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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Barbie Revealed

Remember earlier when I promised to show you the results of my attempt to decorate my very first Barbie cake? Yeah, well, I mentioned then that you would either get to appreciate the fine craftsmanship or giggle at the goofiness. I'm pretty sure you're going to chuckle over this picture. I think she might be the ugliest cake I've ever decorated. Ms. Thang, of course, thinks she's fantastic. At any rate, as promised, here is that picture I promised:
The horror!  She is so ugly!  LOL!

Apparently, I Now Own a 4 year Old...

Today is Ms. Thang's 4th birthday party. We rented out the local skating rink (along with our friends who have a little girl who also recently celebrated a birthday. Hello cheap!) and invited all of our friends and family to come skate with us. My 4 year old is over the moon. She has been counting down the days, and now the hours, until she gets her very own big birthday party.
It really is kind of a big deal for her. January birthdays are hard. Both of the boys were born during the warm weather months, so they're golden when it comes to parties. They can have the big cookout and invite everyone, or pretty much have their pick of venues and activities. January? Well... That's a bit dicey when it comes to weather, and it makes planning anything a little tricky, since it absolutely has to be indoors. In the past, since she was so little, and since she was somewhat shy of crowds anyway, we've always done either just cake and ice cream for her here at the house with just us, one or 2 friends, or last year we invited just a very few friends to an ill-advised party at the local McDonald's playland. It was kind of a test run for her since she tended to get really clingy and nervous in big crowds. She did fairly well, but we only had a few kids there. Over the last year, however, she's really come out of her shell. She's still very slow to warm up to new people and situations, but crowds of familiar people don't seem to bother her nearly as much. So, we took the plunge and decided to try for her first big birthday party. She's so excited.
We're sort of doing a Barbie theme, in that I have some barbie things, and this morning, as I type this, I'm baking what will hopefully be the dress for a barbie cake. I've never made one before, so I hope it turns out nice. It seemed pretty easy, but sometimes I get surprised. I'll post pictures later either way, so you can either see how goofy it looks, or appreciate the fine craftsmanship. I'm betting on the former. Either way, I'm sure Ms. Thang will enjoy it, particularly since I picked pink for the frosting color, and we've already discussed that the way to her heart is through pure unadulterated girliness. Meanwhile, here are some pics of birthdays past. How cute is my little Pwincess Beauty?

This was right after she ate pizza for the first time.  It was a hit.  :-)

Birthday #2.  I remember not being able to find half of the things I wanted for her cake when I went out, so I made due.  Still, she seems to have enjoyed it.  that sucker was filled with ice cream, too!  Yum!

And the McDonald's party from last year.  She *had* to have  Tinkerbelle cake.  She enjoyed this party even if it did violate my very basic hatred of all things McD's.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Creative Mom- Embrace the Girliness

My beautiful daughter, in all her girly glory.

Before I was a mother, I really wanted girl children. I remember distinctly that I wanted girls, and, although I would take whatever I got, not having much choice in the matter after all, I remember that I fervently hoped that I would win the chromosomal lottery and be blessed with a houseful of girls when it came time to breed. I have no idea what I was thinking. I'm really very bad at being a girl myself, and I've never gotten the finer points of girliness. I remember having girl toys when I was little, like My Little Pony, Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kids, and the rest. For awhile, I even remember that my favorite colors were pink and purple. But, despite all of these things, I never really learned the art of truly being a girl. I like dirt, I don't do artifice or subtlety well, and I abhor most typical “girl things” like chick flicks, romance, and fashion. My husband says that he's pretty sure I am allergic to dresses. (My 6 year old actually accused me of not owning any dresses, then when I denied it, asked if I only ever wore a dress to marry his daddy. I actually had to wear a dress a few times to prove that I did, in fact, own, and could wear a dress, if I wanted to. It was horrible.) Now, none of these things are inherently necessary to define me as womanly. I have breasts, a uterus, and 2 X chromosomes, and in many ways I actually enjoy being a woman. I just happen to have no tolerance for the trappings of “girliness” that most people associate with being female.
That being said, I do enjoy many domestic things that many would say are arguably “womanly” arts. I'm a great cook, I like to sew, and I enjoy a huge variety of crafts like crochet. I'm not sure that those things are girly or womanly, since it seems to me that they are mostly just useful and/or creative endeavors, and if you're going to bother doing them, you should try to do them well. Still, even despite my domestication, as it were, I remain somewhat at a loss when it comes to most things truly girl.
Fortunately, my first two children turned out to be boys in spite of my fervent hopes to the contrary, because, as it became all too obvious when my daughter arrived, I really have no clue what to do with a girl who is not only female, but revels in every bit of her girliness. Make it pink, make it frilly, make it sparkly, make it as girly as possible and then make it just a touch more girly and there you have exactly what will appeal to my diva-tastic little princess. Not only that, but... the drama. Oh, the drama.
Of course, fundamentally I realized that boys and girls were different creatures before we had our daughter, but, oh, was she an object lesson in just how different, from birth, they are! From the early days she was far more sensitive and emotional than the boys ever thought about being. She has a flare for the dramatic that boggles the mind. I cannot explain just how girly she is, nor how this happened, given the stock from whence she came. Nevertheless, she is, for all intents and purposes, a girly girl.
I've tried to resist it to no avail, so instead, I've given up and decided to embrace it. Maybe someday she won't be the total girl she is now, and it will be fun to look back on these days and remember how she went full tilt after all the frills, ruffles, pink, glitter, frou-frou girliness that one tiny child could grab. This is why I spent today perched at my sewing machine, churning out skirts for my little diva. Well, not the only reason. My jacked up knee played a huge part in the decision, considering I'm on somewhat limited activity. But, nevertheless, I had a grand time coming up with these girly creations for my girly girl. Even more fun than that, however, was watching her dance, prance, and twirl about in them, thrilled beyond imagining at such glorious new girly duds.  (Forgive the picture quality.  Mr H was either just extremely jealous of the girl, wanted a new skirt as well, or was flying a flag really high in appreciation of special needs animals everywhere.  Sigh.)
Love this double layer pink and brown skirt.  

