Monday, May 12, 2014

Moving on.

I've switched gears and I'm trying out a new blog host. If you want to see what we're up to, head over the new (and we'll pretend it's improved): The Mother Load.

Monday, April 28, 2014

On going granola.

We live on the North Shore, in the woods (well, not in the woods...we actually live in town, but the woods are like 5 steps away. And so is the lake.).  Up here it feels very self-sufficient...wood-burning stoves and laundry on the lines and home-schooling and a teeny-tiny community farmer's market in the summer. We have a community composting site that we take advantage of in all the months that don't have snow. We also have our own composting bin in the back yard (it came with the house, we didn't have to build it, I just benefit from the soil it produces), and we recycle what we can. If we could have chickens in town, I'd probably convince Uriah to let me raise a few of those, too.  I try to repurpose things as much as I can and my insides (and wallet) get happy when I'm thrifting or junking or antiquing.

For awhile now I've wanted to try making home-made laundry soap. Over the weekend, I took that to the next level, making fabric softener, oxy-clean, and dishwasher detergent, as well.  It was as if one of the Kilcher's came and homesteaded right in my very own kitchen (except my kitchen is not in the Alaskan wilderness and I don't have to kill a bear, a moose, a deer and catch a couple hundred pounds of salmon to make it through the winter - I just head on over to the Super One when I run out of meat). I spent an afternoon grating and boiling and mixing and stirring and was amazed at how much got done in a relatively short amount of time.

I utilized my Home-Wifery Bible (aka: Pinterest) for the best and most sought after cleaning recipes.  I used this recipe for the laundry detergent - I am not a fan of powdered laundry detergent, so I went with a liquid form.  I found that I have to shake it up really well before I use it because it kind of congeals and settles a bit, but I cannot even tell you how soft our towels felt when I pulled them out of the dryer today.  I also used this recipe for the fabric softener, I just used some conditioner that I had on hand to try it out, but I think I'll try to find a more natural (read: less stuff in it) conditioner next time I make fabric softener. I also didn't add any essential oils to my softener because I like my laundry to be mostly un-scented.  I like soft stuff and this fabric softener will mostly be used when I hang things outside to dry in a few months weeks.  I think line drying can make jeans and towels stiff and scratchy without a little softening boost, but I am loath to use the dryer in the summer time and sheets smell so much better after hanging outside in the sunshine all day long, anyway. 

I usually buy Cascade in bulk at Sam's Club, and actually just ran out over the weekend, so...perfect timing! Everything I read about home made dishwasher detergent touted how it made clear glasses sparkle and shine, and it is true. Sometimes when I used Cascade I felt that my glasses came out feeling a little filmy - clean, but not quite clear.  Well, consider me converted.  Everything came out extra clean and sparkly and non-filmy.  This is the recipe I used.  I think it's the vinegar in the rinse cycle that made everything so clean, but nothing smelled vinegary after it had cycled through.  

Speaking of vinegar, I also used it to clean my dishwasher this weekend, because the last time we did that was never.  (Truthfully, I was a little disgusted by how much crust I wiped out of there.)  And I used vinegar to clean out the microwave and I ran it through my coffee maker to clean that out, too.  I feel like this is a public service announcement for vinegar, but seriously.  No random cleaning chemicals, just plain, old vinegar.  My Grandma would be so proud (she swore by vinegar for everything. Everything.  Sore muscles?  Rub some vinegar on it.  Hard to clean pot?  Use some vinegar.  Mosquito bite?  You guessed it...vinegar.)

After I had everything done and cleaned up in the kitchen yesterday, I left for the gym for an hour of alone time (yes, I go the gym for quiet time) and my husband took care of feeding the small humans (nitrate-filled hot dogs, biscuits from a can, sodium laced potato chips and apple sauce that I didn't make.  Baby steps to a granola lifestyle, I guess).  Turns out Uriah had a bit of an adverse reaction to all of the cleaning fumes in the kitchen and took to his bed shortly after I got home.  For 12 hours straight.  So...keep this in mind if you're going to make your own soaps and stuff: making your own crap is thrifty and awesome, but crack a window or two.

Quick Reference:
Laundry Soap
Fabric Softener
Dishwasher detergent

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On winter & spring.

Last fall, for a hundred reasons, I didn't plant a single bulb, in fact I barely touched the gardens around our house; I'm not entirely certain I winterized anything out there.

