Saturday, December 27, 2008

Aaannd CUT! That's a wrap.

I have officially come out the other side of the holiday alive and well. I have been filled with enough joy, love, and sugar to last me 11.5 months. My kids have enough crap to keep them from asking for anything until their birthdays (which are conveniently clustered in the warm months of the year). I have good coffee, good books, good craft supplies, and a husband who is on vacation until the new year. Hopefully, I won't go nuts before he goes back to work. Distance DOES make the heart grow fonder, really.

I had so many little stories I thought about sharing, but my brain is complete mush in this post-frenzy period. Let's just say that H will be coached to NOT quote The Family Guy at the next family gathering. Apparently, she likes to stray from the Mom-approved script. And allowing yourself to be baited into a family (metaphorical) pissing contest is no more fun when you win than it is when you lose. That was a disappointing lesson for me to learn. As was discovering that C seems to have learned hotel behavior from watching VH1's Behind The Music while we're asleep.

I'll probably continue to neglect my blog for the next few days. I put a lot on hold this month, then rushed to get Christmas in order, and now I really need to focus on catching up on everything I brushed aside. My plan is to ring in the new year bright eyed and bushy tailed and without dog hair in the corners of the stairs.

I'm also hoping to start over with my homeschooling blog, and I plan to unveil it with a giveaway on January 1st. I'd really like to make the giveaway about 10lbs of leftover candy, but I doubt there would be many takers. If there are, feel free to let me know. The kids will never notice.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and you're all recuperating nicely.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's all good

Second cup of coffee. Half a dozen electronic toys beeping, blipping and blooping. Trash and candy everywhere. And an overwhelming feeling of peace, love and happiness. Who says it needs to make sense?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deep breaths

I am a procrastinator and a semi-perfectionist. It is December 22nd. The next 4 days will be the most chaotic of the year, and my house is a wreck. It is time to stop and count to 10 before I turn into Lois Griffin.

"You all think Christmas just happens. You think all this goodwill just falls from the freakin' sky, WELL IT DOESN'T! IT FALLS FROM MY HOLLY JOLLY BUTT! So you can cook your own damn turkey, wrap your own damn presents, and hey, while you're at it YOU CAN ALL RIDE A ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH TO HELL!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm cheaping out on this post

Lorrie says I need to post something, so I'm stealing her holiday survey. It's been a rough couple of weeks, and I just haven't had anything amusing to say. Hopefully, this will buy me some time.

Both. I don't mind the time it takes to wrap rectangles, but I'm not about to spend hours trying to figure out the corners of a hexagon or attempting to make a pretty arrangement around something shaped like a snowman. If it can't get in a box, it's gonna go in a gift bag.

Real. And we usually cut it down ourselves. There have been a few years, including this one, when we've purchased a pre-cut tree. Trekking through the woods with toddlers and saws just isn't as much fun as my parents made it seem.

I grew up with a star. The husband grew up with an angel. The husband benefits greatly from keeping me happy. We have a star.

Yes. But now I have to share.
We mostly stick to kid-friendly eggnog. My kids were never really big fans. All of a sudden they are, and I'm lucky if I get the last few drops. My hips seem to be somewhat grateful.

My mother-in-law. We are very different people

Nope. I don't even have anywhere to put one.

The Family Man. Okay, maybe that doesn't count as a "real" Christmas movie, but I love it. I love all Christmas movies. John Denver and the Muppets probably top the list, followed closely by Emmit Otter's Jug Band Christmas. And The Grinch. And Charlie Brown. And Little Bill. And It's A Wonderful Life. And White Christmas. And A Christmas Story. And all of the rest.

A nap that lasts until 2009.

Now I need to go decide who gets to punch the bulla down.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Math in pajamas

My kids work best when they're fresh. Not fresh and clean, just fresh out of bed. Even as an otherwise non-morning person, I teach best in the morning, too. We try to get as much school work in before lunch as possible, even if that means working with bad breath and bed head.

We don't even require matching jammies!

We're brushing up on telling time. It's not an easy skill to master when the only analog clock in your home is from Our Name Is Mud.

And you have to work extra hard when there's so much "help" being offered.

I was not a fan of collaborative learning until we started homeschooling. I was so wrapped up in individualized education, I became blind to the benefits of learning from others.

Now there's a very limited amount of one-on-one teaching in our house. We're big on group effort.

And we're very big on time chips!

Our ancient kitchen table has the scars to prove it.

It is now 1:07.

I hope Bambi is dead

I have never been a fan of hunting. Not that I'm an actual fan now, but I've gone from thinking it's a mean, despicable, unnecessary hobby to almost being willing to take up arms in effort to thin the herds of filthy, tick carrying, poop dropping rats with hooves.

But I can't even manage to secure scissors in my home. There's no way I could trust a gun safe with my maniacs around. Plus, hunting season starts on Cyber Monday, and I'm not missing that. And I hate the cold. And neon orange is not my color. And I doubt I could bring myself to touch a dead deer.

So, as I sat here surfing the internet, two loud shots rang out. I don't usually hear the hunters. Hunting not permitted in our development, and they usually go pretty deep into the game lands we border.

We do, however, have a lot of wack jobs around here. The SWAT team was behind my house a few weeks ago. We've had a string of burglaries. There was a suicide a few months ago. The convenience store down the road (conveniently located next to a gun shop) was robbed (again) last week. And I know where the drug dealers live. Some of them, at least.

Welcome to the country! To think, I used to dream about living in NYC.