How adorable is this upcycled skirt, made from an old pair of jeans that were too short in the legs for Ms. Thang?

Another double-layered skirt.  I'm a sucker for paisley anything.  <3

Last, but not least, another upcycled pair of old jeans.  I love the switch from *pink pink pink* everything, but it's just frou-frou enough to keep Ms. Thang happy.  

I didn't really have a pattern for the things I made, because I just sort of made them up as I went, but they were very simple projects, and even for a beginner, a simple skirt like this is a fun and easy project. If you're a newbie to the sewing world and would like to try your hand at making some girly creations of your own, I've trolled the internet to bring you a couple of links to simple tutorials to similar projects to get you started. Have fun, and be sure to post back here with pictures of your girly creations!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Injured Mom, Angry Mom - Just Call Me "Hopalong"

Just call me “Hopalong” for awhile. Remember when I mentioned the“something” I did to my knee in the brief novel I wrote the other day? Well, I finally went to the doctor on Monday and it turns out that it's highly probable that I've torn a ligament in my knee. By walking. Three steps. Indoors. I'm fairly confident that this gives new meaning to the term accident prone. I haven't gone for an MRI yet because my doctor said there's a chance the ligament isn't totally detached, and if it isn't, it may heal on its own. But, if I go for an MRI and there's a tear, then an orthopedic surgeon is probably going to want to do surgery. Since I would rather avoid all of that if there's a chance it might heal on its own, and since the doctor said it won't make any difference in outcome if I go now or if I go in 2 weeks, I'm waiting 2 weeks to see if it shows any improvement. Thus far that would be a big fat no, incidentally. Anyway, I'm extremely disgruntled by this whole thing. I do not have time to be seriously injured. Let alone stupidly seriously injured. If I'm going to be, for all intents and purposes, down one leg, I'd like to have a better story, at least. Maybe I got stabbed in the knee while breaking up a knife fight in a bar. Maybe I broke my knee, but it's really a blessing because I'm the sole survivor in a freak antelope stampede that wiped out everyone else in the vicinity. (It could happen. You don't know.) Maybe I wiped out while snowboarding and was pinned beneath a rock, living off of melted snow and rock moss for 3 days. You get my drift. But, no. I took three steps to talk to my dog and snapped a ligament. Fail.
That's my knee back in the summer.  This was the last time I did something really, really stupid and hurt myself.  
Worse than having a lame story to go with my injury is the fact that I really despise how everyone behaves. Before 11m today my leg was already killing me. Why? Because my child is a pain in the butt. Hunny took Mr. H out to potty before he left for work, then came in and gave the kids strict instructions to be well-behaved and helpful today since Mom has a gimpy leg and all. Not 10 minutes after he left, Mr. H started whining that he needed to go out again. I called for Eggy to take him out, but instead of just putting on his shoes and taking the dog out, he argues with me that the dog can't possibly need to go out since he just went out. Sigh. Um. I don't care? The dog indicates that he hasn't been watching the clock, and he needs to go out, so just take him. (I should point out that I actually like taking the dog out, and since I hurt my knee, I find it extremely annoying that I can't take Mr. H out for his walks myself.) But, he keeps arguing, then when I've finally just said to suck it up and take him anyway, he decides he needs different pants. He was already wearing pants, but apparently he needs different pants. To take the dog out. So, he starts wandering around the house aimlessly, on a quest for pants. Because, you know, there certainly aren't pants in any logical places, like... I don't know... His closet? Or maybe those wern't special “taking the dog out to poop” pants. Meanwhile, Mr. H is still making the whining, I've-got-to-go noise, and I'm getting more and more irritated. Finally, I just wrench myself up, hobble over and start putting my shoes on. The kids immediately start freaking out. “You can't take the dog out! Your knee is hurt!” But I'm too cheesed off to care. So, I mouth off about the fact that if E can't be bothered to take the dog out, and it's too much trouble, I'll just take my broken knee, and take my whiny dog, and go out myself, and if I fall and get hurt, I guess he knows the correct numbers to call.
Mr. H: For the love of all that is holy and good, a puppy gotta poop, here, people.  Someone just suck it up and take me out, already!!!

Mr. H and I hobble outside, down the steps, and around back, where he proceeds to deposit possibly the largest pile of doggy excrement I've ever seen, proving that he did, in fact, need to go out. Then, I hobble back into the house with the dog, load the dishwasher, and put in a load of laundry. By the time I was done, my knee was throbbing, of course. All of these are things that Hunny specifically told me not to do before he left, but, I was just so mad. I mean... I wait on everyone around here all the time and it's asking too much for someone to take the dog out when my knee is all jacked up? Really? Logically, I realize that my kids are not horrible, self-centered brats, just typical kids. But, man is it frustrating to be in the situation where you can't do for yourself like you want to, and everything that someone does for you is done with resentment. Now, things could be much worse, and I'm not about to whine about how rough I've got it when I'm fully aware that I could have it ten times worse, but I'm betting that every mom out there totally gets the feelings that I'm talking about. I love being a mom. I truly adore my kids, but man is it a sometimes truly thankless job, with little in the way of appreciation or payback. And at no time is the depth of their ability to take you for granted as apparent as when you have an injury. Sigh. Okay. I'm done complaining. Probably. Okay, I'm probably not. But, I don't want to write another huge novel, so I'm ending it here.  Sigh.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Unexpectedly Expecting - And It Isn't Me For Once!

