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Friday, October 01, 2010

Looking at the Bright Side...

The chicken coop and woodshed project is done and we are now on to cleaning up a massive pile of logs that Dear Husband decided to pay someone to haul and dump in the side yard early last May. Yes, I said early last May. I have looked out the kitchen window onto a 15'x35' pile of logs for the past FIVE months. He apparently saw its potential as firewood. I, on the other hand, have only observed that it is a complete and total eyesore. An embarrassment at times. It sometimes reminds me of a time when I was in late grade school years and my dad decided to buy an old classic VW Beetle. Included in this purchase was a second VW Beetle that did not have any potential as a car that could actually drive. No, the second Beetle was solely for parts for the one that could (usually) have the potential to drive. And so there the "parts car" sat alongside the garage. My dad, quite pleased with himself. My mom, notsomuch.

And so the pile of logs.... Because I want this mess cleaned up, and because I actually enjoy physical and manual labor, and because I've been bored ever since I finished roofing the shed/chicken coop, AND because I love to run a chainsaw, I have been out helping Husband clean up the overgrown mess of wood that now has a place to be stacked (the new woodshed, of course). We wouldn't want "homeless wood" now, would we?

Until about two months ago, I wouldn't have known a Black Widow spider if one would have approached me and asked to shake my hand. I knew they existed around here, but that was in rumor only as far as I was concerned.

Then one day I had a client inform me that she spied a Black Widow on the sidewalk immediately in front of the door to my office building. But she reassured me that she killed it. Being a bit of an arachnaphobe, I was relieved to know that she had killed it. I did ask her how she knew it was a Black Widow, and she said it was black with the telltale red hourglass on it's belly. I actually did not know this information about how to identify a Black Widow, and never had the need to, as I avoid all things spider as much as possible.

A few weeks later I took the kiddos on a field trip to the local nature center, and on display was a Black Widow spider, and a Brown Recluse spider--the only two poisonous spiders that I am aware of that live in this area. I might add that the Wolf spider is much huger and much uglier, but not poisonous. I might also add that until very recently, I did not know that there is also a type of Tarantula that lives in this state. I think I am supposed to be reassured by the fact that this kind of Tarantula is not poisonous. However, I am really not at all consoled, as it is still a huge hairy spider.

A few nights ago I was digging my way through the wood pile and cleaning up debris when I dropped a pretty good size piece of bark that had peeled off a log in the pile. On the underside, which landed up, was a very large Black Widow spider. I recognized it immediately with it's fat round shiny black body, and it was turned at just such an angle that I could see the red hourglass. AND there were two largish egg sacs near it as well. I later learned that these egg sacs each hold approximately 750 babies waiting to hatch. That's 1,500 Black Widow spiders, my friends!

I did what any sensible woman would do whether she is wielding a chainsaw or not: I put down the saw., tried not to pee my pants, and yelled frantically for my husband to come and save me.

I can't help now looking at this still massive pile of logs as the absolute perfect home for thousands of Black Widows and Brown Recluses and whatever number of "non-lethal," but nonetheless horrifying, creatures certainly make it their home. But I try to stay focused on the bright side, which is that if we ever can get the mess cleaned up, chopped and stacked, even if I get bitten by a poisonous spider in the process--one with the potential to kill (don't bother trying to convince me that the odds of dying from such a bite are remote)--at least I will be warm as I lay dying by the roaring fire in the wood stove.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Treasured Memories

I recently introduced Dear Daughter to Beezus and Ramona, one of my favorite childhood novels. We reached the end last night, in which Beezus is relieved and fascinated to learn that her mother and Aunt Beatrice had a tenuous relationship as children but are now great friends as grown ups and can even laugh about the rotten things the younger Beatrice did to her older sister during their childhood.

As I turned out the light to tuck Daughter in, I commented that one day she and her little brother would be great friends and would laugh at some of the things that he does to antagonize her now. Dear Daughter quickly said, "Yeah! And there are already some memories of Zachy that I treasure!" I giggled at my just-turned-seven year old for her word choice of "treasure" and then I said, "Really? Like what?" There was a really looooooong silence and some crickets chirping in the darkness. I finally asked, "What's the matter? Can't you think of anything?" To which she meekly replied, "No."

So the offenses are apparently still rather raw for her, but I'm holding out hope that twenty more years might heal the wounds.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

No Frills

Perhaps I should blame myself for Dear Daughter's slob-ness. After all, I have never been the pink frilly type. Unlike many proud pregnant parents-to-be who are thrilled to be bringing a little baby girl into the world, we did not paint the nursery pink and buy every girly ruffle and fluff we could find. No, I painted the nursery green and didn't buy a single pink item.

Oh, we were excited to be having a girl, and there was no doubt about that. After all, the odds were stacked against us. Historically, the sperm on the husband's side of the family are gender-biased towards boys. I had resolved myself that despite our crazy attempts to conceive during the window of time that science has suggested improves the odds of a girl, we were likely to bring a boy into the world. Dear Husband's brother had managed to sire three boys already and a fourth boy would come later.

The ultrasound technician seemed to have no question whatsoever. It was a girl. I was beside myself giddy over this concept. A baby girl: my dream come true.

Despite my "never buy a pink frilly thing" attitude, there were many in the family that doted on my baby girl with frilly stuff. Who can blame them? They had been repressed, after all, with no girls to go ga-ga over. I was the one to hesitate to dress Dear Daughter in skirts and gowns and such, especially in the toddler stage. They just seemed so impractical--difficult to play in or even walk in sometimes. I must admit, however, that I adored the matching hats, shoes, and bags that came with some of these outfits. I can still remember my little diva, at two years of age, grabbing her hat and matching purse (and often matching sunglasses, thanks to Great Aunt Pat) each time we were heading out of the house. She was the first to the door, and looking over her shoulder with a grin and eager anticipation, she would say, "Let's go!"

To this day, my little girl, who turned seven just 10 days ago, still loves to dress up. She pleads with me to buy her fancy dresses in the stores and loves to look all pretty. I indulge her at times with the fancy dresses and shoes, but it always seems so ironic. The truth of this matter is that my girl-child is...a slob!

Before you start tsk-ing me, let me defend my statements! While we chose "Grace" for the middle name of this treasured little girl, she is generally about as clumsy as a child could be. She trips over flat surfaces and imaginary cracks in the ground. She spontaneously falls off her chair or out of bed. She lands on her head when she falls off her bike.

Even though Dear Daughter is a full 28 months (that's a full two years and four months) older than Dear Son, it is Daughter's chair that is surrounded by food and stains after a meal and not Son's. And it's Daughter whose clothing is full of stains and not Son's. It's Daughter's pants that have ripped holes and grass stains, and not Son's.

She wants to be a princess, and in her heart she is. But bless that same little heart if in reality she is so much less than polished! She would go days without brushing her hair if I didn't remind her. She nearly always has food or ketchup stuck to her face, and sometimes in her hair. Her clothing, as I previously described, is always stained or ripped. She doesn't bother to check herself to see that her clothing hangs straight or gets tucked in neatly, so it is usually hanging this way or that and crumpled and crooked. She is a nose picker no matter how much I nag her to use a tissue. She forgets to sit "ladylike" when she does wear a dress. And she apparently doesn't even notice when her feet smell so bad that she can clear a room. If it's pointed out to her, she just giggles and thinks it's really funny. She also thinks it's funny to belch and fart like a sailor. I console myself that if nothing changes, at least we won't have to worry about beating the boys off of her in a few years.

But oh how she longs to be princess-y.

Recently the daughter of a good friend of ours got married and asked Dear Daughter to be her flower girl. Dear Daughter couldn't have been more pleased about this whole thing. She got to pick out a gorgeous floor length gown and get all primped and prettied up and carry a lovely white satin basket and sprinkle flower petals. What more could any little girl want? She was on cloud nine, and she ended up pulling it off well. It was an outdoor wedding, and I was nervous for many reasons. The most obvious concern was that she would be wearing a white dress. Somehow, somewhere I was sure she would come up with some grape juice and spill it down the front of her dress before the ceremony. She had to walk down several yards of stairs in her floor length gown as she sprinkled flower petals. My girl, who trips on a flat surface. Also, being an outdoor wedding, there was mud and dirt and grass to attract her. They wanted her hair done and dressed for pictures by 3:00 even though the ceremony didn't start until 7:00. So I hovered around her constantly for those four hours. We made it, with only a tiny stain that no one could notice. When Daughter had made her way down the stairs and the ceremony had begun, Dear Husband leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Well, she's made it halfway through without tripping...." Indeed. It was a proud moment for her daddy and I.

With all that said, what happened today really should not be a surprise at all. Daughter has made mud pies before. Within reason, I just let her be. It was a hot, dry, day. I let her play in the sand and dirt and make a mud pie while I weeded the garden. I reasoned that it was not like that day that I let her stomp in the rain in her rain boots and next thing I knew she had mud sprayed to the top of her head and all across her face.