So, as I sit here contemplating the gun shots I heard a few minutes ago, I hope Bambi is dead. But now I'll be tracking the news sites to be sure. I miss NJ.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I spy

I'm trying to find some time to play with my new camera. As it turns out, my brain has been leaking for the past decade, and I've lost a good deal of my photography knowledge. I have cute kids and automatic settings, so it isn't like I'm at great risk for awful pictures, but I feel like I should at least TRY to remember what's what.

But I hate owner's manuals. So now I'm just playing.

And then there's the shot that illustrates my life perfectly.

My house has some lovely architectural features. I love the beam. I love the trapezoid windows. But they're a pita to clean. Which is why I rarely clean them. So rarely, that I haven't been on a ladder to clean them since... well, since long before this wall sticky was thrown in the air.
It adds character, don't you think?

Ho, ho, hum

I guess Christmas is coming, huh? I haven't exactly been in the holiday spirit.

I was mostly phoning in Turkey Day before I burned the bejeezus out of my fingers, causing me to eat with one hand while the other was submerged in a bowl of cool water. The husband had a lot of food to cut that night. (At least I got out of doing dishes!)

Black Friday didn't exactly excite me this year, especially since shopping carts are difficult to push one-handed.

There's way too much extended family drama going on, and I even have my own little drama for an extra kick in the pants.

Getting out the Christmas decorations and starting all of the baking just seems like so much work. There's too little room and too much clutter. Too much to do and too little time. Too much preparation and too short a celebration.

This morning, I listened to Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song.

Thank you, Racie, for giving me that twinge. I needed it. I think I'll bake a batch of cookies today.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A conversation in my daughters' room

Overheard by the husband-

M: "It smells like farts in here. Did you..."

H: "No! It wasn't me."

M: "Maybe it was Daddy."

H: "Daddy doesn't fart."

M: "Ever?!"

H: "Not as long as I've been alive."

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm cheap (not easy) and I'm a dork

I just started a blog for my grocery shopping trips. Meanwhile, I have done nothing with my homeschooling blog. Sad, sad priorities!

I'm Cheap, Not Easy

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

The holidays bring out the bargain hunter in me.

Black Friday has been my favoritest holiday for quite a few years. The husband and I used to dump the maniacs with the in-laws on T-Day evening and hit the stores running by 5am. We were an awesome team. We had the playbook memorized.

There was the Divide and Conquer, which could be used in a single store, or a wider zone, multi-store method. There was the Full Court Press, where the offense would grab the merchandise while the defense maneuvered the shopping cart to clear the path. And there was the Out of Bounds play, where someone would wait on line with the cart while the other grabbed a few more items.

And then we'd celebrate our victory over breakfast. Followed by a nap.

Once our home team really out-numbered the in-laws, our tradition had to change. We started tag teaming Black Friday. The husband would hit the midnight sales or get crazy enough to hit the insane lines for the 4am sales, and I would head out on my own once he came home.

Sure, we did most of it for the sport, but we really did snatch up great deals. This wasn't insanity for insanity's sake.

This year, BF really didn't have much to offer us. There was no thirst for victory to quench. And it was kind of sad.

I headed out to Walmart around 8, unable to fully let go of the tradition. I wandered the aisles with a heavy heart, picking up a few odds and ends in attempt to sooth myself. I did get a few good deals on some small gifts. The only steal of the day wound up being my own Christmas wish. I snagged a Cricut Expression (retail $499.99, often on sale for $249-299) for $199. Which has actually made me feel guilty for the past week.

And then I went on to take advantage of the Nikon sale and bought myself a new camera, which has made me feel even more guilty.

I had much more luck with Cyber Monday, something I hadn't really participated in, since I've always blown my budget 3 days earlier. I won't go into detail, but the packages have started to roll in. I averaged about 50% savings, with free shipping on nearly everything. Not too shabby.

So I'm trying to rationalize my splurges. The whims I indulged probably come close to matching the savings I got. And these are things I've been wanting for a very long time, but didn't feel comfortable paying retail. And I definitely didn't pay retail! They're things I know I'll use to their full value. They're things that will make me happy, once I get passed the guilt.

But the spam thing...

You know all of the grocery shopping spam that goes around? Usually something like this:
"The Free Groceries Loophole!
Being a mom of 4 I know how important savings are. I am also a cashier at a major supermarket. When I noticed the same 4 people always coming in and getting overflowing carts of products for practically nothing, I knew I had to find out how they are doing it. One day I decided I would ask them when they are on my line. They all told me they are members at XYZ dot com, which they told me is a savings clearinghouse for just about anything you can imagine. It didn't take me long to visit their site and sign up for the sampler kit. When the package arrived about a week after I signed up, I knew I had something special in front of me. The people I spoke with weren't kidding, groceries I knew were at huge discounts but just about everything else to from perfumes to fine jewelry and tools. I hope this will help others too!"

I hate spam. I hate Spam, and I hate spam. I haven't indulged in Spam since I discovered what Spam was, and I haven't indulged in spam since I discovered what spam was. But I did learn to make my mom's Spam casserole with real ham, and I learned to look for legitimate grocery store savings. The following is NOT spam. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to spam your own blog.

I did try a grocery site about 2 years ago. It was 100% legit, but I had commitment issues. It required things like... remembering to buy the Sunday paper. I was expected to organize my coupons. And one of the big keys was sticking to lists. When I realized they weren't giving me a shopping fairy to take care of all of that, I quit.

