Thursday, December 15, 2016


As I was riding down the street the other day, I saw yet another Nativity scene in the neighborhood and I had a flash of a connection. American society treats childbirth and Christmas in exactly the same way. There is a lot of excitement in the preparation, but when the baby actually comes, no one sticks around for long.

I explained my theory to my husband and he found it a little overwrought. Perhaps it is. I do think there is a connection, though. We put a lot of emphasis on hype and rarely linger in celebration. I spent some time trying to think of anything where we spend more time in the event than we did preparing for it. Thanksgiving, maybe?

The real question is why would a Nativity scene lead me to think about postpartum America. I am not exactly postpartum. My "baby" is three and a half years old. I think I might have some postpartum trauma. A nativity scene shouldn't be triggering.

I've touched on this topic in the past: the utter abandonment I felt with Grace, the trauma of Olivia not taking a bottle, the crushing return to work after Marian. Sam was fine, as best as I remember. In a lot of ways, I feel like in spite of having four children, I have put in a lot of infant work while rarely reaping the infant reward. I love babies, but my time whiled away enjoying them has been short indeed. Time has always been pressing in. Is that the normal way of things?

And what to do about it?

At what point do you say that the choices you made are what they are and you just missed out. I didn't know I'd feel robbed, but I do and that's life. Grow up and move on, right?

Or do you get on the roller coaster again? Do you take the chance of misery and heartbreak to grasp those fleeting moments, to rock a baby with confidence and competence, without a clock unceasingly ticking? Even if you know you probably wouldn't punch that ticket if you had gotten the chance to do it even once before. Is it even reasonable to think it would make a difference?

What's the line between selfishness, unrealistic dreams, and fear?

I've built up in my mind what the non-working, postpartum months should look like. I'm likely wrong. Is it worth finding out? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sins of Omission

Indulge me a little in a little bit of vague blogging. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the people I reference might read this and, still, they have their own sides, and all I can tell you is how I see things. You all know all of this.

How do you forgive sins of omission? How do you forgive sins of omission when you are the one being omitted against, not out of malice but because your need is apparently invisible to them. And it isn't invisible because you haven't told or shown them, but because they do not hear or see.

What does it mean to forgive when the need is ongoing and every struggle with it is intertwined with the knowledge that people you thought would help you through it are choosing not to. Again not out of malice, but for some other unknown reason: busyness, scheduling, lack of urgency, misunderstanding.

Can you call it forgiveness when you can't tell the difference between sorrow at what should be and expectant rage at what isn't?

I have been given the wise advice that the first step in forgiveness is to stop asking, stop expecting, and accept I have to find another way. The need still exists. I just need to find a way to fulfill it that is different than I thought it would be. I need to let them off the hook.

This is much easier said than done. I can stop asking. I can find another way, I hope. I don't know if I can stop being shocked at my apparent invisibility. It's hard not to take it personally. The resentment is hard to swallow. Once I find another way, is it really forgiveness or just the thorn being removed from my side? Is it enough to say I loved you enough to stop asking? How do you stop being angry? And then what?

As a ponder these questions, another thought bubbles up to the surface. Is there an obvious need in my purview of responsibilities that I refuse to see? I hope not. Let me have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I've Not Forgotten

This is a sad, forsaken blog, but not forsaken from my thoughts. I have several post stubs with a sentence or two, but that's all I can seem to manage. I have things to say and no time in which to say them.

My husband essentially works 7 days a week or, really, his time off is never known far enough in advance to actually plan around. It might be Tuesday this week and Thursday next week and Wednesday the week after that. Even on his days off and into the evenings, the phone never quits. It is just the nature of the job.

The reality here is that I am on-duty almost all the time.

Some people can write while the world collapses around them or, at least while the three year old shrieks, but I am not one of them. Some people can write a sentence or two at a time and create coherence over many days, but I am not one of them.

The bits of off-duty time I do get are spent in household management, cooking and washing dishes, school planning, grocery shopping, and the like. I also like to shower periodically. It's the little things.

We have been at this new experiment for a little over a year. It's not harder than I thought it would be, but I didn't think it would be easy. And sure enough, it is not easy. It's all the things I struggle with, day in and day out.

We have been at it long enough that we need to shift out of crisis mode. Our schedule has been very fly by the seat of our pants all year long. This is starting to take its toll on both of us. We have decided to begin to be intentional about both of us getting some off-duty down time. This is harder than it sounds.

So hopefully soon, I'll have some space to post again more frequently than once a quarter. But until then, know that I've not forgotten.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Paralysis Zone

It is a well known truth that when organizing a room, the mess is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Here is my problem: If I have a project, I can work diligently from beginning to end, through the horrible worse middle, without too much despair or discouragement. If something happens where I have to stop working on a particular project, I am paralyzed trying to find the loose thread in order to pick up the work again.

This is the current state of my living room. There are good reasons for its state.

Two weeks ago, I was working diligently on the kitchen. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. More work needed to be done, but it wasn't the neverending pit of despair anymore. I could see a way out. But instead of finishing, I turned my attention to my dresser.

There was a good reason for this. All of my children were going to spend a week at my parents' house and it seemed the perfect opportunity to spread out all those papers for sorting and organizing without worrying about little hands grabbing and spreading them all over the house.  Except I didn't get finished with that either. I had Marian much more than I thought I would and also the dryer drama.

Then it came time for the biannual consignment sale where I do 90% of the children's clothing shopping for the year. I could not not go.

So here we are. The house is an utter disaster. The children are all home again, there are the loose ends of three projects floating around the downstairs, and no, the dryer is still not functional. I am paralyzed trying to figure out where to start.

Yes, that's a Hanna Andersson dress I bought for $8.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

More Adventures in Housekeeping

I feel like I have neglected this little blog. When school was in session, I felt an urgent need to write about all of my stresses, challenges, and small successes, but could not find the time. Now that it is summer break, I have the time, but the urgency to write passed as well. The best way to get back in the habit is to just to do it, right? I can't promise thoughtful or insightful, but I can post lots of cleaning pictures.

My attention has turned almost completely to the house. Marian is watching an obscene amount of television while I desperately try to get the house cleaned and organized over the summer. We are eating out way too much because my brain does not seem to have room for meal planning at the moment. It is what it is.

In the midst of the focus on the house, we have enjoyed a housekeeping fiasco of my own making. The drama has been well-documented on the book of Face, but I'd thought I'd share here because A Post!

Pretend this is a before picture. I know I've taken a picture of the laundry room, but I can't find it anywhere.

More laundry room stuff

Way back about a month ago, my mother and I cleaned my beleaguered and ignored laundry room. In the sorting, I found a cheap, plastic, flannel-backed tablecloth. It was dirty. I had a choice. I could attempt to clean it or throw it away. Well, I am a thrifty soul who hates throwing away useful things, but I did not want to hand scrub a $3 tablecloth. I decided to run it through the washing machine on gentle and see what happened.

Empty shelves

After! Isn't it beautiful?

It survived the washer slightly worse for wear, but still serviceable. Since I am not a stupid person, I knew putting this object in the dryer on heat to dry would be a bad idea. I transferred the tablecloth into the dryer and set it for no heat and 60 minutes. Sixty minutes elapses. I check the tablecloth and find it is still slightly damp.

Now I am not stupid. I just want to repeat this and make it clear.

Since I am busy and trying to get the laundry done, I think to myself that I am not really interested in waiting another 30-60 minutes for this thing to spin on fluff. I, very reasonably!, think that if I put the dryer on low heat for about five minutes, it would finish off the drying project without risk and I could move on. FIVE MINUTES! LOW HEAT!


So maybe it wasn't a good idea.

Thus begins the task of rescuing the dryer.

First I spent many hours scrubbing the dryer. I learned that if I heated the dryer to soften the plastic, I could squirt rubbing alcohol onto the hot metal and get some of the melted plastic to break free. Yes, I lived in fear of catching myself on fire.

Is this a good analogy of mortal sin? Yes, I knew what I was doing. Yes, I did it anyway.

Since most of the remains of the tablecloth were in the very back of the dryer, it was difficult to reach. After several days of trying to reach all the way back there, Dave decided it would be easier if he took out the back drum cover so I could scrub it within my easy reach.

