Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glamour Don't

We're funny about our hair, aren't we?  I mean, I get it.  It's a big part of our appearance, and it can be a big part of our personality.  Unless you are a young boy, and then you probably don't care about it.  At all.

I have curly hair.  It was blonde when I was a kid, darker blonde as a young adult, and then I had kids.  And either pregnancy or motherhood turned my hair into this very unfortunate ashy brown non-color.  So I fake it.  I get my hair colored, and have been coloring it for almost two decades, off and on.  I'm also starting to sprout some gray ones, so the coloring has become even more important.  I have it done at a salon rather than doing it myself from a box.  Not because I have any problem with coloring your own hair, I'm just really bad at it.  I choose the wrong color, and I for some reason have an awful time getting all my hair covered with the goo--it ends up a horrible mess.  So I leave it to the professionals.

Since a trip to the salon is ridiculously expensive, I always put it off until desperation sets in, which sometimes results in some strange decision-making on my part.

Like yesterday.

My poor, frizzy, overgrown, odd-colored hair had been in a ponytail for months.  I was sick of it, and so I started scouring the internet for hairstyle ideas.  Ready for a change.  I googled medium length curly hair styles, and found hundreds of lovely images of women with beautiful hair.  I was being realistic, I thought, choosing styles I thought looked low-maintenance and age appropriate, and colors that I liked.  I put a few on Facebook to get some input on which one I should pick.

I went into the salon yesterday, armed with my photos and ready.  I do not have a regular stylist, folks.  I went to one girl for several years about 10 years ago, but then she moved away.  Other than her, I don't think I've ever been to the same person twice.  I'm always looking for a more reasonable price, and I've not had an amazing enough experience yet to feel like I've found my person.  Or maybe I actually don't care that much.  

So in I went, same place I went to last time, but different girl.  This one was young.  That can be a positive or a negative.  She was happy I brought in a picture.  I took out my ponytail holder and she started cutting away.  

The pile on the floor was a little unnerving.  

I have short hair now.  Short.  There is no place on my head where the hair is long enough to be pulled into a ponytail holder.  It is so short that it curled up way more than normal, and turned into a ball.  A round, bumpy ball.

She nailed the color though.  I'm happy with that.

You know what's weird?  The whole experience of being at a salon.  I hate it, personally.  I'm a pretty social person, but I feel SO awkward at the salon.  Having your hair brushed, cut, washed, dried, colored and styled is a very intimate thing, and you're having it done by a stranger.  Some lady you've never met before is running their hand through your hair, washing it, leaning in really close to you, and practically dragging their boobs in your face while they wash your hair.  If you think about it, it's really weird.  And the whole time they're making small talk with you.  I always feel so gross.  The ladies are always more done up than me, usually very pretty, and I have come in feeling like my hair is disgusting (which is why I made the appointment in the first place).  They proceed to drape a tent around me, fluff out my overgrown, colorless hair, stand behind me in the mirror and look at me through my reflection to talk about the plan.  I look like a tipi with a head, under too much lighting and no make up.  Then I have to sit there for a VERY long time in front of a ginormous mirror.  And don't get me started on how I look with the crazy foils all in there, when I'm sitting for half hour trying not to look at myself in the mirror...  It's godawful, really.  When they're done, I usually look at least better than I did when I came in, so I pay, get a little gut rot at how much it cost, thank them, gush about the great job they did, and hurry to my car to check it out in the privacy of my rear-view mirror.  Then I rush home to try to "fix" it the way I want it.  It's no wonder I go so infrequently.

Anyway, yesterday she did do a nice job.  She got the color just right, and she cut it pretty much like the picture I brought in.  It just ended up a couple inches shorter.  And my hair does curl up, so it ends up even shorter when it dries.  Thus, the bumpy round ball.

I got home and ran to the bathroom before anyone could see me.  But I couldn't do much with it, so after fiddling with it, I just went out to face the men in my house.  My sweet J gave me a hug and said it looks really pretty.  I think he was just concerned because I looked like I was going to cry.  When A saw me his eyes got as big as golf balls, and he just said, "you look really different!  I don't even recognize you...."  And the hubby said "wow."  I couldn't tell what it meant, but he said he really liked the color.  

It's so stupid, really.  In two weeks it will have grown out a little bit, the shock factor will be gone, and I'll have figured out something to do with it.  It will be a non-issue.  But for now, it's sort of terrifying.

Here's the pictures I brought in: 

The color I wanted.
The style I was hoping for.

It doesn't look like either one.  I'll show you all a picture tomorrow, after I've washed it and done it myself.  I'd show one right now, but I can't bear to take a picture of it.  Short hair bed head is not nice.

Have a good hair day, everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dad's Day and Other Stuff

Happy Dad's day, y'all!

On a side note, I just had to step away to get a rag to wipe up the sticky, mysterious crud off my desk in front of my keyboard so I could continue to type.  Dang kid gets in here and plays Minecraft and makes a mess.  At what age to children stop leaving a residue?  Ick.

Back to Father's Day.  I wrote a post a couple years ago that still says how I feel about today.  You can find it here, you should go read it.  I don't know if I can write it any better today.

The weather today kind of sucks.  We got a ton of rain last night, and the it's still hanging on this morning.  And my hubby has to work tonight.  All the men in the house are still sleeping right now, and I'm still in my jammies, so I'm not sure what we're going to do.  We might try to go out to breakfast, but that's about all we'll have time for.  The kids and I got him a couple gifts and cards, and I'm feeling lucky that he's not the kind of guy who likes a big event where he's the star.  If it were up to him, he'd get a nice sunny day off, where he could enjoy the yard for a while, take me out on a motorcycle ride, get a burger and beer, and end the day watching our DVR shows while eating some ice cream.  He's a really low maintenance guy.  Yet another reason he's perfect for me!  So I'm just going to see what he wants to do when he wakes up.