The neighbor boy had come over to play, and he is a good two and a half years older than my girl. We tend to supervise well when he comes over, for a variety of reasons that I won't describe at the moment. However, as the kids have gotten older, we've tended to relax just a bit on the eagle eye attention when they are all playing. I was busy hanging clothes on the clothesline and only aware that the kids, Daughter, Son, and the neighbor boy, were all playing well together in the backyard. Before I had brought the clothes outside I had noticed the sound of the outside water spigot being turned on and off. I wasn't concerned; it was really hot and I had previously told the kids they could play in the water. As I pinned the clothes to the line I heard the kids talking about being Oompah Loompah's and I still didn't pay too much attention. Then I heard more talk that made me realize that the kids were playing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I got curious now, and turned my attention to the backyard at what the kids were doing.

What I saw was a four foot mud puddle with shovels and molds and stuff buried in the mud and the neighbor boy with his hands buried up the elbows in mud, but not a bit of mud anywhere on his clothing. I'm still not sure how he did that. Dear Son had not a bit of mud on him at all. Apparently he was assigned to stand by the spigot and turn the water on and off on command. And then there was Daughter. She was muddy from head to toe. She had mud in her hair and across her face, on her shoulders and chest. Her legs and feet were covered, and she looked like she may very well have been rolling in it just like a little piggy. As usual, she was oblivious to her slob-ness. She acted like she didn't know what I was talking about when I exclaimed about the mud from head to toe. The neighbor boy had made a fast exit, stage left as I hosed Daughter down in the yard before she was even allowed in the house for a bath. She confirmed that they were playing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and didn't understand at all what the issue was with her four foot mud puddle, the shovels and toys and random objects planted in the mud hole, and the mud that caked her from head to toe. My boy child had ducked out stage right at the same time that the neighbor boy ducked out stage left. I've never seen kids scatter like cockroaches that quickly. I found Son inside the house, completely spotless without a bit of mud on his entire body, as his sister passed through the room on her way to the bathtub. Despite the hose down outside, she was still completely unrecognizable.

That's my girl.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Solitude I'm back on FaceBook. I reconnected with an old high school friend via FB a few months ago and it turns out she has a son 2 1/2 weeks older than my daughter. She also got married three months after I did in 1997. Anyway, she was the only FB friend I had who actually kept my email address and dropped me a line directly after I left FB. We decided since we now live within 25 miles of each other that we really needed to get together, which we did. Then she called me to tell me that there were old high school pics of me posted on FB and she would try to forward them to me since I'm not on FB anymore. So I caved out of curiosity and I logged back in to FB after about 6-8 weeks of swearing off of it. So far, though, self-discipline has been fairly good. I had to post some old pics myself. Something about a 20 year high school reunion in a few weeks. I'm not going, btw. But I've had such a great time laughing about the good ol' days with my old friend. We've actually gotten together twice now, and the kids have had fun playing while we talk about things of 20 years ago.


I'm enjoying the 15 pounds lost, but getting desperate for the next 12. I was recently down 17 pounds just long enough to get really really excited, and then those two last pounds came back way too fast. *sigh* Still haven't resolved all my metabolic issues, heading to the doc to plead for some Cytomel next. Apparently I messed myself up a bit roofing and gardening and mowing in the heat over the past few weeks. Nutrionist says my electrolytes are way off right now and also finally decided that since my liver is not straightening up enough with any of our approaches, I should see if my doc will agree to adding the Cytomel. We'll see. Meanwhile, since working outside in the heat last weekend, I've become as bloated as a beached whale; I'm miserable. We'll see if the coconut water my nutritionist recommended to replace electrolytes will soon have me peeing a river. He said if we can get my liver happy and get me balanced, my goal of losing those last pounds can really become a reality. I've been at a near standstill the past two months and discouragement is setting in.


Life is good right now. I'm enjoying a calm that's been too long in coming. Summer has been good. Enjoying the lazy, free flowing days with the kids has been great. I'm enjoying the kids, period. All the hype of back-to-school is bringing me down. I'm not ready. We're still enjoying the pool and water fights with the garden hose, getting together for play dates with friends, staying up late and sleeping in, and lots more.

Tonight I came home from work and was greeted by my daughter running into my arms and squealing that she loves me. Minutes later my son ran up the stairs yelling, "Mommy???!!!" before landing on me with a big hug of his own. It had only been five hours since I saw them last. They are great kids. As I grabbed my late night snack that takes the place of dinner when I work late, I mentioned to Dear Son that there was an avocado on the counter we were going to have to eat tomorrow. He insisted he wanted it now. "Do you want slices or guacamole?" I asked. "Guacamole" he answered. Of course. He wasted no time getting the lime juice out of the fridge and set it on the counter where I was working with a "Here!" The kid loves guacamole so much that he even knows how to make it. I handed the bowl to him when it was ready along with some chips to dip, and his face disappeared into the bowl for awhile. I listened to his crunching and munching while he downed the entire bowl of guacamole by himself. He turned around when he was done and flashed me a double-dimple grin when he realized I was watching him. There's just something about his yellow curly head that makes it hard for me to resist squeezing him and kissing him.

Daughter was in her room cleaning up and making her bed to please me.

There was no fighting between them tonight. It was blissful. I dared to hope that we've turned a corner. In the next breath I gently cautioned myself not to get my hopes up.

Even the June Beetles are gone now. No more dive bombing 747's until next summer.

Yes, Life is good now. I can just about manage everything and even have time to breathe some evenings. Can't I just freeze frame and live right in this place forever?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Snippets From Our Life

If you were a FaceBook friend of mine, I hope you realize I didn't delete you (or technically your friendship either). I deleted myself. I developed a love-hate relationship over the past year and a half with FaceBook that turned to primarily hate the last six to eight months. Launching a FaceBook page was just a bit beyond my comfort zone in the first place. I'm a private person. I'm not one of those people who feels compelled to tell the entire world publicly what I ate for lunch or what random thought is running through my head at every moment. There were times I would go days and sometimes weeks without logging on, but then when I checked in I felt compelled to catch up and see what everyone else ate for lunch or randomly thought at every moment for the previous two weeks. I'm seriously OCD like that. Before I knew it I would lose ninety minutes with nothing to show for it...except knowing what all my friends ate for lunch over the past two weeks.

There were other periods of time that I couldn't muster the self-discipline not to check in every day. I do a lot of work on the computer. My counseling practice is all electronic except for the part about face to face sessions. What people don't realize is that there is a lot more to be done for each of those fifty minute hours than just the fifty minutes of chat time. My client intakes, insurance info, treatment notes, treatment plans, and billing records are done and kept electronically. My calendar is managed electronically. Sometimes (most all the time) when I flip open my laptop it's because I need to be doing the electronic work that goes along with each of those fifty minute hours. I've never been much of a procrastinator until the past year when I found myself doing everything possible electronically EXCEPT the work I needed to do. I couldn't quite resist clicking that link to FaceBook and reading about everyone's lunch, or checking all of my email accounts to see if there was anything new I needed to know, or perusing Craigslist for bargains, ...checking the weather...reading the handful of blogs I still via Internet.... I was highly distracted and something had to give; it was FaceBook. I told myself I would drop it for a week or two and if I ever still had enough down time to browse everyone's lunch menu I would re-instate it. Two weeks passed, then three, four...and I lost count. Whenever I thought about FaceBook, something else came up quickly enough that I never go to it. FaceBook became what it was supposed to be for me in the first place: not a priority among things that were much greater priorities. So please don't take it personally if you were on my friends list. As I said, I didn't drop "you," I dropped FaceBook. If you were a FaceBook friend, feel free email me directly instead; I'm still highly distracted by that.


Yesterday I spoke to the editor of a local paper in which I advertise my counseling practice. We were discussing the renewal of my ad. They've published my articles a couple times in the past year as well. The most recent one was directly solicited of me by the chief editor to whom I was speaking yesterday. He had asked me last spring if I would write an article for them focusing on why, during these challenging times in our country, do some people lose it and shoot themselves, shoot their families, shoot their neighborhoods, or do other crazy random things while others maintain their sense of "okayness" and well being. He gave me up to 250 words to write this article. You know by now that I am long winded. If I had been given a two page spread, I could have cranked this article out easily in an hour or two. Writing what was requested from me in 250 words took me nearly the entire weekend.

Yesterday the editor referenced that article, and informed me that he appreciated that he didn't have to do any editing on it; he just cut and pasted it right in. He said he could tell I had writing experience because of this and because I got a great point across in very few words. He said that good writers can do that and that I did it well. That made my day.


I had a flashback tonight that was contained within a flashforward. As I cleaned up the dishes from the evening meal, I saw my four and a half year old boy-child outside the kitchen window. He was half galloping half running exuberantly out to the chicken-coop-in-progress to hang with his daddy. I watched his yellow curls bounce with excitement as he ran, and I had a flashforward about 14 years in the future to a time when my boy-child doesn't half gallop half run anymore. I saw myself 14 years in the future standing at the same kitchen window and watching my nearly grown boy walking across the yard while having a flashback of today when he was still my four and a half year old boy-child half running half galloping across the yard to see his daddy.

My heart hurt a bit, and I had to resist running after him to sweep him up in my arms and smothering him in kisses while I still can.


I took my almost seven year old girl-child shopping today for some new clothes. She is literally busting out of all her clothes, and it's killing me. We bought some size 8's some size 10's. TEN! She is just about to turn seven and she is beginning to wear some size TEN clothing.

