Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I've been working hard on my front lawn. When we moved in, it was basically 2 giant clumps of juniper bushes. Bad juniper bushes.

The husband was driving a monster pick up truck back then. He tied the juniper bushes to the truck, and floored it. We got one clump out before we began to worry about breaking the (company owned) truck.

Since then, the yard has sat mostly untouched. Don't judge me too harshly. You can't see the yard from the road.

We get these weird "flowers" around here.

Pretty, right?

Wrong. They hurt.

The spikes eat through every pair of gloves I've tried. The only way to get rid of them (b/c they multiply like crazy) is to dig them out. And when your ground is as rocky as ours, "digging" means taking a pitch fork to them.

So, I decided to attack the spike monsters in our neglected front yard. By the time I got to most of them, I had ripped up a good chunk of the yard. So I kept going.

And going.

While the kids enjoyed their new mud pit, I used the 3,742 rocks I dug up to make a new rock wall.

And now, while I wait for my delivery of "good" dirt, my maniacs are taking full advantage of the situation.

Sugar and spice, my butt.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sentimental goop

Let me start out by saying that I know I'm crazy.

My kids are nuts. By 9am, we've already had one hit in the face with a baseball, and another bonked on the head with a bat. Enough arguing ensued to drive the dogs insane, jumping and barking like... uh... insane dogs. We've had syrup on the floor, bites taken out of crayons, and there's a plain (thank goodness) waffle on the couch. The baby has scattered the newspaper all over the living room, and I've tripped over 3 monster trucks.

There are definitely aspects of this whole 4-kids thing that annoy and exhaust me. The biggest one being a lack of local, trustworthy babysitters! But I recently realized something. I love the chaos!

I don't know how this escaped my attention for so long. I guess I was too busy or too tired to think about it.

There is a sick and twisted part of me that actually likes running the washer and dryer for what feels like 24/7. When I can see the bottom of the kitchen sink, I have a feeling of satisfaction, but there's also a bit of "now what?" Taking all 4 kids (or even 1 or 2, at times) to the grocery store can be a huge project but, in a strange way, it's also kind of fun. And there are times when bedtime is full of whining, some escaping, and often bickering across the hallway, but once in a while I actually have the patience to be amused by it.

So now, with the baby getting bigger, I have that itch.

It's really not a dangerous sort of itch, since the husband is 100% satisfied with our family size and busy planning our future lifestyle of island hopping and business shmoozing. Which all sounds peachy to me.
And I have no desire to add any more maniacs right now. I'm very content to be planning the upcoming school year and munching on toddler toes without any other changes. But I do wonder how that itch is going to feel in another 4 years or so.

In 2012, J will be 14, H will be 10, M will be 9, and C will be 5. I'll be 35.

All of a sudden, 35 sounds so young to me! I wonder if I'll be happy to be picturing my 40's as "free", or if I'll turn 45 and wish we had had (birthed, adopted, stole, whatever) more maniacs around.

Honestly, I think I will be happy and grateful for wherever we are at that point. I'm not really a person who spends a lot of time mourning "what could have been." I live life in the moment and plan multiple paths for the future, but I don't hang around in the past other than to enjoy the good memories.

I'm just having a very hard time nibbling on chunky monkey toes without wondering how much longer I'll be able to do that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stealing from Kristin

I only took this because I'm amazed at how many of our answers are the same. I get to type less!

If you get something out of a vending machine, it's most likely the: chex mix

A word you sometimes catch yourself misspelling: separate

You least want people to see you as: stupid. Not that it really bothers me all that much, but I guess that's at the top (bottom?) of my list.

You're a little scared of: messing up my kids

The least attractive thing you do in your sleep: snore

The number of contacts in your cell phone: Somewhere between 10 and 20. The baby tends to erase people.

How many of them are restaurants: 1 pizza place

You lose your cool when someone: interrupts my first cup of coffee

When you go to the drugstore, you often can't leave without buying: gum

Your dance moves can best be described as: a way to crack my kids up

The majority of your underwear is: Hanes organic cotton

Something you eat even though you hate how bad it is for you: french bread pizza

You think you're really not a great: housekeeper (I KNOW this)

How much cash is in your wallet right now: $7

The majority of your shoes are this color: black

You don't think you'll ever be able to get rid of your: belly fat

If your breath is bad, it's most likely because you had the: garlic

You feel embarrassed when you: cry because I'm mad. I hate when I do that!

