Friday, August 31, 2007

Yawn ...

So here it is Friday night again, and again I am a zombie! The good news is, Tim finished the written portion of his qualifying exams today. Each part last 3.5 hours, no books no notes. He felt very good about how he did on Wednesday, but today was more murky -- he said no one finished, including him. (Hopefully they will grade on a curve.) At least he knows what to concentrate in studying for the oral part next Friday. Until recently, I really couldn't think about the possibility of him not passing this time, because this is really our last shot. As much as it would be nice for him to have a "real" job, I felt like it would be so unthinkable to have to quit now with nothing to show for ourselves. In the past couple days though, I feel like the Lord is working in my heart to just be open to whatever happens, to trust Him more completely for either outcome. We may feel like the Lord would not want him to fail, because this degree has been dedicated to Him, as well as the career possibilities it would open. It would seem like we had wasted the last year and a half. But I'm realizing that nothing is a waste, that He is never surprised or discouraged, and that He makes no mistakes. If this experience is only meant to last a year and a half, then there must be a reason for that, one that we may not understand until years in the future. Maybe it's about what we gain in the process, instead of the outcome of the degree and the career path. For sure, we have learned to live on less! But then again, He still has work to do to get me to live on less AND be content with that ... so maybe (surely?) Tim will pass and I will have more time for that kind of learning! :-)

The best-laid plans ....

My morning is NOT going quite as planned (I say that as if it's an unusual occurrence). I had the brilliant idea to throw dinner in the crockpot and then take the kids for a nature outing. Well, lo and behold, not only do I need to cut up the chicken (a job I HATE and usually give to dh), but then I have to cook the chicken BEFORE it goes in the crockpot. What kind of timesaver is that? (Answer: none.) Meanwhile the whole time I'm trying to do this thing, Caroline, naked because I haven't had time to get her dressed yet, is pulling at my leg either demanding to eat raw chicken or insisting that I go play trains with her. playing with older siblings would not work. I regret to say that she finally settled down to sit on the kitchen floor with a bottle of hand soap she found in the bathroom, and slather it all over her body. But she was quiet and happy for 10 whole minutes, and I got to finish the crockpot thing! (sadly, this is the plight of the third child. She gets into all kinds of mischief and we don't bother until it's too late, because she's quiet and happy while she'd doing it!)
Hm, she's in the bathroom rinsing her hands now I'd better run. It's too quiet. :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School Stuff

There's so much to write, but it's also so late -- I just got home from my Moms' Night Out for our homeschool support group, which was lovely. So, I'll have to be brief. In short, we started lessons again today (I don't like saying, "we started homeschooling" because I think we've been doing that since birth, and I don't like saying "We stated school" because it sounds so formal)but anyway, we started. I had visions of starting off with a Special Breakfast, but when I got to the kitchen, Tim announced he'd made oatmeal, and who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth> :-)When we eventually sat down to read and do a few things together according to my nicely planned schedule, I would say overall things went well. I can tell nothing has changed as far as my need to be VERY flexible with Ian and my plans. And, we got some extra grace today because my friend Virginia brought her toddler over to play with Caroline for an hour or so, so she occupied both of them while we did some math and spelling (in the driveway, with sidewalk chalk). This was a good thing, since Caroline had already created her typical chaos in the house with more than usual vigor this morning: example: dragged a chair over to the closet shelf, stood on it, grabbed the box of paints, announced, "I NEED RED!" opened the jar of red paint, and slathered it on the craft table (and then on my white pants). My blood pressure was on its way up! However, our new morning chore system fared quite well in its maiden voyage. More on that in another post.
If you can, please think of and pray for Tim tomorrow (and Friday). He is taking the Ph.D. qualifying exams, and he has to pass in order to continue in the program for another 2-3 years (how's that for a reward ;-)). These are super rigorous, and it's not that he doesn't know the material or hasn't studied his tail off, but just that he does have issues with test-taking anxiety that sometimes cloud his otherwise brilliant brain. This is Round 2 for us with these exams, and it's now or never as far as passing goes. I really can't pray that much about it myself; I'm basically telling the Lord, "You know what has to happen; it's up to You."
So on that note, I'm going to go make sure he gets to bed at a decent hour. And me too, since we already have a field trip planned for tomorrow, to Homeschool Day at the Texas History Museum.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A bouquet of newly sharpened pencils