She ran around to racks of clothing that looked very teenager-ish. The styles were made in her size, and many were inappropriate for teens or women of any age, let alone for a six year old. She grabbed various things telling me she liked this and like that while I was choosing some other pieces for her. She protested a bit to some of my choices and argued with me that some shorts I said were too short were not too short as far as she is concerned. "You are still SIX years old!" I exclaimed as a sales associate passed by. She smirked over her shoulder good naturedly towards me and said something to the effect of how she seemed a bit young to be getting into clothing arguments with me already. I only paused a moment in my mind to realize the dread I already feel about parenting my girl-child through the teenage years to come.


My metabolism is still sluggish. My thyroid is getting better, though. Actually, my nutrition consultant said my thyroid is doing quite well now, but my liver is still suffering, and that is what is bringing my thyroid down. I've hit a wall with the weight loss after reaching a 17 pound loss a week ago. I bounced up four pounds in a few days and then down two again. I haven't lost anything significant in two moths. I'm discouraged except that I took measurements today. While I haven't lost any notable pounds in the last two months, I've lost another inch from the waist and inch and a half from the hips and inch from the thighs. My nutrition consultant said my body would change shape as I follow what he is teaching me and that it may not result in pounds lost, but will result in a mass change. While I'm excited to have lost a total of 3 1/2 inches from my hips, 3 inches from my waist, and 2 inches from my thighs since March, I can only lay real claim to a loss of 14-16 pounds depending on the day. Oddly, it hasn't been enough to drop me a full size in most of my clothing. Close, but not quite. Instead, I am at that annoying between sizes point where one is too big and the next smaller one is too small. I am still determined to lose that last ten pounds that will certainly bring me comfortably into the next lower size, but I am having my moments of frustration when day after day and week after week the scale doesn't budge. Despite my efforts. I hate this metabolic nightmare my body is in!


Last night I got home from work "early" at 8:30 pm. I was opening the window in the master bathroom and saw some deer in the distance by our bonfire pit. It was a momma with her two babies. I had just been thinking recently that we hadn't seen any deer in our backyard for awhile. The kids creeped outside with me to peek at them in the dusk and the husband attempted to take pictures of them with his new camera until the flash scared them away. Apparently he didn't get one good enough to download anyway.

We enjoyed a true RedNeck Fourth of July last weekend. We bought fireworks from a local tent, set up the fire pit and lawn chairs in the driveway to roast weenies and marshmallows for s'mores, and enjoyed our own fireworks show as well as those of the neighbors a few miles in the distance on either side of us.

The afore mentioned chicken-coop-in-progress is still in progress. Dear Husband has been working hard on it while I manage pretty much everything else around the house and mowing the lawn. Last Friday he took a day off from work to start the roof. I took the kids to the pool for the afternoon and when we got home Dear Husband was beat. The underlayment was finished on the roof, but it was naked and there were chances of rain. I climbed up and laid the tar paper before it got dark and laid and nailed the shingles the next morning while Husband handed them up to me and trimmed them as necessary. It rained on us for about half of the time. I've done roofing before, but this was the first time I did it in the rain.

Our closest neighbor wandered over with his son late Friday night while I was pounding the tar paper in place. "You do ROOFS, too?!" He exclaimed. I giggled as I thought about the time he came over and I was busy chopping wood with the chainsaw, and his wife's response about me being the one who mows our five acre yard.

Despite the fact that I had been rained on and tortured by giant flying June Beetles all day while up on that roof, Dear Husband apparently still felt compelled to try out his new camera while I was on the roof.


And finally, I leave you with some images of life as we know it at our house. Don't look too close at Dear Son's shirt or you will see lots of little finger tip sized stains. Apparently he had a few allergies bothering him that day. He has this disgusting habit of wrapping his shirt around his finger and sticking it up his nose rather than using a Kleenex. Yeah...nice, huh?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Turning Corners

The dust is settling! Well, as much as dust ever settles for me, I guess.

The dog days gave reprieve this week to some beautiful 80-85 degree days. Not much reprieve from the kamikaze bugs, however. We are filling three "beetle bags" a day full of those wicked wicked Japanese Beetles. The bags won't catch the ones that are four times larger, though. Nothing catches them; they are practically indestructible. These critters threaten to ruin six precious weeks out of every summer for me. That's about the span of their God-forsaken lives. I know I'm dramatic, but so are the critters zooming about in droves across our five acres. Disgusting!

I've never been a big fan of summer time. I know that sounds odd to a lot of people, but I'm not a hot weather person, never have been a big fan of swimming or other summer sports, and I've already made my point on the bugs. Last week a client informed me that she saw a Black Widow spider on the doorstep of my office. This week the same client came in with one of those giant green June Beetles riding on her shirt. She must have it out for me.

Despite not being a big fan of summer, I am really enjoying it this year. I am loving the long lazy days with the kids. I have been really really busy with work, but I have been determined that I will play harder than I work. I've been robbed for too long of my time and energy and emotional and physical resources with the inane ordeal I've described here in bits and pieces over the past couple years. I've put it behind me now, and I've found a good groove with the work of managing my own private counseling practice. Now I am putting my attention towards living up the summer with the kids when I'm not at work. The pressure of homeschooling is temporarily lifted, although we continue to read, read, read (because we love it), and are doing a unit on oceans followed by a unit on Oregon in preparation for our nine day stay in Yachats, Oregon in October. Dear Daughter is so excited to have the ocean in her backyard for the week. The kids will get to meet their only cousins for the first time and enjoy seeing their Grandpa and Grandma M.


Dear Son has decided he likes swimming pools after all. Last week I took the kids to the community pool and they both played in the water for three hours and still begged to stay longer. We've also gone to the downtown water fountains to play, to the library lots of times (completed the summer reading program already), to friends' houses to swim in their backyard pools and play on their water slides. We've had water fights in the backyard, played on the slip and slide, and gone to the movies on hot summer evenings.

Earlier this week I took the kids to do some errands and just meander wherever we felt like meandering around town for the day. As we drove along in the family-mobile, I looked in the rearview mirror at the two sweet little heads bouncing along in the second row seats, and I felt my heart swell. I told them that I love being able to just "goof off" with them some days. Dear Son's impish little four-year-old face erupted in all dimples as he grinned, and his yellow curls wiggled as he giggled. He shot a grin across the row to his big sister, who was also grinning and giggling. "What's 'goof off'?" Dear Son inquired with delight because he apparently thought "goofing off" sounded like great fun. It was all I could do not to pull over and wrap my arms around him and kiss his chubby little cheeks.

"Goofing off means having great fun doing whatever you feel like doing!" I informed him, and we proceeded to do exactly that for the day.

Yes, the dust has settled. I have the distinct feeling that it's not just the dust from the past several weeks, but also dust from the past couple years. I'm breathing, relaxing, enjoying peace and calm, and finding my space again. In this space there is room to really notice and appreciate my children--to push all potential distractions aside for pieces of time and just notice them, invest in them, and thoroughly enjoy them.

My girl child is so big now that I can no longer pick her up. She is already disappearing into her bedroom with the door closed to listen to music and read books. She's not quite seven. This isn't supposed to happen until she's 11, I thought.

I can still pick up my boy child, but he is over 40 pounds now, and all legs. There isn't much time left for holding him like this, and it breaks my heart. He loves to mow the lawn with me every Saturday, and I envision 1o years into the future, his yellow curls blowing in the breeze as I turn the mowing completely over to him and he speeds along on the mower all by himself.

When they were each babies, and then toddlers, I wanted it to last forever and felt my heart ache at the thought of them growing into "big kids." While I cherished those years, I'm finding a different joy in getting to do more activities with them now that they are older. We can now spend an entire day "goofing off" around town with no concern of when and where we can change a diaper, have a bottle, find a potty chair, take a nap, or have a screaming tantrum. We can just go wherever the day takes. us. Dear Daughter still has this thing about "I have to go potty" at the most inconvenient times, but she is also now old enough that I can let her go to public restrooms by herself so long as I can watch her go in and come out the door. in fact, I had a moment of great satisfaction and liberation when we went grocery shopping this week.

In the check out lane at the Stuff Mart, my cart was full, and Dear Daughter said, "I need to go potty." Of course you do; it's the most in-opportune time possible. Dear Son piped up, "I need to go potty, too!" Dear Son is quite opposite of his big sister. I have to require him to go potty sometimes because he doesn't seem to notice or care about going until he has to go so bad that the pressure makes it impossible to aim, and it sounds like he is going to pee a hole right into the back the toilet. In short, when Dear Son admits he needs to go, it's serious and there isn't much time to think about it.

I chose a check-out lane where I had a clear visual shot of the women's rest room, and I asked Dear Daughter to take her little brother with her and stand outside the stall door while he goes potty and then have him stand outside the stall door while she goes potty, and then wash their hands and come back to me in the check-out line. I scrutinized every person who entered or exited the restroom until they returned to me, grinning and carefree. It was a freeing moment in which I found great liberation in their growing independence.

I thought to myself how some people barely reach this point with their kids and they bring another baby into the picture. I am quite satisfied to have just two. I can love and squeeze two at the same time. I feel good that attention divided between two is still a generous amount of attention. I can go grocery shopping without having to leave them with a babysitter. I am sure those with more than two are satisfied in their own ways with their beloved brood, and I don't fault them that. It's just not for me. I'm not wired with that kind of patience and tolerance. My heart is overflowing with what I already have, and what I have is enough.

