Monday, February 28, 2011

How I Do It

I get asked all the time, "How do you do it?" I know I'm not alone. Usually when someone asks me this, it's in the context of parenting/homeschooling. My answer is twofold. First, I'm completely anal retentive and have mad time management skills. Or so I'm told.

Moving on, the second part of my answer includes the fact that I do NOT get it all done. Ever. I am human. Even I have things I hate doing. Or won't do. Or both.

Today, though, let me walk you through a normal Monday so you can see how it gets done (or not).

6:30 a.m. - Alarm blares. Hit snooze.

6:39 a.m. - Alarm blares. Hit snooze.

6:48 a.m. - Alarm blares. This time I actually turn it off and get my rump out of bed. I stagger down the hall to M2's room, where her alarm is blaring, turn that off, and wake her up. I debate this whole 8 o'clock bedtime thing because clearly it ain't workin' if she's now sleeping through her alarm instead of getting up with it. Ponder going back to 7 because the kids would never know.

6:50-7:32 a.m. - Get dressed. Make the bed. Swap out the dirty towels in the bathroom for clean ones and start that particular load of laundry. Throw frozen strudel thingies in the toaster and pour glasses of milk for breakfast for the kids. Wake M1 up and inform him there is food (it's amazing how fast that boy can move when food is involved). Eat a container of yogurt for my own meal. Put some bunny grahams in a sack for M2's snack and set it near her backpack. Ask the kids to put their hampers in the hall so I can sort and wash their laundry today. Empty the dishwasher while loosely supervising the kids brushing their teeth (mostly this meant making sure they were quiet because Oz was working till 4:30 a.m. and needed his beauty rest). Clean the litter boxes while the kids put away their part of the dishes and put on their shoes and coats. Clip M2's pedometer onto her pants pocket. Pile everyone in the van.

7:33 a.m. - Breathe a sigh of relief that we're on our way.

7:44 a.m. - Drop M2 off at school. She didn't want to be walked in today, so I sat in the car pool lane to make sure she got to the door okay. She did. She happily gave the fist-bump greeting to the eighth grader who has taken to helping the morning monitor and wandered in.

7:55 a.m. - Make it back home. Send M1 out to release the chickens from their prison... er... coop... and bring in some stray arrows that have been sitting in the garage for a couple of weeks, attempting to stab anyone who walked past with knees at just the height of the top of a hay bale. Debate with M1 about whether he'd rather go to Lego Club or take a nap today. Lego wins. I resolve to fix coffee.

8-8:30 a.m. - Get the boy started on writing comparison sentences. Check Facebook and the news on my phone. Think about a friend of mine who has an important appointment today for a vision loss problem. Worry about her. Worry about another friend who has a broken foot and whose toes have been turning purple whenever she stands up. Wonder who is going to complete the trifecta of crappy health issues because my friend whose house has flooded and has to get new flooring thanks to the leaking fridge doesn't really count. Hers will go into another trifecta of crappy appliance issues, and someone else has already claimed slot #2 there.

8:30-8:45 a.m. - Start load of laundry #2. Start the boy on math. Boil some navy beans so I can soak them for the rest of the day and have them for dinner tonight. Say good-bye to Oz, who has arisen and is off for the day.

8:45 a.m. - Find out that the third member of the health issue trifecta is my grandfather, who is currently in the hospital and is likely to be taken to a nursing home after his release instead of back to his assisted living center. Not good. Not horribly surprising, but still not good.

8:46-9:30 a.m. - Park my carcass on the couch and browse forums while M1 finishes up math and whines about spelling, mostly dictionary practice. Explain the importance of dictionary skills in real life, not the least of which is being able to find requested books on the reserved shelf at the library. Start this post, to be edited at various times during the day.

9:32 a.m. - Start coffee. Thank heaven for whoever first peeled that particular cherry, ground up the seed inside, steeped it in water, and drank it. And the person who invented caramel macchiato creamer to go with it.

9:36-11:30 a.m. - Get coffee. Finish up on the computer while the boy finishes spelling and colors a picture for history. Set up and play a game from "Story of the World" entitled the 'Fast Tax' game. Treat the boy's asthma in between games. Wonder why he gets a rash every time he plays outside these days. After the game finishes, explain the point the game makes about why it would have been cheaper to pay the gold/salt tax and go through Ghana than to keep the extra cash and go around it. Illustrate with Legos. Find a rabbit hole. Go down it. Discuss supply and demand. Use Jerusalem as an example (Would the world's Big Three religions be fighting if there were three Jerusalems? Five?). Listen to the boy's questions about gas/oil prices and the current events in the Middle East. Bust out the globe to further illustrate and discuss the issue. Express irritation with Gadhafi. Find a bend in the rabbit hole and discuss the recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Inform the boy that we have relatives there, all of whom are fine. Explain the Richter scale and how much stronger a 7.0 earthquake is compared to a 6.0. Illustrate with Legos. Read e-mails bouncing back and forth from various family members concerning the status of my grandfather. Take a deep breath and head back to the living room to begin science.

11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Read a chapter on cloud formation and weather. Go over definitions. Perform an experiment in which the boy gets to create his own fog.

12:15-12:45 p.m. - Lunch. Fold the laundry from load #1. Pull load #2 out of the dryer. Start load #3 for the mom's group consignment sale next Monday.

12:45 p.m. - Do a quick Internet search on dragsters, how their races work, and what kind of fuel they use before...

1 p.m. - ... piling into the van to take M1 to Lego Club. He had built a dragster and wanted to know more about them before showing it off to the group.

1:15-3:00 p.m. - Lego Club.

3:10-3:20 p.m. - Fetch M2 from school and drive home. Listen to her admit that she and her classmates had spent the day making farting noises at each other. Giggle and cringe simultaneously and explain that the teacher probably does not appreciate that, no matter how much she tolerates it. Listen to M2 say "everyone does it" and take a deep breath. Ask her if 'everyone' doing it makes it polite and okay. "Yes." Ask her if everyone was hitting her, if that would be okay because 'everyone' was doing it. "Yes, because I don't care." Deep breath. Drop the issue.