The last public place where you used the restroom: I honestly don't remember

Something you don't like to debate in mixed company: religion

You don't think you can pull off wearing: anything that requires a complicated bra. Or no bra. Yikes!

Something you own entirely too much of: fabric. Clicking "Buy Now" is much faster than sewing.

Someone you would love to see in concert who might bring down your street cred: Barry Manilow

The last thing that you spilled on yourself: toothpaste

If you were on a reality show, the producers would likely portray/characterize you as the: the loud, flaky one

Friday, July 25, 2008

My investment tip of the day.

I love music. Rock, pop, metal, country, ska, oldies, even some rap. I'm not cultured enough to appreciate classical, but it sounds pretty, I guess.

My kids love music, too. If I burst into song, my one year old starts to point at the iPod speakers. Maybe he just wants to drown me out, but he's definitely acquired a preference for Pink over Tom Petty. Then again, he can see Pink dancing around half nekkid on the iPod screen, whereas he's never even seen a picture of Tom Petty in any stage of dress.

We own several music video games. I have to admit, they can be a lot of fun, even after hearing the same songs played over and over again. Being Mom, with the ultimate control over day time video game playing (until Dad gets home and hogs the games) helps quite a bit. Once I start "seeing" the songs in green, yellow and red squares, it's time to shut it down.

I think it's about to get out of control, though.

The husband just bought an electric guitar and amp. For himself. He's taken up lessons. J begins piano lessons on Monday. The girls have decided it's time they learned to read music AND play the recorder AND keyboard. And the baby has a drum kit. A real drum kit, complete with cymbal.

Have I mentioned that I live in an itty bitty house, barely bigger than the Partridge family's van?

It's been a while since I've taken any music lessons, but I assume that the importance of practice hasn't changed in the past 20 years (see, I AM old).

I think it's time I found a place with free wi-fi and yummy muffins. And I suggest that everyone run out and invest in Wyeth. Advil is my headache medicine of choice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I think it's over.

It seems like we've been together forever, and I've fallen into a comfort zone. When I wake up, you're always there, willing to step up and help me out, but something just isn't right.

I know that a lot of it is my fault. I haven't been very good with the whole preventative maintenance thing. It's just so hard when I'm being pulled in so many other directions... I've let you down, and I'm not sure I have it in me to fix things.

As things have gone down hill, my eye has been wandering. I'm not proud. I never expected to have my heart stolen. I was just going to look. But I don't think I can resist the temptation any longer.

Once I figure out finances and details, I'm going to replace you.

I'm sorry, Mr. Coffee, but I'm hopelessly, madly in love with another.
My new love

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To Kristin, with love

Not really.

I love photography. I'm not all that great at it, but I usually shoot enough to get at least a few good pictures. I get so excited about a good shot. Capturing one split second and being able to savor it forever is a concept that always amazes me.

But I hate being in FRONT of the camera. Not just "Oh, don't take a picture. My hair is all windblown." More like, "Get the camera out of my face before I smash it into a million pieces and make you eat them."

Still, I decided to suck it up (and in) for Kristin. Of course, the first time I put lip gloss on in weeks, and I wind up looking like I got smashed in the mouth with a tub of Vaseline or something. And I still haven't put Photoshop on my computer since it crashed.

I reserve the right to delete this entry at any time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm old. And WalMart is scary.

This weekend, my cousin S and his girlfriend, A, came out to the boonies to visit. It's still a funny concept to me. S is more than 7 years younger than me and, as the oldest child of the family, I grew up wrangling all the littles whenever our families got together, and became the official babysitter once I was old enough.

Looking back, what were our mothers thinking?! I couldn't have been more than 14 when I was left with my 2 sisters and 3 cousins. At 31, 4 of my very own offspring can be more than I can handle!

Anyway, I spent the weekend with my Power Ranger-loving, Cheeto-hogging, can't-sleep-without-his-teddy cousin, who has just passed the GMATs and drinks beer. Weird!

