I know what you’re thinking: “We have tons of flashlights!”  Uh huh. Sure you do. Go find three working flashlights. Right now. You have 90 seconds.

I’ll bet you can’t! If you’re like me you have kids who somehow manage to find all flashlights and break them. Really, how does someone make a flashlight non-operational?

So this is your charge this week. Buy one flashlight for every person in your house. If there’s just you, get two.  I think at least one should be the kind you can wear around your head like a miner forty-niner. There’s nothing as lame as trying to hold a flashlight in your mouth while you’re trying to get something done in the dark!

Splurge on big fancy mag-lights or get a bunch of cheapos at the dollar store. That part’s totally up to you. But buy some flashlights and hide them in a place that you will remember! (Ours are stashed on top of the cupboard over the microwave. Easy to get to in case of emergency but offbeat enough that nobody–AKA kids–will ever find them.) Of course if there are only grow-ups at your house you don’t need to hide them at all. But that’s still light years away from my lifestyle.

You can try signs like this but they don’t work. At all.

flashlight sign

 

I haven’t posted for over a month??? Wow. I hadn’t realized. I’ve just lost the mojo or something. I feel really bad because I didn’t even post any of the cool stuff that happened over the summer. Some of it made me sad. Like this:

Somebody flew the coop.

India Trees

 

 

India Jane senior

 

India Bluebonnets

 

Baby India graduated from high school. Mister’s parents came down, despite their health being not so great these days.

India Grands Graduation

I don’t know how that happened. I mean, one minute she was starting kindergarten and all of a sudden she was putting on her cap and gown. You know how old ladies at the store tell you when you’ve got your hands full of squirming kids that time flies and the kids will grow up so quickly? And you’re like, “yeah, right. Starting when?”  Because every day lasts for a hundred years when you’re children are small. You seriously wonder if you will ever not be wiping somebody’s butt and stepping on stray Legos.

It does go fast. Not until they get into school, though. Every year goes by a little quicker and by the time they’re Seniors in high school, the year lasts about seventeen minutes.

And then they’re leaving for school and you wish you could trap every day in a bottle because it’s the end of an era: the era of having your babies in your nest. Now they’re flying away and it’s exciting but it’s also terrifying.  People keep asking me how I’m doing and the answer is, “I’m kind of blue.” Not depressed, but just unmoored. Life is shifting and even though I knew it would happen, it’s unsettling.

I tell people I’m sad that India is gone but not half as sad as I’d be if she were still living in her bedroom with a lame future ahead of her. Because India is awesome she got a full-ride scholarship to college. And she got a couple of other scholarships too that are covering most of her room and board and books. So yay for that!

We dropped her off at Brigham Young in August and Mister sobbed the whole way back to the airport.  Real, blubbering loud sobs. I finally had to remind him that India is not dying. She’s just going to college and we’d see her at Thanksgiving. But he’s the softie in the marriage. I’m the mean, heartless one. But still it was sad leaving her there.

I can’t be too sad, though, because is there any time as full of excitement and awesomeness as the first time you leave for college? She’s got a shiny, spectacular future ahead of her and as sad and boo-boo as I feel for me, I feel happiness and excitement for her.

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India Jane college

 

Plus it’s not like I don’t still have fifty million kids at home. York is in 12th grade this year so we get to do the whole thing all over again.

Here are some other milestones we had:

My baby, my littlest kiddle, turned eight. Jasper Presents

 

Because we’re Mormon we believe that little children who die go straight to Heaven. Thus we don’t baptize kids until they’re old enough to know right from wrong which is at age eight. So Jasper was baptized. Having your youngest child get baptized in another milestone. It means you’re not a young mother. For so long I’ve always had little kids and that means I’m a young mother. But with my youngest being old enough to get baptized I feel like those days of having little kids is ancient history. Again, more unmooring.

Mormons do baptism the old-fashioned way: immersion just like Jesus did. So the baptisee and the baptizer both dress in white, symbolic of being born again and forgiven of our sins.  Jasper was baptized by Mister and it was a lovely ceremony.

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We had a bunch of fun Texas Tuesdays which I’ll tell you about later. Right now I’m just trying to keep afloat. Mister has gone back to school to get his Masters degree and I’m still as busy as ever. But I’ll be a little more diligent. I’ve got some cool new tutorials in the works; it’s going to be fun!