3:20-4:45 p.m. - Get home. Fold and put away laundry load #2 and pull load #3 out of the laundry. Make a list of items to sell and tentative prices to be tagged later. Start simmering the beans for dinner. Start frying up the sausage to go in the beans for dinner. Send the girl to her room until she can be nice to me after she announces that she can't stand me and that Oz is the only person in the house that she likes and is nice to her. Accept her apology and pull out the violin for practice. Practice violin with the girl, prepping for her solo 'contest' on Saturday. Learn that my friend who had the ophthalmologist appointment has a detached retina. Worry. Learn that the girl who had stolen the second slot in the appliance death trifecta has probably also claimed slot #3. Be grateful it's not me.

From 4:45 on, the day was like most others. The kids played and read books. I finished dinner. We ate. Baths and bedtime for the kids. And now, here I am, parked on the computer again, watching Top Gear and getting ready to work on the cross-stitch pattern I'm attempting to finish by M2's birthday (it's going to be close).

One day, much like many others. A day in the life of me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indigestion and Adrenaline

As funny and brainless as Saturday was, its effects on my digestive system were far, far worse than those on my children's nervous systems. How, you ask? Let me tell you how it works.

Step 1: Purchase something called 'boudin balls' to eat for a fattening, fried snack someday.

Step 2: Agree to let your spouse fry them.

Step 3: Eyeball the deep fryer your spouse unearths from the bowels of your kitchen cabinets and question its use after such a long, long time (because the last time YOU remember using it was at least two years ago, though your spouse is adamant that he's used it more recently).

Step 4: Trust your spouse when he assures you that the oil is still good.

Step 5: Eat the fried snack.

Step 6: Spend the next 36 hours debating the merits of never eating fried food (or ANY food) ever, ever, EVER again.

That's it, really. It was horrible. The worst part wasn't even the indigestion (though that was awful) or the fact that Oz's metabolism is about 24 hours faster than mine (though that was annoying). No, the worst part was that I couldn't sleep because of it all.

At about 3:15 a.m., I was finally starting to doze off. I could feel my brain starting to turn to mush. I could sense the lack of coherence in my thoughts. And just as I really started to let go...

You cat owners will know the sound... HACK-a, HACK-a, HACK-a... SQUUUUCK.

@#*%&^#)@&^

Sure enough, Hermes had hurled. It wouldn't have been so bad if he had done it on the wood floor, but nope, he had to do it on the whole 5 square feet of rug located in the room. So I sighed and went to go find the paper towels and the carpet cleaner and discovered the source of the problem. A mouse... well, MOST of a mouse... located in the doorway between the hall and the living room.

Gah.

I passed a peacefully snoring Oz several times as I stumbled back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom to get everything cleaned up, and it took a good amount of self-control not to leave the mouse on him. What stopped me was the realization that if he rolled over on it, then it would have been squished into the couch, and that would have been way, WAY worse than finding it on the floor.

About 4:30, I finally got to sleep. Woke up at 5:30, went out, and rolled Oz onto his side so his snoring would stop shaking the entire house. Got back to sleep around 6. Ignored the world till 10.

When I got finally got up, I had it in my head that I had a peaceful day ahead of me in which to recover.

NOT!

At 12:48 p.m., I looked at my phone and suddenly thought, "SWIM MEET!!!!"

M1 and I were supposed to be there at 1:15. The swim school is clear across town from us. We may or may not have sped the entire way there. But we made it. And I was so glad I had remembered.

M1 did beautifully in both his events.

Suddenly, all my stomach troubles didn't seem to matter one bit any more. It was definitely a blast to sit on the sidelines and watch my son compete. The adrenaline was insane for both of us. He was so excited that he didn't come last (fourth) and didn't care one bit that he didn't get first in both events, which was so noble and so sweet that it almost made me cry. He was thrilled to bring home these ribbons and wants to get a pinboard to hang them on!

All in all, it's been an interesting weekend. The best was definitely the last, and I can't wait till I can get to the craft store.

I definitely won't be eating boudin balls again, though.

Ever.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mama Said There'd Be...

Ever have days where the kids just wake up stupid??

No, seriously.

I swear if I went and looked under my children's beds today, there would be large puddles of gray matter oozing around under there. They simply woke up and forgot to put in their brains.

First, M1 forgot to turn off his alarm clock, which automatically resets each morning, so he woke up at 6:38 a.m. I went in and told him it was Saturday and to go back to sleep, and then I got up around 7:15 to use the bathroom and he was still in his room (and M2 was asleep, hanging upside down off the side of her bed, presumably letting her brain leak out in the process), so I went back to sleep. Oz, however, was asleep on the couch and said they came in shortly after 7:30 at the latest.

He was awake, but the kids aren't used to him sleeping on the couch and they weren't sure what they could get away with, so they performed a rather Inception Cat-like routine. Oz had fun with it. He was awake and could hear them whispering.

M1: He's awake.

M2: No, he isn't.

M1: Yes, he is. Watch his eyes.

M2: But he's not moving, and Daddy always moves when he's awake.

At this point, Oz twitched his eyes open for a second and both kids completely froze. It was like something out of Jurassic Park, where the scientists operate on the theory that the dinosaur can only find you if you're in motion. Oz continued this for a while till M2 decided to get right up in his face and was literally close enough that he could feel her breath. He opened his eyes again.

"HI, DAD!!!!"

Chipper. That's the only word to describe how our daughter wakes up. When Oz came into the bedroom to change clothes and see if we wanted to go for another Saturday of beignets and cafe au lait (the answer was yes), he made the mistake of lying down on the bed. M2 promptly climbed on him, planted her knees in his solar plexus, and bounced while making joyful, elephant-like trumpeting noises. Keep in mind she's about 65 pounds and has pointed, bony joints. Pain happened.

