Thursday, December 17, 2009

MeRrY ChRiStMaS!!!

OK. It's not Christmas yet. But I've been SO busy that who knows If I'll remember to post before then. You would think that things would calm down a bit, but not really. Today alone Zaven has a trip to Lexington to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Caly and Zaven both have a swim meet (that Zaven can't attend due to going to the concert), and Caly has a chorus concert (that Caly can't attend despite having a small solo due to the swim meet). And every day is like that! We've got a half dozen multiple overlapping events that we're obligated to attend this month. Plus school goes right up to the 22nd. We usually get more time off, but they shortened the break because we'd had several days cancelled because of the flu a few months ago.

On the plus side, many of the activities we've been involved in have been just wonderful. Zaven had his strings concert last weekend (he plays cello) and it was beautiful. I enjoyed it so much. His teacher has a gift, I tell you. Those kids play better than some professionals I've heard. I've also really enjoyed how excited the kids have been about all their various events. Caly got to go to the Nutcracker with my parents, and she loved it. She's also been attending the youth group at her best friend's church and has been talking about all her new friends non-stop. It's nice to see them enjoying life so much, even if it is hard to organize.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Tis the season to be busy.

Swim season is here. Yes. Swim season. In the middle of winter. The school team has begun having meets. Swim meets are fun, but they aren't like football games or soccer games. Those events don't last six hours. A typical swim meet lasts all freaking day long.

Zaven and Caly went to the first meet of the season today. They left directly from school without coming home. They got home just after Caly's bedtime. Most meets aren't on school nights, but there will a few more that are. And there's a meet almost every weekend for the next two months. There's even one during the Christmas break. Many of them are away meets, which means that you have to add a few extra hours for transportation.

However, there are a few upsides to swim season. First off, Zaven and Caly get a ton of exercise. Not as much at the meets as they do at the practices, though. Most of the time spent at the meets is just waiting for their races. They're actually in the water for only two or three races each, so maybe 15 minutes plus the warm up time. But the daily practices get them a lot of exercise. The other good thing is the showers. We only have one bathroom in our house, so having the two older kids get their showers in the locker room every afternoon is pretty handy.

But all in all, it's just a busy, busy time. And they're in other activities, too. There's their teen mentoring program (they're the ones being mentored), chorus, cello, art club, Upward Bound, STLP (which stands for something unknown but involves Caly making videos every week after school), and of course the city swim team which is different from the school swim team. And for the city team, Zaven volunteers and helps train the beginning swimmers, so that means he stays for two daily sessions, not just one. Plus there's homework, chores, school dances, hanging out with friends, visiting family, and the time teens require to just veg out.

Fortunately for us, most of their other activities are just once-a-week sorts of events. The only thing that really takes up time is swimming. And despite how much time it takes up, I can't help but think that it's really, really good for them. It may kill me... but hopefully it will help them live healthier lives.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The cookie jar

We have... had... a Santa shaped cookie jar. I hated it. First off, it was ugly. Second, it had a sensor that made it say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" incredibly loudly if anyone so much as jostled the lid. Even with duct tape on the speaker and ancient batteries you could hear that thing go off anywhere in the house. And third, it was irregularly shaped both inside and out, with lots of little nooks and crannies that made it almost impossible to clean.

Today, as we were bringing the first of the Christmas boxes out of the basement, I broke it. I broke the hinge on the lid, and apparently I broke the electronics too. And Zoe cried and cried and cried when I threw it away.

I promised her I'd buy her a new cookie jar. A new Santa-shaped cookie jar that talked if we could find one. She was not the least bit consoled. She loves THAT jar. That hideous, annoying, plastic monstrosity of a jar. Sigh.

But I did not dig it out of the trash. I just couldn't. I will find her one that she loves just as much if not more. A nice quiet one with smooth insides that I can get clean so I don't have to worry about putting cookies in it after it's been in the basement for a year. And I will fill it with cookies. I promise.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life is pretty good today and I have much to be thankful for. I hope all of you are having a wonderful day, too.

Quinn changed his mind about the diapers, but he did have a few non-accidents and overall, I am happy with the progress. He'll do it when he's ready.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Literacy night

Last night the elementary school had their annual literacy night. We had such a nice time! Zaven and Caly were at their teen mentoring program, so it was just me and Scott and Zoe and Quinn. The kids and I ate first, because the school was serving chili which the kids won't eat (and I can't have because of my food allergies). So when we got there, we regitered for door prizes then the principal gave each kid a set of those plastic letterst that you put on your fridge. Then we went in and went to the book table. There were dozens of brand new books that they were giving away. It was supposed to be one per student, but they let Quinn pick one out, too. Then we went to the cafeteria. Scott got four bowls of chili since there were four of us. He hadn't had lunch and he ate ALL of it! THe kids and I snacked on raw carrots and cookies while he ate.

Then we went to the Scholastic book fair. Zoe spent her allowance (she gets only 50 cents a week but she saves it up). She had $5 and she bought a book about cats and dogs for herself and then picked out a sale book to buy Caly for Christmas. I thought that was so nice of her. I got a book too, a nice hardback picture book about bats playing in the library at night. I spent $16. Then we listened to a few stories being read.

The door prizes were getting ready to be announced and we didn't want to leave until then (just in case we won), so we walked around a bit. When we passed back by the table with the free books they told us that they had a lot left over and to come pick out any we wanted. So Zoe and I picked out more books. We got some for her to give to Zaven and Quinn for Christmas so now all her shopping is done.

Then they called the winners for the door prizes. We didn't win any, but then they said that a few winners hadn't been present so they were going to draw for those prizes again. Quinn won a $10 gift card to a local Mexican restaurant! I went ahead and gave it to Scott since it expires before Christmas, but I'm still counting that as Quinn giving a present to his dad, LOL.

All in all it was a great night. We only spent $21 (including Zoe's allowance) and got back a set of alphabet magnets, 10 brand new books, and a $10 gift card, plus all that free chili that Scott ate. And the money we spent helps earn free books for the school library.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Money -- wish I had more.

Financially, the last month has been good in some ways, not so good in others. All my Christmas shopping is done, I didn't go spend crazy at all last month, and I got back on track with my coupons. All in all, we made big progress on reducing our spending. On the down side, we didn't make nearly as much money as we did before Scott stopped teaching. So despite spending less, we're not saving more. :( On top of that I still sit here with a busted TV. If I buy a new one, I will not be able to pay cash. But TV is the one thing Scott really enjoys at the end of the day. I could live without it and just watch shows online. Scott hates that. So I think we'll be buying one soon. Thankfully, this is the time of year for good deals on TV's. I just hope it's a REALLY good deal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm so impressed.

You guys won't be impressed. You have no idea how much of a mess my kitchen was before we started cleaning and even if you did, you'd probably just be disturbed that someone you know is that much of a slob. But I am impressed. My kitchen is so clean that it has an echo. An honest to God echo. Of course I keep noticing small things that didn't get done. And I should clean the windows and inside the microwave. But man it is SO much nicer than it was. Now I just have to do the rest of the house, LOL.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tired, but happy.

Today has been so tiring. Scott took Zoe and Quinn's to his mom's house this weekend so the bigger kids and I could try to get caught up on some of the cleaning that needed to be done. I spend a lot of time cleaning... but so much of the time it doesn't really get clean. Not like it should, at least. First off there's the usual business of trying to put things away with a toddler around. I pick up, but Quinn follows behind and takes things right back out. Then there's the fact that I am seriously allergic to dust. Housecleaning literally makes me sick. If I do too much at once, I have trouble breathing. Then there's the fact that there are six of us living here. That means that every day I need to do at least a load of dishes and a load of laundry just to keep up. That's not progress, that's just maintenance. Finally, there's the shopping, doctors appointments, errands, and extracurricular activities of a family with both teens and toddlers. I spend a lot of time in the car. So most of the cleaning I do is just trying to keep things from getting worse, not actually making them better.

