Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to be the most awesome mom on the block

Suppose you have 6 young children in your house. Unexpected children that somehow ended up there. Restless children who have tired of old dance costumes and loud music and are now trying to (destroy the house) find something else to do. Now you have to think of some organized activity to save your sanity and your stuff. Here's how to make them think you're the most awesome mom ever. You need a supply of pint-sized, regular mouth mason jars and a blender. Go to your fridge and pull out the milk and all the ice cream toppings you can find. We had chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow toppings. I also pulled out the orange juice and frozen fruit, but they were completely ignored. Give each child a jar and have them fill it up about 1/2 full with ice, 3/4 full with milk, then they can add whatever of the toppings they want. Screw the blade attachment onto the mouth of the jar. (Did you know that most blenders will fit perfectly onto a regular mouth mason jar?) Flip it over onto the blender and and blend it into a jar of creamy goodness. Remove the blade assembly, put a straw in it, and hand it to the amazed and delighted child. This activity will take up about 10 minutes. After which they will go back to the chaos of before, but at least you can console yourself with the fact that you have a reputation as most awesome mom ever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Busiest. Summer. Ever.

3 months ago, we finished up our school year.

This Monday we started our new school year and I finally have time to breathe again.

Most people consider summer to be a vacation. A time of relaxation and family fun. Well, we had plenty of family fun, but I missed out on much of that relaxation part. I ran our church VBS, my family came to visit and we went to visit family, we went to China Camp in Oklahoma and dance nationals at the beach, lots of administration changes at church to help with and training at K's new school and dance try-outs and rehearsals and there's a whole year of third grade that had to be planned. Whew!

This week is the first time all summer I've actually stayed home long enough to finish all the laundry in one stretch. I cleaned out school books and papers from last year and have been slowly working on our school space for this year. I know, we already started school, but the space is still a work in progress. Hopefully by Friday it'll all be finished and we can feel settled.

School adventure this year. We're entering our 7th year and no two years have ever looked alike. That's kinda the nice thing about homeschooling; there's freedom to adapt as needed to meet the different needs as they crop up. K wanted more interaction and I didn't want to teach Pre-algebra, so she's attending a university model classical Christian school. It's a small school with a very informal, student-led feel and they get to work from home two days a week. They also have a ton of extra-curricular opportunities. For example, K is playing volleyball this fall and the whole upper school is going on an overnight retreat tomorrow after classes. So far, it seems to be a great fit for K, but rather time-demanding. Hopefully, we'll get into the groove soon and things will flow well.

L is staying home for school this year. She's both excited and grumpy about this. She wishes she could go to school like K, but she's happy to get all the attention from mom. The promise of classes at our local nature center also made the homeschool choice more enticing, as she loves their programs. Our greatest challenge will be getting past her attitude of "needing" help with everything if I'm available. That and the fact that 3rd grade requires a whole lot of reading, which is not her strongest suit. So far I've only had to send her to her room to get hold of herself once a day and I think we can avoid even that if I force her to take a break. She'd rather work straight through and get school done, but she starts to lose it toward the end.

Now that summer is over and school has started, I'm planning to take some time to breathe. And maybe clean the bathrooms. It's sad when cleaning bathrooms is starting to look appealing, but it's a sign that life is settling back into a routine and I dearly need some routine in my life.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

When it all hits home

My youngest is deep in the dance trenches these days. Her team is getting ready for nationals and they're spending hours and hours at the studio rehearsing and perfecting. They're tweaking the choreography and adding in new tricks the girls have learned recently. L, the human rubber band, finally achieved a standing over split, which was added to a routine.

What is a standing over split? Well, everyone knows what a split is. An over split is where you can prop one leg up on a mat (or 3 or 4) and still go all the way down. Sounds painful, but stick with me.

This is my girl doing a standing split.

Now, imagine that top leg extended further over the back and the head arched back to pretty much cross that leg. That is what she showed me today. I didn't know what she was going to do when she ran up and said "I want to show you something!" or I would've gotten a picture of it. Yes, it looked extremely painful and the human body should simply not be able to bend like that. But it is pretty cool that this one can.