So we're going to keep our fingers crossed for good weather on Friday.  We're having some people over for a barbecue, and it would suck if we get rained out.  It's also the day we're welcoming some guests!

My chihuahua friend and her family are moving out here for 10 days!  Wheeeeee!  I'm so excited.  They are moving but have a 10 day gap between closings so they're camping out (literally) here.  They have this camper that's nicer than my house parked outside to use, and I'm seriously thinking of telling them they can have the house, and we'll take the camper...  but that would be silly, right?  It's seriously going to be a very long slumber party.  She's got two boys close to my kids' ages, and they get along awesome.  We're a pretty similar family, really.  They've even got a dog to play with Happy while they're here.

So I have a job to do.  I've got to get my house cleaned, and cleaned well enough so that it's easy to maintain for a while.  I know she's reading this, and I know she's going to comment about how silly I am and how I don't have to clean and blah blah blah, but seriously.  I'm cleaning.  And I know every person reading this right now (including her) would clean too.  Because we all clean before people are going to show up, even if it's a panicked run-through-the-house-for-15-minutes-shoving-things-into-closets kind of clean.  We clean so that people come in and think our house always looks like that.  Ha!  In my real, not expecting visitors life, my house actually looks clean about once every couple weeks, if we're lucky.  Life gets in the way, people.

I like to clean (so don't worry your cute little head about it, Miss Chihuahua).  And having company always gives me a reason to get it done.  So I really don't mind.  And if I'm going to allow myself the luxury of chatting with her as much as I hope to, I need to have the house picked up or I won't be able to relax.

I have noticed that I put a great deal of trust in the messiness of young boys.  Because when I'm having kids over, always for a sleepover because it's easier that way, I don't clean much.  I've even recently been told by a little sweetie that my house was sort of messy.  Yep, kid, that must mean I really like you.  I trust that they're not running home to their moms telling them how horrifying my house actually is, how I wear jammies and fold laundry and watch Netflix all the time, and how I let them eat Drumsticks ice cream treats for breakfast.  That got past me, by the way.  I didn't know they were doing that until it was too late, I swear.

The reason I trust this is that when my kids are lucky enough to get invited to a friend's house, I never hear about dishes in the sink or dust bunnies in the corner, or laundry piled so high on the dining room table that they had to find another place to eat.  I'm assuming these things might happen, and that they don't care.

I'm hoping that's what it means.

Because if I'm wrong, then it means that every house they go in is super clean, and I'm wrong, and my fear is true that all of you have perfectly clean houses all the time and make amazing meals three times a day and set the table and gather for every meal and have perfect beds made up for your young overnight guests and I'm just a lazy, cluttery, television addicted mother who should care more.

So I'm just going to keep believing I'm in the majority here because that feels better.

Well, hubby's up.  I gotta go find out what he wants to do.  See you later!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oh, Brothers.

As of yesterday, we are one week into summer break.  One week.  And my boys are already squabbling as if it's late August after a very rainy summer.

It's making me crazy.

When they argue, they go into this high pitch, sing-songy whine that sounds worse than fingernails on a chalkboard.  Or rubbing styrofoam together.  Or whatever particular sound makes you REALLY cringe.  And the things they fight about!  Literally, they are 11 and 12, and still will fight about who gets to push the button on an elevator.  Or who left that empty can on the coffee table.  Or who sits on which side of the back seat.  It's so ridiculous.

They are, for the most part, pretty good brothers.  They do not physically fight (although I did witness J punching A pretty hard a couple weeks ago), and they tend to play together pretty well.  But lately...

Yesterday, for instance.  They have a buddy over for a sleepover.  Not unusual.  In fact, having friends over has become so common that they do not act any different to each other when they have company.  There was a giant argument last night because they were wrestling.  J said to "stop", and A requested that he say "Uncle".  This exchange apparently repeated several times until near hysteria, and there was hurt feelings.  That's when it was relayed to me.

Sometimes I just let them go, if they're not too close to me to drive me nuts.  But I didn't want them to keep going and make their friend feel uncomfortable, so I put a stop to it.  I also have zero tolerance for them getting violent with each other, and this was a little too close for comfort.  I made A apologize after appropriately shaming him (mua ha ha ha).  I then told them my new policy I'm trying out as of today.

Every time I hear them arguing in a ridiculous way, which is pretty much every argument they have, I will make them hug.  That's step one.  Then if it happens again within an hour, I'll make them hug again, but this time they'll have to say, "I'm sorry for fighting.  You're my brother and I love you."

Oooooh, I almost can't wait for the first argument of the day.  When I was a kid this punishment would have been torture for me, so I think this is going to be delicious.  And it's going to be a rainy day so my opportunities should come early and often.

Squabbling is a natural part of siblinghood.  I know this.  I grew up with an older brother and a younger sister, and I remember their fights well.  I rarely fought with them, due to my crippling fear of confrontation, but I remember being very upset by their hollering and chasing each other around.  Hubby has told me about how he and his brother used to fight, and it was much worse than my boys.  And my mom even told me that she and her brother would fight and it wasn't rare for it to come to blows.  Yikes!  If I saw my kids actually physically fighting in anger, it would scare the crap out of me.

But then, just when I think they're never going to be friends, I will witness a moment.

When the kids went to Valleyfair with their friends and A used some of his money to buy a poster for J because it made him think about him.

When I have to comfort J because he's devastated and aching over the struggles his brother is having with school, and feeling guilty that school is not hard for him, and worried that his brother is in pain.

When A tells J not to worry about middle school because he'll be there to answer any questions.

And best of all, when I overhear the giggly conversations they have when they think nobody's listening.