But today... that was real progress. Zaven and Caly and I decided to pick one room (the kitchen) and spend the weekend on it. We picked the kitchen. Today we cleaned out the fridge, the freezer, the deep freeze, the top of the dryer (where for some reason all the odds and ends collect), under the table (where we tend to shove stuff to get it out of the way), and the pile of laundry in the corner. The kitchen ISN'T clean yet. We still have more laundry to do, a few more dishes to do, the stove top, and a few boxes in the corner. But man it is SO much nicer. Plus I now know exactly what's in the freezer. I have it organized and we got rid of some things that had been in there forever.

So I'm really tired, really happy, and not so exhausted that I can't finish it up tomorrow. Sure it's just one room. But by the end of the weekend it will be one really clean room. And since it was the worst mess of any room in the house, it feels really good to finally get it the way it should be. Hopefully it will be progress that we can maintain and build on.

Meanwhile, things seem to be going well with the meal planning. Weekends are harder to plan for, but I'd expected that. We tend to juggle our schedule a lot on the weekends, so we've not stuck to the plan exactly. But weekdays have been pretty successful. The only weekday that we didn't stick with the play was Thursday. The kids had picked that day for Scott to make a Pork Roulade, mostly because Zaven and Caly knew they'd be at their Teen Mentoring program during dinner and they wouldn't have to eat it. The both tolerate it, but they don't love it. Scott and I think they're nuts, LOL. Anyhow, Scott and I were both super tired Thursday, plus we had a fridge full of leftovers. So we decided to save the ingredients for later and just finish off some of the things in the fridge. Since I'm new to the planning, I forgot to have a day or two each week for leftovers. I'll remember next time. The one thing I really like about the meal planning is that it makes shopping simpler. I can take a copy of the meal plan with me to the store and make sure I have all the ingredients for the next week. Hopefully it will soon mean fewer shopping trips as I'm able to stock up on sale items and save them for the upcoming dinners. That would be a huge plus to me. Another good thing is that because I posted the plan in the kitchen, Scott, Zaven, and Caly are all able to go ahead and start dinner if I'm busy with Zoe or Quinn. We're getting dinner done a little earlier than we used to this way, and we're definitely eating a more balanced diet.

So probably none of that was of any interest to you guys at all. But I promise some really fun pictures of the kids soon. Quinn was dressing up the other day. I got the best pictures, but I haven't loaded them onto the computer yet. I will though. And they'll be worth the wait.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Whoo-hoo!

It worked! The car is working again! I just love my husband. He's so wonderful.

Cross your fingers

It looks like Scott's car may be an easy fix. Well, I say that because I'm not the one fixing it. So let me rephrase. It looks like Scott will be able to fix his car without spending a ton of money. He found a $10 part that's broken. It's job is to not let the car start unless it's got the clutch depressed. The sensor is messed up so that it always thinks the clutch isn't being pressed so the car can never start. Hopefully, that's all it is. Of course it took him 2 and a half hours to find the sensor, but you have to love a man that knows how to fix things. It would have cost a fortune to pay a mechanic. He says that it should be easy to reassemble now that he knows what went wrong. So once the part comes in (this afternoon) he should have it up and running pretty quick. IF that was the only thing wrong. So cross your fingers, folks. I need the luck.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The good and the bad

First for the bad news. The TV isn't worth fixing. The part needed costs more than a new one. So that pretty much means we won't be watching much TV the next few weeks. I do want to get one, and I do want a nice big expensive one. If I have a big one, I'm less likely to go to the movies. Taking a family of six to the movies every other week for a year would cost over $1000 just for the tickets. Add in popcorn and sodas and gas to get there and the price skyrockets. I'd rather take that same money and buy a TV, pay for satellite service, some redbox rentals, and some popcorn I popped on the stove. But it's gonna bite having to come up with the money.

The good news is that Zaven got his ACT scores back and he did quite well. I'm not gonna post them here because they're his to brag about, but I'm happy and proud of him. Hopefully, this will mean the chance to go to a nice school and maybe get some scholarships to help pay for it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I must be jinxed.

Last week our television quit. It suddenly went black right while I was watching. It still had sound, but no picture. Of course it is JUST out of warrantee. I've called the local repair place but haven't been able to speak to an actual person. Maybe the guy who runs it is busy making repairs? But no luck even on getting an estimate of how much it would cost to fix.

Then today, I had some errands to run in Lexington. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day. Perfect weather. Scott had wanted to take the kids to his mom's house so we traded cars. His car doesn't have enough room for all four of them. He headed south, and I headed north in his car. I did all my shopping, then turned around to head home. And at one of the intersections his car stalled and died. And it would not start. Of course the traffic was flying up behind me and swerving at the last minute to avoid me and scaring me to death. Finally someone stopped to help me push it out of the road. There was no way I was going to try and push it out by myself since that would have meant standing beside the car to steer while pushing. The traffic was way too scary for that. I had my cell phone and called Scott. He was of course at his mom's house, hours away. But he called a friend who came to pick me up. Then he called a different friend who had a roll-back truck that could carry the dead car home. We still have no idea what's wrong with it. I hope it's cheap to fix, though. If not, we won't be able to afford it.

On the plus side, if I had to be stuck at the side of the road for an hour, it was at least a nice day to be outside.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meal planning

Well, I've never been a big believer in meal planning. At least, not for our family. In the first place, our lives are very unscheduled. I try hard to keep things organized, but Scott doesn't work a nine to five job, and even when he did he always had a variety of other obligations that meant that I never knew exactly when he was going to be home at the end of the day. And even more difficult than that to overcome is my crazy 3rd-grade taste buds. I have the dietary cravings of an 8 year old. I want the same lunch every day (and HAD the same lunch every day for about 12 years or more), don't like veggies at all, can't stand my foods touching each other... It's nuts. I'm trying hard to expand my choices, and over the years I've been somewhat successful. But even so, I am insanely picky. Add to that that I have a four page list of foods I'm allergic to and you have a real problem with menu planning. So when I look at the monthly meal plans you see in magazines, they're always filled with things that I can't imagine ever wanting to eat.

Of course the problem is that I have a family and even if I can't stand a wide variety, they need it. Scott will eat anything. ANYTHING. 'Possums, skunk, groundhog, rattlesnake, alligator, buffalo, octopus... the list goes on. Whenever our kids were scared of monsters, we'd always reassure them that if a monster did show up, Daddy would put a pat of butter on it's head and swallow it whole. And they always accepted that as a reasonable solution to the problem. Problem solved. Daddy will eat the monster. He eats everything else, so why not?

The kids don't eat quite the same variety that Scott does. Who does? Yet they're much more open to new foods than I am. But whenever life gets hectic or I get sick (and I've been sick all week) somehow we end up having spagetti every night for dinner. It's the fall back food. Zero variety.

So last night I finally caved. I made a list of everything that I like to eat. Then I had Scott and the kids add anything else they could think of to it. I was surprised to realize that there is a lot more variety in our diets than I realized. The problem is not that we don't have any options. There were dozens of things on the list. The problem is that we don't keep the ingredients for those options on hand all the time, or we run out of time to shop or cook. Spagetti is fast. Dinner is ready in 15 minutes. But with a tiny bit of planning we can have other things ready nearly as fast.

So I typed our list onto a spread sheet and broke the foods down into the basic food groups (plus an extra list of casseroles and one course dinners), then printed it off. I also printed a blank monthly calendar and we've spent the past couple of evenings picking out dinner for each weeknight for the next month. Right now, I'm not bothering with breakfasts or lunches because usually that's just Quinn and I. The older three kids all eat at school and I never know if Scott will be home for lunch. Plus Scott is a great cook and more than able to whip himself up a better lunch than I can manage. I'm also not making any weekend plans because I never know if we'll even be home on the weekends. Our extended families both live in the same town about an hour and a half away. We never know which weekends we'll be visiting until the last minute so I feel like it's OK to wait on those plans until we have a little more info.