After having a friend spend the night and them staying up way too late and getting up way too early, after 3 hours of swimming with friends, after 3 hours of dance rehearsal, and after stuffing herself with more chinese food than she ought to have been able to hold, L was still talking 90 miles a minute on the way home tonight.

"Mom, I know this is going to sound weird, but can I go around the neighborhood and ask for money?"

Why yes, sweetheart, that does sound weird. "What for?" I asked, waiting to hear what her reasoning for *that* request was going to be.

"For Penny Wars! N did it!"

Penny Wars is the latest fund-raising scheme for their dance studio. There are many, many reasons I love L's dance studio and this is actually one of them. You see, they don't raise money for themselves. Everything collected for the Penny Wars goes to support an orphanage in Liberia that the studio donates to all throughout the year. It seems they were talking about it again today and mentioned that the kids in the orphanage only get a handful of rice to eat each day. L relayed this information to me tonight and said that was really sad, that it must be hard to live in an orphanage.

"Well, you know you used to live in an orphanage," I reminded her.

And it got really quiet there in the back seat.

"I did?" L asked in a small, amazed tone. "I forgot. I mean, I don't really think about that time."

Just like that, a fund-raiser for unknown children in a far-away orphanage with only a handful of rice to eat each day became very, very personal.

So L would like to ask for your donations, your loose change, to help take care of children in an orphanage far away that may never be as blessed as she is to find a loving home. If you have anything to send, please do it. If you need the address, email me at and I'll get it to you.

Do it so that one former orphan can bless one who still is.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

They're sisters, not twins

Tonight as I stared in the mirror and applied a little moisturizer to my face (my friend and I were just talking about wrinkles earlier), I noticed I was looking a little scary. Sure, crazy post-shower hair, no make-up, old no-longer-white tank top, but the thing that made me pause were the dark, furry *things* above my eyes. Yep, they'd reached caterpillar stage again.

My eyebrows can grow in heavy and black, a stark contrast to my pale skin and ever-whitening hair. They were doing their very best Brooke Shields imitation in spite of the fact that I just can't pull off that look. Oh, I've warned them many times, yet they persist in growing wild and thick. Now some people would just say that looks aren't important (so why do they bother wrapping presents nicely or decorating their kitchen?) or they might make an appointment with their faithful eyebrow technician to have them professionally shaped with waxing or threading or whatever the latest weapon is. I, however, would rather save my money for an extra chai tea latte and so I prepared to do battle myself. Armed only with an old pair of tweezers (that happen to work better than any new pair I've bought), I go in for the attack.

The best advice I ever got about eyebrows is that your left eyebrow and your right are NOT twins, they are sisters. Even if you try to dress them identical outfits, they won't look exactly the same. You try again and again to find a cute matching fashion that takes into account the style and identity of both sisters, and one unexpectedly shows up in striped knee socks because she's feeling a little punk today. For me, my left eyebrow is the "good" sister, the one who's easy and complacent and aims to please. The right, however, presents her own challenges. A scar runs along the bottom where a toy cash register fell on her as a preschooler. She's got some lumpy spots and her hair grows longer and thicker at the end. Yep, the right sister is full of personality.

Clean up that top, but not the other. Thin these hairs, but not those. Match the left arch to the right one created by the scar. Slowly, and slightly painfully, the eyebrows look a little less threatening. They still don't look like twins, but at least they match well enough and they won't scare off small children anymore.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Applying oneself

Well, we're heading off to a new adventure. The name of our new adventure is "private school".

I know, it sounds so...elitist. Private school. It brings to mind uniforms, sports cars, and luxury vacations. Well, let me just say that we didn't win the Mega Millions and our private school is rather more modest. Much more modest.

As you know, we've always done some version of homeschooling. Some on-line curriculum, a few outside classes. Our oldest did spend one semester in public school after years of asking when we let her go the last half of 4th grade. She liked it, got along just fine, learned she has a competitive streak, and decided it wasn't worth missing Disney World to go back the next year.

But now that same child is headed to 8th grade. Her work is getting harder and longer, requiring more...well, work...on the part of student and teacher. Her grades are slipping because she doesn't have anyone else around pushing her to stay on top. I'm having to relearn things like irrational numbers and the names and achievements of Spanish explorers. She complains that she doesn't have many friends (she has more than I do) and she wants to participate in school sports and activities. I complain that I spend half my time hauling her around to classes and activities and to hang out with her friends.

