December 15, 2012

The Christmas Exchange

I love going to a Christmas party where there is a cookie or ornament exchange. Whether it's just a straight exchange or you do that steal-from-your-neighbor thing where everyone tries really hard not to reveal their inner MMA fighter while going after that artfully wrapped gift they've been eyeing all night, I love them all. Sometimes you end up with something great and sometimes...well, sometimes you end up with something that was undoubtedly grabbed out of the clearance bin by someone who was running late to the party.

One of these years I am going to plan a Christmas party...wait, scratch that. One of these years I am going to actually HOST a party. The planning is the easy part to me. Planning out all the decorations and food and invitations is actually fun. It's the "playing hostess" that I seem to have trouble with. But that's a post for another day. At this grand Christmas party, I will also have an exchange. But we won't swap ornaments or cookies. We won't trade white elephant gifts or recipes or gift cards to random stores that will go out of business before we can redeem them. As much as I enjoy doing all that, I have a better idea.

We will exchange time.

Let me explain. I am great at organizing. I love to do it; it makes me happy. I also enjoy doing laundry, ironing, babysitting and baking. I hate to cook dinner, do yard work, wash dishes and dust. I'm always joking around with my friends--"I'll come and clean your house if you cook dinner for me." But what if we actually did that? What if we made gift cards that were good for our special talent? For example, I could donate 2 hours of office organization that could be redeemed at tax time when unearthing those receipts has suddenly become critical. Or I could donate a couple of homemade pies that could be redeemed when the in-laws are coming in for Thanksgiving. Or I could donate babysitting so that you and hubby could actually go and have an evening that doesn't involve talking, animated animals or food that has to be eaten with ketchup. In return I might end up with someone who would could work a miracle with my flower beds and leave me with something there besides weeds. Or I might end up with a couple of freezer dinners that I can just pop in the oven some night when I am too tired to cook. Or maybe an especially sainted friend would come into my house and wash my dirty pots and pans so that I no longer have to shove them in the oven to avoid looking at them.

We don't always have a lot of money, but we all have something we enjoy doing. And, believe it or not, not everyone enjoys doing the same things that we do. I just shake my head that not everyone finds sitting in the living room doing laundry while watching "Pride and Prejudice" to be a fun, relaxing activity. And who wouldn't get giddy over a label maker? How can a good filing system not make you smile? On the flip side, I also shake my head over the idea that some people actually LIKE to cook dinner. Seriously, who are you people and why do you insist on making me look bad?

Once again, this holiday season is upon me way too fast (I actually have done a bit of my shopping, though. Yay me! I'm ahead of schedule.) and I have no time to organize a party for my girlfriends. Perhaps next year. In the meantime, I will eat the holiday cookies, hang the wagon wheel ornament and Google the location of the Cheese Warehouse so I can spend this gift card.

November 18, 2012

An Unwanted Anniversary

Just over one year ago, I was in Spokane, WA working at a holiday craft show selling my letter photos. My 2 closest friends had driven out to visit with me and we were enjoying spending time together. Before the weekend was over, however, I turned into a sobbing, hysterical mess--and not just because my sales were bad for the first time out there.

This story actually has its beginnings way before November. This particular story can trace its beginnings back to the summer. Back when we were still living with my in-laws, I began having this odd ache in my jaw and neck. Sometimes is was only in my lower jaw, sometimes it would radiate down my neck, sometimes it encompassed that whole area. Always on my right side. Being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately began looking at heart attack and thyroid symptoms. Having ruled those out I assumed it was stress related (while keeping the possibility of some type of fatal cancer in the back of my ever-paranoid mind). It would flare up and bother me, causing me to unconsciously rub at the area in a useless attempt to massage away the pain, and then it would go away and I would forget about it for a week or two. This went on for months. Having no insurance meant I couldn't go see a doctor about something that may have just been stress and most likely couldn't be treated. So I did what I always do when faced with an uncertain medical issue--I prayed it would go away.

Which brings us back to that November weekend. The ache was still there, but this weekend I started noticing something else that was odd. Food started tasting different; everything had a metallic taste to it. It suddenly dawned on me what was going on and the blubbering and self-pity hysteria ensued. The Bell's Palsy was coming back. Why it took me so long to figure it out I just chalk up to the fact that each of the 5 (could be 6 now, I lose count) times I've had it, it's come on differently. One time it started with such a severe headache at the back of my skull that I ended up in the emergency room where they gave me an MRI and sent me home with prescription Advil and a $600 bill. The paralysis hit me the next day. I really should know by now that if anything the least bit odd is happening to my body from the neck up, it's most likely Bell's Palsy coming on.

Bell's Palsy is a condition in which damage, trauma or dysfunction of the 7th cranial or facial nerve causes a loss of motor function in the facial muscles, resulting in paralysis of that side of the face. Normal Bell's Palsy doesn't keep recurring. But I'm never normal, am I? No, what I have is not technically Bell's Palsy--it's a genetic defect that causes that nerve to keep swelling, and when it does, it's getting pinched in a bone canal that is too narrow causing paralysis to set in. For me, this means that the muscles on my right side stop working. My eyelid will no longer close and my tear ducts stop producing tears which means that I have to keep medicine in my eye and an eye patch on or else I will damage my eye. I learned this the hard way over the years as I've had abrasions on my cornea during one bout and an actual hole in my cornea that I could see in the mirror during another bout. The one good eye has to work overtime and becomes extra sensitive to light--usually this means I have to sit in a dark room without TV, computer, or books. I can't taste anything on half my tongue; my lips won't close so I can only drink from a straw lest I drool all over and I have to chew with my mouth open; I can no longer smile or raise my one eyebrow. I also have pain across my cheek where the nerve is located which makes it painful to hug someone or lay on that side.

Full recovery has taken anywhere from 6 months to 2+ years. My recovery time gets longer with each episode. I also recover less each time. I can no longer blink both my eyes fully. I have a crooked smile. One eye closes more than the other. One eye and eyebrow sits higher because the muscles actually support it. My bad eye frequently waters and I can no longer keep it open when I yawn or chew (sounds weird, looks even weirder). I look at older pictures of myself and I miss that bright smile. I spend a lot of time practicing my smile in the mirror so that I will know how to hold my face when someone is snapping a photo. Conceited? Probably. But I know there's a good chance my face will never get any better than it is now. I want to make sure I don't get depressed when I look at family photos.

I consulted with a neurologist once and he said he could prevent it from ever happening again with a simple surgical procedure wherein he would drill a small hole into my skull to access that bone canal. Then he would drill through the canal to make it wider so when the nerve swelled, it wouldn't get pinched. While the idea of allowing someone to DRILL THROUGH MY SKULL is even scarier than facing life without Twinkies, I still plan on having that done...when I have insurance. Until then, I just pray that I won't get stuck like this the next time.

See, that's my secret fear. I am terrified that one day I will not recover and I will be forever forced to wear an eye patch and drink through a straw and smile behind my hand. I know that many people have far worse things to deal with than this and I know rationally that I should be grateful that I can still get up everyday and hug my kids and my husband. I know that, I do. But I still cry sometimes when I see a candid shot of myself and I'm reminded that my smile is a little less bright than it once was. I'm still self-conscious around friends when I'm laughing with one eye closed and half a smile.

But all I can do is the best with what I've got. At the doctor's office during the onset of my 2nd episode (and at 17, the first one I was old enough to remember), my mom and I heard his diagnosis and we both laughed. We couldn't help it. Even then we knew that I just never did things the easy way. 