All in all, I'm happy with the progress. None of the meals are very fancy, and right now I'm happy if there's at least one veggie served and I'm not worrying about keeping it perfectly balanced with low saturated fats and whole grains and organic foods. Anything's got to be better than spagetti 4 nights in a row, right? For me, the goal is to just try to do a bit better than we have been. The rest will come in time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My minions

Caly recently started calling Zoe her minion. I always thought of a minion as the follower to an evil leader, but when I looked it up for her, this is what I found:

minion  /ˈmɪnyən/ –noun

1. a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power.
2. a favored or highly regarded person.
3. a minor official.
4. dainty; elegant; trim; pretty.
5. a dependent
6. a darling

Word Origin & History

minion
1501, "a favorite; a darling; a low dependant; one who pleases rather than benefits" [Johnson], from M.Fr. mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also "dainty, pleasing, favorite" (adj.), from O.Fr. mignot, perhaps of Celt. origin (cf. O.Ir. min "tender, soft"), or from O.H.G. minnja, minna "love, memory." Used without disparaging overtones 16c.-17c.

What does this mean to me? Well... it looks like I can honestly claim to have minions. At least four of them, anyway. I've always wanted minions.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

We had such a lovely weekend. The weather didn't want to cooperate. It had rained all Saturday morning. But it cleared off in time for trick-or-treat. We had to have the kids wear some extra layers under their costumes, but it all worked out.

This was an exciting year for our kids. Zaven was away for the weekend with Upward Bound. They went to Columbus, Ohio for two days, to an amazing science museum, and to a live production of Young Frankenstein. Zaven was excited to see the musical because the movie is one of his favorites.

Meanwhile, the rest of us headed to Somerset to visit with relatives and trick-or-treat there. Scott's sister was visiting with her family, so Zoe was thrilled to be able to trick-or-treat with her cousin William, who is just a few years older than she is. It was also a treat for Caly because William's older sister Heather was there. Heather is 20 this year and she and Caly have just started to make a real connection. After they'd helped take the little ones trick-or-treating, we let the two girls walk downtown for some festivities going on there. Caly was really excited to be off on an adventure on Halloween. Because we so often trick-or-treat out of town, she doesn't get to wander with friends and she's missed that feeling of independence and playful mischief that so many of us associate with being a young teenager at Halloween.

Of course the biggest treat this year was Quinn's first fully-aware Halloween. He's dressed up every year but he didn't have any idea what it meant or that there was candy involved. This year he knew that people were doing unusual things and that he was wearing a costume, and he was able to say trick-or-treat and understood that doing so got him candy. He was in seventh heaven. He was not the least bit scared of all the costumes and decorations, and he loved the walking at night and going door to door. He was even patient about waiting until we'd gotten home to dip into his pumpkin basket of candy, and he only took a little prompting to say thank you at each house, although sometimes he said it in Chinese (a trick he learned from the TV show Ni-hao Kilan). At one point in the night he started shouting "Awesome!" after he got his candy. But the kicker was today. He came to give me a tight hug and then stopped to look in my eyes and told me, "I love." Then he hugged me again. "I love." Then he hugged me one more time for all he was worth, stopped and looked in my eyes, "I love Halloween."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin shortage










































Am I the only one who never heard about the nationwide pumpkin shortage this year? And am I the only one affected? Apparently. But despite the fact that the farm we normally buy from did not have pumpkins this year, we managed to still get a few. But because of having to hunt for a farm with pumpkins we got there much later in the day and by then the sky was overcast. Our pictures are mostly blurry. But the kids had fun and that's what counts, even if we don't have the photos to prove it.





I don't know if you can see it online, but way off in the top of this picture is a little blob. That's Zoe. When they got in the fields, they just took off running and there was no stopping them. Gotta love pumpkin farms!

Monday, October 26, 2009

They are all asleep.

Even Scott is asleep. I love the quiet of the house at night. I stay up late even when I'm tired because I just need the time of calm. I am not a morning person so by the time I get up and start moving and thinking clearly, the house is already loud and busy. But night is an easy time for me. I love the quiet, the air, the stars. I go and sometimes sit on the porch with the cats just to soak it in. And I can read. I hardly ever get to do it with the kids around.

I really have nothing interesting to say. Just that it's quiet and lovely here. I hope it is where you are as well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Too, too much

Today has been too freaking busy. Zaven had the ACT. Caly and a friend went out with my mom. Zaven had an Upward Bound class after the ACT. Caly's friend came over to our house after they went out with my mom. Zoe and Quinn are both clingy because of getting over being sick. They are both also very loud. Not screaming and yelling loud. Just talking as if I'm mildly deaf. After them sitting in my lap and talking at that volume all day, I may become mildly deaf. Somehow it's 8 at night and we haven't had dinner or fed Caly's friend since she came. Caly just burned dinner. It's salvagable, but the house stinks now. Caly and her friend really want to have a sleepover. All the chores I asked Caly to do yesterday are still not done and I'm not willing to budge this time. Her friend can't spend the night. Today has already lasted too long. I want all the kids fed, the friend taken home, my kids in bed, and the house quiet and clean. Of course there's no chance of that last part. The place is a wreck. But I'm going to do my best to have the rest happen by 9.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Better-ish

Zoe is feeling better-ish today. Her fever went down and (with the help of medication) stayed down all night. She did throw up this morning, but I think it was because I gave her the medication with only juice, not with food. She's been fine ever since, although quite tired. She's just laid on the sofa most of the day and watched cartoons. Zaven's ear has cleared up so right now it's only Zoe and I who are still sick. I'm mostly better and I don't think it will be much longer before I'm well. As colds go, this one wasn't too bad.

Now I have to go buy juice. We are out and Quinn is certain that he'll perish from the lack of it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wait and see

So far, most of us are fine. Zaven's cold is mostly gone but he may have an ear infection. It doesn't hurt, but he says that he can't hear as well out of one ear. Hopefully decongestants will take care of it. Caly, Quinn, and I are doing well. Not perfect, but much better than yesterday or the day before. Zoe, however, has spiked a fever. 103.5

Now I know this will sound stupid, but I hate to take a sick kid to the doctor. They feel bad and tired and they want to be in bed, plus there are all those germs that they don't need exposed to when their immune system is already taxed, not to mention all the germs that they'd be spreading to other people in the waiting room. It just seems like a bad idea. Emergency rooms are even worse because of the crowded conditions and the long wait. Of course doctors don't do housecalls anymore. So the plan is this. We gave her a warm bath to help bring the fever down. Then we dosed her with Ibuprofen and juice and we're going to wait and see. So far the fever is down to 101.4 but I'd like to see it below 100 before I go to bed tonight. Then of course I'll be getting up every few hours to make sure it isn't going back up. If it goes back up that high, I'll be bringing her to the ER. I really hope it doesn't come to that. Our ER has a history of telling me to give my kids Ibuprofen and call the doctor in the morning, which is what I plan to do anyway. I can't tell you how annoyed I'll be if I get her out of bed and drive her into their germ-laden waiting room only to have them tell me to do what I'm already doing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's only been a day since I posted...

...but it feels like a year. I don't think this is the swine flu. I'm pretty sure I already had that when it first made the news. This feels more like a regular old cold, not that those are fun. Zaven and Caly are past the worst of it. Zoe and Quinn don't seem to be having as hard of a time as their older brother and sister did. I, on the other hand, feel like hell. I hate being sick. I catch everything that comes around, though. Before I had allergy testing I caught things because the allergies weakened my immune system. Now I take allergy shots and I don't get sick as often as I did. But I have to get my shots in the doctor's office so I'm exposed to sick people every week. So even though I don't get sick as often as I did, I do get sick more often than most people. I'm also a big wimp when it comes to colds. I can handle childbirth and kidney stones and broken toes... but when I get sick I lay around and whine and feel bad for myself. It's not pretty. So yesterday and today I mostly just complained and moaned. I think I'm past the worst of it. I feel a lot better than I did 24 hours ago.

On an unrelated note, I noticed for the first time yesterday that the 'patient' (*read that as victim) in the game Operation is completely naked and the only reason you can't see his genitals is that his fat belly covers them. I've played this game for well over 3 decades and just now noticed. Behold my amazing powers of observation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

And of course I am sick.

We all are. So much for the power of positive thinking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheap Candy alert! and it's Fall Break all over again

Quick! CLICK HERE for $2 off coupons for 24 oz. or larger bags of Nestle candy and Wonka candy. There are two different coupons that can each be printed twice. That should cut a nice bite out of your Halloween budget.