OK, so raise your hand if you *don't* love shopping for school supplies! (Until the part where you get up tot register and have to fork over the cash, that is.) What is it about wandering the aisles of Office Depot, with those packages of gleaming golden #2 pencils, the planners full of white space, a zillions different colors and sizes and styles of Post-It Notes, even the miniature index cards, that just fills one with the sense of possibilities? Maybe I'm over the top here, but I have to confess to getting some kind of rush from the experience, from feeling like Very Organized Person when I walk out of there. Know what I mean?
Hopefully my kids will catch the enthusiasm too. I went so far as to buy Ian an actually assignment book, simply because he always does better when he has things written out for him. O the resolutions! :-)

Now I'm off to that Dangerous Place, the Container Store, where (repeat the mantra) I will exercise great self-control and STICK TO MY LIST. Really, I will.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Hurray for Friday night! I don't have a whole lot to say right now, or rather I don't have a whole lot of energy to say much right now, but it is definitely time to relax! This whole week has been so busy, not just with what we've been doing, although we *were* out every day except today but also with my internal buzz, thoughts swarming around in my head nonstop so that I find it hard to actually focus on, say, making dinner over the sound of my toddler demanding my attention, or cutting out costumes for my four year old's Disney paper dolls (Sigh ... that's a whole topic unto itself -- the Disney thing, I mean). I feel like, with "school" starting up again (we're aiming for next week, when Oscar goes back to school!) there are so many decisions to make , from which of the vast array of activities to participate in to how to structure our day to how to design a daily schedule that will help my eldest flow through the day while making some contributions to the family, etc. etc. On top of it all there's the Spanish classes I'm organizing and hosting (but not teaching!), the small milk co-op I'm in charge of, the meal to make for the neighbors who just had a baby, etc. and let's just say I'm not the world's best multi-tasker. Far be it from em to do fifty things at once, and do them well. As Rachael Ray would say, "Martha doesn't live here." :-) I am constantly having to turn from my decision-making anxiety and busy mind to my Good Shepherd!
And right now I am going to turn from staring at my computer to watching Planet Earth and eating some ice cream with my beloved ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shocked, in a good way

Can you believe this? Background: Ian raised a huge ruckus at the beginning of the summer about having to go to swimming lessons. Seriously, in mid-June, as Mean Mom was dragging him to his first lessons, he was still refusing to put his face in the water. He ranked it with going to the dentist. ;-)
Well, today was our last day and when we were getting in the car, he said, "Mom, can I keep taking swimming in the fall? Because I really love it!"
You could have knocked me down with a FEATHER!

He and Oscar were making water balloons tonight and running around in the yard. Then it started pouring rain, and Ian came running through: "We're going to run in the rain!" Then muttered to himself with great relish, you could practically hear the testosterone oozing from his voice, "This is DEFINITELY a BOY thing to do!" ROFL!!!
Meanwhile, Eliza says, "I want to run in the rain too! Mom! Where are my rain boots?!?!" (Ian had run out barefoot of course) She's on the verge of a breakdown until I find the boots on the closet shelf. Then: "Mom, wait! I need my new socks! Remember? The boots gave me a blister last time!" I run to get the socks. "Mom! I need the LAVENDER ones!!!" (Because she had purple flowers on her dress, of course.) DEFINITELY a PRINCESS thing to do! :-)

