Monday, May 27, 2013

Preventing Boredom

It's probably a darn good thing that I am good at compartmentalizing and managing time down to almost the minute.  Last week this house threatened to get boring, and summer break seemed interminably long.  This week?  Not so much a concern.  In fact, by Sunday we will all probably welcome a quiet day.

Today - any minute now - my stepsister's kids are showing up to stay till Wednesday morning.  That will be an adventure.  After they leave on Wednesday, the kids and I are going to run errands.  Specifically we're going to drop off a book I'm selling, going to the library, and perhaps going to the grocery store on the way home.  In the afternoon, they're going to do some research for a meeting we have on Friday.

Thursday will mean house cleaning and probably some laundry.  The kids aren't very thrilled about that, but I've told them that the advantage of having a big house is that we CAN have groups here; at the old house, it wasn't as hard to clean, but we also couldn't invite people over like we can now.  The good, the bad, the ugly... it's a balance.

Friday means our meeting, which is going to be a potluck lunch event, plus any laundry that didn't get done on Thursday.

And Saturday means a hair appointment for me (and possibly M2) followed by a different potluck in the evening with a different group of people... still at my house, though.

There's no way anyone here will be bored this week.  It's probably a good thing.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Those Happy Weekend Days

This is going to be one of those posts where I simply word vomit the contents of my weekend, so if those sorts of posts hold no interest for you, I suggest you move on.  No hard feelings.  *smile*

Memorial Day weekend is one of those glorious weekends where there are no family obligations, no gifts involved, no greeting cards to send - you do what you and your family want and hang the consequences.

Friday evening kicked this weekend off with a bang.  One of my good friends and I piled in her car and waited in interminable traffic to get to Rocklahoma, which, I might add, didn't seem anywhere as crowded as the traffic and parking issues would originally have led us to believe.  We had a blast, and there's just something genuinely fun about driving home at midnight and stopping at a convenience store on the way home to grab Bugles and a Milky Way (me) and an energy drink (her).  We're already hoping that the lineup next year is equally good; we'll work our schedules so that hopefully the traffic issues aren't as pronounced.

Yesterday was a quiet day (OK, I'm just comparing it to today... it wasn't quiet at all).  Oz had to run down to Moore to do some work in that tornado-ravaged town, so the kids and I had the house to ourselves during the morning hours.  After lunch, we ran to a neighbor's house.  Their daughters recently turned 4 and 1 within a few weeks of one another, and as they're even newer to the neighborhood than we are, they invited several families they've met as part of a birthday get-together.  M2 was playing with one of the other neighbor girls, whom she had met before - the birthday family moved into the home where some girls M2's age had lived - and I got to meet the dad and exchange phone numbers.  The other girl is also in Girl Scouts, so when I call and introduce myself to the mom, I intend to discuss that as well, see if I can find out information for M2.  M2 was beside herself.  Oz got back during the party and walked up, and our whole family enjoyed cake and good conversation for a couple of hours before three of us headed home.  M2 stayed and entertained the older birthday girl and some of her out-of-state friends for another couple of hours before I retrieved her for dinner... and camping!  No, I did not actually sleep in a tent.  The kids had been begging for a month to camp in the yard like they do every spring, but it had been too wet to set up the tent.  It's finally dried out enough that I agreed it was time.  The ground is still moist, but we can finally walk through it (well, most of it) without water squishing between our toes, so M1 helped Oz set up the tent, and the kids spent an evening parked in sleeping bags and on air mattresses before sacking out about 10:30.  If I'd been smart, I would have gone to bed then, too, but I'm nothing if not a night owl, so at 10:30, Oz and I were in the middle of Saving Private Ryan, which neither of us had seen, and I had Ben & Jerry's Willie Nelson's Country Peach Cobbler ice cream, which is my favorite ice cream ever, and so I didn't find my pillow till about 1 a.m.

Again.

It was hard to get out of bed this morning, but at 8 a.m. I was jolted awake by a cat who decided it was time for me to get up, which means that she climbed on my arm (I sleep on my side, but that does not deter this cat), perched herself firmly, and purred in my ear till I was awake.  She repeated this until I was too awake to go to sleep again.  It's her modus operandi when she wants breakfast, because she knows if I get up, then the boy gets up, and the end result is that she gets fed.  It's complicated feline logic.  The boy was, in fact, awake in the tent, and he and his sister had been awake long enough to have packed up their sleeping bags and rolled up the air mattresses so they could haul everything inside and dump it next to the back door on the way to FOOD OMG FOOD I HAVEN'T EATEN SINCE LAST NIGHT FOOOOOOOOD.

