Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fitness philosophy (resolving not to kill myself working out)

I started to write "I hate to exercise," but that is not true, really.

What I hate is working out in a gym or my basement and using a machine and/or tools that were invented for the sole purpose of exercising.  I do not get into a "zone" from this.  I listen to music and mostly suffer through excruciating boredom.

I pay $14.99 a month for a gym membership and use it about 2-3 times a month.

It occurred to me, in the early fall when I was spending about 83% of my life up at the kids' elementary school weeding and planting flowers and laying weed-block fabric and spreading mulch, that anyone who pays for a gym membership but does NOT do their own yard work might not be hitting on all cylinders.

A few years ago I dug a trench in my backyard to put in a French drainage tile.  I basically walked less than 3 feet to dig the dirt and dump it nearby.  But I walked less than 3 feet about 4,000 times and ended up showing something like 2.5 miles walked on my Fitbit.

My yard is only .25 acre, but when I traipse back and forth across it pushing the lawnmower it adds up to quite a bit of mileage.

And housework....that is good exercise, too.

I don't understand paying someone to clean one's house and then paying for a gym membership, either.  Vacuuming all 3 levels in my house in one day, including carrying the vacuum up and down two flights of steps is a workout.  Or moving furniture and mopping the first floor???  I sweat a lot more doing this than I ever do at the gym.

My mindset has changed a lot in the past few years about fitness.  For a few years, I was trying to get a nicer body, especially after having M in 2009.....flatten my abs, mostly.  But then I used a trainer who is a female in her 50s, and she helped me recognize that fitness isn't just being able to benchpress 200 lbs.  Fitness, especially as a person ages, must involve balance and stability.  As a person ages, if she falls, it can be devastating to her overall health.

Plus, what I've realized is that I can workout like crazy to have flat abs, but my body is still going to age.  I can have the abs I want, but I'm still going to have wrinkles and not look like a 25-year-old.  My breasts are going to sag without surgical intervention.  I am going to have that weird flabby flap between my arm and armpit (right at the bra line) when my arms are at my side.

This acknowledgment has helped me rethink how much time and energy I want to spend on trying to make myself look 20 years younger. I'm at the point where I'm pretty happy if my triglycerides and cholesterol are good and my A1C is in a healthy range.  If I can get enough exercise to keep those in check, then that is good enough for me.

I look at my mother as an example of fitness.  She walks 2 miles or more every day, preferably outside since treadmills are boring (her words, not mine).   I think she has started using some small 2 lb weights in the past year.  She is 77 years old and looks really darn good, I think.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The love affair with Geronimo Stilton

It is interesting to me to see the kids' tastes develop as readers.

As new readers, neither N nor G stuck with The Magic Treehouse series for very long, although they both enjoyed them for a time (this was kind of a bummer to me because I rather enjoyed them.)

N was big into Junie B. Jones in early elementary (and I enjoyed Junie's wit and mouth, although I probably would not had those words been coming out of my actual child's mouth).  She dabbled in the Puppy Place series and Thea Stilton, but nothing really stuck.  I threw Newbury winners at her (and still do) and even though she fought me (and still does), she was (and is) always crazy about the book by the time she got a chapter or two in.

G has been on a Geronimo Stilton reading kick this school year.

Since school began he has read these:
#3 Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House
#6 Paws Off, Cheddarface!
#14 The Temple of the Ruby of Fire
#18 Shipwreck on the Pirate Islands
#46 The Haunted Castle

He sorta fought reading chapter books, so I am very happy he has taken to these books and continues checking them out.  He is a big fantasy, mystical creature lover so when he saw these mentioned in the back of one of the other books, he was very keen to read them.  I hightailed it to the local Scholastic warehouse sale and bought him the three in this series that I could find.

This is the one he is reading now.  It is a little like The Fellowship of the Ring.  There is a giant, the king of the fairies (who appears as a deer) and Puss in Boots.  D and I take turns having G read to us at night, so I can't follow the story much more closely than that.

These are the other two he will read.

We sent in for a special "gift" from Geronimo and got this back.  G was pretty excited to get it and specifically mentioned that Geronimo says writing stories isn't as hard as you think.  

One of the things I like about these books is the way some of the words are highlighted, colored, or in unusual fonts.  Not all of the words are big or difficult or mean anything particularly helpful, but some are/do.  If nothing else, the unusual lettering makes the reader pay attention because the word might be important.  Or it might just be cool the way the font mimics what the word is, like "frozen" is done in white/blue and looks like ice.  

G is enough of a vested reader that he has asked me to define a number of words that he has read in the Geronimo books, which is a good sign, I think.  He cares enough and/or is paying attention enough to want to know.  

So until it ends, the love affair will continue....

Thursday, December 24, 2015

As close as I'm ever gonna get to doing Pinterest-y, elf-on-the-shelfy stuff

I mucho disliko Christmas.

I dislike the clutter of putting up and then taking down decorations within a month's time.  I dislike abhor the shopping.  I dislike the fretting over whether my children will be satisfied with what Santa brings them.  I dislike the busyness.  I dislike feeling like I have to make every second of the season so special.

As a result of these feelings, I do not engage in any type of Christmas tomfoolery.

Though I wish G didn't have anxiety, at Christmas I am happy for it because he is terrified of the elf-on-the-shelf.  He thinks they are weird and creepy and would throw an absolute duck-fit if I even considered bringing one into our house.

This is a win-win for me because I don't want to spend money on one, and I definitely don't want to have to think up activities for the elf that involve additional clutter and mess-making.  Some moms have gotten to the point where the elf has a broken leg and can't move.  I suspect my rage would somehow land the elf with a butter knife shoved in his gut.

However, this year, G set me a task that I did feel like I needed to address in a somewhat creative way.

He and his siblings wrote letters to Santa, which are answered by our local township/city, but he had included a very specific question in his letter.  The fine folks who respond to the hundreds, and maybe even thousands of letters from kids, do not have the time, money, or patience to answer my son's specific question.