 

Imagine if you didn’t have any power for several days. And you had to still had to keep cleaning your house. You wouldn’t want to stick to rags and washcloths if there were no way to clean these things in the laundry, right? If you were in this situation you might prefer paper towels, correct?  So that’s what we’re working on this week. Paper towels. I prefer to buy a giant case of them at Costco and check it off my list, but you’re welcome to buy any kind you like. I’d just recommend getting a couple of rolls per person in your family.

And the extra-nice thing is that paper towels don’t go bad so you have plenty of time to use them up. They’re such a great item to have on hand!

Whoa. Weird. Bleach and duct tape??? Just to clear up any confusion, these two items don’t go together. They’re both just really great things to have on hand in an emergency situation.

Bleach is not just for clothes, you know. It’s the best disinfectant there is. If you’ve got water that needs some purifying, or a table that has all sorts of cooties on it, bleach is your poison.  It’s nice and cheap so make sure you get a couple of bottles.

Duct tape is one of those things that comes in handy a million times.  You might think you’ve got a roll kicking around, but get another one anyway. I know you might be tempted to get the cute kind with rainbows or Hello Kitty, but splurge on the giant roll of silver stuff. You’ll be glad in the long run.

This is an easy week and you can get these items anywhere!

Man cannot live by bread alone (Cookies, yes).  That’s where we need meat. Meat is my favorite form of protein and it’s going to be a long, dull pandemic/apocalypse/hurricane if you haven’t got any.  There are a jillion choices out there but most meat options are going to be available in a can. There’s everything from Spam to roast beef to tuna fish (why do we not just call it tuna? Is there some other kind of tuna I’m not aware of? Tuna milk? Tuna cake?)  You can pick what you like.

I know what some of you are thinking: “there is no way i’m eating meat from a can!”  Settle down, sister; it’s not as bad as you think.  You might not want to empty a can of canned beef onto a plate and hand it to your kids, but canned meat tastes just fine in soups and casseroles and things like that.  And just in case your freezer goes out, the stores are empty and you’re still hungry, canned turkey breast is going to sound like a gift from Heaven.

I was at Costco a couple of months ago and they were making quesadillas with canned roast beef and you know, it was really, really good. Not just edible but delicious. So I bought a 4-pack.  Costco remains my favorite and most affordable place to buy canned meat because this stuff ain’t cheap anywhere.  But if you rarely–or never–go to Costco, then just pick some up at Satan’s Store Walmart or your local grocery place.

The point here is to get stuff that is shelf-stable. If you want to throw in a big bag of frozen chicken breasts, then be my guest. But you want to have a supply of food that doesn’t need refrigeration and can be easily thrown in a backpack in case you need to get out of Dodge in a hurry. We’ve all been in a situation where the power has been out for quite a while. It’s stressful. And starving, whining kids aren’t going to help anyone feel better. Get some meat!

I’m not going to tell you how much to buy because these packs won’t take up a ton of room (especially those pouches of tuna), but they will take a bite out of your grocery budget. So buy a little more than you feel comfortable with. Yeah, if you aren’t feeling slightly weird then you aren’t getting enough meat.

As the summer drifts to a close it’s a good time to take stock of your water supplies. If you’re like us you’ve been going through water bottles like crazycakes. Summer outings and thirsty people have depleted our supply.  And we all know water is the most important thing you can store.

So get yourselves to the store and stock up on water bottles. A couple of  gallons per person if you like the big jugs, or a flat of water bottles per person if you like the 16-20 oz. bottles.  Water is CHEAP so there’s no reason to scrimp, folks. Keep some in the back of your car and the rest you just need to stash wherever you can.

JUST BUY SOME!  There’s no such thing as having too much water!

Tomorrow is Fast Sunday for Mormons. When I say “fast” I don’t mean the opposite of slow; I mean not eating or drinking. This is something that all Mormons around the world do on the first Sunday of every month. We go hungry. And thirsty. On purpose. We then take the money that we would have spent on food and give it to be used by the poor. The church has huge farms around the world where food is raised especially for church members who are in need. They are run by members of the church and staffed by volunteers.

When we lived in Utah Mister and I worked a few times a year helping out at the production facilities. We packaged cheese at the dairy, screwed lids on jars of spaghetti sauce (they were going down a conveyor belt and I felt like we were in the opening sequence of Laverne and Shirley the whole time. But with spaghetti sauce not beer.)  Once my sister and I even worked in the meat-packing plant. We were on the clean-up crew and it’s probably one of the grossest things I’ve ever had to do. We had to wear giant rubber boots to keep from slipping as we hosed the congealed fat off of every single surface. Gah! So nasty! But being a Mormon means working hard to take care of those around us.