Oh, and one more thing and then I seriously need to get some sleep. We had the appointment with the psychologist (I hate saying that, I feel like I'm taking my son to a shrink) today. The actual testing (IQ, learning style, whatever else) will be next time. Most of the time it was she and I talking while Ian read Highlights magazines in the next room. At the end, she went in the there to talk to him, and I shamelessly eavesdropped. I don't know how she kept a straight face. I could hear him literally pacing in circles around the room while, with great earnestness, he described to her his relationship with Oscar, how they became friends ("It all started when my parents said we were moving to Texas, and I really didn't want to move at first ...") and what they like to do together (apparently they're currently inventing spy machines). Of course it wasn't long before they hit upon the Topic of the Movable Dinosaurs. She asked me how many he had, and he literally said to her, "Well, I'll tell you, but first I have to back up and tell you some other information. First, they come in BONUS PACKS." It went on and on like this, with the footsteps clomping in circles around the room. He said a few other things that just had me in stitches, in the way that I guess only someone whom you've known nearly inside and out since birth, and yet continues to surprise, confound and delight you, can do.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Fashionista

So Eliza comes running in this afternoon from the next door neighbor's house ( she tags alog with Ian and his friend Oscar). She heads straight for the bathroom, but doesn't make it quite in time so she has to change her clothes. After doing so, she waltzes into the office, where I'm busy ordering more books, and say, "Look Mom. Pattern on top, solid on the bottom" (And picture it in her little voice, with her minor lisp on the "s" and her endearing way of not pronouncing her "r"s. I don't know how to even type "Pattern" the way she says it.) She is obviously VERY proud of herself for getting a handle of this Rule of Appropriate Dressing. Consider the mother-daughter wisdom officially passed along. :-)
She was also very cute tonight while we got ready to go on our bike ride after dinner; she was at the piano playing what could generously be called "improv," while singing her in high, breathy voice, "I LOVE and trust in GOD ... I LOVE and trust in GOD ..." I zoomed all over the house trying to find the camera so I could catch in on video, but alas, as is too often the case at these moments, the camera was nowhere to be found. If only all those memories stored on the unreliable hard drive of my brain could somehow find their way onto something digital and replay-able ...
By the way, our friends Emily and Grace just gave Ian a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys. He totally loves it! Reportedly it contains such gems as How To Make Water Bomb, How to Build a Catapult, How to Craft a Bow and Arrow ... Do we see a theme here? (It's called "Important Lessons Mom Leaves Out of our Homeschool Curriculum.") Hmmm. Things could get very interesting around our house!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reaching Out a Bit

This afternoon we were invited to a potluck for families in my homeschool support group. The event took place at another family's home in Dripping Springs which is just south of Austin, pleasantly scenic and undeveloped, but hardly convenient -- a good 30-minute drive for us and longer for others. I waffled on going, as is typical for me with things like this -- group social times, especially when I don't know the people too well ( I do like the other moms but I see them maybe once a month) still intimidate me after all these years! (I wonder where my kids get it ...) However, we'd missed the last one and I felt like we should go and make some effort at community-building since the opportunity was being offered. Besides, we've never attended something that included the whole family, especially the dads!
Well, the property was gorgeous. I know everyone has their private struggles, but it was hard to imagine ever being too stressed out living in a place like that, where you could be doing dishes at your kitchen sink and gazing out the huge windows the at the sun or moon rising over the unbroken line of trees bordering your field. Some of the kids got sopping wet playing in the creek by the treeline; others, mine included, spent a good amount of time following the hens around, climbing tees, and collecting eggs. Eventually we roped most of them in for an informal singalong; we'd been encouraged to bring a folksong to share. Music Together came in handy for us! :-) Ian, contrary to his predictions, found a couple guys to mess around and fill up water guns with, while Eliza and Caroline rolled hoops around the patio and just generally blended in with the other kids fairly well. At the end the hosting parents got out a huge jump-rope and let the kids try out their jumping skills -- remember "Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish"? I was so proud of Ian and Eliza for giving it a go, especially Ian who is not so coordinated and shies away from the limelight.
Anyway, of course I was wishing I'd brought my camera, but we'll have to settle for some pleasant memories. As usual, I found myself wondering whether I'd like to live in a place like this. Part of me covets the peace and quiet, and open spaces for the kids to roam and climb and dig and learn some self-sufficiency in nature without it being kind of contrived, and then part of me wonders just how long we'd last without a community of neighbors. We don't have nearly the neighborly camaraderie here that we did in SC (example of the latter: one weekend we were visiting my grandparents in Charleston, and my next door neighbor called -- "Hey, aren't y'all out of town? Did you mean to leave your back door wide open? We didn't think so so I just sent Bill over to close it ...":-)), but we are friends with the family next door, and honestly, there's nothing like easy walking distance for spontaneous conversation and connection. It's the classic trade-off, I suppose, between freedom and community, and it's not easy to know which is the best fit for us right now. Anyway, we can't move anywhere until Tim finishes his degree, so it's not really an issue right now! Guess we'll just bloom where we're planted for now ...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Comments of the Day