I know how important brothers and sisters are.  Hubby and I are blessed with very close relationships with ours.  I feel blessed every day that we are all so tight.  I know my kids will figure it out.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Old Playroom

Today is Friday the 13th.  And we're being graced with a full moon tonight.  Apparently this is a rare occasion, so it makes me feel a little bit like celebrating, although we don't have any plans, really.  If I was a superstitious person, I might be weirded out by today, but since I'm more superstitious-curious, I'm mostly thinking it's a reason to do something interesting tonight.  But not dance around the fire naked or anything like that.  I am superstitious enough to think that today would not be a good day to go to Valleyfair (the amusement park where we have a summer season pass) because today would surely be the day a ride would malfunction and I would pop out of a ride and plummet to my death...

Anyway.  I'm in the early stages of planning an office remodel.  The condition of my little office is pretty sad, and I use it as a scapegoat for too many things, like not writing, or not keeping the paperwork as organized as usual, or not getting any of my crafting projects done, because I don't enjoy being in here.  My office is actually a bedroom, the only one on our main floor.  But we've never used it as a bedroom, because, well, it's on the main floor.  And there are three bedrooms upstairs.  So when we first moved here, it was an office.  Then when we started reproducing, we carpeted it and made it a cute little playroom.  The "cute" lasted for about six months.  A playroom for two growing boys who are a year apart becomes a breeding ground for all kinds of horrors.

When we carpeted it, I chose this shag carpet that I'm assuming I thought would feel soft, cozy, and inviting at the time.  I was so naive.  Shag carpet in any area a child plays in is just a place filled with millions of deep hiding places for crumbs, legos, and God knows what to hide, and it was also designed to NEVER allow a vacuum to "work properly."  I also chose a very strange shade of green, and for the LIFE of me I cannot figure out why--I don't think I have even met the woman I apparently was 12 years ago.  Holy cow, 12 years.  That's how old this carpet is.
Yes, those are Mr. Potato Head glasses.  He wore them often.
Time flies.  When my boys were small, I went through a phase for about, well, three years, where I was just existing.  I was semi-awake during the day, but unfortunately also during the night.  Hubby worked very strange hours, and I was a stay-at-home mom out here in the country with no escape, and really no local friends yet, and I pretty much went quietly insane.  I showered intermittently, very rarely had a clean house, watched entirely too much PBS (we didn't have satellite TV at the time) and children's videos, and wore only pajamas or clothing that very closely resembled pajamas.  It was a lonely, crazy existence.  And sadly, I was unaware of the black hole that I was sinking into.  I was being a mom.

My kids were well cared for, always cleaner and better dressed than me, and happy, fed, and entertained.  So on that front, I was doing all right.  On EVERY OTHER FRONT, I was a total failure.  It was during that time that this poor room decayed at an alarmingly fast rate.

How many sippy cups can you count?
J was mildly addicted to chocolate milk, and he pretty much always had a sippy cup filled with it.  (For any of you out there who are tempted to judge my previous self right now, keep it to yourself.  He still has perfect teeth.)
Unfortunately, I have this weird disorder where when I find a product I like I buy far too many of it, so I had about 437 sippy cups, and no way to inventory them or keep them all accounted for.  So many would be found by following my nose, several days later, to a stray cup under the couch or in a toy box (thank GOD they didn't leak--honestly, they were amazing) where I would find the culprit.  There are not many smells fouler than SOLIDIFIED chocolate milk.  Eventually I just started throwing them away rather than trying to clean them...  But what's really creepy is that I'm sure that there was a substantial amount of leakage, not from the amazing cups of course, but from my darling toddler's drooly mouth, onto the green shag carpet of the playroom.

The Swiss Miss Incident of 2004
There were Spaghettio spills.  Lots of cereal.  Applesauce.  Yogurt.  Probably bananas.  Ice cream.  Peanut butter.  Yes, I let them eat in there.  They even had a little plastic picnic table so they could (horror of horrors) watch TV while they ate.  And there was the day I'll never forget, when I came into the room and they had smuggled a Sam's Club-size canister of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix in there and were eating it, fist after fist, and apparently spreading it all over the no-longer-green shag carpet and proceeding to roll around in it in ecstasy.  That was a fun day.

So my little carpet shampooer was never a match for the job.  I tried, Lord knows I tried.  But as I sit here writing, I'm looking around at the strange colored carpet that used to be shag, and is now a matted, crusty, musty-smelling horror.  The walls that are sort of peanut-butter colored (again, I can't claim to know the woman I was when I was making decisions 12 years ago) are covered with random kid's art work, signs, chips in the paint, and scribbles.  It is highly over-furnished with random pieces we didn't know what else to do with, and every space is filled with crap.  It's NOT a soothing environment.  Not conducive to wanting to sit in here and write, which is a soothing thing for me.

So this season, I will be starting the process.  Emptying it out, putting in new, smarter carpet, and simplifying.  I will try to stay off Pinterest, because, well, who can live up to that, but I know I will be obsessively on Pinterest, so I don't know why I wrote that.  But maybe it will help me to keep writing, and who knows?  I might find some little treasures in here during the process.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ahhhhh. Finally.

Summer is here.  The calendar may have a misguided notion that summer begins on June 21, but the calendar people are just wrong.  It is here.  Summer begins when there is no more threat of snow, at least for several months.  When all the leaves are finally out and green.  When the sun sets nice and late in the evening.  When I have to mow more than once a week.

And when school is out.

School was brutal this year.  A's first year of middle school, J's last year at elementary.  Middle school was a very tough transition for the kid.  Not as bad as it could have been, believe me I had months of gut rot going into it, and many of those fears were not realized.  It was a slurry of other stuff.

I went to Junior High.  In the 80's in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I had never heard of "middle school."  I'm still not even sure where the idea came from or when it started.  I went to elementary school from Kindergarten until sixth grade.  Junior High from seventh to ninth, and then off to high school.  Looking back, it doesn't make as much sense.  What are freshmen?  Ninth graders!  But they were high school freshmen!  Shouldn't they go to the high school?  

