Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Zombie Apocolypse (or homeschool challenge #347)

When I imagined all the challenges that homeschooling my 3 little men would bring me, I did not anticipate one very real situation that we currently have on our hands.

They are real, folks. 

Three of them roll out of bed and stumble their way out of my boys' bedroom every morning between 8.30 and 9 o'clock. They sit at the kitchen table clumsily trying to feed themselves for what seems like an eternity every morning. They wander around moaning and (I think?) trying to get dressed and make beds and brush their teeth for another exhaustive amount of time. 

They are incapable of forming coherent thought until nearly lunch time, when I start to catch glimpses of real human kids behind those blank and lifeless eyes. And learning? Ha! They move in slow motion and their brains are not turned on until some time after lunch.

By evening they are full of pep and could probably go until midnight if I let them.

Despite my best efforts to convert them, their body clocks run on the exact opposite time table as mine (I blame their father).

I am a morning person.

I love to watch the sun come up while I sip a steaming mug of coffee. I do all my planning, cleaning, shopping, thinking in the hours before the rest of the house is stirring.

By the time I finish lunch, my brain is starting to slow down. Perhaps it's even melting bit by bit. Sometimes I think I can feel all of my intelligence and motivation leaking out. Dinner rolls around, and I am the one stumbling about grunting incoherent sounds. I am not long for the land of the living.

Just when the boys are ready to sit down and tackle phonics and math for a few hours, I find I have become one of the walking dead myself.

We are faced with a choice: zombie students or zombie teacher? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Confession: I am not ready

One year ago this week I was trying to celebrate the 6th birthday of the twins.

One year ago this week I was helping my kids enjoy Halloween with parades, candy, costumes, and trick-or-treating.

One year ago this week I was holding my breath, waiting for my mom to die.

In some ways I feel like I am still holding my breath, that I haven't truly been able to breathe these past 12 months. There is a tension in her absence. Something is missing, and we are still desperately trying to keep our lives balanced. To keep everything from toppling over and crashing into a thousand pieces on the floor.

I miss her every day.

Every day.

It's the little things that make me think of her most of the time. The other day it was when I reached into the spice cabinet and pulled out this:
Mom took the name "Season All" quite literally. She used it to season everything. It was her go-to spice. I pulled it out to use in a recipe, and I actually broke down crying as I prepared dinner. 

It's stupid. But it's awesome.

I love that my memory of her is so intense that it can hit me like that out of the blue.

And then I get all weepy knowing that my boys will never know her in that way. I can tell them stories. We can look at pictures. And we do. We do. But the wispy, fluid memories of young children don't hold the same power. Their "memories" of past events change with every retelling, becoming less and less like the true event each time.

And I fear. 

I fear that their memories of my mother will grow hazy and fade. I am not ready for them to lose her. I am not ready to lose her again in their losing of her.

I am not ready for her place in their lives and in their memories to be occupied by another woman. I am not ready for there to be another name associated with "Grandad" other than "Yaya." I am not ready for her face and her figure standing next to my dad to be intertwined with someone else's.

I am not ready to give up her presence that exists somehow still in her absence. That empty chair at the table. The stocking not hung by the chimney with care. The vacancy in our lives that is a constant reminder of my mom. My mom who was there and now is not. 

I am not ready for that emptiness to be filled by anyone else.

Maybe I'm selfish. Maybe I'm childish. But I am not ready.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I have 3 messy, active, amazing boys. They are each wonderful and unique and I adore the differences between the three of them. They keep me guessing and keep me on my toes. It is a privilege to parent them, and they make me into a better person just for knowing them.
Lately certain people in his life have been using the words active, stubborn, difficult, strong willed, immature, and challenging (among others) to describe the youngest.

While most these words do ring true in his personality, I have to say that I don't think they have been used lovingly. In fact, they have been used to indicate that there may be something about his nature (or perhaps my parenting) that needs to change.
I'd like to take a moment and say a few words in defense of the "difficult" child, mine and the others I know are out there. I believe there are so many things to love about a strong-willed child. Things that we need to celebrate. Things that do not necessarily need to be broken.
My strong-willed child feels life with intensity. He delights in the smallest of pleasures, his smile and his laugh are contagious. He helps me to see the joy in life, too. I love sharing his happiness with him.
However, he also feels his negative emotions with equal intensity. This means that he cries. A lot. He screams. He pouts. A lot. He has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And he takes the whole room with him wherever he goes.
 My "challenging" little boy has a strong sense of his identity and what he wants out of life. He doesn't like to conform to anyone else's ideas of what he should be doing. This is a fantastic characteristic that will serve him so well when he is faced with peer pressure as a teenager. I am so excited for what the future holds for this little man.
However, his strong opinions make it hard for him to transition when he needs to transition. They make it hard for him to sit still when he doesn't want to. They make it hard for him to obey. And remember how strongly he feels? Yeah, when he is disappointed that he has to conform, he feels it with intensity.
When he sets his mind to something, he will get it done no matter the consequences. He is resolute in his decisions. Again, I do not believe this is a bad personality trait. It does get a bit complicated, however, when what he has decided on is precisely the opposite of what an authority figure would like to see. And those emotions? He feels them.
My "difficult" kid is wiggly and creative. He prefers to see the world upside down, literally and figuratively, spending most of his time either standing on his head or creating works of art.

