Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review

2013.  Some people say Twenty-Thirteen; others say Two-Thousand-Thirteen.  However you say it, though, it's nearly over.  It has been a year of… I guess I could almost say stagnation.  I had the best of intentions with regards to writing a novel and/or working through my list of 100 classics and must-read books and/or learning German, but those ideas all seemed to get shoved to the side somehow or other.  I planted a few things in the garden, but nothing really grew very well.  I have educated the kids, but there has been little passion on either side. We didn't take any family vacations.  I took my one-woman road trip in early November, but that was the extent of travel this year.  The kids are more or less burned out on local museums, so I think we only visited the zoo three or four times and the aquarium once, and other museums not at all.  I took a photography class.  We bought a new-to-us car.  We put in a fire pit.  I painted the school room and the kids' bathroom.  Those were the biggies.

Like I said, stagnation.

Still, even with stagnation, it can be nice to look back.  Something I've done throughout the year is step out the back door (nearly) each morning and take a snapshot of the back yard.  I've put all the photos - all 258 of them - into a slideshow.  It's amazing how quickly time can slip by.  This is a year, compressed into a little more than six minutes.  It doesn't seem like much has happened, but that's my fault.  Things have happened around me this year; I haven't made anything happen at all.  I think 2014 will be very different, a trip to Australia and kids going to public school notwithstanding.  And that's a good thing.  It's time to step back and take charge of my life.



Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas at last!  We've been slowly gearing up all month, working through our annual Christmas chain.  The kids are big enough now, though, that sometimes they simply don't feel like doing what the chain says, and that's okay.  I know it's a tradition that will slip as they get older, but as long as they have fond memories, that's what matters.  One day, perhaps, they'll have a similar tradition with their own families.

Oz and I spent a little less than we usually do this year, but we actually got the kids more gifts.  There were simply no large purchases - no electronics, mostly.  

Santa landed… and the cats perform their traditional Stalking of the Gifts 
The kids instantly commented on the number of packages when they woke up.  They were not, however, daunted by the task of unwrapping it all.


If you look at the boy closely (i.e. by clicking on the photo to enlarge it), you might think he was grouchy or displeased.  I assure you he is not.  This is one of his favorite gifts, a Minecraft Creeper hoodie that zips all the way up over his face.  The face Doodlebug is giving us is what Oz and I call the SFG - shit-faced grin.  You'll see it plenty of times during this post.


One of Boo's favorite gifts held these pillows.  She had specifically asked for them so she can have a 'pretty bed.'  She wants to create a 'garden room,' and the pillows were integral to her scheme.


The kids spent their own allowance money on each other (and on Oz and I) this year.  Boo bought Doodlebug this telescoping campfire fork and a kit to make a catapult.  Doodlebug bought Boo a lotion/body care kit with Boo's favorite scent.


The girl got a new Oklahoma charm for her bracelet, and she initially gave a skeptical look to the hair chalk, but she's now sporting green and gold hair for the holiday, so I think I was right that she would like the idea of using her hair as a platform for art.


Lots of happy...


and even MORE happy out of the boy when he realized that he got the Khet game that he'd circled in every catalog we'd received since October.


The man, of course, was not left out of the happy gift-giving process (neither was I, but Oz was dressed and camera-presentable and I was very much NOT).  The kids bought their own gifts for him as well.  The mug in the photo above was Boo's gift to him - it has Oz's name engraved on it - and Doodlebug got him some of his favorite wool socks.


The best gift, however, came at the very end of the whole process.  The kids would kill me for posting this photo, but I don't care.


I'm just so glad they love each other.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First Snow, Now Ice

We're dealing with ice here this weekend, a big change from the 70-degree weather we had earlier this week that actually had me sporting short sleeves.  Thankfully this storm isn't as bad as some others I've seen, but we still have some limbs down and trees snapped in two, including the pine tree that I used for my pretty snow picture.  Oz and I are both glad that we took out so many of the dead trees that littered our yard this year; some of them were quite close to the house and Boo's window.  

Anyway, because I'm a sucker for misery, I stepped out of the house in my boots and with my camera to snap a few ice photos from around the yard.  Even when the weather is miserable, it's beautiful.  Thanks for reading, and enjoy :)



I set out a separate tray of seed for the birds -
no starving birds in my yard!


There's the poor pine tree.
Also, the creek is still rapidly running! 

Sheila has some sinus congestion today...
Not sure if I'll post again before Christmas.  If I don't, Merry Christmas to All.  And for those of you who aren't celebrating, I hope you had a lovely Hanukkah and/or Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Decision Backlash: The Other Side

I remember when I first decided to bring Doodlebug home from private school.  It doesn't seem all that long ago, though I know I'm in my fifth year of homeschooling him (that doesn't seem real... seriously).  What I do remember, though, is fielding a lot of questions and offering a lot of explanations.  In fact, one of my first blog posts was actually spent answering some of the questions I was hearing on a regular basis.

Now that at least one child (and probably both) will return to public school - or, rather, go to public school for the first time ever - next fall, I am discovering that the criticism and skepticism is equally strong on this side of the fence.  It is, if anything, even uglier. 

I'll be honest.  I didn't expect it.  I'm not sure why.  I know, logically, that many people homeschool because it fits their ideology.  Just like some parents who have a kneejerk reaction against homeschooling, some homeschool parents find the notion of sending their child to a public school anathema.  I know this.  But since I hang with what I consider to be an open-minded bunch, I really didn't expect to be grilled and criticized for my decisions for my kids.

It irritates me.

I don't feel like I should have to justify a decision, whether it is to keep my children at home or to send them to public school or to ship them to military boarding school or to put them in private school.  And yet, people push:

Why would you want to send them back?

Why do you let your children have any say in where they are educated?  You're the parent!  It's your choice!

But they'll just become one of the crowd.  How do you expect them to learn anything in a class of 24/30/random number?

Won't you miss them?  I just couldn't do that.  I'd miss having them around.

Don't you worry about the influence of the other kids? 

ERMAGHERD, PEOPLE.  Don't you think I've considered all these things already?  And why, really, does it matter to you?  Does my decision threaten you in some way?  I hereby solemnly swear not to corrupt your children with stories of happy children attending public school.

I understand.  I really do.  Change is hard for many people to accept.  I'm not immune to that.  When people make life-altering decisions, it usually takes a while for me to get used to them.  I am human, after all.  But I really try hard to not question the decision and to simply be happy for the person.  They've gone through the process of asking themselves everything I could possibly throw at them, and they've made a choice.  That in itself is difficult! 

I'm trying to be gracious in my responses:

I will send them back because I think they'll be happy - Boo especially. 

I let them have a say because that's how I do things in my house.  My children get a say in their future.  Is it the final say?  No, but it's certainly a large portion of all the things I consider before I agree or not.  I don't want them to resent me as adults because I made all their choices for them. 

I expect them to learn just the way I did when I attended public school as a child, the way millions of other successful children do. 

Of course I'll miss them!  My house will feel empty and lonely for months, I'm sure.

And no, I don't worry about the influence of other kids because studies have shown that it's what is taught at home that largely counts, and my kids and I have a good relationship (I think).  I've taught them what to expect from real friends, and I've taught them how to be one (I hope).  They're going to be exposed to the same things sooner or later, so they might as well learn to avoid the ugly stuff now.  I've never sheltered them from the truths of the world, so I don't think there will be any culture shock.

It's still frustrating.  I'm sure folks will get used to the notion sooner or later... as will I.  Just like when the kids were young and I could no longer attend daytime events for moms because I had my kids in tow, it will be weird to no longer be able to attend daytime events for homeschool families because I won't be part of one.  I'll have to step away from several groups.  Extracurricular activities will have to be arranged after school.  There will be an adjustment period.