Meanwhile, we had a bit of interesting news today. Week before last was Fall Break for our school. That's how Caly got to leave town for a week with my mom. Not all schools do Fall Break. It's basically just like Spring Break - a week off of school. But no one goes to Florida or the Carribean.

Last week was regular classes. This week is supposed to be regular classes, too. But I just got a phone call from the school. Classes have been cancelled the remainder of the week due to a large percentage of the students being sick. So we get to do Fall Break all over again. The problem is... Zaven and Caly were among the students who missed school due to being sick today. So far, they're not too sick. Just a low-grade fever and coughs and sniffles. But I imagine that we'll all get it before it's through. Not my idea of a vacation.

But I'm crossing my fingers and trying to think positive. We won't get sick. Of course not. That would be silly.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Alas!

This is the first week of really cold weather this year. Technically, it's not even "really cold" yet, but it's cold enough to have a fire in the wood-burning stove. Because we live in an old house, the change of seasons means a lot more to us than it does to most people. Our insullation is so-so, our heat is a wood-burning stove, and being the only heated building on an 86 acre farm, the change of season also means an invasion of all manner of living creatures. Typically, we get a few mice at this time of the year. We also get bugs.

Bugs are designed to lay eggs in the late summer and those eggs are genetically programmed to hatch if the temp drops low for a while and then comes back up. Nature's plan is that they would lay dormant for the winter and hatch in the spring. But because of how we heat our house, waiting until the nights are more than just a little chilly before bothering with putting in a fire, that hot/cold/hot thing also applies to our house. So things hatch. And this time, what hatched was not something like ladybugs. We had a nest of hornets in the attic apparently. And they hatched in Zaven's room. He got stung on the arm once. We attacked them with chemicals and killed what Scott estimated as a hundred. We moved Zaven and Caly downstairs for a few nights until we were sure they'd all been found and killed. But today Zoe disobeyed Scott and tried to sneak upstairs to play. She got stung on the sole of her foot. Ouch!

Bad as it is for her, it's no picnic for the rest of us. She is a major drama queen, so she's been laying in my bed whining about her foot for hours. It's not that I don't have sympathy. But I can't give her more medication yet or do anything for her. And she isn't hurting so bad that she can't be distracted from it. She's been out of bed to eat pizza, pet the cats, get crayons, tell me a joke, etc. Each time she is fine until she remembers that she's hurt. Then it's the end of the world all over. I'm not too sure how bad it really feels at this point. She's been known to cry for 20 minutes about a cut on her hand but not even be sure which hand is the injured one.

I'm hoping she'll get bored and fall asleep. We gave her benadryl as well as ibuprofen so she should be able to nap.

***edited to add that I was right. She quit whining completely as soon as Zaven and Caly got home and I told her they could decorate the porch for Halloween.

October

Every October we decorate our porch for Halloween. Part of it is just to celebrate the season and the joy of Halloween. But part of it is so that we can really get it clean. We are pack rats by nature and also we have two dogs and God-know-how-many cats. The porch gets cluttered and cobwebby and covered in mud, toys, boots, chalk, tools, and just about anything else you can think of. October is our month for getting it in order.

This afternoon we drug everything off the porch and swept it clean. Tomorrow we'll probably hose down the walls but we didn't get to that today. Instead, we started a fire in the fire pit and burned all the branches we lost from the trees in the last big storm, plus some of the left over wood scraps from the bunk beds. The kids loved the fire. Plus the air was crisp in that lovely October way.

Tomorrow, we'll actually wash the walls and scrub the concrete and then finally decorate the porch. Maybe Sunday we'll go get pumpkins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coupons.com



For a few months now, I've not been doing couponing at all. Money is tight so it seems wasteful to even go so far as buying the newspapers in order to get coupons for things I already have a huge supply of. I don't need more toothpaste, deodorant, or air freshener. They raised the price on our Sunday paper to $2, which means that most weeks the paper won't pay for itself based only on the grocery coupons.

But lately, supplies of a few things have been running low. Also, Christmas is coming so I'd like to stock up on a few things to give as gifts. So I've been thinking that I might start back up. A nice compromise for me is to print out coupons online. Some of our local stores take them now, and even though I'm paying for ink and paper, I'm not spending as much time on the process of finding what I need. I print them out only as I use them. All in all, it seems to be working. I will still occasionally buy the paper (when I know there's a high dollar coupon for something I actually need). But I'm not doing it every week. The thing to remember about all this is that you have to do what works for YOU, which isn't always the same thing as what works for everyone else.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My son the stunt man.

When Caly got home from her trip, she wanted to try out the new features of the bunk bed that we'd added while she was out of town. She hadn't seen the bucket so she immediately climbed up in the top bunk to pull something up. Quinn climbed up with her and then started trying to climb up on the rails so he could jump down on the mattress. Caly told he NO, and he started fussing and said, "He hit me! Quinn hit me!" He learned to say that a few months ago because when Zoe would say it, she'd get attention. So he told Caly that Quinn had hit him. She said, "Really?" as if it were a real possibility. And he proceeded to demonstrate. He threw a punch (closed fist) at his own chin, but stunt man style, just missing it... and yelled "Whoa!" and fell down on a pile of pillows as if it had really knocked him down. It was hillarious. He's such a ham.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eric Carle

I have a fondness for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. When Quinn was born, he had several outfits with phrases from the book on them. He was so cute, and we all joked around about how, just like his shirts and the book said, he was always 'still hungry'. My boy had a BIG appetite and was always wanting to nurse. While Caly was on her vacation, she was able to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. So of course, she wanted to look at the first edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She was surprised to find that the museum has three first editions. A first edition of the picture book as she knew it and a first edition of this hand-crafted version made of felts and fabrics with the text in both braille and printed words. She described how the colors were more muted but still there. The third first edition had no colors, pictures, or printed text at all. Instead, the pages had been embossed with different textures to make up the caterpillar and illustrations. She said the pages were huge, so that you'd be able to feel all the details of the story, and the text was all braille. She said she just wanted to hug Eric Carle when she saw it. I kind of want to, too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Caly is home!

She had a great trip and really loved getting to know her family. We only see them every 4 or 5 years so she didn't have a good feel for who they were. It was really fun to hear her tell stories about them. I spend most summers living with my cousins when I was her age, so it was neat for me to hear how they'd changed or how they were just as I remember them. She really wants to keep the connection and visit them more often, or have them come and visit us. I'd like that too. It's hard being so far from the people you grew up with.

I'll try to post a pic or two once I download them from her camera. Hopefully they all came out. It's a new camera that we bought for a steal but I don't know how good of a picture it takes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I need to do some things.

Probably I should start with taking a shower, and then maybe follow that by dishes, laundry, cleaning up the toys that are everywhere, oh and sorting through all those stacks of paper covering all available surfaces might be a good idea.

But man am I ever feeling lazy today. I'm gonna chug some caffiene and take that shower and then see if I can work up the energy to be even vaguely productive. All I really want to do is sit at the computer and maybe eat a slice of pumpkin pie. We don't even have pie, though. Add shopping to the list.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The long lost pictures.


At long last, here are the pictures of the bunk beds we built. Like I said, it's really more of a loft bed. The bottom mattress will be on the floor.

We put in a pulley system for Zoe to bring toys up to the top bunk, so she doesn't have to carry things while climbing on the ladder.
The walls are made with dry erase board. In the top bunk there are dividers so it looks a lot like the panels in a comic book.

There's a hose that runs behind the bed from one corner of the top bunk to the opposite corner of the bottom bunk so they can whisper to each other.

We put green fabric on the ceiling of the bottom bunk so that Quinn wouldn't just be staring up at plywood. We also added a hook for a bucket to keep the markers in.

He also has a curtain that opens and closes so that he can have a private area. The fabric is sheer but with the lights on the outside it's hard for us to see in and easy for him to see out. We used the same type of fabric on the tent for Zoe, but in a lighter color to let in more light. The curtain fits behind the ladder when you pull it back.

We also left one wall off the bottom bunk so that he can see out the window and have a bit more light.