November 17, 2012

He's Got My Vote

The debates, the ads, the endless bickering are finally over. The billboards and lawn signs have been taken down, the polling places returned to their previous usage, and life is returning to normal. For some, it was a time of celebration as their candidate won. For others, it was a bitter pill to swallow as their candidate had to concede defeat. For myself, it was just disappointing knowing that the person I thought should win wasn't even in the running. In fact, he wasn't even on the ballot. And how could he be? He's only 12.

You've heard me say that due to his alternately-wired brain, Bubba is a pretty sharp kid. In addition to his book smarts, he has a very unique way of looking at things and approaching difficulties. He is funny, smart, stubborn and sweet. And I think he may just run this country one day. 

Think about this for a minute. Who better to run our country than a high functioning Autistic kid? With 1 in 88 kids having a diagnosis on the spectrum, there is no one better suited to be a "man of the people" than someone with Autism. 

Bubba is great at math and reads higher level math textbooks...for fun. He likes numbers and logic--there is no way he could live with an unbalanced budget. He would pull out all those budget sheets and get it done before it was time for a video game break.

He is also a stickler for the rules. He doesn't care how old you are or what your ability is--you have to follow the rules like everyone else. He doesn't catch subtle social cues or inferences, and peer pressure is meaningless to him. He would never cave to lobbyists or special interest groups. And if the Constitution is a set of "rules" that our country is based on, Bubba would never do anything contrary to them.

Still not sure? Listen to this. I got an email recently from one of Bubba's teachers. It seems that during lunch, one of the other students wanted one of the Pringle chips that Bubba had in his lunch from home. Bubba offered to let him have one...for $11. The student agreed to the terms but the teacher intervened and had to sit Bubba down and discuss why $11 for 1 chip was not a fair deal. She suggested he trade a chip for help with his writing work or something similar, but as Bubba pointed out, it's not a fair deal if you're not getting something you want. Really, he didn't see what the problem was. He'd even worked out a payment plan so the money could be paid out over the rest of the school year. 

Don't you see? This kid has got it all down in a way that seasoned politicians are still struggling to understand. He gets the idea of supply and demand. He understands the benefit of payment options to get something you want. And he has a firm understanding of fair trade--it's a fair trade if all are happy with the terms. Find me one candidate who has all this AND an endless supply of knock knock jokes. 

Is there any question on who the right choice is?

(*Editor's Note: Completely out of the blue, Howdy said the other day, "I think Bubba would make a good politician because he's always trying to find the loopholes." See? I'm not the only one who thinks this kid is on the fast track to the White House.)

October 16, 2012

Adventures In Babysitting

I cleaned all the cobwebs off my blog site and dusted off the keyboard to bring you the real reason why I have been MIA the last month.

It's the Babysitting Gig.

I know, I know, technically it's not babysitting--it's my job. If I ever had any illusions that my job was anything more than being a babysitter (which I don't recall having any such illusions), they have long since gone by the wayside. When I took this job--keeping a room full of high school students who got in trouble under control--I was expecting the cursing, the arguing, the attitudes. What I wasn't prepared for was all the bonuses that come along with the job, bonuses I'd like to share with you today.

1. Anonymity     
Outside of work I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. I am training to become a Girl Scout troop leader and I am the volleyball team mom. I serve in the nursery and teach 2 year olds at church. I have my own business and keep house for my family of five. But none of that matters once I step inside my classroom. There I give up all claims to real life and simply become "Miss". Apparently for kids with names like Mqkrsyilz and Bgrlsytesa and Qalvnxei, my short, simple, spelled-how-it-sounds last name is too hard to pronounce. I've had kids look at my little 5 letter name and say, "I don't get it."
"Really??? That's too much for you to handle? The effort to figure it out is too taxing? Then by all means, spend your day calling me Miss. It's better than some of the other names you kids have called me."
 Adding to the anonymity is the fact that once my teacher-on-duty leaves the room, I cease to exist. It's true. The students are quiet and behave (somewhat) better with the real teachers, but once they are gone I become invisible to the human eye. Or at least those eyes that belong to high school students. I can be standing right next to a student, holding a referral that I am filling out because he won't stop talking and it has no effect on him. I can only determine that I must disappear when the teacher leaves, otherwise I know these students would obey me.

2. Research Samples
What kind of research could I possibly conduct inside the suspension room? Why, genetic testing, of course! These delightful little children leave behind enough DNA samples to keep even the most enthusiastic genetic researcher busy. With nothing else to do--except for schoolwork--the girls pick off all their split ends...and drop them on the floor. They also continuously run their fingers through their hair in order to weed out any loose strands...which they also dump on the floor. The boys aren't much better. My young men of color like to obsessively use their hair picks until little tumbleweeds of hair are rolling about the room. But the fun doesn't stop there because there are also fingernails to bite, scabs to pick, noses to blow and sneezes to not cover. I spend my day in a petri dish of DNA and germs. But for those who have less than hardy constitutions, I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on my desk.

                                                                  3. Appreciation
I'm not talking about receiving appreciation from the kids--I'll become independently wealthy before I am appreciated by these kids. No, I'm talking about the appreciation that this job creates in me. After spending my day around disrespectful, rude, undisciplined kids who suffer from over inflated senses of entitlement, I go home and look at my kids--who feel like they are being "bad" when they jaywalk--and I just have to hug them. They make me so proud. Am I tough on my own children? Absolutely. But they live up to our high standards. They are kind, generous, fun kids who treat people and property with respect. There is no excuse for not teaching your kids basic respect for others and insisting that they treat people kindly. I don't care what your economic status is, what color or nationality you are, what language you speak, which neighborhood you live in, whether you have a college degree or are a high school drop out, if you are going to have children, you are solely responsible for molding them into considerate human beings. It's nice to go from the classroom, where I spend the day writing up kids for not behaving (in the room that they are only in because they couldn't behave in their real class), to my home where I get to be around my own children, who make me smile and laugh and bring me so much joy. It makes me appreciate them even more.

So is this my dream job? Let me just tell you, this is NO ONE'S dream job. But it's a job and I'm earning money. It's a daily adventure in my classroom. Stay tuned for future episodes...

September 18, 2012

Two Roads Diverged in Dallas...

It's been a whole month since my last post. I would love to say that it's due to all the exciting, enviable adventures I've been a part of but, alas, that is not the case. Well, unless you count meetings with Bubba's teachers, last minute school shopping and staring at high school students all day enviable. If you do, I feel a little sorry for you.

The truth is, it's just business as usual around here. Until I have to leave my protective little bubble known as Mesquite. I am a smart, confident, capable woman...until I have to navigate the freeways of Dallas. Then I lose all intelligence and sense until I am reduced to a bumbling moron with the IQ of a 3 toed sloth. I no longer know my left from right, much less north from south. I find myself casting curses upon streets, my GPS, other drivers and even the whole TX DOT. I suddenly become capable of bending the steering wheel with nothing more than the strength of my white-knuckled grip. The 90 degree heat in a car with no A/C doesn't help. The fact that I always seem to be out at rush hour doesn't help either. If I'm traveling farther north or west than Garland, it's a pretty sure bet that I will arrive late at my destination, a stressed out, disheveled mess.

I used to get lost all the time and I blamed it on the GPS on my phone. After all, I was following it exactly so it must be the program's fault. Then I realized that I couldn't just leave the screen on the "big picture" the entire time--I actually needed to zoom in to where I was located and adjust it as I went. It takes my eyes off the road more but I get lost less, which I believe to actually be safer for my fellow drivers.

I can't use the excuse as being new to TX because even though we've only been here for just over a year, I have lived here previously and should know where I'm going by now. In all fairness, I have been lost in Seattle, too, but at least there's no where I can get lost there that I don't know which direction the freeway is. In Dallas, there could be any number of freeways in any direction but for all I know I'll end up in Houston or Amarillo if I hop on the wrong one. And I haven't driven on any of them enough to identify landmarks other than to say, "Hey, there's big, tall buildings. Must be downtown...Now what?"