I know my true friends and I will keep in touch.  But it will be interesting to see who hangs around and who doesn't.  Friends are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime - time to find out who my seasonal friends are!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Holidays Attack

This weekend -  well, really, it started on Thursday - exploded.  I'm supposed to be making lesson plans right now so I can get in the car in a few hours and head to my sister's 30th birthday party/holiday party at her house (it was originally a birthday party she was planning for herself, but her husband planned a surprise party a couple of weeks ago, so now the birthday party is a holiday party).  And I'm going to feel like a horrible, awful person if I don't go.

BUT.

I am exhausted.

The kids are exhausted.

My husband has work to do, is technically supposed to attend a work event this afternoon, and is exhausted.

All hell broke loose on Wednesday.  We were actually in the car headed to a rescheduled violin lesson when we got call #1.  The therapist had a cancellation opening on Thursday morning and would we like the appointment?  I'm not about to pass up the opportunity to get my son help sooner rather than later, so yes, we took it.  Five minutes later I made call #2 to get the dog a long overdue vet appointment to get his vaccinations (rabies was current, but everything else was overdue).  That got scheduled on Friday morning.  Wednesday itself was already busy.  After the violin lesson, we went to the store for milk, the dry cleaners to pick up linens I'd taken in, the library to pick up our weekly requested books as well as anything else the kids wanted to read, and then to yoga for Boo's final class.

When we got to the violin lesson, I sat down to add those two appointments to the calendar and realized I had made a grave error.  I had forgotten that on Thursday afternoon Doodlebug was going to go to a social skills group for the first time; this in addition to his normal swim team practice.  This meant three separate appointments that day.  And I knew I had to clean the house on Friday because I was hosting a holiday party Friday night.  I had originally hoped to attend our Friday homeschool meeting, but I suddenly realized that wasn't going to happen.  Not at all.

I have a wonderful husband who helped me get through those two stressful days (Wednesday and Thursday), and the vet appointment got moved to the afternoon, which gave me time to knock out the house cleaning in the morning.

The party went smoothly.  It was smaller than I'd expected, but I think (hope?) everyone who attended still had a good time.  The kids, however, were thoroughly worn out by the time the last guests left.  It was about 10:45 when they walked out the door.  The kids took quick showers and collapsed into bed.  I had to get Boo up at 8:45 the next morning, and I felt bad about doing it because her first reaction to waking up and realizing she had to get moving to go to a violin rehearsal was to make what I call Ultimate Sad Face - you know that involuntary sad face you make when you wake up and want to instantly cry?  Ultimate Sad Face.  We managed to get to rehearsal, though, and then came back home.

Boo and one of my good friends then went to a craft fair downtown, and Boo did have fun there.  She came home with several small purchases, including a coffee cup koozie for me.  Then I made the biggest mistake of all - I suggested we drive down to Muskogee and see their Garden of Lights and then go over to the Castle to see their drive-through inflatables display.  We went down, got dinner, and then… then we got in the car line.

I had not taken two things into account.  #1:  Muskogee police do not believe in traffic control.  They didn't direct traffic at all.  There was nothing to keep the local douchebags from cutting in line.  It was torture.  #2 (and this was the kicker): Last weekend was icy, and I suspect the park was closed, since the roads are winding and hilly.  So all the people who didn't go last weekend were trying to go this weekend.

It took more than two hours to get into and through the park.  Oz and I had expected to be home and have the kids close to bed by the time we made it out, which meant that by the time we hit the door of the house, it was 10:30 again.  My kids are normally in bed and asleep by 8:30, 9 at the latest.  Two late nights in a row had taken their toll, and they were nearly in tears with fatigue.  This morning we've dragged.  My sister's party is from 4-10 today.  Even if we did go, we would have to leave by 6 to get home by 8:30, because it's a 2-ish-hour drive to get there.  I'm just not convinced it's worth it.  We need a home day, where we all lounge around in sweatpants and don't really move much.  We need to recuperate before we tackle another school/work week.

I'm already feeling plenty of guilt about various problems that have arisen around Christmas lists and not being able to get people the gifts they're wanting/expecting; now I'll just add sibling birthday guilt to the list.  I know I shouldn't feel guilty about taking care of my family's needs.  I'm just good at guilt like that.

Hope the holidays haven't attacked anyone else!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Few Days' Perspective

I've had a few days to go over all the new information that I have received, and I'm reaching a place where I'm okay with most of it.

I heard from the sewing teacher, and she and I have worked out details for sewing classes.  Boo will get to take them after all.  I'm not at liberty to discuss them at length yet, for various reasons, but suffice it to say lessons are happening.  Doodlebug will get signed up for tae kwon do, and he'll have regular therapy appointments as well as a new monthly social skills group that we attended for the first time this week.  We'll also keep going to our weekly homeschool group meetings as often as we can - I'll admit, I've been horrible about attending lately, but the holiday season has a way of devouring any open time without advance notice.  Today, for example, I had hoped to go, but the vet appointment I had booked for this morning had to be moved to the afternoon due to a funeral the vet had to attend, and there went that timeslot!

Oz booked our Australia trip the other day.  We're waiting on passports, and then I have to start worrying about logistics - do we have enough suitcases, what sort of rental car do we get, who is going to house-sit for us while we're gone, all those sorts of things that I've never really had to consider because we've never taken a trip of this length EVER.  Any been-there, done-that stories to share about long trips and/or long flights with kids?  I'm going to need help with this one.

Boo is still set on public school.  Sometime after the holidays I'll run up to the local elementary and get some of their third grade material and take a look at it to make sure she'll be able to keep up with her peers next year.  I'm still on the fence about Doodlebug.  I'm giving myself permission to have doubts until February.  Then we'll see where things stand.  Part of me thinks it would be good for him to go, and the other part still suspects it would be a nightmare.  I'm unsure.  I don't like being unsure.

The holiday has finally caught up with me as well.  I'd been doing very well and had been Grinch-free until two days ago.  Now I'm grumpy.  I no longer feel like baking cookies for Boo's violin recital.  I don't want to drive all over town for events I'm not feeling enthusiastic about.  I definitely don't feel like helping a girl 'solve the unknown' in math when all she wants to do is argue with me that 27 feet is the same as 24 yards.  And no, manipulatives don't help.  She pulled those out and came up with 27 feet = 0 yards.  I don't even know where to begin.  I'm tired of the boy trying to do sign language to her to give her the answers while his own math languishes unfinished on his desk.  Grr.

I need to keep moving, though.  Time and Christmas wait for no woman.  Off to the races!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2014 - A Year of Change?

So I had plans for 2014.  In my head, I had things figured out.  Here's what I thought would happen:

1.  Doodlebug would stop swim and start tae kwon do.

2.  Boo would start sewing classes.

3.  At least one child, probably Doodlebug, would remain at home in the fall.

4.  We would visit Australia, most likely around this time of year in order to take advantage of warm beaches and swimming weather.

-----

The gods sensed my plans.  And they laughed.

-----

Here's what's happening now:

1.  This is still happening.  The facility we've found actually offers a daytime class for homeschoolers, but Doodlebug has stated that he would rather go to the 'regular' class in the evenings.  I'm okay with that.  If he chose, later in the year, to return to swim team, that was an option, but I wanted him to try something else for at least a temporary change.  I suspect that given #3, he won't return to swim, but we'll see.

2.  This is, sadly, up in the air.  I sent an email to the store asking if they were still planning them, but I haven't heard back, which is disappointing.  Boo is desperate to sew, and I don't know what to do if they don't hold the classes.  I'll have to figure something out.  Maybe pay a friend to help teach her.  I don't know.

3.  BOTH kids are probably going to go to public school for the next school year.

Boo had been considering going to public school just like Doodlebug had, and she came to me a few days ago and said that she would like to go back in August.  I wasn't surprised.  She's been happy at home, but not thoroughly so.  She's long lamented the fact that she doesn't have a large circle of friends, and I know she FaceTimes with one of her best friends as often as she thinks is decent and not obnoxious.  She's not good about calling others, though… I need to remind her that picking up the phone is just as simple as using other technology.

