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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Nobody Tells You About Beardies

So we have a bearded dragon now.  He's about six months old - born in April, according to the breeder we got him from - which makes him a juvenile. (There are four stages of bearded dragon development - babies are 0-6 mos. old, juveniles are 6-12 mos. old, subadults are 12-18 mos. old, and adults are anything older than that.)  He's about 8-10" long, so he's about an average-sized lizard.  His name is Tom.

Tom is an adventure.

When researching bearded dragons, there are tons of web sites and books on the topic.  They all say approximately the same things.  They have lots of things in common, but the thing that stands out the most is that they are all written by beardie veterans.  They do not tell you what actually caring for a beardie is like, if you've never owned one before.  This will be that post.  Consider it my PSA for the month.

First, you do your research and you try to figure out what you need, but the sources all conflict on that and so you wind up at the pet store buying The Kit.  The Kit comes with a tank, a heat lamp, a UVB bulb, a mesh cover, a food bowl, food (pellets and mealworms and papaya), water conditioner, calcisand (which is calcium carbonate... more on that later), etc., etc., etc.  You sigh and think, "Oh, good, that's everything."  

Except... no.  Then you go find a Reputable Breeder.  We went to a local reptile show to pick out our baby, and the lady there was really, really helpful.  Very informative.  And also very frustrating because she promptly picked apart the kit we'd bought and told us what would and would not work with Doodlebug's new pet.

The mesh lid?  No good.  Because it blocks the UVB rays from reaching the lizard.  (Plus our giant cat that we've lovingly nicknamed Fatty Boomsticks had already jumped on the mesh lid and squashed it, and even though we put it back together... well, those things are never quite the same afterward.)  Oh, and you have to make sure to change out the bulb every six months because the amount of UVB emitted will diminish over time.  The thermometer/hygrometer?  Probably good initially but won't be entirely accurate.  Get a temperature gun for better accuracy.  The calcisand?  Throw it out.  Paper towels work.  I've read since that outdoor carpet is fine.  Our breeder uses - and now WE use - slate landscaping tiles, because #1: you don't have to replace them like you have to replace sand; #2: you don't have to worry about the lizard eating it and getting it impacted in its intestines; and #3:  it keeps the lizard's nails from growing too long.  

I had not even THOUGHT about trimming lizard nails until that precise moment.  I can assure you it wouldn't have happened.  Ever.

Right.  So we take the baby - Tom, now - and a care sheet and a bunch of tiles home, fix up the cage, add the lizard.  Then comes the question of feeding it.  I picked up some turnip greens while I was at the grocery store on the same day we got Tom, and he ate those.  He ate some of the papaya.  What he wasn't eating was the mealworms or the pellets that came with The Kit.

Turns out if you buy from a Reputable Breeder (and I do recommend doing that, by the way... her babies were gorgeous, and we got to pick a really cute one... if lizards can be cute), they like live food.

Right.

Back to the store.

Buy some live superworms and crickets.  Oh, and you have to make sure that the crickets are the right size, because apparently you're supposed to have used calipers and measured the space between the lizard's eyes so you don't get crickets that are too big for your new lizard to eat.  The helpful girl at the pet store will also happily inform you that superworms can eat your lizard from the inside out if they're swallowed whole.  The internet will thankfully dispel that as myth.  What nobody mentions is that after you dust mealworms with calcium - because you have to do that once a day and dust the food with vitamins a couple times a week - and add them to the food bowl, they don't exactly stay put.

Escaping food
Now, if the lizard is hungry, this isn't a problem because he'll chase them down and nom them before they get away.  If your lizard has tanked up on other bugs, though, or greens, or simply isn't hungry, you're left to chase down the rest of dinner before the buggers slip into the cracks and crevices between the tiles and get stuck.  This is why, starting this evening, Tom will be eating dinner and breakfast in a separate container.  Doodlebug and I are tired of chasing down leftovers.