The actual getting lost doesn't stress me out; I'll find my way out somehow, usually with many phone calls to my husband. What does stress me out is that I'm usually running late anyway so getting lost will make me even later. And with no air conditioning, I'm always a hot mess--literally. When I call MC for help, he will locate me on his map and help me get turned around which inevitably leads to me having to cut across traffic to make that left turn that is Suddenly. Right. There. Nothing like cutting off 8 gun-toting Texas drivers to get your heart racing.

When driving to a new friend's house, it usually takes one trip, sometimes two, before I can get there without directions. It doesn't seem to work the same driving through Dallas. Whenever I get lost I tell myself I'll remember how to get there next time. Until the next time when I'm lost all over again.

Maybe this is a sign that I was never meant to drive myself. Maybe I was born to be driven by others. In big fancy cars. With little old men in shiny black hats behind the wheel. Who open the doors for me when we pull in front of my country estate. I'm sure that's it. Because really, genetics could be the only excuse sound reason for why I'm always getting lost.

August 15, 2012

Laying Aside My Pride

Why is it so painfully hard to ask for help? It's hard to accept help to begin with, but it's even harder to have to ask for it. Most people that I know, if discovering that someone they know needs help, would jump at the chance to help in any way they could. I'm the same way. If you need something, I will do whatever I can to help, whether it's with time, money, food, transportation, whatever. I am happy to help. It makes me feel good to know that I can help someone else out, especially given all the times that people have helped me. So why, when the situation is reversed, is it so hard to accept that which people are freely offering?

In general, being self-employed is a "feast or famine" way of life and one we've grown used to. But these past two years have been an especially crazy sort of ride. In 2010, MC's work was very slow and we survived mainly on the earnings from the 56 craft shows that we did that year. In 2011, we decided to move to TX to be with his family. MC only moved after securing a job--that promptly fell through once he arrived in TX. After a month and a half, he found another job and the rest of us moved as well. But his job was an hour to an hour and a half away. There were some short work days that didn't even pay for the gas it took to get to work and back. I worked for a few months as a newborn photographer at the hospital (best job ever), but I ended up in the same boat--some days I didn't even earn enough to pay for my gas. After my company cut my pay by $2 an hour, I had to quit. MC soon had to quit his job as well since it was costing him more than he was making. The hunt for new jobs began...and lasted for 4 months. That was 4 months that we had minimal income coming in. Four months in which we just got further behind in our bills.

Unfortunately, this isn't a lonely boat to be in. I know all too many people who are in the same position. Out of work, constantly putting in resumes and going on interviews, but there are just too many people up for the few jobs available. During this time, a dear friend made the mistake of asking how I was doing. That is the magic key that opens the floodgates in Slacker Mom world. I'll be fine and can hold everything together until someone asks that dreaded question. Then the waterworks start. I dumped everything on her and I'm sure she regrets ever asking that but it was too late.

Over the next few months, my friend took it upon herself to organize a food drive for us as well as buy us a refrigerator as we only had a mini, college-size one to keep our limited food in. She and her husband also arranged to help us get our vans repaired enough to pass inspection so they could be registered with TX. Then they got us a meeting with the elders of our church who paid our overdue phone bill so we could get our phones turned back on and enable us to receive call backs on our resumes and interviews. I am forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of my friend and her husband, as well as the members of our church for helping us out when we needed it the most. However, admitting that we needed that help, much less accepting it, was painful. I mean, stomach churning, head pounding awful. I nearly choked on my pride in admitting that life was not all wonderful. It's a humiliating position to be in when you have to accept help. To stand in front of people you respect and see on a regular basis and admit to them that you have failed, that you aren't able to take care of your family is the worst feeling in the world. It doesn't matter if it's your fault or if circumstances were just out of control, it's shameful. I'm not saying that's right to feel that way, I'm just saying how it feels. It's hard to make eye contact with someone who has a full time job and plenty of food and a car that runs while telling them you can't pay your rent and you have no food in your cupboard. To have to stand in line for free handouts from the people you are friends with just so your kids will have school supplies is a horrible feeling.

But I don't think it's supposed to be that way. Somewhere along the line, whether it's that whole pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps American mentality or if it's due to the insular, autonomous way we live our lives, we lost that communal what's-yours-is-mine-and-what's-mine-is-yours way of life that the early Christians demonstrated in Acts. They came together and gave of what they had to help those who needed it---willingly. I believe this is how it was meant to be. Not the way the government wants to tax the richest or take from those who have to make everyone equals, but as a community that willingly gives to those who need it. As my friend pointed out when I tried hard to refuse her help, Jesus wants us to give, He commands us to help the needy. If we refuse to allow others to help when they can, we are keeping them from doing what Jesus asked of them. So then the only question remains, "Can I swallow my pride long enough to allow the help that is so freely given and that I so desperately need?" To refuse is not only insulting to those who want to help, but it's sheer stupidity as well.

That doesn't make the pill any easier to swallow.

July 26, 2012

Questionable Wisdom

I am an evil, evil mommy.

This morning, at the inhumane time of 6:45, Howdy and I checked into the oral surgeon's office where he was to get teeth pulled in preparation for braces. We had been informed that they might go ahead and take out his wisdom teeth in addition to his 4 bicuspids as long as they had him sedated, and yup, they confirmed they were going to do just that. I got to sit with him while they gave him some laughing gas and then cringed in sympathy as they set up an IV. The poor kid--he's never even had a cavity, never been in the hospital, and considering that we opt out of vaccines, he's hardly had any shots. Talk about jumping in with both feet.

I sat in the waiting room and it wasn't long before a nurse came out to tell me all went well. I was given instructions, a pile of prescriptions to have filled and asked to wait at the car while they wheeled him out in the wheelchair. My heart dropped when I finally got a look at him. His mouth was so stuffed full of gauze that he couldn't even close his lips and tears were pouring down his face. I felt a little better after the nurse reminded me that the anesthetic was making him emotional. I had to help him into the car as his legs didn't want to work properly. He cried some more as I buckled him in. I told him it was okay and he responded with, "Eye ohhh"--which I interpreted as "I know"--and a goofy, definitely drug-induced smile.

Here's where the evil part comes in. As I run around the car to get in on my side, I start giggling. I just couldn't help it. He reminded me of that YouTube video that was going around of that guy who just got out of the dentist. He was just so out of it, crying and laughing at the same time. I got in and buckled and saw tears rolling down my baby's cheeks so I wiped them off. He tried to crack his eyes open, but they didn't obey very well. He tried to pull down the visor to look in the mirror but it took a few tries before he could judge the depth correctly. Then he said, "Fah bah wah bah wah." Despite my best efforts, I couldn't interpret that one so he repeated himself, "Bah wah ha yaya." (I had to suppress more giggling.) I told him just to relax, we were heading home, and then I put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot. His face scrunched up and he sobbed a bit more. I reassured him, which only made him laugh. He knew it was the drugs making him weepy but he couldn't help himself, so he just cried and then let out that Beevis and Butthead laugh when he did. I wiped his tears and then turned my head away to let out my own (hopefully) quiet laughter.

As we pulled onto the street, he tried to say something else. "Honey, I'm sorry, but I can't understand a thing you are trying to say when you have a mouth full of gauze." So he tried to pantomime what he wanted. He pointed to the clock on the dash and then outlined a big square. Then he acted like he was dipping something into a cup and putting into his mouth. Completely confused, I had to take a wild guess, "You're hungry?" He shook his head no and then made the telephone sign with his hand. "You want my phone? You can't call anyone." He pantomimed again. "You want to text?" He holds two thumbs up with a big, cheese ball grin. Yes, that's it. He wanted to text so I could understand him. Great idea. It took him a few minutes but then he handed it over and it said, "Feel weird". Ya think? Then he texted, "Where were you?" I was only allowed to stay until he got his IV in and then I was escorted to the waiting room, but of course, he didn't remember any of it.