M1, on the other hand, was exercising his lack of brain power to fall off of the couch and ottoman repeatedly. This was somewhat on purpose and somewhat a complete lack of muscle control. However, he really didn't function too badly until we were on our way to take M2 and I to her group violin lesson.

I had asked Oz to take M1 shopping for a few spring/summer clothes (Boy grew again. Wish he'd quit.) while we were at the lesson, but M1 didn't know that. So as M2 and I were walking across the street to the teacher's house, Oz yelled, "What size?"

I told him.

M1 heard him but didn't hear me and didn't know what Daddy was talking about.

"Where are we going?" he asked. "I heard you ask what size? What size of what?"

"What size drink," Oz lied. "She said a Big Gulp."

"Big Gulp is a computer game, not a drink!"

"Big Gulp is a size of drink at a 7-Eleven."

"What's a 7-Eleven?" (This isn't an odd question. We don't have 7-Elevens here. We have QuikTrip, which is 1000 times better. Trust me.)

"It's a convenience store," Oz replied as he drove away. Then he parked at Sears, which is close to the teacher's house.

"Why are we parking here?" M1 wanted to know.

"This is close to the 7-Eleven. It's only a mile away."

"A MILE?!?!?!? I don't want to walk a mile for a drink! My feet will get tired! I can walk a mile there, but I can't walk a mile back."

[At this point in the retelling, I'm dying of laughter.]

Oz walks into Sears. M1 follows.

"Why are we going in here?" he demanded.

"You have to go through the store to get to the 7-Eleven. It's on the way."

"Oh, okay."

[Still dying.]

They wander into the clothes section and have to pass escalators on the way.

"OH!!!" M1's light clicks on above his head. "I KNOW! The convenience store is really downstairs! I saw the escalators!!"

Oz, who has somehow managed to hold it together till this point, has to point out that they're standing in the clothes section and that they're there to find clothes for M1.

"WHAAAAAAT? That's BORING! I don't want clothes!"

[snort]

Oz helped him pick out three pairs of shorts and three shirts, which went a very long way to making M1's summer wardrobe complete. They probably would have gotten more except that M1 was done and ready to inflict his brainless brand of boredom on his sister again, which he did, all the way home. Not that she was an unwilling party to this. The giggling was deafening. Feet were flailing.

I've sent them to their (separate) rooms for a while to see if they can locate their cerebral matter. Here's to a day without brains.

Cheers!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Words...

I use a lot of words on a daily basis. It's inevitable. But in going through my family's daily word list, I've run across a few that I don't think anyone else uses. I could be wrong... but I doubt it. Some of these come from the mouths of babes, past or present. Some are just me having a strong streak of Peculiar. All of them are likely part of our vocabulary, for better or worse, forever.

1. Moop - n. -s, The act of an animal sticking a cold, wet nose on any part of your body. "EEP! Oh... it was just the cat giving me a moop!"

v. -s, -ed, -ing The act of mooping. "The horse is mooping me!"

2. Insnoosticat (in SNUS' ti cat) - n. -s, A cat that is caught sticking its nose where it doesn't belong, usually a repeat offender. "The insnoosticat is trying to get into the linen closet again, Mom!"

3. Sonjee (SAWN' jee) - n. Orange juice.

4. Beasticat (BEEST' i cat) - n. Any cat weighing over 20 pounds. They happen here. They're hilarious when they run.

5. Snack-me-over - n. A small smackerel of something to tide you over to the next meal. Particularly pertinent on holidays or during events when meals are served at a later time than usual.

6. Oogy-googy (all g's are hard) - n. An egg.

7. Hickleup - n. Those loud and occasionally painful hiccups that you can't keep quiet no matter how hard you try.

8. Schnuggle - n. What kids (and sometimes mamas) need after a good cry.

9. Nessy-mo kiss - n. Familiar term for Eskimo kiss.

10. Fufftail - n. A cat that has been properly startled and is streaking around the house with an inflated tail.

11. Puddoo (pud OO') - n. Pillow.

12. Raider-raider - n. Refrigerator.

13. Lap-sitter - n. An animal that firmly believes its place is in your lap and will run across the room to claim its spot. They will often sit for hours, no matter what else you need to be doing. (Lap-sitters rule the roost here. They are used as an excuse to get out of chores, usually with much effect. "Honey, can you do the dishes? I have a lap-sitter." OR "I need to go put the kids to bed but... well... there's a lap-sitter...")

For further reference, see also:

Cat Dictionary

I hope I'm not the only one that has odd family words and phrases. Tell me I'm not. Share if you like. I might steal them. I love to pick up new and eerily accurate words. Like schadenfreude.

Beautiful.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of Mice and Miniature Men

The house was silent. I was parked on the couch, quietly reading a book. M1 was in bed napping (no, seriously, sound asleep). And from the kitchen there came sounds.

Whumpa whack whumpa thump skitterskitterskitter

Now usually, after noises like this, at least one cat will come tearing through the living room on the way to hide in my bedroom, where either A) both cats repeat the process and they shoot back out to the kitchen or B) the lone cat comes back out to figure out why he or she wasn't being properly chased, and the process repeats again anyway.

This time, I got nuthin'.

"Mouse," I thought.

But I didn't really want to go investigate. I was hoping that it wasn't a mouse or, if it was, that it was dying a quick, relatively painless death.

When I woke M1 up and we got ready to go get M2, two cats were hovering over a very small spot in the laundry room.

"What is it?" I asked M1.

"A mouse," he stated, as if this happens every day. (It doesn't.) "And I think it's still alive."

Oh God.

The mouse was indeed alive but was also, thankfully, still in one piece. I had to fight a growling cat for it, but I scooped it up in a paper cup and tossed it outside. I don't know whether it will live or die (something I don't want to think about), but at least I won't have regurgitated entrails somewhere on my carpet.