So we're mixing things up a bit and applying to a really neat little school nearby. It's a university-model school and she'll be taking the 4 basics - English, math, science, and history, plus 2 electives - band and either logic or world geography. The school also has sports and clubs and special speakers and chapel. The cool part is that the upper school (7-12) only meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, leaving the other 2 days for working at home and some of the fun parts of homeschooling like field trips and Community Bible Study.

K is very excited about the possibilities for next year. Excited enough to write an application essay and go through 2 editing cycles without complaint. Speaking of the application, I've decided that it's not the cost that keeps people out of private school; it's the application process. Informational meetings, interviews, recommendations, essays, and a stack of paperwork that requires research and thoughtful responses to open-ended questions. The application packet is finally ready to go after a long weekend of gathering and grading. Can you believe that they wanted an actual report card? Sheesh!

I have to admit that I'm excited about next year, too. K will be in school where someone else has to worry about teaching her why 2+2 could equal anywhere from 3 to 5 and she'll have the opportunity to do some neat things. And then there's L. Next year is 3rd grade, a pivotal year in a child's education and she and I will be doing it together at home. She has asked for a more interactive curriculum with projects and activities. I've always had her on a video program where she watches her classes and does her work, and it's worked well as her test scores attest, but we're going to try me teaching and focusing on her this next year. We'll use the BJU books for math and language arts and probably for science, but we'll supplement that with frequent classes at the local nature center. History will be more focused on unit studies and projects, such as creating lap books. We're also planning to begin piano lessons and continue with dance and Community Bible Study, so she will be plenty busy next year.

After all that work, today is an "off" day - the application packet goes off to the school, the kids go off on a field trip with the nature center, and teacher mom gets the day off of grading and applying and planning for next year. Now, what to do with myself?

Monday, April 2, 2012


If you had stood outside the raging roaring river rapid ride at our local amusement park today at about 2pm, you would have seen 3 homeschool families.

The first family was quite a parade. In front was mama in the requisite denim jumper pushing a stroller. Lined precisely up behind her was a large number of stair-step kids, from smallest to largest. The boys wore jeans and the girls wore long denim skirts and they all wore matching navy tops. The one attempt at individuality was by a teenager who had added a straw cowboy hat. They made for a spectacle. Heavy clothing in near record heat, walking single-file in size order through a busy, crowded amusement park. In trying to dress modestly and avoid attention, they had unwittingly drawn it as you really couldn't help but stare. Now I can't say for 100% sure they were a homeschooling family, but I'd be willing to bet a whole lot that they were.

Homeschooling families #2 and #3 were a bit harder to spot. Moms and kids dressed in t-shirts and shorts. Pre-teen girls with messy ponytails and converse. Cell phones sticking out of pockets. Little kids running ahead. Teasing and laughter. These families blended in with the school kids on spring break so that no one around had a clue they were homeschoolers.

Is one kind better than the other? Who's to say?

I'm just kinda glad I didn't have to wear the denim jumper on the raging roaring river rapid ride.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Today's funny story

L had a dance competition this weekend. Since it included a 6:30 am call time in a city 2 hours away, we stayed in a hotel Friday night. Another dancer came with us and between the little girl giggling and the nightlight she had to have and the allergy-induced sniffles, it took L awhile to go to sleep. Then she woke in the middle of the night for a little while. Then she woke up at 5 when my alarm went off.

Needless to say, L was one tired kid

She plowed through the competition, though, and their very first dance of the morning even won the award for 1st place small group. After awards, we hauled the mobile dance closet to the car and headed toward home. A stop at a McDonalds/gas station scored us lunch and Benadryl for the perpetual sniffles. Shortly after she ate, she collapsed into sleep practically mid-sentence and stayed that way the rest of the trip.

At home, she woke up, stood up, and started gathering her stuff, so I grabbed my own trash and headed in. I set things down, chatted with hubby, and kept waiting for L to appear, but she didn't. I finally said she had either gone back to sleep or was crying over something in the car, so I headed out to check on her.