Now that I’m the Relief Society President I help the needy families in the congregation figure out what food and toiletries they might need and fill out an order form for them to go pick it up at a special store every two weeks.  It’s like a food pantry but on a much bigger and more organized scale. The members who receive help are expected to help out in other ways where possible. It’s a pretty fantastic system to make sure that everyone is watched over and helped the way the Lord would want.

Here’s a cool video that shows how the system works around the world.

Hey, school’s back in and I’m ready to get going with my preparedness plans. How about you? Did you work on your preparedness over the summer? I stocked up on freeze-dried goods but I am running low on the basics. This week let’s work on sugar. It’s my best friend and my worst enemy. Either way, I need some in my food storage. The thought of not being able to make cookies if the world is on the fritz is just too overwhelming.

I would suggest a mixture of brown sugar and regular granulated sugar. I would suggest 3-5 lbs of sugar per person. You can split that up amongst the various sugars however you like.*

The nice thing about sugar is that bugs pretty much leave it alone. Which is weird. It’s sugar! Why wouldn’t bugs like it??? But they seem to prefer things made of flour, at least in my neck of the woods. So you don’t need to go to extreme measures to preserve your sugar. I leave mine in those paper sacks they come in and everything is hunky-dory.

See you next week after you’ve gotten your sugar! Remember, the point is to get it done’ this isn’t about driving across town to the cheapest store and trying to clip coupons. It’s about getting it done. So throw a bunch of sugar in your shopping cart next time you’re at the grocery store. If the cashier looks at you strangely just shrug and tell her you’ve got PMS.

 

*But not honey. We’re saving that for its own week.

I haven’t talked much about mascara in a while. At the beginning of the summer I had a bout of Pink Eye which required me to throw away all my eye makeup and start from scratch. It takes me a while to get over Pink Eye and I like to wait a few weeks before it’s gone gone before I start wearing eye makeup again to prevent contamination should there still be bacteria in my eyes. So for several weeks everyone I knew gave me a strange look when I’d show up everywhere sans eye makeup. They could tell I looked different and worse; but they couldn’t put their finger on why.

I spent my eye-makeup-free time dreaming of mascara. I got so tired of my beady little eyes.  My old favorite mascara was by Sonia Kashuk. Of course it’s been discontinued, as is the case with all great makeup. I’ve heard rumors that they’re going to bring it back but I haven’t seen it yet.

After doing lots of research, my first mascara purchase was some Japanese stuff called Heroine Make Lash and Curl. This stuff has the greatest reviews and everybody adores it.

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It’s a Japanese cheapo brand so even with shipping (off of ebay) it wasn’t too expensive. My verdict: It was horrible. HORRIBLE!  It was so wet and gooey that my lashes all stuck together in one disgusting clump. And it took forever to dry. Seriously, I put the mascara on, finished my other makeup, put my shoes on and got in my car and the mascara was still goopy. Heaven help you if you sneeze or rub your eyes before it’s dried. I have no idea–none-why people would like this mascara. The positive reviews on Makeup Alley confound me. My lashes certainly didn’t look full or lush. They just looked stubby and gross. I thought maybe some eyelashes had fallen out because of the pink eye, they looked so pitiful.

Next I turned to another positively reviewed mascara, Be Long by Clarins. I saw Clarins makeup all over Europe but it’s not as well-known here in America. I mean, I’ve seen Clarins counters around but it just doesn’t seem to be as popular as Clinique or Lancôme. So I ordered a small tube of Be Long off of ebay because it’s pretty spendy if you buy it retail. (Ebay is such a great resource for trying out makeup without having to pay a fortune.)

Clarins Be Long

My eyelashes that I thought were short and sparse? Oh my goodness! Never before have they looked so long and gorgeous. My lashes curled beautifully and the mascara didn’t clump at all. All I could do is look in the mirror and say, “Wow!”.  Sadly, Be Long is not waterproof. By the end of the day it had smudged and little tiny flakes were dotting my cheeks.  Going out in the bright sun (which is all the time here in Texas) makes my eyes water and after a while I started to look streaky like Tammy Faye talking about Jim’s infidelity.

I was just so, so, so disappointed. I’ve heard that there are products that you can apply to mascara to make it waterproof. But once you factor in expensive mascara plus an expensive waterproofer, it’s quite a lot of money just for eyelashes. While lots of people think that eyelashes are tremendously important, they’re just a row of hair so really they’re not my number one concern. If I were a blondie with pale lashes I might feel differently.