But now I'm in full bargain mode. I've gotten a taste of what it feels like to buy myself fun stuff, and I want to squeeze more money out of my budget to be able to do things like that. Or send 4 kids to college. Or keep up with my hair maintenance appointments so I don't ever have to spend 4 hours in a salon again, trying to fix myself. So, once again, I signed up at

Please believe me- this is not spam!

I just went grocery/drug store shopping based on The Grocery Game for the second week. The first week, I saved around 30%. This week, cross my heart, I saved 50% on my bills. On stuff we actually use. Including meats and produce. Including 7 boxes of cereal, which will be gone in less than 2 weeks, I'm sure. Including batteries and curly light bulbs. And I didn't buy any Spam.

I'll admit, I did buy hot dogs. At least they weren't in cans.

Now here's some quasi-spam. The Grocery Game does offer a 4-week trial for $1. If I refer people, I can get free weeks on my membership. Instead of posting my referral info and saying "Do this now!" I'm just going to tell anyone who might want to ask me about it to email me at

I'm not posting this because I'm desperate to save about $10 over a 12-week period. If I were that desperate, I'd return my camera or sell a maniac. I'm posting it because I really did save a good chunk of cash and want to share the info with anyone who's willing to look like a loony tune in order to do the same.

Today, I think I may take a few pictures and maybe even work on a few scrapbook pages. Tonight, I might start opening boxes and wrapping gifts. In the long run, I've probably broken even. How can I let myself feel guilty about that? After all, I have at least 7 years before Yale tuition bills start rolling in!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's here! It's here!

Actually, it's been here for a couple of days. Between turkey clean-up, Black Friday, grocery shopping, cleaning my bedroom like a good girl, hunting down the owner of a stray dog, Cyber Monday and... what else... oh, taking care of 4 maniacs, I got a bit sidetracked.

The TBBG is Kristin's baby; a nice way to spread cheer among our blog friends. Our mailing list includes around a dozen people. I say 'around' b/c I guess it depends on which list you read. I like to read the one that actually HAS MY NAME ON IT! :-P

So far, the box has traveled from Kristin to Tiffany to me via Karen, who apparently has oodles of self-control. I do not have much self-control. Which is why the box itself is now completely mangled. I think I need to start carrying scissors in my car.

My goodies included an adorable scarecrow, Girl Scout cookies, a specially brewed brewski, Lewis Carroll poems, and Life of Pi. All really wonderful treats for me.

The scarecrow is just about ready to be put away until next year's display. I think there are 3 or 4 Thin Mints left. I haven't opened the beer yet, but only b/c I want a nice, quiet, uninterrupted evening to enjoy it to its fullest. Hello- it has a picture of chocolate cake and raspberries on it. It deserves a nice evening.

I'm looking forward to reading Life of Pi. I desperately needed something non-technical to read. And I'm a huge Lewis Carroll fan. I've also been planning to have the kids work on a bit of poetry recitation, and I think we'll try a few from here.

How about

"Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases."

Now it's my turn to spread the love to Karen. Everything is just about ready to go. I have one item to finish up for her and I need to come up with something amusing to write in the Bloggy journal before shipping back out to NY.

Thank you, Tiffany, for some great picks. Thanks to Kristin for a fun idea, even if you tried to cut me out of it (:-P, again) and a big thanks to Karen for being kind enough to squeeze me back into the circle. I hope you find it was worth it. :-)

2 things-

I do plan to update with links to everyone's blogs and box posts. I just know that if I try to do it right now, I'll never get this posted!

Also, if anyone can explain to me how to move my pictures around, I'd really appreciate it! I'm feeling quite stupid right now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

He drives me crazy

Apparently, Blogger has changed the way pictures work, and now I'm very confused.
I was in a good, giddy mood one day last week. I was feeling thankful and a bit flirty. So I texted the husband.

"If we weren't married, I would totally want to marry you."

That was before remembering what it's like to be in a car with him.

We took C to the mall so he could meet "Bob-bob" yesterday, before picking J up from his weekend with his father. We had a nice time at the mall, but the 30 minutes there, another 15 to get to J, and 45 minutes back home left me wondering how we've managed to avoid divorce.

Don't get me wrong. He probably wants to kill me just about as much as I'd like to kill him when we're stuck in a vehicle together. As annoying as he can be, I'm sure my broken mute button drives him crazy. I try real hard to bite my tongue as much as possible, but it doesn't usually help.

First, the husband seems to have a strange "Man Controls Radio" mentality. I used to think he simply subscribed to the same theory my mother always did: S/he who drives chooses the tunes. Nope. Any time I've driven his car, he's still hogged the dial. So I figured it was a "My Car, My Choice" thing. Nope. When we get into my car, regardless of who is driving, he gathers up a bunch of cd's, all of his iPod equipment, and his arm basically camps out around all of the buttons.

I've pretty much learned to suck it up, at least in his car. If he's chosen decent tunes in mine, I can keep my mouth shut. I only fuss when he tries to play garbage on MY radio. Since we were in his car yesterday, I spent a good 20 minutes listening to a very staticky broadcast of some sporting event, and I didn't make a peep until the static turned into an extremely high pitched squeek that nearly burst my ear drums.

Then there's the climate control. The husband has, like, -6% body fat. No insulation what so ever. While I hate the cold, I also hate winter coats. So, I'm sitting there in a t-shirt and hoodie, while he's bundled up in a huge coat, and I'm sweating my butt off while he's shivering. This is one of those annoyances I hate dealing with. I certainly don't want to boil to death, but I also don't want to force the husband to freeze his cajones off. So I wait until I think I might pass out before telling him to shut the damn heat off or face being cajones-less anyway.