I realized this week that once again we have turned a corner, and Life is good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Too Early for the Dog Days!

It's twelve minutes after midnight and it's still 80 degrees outside. I don't even like 80 degrees for a HIGH temperature.


And the gargantuan green June Beetles are hatching again, so I can't go outside right now without hearing the drone of a 747 and without protective head and face gear, lest I get bonked by a kamikaze flying insect.

I need a one way ticket to Siberia.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Dust Still Hasn't Settled

I'm starting to lose track of the weeks already as summer break flies by, despite this just being the first real day of honest-to-goodness Summer!

A couple weeks ago, after we got through the whole chicken massacre and moving my business and the dust just began to settle, it got stirred up again. Literally. I was out mowing the back acreage (in some impressive diagonal lines, I might add), when Dear Daughter came running out to me yelling something that I couldn't hear over the drone of the mower. I stopped, shut down the blade, and idled slowly as she spoke loudly into my ear, "Mommy! Daddy put his foot through the ceiling AGAIN, and it's a BIG MESS!" She looked excited and almost pleased to be telling on him. I knew Husband was going into the attic to fix the motor in the roof fan. It crossed my mind that he has put his foot through the ceiling once before in this house, when he was stringing cable through the attic. That hole was near the garage in the laundry room, where it wasn't that noticeable--which was good because Husband never quite got the patched area of the textured ceiling to match the rest.

When I finished mowing and came into the house to assess the damage, it was bad. Worse than I imagined. I entered the house through the garage, and I saw dust. Lots of it. And hunks of drywall. And insulation strewn about. Husband was on a ladder cutting at the ceiling, apparently attempting to make the jagged three foot hole more straight so he could patch it easier.

The hole, mind you, was right in the middle of the room, between the living room and kitchen, in about the most obvious place possible. And did I mention this hole was about three feet across? This wasn't going to be pretty. Meanwhile, it was the hottest day of the year, the air conditioner was chugging,...and I was looking up into the rafters through the big hole that was sucking the cool air out.

"Why don't we just install an attic fan, like we wanted to do before?" I asked, trying to be helpful. "Isn't that hole about the right size anyway? And isn't that about the right spot for a fan?"

Husband stopped in mid-air. He thought it made sense, too. He stopped and did a little research before deciding that this was entirely do-able, and then did a quick about face and took a trip to the local big-name hardware store to buy a whole-house attic fan. And then another trip as soon as he got home because he needed some different wood trim pieces to frame it. And then he spent the entire weekend installing it.

On the bright side, at least he's good at fixing things. A (male) friend of ours told me that Dear Husband did this subconsciously--to fulfill his manly desire to fix things. So I decided that if fixing stuff makes him feel manly, I need to stop withholding that "honey do" list. Husband thinks that if fixing stuff is the standard by which his manliness is measured, his testosterone is enough to launch him to the moon right now.

And it's a good thing, because that woodshed/chicken coop he's working on is slow business--especially when he has to stop to spend days on repairing holes in the ceiling.

If I could figure out how, I'd post the video of the whole ceiling thing that six-year-old Dear Daughter took with the camera Dear Husband picked out for her for Christmas last year. She likes to be right in the middle of the action with her video camera.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Fanfare Begins

Summer arrived around here with great fanfare and hustle bustle, and I've gotten swallowed up by it all. As Dear Daughter was wrapping up her first grade year and her homeschool co-op came to a close, there was much upheaval on the home front that really had nothing to do with the school year coming to a close--it just all happened at the same time. The summary of it is that I had to uproot and move my private counseling practice. The move itself was actually the easy part. It began with finding a lease in my budget--which isn't all that easy considering I have a very small budget and do not borrow money to subsidize my business. I also set clear boundaries which, in effect, limits my income potential from said business. My kids come first, I don't use daycare, I love to be at home with them, and I homeschool. That would seem to make owning my own private counseling practice impossible. It's not. I just have to be creative, multi-tasking, diligent, organized, committed, deliberate, and as my pastor would say, "intense with my time." Dear Husband thinks I especially have that last part well covered. I once told him that I longed to be bored, even just for a short while. He informed me that it is not possible for me to be bored. When I considered this, I realized he is right; after all, I have a mental list of stuff I would love to do if I ever got bored, thus making "bored" a non-existent anomaly for me.

As I was saying, the physical move was the easy part. It's the notification of such a move to all the health insurances I provide for that makes changes like this a nightmare. It shouldn't be that difficult. But that has become my theme over the past several years when it comes to working with health insurance companies: "It shouldn't be that difficult!" I'll leave it at that.

So...move is done, dust is settling on that front.

However, in the midst of this upheaval, I managed to leave the dog unsupervised outdoors long enough for him to massacre our entire flock of six two-month-old chicks which we had raised from day-old hatchlings. I was dragging clothes baskets and clothes pins back in from the clothes line, had two kids and two dogs (or so I thought) on my heels as I re-entered the house, and my phone rang. Remember that part before about multi-tasking? Well, when it's a business call, I often have to take it--regardless of whether I have laundry baskets, kids, and dogs in tow.

In the process of all this, Cooper got left behind. Outside. Out of eye sight. I didn't realize it for another 40 minutes. It was 90 degrees outside. The windows were shut, the a/c was on. I was distracted by a phone call and oblivious to the outside world. When I finally opened the front door to look for him, there he sat on the front step. With a dead chicken beside him.

As the realization sunk in, I panicked. I screamed at the dog. I ran outside and discovered he had gotten into their pen and killed them all (or so I thought--until I found one lone survivor who escaped into the garage and was huddling behind the table saw). It was morbid and disgusting, and I felt sick as I cleaned up the carcasses of five dead chickens. I was sure the other one fled while wounded and then laid down to die somewhere on our five acres. I figured I'd find it out on the mower in a few days. If I had had a gun, it would have taken a lot of self-control not to take the dog out back and shoot him in the head. I was so mad. I couldn't even look at the dog without spitting at him for three days. But it gets worse....

The next day I put the lone survivor out in the yard in the rabbit cage to graze. Husband hasn't finished building the coop yet, so they live in the garage at night in this rabbit cage for now. I placed the cage where I could see it from the front windows in the house. It was out of reach from Cooper's dog leash on the zip line Dear Husband put up for them. Baby could reach them, which I intended to remedy by shortening her leash, but hadn't gotten to yet. She never pays any attention to the chickens, so it wasn't a big concern. Cooper's had been shortened that morning already.

Unfortunately, I forgot that there were two different length dog leashes on the zip line. In a rush to get ready for work, I assigned Daughter the chore of putting the dogs on the zip line to go potty before I left. She arbitrarily put Cooper on Baby's leash. That meant he could reach the chicken cage. It would take me ten minutes to pull myself together for work. However, only five minutes into the process, Daughter came screaming into my bedroom, "Mommy Mommy Mommy! You are going to be sooooo mad! I'm afraid to tell you, but Cooper is playing tug-o-war with the chicken's head!"


I ran to the door and found the last living chicken with his talons curled around the edge of his water bowl, hanging on for dear life. His shoulders were pressed against the inside of the cage, and his head.... Well, there wasn't one. Not on his body anyway. It was lying on the outside of the cage where Cooper had apparently dropped it after ripping it off its body. I quickly surmised that the chicken had poked his head out of the cage to graze on the grass outside of the bars (is the grass ever REALLY greener?). Apparently this is all it took for Cooper (on Baby's leash) to grab it and rip it off its head.

If I thought I was mad the day before, I was beyond livid now. I'm pretty sure I drop-kicked the dog across the front acreage, but it's all a blur now as the rage apparently dulled my memory. I had to leave for work, so I left the bloody mess sitting right there for Husband to clean up. I'd had my fill of dead chickens from the day before.

I still don't know if Dear Daughter was most traumatized by watching the dog rip the head off the chicken, or hearing me scream at the dog and insist for the next two days that he was going on Craigslist to find a new home.

That evening, Husband began building a chicken cage that could compete with Fort Knox. Well, actually not at all close. Nonetheless, he was attempting to build something that would defy the cocky dog (no pun intended--these were hens and not roosters).

We started with a new batch of day old hatchlings, which are now old enough to go out to the yard during the day their fortified chicken cage that Cooper cannot penetrate. And he is getting his furry butt kicked if he so much as looks at them.

This wraps up the drama for the first week of summer. Next time I'll tell you about the drama for the third week of summer.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


****WARNING--Random Brain Dumpage Ahead****

I recently joined the iphone cult. I have to admit, the Koolaid is pretty good.

I'm working hard at staying focused. Thus, my FaceBook perusing has been suspended. I think I've made a couple brief appearances in the past two or three weeks, but my self-control has impressed even me! If I stay focused on the kids' schooling and managing my counseling practice I can manage to scrape up a small amount of down-time each weekend.