Now I had to change techniques. Now I heated the metal with a hair dryer. Hurrah. After scrubbing for hours and hours--you can't imagine how many TV shows Marian watched--I get the drum cover about as clean as I am willing to work on it.

We attempt to screw the cover back into the dryer. It is at this moment we discover the axle that holds this entire puppy together has fallen into the bottom of the dryer. Well. This means the entire dryer has to be dissembled in order to get it back into working order.

We make a decision. What if my cleaning job is not good enough? What if we take apart the entire dryer, put it back together, and discover with our test load that more work needs to be done? This is the end of the insanity. We find the replacement part is less than $20. If we had looked up the part on day one of this misadventure, I wouldn't have spent all day, everyday for nearly a whole week scrubbing this thing. A week of my life is worth $20. We decided to order a fresh part and wait. I take all of our laundry to my sister's house and spend a day doing laundry there. Thus ends the first week.

After about a week, the UPS truck pulls up to our house carrying a box that could not possibly be holding the part we ordered. We open the box and discover this:

No, we did not order the wrong part. Yes, this is what they sent instead. The first call to the company was fruitless because the recording told us to call back during business hours, which end at 11PM CDT. It was 9:30PM CDT. Yes, I know. The second call, during business hours this time--the business part of the business hours, I guess--was more productive. We got the part re-ordered except only one warehouse carried it and that warehouse did not have expedited shipping. It would be another week. I brought all of our laundry to my MIL's house and spent an entire day doing laundry. Thus ended the second week.

After the week passes, finally at long last this shiny piece of metal arrives at our doorstep:

We can begin the dryer surgery. Dave, gallantly ignoring my nervous nattering, bravely deconstructs the dryer.

While Dave worked, I cleaned lint out of every possible crevice.
He gets it apart. He puts it back together. We bravely turn it on. And it makes a weird noise, we haven't heard before. We turn it off. Maybe we need to get a professional involved.

The children were set to visit my parents the next day. I load up all our laundry and spend an entire day doing laundry at my parents' house. Thus ends the third week.

While I was at my parents' house, my father mentioned that he has taken apart and reconstructed dryers several times in his lifetime and he would be willing to look at ours. He was due to bring Marian home after her short version of the grandparent visit.

A couple days later, they arrive. Daddy walks into the laundry room, plugs up the machine, and turns it on. He declares there is not a thing wrong with it. The noise that disturbed us was just a result of the drum being disturbed from its eight year resting place. He said after a load or two, it would all be fine.

Hurray! Hurray! Do we have access to the laundry again?


With all this pushing and shoving of the dryer around, we ended up tearing up the aluminum flexible tube that connects the dryer to the vent pipe. We needed a new one.

After a trip to the store, Dave crawls under the house to replace the aluminum tube with some higher quality flexible metal piping. And he discovers the vent pipe is totally clogged with lint. He pulls the entire tubing out from under the house and begins cleaning out the entire 15 foot length of it. In the process, one of the tube segments breaks.

A good chunk of lint
We are now in the middle of the fourth week. Tonight, Dave will go back to the store and buy a few more supplies and I expect we will have a functional laundry room by the end of the night.

What started out as a five minute lapse of judgement has turned into a month-long trial that has cost us nearly $100 and a whole host of lost hours. But, by gum, we will have the cleanest, most well-ventilated eight-year-old dryer in the history of eight-year-old dryers by the time we are finished! Keep your fingers crossed that nothing else breaks. We have towels for miles that need washed.

PS: Why don't I blog more? This little post took over three hours. Maybe I can find a way to work more quickly? I'll try to be more regular.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Immediate Book Meme

Tagging along with MrsDarwin because this is the only kind of post I can manage right now.

1. What book are you reading now?

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (readaloud)

2. What book did you just finish?

Helena by Evelyn Waugh
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (readaloud)

3. What do you plan to read next?

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky (gulp)

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag
Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales (I keep getting hung in the middle. Then I start over because that seems the right thing to do and then get hung in the middle again.)

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Isn't this going to be the list.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This was the book I was supposed to have read for the last book club meeting. The meeting was last Friday night and I never got to the book. I did read the introduction. Does that count?

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Kyra sent me this book over a year ago. I mean to read it. I want to read it. I keep not reading it.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Another book that has been sitting waiting for over a year. Everyone raves about it and I keep not reading it.

Leisure-The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
I've also had this one sitting on the nightstand for over a year. I think it probably will have lot to say to me as I am trying to carve out a new way of being from the ground up. Sadly though, I don't seem to have the leisure time to read the book about leisure. 

The Noonday Devil by Jean-Charles Nault
I've only had this one for a month or two so it isn't as bad as the others. I hope it has something to say about how to create habits that can move me through the pitfalls of always being in charge when I have never been in charge and feel the need to hide instead dealing with the myriad of tasks that need accomplished.

6. What is your current reading trend?

My current reading trend is mostly book club selections read in fits and starts of ten minute increments grabbed five or six days apart. And readalouds. Lots of reading out loud to children.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Unforseen Complications

When we started this grand adventure of homeschooling back in September, I anticipated some of the struggles we might have. The two areas that I never thought would be as hard as they are have been how difficult it is to keep Marian in the house and the complications involved with having neighbors who feel inclined to knock on our door at all hours of the day.

NB: This post brought to you by a knock on the door at 9:45 this morning in spite of the big, red sign saying nobody can play.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Just a quick post to say I have things to talk about and no time or brain space to form coherent sentences. So. Maybe something soon. I hope.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Habits and Choices

A couple months ago, I proposed a change in how we approached our school day and I thought I'd give an update.

First the good news! I am consistently getting several tasks done in a timely manner that I previously struggled to get done.

Most mornings I read through Morning Prayer before getting out of bed. Before getting out of bed is the important part. If I get up, it probably won't happen. Some of these mornings, I am sipping sweet coffee while doing it, but others I just stumble through. I lose my place a lot and forget the words to the Our Father sometimes because I'm not quite awake, but I try.

After I get out of bed, I head to the bathroom and get myself ready for the day. I get fully dressed, including shoes, and get my contacts in. Shoes and contacts are required for me to feel functional. After I am dressed, I go back into my room and make the bed. When the bed is made, I immediately bring a load of laundry to the washer and start the first load of the day.

It takes me a solid hour to accomplish these few tasks. I cannot step outside my room before finishing or I will get sidetracked. Well, the laundry is on the other side of the house, but you know what I mean. Even as I work, I have to ignore the cacophony of chaos swirling outside my bedroom door. The children are getting themselves breakfast and I have to pretend not to hear it and not intervene in their spats. I'm sorry Marian is running away with your yogurt, but I can't help you yet.

Even though I have kept this schedule for over two months, I cannot claim it as a habit. It could all fall apart tomorrow. Every day I have to actively choose to do every. single. task. It's so stupid. I am tempted to go in the kitchen in my pajamas to drink coffee every day. Before picking up Magnificat, I think about doing it later. Before heading to the bathroom, I think about going to the kitchen. Before putting my contacts in, I think about turning on the computer. Before brushing my teeth, I think about that coffee I could be drinking. When I go to make my bed, I make excuses in my mind about how I could do it later. Even between pulling up blankets, I am tempted to wander away. Then when I finally emerge with the laundry, I practically have to chant to myself to go straight to the washer. I get irrationally frustrated with the fact I have to do all these things again today. Didn't I just do this yesterday? It is absurd, but I have made progress on this front and I generally begin the day on solid ground.

Now here's where it starts to go awry. I didn't mention above my waking time. It's way too late in the morning. I have recently been waking up between 8 and 8:20am. By the time I am ready to face the day, it is 9:30 and I still haven't eaten one bite of food.

As soon as I walk out with the laundry, they all start clamoring for my attention. Olivia will start asking school questions since she starts working before I am even awake. Marian wants her second or third helping of breakfast as I pull her out of the fridge, the pantry, the garage, the countertop. Sam is bouncing off the walls. Grace is either working on her school work or plopped in the middle of it all drinking tea and reading her Kindle. If she is doing work, she also will be asking me questions. They are all demanding my attention all at the same time. I am trying to make a cup of coffee and eat and scroll down ye ole Facebook and figure out what's happening today and it's all to a chorus of "Mommy!" It regularly takes me an hour to drink a cup or two of coffee and eat a bowl of yogurt.