After the short novel I shared with you yesterday, you'd think I'd be all out of things to say, but since I'm trying to be a more faithful blogger, and since I recently received some major news that I am now allowed to share with all of you, it's not. No, I'm not pregnant. Remember, I told you that one of the things that happened while I was in the wilderness listening for banjo music was that I started my cycle. My womb is a barren wasteland. But, someone else has a womb that is not.
Several days ago I got the phone call. Not THE phone call. Not, like, “Go! Now. Your special ninja skills are necessary and the president needs you to fall down on some terrorists and stop their evil plot!” (Falling down is about the only ninja skill I have, so I imagine that's the only one I'd get a call about.) No, I got the call that I am going to be an aunt again. Not great aunt, which is plausible since I already have one adorable great niece and several nieces and nephews who are now of breeding age, no, just aunt of the garden variety. But, this seems somewhat bizarre since I am the only one of my parents' 4 daughters who hasn't had her tubes tied, and although my brother did recently remarry, I'm pretty certain she had her tubes tied as well. Hm.
It turns out that, 9 years after she had her surgery to prevent this sort of thing happening, the sister who is closest to me in age is, well... pregnant. After what she assumed was a waste of $10 of home pregnancy test turned out to be positive, she had lab work done to confirm it. Also positive, and dating the pregnancy at around 7 weeks, it turns out she was expecting. She then had an ultrasound to make sure that the baby was growing where it was supposed to be, rather than in a tube, and lo and behold, there in her uterus was a 7 week (give or take a day) baby with a strong heartbeat. So, although to say that we were somewhat surprised is a bit of an understatement (Especially my sister, who took the test at my parents' house because she was so sure it was a waste of time and money.), we are all now very excited about the prospect of a new little baby to love. (Also, pretty much everyone who hears this story ends up looking around all shifty and hoping that their tubal doesn't fail. The squirming is pretty fun.)
Upon hearing the news, once I could speak again, I said two things. 1) “This baby must have been meant to be,” and 2) “Better you than me, sister!” I stand by those statements, however, the fact that my baby girl turned the ripe old age of 4 yesterday does make me slightly green with envy at the idea of a new little baby to love. But, as an aunt, I still get to do all kinds of loving and spoiling... and then give it back. Heh heh heh....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How Family Travel Nearly Did Me In - A Short Saga (With Pictures)

I know, I was doing so well, and then I fell off of the face of the Earth for a few days. That totally wasn't my fault. Hunny had a job out of town, and made it seem like a good idea if I went with him. Normally I really enjoy the fact that we homeschool and I can do this, so I agreed. We even rented a little cabin in the country so that we could take our new (6 year-old-child-sized) puppy Mr. Harrelson with us. Although we've never done so with a dog in tow before, we've stayed in cabins before. It's a nice change of pace from hotels, where the small terrorists kids get super bored and seem to have no comprehension of the concept that there are people, above, below, and on either side of us, and that acting like wild monkeys is a really bad idea. By comparison, an isolated cabin in the wilderness is like a balm to the soul. The only reason I find to tell them they need to be quiet is if my ears start bleeding, because there's no one else around to hear them. Of course, there's also no internet connection. But, even that is a delightful break sometimes.
I have such fond memories of our last stay at a cabin that we rented. Again, there was no internet access, but it was such an adorable log cabin, butted up against a hill, and it wasn't “camping” by any stretch of the imagination. The cabin had well water, but hot showers, air conditioning, heck, it even had a dishwasher, and a hot tub. There was a fishing lake on the property that, although it rained, the boys and I walked to and fished in. A tiny stream ran right next to the cabin, and made the perfect place for Eggy to attempt to catch frogs, salamanders, and crawdads (you might call them crayfish, but I grew up in rural WV and we called them crawdads.) I had coffee on the front porch every morning while I chatted with my mom on my cell phone. I brought copies of the kids' schoolwork with us, and the kids sat at the little kitchen table each morning and completed their assignments for the day. It was actually a really fun and memorable trip, so it's little wonder that I so quickly agreed to the idea of going again.
See how awesome the last cabin trip was?  There they are doing some math at the table.  Homeschooling rocks for this reason.  Just saying.

Except, this time, we decided to go to a different cabin rental place. It wasn't that we weren't happy before, it was that the other place only had one cabin that allowed pets as an option, and while we could have made due, we were a little worried the sleeping accommodations would be somewhat lacking. So, I called around to a couple of other cabin rental places in the same area and found one that didn't mind if we had pets. I was really excited since I had such fond memories from our last trip. I assumed that I was looking at the same situation, just in a slightly different location. I was wrong.
Oh, the cabin, such as it was, was fine. But, we lost cell signal and started hearing banjos way before we got there, which was an adventure unto itself, entailing a misguided trip into the heart of meth-trailer land (which, by the way was about a half mile from picturesque countryside with rental cabins land). Oh, and the cabin, while “fine” might ultimately be the most apt description, was a far cry from what I had pictured in my head. It was more like a slapped together pre-fab mini-house, that wasn't quite finished, and had been a rush job to begin with. A far cry from the log cabins we stayed in previously, this one had a drywall interior and just didn't have the same charm, even if there was a fishing pond out front, which it was too cold to fish in, so frankly didn't factor into my equation. But, to be fair, the cabin could have been perfectly lovely, and I think I would still be complaining. Why? Because this trip was just a series of calamitous events, occurring one right after another.
Mr. Harrelson's previous people assured us that he was an excellent traveler, and while their claims of “leash trained” were definitely a bit of a stretch (He's leash trained if by that you mean he will allow you to attach a leash to him without chomping your arm off. Otherwise? He's a mess. A lovable, goofy, pull-your-arm-out-of-socket, still-learning-he-can't-take-off-at-a-dead-run mess), we figured since they claimed to have taken a few extended car trips with him and had no troubles that, hopefully, at least in this, their predictions would ring true. Alas, no. Mr. Harrelson is a horrendous traveler. He won't listen, he won't stay in one spot, and he's basically a furry toddler that needs to potty in every new spot. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, if ever I wanted to punch a dog in the snout, it was during this car trip. I refrained, but, man was he paddling a canoe of the feminine hygiene product variety. Just saying. Sigh.
This is Mr. Harrelson.  aka. Mr. Puppikins von Douche Canoe.  