Well, whatever.  All I know is Junior High was horrific.  I don't think I've ever met anyone of my generation who disagrees.  We were all shoved into some in-betweener school, with no preparation for how different this would be from the soft, Crayola-filled world of elementary school.  Here we had to run from class to class without being late, dodging the kids that would try to trip you, or the couples making out in front of your locker.  I would go to ridiculous extremes to avoid having to use the bathroom because of all the scary girls smoking in the bathroom, and if I HAD to go, I would go in the middle of a class (after suffering the indignity of asking for a pass) and get in and out as fast as possible because of the lingering questionable-smelling cloud in there.

I was not an attractive kid in Junior High.  I have curly hair, which just didn't work well with mid-1980's hair styles.  I was not allowed to wear make up.  I was socially immature, still quietly playing with dolls in my room with the door closed.  I wore the wrong clothes, could not afford the right shoes, and was very shy.  "Stoners" would try to offer me joints out of 35mm film canisters outside the entrance of the school just to laugh when I ran away trying not to cry.  Oh, and the bus ride.  I don't even think I can revisit that.  And I was a kid that LOVED school.  I was a kid that counted down the days of summer, eager for that first day.  Backwards, I know.  So although the general idea of Junior High was a complete nightmare, I still enjoyed the actual classes.  When nobody put gum in my hair or passed notes to me about how they were going to kick my ass after school, that is.

So you can imagine my reluctance to send my own, somewhat quirky, child into that snake den.

But, thank GOD, it's a different world now.  The school is lovely.  The kids were kind and patient, for the most part.  The sixth graders are sort of cocooned, and it's as if all the staff and faculty there went to my Junior High and learned what NOT to do.  

But still.  These teachers get my kid for a maximum of 40 minutes a day.  Along with the four or five other classrooms of 25-plus kids they get each day.  They would not have the time to get to know him, understand how he works, what makes him tick, how to enjoy him rather than be irritated by him.  I knew this meant trouble.  

What it ended up meaning, is I attended sixth grade right along with him.

This is getting long.  I'll try to make this a shorter story.  After a horrible first quarter, we started a new family plan of getting on top of school.  I had to struggle every day trying to figure out the whole digital world, with each teacher using the grading and assignment software differently, and me, NOT a tech wizard, trying to navigate.  Ended up that most nights I would sit with A for SEVERAL HOURS of homework.  Often, honest to God, from the time he got home until the time he went to bed, with a 20-minute break to eat.  It was OUT OF CONTROL.  I have to brag on my kid, because he is a rock star.  Never once complained about going to school.  Struggled through homework with barely any meltdowns.  I'm very proud of his courage and commitment.  

But this was a loooooooooooong year.  

Meanwhile, J was rocking elementary school, loving every minute of it, and sort of dreading the end. Here he would watch what his brother was going through each day, and I'm sure he's terrified of middle school now.  I guess we'll see.  

The last day of school I made a big breakfast.  I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and got comments about my performance as a Mom.  I need to clear this up.  I'm a pretty good mom, but that breakfast may have been more for me than for the kids.  I have NEVER looked forward to summer more than this year.  School is over.  We are not in the middle of remodeling a kitchen (phew!).  It was a LONG, frigid, depressing winter, and we are having amazing weather so far.  I have more time to spend with my amazing friends and family.  What is not to be happy about?  So the "champagne" pancake breakfast was for me, people.  The kids just got to be there.  

Everyone, have a beautiful summer.  And come over for a beer and a hamburger some time.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If You Give A Pirate Some Sugar...

So my mom's move is, for the most part, complete.  Now it's just cleaning the old place and arranging and organizing at the new place.

And my move?  How kind of you to ask.  Yeah, I haven't made too much progress.  I started with the front closets.  I did take a before picture, so I'll have that for you eventually.  I got them emptied.  So, in other words, I moved out of them.  Out to all over the dining room and living room.

Aaaaannnndd, that's pretty much where it stands.  I got a few things put back in.  But mostly now there's crap all over the place.  What can I say, it was a nutty week.

So last week I was getting ready to take the dog out in the afternoon.  Pretty routine.  It's been stupid cold here, and it's a  bit of a pain to get all bundled up just to take the dog out for 45 seconds.  So I've been clever and slipping hubby's big boots on to go out.  And this time I discovered why that's a bad idea.  Happy jerked on his leash and I sort of spun around before I could lift up my big-booted feet.  I fell down, twisting my knee on the way, and sprained it.

Holy bananas, it hurt.  Not instantly, but by the end of the end of the evening I could not put ANY weight on it.  The next morning we went to the Emergency Room and found out it was a sprain.  I came home with an eye-sore of a brace called the "leg immobilizer."  Perfect.  And I had so very much to do over the next few days, moving my mom.  My knee felt much better in the hideous device, but wow was it awkward.  I walked like a peg-legged pirate, but with zero percent of the cool factor.

And I am not known for my grace.

Here's where it got interesting.  So the hubby took off to run some errands, and I was left at home with the kiddos and my hopes that I would heal miraculously fast so that I could get back to helping out my mom the next day.  And as I said before, it's stupid cold.  So the kids are trapped in the house, and they're bored.  A has been itching to try an experiment he learned about at school where you can make your own rock candy.  I decided I could handle helping him try that.

You boil THREE CUPS of sugar with one cup of water, making a thick syrup.  He decided he wanted to make it cooler looking, and we added a few drops of BLUE food coloring.  (are you getting ahead of me yet?)  After you boil it and the sugar is all dissolved, you put the pot in the fridge until you get it to around room temperature.  So far so good.

Then I went to check the temperature of it.  I hobble to the fridge, open the door, and grab the handle of   the pot.

And lost my balance.

Flipped the pot out of the fridge.  In my memories, the pot goes flying in the air and spins around several times before bouncing on the floor and spinning to a stop, but I have a feeling it wasn't that dramatic.  The end result, however, was that bad.  There was BLUE SUGAR SYRUP All.  Over.  The kitchen.  And me and my hideous peg leg.  IN MY EYES, PEOPLE!  And my new, mostly white kitchen!  Oh, the horror.