Doodlebug was another matter.  Oz expressed his opinions to me the other night when I asked, and he thinks that Doodlebug should at least give public school a shot.  I tend to agree.  Even if it doesn't work out, he thinks that Doodlebug at least needs to know what he's giving up/avoiding.  The last time he was in school, he was in kindergarten.  It was a nightmare, yes, but we've all come a long way since then, and I'm hopeful that with various groups and activities and therapy, he'll be able to manage socially.  If not, he does have the option to return home.

The thought of having no kids at home just weirds me out, but the Type A planner in me is glad that I have many months in which to adjust and in which to check where the kids are, academically speaking.   I suspect the only areas where I really need to focus will be in math, for Boo, since Math-U-See isn't exactly Common Core-aligned, and in social studies for both kids, since I've largely focused on history and haven't really touched on 'social studies' at all… unless you count the general U.S. history that Doodlebug learned a couple years back.  I'm not sure how much of that he will have retained, and Boo probably hasn't heard any of it.  Still, with several months left in the school year, it's easy to remedy.  I've ordered some books and will let the kids read through them, and we'll do some simple projects.  I'm sure they'll be caught up in time.

I'm also sure that they'll have to do some sort of testing at the school to find out exactly where they'll stand.  I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

4.  If the kids are in public school, going to Australia in November/early December probably isn't going to work.  Oz pointed that one out to me this morning.  So we're going earlier in the year.  Ye Olde Tax Refund will probably go toward the trip.  I guess since I won't be spending it on curriculum, it's not a huge deal, except for the fact that instead of having almost a year to put myself into a state of mind where I can handle a 24-hour plane ride (I'm a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad flight passenger) I only have a few months… and, oh yeah, Oz is the only one of us with a passport.  Right-O.  Gotta get crackin' on that, too.

-----

So yeah… 2014 is already changing, and it isn't even here yet.  I'm not sure how I feel about it all yet; ask me in another month, and maybe I'll have an answer.  In the meantime, I'm just going to pour myself a giant mug o' happy and be glad that my Christmas shopping is over.  I ain't gonna let myself get stressed out.  Time to take a few deep breaths and focus on the here and now.

Time to balance the qi.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SNOW!

It's been nearly three years since we've had any sort of decent snowfall around here.  I don't like driving on ice and snow, but I absolutely love sitting in the house and being surrounded by the hushed whiteness for a day or two at a time.  It's bitterly cold outside, and I strongly suspect that this snow won't be melting for the better part of a week, but I still wanted to go out and snap photos as soon as I could.

These are my favorites.  Enjoy!






Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Found a Therapist!

A while back I (think I) posted that we were going to find a therapist for Doodlebug and see about finding a social skills group for him to attend.  I FINALLY found a therapist on our network who came recommended - one therapist out of more than 20 names that I was given, but never mind, I'm sure insurance companies totally know who's best - and we got an appointment for January.  I didn't want to wait that long, but what do you do?  Say no, hunt for another doctor who might not come with anyone's seal of approval, find out he or she is crappy, and then wind up calling the first one back anyway?  I figured I'd take my chances.  We also got added to the cancellation list, just in case something opened up.  I figured it was a 50/50 chance of being called early.  Even odds.

Yesterday I got The Call.  With the weather moving in (or so I suspect was the reason for the sudden slew of openings), they had slots available.  One of them was at 9 a.m.  The weather wasn't supposed to move in till midday - in fact, it's 1:43, and it started snowing/sleeting/freezing raining in earnest about 44 minutes ago, give or take 30 seconds, (I know this because the kids and I were about to head out the door for Doodlebug's swim team practice and I looked out and saw the ice solidifying on our back patio and thought, "OH, WELL, OF COURSE."  And then I tried to drive to swim, anyway, and slid a couple of times and had the freezing rain coat my windshield in its icy grip and said eff that and turned around and came back home, where I intend to remain until the temperature is above freezing again) so I figured a 9 o'clock appointment was a safe bet.

I'm so glad we went.  The gentleman in question is soft-spoken and older, and he seems more competent than the therapist we visited when Doodlebug was 5 and 6.  He seems to understand children who struggle with Doodlebug's particular alphabet soup of issues, and he appears to know what to do with them.  He spoke to Doodlebug at least as much as to me, and his first questions weren't about his infancy or past treatments; rather, he wanted to know about Doodlebug himself - what he liked to do, who his friends were, what activities he was involved in.  He would have asked about school, but the kids were lugging books and papers when we arrived, so it became obvious fairly quickly that we were homeschoolers.  It didn't faze him that Doodlebug stared out the window the entire time he was talking or that Doodlebug stumbled over words and phrases and went off on random tangents.

The office itself was the most comfortable therapist's office I've ever been in.  It's kind of like a Goldilocks sort of thing - our first therapist's office was too big, the second too small.  This one was just right.  It had a big window with nothing in front of it.  There were Legos and stuffed animals and games and sensory toys and plenty of small items to fidget with, and there were also two recliners and a loveseat in addition to the doctor's own small wheeled desk that he rolled out to talk to us.  I saw a foot massager and a heating pad and art supplies.

I think the best thing, though, was the atmosphere.  I felt comfortable.  There was no judgment.  There was no tension or any sense that we were on a schedule (though, of course, we were).  Initial visits can often have that awkwardness that simply comes from meeting someone for the first time, but I didn't feel that, either.

Time will tell, obviously, whether this therapist does anything good for Doodlebug or not, but I am hopeful.  And that is something I've needed for a long, long time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

*poke* *poke* I Think It's Dead...

It is December.  My motivation for doing school with the children is gone.  I think if I could wake up tomorrow and put them on a school bus and wave as it drove away, I would be okay with that.  The kids seemed perfectly content to get up and do school this morning, but I heard the couch singing an awfully loud siren song when I walked past it to get to the coffeepot.

It's not just school that has me thoroughly demotivated.  I don't want to do anything else, either.  I haven't read a book in almost a month.  That giant stack of cards that I have addressed?  I don't want to go to the post office and get stamps to mail them.  I need to order photos to send out with the rest of the cards, but I don't want to go pick them up.

The kids asked me yesterday how come I didn't have the Christmas Countdown chain ready yet.  I told them I'd do it this morning during school.  And I did.  It's hanging on the curtain rod of the window next to the fireplace.  (Side note: Doodlebug can now reach that curtain rod by himself.  Disturbing.)  I put things on it like decorate cookies and read holiday books and make bird feeders, which are all traditions around here and sound fantastic if you're 8 or 11 or have motivation, but all I could think as I was filling out these slips of paper was OMG this stuff takes effort.

Even yesterday, after I pulled out all the Christmas decor, I found myself parked on the couch staring at Facebook while the kids ran around and did my decorative bidding.

I've reached a new low of lazy.

I'm not grinchy.  Au contraire, I am actually planning a holiday party for later this month, so the friends who aren't already horrendously over-scheduled can add one more thing to their list.  I'm excited about the gifts I've gotten for the kids… and probably should be done shopping but keep coming up with new ideas.  I'm having a hard time restraining myself.  I think I've found a good mental compromise, though.  I really need to focus my gift-finding ideas on Oz, but what do you get the man who buys himself whatever he wants?  So far I've had two ideas, and I've given them both to the kids.  I suppose it's time to figure something out.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit here on my backside and wish I was cross-stitching.  That, at least, has been happening.  I suppose I should be glad something is!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sugar Hates Me: A Weight-Loss Journey Story

I don't often get onto a nutrition/eating disorder soapbox, but today I'm going to do just that.

We eat healthfully around here.  Vegetables are de rigueur, there's always fruit in the house, we don't have boxes of sugary cereal, etc., etc., etc.  But when I was a teenager, I ate crap.  Let me amend that:  When I ate, I ate crap.  A typical day for me went something like this:  Get up at 5:30, head to school at 6 and grab a gas station (QuikTrip, so does that really count as a gas station?  Never mind, I digress...) cappuccino on the way.  I would down that before band started at 7:30.  Lunch was open campus at 11:25, but I rarely went out.  If I had lunch, it was usually a container of fries or some Swiss cake rolls… and a Pepsi.

