Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Iraq and Such As

"It's a factorial, so you multiply each one by N."

No, despite the title, this is not a political post. I am so sick of politics I could vomit up a copy of the Bill of Rights. I just love that adorable, simple little Miss South Carolina. And I expect that partial quote in the title makes about as much sense as the rest of this post will, so it seemed fitting. 

I have five or six posts partially written and in draft form right now, but all of them feel too exhausting to finish. So rather than give a half-ass post that could actually be interesting to read if given the proper attention, I'll give a quarter-ass post that at least knows where it stands. Which is in the crap pile.

It's just really hard to be "on" on demand. I sit down and think, "Okay, brain. Be funny. And....go!" and I end up with a recipe post because I'm so tired and the small hole in my t-shirt has somehow grown in the past ten minutes and I'm just really, really hoping that the yellowy-greenish mark on the bed sheet is...well, anything but poop. Anything. And the funny just isn't there.

Bear's "first day of school" pic. 'Cause this is how we roll now.
So instead of even attempting to be "on" tonight, Wednesday, August 29, 2012, I'll just say that things are well. Homeschool is going well (I have actual evidence of learning, and it's NOT a standardized test!), Bug is growing up beautifully and healthfully, Husband is adjusting to first shift after fourteen years on off-shifts, and I'm doing un-spotted back handsprings on a soft mat with little to no fear. Our life is beautiful, and I try really hard to remind myself of that (out loud, in front of my family) when I feel the urge to scream at the sky because someone cut me off in traffic or I'm running six minutes late to an appointment.

Those are the top notes in my special, aromatic blend of effing crazy. What's yours?

I have every intention of posting a real, legitimate update on how our homeschooling is going so far, but that post will take time and I want to give it its proper due. Like I said, it IS going well and we're having fun, but I want to talk about it in more detail when I'm in the right mindset to do it justice.

If you've made it this far into this friggin' mess, thanks, and I hope you're soaking up the last few weeks of summer with every pore and every breath. I LOVE fall, but I hate what follows, so I always get this really weird sadness when I feel summer ending. And Pinterest is making it way worse because I see all the pretty clothes and they get me excited about fall weather until I remember that I don't actually HAVE any of them.

StOOpid Pinterest.

Whatever. Go outside and take a deep, consuming breath. Try not to suck in a bug. And leave your phone or laptop in the house. That's my advice for the day.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bug's Birthday Bonanza

"Now, I put a dollar in there so you can buy some milk. You can ask one of the big kids where to do that."

Disclaimer—"bonanza" might be a bit of a stretch. And thank the stars for that.

That said, when my precious little dude turned one on Sunday, my house was full of people who love him and it doesn't get much better than that.

Bug, Husband, FIL, and my own dad all have the same first name, which always makes parties interesting. And my SIL and I are both "Jen," too.

Not much creativity in our families, naming wise. But I love it. :)

So my little Bug smashed him up a chocolate cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting, made from the awesome linked recipes. We sang a horribly off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday" and let him tear into gifts and it was all very low-key and nice. My favorite kind of party, actually.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Scaling Back for a Minute

"' was your summer?' 'I got divorced.' 'My carpal tunnel came back.' 'I win.'"

Me 'n mah coffees
Since we're officially beginning our year of school today, I'm going to reduce my blog posts from M-W-F to just T-Th in order to keep from burning out or whatever. I know this is going to be really hard for all three of you, so try to hold it together. I might go back to M-W-F at some point, though. I just don't want to overextend myself. 

Writing this blog has become a real hobby for me and I want to make sure it stays that way. And I know how busy we're about to become, so it makes sense to scale back a bit until I get a feel for our new routine. Thanks for reading this crap and following along on our proverbial journey! I can't wait to tell you all about the total clusterf*** we're about to jump into. ;)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Starting School Next Week!

"And on the third day, God created the Remington bolt-action rifle so that Man could fight the dinosaurs. And the homosexuals. Amen."