There's also the speed limit thing. He isn't terrible on main roads, just on the mile it takes to get to them. Our development's speed limit is 25, and security will totally bang you for breaking it. And I happen to be on a committee dedicated to rule enforcement- even the ones I disagree with. I finally told him that, if he gets a ticket, I get to go have a chat with his coworkers and embarass HIM!

Then there's the actual driving. Which is where I drive him nuts.

When he didn't get into the turn lane for the mall, I shouted and he quickly moved over before telling me he had intended to use the second entrance. When we were leaving, he wasn't getting into the left turn lane, so I shouted and he quickly moved over before telling me he intended to take the back road.

By the time I pointed out yet another turn, I'm sure he wanted to throw me out of the car. Meanwhile, I was secretly hoping he'd get on the highway in the wrong direction just so I could feel justified.

I managed to keep my mouth shut when he didn't pass a minivan doing 20 in a 55, and when I thought he was awfully close to parking in a ditch at the convenience store, but I think the hand over my mouth gave me away.

Cars just aren't marriage-friendly. I could be snowed in with my husband and be happy. We could be trapped in an elevator or stranded on an island and I'd be just fine. Just don't put me in a damn car with him!

I've calmed down a bit since last night. I'm pretty confident that, if we weren't married, I would totally marry this guy. Providing we don't drive to the ceremony together.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Secular does not mean anti, and I'm giving something away

For anyone who may not already know, I do not wear a denim jumper. In fact, I do not wear jumpers of any sort. Nor do my children wear jumpers, homemade, coordinating, or otherwise. Not that there's anything wrong with jumpers. We just don't fit that particular homeschool stereotype.

We aren't religious homeschoolers, either. That stereotype is more difficult to shuck. Which is why I am unable to resist anything that even hints at the word 'secular.' It isn't always easy to find homeschool materials without religious content so, when I see something that is, I grab on and refuse to let go. It could be a book on sewing secular denim jumpers, and I'd be all over it. I might even make some and wear them.

But 'secular' is like the ugly step-child word of homeschooling. Unfortunately, even some of the brightest homeschoolers read a negative connotation in the word. Which is a shame. When I see "Christian Homeschool XYZ," I don't take that to mean "Anti-Non-Christian Homeschool XYZ." I simply assume that this XYZ is presented from a Christian perspective. So far, I haven't been proven wrong.

When I discovered Secular Homeschooling Magazine, I think I may have literally done a little dance. As experienced an internet shopper as I am, I even fumbled for my credit card in all the excitement. I was a little smoother when I renewed my subscription this month. A little. I still dance when the new issue arrives.

SHM is not anti-religious. In fact, many of its readers are deeply religious. This is simply a magazine about homeschooling from a secular perspective.

For me, this is great. I have a magazine to read without stopping to wonder how much of a certain curriculum I might have to adapt, and I never find myself skipping articles that have no relevence. I realize that may not seem like such a big deal but, in case you haven't noticed, the economy is kinda sucky, and I'd like to get the full bang from my buck. I've cut back on all of the periodicals I haven't been using in full, which includes a few non-secular homeschool magazines that were decent when I wasn't concerned with price:value.

SHM got its start with a piece I would like to have tattooed on my forehead. Since my forehead isn't large enough (thank goodness), I may have to consider having it done on my back. But I'll only go through with it if Deborah flies me out to have Kat do it in the VIP room of LA Ink. And I still don't think it'll fit on my back, so I'll have to take each of the kids out as they turn 18 to pick up where my back leaves off. And that might require SHM coming up with a few more lines, since my 4 kids are all destined to be tall. We wouldn't want C to feel left out!

And here it is:

The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List
By Deborah Markus, from Secular Homeschooling, Issue #1, Fall 2007

1 Please stop asking us if it's legal. If it is — and it is — it's insulting to imply that we're criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

2 Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

6 Please stop telling us horror stories about the homeschoolers you know, know of, or think you might know who ruined their lives by homeschooling. You're probably the same little bluebird of happiness whose hobby is running up to pregnant women and inducing premature labor by telling them every ghastly birth story you've ever heard. We all hate you, so please go away.

7 We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

11 Please stop questioning my competency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn't have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don't need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least twelve years in the kind of chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can't teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there's a reason I'm so reluctant to send my child to school.

12 If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

16 Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

18 If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you're allowed to ask how we'll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can't, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn't possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.

20 Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

24 Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.

25 Here's a thought: If you can't say something nice about homeschooling, shut up!

No, I am not teaching my children to count like that. I'm teaching you how to click that little blue link to read the piece in its entirety.

If you found that even slightly enjoyable, you need to go take advantage of the SHM sale here. Usually $7 a piece, issues 1-4 are currently being sold for $21/set.

In honor of SHM's sale, the husband's ability to bypass whatever glitch gmail was throwing at me earlier today, the rush I got from ordering 4 books from Amazon and only spending $5 (with free 2-day shipping!), and my genuine apreciation for all of Deborah's hard work, I am offering up a free copy of issue #5 to the first person who comes back and swears on a stack of notebooks that they've just place their order for 1-4.

And I'm not even going to cheap out and send you my used copy. That one doesn't leave my possession. I'm going to order a nice new one and have it shipped direct, cuz I hear that the shipping on those things is crazy!

But there's more. Maybe. We'll see.