His dry erase board doesn't have dividers so it's perfect for bigger projects. So far that's mostly large scribbles but Zaven and Caly have both been adding drawings of their own. We're using washable markers that they clean up with windex on a cloth. That way there aren't fumes or the risk of them accidently ruining their blankets or clothes.

All in all, they really like it. It's more of a play area than a bed for Zoe, but Quinn sleeps in there quite nicely. I'm going to add lights, but I want something battery operated until I'm sure that Quinn is old enough to understand not to pull on the wires, bite them, etc. I also want LED because they use a lot less electricity and don't get hot. I actually bought a couple of those push-button ones that you stick on the wall, but Quinn won't quit taking them apart. He loves anything that lights up.

A busy, busy world

When I was a kid, I had a copy of Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World. I loved that book. But who knew the title would be so apt for my life? Since I last posted, I've been running about a hundred errands and also going on a few road trips. Caly and my mom are on vacation together visiting my extended family in New England. Last weekend I drove them to the airport... in Nashville, TN, about a four and a half hour drive in the wrong direction. Why? Well, it was going to be a couple hundred dollars cheaper and also they could only get a direct flight from Nashville. All the other flights had 3 or 4 (or more) hour layovers. Since they're only going to be there for a week, they didn't want to spend two of those days stuck in an airport. So last weekend I drove them down to Nashville, got a room for the night, and had a day to myself to explore... only I was feeling kind of yucky and it was raining the whole time. I mostly just did a little shopping and a lot of slow driving towards home. But it was nice to be on my own. I've always enjoyed time alone. I think that's the one thing that's hard as a parent. Time alone is much more rare. I'll be driving back there on Saturday to pick them up. I'm looking forward to it, although this time I won't be spending the night. But it'll be nice to see them again. It's only been a few days but I miss Caly. And somehow, it's different for my mom to be half-way across the country instead of only an hour away. I don't see her often, but I know that I can. Right now, I can't. So I miss her too, even though I wouldn't actually have seen her during the week anyway.

In other news, my computer is in it's death throws. It's been in bad shape forever. In fact, a few months ago I bought all the parts for a new one and even assembled it. But the power source was defective so I had to send it back for a new one. I got the new one... and it's still sitting in the box. I want to do it when Quinn isn't around because I DON'T want him to know how to open the computer case, or even that it can be opened. On the other hand, I do want Zaven and Caly to be there. They love gadgets and making your own computer and hooking it up falls into the nirvana category for them. The problem with all that is that there never is time when they're home and not busy but Quinn isn't home. But things are coming to a head so I may have to break down and do it on my own. We'll see. I'm hoping I can make this one hang on long enough for me to move over all my important files (read, pictures of my kids) before it quits. I back it up every now and then, but I'm always afraid I missed something.

We also finished the bunk bed. It looks fabulous. Technically, it's a loft bed. We just have a second mattress under the loft. Right now the bottom mattress is a toddler sized one. Quinn is still in diapers so we're going to wait until he's dry all night before putting in the non-plastic-covered mattress. But other than that it's done. I even made a curtain for him and a tent to go on the top bunk just for an added precaution. Quinn is fearless and I'm certain he'd be happy to try to walk one of the railings or something like that. But with the tent on, there's no chance of that. He calls it, "Climbing the tree," when he goes up to the top bunk. Zoe has staked that out as her own, although she won't actually stay in it all night. We're going to add a few small LED lights for her up there so it won't be as scary. The problem is she likes to sleep with the light on if she's in a bed by herself, but Quinn can't fall asleep with a light on. Plus, if we leave the door to their room open then the light bothers me. But she'll adjust eventually. It may take a while, but it'll happen. I should be able to post the pictures tomorrow. We'll see if the computer cooperates.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I so need to post some pictures.

The bed is basically done. We just need to put up the ladder and four pieces of wood to reinforce the side rails on top. The wood is already cut and stained so it's just a matter of screwing it in. It's such a cool set-up. The kids are having so much fun with it. I will put up pics as soon as I get it actually finished with the matresses in place. My mom gave us a twin mattress years ago when Zaven first went to an adult bed. We thought we'd have to buy the second one but a family friend has offered to give us the second one since she no longer needs it. I have no idea what condition it's in, so we may end up still buying one, but I've got my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, life has been good. It's calmed down a lot from the summer and I'm enjoying the feeling that every day is a small bit of progress towards getting the house in order. Zoe has been working hard in school and is starting to be able to read a few words and sound out most letters. She still has trouble with lowercase letters, plus the usual trouble that different fonts cause. But she's really starting to get excited about it and starting to want to try to read things. She totally grasps the ideas, so it's just a matter of practice. It's exciting for all of us to watch it happen. Very, very cool.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Double grrrr.

You know how we were waiting for the stain/varnish mix to dry on the wood so we could do the other pieces and finally assemble the bed? We were running low on the mix so we went back to the store to pick up another can. The store was closed. Stopped by another branch. They were open but out of the pre-mixed cans. So we bought the same color of stain that was in our mix (same brand, too) and clear varnish. We get home and open it up and it doesn't match. It doesn't even come close to matching. What we'd had was chocolate brown. What we got the second time was light grey. We went back to the store to see why the new stuff was so different. Turns out the new stuff looks just like it was supposed to. The stuff we'd bought to begin with was mislabeled. And no, they don't have any idea which color that actually is and no, we can't open up cans and test them and find a match. In fact, even if they agreed to let us open the cans we wouldn't be able to find a match because that one was actually specially mixed for someone but then the label was never changed to reflect it. And they don't remember which colors they combined or how much of each they used to get that shade.


So we bought about $25 worth of stains so we could try and come up with a match. It's kind of close, but you can still tell they don't match. And we wasted all day shopping and mixing so the beds still aren't done.


On the plus side, I did hang up their new light. It's from Ikea. We got it on our last trip there for $5. It normally sells for $30, but this was the floor model. There's nothing wrong with it, but it was dusty. We cleaned it up and it looks so cool. Zoe is extra impressed. She thinks it looks like a big flower. From underneath it sort of does.


We also got to see my parents and Scott's mom for a small party for Quinn. I'm too tired to upload the photos tonight, but I'll put them up tomorrow. It was nice to see everyone and it was all relaxed and casual, which is SO what I needed. I just didn't have it in me to do anything high stress. These bunk beds are stress enough, LOL.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

OMG, I am so tired!

No, I didn't do anything to make me this tired. Not really. But Zaven and I spent the morning cleaning out Zoe and Quinn's room. We put away all the books and toys, cleaned out the toddler bed and crib, etc. And that's what got to me.

You know how you don't really get things actually clean when there's a kid around? I mean, not like you did before you had kids. Because while you're pulling the furniture out to dust behind it, your toddler is opening all the yogurt and rubbing it on the walls. So post-baby cleaning means you get the worst stuff and figure that you'll get around to the rest of it eventually. Well, today was that event. And there wasn't as much dirt as I thought there would be, but he dust nearly killed me and Zaven. We both have bad allergies and when we finally got the beds out and started sweeping up underneath where they had been... oh man, it was bad. The toddler bed was a car bed, and it doesn't sit on legs, it sits directly on the floor. So it hadn't been swept under in like 2 years. You wouldn't think it could have dust under it, seeing as it's right on the floor, but there's a little gap. Just enough for dust, I suppose. Anyhow, we started sneezing and our noses were dripping and when it was all done the room looked great... but we were worn out. If you have bad allergies, you know what I'm talking about. It just drains you of all your energy.

The bunk beds are coming along. I think we'll get them done tomorrow. I hope. The thing that's taking so much time is the staining of the wood. It was raining all week and we couldn't do it then. (No way am I trying it inside. I just know I'd knock it over and ruin the floor or something.) So it had to wait until this weekend. But even though it's sunny out, the stain is drying SO slowly. I have no idea why but it is. Everything is almost ready to be assembled, but there are a few more pieces that have to be stained. We didn't get them all stained today because we only have so much room on the sawhorses to lay them out. I can't lay them on the ground because when I tried the dogs kept messing with them. If they'd dried quicker, we could have done the next batch. As it was we just had to sit around and wait.