I let the gardens fall under the weight of frost and then snow. All winter long, I ignored them, buried deep just beyond my window panes.  I watched the snowflakes pile one on top of the other until I could no longer see the markers at the end of the garden path or the tip top of the peony bushes that still stood tall in their metal cages because I didn't cut any of the dead branches back at the end of the season.  I sat by as the wind whipped snow into first ankle deep, then knee deep then, in spots, hip deep drifts.  Our back yard was a blanket of fluffy white, mostly quiet and tranquil except when the sun deigned to make an appearance.  Then it hurt my eyes to look outside, the glare bouncing on the razor sharp edges of snowflakes.

Slowly, though, as the winter wore on, I began to think about what was buried deep beneath the frigid mounds.  I began to plan for them again. A thought here, a note of something new to plant there. Sporadic, at best, but thoughts nonetheless.  

By Easter, I was ready to rake and pull and cut and make room for something new and lovely out of the fallow and silent.  I had my rain boots on and my rake and clippers in hand, the sun was warm on the top of my head and my expectations of this early forage into the gardens were low - very low. 

So you can imagine my surprise at the small shoots all over the place, carrying on as if I hadn't neglected them at all. Green leaves curling into the sun, reaching up. From the darkness of winter comes forth abundant spring.

The truth is, we all need that rest, the cold cover of a winter season.  And I found in those moments, as I stared in wonder at my garden's ability to persevere and press on, that I appreciated those fledgling green curls of leaf so much more than I ever have before.  In spite of all of that darkness - or perhaps because of it -  we still have the ability to bloom.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On my mind...It's still winter.

  • I don't even really have the energy to write because we are bracing for more snow and I feel as though I should be under my covers hibernating.
  • It's still winter here, even though the calendar says spring. 
  • Our computer is about ready to die.
  • No one is surprised; it is a dinosaur and we got it used at least 7 years ago.
  • Someone is annoyed.  And feeling cheap and not wanting to expend the finances that it will take to get a new one.
  • I have dumped everything onto our external hard drive, but it's not hooked up to Uriah's computer, so I don't have access to pictures.
  • I've been using Uriah's but by the time he gets home in the evening, I'd rather hang out with him than write. 
  • My feet are cold.
  • I have been reading like a crazy person, so many good books are out right now or are about to come out.
  • My Amazon wish list is giant.
  • I'm still navigating e-readers through our library.  It is an asinine system to search for books and I find myself annoyed and frustrated when I do it.  There has to be an easier way.
  • I've been watching some questionable Netflix shows lately.  The kind that do not stimulate the mind but hook you anyway? 
  • We are only a few episodes into the new season of House of Cards (also on Netflix, not questionable at all).  We are trying to spread the season out as we watched the first season in about 2 weeks. 
  • I'm ready to start going to antique stores and flea markets and junk shows. 
  • I have an absurd amount of furniture in the cottage just waiting to be painted this spring.
  • I've also been sifting and sorting through some of the boxes that we haven't looked at since we moved.
  • I realize that we moved almost two years ago.  Boxes just full of surprises, I tell you!
  • Finn's favorite game to play is hide and seek. 
  • I jumped out and scared him one time when I was hiding and he was seeking and it was so funny.  Seriously, he did this little dance jump and some jazz hands and he might have almost tinkled a little. Now he has to remind me every day not to scare him. I feel kind of bad about that, actually.
  • But it hasn't stopped him from wanting to play hide and seek one trillion times a day.
  • And just so you know, there are only so many places to hide in this house.
  • Abby's play is almost ready to perform.
  • To hear her talk about it the whole thing is a master flop and no one knows their cues and someone will have to stand off stage and feed everyone their lines for the entirety of the performance.
  • She is such a drama queen.
  • We have a baby sitter for Finn for 2 nights (extravagant) and I think Uriah and I are going to go out on a dinner date before we go to the show (also extravagant).
  • Family galore is coming into town to see her big theater debut.  I can't wait.  I miss my mom. And my Dad.  And my sister.  And my brother.  And my aunties.  And Ady. 
  • I'm trying to adjust my diet because I'm caught in a rut.  It is not good.  Not good at all.
  • I've been webMD-ing myself and I can assure you, I have a multitude of ailments.
  • Do not diagnose yourself using webMD unless you want to entertain the though that you might be susceptible to the Ebola virus, mad-cow disease, H1N1 and the Bird Flu, malfunctioning organs and acne.
  • It's time to make dinner and I've already put Finn in his jammies so this night can just roll right along in a smooth manner.
  • You know...the faster to bed, the quicker we can wake up and shovel another foot of snow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On granola and spring.

Winter is groaning on and on and on.  I am certainly envious of the pictures of spring break and spring I see on Facebook and Instagram.  I want spring.  I want tulips and the start of grass and pretty purple crocuses easing their way out of the ground, and in lieu of all of that in my own back yard, I'd take a vacation someplace warm and tropical.