He tried to lay the seat back but couldn't seem to locate the lever. I told him it's on his right side but he kept fishing around both sides until he finally found it. He couldn't figure out how to operate it though. "Howdy, lift up. Up." With his eyes closed and that stoner smile in place he flashed me the peace sign. What?? Am I supposed to know what that means? Eventually he got his seat down and rested until we get home. I had to carry most of his weight going into the house as his legs still didn't want to work, and when I had to let go of him to close the door I made him grab the couch so he wouldn't fall over. He cried again when I sat him on the bed and so we repeated the reassuring/laughing routine once again. I took off his shoes, propped up a bunch of pillows and told him to lie back. He reached out blindly with his hand but couldn't seem to locate the pillows that were right next to him. Finally, I had to guide/drag him into place and he settled in.

Thinking I had awhile to fill prescriptions and make a grocery store stop while he slept, I got ready to head out, leaving him in his dad's care. Just as I grab my shoes and purse, we heard that muffled voice. MC and I went in and checked on Howdy, and of course we couldn't understand a word so we handed him a pad of paper and a pencil. He wanted to know what happened--he couldn't remember anything. He didn't even know how he got in his bed. And, by the way, what is in his mouth? We explained everything to him, again, and then eventually I gave him a bell to ring since we couldn't hear him attempting to call us, but I warned him I would only tolerate it for today.

He's doing alright now--in pain, but he was able to get his pain meds down without too much hassle. He rang his bell a few times and every time I went in he forgot what he wanted or he didn't know why he even rang. I just checked and/or changed his gauze and then he went right back to sleep. I think he's finally starting to come down off the anesthesia since he's awake enough to request a movie in his bedroom. The sad thing is, he still thinks he'll be fine to go to the movies with his youth group this evening. At the moment he can't even remember his own name. I don't think a night at the movies is in his immediate future.

I tried to videotape him when he was loopy but he nixed that one. The funny thing is, I know when I tell him everything he did while drugged up, he's going to wish he could see it. Instead I'm just having a ball telling everyone how goofy he acts when he's higher than a kite. I could barely get the words out when I was relaying it all to MC because I was laughing so hard. In fact--

Great. There goes the bell again. I'm starting to think I may have been a little high when I gave him that thing...

July 16, 2012

And The Secret Is...

I am not a "live life on the edge" type of person. I'd say I'm more of a "read about everyone's adventures from the safety of my own home" kind of gal. I've told you that I am not a big fan of water slides; I'm actually not a fan of most amusement park rides. They are just too fast, too spinny, too knee-weakening, make-me-barf scary. But every once in awhile I'll get a little daring, step out on a limb. A time or two, I have even braved the roller coasters--usually with my sisters. How I end up getting talked into these things I'm not entirely sure, but it happens. Standing in line with everyone, the excitement is contagious. The screams and laughter and smiles from the people already on the ride, the anticipation building as I get closer to the front of the line. I even start to wonder, "Why don't I ever go on these rides? This is going to be so. much. FUN."

And then it's our turn. We are locked in, a lap bar and harness to keep us in place. The operator asks everyone if they're ready, to which we all scream, "YEAH!", even if we don't mean it because at this point it's too late to say anything else. With a jerk, the cars start moving forward...clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. Now we are slowly starting to climb, and again that anticipation is building as we all know what awaits us at the top of the track. I grip that lap bar, bracing myself for that 20 foot drop that will cause my stomach to get left behind and have to make a mad dash to catch up. We're almost there...almost there. People are starting to throw their hands up as the first car goes over and then gravity takes up the rest and we all follow, screaming, dropping, flying, my eyes closed tight. In seconds, we have sped through that death-defying drop and are propelled up again, only to be swung around tight corners and twisty bends. I see what's coming and I suddenly remember why I avoid the roller coasters. We are about to be hurtled through a loop-de-loop. This time our climb is even higher, the drop steeper as we build up the momentum we need to be turned upside down and still keep going. I tell myself I'm going to keep my eyes open so I can experience it with all of my senses; if I'm going to do it, I want to do it right. But at the last second, I chicken out--I close my eyes.  It's enough to know what awaits us on the other side of the loop; all I can handle is to feel the ride, screaming until my voice is hoarse.

The rest of the ride is less heart-in-my-throat-thrilling but still fun. As we disembark the ride, we laugh and admit that, while we peed our pants, we did actually enjoy the ride. Are we ready to go through it again? Not quite. But we admit that the fear was worth enduring because of the sheer rush of the experience.

Seventeen years ago today, I took the biggest plunge of my life. I willingly, anxiously, joyfully joined my life to that of MC and vowed to love this man for the rest of my life, come what may. People are always impressed that we've made it 17 years and I find that a bit sad, because what they are saying is they don't expect anyone to actually stay married that long. When we hear of couples who've been married for 20, 40, 60 years, the question always comes up, "What's your secret?" Because there must be some kind of magical secret that has kept them together for so long, right?

Can I be honest with you? MC and I have had some tough times. We don't fight argue a lot, but we do. And we have very different ways of approaching these arguments. I'm a poke-the-sleeping-bear-until-he-gets-mad-enough-to-growl kind of person, whereas MC is a let's-discuss-this-in-a-reasonable-way person (which only makes me poke harder because really, where is all the drama in being reasonable?). Recently though, we had a "disagreement"; we did not see eye to eye on an issue and it caused some problems. BIG problems in my mind, not so big in his. But it was bad enough that, for the first time, I barely spoke to him for 2 days. It wasn't that I was trying to punish him by ignoring him (he might actually like the break), it was just that every time I tried to say something, that hurt and anger would churn up to the surface and I would start to cry. Through it all, I had to wonder, "How are we going to get past this?" What I never wondered? "WILL we get past this?"

Being married to MC is easy. Living with someone and adapting my life to theirs can be a challenge, but honoring that promise I made to love this man every day for the rest of my life? Easy. Here is the secret to staying married for 17 years--you made a promise, now keep it. Revolutionary, right? You know how I knew that we would get through this recent struggle? Because NOT getting through it was not an option. Whatever it took to keep this marriage and our relationship together is what we were going to do. And I knew without a doubt that he was on the same page. Sometimes it may take a day or so for one (or both) of us to stew over something and pray about it before we are able to come at it with a clear head and be able to discuss it with an open and fair mind, but we will get there. That is the only solution that we will entertain. Sometimes tears are involved, sometimes raised voices (usually on my part), but never harsh words because we will be together for the next 50 or 60 years, and we don't want to put something out there that may haunt us in the future.

We've had those long climbs where we could see that something frightening was waiting just ahead. We've traveled twisty roads and been jerked around corners that we didn't see coming. Sometimes life has dealt us things that we just had to close our eyes and hurtle through because they were just a little too much to take in with all of our senses. But we've also experienced that rush of adrenaline and pure, undiluted joy. We've had those moments that bring smiles to our faces and laughter to our ears, moments of wonder and amazement, moments when we know that the ride is so worth whatever dips and scares are temporarily thrown at us. Through it all, we always know exactly what awaits us at the end--a long life of raising our children and loving each other.

Are we a cheesy, Hallmark card couple? Absolutely--and proud of it! Knock it if you want, gag if you must, but know that there is a reason we are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. Whatever it takes, we honor the vow we made to each other and to God to nurture that which He has put together. And not just because we feel obligated, but because we are the other's best friend. My son recently got his feelings hurt when I said if everyone on the planet disappeared and I was left with MC, I could still live a very happy, fulfilling life. This isn't to say that I would choose for something to happen to my children or that I wouldn't be lost without them, but I was making the point that I truly enjoy being with MC. The ups have far outweighed the downs in our life, and I am constantly amazed at how "perfect" we are together. He makes me laugh, he encourages me, he supports me, he is a great father to our children and a genuinely good man. 