Incident #1: This morning as Tim, Eliza, Caroline and I all lay in the big bed snuggling, Eliza leaned over and kissed Caroline on the face. Caroline's response? A loud, emphatic, "Ew, GWOSS!" (She gets it from her brother, I suppose, but it sure sounded funny coming from a 21 month old. Almost as funny as when she sees live dolphins at Sea World or some similarly thrilling event and exclaims "Aw, MAN!" with the perfect inflection of a 7 year old!)

Incident #2: As I was tucking Eliza and Ian into bed tonight, Ian informed me, "You know what you always smell like?" I braced myself, you know how kids are rarely diplomatic -- "Fresh potatoes!" This coming from the guy who lives for starches, so I guess it's a compliment! (He said it was.) Certainly one of the more unusual ones I've ever received! LOL! We'll have to work on him before he starts dating that certain someone ... fortunately that's eons away, right? :-)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Getting motivated

Two things happened today which made me feel like we have some semblance of progress in our lives. No wait, three things. The first was that my friend Laurie Dixon brought her boys over this morning so we could talk homeschooling for a while together. She is just getting started, and her kids a bit older than mine, but I am so impressed with her planning, organization, and just general cool-headedness about the whole thing. The funny thing is, Laurie was my very first college roommate, many years ago, and I don't think either of us ever dreamed that number one, we'd have kids around the same time (she's 10 years older than I), and number two, we'd be sitting around chatting about our homeschooling plans together! Makes me wonder what I'll be saying in yet another 13 years ... Anyway, it was so great to get together and at the end, to pray together about our year. That in itself in an answer to prayer for me!
Then the FedEx truck arrived and brought a huge box of books for us! Woo hoo! OK, obviously I ordered the books, FedEx didn't just pick my name out of a hat and decide to shower me with blessings, but hey, how often does the FedEx truck actually bring something for US? (Answer: almost never.) Sometimes I'm tempted to order stuff online just for the thrill of getting a box in the mail. Is that totally ridiculous? Next thing I know I'll be writing myself letters and mailing them, LOL!! I usually resist the temptation, honestly I do, but see, this time, it was books for our year of homeschooling. Bravely I sally forth with hopes held high that this will be the year that my son will enthusiastically embrace everything I introduce to him, even things that have occurred in our general era, post-Ice Age! It just might happen!
Speaking of Ian, that's the third thing from today. I just talked to Blue Cross and got my preauthorization for his testing with the developmental specialist, a.k.a. psychologist, that his pediatrician recommended. I also made his first appointment, which required several deep breaths on my part as it has taken only, say, four years tp finally make this happen. IOn case you're not familiar with our history, I'll try to make it brief and explain that Ian is, and always has been (I mean since birth) quirkier than average. We love him for all his intensity and uniqueness of course, and we don't think he's way out there on any spectrum, nor do we want to change his fundamental personality, but we sure could use a little insight into how to support him better in the following areas: 1) focus (The child can recite to you volumes of facts about dinosaurs hardly anyone has heard of, and can keep track to the second of when his best friend is supposed to return from next door, but has tremendous difficulty with, say, remembering to flush the toilet, or comprehending why someone might not return in EXACTLY five minutes to continue playing); 2) motor skills/coordination; and 3) emotional/social awareness. That's a simplified version, but I'm curious to see how our adventure will now play out, now that we've actually decided to DO something about it. They'll do a variety of tests for learning style, personality, IQ, etc., which are reportedly "fun" for the child. I hope so! It can be hard to talk to anyone about that, since you know most people, i.e. people who haven't had a child like this, are probably thinking, "well, if you would just ..." (instead of the ideal: "Wow, that must have been a difficult process and I totally support you!") But hey, a blog seems like a nice safe place to air our laundry, no? Right where friends, family, and any stranger stumbling around the 'Net can read it! :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sigh ... the end of the day

