Monday, December 30, 2013

Movin' on up...

So. Moving Day is Wednesday. The house is very packed. The lease has been signed. We have a listing date for our house. It's all real, for super realsies.

That means we really did just celebrate our last Christmas here. I cooked the last big breakfast I'll ever make in my kitchen, baked the last pie, chose the last paint color. Things I've done dozens of times here are done now.

And it's fine. I am definitely feeling a little nostalgic, but I'm a nostalgic person. I have a very strong sense of place. For some people it's smells or sounds or particular sights. For me, memories have always tied most closely to places. So selling the home my children have known their whole lives is a little disconcerting, but it's also absolutely the right time and the right decision.

Anyway. There's a TON of stuff to do around here once we get all our crap out to prepare it for potential buyers, and I'm dreading the process but thrilled about having it done. Once we sell this house we can take a step back and just be for a few years. We can stop living in limbo, our stuff half-packed, our plans uncertain, in a neighborhood we hate and a house that's too small. A major source of stress will be no more.

We'll spend 18-24 months saving like crazy people so we can build our dream house in the boonies. We'll have a daily routine that is not dictated by home repairs and the stress of an uneasy housing market. I can get my toddler out of my bedroom and into his own. More than one person can poop at the same time.

We can just breathe. I really need a few years to just breathe. Probably not during the simultaneous pooping, obviously. That is not the right time to focus on breathing.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Why We are so Super Strict about Media

I actually wrote most of this post over a month ago, but this awesome article I read today inspired me to finally put it up. If you finish this post and still don't get my beef with tween-centered media, read the article for a far more eloquent and thorough examination.


She was a Minecraft Endergirl for Halloween—not iCarlybot or Hannah Monwaverlyplace or a Hey Jessie Labrat or whatever.
My daughter has a natural gift for acting. She can slip into a persona and sustain it so easily that it's shocking. She loves performing and trying on a character, just like her mama, except that she has more natural talent than I do. And this is a very cool trait. If she pursues acting with any real effort, I believe she'll find success and have a wonderful time.

The other edge of this sword, however, is that it tends to carry over into her daily interactions. Bear has always been a story teller. She doesn't maliciously or vindictively lie. I have never, ever known her to make up a story about someone to get them into trouble. She makes up stories about herself, inventing tales about long-lost pets, her dramatic birth in an airplane over Germany, a baseball team's worth of brothers and sisters who do not exist...and she SELLS IT.

So while I admire her natural talent and flair, I am not okay with the telling of tall tales for attention. I've tried to help her channel her creativity into her play and her writing, and it has definitely helped (as has being called out and embarrassed a few times by the people she was spinning faslehoods for).

The thing about Bear is that she is very, very susceptible to media influences. I think part of it is because of her natural gift for trying on different personae. But we have to be very careful about what she is exposed to, because if something looks like fun to her on tv or online, she will quickly adopt traits of the characters and run with them. We don't like her to watch shows about kids who are older than her and are dating and disrespecting everyone in their path. And that is pretty much every kid on every show on Disney and Nick. My ten year-old daughter sees these things and strives to emulate them. And she has friends who do that, too, which makes it even harder to combat.

Our longest struggle has been in trying to help her understand romantic relationships and their unrealistic portrayal on television. She think she's supposed to have a boyfriend, or at the very least, a crush, regardless of what she hears from me. Her friends all have crushes. The kids on tv build their entire lives around their crushes and boyfriends and girlfriends. So she began with the "dating" and "boyfriend" talk a long time ago.

My personal challenge in all of it has been in striking a balance between discouraging age-inappropriate talk while not invalidating her feelings. I don't think it's unusual for a young kid to have little crushes. Those feelings are real. But because of the influence of media, she believes they are far more significant than they should be at her age. This means that we have finally reached a point where I have had to just flat-out ban certain words and phrases from her vocabulary.

And keeping her away from the shows we disapprove of is next to impossible. While they've all been banned in our house, this is not the only place she spends time. Her grandparents have respected our request that she not watch that stuff at their house, but she hangs out with friends, too. And I cannot tell a mom or dad that their kids can't watch tv while my kid is there. There's also a lot of pressure from her friends to watch certain things. Not in a mean or bullying way; just in an enthusiastic, "why not?", we-have-to-talk-your-mom-into-letting-you kind of way. The latest battle over this was Teen Beach Movie. It's not that I'm worried about it being filled with sex and violence. It's just that my daughter cannot relate to a single thing in that movie, but she will try. And she is too young for those personae.

It's a very tricky path to walk, but fortunately being a "mean mom" comes pretty naturally to me, so I stick to my guns. Husband and I are in complete solidarity on this, which helps. He might even hate Disney Channel more than I do.

I'm not here to preach. No one should feel the need to defend their decision to let their kids watch whatever. It's none of my business. This is about my kid and her needs and I have no interest in parenting anyone else's kids. So take this for what it is—an explanation of my stance, not an attack on anyone else's.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

So...new plan...

After an exhausting but very fun trip to Chicago to visit Husband's family for Thanksgiving, we are home and looking forward to getting back to our routine. However, that routine will be changing very soon because...

*drumroll please*



We're moving!

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When we decided that building our house next year was just going to be cutting it too close, we were left with two options: stay in place for yet anther 18-24 months in our two-bedroom, one-bathroom home with four people and a large dog, or find a rental and at least live in comfort until we're ready to get into that dream house.

My mental health is at stake here, people, and I mean that sincerely. I've been having a bit of a difficult time lately and I think it's at least in part due to the extremely cramped living conditions around here. There is a toddler living in my bedroom, and while I have no moral objections to this, I am personally OVER IT. I can't spend another month in this house without an end in sight, let alone several years. I'm losing my mind.

So we looked at a few houses and as luck would have it, a friend of mine from my old days slingin' biscuits-n'-gravy at the Bob Evans was looking to rent her house. We took a look, found it to be a perfect fit for our needs, and put a deposit down. We have stuff to do to make it all even more official this week, but the plan is to move in on January 1st.

At that point, we'll do everything we can to our awesome-but-tiny house, put it on the market, and hope for the best. We're hoping it will sell quickly enough that we won't have to dip into our savings much. Hope being the key word.

