Sunday, June 30, 2013

Whew!

It suddenly occurred to me tonight that I hadn't updated my blog in a while.  I can explain!

Summer has taken over my home.  Each year, I let the children make a list of all the stuff they want to accomplish over summer.  Usually the kids write a bunch of little things - complete the library's summer reading program, catch fireflies, play in the sprinkler, go to the pool.  But the kids are getting older, and the list this year has reflected that.  This year they included things like:


  • Have a family game night
  • Make homemade sundaes
  • Visit the zoo
  • Visit the aquarium
  • Go on a family bike ride
  • Visit Purple Glaze (a pottery-painting studio)
  • Take a trip with Granny (this was M2's)
  • Take a trip with Dad (this was M1's)
  • Go through a cave (also M1's, and we're incorporating that into the Daddy trip idea that will happen later in the summer season)
  • Go camping in the yard
  • Go to Great Wolf Lodge (not happening)
  • Visit the Fab Lab and print some stickers (also not happening because I don't have the training on the machines that you have to have before you can use them)


Some of the traditional list items appeared as well, and I've added a few other things - the library reading program wasn't on the list, but we're doing it, anyway, and I've made it a point to take the kids to the farmer's market.  Oz also wants to take the kids out for sno-cones.

Obviously some of these items are a lot more time-consuming than the little things that used to be the center of their universe.  I've been working pretty hard to make sure that as many items get crossed off this list as possible and still make sure we get together with friends, visit family, and let them have time to relax.  This week is our last free week till we start school again on July 15, because M1 has a day camp to attend the week of the 8th (and I have a two-week project of my own starting that week), and the only things left on the list at this point - that we're going to manage to accomplish - are playing in the sprinkler, which will happen on the 4th; camping in the yard, which will happen as long as the kids accept that it will either be hot or will happen in the game room instead; and visiting Purple Glaze, which I intend to do on Wednesday after a visit to the library and the farmer's market.

Also happening this week is a trip to Kansas to visit my grandmother and going to a friend's house... along with hitting the grocery store for regular groceries as well as July 4 food, doing laundry, and all the other things that have to happen just to make our lives function.  Oh, and the kids want to go to the pool this week as well, since we've only made it once so far this summer.

It's hard to believe that our summer break began nearly two months ago.  It has been a lovely summer break - it really has! - but I do believe that we're all mentally ready to get back into a more regulated routine.  Two more weeks.  Time does fly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

How Weeks Off *REALLY* Work

I've had this week off!  It's been glorious!  I've sat on my backside and done nothing!

I can hear you laughing already.  Stop it.

OK, don't stop.  Someone needs a chuckle.

How is it that the word 'vacation' and the term 'week off' have turned into something so nasty for moms?  I realize that a parent's work is never done, but for heaven's sake, CUT ME SOME SLACK ALREADY!

I have no idea who I'm yelling at.  Murphy, perhaps.  He struck today.

On Monday, I painted the school room.  It is lovely, and as soon as Oz hangs the curtain rod (hint, hint, dear), it will be complete and I will be happy.

On Tuesday, I cleaned the house.  The floor is already gritty again, and once the boy comes home tomorrow and tromps his stank-nasty shoes all over it, the cleaning will be hopelessly undone, but it's been nice to have the house all clean.  It's just so temporary.  (Children, if you ever read this, I love you and will eventually love any grandchildren dearly, and I will gripe about how long you go between visits, but I will not miss having to constantly clean up after someone else.)

On Wednesday, I ran errands.  I picked up the curtains for the school room... and a curtain rod (*cough*), and I met Oz for lunch.  That was a fairly low-key day, but I still had things to do, places to go, people to see.

Yesterday I visited a friend's house in the morning because her husband is also out of town this week and she's desperately lonely, and then M2 insisted that I arrive at camp early to watch her ride a horse, but Murphy started rearing his ugly head and the horse riding that had been at the end of each day was rescheduled for the middle of the day Thursday and I still missed it.  Otherwise I'd have an adorable video to share of my girl riding a horse, and I wouldn't be in such an awful mood, and you'd all say, "Awwww, isn't she doing well?" and life would be dandy.  But no.  Such things aren't meant to be.