So I met with my nutritionist today while Tim came home to be with the kids, then stopped off and did a couple errands on the way home. Apparently the whole time I was gone, Caroline alternated between announcing her need to poop and insisting, "I want Mommy." Well, by the time I got home, she wouldn't let me out of her sight. Around 6 PM, this is what the scene looked like at our house: In the kitchen, Tim works on dinner as per my instructions, feeling very tired from lack of sleep and from basically being ordered around at school and at home -- yoiu know, the classic "overworked and underappreciated," LOL. In the kids' bedroom, an exhausted woman (me) sits on the floor nursing a headache and trying very hard to focus on both the 4 y.o. who is draping her in scarves, chattering on and on about giving her a haircut and keeping her warm (this "haircut prep" lasted a good 10 minutes), and the naked 1 y.o. (she had been pouring water into her diaper) who is playing with Thomas trains, also chattering nonstop, and stopping every few seconds to try to dive down her mother's shirt, which ruins the scarf arrangement, which means big sister has to start all over again. Why is it that the very things our kids seem to love most (our playing long drawn-out pretend games with them), are the things that come hardest to us as adults? It seems to take herculean amounts of concentration and imagination , often at times we we least feel inclined to do so. I guess that's why it's called love.
A couple things happened to restore some joy to my evening. One was that as I was getting dinner onto the table amidst the surrounding chaos, the Lord brought me a verse: "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in good season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." That little reminder was like a drink of water in the barren land of my late-afternoon mood. The other was a phone conversation with my brother, involving much hilarity at, I must admit, our lovably quirky father's expense. Thanks for the laugh, Pete. Your timing was perfect.

Trying this out

So here I am, jumping on the bandwagon and starting a blog! (A word that still amuses me, by the way.) I've been meaning to do this for a while, at the encouragement of my friend Jenny (If I could figure out how I'd link to you, Jenny), but alas I am quite the procrastinator when it comes to doing important but non-urgent things that I enjoy but are not easily labeled "productive." However, I have decided that doing this is indeed productive, because as you may not note from the title of my blog, putting thoughts to paper (or screen) can be a respite from all the nonstop just-keeping-up that I seem to do most of the day with my three kiddos, the house, etc. I have always enjoyed writing -- why do I resist doing it? Lack of self-discipline? Perfectionism? Annoyance at my slow computer? Probably all of the above. Anyway, an older friend of mine once observed that journaling can be therapeutic for me, with no unpleasant side effects, so although I doubt I'll reveal anything too intensely personal here, I'll do my best to keep up with it. Plus, I feel like a bit of a sponge, compulsively checking Google Reader for updates on my friends, so why not make it a two-way connection?
I'll try to figure out how to add photos, etc. There are no even-remotely-glamorous photos of me since, maybe my wedding ten years ago, LOL! Plus, I'm usually the one behind the camera. But the kids are cute, so I'll be posting them once I figure out how, or get dear tech-savvy husband Tim to show me how!