So I did.

Here was his question to Santa:

And here is how Santa responded:

Writing creatively while sitting on my butt....I can do.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Into a fold, even if it's not the original fold

Many of my posts seem to begin with "I just finished reading....." and then I write about how the book relates to my life.  I'll do that later.

This one begins with....

My mom told me that the local Catholic church is having a "return to the fold"-type effort, whereby they ask attending members to give the names/contact info for Catholics in exile (that is my term, not theirs).  Fortunately, my mom has the good sense to not give my name.  

Had she given my name, I would have been ticked off for a variety of reasons.  First, I know where to find churches, so if I wanted to return to the Catholic fold, I know exactly where to go.  Secondly, this effort is just too much in the way of "telemarketing."  Thirdly, I tend to me very much middle-school oriented:  if I am going to do anything, it is going to be my own decision, not at the urging of anyone else.  I hate to feel guilted, cajoled, or forced into doing anything, which is why evangelization just drives me bonkers.  

At the same time, I wouldn't have been mad at her, really.  I suspect that even though she is glad I attend a Christian church however randomly, there is some level of feeling rejected.  The feeling that what she and my dad gave me as in infant, the community of Catholics, isn't good enough, isn't something I want.  I get that.  That is a normal parent experience....

(and here is where I segue to a book I've read.....)

I finished reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and it simply devastated me, as both a child and a parent.  

When I think back to my earlier years, attending church and bitching about it the entire time, I suspect my parents knew that I would eventually do my own thing.  The older I got, the more "black sheepish" I became.  I seem to recall questioning the role of women and the dictates of the Catholic church, what I considered the narrowness of the dogma.  I didn't like the guilt associated with church, nor did I like the "have-tos."  Perhaps this is what drew me to D, in part.  I liked that he wasn't associated with any of that.  I liked that he had his own totally non-religious perspective.

It cannot be easy for a parent who very much subscribes to a way of life to see his/her child choose something different.  Even if it is not a rejection, it feels like a rejection.  A person almost can't help but take it as a rejection, and there is sadness and loss.

But if a parent is paying attention, it is probably not a surprise.  A child lets a parent know very early on, I think.

This December marks 3 years that the kids and I have been attending the nearby Christian church where they went to preschool.  The kids are getting a foundation in some kind of organized religion, but I don't know where that might lead them.  If nothing else, it gives them something to question, something to consider as they grow up.  Going to this church, although we are not every-week or even every-other-week attendees, gives me some of the ritual that I missed from attending Catholic church.  And I like that there aren't hoops my kids have to jump through to attend and participate in "communion."

The other day G said something like "Everyone should believe in Christmas" and I had to explain Judaism and Islam to him, that not everyone believes in Christmas, and that is ok.  That these other religions have their own special holidays and holy days.  At 8 years of age, G has already shown me that he is a questioner, a doubter, a skeptic.  He said he doesn't believe Jesus is the actual son of God, but rather that he was God's helper.

If he grows to be an adult who "rejects" anything and/or everything that I have tried to instill in him, it would not surprise me.  And even though I have always wanted my children to figure things out for themselves, I would probably feel like he was rejecting me and what I thought important enough to give him as a foundation and point of reference.

I would have to reflect on my own choices and the things I rejected or reconfigured from my parents in my effort to be the person I am.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The boys....explaining how babies get made and other things

I really have explained to my children how babies are made.

At this point, N would be mortified if I tried to bring it up to her given her tweeniness, but she has been told.

G and M have been told, as well, although tonight's conversation makes me think a review is in order.

It began by M saying that N grew in my belly, while he and G grew in D's belly.  I had to straighten that out.  When I told him boys don't have babies, that a baby will never grow in his tummy, his reaction was, "YES!"

With a double arm pump.

It was at this point that G launched into his explanation of the birds and the bees.

He said that a mom and a dad cuddle together.  The souls come out of the dad's belly button and go into the mom's belly button.  All of the souls rush to find an egg.  The first one to get into the egg becomes the baby.

I didn't correct him because 1. that was just a cute explanation and 2. he then asked who took care of the first baby because the first baby wouldn't have a mom or a dad because then it wasn't the first baby because the mom and dad had been babies.  I do not like being the "chump" in the "Stump the Chump" game, but I usually am when it involves my middle child.

At some point, dinosaurs and wooly mammoths (which sounded to me like he said, "Willy Amos," and I asked, "Who is Willy Amos?") were brought into the conversation.  I'm not sure how or why.

After that we watched a video of cats doing stupid stuff just so I wouldn't have to think so much.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

The thing that is currently stuck in my craw

As a rule, I do not get my feelings hurt easily, so I'm gonna blame this on perimenopause weirdness. Or on general Christmas-associated grouchiness.

I love quirky things, and I especially love quirky, homemade things.  I'd say probably 60% (and possibly more) of the decorative items in my house are not from stores.  They are items I've purchased from artists and/or craftspeople, things I've made or up-cycled, or things other people have made for me, or things other people bought from artists/craftspeople.  

While I might look at store-made stuff at Target or Hobby Lobby, I generally don't want it because those are what zillions of other people have in their homes.  I like seeing the stuff in my house and remembering who made it for me or who bought it for me during their travels.  I like for my house to have a story.  

The problem is that not everyone values this.  Some people really, really seem to value gift cards.  

Now I am not anti-gift card at all.  I think gift cards are the perfect gift for teachers because if even 10% of their students give them gifts every Christmas or teacher appreciation week, they will run out of room in their houses very quickly.

My family does a dirty Santa gift exchange every year, but it has gotten increasingly less fun because all everyone buys is gift cards.  Gift cards with a little bit of candy tucked in the bag with the gift card.  

I have made the mistake of trying to give fun, quirky gifts.  A few years ago I painted a picture (the one with the rust-colored flowers), which I thought was actually kinda pretty and gave it as a gift.  

