Thursday, February 27, 2014

On a More Positive Note

Thanks for letting me rant yesterday.  I know I whine about the boy, and it's true that he is not an easy child to raise, and it's hard not to compare him to Boo, who is his complete opposite in so many, many ways, but just when I'm down in my darkest depths and feel like I'm bashing my head against a brick wall trying to get him to understand things like altruism and empathy, he surprises me.

Yesterday we had to run errands.  And by errands, I mean errands.  By the time we got home, we had made 8 stops.  Granted, at three of those (the gas station, the recycling drop-off, and Sonic) the kids didn't have to get out of the car, but it still made for an interminably long afternoon and a good chunk of it was spent in department stores shopping for clothes, and a good chunk of the clothes were not for the boy.  I always hold my breath when we go on marathon shopping sprees like these because I know what a child's attention span is and I remember all the shenanigans that my sister and I would get up to when my mom insisted that we needed to make the hour-long drive to Joplin and spend a day shopping there.  I have a scar on my forehead from the time we were wrestling on the floor and I rolled into the corner of the jewelry counter.  Shenanigans.  And Doodlebug is not known for his patience when the shopping involves anyone else.

But the kids were fabulous.  They were patient with me and with each other while we all agonized over varying clothes decisions (not least of which was a swimsuit for me, which I did not wind up purchasing because swimsuit makers still do not understand that 'tummy control' for moms means built-in Spanx... guess where I'm looking next?).  At one point, I was browsing the clearance racks and found a shirt I wanted to try but only saw it in a small, a size which I am decidedly not.  Doodlebug hunted around for me and found it in a medium.  It was still too small, but he and his sister were so proud of working together that they actually high-fived each other in the middle of the store.

Doodlebug had also brought along a Sonic gift card that he'd received for Christmas.  When I told the kids that I would buy them drinks as a thank-you treat for being so well-behaved, Doodlebug said, "Mom, I want to use my card and buy myself a Blast instead.  And I want to buy my sister one, too."

I melted.

They followed me around the grocery store like well-trained puppies after that, chatting (mostly) nicely and eating their ice cream.  Best.  Grocery trip.  Ever.

Of course, we got home and he promptly dissolved into a pile of grumpiness and got sent to his room to detox and relax, but that I understand - after holding it together in stores for several hours, we all needed a break.

And today has finally been better all around.  I think we're finally over the Sunday Minecraft 'hump.'  Seriously have to ban it.  Hate doing it, but three days of grief for two hours' worth of play isn't worth it for anyone. 

Hope your Thursday is as nice as mine looks like it'll be!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Because This is My Venting Place

Feel free to not read this blog post.  I'm okay with that.  I simply need somewhere to get all this out, and my friends have heard it all a million times, and so has my husband (and so have you, really, but in my experience it's easier to not read something than it is to not hear it), and so I just need to get it all out of my head before I go insane.

WARNING: Profanity ahead.

Doodlebug is having another bad week.  He won't try.  Will.  Not.  Try.

On Sunday I let him go over to a friend's house for a couple of hours because I was freaking exhausted and my friend asked to borrow the boy so he could see his friends.  Usually when they're together, they play Minecraft.  I'm okay with that as long as it isn't in my house.  But of course he came home, and that night he stole his sister's iPod (again) and hacked into it (again) so he could watch Minecraft videos (again).  And then on Monday when he got caught (again), he cried and said he'd try 'next time' (again) and otherwise fed us all giant shovelfuls of bullshit (again).

Because he'd been up half the night Sunday night using his sister's technology, that meant that his school work on Monday was completed in a half-assed fashion.

Yesterday, Tuesday, was no better.  He claimed to have slept, and he got some of his work done properly, but then came writing.  At 10:45 a.m., he read through his lesson, handed me the book and said, "I read it.  I'm done.  That's all there was."  I looked down and the first thing I saw was, "Underline the...."  So I called his bluff and handed the book back.  Five minutes later, he announced, "I need to use the computer, Mom.  It says I have to type up this paragraph."  So you did have work to do.  Congratulations on finally reading the lesson.  I let him type it up.  He printed off a copy, and it was clear to me that he hadn't understood the lesson.  Fine.  So we went over what was wrong, I pointed out that the mistakes shouldn't have happened because there were very explicit samples in the book, and sent him back upstairs to type.  In the meantime, I had to go get Boo from her sewing class (she's doing great, by the way... yesterday they finished making a patchwork drawstring bag, and it looks very professional!) and so I thought I could trust him to behave on the computer for the time I would be gone.

WRONG.