After they consumed sustenance, I divided and conquered.  M1 did a couple of chores in the house, and M2 came outside with me to mulch the herb garden.  I hate doing things that early in the morning, but we had too much going on today to procrastinate... and anyway, I had coffee by that point and could (almost) function.  It was still very nice to come in and crash on the couch and watch some Monaco Grand Prix for a bit before I had to move again.

For lunch, we piled in the car and met Oz's family at a park for lunch.  We took the lazy route and picked up food on the way; everyone else brought coolers and meat to barbecue.  It worked out well for us, though, because by the time we had to leave, they were just finishing their meals... and I'm pretty sure that my food-seeking children wouldn't have survived that long without a feeding.  I'm not entirely convinced they'd have turned cannibalistic, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.  Anyway, we had to leave earlier than everyone else because M2 had her first sewing lesson with my stepmother today, and we had to be home in time for her to get picked up.  Oz corralled M1 and made him go run errands - lots of them - while I stayed home and exercised and made new binder labels for the next school year and ran to retrieve the girl.  She was delighted with what she learned, and she's assigned herself a couple of 'homework' projects that will mean I have to actually walk into a fabric store.  I may not survive; my fabric-store PTSD may kick in.  If I stop blogging and disappear from the web, you'll know why.

By the time everyone came home, we were drop-dead tired.  I fixed dinner and read the kids a chapter from the fourth Harry Potter book that we just started, and they were off to bed.  M1 was out like a light; M2 took a bit longer, but I think she's out now, too.

I'd say that tomorrow will be a piece of cake since we don't have to go anywhere and Oz will be home, but I fear it won't be the case.  My stepsister's sons are spending Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning here, and it's been a long, long time since I've had a little boy... and I've never had two of them at once.  It will be an interesting week.

Hope you all have a fun, safe Memorial Day (or Monday, depending on what country you live in), and I'll let you know how the child-minding goes.  Send a few good thoughts my way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tornado Watch

One of the hazards of living in Oklahoma... and Tornado Alley in general... is spring weather.  Tornadoes aren't, of course, limited to spring, but that is the time we're most prone to them.

We've been lucky this year.  Just a few days ago, the news stations were actually talking about the fact that we were in a 'tornado drought,' because there had been so few tornadoes this year.

I think Mother Nature heard them.  She's vindictive like that sometimes.

Yesterday, the first round of storms came through.  I wasn't particularly worried about them coming here because while it was humid, it was also cloudy and windy all day.  The conditions just didn't seem right.  Sure enough, all the storms fell apart before they got here, and we only had a small cloudburst, just enough rain to make the gardens happy.

Today, though, things felt... and still feel... different.  It was sunnier, more humid, hazier, and just generally more like the weather that I've grown up to know means storms and tornadoes.

I've swept out the closet under the stairs (we're spending our tax refund on a safe room, but it's not here yet), and totally unlike yesterday, I've had the kids pack bug-out bags.  Sometimes when you can see a tornado coming your way, the safest thing to do is actually climb in the car and head south or east as fast as you can, then come back when it's over.  I've only had to do that once, but hey... it's an option.  And when that's an option, it's nice to be able to tell the kids to pack their pajamas and a couple of their favorite things, just in case.

Hanging out and waiting
As for Oz and I, he's home, too, and we're watching the weather on television.  It might as well be labeled the state hobby, because when the weather gets nuts, nobody gripes about missing their favorite sitcoms or dramas unless they're total brainless boors who just need to be nicely dropped into the nearest hook echo as a reminder of how nasty these things can be.

Radar and knowledge of local geography are your friends
This is what the TV looks like during tornadic hours.  Lots of red and yellow.  Storm tracks.  Helicopter footage.  Wind inflow and outflow patterns.

More radar
I also usually have radar pulled up on at least one tab on my computer while the weather's going on.  I know it's fairly useless if we lose power, because the Internet will go out, too, and I'll have to swap to using the 4G on my phone or the weather app on Oz's iPad, but it's just another layer of knowledge for me to add to my database, so I can make informed decisions about what to do for my family.

To someone who isn't used to tornadoes, it probably seems like I'm freaking out, hyper-aware, and just taking far too many precautions.  To those who live in Shawnee or Moore this week... well, I think they'd say I'm doing exactly what I need to do.  My heart breaks for them and any others affected by these storms.

To help those affected by tornadoes this week, please consider donating to the Red Cross.  They aren't paying me to say this, but I'm saying it, anyway.  You can donate by visiting their web site or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

OK, *Now* It's Summer

It is Thursday, May 16.  It is 66 degrees outside, and it is cloudy.  The ground is muddy from all the rain we got last night (again), and the children are upstairs in pajamas playing hour after hour of Wii.  This is the first day we've had at home since we finished school last Friday, so I'm letting them bask in the laziness.  I'll pay for it later, but it's glorious now.