Yep, she was crying. One false eyelash was sliding down her face and the other cheek was smeared with eyeliner. She was a sorry sight. When I asked her what in the world was wrong, she sniffed and sobbed and the only thing I could make out is that she couldn't figure out how to get out of the car and it was h-oo-o-ooo-ttttt.

A perfectly capable, independent 8-year-old couldn't open a door she has used hundreds of times. Hummmnnn.

Lessons learned today - make sure L washes her face before we head home and maybe I should only give her half the dose of Benadryl.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This train keeps chugging along

Both girls are gone today on a church field trip. Woohoo! I love my kids, but we could all use a little time away from each other. Them for learning independence, me for sanity.

So today started at 7 when the alarm went off and I got the girls and their friend up and ready and out the door. I love this age because that meant I turned on some music, turned on the bedroom light, and reminded them that needed to get breakfast before they left. Then I sat and read the Internet while they did everything themselves. Yep, this is the life.

After they left, I attempted to go back to sleep, but my brain was already busy with all the stuff I wanted to get done today. After trying to force myself to relax, I gave it up and am now at Panera with some hot cross buns, a chai tea latte, and my iPad. The rest of the day will involve a quick stop at Walmart, tie-dying some t-shirts, and painting a new picture of a blue gate. Maybe. That's the nice thing about today - there's nothing I absolutely have to do. Except go to work tonight. I'm filling in and teaching a painting class. It's a different teacher's painting and while I did help create it, that was a couple of years ago, so I'm kinda nervous about teaching it. Of course, my "kinda nervous" involves periodically remembering I have to teach tonight and a small twinge of nerves, then I forget all about it.

Then there's the temptation to go for a pedicure and a massage and continue the search for a cute comfy pair of sandals for my summer "go to" shoes. The sudden arrival of spring has meant that I've been traipsing around in my black ones from last year that are okay, but they're not well suited for extended periods of walking. I painted my toenails so they'd look passable, but a pedicure would look nicer. And I have my first 5k tomorrow and I think a massage would help avoid the sore shoulder that plagued me when I ran earlier this week.

Which reminds me. I signed up for this 5k two weeks ago. I wasn't planning one so soon, but it's a fundraiser for the sole guy in my youth group to help pay for his Young Life camp. My whole youth group (all 6 of us) agreed to do this together and I figured 2 weeks would get me further through the couch-to-5k program I'm slowly working my way through. A couple hours after I signed up for the race, I got sick. Nice. For the past 2 weeks I've fought this stupid cold. I've gotten in about 3 runs total with all the coughing and lethargy. The most exercise I've gotten is painting and cleaning my house. My house looks great, but I'm not really feeling ready for this race. Thankfully, none of the kids in my youth group have been training either so they won't be too far ahead of me, but they're in better general shape than I am. I guess we'll just plod along together in our matching tie-dye shirts.

If I decide to tie-dye today. I think the mall with its chair massages and shoe stores may be calling first.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I got the best compliment

A few days ago, one of my daughter's teachers stopped me after Bible study. "I wanted to tell you that you look are looking fabulous. It's not just your haircut, but you are just glowing lately."

Do you know how good that makes me feel? When you get a wonderful compliment from someone, it just lights you up inside. And honestly, I feel really great lately. I was trying to think what the change is and there are a few factors.

Last fall, I had a really bad allergy attack, ended up getting a high dose of cortisone or steroids or something, then had a glucose test come back on the extreme high end of normal. My doctor said it was probably the medicine, but he wanted to err on the safe side and suggested I lose weight. He was incredibly diplomatic about it, but I knew it was time. Besides that high dose of medication had performed an outright miracle and my 5 years of hives and allergy issues were suddenly and completely eradicated. I could actually stop taking the antihistamines that were slowing me down and causing my weight to balloon. Exercise became a possibility.

So I started the very day I got the test results back with a long walk. For 2 months I walked or used the elliptical at least 3 times a week. My glucose levels dropped dramatically and my doctor was shocked that a patient had actually listened and followed orders :-) Just after Christmas, I started a couch-to-5k running program. For a woman who hated working out and never saw herself running, I was doing it and really kinda enjoying it. I've continued the program on a much more drawn out scale as I repeat each week until I'm comfortable with that amount of running before moving on. It's Now March and I'm only on Week 4 of what's supposed to be an 8 week program. But I mix in other types of exercise and my goal is to exercise enough that it's a challenge, but not so much of a challenge that I start to hate working out.