So I start hollering like a lunatic at the kids:  KIDS!  QUICK!  GRAB TOWELS!  GET THEM WET!  WE NEED TO CLEAN THIS UP IMMEDIATELY!  As I can feel my eyes crystallizing shut from the syrup in my eyelashes.

They come running in, I'm throwing dish towels out of the drawer at them, hobbling around like a wacko as I try to run them under water and I CANNOT BEND DOWN to help.  So I keep rinsing their towels out and handing them back, trying to keep my breathing level as the open fridge and freezer drawers are causing my OCD tendencies to flare up.  The sweet children that I have somehow been blessed with are frantically trying to wipe up the slop, keep Happy out of the sticky floor, and not contribute to my meltdown.

When I could tell we were almost on top of it, I had to excuse myself to go shower.  I was turning into rock candy.  Peg-legged rock candy.

And that was pretty much it.  It's never boring here at the farm.

I made it to mom's the next day to help with the move, or at least try in my slightly hobbled state.  The knee is healing quickly, and I was able to wear the brace for only half the day, and we got quite a bit done!

Then two days ago we were packing up some stuff and I got double-punched in the face.

Two wood slats were leaning up against the counter (picture long, heavy skis).  A bunch of family members (moving helpers) and I were standing around planning our next move when they slid down, and in a blink of an eye, hit me on the face, one on either cheek.  You could not have recreated the moment if you tried.  Freak accident.  But AAAUUUUUUGH!  Why?????  Honestly felt like I got punched on both sides of my face.  Hard.

So now I have a bum knee and a bruised face.  Awesome.  I might wait before I finish my "fake" move.

Arrrrrr, matey.  Where's my rum?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm (Fake) Moving.

I spent the day on Saturday helping my mom pack and get ready to move.  She's moving out of her apartment and into a townhouse, where she'll be much more comfortable.  It will feel like a house, a home, and we're all hoping she will feel comfortable there as she continues to navigate this chapter of her life.

I moved quite a bit as a kid.  So much so that it's very special to me that I have now lived in my current home for over 15 years.  It's kind of my first REAL home.  Where I feel like I have roots.  At the moment, I have no desire to move.  I wonder about it a lot, wondering if we'd be happier living in town, closer to the kids' friends and grocery stores, with way less upkeep of the house and yard.  Always I am snapped back by the comfort of our privacy, the space we have, and the work we've put in to make this place ours in every way.

But helping someone move makes you think about it.

Moving is a fresh start.  Packing and unpacking is a cleansing time.  I know it's also a ton of work, it can be stressful and exhausting, but I enjoy it.  It's soothing to my obsessive-compulsive quirks.  The sorting, the purging, the cleaning.  And then, best of all, the fresh new place.  Deciding where things go.  Everything is so clean.  Hanging pictures on the new walls, and putting your stuff in the new bathroom.

It makes me want to move.

I don't want to move, really, but I want that process.  I wish it was logical to pack up my whole house as if I was moving, then bring it all out onto the yard.  Completely empty the house.  Then clean it and paint as if I needed to pass an inspection.  And then move back in.

Since that just isn't going to happen--it's bizarrely cold outside, there's lots of snow on the ground, and well, it's just silly--I think I'm going to try it on a smaller scale, but with the same mindset.

Today I'm going to start with a closet or two.  I'm moving out of my main closet and my front closets this week.  Hopefully I will move back in by the end of the week.  I'll take a before picture because I know you all love me through my shame, and post the before and after eventually.  But that's my plan for the day.  Writing about it makes it more of a pledge, so I really will do it.

No, it's not Spring Cleaning, silly.  It's January.  I'm moving out of my closets this week.  I think next week I'll move out of my office.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

We've So Got This.

Today is not my birthday.  It isn't Mother's Day or Christmas.  But it felt like it a few hours ago.  My alarm goes of at 5:15 a.m. every morning.  I wake A up at 5:30.  Today when it went off, hubby pulled my arm back down and said, "you stay in bed.  I got this."

Oh my God.  Best.  Hubby.  Ever.

So I slept in until 8:00!  I wish numbers worked in ALL CAPS because that 8:00 should look like it's yelling at you.  It was a beautiful thing.

We're on a roll here at the farm.  After such a toughie the other day, yesterday was a good transition.  I spent much of the day on the phone with A's teachers, especially his case manager.  They are great people, and really want to help him out.  I'm so thankful that A is a nice kid.  I'm sure it helps his teachers want to work with me when he doesn't have any behavioral issues and so obviously wants to figure all this out.

I knew there must have been quite a bit of miscommunication.   My SIL1 (sister-in-law 1 out of 3, for you newcomers) has taught Elementary School, and she has told me the wise way parents and teachers of school-age-kids should look at the world:  "If parents will believe about half of what they hear about school at home, then we teachers will believe about half of what we hear about home at school."

Not to say that kids are all pathological liars, but they tend to have a distorted view of things, and they especially tend to miss or confuse varying percentages of information.  ahem.

It turns out that A seems to be spacing out much of the time in his classes.  BIG SHOCKER!  I told his case manager (we'll call her Mrs. CM) that this is not news to us--we even have a name for the world he seems to escape to in his head.  Unfortunately, we have no idea what to do about it.  We have tried everything over the years, folks.  Short of shock therapy of course.  I wonder.....  no.

But since he does do this, he misses so much information.  We are continuing to try different approaches to help him--he has "fidgets", which are like stress balls he can squeeze to occupy his hands.  He has little tricks like a notebook duct-taped to his binder where we can jot down things he needs to remember to ask his teachers.  We're working on it.  I kind of think it's just the way he's made and am hoping he gains some self-discipline as he grows up.

But we had a big night at home.  Hubby and I worked out a strategy to gently change the whole culture of our household, and we actually had a real Family Meeting last night.  I felt so Brady Bunch.