I'm visiting my nutritionist regularly to deal with my thyroid and hormone imbalances. Progress is decent. Still have adrenal fatigue, still not assimilating proteins well, still seriously deficient in magnesium and potassium, still not getting adequate thyroid replacement into the cells...but things are better. I'm in month three of my no-grain diet. My nutritionist put me on an interesting diet that includes next to no carbs, moderate protein, and high amounts of healthy saturated fat. I've seen some pretty impressive improvements over the past almost three months. Most interesting, perhaps, is the way my workouts and stamina have increased. According to my nutritionist, our bodies are designed to burn fat for our primary fuel source, thus we need to feed it adequate healthy fat. While I have been nowhere near the amount of exercise I think I should be getting (it's awfully hard when I school the kids all day and work all night), I am working at it. My nutritionist says "No 'breathless' exercise" as that creates too much lactic acid. I can now achieve a slow jog for quiet a long time without becoming "breathless." I couldn't even do that when I was eight years younger, 10 pounds lighter, and before I ever had any babies. Perhaps the best part of all is that I've finally begun to drop that weight that my hypothyroid condition usually prevents me from losing. I'm down 12 pounds so far. About 17 more will put me at my 25 year old weight. That's my goal: to weigh what I weighed at 25 by the time I turn 40. And getting my hormonal issues under control would be nice, too.

We took a brief hiatus from the grind in late March. I took a couple pics with my new cult-ish iphone and never posted. The "ipics" will include a couple of the kids go-carting and a couple of the kids holding the baby chickens.

Yes, we finally took the plunge. I've been begging Dear Husband for chickens for over two years. Last month we got six day-old hatchlings. Dear Husband has approximately 10 weeks left to get a chicken coop built, and with a bit of providence we will have our own farm fresh eggs by fall.

...and with that...I'm back to work. I turn into a proverbial pumpkin at midnight....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aspiring Writer

A few weeks ago I heard about the PBS Kids Go Writer's Contest and encouraged Dear Daughter to enter. She is one creative kid and quite talented in her story telling skills. It was only days before the deadline when I first heard of the contest, so Daughter had to get busy. She bounced story ideas off of me and we talked about the structure and qualities of a good story, and she went to work. She spent two entire home school days working on the prose and artwork of this project. I was thoroughly amused at the puns she included. Her story was about a greedy fish named Gilbert, but his friends called him "Gill" for short. He wanted all the cool new gadgets and stuff that all the other fish in his "school" had. I know I'm her mother, and I know she is only six years old, but I thought she was brilliant! Her story also had a great message about friendship being more important than "stuff."

She finished it up and we drove to the local PBS station to drop it off because I feared it would not reach the destination in time for the deadline. We didn't think much about it again.

A couple weeks later at Daughter's homeschool co-op, she was practically accosted at the door by a peer who questioned if Zoe had won a writer's contest. We had not told anyone except Grandma and Grandpa H about her entering this contest, so I figured maybe she had indeed placed. However, we did not get any direct notification about her placing. I turned to the Internet to see if I could find a winner's list, but despite a couple hours of searching, gave up after finding nothing except that the local contest had been judged and first place winners would be sent to the national contest and all who placed would have their stories on exhibit locally for a week. I never could find names, which makes sense as these are all minor children. Since the little girl who mentioned the writing contest was only 5 or 6 herself, I figured she was just probably confused. Still the coincidence of her asking Daughter if she entered a writing contest was curious. Daughter and I even talked after I discovered the contest had indeed been judged, that it was a real bummer that she had worked so hard and had not been recognized.

A few minutes ago Dear Husband emerged from the basement office and handed me a large manila envelope. Inside was the congratulation letter and certificate for Daugther's honorable mention in the local contest. The letter was dated April 15th. At 15 minutes before midnight tonight, it was as good as being April 30th. Apparently we had this congratulation letter for a couple weeks before finding it.

After thinking about it some more, I remembered getting two large identical manila envelopes in the mail a couple weeks ago. Husband had told me to watch for some building plans he was going to be receiving from the county any day. So when I saw his name on the envelope, I assumed he got two envelopes of building plans. I left them on the kitchen island and told Dear Husband about them when he arrived home that evening because he had been anxiously awaiting them. He opened an envelope and looked at the stuff, and that was that.

In the next week or so the pile of mail on the kitchen island ended up in the basement office to be sorted. The fact that this particular envelope had never been opened was discovered for the first time a few minutes ago. And lo, the mystery was solved. While Dear Daughter didn't place first, second, or even third, I'm still really proud of her receiving honorable mention. She doesn't get to compete in the nationals, but only first place winners in each category do. She won't get a shot at the laptop, digital camera, or MP3 player, but she received a certificate of recognition and her story will have a week long display in the winner's exhibit in a local art gallery along with being recognized at the writer's banquet this fall after the national competition.

...and I learned to look at the mail more closely!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Finding Meaning in Cold Cereal, Public Television, and Jesus

After reading time with Dear Daughter tonight, I rolled onto my side in her twin bed so that I was eye to eye with her on the pillows. It had been awhile since I had a discussion with her about the Meaning of Life. It seems we used to have these discussions often in the past, as this has historically been her favorite topic for about as long as she's been talking. I guess I felt curious tonight about how that six year old mind is developing.

The first time I noticed Daughter's ability to have a completely logical and philosophical discussion was when she was barely two years old. It wasn't actually about the meaning of life, but about the commonalities between horses and cows. It wasn't long, however, before she began to take on more challenging issues in her conversations...such as the meaning of life.

Me: "So...what do you think about Life?"

Dear Daughter: "I think it's tasty, and I like to eat it!"

Me: (giggling) "NO! I mean what do you think about LIVING--THAT kind of LIFE!"

Dear Daughter: (with a sigh, as if conceding a point) "Oh alllllright. I think Public Television makes me smart."

Me: (having absolutely NO IDEA where that came from and now laughing hysterically) "Okay, so what do you think the MEANING of life is?"

Dear Daughter: (without missing a beat) "Living and loving Jesus!"

She said it as if it's the most obvious thing anyone could ever ask her...and it was a wonderful reminder that apparently I must be doing something right after all!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Freeze Frame

The kids were huddled around me as I worked at replacing Dear Son's turtle bedding with fresh coconut bark. Actually, he's a TORTOISE my children continue to remind me ever since we studied up on the difference between turtles and tortoises. I was concentrating on the task at hand when Dear Son said to his sister, "Look, Zoe! That is you and me!" He was pointing at the pictures of them displayed in the corner of a glass faced cabinet in the kitchen. Dear Daughter replied, "I know, Zachy. Mommy put them there because she loves us!"

I remained focused on the task at hand, though amused. My eyes didn't move from what I was doing, but I felt the smile tease my lips. Dear Daughter doesn't miss a thing. "Look, Zachy! Mommy thinks we're cute!" and we all busted up in gales of laughter.

I love the days I get so spend with my babies. Especially when the cute outdoes the ornery.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Handsome and Nice...but Grouchy!

Dear Daughter: "Mommy, I just went in to tell Daddy and Zachy 'good night' but they were both already asleep in Zachy's room, so I just kissed Daddy anyway. know, Daddy IS kinda handsome."

Me: (giggling just a bit) "You think so, huh?"

Dear Daughter: "Yeah! And he is really nice, too. I can see why you like him!"

Me: (giggling just a bit more) "You can, huh?"

Dear Daughter: "Yeah! And he's only grouchy when he's not sleeping!"

Me: (busting a gut from laughing so hard)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Testosterone is Raging

Dear Husband keeps pushing for more power. He started out with a puny one for the purpose of cleaning up the woods around our property from time to time. Then he got the brilliant idea to install a wood stove and had to buy a bigger one. When he realized that he needed even more power for falling trees and splitting huge rounds, he had to get a bigger one yet. I have to admit, I've protested a bit that the stove project (that Husband talked me into on the basis of how much money we'd save not buying propane) is taking longer and longer to pay itself off with all these chainsaw purchases. Maybe that's why Husband put the new big ass saw in my hands today--he knew if I got to try the thing out I'd be sold. Either that, or he was just too wiped out to use it anymore himself.

This afternoon he pulled up in the side yard with a truck bed full of rounds, some of them at least 36" in diameter. The kids and I pounced on him, helping him unload. There were a few smallish pieces the kids got to help with. Husband and I rolled the biggest ones off the tailgate onto the ground. I'm not a good judge of size, but I'm guessing these rounds weighed between 100 and 150 pounds each. I didn't ask how he got them on the truck in the first place.

When it was all unloaded, Husband asked if I wanted to try out the new chainsaw. Now, anyone who has been reading me for very long, or who knows me at all well, knows that I love me some big ass power. I also enjoy me some good chainsaw therapy. But I looked at the 4 1/2 foot saw skeptically for a moment, wondering if I could manage the thing well enough. I didn't pause for long before I ran to get my steel toed boots. Husband buckled me into his chainsaw chaps and gave me a quick demo. It didn't take much, I know how to run a saw...I just hadn't run one that big before. Before I knew it, I had sawed at least six 36" rounds in half and my adrenaline was pumping. That's when I knew why Husband said he needed bigger this winter. This thing took on those monster chunks of solid wood like a hot knife sliding through butter. Sawdust flew all around me as the motor roared. It was almost effortless.

As I stood back to rest and admire my work, I thought to myself that I should have been a lumberjack! I'm still longing for that log cabin on the side of a mountain in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, living off the land and away from society as I currently know it. I can grow a garden, I can run a chainsaw, I can drive a big ass lawn mower pretty good, too (not sure there'd be much need for this on the side of a mountain). I can also pull fish out of a lake, but aside from fish, I've never killed anything in my life (unless you count that gigantic raccoon I accidentally hit several months ago with the family mobile). Despite all these skills, unless I decide to become vegetarian, I wouldn't survive living off the land without learning to shoot a hunting rifle or a bow...and having the nerve to kill wild game. While I have my strong reservations about that last part, if someone offered me a log cabin on the side of a mountain in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, I think I might just decide to learn.