Yes, I've lost a little weight. Yes, I've lost a whole lot of inches. Yes, my old clothes are far too big and I'm having to pull out even older smaller clothes from my stash (I only saved the cute ones;-)). But the biggest benefit of the exercise is that I have soooo much more energy now. I can go and do and not feel like such a slug. I'm up and moving and can keep up with my kids. That is a really awesome feeling.

Another thing that has recently changed is that I got a new haircut. I know, I know, that's so superficial, but just stick with me here. My hair is gray. I'm 38 and have a serious head of black and white hair. Lots of it. That grows fast. Coloring it just became too much of a hassle, so I let it grow out. It was getting long and boring and I just didn't really do much with it. I've long wanted to cut it into a really funky style, but my stylist sees large lady with gray hair and thinks way too conservatively, so it never came out like I wanted. So I found a picture online and took it to a new stylist who finally gave me the cut I wanted. And it was awesome. The perfect cut for my hair and my face and my taste.

The new haircut was a smashing success, but it actually required a few minutes of effort every morning to style. So I'd fix my hair, then since I was already in the swing, I'd pull out my makeup and put on more than the simple powder I usually wore. And my awesome hair was short enough that my ears showed and so I'd put on earrings. And since I was putting on earrings, I'd find a necklace or a bracelet or a funky ring. And with all that hair and makeup and jewelry, I couldn't wander around in sloppy clothes, so I started paying more attention to what I wore.

It was like a modern-day woman's version of "Give a mouse a cookie". I went from drab and okay to someone who looks like she cares about herself.

So that's the secret formula. Exercise and a haircut. Simple really and amazing how good those can make you feel.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Facebook statuses are too short

I know. One would think that it would take a big huge event to make me start blogging again. Something exciting. Something astounding. Something shocking.

Not really.

I'm painting. Not pictures right now, just walls. While cleaning my house a couple of weeks ago, I was horrified at the state of my walls. They're dirty, marked up, splattered with unidentifiable substances, covered in fingerprints. Dis.Gust.Ing. I've painted a few rooms since we moved in 3+ years ago, but most of them are still builder grade white. The last straw came when I tried to wipe an especially bad mark off the wall in the kitchen with an old green towel. The mark came off along with most of the paint but it picked up some of the green from the rag. Instead of a brown streak, there was a huge swipe of green. It was not an improvement. Builder grade paint is terrible stuff.

I decided it was time to bite the bullet, suffer the inconvenience and massive amounts of work, and just paint the house already. I picked out curtains and matched a general color and accent. Just 1 can of each to start. Then I decided I didn't really like the curtains, so I picked out different ones, but the colors will still work. I think. I haven't actually tried them together yet.

I started at the back of the house - the "breakfast nook" that serves as a craft room/painting studio/office/cat's room/ shoe closet. You can imagine how much stuff I hauled out of that tiny room. L finished her schoolwork in time to come down and help. She gamely did task after task, always asking if it was time to paint yet. After emptying the room, sweeping, washing the baseboards and walls, taking down the blinds, washing the light, filling the nail holes, taping off the trim, breaking for lunch, and covering the floor with a tarp, it was finally time to paint. It's amazing how much work must be done before you can get to work.

I let K and L both help, mentally squashing my perfectionist tendencies. I'm really picky about painting. No really, seriously, obsessively picky. K worked for about 15 minutes then declared that she was done. L stuck it out until she had to get ready for dance. We managed to get everything painted up to about 8 feet high then we had to quit because I ran out of paint. It was like throwing water at the Sahara. Those walls sucked up that paint in alarming quantities and I was using the good paint with a primer mixed in! There was no way that little room should have used that much paint.

One trip to Lowe's and a couple of lonely hours later, there's one coat of beautiful buttery creamy paint on the walls. I'm waiting for the paint to cure overnight, but it looks like the combined efforts of the girls and I have created enough of an uneven coverage to warrant a second coat in the morning. Then about half the furniture will go back in the room and a serious clean out of all the extra stuff will occur.

And then it's on to the kitchen!