So, we haven't even gotten to our first full day at the cabin yet. We're still on the traveling, and so far, we have, lost in meth trailer land, pain in the butt dog, and arriving way too late to be in a good mood. Let's see what the rest of the trip brings.
The cabin was pretty basic. There was one large room, combining the kitchen, dining, and living room areas, and then off from this was 2 bedrooms and a small bathroom. The kids slept in one bedroom, which had a set of twin bunk beds, and set of twin over full bunk beds, as well as a small dresser. We took the other bedroom, which, sadly only had a queen size bed, a great letdown from the king that we usually share, but all in all, that's a pretty first world problem, so I'll let that go.
The main issue I had the first night was the fact that, while Mr. Harrelson does not sleep in our room with us at home, he was greatly disconcerted to be without us in this new place. As soon as the doors were shut and we were settled in bed, the whining began. I'm a very light sleeper, so this made rest extremely difficult. I'm also immensely stubborn, and I did not want to give the message that whining would result in getting what he wanted. (I co-sleep with babies. Puppies are a whole different ballgame.) So, While I would speak to him to let him know we were there, I would not give in to his demands to come in and share the already crowded bed.
Mr. H: Why would you say such horrible things about me?  I just want love.  See my cuteness?  Let me sleep wif you.  Pweeeeeeease?  Me: No.  (I'm kind of a jerk.)

On top of the puppy whining was another sleep-interference issue. With Hunny's new dead pancreas comes a set of issues I really hadn't imagined. He's alarmed heavier than Fort Knox. Seriously. At any given time during the day, his pump might alarm that it's down to the last 40 units of insulin, or that it's finished giving his bolus dose, or occasionally, it might alarm that he's had an occlusion and needs to remove the pod and apply a new one. His pump controller (He's wireless, so he has a pump or pod that is attached to him, delivering the insulin, and a controller, or remote that he uses to check his glucose and program his doses.) might alarm that it's time to check his glucose because he ate 2 hours ago. He also wears a continuous glucose monitor that sends a wireless signal to a receiver showing a graph of where his levels are throughout the day. It alarms if his sugar goes out of range, either too high or too low, if it's rising or falling rapidly, and if the receiver loses contact with the transmitter for more than an hour. It's a lot of bells, buzzes, squeals, whines, and beeps to get used to. It's especially alarming to me to hear his continuous glucose monitor alarm in the middle of the night because it wakes me up, and worries me that he may have gotten too low and be difficult to wake. It's even possible for diabetics to slip into a coma and die if this happens and they aren't roused and given something to eat or drink to raise their glucose levels. It's one of the major reasons he wears the monitor in the first place. Anyway, the first night we were there, I swear that stupid glucose alarm must have gone off a half a dozen times. Between that and the dog I wanted to cut someone. I kept hearing the alarm, waking up, picking it up, looking at it, shaking my husband, he'd not really listen to me, but was clearly not comatose, and then roll over and go back to sleep. Eventually, I was just done. I figured if he was going to be oblivious to the stupid alarm and the dog then I would lay there and seethe sleep and ignore them both, too. This resulted in about 30 minutes of sleep for me, which in turn, resulted in me waking up with a killer headache the next morning and a death wish for both Hunny and the dog.
See me smiling?  That's because 12.5 years ago, I was strangling him, and that idea still holds merit.

Hunny trotted off to work and left me with the 3 kids and the dog. Between a pot of coffee, dimmed lights, and a lot of pain killers, I was able to do a full day of school with the kids, but as soon as they finished it, I was on the couch, hiding from noise and lights, counting down the minutes until Hunny would arrive and I could take migraine medicine and go to bed, and they were released into barely supervised video game freedom. Mr. Harrelson made an excellent foot warmer while I tried not to die, however. I take back the death wish.
Okay, I like you again, but you still can't sleep with me tonight.