Last Friday, as I mentioned, was our final school day for the 2012-2013 school year.  We will start school again in mid-July, so I have a couple of months in which to paint the school room and take all the old material off the book shelves so the new stuff will (hopefully) fit in.  I also need to set up new binders since A) the old ones are falling apart and B) both kids will have more than one this year - we'll have a binder specifically for writing and another specifically for science, and I'm debating about whether to have a third for history.  We shall see.  It will be my fifth year homeschooling, and it seems absolutely bizarre.  Another mom asked me a few weeks ago how long I'd been doing this, and when I told her, she said, "Oh, so you're a veteran then."  Wait... what?  No!  I'm still figuring this out as I go!  I'm not a veteran!  Still, compared to many, I suppose I am.  I've been digging trenches in this particular battlefield for quite a while now, and even though I doubt myself on many an occasion, I think I finally have a good handle on things and a solid picture in my head of where we're headed in the long term.

Now watch my kids throw me for giant loops and change everything.  They're good at that.

Friday was a nice, easy day, as all last days of school should be.


First we made fans for our Spanish project.  While they were coloring them, the kids got to watch a short video on one particular style of Flamenco dancing.  They really enjoyed it, especially the part about stomping with their whole foot without raising the knee.  My little herd of elephants practiced all day.


Then we got down to serious business.  Our final project in science this year was to set off rockets.  We talked briefly about how rockets worked, what physics principles we learned this year that we could apply to what we would see, and touched on safety protocol.  Then it was time for assembly, and we wandered off to the cul-de-sac in front of our home (the rockets purchased are small and have only a tiny flight radius, so we could do it here... if I had bought larger ones, we would have had to take a trip to a park, which I didn't want to do).


M1 was desperate to set his rocket off first.  Sadly, he got a bad igniter for his first try, and it nearly broke him, but we eventually got things working.


They really liked the countdown part, especially because I told them they were allowed to yell it as loud as they wanted.



FIVE... FOUR... THREE... TWO... ONE...


Zoom.


I honestly think the kids had as much fun recovering their rockets as they did setting them off.


They really, really liked that project... and sometimes, they even pretend to like each other.  Happy summer, everyone!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Typical Conversation... for Us, Anyway

Picture it.  It's a partly cloudy, humid, late spring day.  It's the last day of school, and the kids have been playing outside in the glorious weather since setting off rockets at 11:30-ish a.m.  They've colored the sidewalk, driveway, and a good chunk of the cul-de-sac with chalk, ridden bikes, taken walks, eaten lunch on the front porch, and just really, truly enjoyed being outdoors with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Then they went into the woods to entertain themselves.  I, for the first time all day, hear silence.  It is good.  I take advantage of the moment to go through e-mail.  Soon, the back door opens.

"Mom, we would have stayed out there longer, but we both found ticks on each other," M1 announces.

"And I don't like ticks.  Can you check my hair?" corroborates M2.

Dutifully, I check their hair and find nothing but sweaty scalps (thankfully... the ticks have gotten absolutely horrendous all of a sudden, and I have now informed the children that they need to make sure they put on bug spray before they go into the woods any time between now and... whenever tick season is over.  Anyone know when that is?  I'm assuming fall/winter).

The children are not at all deterred by the abrupt change in their plans, however.  They have a goal.  Or, rather, M1 does.

"Mom," he continues, "since we're staying inside, can we watch a movie?"

"Oooooo, yeah!" M2 chimes in.  "Which one, M1?"

"I was thinking the tornado one," he answers, referring to "Tornado Alley" by Sean Casey, which he checked out of the library earlier this week.

"Oh."  M2 deflates.  "Can I watch a different movie, Mama?"

"Um... and just where, exactly, do you plan on watching a different movie?"

"Upstairs."

"And just where do you think M1 is going to watch his?"

I am greeted with silence.  This has not been thought through.

"So can I?"  M2 finally replies, deciding to ignore the fact that I've asked a question at all.

"No.  You can watch the tornado movie with him upstairs, or you can watch nothing with me."

M1 is pleased and announces that he is going to take a shower to make sure there aren't any more ticks hiding anywhere, because "once I found one on my butt," which I highly doubt, but he is a 10-year-old boy and likes saying the word 'butt' as much as possible.

"Wait... does that mean we have to get into our pajamas?" M2 wants to know.

"Well, you don't have to," I answer, "but if you aren't going back outside, it's certainly an option."