-----

Oz and I had talked last night and decided that we put the kids to bed too early on school nights. Their weeknight bedtime has long been between 7 and 7:30. I know that my family and Oz's family all think this is insanely early, but between M1's desperate need for mass quantities of sleep, M2's young age and early-bird-ness, and my former job, 7-7:30 was a perfect bedtime for them. That's no longer true. M1 still needs sleep, but he hardly ever falls asleep before 8 or 8:30 unless he's thoroughly worn out. M2 is still an early bird but is also a night owl because she just flat doesn't need as much sleep as her somnolent brother. And I don't have a night job any more.

So we thought that starting tonight we'd move their bedtime back to somewhere around 8. Especially since M1 had taken a nap, both kids should have been easily up to this... right?

*rolls with laughter*

Is anything ever that simple?

The first step was fixing a late dinner. I was aiming for 7, so that we could at least maintain the bedtime routine after the meal was over. It would simply be later. However, at 6 o'clock, our normal mealtime, M2 insisted she was "starving." Since I was fixing a simple dinner of fish tacos, I headed to the kitchen and had it ready before 6:30.

By the end of the meal, M1 was *done.* Checked out, timed out, clocked out, DONE. To the point that he was about to chunk his wooden napkin ring at his sister and shrieked like a banshee when I caught him at it. Yeesh. I had saved some science work (meteorology/forecasting) to be done this evening, so we did that, but he went to bed shortly after 7. Just like normal. M2? Well, she got to stay up a bit later so I could read her a book entitled "Wobble the Witch Cat" about a cat and his witch, aptly named Maggie. She loved it. But she was in bed shortly after 7:30.

First day of staying up later? FAIL.

Eventually it'll work. I'm not deterred. Just amused. The best-laid plans and all that.

Off to celebrate National Margarita Day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Child Labor

No, seriously, we need more manual labor around here! I love worn-out children. They're snuggly and amenable.

M1 went to my dad's house for the weekend; M2 went to my mom's.

As I posted yesterday, Oz and I had an absolutely GLOrious Saturday without them (we did make it to Wolfgang Puck's, and Verdict = YUM!). I love my children, but these sorts of breaks should be mandatory. Today was less GLOrious, since it pretty much consisted of cleaning the house and watching the Daytona 500, but even so, a second day of peace wasn't a bad thing.

I was ready for the kids to come back, though. The silence was getting deafening.

Which meant that when my mom called and asked if I was ready to meet her to pick up M2, I was fine with that. And when my dad called when M2 and I were halfway home and asked me to come retrieve M1, I was fine with that, too.

When I picked up M2, I asked her what she'd done this weekend.

"I CHOPPED A LOT!!" was her immediate answer. "I chopped lots of fruit so we could have a salad, so now you know I can chop things in the kitchen! And we took lots and lots of walks, and I got to help Granny with lots of chores!"

She was tired. She was happy. And when I said that we were going to go pick up M1, she said, "I've been having the best days with Granny. I want these best days to continue. I am going to be nice to M1 and then I will have the BEST. LIFE. EVER!!!"

Who could argue with that logic?? I told her that I definitely wanted her to have the best. life. ever. and that I was happy she'd had a great weekend. Complete with lots of work and walking. Fingers crossed that this attitude holds over through school tomorrow.

---

Then we arrived at my dad's house to grab M1. M1 hid when I arrived, in a vain attempt to get to stay longer, but he was okay. Tired but okay. I asked my dad what M1 had done over the weekend. He had a list:

1. Helped install a small woodstove in the den.
2. Climbed into the attic and helped install the stovepipe.
3. Climbed on the roof and helped install a vent and shingles.
4. Held a flashlight when it got dark so Granddad could finish the shingling work.

Oh, my.

Well, I know I can't compete with that when it comes to jobs he can do on a daily basis, but WOOHOO for WORK!

When we got home, he did exactly as he was asked and unpacked his clothes, as asked. He tried to pick on his sister but stopped, when asked. And when he got really frustrated with me, I let him escape to his room so he could calm down, and when he came back out, he wanted to snuggle. It might be difficult to snuggle a 5' tall 8-year-old, but it can be done! And I'm glad he had a good weekend. Hopefully it lasts through the school day tomorrow.

I've gotta get my kids hired out for manual labor on a more regular basis. Stupid laws ;) I vote we put them to work till they're ready to be polite to us and to one another. Any other takers?

(P.S. What do you good folks know about Royal Rangers? M1 has been invited to join a local troop, but I know absolutely nothing about them. Thanks!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Day of Peace

Life is good.

I got a package in the mail from the National Geographic store yesterday. It contained books (as it almost always does when I order from there). I had gone through their sale/clearance section and found a bunch of books on the American colonies for half price. I ordered all seven that were on sale and am hoping the rest of them will go on sale next month. I also ordered a book on Galileo and a book on the Mayflower Compact. Yes, M1 and I are a history buffs, why do you ask?? Anyway, there are new books.

M1 went to my dad's house for the weekend. Oz took him to my dad's shop for the transfer. Of course, we had to send the bow & arrow and the BB gun with him, because if they don't go coyote hunting (I know, I know...), they're going to do some target practice. Methinks Granddad likes having a boy to play with.

M2 went to my mom's house for the weekend. I met my mother at a rendezvous point halfway between her house and mine. M2 was very excited about having one-on-one time with Granny. Granny is excited that she's only getting one kid. She can't handle both my kids at once. There are a lot of willpower issues there.

After we dropped off the kids, Oz and I met up with friends. Separately. I find this to be the mark of a great relationship, personally. He went to a pub with some coworkers and friends; I went to a restaurant with a gal pal or two. There were drinks involved for all parties. A good time was had by all.

