Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sugar Hates Me: A Weight-Loss Journey Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making the Most of Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are things in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Breathe… Just Breathe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

Once More Into the Fray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Because That's How These Things Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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