Anyhow, if all goes well we'll finish the staining in the morning and start assembling. That part is usually fast. Wish us luck!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Attempt number two

After raining most of the week, the forecast for this weekend is looking pretty good. So once again we're going to attempt to make the bunk beds. Scott isn't feeling all that great, so it may be that Zaven and I do it without him. Honestly, that may be for the best. Scott is a wonderful husband, but he has strange ideas about projects like this. For instance, he wants to assemble the bed outside. But if we do, we'll just have to disassemble it because it won't fit through the doors. I think it's because he wants to assemble it before I stain the wood. I refuse to do that inside since I don't want to ruin anything in the house and I know that there's no way we'd do it and not spill a drop. And why does it need to be assembled before we stain it? As far as I can tell, there's not a reason in the world we can't just stain the pieces, let them dry, then bring them inside and put them together. Sure it would end up needing some TLC and retouching. But if we disassemble it and reassemble it we'd get scratches that way too. But that's just him. I'm sure I do all sorts of things that drive him crazy. So if it's that important to him, I just let him and help as best I can. But if he's not feeling well I'll just do things my way (the easy way) and be done with it.

Meanwhile, things have been quiet this week. Scott and I are still getting over our colds. You know how it is. You feel OK as long as you're not doing anything, but once you start working you just get so tired. I feel like all I've done this week is to run errands and sleep. But for now that will have to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A very good mystery

Some of you may remember that I started doing mystery shops a few months ago. I'm still with only a very few agencies so I'm not at all an expert. But today was SO successful that I have to tell you all about it.

As you may recall, for the most part Mystery Shopping is not a way to get rich quick. Most of the shops I've done require you to buy something. You're reimbursed, but in reality that free item is a significant part of your pay. If you went to a fast food place and got a burger and fries, you wouldn't really be making much money. Maybe $5 for your gas, time online entering the report, and time in the restaurant. So the free burger and fries is just as big an incentive as the cash. The problems come when you realize that you need to order exactly what the company wants (so you can't get onion rings instead of fries, or a chicken sandwich instead of a burger), or when you end up inviting your husband (and you spend all your profits on his food), or when you schedule a shop at what you thing will be a very convienient time only to find out that you need to be halfway across town for a recital or a ballgame.

But TODAY... today was perfect. I had 3 shops planned but got a call moments before I walked out the door to see if I could add a fourth that another shopper had failed to do. All my shops were in the same area, which just happened to be close to a store I'd been meaning to stop at for a month. And the kicker was that 2 of the shops were for paint. Yes, paint. For one I had to make a $5 purchase. That was easy enough. I bought the paintbrushes I needed for finishing the bunk beds. For the other shop, I was to buy a gallon of paint. Any color or variety I wanted. I would be reimbursed up to $60. Yes, $60. I was so excited. I've been wanting to paint my kitchen cabinets for the longest time. I wanted to do them in oil paint and that stuff is really expensive, but it lasts forever. So today I bought about half the paint I need. It would be all the paint I need but I want to do them in two colors. I'm hoping that by the time I get around to finishing the bunk beds I'll have another mystery shop and get the other color for free, too.

For my four shops today I'll get $37 in payment and $70 in reimbursement. And even better, Scott watched Quinn for me so I got to spend the whole day alone.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day




























































Today was Quinn's birthday. I've been telling the kids that it's Labor Day in honor of me going into labor with Quinn three years ago, LOL. We had a party of sorts. I say 'of sorts' because really it was just a cookout at my sister's house. No presents or grandparents or guests. We did have cake, but it was much more a labor day cookout than it was a birthday party. In fact, when my sister and I first decided to get together this weekend we hadn't looked at a calendar and realized that Labor Day fell on his birthday. It was just a happy coincidence. I figure we'll do the gifts and balloons this weekend over in the town where the grandparents all live. It'll be kind of nice to spread it out and let him have a few extra moments in the spotlight. As the youngest of four he sometimes has to fight for it, although we do our best to make sure each of the kids gets time and attention as well as love.

Tara asked who the bunk beds are for. They are for Zoe and Quinn. Having four kids means that either the younger two share a room for a few more years despite not being the same gender, or that one of them move in with an older sibling of the same gender. Seeing as how Zaven is 13 years older than his baby brother and Caly is 8 years older than her baby sister I figured that the best bet was for the youngers to stay together until Zaven heads off for college. And of course even then we'll need an extra bed for him when he comes home on vacations. I'm not too worried about it. Zaven and Caly shared a room forever and I think it's part of the reason they get along so well. Caly was fine sleeping in a room with someone else but got really scared if she was alone. Zaven didn't mind because it meant someone to goof off with when he was supposed to be asleep.

Of course, it's kind of a moot point since Zoe always comes in to sleep with me and Scott. But we're hoping the top bunk will be too enticing for her to resist.


Meanwhile, here's a look at what a difference 3 years makes. That's Zaven holding Quinn, by the way.




Sunday, September 6, 2009

The weather is not cooperating.

I was all set to finish the beds today but then the rain set in. No way am I staining these inside a house with four kids, so the project is on hold. And since all the wood got soaked in the rain it will be several days before it's dry enough to continue. I hate half-finished projects. They never get put away, but then they never get finished because something more urgent comes up.

On the plus side, if I was going to have to delay the project today was a good day for it. I didn't sleep well last night and felt awful when I woke up this morning. So while it was frustrating to not get to finish the beds, I did get to let up on the pace a little and now I feel a bit better.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bunk Beds

We're building them this weekend. Scott and I just bought the lumber today. If all goes well they'll be done by Monday. Well, except that I have to drive to my MIL's to get one of the matresses that we've stored in her basement. And I have to buy the other mattress. But the frame will be done. Wish us luck. I expect we'll need it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reading Logs.

I'd forgotten how much I hate them. I never seem to remember to write down what I read to the kids, or if I do I forget to put them in their backpacks. Zoe has been in school 3 weeks I think and already I missed one log altogether and turned in the other one late. This week's is due tomorrow so I'm having Zaven and Caly read to her tonight. I have no idea where the log is, so I'll just have to write it on a piece of paper but I think that it's progress.

And lest ye be concerned that I don't read to her myself or that without the additional pressure of a due date she would seldom hear a story... well, you're right. I hardly ever read to her and Quinn. I should, but Zoe is loud and active. Anyone who has actually met her is probably impressed that she's ever been read to. She was until recently incredibly difficult to read a story to. She just wouldn't hold still and be quiet long enough for even a few words to the page.

Quinn on the other hand loves books. They're his favorite snack. He had Pica, which basically means he eats things that aren't food. And books are one of the things he eats. So I buy books for him to chew and rip and for Zoe to get frustrated with and ignore. And I avoid pretending that the books are for anything else.

But the past few months I've caught Quinn looking at them without drooling. And Zoe has sat through a few stories. So maybe it's time. I hope so. Because unlike those two, I love to read.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm supposed to be at the movies.

Remember how last week I got to see Lawrence of Arabia? This week they're showing Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Scott and I were so looking forward to it. I've never actually watched it all the way through. I've seen a lot of it, but not all at one sitting. And I've certainly not seen it on the big screen.
Besides the theatre showing it is really, really cool. It was built in the 1920's and has marble floors, a huge stained glass panel in the ceiling, a wurlitzer organ (for the silent movies!) and those big draping curtains that are lifted up before the show starts. They show a different movie at every showing and feature new releases, cult classics, and 3-D monster movies from the 50's. The Holy Grail is only on today.

The fun thing is that going to a movie there becomes an event, and everyone in the crowd feels the same way. We all laugh out loud at the funny parts, gasp at the scary parts, boo at the bad guy, and clap when the heros defeat the villians. It's different from seeing a movie in a modern theatre. And I so wanted to see Monty Python there as much because of the crowd as because of the movie.

So why am I not at the movies?

I have a cold and so does Scott.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Whistling in the Dark

I just watched the old Red Skelton movie Whistling in the Dark. I just wanted to tell you a bit of trivia about it. Ann Rutherford, the actress who plays his girlfriend, started getting chest pains during the making of the movie. At first they thought she had pneumonia, but as the pain spread and continued to worsen they began to suspect pleurisy. When the filming was over her mother took her to a doctor who diagnosed... pulled muscles on both sides of her rib cage from laughing so hard at Red Skelton.