Today was meant to be my one day of luxurious nothingness.  I wanted to work out, since I hadn't done that all week, and I was tossing up between working on German or reading a book or even watching a movie.  After all, this week was meant to be a week of days off, of enjoying the silence and not running hither, thither and yon trying to get stuff done... and that had not happened yet.

Murphy, however, is a conniving bastard.  Murphy killed my dryer.  I washed the knits and denims, tossed them into the dryer, turned it on, and nearly had my eardrums explode with the screaming noise that instantly emerged from my NOT-turning dryer drum.  I yanked the door open to stop the cycle and emitted a noise not dissimilar to the dryer's own but with certain syllabic qualities that can't be reproduced onto a proper blog post.  Then I called Oz, who was sympathetic but also working.  I gripe that he hasn't hung my curtain rod, but he's good at listening to rants, which is one reason among many that I keep him.

I took the wet laundry and strewed it over my dining room, kitchen, living room, laundry room, staircase, and bedroom so that, in theory, it would all dry eventually, and decided to go on with my Day of Nothing.  Then... THEN... Oz called in the middle of my workout to ask if I could go to the store and pick out a washer/dryer set that I liked, because our machines are 12 years old and have had intermittent problems for a while now, and he figures they're about at the end of their lives.

*sigh*

I tried looking online, but there's just no substitute for opening an actual machine that's in stock/on the floor and picking out what you like/don't like, so I cleaned myself up and changed clothes, shoved some leftovers down my gullet... and left my house.  Oh, I hated that.  I hated it even more when I learned that Home Depot couldn't deliver anything till Tuesday or Wednesday, and I really got my dander up when Oz called while I was at Lowe's and said he was going shopping at a couple of the downtown locations and had I found anything I liked yet?

It's a good thing he's good at listening to rants.

The girl had a great time and camp, and we came home and made chocolate chip cookies, and Oz mooched my dad's truck and has schlepped home a new washer and dryer to install this evening, so obviously the day isn't a total write-off.  It's just nothing like I planned.  And absolutely nothing like the quiet day I desperately wanted.

Ahhh, Life... shove off.  I'm done with you now.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's Amazing What Paint Can Do

M1 is at away camp this week.  I dropped him off yesterday and won't see him again till Saturday.  It is a weird feeling.  M2 has day camp this week as well.  It's five hours a day, and it's five minutes away from my house.

Hear the angels singing?  I do.

When we moved in last year, we liked the color of most of the rooms in our house.  The one room that really stuck out to me (well, other than the master suite) as needing a good paint job was the school room.  Today, I painted it.

Before

After

Before

After

One more 'after' for good measure
As Oz said this evening, "It's a much more cheerful room."  It still needs new curtains, but I'm ready to see M1's reaction... and get back in there and TEACH!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Feeding Frenzy

My family has always gone through a lot of food.  As soon as M1 was five months old, he insisted that he wanted food, and he wanted it NOW.  And he wanted LOTS OF IT.  My pediatrician at the time - not the same pediatrician we have now - tried to insist that I wait until he was six months old to start solids, but the child was schlucking down milk at a rate that allowed me little to no sleep as well as little to no recovery time between feedings.  So, with much guilt, I sat him in the high chair, fixed a tiny, tiny bowl of rice cereal,... and got the hell out of the way as he grabbed the spoon from me and shoved it in his mouth.  Repeatedly.  I haven't seen a child so excited about food before or since.

M2 didn't take to solids right away, primarily because she didn't want baby food.  She wanted what was on my plate, and she was content to wait until she was old enough and had teeth enough to eat it before demanding it.  By that point, of course, she was talking and informed me quite vocally that it was time.

Since then, between growing children and growing grocery prices, my grocery bill has steadily risen.  Not particularly shocking, but the quantities that we go through sometimes surprise other families.  A 9"x13" baked pasta still might leave leftovers, sure, but only if I serve salad and dessert with it... and the leftovers might only be enough for one or two people to have lunch the next day.  Maybe.  I fix some meals - jambalaya, soups, etc. - in bulk.