In the meantime, we are going to try to relax and enjoy our last Christmas in this, the only home our children have ever lived in. Knowing that we're moving in less than five weeks has me both excited and incredibly sad and I know I'm going to cry like a...crying thing. But I'm very much looking forward to having our own bathroom (multiple toilets, people!), a separate bedroom for Bug and all his stuff, and a backyard that's as great as the one we have now (a luxury we did not expect to find). We're also going to have a guest room for the first time ever, which will double as an office. So when Bear is playing Minecraft and Husband is playing Call of Duty, they will not have to compete with each other to be heard.

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Husband gets holiday pay the week after Christmas, so he's going to try to work as many hours as possible while I pack like a mad woman. That will make for a tough week, but it will be totally worth it. I've been saving every box that's come into the house in anticipation of this move for almost two years, and between diapers and Amazon, that's a LOT of boxes. Still probably not enough, but a good start.

I'm beginning to ramble. I'm just incredibly excited. I'll post some pictures of our moving process when it really begins, but feel free to leave me any tips or tricks for simplifying a move in the comments.

Friday, November 8, 2013

October No Spend Challenge: How'd We Do?

October 3rd. That is how long I made it into the month before purchasing something I was not supposed to. I totally forgot that I was not supposed to be spending until after the fact. Bear had her first cavities filled that morning, so I let her pick what she wanted for lunch. And in the rush to get out the door in the morning I had not had coffee. So we had Subway and Starbucks.

Oops.

So to make up for it, I decided to leave my weekly mad money in the account and consider this my personal spending allowance. And I started adding "Do not buy anything" to my daily to-do list. Is that not the saddest thing you've ever heard? Besides the horrors of things like human trafficking, genocide, and disease? I think my to-do list comes right after disease.

On October 14th, I ordered some PlayDoh from Amazon to keep at my inlaws' house. They're keeping a family friend's preschool-age son during the day for a few weeks and the set looked like something he could get a lot of use out of, plus all the kids can use it when they go over there. Also, I had a $10 gift card, so it only cost me a buck out of pocket. Well worth it.

On the 18th, I bought Bear some boots. It finally got too cold for flip-flops, so this was an actual necessity. Then we got Wendy's for lunch on the way home. Also a total necessity, because I was very hungry, which makes me very grumpy, and Mean Jen was starting to blame every car on the road for every problem she'd ever had. Quick food was mandatory.

On the 20th, we had fast food again. This was because we'd all had sort of a long day and were in wretched moods and I WAS NOT COOKING ANYTHING.We may or may not have had fast food again on the 24th. Ahem.

And the on the 26th, I bought Bear some snowpants on Ebay. We got her a really nice winter coat at Once Upon a Child last month, but the snow is coming and she had no snowpants, so I broke my rule. But I got a pair of Zero Xposur snowpants in barely used, pretty-much-brand-new condition for less than $20, including shipping. So her coat AND snowpants (which will both probably still fit her next year) cost me less than $30, total. I feel zero regret about this.

But still. Not great. I am kind of terrible at this. Don't get me wrong—had I not been consciously choosing to avoid extraneous spending most of the time, this list would be much, much longer. So maybe if I treat every month like No Spend Month, it'll sort of balance itself out.

As a side note, I think I have given some people the impression that we are being actively frugal because we are kind of poor. Not the case. We've just discovered how fulfilling it is to feel like we control the spending instead of being controlled by the spending. "That's not in my budget" does not mean "We are broke." It means I have not budgeted for whatever "that" is at this  time and I have more desirable/important places to put that money. Often that place is into our savings account to sit and wait. Buying clothes for the kids at thrift shops or accepting hand-me-downs is not an act of desperation. It's just smart money management.

We are certainly not wealthy (or even upper middle class) people, but we haven't been broke in several years. You know, since I was in college and Husband took a $4 on the hour pay cut for his apprenticeship. The years of buying food with student loan money are behind us. Now we're just exerting control over our finances because it feels GREAT.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This Week in Homebuilding...

We're still firmly entrenched in "hurry up and wait" mode, but we can finally at least see the end of the...trench. I was going to say tunnel, but that is a mixed metaphor, which is apparently my thing. So we're ambling along down this...trench...looking for, um, the part where we the digging stopped and it slopes back up to ground level and I think that's the point where we're all moved into the house and settled.

We are nowhere near that. But we can make it out if we squint. Through our binoculars. Which are standard-issue in trenches, I think.

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This week I began emailing the contractors on our mediumlist so I can whittle it down into a shortlist. People in trenches love whittling. It passes the time. I've heard back from several who were able to eliminate themselves because they don't build in the areas we're looking at, or they only do $350,000+ homes, which is NOT us. There have also been a few that do fit our needs, at least on the surface, and have made it to the shortlist.

On a whim, I also Googled "be your own contractor". *snort* Nahgunna happen.

It's tedious. It brings about more questions that I didn't think of. I'm terrified that the budget we have carefully settled on is going to be inadequate and we won't be able to build next year, or ever. I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices we will be faced with, the headache of making sure everything is right, the worry that stuff isn't being done as well as we were told it would be or with the materials we expected and I won't know the difference until my house starts hemorrhaging energy or my roof need replaced in five years. I'm having daymares about being in this tiny, claustrophobia-inducing, project-riddled house for another five years. I'm scared we'll give up and end up settling for just building in a development on a half acre, or giving up on building all together because it's so incredibly overwhelming.

This process is terrifying.

But it's progress. It's a step toward our dream and I'm trying to enjoy it, even though it's stressful. We're hoping to begin actually talking to builders in person in February, though I am making no guarantees. Right now I wish I could just get my mind off of it. 


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Things I Do Not Care For: Homeschool Edition

I really like homeschooling. I do. It's an entire lifestyle, a community, and I'm glad every day that we have chosen it.

However. Like all communities, it comes with its rude neighbors, shady businesses, and dogs barking way into the night. Let's talk about some of those things in the homeschool community.

Things I Do Not Care For: Homeschool Edition

Dads as "principals"

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Oh, HELL, naw. Nothing. NOTHING. NOTHING sends me fleeing from a blog or website faster than seeing a homeschool mom refer to her husband as The Principal. I absolutely hate this. I mean, okay, I can laugh when she makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to sleeping with the principal, because that's kind of funny when the dad has only been cast as the principal for the purpose of the joke.

But this is not so in many homeschool families. I believe every family is different and blah blah blah. But damn, I find this so demeaning. It's sexist and it diminishes the role of the mother to subordinate rather than equal partner. Sure, I do most of the formal "teaching" in our house, but Husband and I make many of the administrative decisions together, and the rest mostly actually fall to me because I am the one in those homeschool trenches every day.