My yard is still covered with feet and feet of snow, and probably will be for some time...long past the start of spring in a few weeks, maybe even right up until the first day of summer.  And so I'm breathing deeply this week, reminding myself that there is beauty in the snow sparkling in the sunshine.  There is something primitive about the icicles hanging sharply from the roof.  We can still snuggle up in the afternoon, under a blanket and with some hot cocoa and be content to hibernate a little bit longer.  Summer brings busyness and gardening and the lake and vacations.  Right now, we can move a little bit slower, simmer soup a little bit longer, enjoy the days with nothing to running, no errands, no appointments...and instead we can read books and play games and build train tracks that use every ounce of our imagination and ingenuity.  We can spend an afternoon covered in flour, making cookies and singing and stopping for the occasional dance party.

I pulled out my granola recipe last week; actually, I pulled out two granola recipes and kind of married them into one beautiful, easy granola.  I feel sort of hippie when I make granola, and last week was no exception. Finn helped me mix it together using the bits and pieces that I found in our drawers and I had a little Minnesota honey left, so it smelled like spring as it was baking.  I kept it on the counter to cool and crisp up and I couldn't stop snacking on it.  It's delicious on yogurt and even more amazing in these cookies.  I've made these cookies before just the way the recipe reads, but this time I omitted the apricots and blueberries (because I didn't have any) and used the dried cherries and pomegranates that I also used in the granola instead.  I also added a half cup of chocolate chips (because I did have those!) and I used the granola we'd just made.  Finn helped me roll the cookies into balls, but next time I will flatten them a little bit.  These are seriously so good.  I might have given them the blessing to be breakfast cookies - because granola and dried fruit is totally breakfast food, right?

Spring is coming. The windows will open and the fresh air - cool, but not cold - will clean out the stale smell of winter.  Our days will be full of gardening and walking and just being outside.  Until then I've been motivated to dive into closets and cupboards and drawers; cleaning and organizing and purging.  We can't be outside right now, not really when the temperatures still plummet below zero, but when the ground thaws and the green peeks and the tulips reach up out of the dark, we will be there waiting and watching and sighing with relief.

Cherry Granola
  • 2 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried pomegranates
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the oats, nuts and fruit in a large bowl.  On the stove top, bring the butter, honey and oil just to a boil; pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat completely.
Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven for 15 minutes.  Stir and bake another 5-10 minutes longer, just until brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack stirring occasionally and breaking up larger chunks.  Store in sealed container for up to 2 weeks. 

*Use whatever dried fruit you have/like: raisins, craisins, apricots, dried blueberries.  Same with the nuts: you can substitute walnuts or almonds, I've even done a mixture of nuts if I have some random quantities to use up.

Friday, February 28, 2014

On Family Court & Deadbeat Moms

I cried after court this week.

Yes, we went to court again.  Yes, we're dealing with Abby's mom again.  And yes, I don't talk about it too much for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that this is a very personal family issue and I grew up in a house where family issues stay in the family; and also because this is Abby's story and she has an opinion and feelings and I sometimes don't feel like it's my place to parade the junky parts of our life out there for God and everyone.

This time it's different and I'm not sure why, but it feels like I have to get this all out and off of my chest because I feel like I'm suffocating.  For years my most fervent desire was to find someone like me. Someone who is busy raising a kid that's not her own; a kid that she has no responsibility to other than the responsibility she puts on herself. Someone who understands me when I say that raising this child that I didn't grow - who I've really only known for about 7 years (and they've been tumultuous at best, downright impossible at the worst.) is easily the single hardest thing I've ever done.  Sometimes it feels like teaching an old dog new tricks and that it's easy to disassociate because she isn't "technically" my responsibility.

I don't have a legal stake in Abby, but I'm emotionally and financially involved in all of the things that make up the nuances of her life.  I've scrimped and saved for her. I've laid awake in bed at night discussing her. I've agonized over her decisions and I've celebrated her successes. I taught her how to shave her legs and I explained periods and boys and sometimes I advise her on her hair or make-up. I buy her school clothes and supplies and I make her lunch every morning. I drive her to and from sporting events and play practice; I cheer in the bleachers and in the auditorium. I go to her band concerts and her choir concerts and her plays and her volleyball games. I advocate on her behalf. I take her to the doctor's office and schedule her follow-up appointments and pay her co-pays. I sat outside and prayed during every single therapy session she's ever had. I wash her clothes and try not to make a huge deal out of her incredibly messy room.  I make sure she is fed, that she goes to church and learns about God and that she understands that her brother is not her half-brother, he's just her brother. I make sure she has chores so she learns responsibility, but I try to let her be a kid because she grew up really, really fast and all these years later, Uriah and I still mourn that; but we don't regret it.