M1 has been putting on weight again lately.  He's not overweight by any means, but he's certainly a lot thicker than he normally is, and he simply can't seem to get enough to eat.  Yesterday for lunch, he wanted Ramen noodles.  M2 fixed two packets and split them between herself and her brother.  He ate that.  Then he poked his head in the fridge and found a leftover grilled chicken breast and ate that.  Then he ate a nectarine.  Then he fixed himself a gigantic quesadilla and ate that.  After that I suggested that he stop eating for a while.

Tonight I watched the same phenomenon happen again.  I fixed stuffing-coated pork chops, a family favorite (coat pork chops in sour cream and then in dry stuffing mix, lay them on a rack over a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees).  I had about 3 pounds of potatoes that needed to be used, so I fixed mashed potatoes.  I also cooked about half a bag of peas.  Leftovers?  None.  And the kids asked that I fix the rest of the bag of peas as well, which I did.  After they polished off dinner, they devoured most of a bag of grapes.  M1 was ready to find something else as well, but I told him he could be done for now.  Since he's also been napping regularly over the last week, I suspect that we're due for a massive growth spurt.  He's already 5'2" or 5'3", so let's not think about how tall he'll be afterward.

I'm thankful that next week he will be at camp.  Now that he's getting bigger, I'm quite ready for someone else to feed him for a while!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Does NOT Equal Relaxing

We're in the throes of summer now.  It may not officially begin until next week, but I can assure you that Mother Nature and Oklahoma have combined forces to remind us that 'hot' is the keyword of the season.  To be fair, it's nowhere near as nasty as it was already this time last year, and I'll take it, but our air conditioner kicked into high gear this week, which of course means that one of them is now not working particularly well and needs a check-up.

'Tis the season.

Anxiety Girl's anxiety is running full tilt as well.  If our schedule was quiet and consistent, I think all would be well.  However, it is not.  Each Sunday she writes down the things that are to happen during the next week.  During the school year, these things stay fairly regular - swim, violin, even laundry make her list.  This week, though, she's losing her mind, and her calendar reflects it.  For instance, I'd planned to go to the pool on Friday.  However, due to circumstances beyond my control, it's going to be easier if we go on Thursday.  It will make Thursday a crazy day, but we'll wind up at the pool and get to chill there for a bit, and I hope that will help.  Anyway, she had to change that on her calendar and add several things - a vet appointment for one of the cats and a trip this weekend with my mother being some of the larger examples - and it's messing with her head.  She's developing a series of OCD-like tics that are getting bigger and more noticeable the crazier our schedule gets, and this week is just about as hectic as can possibly be.  The next time I have to ask her to stop pushing on her eyes and swinging her head in circles... or to stop pacing manically around the island in the kitchen... poor girl.

We visited a friend today whom we haven't seen yet this summer, and while it was good to see her and her kiddos, the tragedy occurred when our girls asked us when they can have a sleepover.  The answer involved much consulting of calendars and discussion, but the end result was... July.  Seriously.

I also realized today that we start school in a little more than a month, and our time between now and then suddenly seems full, leaving us little room for chilling out and doing some of the projects I kind of wanted to do.  Does it really matter if we do them?  No.  And I'm not going to stress out about it.  I simply wish that time didn't seem to fly by so quickly.  I wish that our friends weren't as busy as we are so that we'd have more of a chance to connect.

Of course, when we start school again, it will still be summer.  After we finish our work each day we will still be available to go visit friends, go to the pool, and even take a few weekend trips before the summer season is over.  Summer won't be over, not by a long shot.

Still, time in general is moving too quickly.  It breaks my heart and makes me proud of my kiddos at the same time, that they have great friends and great things that they want to do.  I just want to slow down a little, absorb the beauty of each moment, and breathe before moving to the next thing.

Perhaps for the rest of the summer, my - and M2's - focus will be on mindfulness.  I think it can only help us all.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Something I Never Thought I'd Type

I am inwardly rejoicing.  A day I never thought would come... is here.