For the record, if I suddenly disappear without a trace, I haven't been kidnapped; just follow the hum of a big ass chainsaw into the Rocky Mountains and you'll find me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tungsten Rings Online

A few months ago I was contacted by someone from Tungsten Rings Online asking me to promote their site with a link from my site. In exchange, I was offered a ring of my choice (up to a certain dollar limit). I chose the Women's Tungsten Triangle Beveled Edge 8mm Ring. I posted the link and emailed my ring choice along with a mailing address to "Nick" and silently wondered if I'd ever hear anything back from him. Sure enough, a few days later my gorgeous ring arrived. I've worn this ring many many times over the past few months. It still has no nicks or scratches on its shiny surface, and it still glimmers like it did the day it first arrived. As promised in the description, the band is very comfortable, and the weight of this ring is really nice. I've always wanted a nice ring with a wide, but "simple," band that is really versatile. What I really love about this particular ring is the "triangle beveled edge." It makes the ring positively "glimmer" as the light catches the edges. Whether you are shopping for a wedding/engagement ring or just an "accent" piece, Tungsten Wedding Rings is the place to go. They have a great selection of gorgeous rings and offer a lifetime warranty that includes full replacement if your ring is ever damaged during regular wear, and free lifetime re-sizing or replacement if your ring size ever changes. With a deal like that, how can you go wrong?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Getting Crushed

Last summer something prompted me to begin reading the Little House on the Prairie books to Dear Daughter. I can't remember exactly what prompted me...perhaps it was the idea of taking a family field trip to Mansfield, MO where there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. I wanted to immerse my daughter before taking the trip last fall, so that she would appreciate it as much as possible. So I looked up the first book in the series and we dove in.

The timing was perfect when I began Little House in the Big Woods. Laura Ingalls was really close to the same age as Dear Daughter, and Laura really reminded me a lot of my girl-child--spunky, a bit naughty, more interested in getting dirty than staying prim and proper. We are now reading the seventh book in the series, Little Town on the Prairie, and Dear Daughter still loves to listen each night as we find out what Laura is up to.

Tonight we reached the chapter where Almanzo gave Laura her first ride in his horse drawn buggy. As I read, Dear Daughter's face lit up with excitement. Then she couldn't stand it anymore, and she interrupted my reading, "Mommy! Is that Almanzo WILDER?" She exclaimed as I nodded my head! "You mean the one where she gets crushed?" She continued jabbering while I deduced from what she was saying that "getting crushed" was akin to "having a crush on someone." She prattled on, "You mean they don't know yet that they are going to start loving each other and get crushed?"

Suddenly, all the drama of my dating years washed over me. Crushed, indeed! If things in my dating days had only been more like the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, perhaps then I wouldn't have gotten so crushed.

My girl-child continued to sit and grin with twinkling eyes at the thought of "getting crushed." It was so adorable that I didn't even bother correcting her. I did, however, silently vow to cruelly torture and kill any boy who ever even thinks of "crushing" my daughter.

Monday, February 15, 2010


It's cold today in the Midwest. In reality, it's not any colder than it's been all winter long. In fact, it's warmer than it has been many days this winter. For some reason, however, I've been really cold all day long. It could be related to the fact that no one can seem to get my thyroid gland working the way it's supposed to. Not my nutritionist/naturopath, not my medical doctor, no one. My nutritionist/naturopath is still working on it with me. However, my afternoon body temperature was still only 95.5. This was taken at the time of day that body temperature is supposed to peak, mind you. Besides being cold, it's no wonder my metabolism is slower than a dried up slug. By late evening I felt so thoroughly chilled that I couldn't wait to get the kids tucked into bed so that I could climb into my own bed in full sweats and pile on every blanket we own.

With the kids tucked into their beds, I went about my business of putting on a second pair of socks. That's when I remembered that we have some of those hand warmer things in the cupboard somewhere. You know, those things you shake up and stick in your mittens or your pockets in the winter time to help keep warm. Back in the day, we used to use them in the wet, dark, cold fall weather to stay warm during early morning band practice. I decided right then and there that I was going to put one of those in each of my socks before crawling into bed under every blanket I own. As I headed out to the laundry room to dig in the cabinet where I last saw them, I heard a rustle in the kitchen. I knew immediately what I was hearing. "Zoe Grace!" I said sternly. She came out from the shadows looking soooooo busted, dropping one of her Garfield comic books as she rushed down the hall towards her bedroom calling, "I know! I know! I'm not allowed to read Garfield anymore for a loooong time!" She had snuck out of her dark bedroom where she was told the lights needed to stay out, into the kitchen where there was still a light on over the sink. She was crouched in the corner with her beloved Garfield comic books, reading. This was a first. I've caught her with her bedroom light on well past the time she's allowed to stay up. I've caught her crouched in her closet reading with the door closed and light on, I've caught her with her brother's neon light saber sword in her bed in the dark, using it as a flashlight to illuminate her beloved comic book pages. I have never, until tonight, caught her crouched in the dim light of the kitchen with her comic books.

She loves to read. I certainly don't want to discourage that! She began reading on her own at age three. Seriously. I'm not just a bragging parent exaggerating the abilities of my child. She was reading on her own at age three. She discovered my Garfield comic book collection (circa early 1980's) in the storage room downstairs several months ago, and it has consumed her like a savage addiction. At 6 years of age, she reads with enough skill to decipher the words and enough sophistication to appreciate the humor of Garfield comic strips. And she is completely addicted. It's like kiddie crack.

My girl child is stubborn and determined and willing to go to almost any length to achieve a goal she has decided on. Those aren't bad qualities to have. In fact, in all my years of working with severely emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered kids and teens, I've learned to be strengths based in my approach--to see the good in every person and help them channel it through the qualities, skills, and characteristics they already possess. If the at-risk kids I work with have the qualities that I just described my daughter having, I get excited because I know such qualities can serve them well. Sure, these are qualities that often get them in major trouble when they misuse them. But they are also qualities that have ensured their survival through horrendous histories of abuse throughout their childhood. They are qualities that will bring them through to success and see them make something valuable of their lives if they can be directed and taught how to channel such qualities constructively.

Unfortunately, in addition to these other qualities that I have framed in a strengths-based context, Dear Daughter is sneaky. To be completely fair, in a strengths-based context, I would frame it as something more akin to "creative" or "sly." But right now I'm still exasperated and a bit fed up with her. So I'm calling it plain old sneaky. There's been a lot of sneakiness going on in her little world lately, and it's been affecting all of us in this house.

I don't want to break her spirit. I don't want to take the determination and goal-directed-ness out of her. I just want her to be good! For the love of all that is good and holy, my girl-child is a major handful to manage!

I ordered my girl-child to come right back and stand before me. She looked almost scared enough to pee her pants. And then I just stared at her in silence while I tried to compose my thoughts. Somewhere in here, I just knew there was a teachable moment. I just needed to compose myself well enough to figure out what it was.

While my daughter has had the good fortune of being born into a high functioning, well adjusted family, and she has no history of abuse threatening to destroy her success in life, she can still be plain old naughty when she decides to use her stubbornness and perseverance in the wrong ways. I stood looking at her as all these thoughts raced through my mind. Daughter was looking really uneasy by this time.

"What exactly were you doing?" I calmly demanded.

"I was reading Garfield." She said boldly, but not without guilt written across her face.

"So you sneak out here to the kitchen to read your Garfield books after we go to bed?" I asked. Without waiting for a response I added, "And this isn't the first time, is it?"

She shook her head.

"So you've been doing this for awhile?"

"Well, not if you go downstairs...because then you can hear me up here. But if you go to your room I do." She divulged honestly and matter-of-factly. "I can tell by whether the light is on down there or not." She added sincerely. I felt inwardly annoyed at the habit my husband has developed of leaving the light above the kitchen sink on all night long. I spoke to him recently about turning this light off to save electricity and using the tiny little nightlight instead. Most of the time now it is getting turned off, but it still stays on until whoever is last to bed turns it off. That means I leave it on for Dear Husband, who frequently falls asleep for a good while in Dear Son's bed with him after reading bedtime stories, thus making him the last one to bed (our bed, anyway). And he has a bad habit of just leaving that particular light on all night.

Dear Daughter had this ploy all figured out. And she has even apparently pulled it off a time or two before. I recalled at this moment that I already heard Dear Husband scold her once tonight after I tucked her in for sneaking down the hallway. Apparently that was her first sneak through the house to see if I was going to go downstairs or to bed after tucking her in.

I stared at her, this time trying to keep a straight face because I was beginning to find it all a bit humorous--the lengths this child will go to achieve what she has her mind set to. "What do you think we should do about this?" I asked.

She didn't even hesitate. "I figured no Garfield for like a week." She said with a fair amount of confidence. "And probably no desert for awhile...?" She seemed to throw that in to demonstrate to me that she understood the gravity of what she had done. Daughter loves her desert more than she even loves Garfield. She continued to stand in front of me, waiting...uneasily biting her lip. I don't pick her up much anymore because she is 6 1/2 years old now. And heavy. But now I scooped her up and hugged her tight before I set her up on the granite kitchen island for a face-to-face chat in the dimness of that blasted light over the sink. I took a deep breath....