In the grand scheme of all of the times we went to court on Abby's behalf - on our family's behalf - this week's hearing was very, very minor.  And yet it was huge.  Abby's mom requested a change of child-support.  She wants to pay nothing.  She wants to have zero financial obligation to her child.  No child support. No medical bills. And the sad thing is that, based on her "testimony," the court will probably side with her because that's actually how the law is written.

And so I cried in the car, in our driveway, after biting my tongue for the half-hour hearing because I wanted to scream to everyone in that court room that this whole thing is a big farce; it's a classic case of fake and dodge responsibility, which, based on our involvement with Abby's mom, is pretty much her M.O.

The thing is: Uriah and I can obviously support Abby without any financial help.  We've been doing just that for the 5 years that Abby's been living with us full-time.  And in 5 years, we haven't pursued help from any outside financial institution - not for medical help, not to enforce the child-support obligation that is owed. This doesn't make us awesome nor does it put us on a pedestal; it simply means that we've buckled down and done what needed to be done to raise our kids, it just so happens that one of our kids technically only belongs to half of us. But I don't believe in that technicality.  I worked a full-time job to make sure Abby's summer programs and after-school care were paid for. I made sure she got to her Girl Scout meetings and that she was able to play volleyball. And now I stay at home as much for Finn as I do for Abby, to drive her to and from school; to make sure she has dinner ready before she goes to her activities and that she doesn't have to eat alone or be home alone or have the obligation of constantly watching out for her little brother. I stay home so that there is always someone here for her when she needs us - phone call from school for tylenol for cramps or a request to stay after and be picked up later to get some work done.

I don't want to have to explain to Abby that once again, her mom wants nothing to do with her. She doesn't call, she doesn't write, and now she doesn't even want to support her from afar.

And I don't want to rant about Deadbeat Moms. I don't want to feel like the justice system is slanted - and not in our favor, which it doesn't need to be but I do think that it needs to be more balanced in general. I don't want to have to deal with the anxiety and annoyance that comes with listening to someone sing her own song of "poor me."

And so I cried in the car. It's easy to be frustrated when things don't look the way we'd like them to or when things follow a path that we think isn't the correct path.  I cried to clear my mind and my heart so that I can see more clearly this new path that is opening up to us.

I can see a little more clearly now that this has potential to be just what we didn't know we always needed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let's Pretend It's Spring! (Psych! It's really just another winter storm!)

We played this little game last week called, "Let's Pretend It's Spring!"

The weather got up to 39 degrees two days in a row and it was like a little bit of heaven on our white, frozen tundra.  Uriah and I decided to fully embrace the warm weather by wearing only sweatshirts outside - we were bold: no hats, no mittens; although I did cheat and wear a scarf.  Finn obviously was not allowed to play outside without his full winter-gear, but we did forego his hood and scarf.  The sun was shining, the snow was melting, it totally felt like spring.  I stood in the sunshine, the warm, warm sunshine and I figured that stupid groundhog was full of shit about his shadow and spring and 6 more weeks of never-ending-winter, so we cleaned the snow off of the grill and used it 2 nights in a row!  I'd forgotten how good grilling is...the clean up is so minimal.  I love that.

The downside is that the warm-ish weather causes snow to get sloppy and that gets tracked into the house and I tried really hard not to care was warm and spring-like!  I can handle a little melty, dirty snow on the kitchen floor if it means we can open windows (we did not, by the way, open any windows. Uriah was firm on that one.).  We came to the conclusion that everyone needs new rain boots before spring hits full-force; I really do hate having wet feet and wet pants legs and Finn wore holes in his boots last spring/summer/fall.  I'm not really sure why I didn't throw them away when I did fall cleaning.  The warmer weather also makes snow pants much wetter much sooner; and I resorted to putting his outside clothes in the dryer rather than on the radiator because Finn wanted to play outside often and dry clothes are necessary.

Then, you know...reality hit and we got 12 million feet of snow on Thursday night (actually is was more like 12 inches, but it all feels the same) and school was cancelled on Friday and our grill is once again a snow white mound in the back yard. No more grilling for awhile; back to coats and hats and mittens and boots. I plan to go to Home Depot next week to buy some grass seed.  I'm going to plant it and watch it grow and run my fingers though it because based on the height of the snow piles in my back yard, I will not see grass until at least June.  We might even be able to have a sledding party for Finn's birthday in July.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Bath

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day!" quite like a three-and-a-half year old crapping his pants and and apologizing "because I was playing too hard," trying to clean it up himself "because I'm a big boy, Mama!" And then having to spend your morning disinfecting the entire bathroom because, honestly, his idea of cleanliness just doesn't cut it.