We both have our insecurities. He's gone completely grey and is losing his hair. My muffin top has morphed into the whole muffin, and I frequently have to explain to my family that they have no dinner because I haven't cooked it and no underwear because I forgot about laundry. We both need reassurances sometimes, but I think that's just part of being human. What I do know? No one will ever love this man like I do, and I am the only woman for him.  I don't have to wake up every day and tell myself "today I will love my husband"--that's just a given. That vow was said 17 years ago and still stands to this day. Nothing is going to change that. Period. End of story.

Wait...that's not a proper ending to the story...

And They Lived Happily Ever After! (that's better)

July 5, 2012

Autism FAIL

One of the best things that ever happened to me and Bubba  in regards to his Autism was the introduction of a certain preschool teacher, Karen Duggan (yes, I'm using her real name as I can never thank her enough for her total awesomeness). While I had resigned myself to my role as "mom of a disabled kid" and having to do most things for Bubba, she recognized that he was capable of much more than I was giving him credit for and pushed us both beyond what I would have thought either of us could handle. I learned that I can have expectations for Bubba in spite of the fact that he has Autism, and it's okay for me to push him to reach those expectations. And he has done amazing. He went from being a 4 year old in diapers who couldn't speak a word and needed constant direction and a very rigid schedule to being a happy, verbose 11 year old who has been accepted in the gifted program at his school. This is not solely due to his (amazing) preschool teacher. This has been a team effort that involved therapists, teachers, aides and family, but I think having the building blocks put into place thanks to what I learned from Teacher Karen have made a huge difference.

(*Editor's note: As I've said countless times, every Autistic kid is different and the expectations we've set for Bubba won't always be realistic for other Autistic kids.*)

Last summer, we were too busy moving to do much of anything, but the year before Bubba got to attend his second year at camp--this time without either myself or his Daddy. He did alright. We got a couple of phone calls during the week where he asked to come home. It wasn't that he couldn't handle it or that he was misbehaving. The problem? He was bored. This year, when I heard about all the fun things they had scheduled for the elementary kids at Camp Goddard, I thought, perfect! Lots of kids from church were going and they all said it was so fun--swimming, archery, museums--and it was highly structured so I thought it sounded like a great fit for Bubba.

As I checked Bubba and Sassy in on Monday morning (he got to go with his sissy--how fun!), I made sure to make the rounds to all the counselors in his cabin, letting them know what to expect from Bubba. How he gets upset if he loses, how he might throw a fit if things don't go his way. The best solution? Distraction. And while other parents were informing the nurse of which medications their kids needed in case of an emergency, my emergency kit for Bubba included brand new books. If distraction didn't work and Bubba was causing problems, I advised sending him to the nurse for some quiet reading time (his 2nd favorite activity, behind video games). Was I nervous sending him off to camp for 5 days? Of course. I'm always nervous sending him anywhere without me, but I kept reminding myself of all the fun, structured activities they had planned and I was sure he was going to do fine.

*sigh* I so hate to be wrong.

It seems that in my quest to make sure Bubba is independent and treated like every other kid, I sometimes forget that he isn't like every other kid. He is different; he thinks differently, he acts differently, he interprets the world around him differently. If MC and I had been in this mind set when we were looking into camp, we would've realized that the only people who are truly capable of helping Bubba navigate new situations are the two of us. One of us should have gone to camp with him.

But we didn't. And I got a call at 6:30pm on Tuesday night--about 34 hours after the whole train of buses and vans pulled away from the church building and heading out for camp--that I needed to come and pick Bubba up. Something had set him off and he was being disruptive. He was fighting with the counselors, refusing to behave, yelling and screaming--generally acting as an overstimulated Autistic kid. Knowing Bubba as I do, I am sure that the thing that set him off was just the last straw and not the real reason behind his meltdown but it doesn't matter. The fact is, while the people running the camp are an amazing group of people, they were not equipped to deal with Bubba's tantrum.

So MC and I scarfed down the burgers he had just finished grilling, nixed our date night plans and called to make arrangements for Howdy to spend the night with a friend. Then we set off on the 2 1/2 hour drive to pick up Bubba from camp in Oklahoma. The whole way there, I yo-yo'd between guilt over having sent Bubba to camp when he wasn't ready, guilt over anyone else having to deal with him, and frustration that Bubba seems to do so well and yet he couldn't handle camp (I didn't say any of these were necessarily well-founded, it's just what I was feeling).

As soon as Bubba heard we were coming, he calmed down and behaved, and by the time we pulled in, he had rejoined the activities and was enjoying a s'more. We visited with his counselors and the camp director for 5 minutes or so and then set off on the drive home. Bubba was sound asleep in the back seat before we made it to the freeway. We drove about 315 miles round trip, getting back home at midnight. The good news was we were out late enough to avoid any rush hour traffic, and I still got to spend time with MC, even if it wasn't at the movie like we had planned.

There's a fine line between wanting your children to live up to your expectations and knowing what their limitations are, and sometimes I struggle with finding that line. Our first instinct was to come up with some kind of punishment for Bubba for not behaving at camp but then we had to remind ourselves that Bubba is not like other kids. It's a testament to how far he's come and how much he's improved that we have to keep reminding ourselves that he isn't a typical kid. And so life around here is always anything but typical.

June 30, 2012

Making a Splash

You will never guess where I was today. OK, let me amend that--if you aren't one of my Facebook friends, you'll never guess where I was today. I was at...a waterpark. Again. Didn't I just post how much I dread going to waterparks? Why yes, yes I did. But Bubba and Sassy are heading off to camp next week and for a single, solitary, heat induced moment, I thought it would be fun to have a waterpark send-off. I'm telling you, heat is a dangerous thing.

I got smart this time, though. I invited my 2 nephews along. I figured, if Sassy had someone to play in the water with her, she wouldn't be asking me. And it worked! (Patting myself on the back.) We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and there was already a line. But it wasn't as hot as it was earlier in the week so the wait wasn't so bad. And I came prepared with a cooler stocked with ice waters, apple slices and granola bars--we were set.  Once inside, I was excited to find an unclaimed lounge chair and we promptly dumped all our stuff on it, lathered up with sunblock, and then they were off.

As I sat and tried to get all settled in for the duration, I noticed the lady with the chair next to mine was...hovering. She was just standing there next to me, not saying anything, not doing anything, just standing. I tried to ignore her, I really did. Until I had to get up and move the chair in front of me so I could keep an eye on the younger ones who were in the kiddie pool. I turned back to see her watching me and I said, "I need to be able to see my kids," and I smiled. She didn't smile back; she grabbed the headrest of my chair, and said, "Mine." Really? You're going there? I gave a wave of my hand to indicate that, clearly, I already had all my stuff dumped on the chair, thereby staking the claim that the chair was, in fact, mine. If you don't leave something on the chair, it is open for anyone. That's the rule and everyone knows that. Was she there first? Yes. Had she observed proper waterpark chair claiming procedure? No. The chair was mine by rights. She didn't seem to know about the rule or even care if there was a rule, she just tossed her beach towel over the headrest and continued to stare at me.

