Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our Day

A sculpture of morning vitamins: by Joey.

It started off as most Saturday's do. In my bed with cartoons on, or just jammies and the computer.

Still, I had other plans for the day that involved cleaning bedrooms (all but mine, I'm afraid) and (the unplanned) hamster adventures and finally off to the Science Factory to play with reptiles!

And other cool stuff.

Robert/Joey is helping to build a dam for the water in this exhibit. What a little engineer! (not that I'm putting a label on him! Sheesh. How can a mom encourage and be proud of their child without putting expectations on them that they secretly (or not secretly) feel they need to fulfill?)

And then home with Taco Bell (shh. don't tell.) and a family viewing (though I sneaked away at the end to write this) of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ... while eating popsicles.

And now for bed and a book.


My Big Mouth or How NOT to Diagnose a Hamster

Reading up on hamster care is just as addictive to reading blogs and Facebook.

My daughter just bought a Chinese Hamster. We got it Wednesday and have been enamored ever since. Though we are despondent that she has not warmed up to us yet. We've had three round-'em-up sprees already. Whew! She's a FAST little critter and skinny. She's only about the size of my thumb and squirts out of the hand just when I think I've got her.

"Mommy, Kanobi is up past her bedtime."

I smiled. "Is she?"

"Come see."

I investigated and found her lounging in her wheel. It didn't actually look normal to me (but what do I know) and I fairly scared my daughter to tears when I said,

"Oh. I think she's dying. Do you want to hold her as she dies?" (OK. So, I over-reacted here a bit.)

She was not responding. When I touched her, she didn't even care (which is not like her in waking hours). I put a little water on my fingertip and tried to entice her to drink some water. We hadn't actually seen her drink anything and wondered if she were dehydrated into some sort of lethargy. She wouldn't drink. And now her tongue was sort of lolling out. Oh no.

I picked her up and solemnly placed her in Aubrey's hands. She is crying. I feel sad and beastly and inadequate to care for a simple hamster. I'm already thinking of buying her another one.

I think to bring the water bottle to her and try to drip out a water droplet on her tongue. All I manage to do is plop some on her teeny snout. She shakes it off, somewhat revived. I replace the water bottle and take Kanobi from Aubrey.

I am taking back some of my prophecy of doom.

"Look. She's walking a bit in your hand. Let's get her back to her house." Wups. There she goes. I manage to get her back. She nips me, I put her in the cage, she washes her face and furiously runs on her wheel.

"Well." I say to Aubrey. "I guess she's not dying. Look at that!" Aubrey giggles through her tears and I hold her until she stops crying.

Oh brother. Me and my big mouth.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day One Detail -- DisneyLand

This was the jungle cruise. Our first ride.

Adventures in DisneyLand

It figures that the one morning of our Disney vacation that we can sleep in – I wake up at 6:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom and the children wake soon after.

            Yesterday I had to turn lights on and the radio on, massage limbs and soothe with my “I know it’s still dark outside but I need you to wake  up now” voice and then have to revert to ripping off covers and quickening my voice to a “Get up or we’ll be late meeting the bus” voice.

            So now it is just after 7 a.m. and the sun is emerging.

            Paul is playing a computer game – a morning ritual for him; and the children have industriously made a fort of blankets over a hide-a-bed and are playing a ‘guy game’ in the dark, with light-up toys bought from over-priced Disney kiosks.

            And I am writing.


            I wanted to bring my laptop in order to keep up with my blog posts and emails but Paul wanted to bring his own and I thought it silly to bring two.

            “I can just use yours – I just need to get online once in awhile.” How na├»ve.

            The only time he was briefly not on it was Night Two after a Disney Day of such exhaustion that I fell asleep at 8 p.m. Not a chance of blogging that night. I couldn’t even read my annotated copy of “Pride and Prejudice”.

You know, the one with all the answers and definitions supplied along the way, so you know what “accustomed circuit” means. Or “nobler fall of ground” or that “impropriety of expression” means Mr. Darcy’s facial expression was one of ‘proud haughtiness’.

            My favorite in last night’s reading was:  “agitations of former partiality.” You gotta love Jane Austen-speak. David M. Shapard – the annotator and editor of said book – says Jane Austen meant:  “the agitated emotions caused by her (Elizabeth) having been partial to him (Darcy).