Lunch of Champions
For dinner as a young child, I ate whatever my mom fixed.  I was (and am) not a picky eater.  But by the time I got a car, I had a job I worked from 3-6 each day (during which I might drink another Pepsi or nosh on a Three Musketeers bar, one of the few candy bars I could eat with braces on my teeth), and a couple days a week I'd go from there to tae kwon do, so by the time I got back to the house, I had to fend for myself.  My dad was usually out in his shop, my sister in her room doing homework, and my mom had taken a job teaching ballroom dance, so she was out of the house more evenings than not.  Sometimes there were leftovers, sometimes not.  I don't eat sandwiches, so sometimes I'd just skip dinner.  I didn't know how to cook and certainly wouldn't have been permitted to ransack the kitchen, so it was easier.  Some nights I didn't come home because I had social events I wanted to attend, so I might have grabbed something out, but it certainly wouldn't have been anything good for me.  Taco Bueno and I were good buddies.

Obviously, in the long run, my diet did not do good things to my metabolism.  When I gave birth to Doodlebug, I had eaten whatever I wanted and gained about 30 pounds.  I did not lose this weight while nursing.  When I got pregnant with Boo, I weighed about 50 pounds more than I had in high school… and I gained another 20-30 with her.  I was not a small woman.  I was borderline for gestational diabetes - on the happy side, so I didn't have to do any treatment other than watch what I ate - and again, I didn't lose weight after she was born.  My body holds onto poundage.  Natural consequences of my teen diet, I suspect.

I have worked hard in the years since Boo has been born to take off those extra pounds.  My body will allow me to lose about 10 pounds at a time, which I do sensibly by watching what I eat and exercising, before it will decide that it needs to readjust to its new dimensions.  I will never be as thin as I was in high school, but given the fact that I never ate a lot - or ate a ton, because on weekends when my mom was home and fixing food, I'd inhale everything in sight - that's probably a healthy thing.  But I've noticed that my body is very sensitive to weight changes.  At 170 lbs., I had migraines once a week.  I was miserable.  My blood sugar fluctuated wildly, and my doctor had me mentally flagged as a pre-diabetic.  He didn't want to write it on my chart and have insurance go nuts, but it was there in the back of his mind.  My blood pressure wasn't bad, but it wasn't ideal, either.  At 5'8", I was barely overweight, but my body was reacting as if I was morbidly obese.  As I've lost weight, the migraines have all but vanished.  I haven't filled a prescription for Treximet in several years.  My back rarely spasms any more.  Even my blood sugar stabilized.  These are all good, good things.  But I still have to watch.

When we moved into this house, we gained an extra refrigerator.  At first it was primarily used to hold leftovers and extra produce, but it also has become the 'drink fridge.'  This definitely saves us space in our refrigerator, which is barely large enough to hold the food that we go through in a normal two-week shopping cycle, let alone extra beverages, but it also means that we can keep pop on hand all the time.  And Pepsi is my Achilles' heel.

I drank the last Pepsi in the box one day last week.  I hadn't realized how often I'd been drinking it until a day or two later when my blood sugar crashed (yet again, because that's been happening more often lately) and my son ran out to find me a drink to help me stabilize.  I ate something (completely unhealthful, but helpful) instead, and I remembered that the way I lost the first five pounds when I started my long weight-loss journey was to give up Pepsi.  I've put on 6.  Hm.

Yesterday I forced myself to drink several glasses of water instead of ingesting extra liquid calories.  I'm three pounds lighter today.  I can understand a normal fluctuation of a pound or two, but three seems significant.  I am reminded of how slow my metabolism is and how sensitive my body is to extra sugar.

This infographic that I saw on Pinterest reminded me of exactly why I try to eat healthfully - and why I tend to avoid cookies and sandwiches and cake:

Click to enlarge
I hate avoiding Pepsi.  I hate how much I have to watch what I eat.  But at least I get it.  And if it means I'm not passing out every afternoon from blood sugar spikes and crashes, then it's worth it.  I can only hope that my kids will be smarter than their mother and avoid the same pitfalls.  Society is cruel, but longterm damage is far worse.  I don't want them to have the same struggles.  I don't want them to feel like they're missing out on their favorite foods (or drinks) because of bad choices they made decades earlier.  I want them to be healthy.  I think modeling that is the best way to teach them.  I can only hope I'm doing a good job.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making the Most of Moments

The days are coming when my children no longer wish to spend any time with me.  I know this.  And because of that, I try to make the most of the moments that we have together.

A few minutes ago, Doodlebug was sitting next to me.  He swiped my iPad and was taking (and editing) pictures of himself.  I won't give him the password, so he couldn't do anything else, but he was making the most of his time and abilities to do what he could with what he had.  One day earlier this week he tried to curl up on my lap - all 5'4" and 108 lbs. of him.  I thought about kicking him off because OMG NUMB LEGS but then realized that he's 11 and soon will realize that cuddling up on mom's lap is either A) impossible or B) gross, so I held him and rocked him and remembered back to the time when he fit in the crook of my arm and loved the fact that even being this much bigger, he still likes my lap.

I strongly suspect that he and Boo will hit puberty together.  This makes my moments with her precious, too.  She's spent a lot of time this week fighting everything I say with all her might.  A couple days ago, she was fighting me so often and so hard that when I graded her math paper and wrote 95% on it, she decided my '5' looked more like an 'S' and felt the need to draw a line through my five and write a big, giant, blocked 5 underneath, just so I would know what it should look like.  Juvenile?  Yes… but then, she is one.  So I kept my adult mouth shut.  Right before lunch that day, she burst into tears.  She had no idea why she'd been fighting me so much all morning, and quite frankly, the tension that she'd caused between herself and me had stressed her out so much that it had culminated in the tears that were now streaming down her cheeks.  She needed to cuddle.

The kids get up in the morning and fight.  They're upstairs now, fighting because Doodlebug barged into the bathroom in order to scare his sister.  The fighting seems constant.  Annoying.  Useless.  But a small part of me relishes it because the day is coming when they probably won't even speak to one another because they'll both be too busy texting friends or rushing from school work to jobs to extracurriculars to social engagements.  The noise is obnoxious, but silence isn't always golden, either.

Their Christmas lists get smaller each year.  The requests change a little, but mostly they get more expensive.  This year the boy is gunning for an iPad (not a chance this side of Hades - he can't even be responsible with a Kindle Fire, so there's no way he's getting anything else), and the girl wants a sewing machine (we'll see).  I've been handing them any Christmas catalogs that come in, letting them circle the things they want.  I've ordered little things for them.  I could have passed on these ideas to others, but I'm selfish - I want to get them the things they want and let others get them the gift cards that will become a standby soon enough.

Sometimes when I tuck the kids into bed, they want to hug… and hug… hug.  And I do that, too, because right now, they want to hold on to me.  They want to hold on.  To me.  And I want to hold on, too.  These years and weeks and days and hours are fleeting.  I have to make the most of it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings

I don't usually do this, and I don't think it'll be a typical 'thing' that I do, but I read other blogs whose authors do this, and I'm rather inspired this week.  So…

Outside My Window:
It's sunny and cool today.  It was really quite warm this weekend and very windy for a cookout on Saturday night, but the weather today is more seasonally appropriate.  I'm keeping a close eye on the weather for Thanksgiving, though.  I'd love snow, but I don't want people driving in it for the holiday.  Catch-22.

In My Yard:
The trees are nearly naked.  I dug up my giant rosemary plant and tucked it into the garage before the hard freeze last weekend, and I'm glad I did.  It's actually too big for my biggest pot, but I made it fit for now.  If I can manage to make it live through the winter and can replant it in the yard next spring, I'll probably just try to cover it next winter and see what happens.

In My Home:
Thanksgiving decorations are out, and the cats are extremely hopped up on nip at the moment.  A year or so ago, when we went to Kansas City, I picked up a catnip-stuffed mouse for the cats from a store called Gatos.  The cats loved it.  One of my cats loves this mouse so much she hauls it around all the time and will sit for hours with it between her paws.  Ergo, this mouse is called "Boyfriend Mouse."  Boyfriend Mouse, however, has been looking kind of sad lately, so I got on the Interwebz and hunted down more.  This time, I ordered three.  They arrived today.  That's a lot of happy cat lolling around my living room right now.