It was at this time that I had to assess the situation. I mean, clearly the chair was mine, but did I really want to get into a petty argument with a woman who didn't seem to speak any English, other than that one word? I might have been tempted, but upon closer inspection, it was obvious that she could take me in a hand to hand battle. I'm not completely stupid and knew it wasn't worth risking life, limb and a cute hairdo over a stupid chair so I decided to stroll around and see if there were any more open. Every single chair in the area was staked out with someone's belongings (they obviously observed the time honored tradition of chair claimage). I finally located a chair all the way at the other end of the park and hefted it over to the kiddie area. I parked myself in the shade and then proceeded to transfer all our bags, shoes, clothing, and cooler to our new spot.

I resigned myself to spending the day at the waterpark, sacrificing a day spent writing or reading so my kids could get out and have fun. I took the time to pack snacks, invite friends and even put on my bathing suit. So when two of the boys came up to me after an hour and a half and wanted to go home, I wanted to scream, "Are you kidding me?! You ask every day if we can go to the waterpark and now you want to leave after an HOUR AND A HALF?" The answer was no. I told them we were going to stay for at least 3 hours--whether they liked it or not, of course. And then another kid came up, asking the same thing. Seriously? What is wrong with these kids? I know what's wrong with them. These same 5 kids were spoiled the other day when I let them spend the day playing video games--something that never happens in my house. It went on like this the entire time we were there. Every 15 minutes a different kid would come up to me asking, "How much longer?"

At the 2 1/2 hour mark, I finally gave in and said we could leave. However, it took another 30 minutes to get all 5 of the kids out of the pool, toweled off and into their clothes and shoes so by the time we were heading out the gates, we were able to say we had been there for 3 hours. Back at the house, only 1 kid actually got on the games. I think the heat sapped the energy right out of them.

I KNEW there was a reason I liked the waterpark.

June 22, 2012

Park It Here

I have a confession to make (yes, another one, don't judge me). I don't enjoy taking my kids to parks. I understand it's pretty much a necessity if you have kids and don't want to go insane. And don't get me wrong, I love to see them playing and having fun. But I don't like sitting there...doing nothing. I get antsy. It's not relaxing for me. I want to be doing something. I am incapable of enjoying doing nothing. Well, that's not entirely true. I do enjoy doing nothing under the right circumstances. Sitting outside with nothing to do but stare and do security watch is NOT the right circumstances. I don't particularly enjoy chatting up strangers in the park so it's not a great social event for me, and, for the most part, I hate being out in the sun so it's not a chance to enjoy being outside. I love, love, love when my kids are having a great time and enjoying themselves--especially if they are doing it outside. I just wish I didn't have to sit there while they do.

Does this make me a bad mom? Possibly. I never claimed to be Mom of the Year. Just chalk it up along with all of my other failings.

If we are going to a regular park, it's not so bad. I can relax with a book while they play on the playground or kick around a soccer ball. It's pretty easy to keep an eye on them while catching a few paragraphs here and there. Or I can bring some paper and catch up on my writing with the same results. The problem is the 90 degree weather here in TX which necessitates visits to water parks.

I hate water parks.

I don't generally like rides and I don't generally like the water slides at the big water parks. I can't understand how shooting almost straight down a two story slide while your bathing suit bottom creeps to parts better left unknown and water sprays up your nose leaving your brain water logged is considered fun. Oh, and let's not forget the dig-the-bathing-suit-out-of-your-hiney-without-anyone-noticing dance you get to do before you can actually stand back up. And all this is done while parading around body parts that haven't seen the sun in years and are kept under wraps FOR A REASON. Yay. Sign me up.

I think I might be able to enjoy a water park if it was just me. I'd just plop myself down on an inner tube and cruise the lazy river for 3 hours, with the occasional dip in the water to cool me off. There would be no hanging onto 2 inner tubes while keeping an eye on a third in the deep end of the wave pool where I will use my under worked muscles to keep us all together while also trying to coordinate just the right time to jump with the waves so I don't get a gallon of chlorine water dumped into every orifice in my head. There would be no "I wanna go here", "No, I wanna go here" arguments. There would be no moments of panic when I lose sight of one of the minions and I frantically look for the lifeguards to see if they are currently fishing one of my kiddos out of the water. And best of all? There would be no one to say, "That ride looks really scary. Will you please go on it with me, Mommy?", which is always accompanied by the doe-eyed orphan look that only those with a heart of stone can resist.

I'm sure this makes me a horrible mother but I do not enjoy spending hours in the heat, sweating in a bathing suit I would rather not leave the house in, worrying about sunburns, drownings, lost children and how many kids have actually peed in the pools. I would rather be relaxing, enjoying my kids in the relative safety of a normal park where I can indulge in reading, writing or taking pictures, and the only thing I have to worry about is sunburns, bugs, strangers and how many kids have peed on the slide.

June 20, 2012

Skinny Little Fat Girl

Whenever the subject of weight comes up I tend to do one of two things. I either (wisely) keep my mouth shut, knowing my gripes will not be appreciated, or I (stupidly) jump on the "I'm so fat" bandwagon and then have to justify saying so when everyone around me declares me to be skinny. We live in an age of obesity, an age of fast food, automated jobs and online social lives. Most of us, if honest, would probably admit to not being happy with the shape our bodies are in. So why, if I declare that I am unhappy with my extra weight and complete lack of muscle tone, am I scolded for being ridiculous? I'm told I should be happy that I am so skinny and not "fat" like other people.

I know, right now you are shaking your heads at me. Poor little Slacker Mom. She's upset because people think she's skinny. What a pity. Someone shove a bite of cake in her mouth so she'll shut up. But please stick with me because I'm sure I speak for others as well.

I am not a great athlete, never have been, despite my half-hearted attempts. I played volleyball in middle school without bothering to learn an overhand serve. In high school, I was a cheerleader with no flexibility or gymnastic skills, and I ran track with barely enough stamina to finish the 800m. As an adult, I played softball but lacked enough muscle strength to really hit or throw. My point is, I may have been a bit more active than the average bear but I've never been a model of physical peak. Even so, I was shocked at how quickly being pregnant affected my physical fitness. I got winded going up a small flight of stairs. Walking wasn't a problem but I did get tired quicker. And the weight I put on. For a girl who graduated at 124lbs, putting on 33lbs was traumatic. I gained exactly that much with each pregnancy--only I didn't manage to lose it all in between.

I've learned to not get stuck on my weight number. But honestly? I cried when I first hit 130lbs (yes, I'm that shallow). Since then, I've come to a healthy acceptance of the number, whatever it may be. I figure, if I'm in shape and feel good about my body then it doesn't matter what I weigh. (Again, please don't read these numbers and groan. There is a point to my sharing all this.) The problem I have is, I am NOT in shape and I DON'T feel good about my weight. So I ask people about losing weight and I get the kind of answers that irritate me. "You don't need to lose weight; you're skinny. Look at me!" Let me tell you something. If I know I am not healthy, if I know that I am not taking proper care of this body that God has given me, then it doesn't matter if I am 5lbs overweight, 50lbs overweight or even 150lbs overweight--I need to change things. According to my BMI, I am overweight. According to how I feel when I am naked, I am a big blob of rising bread dough. It's time to change things.

I have been granted with an exceptional metabolism. If the average person ate like I did, she would be 500lbs and diabetic. For just over the last year, I have survived on a diet that mainly consists of Dr. Pepper, fast food and peanut M&Ms. Yes, I do cook on occasion and sometimes even healthy meals. Breakfast is a rare occurrence for me, so is milk. I used to go months without a single drink of water, but luckily the heat in TX prevents that from happening. I don't eat vegetables that have any nutritious value. I have dessert at 11 o'clock at night while sitting in bed. I am rarely truly hungry. I eat when I am bored, I eat when I am stressed, I eat because my body is so programmed to snack at midnight that it just feels like the thing to do. My day consists of chores in the house and parking myself in front of the computer. Because I live like this, my kids aren't much better. Now tell me I don't need to do something.