Oh, and I stepped in some poo.  Barefoot.

I love my kid.  I love my life.  But seriously?  Wtf?!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What does the fox say? {14 Days of Valentines: 2014 Edition}

When it comes to holiday gift-giving, I think everyone has their favorite time of year. When we lived in Kansas City and my husband had a job that allowed us more flexibility around the holidays, my mother-in-law loved to fill Christmas socks with special things that were unique to each of us. We'd open them on Christmas morning under her tree - showers not necessary, coffee a plus - little things that she'd picked up throughout the year.  These socks could include any number of items: socks (I know, the irony!), our favorite candy, a CD, small bottles of booze that you get on airplanes.  You never knew what you'd be surprised with on Christmas morning.  One year I got pajamas - honest to God, blue satin pj's stuffed into my Christmas sock.

Some people really like Easter, and I'll admit, I like to fill Easter baskets for my kid's, too - colored eggs, malted milk ball eggs, peeps and a hollow chocolate bunny, a kite (although we should all disregard the fact that Finn's kite still sits unopened in our coat closet...maybe this spring we'll get around to pulling that thing out. Or maybe I'll just re-gift it back to him at Easter this year.  He's 3, he'll never know and I'll have saved myself $5.).  Whatever the holiday - Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Arbor Day - I always give my kids a book.  I like to give books as gifts.  You can never have too many books.  Until, of course, you move and half your moving van is boxes of books and those boxes are really heavy and your husband threatens to burn them if you don't whittle down your "collection" only he uses words like: "hoarder" and "obsessive" and "certifiable."  You know, really hurtful words. 

Anyway...I like Valentine's Day. A lot. A really lot. I love to come up with an idea and then find a little gift for my small humans for each of the days leading up to Valentine's Day because I don't love them enough the rest of the year, apparently. 2012 was the inaugural year.  Finn had no idea what was going on, being 1-1/2 and all, but he drank his apple juice and ate his teddy grahams happily.  Abby thought it was pretty cool and was excited most mornings to see what her small gift was and then telling us over dinner how excited she was to get her small gift, so I like to think we coasted in with a win, especially since I flew by the seat of my pants that year. Then last year I felt as though I should take it up a notch.  I'm hopeful I didn't peak too soon, because last year was so much fun to plan

This year I struggled a bit and enlisted the help of my (somewhat non-creative) husband.  At first I thought maybe we'd do 14 days of Love Song lyrics, but scraped that idea when I realized the only songs Finn knows are Wagon Wheel and T-Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. And also, my husband couldn't contribute any good love songs...a quick google search of Celine Dion is all it would have taken, obviously. Reference: Titanic theme song.  The Power of Love. Because You Loved Me. And about a million more chart toppers than Whitney ever had.

And then the light bulb went of in my otherwise dark mind.  Finn does know another song.  He knows that stupid fox song that is all the rage on YouTube. And it occurred to me that we could totally do that for a theme with all kinds of animals for each of our days.  And then it occurred to me that we could totally get a real dog for the "What does the dog say?" day. I almost peed my pants from canine-procurement-excitement. I looked on the world wide interwebs for the perfect addition to our family (one that didn't cost $1800; I knew my husband would throw up in his mouth if I suggested that dog. In its defense, it was cute and it came with "real genuine papers suitable for framing," so I guess that justified the cost.).  I made lists of doggy items needed. I even gave our new almost-dog a name! And then my husband said no and my hopes and dreams were burst like a hot dog in the microwave.  As it stands, he didn't say no-forever, he just said no-for-right-now; nobody wants to potty train a dog in Northern Minnesota in February.  Valid point, Mr. Hefter.  We shall wait until spring (maybe).

So here are this year's 14 Days of Valentine's (minus the climactic Get A Real Dog Day) in no particular order, because mostly, I still have to go to Target (and probably the Shopko) to procure a few extra items.