Okay, not quite.  But it felt like this.
Basically we're trying out a system where we can expect more out of them each day, and in turn they can expect more out of us.  Homework is now a family affair.  I gave them choices about every thing we are doing--Three choices of homework location:  Dining room table, breakfast nook table, or game table downstairs.  They can pick where, but we will do it as a group.  Even if you don't have "homework assignments", there is always homework.  Reading that needs to be done.  Words that need studying.

They have a choice of when to do their homework, as long as they start before 7:00 p.m.  They can do it right when they get home, or they can have some down time first and do it after dinner.  We talked about the pros and cons of both ways.  Last night we started at 6:45 because we went to Noodles to eat and have our family meeting.

In return, I said, we are all holding each other accountable as a family unit.  It is mom and dad's job to help them get through school successfully and learn skills as they grow up.  It is their job to do their best, be honest and kind, follow house rules, and hold dad and mom accountable.  We will be giving them a weekly allowance.  Not like we used to, where we had a list of chores they needed to finish in order to earn it.  Now, all they need to do is what's expected of them, but with a positive spirit.  Complete all their homework.  Try their best in school.  Help out at home when asked.  Including, if I ask you to clean the bathroom, no lip and no attitude.

Their reward is a regular income that they can supplement by doing extra tasks around here, and I told them that weekends are theirs.  As long as they finish what they need to do on Fridays, I won't expect much out of them on weekends.  They can stay up.  They can crash in the basement if they want.  Doesn't mean they can be monsters, they still are responsible to clean up after themselves and be respectful, but they'll have lots of free time.

Funny--it seems like a big deal, but other than the family homework time the changes are very subtle.  But they loved this.  They're excited about the whole thing!

We came home last night and spread out on the dining room table.  I went through A's whole backpack, cleaned out and re-organized his 3-ring binder, and had him walk me through how he does everything on his iPad, from checking missing assignments and grades to how he actually works on assignments and turns them in.  I showed him what my access looks like and how I can always monitor his progress and how dad and I are going to the school on Friday to learn more about the whole system.  Then we started his actual homework.  He had a lot yesterday, and we got all the necessary stuff done.  He was happy the whole time!  At first he was a little funny, saying he likes being at his desk in his room, but after a while he said, "this is working so much better for me!"  Goosebumps.

We worked steady until 9:45 p.m.  Three hours.  And not one moment of frustration or sadness.  He loved how we set it up with a pencil cup, all our supplies, extra scratch paper, and beverages.  I loved just watching him work.  He's so smart!  We did a map of the U.S. during the colonization.  We worked on spelling words.  We did two reading worksheets.  I know he can do this, I always have.  He just needs the right tools, the right atmosphere, and I need to never forget how to provide that for him.

It was a very successful night.  Now apparently when hubby ran through is spelling words with him this morning it didn't go quite as well as we hoped, but who cares?!?  I still feel progress.  And man, oh man, do I have enormous respect for the teachers of the world.

Our new system my not seem like Rocket Science to anyone else, and I applaud you all if you have systems in your house that you are faithful to.  I think we just fall into that comfortable rhythm in our house too easily, start letting things slip, and before you know it a couple months have passed since you've even wondered about things.  And after the crazy few months we've had, I'm giving us a pass on this.  And it's all good for my OCD tendencies.  I'm going to make a program in my iPad that will remind me once a month to refresh my "homework zone" and clean out the kids' backpacks with them. And the colored pen and highlighter uses are limitless.  God I love office supplies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Bout of Mom Guilt

I don't know how we are going to survive Middle School.  Yesterday was tough.  Poor A is struggling at school, and we found out just how much yesterday.

It started with a phone call from his reading teacher.  Funny, just yesterday I had started writing about how tough it is to parent and adjust your parenting styles to the changing ages and stages of your kids.  The reading teacher called yesterday shortly after A got home from school.  She wanted to let me know that he was almost failing the class due to several missing assignments, and that the end of the term is quickly approaching, so we have limited time to address the problem.

Instant gut rot.

I mean, not only was I dreading the imminent conversation with my 12-year old, but I was feeling like a failure as a mom.  Not that it takes much to make me feel that, as I am a master of MOM GUILT.  Like many of you, I'm sure.  We're never good enough, are we?

Not to make excuses about all this, but (there's the "but" that says I'm about to make excuses anyway) they have this system at the middle school that is super confusing to me.  Every student in the school district gets an iPad.  I know, crazy, right?!?  But in elementary school the iPads are kind of a bonus.  They use them to fill out their daily planner, occasionally as a study aid, and sometimes for some reading.

In middle school they're very heavily used.  They are where grades are maintained, where the assignments are listed, calendars, notices, all communication.  And most of their schoolwork is actually done on them as well.  I do all right with technology--I'm certainly no IT specialist, but I can find my way around a computer, and I have--and love--an iPad of my own.  But for the life of me, I can't figure out the whole school system.  I'm certain it would be a great tool to help A stay on track and follow along with his education if I used it correctly.  Clearly I am not.

I had a meeting with most of his teachers early in the year, to introduce myself and to hopefully make them understand a few things about my kid, knowing that they would only get him for about 40 very busy minutes per day, and would not be able to build the relationship with him that the teachers in his elementary school did.  I get it.  But I'm so afraid of him falling through the cracks.

In case you're new to my blog, you should know that my first born is an amazing, quirky little spirit who has been challenging teachers his entire school career with his unique learning struggles.  It's been a very tough road, but I continue to be impressed with his positive attitude and self confidence through the whole thing.

Anyway, I figured I was due to do a thorough search through the school programs and see if there was anything I needed to be concerned with, as every day he comes home, we see if he has homework, he does his homework, sometimes with help and sometimes he does it on his own.  He reads every night, he has an extra hour at school of one-on-one time with his case manager to try to help him stay on track, and I hadn't heard anything from the school in quite some time.  I was feeling pretty (falsely) secure.  But then the call came.