Last year I went to a local business that sells fair trade items made in developing countries and bought a bowl made of curled magazine pages and a wooden sculpture for holding one's glasses.  I like that these are handmade items and that the money generated from them goes to sustain people.  

This year, I made a mug and a vase in pottery class.

Every year, I feel like my gifts go over like a lead balloon.  

I know this is not a statement about me, although the middle-schooler who lives inside my head tends to say, "See, you've always been the black sheep, and you always will be."  

I know this is more of a "We like different things" issue.  
Which makes me think I might be done participating in the dirty Santa gift exchange.
I don't want to buy gift cards.  I think it defeats the whole purpose of a dirty Santa exchange. 

The worst part of this is it has me looking at my pottery and thinking it's crap when I know it isn't crap.  It isn't great pottery, or even good pottery, but it is my pottery, and I enjoyed making it, and I think it is cool.  

The above is a small bowl/tray.  

 Another small bowl/tray.

I am keeping this one. 

These will be hung together in my house.  

A little dish for kitty treats.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

My wedding album is proof I've always been an old lady

For probably a decade,  I've had all of my photo albums in my closet because my living room storage center has been overrun with toys.  Plus, I've never wanted to subject the albums to sticky and/or grimy little hands.

In the past few months, I have moved them all to the center, and my children, particularly G, have discovered them.

A couple weeks ago, G found my photo album of Shankers and Gonzo.  He began to cry because he hadn't been able to see and play with them when they were kitties.  He asked if we could take the album downstairs and show it to Slippers and Skits.  Although Slippers and Skits didn't care about looking through the album, it made G feel better.

In the past few days, he has discovered my and D's wedding album.

He saw the picture of me smoking a cigar (a long-held tradition of my dad's and his Air Force buddies, who have smoked cigars at all of their own weddings and all of their children's weddings.) He said, "Mom is smokin'," which I took to mean, "Smokin' hot."

Thank you, son.

He loves seeing photos of his Papaw T, who died in 2004 when N was a baby.  He asks questions about my aunts and uncles who have passed away.

I don't look at my wedding pictures often, but when I do, I am reminded of how much of an old lady I was at 23- and 24-years of age.

Given how young I was, our wedding was very much like something a couple in their 30s-40s would have.

Instead of a disc jockey, we had a string quartet at our wedding ceremony and reception.  We had two attendants:  my best friend whom I've been friends with since 1988 and D's dad.  We didn't smash wedding cake into each other's faces (I've never understood that concept; it seems to set the tone for a not-exactly mature relationship.)  We didn't blow out the candles after we lit our own joint candle, which I never understood since your family of origin doesn't just drop off the planet after you exchange vows.  Given how much our families of origin play a role in the goings on of the family we created together, it seems ridiculous to symbolically blow those relationships out.

Honestly, if I did my wedding all over again, I would do much of it the same.  I wouldn't invite as many people (I didn't want to invite as many people, but parents will have their way at times).  And I would choose a different location for the reception.

But the dress, the music, the attendants, and probably even the husband would be the same.

It is comforting to know that some fundamentals about myself haven't changed over all this time.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trying on this ad stuff and pondering whether I'd ever want to "market" my blog

A friend of mine posted a photo of Karl Marx on my feed when I complained about shopping, which I hate at all times, but especially now, at Christmastime.

I think that is funny since I just recently thought about (and am test-driving) ads on this site.

Apparently, based on the ads, my blog appeals to people who like Victoria's Secret and are schizophrenic.

How did it know that I took $50 of the money I earned for next semester's teaching and bought myself 13 pair of VS undies?  I have decided that at 42 years of age, with a master's degree and nearly 12 years of mothering under my belt, I am DONE with buying cheap underwear that stretches out after two washings.

I still buy cheap a$$ socks, though because socks don't ride up into unpleasant places.

Sometimes I've pondered being intentional about "marketing" this blog...about actively trying to promote the blog.  In doing so, though, I'd open myself up to a whole bunch of nonsense.  A whole bunch of opinions I don't want.

Like this gal.
Holy heck!  What a sh*tstorm.

I may not agree with her shopping choices, but she also isn't asking me to pay for it, so what does it really matter to me.  I'm certainly not going to lambast her on her blog.  But so many small-minded people will and do.

If I promoted this blog, if I went on blogher and networked to get it "out there," then I would have to deal with whatever fallout occurred as a result.  The small amount of meanness I got on here, before I stopped allowing anonymous comments, was all I needed of that.

I've always questioned the wisdom of not appreciating smallness, or of aspiring to awesomeness no matter the cost.  I remember our city posted signs around a number of years ago that read:  "City name:  16th largest metropolitan area in the US."  I just thought this was so stupid.  Top 3---I can totally see making signs about that.  Even top 5.  But 16th?????

That was a perfect example of a perfectly fine city feeling like it needs to aspire to greatness, when it would be better served to be what it is and get over that desire to grow and gain and be bigger, better, more metropolitan.

I am probably a perfectly fine city who shouldn't bother with signs.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thoughts on addiction

I finished reading Jennifer Weiner's book, All Fall Down, last night.  She isn't an author I would have picked up if not for my book club.  I think I had sorta stereotyped her into "chicklit-lite," although this was based on nothing other than her novel title, Good in Bed.  Until now, I'd never actually read her stuff.

Anyway, All Fall Down brought up some interesting things to consider, especially in light of recent NPR broadcasts about the rate of suicide and drug abuse among white people ages 40-54(ish).

I jokingly refer to drinking on Facebook at times, which might give someone the idea that I imbibe often, especially during summer when my kids are with me or on snow days.  The truth is that I usually have 1-2 glasses of wine per week.  I buy 6 bottles of wine at a time (to get a 10% discount) and those bottles last about 3-4 months (since D will also have 1-2 glasses of wine per week).  If I go out and purchase a drink at a restaurant, I have 1 drink, and I always have food with that drink.  I know what I can handle, and it is not much.