  • Zebra: "Our love is not black and white,'s read all over!" {books about love}
  • Elephant:  "I"m nuts about you, Valentine!" {Peanut m&m's}
  • Cow: "Will you be my mooost special Valentine?" {Chocolate milk for breakfast}
  • Bear: "I love you beary much, Valentine!" {Teddy Grahams}
  • Worm: "You wormed your way into my heart, Valentine!" {socks}
  • Unicorn:  "Valentine, you make every day magical!" {Sprakly pencils & crayons}
  • Chick: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To ask you to be mine, Valentine!" {chicken nuggets}
  • Fish: "I'm hooked on you, Valentine!" {Goldfish crackers}
  • Bee: "Just buzzed by to see if you'd be my honey, Valentine!" {Honey Nut Cheerios}
  • Dog:  "What we have is puppy love, Valentine!" {Puppy Chow}
  • Seahorse:  "Sea how much I love you, Valentine?" {bubble bath & body wash}
  • Sheep: "You can count on me for sweet dreams, Valentine!" {new jammies}
  • Moose:  "You make moosest days fabulous, Valentine!"  {Moose Tracks ice cream}
  • Fox: "Happy Valentine's Day!" {new Valentine's Day shirts}

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Faux preschool homeschool.

We sat in a sunbeam this morning at the kitchen table. I let the warmth squeeze into my bones and joints and I juiced my brain with a jolt of caffeine - I made a really good pot of coffee this morning.  It can be hit or miss sometimes with my coffee making skills.  I like my coffee not too strong, but strong enough, and filled with enough cream to make it a lovely light brown color (although I've recently switched from real cream to half and half.  That was a sad day for me, but I am coping, thanks for asking). Finn worked on some Aa worksheets that I hastily made up using a combination of Pinterest and Microsoft Word. I attempted to work on some more menu planning (I am so sick and tired of all of the same-old things we've been eating lately that I've been digging into some of my seldom-used cookbooks and trying new recipes from my old favorites.  I cannot believe how bored I have gotten with dinner.).  I wrote a couple of lists for gardening this spring.  Mostly, though, I watched Finn clutch a fat crayon and color all of the capital As.  He kept asking me, "Do you see any more, Mama?" right before he'd spot one and scratch it out with a flourish of green.

We've been attempting a really relaxed version of preschool this week. I hesitate to call it homeschooling because my husband immediately sees red and flashes of lightning spark straight out from his eye holes. Seriously.  He has strong feelings about homeschooling, most of which are attributed to some questionable individuals that he knows who were home schooled. Unfortunately, it's those few bad apples that ruined his bushel (Wow. Terrible, terrible analogy. I apologize, but it sort of works because Finn and I have been talking about the letter A this week). Anyway, I use the term homeschooling really, really loosely in this house because a) it's sort of my job to stimulate my kid's brain b) it's the alphabet, it's not rocket science.

That being said, I'm also a self-diagnosed procrastinator, so most of our "school" this week found me printing off coloring sheets, checking YouTube for a song about the days of the week, and filling in with some Yogarilla.  We played a couple of matching games, worked on a little bit of phonics with the sound of the A, counted apples and alligators, and did some tracing mazes from the preschool workbooks that Finn got for his birthday last year.  It took us about 20 minutes each morning - I spent more time researching and printing a few things off and cursing that my dwindling supply of construction paper yielded zero sheets of green.  I'd like to say that I'll be more prepared for the letter B next week, but...probably not.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know that he'll need to do some structured form on preschool in the fall. He's a quick learner and it's not the "work" part of it that I'm concerned with - I can teach him the alphabet and phonics and counting and probably even some science if I needed to.  The problem is actually Uriah's main concern every time we talk about homeschooling: he's not social enough.  I think it would be different if he had a sibling or 3 or 12 that he could practice sharing or co-playing or imagination-play with (for the record, no one in this house is having 12 kids. Ever. Our advanced age not withstanding, we would've had to have started a long time ago to get to 12 and really, since we can't even agree if a dog would be a blessing or a curse at this point, it's probably for the best we didn't know each other when we were young and ambitious.). Currently, Finn's favorite thing to tell me is: "I don't like to share," and he can seriously lose his shit when kids come over to play because they touch. his. stuff!  Sometimes he spends more time sitting by himself because he can be such a jerk.  I know that it is probably a bit of a phase, and we have talked about how all of his toys stay at his house and no one will take his stuff home with them.  We've tried putting away his "special" things before friends come over.  Nothing works, turns out - all of his toys are "special toys" and are therefore off limits in his mind.