Those things which make him a challenge for people to deal with are the same characteristics that could very well shape culture as he grows up.
Let's stop condemning these children and labeling them "challenging" or "difficult." Instead, let's choose to look at their spirit, tenacity, creativity, determination, individuality, and spunk as positive character traits.

All children need to feel loved. They all want to be accepted for who they are. Even the difficult ones.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~Confucious

Here I am. Truly me. Fresh from the shower, I brushed my hair until it was free from tangles and then let it air dry. I applied lotion to my face. Nothing more. This is me with no product, no makeup, and #nofilter.
As women, we have been told and have come to believe that this is not enough. That this is not okay. That this is not beautiful.

Worse, that this is not normal.

When we leave the house this way we get told we look "tired" and asked if we are feeling alright. We feel sub par and frumpy just by ourselves.

Products and makeup are fun and they certainly serve a purpose. Trust me, I have my own battery of beauty products filling bathroom drawers. I love them. People have been applying makeup for thousands and thousands of years. I'm not going to bring down a centuries-old tradition with one blog post. However, thousands of years ago, the cosmetic industry was not part of a profit-driven market bent on making some people rich by making the rest of us feel insecure.

I've read that women spend an incredible sum of money on beauty supplies. One article claims $15,000 in a lifetime, while another breaks it down to approximately $100 each month. That's a huge amount of cash. I could sponsor 3 children through World Vision or Compassion for that much  money. Or, if I only sponsored 2, I would still have enough left over at the end of the month to buy myself something to feel pretty.

I'm not trying to lay down some huge guilt trip on the way we spend our money. I'm just as guilty of self indulgence as the next gal. What I'm more concerned about is a culture that has us convinced that the bare minimum of how a woman ought to look when she wakes up in the morning is not even close to reality.
A society that fosters dissatisfaction in ourselves to the point of self loathing, eating disorders, and the belief that we shouldn't, couldn't be seen without our "faces" on. The false notion that there are women out there who have perfect bodies, perfect hair, and perfect complexions.

Let's get real with each other.

At least sometimes. I understand if you love the glamour, the fun, and even the art of makeup. Awesome. Rock it, my friend.

But, sometimes, let's put the brush down and take a deep breath.

Let's look at ourselves in the mirror and in our pictures and truly see ourselves. Let's show reality to one another. Let's not put that filter on our Instagram pics. You know the one. The one that smooths out the laugh lines and evens our skin tone. Let's get used to the way we actually look. Let's be okay with ourselves. And let's be okay with each other. Let's stop perpetuating the lie.

Do you know one of my favorite parts of getting used to the way I actually look? I don't have to do nearly as much to myself to feel like I've gotten all gussied up.

After a long day chasing rugrats, I felt like I needed to powder my nose before heading to the in-laws for the evening. I threw my hair in a clip, added a headband, used some chap stick and put one coat of mascara on my lashes.
Suddenly, I felt fancy. Yet I was still fresh-faced and fancy free.

Sure, I could stare at that picture and find many things "wrong" with the way I look. But who says that they are actually wrong? It's just the way I look. You look the way you look. It's different than me. Your skin, your eyes, your hair. They are different than mine. They are very likely different than the images we see on the screens and pages in front of us. That doesn't mean they are wrong, and it makes me sad that we think they are. And that we are, unintentionally, raising our children to believe these things are wrong, too.

I try very hard to make sure my boys see me at my worst the way I actually look. I guard my words around them. I make sure not to say things like, "I am going to go make myself pretty," then disappear into the bathroom only to come out with a different face. I want them to understand the way real women look. And to know that that is beautiful, too. Reality. It's pretty amazing.

I challenge you, ladies (and gentlemen), to learn to love yourself just the way you were created. And the way time has etched itself into you. Love that wrinkle, that mole, even that cellulite and those stretch marks. Learn to see yourself with #nofilter and not cringe...perhaps you will learn to like what you see.

In the doing so, the loving of ourselves, our children may learn to love themselves unfiltered, too, and to know that they are beautiful.

Things are beautiful if you love them. ~Jean Anouilh

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Don't make me stop this car!