When I think about why I am able to "control myself," I might like to think that it is because I've got such strong willpower, but it is probably just good fortune.  My dad's dad was a violent alcoholic, and I know that is why my father will not have more than 2 drinks.  For me, having a 5-day hangover at age 21 helped me realize that getting too far gone isn't fun.

But I also think I probably just don't have that addictive disposition.  Genetics are working for me, which is nothing I can control.  I never became addicted to cigarettes because I didn't like how they revved me up and made me feel jumpy.  It wasn't willpower.

My OCD, in a strange way, I think, helped/helps keep me off cigarettes and alcohol.  I am scared to death to get sick and die, so doing things that could lead to getting sick and dying aren't appealing.  My fear is greater than my need to numb myself, perhaps?

All sorts of thoughts ran through my head while reading this book, like

*why do some people refuse counseling?  (like Allison's husband, which if he had agreed to it, might have resulted in her doing things differently.)

*why didn't Allison ever think she might have anxiety (she seemed to worry an awful lot about fitting into uppity Haverford society), and if she had, could an antidepressant have kept her off painkillers?
(Of course, we learn something about Allison's mom that explains Allison's own choices a little better and helps us see a pattern.)

*overcoming addiction is a full-time job
(Although I personally know people who have become addicted to painkillers and gone through rehab, reading this novel helped me see how hard it must be to get off and stay off these highly addicted drugs.)

*addiction and stigma
I wish Allison had told people she was in rehab because this helps destroy the stereotype that addicts are poor, lazy, weak, uneducated, etc.  It is easy for someone without the genetic addictive disposition to think it is simple to quit, just as it is easy for someone without anxiety to tell me "Don't worry."  If I could just tell myself to stop worrying and stop, why wouldn't I have just done that????  The same goes for addiction.

Although fictional and probably a "lite" depiction of what addiction actually looks like in the real world, I liked how it made me consider my views of a life I am fortunate not to know.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that the medication seems to be helping

G is 8-years-old, and I have to remind myself, when he is being a pain-in-the-tail, teasing, annoying, talking about poop every 29.5 seconds kid, that medication will not change that.  Sometimes it is hard to tell how much of a kid's weirdness is actual, potentially diagnosable problematic weirdness and how much is just being a kid.

I sat with a class of 8-year-olds at a theater performance today.  It was a nice reminder that all second graders, and not just my kid, 1. can't sit still for long, 2. talk very loudly about all manner of random sh*t, and 3. look like ragamuffins.

We are at 2 weeks of Celexa use for G's actual, diagnosable weirdness.  So far, so good.

What I noticed almost immediately after beginning it is that he started falling asleep without his verbal repetitive loop of worry, even when he doesn't take melatonin.  He began the medication on a Monday.  On the following Friday and Saturday nights, he fell straight to sleep and didn't wake during either night.  He has stopped freaking out over every single thing.  If something gets moved, he expresses his displeasure, but he just says it.  He doesn't scream it or cry or otherwise throw a tantrum.

I have noticed that he is saying, "I love you" more to me than he has in a very long time, which makes me wonder if he was just so busy trying to contain worry that he couldn't bother with affection and communication.  That makes me sad.  And it also makes me very glad we took the steps we did.

I wish I could say that I am without worry over him, but I can't.  He has had a runny nose, so my mind immediately went to, "He is allergic to the medication," although nasal drippage is not a side effect I can find anywhere in the literature.

He threw a gigantic fit the first night we gave him the medication, which had me convinced that he would end up homeless, schizophrenic and suicidal, and that worst-case scenario remains at the back of my mind.  I think he thought he would take the medicine and wake up a different person. He kept asking, "Will I still be me?"  He and I are now taking our "brain" medication together every morning, which I think helps him, as did the realization the next morning that he was the same.    

He got a haircut today and didn't cry afterwards, which had started happening with great regularity and led me to start whacking at his hair myself to avoid an actual salon.  He would have preferred to leave it longer, in his eyes and untouched by the stylist, but he was ok.

I don't want perfect or spectacular or amazing.  I'm thankful that my kid, for right now, is doing ok.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beowulf, bombings, and history

I have been studying the Angles and Saxons as I prepare to teach Beowulf in the spring.  It has been far more interesting to study this as an adult than it was as a teenager.

In the wake of the ISIS bombings, I have found myself thinking on Beowulf and what life was like for people during that age.  I think Thomas Hobbes' phrasing says it best:  "nasty, brutish and short."  The short part was a blessing, it seems to me, given that they were people who only barely survived given any normal, uneventful day, but who were also regularly faced with intruding hoards of violent barbarians with whatever system of protection they had overturned and dismantled.  Disease and wolves lurked at every turn as well.

How many people in the Middle East and Africa live like Angles and Saxons every day in this modern world, I ask myself.

Somehow, it has been helpful for me to know this, to remind me that the upheaval in the world is not new.  It is not unique to 2015.  It has always been this way.  There have always been barbarians.  There have always been people savagely killed.  Knowing this has given me some strange comfort.  Life continues, even if it is without you....or me.

The difference is that in modern life I know, I am reminded almost constantly, of the nastiness, brutishness and shortness of others' lives.

During the spring semester, I am also planning to teach 1984, so I have the idea of a society in which there are no rights swirling in my head, where every decision is rooted in fear, thereby stripping people of their ability to think, to feel, to be who they are.  Sounds a bit like Beowulf---a people living in fear---and yet one was written in 1000 AD and the other in 1948.

In an effort to stem fear, we turn to absolutes.  This is the right way; that is the wrong way.  Even something as seemingly absolute as "Thou shall not kill" isn't really absolute, is it, at least in my non-God understanding of life?  Would it be absolutely wrong for a Syrian father to kill someone in an effort to save and protect his child?

I cannot say it is absolutely safe or unsafe to bring Syrian refugees into the US any more than I can say it is absolutely right or wrong to do so.  I cannot absolutely classify Muslims as terrorists when I see so many school children (or moviegoers or grocery shoppers) in the US  being held captive or being shot by non-Muslim gunmen who are mentally ill or harboring a grudge against whatever it is they harbor a grudge against.