The next day was much better considering my headache was so reduced in vigor as to be barely noticeable, but that evening, I did something to my knee. “Something” being the best way I can define it since I haven't gone anywhere to have it looked at yet. I think I might have to, though. I Have no clue what happened. I was sitting on the couch watching tv with Hunny, I stood up because the dog neeeded correcting and I needed to catch his eye, I took three quick steps, something snapped or popped in my left knee, and then there was a lot of pain. It really didn't swell much or anything, but the joint is all wobbly, and aches and it feels like it won't support me. Also, I noticed that there is a piece of something that moves around in there now on the outside of my knee. There is not a matching movable piece in the other knee, so I assume this is not supposed to be there.
That's me.  I fall down a lot and find new and inventive ways to injure myself all the time.  You don't need a picture to know that.   I just like adding pictures at this point.
The next day was Friday, and thankfully, the day we were heading home. But, just as icing on the cake, I had to get my monthly visit from dear aunt flow that day, and on the way home, with Mr. Harrelson doing his best impression of a kidnap victim who has special mental challenges in the back seat, we picked up a nail in one of our back tires and had to deal with that.
Oh, and Ms. Thang had to pee, so we stopped at a Sheetz station. Let me tell you about my love/hate relationship with Sheetz. I love them. They have awesome stores and their bathrooms are clean. However, they use the most disgusting smelling air freshener on the face of the planet in there. I hate them for it. It smells like patchouli/incense/sandalwood and is instant migraine for me. It's a total deal-breaker for me with that whole love thing. But, Ms. Thang is a 3 year old and she had to go... So, in we went, and as I'm waiting for her to go, I nearly vomit twice because of the air freshener, and then, because I'm hiding my face in my coat to try to avoid breathing in the toxic fumes, I don't notice the little hanger for purses on the stall door and ram my arm into it. Ouch. This is actually the second time the same stupid injury has occurred to my person from the horrid, foul, disgusting air freshener in the Sheetz bathrooms. It's so overpowering that I can't stomach it. I would literally rather smell urine and feces than that smell. That's how much I hate it. I realize that the potheads of the world would probably disagree, but man is that the worst smell, ever.
Look!  Another gratuitous picture!  That's also me, holding Ms. Thang. I  did not look this happy when I came out of Sheetz.  I just thought there should be another picture because I have a thing going here.  
Anyway, by the time we made it back to the car from that potty break, I was pretty sure if I made it home without being killed in some horrible, violent manner or at least being assaulted at gunpoint, I should probably thank my lucky stars. So that's what I did. I hobbled into the house and into a hot tub and I soaked for a couple of hours and ruminated on just how much I wished I’d just stayed home. Then, I decided to tell you about it so that you would know where I was and understand that I fervently wish I'd stayed here with you guys... and that's why this blog is really long and the only one I've posted in several days. The end.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My 3 year Old Can Already Think Logic Circles Around Me...

Recently, I was helping Ms. Thang, my 3 year old child, clean her room. For Christmas, from my brother and his wife, she received a stuffed pony in a purse. I don't pretend to understand on what planet one would have a tiny pony that one would carry in a purse, but nevertheless, this is what she received, and she loves it. She also has some My Little Pony toys here and there. When we were sorting through her toys, my funny child decided that the best place to store the ponies was in the purse with the larger stuffed horse. Since they're both equine in nature, this seemed somewhat reasonable to me, so into the weird horse purse the ponies went. What transpired next is nothing less than sheer comic genius, and had to be shared.
Ms Thang (brandishing her ponies, stuffed into the purse and peering, somewhat helplessly through the window (Yes, I typed window. There's a window in the purse.) in the side of the purse.) : “Look, Mama! My horsie had babies! These are her babies!”
Me: “I see! So your horsie had baby ponies?”
Ms. Thang: “Uh-huh. She laid some eggs.”
Me: “Um. She's a horse. I don't think they do that.”
Ms. Thang: “She's a unicorn.”
Me: “But aren't unicorns still mammals? Mammals don't lay eggs.”
Ms. Thang: “She got them from a platypus. Them were platypus eggs, and when she hatched them, they were her baby ponies.”
Me: “...So, your unicorn hatched ponies out of platypus eggs?”
Ms. Thang: “Uh-huh. Platypuses is mammals and they lay eggs.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how my 3 year old very firmly told me how it is. I don't know whether to laugh or just stand back in slack jawed amazement at her ability to think circles around me at 3. I'm pretty sure this does not bode well for her teenage years.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Try a Little Tenderness - My Compassionate Child

   Yesterday I told you about my 6 year old Punkinhead and his tendency to be a bit of a dreamer. Nothing has changed in just a few short hours. He's still as dreamy as ever, and likely to stay that way, but once again, he supplies me with material for my blog. Do you ever have those moments when your children surprise you? I'm not just talking about that eerie silence that tells you they're doing something horrible just before you find someone tied to a bed post, either. Sometimes, those quiet moments are an opportunity to catch them being good. Every once in a while, it gets quiet and when I investigate, expecting to find disaster, there my 3 children will sit, peacefully, with my oldest child reading aloud to the younger two, and everyone getting along. That is the type of surprise that I'm talking about.
   I love kids. They crack me up. I love their bold honesty and the way that they are always learning something. I love how they go at everything full tilt and how they experience every emotion at its absolute peak. There are no in-betweens with kids. It's all or nothing, all the time. But, while I do thoroughly enjoy them, it's a painful fact that children are kind of self-centered jerks. It's true. They can't help it. Children are born believing that they really are the center of the world, so to speak, and that everything does, and should, revolve around them. It takes a long time before they start to realize that other people have feelings and that they matter. This is true for all children, and for each child, it takes a varying amount of time for them to develop compassion. It's a learned skill, not something they are born with. I bring this up because, today, I was very surprised by my own child's show of compassion for his playmate.
   Of course, it's worth mentioning that, of my three children, Punkinhead is by far my most sensitive, tenderhearted little man. He is always the first to offer a hug when you're upset, and is truly hurt himself when he realizes that he's hurt someone's feelings. When we have to leave the house and we put Mr. Harrelson in his room when we leave the house, Punkinhead says, “I wish we could take him with us. It makes me sad that he's so sad to go in his room.” (At 8 months of age, with a fair mix of lab flowing in his veins, he's quite the avid chewer, as my vacuum cleaner cord will attest, leaving him out to roam freely while you're gone is not a good idea if you don't wish to return to chewed up objects.) So, Punkinhead's compassion is not without precedent.
   Today, however, I was just blown away by how sweet my little boy can be. I thought to myself, “He's going to make an excellent husband someday, if he gets married,” and then, “I have done such a good job with this one!” (LOL – Nothing like a little pat on the back for mom, right?) Anyway, today, a good friend came over to visit and brought her daughter. When lunch time came, I reheated the food I fixed yesterday, but I didn't have any veggies left over, so I washed some fresh carrots and sliced an avocado into wedges and sprinkled it with salt and garlic. These are things that my kids will eat. Actually, my 8 year old will eat an entire avocado by himself if I let him, so I figured they were pretty good picks. I don't have picky eaters. My friend's daughter, however, is not only picky, but has a flair for the dramatic. My friend, knowing my policy on picky eaters, (I don't have picky eaters because it's simply not tolerated. I fix food, it's given to them, if they eat it, great. If not, fine; they can choose to go hungry, but I'm not fixing something else. I was the world's pickiest eater when I was a kid, and it's a pet peeve of mine now. I missed out on so many good foods because my parents let me get away with it!) decided to force the issue with her daughter today. I didn't care whether she ate the avocado or not. She's not my kid, so I really didn't have a vested interest. But her mom told her that she needed to eat one piece of avocado in order to be done with lunch.
   Oh my, were the theatrics something to behold. She produced one fake gag after another, accompanied by, “My stomach hurts! This is going to make me throw up! I think I'm going to be sick!” I couldn't help but laugh at her over-the-top attempts to avoid eating the tiny slice of avocado. It was, by far, one of the most ridiculous displays of fake gagging I've ever witnessed. Anyway, despite all of her theatrics, my friend told her she had to eat it anyway. So, Punkinhead, being the sweet little boy he is, leans over and says, “Don't worry. If you make a mess, I'll clean it up for you.” Now, that alone is an amazing display of compassion for a 6 year old boy. I'm 31 years old, and I would be hard pressed to volunteer for vomit clean-up duty. Yet, here is Punkinhead, reassuring his friend, whom he believes to be in genuine distress, that if she does throw up, he's got her back, and he'll clean up the mess for her. That alone would be sweet, but since the theatrics continued, there's actually another part to the story. Eventually, my friend gave her daughter a bowl for her imminent vomiting episode caused by the harsh punishment of being asked to try a bite of the avocado. Eyeroll. While she's carrying on and dramatically fake gagging, here comes my Punkinhead, valiantly holding her hair back out of the way and holding the bowl for her, “just in case.” 
   Now, of course, there was no actual vomit because this was all just an exercise in drama, but Punkinhead did not know this. How sweet is that? Oh, and no, the bite of avocado seemed to cause no permanent damage to my friend's daughter. It did however, show me a glimpse of the man I hope my little boy is growing up to be. I'm so proud of him for wanting to care for his friend. It makes me excited for his future to see what a compassionate, gentlemanly young man he is already. What a wonderful surprise to see these glimpses now and again.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Get Over It Check Up - Where am I?