Since this is not quite a 'real' homeschool blog, I can't expect many homeschool readers. And since I'm not a very traditional homeschooler, my potential homeschool audience is even smaller. I would love to hear from more minorities within our minority. If you know a few heathen homeschoolers, or simply homeschoolers who enjoy heathen homeschoolers, bring them by. Tell them to make themselves known. Convince me that there are enough of us to make it worth my while to offer up another free issue of SHM. Just warn them that I may sometimes use a 4-letter word or talk about my maniacs in a less than positive way. If they're cool with that, I'm cool with them.

For my invisible friends who find my homeschooling posts completely unrelatable, I will take zero offense if you now head over to a public school blog until I find something different to post about.
Rest assured, I get it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Try this at home. Or don't. Whatever

Right now, I would like to both hug and strangle my maniacs.

Well, not right now. They are sleeping, so the strangling thing isn't all that intense. And if I hug them, they'll likely wake up and we'll restart the whole want-to-strangle-them cycle, which is something I'd like to avoid until at least 6:30am tomorrow.

My kids rock, but they make me pay for it.

H has decided Mommy needs a spa vacation. A 5-day spa vacation. This morning, she offered me her Tooth Fairy dollar to finance the trip. The kind of moment a parent lives for, right?

I pay for these moments, dearly. The dollar was offered while I was doing 316 loads of laundry. Laundry made up of unworn clothes. Unworn clothes that became dirty when certain maniacs felt a need to bring a half-burned log into their room (from last week's fire), and then rummage through their closet to change into non-soot-covered clothes. Before thinking to wash their hands. Leaving them without non-soot-covered clothes.

My children are brilliant, yet so stupid. Wonderful, yet rotten. Most days, we break even. Think what you like. I consider that a success.

The chances of my little maniacs growing into big maniacs who hide burned up logs or old food under their marital bed are pretty darn slim. The chances of my little maniacs carrying their humor, adventurous spirits, generosity, open hearts and minds, and ability to work complicated electronics into adulthood are really good. Even if they kill me before then.

Read all the research and stats you want. Parenting is mostly a crap shoot. Great parents can produce messed up kids and crappy parents can produce amazing kids.

Like blogging. Judy sent me a link to the dos and don'ts of blogging. Feel free to read them, but it basically boils down to "Do what you want. It might work, or it might not." Like most of the choices parents make. So here is my own pointless list for parents.

Make sure you're married before having kids. Intact families produce healthier, smarter, better-behaved children.

Don't get married. Married couples are the only people at risk for divorce, and divorce negates the whole healthier, smarter, better-behaved thing.

Have a natural birth. Drugs are bad for babies.

Get the drugs. Traumatized mothers are bad for babies.

Have a large family. Cable stations will finance your lifestyle.

Have one child. You can finance your own lifestyle.

Be a working mother. Finance your lifestyle while promoting a good work ethic and proving that women can have a good chunk, if not all, of "it all."

Be a stay at home mother. Who's to say sweats and cartoons aren't a good chunk of "it all?"

Put your kids in public school. Or private school. Or homeschool them. No separate comments. They'll hate you, regardless.

Ban television. It is junk food for the mind.

Embrace television. It gives you 30 minutes to sneak away with the leftover chocolate cake before the kids can get to it.

Okay, I thought I had more than that, but I don't. I'm only 10 years into screwing up kids. Give me time.

Right now, I need to go to bed. I'm sure tomorrow will be another long day of hysterics- the good kind and the bad kind!

Friday, November 14, 2008

And that's... something

I've been thinking about blog names recently, thanks to Miss Thystle. Which is nice, since she usually has me thinking about boobs and alcohol. Which makes me keep looking to be sure the husband isn't following her on Twitter. Because that's totally his kind of girl. Almost like I was, before I got boring. Which I will blame on him.

So, blog names. Why did I pick this one? During my first (and last) semester at The Real College I Went To, my nickname was Pearl. Thankfully, this was before Spongebob, who has a friend named Pearl. And she is a whale. I assume she's also adopted, since her father is a crab. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But, when I was 18, I had 7 piercings in my ears, and wore (fake) pearl earrings in 5 of them. I don't know about other schools, but nicknames were all the rage at mine. My best friends were Mickey, Mallory, and Jules. Quentin Tarantino was also all the rage.
There are people in the world right now who have no idea what my real name is. They will forever think of me as "Pearl." Or possibly "That girl who never went to class."

When I started this blog, I didn't really have any specific intent. I mean, my life is pretty boring. In a good way, but boring. I have kids and pets and dirty dishes and I live in the middle of nowhere, where I see more deer than people on a daily basis.

There's often drama swirling around me, but it rarely involves me. The most exciting thing that's personally happened to me this week was being able to buy a barn for My Farm on Facebook.

I used to be full of drama, though. I was the girl standing up in the back of a Jeep Wrangler, holding on to the roll bar while going down the highway at 70mph. I was asked not to return to The Real College I Went To. I've also attended 2 community colleges, yet I have earned zero transferrable credits. I've lived in a cheap apartment in a bad neighborhood and spent my paychecks on shoes and cigarettes. I've also lived in a non-frat house, where very-frat parties were thrown. I danced in cages at a nightclub. After having a baby out of wedlock. I have had a pierced tongue. And I married a guy I knew for 8 months.

I knew drama.

Now I know how nice it is to NOT have drama... for the most part. Once in a while, it's still fun to poke a bear with a stick (metaphorically - I've happily avoided our actual neighborhood bear for over 3 years now) just to keep myself on my toes. But it's mostly laundry and teaching double digit addition for me these days. And it is good.

I do think that my past has made my present incredibly rewarding, and I love the perspective it has given me. I can't claim to have any pearls of wisdom, but there are certainly pearls of... something rolling around in my head. Not every day. Some days are just a bunch of cat pictures or rants about rats with hooves. And the days that produce pearls don't always translate well to print but, if I could invite you to sit in my head on those days, I promise you'd be blown away!