There are degrees of terrorism.  Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Nigeria suffer extreme degrees.  The US, at least at this day and time, suffers to a lesser degree.

Parisians were attacked by fundamentalist Muslims, but Muslims are regularly attacked by fundamentalist Muslims.  Muslims are not dangerous, but I very much think fundamentalism can be. Even if it is the Christian version.
Especially if it is the political version.

Fear is tyranny, and it is why terrorists utilize it so effectively.  The amygdala is the most primitive system in our brains, which is why it is our automatic "go to" response when we feel threatened.  It takes a considerable amount of effort on the part of the frontal cortex to respond in any other way.

There is very little I can do except learn....

*by listening to what secularism has meant to "others" in Paris and how this can foment anger.

*by learning about Molenbeek in Belgium.

*by seeing why Syrians are fleeing their country.

*by being reminded of other victims of rampant genocide and how that played out.

Since I am going to die, by the hands of terror or natural causes, I hope I have compassion in my heart when it happens.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A cat family again

Last Saturday we became a cat family again.

D's sister's cat had a litter of five, and we took two of them.

N wanted to name them Puff and Dory.  D and I liked Narf as a name.  By the time we arrived at my SIL's house to meet them, we had landed on Fozzie and Finny.  

By the time we were in the car heading home, we had decided on Slippers for the one with white paws.  Once we got home and saw how skittish the other one was, we opted for Skits.  And those have stuck for a week.  

They have adjusted very well.  For the time being, we are keeping them in the main part of the basement, but once they have been front de-clawed we will allow them to have the run of the house during daytime hours.  

I had a bit of an ethical dilemma about the front de-clawing.  I am of the mind that if I am offering a home to an animal that might otherwise not have a home, de-clawing is just a part of the trade-off (for the cat). We front de-clawed Gonzo and Shanks and never let them outside.  Slippers and Skits will be the same.  (I very strongly feel that it is wrong to declaw a cat and then let them outside where they cannot protect themselves).  

A friend of mine is a vet, so I when the cats were still gestating I asked her about it.  It had been 17 years since we had declawed Gonzo and Shanks.  Maybe vets no longer declawed cats as a general rule?  Given D's reluctance to even get these cats and G's sensory issues/worries, she felt like declawing would be a good idea for our family.  I trust her opinion.  

Plus, she said, technically, neutering and spaying an animal is not "natural" but we do that, so the whole "leaving animals in their natural state" is a slippery slope argument anyway.  

(I also rationalized to myself how many people circumcise their sons, which could be tantamount to declawing cats.  I opted to avoid circumcision for my sons, so I'm putting away any cat-related guilt.)

It has been enjoyable for the kids to see how much fun kittens can be.  After having very old cats, you forget how hilarious little ones are.  They are chaotic and in the process of destroying all of my artificial plants, but I'm used to beings smaller than me who mess my stuff up.  

Parenting makes cat ownership a walk in the park.  



G playing with Skits

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dear son, I'm the OCD're the nut

Imagine you get a new picture and hang it on your wall.  You like the picture.  You wanted a change.
But every time you walk in the room, your picture is no longer a picture.  It is a giant, hot pink elephant that is engulfed in flames.  It isn't dangerous;  it will not harm you or burn your house down. You just cannot ignore it, no matter how hard you try.  Everyone else sees your new picture and enjoys it.  You cannot enjoy your picture because it refuses to just be a picture.  It is now a disturbance and may feel that way for weeks.  Or forever.

Imagine you are doing your work.  Out of your head pops the "Waiting for someone to call me back" blob.  It sits on a stool near your desk and throws tiny spit balls at your forehead.  They don't hurt.  The blob doesn't speak or make mean faces or feel threatening, really.  But your concentration sucks because of the spit balls.  You can't ignore the spit balls.  They won't stop pinging your forehead.

When I was a child, around age 10 although I could have been a little older or a little younger, I remember doing the following:

*staying up every night until after my parents went to bed and checking all the locks on the doors. I didn't disturb my folks.  They probably didn't know I was still awake, but I was.  When I heard them breathing deeply and/or snoring, I'd come out of my room.

*I had to have one ear covered in order to sleep (after checking the locks).  It was even better if I could put a cotton ball in my ear and then cover it with the sheet.

*If I called a friend, (in the days before answering machines), and no one was home,  I let the phone ring a hundred times.  (It occurred to me that I might be elaborating.  Maybe it wasn't a hundred.  It was probably only 50.  But then I decided that allowing the phone to ring even 25 is probably excessive.)

*As a teenager, if I went out and used hairspray or styling products on my hair, I could come home and go to sleep.  But the next night, if I didn't change my sheets, I could feel the hairspray and styling products on my face when I put my head on the pillow.  I could not sleep on those sheets.

Over time, my symptoms, my oddities, changed.

What I can only assume is happening to G is that he is confronted with inflamed elephants and hairspray sensations and pinging spit balls, and he can't cope, so he cries and shrieks and throws tantrums.

The added issue is that he is egosyntonic---he doesn't see this as a problem, even though it is a problem for our family.  This is why CBT doesn't work for him.  CBT only works if the person sees a concern/problem and is motivated to address and change it.

The psychiatrist is hopeful that because I have had a good run with Lexapro, G will have good results with Celexa.

I very rarely have "Please, God" thoughts, but I am very much hoping that however G can be helped, healed and supported, he will be.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Artistic pursuits....

That might be insulting people who are talented artists, and it is definitely overstating my abilities.

Maybe I should say "Somewhat pathetic but enjoyable attempts at being more creative?"
That seems more accurate.

Creative pursuits aren't a new thing to me, but I'm interested in trying my hand at a wider range of things.  I've been playing piano for almost 4 years, and I've dabbled in scrapbooking and other odds and ends.  Like this:

This is a paper bowl I made a couple years ago.  

I bought a Cricut over the summer and
 have made some cute things for the house.