The work was done sloppily, and he felt the need to use the time to watch yet more Minecraft videos.  And delete the Internet history, of course, which was the Ultimate Tip-off because I know what sort of browsing I do each morning while they're working. 

So at this point, he won't be seeing his friends till the end of April (it would be March, but we'll be gone for most of it).  If one afternoon of Minecraft results in a week of work for me, it isn't worth it.  He's not happy about it, of course, but at this point I don't give a shit.  He's banned from Minecraft from now to eternity, here and anywhere else.  I don't even know why I get optimistic any more.

This morning, you'd think we'd be better, but no... he was up 45 minutes before anyone else and the first words I heard from either of my children this morning was, "Doodlebug, I'm telling Mom."  "I'm sorry."  "For what - putting your hands on me and not letting me go... AGAIN???"

Eff this.  Anyone want to trade me for an easier model?  I have gotten this one half-grown... I won't say half-raised, because clearly that hasn't happened and I'm not sure it's a possibility... so it's not like you'd be starting with a new specimen.  This one's clearly a challenge for the ages.

I get to go shopping with him later today.  I may 'accidentally' leave him behind.  It's very tempting...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Breaks and Endings

I realized today that I haven't posted since Valentine's Day.  That day, of course, was wonderful.  But then last week happened.

I knew it was coming.  My grandmother's health had been steadily declining since the beginning of the year, and I'd had a hunch for more than a month that this would be 'the week.'  And it was.  My mother called at 4 a.m. Wednesday to let me know that she was on her way up to Kansas and would be grabbing my sister on the way.  I waited by the phone all day until I got the word around 4:30 p.m., and then I went up Thursday morning to help my mother with final arrangements.  Oz was amazing and took care of the kids all day Thursday and Friday, including finding an entire outfit for Doodlebug and a new dress for Boo, before bringing them up for the funeral Saturday morning.  (No, I'm not sad.  It was time.  So no need for condolences.)

We got back home late yesterday afternoon.  It was odd driving home and realizing that I now have almost no reason to go back up to Kansas.  I've promised my great-aunt that I'll swing by to say hi to her if I'm up, but that might - might - be once a year, not the 3-4 times a year I'd been making the drive before.  So that was weird.

Last week was also an interest-led week around here.  I wish I was clever enough to have taken photos or videos of their presentations, but since we just did them this morning, I was tired and didn't.  Doodlebug studied particle accelerators and made a poster about them (he typed up quite the paper!); Boo studied rodents and made a Powerpoint presentation.

Then this is the last week of February already.  Spring Break is coming up quickly, and I have only a month to get ready for Boo's 9th birthday, and I haven't even begun to get her gifts yet.  I don't even know what to get her, if I'm honest.  What do you get a 9-year-old girl?  I'm at a loss.

So if I'm absent for the next few weeks, just pretend you don't notice.  March is going to be a hot mess. I'll be back sooner or later, and I'm thinking of you all!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Today

So today was Valentine's Day, yet another day in which I am reminded how completely inadequate I am when it comes to things like holidays and gifts.  I am the one, after all, who has completely forgotten (both of) her anniversaries multiple times and tends to forget not only her own birthday but those of her loved ones as well.  The kids are only exempt, I am sure, by virtue of their age.  When they hit 21, I hope they can forgive me for my forgetfulness.

Anyway, Oz hit home runs today, as he always does.  Usually we don't do big gifts for Valentine's - maybe a small box of chocolate or just cards or a bouquet of flowers.  But for whatever reason, Oz decided to spoil me rotten this year.  Yesterday he brought home a beautiful bouquet of red tulips and he and I shared half a dozen massive chocolate-covered strawberries.  This morning he bounced me awake (it's a good thing it was Valentine's Day, or he'd probably have lost body parts doing that), made and poured me coffee, and presented me with a beautiful watch.  I'm both really picky about and really hard on watches, so he'd asked me about it previously.  I'd told him that I liked that one, but I assumed at the time that he was pre-shopping for my birthday and/or cruise gift ideas and/or Mother's Day, because I actually am that spoiled and he actually is that good at gifts and actually does plan that far ahead.  Which makes my gift-giving incompetence all the more glaring.  But we'll move on.  He resized the watch this afternoon and, in addition, helped me with laundry, dusted the downstairs, and cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes after dinner.

What did I do?

I got him two cards.

Oh, and he also bought cards and small boxes of chocolate for each of the kids and graciously let me take half-credit for them.

This is why I keep him.

-----

The kids and I had a good day today, too.