            It is a great help to have Mr. Shapard whispering interpretations to me while I read Jane Austen’s greatest tome.

            Our trip has been fraught with adventure of all sorts. From the minor, but painful pre-blister rubbings that both my daughter and I got from walking so far in hot weather in either a skirt or rough-fabriced shorts --we had to wear large band-aids and adjust our wardrobe accordingly the next day – to the first of our maniac adventures. That one turned out to be inconvenient for others besides ourselves.

            We were driving to Seattle at night, perhaps 8 p.m., when my power steering went out followed by a giant shift in temperature. We were overheating. And not in the gradual “I hope we can make it to the next town and gas station before it gets dangerously high.” It was BAM! Red zone.

            We stopped the van long enough to discover that we weren’t out of coolant – it had to be a belt or something. We slowly drove to the mercifully close-by rest stop.

            For those interested, the Toutle River Safety Rest Area serves hot coffee, apple cider and cookies from a staffed booth that would not let us come in and stay warm. Safety reasons, I suppose. Our family of four trailing luggage for a week could’ve been ax murderers.

            We called a tow-truck with my roadside assistance. And then, my mom.

            We were supposed to stay the night with her and then fly out of Seattle the next day. After several phone calls to roadside assistance, the towing company, the tower and his wife, and my mom – Oy Vey – we settled on a plan.

            The tow truck would come get the van and my mom would start driving to come pick us all up. But since she was still over a hundred miles away, that would’ve put us at night, in the super cold parking lot of Toutle River Safety Rest Area with only cookies and cider to sustain us, and echoes of the possible dangers that accompany rest stops.

            So the tower’s wife came, too. She drove a separate rig and drove us and our luggage all to a truck stop. We ate chicken strips and hashbrowns and truck stop cheeseburgers until my mom showed up an hour later.

            Disaster averted. Well, the disaster of missing our plane anyway. We laughed the rest off as part of our adventure.

            Further adventures included  a  45 minute wait for Space Mountain , only to be turned away at the end with a fire alarm and evacuation of the building.

            “Probably some 8 year old kid pulled the fire alarm,” Paul said.

            And two of our most-looked-forward-to rides were closed for regular maintenance to be opened next week. Well, that didn’t help us.

            But the last day of our park days await and the shower beckons, so I will close with the anticipation of what adventures this day will bring.

How to Grow a Tiger


How to Make a Zombie

Be aware that blood tickles.

Voila! One ...

Happy Zombie.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who Was the Brat? Me, or Her?

I had a rough morning with Aubrey today. 

She was fine until she went to get dressed. She came back down half-dressed and said,

"You got my clothes all wrong!"

And here is where I first erred. I said,

"You said you wanted a shirt and skirt and a pair of pants to wear under it."

"No I didn't. I said I wanted a shirt and pants." (Note: she came down in shirt and skirt -- not the pants I had also laid out for her.)

"I remember you said skirt, because I thought that different than you normally wear." I smiled and held out my hand to help her off of the floor. (The floor is where she flops when she does her passive aggressive thing.) She pulled her shirt over her head.

"Fine. But how can I help you now?" I said. She groaned under her shirt. I didn't have the patience for this. The carpool would be here in nine minutes. 

"Ok. Get ready yourself then. Your breakfast is on the table and I made your lunch." And I sat down again to my computer and continued my project.

"I'm going to go upstairs and I'm not coming out until tomorrow morning!" Stomp, stomp. (Though quietly 'cuz her brother and our roommate were sleeping.)

"No," I called after her. "That's not possible."

Ahem. What I should've said WAY back at "You got my clothes all wrong" was: "Oh Well." or "Oops." None of this banter back and forth. You said, No, You said.

And the drama continues:

I went upstairs to find her after a couple of minutes because the carpool was due any time, though frequently late. I found her sitting on her bed; the only concession to getting ready for this morning was one sock on that wasn't before.

"I just want to remind you that when she gets here, you are leaving as you are. It's one thing to make yourself late, but you can't make others late." I turned to walk away.

"She doesn't have to pick me up," came her sullen reply. Now she was sitting on the floor with one sock in her hand. I turned my head back.

"Yes, she does. That is the arrangement we have." (She drives in the morning, I pick up after school -- because she works a full day out of the home and can't pick up after school.)