The movie was fun but not nearly as funny as the gag he used to do about trying to fit in his wife's girdle. I didn't pull a muscle but I laughed so hard I thought I couldn't talk for 10 minutes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A really good day.

Just so you guys know I can do more than moan and whine, I wanted to say that today was a really good day. Yesterday Scott took Zoe and Quinn to his mom's house and they stayed the weekend. Zaven and Caly stayed with me to try to get the house back into livable order. We're always messy, but lately it's like the before houses from one of those reality cleaning intervention shows. Scary dirty. It still is. But we got a lot done.

So yesterday we cleaned (and sewed) all day. We'd made Zoe a pillow and blanket to take to kindergarten for nap time, but we found out that she was the only one who had one. Zoe is obnoxious enough without looking like she's getting special treatment. So we make one for every kid in her class. I just used old sheets that I bought at a second hand store but they came out really nice.

Today we did some cleaning, but not as much nor as frantically. And we took a big long break in the middle of the day to meet my parents. My mom and I went to see Inglorious Basterds and my dad and the kids walked around the mall and hung out and went to the book store. The movie was great. Violent, of course, but not as much as I feared and very compelling and funny too. Tarentino has a gift.

When the movie was over I took the kids out to Long John's to eat and we talked and joked and just hung out for a while. Then we headed to the store to quickly pick up a few things and then home. We folded all the laundry we'd washed while I watched a movie and they watched some shows online. It was just a really nice day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Who does that?

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my parked car reading a magazine and talking to Zoe and Quinn when a woman rear-ended us. It wasn't a bad wreck. Really, as wrecks go this was almost nonexistant. No one was hurt and there was no damage to either her car or mine. She didn't even scuff the bummer visibly. It was just loud and shook our car. Only get this: I was parked in front of the school waiting for my kids to be let out! Who the hell drives into another car when there are children walking into the traffic flow? This happened right in front of the principal and a bunch of teachers. Admittedly, almost all of the elementary kids had been picked up. I think there were two left. But still!

The way our school works, Zoe and the other kindergarteners come out the back door about 10 minutes before the elementary students come out the front door. The middle school and high school kids come out a half hour after that. Remember, this school is for preschool through 12th grade. They have to stagger the release times because they can't bus the younger kids with the older ones. So when I pick up Zoe, I usually run a quick errand like getting gas or maybe take her to the playground for a short break, then I drive back and pick up Zaven and Caly. Only yesterday I was really feeling bad because of my allergies. I didn't feel up to running errands and I knew better than to go to a park filled with pollen. So I decided to just wait for the elementary school traffic to leave and then park in front of the building where Zaven and Caly would be coming out.

I pulled in and parked, rolled down the windows and said Hi to the elementary school principal. He and a few teachers were waiting with the last few elementary students whose parents are running late. I told him I could move if he needed but he said that I was fine and that the parents had plenty of room to drive around me. I started reading while Zoe was telling Quinn all about her day. (She doesn't care that he doesn't understand. She just has to tell him anyway. ) Then BAM! This woman just drives right into us. Zoe yelled at me, "What did you do to our car?!" The principal comes over to make sure we're alright. We are. And I got out to check for damage. There was none.

But seriously, if she had hit a kid instead of a parked car they would have been hurt so bad. Who drives through a school parking lot at pick up time and doesn't look where they're going or pay attention to how fast they're driving?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

El Awrenz! El Awrenz!

I had such a treat last night. The Kentucky Theatre in Lexington was showing Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen last night and Scott and I went. I love that movie and last night was my first time seeing it in a real theatre. I was blown away. It's truly a different movie. For one, it's a lot easier to follow. There are a lot of scences set at night which are much more visible, plus it's easier to tell who's doing or saying things. Pretty much everyone in the movie is either in identical uniforms or identical robes so being able to see their faces makes a big difference. But really, the desert was the biggest difference. On the big screen, the desert is alive and is one of the characters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Drinking

Quinn is interested in drinking from cups now, rather than just sippy cups. The problem is that he sucks at it. He's really funny to watch drink. When he first learned to drink from a straw (over a year ago) he would get a big mouthful of juice, then chew it just like it was food before he swallowed. He ALWAYS chewed, and half the time he chewed with his mouth open so it just ran down his chin. We tried to convince him that he didn't need to... and the first time he tried to swallow without chewing he started to cough and choke. He was fine but it was just so silly. It was another week before he would try it again and even longer before he really started to consistantly drink without chewing.

Now that he's trying to use a cup he's doing that kind of odd, too. He puts it to his mouth, sticks his tounge into the juice, then tips the cup up until some pours into his mouth. He doesn't make any suction at all, he just pours some in. It's messy. Plus he pours in a huge mouthful so he has to swallow more than what's comfortable for him. Then of course he belches hugely.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Southpaw

Zoe has settled into kindergarten nicely and that's a relief. She seems to love her teachers and be doing her best to follow the rules and behave well. She comes home each day with new songs and stories, new letters she recognizes and numbers that she can now write. I'm very excited for her. I love learning and it's a good feeling to know that she'll have that joy in her life.

We are also starting to suspect that she's left handed. Caly was testing her last night discreetly, asking her to copy shapes that Caly drew. She did much better with her left hand. You may be wondering why we didn't notice before now. One was that all our kids experimented with both hands. I made a point of not ever telling them which hand to use and letting them take the lead. So sometimes they use one, sometimes the other. Zaven was strongly left handed before his cataract surgery. Afterwards he was right handed. That makes sense because he was blind in his right eye before the surgery. That affected his use of his limbs via hand-eye coordination. Caly was always strongly right handed. Zoe just switched around a lot, plus her favorite activities don't involve using fine motor skills. She runs, yells, jumps, yells, climbs, yells, fingerpaints (with both hands), yells, chases the cats, yells.... It's kind of hard to notice which hand she writes with when she never holds still long enough to write.

Friday, August 21, 2009

He approves.

I had a big long post about all that I've been up to that kept me from posting. But that was boring and besides, my boy was cute today. I had shopping to do today since most of Quinn's clothes have disappeared. Maybe they're in the mountain of dirty laundry in the kitchen floor (since he loves to take them out of his dresser and put them in the dirty laundry without even bothering to wear them). And maybe they're at Grandmas's (who's been known to hoard a few of the nicer outfits so that they'll be handy when she wants to show off a grandbaby). And maybe they've simply been thrown away in the trash (because Scott bagged up a bunch of dirty laundry in a trash bag... on trash day!). Whatever the reason, we're down to a few ill-fitting shorts and some ugly t-shirts. So I went shopping today.

Quinn and Scott ran an errand after dropping me off, and when I got back in the car I had a few cute outfits for him in a bag. I was talking to Scott and looked back at Quinn... and he'd taken the shoulder straps off in his car seat, reached forward and snagged the cutest shirt out of the bag, stripped off his shirt, tore the pricetag off the new one, and was wriggling into it. Before I could say a word he had it on and was slipping back into the shoulder straps and clipping the top buckle back together. I have to admit, he looked good. And he knew it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The letter home.

This week's kindergarten class newsletter includes a reminder that children who plan to eat breakfast at school need to arrive by 7:15. 7:15? Good lord! It turns out that school starts 20 minutes earlier than we thought it did. Not only that but when Scott asked at school more than one person told him it started at 8, which would mean breakfast at 7:30. Oh well. At least now I know.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shouldn't this be written down somewhere?




























Today was Zoe's first day of school. Scott did the dropping off and picking up since I have a cold. She slept last night in Caly's room and I drugged everyone with benadryl because they were all excited and used to staying up late and sleeping in. Caly was so eager to see all her friends again that she woke up at 5:30 this morning. Zoe woke up at 6:30 and they got themselves ready. Why so early? Because we don't know when school starts. Our district has a habit of changing the start times every year. Every single year. But our letters from the school about school supplies and class schedules and such did NOT include the daily schedule. That's right. They didn't tell us when to be there. I didn't worry about it and just figured I'd check the website. But it's not on the website. And not only that but when Scott came homw from dropping her off, he told me that the people he'd asked weren't sure. Who had he asked? The teachers, the principal, and the office staff. And that huge packet of paperwork they sent home? Not in there either. There was a letter about how much trouble we'll be in if she's tardy. But no mention of what time she would be considered tardy. I still don't know. I know it's sometime around 8. Last year it was 7:40. But the year before it was 7:50 and one year it was 8:20. I think I'll just have to make sure she's there by 7:30 and hope they figure it out and let me know.