His girlfriend is a fantastic girl, and it's easy to forget exactly how old (how young) she is. Until you realize that she doesn't know who The Who is (are?), and she's never seen Johnny Depp without eyeliner. While my formal education was just about over, hers was barely beginning. And it makes me feel old. No matter what she says. She can, however, participate in intelligent and entertaining conversation, which is more than I can say for most people my own age. Either that, or she's too polite to point out that I talk too much without realizing it.

It turns out, my little cousin has a lead foot. I had planned to run to our "local" Target and the grocery store before they arrived, but they made the drive in record time. In effort to save time, I found myself saying "I'll just go to the Super WalMart." And then I suckered A into coming with me for support.

I used to be a WalMart shopper, but that was when I lived in a relatively affluent, semi-metropolitan area. There was no escaping the long lines and crummy customer service, but that WalMart was typically packed with soccer moms. I don't think my current WalMart had a single minivan in it's parking lot.

We saw a family who seemed to have great difficulty understanding the implied meaning of "excuse me" which, in my world at least, is code for "get your ass out of my way." They seriously just stood there and looked at us we were speaking another language.
Then there was the man who has a fear of guavas. Apparently, Tropicana Twisters should be approached with caution. Bad things could happen. Fortunately for this man, there is a strawberry and banana flavor, and he was quite proud to announce that he knows strawberries! Hmm. He didn't comment on bananas, though.

Throughout the entire store, I kept falling into my bad habit of walking away from my cart with my purse sitting right on top. That's a bad habit in any location, but I didn't realize just how bad it was until the one time I did remember to take my purse with me, and came back to my cart to find a young man touching it, inspecting it's contents. I don't know if it was the rude Jersey or the rude hick in me coming out (or a combination), but I hissed at him. Yes, I hissed. He didn't notice. Or he didn't care.

The husband has forbidden me to take the kids to our WalMart. I think he may be kidding, but he really doesn't have to worry about it one way or the other. This was my third visit there in the 3 years we've lived here. I've had my fill for the next 12 months.

I think I've also eaten enough to last me a few weeks. What is it about having guests that compels people to make disgusting amounts of food? I have a pretty large refrigerator. Typically, I do a big grocery store trip every other week, and we still have room in the fridge. This weekend, I shopped for 2 days worth of food, and ran out of room.
I fully intended to to spend yesterday afternoon at the pool, but I was terrified that everyone would sink to the bottom like stones. Plus it's no fun wearing a bathing suit when you're all bloaty and close to a food-induced coma.

Hopefully, the kids will polish off leftovers in the next day or two. Me, I'm actually craving rice cakes today. I also have an enormous amount of housework to do. There's no better way to bring all of your clutter and carpet stains into focus than sitting with guests and looking at your house through their eyes. Who knew that ceiling fans could collect dust while in constant motion?!

S and A survived their weekend with us, and I hope we haven't scarred them too badly. They were able to sleep through my kids, my cats, and my dogs in the wee hours of the morning, so we either really beat them down, or barely effected them. If they ever come back, I promise I'll take them swimming and we won't go anywhere near WalMart!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pictures of the Maniacs

Now that I've discovered how easy it is to add pictures, I'm going to have to figure out how to keep from going completely overboard!

Here's J, watching cartoons. I can't believe how old he looks. He's turning 10 next month, but isn't 10 supposed to be little???

Here's H, the toothless wonder, playing in the dirt. I served corn on the cob the night she lost the second one, poor kid!

And M, the real lens hog of the family. I think she'd make a great child actress or model... if she wasn't the type to freak out when strangers try to tell her what to do.

C has such a rough life!

They're all such goofballs!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Diaper tutorial for Mel!

I'm going to attempt to show Melanie how easy it can be, even when the sewing isn't perfect and there are 4 kids and a bunch of pets running around. This fitted diaper was made with the Very Baby pattern, size small, a woven outer print, microfleece inner, and microfiber soaker.

Because it's a turned and top stitched diaper, a 1/4" or so should be added to the pattern. I use a half-pattern to make cutting easier and symmetry more reliable. Notice I said more reliable.

Ooh, look at that! The picture worked!