The kids are upstairs.  Doodlebug is finishing up school, and Boo is bugging him so he can't focus.  She just requested a sinus rinse because she couldn't breathe.  How they can tolerate those things, I'll never know, but they swear they help.  The drowned-rat feeling deters me.

In My Kitchen:
Turkey pot pie is on the menu tonight.  Over the weekend the kids and I made sticky buns, and because I can't read a recipe, I made two pans instead of three… but with the same amount of dough.  Because of that, they're obscenely gooey… and I had to put some of the dough in individual pie tins just because there wasn't room.  Next time I'll know better.  Later this week I'm going to try some new recipes like beer brat chili and jalapeƱo cream cheese Philly cheesesteak sliders.  (If you can't see those recipes, I apologize… some of them may be exclusive to Taste of Home magazine subscribers.  I would be happy to e-mail them to you if you're interested, though!)

Crafty Stuff:
I've started a new, giant project.  It's a cross-stitch project for Doodlebug's room.  He wants to redecorate, and now that he's stopped demolishing furniture and scratching tic-tac-toe symbols into the walls, I'm considering it.  He wants a gray/black color scheme - black Ikea furniture, gray walls - and wants this to hang on his wall.  I'm taking bets on when I'll be finished with it.  I've had people suggest time frames everywhere from February (uh… no) to "about the time [Doodlebug's] finished with high school."  That's probably a closer approximation.  I've finished two colors and have started on the third… not that that means much.  I think it'll probably take me till summer to complete, depending on how often I actually sit down and work on it.

In Our Homeschool:
We're about halfway done with our school year.  We'll take next week off for Thanksgiving, and the week we come back will be our second interest week.  Boo has decided she wants to study food; Doodlebug hasn't chosen a topic yet.  We're studying worms in science this week, the New Kingdom of Egypt (i.e. King Tut) in history, and I uploaded Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) onto the computer today.  That turned out to be an epic journey.  I already had Rosetta Stone German on the computer, so I just added the Spanish to it… but when I went to register the curriculum, it didn't give me the option to add the homeschool code.  It just asked me for an 'upgrade' code and then wouldn't accept the homeschool code that I had.  I wound up calling and talking to a very patient (and fairly clear-spoken) tech support guy from India.  It took him a bit before he worked out that the version of Rosetta Stone I already had on the computer (Totale, or version 4) was too advanced for the homeschool curriculum that they still sell (version 3).  So now I have two versions of Rosetta Stone.  *shrug*  Technology.  Not really my gig.

In Our Lives:
The kids are fighting now.  I swear that's all they do.  They can't even pour bowls of breakfast cereal without sniping at one another.  We're still using the respect jar - actually just went out last night for their reward for filling it - but it hasn't helped Doodlebug one bit.  One of my friends said today that her boys have been doing the same thing - sort of a male lion domination thing that her her dad calls "testosterone flashes" - and it's driving me crazy.  He has to be right EVERY time, and if he's not, he'll bully his sister or run his mouth to me and/or Oz until he gets himself in trouble.  That appointment with the counselor can't come quickly enough.  *insert virtual pause here* I just broke up the second fight between them.  Doodlebug wanted to play Monopoly and Boo agreed if she could be banker, which Doodlebug initially agreed to and then decided he thought it would be too hard for Boo.  He thought he was being nice; she was angry that he took the job away from her.  Had to side with her on this one and tell him that he needed to let her try and decide for herself whether it would be too hard or not.  She's perfectly capable of doing the math; she'll just be slower than he wants to deal with.  I'm sure that's where the rub comes in.  Ugh.  Time to bury myself in something else - cross-stitching or dinner.

How are things in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts on a Frosty Wednesday (A Post with Literary Ambitions)

Morning came hard.  I had fallen asleep last night under the drowsing influence of NyQuil, my head sandwiched between two pillows and my being cosseted with blankets and warmed from beneath by the heated mattress pad that was cranked up more than usual.  When I woke this morning I could sense the cold of the house, the tip of my nose chilly compared to the warmth of my bed, and even though the children had already come down and were noisily banging about in the kitchen, I wanted nothing more than to stay snug in my warren until the groundhog saw his shadow and predicted spring.

Eventually pragmatism won, and I hauled myself out of bed, dressed, and emerged from my bedroom in search of coffee.  I glanced out the back door as I passed, and the sight caused me a moment's pause.

The ground was glittering.  A fine layer of white covered everything from the edge of the black grill cover to the individual blades of grass that browned the yard.  In the past two years, I realized, I could have counted the hard freezes and glittering frosts on the fingers of a single hand, and seeing the phenomenon again was beautiful.  Glorious.  A winter memory brought back to life.

I poured my coffee and walked to the back door.  I rested my hand against the glass and felt the heat loss, the exchange of the house's warmth for the nip of the outdoors.  I removed my hand from the glass and wrapped it around my coffee mug, the contrast between cold door and warm mug stark against my skin.

After staring outside for a minute, curiosity plucked up the courage to order me about, and I opened the door and stepped outside, barefoot on the concrete.  The air was cold but still.  No September wind ruffled the leaves.  No summer crickets chirped, no spring peepers croaked - even the birds were silent, likely sleeping late in their warm holes and nests, realizing that in this cold, there would be no worms to be early for.

I walked to the edge of the porch, and a few sounds made their way to my straining ears.  A clatter off to the left - a squirrel picking its way up a tree, heading back to a snug den after digging breakfast from under the frozen leaves.  Ticking noises to the right - leaves clattering against branches on their way to the ground, soldiers falling, having lost the battle with winter, their movements made louder by the deathly silence all around.

Frost is a callous thing, a bitter master, not caring whether it coats the weed or the rose, the mundane or the exotic.  Life, and warmth, and a dry wind are its only nemeses.  I poked at some of the frost with a naked toe and felt it attack me with shards of fire, stinging like a honeybee and, also like a bee, losing its life in the fight.  When I pulled back my foot, a dark spot remained, the now-dead grass a victim of the siege that had taken place overnight.

Listening to the silence once more, it became reminiscent of Christmases past, and a waiting, expectant thrill ran through me like a shiver.  I looked at houses nearby and pictured them covered in long white strings of holiday lights.  It was a cozy thought.  Turning back to the house, I saw the glint of sunlight peeking over the horizon, and the ice flashed.  One last stand, it said, before I make way for the relative warmth of the day.

I returned to the house and its artificial heat, letting it clothe me in comfort and decadence. A swirl of steam from my coffee reminded me that there were other sources of heat, and I took a sip as I walked to the stairs.  The outdoors could remain in the grasp of dead, wintry frost for a while longer; I was made of life and would avoid it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Breathe… Just Breathe

Sometimes breathing is difficult!  Don't worry, I'm not stressed… I simply caught whatever bug Doodlebug had, and it's reminding me of all the respiratory ailments I caught as a child.  I never had asthma, but every time I caught something, it would go straight to my lungs and cause what the doctor called "asthmatic symptoms."  And then I'd have to take yet another round of Theo-Dur (raise your hand if you remember THAT shit… all those nasty little white sprinkles.  My mom would make Jell-O and pour the capsules into little Jell-O squares.  Jell-O shots for the under-21 crowd).

Doodlebug is on the mend, though he's still emitting enough snot to drown a whole slew of rats.  We skipped his swim meet tonight because when I made him try to take several deep breaths in a row, he dissolved into coughs by the #3.  Nobody wants to race in that condition.  We'll keep him on Mucinex and his inhaler and do a few sinus rinses, and he should be good… and if that doesn't work, we still have that prescription for the antibiotics.  I just don't want to go down that road if we don't have to.