   So, it's been more than 2 weeks since the start of the new year and my blog about wanting to get my life in order. How am I doing? Well, I had some pretty tall orders to fill, and contrary to what you might imagine, my silence (lack of blogging) is not an indication that I haven't accomplished anything. No, I'm not 100% on top of all of my semi-resolutions. But, I have made some huge strides that I'm really proud of. I wanted to write more, and although they haven't made it to the publishing point, I have been writing more. I just haven't had time to get the posts up. I'll be working on that in the coming weeks, and I hope to be posting something for you to read at least twice a week. I know that's a lot less than my previous high output blogging, but I'm not getting paid right now, and I've barely got time for this, so you get what you get.
So, exactly what kinds of strides have I made? I'm so glad you asked! I wanted to improve the way we do school around here. One of the reasons I love homeschooling so much is because I get to make learning fun for my kids. I get to challenge them at a pace that suits their abilities and in a style which suits their natural learning tendencies. But, sometimes, when everything is a crazy mess, it's hard to find the energy to do a full day of school. As I explained in my previous post, it isn't that the kids were doing nothing at all, but more that we weren't doing the things that I really wanted to do. They were doing more online lessons, and book work, less hands on fun stuff. I don't really want to do school at home. If that were my goal, then I might as well sign them up for an education at the nearest public school. It isn't about that for me. I want to engage their brains and develop a love of learning and a desire for discovery. That's what has been lacking. Of course it's important that they learn the fundamentals. It's important that they be able to read and write and communicate intelligently. But, it's more critical for me, that they want to know how things work and why things happen and that they learn to seek that knowledge for themselves. One of the things that has been so hard for me lately is doing science experiments and history projects with them. These are things that I want them to be excited about. Yet, I've not been in my groove and able to take an active role in that part of their education. Well, 2012 is the year of the get over it, remember? So, I sat down and I wrote out 6 weeks of lesson plans, and I included science experiments almost every day and little fun additions to our history curriculum. It's just the push I need. I needed that extra impetus of, “It's on the calendar. Let's get this done.” Now, school is happening every day. Not just the fundamentals, but the FUN stuff, too. Just like the kids enjoy. They love it, and I do, too. The other day, we made supersaturated solutions out of both borax and epsom salts, then made crystal shapes on pipe cleaners to compare the different crystalline shapes. The same day, we built a Lego volcano and then erupted it with baking soda and vinegar to simulate the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera, near Crete, which is speculated might have caused the decline of the Minoan civilization. I think it's safe to say that, we're back on track with our school plans.