Something nobody else mentions in the care-of-reptilian-creatures pages is that you have to clean poo.  I mean, duh, right?  But apparently if your lizard doesn't poo every day, it's a sign of impaction.  And you know what happens if your lizard gorges itself on too many crickets and/or superworms and gets impacted?  It can die.  And ain't nobody got time for a dead lizard.  To clear an impaction, you fill the sink or a tub with warm, 100-ish degree water, and you let the lizard soak.  And while it's soaking, you have to massage its stomach.  Because the impaction will make itself felt on the left side of the abdomen.  And then your lizard will take a giant crap and feel better.  Please don't ask how I know.

At that point, you clean up the poo before the lizard tracks it all over the cage, and regardless of how quick you are on the poo-cleaning draw, you still have to wipe the cage down with a diluted bleach solution every week or so.

Speaking of water, lizards are also picky drinkers.  Tom seems to be especially picky.  He will not drink from his water bowl.  He will not drink if water is dripped onto his snout during his daily misting.  He likes his baths.  Specifically, he likes to drink from his baths.  But because lizards need water just like the rest of us, he will apparently need a bath... every day.

I swear he's mocking me and all the care I'm putting into
making sure he doesn't bite the big one.
I'm sure that Doodlebug and the rest of us - Tom included - will settle into a routine soon, and then feeding and bathing and cleaning and all of that will become habit.  Right now, though, we're smack dab in the middle of the learning curve.  I just hope there aren't any casualties.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Optimism - When NOT to Share

The boy has been on the lookout for the tiniest signs of puberty ever since he started reading about adolescent 'symptoms' in various books about the topic.  It's like he can't wait to grow up and get out of here or something.  (The girl, however, will live here as long as someone will subsidize her decor and clothing accessory habits.  I have a surprise for her... all subsidies end at the age of 18 unless the child in question is enrolled full-time at a college/university.)

Occasionally the boy will be peering at himself in the mirror, as he does for long periods when he's supposed to be showering, and he'll think that he sees something.  At this point, even though this is supposedly what he's looking for, he freaks.  And then he gets giddy.  And then he gets embarrassed.  And then he feels the sudden urge to run downstairs in his underwear and share whatever revelation he's just had.

A few weeks ago I was asked to inspect his upper lip for signs of facial hair.  Well, of course, there's vellus hair.  Which he had just apparently noticed.  And which he was mistaking for an actual mustache.  No, son, I will not buy you a razor for something that *I* have and don't even shave off.  It's the same color as your face.  When it starts looking like you have a porcupine growing out of your upper lip and I'm freaking out and crying because OMG MY BABY IS GROWING UP, that is the appropriate time to think you are capable of growing a mustache.

Once or twice, his throat has been itchy from either allergies or being rudely awakened from one of his infamous midafternoon naps, and he's asked me if that means his voice is cracking. D'awww... no, son, sorry, it doesn't.

And once, he came downstairs and wanted to know if all that 'other hair' would match the hair on his head.  And I said not necessarily.  And then he said, "Well, what if you have really bright hair?  Like... red hair?"  And I said I had no idea because quite frankly, I'd never asked anyone.  Ever.  Nor did I intend to.  And please walk away now.  Thankfully he dropped the subject.

I don't even want to imagine what symptom of adolescence he's going to invent next.  I just want to take his face in my hands and look him straight in the eye (well, as straight as he'll look at anyone in the eye.  You have about 0.2 seconds to get your message in before he's elsewhere) and say, "Y'know what?  Make ya a deal.  You quit telling me about imaginary pubertal symptoms, and I'll let you know when I notice something."  Because I love that he's excited about getting bigger, and part of me is really, really glad that he comes to me with these sorts of things because it means he trusts me with his body and its issues, but sometimes... sometimes Mama just doesn't wanna know!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hoodies FTW

Oz designated this week "Hoodie Week" for me in our house.  It's probably a good thing, because while wearing hoodies may make you a target for law enforcement (the Unibomber, Trayvon, take your pick... the two are in no way linked in my mind except for hoodies), they also make me feel cozy, and when I feel cozy I'm less likely to lose my shit at/dismantle the 11-year-old who thinks the hour of school between 8:30 and 9:30 is a warm-up hour in which he's supposed to roll around on the floor and annoy everyone.  The gray weather, a giant mug of coffee, Sinatra playing in the background... these are also things that make me feel sane.  It's the little things, folks.

Anyway, hoodies.