So this past Wednesday, all of Bear's friends went back to brick and mortar public schools while she slept in, ate breakfast, lounged around, read books...and complained all day about the overwhelming boredom. My plan was to begin school on September 10, giving us a nice, long summer break, but Bear asked me if we can begin earlier than that because she's so incredibly bored out of her gourd.

So...we're starting on Monday! I had to revamp my lesson plans a little bit and move a few things around, but it's going to work out just fine.The first week isn't going to be too intense, anyway. Here's the basic plan for Week One:

Daily journaling (5-10 minutes; sometimes with prompts, sometimes not)
Chapters 1-10 of The School Story with vocab/spelling attached
Make our own offices (I'll do a post on this later, but it's so cool)
Possibly begin our Life of Fred math book, if we're feeling it.

Pretty basic stuff, really. Lots of reading together and being crafty, both of which Bear loves. All in all, I doubt we'll spend more than two hours per day "doing school" this first week. But honestly, I don't intend for our formal daily lessons to take much more than that even once we dive in. After all, Bear is one kid—not one kid in a class of twenty-five. And if Bug is being high maintenance or we get a last-minute invitation to play that we just can't pass up, we can always pause and come back later.

Anyway. We're really, really excited. Over the next few weeks, I plan to update about our progress, what is working and what's not, and also how I've pieced together our learning plan for the year. I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Crispix Peanut Butter Treat

"They're these weird Swedish nutrition bars. My mom used to give them to the kids in Africa to help them gain weight."

My favorite candy is a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, so when I saw this choco-peanut butter snack on Pinterest, I thought it might be right up my alley.

And it is! It was super easy to make, only requires four ingredients, and is really tasty. I actually doubled the amount of chocolate and still found that it didn't quite reach all the pieces of cereal, so I'll probably triple it next time. Even Husband, who isn't big on chocolate (blasphemy!), thought it needed more.

My photo does not do this justice. Click to enlarge.

The texture is perfect. It's crispy but slightly chewy, and not too hard. You could break this up into servings and put them in individual bags for an easy snack. You could also add peanuts or raisins or whatever little embellishment your heart desires.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Children and Chores

"I'm a pusher. I push people. I pushed my husband into law school. That was a bust. I pushed myself into working three jobs. And now I'm gonna push you."

10-minute clean-up!
I am of the mind that from a very early age, children should be involved in helping out around the house. If you Google "kid chores," you'll no doubt find thousands of lists and chart templates, detailing every conceivable age-appropriate chore for each phase of childhood. When it comes down to it, though, you have to dole out responsibilities based on your unique family life and your children's' unique personalities and temperaments.

Bear has had assigned chores for a long time, though our consistency in making her stick to them has been spotty at times. That's just sort of the way it goes, though. The moment we develop a working routine, something in life changes and it's time to figure it all out again.

We've just re-evaluated Bear's responsibilities this past week. Some of her chores remained the same, while others were swapped out. Bear earns $3 per week if all of her chores are done, and she's docked a quarter for any chore not completed. I know there are differing opinions on whether or not children should be paid for chores, but we feel that it's a good situation for Bear and we're comfortable with it.

Here is Bear's weekly chore chart:

Ella is our dog. Click to enlarge. The image; not the dog.

We used to have a much cuter chart, with stickers and her favorite cartoon characters, but in the name of being more frugal we've simplified the chart at this point. I intend to make a nice, permanent chart with chalkboard paint at some point, but that's not a priority right now with all the other things I have on my plate. I also intent to add "mix mommy a cocktail".

How do you keep your kids on track with their chores? Did you earn an allowance when you were a kid?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clutter Comparison

"I had a great life. But then my mom got offered tenure at Northwestern University. So it was 'Good-bye, Africa,' and 'Hello, high school.'"

Since the Great Uncluttering Endeavor began back in the spring, our family has come a long way. We've hosted two yardsales, listed tons of shit on Craigslist, and taken huge totes full of unwanted (but useful!) crapola to Goodwill. For some perspective, this is what our living room looked like before our first yardsale:

This is my living room back in May. Click to enlarge.