Here is the point where I am having trouble transitioning. Breakfast wasn't exactly an abode for gathering thoughts. I feel completely scattered and like I have used up all my available executive function. It's now 10:30 or later. It turns out that Grace is not particularly interested in directing this rodeo in the morning. She is more than content to sit and read until I make her do otherwise.

I eventually gather them all into the living room for our readalouds. We have progressed in adding subjects to our daily reading routine so that we are spending upwards of an hour and a half reading every day. Now this time includes reading, discussions, bathroom breaks, and Marian containment actions, but it's a good ninety minutes. The reading is going well, I think, even if it might be a touch long.

Now it's noon or later. Sometimes it's as late as 1pm. It is definitely lunch time. The kitchen chaos begins again. I am shoving food at Marian to keep her happy while other kids fix their own food and ask me school questions. It is difficult to eat a meal properly and I usually am standing at the countertop eating random bites. Lunch always takes an hour. After I eat, I try to start getting the kitchen picked up.

Now it's 1pm on a good day and after 2 on other days. Olivia and I still need to work through the activities we do together. These can be finished in 20 minutes or take as long as 45 minutes. Also as I mentioned above, Olivia is much more of a morning person. This is not a good time for us to be doing her work. She is crabby and cranky and easily frustrated. I know it would be different if it were morning. But how do I work her in and still eat breakfast?

It's usually after 3 when Olivia is finished and she and Sam go outside. On some days when she has been diligent, Grace will join them. On other days, when she has flitted all her time away reading, I will have to sit on her to get her work done. These days are exhausting. I put Marian down for her nap. I wrestle with Grace about how she can choose to do her work in the morning or the afternoon, but if she chooses to read all morning, that means she can't play in the afternoon until her work is done. If she demands quiet to work, she cannot be upset when quiet means her siblings are playing outside without her. She will usually finish by 4, but sometimes it has dragged on until 5. And of course, some days, she just does her work and goes out between 2 and 3 with the others. Those days are glorious.

On days that I do get some quiet time in the afternoon, I am absolutely frazzled and am rarely productive. I have about 90 minutes to fold clothes, get the kitchen in workable condition, look at and correct school work, sit down, rest, plan, gather my thoughts, chat online, all of it. Most of that doesn't get done. Folding clothes eludes me. A load only takes ten minutes, but it is a seemingly insurmountable ten minutes. The days that drag on until 5pm are just ugly.

My ability to plan ahead rests not just on quiet time, but enough quiet time in a row to defrag my brain first and then engage in higher level thinking. I almost never get that much time anymore so I always feel behind, stressed, and unprepared. Things beyond daily requirements don't get done until they reach requirement levels. These things subconsciously nag at me constantly.  So much of my quiet time, if I get it, is spent zoned out scrolling the Internet.

It's now after 5pm. Marian is awake again. I should have started dinner at least 30 minutes ago. She consumes vast quantities of Curious George and Wild Kratts. I rarely get dinner started when I should because I am just paralyzed in the mid-afternoon. I begin cooking, which always takes much longer than I think it should. We aren't eating these day until after the 7 o'clock hour. We really should be eating an hour before we are. After supper, I begin cleaning the kitchen. This is another seemingly simple task that takes me an eon. Between all the items that need handwashed, wiping the table and the countertops, sweeping the kitchen, verbally directing the children through their bedtime routine, saying bedtime prayers, and getting the children in bed, I am usually not finished for the night until after 10pm. 10:30 isn't terribly unusual.

Now what should I do? Many nights, it is only now that I go to do the school planning or run off school papers or finish correcting math problems or work on our taxes or balancing our accounts. I might hit a lick at a blogpost or chat online. Some nights I might actually take a shower. Every later part of the evening is haunted by the fact that I really should be going to bed if I don't want to sleep until 8:30 again, but it feels like my only opportunity to achieve quiet with the relative guarantee of not being interrupted. If I get in bed a little earlier, I might read a few minutes, but some nights I am not crawling into bed until after midnight. It's a cycle I have to make the conscious choice to break.

I am both happy with my progress in the morning and frustrated with my lack of progress in the rest of the house. I think our days would be noticeably more smoother if I got up an hour earlier, but I also long for the quiet of night. I really need to figure out how to get some thinking time. I also can't figure out how to get any of the backlog cleared. I have years of backlog waiting on my attention, but it just doesn't seem like the schedule allows for anything except the bare minimum of cooking, dishes, laundry, and school. I know, intellectually, there is nothing bare about that minimum, but I'll be happy when I don't have piles of stuff staring at me every day. I think school is going well given all the changes and transitions we have had this year in addition to my utter nube status, but the clutter is driving me crazy. Summer will be here soon and hopefully the house will have my full attention.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Obedience or Something Like It

The general computing policy in our house in regards to our children has been a flat no. There have been exceptions over the years where a child is allowed to play a game from school or do some research on a topic or, um, write a short lived blog about cheetahs, but in general, we did not want our children spending much time on a computer when they had other, better options in life.

With the advent of homeschooling, that policy had to change. I made heavy use of Khan Academy at the beginning of the year so the girls needed to have easier access to the computer. We have Windows 10 (yippee </sarc>) and so we set up a separate profile for the children to use for their schooling. The separate profile came with its own password. We set their account up with restrictions to protect them from the wiles of the internet, but I am not naive enough to think these restrictions are foolproof.

Still, I did not want them to have free rein to run all over the computer. There are better things for elementary school children to do than spend all their time playing computer games. Not to say that they could never play a computer game, but I wanted to keep a handle on it.

The general advice is to put the family computer in the family room so all computer use can be supervised, but that is not feasible at my house. There's no room in the family room for a computer set-up. Heck, there's barely room for a couch. So contra best practices, the main computer is upstairs in the office/playroom/den/hallway/room-that-holds-junk. The expectation for computer use is that the children may log-on without permission if they are going to Khan Academy. All other use must be cleared with a parent first.

At first, this expectation was fairly well abided by, but over time and as they became more comfortable on the computer, they began to wander. They would leave the computer and I would find remnants of books examined on Amazon or websites aimed at children or digital copies of the latest installment of cat clans forever at war. I would remind them they needed to have permission before going to these places and they would nod that they understood and then do the same thing again tomorrow.

I had the niggling thought in my mind that I needed to put my foot down and change the password, but I never quite got around to doing it. If I changed the password, I would have to log-in for them every time they needed the computer. That's a pain and out of the way, and besides even though they were in rank disobedience, it wasn't like they were going anywhere bad. So this little game played out for months while I generally ignored it in favor of bigger fish to fry, hoping they wouldn't accidentally stumble into some place of horror.

And then it happened.

One day, I sat down to a computer that had obviously already been used that day without permission granted. As I sat down and waited for the computer to wake up and the darkened screen to come to life, there, before my eyes, was a sight that let me know that the time had come to immediately take action. I knew in that moment that I had been abdicating my parental responsibilities for long enough and I needed to rectify that failing immediately.

One of my children had created for herself an illicit Candy Crush account. Candy Crush, yall. No. Just no. This game was going to be nipped in the bud, right now. I immediately pulled up the computer profile information, changed the password, the password hint, and then I waited.

After a day or two, a child nonchalantly brought up the subject of computer access. The fact of her flagrant violation seemed not to cross her mind at all. That her password no longer functioned did not seem to signal to her an end of her trespasses, but only a technical problem in need of resolution.

So this child, blithely, at suppertime says, "For some reason when I type in my password on the computer, it doesn't work. I clicked on the password hint, but it doesn't say 'Tennessee Vols' anymore."

"Oh really. What does the password hint say instead?"

"It says, 'What should you do?'"

"Really? That's interesting. And what, exactly, should you do?"

"Well, I typed in 'Ask' but that's not the password."

No, indeed, child, 'Ask' is not the password.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Homeschool Planning. In Bits

We are coming to the time of year when you raise your eyes past the grind of your everyday life to see that shining new tomorrow of next year.

Locally, people are beginning to post their used curriculum to sell and I am itching to sit down and think about what we will do next year. There is also a Seton Conference in Nashville at the end of April so I would like to know what I need to buy before that point to save on shipping.