Husband certainly imparts his skills and knowledge to our kids whenever he can, too. But like I said, we are equal partners in this house, and while I consciously try not to judge other people's family setups, this husband/principal crap really pisses in my proverbial Cheerios.


The labeling wars

I have never seen more, abbreviated labels in my life. Everyone's super-special kid has twelve disorders coupled with seventeen various gifted labels. It is not uncommon to see a homeschool parent talk about their "DS, 12, PKD/ESPN/ADHD/OPP/ICP/TTYL/LYLAS with giftedness in LMNOP/G6/PBS" or some shit.

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I'm not saying all the various disorders and learning abilities/disabilities don't exist. I'm also not saying that these kids don't have these various things. What I am saying is that it kills me to see how snippy moms can get, trying to outdo each other with the labels. There is legitimate competition to see whose kid is a more delicate (but also more brilliant!) flower. I roll my eyes daily. It goes well beyond discussion about special needs or learning and devolves right into competition/virtual hair flipping, and it's maddening.


The over-achieving, hyper-stressed Mom

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You know her. She is on that committee. She can organize and supply that bakesale. She knows all those people who are Very Important. She is pretty in a whimsical, thrown-together-but-somehow-still-cute way. And oh, yeah—she's a huge, snippy, passive-aggressive bitch.

I thought I left her behind when we left the public school, but I was wrong. She is alive in the homeschool community and she is THRIVING. She plans all the outings and activities and co-ops and answers every question in a clipped, bothered tone on any and all of the fifteen online groups/boards she runs. She rolls her eyes and rushes around, screaming about how busy she is and that's why she has NO TIME for your shenanigans, yet she cannot stop her compulsive need to volunteer for every, tiny thing that crops up.

The thing about her is, she is actually not a bitch at heart. She is also not like the Annoyingly Perfect Mom because she is not chipper or perfectly put together. She is stressed and grumpy because she cannot say no, because she is a perfectionist to a fault, and because she genuinely wants to be more helpful than humanly possible.

So yeah. She drives me insane, but she's also misunderstood. It's due to her own actions, yeah, but still. You know if you need anything, OAHSM will jump over a semi truck to help you. She'll be frazzled and irritable and brash, but she will help. So while she is one of the most maddening, confusing, illogical people you've ever met, you know she means well and you simply thank her while biting your tongue and then shaking your head in private. She's a mess, but she's good people. And aren't most of us?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Frugal Halloween? Maybe?

Remember when Husband and I did the No Spend Challenge back in June? And remember how we spent? Okay, not much. We actually did REALLY well, I think. But here we are, settled in to a new school year, our vacation and most of the birthdays we celebrate behind us, and a brand new home on the horizon. So we've decided that it's time for another No Spend Month.

This time we're going to take it on in October. It won't be easy, since our anniversary and Halloween are in October, we are attending a wedding, and we have a family tradition of visiting a pumpkin patch. So what we've decided to do is budget a certain amount for each of those things and stick to it. Halloween candy is insanely expensive, so I gave myself a $20 budget and bought as much decent candy as possible at Kroger and I am going to worry less about making sure I have enough for every kid who might knock. Once it's gone, I'll turn out the lights and be done with it. Sorry, latecomers.

We're also doing a zero-budget costume challenge. Bug is going to wear a hand-me-down costume from a friend. Bear will have to create her costume out of things we either already have, or that she can borrow. It's going to require some creativity, but I think that's a GOOD thing. She is going to be a Minecraft Endergirl, so it's a fairly simple costume, anyway. Purple hair, black and purple clothes. Easy stuff.

Endergirl

Before we begun, I tallied up all of the "extra" spending we did in July, August, and September and came up with an average per-paycheck total. That amount will go towards our ALMOST PAID OFF credit card balance and our down payment savings fund during each of the three pay periods we have this month. I was both excited and nervous to see the number, but I think it was good to be faced with it. It's so easy to justify all those little purchases, but it can very easily get out of hand. And at this point I'd much rather sink that cash into a beautiful piece of land than an over-priced, calorie-laden cup of coffee.

Are you ready for this? I was not. We're spending about $250 per pay period (that's every two weeks) on "extras". YIKES. That's going out to eat, random little Amazon and Ebay purchases, alcohol, Starbucks, etc. So roughly $500 PER MONTH. That is sobering. But on the upside, that's $750 we'll be putting toward more useful things this month (three pay checks!), and we can use this buffer month to discuss a better way to budget for fun extras without spending thoughtlessly.

If you haven't done it before, consider logging into your online banking account and tallying up all the extraneous spending. We don't use our credit cards at this point, so I didn't have to take those into account, but if you do, make sure to include those purchases in your tally. It's a painful reality, but a good one to face.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Weeks into our School Year

We started back with our formal lessons on August 26th. Most of Bear's friends went back about a week and a half before, but we were too busy being at Disney World.

Nah nah nah boo boo?

All the local Florida schools were back in, too, but there were a LOT of European families there!

It's kind of fascinating (I think that's an oxymoron...) to me how different our first month looked this year as compared to last year. We were completely different homeschoolers a year ago. We were brand new to the game, unsure of how to relate to each other in this brand new way. Bear was still bitter with me about making her miss out on participating in drama club (which got canceled, anyway) and Project Ascent (which is cool, but nothing we can't do at home) and being with her friends all day (I won't even get started on that one). I was still actively struggling with the notion that school at home does not have to look like school at school. We were having fun and learning a lot, but I think we learned more about ourselves and our relationship than we did about Ancient Whatevapotamia or the SuperDuperFancy Equation.

We weren't floundering, as I approached everything with caution and tried very hard to be okay with discarding things that didn't work for us. But we were definitely finding our way. And after some ruthless but judicious weed cutting, we've found ourselves on a really lovely path. There are flowers to smell to the left and caterpillars to stare at to the right. There are volumes of historical fiction dangling from branches right at eye level. There are clear spots to stop and rest, to lay down a quilt and enjoy the silence, the freedom, and the power of choice.

It's going really well.

Lest you think me an optimist (the horror!), there is no pie in my sky. There is usually pie in my refrigerator, because I am a compulsive baker and also PIE! PIE! But you know, every day has its hiccups. It's not all caterpillar watching and flower smelling. There are days when it takes me five or ten "gentle reminders" in an increasingly loud voice to get Bear to mosey downstairs and PUT THE DAMN POET IN YOUR BOOK OF CENTURIES! My favorite delightful challenge as of late has been the crapping out of my printer, which I need to make copies of our math and grammar pages and sometimes other fun stuff, too. Not to mention the way Bug seems to believe read-a-loud time is also scream-loudly-about-milk-or-some-unintelligible-yet-crucial-Thing time.