Meanwhile, she's still not home. She's out of school, but Zaven and Caly aren't out yet. They start an hour later (or roundabouts that... I don't know their start time either) and get out an hour later. Their school is actually in the same building as hers. It's a really neat school. It was built in the 1960's by hippie architects. It's got circular buildings and looks just like a giant spaceship. It also has all the grades in one building. That means Zoe is in the same school building as Zaven and Caly. A year from now, Quinn will start preschool, Zoe 1st grade, Caly will be a high school freshman, and Zaven will be a senior... all in the same building. When Zaven and Caly started there they still didn't have walls between the classrooms, just dividers. Like I said, hippie architects.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Errands

Today and tomorrow are errand days. I have half a million small errands this week, but half are in one town and half are in the next. I don't know why I end up running so many errands, but I do. I always do. And school starts this week, so there are things that must be done for that, too.

Zoe starts kindergarten and it's a full school day. I can't make up my mind about it. I'm looking forward to it in a way because she's a high energy kid and that will let her burn off a lot of steam at school. But I'm also nervous because that means a ton of small things, like just how much trouble can she get into before it gets serious. And what the heck is Quinn going to do all day? And because Zaven and Caly are in middle and high schools, they still will get out at a different time. Sigh... we'll work it out.

Wish me luck. Or rather, wish that her teachers have a lot of patience.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

This is not how I feel. It's just funny.

CONGRESS VOTES TO OUTSOURCE PRESIDENCY

Congress Votes to Outsource Presidency
Washington, DC -- July 23, 2009

Congress today announced that the office of President of the United States of America will be outsourced to India as of September 1, 2009.

The move is being made in order to save the President's $500,000 yearly salary, and also record deficit expenditures and related overhead that the office has incurred during the last decade.

It is anticipated that $27 billion can be saved by the end of the President's term. "We believe this is a wise financial move. The cost savings are huge," stated an un-named Congressman. "We cannot remain competitive on the world stage with the current level of budget shortfalls."

Obama was informed by email this morning of his termination. Preparations for the job move have been underway for some time.

Gurvinder Singh, a tele-technician for Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will assume the office of President as of September 1, 2009. Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his parents were vacationing at Niagara Falls, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month, but no health coverage or other benefits.

It is believed that Mr. Singh will be able to handle his job responsibilities without a support staff. Due to the time difference between the U.S. and India, he will be working primarily at night. "Working nights will allow me to keep my day job at the Dell Computer call center," stated Mr. Singh in an exclusive interview. "I am excited about this position. I always hoped I would be President."

A Congressional spokesperson noted that while Mr. Singh may not be fully aware of all the issues involved in the office of President, this should not be a problem as our previous president seems to have not been familiar with the issues either.

Mr. Singh will rely upon a script tree that will enable him to respond effectively to most topics of concern. Using these canned responses, he can address common concerns without having to understand the underlying issue at all. "We know these scripting tools work," stated the spokesperson. "President Bush had used them successfully for years with the result that some people actually thought he knew what he was talking about."

Obama will receive health coverage, expenses, and salary until his final day of employment. Following a two-week waiting period, he will be eligible for $415 a week unemployment for 26 weeks. Unfortunately he will not be eligible for Medicaid, as his unemployment benefits will exceed the allowed limit.

Obama has been provided with the outplacement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a resume and prepare for his upcoming job transition. According to Manpower, Obama may have difficulties in securing a new position due to the poor economy. A greeter position at WalMart was suggested due to Obama's extensive experience at shaking hands and his enthusiastic smile.

-----author unknown

Friday, August 7, 2009

The zoo, the science museum, and Michael Phelps

Sorry not to write for so long. We went out of town for a few days to pick up Caly from her trip to Alabama. We stopped at the zoo on the way there and got to actually see a few more of the animals this trip. We also went to the Northwest Georgia Science Museum, which I enjoyed very much. I don't have zoo pictures, since we left the camera in the car, but I do have some great pictures from the museum.

































And what does Michael Phelps have to do with any of this? Nothing, except that during the drive I read a magazine article about the safety of public pools. It was focused on the risks of contaminated water and it said, "Even Michael Phelps admitted to having urinated in a pool during an interview." Which could mean that he admitted it during an interview, or that he was interviewed in a pool and peeed during the interview. And when we picked Caly up, she told us that while they were watching TV they'd left the subtitles on because her cousin had an ear infection. And the subway commercial with Michael Phelps has the funniest subtitles. Apparently Sly and the Family Stone are singing, "I justwana thank U firlettinme be mice elf agin."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Special

Recently I read several blog posts that really got me thinking about special needs children. One was Just a babe with a kid who has special needs by Ellen at To The Max. In it, she talks about attending a conference and telling person after person that her son has cerebral palsy as a result of having a stroke as a baby. She talks about getting "the sympathy stare" and how she had trouble with that because she doesn't see his life as tragic. Many of her readers replied, talking about what the sympathy was for. Sympathy for the extra work involved? For the fact that their special needs child wouldn't every do the things regular kids did? Many ideas were tossed around and most of them seemed to be rejected.

The same day, Once Lucky posted on Where's my white picket fence? about the DNA testing done after her recent miscarriage. She discovered that the baby she'd lost had some genetic defects and that knowledge gave her some much needed comfort. She felt the miscarriage was supposed to happen.

The very next day after reading those two posts, Azaera from Taking It Day By Day joyously posted about her disabled son's first words AND Ellen (from To The Max) posted I think this blog has multiple personality disorder about how just a day after saying she didn't want sympathy, she broke down crying after seeing a boy run into his father's arms.

Finally, this morning Azaera posted Consolation where she talks about no longer taking comfort in the idea that she lost her first pregnancy to a miscarriage that was supposed to happen because now that she's the parent of a special needs child, that idea would imply that her son shouldn't be here either.

(Please know that I'm paraphrasing EVERYONE. No one said those exact things in that exact way. And even if they had, these are people talking about their own lives and circumstances and not meaning to pass judgement on anyone else.)

So... I keep thinking about this and turning it around in my head. And I've come to some conclusions.

I don't know what other non-special-needs people are sympathizing about. But as for me, I think that my reaction ultimately comes from the fact that I'm offended. Not by the person with special needs. But I am offended by the disability itself, that any child (any person!) should be in pain, should struggle to do things that should come easily. I view spina bifida much the same way I would view a pedophile. It is not welcome in this world.

Of course that would imply that I view special needs children and adults as victims -- helpless tragic figures who are weak in spirit or need rescuing. Well, I suppose if I was to be entirely honest, part of that is true. I do see the special needs populations as victims. But I don't view victims as automatically being weak or needy. I am constantly amazed by the tenacity and strength of people who overcome horrendous circumstances. My grandmother survived the attempted genocide of her entire country. She came to America at 14 years old, pregnant and married to a man a decade older who she'd met only the day before the wedding. She was uneducated because her schools had been destroyed. She spoke no English and knew no one other that her husband, a taciturn man who was almost a stranger to her. Decades later I asked her why she had a drivers licence even though she never drove and why she always insisted in voting in every election no matter how unimportant the election was and how sick she was. She told me, "Because I can." That strength, that determination to let nothing stop her... that's how I view victims.

Those with special needs do have my sympathy, but also my respect. And I do agree that no baby should be born with a disability and that a miscarriage can be better than a short life of great suffering. But that's because I abhor the disability, not the disabled. The disabled are like everyone else, I suppose. Some are nice and some are mean. Some are fun and some are boring. And some wallow in being victims while others fight against it with a vengance and perseverance that I can't imagine having.

I hope I haven't offended you guys too much and I promise to hop down off my soap box now and think of something funny.