One of my oldest invisible friends (and by oldest, I mean known for the longest, though I will point out that I am younger than she) is one of those fancy-shmancy word people who went to college to learn more about word stuff. I am very jealous of her, because she has a blog name complete with a hook. Silver Linings always signs off with "And that's my silver lining for today."

How cool would it have been if I had thought to sign off with "And that's... something" for each of my posts?!?! But now I can't do that because it seems morally wrong. But I will want to from now until forever.

So I would like for you to start checking out Judy's silver linings, as long as you promise to remember that most of my posts are pure genius inside my head. And feel free to visit Miss Thystle for thoughts about boobs and booze, because you'll rarely find that here. Though, if I ever win one of her contests and empty a flask, I suppose it's possible I might share the picture of the french fry that dropped down my shirt during our Land Of Make Believe trip.

P.S. If you go to Miss Thystle and mention my name, I get an extra entry into her flask contest, which could bring you that much closer to my french fry picture. So do it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will the real puritans please stand up, please stand up

So, Turkey Day is creeping up on us.

Since having children over the age of 4, I've had real issues with Thanksgiving. When the concept of celebrating Thanksgiving was my own private inner conflict, I didn't have to put my feelings into words and could be content to stuff myself with turkey and stuffing and consider the day a pre-race meal for the Black Friday marathon.

Once I had a kid in school and the feathered headbands and paper bag vests started coming home, I began struggling with my issues. The issues being so complicated and controversial (and completely contrary to what The Teachers, Gods and Goddesses of All Knowledge in my dear son's eyes, were teaching,) I swallowed my objections and figured that something like this should be tackled when the children were much more mature. Because you don't. contradict. teachers.

But hey - guess what? I am the teacher now!
And guess what else? I forgot to take the time to put my feelings into words!

Here's the thing. I have some Native American blood.
Now, I've never really identified with that part of my heritage. Not only is it a smaller piece of my ancestry, but the Swedish and Irish pieces have been kind enough to pass down recipes for comfort food and alcohol. There's no contest.
I'm an American mutt who simply doesn't know very much about the places and cultures of her ancestors. But I do know what I like to eat and drink. And I also know that my Native American blood is Iroquois, and the Iroquois weren't exactly friends of the Wampanoag themselves, so who am I to talk?

The husband's family, on the other hand, is a lot more Native American than I am. At least, they identify with that history more than I do, which is very nice. Especially the part that makes the husband all bronzed and ethnic-looking in the summer. Mm.
Plus, to the best of my knowledge, the tribes of my in-laws had no beef with the Native Americans of the Thanksgiving story.

And here comes the day when my one little, two little, three (and four) little Indians expect to celebrate a meal between corn farmers and the white people who were so grateful for their new friends. Uh huh.

Fortunately, my 10 year old is used to me. After watching an assigned video on the first Thanksgiving, he barely flinched when I casually told him it was a romanticized story about a meal between Chosen Ones and the savages where the Chosen Ones' butts were once again saved by the savages, who would be rewarded with casinos. And, fortunately, he found the concept intriguing, because he knows such a comment will be followed by required reading and discussion.

Which means I need to come up with some required reading and points of discussion. On a topic I've been happy to dance around for years. Which means I will be giving thanks for the internet this Turkey Day.

I managed to find a lesson plan with a forward by a Native American historian, who is also a public school teacher. Jackpot!

This plan includes adult level material (complete with bibliography) as well as child-friendly information that can be adapted to all levels. While H and M learn more about the Wampanoag and their wigwams, I'm looking forward to discussing the speech given on behalf of the Wampanoag on the 350th anniversary of the pilgrims' arrival with J.

Whether or not you're a homeschooler, if you're interested in exploring the history of Turkey Day with your children, or just curious yourself, the above link is very interesting. Complete with Native American prayer, history of corn, and corn husk craft project, it's not presented nearly as intense as the introduction I presented to my poor son, lol, but it does shed some light on a few of the issues most schools gloss over in their history lessons.

And now to decide between regular stuffing and sausage stuffing while scouring the leaked Black Friday ads...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A change I really need

I have always been a disorganized pack rat. Even during the brief period of anal retentiveness when I did have a very clean home, I was still a boxer/stacker. Boxes of notes from high school and clothes I would never wear again were shoved in closets. Halloween costumes and out of season (and outgrown) clothes were in my toddler's dresser. And mail would be piled in a basket for months.

I've always had an irrational fear of getting rid of things, while lacking the motivation to put things away properly. Because maybe I would need last season's Children's Place catalog at a moment's notice or have a reason to spend $50 at LL Bean and get $10 off before the expiration date or completely forgetting I have the coupon. Or the fact that I'm cheap and like my Target jeans.

Paper is probably my greatest organizational weakness, and school papers have always been the worst. Trying to decide which pieces of my child's hard work to keep and which to deem literal garbage is something I've always hated to do. And homeschooling has made it even harder. Now I have to judge every. single. piece of paper anyone touches.

So, I procrastinate. The piles grow. Odds and ends get mixed in. Two months into homeschooling 3 children, I'm left with this:

The worst part is, my front door is just to the right of that table.

I did do something right. This table is (supposed to be) devoted to things used on a daily or nearly-daily basis. Everything else is kept in a separate spot that I'm not brave enough to show right now.