Good people would iron the print first, but whatever. All cut, and "wa la!"

Because this was a quick diaper, I sewed the soaker right to the microfleece. To keep the stitching from showing, you could sew it to an additional body layer. The microfiber piece I used here was about 11x12", folded in thirds. The Very Baby pattern calls for a shaped soaker, but that requires more cutting time, and I'm lazy.

Ta da!

Pin your pieces together, inside out. If you do happen to sew your soaker into another body layer, sit there and stare for a while. For some reason, working with 3 layers confuses me. It takes me a good 15 minutes of staring time before my mind can formulate the proper combination of right-sides and wrong-sides to make everything come out right when you turn the diaper. I don't know why. I'll just blame it on the kids.
See? Soaker facing up, back side of the print facing down.

Straight stitch around, leaving an opening to turn the diaper. I always leave my opening on the front panel. Don't forget to back stitch.

Next, add your elastic. Most people mark elastic positions before doing any sewing. I almost never remember to do that, so this is when I did. The Very Baby pattern calls for zig zagging down the entire length of elastic, but I don't like to do that. I just tack the ends down really well. In this diaper, I did use the elastic positioning that the pattern calls for, but I've decided that I'm not a fan of it. I prefer to place it closer to the edge. When I use the pattern I made for C, I put the elastic right at the edge. And I use a 3-step zig zag for the ends. For this diaper, I used 6" in each leg, and 5" in the back.

Now you get to turn everything inside out. Er, inside in. Whatever. Make sure to run your hand through and poke out all of the little curves.

Once you're all turned around, fold the edges of your opening in, and start your sewing there.
When you get to the beginning of your elastic, be sure to pull it taught (while your needle is sunk in, of course) to avoid stitching through it. You'll want to double check that every inch or so.

In the end, you should wind up with a sweet little gather.

Once you get all the way around, all that's left to do is your closure. If you're using a knit fabric (that you don't mind possibly putting little holes in), you really could just use a Snappi. Or, if you're using a snug cover, you could go without any closure. For this one, I used 1 1/2" width Touchtape. 1" would probably be more reasonable for a size small, but the only 1" I have right now is beige. Blech.
I put a 6" lenght of loop on the front panel for maximum size range, and used a 2 step zig zag stitch.
Because this diaper is for a boy, I have the soaker going almost all of the way up the front, so it's pretty thick where the Touchtape is sewn on. If the soaker had been any thicker (or if I had planned better), I would probably have sewn the Touchtape onto the print (with some scrap fabric backing, to give more stability) before I sewed the two layers together. But I didn't.

Next, a simple square of hook on the tabs.

And a simple square of loop. Now there's less chance of tangled up laundry.

Looking at the diaper, I felt like the legs were unusually wide, so I compared it to one of my size medium Thirstie fitteds.
Yeah, it's kind of wide. If this doesn't fit very well, I'd suggest using shorter elastic in the legs.

But here's the end result.

I started this diaper around 11:30 yesterday, and it was finished by 1:45. That includes realizing that the kids needed lunch, and dealing with a fussy baby who must have realized I had a different baby on my mind. Actual construction time was probably about an hour, and that is with having to refill my thread (once for the bottom, once for the top) becuase I don't plan well, and having my machine throw up on me while sewing one of the tabs, necessitating a whole bunch of stitch ripping and re-sewing.

This one isn't a work of art, but it's cute and it's functional. And I'm determined to get it in the mail before that rear end is off to college. Or at least before he's potty trained!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I have no idea what to write about today, but I'm in danger of completely abandoning yet another blog if I don't write *something. And I don't want to be the only person left on the planet without one. Not that I'm really sure why that bothers me.

What has been going on lately...
Ex told J that he could sign up for the cyber charter school. I'm still nervous that he'll yank that rug before the school year starts, which makes it hard to celebrate.

I caught M trying to put a banana peel under her bed. I know she's heard me talking about trying to start composting, so maybe she's trying to do her part.

H has lost her second front tooth and looks absolutely adorable. Now there's more room for her thumb @@.