This morning Oz and I got up and dressed and went to a restaurant/store called Cajun Ed's for their Saturday morning beignets and cafe au lait. Oz had never had a beignet and wanted to know what they were like. I told him they were somewhere between a doughnut and a sopapilla. They brought the pastries out in the white paper bags they had been shaken in, all coated in powdered sugar (icing sugar for anyone not in this country). They were still warm and messy and absolutely delicious. I'm not a big coffee person, especially without enough sugar to make it taste nothing like coffee, but their coffee was so smooth that I could almost drink it without adding anything (though I did take a couple spoonfuls of powdered sugar out of the bags to add to my drink, just because I could). Oz and I are thinking about making this breakfast a regular Saturday occurrence. Besides anything else, in the shop portion of the store they carry things like boudin balls and alligator dip and crawfish etouffee, and I'm a little bit of a Southern food junkie.

After we finished breakfast/shopping for Cajun food, Oz took me over to the Borders that's closing, just to see what was going on, which basically meant there was a HUGE line for the sake of 20% off, which confuzzled me completely. I took pictures of some book covers and figured I'd wait till either A) the discounts got bigger and crowds got smaller, or B) I found them for better prices on Amazon.

Now we're back home, and I'm waiting on Oz to tell me what we're doing the rest of the day. I hope to end up at the Wolfgang Puck Bistro, but between now and then, I am enjoying the peace.

This nice, quiet weekend should hold me over for a long time.

Life is good.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creation: A Teacher's Tale of Writing

I love a good creation story. Let me share with one with you. I think it's a lovely tale of struggle and satisfaction, but I may be a tad biased.

-----

M1 doesn't like writing. That's a given. He never will. It's a fact of life, though, even for a kid who is heavily into science (great scientific discoveries must be published!). We've been working on the writing process lately. This means breaking it down into itty-bitty steps and trying to get something coherent out at the end. It's daunting. He knows the basics of a sentence - capital letter at the beginning, commas in lists, punctuation at the end. He's got a good grasp of grammar and sentence structure. He's a natural at spelling (and works wonders with his handy-dandy electronic dictionary for any word he can't figure out instantly). He can even tell you what's wrong with a sentence after it's been written... and fix it! But the idea of putting all this together to create a cohesive story has been a lot to wrap his head around. Because he hates book reports (retelling a story is something he can do in 2 minutes flat, so why write it down??) and inventing stories (either he has no ideas or 500 of them, and neither of those two mesh well with getting thoughts down on paper), we're working on narratives.

First, we had to get over the brainstorming hurdle. We'd done brainstorming before, so I simply said, "Brainstorm some ideas of a memory you'd like to share." He froze. He cried. I felt bad. We talked. And I finally worked out that he thought he had to pretty much come up with EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of his story on the spot!

Overthinking much? (Genetics may play a part here.)

I rephrased, "Come up with three or four BIG IDEAS of memories that you'd want to share."

He did.

"Now brainstorm three things to go with each idea, IF YOU CAN. If you can't, then we know that isn't the right topic for you. Just cross them out."

He did. And there was Evening, and there was Morning, the First Day.

The next day we chose the topic and wrote down a list of things that happened, step by step, without paying any attention to spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, etc. He just got to write down the memory. Then we made sure it answered all the important questions: WHO was involved, WHAT happened, WHERE it happened, WHY it happened, WHEN it happened, HOW it happened, and, because it's a narrative and I like to make him work with his emotions, HOW he felt about it all. He was thrilled to do this because it was easy; all he had to do was write down the facts! My boy likes facts.

And there was Evening, and there was Morning, the Second Day.

On the third day, I had him write down the topic sentence, i.e. What the story is all about. He turned it into two sentences and thought I'd be mad. MAD? MAD that he turned it into a baby paragraph?? HA!

I liked The Third Day.

On the Fourth Day, we restated the facts for the middle of his story, doing the editing as we went. In other words, he got to tell the story. Easy peasy.

I was going to have him write a closing sentence or two (the ones about how he felt) on Day Five, but he beat me to the punch and did it on Day Four. So Day Five was a rest. I felt Great Accomplishment, and so did he.

-----

Without further ado, M1's story:

My mom and I drove to the zoo to see the lion cubs. I felt cold because it was late fall. We went to see the lion cubs because it was their birthday. When we got there, they were already out. We watched them play with balls and lick frozen blood. The birthday was funny. I laughed a lot. I want to go again.

-----

My son amazes me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Greener Grass

Most of the (many, many) conversations that R and I had while we were up to visit centered around our children and home life. It's to be expected, I suppose. We talked about homeschooling. We talked about the differences between boys and girls and what drives us nuts about each. We talked about the things our kids do that seem funny to others but drive us crazy when we have to deal with it Every. Single. Day. And we talked about how we manage to, well, manage our households.

R and I come from similar mothers. You think I'm Type A, OCD, and in many ways a neatnik? You haven't seen my mother. She's not Martha Stewart or anything - I love her, but cooking isn't her forte and she's about as creative as I am - but her house is always, always immaculate. I remember being about 11 and dusting my bedroom. I had really worked to do a good job, because my mom always came in to inspect my room after I said I was done. I called her in, proud of myself, only to see her turn around and wipe a finger over the top of the doorway. "Who dusts that??" I thought. She did. And after that, I did. To this day, I have to dust the tops of doorways every time I break out the Endust. And that's just the start. R's mother is immaculate like mine. We know that compared to our mothers, we both fall way, way short. It bugs both of us. And yet we're very different in our approaches to housekeeping.

Many people who visit my house comment on how neat it is. I guess it can be considered an admirable trait, but sometimes I feel like I'm a harpy when it comes to the house and all that's in it because I feel like I constantly nag at the family to help me keep it clean. "Pick up your toys!!" is a nightly refrain, and I do go through the house to make sure everything is taken care of. Very rarely I will allow a project to be left out overnight, and sometimes there are the odd items that just don't get taken care of for a few days, but by and large, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

R's house is slightly more chaotic. It's definitely clean, and the important things get put away (no food on the counters overnight that belongs in the fridge, for example), but she has the magical ability to let her kids leave messes out. She doesn't have an internal panic attack if the laundry doesn't get done on precisely the right day each week. Her kids have a toy room (something I am insanely jealous of) that would make both our mothers' insides twist into knots upon sight.

