Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review

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

Like I said, stagnation.

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



Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


Lots of happy...


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


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


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


I'm just so glad they love each other.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First Snow, Now Ice

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

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



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


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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Decision Backlash: The Other Side

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

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

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

It irritates me.

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

Why would you want to send them back?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm trying to be gracious in my responses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Holidays Attack

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

BUT.

I am exhausted.

The kids are exhausted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope the holidays haven't attacked anyone else!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Few Days' Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2014 - A Year of Change?

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

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

2.  Boo would start sewing classes.

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

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

-----

The gods sensed my plans.  And they laughed.

-----

Here's what's happening now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

Time to balance the qi.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SNOW!

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

These are my favorites.  Enjoy!






Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Found a Therapist!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

I've reached a new low of lazy.

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

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