But I gotta tell you—after a full year and one month of this life, I cannot imagine giving up this in the middle of the morning for anything:

My babes, sharing an apple in their cushion fort.

It's been the right choice for us from the word "go". I hope everyone's school year—home, private, public, magnet, Montessori, military, whatever—is going fabulously. And I hope ours KEEPS going fabulously. *crosses fingers*

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Really Good, Really Simple Meatball and Hamburger Recipe

At the request of a few family members at Bug's birthday party last month, I'm putting up a link to the recipe I use for meatballs and hamburgers. It's not my original recipe and it is available online, so etiquette dictates that I should link to it rather than copy/pasting it.

I assure you, though—it is worth a simple click-thru. This is a really delicious beef recipe. I found it in the hard copy of Kentucky Living Magazine (June 2013), but you can see it online HERE.

Mmm, simmering meatballs...

Top it off with a little mozzarella, and YUM.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

...the things that they find floatin' 'round my brain...

The past month or so has been extremely busy, between traveling to Florida for my brother's wedding and hosting Bug's birthday party (he's TWO. TWO). So rather than put together a real, decent blog post, here are some of the things that have been occupying my head space over the past few days. It is a very random, very profanity-laden list.


I don't like "Blurred Lines". There, I said it. I love a fun, upbeat, summer song as much as the next Joe, but this one makes Robin Thicke sound like a poor man's Justin Timberlake. It's too muddled to be slick and too produced to be raw. Thicke's vocals are not particularly strong throughout the entire song. It sounds cheap to me and I don't get its appeal. And that's not even taking the whole VMAs/Miley Cyrus/Foam Finger Seen Round the World incident, which is something I will do my best to never, ever reference on this blog again.


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It is unacceptable to me that the media is discussing Princess Duchess Kate Middleton Cambridge Windsor Wales Buckingham England's body. At all. Like, before she got pregnant, and now. Do not discuss her plans to "bounce back". Do not discuss her courage at having the audacity to not hide behind muumuus while her uterus shrinks back to size. Do not crow about her diet or her workout routine or her ankles or her hips. Just do not. I don't fucking care how famous she is, it's crass (she said, as she dropped an 'F' bomb), it's trash, and despite your best intentions (yeah, right...), it feeds our societal obsession with the shape of the female form.

Do not try to even it out by talking about the occasional famous man's body, either. Stop doing it to all celebrities. Kim Kardashian's belly is none of your business. Jessica Simpson's belly is none of your business. When one of them goes to the grocery store a few months after giving birth, she is not "debuting her post-baby body!" She is buying milk. So just shut the fuck up, media. S. T. F. UP.

Look at her, grocery shopping and shit. Who does she think she is? Source


Old wives' tales that will not die. Things like, "Plucking gray hairs causes two to grow in its place!"  While plucking them is not a good idea (that I totally do anyway), it's not because two hairs will suddenly start growing from a single follicle. Science, people.

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I think I've mentioned before that I love Charlotte Mason's philosophy about education and child development, and that we are adopting many of her ideas. That said, we are very "Charlotte Mason light". I use a lot of her ideas and things as guidelines, but the claustrophobic side of me comes out swinging and clawing for air if I try to put us in too tight of a box.

For example, CM espoused the importance of having a child "narrate" back what they've learned, through a variety of methods, and I totally agree with that in principle. But I don't plan a narration activity every day or for everything we study, because I find that it's often unnecessary. Bear does a lot of things on her own that I think count as "narration," such as asking deeper questions about the material, playacting the stories we've discussed, or telling her friends all about what she's learned. So while I keep my Reading Comprehension Cubes handy, I only pull them out on occasion. I like to think Charlotte would approve.


Doesn't she look like a kindly woman?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Super Duper Awesome Strawberry Banana Muffins

I have been getting so many awesome, top-quality, non-squashy strawberries this summer that I decided I needed to bake with some of them. I made Andrea Dekker's strawberry pie several times and it was a BIG hit, but I wanted something baked and breakfasty. So I scrutinized my favorite banana chocolate chip recipe to see how I could switch it up for a strawberry-friendly version. Here's what I came up with:


Strawberry Banana Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 & 2/3  c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½  tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup smashed bananas
  • ½ c. crushed pureed strawberries
  • ½ c. butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350°.


Spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking liners. Set aside.


In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside.


In a small bowl, whip the egg whites to a fluffy consistency. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, fruit, and melted butter. Add the fruit mixture all at once to the flour mixture. 

Stir by hand until just moistened (batter may be a bit lumpy and dry-ish). Mix in the fluffy egg whites by hand. 

Spoon the batter into the 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 20-24 minutes, or just until a wooden toothpick inserted into centers of the muffins comes out dry. Do not overbake. Remove from muffin cups to cool.



I love these for August-September, because the fruit makes them feel like a summer treat while the spices give them a slightly autumn-y flavor.

This recipe is for twelve muffins. Unlike cupcakes, I fill my liners up to the top for muffins. I like a big, fluffy muffin.

*snicker*

But if you prefer a smaller muffin (again, *snort*), you could probably get 18 muffins out of this. Just adjust your bake time accordingly. Maybe check them at 18 minutes. Just do the good old toothpick test. Goop on your toothpick means give it a few more minutes (I like two minute increments); solid, clinging crumbs or a clean toothpick means you're good.

Fill 'em up...

...for a full-size muffin.

Mmm...strawberry...

There's a lot you can do with this recipe, too. Just off the top of my head, you can:

  • top it off with a simple streusel;
  • use any combination of berries or most fruits. Finely diced apples, mango, whatever. Just use about a cup of fruit;
  • give it a healthier spin by swapping out the white ingredients. My friend Caroline from Ingredi(r)ants suggests increasing the amount of banana, cutting the sugar by half, and substituting whole wheat or spelt flour for the white flour;
  • or play with the spices. I have made these without cardamom. I have made these with mace. Use whatever you like to change the "seasonal"-ness.

So yum. My favorite muffin recipe here for your taking. And now I want to go make more.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Reducing the Cacophony

My brain is a loud, chaotic place. It's like a computer screen with twelve tabs open at once and a different, discordant song playing in each one at full volume sometimes. And if I've overdone the caffeine, it's even worse.