Clearly we have different ways of doing things, different priorities. The funny thing is, we discovered that we admire these priorities in each other! As we were driving to Wal-Mart at 10:30 p.m. on February 13 to pick up little trinkets and goodies for our kids to have on Valentine's Day, we had a good laugh about it.

"I wish my kids would pick up when I tell them to, like yours do," she said. "Do you know how long it takes me to get them to do anything??"

"But your kids are so HAPPY!" I countered. "They still obey you on the important stuff, but you're able to prioritize and let them just... just be kids and make messes without worrying about it later!"

"But your kids are happy, too, and your house is clean!"

"But I feel like I have a stick up my backside about it and that I'm mean!"

"I feel like I'm not mean enough, and my house drives me crazy!"

I was glad we were able to laugh about it. It struck me as hilarious that here we were, two similar products of two similar mothers, and yet we admire the different approaches that we have taken as better traits than those we practice ourselves. She's jealous of my ability to have a constantly neat house; I'm jealous of her ability to NOT have one. Will we ever be able to modify our behaviors to more closely match what we say we want? Probably not. It would drive me absolutely bonkers to have stuff on the floor when I went to bed at night, and she would hate having to try to mold her kids into something new just to get them to cooperate with all the cleaning.

So we'll sit here, friends anyway, and just admire that lovely, equally green grass on the other side of the fence.

Human nature is definitely a funny thing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lost & Found

The Universe moves in mysterious ways. Last Monday at this time, I had no plans to go anywhere over the weekend. Last Thursday at this time, I had no plans to go anywhere over the weekend. On Friday at this time, though, the family and I were headed into Missouri on our way to Illinois to visit friends we hadn't seen in over a year.

WHY? Why an impromptu 9-hour road trip to a town in Illinois?

Honestly, I'm still not sure. After being cooped up for (almost) two weeks straight with both kids, when I wasn't in a great place mentally anyway, I think something snapped. I posted on Facebook that I wanted to escape with the family over the weekend, and my friend R said, "COME SEE US!!!" Great Wolf Lodge had already been suggested but had to be dumped because both GWLs within driving distance were booked for the weekend, so when R said that, something in my head said, "Y'know... it's a longer drive than you'd wanted, but... WHY NOT???"

Oz thought I was crazy. *I* thought I was crazy. The kids (especially once M2 found out after school) were beyond excited but thought I was crazy. R was beside herself with giddiness. But I wanted to go to Illinois. I wanted to park myself in the car - an obviously even smaller venue than my house - for nine hours EACH WAY with both kids... and drive to Illinois.

I had officially lost my mind. I knew it, but it didn't stop me. I made a mad dash to the dollar store to get Valentines for M2's class since I had decided that we would stay as long as possible, which meant driving home today and letting the kids miss a day of school, which meant that M2 would miss her Valentine's Day class party, and I wanted to act like I had SOME sort of plan in mind and wasn't slapping this whole trip together at the last nanosecond. I like pretending I'm a responsible adult.

I filled up all six cat bowls, prayed that none of them quit using the litter boxes while we were gone, left a note for the Horse Lady asking her to check on the dogs and chickens, we packed up, and we left.

We arrived in their town early Saturday afternoon (we spent the night in a hotel... free with points from Oz) and were greeted VERY enthusiastically at the door by all three of R's kids. J, the middle child who is almost certainly ADHD but all the more adorable because of it, was the most excited. The oldest child, E, and J dragged M1 off instantly. The baby girl, L, is now 3 1/2 and just SO much bigger than last time I saw her. She and M2 disappeared. R's husband, Big J, was at work. He's a priest and was teaching a class and preparing for his Sunday services, so we didn't get to see much of him, unfortunately.

R was elated to see me. I don't think we shut up all weekend...

... except when we were testing out the martinis at a local joint that has an unbelievable martini list.

Let me show you the list:

That's 46 martinis. Don't worry. We (and by we I mean *I*) only tried 3. Oz watched the kids (and by watched the kids I mean watched TV while they slept) while we went out and did this. Then we drove all around her town and she got to show me all the WONDERFUL old houses that are in her area.

She lives in one of those wonderful old houses. It needs work - a LOT of it - but it's beautiful. There are little surprises around every corner, like beautiful antique etched hinges and strikeplates and doorknobs on the doors, and there's just SO much SPACE, which is perfect for a homeschooling family of three who entertains quite a bit. The kids really had a blast.

The girls never argued once the entire time we were there. L was so sad when we had to leave and can't wait to see us again. Thankfully her grandparents live just down the street from us and R is hoping to come down in a week or two to get their second vehicle, which had quit working, so we might get to see them all again very soon. (Can you imagine an extroverted mom without a vehicle, stuck in her house with three kids and homeschooling? It's not pretty, and it's why R was so ecstatic that we were really, truly coming to visit!)

See? So happy together.

The boys had fun, too, as long as they each had enough space to expand and not kill one another with snow shovels.

They did try.

More than once.

Boys ;)

They even made a snowman out of the rapidly melting snow in the back yard. Though I think it's more like a snow duck. It was cute.

Then they all discovered their mutual love of electronics (this is a rare moment of stillness for J).

Five kids, four adults, one big happy house.

I still don't know why I felt the need to go to Illinois, but while I was there, I found something I'd lost: My smile. I feel like I can laugh again, and after all the snow and wintery weather we've had here lately, I hadn't done that often. I'm so grateful to R for putting us up on short notice, and I can't wait to do it again... though maybe next time, we'll call and plan things out first ;)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow Day Activities

Here are some activities, thought up by my children, with which to occupy themselves during our latest snow day. (By the way, when Oz went to work this morning, it was a nippy -13 out there, so... yeah... bloody friggin' cold.)