I've struggled with finding the motivation to straighten up areas that require a lot of effort to keep straightened up. In other words, just about the whole house. But this particular area was especially bad, and a fellow homeschooler recently inspired me to get my act together.

Jennifer at Halving It All has committed to halving all of her belongings and all of her bills in order to double what is really important in life - experiences.

I'm not sure I can really cut my "stuff" in half, but I'm determined to see how close I can get. The most appropriate place to start was with the homeschool table that greets everyone when they walk in the door.

I started out by dividing everything into "keep", "garbage/recycle", and "does not belong."

Everything to the left of the shelves, minus the printer, was to go somewhere else. Items to return to Target, Halloween costumes to be re-homed in dress up bins (once the current dress up clothes are culled), a chair that was in need of repair before the matching chair and table were disposed of and the remaining chair forgotten in the pile (behind the printer, turned upside down, with books and binders on top), table sleeves to be stored in the loft closet, and non-daily-use school items that hadn't been put away properly. Among other miscellaneous junk.

There was also a pile of papers to be disposed of when little eyes were not paying attention.

And everything else was to be filed in appropriate binders and arranged neatly.

While sorting and filing, I even took the time to wash the tablecloth, which had a spot of jelly on it from who knows when!

And now, our corner looks like this:

Okay, that's what it looked like on Friday. Today, it looks like that with the addition of a package for my sister and grocery bags to be returned to my car. And guess what. I'm going to go put that stuff in my car as soon as I get off of the computer!

I didn't truly get rid of half of the stuff from my table, but I'm very happy with what I've done, and it has motivated me to keep going. I tackled the top of my microwave and kitchen counter this morning. I've also begun going through my maternity clothes, now that C is 18 months old.

I feel like I'm on the right track. And that is a Big Deal!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My political secret

I'm on pins and needles today.

The husband was up at an ungodly hour, waking the dogs, the baby and little ol' me. Usually, I'm able to go straight back to dreamland once he's gone, but not today. Today's too big and important. My tummy is too queasy, my mind is racing too quickly, and my heart is in my throat.

I can't imagine a single person in my life who would be surprised to discover that I'm an Obama supporter. I am. I want him to win. I need him to win. But many people in my life will probably be surprised to learn why.

I'm going to quit being a democrat.

Barack Obama is the change I need. The change I am hoping will bring me the confidence to take the leap and officially go rogue. Though, now I'm pissed that the word conjures up images of a red suit and glasses. (And that sentence conjures up images of Santa Clause with a machine gun in my head. Hm.)

Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. I suppose the incredible disappointment of a republican win could outrage me enough to take a flying leap to just about any other political affiliation. But flying leaps are much more reckless than simple leaps and I gave up on recklessness a few years ago.

The thing is, changing parties scares me. As an atheist (okay, agnostic by definition) I can only assume that the uncomfortable process is somewhat similar to seeking a new religious affiliation. That is, if there were 2 main religions with a smattering of other options that nobody pays attention to. Which I guess is kinda sorta the case around here when you boil it down. But, as an atheist (agnostic), I digress.

I don't fully identify with ANY party. The reality is, for the next four years, we are either going to have a Republican or Democrat in office. And the four years after that, and probably the four years after that, and possibly much, much longer. When I am forced to choose, I have to go democrat.

Honestly, I really am excited about this Democrat. Old white men have always kind of freaked me out, but that isn't a deciding point for me this time. Joe The Plumber and Joe Six-Pack and Joe Blow and Joe Shmoe can all kiss my butt. There's only one Joe I can truly relate to, and he hearts Obama, so it's all good.

My point is, I'm really not good with change, despite my incredible need for it right now. Obama is the stepping stone to change for me. The step I need, and the step in the direction I would like to see our country take. Because I was taught that America = freedom and, since becoming an inquisitive adult, I haven't felt the type of freedom I was taught to expect.

Someone very important to me once told me that a bit of aging and a bit of money would turn me into a Republican one day. At the time, the thought made me want to puke. A little farther down the line, I found myself wondering if it was true. Maybe it would have been when the Republican Party was a republican party.

I want smaller government, but neither candidate truly offers that. I want more personal freedom, but neither candidate truly offers that, either. Meanwhile, the points I disagree with when it comes to the "little" parties are specific issues. Issues that I am motivated to tackle within myself and within the parties. The basic principles of several fit very neatly into my heart and mind.

So I'm planning my plunge. I am preparing to do what I can to make sure people know that there are other options. An expanded version of "Just Vote", if you will. I have no desire to evangelize. I can't tell people what is right or wrong for them. But I can remind people that they need not be limited to the lesser of two evils. The lesser of THREE (or more) evils enables one to rank their priorities more accurately! ;-)

Right now, my guess is that intelligent voters are already aware that there is politics beyond the elephant and donkey. And I know that many already feel quite purple (or green, or whatever), but fear taking votes away from a "legitimate" candidate. What is a stay-at-home, homeschooling, free-thinking, passionate mom to do? Why, legitimize the existence of the minority and spur growth, of course!

Don't ask me exactly how I'm going to do that just yet. I'm still considering the points of the Libertarian Party, Green Party, and the multiple names of other libertarian groups. It may be hypocritical, but I'm ignoring the smaller splinter groups. Let's be real here. No matter how truly I believe I can change the world, my fabulosity does have its limits! Baby steps and baby changes, people.

I am realistic. I see a future where these parties are true contenders, but it is quite a way off, in my opinion. My intent is to make it my children's future. Because, dammit, they WILL NOT be the first generation to take a step back from their parents' success if I have anything to do with it.