"I'm going to watch the movie with M1," she decides.  "Or come sit with you.  And I'm going to take a bath, too.  And maybe put on pajamas.  Or not."

"Right," I answer.  "You do... that."

And off they trot.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Opportunities

Sometimes opportunity appears at odd times.  It's funny to me how just when I start to worry that things are at a standstill and that there's very little purpose or meaning to my life, things happen to show me that I am, in fact, worth something and that I should continue doing what I do.

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Back in March, I applied for a job.  I haven't worked in more than two years, and that job wasn't exactly skilled labor - I worked as a medical transcriptionist for a company based out of Massachusetts.  I had quit because I could no longer keep set hours every evening, what with swim meets and everything else, and since quitting I'd reached the level of stagnation and boredom that I enter right before I find a new job/hobby that consumes my time, and I'm sure Oz was getting rather frustrated with how depressed I had become, because when I'm not busy, I get depressed, and then the poor man has to listen to me whine about how impotent and useless and horrible I am because here I am at 31 years old and have no purpose and nothing to show for my life, and that, in turn, causes me to create incredible run-on sentences that really have no great literary value.  Not really, but that is one nasty-long sentence there.  Feel free to parse it for grammar mistakes.  I'm sure there are many.

Anyway, a couple of positions opened up or are being created (not sure which) at a company that teaches writing to homeschool students/families, and after much encouragement by Oz and some of my friends, I applied.  I honestly never expected to hear a word.

I heard.  I panicked, and then I answered some questions via e-mail and gave a critique for a small student writing sample... and I honestly never expected to hear a word.

I heard.  Again.  And again I panicked, because this time it meant the word interview, and I've never interviewed for a job in my life.  My first jobs - mowing and handpainting pottery - were courtesy of my father.  My journalism job fell into my lap while I interned as a high school student; when I graduated, I moved into the recently-vacated lifestyle reporter position.  I did some temp work while I was pregnant with M1, which required me simply to show up, and when he and M2 were small, I ran a church nursery because I was willing to do it.  After I quit that gig, I took up medical transcription, which did require some study, but when I applied for a job, everything was done online.  None of this interview business.  I did do one interview with a local company about a transcription position, but it was largely a skill test.

So for the first time in my life, I had to do an interview.  It took every ounce of nerve I had to push the 'call' button on Skype yesterday.  I'm glad I did, though, because now I am apparently on the list to receive an invitation to attend some training in July, and if I do well there, I will teach a writing class this fall.  Teach.  A writing class.  When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher and an author.  And a secretary, because clearly I come from a home chock-full of women's lib principles.  Now, I have the opportunity to teach others writing, and that absolutely terrifies and exhilarates me at the same time.  I love to write; I like to think that I can pass that on.  If anyone else who is going through the same process reads this (because I know, via the Internet, a couple of other women who applied for the same job), I hope to see you in training, because I think you also would make spectacular teachers, probably far better than I.  Good luck.
 
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This morning, one of my friends texted me.  First she wanted to tell me what songs to play at her funeral because she seems to be under the impression I'll live longer than she will, which amuses me because while, yes, my grandmothers are still living, one of hers is, too!  After I agreed to make sure that Eminem's song "Shake That" is on the playlist right after Sarah McLachlan and Sting, she said, "[My son] asked if you could tutor him in math this summer.  I'll pay you."

Math?  Oh, what the heck, why not?  I don't mind math.  Up to trigonometry and pre-calculus (except for geometry, which is of the devil), I even enjoy it.  I really like playing with numbers.  Plus, this is a good kid, and he's smart.  He just gets stuck, and his teacher this year hasn't really helped him much.  So... tutoring?  Sure. 
 
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Opportunity.  It's an opportunist.  I just had to be patient, and I dislike being patient.  However, it would seem that it is time to get busy with the next phase of my life.  Things are about to get real here at Sunnyview, and I'm excited - let's roll!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Final Writing Project - M1

I've always described M1 as my reluctant writer.  He is, in many ways.  He doesn't always see the point of writing, and I used to have a hard time finding topics he'd enjoy.  Now that I've figured out what he likes writing about, that's not a problem.  I've also occasionally described him as a struggling writer, but I don't think I can apply that label any more.  He will still freely tell you that writing is not his favorite subject, and despite my own love of the topic I can appreciate the fact that some people just simply don't care to put words to paper (electronic or otherwise) the way I do.  However, he will also tell you that he doesn't hate writing these days, and I see that as a major accomplishment on both our parts.  The boy has finally started to come into his own.  He used to try to copy the phraseology straight out of books, because he thought that that was good writing... and because it was a form of copywork, I didn't fight it too hard.  Still, I wanted him to find his own voice.