School was understandably shoved to the back burner today - we did some grammar, and each kid did a page of math, and they copied down the final drafts of their history papers (she wrote a little piece about the Ancient Indus Valley civilization and he wrote a short essay on the history of medicine in ancient cultures), and after that, we left.

First we went to an area assisted living center, where the kids put on a talent show for some of the residents.  The group has performed this for three years now, though we missed the first year, and all the kids have really progressed in their performances.  Feel free to read about the talent show on my friend's blog.  Doodlebug came up with the idea for using skits as part of the talent show.  He wanted to participate but didn't feel like reciting a poem like he did last year.  We found some other kids to participate after selecting the skits we wanted to perform, and I thought they all did a fabulous job, especially since they had never rehearsed together!  They spoke loudly and clearly, and in the end, there were some laughs for each skit.

After the talent show, a couple of us headed over to a local tea house for lunch with another friend, and she snapped a picture of me sitting on a ledge outside the tea house after we got done eating.

This has been cropped to become my new profile picture, but look - a picture of me!
Then the talent show friend left, and the photo friend and I headed over to the local skating rink for an afternoon of trying not to break bones while zipping around a slick wooden floor on four-wheeled shoes of doom.  Boo actually learned to skate without hanging onto a wall, and Doodlebug brought his own rollerblades along so he wouldn't have to use rentals.  The boy has brains, I'll give him that.

By the time we left there, we were ALL ready to get home.  Thankfully the skating rink is only a couple of miles from our house, so it didn't take long at all before we were crashed in various places (Doodlebug promptly soaked himself in a hot bath, and Boo wasn't far behind) wearing pajama/comfy pants and I was wondering what on earth I had been thinking when I'd decided on dinner plans.

Tomorrow we're staying home (Boo is under the impression that she wants to go roller skating again, but I think she'll be ready to change those plans in the morning).  My mom is dropping by to give the kids their Valentines, and I have warned her that we all may be lounging in our pajamas when she arrives.  Because THIS girl has no intention of moving before noon.

Hope you all had a great Valentine's Day/Friday.  And may your weekend be as warm as mine is supposed to be!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Death is Contagious

You know how there are those days/weeks/months when it seems like everyone is getting married?  And then those days/weeks/months when everyone seems to be popping out kids left and right (and almost all of them are one gender)?

Yeah, well, welcome to the Month of Death.  El mes de muerte.  I do enjoy alliteration, perhaps a little too much.

In the last three days, three of my friends have been affected by deaths in their family.  One of my neighbors lost of her grandfather, a good friend of mine lost her father, and one of my best friends lost her grandmother.

My heart aches for them.  There is little I can do but offer support (and keep a neighborly eye on vacant homes), but I wish I could do more.

Still, sometimes I marvel at how the universe works.  My neighbor had already planned to visit her grandfather in Arizona this week when she got the news that he had passed.  So instead of celebrating a birthday, she'll be attending a funeral, but at least she has the ability to go and say goodbye.  The friend who lost her grandmother had already planned to take a trip this week as well.  She had intended to go on more of a pleasure trip to meet her boyfriend's family down South, but now she's planning a trip to West Virginia instead.  My friend who lost her father had moved her parents into her home a few months ago so she could work on their health and make their lives better.  She is the one for whom I probably ache the most.  Losing a grandparent is hard, yes, but not as unexpected.  Losing a parent is harder, I would imagine, especially when you've been planning to spend years with them and suddenly realize time has run out.

Logically, I know that death is part of life, and when it happens, it happens.  We all deal with it, and as we get older, we see more of it and with each one, we become slightly more inured to the idea of our own eventual demise (OK, I do, at least).  However, it still surprises me how these things happen in groups, how suddenly there might be a whole slew of marriages or divorces or babies or deaths within only a few months.

It almost makes me hold my breath… to see which domino will fall next.  Hopefully it is none of yours.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Inventing Recipes - Never a Planned Exercise

Five years ago, almost exactly, I invented a recipe out of necessity to use up thawed meat and ingredients I had on hand.  Since I was not raised in the kitchen, stepping away from recipes and just making things on the fly isn't something that has come naturally to me.  I can make some things without them now, but mostly I've memorized the ingredients and techniques and use standard ingredients - stir-frys, curries, gumbo, etc.

Tonight, however, was Wednesday, which means that Oz was working late.  I had planned to make shepherd's pie, but when 5 o'clock rolled around, I had absolutely no inclination to make mashed potatoes, brown the meat, put it all together, and wait.  The kids were puttering around, and so I asked them if they wanted shepherd's pie or if they'd rather just have tomato soup and grilled cheese.  They were fine with the latter.