So after talking to the teacher and finding out the couple things A needs to do to get his grade back up, I went on and checked everything out and was horrified to find that he was doing REALLY bad in several classes.  I called for him to come up and talk to me, and he instantly started freaking out crying. I swear, you'd think I chain my kids to a wall and beat them regularly with how terrified they act when they think we're unhappy with them.  Sheesh.  I got him calmed down, sort of, and told him about my phone call and that it looks like he needs more help with several classes.  Thank God for band and Phy Ed, by the way.

The talk was very difficult.  He has trouble communicating anyway, and add in some anxiety and it's near impossible.  But I was able to figure out that he had no idea that he was falling behind.  He thought he's completely caught up with everything.  Turns out he had done several things that were missing, but it hadn't occurred to him that you actually have to turn everything in.  And he does not understand that you need to communicate with your teachers.

I ended up calling about four of his teachers and leaving messages that I'd like to set up another meeting for hubby and I to come in and figure out a way to help him out.  Whatever they're doing right now just is not working.  It's not all their fault, they can't be expected to figure out my kid in 40 minutes a day, for four months, when it took his elementary school teachers about six months of all day.

Oh, do I feel close to just yanking him out of school and homeschooling him sometimes.

Again, not the fault of the school.  I am not angry at them, I just need to get more involved.  I was thinking I need to back off a little bit, since it's middle school and he needs to start figuring out how to do much of this on his own, but I think I backed up a little too far, a little too soon.

The reading teacher did call me back this morning.  She's very sweet, and she's going to work things out with him today, and speak with his case manager about making a better plan for him.  I'm assuming they're all chatting about me and him today, after my emotional phone calls.  I was very nice, I just feel like my voice was shaking since I felt like I was about to cry...

But I will say this--I say it all the time--he's going to be fine.  School is tough for him.  It's tough for lots of kids, and we all grow up and survive it and find ways to make our way in the world.  He has a very supportive family, solid home life, and several friends.  He has interests outside of school.  He has talents.  He's sweet, funny, open and honest.  So I know he will survive school.  I just don't want it to suck the joy out of him.

Rough night.  J was in tears after he got home too, broken hearted that the district band concert had been canceled due to weather and was not going to be rescheduled.  He loves his tuba, he's great at it, and was so looking forward to it.  So sometimes it's tough even for the kids who glide through school.

I am endlessly impressed with the resilience of kids.  After all the miserable conversations last night, a pretty quiet dinner and an ugly homework session, A was instantly cured by an episode of Malcom in the Middle, and J was instantly comforted by a practice session with his tuba and his dad, and a cuddle with Happy.

I went to bed with gut rot, completely convinced that I am failing my kid.  Grr.

I feel a bit better today.  Amazing what sunshine and a cup of coffee, along with an hour at the computer, can do.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Judge Away.

I have many rituals over the holidays.  I overdecorate my house well before Thanksgiving.  So?!?  I listen to Christmas music beginning November first.  We have a ginormous Baking Day with my extended family every year.  I get a fresh tree, even though I'm probably very allergic (see this post).  I watch Christmas movies.  Over and over.

One of my favorite Christmas movies, and I'm sure yours as well--unless you haven't seen it in which case you need to see it immediately--is Love Actually.  I only allow myself to watch it between November 1 and December 25, because I don't want to overdo it and get sick of it.  ahem.  So I watch it several times during those few weeks.  The kids had never seen it, of course, as it is rated "R".  But they know it's one of my favorites.

So this year, I was faced with a dilemma.  A asked me if he could watch it.  He knows it's one of the movies I usually wait until they're in bed to watch.  I said "no", and he asked why--after all, he knows how much I love it, and it's a Christmas movie!  So what could possibly be bad about it?

Quick side note:  for those of you who haven't seen it (until later today since you're immediately going to find a way to see it), it's an ensemble movie about several different couples and their relationships, during the holidays in London.  One of the stories is about a sweet couple who happen to meet during their jobs as stand-ins on movie sets, where they must pose in different stages of undress and doing very sexual poses, so that the crew can get the set and lighting ready.  Awesome.  It's awkward and sweet and funny.  But there are boobs (gasp!).  And inferred sex acts (the horror!).  And I'm sure this segment of the movie is what earned it the "R" rating, since when they show it on TV all they do is omit the entire segment involving this particular couple, and cut out the occasional swear word.

Anyway, after A asked if they could watch it, I heard my brother's voice in my head.  During one of our extended conversations over lunch, we talked about sex in movies.  His theory was, why are we so willing to allow our kids to watch horrible violence in television and movies, but we don't allow them to see movies that show nudity and sex?  Is violence more appropriate?

Holy cow, when you put it that way....

Okay, so here's a mini-confessional:  Put on your judgy pants, you're going to need them:  I let my kids watch rated "R" movies.  As long as I've seen them, and I don't think they'll be too scarred from them.  A loves zombies.  I let him watch Zombieland.  We watch Die Hard.  And although they aren't rated "R", the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a regular thing around here, and what's more violent than that?  Oh and while I'm confessing, J loves coffee.  And they go to bed whenever they want on the weekends.  And sometimes I give up on parenting for an entire day and don't care what they eat for meals.  Go ahead, judge away.

But lordy, I haven't let them watch sexy movies.  And I still would be uncomfortable with it.  But there's a big variety of sexy stuff in movies.

So this one had me thinking.  I love the movie.  It's sweet.  It's romantic.  It has beautiful messages in it. I am trying, as hard as I can, to step out of my inner hangups and be very open and honest with them about growing up, sexuality, and love.  So far I'm doing pretty good.  They handled the boob in Titanic quite well (see this post).  So I made the decision.