Doodlebug also lost another tooth today.  This would be something like his seventh or eighth this year.  I would know which it was if I was a good mom and kept track of those sorts of things.  The problem with this particular tooth is that it was one of his adult canines.  So in addition to missing one of his laterals and having the other lateral be something called a 'peg lateral,' he'll now be missing a canine.  I had canceled our second orthodontic consult that had been scheduled for last Monday, since I was out of town, but after he yanked that tooth today, I called and got us back on the schedule.  I had really hoped to avoid braces, but I think they're inevitable, darn the luck.  Maybe they can just put a veneer on the peg and shave down the other canine and make them look similar, kinda like mine.  I'm missing both my laterals, so they took the points off the canines so I looked less vampire-ish, and just left everything else as is.  Easy answers - I could use some of those.

Boo had another violin solo festival on Saturday and got straight 1s again.  That's the best score a judge can give.  She's thrilled, because in addition to getting another (pink) ribbon, that means she's gotten three sets of 1s in a row (we took a break from competitions for a while prior to that).  As we were leaving, she announced, "I like judges.  They're always really nice."  Lucky girl hasn't met one of those old hags with unrealistic expectations yet.  There are some major benefits to being 8.

Realized the other day that I'm staring Christmas in the face and haven't even thought about gifts for various family members.  I have a stash started for each kid… need to fill in a few more things for the girl.  The boy has actually been the easier child to shop for this year.  My kids have never been trend-followers, so there's never a fight to find exactly what they want.  But yeah… haven't thought at all about what to get my sister and her husband for their December birthdays, or to get my father.  Must be time for a Target run.

I can hear the cold front blowing in.  The wind is whistling down the chimney.  Very glad I dug up and repotted the rosemary and had the boy bring in his garlic last weekend.  I certainly wouldn't have wanted to try doing it when we all feel so icky!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

House Elves Are Real (and Living in my Bedroom Ceiling)

We've been in our house for more than a year now.  We've celebrated two of Doodlebug's birthdays here, two Halloweens; we're setting up to host our first family holiday dinner at Thanksgiving. (Have I mentioned I don't mind Thanksgiving?  I don't love it, but I don't hate it.  It's far better than the commercial hoopla of Christmas that turns me into the Annual Christmas Grinch, but never mind... I won't go there right now.)  We're technically inside city limits, but between the creek and the actual location of our house on the outskirts of town, we do get wildlife.  We'd been here only a few months when we saw our first opossum, and the kids have sighted rabbits, turtles, frogs, lizards, bats, and snakes.  I'm sure there are raccoons and skunks, too - raccoons for certain, because we have crawfish and perch in the creek, and raccoons love to eat crawfish and small fish for dinner.  Just because I haven't seen them doesn't mean they aren't there.

This spring we hosted a family of birds in our roof.  It wasn't a voluntary thing on our part, but they nested, raised their babies, and left.  We've tried plugging the holes, but I still see them flitting about. 

A month or two ago, I noticed that the cats would seem particularly agitated right around bedtime - midnight-ish in our abode, at least for the adult denizens.  Vixen, our fluffy gray genie-pants of a cat, was especially keen on staring at certain corners of the bathroom.  She would dash from the corner of the jetted tub to my vanity at the opposite end of the bathroom and stare intently upward, tail twitching, as if something was roosting in the corners that only she could see.  Oz and I could never hear (or see) anything, so we just decided it was a case of the night crazies and laughed at the antics.  Over time, when Vixen would start dashing about, I would joke that she was chasing the house elves.

Then Tempest, our not-so-fluffy-but-also-gray matriarchal feline, joined in.  Hm.  Then Kuro, aka Beasticat, aka Fatty Boomsticks, ran into the bedroom one evening, and there were three cats all staring simultaneously at various points in the ceiling, their heads turning in unison as the noises jumped from place to place.

That was a bit much.  I listened hard, and I heard it.  A faint scratching.  Very faint.  Oz couldn't hear it.  When he did hear it a few nights later, he thought it sounded like birds.  I'd never heard birds moving about at midnight before, and so I disagreed with his assumption.  I still do.  The noises don't happen every night, but when they do happen, the cats alert us with their perked ears and upturned faces.  Oz has poked around in the attic a few times but finds absolutely nothing up there... except insulation that would muffle the sounds of most creatures.  So who knows.  For now, I'm just convinced that the house elves have their room right above mine.  Any time they want to come down and start doing the cooking and cleaning and everything else that I thought house elves are supposed to do, I'm okay with that!

And if it isn't house elves... well, let's just say it better not die up there.  I don't mind the noises.  I do mind the smell of decomp.  There are some parts of nature that I don't care to deal with, and Eau de Death is one of them.

Any thoughts on what it might actually be?  And how to get rid of it?  Enlighten me!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Once More Into the Fray

I'm sitting in the school room on this fine Friday morning.  I say 'fine' only because the weather outside is crisp and calm and sunny and 50% of the children in this house are in a decent mood.  The other 50% are in a state of perpetual pissiness (and no, autocorrect, I do not mean prissiness) because he woke up this morning and informed me he felt better, so I marched him upstairs to do school.  He thought feeling better still equated to a day on the couch.

Not so, good sir... not so.  Mostly because I know that by 10:30 a.m. he'd be bored and deliberately antagonizing his sister.  The boy thrives on structure, so whine as he will, structure is what he gets.  Nobody needs a day of fighting.

We were supposed to attend a field trip today, but with the boy still snotty and borderline not okay (methinks he decided he was better on the basis of sleepover(s) planned for this weekend that he was unaware had already been canceled), I decided we'd spend the day at home.  Nobody wants us to spread the love.  Or germs.  Mostly germs...

Fridays are our light school days, anyway, so all we had was a little writing, some grammar, math, and logic, and I plan to let the kids watch a documentary later for both history and science.  Boo is done, having pranced out of here with ostentatious glee a few minutes ago - ah, there she is... she's back to measure the dog.  She wants to make him a homemade harness.  I worry, but I keep my mouth shut.  I'm aware that my concerns will be brushed aside.  So I'll watch silently and dry the tears when they come, and then I'll take her to the pet store to see how harnesses are made.  And then if she still wants to make one, we'll try again.  Together, or at least partially so.

Doodlebug is doodling around.  He's completed his writing and was making a mess of his math until I told him we would do it cooperatively in a little bit and to finish the rest of his work first.  He'd rather blow his nose and toss the used snot-rags on the floor and 'supervise' his sister than do work, so I guess he must be feeling a little better, and this week has been sort of a blow-off week, anyway - they did work with Oz while I was gone, but he's still a 'substitute,' and I wrote yesterday off altogether, and today has sort of a 'first day back' feel to it - so I'm not getting upset.  It simply amuses me how the kids think I'll forget how these days are supposed to go just because I wasn't here for a few of them.  I sympathize with public school teachers in that respect, I suppose.

This feels a lot more like the first day home I'd expected to have.  It feels good to get back into a normal routine.  I like structure, too, and yesterday's chaos culminated in multiple glasses of wine and chocolate cupcakes and a large quantity of kettle corn.

I think we're all recovering from Mama's trip.  I loved it.  Every minute.  But today feels like my first true day home.  It's good to be back to 'normal!'

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Because That's How These Things Work

I got back yesterday from a 4.5-day road trip.  It was a one-woman show.  I climbed in the car on Saturday morning and took off to visit a blogging friend in Nebraska.  I have a picture of her and me standing together, but it's still on the camera, and I don't feel like messing with it right now, so you'll just have to imagine us standing next to one another in her living room while her husband snapped photos of us.  My charming hostess and I talked nonstop for hours (was it really hours?  It only seemed like such a short time), pausing only when she was making dinner (homemade lasagna!) or when her 10-month-old daughter needed something.  The daughter in question spent the evening fighting sleep, chewing on my shoe and phone, and trying to interject herself into the conversation any time she felt her input was needed.  In other words, she made herself indispensable.  It was such a fun evening!  Lots of laughter and companionship.