"There's a saying that goes like this, 'Who you really are is who you are when no one else is looking.'" I paused to let this sink in. "Do you know what this means?"

"Yeah," she said. "It means that you'd better not do things you're not supposed to do."

"Well..." I said, "that's only partly right. The part that I really want you to get is that whatever you are doing when you think no one is looking...that is the person you REALLY are." I paused again to let it sink in before adding, "Even if you don't think Mommy or Daddy knows what you are doing, God sees everything, and He wants you to choose the right thing no matter who is or isn't looking."

Daughter responded after a moment, "So you are going to watch everything I'm doing now?"

"No." I said. "Not at all."

"But you're going to take away all my Garfield comics, right?"

"No." I said.


"I'm going to let you think about the kind of person you want to be whether I see everything or not. And I want you to remember that God sees everything." I said. "And I'm very sad because I can't trust you right now. ...and by the way, are you SURE you brushed your teeth...because you told me earlier that you did, but your breath doesn't smell very fresh right now and you've lied to me about brushing your teeth before also."

Daughter completely busted up laughing despite herself. "You shouldn't have taught me how to keep the mirror clean, because then you would have at least known if I was brushing my teeth or not!" She thought this was hysterically funny and continued to laugh until she cried.

For months I have worked with her not to splatter the mirror with her toothpaste spits. She would have the mirror absolutely covered halfway to the top with toothpaste spit spots the first time she brushed after I cleaned the thing. She must be the messiest toothpaste spitter on the planet. She has only recently begun to manage not to splatter the mirror when she brushes her teeth. She has also begun to lie to me when I ask her if she has brushed her teeth. "Yes!" She will say. "I can still taste the toothpaste!" One day after this exchange with her, I took Dear Son in the bathroom to help him brush his teeth and discovered Daughter's toothbrush was dry. See what I mean about "sneaky"?

"You see!" I said to her. "Your lies about brushing your teeth has also made it so that I cannot trust you. I'm very sad that I cannot trust my own daughter. I want a daughter that I know I can trust, and it's going to take awhile for you to build that trust back up again."

She looked very serious and sad at that point.

"So what do you think I want you to do right now?" I asked.

"Go get all my Garfield comic books to give you?" she asked.

"No. I want you to take your Garfield comic book back to your room with you, and I want you to put it away, and get into bed, and leave the light out, and close your eyes, and think about what we talked about...and go to sleep."

Then I lifted her off the counter and handed her comic book to her. She walked slowly and deliberately back to her room, where she stayed.

As I sit under piles of blankets on my bed with warming pouches between my two pairs of socks, I am doing some of my own pondering. For example, I don't know if this will sink in for her yet. I don't know if this is a lesson learned yet. But I do know that she only seems to look onto certain types of discipline as a game that she continues to play at in order to "win" at continuing to do whatever it is that she has her mind set to doing. Even the Love and Logic approach (which I have successfully used with LOTS of kids and parents over the years) doesn't always work with her. I don't want her to stop doing wrong things because she fears being punished or even just because she doesn't like the natural consequences of her choices. While sometimes that's enough, other times it isn't. At at those times I want her to choose to do the right thing because she has solid character and integrity. The stakes on this lesson will get much higher as she gets older. I know I won't be able to follow her around to make sure she doesn't speed when she drives, or take drugs when they are being passed around, or cheat on her schoolwork. I also know that even with solid character, she's going to make mistakes. Probably even stupid ones sometimes. Maybe even as stupid as some of the mistakes I made. But I want to minimize the odds and frequency of her poor choices by instilling integrity inside her and helping her to channel those exasperating-but-powerful qualities she possesses. If she can be bound and determined to make poor choices, she certainly has the capacity to be bound and determined to make the right choices.

I'm wondering how parents could possibly have the energy to see their kids through the teen years. I'm thoroughly exhausted already!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Not a Chance!

After reading to Dear Daughter at bedtime tonight, there were 15 minutes left before lights out. I gave her the option of reading her beloved Garfield comic books or snuggling in the dark with Mommy. She chose to snuggle with Mommy, and it warmed my heart (especially because of how much she loves to read her Garfield comics before bed). As I snuggled up close to her in the dark and softly sang "You Are My Sunshine," I had flashbacks of the past 6 1/2 years. I told Daughter that I used to sing this song to her 6 years ago at bedtime and how much my life had changed since she came into it. I said I had no idea then what I was getting into, and Daughter said, "Yeah! And I had no idea either, until I poked my head into the world!" I giggled as she added, "And you probably didn't know that you'd still be snuggling with me in the dark after 6 1/2 years." But then the reality of that hit me, and I didn't giggle anymore. I'm pretty sure I sighed a heavy sigh before adding, "Yeah, and I have no idea what the next 6 1/2 years brings either, but in 6 1/2 more years you will be a teenager, and I'm pretty sure you won't let me snuggle with you in your bed in the dark anymore!" This time Daughter giggled as she replied, "Yeah! I'll be too busy texting my boyfriend!"

And that's when you could have inserted the telltale sound of the needle screeching across the vinyl. There were no more giggles or gaiety at this moment. In fact, the world went silent as my head spun in the horror of the thought of my baby girl texting a boyfriend.

"No way!" I protested. You'll still be too young to have a boyfriend, and don't even try to argue that one with me!

I still can't quite choke the lump out of my throat.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A New Era

I think we've entered a new era. I haven't figured out the mystery of how Time can pass so quickly and leave you feeling like you fell into a back hole...dazed and confused, spinning wildly out of control, and strung out like spaghetti noodles.

I have a love-hate relationship with FaceBook. I'm not going to go too far down that path, but just far enough to say that as I've reconnected with high school classmates that I haven't seen for 20 years, I'm struck by how...middle aged...they generally look. And you know what that means.... I obviously look middle aged as well.

As all of you already know, I have two children. Two. I clearly can't handle more than two; they kick my butt everyday. My girl-child is 6 1/2 years old. I frequently notice lately that she teeters between two worlds. In one, she is still a little girl, crying way too easily when she cannot get her winter coat to zip or when she bangs her head or stubs her toe. In this world, she still wants me to do so many things for her...tie her shoes (even though she knows how to do it herself now), hug her and kiss her when she falls down, read her bedtime stories (even though these "stories" are chapter books--currently the fifth in the Little House on the Prairie series). In the other world, she thinks she's already 13. She inquires when she will be old enough to have her own cell phone (when you are 30, Dear Child!), wants to dress fashionably, hang with her "friends," and skip off to class without giving me a hug and kiss good-bye when I take her to her homeschool c0-op.

I know that little-girl-world is going to continue to fade at breakneck speed and give way to a big-girl-world. Today, as I watched her silently from a distance, I saw the last 6 1/2 years pass in my mind's eye, and I dared not let myself consider how fast the next 6 1/2 will also go.

My boy-child is four years old now. We hold him and cuddle him sometimes like he is still a baby. I don't know how much longer we will get away with this; we know this is the last baby we will have, so I guess we are making it last. Yet I can't deny the fact that my "baby," who just turned four years old, is now writing the entire alphabet and numbers to 10. He still wants to be held sometimes even though he is nearly as big as a five year old, but his pleas to "hold ya!" are fading and becoming less and less frequent.

Watching my babies grow up so fast creates a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yet, in all my "middle aged" glory, I am growing tired. As much as I grieve the loss of Time to that black hole, I have moments now when I feel ready for my little ones to grow more independent. Guilt crowds my conscious as I admit that I'm ready for them to both be able to put on their own shoes and zip their own coats, dress themselves, brush their own teeth. And yet, even as I say the words, my heart aches with the knowledge that once we finally pass all those milestones (daughter has passed all of these particular ones already) they will be gone Time sucked into that block hole. Gone.

I'm ready for my kids to handle more complex chores around the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the floor, heck...I'd settle for them picking up after themselves without me reminding them to! The other day I actually looked at my precious little boy child and told him how glad I am that he is my baby, and how exciting it is that one day he will be big enough to mow the lawn by himself.

I guess my girl child is not the only one with a foot in two different worlds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is Mommy "Special"?

"Daddy," said Dear Son last night, "is Mommy 'special'?"

Dear Husband snickered a good bit before he replied that yes indeed, Mommy is 'special.'

Last night we went with the kids and my parents to a Japanese steakhouse to celebrate my birthday. Dear Daughter likes to go "order a volcano." There's really no ordering involved; it's just part of the hibachi grilling show at your table. But let her think what she wants. She refused to use the chopsticks with the rubber band and had to hold them the "real" way. She did a better job than I did with them. Dear Son mainly just liked the noodles! He actually did pretty well eating them with chopsticks. It was nice to get my dad out of the house as he's been ill since before Christmas.

This is always a fun and busy time of year right after the holidays. My birthday comes, followed not quite a week later by our anniversary (it's going to be Lucky 13 this year!), followed less than two weeks later by Dear Husband's birthday. After all that neither one of us cares too much about Valentine's Day a few days later. Not that I remember ever caring about Valentine's Day that much before we met or got married. You may remember that I've posted my opinion on that one before: It's a "stoopid" holiday. But as "stoopid" holidays go (Halloween comes to mind), Dear Daughter loves it. That means we have to recognize it at our house.