Along with a better organized school day, we've brought back my favorite discipline system, ever. It's a gentle discipline system, which I call the behavior ladder. We have a printed copy of the house rules posted. Each child has a chart with 6 levels, and a picture of themselves with a magnet that moves up and down the ladder based on behavior. Breaking a house rule moves the child one rung down the ladder, completing a chore moves the child one rung up the ladder. Each rung of the ladder has a different set of privileges, with thinking time and chores only on level 1, and full privileges on level 6. If the child completes 5 days out of the 7 day week on the top 3 rungs of the behavior ladder, s/he earns a weekend reward. If the child completes all of his/her chores for at least 5 days out of the week, s/he earns a commission at the end of the week. (In our house that's $1 for each year of age. My 3 yo earns $3, the 6yo earns $6, etc...) It sounds complicated, but it really isn't the hardest part of the whole system is deciding what the privileges, rewards, and chores were for each kid. They love this system, and I love it, too. There is no complaining about completing chores, no one wonders where they are behavior-wise, and the whole house just runs a lot more smoothly. If you are struggling with discipline and tired of it, I cannot recommend enough that you check out the behavior ladder to see if it is a fit for your family. So, I'm totally on track with that goal for the year of the get over it. Go me.
Along with a 6 week supply of lesson plans and the reintroduction of the behavior ladder have come some bits and pieces of organization. I am still struggling with getting back to the gym. I want to do it, but life hasn't cooperated. Instead of simplifying I seem determined to take on new projects. I took a position as an administrator for one of the homeschool co-ops that I'm involved with, in addition to offereing 2 classes there for the spring semester. By far, however, the biggest impediment to further organization has been the addition of our newest family member, Mr. Harrelson. He is only the sweetest, most adorable, smartest dog, ever. Not that I'm biased. Mr. Harrelson is an 8 month old yellow lab/golden retriever mix. We are continually amazed by his intelligence. He's also still a puppy. A puppy that weighs as much as my 6 year old. It makes for some exciting moments. Plus, we're still adjusting to being dog people. We haven't been dog people in a very long time, and never so completely, unabashedly, head-over-heels in love with a mutt that we'd call ourselves that, even if we were. Also, although my genius puppy has made huge strides since he came to live here, he's still learning the ropes, and training a new dog is a project that takes a lot of time and consistency. He's amazing, but it still takes time. It's kind of like adding a toddler to the house. Except he's housebroken.
Anyway, there you have it. That's where I'm at so far. I'm nowhere near where I intend to be, but I'm making strides in the right direction, and I don't think you can ask me for too much more. What about you? Where are you on your journey in the year of the get over it? Are you making strides? We all just have to be where we are, but baby steps are better than no steps. So, how about it?   

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You May Say... He's a Dreamer...

   My middle child, Punkinhead, is 6 years old. I've written many times about the funny things he says that keep us laughing, about the difficulties he has concentrating on things that don't interest him sometimes, and about what a little charmer he can be. I've written so much about him because he's such a joy, and sometimes, such an enigma to me. I love how unbridled his enthusiasm is for anything that he enjoys. I love his single-minded focus on the things that do capture his interest. I love how he looks at something ordinary and sees things in a completely different light than what anyone else sees. Even when he's doing the complete opposite of what I want him to do, it's hard not to love the kid. He's just so full of life that it's hard not to feel bathed in sunshine just from sitting next to him.
Punkinhead is my second born child, and also my second son. It's both funny and amazing to me that I can have 2 male children, composed of the same basic genetic components derived from their father and I, and yet they turn out to be such polar opposites. Eggy, my oldest, is not a dreamer at all. He's a an intellectual, and a hard worker, and has little regard for the more ridiculous things in life. He's a very curious child, and wants to know how everything works, and why everything happens. I picture him as finding his future in something to do with science or engineering. He's just that type of personality that I think would be suited to those fields. With Punkinhead? The world is wide open. I joke that he's going to be a pool boy and international man of mystery. He's so charming and so imaginative that, while I have no doubt he could be a scientist if he so desired, I can't really picture that. I don't know what he'll do with his life, and that's okay. He'll find his way. But, I guess, my main point is, my 2 boys are just so very different; almost like night and day.
Sometimes I see such a clear illustration of this that it amuses me. Today was one of those days. We recently acquired a new dog, Mr. Harrelson, and he had indicated that he needed to go out to relieve himself. Hunny and the boys were already outside. They were supposed to be fixing my porch. One of the supports broke on it awhile back, and it needed replaced. When I went outside with Mr. Harrelson, there was Eggy, steadfastly heling his father repair the damaged porch, but Punkinhead was nowhere in sight. I didn't think much of it, but continued on around back so that the puppy could relieve himself. I still did not see Punkinhead, but there were a few scattered toys in the back yard, including the lid from our turtle sandbox. It wasn't on the sandbox because it's been snowing and the kids like to use it for a sled in the event of enough snowfall to make sliding a possibility. As I stood there, waiting for Mr. Harrelson to do his business, the lid popped up from the ground and there was Punkinhead, beaming at me. “Hi, Mom!” I had to laugh at this entire tableau. While Eggy was diligently helping his father repair the porch, Punkinhead wandered off and secreted himself beneath the lid to the turtle sandbox, and remained there, completely covert, so that it was no longer a sandbox lid, but his secret fortress. And, this is why I cannot help but love this kid. I saw a lid. He saw a fortress, and he couldn't resist it. I hope that he always sees fortresses and that he never sacrifices his imagination for drudgery. Sure, there's a lot to be said for hard work. Absolutely, I think that everyone should do their part, but I'm also so tickled by my dreamer – and be honest with yourself – without the dreamers, where would the rest of us be? They are the ones who give us poetry, art, literature, and innovation. They are the ones who inspire the rest of us. I think sometimes that I have clear moments like this so that I can appreciate my son even more. Sure, sometimes it takes us twice as long to do reading lessons, and he can't focus long enough to clean his room. But, what if that very dreamy quality that gets on my nerves is the thing that allows him to imagine the cure for any of the global crises that threaten our planet, or allows him to design a piece of technology that makes life better for us all? So, here's to the dreamers. They don't always live in our reality, but when we get a glimpse into theirs? Well, that's a true thing of beauty.   

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012 - The Year of the Get Over It...