"BEEEP!" she said, shrilly.  She's taken to saying this in place of swear words. I suppose I should be thankful.

Aubrey eventually came back down stairs fully dressed. I offered her a scarf and hat to wear over her wet hair. She wanted a different hat. Ok. I managed that. (BTW, she lost her hat after two days of having it, so I was loaning her a hat from a stack that I didn't mind terribly if they didn't return. She picked the one I'd most hate to lose from that pile.)

Then she wanted gloves.

I buy her gloves. Like, three pairs a year. Even Santa put gloves in her stocking this year.

Still, she has no gloves.

"I don't know where your gloves are. I don't know where you put them. I put mine in the pockets of my coat. They are always there. That's where they go. I don't know why you don't put yours there." A bit self-righteous. But what can I truly expect from myself without my coffee.

Aubrey flopped on the floor again at the door and went all weepy. She looks through her lunch box I have sitting by the front door and removes something.

"I don't want this over ripe banana!" (It was the second time I had slipped it into her lunch. For the record, it is not overripe. And I know that bananas are not her favorite, but it's food and it's what we had.) I went and looked for gloves.

I think I'm noticing a trend here.

Just yesterday, Aubrey said that she wanted to start making her own lunches and she wanted to make them at night. Maybe I'll let go of that responsibility and let her. (But what if I forget to remind her the night before and she -- and I -- don't get up in time for her to make it in the morning? Won't she just slip back into her -- and me -- expecting me to do it?)

And usually she picks out her clothes, but since I'd gotten her up late and she still needed to shower, it usually works -- in these cases -- to just grab something and start the water for her. It helps wake her up and she's usually in a much better morning mood on mornings when she showers.

So let me finish the morning scene for you, so I can say what prompted me to write this post this morning.

She sits at the breakfast table, staring at the cereal boxes. I am waiting by the window to see when our neighbor's car pulls up so that her son doesn't knock on the door, get the dog barking and wake up my home-schooled son. (On mornings like these, I want him to sleep llaaattteee.)

I am always worried that when my neighbor is late picking up Aubrey for carpool, she has forgotten her. Even though we are pressing six weeks now at this arrangement. I still worry. So I'm at the window fretting about the consequences to Aubrey when she's late for school-- that I feel a little powerless to control (other than driving her myself -- but then there are two cars being driven all the way across town and I'd be responsible for more global warming than their could be). And I'm again wondering if the carpool forgot her. 

Aubrey walks in the office holding out a frosted mini wheat. A peace offering.

"Do you want this?"

"No. I can't. It's got gluten." She droops.

I offer her a prime spot.

"Here. Stand here over the vent. It's blowing hot air. Warm, huh?" I smile. She smiles.

She sits down to do something and pretty soon I see the car drive up.

"She's here," I say and hustle out of the room.  I grab her banana and put it back in her lunch. She didn't have a breakfast -- a few dry mini-wheats is not a breakfast -- and I thought that if she was really hungry later in the day, she'd be thankful to have it.

"She's here! Come on! What are you doing?"

"I'm coming!" she growled. I handed her her lunch basket. She took the banana out and thrust it at me.

"I don't want this!" She walked off to the car.

"I just thought you might want it later when you got hungry!" I yelled out. I truly was trying to be helpful. Though I can almost guarantee you she thought I was being an ass ... ah, I mean, brat. "Bye," I said to myself and closed the door. After I rolled my eyes.

So, it has been an hour now since she left and all I can really think of -- thus this post -- is that I didn't give her a hug.

Yeah, I told her to have a good day and that I'd see her later when I picked them up ... and come to think of it, I don't remember if I said I love you this morning either. And I didn't give her a hug good-bye. Or a hug I'm sorry. Or a hug I love you anyway. Or a hug I love you just the way you are. Or a hug I love you even when you don't love me.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back to Home School Week

This week sucked a little bit.  Getting the kids back to school after the holidays is somewhat of a reversal of action, deed and thought.  

Case in point:  re-establishing bed times so that your child can get up in time for school the next day; getting up in time to get the kids up in time -- I worried so much two days before school started that I had dreams about forgetting to drive the carpool to school the first day back!; and bringing back lunch brain. ("What can I make for her lunch?" at 7 a.m. when you've finally been able to sleep in to 8:30 a.m. for the last two weeks -- for the first time in eleven years -- is a surprisingly difficult task. I kid you not.)