This past year has been quite the adventure. We flipped the running of our household upside down. See anything tagged transition. Since I knew we would be stressed by all the changes, I purposely pared down the scope of academic subjects for this year. I am mostly okay with that, even if I have the occasional panic about the horrible injustice I imposed on my children. This coming year, I would like to round out our academics again. Hello, spelling and science. But my time to sit for long stretches of time and ponder is short indeed so I thought I would hit a lick at this over the course of several posts. First subject: Math

Child number 1: Sam will be doing Kindergarten this coming year. I had hoped to add his schooling into our schedule this semester, but it hasn't happened. Teaching someone to read from scratch isn't something I can do on the fly. Maybe we will start phonics lessons before next fall, but math will not happen before then. And I have no idea. Just throw out what you know here.;postID=8594309763678223665;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=0;src=link
Child number 2: Olivia has worked with me through Life of Fred and has worked fairly independently in the 2nd grade Seton workbook. She should finish through Goldfish in LOF and will finish the Seton book. I expect for her to continue in LOF next year. I don't think they are the be-all and end-all math curriculum, but I do think they give an interesting and unique perspective on how mathematics integrates with life and I like how it name drops more advanced concepts well beforehand just to get the student accustomed to the idea. I also have some problems with some of the underlying world-view philosophy, but it's elementary math so I won't get too far in the weeds.

I am not sure what her more substantial math curriculum should be. I am fairly certain I want to move her into Saxon in fourth grade, but what about next year. Should we continue the Seton, jump into 3rd grade Saxon, or find some other alternative for next year? I am not super-duper impressed with the Seton, but it's solid. I've been told that A Beka math makes a good stepping stone into Saxon, but the company gives me the willies. And of course, there's Saxon, but I'm not sure Olivia is ready for pages of text and math problems. Thoughts?

Child number 3: Grace, my math textbook loving child, has found her home with Saxon. I gave her the placement test off the Internet back in November and was somewhat surprised that it placed her in the 76 book even though she is in fifth grade. I knew she was advanced in math, but I did not expect her to be a full year ahead in a curriculum known for its rigor. Even so, we did not start immediately. Part of the reason was purposeful to pull her out of her comfort zone and part of the reason was sheer logistics. We finally began the textbook at the beginning of March and she likes just about everything about it. She even declines to skip problems when offered because, well, I don't know. I would if I were her.

Since we didn't start until March, we probably won't finish the book until next February. See above for panic about injustice to her education. If we had started in November, we could have reasonably finished the book this year and then next year, she could likely move on to pre-algebra, and THINK HOW FAR AHEAD SHE COULD BE!!!. Except we didn't. So we will finish this math textbook in the middle of next year and I have to figure out where to go after that. At the end of this book, there is a test to determine whether or not to continue to the next book (87) or jump into pre-algebra. Is it reasonable to start pre-algebra in March of 6th grade? Or should I just go on and expect to do Saxon 87 to round out the rest of the year and start seventh grade with pre-algebra? Any voices of experience would be appreciated here.

Those are my math thoughts. Such as they are.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Flow in the Kitchen

Leila has a post up about about doing dishes. Since I am knee-deep in a kitchen that has not been completely clean in over a week, I was interested in what she has to say about it. 

Why hasn't my kitchen been cleaned? First Marian turned off our refrigerator Saturday last week. We discovered this delight on Sunday. Sunday afternoon was spent dumping all the spoiled food out of their little saving containers. Some of this was long overdue anyway. I've been meaning to clean out the fridge for months. Monday, I washed all the regular dishes and about half of the junk from the fridge. On Tuesday I washed the regular dishes and the other half of the junk from the fridge. So maybe everything was clean last Tuesday? It's hard to remember. On Wednesday I decided to take the plunge and tackle the fridge. I dismember shelves and drawers and cleaned every surface I reach as well as I could without getting out the toothpicks. Believe me, I had to resist the toothpicks. Good enough is good enough, right? This job took all of my post-supper cleaning time on both Wednesday and Thursday, which means I didn't wash the regular dishes on either night. On Friday, I was gone almost all day long, night too. On Saturday, I washed about 40 percent of the build-up from the past three nights. I intended to catch up on Sunday, but time change and evening plans made my day quite unproductive. On Monday, I stayed up until 1am making cookies for our parish's St. Joseph Altar. Tuesday, being exhausted from Monday, didn't work out well and I was gone all evening to put cookies in bags for church. Now it's Wednesday. Dishes are everywhere and I am hiding from them by writing this post.

But hey, my fridge in the kitchen is clean. We won't discuss the freezer side or the refrigerator in the garage or the deep freeze. We are pretending those don't exist right now.

One of the problems I have had is getting the children involved more with the daily chores. I feel like they are a mountain to climb everyday and I haven't figured out how to teach the children while I am barely hanging onto my own grasp of the situation. It always feels like it is about to spiral out of control and turn into, well, the way it looks now. How can I let them help when one false move means a carefully stacked piles comes crashing to the ground?

Anyway back to Leila's post. She has one paragraph that stuck out to me and has me puzzled:
Another thing: Figure out where you will stage things.
You can’t handle a sink full of dirty dishes and neither can a kid. You need a place where you will put away food (that’s someone else’s chore, by the way!) and stack things so that they are scraped and ready for the dishwasher or soapy basin.
It is true I cannot handle a sink full of dishes. It is so overwhelming--I'm writing this post instead, remember. But how do you develop flow in a kitchen that has no room for staging?

I have found over these months that you can do one thing at a time in here. You can cook one or two dishes, but not more than that or it gets hectic. You can clean, but trying to cook at the same time is difficult. Let's just say having the dish backlog along with regular meals plus the cookie baking just about sent me over the edge. Lots of ill-tempered phrases were uttered. Lots of inefficiency from making trips all over the kitchen just trying to find a blasted clear spot to set things down.

How do you stage without a staging area? We have one small countertop where the dirty dishes are stacked. We have one smallish countertop where the drying rack is kept. An aside: I don't understand how people go without drying racks or even take them out and put them away fourteen times a day. Something is always wet here and wouldn't it take an eon and a half to dry everything by hand everyday? Moving on: We have one countertop where most of the mixing and chopping happens. Sometimes this spills over onto the kitchen table and then setting the table to eat becomes problematic. And we have one countertop that is a staging area for the drinks/stovetop. We pour drinks here and keep all necessary stovetop items here like salt, oil, spices, spoons, whatever. Most of all that gets put away everyday, but while cooking is happening, it's out and then it gets shoved around to make room for glasses.

So then we need to eat. There is no good place to serve so we make a dozen trips back and forth to the table with individual plates or we take the pot to the table to serve. Because we are classy. After supper, we put items on the small countertop next to the sink until it is full and then what? The table isn't clear. There isn't room to stack on the other countertops with out cleaning them up first. There isn't room to put the leftover food into storage containers. There really isn't room for more than two people to be working at once.

I am at the point where I need 20 minutes to clean the kitchen before the kitchen is in a state where it can be cleaned.  Good luck getting the children back after that.

So how do I approach this? Is this something that gets better with experience or when, finally, the kitchen is totally rearranged? Or is this something I just have to live with because there is no good workaround? How do you find flow in a kitchen that makes you want to shake the house designer?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why a Homebirth?

Having been duly insulted on the Internet, I wanted to examine why homebirth is becoming more popular in this country. It is still an unusual choice, but more and more women are opting for it. Why do you think this is? If the hospital is so great, why are so many women running away from them?

Being a veteran of three hospital births and one homebirth, I think I can offer an opinion. Why did I choose a homebirth after three medically uneventful hospital births? For the record, it was not so I could "give a water birth in <my> own bathtub" because Oh! Gross! I cannot imagine sitting in water surrounded by my own muck Touching! Me! It's bad enough that it's coming out of me. Must I have smeared all over my skin too? Shudder. It might be your thing, but sorry, I cannot go there. And yet I have given birth at home. What other reason could I possibly have?

My third hospital birth was outstanding. My doctor and I had a birth plan we mutually agreed upon. I was not hooked up to IVs and constant fetal monitoring. I could move freely. I was not forced to give birth on my back. By serendipity, I had an outstanding labor nurse who went over and above the call of duty. She embraced and supported my preferences. My preferences are not extreme, but include not being treated like a trauma patient about to die and laboring in positions where the mechanics of birth are the priority instead of the convenience of the attending's view.