You've all likely read my many rants about M1 and his troubles with electronics - getting up at 3 a.m., stealing Oz's electronics and trying to hack into them, using with Wii and/or Xbox and/or computer at all hours of the morning and then throwing giant fits when he's caught.  It's been an ongoing issue for a long, long time.

Back in March, I hit my limit.  I informed the boy that he had to shape up or the electronics were shipping out.  He had 12 weeks to earn back every privilege he ever thought he had.  Last week was week #12, and I let him know that he had finally - FINALLY - earned back the right to play electronic games.  He had long ago lost interest in the sticker chart, but I'd still been keeping pretty close tabs on how he'd been doing and silently awarding him privileges accordingly.  Fighting with his sister... well, I don't like it, but she's been teasing him incessantly lately, and quite frankly, he's behaved better than she has, so I don't hold that against him.  Anyway, he got electronics privileges back.

And I held my breath.

It's been a week.  He's continued to not abuse the privilege.  When he asked to play the Wii today, I said yes but then had to call him back down to finish a chore he hadn't quite completed, and he didn't whine when I interrupted him.  He's turned the games off cheerfully (well, OK, not cheerfully, but there's been no griping) when I've told him it's time to do something else.  Today I let both kids know that they are welcome to electronics without asking as long as they have done something that challenges their brain first - building something with K'Nex, riding the unicycle, working on cartwheels, making a family newspaper... whatever.  They like that idea.

M1 is awfully happy that he's finally reached this point again, and he's told me repeatedly that he doesn't want this to EVER HAPPEN AGAIN, so he's going to really work hard to behave.

I hope so.  Do I think the problem/addiction is totally licked?  No, but he has shown that he can have self control if he wants to have it.  Of course, he's also immediately spent some of his money on new video games.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Feast

Before the end of our school year, the kids and I discussed what we wanted to do over our summer break.  M1 mentioned that he really wanted to get out his Italian cookbook and make some of the recipes.  When he was poking through it, I noticed a recipe for a rosemary leg of lamb.

"Hey," I told him, "we've already got a leg of lamb in the freezer if you want to use that."

Of course, he did.  And the menu snowballed from there.  Soon it became known in our house as M1's Feast.

After much deliberation (and several grocery store runs), the feast finally happened.  I won't say that he made everything without any help, because I did step in when he asked or clearly needed me to, but he planned and made the vast majority of the meal by himself.  I'm pretty proud of him!

Click the photo for a larger and easier-to-read image
M2's contribution was to type up and print menus for everyone to have at their place during the meal; she couldn't resist adding a few personal touches after printing, though.  


This is what my boy looked like just before we ate.  Beatific.


You can see how beautifully he arranged all the salads.  He firmly believes in food presentation.  If you look closely at the bowl of tapenade on the table, he'd like that.  He arranged the pita chips around it, too.


The piece de resistance was the leg of lamb and potatoes.  It had finished cooking while we ate our appetizer and salads, and it looked amazing by the time it got to the table.  I did carve it; the idea of doing that was a little too intimidating for our young chef.


Still, he's proud of himself.


Finally, he brought in dessert.  And bowls.


Don't be fooled.  Underneath all that chocolate is a homemade tiramisu.  He and I even whipped everything by hand, and he grated the chocolate himself.  (No, we didn't make the ladyfingers.  I do draw the line somewhere.)



Congratulations on your first feast, my boy.  Very, very well done.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fighting Words

I had a beautiful post planned for this afternoon, all about how wonderful our weekend had been and how nice our upcoming week will be, but my kids killed it.  I now have no inclination to write happy things and will instead regale you with a Tale of Two Siblings.

They were the best of friends.  They were the worst of enemies.

That's as far as I can paraphrase from the book without overdoing the metaphor, so I'll let Dickens roll over in his grave a few times and move on.

I sent the kids outside this afternoon.  It's 74 degrees outside, clear and sunny with low humidity for the first time in weeks.  It seemed like a foolproof plan - they would go outside and enjoy the weather, I would go upstairs and exercise, and all would be right with the world.