But then… after I'd dumped the soup into a pot and was rummaging through the fridge for the cheese for sandwiches, I ran across a small container of leftover taco beef that I'd nearly forgotten about.  And I got an idea. And thus Sarah's Tomato Taco Soup was born.  The kids loved it.  And they wanted me to share the recipe with you so that the deliciousness can be passed on to others.  If you try it, let me know!  And enjoy!
I'm sort of a food snob, so this was the tomato soup I used.  You use what works for you.
Pacific Foods have no idea who I am or that I buy their product.
A few notes before you begin reading the recipe:  When I make taco meat, I sauté the ground beef and onions together, then add seasoning.  I make up my own taco seasoning using chili powder, cumin, salt and a little bit of pepper.  Very simple.  I used Velveeta in my recipe tonight since I was using up the last of it for the grilled cheese, but just about any sort of real cheese would probably work as well or better - cheddar, Mexican blend, whatever.

Sarah's Tomato Taco Soup

1 box or can tomato soup (not condensed is probably preferable)
1 c. cooked, seasoned taco meat/onions
2-3 oz. shredded cheese
1/2 c. corn salsa
Extra taco seasoning (chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper), to taste
Tortilla chips for dipping

Begin by heating the soup, then add the other ingredients.  Stir until the cheese melts.  Season to taste.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Newspaper Articles

Once upon a time, long long ago and a couple miles away, I was a newspaper reporter.  I was the lifestyles reporter, which meant I didn't often cover hard news (elections were about as close as I got, with rare exceptions), but some of the lessons I learned stuck with me.  When I was making lesson plans for the year, I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to have the kids write a newspaper article?"

They thought so, too.  When I started talking about the idea last week, I asked them to decide who they would want to interview, suspecting that they would want to interview Oz's family about living in Australia/emigrating to the U.S. or calling my mom to ask her about growing up in the '60s or even just interrogating me or Oz about some topic or other. 

I couldn't have been more wrong.  Doodlebug elected to interview a neighbor of ours who happens to be a state representative, and Boo wanted to talk to her violin teacher about being a professional musician and teacher.  I was surprised, but I called and e-mailed and got them both set up with interviews.

Before their interviews we discussed the importance of getting accurate quotes, how newspaper articles differ from creative writing ('said' vs. any other synonym, for example, and using full/last names, and all the paragraphs).  Today we sat down with their notes and talked about finding the most important facts, leads (make the reader ask a question), headlines (action verbs!), and adding background information.  Then I worked with the kids to write their articles.  If you've ever looked into Brave Writer, this would definitely have fallen under the 'Partnership Writing' category, particularly given the number of questions I answered during the process.

Anyway, they kids finished their articles.

Here are the results:

State representative finds job satisfying

by Doodlebug

Mark McCullough is a hardworking figure in Oklahoma politics.

McCullough is a state representative from Sapulpa.  He is in his fourth term as representative.  He enjoys helping solve complex problems and helping constituents solve their problems.

"It is a great honor to serve the community in which I grew up," he said.

He is very content as a representative.  He studies policy, makes laws, and helps constituents on a daily basis.

"It is very satisfying, personally satisfying," he said.

To become a representative, candidates have to file for office.  To get elected they normally have to go on a campaign.  They have to win the primary election, maybe a runoff election, and the general election to finally become a representative.

-----

Professional violinist shares love of instrument

by Boo

Why would anybody want to spend hours every day just practicing with an instrument?

Sue Loomis is a professional violinist who likes to teach people to play the violin to share its sweet sound.  She also likes to see new people learn new things.

Loomis took up the violin when she was 10.  When she heard another violinist play, she wanted to do it as well.  In college she earned a bachelor's degree in math but continued to get a master's degree in music and violin performance.

"At every step I had something to do," she said.

Loomis is very busy all the time.  She works at the youth symphony and teaches people of all ages.

"I wouldn't change anything that I've done," she said.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It is February

Approximately one month from now, the kids, Oz, and I will be headed to Australia.  It seems surreal.  Know what else seems surreal?  That this year is more than a month old already.  I haven't even bothered to get out the Valentine's decorations because no sooner will I do that than it will be time to put them away and fling something else at the mantel, and ain't nobody got time for that.  There are snowflake candles up there right now, and that's it.  I'm happy for that to suffice until the equinox, and then I'll decorate for spring.  Maybe.