I am confident that if I ever give birth in a hospital again, I have the knowledge and experience to negotiate a birth similar to my third birth. It only took me two hospital births to get there. This fact of requiring prior experience is ridiculous and, really, is the problem. A pregnant woman should not have to endure several less-than-ideal births in a hospital to figure out the myriad ways the hospital machine will run her over in order to finally gain the ability to negotiate around them.

Before my first labor, I thought I was well-read enough on the subject of labor that I thought I would manage just fine. When I discussed my thoughts with my doctor, she smiled and nodded, and I stupidly thought all would be well.

When I got to the hospital, everything turned on its head. My presentation was nonstandard--my water broke before the contractions started--and everything I thought I understood was gone. I was not allowed out of bed. I was not allowed to move. I was strapped to several machines that kept me on my back in agony.

The nurses spouted platitudes about increased dangers to the baby because my water was broken and how it was essential to keep the baby monitored at all times. I did not know enough to know they were spewing cow manure at me. Everything I had read had assured me that while the possibility of ruptured waters being the beginning of labor existed, it really only happened on TV and not to expect it. Not much else was said about it so I didn't read further and couldn't argue against them.

My labor progressed very quickly without my crack, professional nursing staff noticing. I received no support while I thought I might be dying on the table, expecting labor to go for eight or ten hours in this manner. They were shocked to find me complete and ready to push after an hour while my doctor was not even at the hospital yet. They made me fight for nearly an hour the intense biological urge to push while we waited for the doctor to arrive. I was chided constantly and repeatedly not to push. To breathe and not push.

When the doctor arrived, it was hard to give in to the feeling after fighting it for an hour. I attempted to push unsuccessfully. It took me a long while to get the hang of it. Finally, as things began to move along, I had nurse come to my bedside whose sole job was to press a heart monitor into my abdomen to keep the baby's heartrate on the machines even as the baby moved out of my uterus. This was total agony.

After 45 minutes of pushing--a rather short second stage for a primipara--my doctor lost patience with this scene and started talking episiotomy. I was laying on my back with my feet in the air with a hard metal device being pressed firmly into my abdomen and my doctor was convinced I could not give birth without a surgical procedure.

Now this situation was one I had read about. I knew it was generally better to tear naturally rather than being cut. I knew that if I could get off my back, delivery might be easier. None of my knowledge or preferences mattered. I spent some amount of time with a baby in my birth canal arguing with my doctor about whether I would consent to likely unnecessary surgery. Nothing encourages a laboring woman to relax and work through crowning like telling her she isn't capable of doing it. After some time and attempts, while never being given the option to change positions, I was worn down by her continual insistence I couldn't do it and "consented" to the procedure. Yes, those scare quotes are intentional. I tore from here all the way to there and my baby, with the low percentile head circumference, was born. It took weeks for me to be able to sit normally again.

At no point during my labor was there anything medically wrong with me or my baby. We were not in distress. We were not bleeding abnormally. We were not showing signs of infection or intolerance of labor. We were just run over by a doctor and hospital policies.

In preparation for my second labor, I took the knowledge gained by previous experience to advocate for myself in this next go around. My new OB turned out to be much more trustworthy than my previous one. We discussed my preferences and she explained her medical guidelines. As it turned out, we induced labor to control for precipitousness and since I was on pitocin, she wanted me on all the monitors again. While this was not my first choice, I understood her reasoning for wanting to monitor how I and the baby might respond to a medication. She had real medical reasons apart from the irrational fear that we might spontaneously combust as exhibited at my first labor.

This labor was much smoother but still I had to listen to a nurse scold me through the bathroom door that I had better not attempt to deliver on the toilet as I emptied my bladder. Yes, it's a little thing, but the little things matter in labor. Was I the patient whose needs were being attended or was I a problem who was crimping the nurse's style?

After a labor that was under two hours and a straight forward delivery, the unexpected happened. No, not a medical crisis, but hospital policy again. I knew that at this new hospital, recovery would be in a separate room from delivery. What I did not know is how tightly they would adhere to a schedule to move me. I delivered at 10:40am. By 11:40am, I was out of that room. In the intervening hour, I had delivered a placenta, been sutured along that old unnecessary episiotomy line, attempted to nurse, had to get out of bed to get cleaned up and changed, get my urine output measured, and signed a pile of paperwork. It was an absolute whirlwind. There was nothing relaxing or undisturbed about that golden hour which the hospital claimed to keep.

In spite of this, I knew once we were back in the recovery room, we would have the rest of the day to spend together. Except we didn't. Somehow my baby didn't make it back to my room with any due speed. Instead of coming to my room, she went to the nursery where she was held hostage for four hours. I was crawling out of my skin, but instead of my need to hold my baby being affirmed and accommodated, I was told repeatedly to calm down, wait, and trust the hospital stuff to bring her when she was ready. I had no idea to expect such a situation and was in no position to advocate for myself. No one else wanted to advocate for me either. I just had to wait until they decided they were finished, whomever they were.

Again there was nothing medically wrong with either us. She was in need of a warm body and a blanket, and amazingly enough I had both that I wanted to provide for her. But that was not allowed. Once again I and my baby had been run over by hospital policy.

As I mentioned above, my third hospital birth was about as good as birth can get. I used my hard won previous knowledge and negotiated every contingency I knew about, and yet I still had to endure one nurse who threatened me with catheterization because my urine output did not meet her preconceived standards because she hadn't bothered to read my chart and see I had not been blown up like a water balloon with IV fluids therefore was not capable of producing the volume of urine she required. I also had another nurse who introduced herself at shift change and I never saw her again, in spite of the fact that two doses of my pain medicine came due over the course of her shift. Note to self: Next time bring your own bottle of advil because you can't count on the nurse showing up with the pain meds. 

Notice that my requests and expectations around birth have had nothing to do with medical requirements being subordinated in favor of some wackadoo, mother-earth goddess zen, orgasmic birth. No. My requirements are that if everything is progressing normally, I will be allowed to move around, find a position that is less agonizing--there is no comfortable position--not deliver on my back with my legs up in the air, and hold my baby for as long as I want after birth. These are not diva-like expectations.

None of my complaints about my hospital experiences will show up in mortality rates. It is the drips of water that strip away the desire to go to the hospital when it becomes clear their medically unnecessary protocols and their own convenience take precedent over the care and comfort of a laboring/postpartum mother and newborn. It should not require two previous births and extensive negotiations to have an undisrupted natal experience when, again, there is nothing medically wrong with either the mother or the neonate. But, sadly, it is required. Without foreknowledge and negotiation, you will get run over by hospital policy because you will be in no position or state of mind to advocate for yourself on the fly in those moments.

Why did I choose a homebirth the fourth time even though I was confident I could reproduce another good hospital experience?

Frankly, my number one concern was delivering on the side of the road. With a history of precipitous labor, it's not an irrational fear. The standard medical treatment of precipitous labor is induction. I don't really like being induced. By the time of my fourth pregnancy, I was somewhat psychologically fragile. I was so very tired of working. I had hoped I would have been able to quit my job by the time of delivery. I felt powerless over my life and schedule. To submit to induction again was once again giving someone else control over my life. With induction, I would likely work until delivery and then be admitted to the same hospital I was employed by. Someone, on their own schedule, would start the process of birth and I, once again, would only be along for the ride. Ironically choosing not to control when birth would happen was a way I could take a small amount of control over my schedule.

I was tired. I longed to hole up in my own home with my own children, but I knew allowing birth to proceed on its own schedule was not compatible with me arriving at a hospital to give birth. If I wanted to avoid induction, I would have to give birth at home. It was too risky to attempt a mad dash to the hospital. I was also afraid that labor might start unexpectedly even if we planned a hospital birth, and we would be unprepared because, again, with my labor history, a mad dash to the hospital is foolish.

I investigated the risks associated with homebirth and compared them to my own medical history. I spoke with people I trust about their own homebirth experiences. I was comfortable with my midwife's credentials and monitoring procedures, a woman who had herself given birth at home and also transferred into a hospital when it became medically advisable. We decided to go ahead with the homebirth, and lo, we all survived.