It started innocently enough.  Last year I complained that I didn't have any hoodies, and Oz bought me a San Francisco 49ers hoodie because my love for that team predates my love for my husband, and what kind of husband is a Bears fan, anyway?!?  He didn't even like football when I met him.  Traitor.

He also got me an Eskimo Joe's hoodie because my love of their food also predates my husband.

But it wasn't enough.  And when I was feeling down in a funk a few weeks ago, I felt it.  The Urge to Buy Hoodies.  It spoke to me through the medium of the Interwebz, and it said, "Buy the hoodies..."

And so I did.

I started at SnorgTees, who are not paying me to write any of this but if they wanted to send me free stuff, I certainly wouldn't object.  And I found these:



I found lots more than that, but at the time, I felt like I should stick to some sort of budget.  So I ordered two.  Then I went to Facebook and let the enablers there tell me that there's no such thing as too many hoodies.  Who am I to argue with the masses?  So I went to NoiseBot (who are also not paying me, but since I bought even more from them, should send me a thank-you note or something) and found three more designs that screamed BUY ME.  I'd show you what they were, but NoiseBot doesn't have happy little images that I can paste, sooo... sorry about that. 

Between all those hoodies, I now have enough hoodies to get me through an entire week.  Theoretically this should be enough cozy to keep me from losing my mind.  Bring it, Winter!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Now We Are 11 - A Photo Post



Silly String fight - a new tradition begins 



MUST you take my picture, Mother? 



The cake was a bit dense... 
Gifts from a loving sister 



The baby beardie, Tom

Friday, October 11, 2013

Homemade History, Week 11

Trying this a different way this week... lemme know your thoughts.

Topic:  Bronze Age Europe

Reading Options:  Usborne World History Encyclopedia pp. 120-123, Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World pp. 102-107, Kingfisher History Encyclopedia pp. 12-13

Hands-On Learning Options:  Map of Ancient Europe from Map Trek, Stonehenge mystery pages from, research European mythology (Celtic, Norse, Saxon, Slavic, etc.)

Definitions/Critical Thinking Questions:  Neolithic, brooch, palisade, bronze/Why do you think Stonehenge was built?  Do you think it should be preserved?

Electronic Learning Options:  BBC for Kids Anglo-Saxons page, Celtic Europe video, for instance.  There are also lots of hour-long documentaries including this one about the facts behind the fiction of Lord of the Rings.  This is one of my favorite parts of history, so I could go on for days.  I'll stop here.

Next week:  Egypt - The Middle Kingdom, mythology

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Still no luck in finding a counselor.  I have had ONE person give me a name of one they trust that's on our insurance.  ONE.  And at least a dozen suggestions of folks who aren't on our insurance.  And the problem with that is that I don't trust the judgement of the person who DID me a workable name!  The frustration is nearly unspeakable.  However, the boy has been putting forth some effort, and I'm quite proud of him.  The Respect Jar is helping.  Today he got up and did his morning chores without me having to say a single word.  It was glorious.  I know it won't last - I'm painfully conscious of that - but it's something.  I'll take whatever I can get.  Still considering putting him back in school at semester.  We'll see how the next couple of weeks go.

I've put on 4.4 lbs. this week.  I'm going to spend the next three weeks taking it off, I'm sure.

I still haven't posted the 11th week of Homemade History.  I know.  I'll do it later today.  I've enjoyed slacking off.  Next week, however, the kids have requested (and I have decided) changes must be made in the way we do things.  The current methods are getting stale.  History will contain much the same, but the kids would like things to be more mysterious. So each Monday, rather than posting reading options, I'll be posting a question or mystery on the whiteboard.  We'll watch some videos on the topic, and then we'll spend later days in the week doing reading and geography and other stuff to 'solve' or 'answer' the question.  For science, they want to start with the lab and then spend the week figuring out why it did what it did rather than reading something and then seeing it demonstrated.  I can certainly appreciate where they're coming from.  It's much more fascinating to feel like you've conquered an idea, not been spoon-fed one.