I really should know better.

The first inkling that sending them outside was an ill-conceived idea came right after I told them to go out.  M2, who is all sorts of eye-rolling sassy horridness lately, said, "But, Mom, I can't go outside in **these clothes!**  Are you trying to make me ruin them?"

(Wherever you see asterisks, insert snark.)

"You're going outside.  It's gorgeous out there, and I've seen other kids playing on skateboards and stuff."

M2 huffed off, changed her shirt, and marched outside without speaking to me.  M1 followed suit silently after her.   Less than two minutes later, as I was pouring myself a cup of water to go upstairs and exercise, I heard the garage door opening.  Suspicious, I opened the garage door just in time to see M1 reaching into it for something.

"Whatcha gettin'?"

!!SLAM!!

"I was gonna ask," he said, holding his hand behind his back, then in front of his stomach as he whipped around and slowly walked to the garage door away from me.

"No, you weren't," I returned, "and what do you have?"

He brought a now empty hand out from beside the garage door.  "Nuthin'."

"Mmmm-hm."  I walked out to where he was to find leftover pepperoni pizza pasta salad scattered all over the concrete next to his feet.  Ordinarily, I probably would have laughed, but the kid had JUST FINISHED eating a four-course Italian meal that he fixed himself.  There was no way he was hungry; he was simply stealing food for the sake of stealing food.  Find food, must steal.  Sort of like him + electronics on other days.  I made him pick up the food and dispose of it away from the house so we didn't attract more wildlife than usual before I went back into the house, closed the garage door and locked it.

Finally I made it upstairs, opened the windows, and started to exercise.  Five minutes later, the children were back, both screaming at the tops of their lungs, "HE CHASED ME WITH A SPIDER!!!"  "SHE CALLED ME #*%&ity-#*%& #*%&!!!"  "HE PULLED MY BIKE DOWN THE HILL!!!"  "SHE'S LYING!!!"

#*%&.

Sooooo it started.  At first, of course, all I got were half-truths and rebuttals - "I never chased her with a spider!  It was on the pavement, and I said, 'Hi, Spider,' but I never chased her!"  "I don't remember calling him anything!"

M1 caved first.  I never thought I'd see the day when he would take responsibility for his actions, but he's finally getting there, and I get the truth out of him more often than not these days, and it's a fairly quick process, too.  He owned up to and apologized for pulling his sister's bike up and down the hill outside the house and explained the spider situation fully (he said hi to it and moved behind it so that it moved toward his sister, but he didn't chase her with it).  M2, on the other hand, kept trying to interrupt.  When I asked her to be quiet, I received, "I DON'T **WANT** TO BE QUIET, SO THERE!!!"  When it was finally her turn to talk, she stonewalled me for about 15 minutes before telling me she didn't remember anything, so she didn't do it.  I asked her, "So if I killed someone and didn't remember doing it, I'm innocent?"  "No, there's a chance you could have done it."  "So there's a chance you might have called your brother names?"  "No, because I don't remember doing it."

The circular lack of logic is strong in that one.

It took 15 minutes of varying tactics before I finally got through to her that I believed her brother and not remembering something doesn't mean it didn't happen.  When she finally broke down and admitted that she did, in fact, call her brother horrid names, it was accompanied by, "BUT HE WAS...."  Um, no.  You can stop right there, Lil' Girl.  I don't care one iota what he did.  I know what he did already because he told me!  Then I irritated them both by sending them not to their own rooms, but to each other's room while I finished exercising.  I needed a few minutes of peace.

I talked to each child separately after I got done.  Both felt bad about what they'd done, but both thought there was no good way to make it up to the other.  They are fairly right about that, but nevertheless I gave them each a piece of paper and asked them to write a letter to their sibling detailing some of the good points about the other... things they'd miss if their sibling was gone.

It frustrates the heck out of me when they fight, but I'm glad that they can also find good things to write about one another.  One day they'll be good adult friends... right?

What do you do when your kids fight?