But getting your home-schooled kid back into school mode after two weeks bites.

Here was our week:

Monday -- (which was actually a no school day and therefore maybe shouldn't be on our list)

*folded two or three more loads of laundry
*talked to Robert about HomeSource
*settled on 1st and 2nd and 3rd choices for classes
*snuggled in bed with Robert
*helped Aubrey and Rober put away their laundry
*put away the socks and towels and linens
(this was after I put away everything but MY clothes!)

*went to the post office to mail a package
*grocery shopping
*looked for registration ticket for HomeSource registration night
*called HomeSource with questions
*edited some manuscript
*went to writer's critique group
*vacuumed and dusted my office
*returned Blockbuster stuff

Tuesday -- (first day back to school, and 'no', I didn't forget the carpool.)

*Spanish (Robert's first session on Rosetta Stone)
*Watched an EyeWitness Science video
*Labeled Robert's dresser drawers with a labeler (Robert's idea and he put the stickers on)
*played board games:  WildCraft and Sorry!

Wednesday -- 

*played Monopoly and Phase 10 with Dad
*went to Bounce Gymnastics for open gym with other homeschoolers
*played W.o.W. (online computer game)

Thursday --

*watched a Science video
*watched a PBS "WordWorld" cartoon
*I read "Mythical Monsters" (1/2 the book) to Robert
*we talked about imagination, he gurgled milk and ate lunch together.
*we both went through our books and separated out a box full to give away to "Books for Kids", a local group that collects books for the non-profits around town.
(then I went to Willamette Writers monthly meeting.)

Friday --

*Robert did this really neat sorting activity he did all by himself, though sometimes he'd enlist my aid. "Where do you think Harmony should go?"

He was taking "angel" cards and putting all the words in categories that were similar.  For instance: joy, spontaneous, and play were all in the same column. 

*Home School Swim at Sheldon Pool.
*Went to the library.

Saturday --

*cleaned bedrooms (not mine though ... sigh)
*took down the Christmas ornaments and the tree
*vacuumed again and moved furniture back to where it was pre-tree
*changed the altar from Solstice-y to Imbolc/Valentine's Day-y

*had friends over to watch a movie

And today I'm blahing. :)
I chatted with my sister online, I'm blogging, I read the newspaper, I read to the kids for a bit during our lunch together.
Mostly I'm tired.

"So That I Know I Did Something Today"

My vibrant mother-in-law and I sat down one morning before the children were up (she was visiting us for the holidays) and talked about goal-setting, among other things.

One of the things she encouraged me to do was to write down everything I did that day before I went to bed.  This action would remind me that I'm active and every day doing things that matter.  That the big scary 'to do' list that doesn't get enough check marks and constantly reminds me what I haven't done needs to be replaced with the what I have done list.

And so on January 2nd I compiled this list before retiring:

1.  I re-added a blog roll list to my Insane Parents Unite! blog. I lost all my features when I tried to change the layout.

2.  played Parchessi and Uno with Robert.

3.  Read a few Garfield comics to Robert.

4.  Read 2 chapters of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH to Aubrey.

5.  Took Aubrey to SpiralScouts meeting.

6.  Watch "The Shipping News" for myself.

7.  Finished straightening and organizing my office!  Hooray for me! (I wanted to spend all day in there just being in the clean space.)

8.  I hurt Robert today and he cried. (Of course this is all I remembered of the day.) He wouldn't let go of another child's toy and the child's father intervened and requested Robert give it back twice. By the time I got there I was so embarrassed at his ill behavior  that I squeezed his hand with my thumb nail (which I keep extremely short, for the record) until he let go for the pain of it.

When we got home I hugged him and kissed him and apologized for hurting him. I took full responsibility. I said it was very wrong of me to do and did it because I couldn't think of anything else to do.  That I was embarrassed and did he forgive me?

I don't think he did.

But we hugged a bit more and played a game afterward.

I feel like a failure.  I'm trying so hard to teach Robert to ask for help when he feels angry or frustrated; that it's not ok to use violence to get what you want or to prove a point; and look what I did today.