For language arts, Boo has asked to stop doing formal spelling as well as Writing With Ease.  She and Doodlebug are both excellent spellers, so I've agreed.  She'll still do grammar, since she doesn't mind First Language Lessons and it takes her hardly any time at all, but for spelling and narration/dictation, I've agreed to pull vocab and narration/dictation selections from whatever books she's currently reading.  She's in the middle of Anne of Green Gables right now, so I'll go through the first few chapters of that book over the weekend and see what I can find.  She's gunning for 'amiable,' but something - her persistent insistence, perhaps? - tells me she's already memorized that one.  I think I'll find other options.

Finally, we're throwing out some electives.  They're electives, for godssake, not mandatory subjects, and it's time to weed out the ones they don't like.  This means that Doodlebug is giving up music theory.  I'm all right with that.  He likes music enough and hears enough of it between me and Boo that he'll still get a thorough grounding in music history and various genres and will probably still pick up theory by osmosis.  She's giving up music theory as part of school as well, but she and I will still play around with it during her violin practice from time to time.  The other elective we're tossing is geography.  The curriculum I found wound up being quite dry in practice, so I had been using it sporadically for a while, and now it's just gone.  I'm not entirely letting geography go by the wayside, since they'll still be doing some with history (and I found Mapping the World with Art that I think both of them will enjoy), but I'm letting up.  So they'll still have Spanish (finishing up with La Clase Divertida and moving over to Rosetta Stone), logic (various books from The Critical Thinking Company) and art (we attend a once-a-month class and do some projects in between, but I'm giving up a formal curriculum there, too) together.

It seems like a much more doable plan.  They're old enough and smart enough to know what they want.  It's time to let the little things go and realize I can't - and shouldn't try! - to teach it all.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Suddenly, Manual Labor!

Just when you find yourself wondering where on earth you can find manual labor for your child to do, The Awesome Husband will take that opportunity to dig, line, and otherwise build a fire pit, and there's plenty of manual labor for a child to do during that project!  Hauling logs, backfilling holes and hauling away extra sand, fetching tools and putting them away - all are jobs that will get morose, electronics-driven boys moving if there's a promise of fire at the end.

As for me, I got to sit down by the fire after it was built and warm my bare tootsies.


I am one happy mama.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Muddling Onward

I should be writing our Homemade History blog post for the week, but I'm not.  I'll try to get to it sometime in the next day or so.  We're taking this week off of school because of Doodlebug's birthday, and after we get back from the break I'm going to revamp the way we do things a little bit, at the kids' requests.  Doodlebug does not want to go to public school in January and has stated that in no uncertain terms, and for now, at least, he seems determined to work toward that goal.  For my part, I asked the kids what they liked and what they didn't about our school day, and I got some excellent feedback.  So while most of the history stuff will be the same, the way in which we implement it will be somewhat different.  Fingers crossed that it makes things more interesting for all of us; we all hate ruts.  I'll also be changing up the way we do science a little bit, and I'm totally overhauling Boo's language arts program.  It'll mean a bit more work for me, but if she's happier and I don't have the occasional meltdowns that I do right now, then it'll be worth it.  Doodlebug is desperately bored with his math curriculum (Math-U-See), but I've promised him if he can get through Zeta (he's on lesson 13), then for prealgebra we'll swap to the Art of Problem Solving books.  Other than that, he's 10.99 years old and thinks school is school, no matter what form it takes.

So that's school.

Boo has been much improved since we implemented the Respect Jar and Put-Up Plan.  I didn't figure it would take much to get her back to baseline.

Doodlebug is still fighting us every inch of the way, and I am in desperate need of a good counselor for both him and me.  He was up again last night.  At 4 a.m. when I got up to use the bathroom, I heard the toilet upstairs flush, too, and went up to check and make sure everyone was okay.  He was lying on his bed, wide awake.  He had swiped his sister's iPod Touch, logged in, and was watching - wait for it, I'm sure you'll be shocked - Minecraft videos.  One of the things on his birthday/Christmas list is an iOS device.  There's not a chance this side of Hades he'll get once, since he can't even be responsible with one that isn't his.  I'm trying to work with him, but it's like trying to corral the ocean; it's just going to do what it wants and to hell with the consequences for everyone else.  I know he's a good kid deep down, but I wish I saw that more often in daily life.  Where are all the manual labor jobs for kids when you need them?  It's actions like these that really make me wonder if he'll ever be able to live successfully on his own.