I've got Barack's back for the next 8 years. He does give me hope. He does inspire me. And, no matter what happens tonight, he has proven that people are looking toward the horizon, searching for something big. And I can be a part of that.

In the meantime, I need to go attempt to concentrate on today's school lessons while fighting waves of nervous nausea. I also have to figure out how to address the conversation I had with my 5-year-old this morning:

M "Can we play computer games today?"
Me "Maybe after we get our work done. You know, today is a very exciting day."
M "Is it my gymnastics day?"
Me "No, that's tomorrow. Tonight, we find out who our new president will be!"
M- looking ticked "Oh. I thought it would be more exciting than that. I'll go brush my teeth."

Baby steps must start at home.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overlapping seasons

Just trying to find the beauty in this beastly weather.

The benefits of messing with Halloween

Our Oct. 26th Halloween couldn't have been better. We had the perfect weather. We had well-behaved kids (even by our standards.) We had a great time.

Fast forward to Oct. 31st.

Our snow is still hanging around, though it's no longer close to 13".

Certain little people have been going on candy binges. Not from their own candy stash.

And J is sick. No connection to candy binges... as far as I can tell.

Yes, I feel a slight twinge of sadness/pity/guilt, but I'm definitely thrilled to call off another day of dressing up and candy begging.

They had a perfect Halloween, and they seem to be okay with the situation. That, or they realize that whining will put all Snickers bars at risk.

To the rest of you, have a safe and happy Halloween. Once we're done detoxing over here, we'll send best wishes for easy withdrawals in your homes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I iz cold n lazi

So I plai I haz cats, duz u?

1 Phil

1 Lil
Lil is a boy. Sorry, Lil.

My cats are good with little maniacs.

I don't know why.

If I were a cat, I would not like small people.

At least, not this small people.

But these boys keep on loving!

Lil is the lazy one.

Phil is the curious one.

But they're both smart enough to know when children are the most lovable.

I haz dog pets 2, but dey iz big and harder for kidz 2 ketch 4 fotoz. Nekst sno dai.

Snow day, snow what

I do not like snow. Choosing to live up high in the Pocono Mountains probably wasn't my smartest decision, but I don't really think about the downsides in May, June, July, August or September.
The rest of the year, I tend to be a miserable fool.

My due date with C was April 17th of last year. That weekend, we had a big snow storm.

Last week, we had flurries. Today, we have a couple inches of white crap, and no clue as to when it will stop.

When J was still in "regular school", I was actually able to take some pleasure in snow days. They meant not having to bundle everyone up by 8am to drive to, then sit around waiting in, the bus stop parking lot. And we could do nothing but sit around, watching cartoons, drinking hot chocolate.

Our exact location earned us even more snow days than the general student body. Our district is extremely large, square mile wise, and we live at the highest elevation for the area. Two miles down the mountain, it can be raining while we are snowed in. In fact, the husband just headed out to work and reported back that the main roads are fine, while the road ours branches off from is littered with 7 stuck vehicles. We have had lots of hot chocolate since moving here!

Now I don't have a single child in "regular school." Our morning is just like every other morning. There's no real reason to avoid math, and no lack of reading material. We have no scheduled activities on Tuesdays. No legitimate reason to change our routine.

Technically, I have the power to declare school canceled today, but that seems like such a silly thing to do. Instead, I think we'll have a "delayed opening" and a few mugs of hot chocolate before getting down to business.

If the wind manages to calm down, the kids are going to LOVE recess.

And since I'm annoyed about not being able to get really good pictures while it's still snowing, I'm going to post this one to make myself smile.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Halloween... kinda

Our development doesn't allow Trick or Treating on Halloween. Well, unless Halloween falls on a Sunday. Or maybe even a Saturday. I guess I'll find out about the Saturday thing next year.

We don't have any sidewalks or street lights, and most of our roads are lined with drainage swales, AKA giant ditches. Since most of the kids around here don't get home from school until 4:30-ish, weekday ToTing would involve darkness.

The whole thing really annoyed me when we first moved here. Then I actually took 3 young children ToTing during on our first Fake Halloween and saw what a madhouse it is, even during the day.

Since most of the houses around here are spread far apart, the kids really only ToT along the main road. 2,000 or so families worth of children along a 2 mile stretch for 3 hours. It's CRAZY. I have come to appreciate the seemingly ridiculous policy.

For the past few years, we've also had a Trick or Trunk at the lake parking lot. As a person who grew up having hundreds of children coming to the door for candy, I like having this chance to be a part of the fun. Back at the house, I think we've had about 6 Trick or Treaters in 4 Halloweens.

Sadly, not many people are into the giving aspect of Halloween. Despite this being the best weather we've ever had for the event, we were one of about 10 cars providing candy for 300 kids in less than two hours. We all had a great time but, yeah, I am bitter. I've always seen Halloween as a "take a penny, leave a penny" kind of thing, ya know?

So, we did our thing. Nobody froze for a change. The kids went off and made sand castles once their stashes were confiscated. And then we went to the Halloween party.

Our social committee does such a great job with this party. I could have done with one or two fewer plays of The Cha Cha Slide, but I guess every DJ has his favorites. The kids noshed on "brains and eyeballs", "witches fingers", "pig snouts and whiskers" and the like, and managed to get to "dirt in a cup" and plenty of other creepy, sugary garbage before withdrawl kicked in.

By the time we were getting ready to leave, C was very unsteady on his feet. A few times, he simply rolled around on the floor, babbling incoherently, with a giant smile on his face. It was a Good Day.

But why in the world did I agree to take the kids to Grandma's for real Halloween?!