He has done this.

It still sounds very square, very stilted sometimes, but then I listen to him speak to me and to others and realize that he simply speaks very formally.  Whether that is a product of his psychology or just a habit, it is who he is, and it is - naturally - reflected in his writing.  He has a voice.  He is my Little (well, not-so-Little) Professor.

The important thing is that I can hear him saying out loud the things that he writes, and it sounds like him.  I hear him reading it, and it doesn't sound unnatural.  It sounds exactly like who he is.  The writing style is still very square and limited, but I can work on that with time.  He likes having formulas to plug his writing into, and it'll take a while longer before he can get out of that habit.  That, in fact, is my goal for next year.

He's come a long way.  It's a proud day around here.

M1's Final Project:
I have known nine cats in my life. All of the cats have been good to me. Since they have been good to me I have come to believe that everybody should get a cat.
Cats can play with anybody. I can drag a string, and my cats will chase it. I can also maneuver a laser pointer around a room, and the cats will watch or chase it. They are a lot of fun to play with.
               Cats are nice to have when you’re sad. Cats can sense when you’re sad and come to you. My cats will lick your tears when you cry, and then they will fall asleep on your lap. Cats are very comforting.
               Cats can be very funny. When cats get in fights they are fun to watch. They can also act silly when they get catnip. Our cats love a pink catnip-soaked mouse we bought them at a store called Gato’s. Sometimes Mom makes her phone make cat noises, and the cats go completely ballistic. Time with cats is very enjoyable.
               Cats can make a big impact on your life, so I think everyone should get a cat. Cats can do many things with you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Son Likes Black Socks

My son only wears black socks.  He doesn't have a single pair of white, brown, or any other color in his sock drawer.  Only black.  If you ask him why he only has black socks, he'll say it's because he likes being different.

A few weeks ago, he declared he wanted to be vegetarian... no, lacto-ovo vegetarian... no, pescetarian.  When asked why, he declared it was because he wants to be different.  We informed him that wasn't a good reason to change dietary habits and to let us know when environmental or other causes became the basis for his food preferences.  He agreed but informed me in return that he wants to know more about where his food is coming from.  I'm okay with that.  We happened to go to Whole Foods this week to pick up a snack for our Friday homeschool group.  He died and went to heaven and refused to leave without a container of organic pineapple juice.  *shrug*

He told me the other day what he wants to have done to his teeth. He doesn't want a tooth inserted and cap placed. He doesn't want a screw in his gums. He wants the peg lateral yanked and the teeth moved together. Das Ende. I like that he has an opinion about it, because it's his mouth and his treatment, and I was never given a chance to have a say about things like that. Of course, HE likes that he won't have some of his teeth, and that will make him different.

He slept in until 9:50 this morning, at which time Oz went upstairs and checked to see if he'd been playing on the Wii all night.  He hadn't, which truthfully shocked the heck out of me.  He did play on the Wii yesterday for an hour, and when we asked him (and M2) to get off for lunch, he came down and informed us that he wasn't going to turn it back on in the afternoon, that he'd probably played enough for the day.  My son regulated himself This, in addition to the sleeping in, is completely unheard of.

He likes jeans that I consider too tight.  He likes scarves and robes and old-man slippers and wearing hoodies and caps in the house all day long.  He hates when his hair grows because it touches his ears.  When I jokingly asked him the other day if he wanted to play football this fall, he told me he doesn't want to play any sport where he has to wear a cup, which made me laugh.  He's pulled out his unicycle and is trying diligently to master riding it.  He still loves to cook and wants to make an entire Italian meal by himself sometime in the next month (bruschetta or tapenade as the appetizer, Caprese salad, rosemary roast leg of lamb with potatoes, and tiramisu).  He's developed a serious interest in nanobiology and nanobiomechanics, especially the idea of using nanorobots to crawl around our systems and aid those with cancer or autoimmune disorders defeat their nemeses; however, he still primarily wants to design and build rockets to go into outer space.  I think the fact that we plan to study biology this fall is excellent timing.  He's taken over the laundry and doesn't gripe about doing it, so as long as I handwash any dishes that don't fit into the dishwasher, I may never have to do laundry again.  I think that's a more-than-fair trade (especially since I'll start making M2 wash the dishes in a year or two, and I'll demote myself to emptying the dishwasher).

I grump and gripe and can't easily handle the hormonal changes that swing wildly from one direction to the next during the course of a week, but I do enjoy watching him experiment with ideas and different aspects of his life and personality.  I love that he - like every other pre-teen and teen out there - thinks that he's absolutely unique. 

Remind me of this next time he drives me crazy.