My creative juices are rather dry lately by the time I pour all I've got in to managing the kids' schooling and my career. We are currently reading the biographies of Louis Braille and Beethoven, and we are halfway through The Long Winter. It's the fourth or fifth book of the Little House on the Prairie series. We began the series last fall, and Daughter will be sad when we complete it.

I'm also busy teaching Daughter piano and guitar. Since I never learned how to play guitar myself, we are learning together. Of course, the piano part is a no-brainer. I'm sure if we continue on the homeschooling path, Daughter will be enrolling in the local homeschool orchestra in another year and a half when she reaches the minimum age of eight. She wants to play the harp. LOL! Whatevah! We actually saw someone downtown the other day wheeling their harp, in a black case on some sort of dolly, across the street. I pointed out to Dear Duaghter that this would be her fate if she chooses the harp. As a pianist all my life, I often asked myself why didn't I learn the piccolo? Especially after moving my heavy acoustic piano across the country and back and more times between than I can count!

We are pretty well on track with our homeschool goals for the year, but it has taken discipline and creativy and, of course, time--lots of time. In addition to piano and guitar lessons, Daughter is reading Amelia Bedelia books easily now and doing triple digit addition. She can tell you about the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War and the journey of Christopher Columbus. She's learning to recognize the works of Beethoven and develop respect for a musician who was deaf when he wrote some of his symphonies. She can label the instruments in an orchestra and where they are seated in a typical orchestral seating arrangement. She can explain how sound waves work and what happens between the time they enter our ears and get processed by the brain. She has learned how to draw with chalk and blend colors and become a part in a dramatic play or interpretation. She's learning how to look up scriptures in her own Bible and can even read them herself in the new Bible she got for Christmas.

And Dear Son is writing letters and numbers now. While he doesn't spell yet, he places letters together and asks me or his big sister what they spell. He loves to "do school" and play games on the computer and draw robots and Iron Man.

While I've had trouble lately finding much time to blog, or read blogs that I used to follow more regularly, I most certainly can see the evidence of what I've been doing instead, and I believe it's been time well spent.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Where have I been? I think I've come as close as blissfully possible to "falling in." The holidays seem to have come and gone even faster than any previous year, and they wrapped up with a blast of arctic air and snow that has continued to trickle down for at least a week. I think we reached below -5 once or twice for overall temps and we've had days with highs in the single digits. I know Dear Aunt Pat won't have any sympathy because it's much colder and snowier where she's at, but for us it's cold. The subzero temps combined with 35 mph wind gusts last week took me down memory lane to a time about 30 years ago and a place in rural Iowa where I grew up. I remember the wind blowing so hard and so cold one particular day that I literally got stuck in the gate my dad built between the house and the garage. I was pinned tightly and could not go in or out, and someone else had to free me. The wind blasted like icy knives that day. I was going to check on our pregnant Spaniel who was nested in a bale of hay in the backyard in her dog house. She was to give birth any day. In farm country we didn't keep pets in the house, but that day my parents took pity on Sparky when she came out of her house with the arctic wind whipping snow around in the air, and a puppy fell out of her into a snow bank. Sparky was moved the basement to finish her delivery with a heat lamp. It was a real farm house style basement--more like a cellar, and not at all like the nice walkout basement we have in our house today. It was still very cold down there, but with the heat lamp on her, she and the puppy born in the snow drift were fine along with the other six puppies that came later.

As cold as it's been here for the past week, it's hard to remember (or believe) that on Thanksgiving we were having spring-like temps near 70 degrees and we spent the day cleaning the garage and doing yard work. We got the Christmas tree that weekend, and Dear Son enjoyed helping decorate it this year more than any other year before. He especially liked the glass ball ornaments. Both the kids love the glass ball ornaments. I never have understood what they find so neat about them. We never even owned any until a couple years ago when Dear Daughter insisted we get some because we just couldn't decorate a Christmas tree without them!

Dear Daughter was playing dress up before decorating the tree, and that's why she is dressed in a strappy sun dress. If it was as cold then as it has been lately, she wouldn't have lasted a minute in the downstairs family room in that dress before freezing her buns off.

I wanted a candid shot of the both kids decorating the tree, but they saw me with the camera and would not let up until I took a picture of their cheesy grin contest.

A few days later the weather turned cold. Not as cold as it's been lately, but nonetheless cold. I can't remember if we had highs in the teens or low twenties the day we decided to stay inside all day and bake Christmas cookies. The kids decided they wanted to stay in their fleece pj's all day long, so that's what they did. This is just one of many examples of why I love homeschooling so much. We can have days where we stay in our pj's all day and turn fun things like baking cookies into a learning experience. This activity counted as Math because we practiced measuring ingredients, Home Ec. because I taught Daughter how to read a recipe, Social Skills because I required the kids to take turns and share as they cut and decorated, and Art because we played with food coloring and mixed primary colors to make new colors.

You can see in the backyard that we didn't have snow yet. Nonetheless it was one of our coldest days of the season until recently.

The dogs were thankful for their parkas that day when they were forced to go outside to do their business. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure that Baby appreciated her parka so much, but at least it helped her control her shivering enough that she could pee.

Our dogs have it much better than my dogs did growing up. Not only do they not have to sleep outside in their own straw filled dog house in the bitter cold, but they actually get to share our bed. Baby likes to sleep UNDER the blankets at my feet (helps keep my feet warm, so I'm not complaining) and Cooper likes to share my pillow. When they are not in our bed with us, they are beached in front of the wood stove. Yeah, they've got it good. So good that when temps don't go any higher than 20 degrees and we still push them out the door to go potty, Baby stops on the step and begins shivering violently (I think she just does it for dramatic effect) and looks back at me with an expression on her face that most certainly says, "Oh HELL, no! You gotta be kidding me!"

Dear Son's birthday snuck up on us quickly. Great Uncle Ron and Great Aunt Pat made it out between their own Iowa blizzards to help us celebrate Son turning four years old. You'll notice the Transformers theme going on. Son loves him some "robots." Bumblebee is his favorite, and he has been coveting a "Bumblebee blaster" for the past six months. He waited for his birthday with high hopes that he would receive this for a gift. When he got it, I don't think he let it out of his sight for over a week. He slept with it and ate with it by his side constantly. We couldn't even drive anywhere in the family mobile without him bringing it along.

We took a trip to Silver Dollar City with Great Aunt Pat and Great Uncle Ron to see the Christmas lights for Son's birthday. We thought it was cold that evening, but I think it would actually feel balmy to us right now. Unfortunately, Grandpa and Grandma didn't get to come with us. Grandpa got to come to Son's party, but not the Silver Dollar City trip the next day. He became so ill by Christmas that he wound up in the hospital for three nights. A month later he is still trying to recover from what originally was Shingles and then turned into pneumonia in both lungs and blood clots in both lungs and in one leg. This was a real bummer for all of us on Christmas as our tradition is for Grandpa and Grandma to spend the day at our house enjoying the kids opening their presents and playing with their new toys with them and playing games and doing puzzles together the whole day.

After Christmas, the arctic blast and snow moved in, and we've lived in a deep freeze for more than a week straight.

Right before the snow came, Daughter and I went ice skating. It was her first time, and for me it was the first time in 20 years--so it may as well have been my first time as well. We had lots of fun. Daughter fell a lot. I made it without falling a single time, which is good, because if I had fallen I don't think I would have ever been able to get back up. After an hour and half on the ice it began coming back to me and Daughter was able to let go of the wall almost completely. While I never spent a lot of time on ice skates, I used to be an avid inline skater, skating all over town in a certain small college town in Idaho. I would skate from one end of town to the other, across roads and traffic and all. You probably would not have known it the other day if you were watching me on the ice, though.

Then the snow came, along with the super cold temps. Work slowed down for me, and I appreciated this because I blissfully enjoyed several days of not even leaving the house. We just kept piling the wood in the stove and snuggling up in our warm pj's and blankets. We have enjoyed playing games with the kids and building with the Zoobs that Uncle Jowell and Aunt Lisa sent Dear Son for Christmas. So far I've built a Zoob-a-saur and a bicycle (with real moving wheels!).

I didn't make a gingerbread house with the kids for Christmas this year, so we made one after the New Year while it snowed outside. It was a great indoor activity, and of course the kids loved it.
And so, as I said at the beginning of this post, I have blissfully fallen in. I love winter and cold and snow so long as I don't have to go anywhere. I don't even mind shoveling snow; one day I shoveled the entire 250 foot driveway so we could see to get the cars out. I could stay holed up for months, I think, on the side of some snowy mountain with a fire roaring and fuzzy pjs and blankets, and it would be as good as Heaven.

After several days of indoor cozy activities however, I did have to go back to work. That particular day that I went back, the roads were covered with snow and the wind was howling, and it was about 5 degrees outside. As I drove the kids to Grandma's house for the day, Dear Daughter exclaimed from the middle row of the family-mobile, "Mommy! Zachy and I just saw a Puffin!" She was so excited that I almost didn't have the heart to tell her that since Puffins are Arctic birds, they don't live here in the Midwest. However, before I said anything, I considered how cold it's been, and I decided that we just might have some Puffins living among us after all.

If it's cold and snowy where you are, cozy up to the fire, pour yourself another mug of hot chocolate, and enjoy!