1. Swingset Kickball - Place one child on a swing. Swing vigorously so that your mother can watch the metal frame bend and sway dangerously under the weight of a child. The second child retrieves a ball from the garage, the larger the better. The second child 'pitches' the ball to the child on the swing, who attempts to kick it as high and far as possible. The pitcher fetches the ball. The process repeats until the pitcher flings herself into the snow in protest of not getting to be the swinger/kicker. Teams change sides. The game ends when the ball winds up getting kicked backwards onto the roof or into the living room window, whichever comes first.

2. Icicle Ides of February - Events include Icicle Sibling Stabbing and Icicle Javelin Throw (at your sibling). Winner is the one who isn't crying.

3. Valentine-Making Competition - Children compete to make the 'best' Valentine. Mom is the referee and is required to listen to all whispered nuances of how these Valentines are made while not revealing any details to the other competitor. Help with spelling is also to be provided by the referee. Fouls are to be called for Peeking, Stealing of Supplies, and Plagiarism. ("MOM!! I already asked how to spell 'Valentine!' He can't ask, too!")

4. Stretch Armstrong, Winter Edition - Children must submit at least two articles of clothing each to their mother for inspection in the "I've outgrown this" category. These articles are required to be mandatory for winter wear (i.e. coats, sweaters, jeans) and highly inconvenient to replace. For example, M1 walked up today and submitted the article Size 12 Slim Jeans as being too tight. They are also about 2" too short. He has recently ripped three pairs of jeans, so this leaves him with a serious pants shortage. *sigh*

5. Reading Marathon - Mom, after her stint as Valentine-Making Competition referee, is now required to submit to a Reading Marathon by her youngest child. Help to be provided is minimal, but full attention must be given at all times, lest a single word be missed. Compliments must be showered lavishly. (To be fair, I'm impressed with her reading ability, but after three Llama Llama books and a Mercer Meyer book, I'm done for the week.)

6. Health Complaint, NOS - Each child must list two random symptoms and one actual health issue for diagnosis. M1's latest submission is a headache after whacking his head on a doorframe after spinning around like a loon. He claims this will permanently affect his eyesight. M2's main 'problem' is a claimed lack of attention causing the random symptom Temper Tantrum. See Reading Marathon for my incredulity in her having an actual problem.

I just got the call saying school will be in session tomorrow. I've never been so grateful. I think their creativity is going to be the death of me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back in Hibernation

I am in forced hibernation. If you think this means a lot of sleeping, think again. I have to keep everyone busy, including myself! I plan to make cinnamon rolls tomorrow, just because. They'll do wonderful things for my mentality, if nothing else, because the smell of cinnamon rolls baking is in the Smell-O-Dictionary next to the word 'heavenly.'

We got another, oh, probably 6" of snow today. Who bothers to measure at this point?? All I know is that we've set a local seasonal record for most snow in a single winter. School was out (again) today and will be out (again) tomorrow. Friday is still up for grabs. I'm grateful for the two days of school we did get this week, even if they started late, because most area schools have been out since last Tuesday. Not that M2 *went* to school both days. Oh, no. We got up on Monday and got her ready, and she started complaining of tummy pain. I knew it was nerves and told her that I'd take her in and get her settled before I left, and she whined a little and said she just didn't want to go, but I knew she had been itching to see her friends. Off we went.

No dice.

She went psychosomatic and threw up almost the instant I left the building. I didn't make it more than 2/3 of the way home before I got the call. M1 still had school that day, and M2 happily tagged along (she was fine after we got home, and thankfully the school secretary/nurse believed me when I said it was nerves and told me to try again the next day. She knows I wouldn't bring in a sick kid). M2 did fine on Tuesday after she developed a plan to "be the helper." She marched into the classroom and announced, "What can I do? I'm your helper today." I shrugged and left. Whatever got her through the day was fine by me. M2 and I went home and had a 'normal' day, which seemed completely bizarre.

We're stuck at home again now, though. It's f-f-f-freeeeeezing here again - 17 degrees at current check with a wind chill even lower - and won't get above freezing for a day or two, but it's supposed to get almost to SIXTY DEGREES next week. It'll feel like summer. I might even plant something. Just so I can watch the chickens eat it. They might even get to leave their run. They haven't done more than hover around the coop (or stay inside it on days like today) since all this blizzard business began. I need to muck out their coop something fierce.

Maybe next week I can do it. Maybe this snow will all disappear and we'll get to return to our regularly-scheduled lives and driving patterns.

I can dream, right? This forced hibernation has me on the edge of hallucination.

Must be time for a tropical drink to kickstart my mental paradise. Rum, anyone?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Snow Fun

I can't deny that the snow wasn't beautiful (at first). Heck, it turned my husband's car into a hatchback, which is kind of an amusing thought.


The little birdie tracks were adorable.

It was so windy that the snow really didn't pile up on the roof much.

And I've always loved snow shadows.

Of course, the instant it warmed up to more than, say, 10 degrees (which took a couple of days), the kids wanted O-U-T.

So I bundled them up released the hounds.

Snow angels were made properly...

... and any other way the girl could think of.

The boy loved disappearing up to his knees in the snow...

... and the girl tried it and wound up sinking to her waist.

Both of them loved body-slamming themselves into snowdrifts.

Mommy had to put a stop to that after the first half dozen because she was a little worried about broken bones due to packed snow.

She's a worrywart, that Mommy person.

A good ol' horse-nuzzling was on the agenda, too...

... and so was a dog-tossing.

He was less than pleased at this, but watching a 17-lb. Schipperke flounder in the snow is hilarious.

Finally, the man and the boy HAD to have a snowball fight. I have a video exerpt of it below. I couldn't help but laugh when Oz got himself into snowdrift and could barely get through it. You can hear M1 chuckling in the background.