So, I am proposing a life change. I don't believe in "diets" that give you a temporary weight loss; eventually you have to go off that diet and figure out how to function without it. I do believe in changing your life style, however. I know what good proportions look like. I know how to sneak in healthy foods (which work for me and MC but the kids can detect that subtle change in taste and texture and won't touch anything. I've tried before.) I know my body well enough to know that as soon as I start walking and running, it will change shape.

What's stopping me from whipping myself and my family into shape? Only myself. I will have to get creative and put in a little more time than most to come up with meals that my family will eat. As it is, there are only 3 meals that all 5 of us will actually eat and none of them will be up for health food of the year. Exercising will mean waking up early so I can get a walk/run in before MC has to leave for work. It will mean relying on God more than food to get me through the day. It will mean keeping out of sight of some of my favorite things because I am not good at stopping before I cross the line into gluttony. Will I screw up? Spectacularly, I imagine. But I also know that I'm capable of these changes. I've done it before, I can do it again. This time, I know I don't have any big life changes ahead of me to derail me--that helps.

I am posting this here on my blog so I have some kind of accountability. If you are one of these people who think that because I am not 100lb overweight then I am fine the way I am, you are asked to respectfully hold your opinion. If, however, you understand my desire to be be healthy both physically and mentally, than I would love your support and encouragement. I am doing this without a gym, without putting any money into it. There will be no dietary supplements or personal trainers. Just me and God.

I'll keep you posted.

*Day 1--148lbs and sedentary.

June 14, 2012

Pitch This

Four days after returning from our camping trip and all the laundry is done, most of the gear is put away and the smell of campfire has dissipated (wiping away a tear). It takes me longer to put everything away then it does to actually go on the camping trip to begin with, but it's worth it. We had a few bumps along the way, but overall I'd chalk up our first family camping weekend in TX as a success.

I have to say, I'm quite surprised at how different camping in TX is from camping in WA. I know, I know, you all are rolling your eyes and saying, "DUH!" I mean, I knew it wasn't going to be exactly the same, especially given that it was in the 90s here while we would flip over 70 degree weather in WA, but for the most part I figured camping was camping, right?


Because I am such a giver, I would like to share with you what I learned while camping.

Friday night started out as most of our trips do--waiting for MC to get off work, then rushing around pulling last minutes things together and finally getting to our destination with just enough time to pitch the tent before we lost all daylight. The first problem came as we were driving through the campground and MC suddenly put on the brakes. What? Did you hit something? Did a cute little fluffy bunny run onto the road? What is it? Very discreetly, so the kids won't hear and freak out, MC turns to me and mouths the word "t-a-r-a-n-t-u-l-a". WHAT?!?! Are you kidding me? There was a freakin' tarantula on the road?? A spider big enough that you could see it from behind the wheel of your van? And you AVOIDED running it over??? Are you insane?? Forget the kids freaking out, I was a mess! I. Hate. Spiders. I actually started crying right there and told my dear, sweet husband that I wanted to go home. NOW. Monster spiders? I did not sign up for that, thank you very much. He checked with the registration office and they informed him that they rarely had any problems with tarantulas. Hello? The fact that one was spotted was a serious problem. But we were here, we'd already paid, and we had family coming to join us. I couldn't really cancel at this point. (Boy, was I tempted though.) So instead I scanned every square inch of grass within my vicinity, wielding that flashlight like a sword, ready to scream and take flight at the first sign of movement.  
Lesson learned? Ignorance is truly bliss. I never actually saw a tarantula the entire weekend but spent the whole time on edge waiting for one to show. If I hadn't known they were there, I would've been fine.

When you camp in WA, any site with a lot of trees is a good place to be because it means shelter if it starts to rain. I was quite pleased that we had a site with trees this weekend, it would mean shade during the hot day. What I didn't know was that, in addition to shade, trees offer a great sanctuary for all manner of bugs but mainly--you got it--spiders. Fortunately, no other tarantulas were spotted. In fact, I don't think we saw any that were bigger than a quarter. But what they might have lacked in size they made up for in quantity. They were EVERYWHERE. If we sat too long in one spot, we would have to break through web strings when we stood. Never having seen the spiders at work, they nevertheless would start using us as supports for their webs. We were constantly flicking them off our chairs, legs and shoulders. We had to beware when entering our tent so they didn't follow us inside.  
Lesson learned? When choosing a camping site in TX, pick the one WITHOUT any trees.

On Saturday, we took the kids swimming at Lake Texoma. They had a blast splashing around in the water and building sand castles. We got to do some exploring, too, but for the most part we just cooled off in the water. Let me rephrase that, the KIDS cooled off in the lake while MC and I relaxed on the beach. I brought out my ever present book and stretched out on a towel while MC snoozed on the inner tubes. Out there under the full sun I had sweat literally running off of me and the sand was full of ants that felt it was necessary to use me as a jungle gym, but I got to read while keeping an eye on the minions.
Lesson learned? I will put up with a LOT to get to read while the kids are occupied.

Bubba did tons some grumbling about not having any electronic games and he wasn't too fond of our hike...or the bugs...or the outdoors in general...BUT once we had a campfire going, his attitude changed. Give that kid some paper plates or sticks he can throw into the fire and he is set. My little pyro. I think the campfire is our favorite part. Really it was a little too hot, but we still started a fire to cook lunchtime hot dogs and then again in the evening for light as well as roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. You get everyone around that campfire and that's when we all relax. Everyone is hypnotized just watching the flames. And we do have a tendency to break out into song around the fire. Imagine that.
Lesson learned? A campfire can soothe many of life's grievances. I'm thinking we should gather all the world's leaders around a big bonfire and then, once their legs are all toasty and their eyes have glazed over, we have them sign a peace treaty. I bet they'd be much more agreeable that way.

As we were packing up on Sunday afternoon, I had to move MC's van to make some room for my SIL's truck. It was really hard for me to see out the back due to all our stowed gear and I couldn't quite see what I needed to out the side mirrors so I wasn't aware there was a tree behind me until I hit it. Hard. I got out to inspect the damage and was happy to see only minor scratching on the rubber covering the bumper. It was only when we got back home that we discovered the bumper was bent just enough that the back doors would no longer open. Yeesh. Figures it was me. But MC is not without incident. On the freeway heading home, he hit a bird. I saw it coming and thought for sure we would miss it, but no. I closed my eyes just before it hit the antennae and then the corner of the windshield with a really loud, really disturbing thunk. Nothing was left behind on the van, but I don't think Tweety made it.
Lesson learned? There is nowhere we can go and be safe from our unique type of luck.

(*Editor's note: I may never come back and visit this page again due to the spider pic. Blech!*)

June 12, 2012

The Real Competition

It's Tuesday again which means tonight you'll find me and the fam all huddled around the TV watching Design Star (8pm CST on HGTV). Bex Hale is one of the designers competing this season for her own design show and she happens to be an old friend of mine. She was in the church youth group way back in our high school days. She was always gorgeous, super talented (an artist, a singer, an actress), outgoing, fun and commanded attention wherever she went. You know, one of THOSE people--if I didn't like her so much I would have to hate her just on principal. And she hasn't changed; she's still gorgeous, still funny and still has talent oozing out of her pores.

Each week the designers have to compete in a different design challenge for the hope of being safe again for another week. The losers are booted off with the words, "We will not be producing your show." Thank you and goodbye. The winner will get to have his or her own show on HGTV. There is also an online voting competition where this season's "fan favorite" will win an online show. I am happy to say that I love all of Bex's designs, both in her online portfolio and in each episode, so I don't feel the least bit guilty about giving her all of my votes.