The next morning I completely forgot about Daylight Savings Time and wondered why on earth I'd awakened at 7 a.m. when I'm never up before 8.  Thankfully Wendy and her husband reminded me about the time change and assured me I wasn't going crazy. I was fed pancakes for breakfast and had my legs wrapped up by a demanding polydactyl cat who desperately wished to go outside.  It felt like home.  Instead of home, however, I climbed back into the car and headed clear across Iowa and into Illinois.

In Illinois, I visited another family.  This family used to live in the Tulsa area, but they moved for the dad's job, and so we don't see one another very often.  They have four kids, three of whom decided to show off their best behavior and throw tantrums right after I arrived.  Mom, of course, was horrified, and I just laughed.  I didn't have to worry about disciplining a single one of them!  Eventually the kids settled down, and after her husband got home, she and I were shooed out the door to go have dinner and drinks somewhere kid-free.  We picked a local Mexican restaurant, and we had daiquiris and enchiladas and stuffed ourselves silly and talked and cried and swapped stories and otherwise made ourselves feel much, much better.  She and I were completely wiped out by the time we got back to her house, so we headed off to bed early.

On Monday morning she managed to wake far earlier than I ever would have and sneaked out the door to find pumpkin spice milk so we could have pumpkin spice lattes for breakfast.  When combined with fresh cream from a nearby Amish dairy, that was a breakfast coffee I could get behind!  I didn't have to leave her house till after lunch that day, so she sat down and did some school with her kids (this was a very homeschool-family-focused trip, and I didn't even intend that to happen), and I helped when she had to make or answer phone calls.  She scolded me for teaching on my vacation, but her kids are largely younger than mine, and the work was different than what I do with my own, so I still felt it was a break.

Early that afternoon, I took my leave of her and drove to a state park to meet yet another family.  This was another homeschool family that I'd met online, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to meet them until after I left for my trip, but it worked out.  We hiked around a short trail, and the kids ran ahead and then played on the playground until it got too dark to see.  I had a good time; it's so nice to meet new people!

That evening I headed to a hotel.  It was my one major luxury that I allowed myself on this trip, but I enjoyed it.  I took a long, hot shower - I always feel like I'm emptying hot water tanks quickly and feel guilty when I'm visiting others - and watched television while working on a cross-stitching project all evening.  It was quiet, too.  I loved visiting my friends and seeing them, but I am an introvert at heart, and this evening of solitude was just what the doctor had ordered.

On Tuesday morning, I left Illinois and meandered down through Missouri.  I had time to kill, so I stopped at Meramec Caverns to take the tour there.  It was a neat place, and if I ever go back with the kids, I'll probably do the zipline as well, but with nobody to take pictures (and it was a cold day), I didn't feel the need.

Late that afternoon, I arrived at my final overnight stop.  This family has one very energetic 5-year-old boy, and he took to me immediately, though he didn't remember me from when he used to live in the Tulsa area as well.  He decided I "got his game," and he begged to sit next to me at dinner.  I got a giant bear hug before he went to bed, too.  Again, there was chatter and laughter and lots of catching up.  Yesterday morning we went to breakfast, and I came home.

Home is a good place.  Home is where the children greet you at the garage door when you drive in and give you giant hugs and insist on helping you unpack.  Home is where you get snuggles on the couch and people call you 'Mom' and you can take long, hot showers whenever you want and light candles and fireplaces and raid the fridge.  I took my trip to relax - and in many ways, I did - but coming home brought a new level of relaxation.  It felt good to walk in the door and have some ownership of the space.  I'm grateful to everyone who put me up for a night, and I loved my trip, but coming home had its own charm, for sure.

Of course, the boy promptly got sick and I spent the evening and night cleaning up yark and administering breathing treatments, and we've been to the doctor today already, but ah well… at least it's home.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Kids Grow Up: Some Days It's Not as Painful

It's Halloween 2013.  The kids dressed up...

Japanese princess
Ghostface
and we crashed a friend's neighborhood (like we always do) to go trick-or-treating.  The kids hauled home a couple pounds of sugar candy each, so they're set till Christmas or Valentine's Day or Easter or whenever I decide to throw out all the stuff they haven't touched in forever.

It's kind of a bittersweet moment in parenting when you realize that your kids are no longer dashing ahead to get to the next house first... because they're lagging behind, one of them dangling his mask on his wrist between houses and the other not wanting to be crushed among the people who are shorter than her.

And then you get home and the kids don't even care if you steal their candy because Granny sent them a couple bucks each for Halloween and they fully intend to hit the clearance candy aisle in the next day or two.  And at some point during the day, one of the children (and it's the younger one) actually says, "Mom, I don't know if I want to go trick-or-treating next year.  It seems kinda... silly."  And you say, "Well, let's wait till next year and decide," but inside your heart kind of thumps a little because you realize that if they don't go trick-or-treating it's kind of like Halloween is OVER.  Sure there might be Halloween parties that they want to attend, but they won't be the cute little-kid, take-lots-of-photos kind; they'll be the big-kid, drop-me-off-and-pick-me-up-later kind.

And then you realize that you won't have to worry about where to go trick-or-treating and you can stay home and drink beer or wine or whatever as long as you're sober enough to pick up the kids later.  And that you won't have to worry about what to do with all the candy because there won't be any unless you buy it for yourself like you did before you had kids.

Some days, having older kids isn't all that bad.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Fairy Tale (With a Moral Twist), by Boo

All People Are Equal
by Boo

Once upon a time there lived a group of dryads. They lived in houses made in trees. The trees were magically designed so that there was living space inside. The dryads wore leaf dresses that were strung together with vines. They used magic to keep the leaves green. All the dryads loved to dance with all their hearts. Their music was made of hazelnut castanets and swaying trees. There were only girls in this tribe. They also loved to play tag because there were lots of trees to run around. Of course climbing was fun, too. The children liked to play hide-and-seek, and so did the grown-ups.

The queen of the tribe was named Flouresta. Flouresta had two assistants. One of them was named Rose and the other Daisy. The cook was named Maple. The dryads ate a small variety of things like acorn soup, hazelnut soup, and very, very rarely berry cream. The cream came from the cow that would escape from the farm next door.

The tribe was very happy until, very unexpectedly, a farm boy wandered into the woods. Nobody noticed that he was coming into their space because they were all playing a good game of tag. The farm boy didn't know what tag was, nor did he know why the grown-ups were doing whatever they were doing. Suddenly Flouresta noticed the farm boy and stopped, which caused everybody else to slowly stop, too

She started questioning the boy.  "What is your name?" she asked.

"Steve," he replied.

"Are you a boy?" she asked.

"Yes, of course," he responded.

Flouresta felt awkward.  She knew that boys weren't allowed, but she didn't quite know how to get him out of her woods nicely.

"Get out please.  I don't want to have to use magic to force you out," she said stoutly.

"What is magic?" Steve asked.

"You don't want to find out," Flouresta answered.

Just then Maple stepped up. "There is no need for magic, because we can push him out!" she said.

Flouresta contemplated this idea, then said, "Rose, Daisy, take this boy to the dungeon. Then we can decide what's to be done with him!"

On the way to the dungeon Steve escaped.  "GET HIM!!!" every body yelled.

"Rose, Daisy, Maple - it's magic time," Flouresta hollered. "First we fly, then we use tree magic."

They all shot off the ground.  First they made the tree in front of Steve bend down.

"Bet you can't catch me," Steve jeered. "I don't get to sleep in the house at night, so I come in here and find my way around."

Flouresta thought that Steve would be too busy talking to them and would trip and fall over the tree that they had just bent down. He didn't, though, he just jumped over it as if it were a crayon.  Steve turned a sharp corner and ran inside a tree and stopped.  When the tribe came in, he said, "All people are equal. If you are so peaceful all the time, why do you fight to get me out?"

"We used to only let girls into our wood, but you have shown us that all people are equal, even boys," Flouresta replied.

From that day forth the tribe always let boys in.  They taught Steve all their games. They even offered to let Steve lived with them, but Steve said that his home was on the farm.

The End

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Halloween Story, by Doodlebug

This started as a free writing exercise when I suggested the children write a scary or fairy story.  Enjoy!