Next I decided to try Clarins waterproof mascara called Wonder Proof. While it’s very nice and one of my top picks, it’s not as great as Be Long. It’s a little clumpier and my lashes don’t look quite as long. The great thing about this mascara, though, is that is doesn’t budge.  No smudging and smearing at all. I wash my face with oil and I still have to rub hard to get this stuff off at the end of the day.

Wonder perfect

Every day when I reach for my mascara I want to grab Be Long. It just looks so fantastic. But I don’t fancy looking like a raccoon by the end of the day so I pick Wonder Perfect instead. It’s a very good mascara but it’s not my Holy Grail. I’d put it on the same level as my old favorite, Lights Camera Lashes by Tarte (which is not waterproof but a little more smudge resistant than Be Long). I’m still on the look-out. Do you have a waterproof mascara that you’re madly in love with? I might need to try it.

Erasers

Somehow in the raising of children you oftentimes start traditions that you didn’t mean to start. Of course these traditions usually end up being a complete pain but heaven help you if you try to abandon them. Thus we ended up with the Annual Buying of the School Supplies. Think Running of the Bulls in Pamplona but with children, not bovines. And in Target, not Spain.  Back when the kiddles were first starting out they went to a lovely little private school in Salt Lake City called Carden Memorial School. It was so wonderful and I am only now realizing what a blessing it was to attend there. The school was very picky about what products the students used so the cost of the school supplies was bundled into tuition and all we did was show up on the first day with nothing but a backpack. Everything else was provided. The notebooks were lovely little things imported from France and the crayons were some kind I’ve never seen before. It was all so nice.

But then we had too many kids and couldn’t afford tuition so off we went to a Charter School. This meant buying all the supplies ourselves. So off we went with six children under age ten to Target with four separate lists of products to buy. It was mayhem, to say the least. I was probably in tears by the time we left. But the kids had  grand old time. And the next summer it had already been established as a tradition. Kids have this weird way of assuming that any activity they really like is now a tradition even if they’ve only done it once. And we sucker parents, eager to create as many magical traditions and memories as possible, completely give in. Every single time. How else do we explain naughty leprechaun shenanigans on St. Patrick’s Day, $20 tooth fairy gifts or making a fancy birthday poster every single year (am I right, Tiffany)? So now we find ourselves at Target every August, trying to navigate the bins of pencils and post-it notes. I’m so dreadfully jealous of the moms who buy those pre-made kits of all the proper school supplies that are tidily wrapped, waiting on their child’s desk the night of the Open House. I suggested those to my children last year and they were all writhing on the floor by the time I’d finished the question. How dare I suggest they not pick out their very own scissors!

So it looks like tomorrow night will be the magical night we head over to our home away from home Target. I will commence to dig through the jillions of folders to find exactly the right ones (plastic, pockets, brads) in all five colors (“gosh dangit, how are the red ones gone already???”). I will explain to my children the nuances of a Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser vs. Pink Pearl (Pink Pearls are crap. I don’t care what the list from the school says), a pencil box vs. a pencil case. (“no, a box is much better. You can open it and see everything at once. With a soft case you have to constantly dig around inside. I know it doesn’t come in turquoise but you’ll thank me, I swear.”),  and the debate which isn’t even worth debating: Crayola vs. Rose Art (spend the extra 10¢ and get Crayola for Pete’s Sake. Rose Art’s quality is an insult to humanity. I do prefer Prang watercolors to Crayola,though, truth be told.)

As someone who is not a teacher, I am flummoxed by the huge amount of dry-erase markers that are required. Why do they cost so much more than regular markers? It’s a pile of noxious chemicals. Just make more!  And what’s so special about manila paper. Are you telling me that a ream of legal sized printer paper is not quite good enough?

Now that we’ve got older kids we have to do two big shopping trips. The elementary schoolers need everything by late summer or it will all be sold out. The older kids have to go to school before their teachers tell them what is needed. So we’ve got to scrounge around the leftovers during the first week of school hoping to find the elusive five-subject notebook. If you go to the school supply section in late August it looks like the bottled water aisle the day before a hurricane. There’s nothing there but a couple of Monster High folders and a pack of highlighters.  Then we’re left to search for notebooks at places like Walgreen’s. And that just feels all wrong.

So I’m girding my loins and mentally preparing myself to run the gauntlet tomorrow evening. Pray for me.