This is a recent project to use a canvas. 

In September, I took a pottery class.  Used a wheel and everything.  It was very interesting and made me appreciate pottery even more than I already did.  It isn't easy.

Some of the things I made turned out pretty cool.  Like these:

And then there are some that aren't very symmetric or normal,
but I like them anyway
(which is sorta how I feel about my children).

And then there are some that are just laughable failures and will be painted over.  I should be used to
revisions, right?  

This is my post-apocalyptic, rather defective hummingbird.  

It feels nice to have time to engage in these endeavors.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

18th anniversary (writing now because we, duh, married on one of the busiest weekends of the year)

D and I married on All Saints' Day eighteen years ago.

We discussed getting married on Halloween, but I knew that would eliminate a ton of family members from attending, which would have been great on the budget but sucky on the celebratory effect.

With regard to our selected anniversary date, we didn't realize the following:

1. We would always forget our anniversary because we think, "Our anniversary is in November," without fully grasping that it is DAY 1.  We don't have any actual time in the month of November to prepare.  As our lives have gotten busier, we have pretty much agreed to forego cards and other such trinkets.

2. We would be so busy with our own tribe of children that actually celebrating our anniversary would be an afterthought.  By the time Halloween ends at midnight, we will have been to approximately 167 Halloween parties, 2 pumpkin tosses, 6 trunk or treats, and a spooky orchestra concert.  In years' past, doing something on our anniversary has been on the calendar, and no thank you.

(Hence, the reason I'm posting this now instead of the weekend.)

With regard to marriage, when we started out, we didn't realize a whole heck of a lot more, like.....

*how, in retrospect, the first 4 years felt like play-acting.

*how, in retrospect, years 4-6 were crazy good.

*how our home eventually went from feeling not as homey as our parents' home to the place where we decompress and breathe, and we didn't realize when or how it happened.

*how he and I would begin at opposite ends of a spectrum on issues, meet in the middle and somehow bypass each other.  He is where I used to be, and I am where he used to be.

*sometimes the best you can say about your marriage is that you've simply put too much into it to deal with starting over with someone else, so you suck it up, watch things blow over and move on.

*how usually episodes like the aforementioned are followed by moments when you know this person is a really good fit for you, for a variety of reasons.

*you have to get really good at ignoring a lot, including some of your own stupid behaviors and thought processes that really amount to nothing productive.

*how much of a feeling of pride and success comes with sticking with the same person for this many years and not once having raised the iron skillet over his/her head in the middle of the night.

Really, I don't have snarky comments (ok, maybe just one) about the sports banquet

Last week was N's field hockey banquet.  It was my first such event.

It was very nice, took a huge amount of effort and organization on the part of its coordinators, and it meant so much to N.  She and the other girls were excited and had fun.

Following the meal, each of the coaches gave out awards to their players.  I appreciated N's coach because she kept her awards' delivery short and sweet.  N received "Most Improved Offense."  I don't actually know what that means, but whatever it is, she has improved so I'm happy.

It was at this point that the internal snark came out.  Technically, it is/was not directed at any of the particular coaches; it is/was aimed at all sports players/coaches around the world.  I have had occasions to listen to televised interviews of sports figures, and they are the most redundant, nonsensical things I've ever heard.  It makes Through the Looking Glass and other Lewis Carroll fare seem like ludicity.

At the awards banquet, it took quite a long time to say what might have been summed up in one sentence:  "Players gave their all, gave 110% and rocked it." The Carrie way to have an awards ceremony in under 2 minutes.

The awards took long enough that I played with my phone and seriously considered grabbing my book from my purse until it was over.

But all the while I was having these "please.STOP.TALKING" thoughts, I felt guilty, which is why after we returned home and got the kids to bed, I sent a thank you email to the coach, coordinator and parents of N's team.

Although I grouched about the 3-times-a-week practice and rolled my eyes at all the goody bags and "team spirit" things, the whole point of it was to team- and friendship-build, and the girls loved it.  They are 11-year-olds who thrive on that stuff.

It occurred to me that I should be thankful for the parents and coaches who put the energy into these little things.  Just because I think they are unnecessary and pointless doesn't mean they actually are.  My reality isn't everyone's reality; my disinterest isn't everyone's disinterest.

Especially not my daughter's, who is already talking about next year's field hockey season (heaven help me).  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

If it looks like OCD, and it sounds like OCD, it is probably OCD

I have seen this meme (and others like it) float around about M&Ms and OCD, and I sorta hate it.


I think I dislike it because it minimizes the disability and disarray that OCD can cause in a person's life.  OCD becomes something ridiculous and comical.  Something that just makes you rearrange your M&Ms. 

People use OCD now the way people used to use the word "retarded."  Off the cuff.  They like a certain brand of lipstick and say, "Oh, I'm so OCD about my cosmetics," in the same manner in which people would jokingly say, "Don't be so retarded!"

I don't get angry with them, but I wish they understood just how debilitating it can be.  How unfunny it is if you are living it every day or watching someone you love struggle with it.

Today I scheduled an appointment with a child psychiatrist for G.  Our family physician feels that, given G's behaviors, OCD sounds very likely and medication would be warranted.  An 8-year-old child probably shouldn't even notice when his mother moves a flower arrangement, and if he does notice, he certainly shouldn't scream, cry and briefly lose his mind because something was changed in the house.  An 8-year-old probably shouldn't have a repetitive string of things he says before bed every night, in the exact same way, for a year or more.  

I am not anti-medication.  My medication changed my life for the better, although I initially struggled with "having to take medication to make my brain work properly."  Why the brain is so darned different from kidneys or intestines or any other body part that is allowed to stop working properly of its own accord without any shame or guilt, I do not know.  