More snow is forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday. I just want to see mail today before the ground gets all covered again!

video

Saturday, February 5, 2011

During the Storm

All right. Oz has promised me that if the kids haven't committed fratricide by the end of the day (they're currently on hiatus from one another in their respective rooms after a game of Battleship ended in a fistfight... M2 tried to change the rules midgame, which threw M1 into a tizzy, which caused her to sass him, which caused him to whack her... ahhh polar opposites... and yes, they have both apologized to each other, but apparently they need a physical wall between them for a while), we'll be going out to dinner. I don't know where, because I don't know which resturants have actually, um, gotten deliveries (kinda like we haven't had mail or trash service all week), and, ergo, don't know which restaurants actually, um, have... well... FOOD.

However. It's enough to make me unearth the photos of the actual horrific entity known as Blizzard 2011 and share them with you.


How cold was it? The chicken coop had to be kept shut all day because the snow was blowing in. We put water in there, but after a few hours it was frozen. When I went out to replenish it, I had to re-unearth the gate because you couldn't even tell that Oz had been there. I honestly thought he must have climbed over the fence because footprints? None.

I set some birdseed out on the front porch, and we garnered quite a few hungry little mealseekers. They would eat a little, then go sit on the bottom of the glider, all puffed up and hiding their itty-bitty birdy feet, then go back and nibble some more.

The cats were beside themselves. I just watched the snow fly up the stairs (what stairs?) and giggled hysterically every time a cat flung itself at the window in a vain attempt at birdcatching.

The dogs had no interest in going outside. When I made them do it, though, they were good and did their business... in one small area out of snow and wind. I really couldn't blame them. I wouldn't want a snowy backside, either. Speed Bump particularly liked that the snow had created a ramp to get in instead of stairs. Less climbing for a chubby Corgi makes for a happy dog.

See the flag blowing behind the trampoline? See the trampoline net flying (and sinking) in the wind (and snow)? Yes. Blizzards do that.

Unfortunately, come wind or snow or sleet or hail, the mail may not be delivered and trash my not get picked up, but horses still get hungry. There was no way that the horses' owner could come feed, so Oz agreed to go out and get them some hay. I stayed in the warm belly of my home and took pictures of him returning to the homestead.




Note the boot that has disappered into the snow...


Welcome back, m'dear!

It was quite a trail he had created.

Tomorrow (or whenever I get to it): Playtime in the snow!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here in the Land of Denial...


I am attempting to deny everything. Right now my senses tell me I'm on the third day of being snowed in, which means I haven't washed my hair in a few days (though I did weedwhack my legs) and I finally decided this morning that no, I could not, in fact, wear the same clothes three days in a row and still keep my sanity. I've put the birdseed container on the table just outside the living room window, which causes the cats to periodically throw themselves into the glass. It's cheap amusement. I've been teaching the kids *something* every morning, because I discovered on Day 1 of Snowma-frigging-geddon that Kids - A Plan = Hell. Hence, the plan. Oh, and Oz? Yeah, M2 now definitely wants to stay home. She's decided a picture of her friends is good enough to remember them by. Homegirl wants to be one. I told her she had to convert you, because the argument has gone out of me for the day. It's easier to give in right now.



Speaking of Oz, he finally dug his way out of the driveway this morning to go to work (lucky man... he gets to see and talk to people over 5 feet tall! And the fact that my son is 5 feet tall is disturbing, by the way). He said he's going to try to make it by the appliance store and pick up the part for my oven, all of which means that either A) I'll have a working oven tomorrow or B) I'll have a dismantled oven tomorrow.

And I'll still be stuck here.

HOWEVER! I refuse to let this post be depressing. I have pictures! And, in the spirit of denying everything, these photos are from that time, way way back in January, when we only had 3" of snow on the ground and I was excited about the white stuff and thought I'd throw cats into it. Which isn't to say a cat or two (and maybe a dog) haven't been tossed into Snowpocalypse drifts (Corgis in snow trenches look remarkably like submarines in the Arctic Ocean, by the way), but again, Denial. I am in it.

For your further amusement and mental detriment, Cat Tossing 2011:




Nice pufftail, Angry 25-Pound Kittyboy!




She came out on her own. And then froze right there, with her paws in the snow, before running back in.

Cats are hilarious.

Other random shots from the January snow days, just to keep me busy:



Diggin' the heels...




Loving that he CHOSE to read a book...



Love even more that he actually INVENTED his own vehicle (first time EVER he's invented something that wasn't square and didn't also involve directions)...



And playing with acrylics is right up her alley.

Hopefully I can escape this snowbound state in the next day or two, before the next round falls, regain some semblance of sanity, and post some great blizzard photos! I have a montage and video of Oz that are definitely shareworthy.

Peace out ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Effort

I'm making a concentrated effort not to maul my children today. They're out of school thanks to what is loosely being referred to as Snowmageddon 2011 around here (we're up to about a foot of snow, sitting in a blizzard warning, with drifts at least twice that depth, and it's not gonna stop precipitating till about dinnertime... and did I mention it's not supposed to get above freezing till Friday or Saturday? And then there's a chance of snow AGAIN next Monday? Oh, and did I also mention that Oklahoma is simply NOT equipped for anything over about 2" of snow?). Anyway, the kids are driving me absolutely bonkers. They're too old for me to sit down and entertain, because they don't want to play Mommy games any more, and all they want to do is tick each other off, scream at and hit each other, come crying to me for what can only be termed a complete lack of sympathy, and then go back and do it all over again.

I'm done.

So, in my current state of denial, I'm remembering happier times.

Like taking the kids to visit my grandmother, who in turn wants to take them to the park to play...


Or taking the kids to the splash pad for the first time of the season...


Or staying up late to catch fireflies...




In other words, things that involve short sleeves and getting out of the house!

I don't do well in winter. That said, I'm sure I'll have some spectacular snowman pictures in a day or two, and that's cool, too. As long as we don't lose power!

If you want to share your own winter/snow pics (or summer pics if you're lucky enough to be in the southern hemisphere right now), either send them to me at oursunnyview @ gmail.com or shoot me a link to your blog, and I'll be happy to post them! I'd love to see how this season has gone for other folks around the country/world.