What if I've scarred him so that he has emotional wounds? Perhaps he won't trust me anymore. Perhaps he'll feel so wounded and hurt that he'll hole up inside himself and never trust the outside world again. He'll be alone and afraid and so depressed he may kill himself.

Because I hurt him.


Because this wasn't the first time I've lost my temper or gotten so frustrated I've grabbed him, or forcefully put him on the couch or his bed, or brushed his teeth for him, or pulled him by the arm to where I wanted him to be.

It's so undignified -- for both him and me. I wish on the Mother Goddess -- whom I apply to for strength and wisdom -- that I never had done any of these things nor that I ever will again.

I want to be the mom that instead of physically hurting and emotionally (and publicly) humiliates a child, would quietly go to him, gently stroke his hand, explain the situation and my perception as I saw it then ("You want to try this toy before you leave, don't you? You saw how much fun Aubrey was having and you wanted a turn, too.") and together resolve it. ("Would you like to see how it works and try it out while I load the car? And then we'll go?")

That kind of mom I would be proud to be.

Instead I am stuck with old parenting brain of being embarrassed when other parents see me lose control of my children.

I wonder if I can look up online some tools to use regarding opposition or defiance.

Because when Robert feels trapped in a corner and out of control -- whether because he's so wound up he can't calm down by himself or because an adult has taken his power away, he becomes oppositional and defiant.

Now the object is to prevent him from feeling out of control and trapped in a corner, but once he's there, how can I help diffuse the situation?

9.  I sat at the dinner table with Robert, Aubrey and Steve and had dinner together.

10. I snuggled and nurtured Robert when he woke early this morning -- despite my desire to go back to bed.

11. I made sure Robert had toys and food before going over to Shane's house (and during, too) to head off any food melt-downs.

12. I talked to Robert about Shane not letting Robert play with his things and why and we (along with Aubrey) brainstormed some ideas and role-played them.  (I think I talked too much.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Some Christmas Love

This year we all tried hand making our gifts to each other. We didn't quite make it, though our stipulation is that if WE didn't handmake it, then we can purchase a handmade thing. 

So here I am sporting a poncho from Paul that he picked up for me on his recent trip to Peru with his daughter, Aniela.  And the beautiful flower clip was made by Aniela for me. She sells them to the public, too.  Awesome! (Someday I will have the gumption to do this, too -- sell my art.)

Aubrey made this pillow for Robert. He loves its soft fuzziness.

Aubrey wrote a Christmas poem for Paul.
And I made this apron for Aubrey.

There were other things not pictured:  like, I made a tabletop zen garden for Robert. Robert painted a ceramic castle for Aubrey and I didn't make a robe for Paul.  (I have all the pieces cut out though.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Vacation Schedule

I've been feeling out of sorts a bit with our vacation schedule.  I feel like I am getting nothing accomplished.  This is not true, of course, as evidenced by my clean kitchen, tidyed living room and vacuumed floor.  Also my kids have been fed and I showered ... WOOHOO!

But I'm talking mostly of writing and homeschooling.  None of which I have done, save a minute amount of editing to my novel's manuscript before a critique group I went to Tuesday night.

And I'm sick of it.  I am telling myself to be compassionate to myself. (Too many myselfs in that sentence.) It is winter vacation, my kids have been sick with influenza, I had a houseguest for a week and I'm reveling in sleeping in late in the mornings.  I won't be able to do this come January 6th.  That's when Aubrey goes back to school, and hopefully I will be back in the swing of things and Robert will be into talking school as well.

I am awaiting the user name and password to get him started in Spanish on Rosetta Stone, and he occasionally appreciates a worksheet or two (oddly enough in math), so I'm getting some paper curriculum for him.  And then there is the HomeSource classes.

I was hoping to get him in swimming and karate. But I think he will be content if he can get into swimming and chess in.  He also mentioned, at one time, interest in a computer class.  We'll see if that strikes his fancy.

The challenge comes in 1st choice and 2nd choice (or goddess forbid, 3rd choices) for each class. And then the schedules don't add up.  If Robert wants Computers, Chess and Swimming, great. But what if Chess is full and his 2nd choice is Karate, and then the Karate class conflicts with the Computers class?  Arg. 

But, no time to stress about it now, I must off and clean my office.