One of the reasons we want to escape the suburbs for something a bit more rural is to reduce some of the noise (literal and figurative) around us. We're decluttering in every way we can, from the number of possessions we have to the number of people who live within walking distance of us. We want to slow it all down.

We've been working on this in a number of ways. Here are some of the conscious steps we've taken to tone life's soundtrack down a little bit.

1.) Getting rid of crap we neither need nor want. Remember our yardsales and mass Goodwill dumpings last year? That hasn't ended. Sure, the bulk is gone, but I keep a box in my bedroom closet for "donate" stuff and once it's full, it goes.

2.) Fighting paper clutter. Paper is a nightmare wrapped in a horror movie. We go through mail when it comes in the door, and we recycle and shred, but we've been guilty of letting the shred pile get WAY out of control before we get to it. And then it not only takes a good half hour to eliminate, but we have two huge bags of paper shreddings to cram into the recycle bin. I've now made shredding one of my "Sunday chores". Sunday is the only day of the week that I do particular chores (change pillowcases, wash out the coffee maker, etc.) and now shredding paper is one of those. The rest of the week is reserved for ignoring chores and sweeping only when my crumb-covered feet insist.

Every day of my life.
3.) Being less connected. This is a hard one for me and some days I do better than others, but a few months ago I started gradually paring down my Facebook friends list, leaving groups I was in, and being more assertive in choosing the posts and people I hide. It's nothing personal; I just needed (and still need) to eliminate some of the cacophony and every group I was in or page I was a fan of was another reason to engage online. I need fewer reasons/excuses. I also felt like I knew way too much about way too many people. Not even necessarily personal or private type stuff. Just stuff. It was all contributing to the constant clatter in my brain, but that's certainly no one's fault but my own. 

I still spend too much time online, but I feel like that time is at least a little less cluttered and more streamlined. And of course, it was never the people who were "cluttery" to me. Just the sheer volume of information and interaction. And I'm not exactly quiet, myself. I am not the least bit offended at the thought of someone hiding me because, while they may like me fine, they may want to see fewer pictures and videos and sarcasm-laden posts from me. I get it.

4.) Reducing expectations. We've done this in many areas of our lives. I've forced myself to let go of some control and be okay with the somewhat sloppy towel folding job that Bear does, because regardless of how sloppy it is, it's a load of towels I didn't have to gather, wash, dry, fold, and put away. So if the linen closet doesn't look like it should be featured in Better Homes & Gardens...well, it wasn't go to look that way, anyway, so who am I fooling?

We've also downsized our plans for our land. We wanted ten acres for our family, but we've realized that between five and ten is really plenty for us, will be simpler to maintain, and will be more easily attainable. And we're good with that.


My anxiety makes it necessary for me to shut the door on some things sometimes, just to keep myself from falling apart. I've found that by using the words "yes" and "no" with more care and thought that I can reduce some of the chaos pretty significantly.

Is "pretty significantly" an oxymoron? Great. Now that's going to bother me all day. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Somethin's Happening Here...

"...What is is ain't exactly clear."

It's raining shoes! See any in a size ten?
Things at Casa Jen have been going eerily well lately. I'm not saying that life usually sucks or anything, because it doesn't. Life has been good to us. But things have been falling into place in a way that has me sort of watching my back, looking up and waiting for the proverbial shoe to come down and leave treadmarks on my face.

I hope it's a Croc. Those things are so light and squashy.

Anyway, I know this all sounds horribly cynical. When faced with the choice between cynicism and unapologetic optimism, I almost always go with cynicism. It's because I hate feeling like I've been taken in, so rather than risk naivety, I choose to be an eyebrow-raising asshole. It is my way.

Anyway. Let me explain what I mean by everything "falling into place". It's mostly been about timing. For example:

1.) Husband was talking to someone at work about our hopes to buy land and build and the guy told him that his family had just put five acres on the market in Indiana, pretty cheap. It's a little farther out than we want, but the price is definitely right and it has a good building site, plus a pole barn on site. That stoked our interest in looking at land again.

2.) The excitement over looking for land got us talking about the process again and we decided to schedule an appointment with our bank to discuss our financing options. An hour later, OUR BANK CALLED US. They called to offer refinancing, but the timing was strange, especially since they never call us.

3.) A few days after that I was looking on Craiglist and various MLS sites, dreaming about the perfect spot to build our life, and starting to feel pretty hopeless. I took a break and hopped over to Facebook. The first thing, right at the top of my feed, was a link to this blog post:

When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.

The main photo in the post is a gorgeous picture of a farm. And here's a quick excerpt:


"Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.

When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.

When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door."

WHAT!?

4.) Husband got a definite graduation date. He'll finish next spring.

5.) Husband got the raise he's been promised repeatedly for about a year. Someone finally got it done for him and it's a raise that will make a big difference for us, as long as we continue to live below our means.


A beautiful piece of land we looked at last week
All of this happened in the span of a single week. It just seems like the universe is telling us to "Go!" We were pretty close to the brink of giving up for a few years, frustrated by setbacks and a sense of being "stuck". But all of these things (and a few other things, too) have re-energized us and even though it's scary, we feel like we'll be able to break ground on our dream home within two years. We have a lot of stuff we're working on right now and nothing set in stone yet, so I'll update about it all again once it's gone from "hope and speculation" to "facts and figures".

But I am DEFINITELY getting excited. With a capital DEFINITELY.


Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.
When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.
When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door.
- See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/answer-the-door/#sthash.JnTQrzOM.dpuf
Take a step toward it–this day, this week, this month. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s convenient, whether or not it’s easy, or whether or not there’s cereal for dinner one night.
When your dreams come knocking, don’t ignore them. Don’t rationalize them away or make excuses.
When your dreams come knocking, just answer the door.
- See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/answer-the-door/#sthash.JnTQrzOM.dpuf
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.
When your dreams come knocking, answer the door.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Had an Epiphany

This week I did this on my own for the first time ever in my entire life (Um, might not be SFW due to excited language):



Twenty-one years after I fell in love with gymnastics, I did a round-off back handspring on my own. Pretty cool, huh?

The reason I'm posting this is not because I want to show off, although frankly I'm pretty damned proud of myself and everyone should probably applaud me and send flowers or something. Obviously.

No, the reason I'm talking about this is because of what happened after I left the gym. I got in my car and started to cry. Not subtly, either. I'm talking wet, snotty, dripping, body-wracking sobs. Shit was LOUD. And so, so cathartic.