My fear at the idea of putting G on medication, or even considering it as a possibility, has to do with changing his brain in an unnatural way, but our family doctor said something today which, given my experience and what I know about OCD, I should have been able to say to myself:

It doesn't make much sense to think medication will keep G's brain from developing properly.  He is not medicated right now, but given his anxiety, his brain is not developing "properly."  He is likely developing all kinds of distorted patterns of thinking that will end up causing him more harm over the long run.  If medication dampens his anxiety and OCD behaviors, he will be more likely to learn affective, useful coping mechanisms.  

Heightened, consistent and chronic anxiety that interferes with a child's ability to feel secure and function, even within a household that is as flipping "secure and functional" as I can possibly make it, is not "normal" brain development.  

And so we look toward the evaluation and whatever answers it gives us.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Purge. Shop. Rinse. Repeat.

The irony of my morning is not lost on me.

It is completely ridiculous to donate items to Goodwill and then walk directly into Goodwill looking for more stuff, right?


The donated items were things like a seed spreader, a sprayer that I used once to do the deck, and a fake tree.  And a box of clothes.

My shopping list was short:
A black hoodie for N (for her Halloween cat costume).
Snowpants for G.
Swiffer pad thingies (it says that on the box.)

Then there was the list of "browsing" items for which I didn't hold out much hope:  a wider basket for the pillows/blanket in the living room and gently used side tables that are significantly taller than 23 inches.

Goodwill (basket and side tables)==no dice
Habitat Restore=nope
Home Goods/TJ Maxx--basket found, $14.99
Once Upon a Child=snowpants, $6.50
Target=hoodie ($19.99) and Swiffer thingies

I liked looking at the home goods, but it also bothered me because I really strive to be pretty minimalist.

As per my usual, I found myself thinking all manner of thoughts that really aren't conducive to successful shopping.

Thoughts like....

"Why do I like gallery walls?  They are so busy, which is really not minimalist at all.  So am I really not a minimalist?"

"Can I be a minimalist about horizontal stuff but not vertical stuff?"

"Why does everyone seem to want rhino heads on their walls?"

"Am I weird because I do not want rhino heads on my walls?

I am on a couple of swap pages for moms on Facebook, and I am amazed at how many people eagerly jump on items that, at least for me, require lots of stewing and a very specific plan of where I am going to put an item.  I would never, ever buy a piece of furniture without having measurements and knowing where it is going to stay.  Perhaps this is because once a piece of furniture enters my house, it probably isn't ever going to leave.

Shopping with myself for company is a drag.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The disappointment of stupid parental dreams

N doesn't want to take piano lessons anymore.

We started lessons when she was 8, mostly on a whim.  She struggled with math, and I knew all the research about music instruction possibly helping kids with math.  Plus, I never took music lessons as a kid.  I went to parochial schools, and it wasn't even an option to learn instruments; there was no orchestra or band as there was/is in the public schools.  I wanted her (and the boys) to have some private musical instruction experience.

Since I didn't know how to read music, I began lessons, too, so that I could help her and maybe help motivate her.

Last year, she began playing viola in orchestra and continues now in 6th grade, although that may end too since she is talking about foregoing orchestra in 7th/8th.

Our last piano lesson was in late May, and she didn't touch the piano until last week when I made her in order to prepare to restart lessons.

She complained that she can't remember the notes because she is getting them confused with alto clef, which she uses for viola.  She just doesn't want to do it, but she won't say she doesn't want to do it because she doesn't want me to be disappointed in her.

What I had to explain to her today is that agreeing to do something you don't want to do just so someone else isn't mad at or disappointed in you never, ever results in them being pleased.  She doesn't want to play piano anymore, which means she has a terrible attitude about practicing, which makes me angry and frustrated.  It is better to disappoint me once than to continue to frustrate/disappoint me every time she half-ass practices.

I told her, "Yes, I will be disappointed that you stop playing piano, but I'll get over it."

And I will.

I also explained to her that parents sometimes feel disappointed in their kids, and it really has nothing to do with their kids.  It is them.  The problem is the parents.

Like after college, when I interviewed at a big cigarette company.  I was 21 and fresh out of undergrad.  I was offered a job making probably 40K in a supervisor position on a factory floor.  I turned it down and took an editing job where I started at 17K a year.  I didn't want to smell like menthol cigarettes, and I didn't want to supervise anyone, especially not someone 20+ years older than me who might rightfully resent some ding-dong telling him what to do.

My dad couldn't wrap his head around the fact that I turned down "such a great opportunity."  He was a manager at another big local company, so this sounded like an amazing position.  I didn't disappoint my dad, although I felt like it at the time.  He was disappointed because he would have loved to have that opportunity if he had been in my shoes.  But he wasn't, and I had to make a decision that I could live with.

As it turned out, working at the editing company allowed me to get my master's degree (and the company paid half the cost).  The cigarette company eventually closed down its plant here, so I would have been unemployed or had to move away from my family/friends.

I told N this story today, and I told her that sometimes she needs to just be honest with me and not worry about whether I'm disappointed.

And I need to remember that even though I think I don't have secret dreams for my kids, I really do deep down.  And I need to sometimes be disappointed that my kids' dreams aren't my own.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If I had been medicated earlier in life

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I'd been medicated at age 20 instead of age 30.  If my nervous breakdown had come a decade sooner, and I'd gotten some much-needed therapy under my belt before I'd graduated from college the first time.

Most of the time I do this kind of wondering when I'm not entirely satisfied with my existence, and in some ways lately I've been in a low-grade bleh.

Overall, I think I've made thoughtful choices in my life, but they have also been very safe choices.  Choices that were made to ensure I wasn't pushed too far out of my comfort zone.

There were many things I didn't do out of fear in my twenties.  I didn't ever live alone or even with a friend.  I went from my parents to my husband, and that is one thing I hope my children never do.  I hope they are on their own or live with a friend before hooking up for a lifetime.

I never went into the Peace Corps, which is something I thought about for awhile.  It was unadulterated fear that kept me from doing this.  Fear of bugs and disease and how I would ever survive without my allergy medicine.  I didn't even investigate it at the time to learn more.  I simply allowed fear to shut it down.