And this is what it looks like today:

Whoo-hoo! Click to enlarge.

So it's coming along. There is still plenty of clutter in our house and entire rooms that need to be sorted and cleaned, but our progress in just a few months has been really heartening for me. I feel like we might actually be ready to put this place on the market in eight months.

OMG...EIGHT months...shit just got REAL, y'all.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Break from Facebook

 "I got in trouble for the most random things."

As you may or may not know, I took a few days "off" from Facebook this past weekend. I found that I was getting too consumed in other people's lives instead of enjoying my own. Time I could have spent enjoying the final month before my son turns one was instead being spent playing Words With Friends and learning all I ever wanted to know about long-lost classmates' bedtime routines.

I knew that I wouldn't just stay off of it on my own because it's become such a part of my daily routine, so I had to actually deactivate my account AND remove it from my bookmarks. Facebook makes it far too easy to reactivate (you literally just log back in and voila), so I took it out of my bookmarks to prevent an early-morning, pre-coffee, habitual log in.

I'll be very honest—it was kind of hard. Not necessarily because I felt such a desire to check Facebook, but because, out of habit, I kept opening my bookmarks throughout the day and taking a second to remember what was up when I didn't see FB there at the top. How sad is that?

I'd feel a lot worse about it if I thought this was unusual behavior, but I know it's not. Social media has become as much a part of our cultural consciousness as glancing in a mirror every time we pass one. It's just part of what we do in America. I definitely have a lot more respect for Husband's stubborn refusal to set up a Facebook page because it really is such a time suck.

Anyway. I'm glad I did it, and I'll probably do it again in a few months. Have you ever stepped away from social media or email or just felt the need to "disconnect"?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let the Homeschool Adventure Begin

 "I know what you're thinking: home-schooled kids are freaks."

Last week I mailed in our letter of intent to homeschool. Kentucky is pretty chillax about the homeschool laws, but we are required to notify the superintendent of our district about our intentions and to provide some very basic information. So on Friday I went down to the Post Office with my little letter all typed up and sent it via certified mail. And we're off!

When Husband and I first decided that we were going to give homeschooling a shake, I admit I was pretty scared and intimidated. I'm impatient. I value my "me-time". I get frustrated working with Bear on her homework. Not a great recipe, amiright?

But then I began reading. I Googled. I libraried. I turned nouns into verbs all over the place until I began to get a picture in my head of how I could pull this off. Because while Husband will help out wherever he can, it will primarily be me acting as "teacher," and that's a little overwhelming.

But you know what? I got this.

My research showed me that homeschool can literally look like whatever you want it to. It's not about "this is how you teach at home." It's about figuring out your educational philosophy, blending it as well as you can with your children's and family's strengths and needs, and building from there. That's a little intimidating, too, because it's such a broad idea and frankly some parameters can be nice at times. But it's nice to know that there are a whole hell of a lot of "right" ways to do this, and plenty of time to correct any mistakes because it's far easier to catch up a few children than it is to catch up an entire class full.

I worried too about the reactions of my friends and family. Would they judge me? Would they doubt me? Would they think I was crazy?

Not a one of them. If any of them are thinking it, then they're hiding it well, because no one has had anything to say except to offer support and to ask reasonable, curiosity-driven questions. I projected my own initial fears onto my loved ones. I failed to give them their due credit and that's on me.

So here we go. We're planning to begin September tenth, our first act as homeschoolers being to take advantage of our new flexibility and freedom by extending our summer break. I do have plans for that first week, though they are light and not super structured. I have some bigger, more in-depth (but fun!) stuff planned for this fall, too, but again—we're taking it slow and enjoying our flexibility. Nothing too rigid, as I don't want to burn out a month in.