I realized, quite suddenly and without any warning, that I am absolutely emotionally exhausted. I'm pushing my thirty-two year old body to do things that feel unnatural and scary and I LOVE it. But rather than living and reveling in that, I punish, berate, and degrade myself for not being perfect enough. I avoid being in photos because someone might be able to tell from my little belly roll that I've gone through two wonderful, beautiful pregnancies. I've balked at posting many videos and pictures with myself in them because I worry that I look too fat or my skin is too broken out (post-natal hormones, kids!) or my hair looks bad or whatever. And WHY!? Who do I owe this perfection to? Whose eyes, exactly, am I protecting?

No more. I said that out loud to myself a good ten times. No. More. 

On my way home from the gym, I cried because I was overwhelmed by the sense of power I had. I cried all over my steering wheel because no matter how much I thought about it, I could not hate my body. I couldn't muster the energy to care that I have a real woman's body because I had just spent all my energy being fucking awesome. It was the weirdest sense of peace and chaos I have felt since the births of my children. To utilize a cliché, something just clicked. Something in my mind shifted, and I grew.

And I haven't cared about impressing anyone since. I haven't felt the need to let disclaimers about my body or my ability or my anything hang in the air, apologizing for me before anyone has the chance to disapprove. I don't owe anyone a flat stomach or thighs that don't touch or skin that "glows" or perfect teeth or a flawless pedicure.

I just don't care. My body and my mind are strong, and healthy, and powerful. They are perfect for me.

I feel really raw and uncomfortable here, but my poetry teacher in college always said to, "Write the poem that scares you." Talking about my personal insecurities is the poem that terrifies me. Taking chances on success is the poem that keeps me awake at night. So I'm writing it, for all three of you to read. I want my entire life to be the composition of the poem that scares me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pinterest in Real Life: Patriotic Cupcakes

About six hundred years ago or some shit, I saw these awesome looking camo cupcakes on Pinterest. I definitely wanted to make them at some point and the tutorial seemed simple enough. Well, I decided that I'd give them a shot for Husband's and FIL's birthday party this past weekend and went with a red, white, and blue theme instead of the camo.


They turned out pretty well, surprisingly. I used a red velvet cake mix and a white cake mix, half of which I dyed blue.


The colors didn't blend together, which was my primary concern, so I was pretty pleased. However, this was not a process without its setbacks. There were abundant, "Oh, shit!"s and "I mean, F$%&!"s. Abundant.


I used disposable piping bags for the batter, but I should have listened to my gut and bought some batter tips at Michael's the other day. Instead I used small decorative tips and couplers, just to get the batter out in small blobs. Poor life decision. My kitchen legit looked like a crime scene. If a friendly neighborhood cop had been patrolling my fenced-in back yard during this time, I imagine he would have drawn his gun and called for backup. That red velvet batter is the real deal, kids.

So the cupcakes turned out pretty cute, and all was good. But I had also seen a cool tutorial on—wait for it—Pinterest for inserting a white chocolate truffle into the center of a cupcake. Lindor White Chocolate Truffles are one of Husband's favorite candies, so I thought, Why not? I snipped a little 'X' into each hot cupcake and popped a truffle down in there. It worked great, easy peasy, no issues.



Anyway. I had pre-made my frosting a few days before to save myself some day-of work, but I didn't let it thaw long enough and kept testing it out only to find it was still too hard and my lovely roses looked more like tangled yarn. Even once the frosting reached the desired temperature, the presence of the truffles created a bit of a sinkhole, which is NOT ideal for roses, as they begin in the center. So I ended up doing some regular swirls and popping some cupcake gems on them. Not my best work.


Speaking of the frosting—I was going for red and blue, but man, no matter how much red dye I dripped in there, I could not get past pink. My base frosting did have a slight yellow cast from the butter (and I cannot use lard. Ew.), which I tried to counter with a single drop of purple, but I couldn't get a true white base. I've heard you can use European butter for a true white, but I don't think I care that much. I'll keep experimenting, I guess. My neighbors love when I try to figure out how to do shit because they end up with the possibly-ugly-but-always-tasty end product.

Final thoughts? These were...okay. But:
  • I should have use white frosting with the red and blue, or not done multi-colored frosting at all. It would have looked better. 
  • I should have baked these day-of instead of the night before, because the truffles hardened back up in the fridge and did not work at ALL. 
  • I should have let my frosting thaw MUCH longer than I did. 
  • I should have used batter tips or just spooned in the batter. 
  • And I should have done swirls instead of "roses". 
It wasn't a total bust, but if I do these again I'll leave out the truffles and go with just white frosting and maybe some red and blue sanding sugar. I think the effect would be much less busy. Or I'll stick with a traditional filling.


On another note, a quick tip for freezing frosting ahead of time: wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it like that in a baggie. You can take it straight from the bag to your piping bag, no scooping, spooning, or cleanup necessary. Every once in awhile my brain works in a logical way.

Frozen in the plastic wrap and tucked in a bag. MUCH tidier.

Monday, July 1, 2013

No Spend Month: How Did We Do?

*snort*

Not great.

I mean, not terrible...but definitely not great. It all began when I went to Old Navy to return some dresses. Bear was at day camp and had only one pair of shorts she could wear, so I decided it was okay to buy her a pair of shorts, because she cannot wear the same pair all week. So I picked up some shorts for her. And a camisole. And a tank top. Also, I may or may not have perused the women's clearance and found a pair of shorts for myself. Nothing expensive, but that's not the point. I should not have been perusing any women's clothing, anyway.

However. I now own one pair of shorts. So I don't regret buying them, but it was definitely a no-spend fail.

Bear's tie dye roses
Then there were the flowers Husband and I bought for Bear to congratulate her before her performance at drama camp. Again, I do not regret buying them, as she felt so special and loved when they were brought to her before the show.

We may have had Arby's for dinner one night. I can neither confirm nor deny this possibility. But I will say that we did, and it is true.

Then a friend of mine got me a job doing some occasional work for a caterer and we decided that we'd use just that first night's pay to go out to dinner. Ahem. I got three meals out of my Olive Garden dinner. The dinner we bought. With money. Money we were not supposed to spend.

And because my brother is getting married this summer and I had to get new dresses (I bought them in May!), I obviously had to have an appropriately cut shaper to go underneath. I got the exact one I wanted on Ebay for a great price. With money. Money I was not supposed to spend.