I would let them watch it.  With me.  First, I told them what to expect.  I told them that there were boobs in this movie (I'm sure they were horrified).  I said "there's a couple in this movie who have jobs to act out love scenes on a movie set to help the crew make the set just right, and so they're pretending to do sexy stuff and sometimes they're not wearing any clothes, but they're not actually doing anything. It's just supposed to be funny because of how awkward they must feel."

And so we sat down and watched it.  And they enjoyed it very much.  Their favorite storyline was the one that involved the boy that's about their age.  And they didn't even seem interested in the "naughty" stuff.  So I guess it's my hangups, not theirs.  And I don't intend to pass them down.

I'm still going to be aware of what they watch, and I have no problem saying "no" if I feel like it crosses some lines, but I'm trying to be thoughtful about it, and allow them to grow up.  It's been several weeks, and they seem fine.  Apparently John and Judy have not scarred them.

But they still can't watch Superbad.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Welcome Back.

I gave up for a while.  No good reason.  About a hundred lame ones.

I want to say, "this has been a heck of a year."  But really, what year isn't?  "It's been such a crazy holiday season."  Are the holidays ever NOT crazy?  Mine always are.

So I'm just going to start over.

Hello, readers!

I'm so happy you're here.  I'm happy I'm here.  I love to write.  I love it so much that I tend to look at it as a luxury, one that I can't always afford.  You know, I'm a mom.  There's laundry to do.  Bills to pay. Meals to plan (note I didn't say "cook").  Rooms to clean.  On and on.

"I'll write when I have time."

I never have time.

So damnit, I'm taking the time.  Selfishly, I am letting the laundry sit.  I'm ignoring the kids.  Pretending the mess isn't there.  Because writing is good for me.  It's therapeutic.  I feel best when I do it every day.  I wish I felt the same way about exercising!  I'd be in such great shape.  Although then I might find some clothes that need folding or a dishwasher that needs emptying...

My precious Freddy died November 30.  There, I said it.

I didn't know how to write about it.  I don't know what to say, and I feel like it's all that I have in my heart, so it's all I can write about for now, and maybe after I write about it I'll be able to write about other things.

It's hard to feel like it's acceptable to write about it, to be so horribly devastated by it.  He's a dog.  Just a dog, right?  I have a dear friend who lost her mom over the holiday season.  I know in my head my loss cannot compare.  I have lost my dad.  My mother-in-law.  Many dear family members.

Right around the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook, I was snapped back into reality for a little while--things were put into perspective for me.  These families were surviving the loss of their babies, stolen from them in such a violent way.  Did I really have a right to feel so lost because my dog died?

But I did.  I do.

I feel guilty about how bad it hurts and continues to hurt.  I hold myself together for my husband and my boys.

My Freddy was my baby.  I'm done having babies.  My kids are now 11 and 12, and the way they need me has changed over the years.  Maybe it was filling a hole in me to have a creature so dependent on me and so purely in love with us.  Maybe it was the first time I fell that deeply in love with an animal.  I don't know.  Maybe every person who loses a pet goes through loss this severe.  Or I'm just a mess, which would not be shocking.

The kids and I were on our way back into town when it happened.  We had been gone on our annual Thanksgiving getaway trip.  Hubby came back a day earlier, and was home when it happened.  Sweet Freddy had been acting out of sorts since Hubby picked him up at the kennel the previous day.  I'm sure he was wondering where the rest of his family was.  He ended up running out onto our road--recently paved--and got hit by a car.  It was quick, likely that he felt no pain.

So the last time I saw him was when I dropped him off at the kennel, gave him a squeeze and told him I would miss him.  I saw him bound in to play with the other dogs, and off I went.  It's good that the kids and I did not have to see him hurt.  Poor Hubby has to live with that image.  He took care of everything for us, like he always does, and now we have Freddy's ashes in a beautiful box, and a great big canvas photo of him on our dining room wall.

We also have a new dog.

VERY soon after we lost Freddy, the men in my life were making noise about wanting a dog.  I felt like it was too soon, I wasn't ready.  But they really were, and we made the decision to go ahead and adopt another one, hoping it would help fill the void in our hearts, and make us, well, almost whole.

After searching and reading, Hubby fell in love with the picture and description of this Shar Pei/Shepherd mix.  About a year and a half old.  We adopted him and Hubby brought him home December 17.  Seventeen days after Freddy died.

He's very sweet.  He's handsome and funny-looking at the same time.  He's quite a bit bigger than Freddy, and much calmer.

We named him Happy.

Hubby is madly in love with him.  The kids are so resilient, I can tell he his healing them.

And I think I am falling in love with him too.  I hope I am.  I want to bond with him.  I want to love him as much as I loved Freddy.  I want to miss him when I'm not home.  I want him to fill the hole in my heart.  Even though I still feel an ache when I look at pictures of Freddy.  Even though, after a whole week of crying, I want to cry every time I think of him.  I'm just better at controlling it now.

Happy doesn't know I am broken.  He's just a sweetie that needed a home and a loving family.  We are giving him that.  My three men love him to pieces.  I will too.


I still feel silly sometimes about the depth of my grief for Freddy, so I don't talk about it much anymore.  I know he was a pet, and that we will pretty much always outlive our pets.  I'm just in shock about the pure physical pain I felt, how it knocked me off my feet.  I try to look at it like it's a positive thing, like I hurt so much because I loved him so much, which is a good thing.  It's good to love that deep.  People and pets.  It's not silly.  Loss is never silly.

Freddy and Happy would have been good friends.  I know it.  And the way Happy instantly seemed comfortable with the level of affection we give him made it seem like Freddy was whispering to him, telling him all about us before we met.

So that's some of the big news from the farm this year.  I think it's changed me a bit.  It feels good to sit here and write this, even though I'm super rusty.  I have much to say, much to purge, and lots that I'm pondering, that I would LOVE your feedback on.  Thanks for giving me some time, and I hope to see you back often!

Just a test.

Hello, folks.  I'm just seeing if this works from my iPad.  I'm going to write today.  It's been far, far too long.