So my plans to homeschool - and eventually homecollege - my son have been put on the back burner for now. He'll do fine when he goes to preschool and eventually kindergarten - and so will I, because by the time he goes to college I will have invented a serum to shrink myself so that I can live in his pocket and go to school with him and make sure he is safe and that he eats his vegetables and stays away from those girls. (You know the girls I'm talking about...the ones that "hang out" on the quad drinking "coffee" instead of going to class and find themselves in Cabo for spring break and end up in their own episode of Girls Gone Wild? The ones looking to earn their MRS Degree? Not with my son, they won't.) He'll learn to share and play nicely. He'll make lots of friends. He'll come home every day and tell me all about his adventures over cookies and milk. Until that day, though, I will be his best friend and I will teach him everything I think he needs to know...the alphabet, the days of the week, counting, and shapes.

And, of course, how much I love him.  That lesson is on-going.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

on being healthy: one week down.

I put it out there into the great wide interwebs last week, so I figured I'd better do something about it.  Baby steps to the elevator, right?  Right.

Here's what I did last week: not a lot.  Well, that's not true, I did clean the dust and grime and disgusting build up off of the tops of my cabinets in the kitchen.  I almost tossed my cookies it was so gross.  And I used the swiffer to get rid of the cobwebs on my kitchen ceiling (genius idea of my husband).  Do you ever clean something and afterwards think, "Holy shit, I was living in that!"  Yeah, that's pretty much how I felt late Saturday afternoon after I had spent pretty much the entire day knee deep in kitchen funk.

As far as healthy things go, though, I did implement 3 small things that will get us started on this healthy road (and by us I mean me, but my family gets to be promoted to healthy status vicariously through me).

First, I started tracking with MyFitnessPal again.  Helps to know what's going in my mouth.  And I've been using my kitchen scale.  I am always so surprised by what an ounce of cheese actually looks like (hint: it is a lot smaller than I think, but with an apple, I can stretch it as a good snack.  It goes well with wine, but I'm trying to be very stingy with my hooch consumption.  Something about empty calories, blah, blah, blah.).

Second, I brought back The Fruit Bowl.  It's just a huge bowl of cut-up fruit that I leave in the refrigerator; we pull it out for all  meals and it's a go-to snack spot after school for Abby.  I use whatever's on sale or seasonal, so this week's bowl is grapes, pears, oranges, and cantaloupe. It changes week to week. I've learned that bananas are not good to have cut up in the bowl, but I can pull one off the bunch and add it as we need it. Also, berries tend to get soft and mushy fast, so I also don't leave those in the bowl; we cut them up as we go when we have them (it's January in Minnesota - buying berries is not economical). I sometimes get annoyed that we go to the store for fresh fruit every couple of days, but then I remind myself that we're going to the store for fresh fruit.  There could be bigger problems to have.  Today I let Finn portion out his fruit for lunch and I had to put some back because three-quarters of his plate was fruit. Even I will admit that was a little excessive, but I'm glad he likes it, and he ate it all, so fruit bowl for the win.

Finally, I've implemented After Lunch Rest Time.  For everyone.  No computer.  No phones.  No Facebook or Pinterest or Etsy.  Only books for 30 minutes.  I actually really look forward to it...Finn sits at one end of the couch with his stack of books and I sit at the other with my book for 30 solid minutes (sometimes 45, not gonna lie - I stretch rest time).  We share a blanket between us and after the rest time is over, he picks a couple of books and I read out loud to him.  To be honest, rest time can last an hour here, but I think we were both struggling by the end of the day without a little re-charge.

Okay, that's it.  That's all I've done.  It doesn't feel like a lot, but I think these few small changes are a good start.

Oh, and I put this on my refrigerator as a reminder because I get distracted easily:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Resolutions. And also, deadbeat moms. Thoughts?

I've been thinking about a New Year's Resolution for about, oh, 8 or 9 days now.  I know...procrastinate much? The answer is yes, I do.  But I always make a big, glorious resolution and it lasts for a big, glorious month and then I loose steam and energy and motivation and am left for the rest of the year with a big, glorious anger toward my un-realized resolution.  Oh, and my resolution always, always involves losing a gazillion pounds and finds me looking svelte and chic in a time frame that is not advisable (usually around 1 month.  Okay, I give myself 6 months...usually I have it all planned out for bathing suit season, which I don't believe is an actual "season" where I live.).

Not this year.  This year is different.  This year I bit off an amount I can actually chew.  This year there isn't really a "resolution," per se, it's mostly just a word: healthy.  I want to be healthy and I am not attaching a number to it.  I don't even really have a plan as to how I'm going to get to that healthy point other than taking it one day at a time, tracking my calories in and calories out.  I figure I'm just going to stop feeling unhealthy and I'm going to start feeling healthy. One. Day. At. A. Time.

Seems simple enough, don't you think?