I am not being flip. It just strikes me as odd which risks we find objectionable and which risks we find acceptable. No one gave any pause to the fact that I was driving up to three hours a day, every day, on a highly congested interstate at speeds up to 70 or 80 MPH while nine months pregnant (and 8 months and 7 months and...). This action was considered an acceptable and unavoidable risk of life. But take equivalent risks in childbirth and people lose their minds.

If I were pregnant again, would I have another homebirth? I might or I might not. I found many advantages to staying at my home for birth, but I am not in that same psychologically fragile place where I feel powerless over my circumstances. I am not compelled to leave my house and children every day anymore. I would not have a maternity leave clock ticking incessantly in my mind reminding me that time is almost up. I am not financially tied to my hospital of employment anymore. I wonder if I gave enough attention to the ambulance response times for my neighborhood. Right now, in my non-pregnant state, induction does not seem like the last straw it felt like the last time I was pregnant.

These are all very intangible criteria and this is the point. Why are women increasingly choosing to birth outside of hospital settings? Because hospitals have shown themselves unwilling or unable to treat normal, uneventful births as normal and uneventful without a massive effort on the part of the mother. The birth culture in this country loudly states that what happens to a mother and baby during the course of childbirth does not matter as long as everyone makes it out alive. I reject this paradigm.

It matters. The little things matter. The unwelcome and unnecessary surgeries matter. The inattentive nurses matter. The counterproductive and unsupportive doctors matter. The denial of gravity matters. The unnecessary and unwanted separations matter. The instinct to tell mothers to suck it up and be grateful everyone is alive matters.

A pregnant mother is a human being. Her physical and psychological integrity matter. She is more than just a baby-producing machine made of meat. Her outcomes matter, even if they don't make a blip on the mortality charts. And none of these things have anything to do with a bathtub. It's time for hospitals to figure it out.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Random Observations: Work to Home Edition

Some thoughts about how life has changed a bit since I stopped working:


When I was working, I always felt like I was battling exhaustion. Always, always sleepy. When it was time for bed, I'd get in bed and go to sleep. Immediately. There was none of this falling asleep business. I was dead to the world within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

Now I rarely feel consistently sleepy. I always have the morning groggies, but that's a different animal. What's odd is that I get about the same amount of sleep, but the constant nag of exhaustion is gone. Now when I get in bed, it takes twenty or thirty minutes to go to sleep. I'd forgotten what it is like to fall asleep.


When I was working, my hips hurt everyday. Sleeping was painful. Walking was painful. Rising from the seated position was painful. Pregnancy did a number on my joints and pelvis--stupid relaxin--and I never was in a position to really get those support muscles back into shape. Exercise? Are you kidding? I didn't have time for exercise. So I just hurt. Every day.

Now my hips do not bother me near so much. I can sleep without waking up in agony. I am still not in great shape and my hips are not pain free all the time, but the difference is significant. The standing and moving necessary to carry out the home duties have lessened the pain to the point where I can go several days without noticing it. It's fantastic. I do need to implement an exercise regime to further improve it, but I have been given the hope that I am not irretrievably broken.


When I was working, I left this house five days a week. I got up, drove to work, drove home, and did it again tomorrow. How was that possible?

Now Sunday creeps up on me by surprise because didn't we just go to church. Oh, a week has passed? I've not left the house since then. I am not sure how I would manage to leave every day with all the responsibilities I have now. I'd like to get out more, but I've yet to unlock that level of competence.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lonely Weekends

I think I might take the plunge and get myself a mother's helper occasionally for some weekends.

Dave works almost every Saturday and Sunday. He usually has a day off during the week, but we are doing school work then. I have entertained the thought of shifting some schooling to Saturday and leaving his day off (whatever day that might be) free during the week, but I think the children would mutiny. They have imbibed deeply on the idea that Saturday is a day off.

When the weather is decent, the children leave the house on Saturday as early as I will let them go. Then it is just me and Marian. Marian is at an age where starting big projects with her around is not wise. She likes to "help." I do not have the temperament to have "help" with tasks I am trying to figure out on the fly. She can help me unload the dishwasher. She can help me with the laundry. She cannot help me sort papers or clean out closets or reorganize parts of the kitchen or I will lose my mind.

Marian and I bop around the house. I snatch at chores here and there. She climbs onto surfaces where she does not belong. I scroll the digital landscape. The Internet has been abandoned for the time being. The usual friendly people available for chatting are off having a weekend. I hit refresh.

It isn't that I don't have anything to do. I just haven't figured out how to do them with Marian in tow. I've discovered I'm not that great with toddlers. I don't have the mental energy to keep up with her and also do other things.

So Dave is at work, the big kids are outside, nobody is in the digital public square, and a pile of work lies tantalizingly just out of reach as I pull the stool out of Marian's grasp for the five hundredth time that day. I think the time for a little outside help may have arrived.

NB: It's a short person hack to always have a stool within easy reach to climb up to all the things regular people can reach. It's also a boon to the toddler who uses it for the same purpose.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tax Temptations

It's getting to be our favorite time of year again. Tax Time! Well, maybe you are already finished, but I haven't gathered the courage yet. I actually like doing taxes except the mileage. Calculating mileage kills me every year.

This year will be a little different because it will be the first time that we report significant income under Schedule C instead of nominal amounts. I expect that our tax amounts will not be very different from last year because Dave's real estate income pretty much matched the missing portion from the third of the year I did not have a job. Our refund is likely to be much lower since we will have to pay in the Social Security taxes, AKA self-employment taxes, that were not withheld for us. I am fairly confident we will not have to write a check, but if we do, the money has been duly set aside to do it. I also expect to meet the threshold to have to do quarterly payments during this tax year and into the foreseeable future. Joy.

I have often wondered about how sole proprietors get into tax trouble. It seems like a fairly straightforward affair to avoid it. You find a percentage of your gross income that should cover your tax bill and then set that money aside every time you get paid, whether through record keeping or through moving it to a separate account where you don't even have to think about it until tax time. Right now, I am pulling 15% out of every commission check and putting it into a designated tax account. This estimate might be a touch high, but I don't want to have to write a check out of our personal cash flow. As we get a better understanding of how our income will work, I can always adjust this percentage.

We knew when we launched into this real estate career that the financial year would be a cycle of feast and famine. The key to surviving is to plan ahead and save enough during the feasting time of the year (spring and summer) in order to weather the famine time of the year (fall and winter). This is the major reason it took me so long to submit my resignation. We wanted to make sure our surplus was in good order because we expected our first famine to be significant since Dave was not well-established in the business yet. And so it has turned out to be.

A couple of weeks ago at the beginning of February, the first commission check since September was deposited into our account. It was a great relief to finally see new money, and yet the amount left after taxes only covered a little over half of one month's expenses. Our surplus was gone. We now had to dip into accounts which hurt my feelings to withdraw from.

As I duly calculated the amount I should transfer into the tax account, a wild thought popped into my mind. What if I just made a note of the money due to the tax account and kept all the money for our use now? Then, when the cashflow was better later on, I would transfer that amount into the proper account.

I actually considered this course for several hours. Danger! There be dragons!

I was shocked that I would consider something so reckless. I was presuming the money would come later and I could set the accounts right. What if it didn't? I realized how easy it is for the lure of cash in the hand now to override common sense.

I am a person who feels pretty confident in my understanding of money and how taxes work. I, who calculates the likely percentage of taxes due and subtracts it from even the promise of a commission before determining a budget, was tempted to conveniently ignore all that for the extra padding of an amount of money under $400. Madness.

I understand how easy it can be for someone to unwittingly slip into tax trouble. It is always easier to think the money for taxes will come around later while you need the money for bills now. The abyss of seeing the end of the money can panic a person into rash decisions, especially if he isn't sure when the income will begin its upswing or if record keeping isn't a strong point.

Luckily for us, the end of the famine is in sight. By the beginning of April, our cashflow logjam should be freed, we will begin replenishing our stores, and hopefully next year's famine won't be quite so deep. But either way, I'll keep transferring money into the tax account because it's the smart thing to do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Solution?

Grace is the oldest child of two oldest children, the oldest grandchild on both sides. She was doomed from the start. Grace is a take charge kind of girl. She always has some grand scheme or event she is concocting where all will be perfect if everybody just follows her instructions. I call her the program director.

She also, ironically, has had the most trouble with self-direction in her schoolwork. I attribute this to spending five years in public school being told what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done every moment of the day.