As I watch the designers pull off tasks that would be impossible for me to even contemplate considering my house is decorated in 21st century cast-offs that don't match, I wonder why someone hasn't come up with a competition show for those of us who have no talents, those of us who don't know the first thing about paint or lighting, who can't tell the difference between molding chocolate or fondant, and who would rather spend their time eating the cupcakes instead of making them look like miniature castles. How about a competition for those of us who can't sing OR dance, couldn't sell ice cubes in Hell, can't sew a zipper and like our Ben & Jerry's too much to consider losing all the nice insulation it's given us?

I would like to propose The Slacker Games, a competition for REAL people who must compete in the type of mundane, every day tasks that we will never otherwise get any credit for being so good at. Here are the challenges:

1. Practice Night Dinner
The challenge? You have 45 minutes--the time after soccer/dance/choir practice and before church/football/homework--to come up with a semi-nutritious dinner for your family. The catch? It's a week before payday and all you have left in your kitchen is ketchup, pickles, a box of Hamburger Helper and a wrinkly apple. You will be immediately disqualified for turning to your local drive thru for help.

2. Vacation Packing
The challenge? Your family is going on a 7 day vacation to a resort. You must pack enough clothes and toiletries to cover all scenarios--sun, swimming, hiking, and even the possibility of rain--you must throw in books and games enough to keep them occupied in down times without relying on electronics since this is supposed to be family bonding time, and you must also throw in snacks for the trip since airlines don't provide meals anymore and you can't afford the $10 nuggets at the airport McDonald's. The catch? You must pack everything in only 3 suitcases because the airlines now charge a minimum of $25 per bag to check in extra luggage. You must also limit your carry-ons because you will be too busy stripping off everyone's shoes, belts and dignity at security to keep up with a lot of bags.

3. The Impromptu Mother-In-Law Visit
The challenge? Your mother-in-law, who has never found you good enough for her beloved son, calls to say she "happens to be in the neighborhood" and will be at your door in 15 minutes. You must race around like a speed addicted squirrel stowing stuff out of sight and swiping dust off surfaces with the hem of your shirt. The catch? You've neglected all the housework the last week or so due to vacation/sick kids/apathy and now have quadruple the work you normally would. Points are deducted for stashing dirty dishes in the oven or smelly laundry under the bed. She is your mother-in-law; she will snoop.

I could throw in more challenges like folding fitted sheets (I would rock this category), grocery bag carry-in (how many of those bags can YOU carry?), staying dry while bathing the kids (this one might be near impossible), schedule coordination (3 kids, 3 practice locations, 2 parents), and my favorite--concentration. This is where you have to complete a task that requires reading and remembering while all your children are having different conversations with you at the same time, and your husband has just come home wanting attention and dinner.

There are so many more things we could add. It would be fun to watch regular people compete in the things we are doing every day anyway. But honestly, I'm not sure any of us would be willing to tear ourselves away from Celebrity Rehab long enough to to compete.

June 1, 2012

Is It Fall Yet?

About 2 months before school is over for the year I start looking forward to summer vacation. No more getting up at dark-thirty to spend an hour trying to get the minions out of bed and somewhat presentable for school, no more digging through the couch cushions trying to find coins for lunches because I'll never see the change if I give them dollar bills, no more battling the crazy drivers in the drop-off/pick up lines at school, no more riding herd on homework that doesn't make any sense to me. I start dreaming of when we are all free to relax, sleep in, and spend the days running through fields of wildflowers while cross-stitching verses together. Oh wait, maybe that was a movie on Lifetime.

Now it's here--the first day of summer vacation! And,'s not exactly the idyllic paradise I had in my head. In fact, if I'm honest with myself (which I so hate to be), I can recall this exact scenario LAST summer. There is a definite discrepancy between what I dream of and reality. Am I alone in this?

The Dream of Sleeping In:  If I don't have to wake up the kids and get them to school by 7:30 than I can sleep in. If we have no other plans then we are all free to lounge around in bed until we are well rested and ready to face a new day. Only after I have had a leisurely stretch and been allowed to slowly climb out of bed on my own timetable do I have to leave the comfort of my room and face another day.
The Reality:  Bubba and Sassy are physically incapable of sleeping in. After waking up altogether too early to the sounds of Spongebob on a TV that was turned up so the hard-of-hearing neighbor down the street could hear it, I get the kids settled on a much more reasonable volume and then crawl back in bed, only to be woken up an hour later to doors slamming, feet thundering, and kids screaming. My kids have a problem with too much energy zinging through bodies too small to hold it all in. For the most part, they've managed to keep it under control for the last 9 months, but now they are done. That energy has built and built and now it can no longer be contained. It's bursting through their limbs, out of control, until I have 3 Tazmanian devils pinballing off of each other with no regard whatsoever to who might be injured in the wake of their personal tornadoes. It all ends with kids crying, limbs bleeding and Mommy reaching for the Ben & Jerry's and locking herself in the bathroom.

The Dream of Shared Activities:  I have all kinds of fun activities planned for the summer--painting, crafting, hiking, library visits, camping. We can have reading time when we all sit together and I read out loud to them from Harry Potter. We can discuss the hidden meanings in our recent viewing of "Hugo". We can commune with nature and God's creation while hiking. We can bond while creating personal art projects to display in our rooms. We will spend the summer getting closer to each other and sharing secrets (theirs, not mine) and I will rejoice in knowing that my children like me, they really like me.
The Reality:  Camping? While most of us are on board, Bubba has informed me that he doesn't want to go because he's more of an "indoorsman". No one wants to take up our previously enjoyed hobby of hiking because it's TOO. FREAKIN'. HOT. And there are bugs. They are against bugs. While Sassy is up for any kind of crafting, the boys think it's booorrriiiinnnggg. And girly. We do all like to read but no one can agree on any one book. Howdy has read all the Harry Potter books and is trying to convince me to let him read my Janet Evanovich books that make me laugh til I wet myself. Bubba would rather read The Far Side comic books or cheesy riddle books so he can regale us with his own made up versions of the same jokes and Sassy wants to read about caring for the Wild Platypus Hawk or whatever animal has caught her eye this week. The only thing they can agree on is they DON'T want to go outside and marathons of The Fairly Oddparents are awesome. Meanwhile, I am searching the house for something to stab my eardrum with so I don't have to listen to the nerve-grating voices on Cartoon Network.

The Dream of a Clean House:  With soccer season over and no more running around after the kids, I will have more time to devote to housework. I won't have to rush to get caught up on a Wednesday afternoon between Chess club and bible class. The kids won't have 2-3 changes of clothes each day between school uniforms, soccer uniforms and play clothes, so less laundry. And with the kids around more, I can assign them each a few more chores to share the burden.
The Reality:  No school uniforms are great but now we have camp. Actually, the kids have a total of 3 different camps this summer in addition to the you-are-going-and-that's-final camping trip with the family. That means that I will have regular laundry loads during the week and then on the weekend when they return from camp, I will have to rush through washing all their clothes, towels and sleeping bags so they will be ready for the next camp. And going camping means I will at least double my usual laundry loads since the kids will inevitably fall into the mud, sit on a ketchup-smothered hamburger, or wipe their s'more-sticky fingers on their shirts resulting in--you got it--2-3 clothing changes each day. The kids hear the word "vacation" and seem to think it means a vacation from all responsibility. So what used to be an annoying job of reminding the kids 5 times each morning and evening to do their chores now becomes an hour long debate about how a break from school is not a break from life and why they need to continue to do their chores if they want to continue to live--and in my house.

During the school year, when we are pulled in 3 or 4 different directions and the kids' days are filled up with homework, clubs, sports and friends, I dream of the day when summer vacation comes and I finally get them all to myself. I miss having that time with them and laughing together. And then I get my wish. I have them...all to myself...24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I start counting down the days until school starts again.