   We rang in the new year last night. It's 2012, a brand new year with a fresh start for everyone. (Also a gory end sometime in December, if Hollywood and that ancient Mayan calendar deal are to be believed, but ya know, whatever. Let's focus on the positive, here.) Anyway, I never do anything for New Year's Eve. Last night was no exception. We watched a movie with the kids and then, once they were in bed, watched a grown up movie all by ourselves. (I know, party animals, right?) Once the movie was over, we went to bed. It was roughly 11:45pm. We didn't even acknowledge the impending shift in dates on the calendar. In fact, at the exact moment that the calendar flipped, I'm pretty sure I was in the middle of a rant about the obnoxious odors one might experience as a result of one's spouse having consumed Chipotle shrimp tacos at some previous point and gagging and fanning my face theatrically. (You weren't there. Trust me. The face fanning, no matter what Hunny says was not theatrical.) Some moments later, we heard our neighbors setting off fireworks and realized that it was, by all appearances, 2012. At approximately 12:04am, I held my breath, leaned into the noxious cloud of shrimp taco fumes, and risked a belated quick smooch with my husband. I can only pray that my activities at midnight will not actually have any bearing on what the rest of the year will hold.
Anyway, sometime in the wee hours, I woke up and started to contemplate the new year. Certainly 2011 was kind of a stinker. I mean, we had dead relatives, sick relatives, Hunny almost died and we've spent the last 5 months learning to manage his dead pancreas, I lost my freelance writing job... I don't think I'm going to miss 2011 much at all. Frankly, 2011 can be filed away as a rather unpleasant memory, and the sooner the better. Good riddance. But, 2012 is upon us. It's all new and shiny. I never make New Year's resolutions. Mostly because I get all pissy with myself for trying to be all controlling, and like 2 weeks in I’m all “Who does she think she is? She can't tell me what to do!” Which makes no sense, and frankly, confuses even me, but it's the truth. So, generally, I'm anti resolution. But, as I looked around in the wee hours, and took stock at all of the huge changes we've been through this past year, I thought about where I am and where I'd like to be. I thought about how things don't happen unless you make them happen, except life, which continues to happen all around you, whether you want it to or not. So, it seems that the only sensible solution is to make a plan. It's perhaps a bit cliched that all of these decisions occurred on the dawn of the new year, but there it is. One good thing that did happen in 2011 is that I started to get my weight and fitness under control. I ended the year 41 lbs lighter than I started it. I'd like to continue to see those numbers go down and my fitness levels go up, but since Hunny's diagnosis I've only been maintaining because I've very much felt that I couldn't handle one more point of focus without needing the nice doctors in white coats bring me the comfy jacket that lets me hug myself. Sometimes it's necessary to take a break. I'm happy report that I didn't gain during my break, but I haven't really lost any more either. I've been thinking for awhile that I need to get back to the gym, get my butt back in gear, but I haven't done it. Why not start that over with the new year? It's not like a better time is going to present itself. Then there's school. We're a homeschooling family. For the most part, I feel like I do a good job with my children. They are ahead of grade level in pretty much every subject, and I'm very happy with the choices I've made for their curricula. The problem is, for the last few months, I've been so caught up in crisis mode, learning about and coping with Hunny's diagnosis with type 1 diabetes, that while we've done school, and the kids are still okay, I haven't been nearly as organized or as hands on as I'd prefer to be. Back in the first year that I was homeschooling, I listened to a woman talk about her experiences homeschooling. She'd been homeschooling for many years, and had taught all 7 of her children. They had all gone on to successful careers in their chosen professions, and were doing quite well. But, what stuck with me most was when she talked about her husband being disabled, and that she had had to just basically abandon schoolwork with them for a year or more, in favor of caring for him. But, she said, they did just fine. Her point was not to get caught up in worrying over the day to day, it's the big picture that matters, and they will do okay as long as you give them the tools to succeed. I try to hang onto that, because especially over the past couple of months, I haven't always had the energy to be the best teacher every single day. There have been days when I've let them do the bulk of their learning online, and days when we've just read a book here and there. But, even though I know they will be okay, I would like to be the teacher that they deserve. So, why not make a new plan for a new year and commit to doing better in that area, too? Then there's the dreaded housework. Look. I'm not a housekeeper. I don't mind doing housework, but in general, I have better things to do. As a result, things around here are either immaculate, or a pigsty. True story. If I'm on my game, I keep things pretty well cycled through, and I keep things checked off my list. (Of course, those are my things. At any given time the hubs and the kids may or may not be included under the umbrella of order. Turds.) But, especially when I am feeling emotionally drained, housework is either all I focus on, or it gets shoved to the back burner. I used to have a schedule of things. Every day I did a different room and at the end of the week everything was still pretty clean. There were no giant messes in general, because I kept things done up from day to day. Somewhere between one emergency with my mom or another, I let that go, and it has not worked out well for me. I need to bring that back so I'm not killing myself to do everything all at once. I also need to get my kids back on their discipline charts. Those were fantastic tools for eliciting the type of behavior that I wanted to see in my children, and in maintaining order, but again, I let it slide in all the chaos. Then there's this blog. When I was getting paid to write? I wrote all of the time. Now that it's just because? Well, who has the time for that? And yet people keep telling me that they love reading my blog or that they think I should write more because they love to read what I have to say on facebook. It's a bit of guilt since I haven't posted a blog in well over a month. I need to update my blog more frequently. I also need to do a little more writing in general. The thing required of me to get this done, is simply to commit the time and energy. So, essentially, all of this boils down to getting a handle on all of my emotional ups and downs and forcing myself to take a more organized approach to life. I have the tools to do this. Why not do it now? A better time is not going to present itself, and besides, if those Mayans are correct, I only have the next 11 months to do it in anyway. Might as well give it a shot, right? So here's to 2012. May I get a handle on my crazy and succeed in getting some organization back into my life. Bad things happen. I can't let them keep me from functioning. I still have 3 kids to take care of and a life to lead. The world does not stop turning just because I'm too emotionally drained to deal with it. Happy freaking new year, people. Things are about to change around here.  Let's get over it and move forward.