The other day, after piddling most of her day away, Grace had an outburst about homeschooling. She said she thought homeschooling sounded like a good idea in theory, but it obviously wasn't a good idea for her because she didn't know how to manage her time so obviously needed to go back to school to learn how to do that. I delicately explained to her that I was very familiar with that kind of problem and school classrooms make that kind of problem worse and not better. I told her that if she felt like time management is her biggest academic problem, homeschool is definitely the better environment to learn the skill set. She calmed down and began to ponder.

In the morning the next day, she requested that we do our readalouds early instead of late. Her reasoning was that having the day start with the readalouds would give her a defined beginning point to her school work instead of remembering to start while I tended to the rest of the circus. I thought it a very reasonable request.

My approach to readalouds has been to view it as the end of the school day. That time when everyone settles in and winds down and the toddler gets quiet in preparation for her nap. In the same way that you probably shouldn't goof off on the Internet until all your chores are done, I thought of the readaloud as a bit of a carrot to herd the children through their schoolwork. And if the schedule goes awry, missing out on me croaking out a chapter of The Secret Garden is no great loss on any particular day. I cannot say my approach has been very successful. I have documented the problem of the glazed eyes as they stare at their friends outside.

At about the same time as Grace had her passing crisis, I had to get up early one morning for something. Dave brought me a cup of coffee in bed to help get me up and moving. This was an old routine from when I was working but has since fallen out of practice. It occurred to me that if he brought me some coffee in the morning as he was heading into the shower--he's up a good hour before he showers--I might get a better jumpstart on the day, rather than fumbling around trying to make my own cup while children make demands. It's funny but I'd forgotten we used to do this every morning. If I have a little bit of caffeine and some calories flowing before I even get out of bed, I might have a fighting chance here.

Also, as part of my Lenten discipline, and let's be honest, I doubt I'd attempt it if it weren't Lent, I have decided to defer my showers to the evening, make the bed immediately upon getting out of it, get dressed immediately, put in my contacts immediately all before leaving my bedroom. Then I will start a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher before making another cup of coffee and eating some breakfast. This little series of events takes the better part of an hour and, thus far, I have had to fight the temptation to chuck it and go sit down in the kitchen every single morning. My hope is that making myself do mindless tasks first thing in the morning will become a habit and will clear out some room later in the day for other tasks.

Now here is where the stroke of genius lies! What if I made the Program Director in charge of rousing me out of my stupor after breakfast in order to start the day? It *was* her idea to do the readalouds in the morning. She loves telling people what to do. If I make it her job to prod me a bit and I still don't have to think very much because I am just reading words off the page, maybe we both win. She gets a definite starting point for her school day and gets to feel like she is running this operation. I get to pawn off some of my executive function and not think very hard.

Will it work? I'm not sure yet. Even though I had these ideas a couple of weeks ago, we have since had sick children, snow, more sick children, more snow, a sick me, a well me catching up from being sick, and at least three days where we were not home. So. My hope is that since this coming week should be pretty normal, we will get to try it out and see how it goes.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fasting While Short

A few weeks ago, Bearing wrote a post about the glories of trying to lose weight when short of stature and already calorie restricted because of that fact. There are other special decisions to be made for people who must eat while short.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days that are hard for short people to figure out. The official fasting guidelines from the USCCB say:
Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal.  Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal.  Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals.
That seems pretty straight forward, yet for me, it's not. I am all of five feet, one and three quarter inches tall. My regular eating meals look snacklike to most people. How do you turn a snack into a smaller snack? I'm not really sure.

My regular breakfast is a cup of yogurt with coffee. My fasting breakfast this morning was one egg with coffee. Is that a snack? I don't know how to eat less and still eat something.

My regular lunch these days has been eating stray pieces of lunch meat and cheese with stolen handfuls of goldfish, pretzels, and peanuts. My fasting lunch today was a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich with water.

This meal is definitely snacklike compared with my regular lunches, but if you combine the grilled cheese with the egg, it is likely more food than the regular cup of yogurt I normally eat for breakfast. Does that break the fast since combined the snack is more than one meal? Who knows. I am hungrier today than usual. Is that a good metric?

I do know that it is difficult to make small meals even smaller and still consume food. I figure I can just put in a good faith effort and not sweat the details about guidelines that were likely written for different people in mind. You know, people who eat adult portions. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Toddler Help

I mentioned my struggles with Marian in this other post, but, really, I need some suggestions.

What in the world do you do with a toddler all day? I am not even talking about during homeschool necessarily. I mean what do you do with a child who needs to be watched and entertained when you have other things that must be done.

I swear, it's like I've never had children. In a lot of ways, that is true. I left for work when Grace was 14 months old and she could barely walk.  I was only home on evenings, weekends, and maternity leaves until Marian was 27 months old. In spite of having four children, I do not have long experience dealing with toddler crazy.

The truth is I am absolutely terrible at figuring out what to do on the fly. A real and repeated example of my in-the-moment forgetfulness is when the children are still babies, but are transitioning into bigger babies who to do not need to be held all the time, I have run around the house trying to do chores one-handed while carrying baby on the other hip--in the pre-Boba days--getting frustrated, and I have to be reminded I can put the baby down. Oh yeah, this baby plays on the floor now. Does not need constant carry. I forgot. **

When Marian starts the attention seeking behavior when I am busy, I am usually paralyzed in responding and end of spinning my wheels instead of accomplishing anything, either with her or my work.

I need a concrete, real list of ideas that I can reference and think about and that can be implemented with an energetic toddler in a house where rooms cannot be blocked, nowhere is really toddler proof, and we all basically spend all our time on top of each other in the small, stupidly-designed living room/kitchen. Help!

**So I probably should have another baby to remedy the fact that I discovered the life-changing magic of properly-constructed, structured carriers when my fourth and youngest child was 13 months old. It would be tragic not to be able to use my Boba with a baby and actually make my life easier.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Scheduling Conflict

I am fairly certain I have not publicly mentioned this bit of news, even on the book of face, but if you have any kind of internet contact with my husband, you will probably already know this.

In the middle of December, Dave was asked to join a realty team at his office which is the most successful subgroup there. The way it works is that all the realtors in the group agree to take less commission on each individual deal, putting the rest into the hands of the team leader, and in return they get a piece of every deal that happens within their area. Dave's area primarily serves a subdivision under development in town. A huge subdivision filled with houses whose individual rooms are sometimes larger than my entire house. This arrangement is the closest thing to guaranteed money that exists in real estate. If all goes well, we should finally surpass the country's median income level. If all goes really well, we might actually surpass the point where talking about money becomes uncouth, although I probably still will because I'm like that. It's exciting, nonetheless.

In an ironic turn, one of the reasons the team leader asked Dave to join her team is because of his skills in online marketing and SEO rankings. He beat his head against closed doors for over a year while potential employers ignored his experience and said they couldn't hire him without experience. He took those same skills and used them for his own websites--in the same way he learned the skillset--but this time promoting himself as a real estate agent instead of a gardener. He kept popping up in the searches she was studying for her own benefit and decided she wanted him on her team. Just when he had given up on the idea of getting paid to do SEO work and turned in an entirely new direction, he is now partially getting paid to do SEO work. Life is funny, sometimes.

The biggest trade-off in this arrangement is there is an office that must be manned seven days a week. Instead of primarily working at home, he is now primarily working in an office at the subdivision. His total hours are fewer than the ones I worked when I commuted into Nashville and he is in town instead of 40 miles away. These are all great advantages, but he is expected to work six days a week. Saturday and Sunday are almost always included in those days. His new boss is very proactive about making sure he takes his day off every week, but there isn't a standard day off. It rotates according to everyone's schedule and how busy they expect to be on any particular day. We usually do not know which day he has off in a given week until Monday so it is difficult to plan around.

Dave leaves for work every morning around 9 and gets home sometime between 5 and 6 in the evening. On Sundays, he has to leave around a quarter to noon and gets home at the regular time. Any particular day is not extremely long, but working up to ten days in row without a day off has taken some getting used to.

Sunday is a bit of a mad dash now because we get up, go to church, take the girls to Sunday school while we go grocery shopping, run home, unload the groceries, and he shoves food in his mouth before running out the door. Then he is gone the rest of the day.