We wound up being able to get Boo back yesterday evening.  Some of the snow melted off the roads (thanks to a couple of warm days, the asphalt wasn't entirely at freezing temp), and Oz was able to get out and get her.  I also sent him a short grocery list so we would have food to make it through the week.  It's probably a good thing he was able to do that, because while I had the best of intentions of getting to the store today, it's now 2 p.m. and school is nowhere near completed.  The girl is bouncing and humming and whistling and talking and won't. shut. up. and the boy is squawking incessantly.  I'm about to go out of my mind.  Plus the house is disGUSting, and while I know I should be cleaning it, I refuse to do it until everyone else around here is willing to do their fair shares.  Seriously, the kitchen counters got scrubbed two days ago, and I set my hand on the counter near the coffee maker last night and about went insane. Dearest Oz, WHEN are you going to learn that ground coffee is not invisible to the eye/touch?  And then this morning I got up to find crumbs all over every surface.  Dearest Children, WHEN are you going to learn to wipe up after yourselves when you fix anything?  I'm on kitchen strike until further notice... and master bathroom shower strike as well, after a snarky remark or two from Oz the other night.  Not that he'll have noticed.  I'm sure once he reads this, the shower will get cleaned, but until then, no.  (In other news, I may be PMS-ing, and I am currently of the firm belief that all jeans makers should be required to make PMS-sized jeans... so when you buy a size 12, you get a free size 12+ for those days when the jeans just don't fit right and you know you haven't done anything differently but you weigh 3-4 pounds more and anything you drink goes straight to your bulging muffin top because you haven't peed in days and Holy Hippo, Batman.)

And it's going to snow and people are going to be trapped with me.  This could get ugly.  Just feed me chocolate and stay the hell out of my way.

On second thought, nix the chocolate.  Clearly I don't need any more carbs.

I suppose it's time to go pull the rising bread out of the oven and see if punching that down will do anything to calm my frayed nerves.  I'm so very done with winter, and I'm stir-crazy even though I'm not trapped.  It's either feast or famine lately.  Either we have too many things on a single day or we have nothing.  I'd prefer it all to spread out, just a little bit. 


How's your week looking?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

So It's Snowing...

It's cold outside (again).  The snow has tapered off, but it's still bitterly cold.  The danged groundhog saw his shadow, and I'm inclined to drive up to Pennsylvania and take a .457 to his sorry self.  Overkill, perhaps, but I'm all done with this winter crap.  I'm a summer girl.

Fortunately for the rodent in question, I can't leave my neighborhood.

I'm not quite sure how this winter storm blindsided me.  I had monitored the forecast for the last 10 days, watching as the predicted snow days grew closer and closer.  Yet it didn't occur to me that I hadn't stocked up on food, and I made plans to go places, including handing Boo over to a friend for a sleepover yesterday.

Today Doodlebug and I were going to go visit one friend in the morning, come home and hang out while I made food for a Super Bowl party (Doodlebug was going to head over to a neighbor's house for the dual purposes of interviewing the dad for a writing assignment and playing with the kids afterward), and then we'd all pile in the car, go to a Super Bowl party, and I'd bring my girl back home.  Then tomorrow - Monday - would be a normal weekday morning, where we would do school and take Doodlebug to therapy.

Yeah, that ain't happening.

About 10:30 or 11 this morning, I decided to go try to get Boo and perhaps go to the grocery store.  There's a highway not too far from the house that goes right by the grocery store, and from there it's nearly a straight shot to our friend's house, so I knew that if I could get out of the neighborhood, I'd be fine.

After two failed attempts, however, during which Doodlebug sat next to me gripping the door handle with all his might, I bowed to the inevitable, slid backward into a driveway, and came back home.  We were gone for less than 10 minutes.

I've made Chex Mix, and I'm going to make some meatball bubble biscuits, and it'll just be the three of us for the game.  Doodlebug was incredibly disappointed that he didn't get to see his friends and attend a party, but he's at the neighbor's house now and I've promised him that if Boo isn't home by this evening - right now, it doesn't look like she will be - I won't make him do school.  He'll still have therapy, though, because apparently his therapist makes calls if appointments get cancelled due to weather.  Well, I say he'll have therapy… if the doctor can get to the office and we can't, I'm not sure what happens.  But I'll cross that bridge when we get there, I suppose.

We'll scrounge in the bottom of the freezer for food, and if we wind up eating a few meals of pancakes or biscuits, then pancakes and biscuits it shall be.  The forecast for the next few days doesn't look much better.

Are you snowed in?  Tired of winter?  Or are you a winter person who has four-wheel drive (or, better yet, a town with effective street plowing plans)?