I'm not giving up.  I know I'm not a bad parent, despite the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising this particular child.  But I'm still stuck.

Onward into the fray!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Striving for Serenity

The main rule in our house always has been and always will be The Golden Rule.  Every other rule we have branches from that.  When the kids are being rude to one another, the first question I always ask is, "Are you treating him/her the way you want to be treated?"  When someone is mean to me, I say, "Excuse me, but is there a reason you're being mean to me?"  I'm all for letting kids feel anger, don't get me wrong.  I just think that anger can be expressed in civil ways.  I have one child who is emotionally deficient (I think he's somewhere around 7 emotionally.  He still sees a lot of things in black/white that most 10.9-year-olds would see in various shades of gray and certainly can't handle emotions appropriately) and one child who is emotionally mature but who is still 8 and likes to pick on her brother now and then.

Naturally, this leads to name-calling and put-downs.  Boo's favorite put-down is 'stupid.'  If she doesn't like it/you, it/you will be 'stupid.'  Doodlebug is more inventive, but his favorite word is 'butt.'  As in, "Stop being a butt!"  There are definitely worse terms they could use - I've heard them use them - but I don't like it when they make other people feel bad, especially when it's their sibling.  SO... as of yesterday, we have implemented the Put-Up Plan.  I, too, will be participating, though it means something slightly different for Mama.  The idea is that if you put someone down or make them feel bad, you have to come back and say three nice things about them to make up for it.  Will it work?  Oh, I don't know.  It's as good idea as any I've ever had.  But they tried it.  They were starting to fight and Boo called Doodlebug stupid, and then she realized that she had to put him UP instead of DOWN.  After she got done telling him he was kind, creative, and funny, they both started giggling.  Fight averted.  Apparently Doodlebug then turned around and said three nice things about Boo just because he could.  So it's a good start.


This is my other attempt at regaining some sort of control over the downward spiral.  This is the Respect Jar.  It's nothing fancy... Pinterest isn't going to go nuts over this one.  But the idea is solid.  When someone does something respectful, you catch them at it by putting a poker chip in the jar.  Last night the first four poker chips went in - Boo stacked up Doodlebug's library books and took them to him rather than yelling at him to come get his books off the table; Doodlebug voluntarily wiped down the toilet seat AND FLUSHED; I didn't have to get up and separate the kids during shower time; and Doodlebug caught a wasp that was flying around Boo's room and took it outside for her.  Little things.  Poker chips.  My hope is that this will help with anger management (just like the Put-Up Plan) as well as some of the respect issues.

Will these be life-changing activities?  I doubt it.  Will they help the kids return to a calmer frame of mind?  I bloody hope so.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

That *Something* That Had to Give... Finally Did

I hit my wall this week.  It's been coming for months, and I've been trying to crack down on the kids, but yesterday was *The Cherry on the top of the pile of pecans on top of the whipped cream on top of the icing on top of the triple-layer cake, and today when the kids tried to add **ONE MORE THING...

I snapped.

And promptly called Oz and informed him that the inmates are only running the asylum until December (and in between now and then I'm calling a counselor because I'm clearly not getting through and need help), at which point in time, if there's no massive, noticeable improvement, the boy will be enrolled in public school and the girl will be given the option to do the same.  I'm calling the local school administrators sometime in the next week to find out what the enrollment process would entail and see if we can get the ball rolling.

*The Cherry:
The kids have had a tremendous lack of respect for anything and anyone lately.  Both of them are equally guilty (and given my stress level, I must take responsibility for my own short temper and lack of patience, which has lead to some snarky, fairly disrespectful comments of my own, but at least I do respect their property and apologize when I do screw up).  Things really started on Monday, when yet again, Doodlebug felt that he didn't have to complete his school work in a timely manner.  On Tuesday he finished up Monday's work and brought Tuesday's work in the car to (theoretically) complete while Boo was at her violin lesson.  Boo brought my copy of Anne of Green Gables that she's been reading so that she would have something to do during swim team practice.