That was a rather long opening tangent.

Even though I have not had a job since September, I haven't been here alone with the children day after day until the week of Christmas. Before Christmas, Dave would need to visit the office and might be out for an entire day sometimes, but home was still his home base of operations. He would help me get the meals on the table and still did the majority of the cooking while I adjusted to all the changes. He was still here to go chase Marian and redirect a wandering and distracted child. Now he's not. I am officially running this ship. Whoa.

When left to my own devices, here is something I have noticed about myself: my brain does not wake up until at least an hour--actually closer to two--after my body is awake. My executive function doesn't exist before that point. I stare and bumble and have to have questions repeated before I can process them. I drink coffee, but coffee does not immediately remedy the situation.

The other night, after the kids spent time playing in the muck and snow, I decided to wash their heavy coats. I looked at the care labels, put them in washer, set up the machine properly, and set a delay timer to start the washer so it would be finished in time for me to switch them into the dryer first thing in the morning so the children would not lose play time. I was ahead of the game! In the morning, the washer finished and I stumbled, bleary-eyed, into the laundry room to put the coats in the dryer. I pulled out the coats and found them still somewhat muddy. I was dismayed. I was also paralyzed. I stood there staring at these coats for an absurd amount of time trying to form a coherent plan in my mind. Part of my paralysis was from inexperience in handling laundry that doesn't come clean using the care label instructions, but the vast majority of it was due to the fact that as I tried to think about what I should do, I got static and silence in return. "Uhhhhhhh.............What?"

In an ideal world, I would have two full hours to mentally wake up in the morning before I had to do anything else. We are talking mindless scrolling while drinking coffee, waiting for ambition and/or functionality to arrive. After that, I would have another hour to get dressed, make the bed, process the kitchen, start the laundry, and tend to Marian's physical needs. Then and only then would the children make any extra request of me. And I, being actually awake and dressed, would be ready to fulfill my motherly duties.

Ha! The way it looks in reality is very different.

The children are always awake before I am. They don't get up especially early and I don't sleep especially late, but it always seems to happen they are up first. They putter around the kitchen making themselves breakfast. Marian wants what everyone else is having, no matter how much she has already eaten, so a pile of half-eaten food sits on the table at her place. She races to open the garage door and the fridge door and the pantry door in search of some delicacy she has yet to try this morning.

I stumble in and attempt to make a cup of coffee. I am hit with a barrage of requests while I pull Marian out of her various locations and desperately try to keep her from letting the cat out of the house. It's cold. I don't want to have to go chasing the dang cat first thing in the morning.

"Can I have some tea? Can you get me a plate? I want some coffee. Can I have coffee? Why do they always ask for tea? I hate tea. Stop saying tea. Can you give me a spoon? I'm hungry. Can I have more juice? Can you get the cinnamon? Eat! Eat! Can you pour the milk?"

Um, what? Can I finish making my cup of coffee and take a swallow first? Now what did you say? I forgot. Ummm.....

They eat. I find a cup of yogurt. Sometimes Sam brings it to me. Dave is finishing his breakfast at the table. The girls are all spread out with their books and food and tea. Sam eats and hops down to start his games. Marian pops up and down out of her chair, nibbling from her pile and running back and forth, as I impotently tell her to sit still. There is no room for me to sit down.

I stand at the countertop and start scrolling. Dipping my toe into the public square helps me get my bearings. Reading to activate the brain. I sip coffee. Many times I am too scattered and spacey to eat the yogurt that is sitting right in front of me. After some stretch of time, Dave is up from the table, fixing his lunch, getting ready to leave for work. Oh right, I need to eat this yogurt.

Dave is gone. I need a second cup of coffee. I make a few intrepid comments full of wit. I can feel the brain starting to come online. The kids are all up from the table. They all want help. Marian needs to get dressed. I need to get dressed. Chores need to be started. All the schooling that can be done independently is mostly finished.

And here lies the choice: do I tend to myself first or do I tend to the children first?

I've done both. Neither works well.


On the days I choose to tend to myself first, chaos reigns. I go into my room to get myself put together. Nothing spectacular, but the very basic change of clothes, teeth brushing and the mounting of the contacts. No shower. Heaven knows I can barely manage a shower when I am by myself with the kids. I make the bed, process laundry and kitchen, and then turn my attention to Marian, who also needs changed and teeth brushed and hair combed.

Finally the bigger kids get my attention. It is usually eleven o'clock by this point. Olivia and Sam have started some elaborate game they are loathe to stop. Marian is running all over the house "ruining" their games. Grace has slunk away to stick her nose in a book. I help Olivia with her math and reading. Grace may or may not help keep Marian contained. I might have to stop multiple times to get Marian out of the fridge/pantry/garage/backdoor. We finish up Olivia's lessons and Grace is upset because she still needs my help and Olivia all finished.

Olivia and Sam start making themselves lunch. They go back and forth and back and forth. There, truly, isn't enough room in the kitchen for more than one person to be working at once. They run into each other more than once. I try to stay out of the way. They will put together a sandwich for Marian who is immediately drawn by the promise of food. They all begin eating while I finish up helping Grace. Marian is finished and down running around. As soon as Marian is finished, the option of my sitting to eat evaporates. My lunch consists of shoving a piece of lunch meat into my mouth as I help them make their lunches. I go by the pantry and grab a handful of peanuts. I try to remember to get something to drink.

The children are all finished and we have to do readalouds. It is usually after one now and I can't stop and do chores or anything else. If I lose them here, the day is over. The neighbors will hit the street around 2 o'clock and then my kids are D-O-N-E. We finish reading and they hit the door as fast as their legs will carry them out. I start picking up the table from lunch, chat a minute online, and get Marian ready for napping.

She takes about a 90 minute nap. I put her down around three and the clock starts ticking. Do I sit down yet or fold all the laundry that is waiting for me. It really depends on the day.

The days when I tend myself first are smoother housekeeping days where I have the opportunity to sit down mid-day, but the school day is rockier and the children are crankier.


On the days I choose to tend the children first, getting dressed and eating is a real problem. Instead of getting up and getting dressed when my brain finally shifts into gear, I sit in my pajamas on the couch to help Olivia with her math and reading. We begin between 930 and 10. Since we almost immediately begin working, the children have different expectations. Games are not interrupted because they really weren't started. Marian is still running wild, but since I am always close by, it doesn't get too crazy. Olivia gets her work done with me and I check her written work. I immediately go upstairs to help Grace with any math she might need help with. I manage to get Marian changed and dressed at some point. Grace does her grammar and other written work I check it. It's now lunch time. I am still not dressed.

The children make their own lunches plus Marian's and I use the opportunity to get dressed. It's nearly one. After I am dressed, Marian is down and off again. My opportunity to eat is gone. They all finish up and we settle down to read. The timer is ticking again. Two o'clock and they are done.

They leave and I start picking up. I try to get Marian down for napping as quickly as possible because I am now starving.

She still takes a 90 minute nap. During that time I eat whatever I can find, try to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, and maybe fold the laundry. I will probably chat online too because I really need to checkout.

The days when I tend to the children first are smoother schooling days, but I am a hot mess who is barely dressed, doesn't really eat lunch, and has a pile of chores to do instead any down time.


When Marian wakes up from her nap, I am probably already in the kitchen. The kitchen takes up an extraordinary part of my life right now. I seriously am doing some task in the kitchen from about 430 in the afternoon until 9 or 10 at night. The decision about what to make is slow, the food prep is slow, the eating is late, and the cleaning is really slow. We put the kids into bed between 9 and 930. I spend about 30 minutes with them around bedtime. My hope is to be done with the kitchen before they go to bed. Sometimes. Sometimes not.

After they are in bed and if I am done with the kitchen, I try to get some ignored task done before bed. One night it was school checklists, another it was putting away turkey stock, another it was paying bills. Sometimes I just veg on the internet with a fried brain. I try to get in bed around 11 and then sleep and do it all again tomorrow.


I can see the weak point in my day is the first two hours with a non-functional brain. I know, intellectually, I should get up and immediately get myself ready for the day. When the moment comes to do it though, I stumble out of bed, head for the coffee, get pelted with questions, and try to remember, "Now what was I supposed to be doing right now? Uhhhh....." I have a scheduling conflict.