Here's a story: last night we got dressed up to go to Uriah's work Christmas party (I almost typed program like it was going to be a bunch of chef-type people and hotel-type people and corporate-type people getting together and singing songs and doing a little dance number for the audience.  It was a party.  There were drink tickets and dinner and allegedly some entertainment that we didn't stick around for because we have kids and a 30 minute drive back up the shore.).  Anyway, so it was a party, which means we got to get dressed up.  And I got this cute new shirt (that I didn't try on, but it was $7 on clearance at Old Navy so I figured, what the hell, it'll work fine), and I got a cute new necklace to go with my cute new shirt (I paid full price for the necklace.  I can't even type the price because it was shocking.  More than I ever spend on jewelry and I usually spend $0 on jewelry because the only jewelry I wear with any consistency is my wedding ring, but I figured its price balanced my clearance priced shirt.).  I squeezed my buns into some dress pants and shoved my feet into some heels.  All in all, I thought it was good.  Until I looked in the mirror.  I had some doubts about the cuteness factor of the was a little shapeless and when your body is rather - shall we just go with curvy here? - okay, curvy it is...when you have a curvy top half, shapeless is not a good look.  Actually, shapeless is not a good look for anyone, but as the time was tick-tocking and we had to drive into the big city, I figured my new haircut and some makeup would take the attention off of my shirt and I hustled downstairs.

Matronly.  A word worse than shapeless is matronly and that's how my husband said I looked.  My face must have relayed my inner shock and disbelief because he quickly started back-peddling and telling me that I just looked like a mom who was dressed up to go out for the night.

Not. Any. Better.

I went upstairs as quick as my matronly mom-legs could take me and proceeded to rip through my closet looking for something, anything that didn't make me look old and frumpy.  Because I read between the lines and that's what I heard my husband saying: I was a 34 year old frumpy mom who was trying too hard to get dressed up and go out to dinner.  I'm sure he probably meant that I was looking good, since anything is a step above yoga pants.  And I'd actually taken the time to dry and flat iron my hair and I was wearing full-on make-up (not just mascara...I had eye shadow and lip gloss and everything.  It was a big deal!).  But I was devastated.  And of course nothing he said made me feel better and nothing in my closet was appropriate and nothing in my screwed-up brain was positive.  I tried on 17 different shirts before I realized that if we didn't leave 10 minutes ago we were going to be late.  I put on the original matron-shirt and we left.

I had 30 minutes to calm myself down a little bit and I didn't cry because...make-up, remember?  I didn't have the time or energy to repair that shit.  And Uriah tried to bring me out of my funk.  And I texted my gal, Bees and she, of course, had helpful, lovely things to say that boosted my spirits.

But really...this whole bag of matronly melt-down are my own issues rearing their fat heads again.  It's my own mind and my own lack of ambition and will-power and resolution to be better, to be healthier - eat more healthfully, exercise consistently, think positive thoughts and let the yuck slide off my back.  So last night in the car as we drove towards a ballroom full of people I didn't really know, I stopped caring what they were going to think of my shapeless shirt.  In fact, I stopped thinking about it all together.  I wrapped the word healthy into my head and I vowed to do better.  One day at a time, I will do better.  Because at the end of the day, my husband will still kiss me and tell me I'm pretty like a post card - and I usually don't even have make-up on when he says that, so I know he means it.  He makes thoughtless comments, but then so do I, I suppose.  At least we know enough to apologize for our thoughtless comments.  And at least I know enough to start on the inside and work my way out.

Exercise my brain muscle first...everything else will fall into place.

In addition to my matronly mom issues, I've been stewing on deadbeat mom issues all day long.  Stewing, for me, requires researching.  Did you even know this was an issue?  It is.  It totally, sadly is.  Some studies say that the percentage of deadbeat moms is actually higher than that of deadbeat dads.  I am a mom (obviously) and right now it is completely beyond my realm of comprehension, but I am trying to educate myself so that I can speak thoughtfully on a subject that blows my mind.  I wish so many things of our society, but the one I wish the most is that men and women were treated equally - and that includes areas of custodial and non-custodial parenting rights and responsibilities.  The research part of my brain encourages me to look at all of the facts, weigh all of the statistics and theories.  The mom/wife part of me wants to rage, and rage loudly, at the unfairness of it all.

Part of being healthy this year is going to be letting go of things that I have no control over.  It may also be a healthy throat punch to stupid people.  Maybe.  Possibly.

2014 - healthy mind, healthy body, one day at a time.

Oh, and I'm thinking of getting a dog, but that might be too big of  a commitment for 2014; I think my plate might be full.  Maybe 2015 will be the year of the dog...