To everyone who will head back to school (whatever that school looks like!) in a few weeks, good luck and enjoy a great year! And thanks for coming along on our journey.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Taking a Break from Facebook

 "If you need anything or if you wanna talk to somebody...maybe some other time, when my shirt isn't see-through."

It's been a bizarrely overwhelming past few weeks. The Olympics are in full swing (rimshot/gymnastics pun), so I've basically been nursing what feels like a gymnastics hangover for days. Husband hasn't had a single day off work since July 4th (no, not even weekends). Bug is ever more mobile, not yet walking but still able to get into anything and everything ever invented. And Bear is a nine year-old little girl, with unique pre-teen dramas and problems which require much attention and nurturing and shit. On top of that, my work with my favorite client came to an end, and although it was a friendly parting and we totally intend to work together again, that was a financial hit. I mean, we're fine, but still. It was a hit. But that's how freelancing goes.

So yeah. My life is happy and good and full. It's just been a little tiring lately. Finally exhausted beyond his limit, Husband has scheduled a few vacation days for Monday and Tuesday and he's taking Sunday off, as well. So we have a few days to spend together as a family, and I've decided to take a cue from my dear friend Cincy Sarah and take a break of my own from Facebook.

I think there's a lot of value in taking an occasional break from too much connectedness. Facebook is undoubtedly a time-suck and I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by it the past couple of weeks, like I'm too involved in people's lives. I just need to get away from it for a few days and refocus on the people around me rather than the laundry schedule of an old classmate who lives in Des Moines and has either two or three children whose names I could not tell you if I spent a year thinking about it.

I will still be at the computer on a daily basis, as I do earn my tiny living writing. I have some things I want to get finished that I've been putting off, but which will be far easier with Husband home to keep the kiddos occupied. I'm not going totally off the grid at this time (though that is NOT out of the question down the road). But as sad as it sounds, Facebook is just way too ingrained in my mind as part of my daily routine, so in order to truly disconnect, I'm going to temporarily close my account tonight before I go to bed.

I'm looking forward to stepping away and refreshing my mind. See you back here on Monday!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Total Kraft Incompetence

"That is the ugliest effing skirt I've ever seen."

You'll notice that the piddliest section on this blog is the Krafty Krap tab. This is because I suck at crafts. Pinterest is the worst because it somehow inflates my confidence and convinces me that there's no reason I can't just grab Husband's old "Cut Your Mullet" t-shirt and make myself an adorable produce sack.

Fucking Pinterest.

However, despite my complete lack of Kraft Kompetence, I do have a few non-shameful projects under my belt. I can Mod Podge the SHIT out of some shit. Evidence of the time I spray-painted a basket is all over my front step.  And believe it or not, I even made myself a dress. From a pattern. With a sewing machine.

Granted, it was for a class in college and I had a very talented costume designer standing over my shoulder to assist when I screwed up (which I did), but I did do all the work myself. And the dress did fit like...well, like it was made for me!

I like to think that this is my great-great grandmother.
So while I harbor no delusions that I possess talent for sewing or crafting at all, I know that with some guidance and a little confidence, I can get by. This is why I'm going to ask Husband to please buy me a real sewing machine for Christmas. And then I'm going to harass all my talented friends (and I have many) about helping me. 'Cause see, I want to make some pretty things, but I need my capable friends to keep me from attaching my fingers to a pillowcase or some shit.

I also really want Bear and (eventually) Bug to learn to sew, by hand and on a machine. I am capable of re-attaching a button or closing a seam, but it's not pretty. It's functional. I want better fer mah babys.

I know that this is probably not the best time in our lives to be purchasing things that take up space, but I don't care. I want to be able to fix things without begging friends to take pity on me. I'd like to make my own bedskirt. I plan to make t-shirt quilts for both Husband and Bear. And I want to find a sweater at the GAP Outlet for $3.99 and know that the tear in the seam is not a deal breaker.

So Imma learn to sew better. If nothing else, this new adventure should provide you all with some entertainment. :/

Psst...talented friends—can I bring you a coffee or a Chai tea?