C... oh, C is driving me banana peels. He's learned to climb up the fireplace hearth, onto the coffee table, and onto the husband's recliner, which both spins and rocks. He's ignored all feline warning signs and continues to treat the cats like mobile stuffed animals. He has me just about ready to pay over $100 for a snap press to replace all of the velcro on his diapers. Nude baby after fruit cup is not fun.

I've ordered 90% of the books we need for the school year, built a rock wall in my front yard that looks *gawjus, and we're ready for top soil and grass seed. When the yard is finished, I'll learn how to upload pictures.

Sadly, that describes an extremely busy week for me, and it's only Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our Schooling Situation

I've been a homeschooling parent at heart for 3 or 4 years now. By some definitions, I've been homeschooling for 10 years. By others, I've never actually homeschooled my kids (@@).

The whole idea started when I realized how impossible it was for the public school system to address both giftedness and autism spectrum disorders in the same kid. I'm usually an idealist looking for a utopia, but even I have my limits. There are, after all, 20-something other kids in a classroom.

My ex (J's bio-dad) and I have been going back and forth on this for years. Sometimes it's intelligent conversation. Sometimes it's screaming matches.

While researching like a mad woman in hopes of winning him over, I began to see how much "homeschooling" I had been doing from day 1, with J and the girls, and how much I was still doing, to try to meet J's needs outside of the school day. While I hadn't won the battle to bring J home, I knew I wasn't going to send the girls when they turned 5.

Last year, H hit that "magic age" when children suddenly become independent creatures in "need" of social training by strangers through exposure to 20-something other "socially inept" children 5 days a week. This is supposed to prepare them for "real life".

Now, I have never actually read Lord of the Flies, but I'm pretty sure it's a similar theme. :::putting Lord of the Flies on my reading list:::

I'm not about to tell other parents what they should or should not do. I love my daughter with all my heart but, I've got to tell ya, she isn't what I would call a great role model for other kids her age. Sure, she can read, she's good at math, she'll jump at the chance to catch bugs or plant seeds or discuss the current line up on Nickelodeon. She's still more likely, over the course of 180 days, to teach your kid how to hide crickets in their room, order a movie on cable, and blame things on a sibling. Multiply that by 20 other influences, and contemplate that "socialization" for a bit.

So, we (Me, the husband was not thrilled) enrolled H in a cyber charter school for Kindergarten. A cyber charter was not my first choice, but it came with 2 big benefits. It gave the husband some reassurance that I would not spend an entire year teaching our daughter nothing but government conspiracy theory-as-fact, and it took away a lot of the pressure of lesson planning while adjusting to having a new infant in the house.

H had a fantastic year, for the most part. She moved up to reading "real" books and doing "1st grade" math. She learned a bit of Spanish and gained "exposure" to a smattering of Science, History, Art and Music. It did start to become a redundant chore by the end of the year. My child, who could destroy a rain forest in a week with all of her drawing, dreaded the thought of being told to draw another picture for school. She no longer wanted to do math worksheets, which had been her favorite. And, after a miserable winter, she wanted nothing more than to enjoy the late spring we had finally been given.

In effort to keep up with the curriculum, we missed out on a lot of chances to have fun with the material. Part of that was because of the program, and part was because I hadn't fully deprogrammed myself to see beyond the "rules".

We all learned a lot this past year, though. I've gained a ton of confidence in my ability to teach and manage my kids' education. The husband has gained confidence in me and the overall concept of non-traditional school. In fact, I think he's on the verge of becoming a fanatic.

We've (me AND the husband) decided to break even further from the traditional system this year, and move more toward the classical education model. I'm still a fan of pre-planned lessons, but with the freedom to skip, change, or burn them, if I so desire. It's a little bit scary, and very exciting. I'm thoroughly enjoying my new bible, The Well Trained Mind, even as my children sit in front of Nickelodeon and read Goosebumps, which I suppose will doom them to TWTM hell upon "graduation" (judgement day).

As far as J goes, I think his dad may be close to agreeing (capitulating, surrendering, shutting me up, whatever you want to call it) to withdrawing him from his school. This would be on the condition that he be enrolled in a cyber charter, and that we revisit the discussion at the end of the year. I'm okay with that.