Shorts, flowers, two meals, and some Spanx. Not a perfect record, but not as badly as I feared we'd do. I think we may try again in September. Anyone else planning to do a no-spend month?


Monday, June 3, 2013

No Spend Month

One of my favorite bloggers, Andrea Dekker, recently wrote about how she and her husband took on a no-spend challenge. For an entire month they bought only the essentials and things they needed for already-planned projects. But no going out to eat unless they had a gift card, no unnecessary or impulse purchases, nothing.

Husband and I decided to give it a try ourselves this month. We will not go out to eat except to pick up food for our Father's Day tradition. We won't buy any clothes that aren't an absolute NEED, which means we shouldn't have to buy any at all. We can make it on what we have. No little splurges on Amazon. No Starbucks aside from the little bit of cash I have left on my card. We each get a little allowance of $20 per pay period, which we can spend if we want, though I mostly intend to save mine up and use it for a pedicure and a spray tan for my brother's wedding this summer. Bills, groceries, gas, already-planned house projects, and already-planned gifts. That's it.

So while that sounds super boring, I'm actually really excited to see how we do. I'm not a crazy shopper or anything, but I am notorious for the spur-of-the-moment online purchase. I get an email with an amazing coupon code and those jeans I've been watching for months happen to be on sale? I'm buying them. I see great reviews for an interesting sounding book? I'm downloading it. I rarely go out shopping, but I buy something just about every week. The UPS guy is practically family.

It's a good time for us to do this, because our vacation isn't until August, and we have a ton of birthdays in July and August. June is a quieter time for us. We're three days in and the only non-essential we've bought so far was pizza for dinner last night for us and my inlaws, but Husband and I used our personal cash and split the cost. They kept our kids for us while we went to a wake and bringing a simple dinner for everyone seemed like the best option, so we did it.

I'll have to temper the temptation to shop by staying off Amazon, spending time at the library, and saving my Starbucks card for a really weak, spendy moment. But I know we can do it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how some extra frugality impacts our finances, even though it's just for a month.

Wanna join us in Cheapdom? If taking on an entire month seems too daunting, try a no-spend week, or pay period. Just to challenge yourself.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yuck. I Hate this Part.

Parenting is hard, y'all.

Recently we had to put the kibosh on one of Bear's friendships for the first time. We've always made a careful point not to do that, even if we weren't particularly fond of a kid because we feel that kids need to choose their own friends and make their own mistakes. However, this particular friendship had clearly reached its logical conclusion.

I'm not going to say negative things about anyone's child, but Husband and I decided that both the physical and emotional safety of our daughter was being compromised by this friendship and we finally had to exercise our parental rights to end it. Bear handled it well, as I think she had pretty much reached the same conclusion, but it still sucked to have to do. The kid is not a "bad" kid. She's just having a very negative impact on our daughter's well-being and so that was that.

She misses the convenience of the friendship when she's bored, and I do feel bad for her about that. But she has a few real, true friends who we don't mind driving her to see. Just another reason to get the heck out of this house as soon as possible. *sigh*

Some of her closest friends at her birthday party. Lazer Tag, anyone?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Love Your People

News came in last night that a family friend died tragically. I knew him, and he was a good guy. He was my uncle's best friend of more than twenty years, the uncle who is only five years older than me. We were raised more like siblings than uncle/niece and it's gut-wrenching to see him and his family suffering this way. This friend had young children. How do you choose who has to tell little kids that daddy is gone forever? Whose job is that? And how do you start that conversation? How do you choose what moment is best to change everything for them forever, to rip the security blanket from their backs and change their fundamental worldview?

What the hell do you say?

I have zero percent of the answers. Even today, as I cried a little here and there and worried about my family and this man's family and wished as hard as I could that I'd finally be the person to discover that elusive Right Thing To Say so I could fix it all, I still grumbled at my kids and cussed when I banged my knee and rolled my eyes at stuff that annoyed me. And constructed run-on sentences.

So maybe this is more for me than for anyone else, this reminder that we need to love our people as hard as we can every day. To create a solid 10:1 "I Love You" to "Grumble, grumble" ratio. To hug them perhaps a few seconds longer than they want us to.

I don't effing know. This life is so crazy unfair and crazy beautiful and crazy crazy. I don't have those elusive, perfect words. All I have is a collection of moments with my people, and I want those moments to count.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Things I Will Never Be Able to Teach My Children

At some point, many homeschoolers hear some version of the snide, "What qualifies YOU to teach? Do you have a degree?" I have not been subjected to this ignorant and most offensive query, because I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who have witnessed my Jeopardy! prowess are aware of my mad trivia skills. 1066? Battle of Hastings, mother f***er!

That said (so elegantly), I'm not as arrogant as I may seem. I know my limitations. And also, rote memorization is not real learning, anyway, so my quick recall on a well-known date means little. I believe an emphasis on critical thinking and instilling a desire to learn is far more important than being good with dates, and I try to learn my youngins in such a way.

Still, even with that in mind, here are a few examples of things I am fully aware that I will never, ever be able to teach my children:


High-level mathematics
Just about any homeschool parent you talk to will tell you that, at some point, they felt the panic of, "How am I going to teach calculus?" I never even took calculus. I was required to take Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. And that is exactly what I took. Nothing more, nothing less. In college I took Math for Liberal Arts Majors. It was the only math credit I was required to have, and by god it was the only one I took. And I got a C in it. That was mostly because of attendance, but still. I am capable of better.

I would be proud if this was my kid. For reals.
Anyway, back to the choking, paralyzing fear of how to approach upper-level math. Simply put, I won't teach it. Seriously. I will teach my children the math basics that they will use in their lives, much of which you don't really have to "teach" to children because, like reading, the ability to add, subtract, and logically solve real-life math problems can be self-taught. We often play percentage games, where I let Bear figure out tips or sales and tax prices. We're going to do a 5th grade math workbook next year, just to "cover" math. But I can say with absolutely no hesitation that I have learned far more math as an adult in the real world, simply by putting the basics to use, than I EVER did in school. In school I came to understand that I was "bad" at math. As an adult, I've realized that I'm actually really good at it. I use it often and I use it well. But "it" has never been trigonometry.