I never traveled with friends or backpacked across Europe.
I was never very independent.

I wonder if I'd been medicated, if I'd had some therapy, if I might have made a whole slew of different choices that would change where I am now.  Not that where I am now is bad.  But sometimes where I am now feels like maybe I short-changed my life a bit.

Some of this re-thinking of my life actually centers around G and his tantrums whenever I change something around the house, like move furniture or rearrange/repaint fixtures.  He throws a screaming/crying/flailing tantrum, says he hates change, asks me if in 2 years we can change it all back to how it was before, and then proceeds to get on with his life.

I feel like this has OCD written all over it (or I'm just projecting).  The notice of detail, which most 8-year-olds wouldn't even let enter their consciousness.  The desire to not change ever, to keep things exactly as they are.  It seems a little hoardy, too, like if I agreed to it, he might want me to store all the old plumbing fixtures and upholstery that was removed.

He struggles with things sometimes, and I wonder if medication would help take him down a notch, lessen that fear, the anxiety that sometimes leads him to throw these "I hate change" tantrums.  I wonder if not medicating him will mean that one day he will make fearful choices and at 42 look at his life and wonder if his choices were the best ones for him.

There are many ways in which being like me would be ok, but allowing fearfulness to guide so many of his choices wouldn't be one of them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kickin it at 6

Dear M,

Tomorrow begins your run as my favorite 6-year-old.  N and G were both excellent in this role when they were 6, but I admit it is especially special with you because you are my bonus baby.  I find myself clinging to your squeaky voice and innocent cuteness because I know  The final curtain call.

You have been in speech therapy for a few months now and are saying words much more clearly.  It is sweet when you practice correctly enunciating words, like "lobby" this weekend every time we got into the elevator to go to the "lobby." You found ways to work words like "lobby" and "lion" into sentences just so you could practice.

You are a real character.  It takes you awhile to warm up to people, but when you do....look out.  You have already demonstrated your armpit and back-of-the-knee fart techniques to your kindergarten teacher, and she told me today at conferences that you've told her about your mad dancing skills, although you haven't shown her.  Yet.

I love this picture of you because of how you always 
wink, point your fingers and click with your tongue
as if you are calling a squirrel.
With the glasses, it just completes it.

You are so, so good at entertaining yourself even though that usually means a bath is needed.

You are everything to your big brother, G.  He adores you with a love that almost equals his desire to drive you crazy.  You are usually so patient, much more so than anyone else in the family is with him.  Whenever I ask you what you want to eat or drink, you say, "Whatever Gwam is eating/drinking/having."  And then you usually follow up with, "I want what he wants because we're bruhers." (brothers)

I once wrote in one of your baby books that I worried about what kind of mischief you two would get into as you got older, and I have seen it grow and bloom.  The two of you can crack each other up like no one and nothing else.  I usually consider it hilarity of dumbness, but I am always so thankful you have each other even if I don't get the joke.

You are a fierce hugger and lovebug and to this day you still twiddle my ears, just as you did when you were a nursling.  If you see either mine or N's belly, you drop everything and run over to hug us.  Daddy offered you his hairy belly for a hug last night, but you replied, "Dat's embarrassing."

You very regularly crack us up, like this weekend when you were playing in the pool, and we heard you say, "Stupid dammit!" while you were splashing some imaginary beast in the water.  I fear both Daddy and I laugh at your antics and say"You are so cute" too often because we are savoring these last remaining days of young childhood in our house. As evidence, just this afternoon you said, "I like putting out Halloween decorations, and I'm cute and stuff," so clearly it has all gone to your head.

When I think back to when we discovered you were coming, unexpectedly, we were so discombobulated, and yet we don't know what we would do without you in our family.  Because of we are five, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you ever so much, my sweet boy,


A return to a childhood memory

The family just returned from spending a few days at a state park about two hours from our home.

As a kid, I remember my parents taking me and my younger brother to this state park and inn.  Actually, what I mostly recall from this childhood trip was the cool indoor/outdoor swimming pool. A glass wall separated the sections, and you had to swim underneath it to get from the inside to the out.
My kids in the cool indoor/outdoor pool. 
They thought it was awesome, too!

My mom tells me that we went in the warmer months, but there was a freak cold front, so we spent the entire time in the one pair of jeans and one jacket we had all brought "just in case."

The other memory I have of this trip is watching my parents and brother ride in a small boat into one of the caves.  I was scared and refused to go, so I stood on the water's edge by myself.

Hmmmm, I wonder where my middle child gets his stubbornness?

I planned this short trip almost immediately after we returned home in June from our exhausting trip to Orlando, FL.  That trip wasn't much fun considering the heat, tiredness, D's back spasms and the sprinkler ordeal in which we had to move out of our condo.  It was memorable but definitely not enjoyable.

Low-tech fun:
Casting fishing lines to try to hook plastic fish.

Guests throw coins onto the historical homes' beds which are used for upkeep. 
The kids thought this was hilarious. 

Helping the kids make friendship bracelets.

Views of the Pioneer Village and trails.

This short fall weekend felt relaxing.  It helped that we had no cell phone service (which some people actually complained about on  The whole point of going to the woods is to live deliberately, people!)  Being off-the-grid is awesome.  It also helped that the weather these two days was perfect.

We hiked a lot, and the kids didn't whine.  M said his legs were tired, but G didn't complain at all, which is a bonafide miracle.  We saw two caves.  We visited the pioneer village.  We picnicked our lunches both days.  We visited the nature learning center two times (the second time at the request of G).

The Stagecoach Trail.  
M's legs were tired, so I played pack mule for a few minutes. 

We ate breakfast and dinner together at the inn.

I felt like we connected as a family, which feels like a much better memory than running ourselves ragged all over Disney and Universal, trying to pack in as much "fun" as we could to justify spending $100 per person.  Our entry fee into the state park was $9.

I totally love it that the kids enjoyed doing such simple things.

I'd say we most certainly got 100 times that much enjoyment out of it.