I've only been able to see J's education from afar for the past 5 years. Report cards, a few projects, some worksheets crumpled in his backpack. I think that using a cyber charter will be very helpful in learning where he stands. He's a very rigid kid, highly dependant upon structure and routine, and he's been exposed to nothing but. I think a cyber charter will be very helpful in transitioning him from regular school.

I'm afraid to get my hopes up too high, but it's hard to control. I'm so excited at the thought of having three kids fighting over who gets to do their math under the coffee table in between running to piano lessons, cheer practice, drama rehearsal, Girl Scout meetings and homeschool gym. For a hermit like me, that's a big deal.

While my kids make me completely insane with moldy food, 3 times as much laundry as there should be, and choruses of "S/he did it" and "I donwanna", watching them get excited about learning and applying those lessons to real life (REAL real life), and spending time with other kids who see learning as a constant, fun process while still sharing enough naughty tips to be considered normal, has been the most incredible experience.

If I could just figure out how to bottle that feeling and save it for December, when I'm ready to sell them to the highest bidder. No reserve, free shipping.

Little Piggies Update

A half-eaten apple, half-eaten banana, half of a bagel, and another tomato.

My stomach is still churning this morning, but I'm holding on to hope that J's room won't be nearly as bad. For one, he's nearly 10 years old, so he should have a bit more common sense. For another, I know he would never eat fruits or vegetables voluntarily.

Wish me luck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I love my children. Really, I do. They're creative, funny, smart, curious, and each one is unique. They're pretty cute, too. But they're pigs.

I have to admit, I'm not the neatest, cleanest, most organized role model. I'm sure I'll get to the dishes sometime before the end of the... week. The clean laundry is mostly folded and will make it into everyone's closets, even if they're plucked from the back of the couch, worn, dirtied and rewashed first. And the baby will get his bath as soon as he's done getting dirty which, I'm told, should happen right around the time he starts liking girls.

But these kids... Ugh!

I'm not a total hypocrite. I don't expect spotless rooms. I don't even expect fairly neat rooms. Book piles spewing from beneath the beds aren't a big deal. A dirty clothes pile next to the laundry basket is even acceptable. Block towers are fine. I can even handle the occassional (washable) marker left, open of course, on the carpet, but they're just out of control.

This weekend was designated Clean Your Room Weekend. Of course, it had started as Clean Your Room Day, but that didn't go so hot. The end result is today is Mom Is Cleaning Your Room And You Will Be Left With Less Than Half Of Your Crap Day, which looks to be turning into MICYRAYWBLWLTHOYC Several Days.

My first stop was the girls' room. 5 year old M and 6 year old H share a bedroom. They hate it, and so do I. I know that M is the messier of the two, and it isn't really fair to H. H is still a pig in her own right, though, so tough noogies. Before even making it into their room, I have to shove a few scattered things from the hallway back into the room. I think the toys are trying to run away. Once I'm finally in, I discover a half stick of butter next to the door, behind the bookshelf. Yes, butter. Forget the crazy concept of butter behind a bookshelf. Who the hell steals BUTTER?!

After that mess, I go to put various mats intended for rainy day hopscotch, ballet and the like, under the bed, where they belong. Here, I encounter a once-beautiful (and pricey) Roma tomato, with a bite taken out of it. I'm pretty sure it was a human bite, since the ant perched on top was pretty small.

While tackling the mountain of once-clean clothes that were ripped from the closet at some point this weekend, I discover chocolate cake crumbs. I *still can't figure out when we may have had chocolate cake in the house.

Ah, but the winner (thus far) was yet to come. As the girls cleaned under M's bed, out came a tupperware container of 9 day old leftovers. Not pease porridge in a pot, but kielbasa and kraut, sausage and peppers. Mmmm!

I don't understand it. I don't WANT to understand it, I don't think. It's too frightening.

I doubt I'll make it to J's room before the end of the day. There's way too much scrubbing left to be done in the girls'. Not to mention the piles of clothes to be rewashed, and the donation bins I will be gleefully filling. Momma's had enough. If you love something, take care of it. If you can't be bothered to take care of it, it's gone.
And the next person to bring food into their room is going to be served nothing but kielbasa for a month, because I know I certainly can't stomach any after seeing that!