We have a tradition that when we are all sitting around the dinner table, we share our day's highlights. We used to share lowlights, too, but they have been disallowed. Lowlights became a bit of a complaint session. Some of the members of our family would have 3-4 lowlights and be incapable of thinking of a highlight. So we banned lowlights from the table. We wanted to focus on the positive, since that's ultimately what we want to remember. We are trying to foster a spirit of gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.
One evening while we were sharing a meal with our cousins, they were sharing their "bubble up" and "bubble down" from the day. They do the same thing as us, but have a much cuter way of putting it. They are cute like that. It's just one of the many things I love about their family. Anyway, as we were sharing, Mr. N wanted to share a "bubble down." At first I wasn't going to let him, but he just wanted to say that his lowlight was that his aunt, uncle, and cousins were getting ready to leave. It was a very sweet way of saying that a highlight had been their visit.
I was reminded that sometimes a lowlight can be an aspect of gratitude, too. We just need to turn it on it's head. We probably will still forbid lowlights at the table for the most part, or work on how to turn them into positive statements, but it was a good reminder.
Grab a cup of coffee or a snack, because here are my highlights from our crazy, cross-country road trip. Lowlights are included. Because I'm a bit of a hypocrite. And the lowlights are often the more colorful parts of the trip.
Day 1: Beginning in Wichita, KS and ending in Mansfield, MO
highlight: remembering how to change my own tire
lowlight: actually having to change my own tire
Day 2: Beginning in Mansfield, MO and ending in Ft. Campbell, KY
highlights: the Laura and Almanzo Wilder homes and museum in Mansfield; the Superman museum in Metropolis, IL (the best place ever, according to Mr. W)
lowlights: Shorty falling out of the car and cracking his head on the pavement; carsickness

Day 3: Beginning in Ft. Campbell, KY and ending in Charlotte, NC
highlight: seeing family!
lowlight: dealing with the grouchies

Day 4: Beginnning in Charlotte, NC and ending in Carolina Beach, NC
highlight: FINALLY arriving at the ocean
lowlight: dealing with the landlord (honesty, frustration, cunning, and perhaps a little deceit thrown in)
Day 5: on the beach
highlight: celebrating Shorty's upcoming 5th (!?!) birthday (he said we served "sand"wiches because it was a beach party...he's funnier than I am, since I hadn't even thought of that)
lowlight: the nephew's busted lip

Day 6: on the beach
highlight: sandcastles
lowlight: falling down the porch steps (at least no one was around to see me writhing on the ground)
Day 7: on the beach
highlight: the carnival & funnel cake
lowlight: having to squeeze my too-long legs into a kiddie ride just because W is half an inch too short to ride alone (and having to cough up 3 ride tickets to do so)

Day 8: downtown Wilmington, NC
highlight: tours of the U.S.S. North Carolina and of the historic district
lowlight: the whole family getting "hangry" and needing to speed up the battleship tour

Day 9: on the beach
highlight: confirming that time and distance can't change friendships, ice cream (the best in L's whole life, he said through blue-stained lips)
lowlight: a pair of pooped-in underpants down on the boardwalk
Day 10: on the beach
highlight: finding "treasures" on the beach: a half-eaten crab, a shell with both halves still in tact, and a live jellyfish
lowlight: B only bought a dozen of the "2nd best donuts" in the nation...and I was expected to share
Day 11: Beginning in Carolina Beach, NC and ending in Charlotte, NC
highlight:starting the day with donuts (yes, more) and sea turtles with my men; finishing the day with cocktails and girl time with my sister.
lowlight: saying "goodbye" to the ocean

Day 12: Charlotte, NC
highlight: s'mores and back yard camping with the family
lowlight: holy mosquitoes, Batman!
Day 13: beginning in Charlotte, NC and ending at Cosby campground in the Smoky Mountains
highlight: nature and watching my boys love it, also playing exquisite corpses and singing my little men to sleep (they usually ask me to stop).
lowlight: nature and being slightly terrified of it

Day 14: beginning in the Smoky Mountains and ending in Louisville, KY
highlight: getting to reconnect with one of my oldest and dearest friends (and her family)
lowlight: the tears my little men are shedding each time we pack up and leave a place, knowing that it will be a long time before we come back
We failed to take a picture, but here we are in all our teen glory...she's braiding my hair
Day 15: beginning in Louisville, KY and ending in the St. Louis area
highlight: dinner and conversation at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people.
lowlight: knowing that there isn't time this trip to see SO MANY of my favorite people (I am already plotting my next trip back)
Day 16: St. Louis area
highlight: my children and their grandparents (oh, and getting a shower)
lowlight: that moment they stopped being little boys and started being wild things 

Day 17: beginning in the St Louis area and ending in Wichita
highlight: my house, my bed, my cat, my clean and cozy PJs
lowlight: the hubby and  I are like ships passing in the night...we met him for dinner as he was on his way to the Lou for the weekend.
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