC, and I had a terrible time with the multicolored strand on the yarn (it’s a solid off-white strand wrapped with a thin multicolored one) snagging on the hook, and I gave up on it. One of the skeins had a pattern for a hat, so I made it. I usually have a hard time getting crocheted hats to fit my head (I guess I have a big ol’ head) and end up having to include some extra increases, but I didn’t have that problem with this pattern. I followed the pattern exactly as written, except that I added some additional rows at the end to make it a little longer, and I added a reverse single crochet edging and a flower. It only took about an hour to make. What do you think? I think it came out pretty cute, and it’s comfortable, too. Now I just have to try to keep my daughter from taking it over, LOL!

I also got a couple of crochet books recently from the library. My local library has a section of newer books and I always browse the craft books when I go there. Last time I went I found an amigurumi book called "Mr. Funky's Super Crochet Wonderful". There are some really cute patterns in there. I think I’m going to have to buy my own copy of the book.

I also recently picked up a copy of Interweave Crochet. I don’t normally buy the magazine, because for one thing, I think $6.99 for a magazine is atrocious, and secondly, most of the patterns have always seemed too difficult or too elaborate (like I would never have an occasion to wear them) for me. I went to a bookstore downtown one day at lunch last week, and was browsing through the magazines, and saw the spring Interweave Crochet issue (surprisingly, since this bookstore never used to carry crochet magazines) and was really surprised and how many patterns I liked it in it and that were actually ranked “Easy” Here are the ones that are definitely on my “make sometime” list:

In the meantime, I realized that I have way too many crochet projects started but unfinished, so I’m trying really, really hard to finish them up before I start any more new ones. I’m trying to finish up my mom’s poncho that she asked for last year, so I can give it her on Mother’s Day, and I’m trying to get my sister’s shawl done before her May 10th wedding. I thought I was going to have to buy another skein of yarn for the poncho, but then I was going through my stash, and found a spare skein I had bought a few months ago, and forgotten about. That was perfect! I put some yarn up for sale on EBay, if anyone wants to check it out.

Well, I guess that’s enough griping for now. I feel better having gotten some of this off of my chest.