We got to swim (with all the gear, I might add), and Boo sauntered into the observation room and promptly tossed my book onto the floor.  Let me say it again:  She TOSSED my BOOK onto the FLOOR.  I freaked.  Not aloud, of course, but I instigated a discussion about respecting other people's property, and she apologized for mistreating my book.  I've had that book since 1991.  It was a birthday gift.  I have no intentions of letting her destroy it.  Anywho, she apologized; we moved on.

Now, in between swim team practice and the violin lesson, we have an hour to kill.  It takes Doodlebug about 15 minutes to get dressed and it takes us another 15-20 to get across town, but that still gives us time to spare.  There's a park just down the street from the teacher's house, so I park there and the kids either run or not, depending on their whims and caprices.  This week nobody wanted to get out of the car.  So we sat.  Doodlebug worked.  Boo stared out the window for a while.  Or, at least, I thought she was staring out the window.  Until suddenly Doodlebug yelled, "Boo, don't draw on the seat!!"

W.T.H.

I whipped around from where I was reading a book on raising adolescents (excellent book, by the way) and watched Boo try to hide a pencil in her fist.

"What were you doing?!?"

"Um... "

"Yeah, don't even try.  What were you doing?"

"*sigh* I was drawing on the seat."

"Of our new car?" [Captain Obvious at work here.]

"Um... yes."

"WHY?"

"I was bored."

*earsteam*

She surrendered the pencil without comment, and I told her that she would be wiping down her seat and vacuuming out the car when we made it home.  She agreed that the consequence of her actions seemed fair.  We discussed, yet again, respecting other people's property.  She agreed that her actions were not respectful.

We get home.  She vacuums out the car and wipes down her seat, and Doodlebug comes inside and tosses his swim gear onto the couch.  I call him back to put it away, and he starts his prepubescent downward spiral.  He continues in that vein through dinner.  After dinner, Oz and I remind him that he needs to take his shower while his sister feeds the animals so that we can get through the bedtime routine in a timely manner.  He doesn't.  She feeds the animals and goes upstairs to take her shower, and the nightly fighting starts.  Usually I take care of it, but last night Oz stepped in.  Good man.  The boy, however, wasn't having it and promptly slammed two doors in his rage.  He had slammed several doors earlier this week, and I had warned him that any repetition of the crime would result in the removal of his bedroom door.

So Oz removed the boy's bedroom door and stuck it in the attic.  Boo finished her shower, and Oz told Doodlebug he needed to go take his turn.

"Yes," Doodlebug shot back. "I do." Whereupon he perched on his bed and stared defiantly at Oz.

Oz, to his credit, walked away.  We left the boy to his own devices for a while, because at that point I was ready for him to stay in his room till Doomsday if he so chose.  All was quiet.  I started reading our nightly chapter to Boo, because if the boy couldn't manage to take care of business, the natural consequence was that he missed what normally happened after the shower routine.  He eventually came down and asked if there was any way to get his door back that night (um... NO) and then went and showered.  I went up to tuck him into bed and say good night, and the door was back in his room.

"Look," the boy said proudly, pointing to the door. "I got my door back."

He put his door back in the attic, too.  And Mama came downstairs and drank half a bottle of strawberry wine and ate an entire bar of chocolate.  Therapy, man, therapy.

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**ONE MORE THING:
Doodlebug got up in the middle of the night last night and got onto the XBox.  For hours.  Playing one of his sister's games that he pilfered without permission.  I can't do this again.  I simply can't.  I realized that with extreme clarity today, because as soon as I discovered that sneaking electronics had started again, I felt something break inside me.  Mommy is Broken.  See the first three paragraphs of this saga masquerading as a blog post.

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To combat the lack of respect, we've started two new systems, the Respect Jar and the Put-Up Plan.  I'll outline those tomorrow.  So far so good.

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Oz and I have been debating the usefulness of homeschooling for a while now.  When we first brought Doodlebug home, homeschooling was clearly the right choice.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Now, however, it's more of a 50/50 situation.  Yes, he's learning, and yes, he likes it here, but he's slacking off and taking things for granted and we just aren't sure whether it's good for him to stay here or whether he would be better off being held accountable to other people.

We shall see.  Right now, I'm going to drink my beer and try to unwind.  Lor' Have Mercy, what a week.