     It was an old house. It had an old iron furnace that used coal. The main floor had been used as a funeral home. There were many works of taxidermy. There was at least one crack in every ceiling, and there was water damage everywhere. From the outside the house was dilapidated. Upstairs was the children's bedroom. In the bedroom Billy woke up, his heart thumping. He called out to his brother, Chris, and there was no answer. He lay back down with his teddy bear, Furry Ferocious. Then he noticed the exceptional silence.

     He didn't hear his brother's breathing, he didn't hear the bats in the attic, and it was colder than usual. He got up and looked over, but his brother was gone.

     He yelled, "Mom!!" but there was no answer. Billy resolved that he and Furry Ferocious would wait for Chris to come back. He waited, tossed, and waited some more, but Chris didn't come back. After that he got up, looked down the hall and gulped.

     He walked to his parents' room. His mind was racing. He thought that any moment now zombies would lumber out and eat his brains. He reached his parents' room, but they were gone. He went downstairs. It seemed to be empty. Then he felt it. The cold and silence were alive. Something was coming up the basement stairs.

     He wondered, "Did it catch my family?" Then he fled upstairs.

     He felt the silence come up the stairs toward him. Suddenly his bear was pulled away, and he was completely surrounded by the cold and silence. Next thing he knew light was streaming through the window.

     At breakfast Billy asked Chris where he had been during the night. Chris replied, "In bed of course."

     Billy's family said that it was a dream. After that night, though, Billy's bear was never seen again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Girl vs. Hair

I don't know about you, but when I was little, my mom had the ultimate say-so about my hair.  I had long hair.  It was curled each morning.  I had bangs.  They were cut straight across my forehead, and they were also curled each morning.  When I was 9, I rebelled.  I insisted that I wanted to grow out my bangs.  My mother fought me for months, but I won when I would no longer let her get the scissors near my forehead.  I did this by shaking my head demonically.  She acquiesced, and I grew out the bangs.  As I got older, I kept the hair long for the most part, chopping it off only once in a horrid experiment that caused me to look like a poodle for many months.  I've only had it short once since then, and while it was not quite as horrid the second time around (since I actually knew how to care for my hair at that point), I realized that long hair is something I should stick with.  It simply works for me.

I have never employed any manipulation with Boo's hair.  I kept it in a bob when she was tiny, but when she was big enough to have an opinion, I allowed her to let it grow or trim it as desired.  


She's always liked it long.  When we'd go to get it cut, she'd insist on having only the most minuscule amounts taken off, leaving the majority behind.

This week, however, she suddenly got a bee in her bonnet and decided she wanted her hair gone.  ALL gone.  I'd been gunning for a trim for a while, hoping she'd go back to a bob or something, but nope... the girl wanted something between Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan.  Not that she knew who they were, but she's kinda like her mother in that things are either all or nothing.

So tonight, we went to get her hair cut.  And I love the results.



She's awfully pleased, too.  My girl got her first major haircut.  It's a milestone!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Peaceful Monday

I don't always love Monday.  In fact, most of the time I am not a fan of Mondays at all.  They are, however, growing on me.  The primary reason for this is simple:  I don't have to go anywhere.  Every other day of the week, I have to get in the car and drive someone or multiple someones somewhere to do something.  Swim team practice, swim meets, yoga class, violin lesson, homeschool group, even going to the library - all of those involve me spending time driving back and forth across town.  I love to drive.  I just get tired of running the same routes every week.

This Monday has been particularly glorious.  Doodlebug and I went to a concert last night and didn't get home till 11.  It would have been later, but we left the show early because the poor boy is not a night owl at all and was nodding off in his seat.  He felt bad, but he usually puts himself to bed around 8, and even with a nap yesterday afternoon, he just couldn't stay awake any more.  Obviously getting up early was not in the cards today.  We managed to be up and around by 8-ish, though, which was a good thing because a photographer friend of mine came over after dropping her own munchkins off at school and proceeded to spend the next hour or so taking a million photos of my kids.  It was cloudy and a little drizzly, but not misty, so the lighting was perfect.  When we got done, she browsed through some of the photos she'd taken and made me tear up because the kids looked soooooo big.  Some of her pictures of Doodlebug reminded me of senior portraits.  Scary thought.  Boo had conned Speed Bump into being in some of the shots, so we have pictures of the girl and her dog.  Those are adorable, too.

We wandered upstairs and did school for the what was left of the morning before breaking for lunch.  Broken bowl, lentils and pottery shards all over the floor - sometimes that would have made the entire day crappy, but I just couldn't manage to be grumpy today.  It was - and is - still gray outside, so I asked the kids if they wanted to do the rest of their school work in front of the fireplace.  They did.  I dug out a fall-scented candle (What does fall smell like?  Apples and cinnamon and pumpkin, in my opinion) and lit that to accompany the heat of the fire.  I walked upstairs a bit ago and realized that our new logs are doing a fantastic job of heating the living room.  I may never leave this space.  It's deliciously warm.

Boo has finished her school work and practiced her violin, so she's almost done for the day; she only needs to fold and put away her laundry.  Doodlebug is on his last subject, math, and then will do his own laundry and give the Tom-lizard his daily bath.

As for me, I'm going to do my own laundry and make meatloaf for dinner.  Days like this make me wonder if it's worth having extracurricular activities.  I've been debating whether or not to make the boy take a break from swim team for a month or two this winter, just because he's been doing it for so long without one.  The idea is rapidly taking root.  It would free up a lot of time.  More things to think about another day.  Today... today is for relaxing.

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Like 5, Only Bigger

So 11 is moodier than 10.  My male version of that age has mood swings that would happily do battle with any PMS symptoms a similarly-aged girl might have.  Some things, however, do not change no matter how old the child.

1.  The toilet issues.  I know that not flushing the toilet is a common problem among parents; we suffer from it here, too.  The next time I walk upstairs and get hit with eau de pee will not be the first... nor, I suspect, the last.  One day I hope that I can stop checking to make sure the toilet is flushed whenever I tuck the kids into bed.  I fear it will come the day after they move out.

2. The 'I'm tired/hungry/stressed' tantrum.  They weren't cute when he was 3, and they certainly aren't cute now.  I do feel more inclined to laugh at them rather than take them seriously, however.  Today we took a morning trip to the zoo.  By the time we left, both kids were feeling the effects of hunger and were getting snippy with one another.

Like this... in my car

We made it home, and I fed them right as the tears began.  Normally I don't fix lunches because they're old enough and capable enough to fix their own meals, but some days, it's easier to throw food at the ravaging hordes as opposed to letting them maul one another in their efforts to feed themselves.

After eating, Doodlebug disappeared upstairs, which is never a good sign.  He had to finish his schoolwork for the week, so I had to have Boo go retrieve him.  He wasn't quite asleep, but it was close.  There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth before he finally woke up fully and settled down.  I suspect tomorrow will be another Day o' Tantrums because of overtiredness.  It is what it is.  As long as he doesn't have any night terrors (and yes, even at 11, those haven't stopped, either... they're rare, but they're still frightening.  Imagine hearing a blood-curdling scream coming from your child's room in the middle of the night.  Yeah... that.  He goes back to sleep - because he was never awake - and the rest of us sit around and stare wide-eyed at the walls for the remainder of the nocturnal hours.)

3.  The odd noises and sound effects.  Life is still narrated.  Noises come out of the boy that no self-respecting girl would ever emit.  (This isn't meant to be a gender-biased statement, but I seriously have never heard a girl make sound effects to the extent that boys do.  The occasional, "KABLOW!" Yes.  The odd farting noise?  Sure.  Grunts and squeaks and groans and bomb sounds and car engine rumbles and everything else... I'm pretty sure those belong firmly in the male dominion.)

4.  Whining about chores.  It's actually getting worse with age.  To be fair, I'd whine about chores too if I thought it'd do any good.

There are lots of good things, too, but these are the ones that stand out as the most notable/amusing to me.  The more kids change, the more they stay the same.