So upper-level math. We'll determine its necessity for things like the ACT or SAT or whatever in high school. If we find that there is a need to learn it, I have many, many options, from private tutors to Leaves of Learning to free online resources galore at my fingertips. Very few teachers are experts in all the subjects they teach, as evidenced by the egregious grammatical errors I often spotted on letters home from Bear's former school. *shudder*

Skilled handicrafts
Awesome handmade hats from my friend, KP
We've discussed my komplete and utter kraft inkompetence, have we not? And yet, I find such value in the ability to be able to create beautiful things. I love the Charlotte Mason style of learning and while I have no intention of following it to the letter, I love her belief in learning to create useful things with our own hands. I have never been a fan of handprint turkeys or other such nonsense, cute as it may be. I love the sweet ornaments my Bear made for us in Kindergarten, because they can hang on our Christmas tree and make us smile. They are useful.

That said, when it comes to creating beautiful, useful handicrafts, I'm basically useless. I've been learning to sew a bit, and I can fix a simple hem or sew on a button just fine. But I cannot crochet, or knit, or embroider, or whittle, or any other delightful craft. And I can't teach my children to do those things, either.

But...I know people who can. My mother-in-law is a whiz with a paintbrush. She can also crochet, she has already taught Bear to cross stitch, and she's adept at figuring out things she's never done. Husband gets his handiness from her, I think. He uses it in different ways, but the talent for creating useful things with his hands is the same.

I'll never have the patience or probably even the drive to truly master any handicrafts, and will therefore be unlikely to be of much use to my children. But we're fortunate to have access to talented people who love us and want to share their gifts and knowledge with us.

Perfect homekeeping
In this season of my life I'm lucky to get by with adequate homekeeping. Technically the laundry and the dishes and the tidying up and the toilet and the bathtub and the bed-making and the vacuuming and the sweeping and the mopping and the dusting fall under my chore umbrella. Chorebrella.

But yeah...no.

This is what a priority looks like.
I could get all of those things done in a day. I could. I could do it if those were all I had to do. However, I am also responsible for planning, shopping for, and preparing the meals; overseeing the budget; learnin' the youngins; running various errands; and at some point, taking care of myself. I'm not a martyr here. We're all busy and have a lot on our plate. What I'm saying is that on any given day, I can possibly take care of two or two and-a-half of those things. I can do the important cleaning (anything that attracts bugs if not tended to), care for my children and do Bear's lessons, and possibly one other thing.

And then I'm spent. That's it. There is no more time. So on any given day, there is a stack of overdue library books under a half-finished grocery list and a pile of expired coupons on my counter top. Next to it is a casserole dish that totally needed to "soak" for two or three days, and there are probably Legos or something soaking in it, too. My hair is likely in some form of twisty, I-give-up knot because it hasn't been cut since November (true) or washed since Friday (also true, though hopefully not by the time you read this). My to-do list probably reads something like this:

Dishes
Laundry (change pillowcases!)
Finish grocery list and coupons
Pay car insurance bill! Due today!
Check Bear's math from the last three days
Finish sewing up holes in Bear's socks
Thaw chicken for dinner
Write out birthday cards for [whomever] and [whomever else]
Run out to get stamps!
Bank
Library
For god sake, SHOWER.
Read one chapter of a book, just for pleasure
Bathe Bug
Have Bear take a shower


By the end of the day it will likely look something like this:

Dishes
Laundry (change pillowcases!)
Finish grocery list and coupons
Pay car insurance bill! Due today!
Check Bear's math from the last three days
Lessons
Finish sewing up holes in Bear's socks
Thaw chicken for dinner
Write out birthday cards for [whomever] and [whomever else]
Run out to get stamps!
Bank
Library
For god sake, SHOWER.
Read one chapter of a book, just for pleasure
Bathe Bug
Have Bear take a shower

Again, I am nobody's martyr. I have a strong feeling that I am singing a very familiar tune here, and this is just the season of life I'm in right now. And my husband helps out with "my" chores quite a lot, without having to be asked and without so much as a grimace. But I will never, ever be that hyper-organized, pulled-together mom who can get it all done. I think that takes a very particular personality type along with a particular set of skills, and it's a rare combination.

I will teach my children how to keep a home well enough. Well enough means everyone is fed, rested, and loved. That, I can do.

This post got super duper long (that's what she said). So anyway, those are a few of the things I will never, ever be able to teach my children. What do you suck at?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Stuff That is Current, Or Something.

I have about a dozen blog posts half written and sitting in a queue that may never see their numbers come. I know anytime a blogger randomly goes silent they're all, "Things have been so busy!" Blah, blah, blah. I'm no more or less busy than I usually am. I just haven't felt any particular inspiration to post. Fact.
The babies at the Nature Center

A quick update on our goings-on:

House stuff: Not yet listed, most major projects complete, not searching for land right now because our main focus is on unloading this house.

Homeschool: Four weeks to go, wrapping things up, planning a light last few weeks, also planning for next year with lots of research and lists and other things that I could spend far too many hours doing, just because I love this shit.

Kids: Bear took the National Mythology Exam in March and scored a 100%. She's taking the summer off from bowling to enjoy her Saturdays and is signed up for a drama daycamp one week this summer. She's doing great with her lessons and continues to be a kickass big sister. Also, she's joined a Girl Scout troop and we could not be happier with it. It's chock-full of the kind of kids she barely knew existed: kind, giving, well-raised kids who make her feel good about herself when she's with them. The kind of kids I hoped she'd find eventually. To be fair, she has two awesome friends (A and J) who fit that mold, too. She just doesn't get to see them much anymore since we pulled her out of school and they don't live within walking distance.

And she'll be TEN in two weeks! TEN!

Bug is twenty months old and is such a busy little thing. We have quite an enjoyable and relaxed morning routine now that I've caved and let him watch a little bit of tv. Every morning when he wakes up he wants to watch a few episodes of The Wonder Pets, and I use this time to drink coffee and wake up my brain. Then we do breakfast and read a few books. He is so, so fun right now. We're definitely starting to see the Toddler Tantrums, and he has so much personality. It's challenging, but usually fun.

Tumbling: I've got my back hand spring and am working on my round-off back hand spring. It's a blast.

Writing: Dude. I miss it. But every time I think, "I'm going to query some potential clients! I have an awesome marketing idea! I'm going to [fill in the blank with something enthusiastic]!", I find that in this season of life, I just do not have time. When I'm not caring for my children and running this house, I'm tired. So for now I am only taking the occasional resume client and have pretty much put querying on hold. I'm not actively seeking work at all and only taking what comes to me, and only then if I know I can give it my best.  

That's what's going on. A lot of same old, but it's an ever-changing same-old. Does that make any sense? Probably not. Another reason I'm not posting much these days. My brain refused to construct a coherent sentence.