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Not My Favorite Spring Break

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Not My Favorite Spring Break

Thank goodness school started again today. Our spring break kind of……sucked. Not only that, but I’m suffering an uncharacteristic  — for me — amount of mommy guilt over the whole thing. Gotta be honest, mommy guilt is normally not in my wheelhouse (whether it SHOULD be is another question), but this week threw me for a loop.

I had all kinds of grand plans: a thorough spring-cleaning and purge of all boys’ rooms and belongings; outings to the zoo, the science museum, and hiking; frolicking in the great outdoors; garden planting and yard work. Not to mention relaxing extended family reading time, etc., etc.

We made it to the zoo Monday, but after that the week just kind of kerploofed. (It’s a word now, people, it’s perfect for the sort of imploding-while-disappointing sound I was imagining.) I had made just a few wee commitments for the week, but each of them somehow had other meetings appended to them, including meetings for and with my nieces that were really important and out of my control. Then mid-week my poor dad experienced a serious back injury that required a chaperone and multiple appointments, it rained most of the week so no one could play outside, and …… kerploof.

Lessons were learned though, and I record them here for your potential benefit, should you ever experience a disappointing kerploof of a holiday.

1. Huh, I’m raising relatively self-sufficient small people. Instead of adventures with mommy all week, my little men spent record amounts of time alone and in charge of themselves and each other. As the oldest is 13, this should be no big deal on paper, but we’re talking several big chunks of hours of time and three boys. And you know what, people? No blood was drawn, no disasters were had, lunches were prepared and consumed, and all was well.

2. Much less laundry is required when your family members spend most of the week in their jammies. This reduction in laundry was a small side benefit to the fact that the boys got dressed maybe twice between Monday and Friday……oh, look, here comes the guilt again……

3. Multiple Jammie Days??? My boys think that’s the Best. Thing. Ever. So instead of being disappointed at the lack of mommy outings, they were thrilled at the added responsibility of being on their own combined with the luxury of relatively unlimited electronics (truly not the norm in this house, honest) in their pj’s. By their accounting: SCORE.

A sleepover in the basement is the perfect end to a jammie day. Well, that and piles of Oreos.

A sleepover in the basement is the perfect end to a jammie day. Well, that and piles of Oreos.

4. Unlimited Electronics Buffet + Rainy Week Still = Squirrelly Boys. This is just basic physics, no changing that. Thank you Jesus for a sunny afternoon yesterday, or there might have been intra-familial fisticuffs.

5. I have discovered a basic, and to my knowledge, previously unnamed law of human behavior. Other people at the zoo cannot stop making up what are clearly dumb explanations for the animals’ behavior. The Corollary to this Law of Uncontrollably Fabricating Animal Behavior Explanations is the Inability to Control Mocking Others Ridiculous Explanations While Believing Your Own Understanding of Zoo Animal Behavior is Unquestionably Stellar.

6. Baby elephants are so cute, one cannot be blamed for compulsively taking what are clearly awful pictures of them….

Awww....look at the baby elephant. Well, she is cute, but there was all this glass in the way...

Awww….look at the baby elephant. If you can, through the glare, the glass, and her mother’s legs.

7. Much to my shame and dismay, I am not immune to Facebook-related jealousy. Having never really experienced it before, I was pretty confident I was above the capacity of Facebook to effect my perceptions of how fun our life is or is not. Until this week, when the pictures of Palm Desert, Hawaii and Mexico flooded my newsfeed while I went from meeting to appointment to meeting. I realized I am no better than any other Facebook user, capable of being consumed by feelings of envy and inadequacy.

A pathetic group selfie (us-ie?) of us at The Lego Movie.

A pathetic group selfie (us-ie?) of us at The Lego Movie.

I did not post that blurry mess to social media, didn’t feel it adequately competed with all of the beach/skiing/Italian spa/parasailing/rock-climbing on Mars photos. Sigh. (I am completely aware of the whiny nature of my seriously first-world problems. I am a brat. That fact just makes it all worse. More sighing.)

8. When given the chance, my boys rose to the occasion and to my expectations, whether it was helping injured grandpa walk his dog this week, managing on their own so long, or doing extra chores to help me out instead of getting to do extra adventures or fun treats. Our kids are often capable of so much more than we ask of them, and they are proud to do it.

9. This too shall pass, for everything there is a season, kids are resilient, and honestly I can’t remember ONE single spring break from my elementary or middle school years. My mom was GREAT, and I’m sure we did all kinds of super fun spring break things.  Wait, had spring break even been invented then? Anyhow, maybe in the scheme of things it won’t really matter…..

Maybe everything IS awesome….

Also, I’m pretty sure that song was composed by the folks who compose Vacation Bible School theme music. Anyone agree?

 

 

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Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

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Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

I’ll admit, introducing a new dessert by saying “Here’s a yummy pudding with crunchy little balls in it” to four boys  was a strategic error. A HUGE strategic error from which there is no recovery or return. I don’t mean to offend any readers with delicate sensibilities, but if you don’t immediately know what I’m talking about, then you definitely do not have an 8-year-old, 10-year-old, 13-year-old or 44-year-old little boy at home. That’s all I’m saying. ‘Cause “crunchy little balls” will last them ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s the verbal gift from mom that just keeps on giving.

But it was my first attempt to cook with or serve trendy new ingredient (buh-bye kale, so 2013!) chia seeds to my clan. I made this chocolate chia pudding recipe, and knowing that some family members (HELLO HUSBAND) are particularly tentative about new textures/flavors/dishes/shirts-I-gift-for-Christmas I was trying to make it sound FUN. And chia combined with liquid makes these tiny gelatinous balls that are like mini-tapioca or the boba in bubble tea, but with a little crunch to them.

For what it’s worth, I liked the pudding. The texture is weird but cool, and it was very chocolatey.

photo credit to Robynowitz at allrecipes.com

The fam, not so much. Three out of four did NOT like it, and I’m pretty sure the 8-year-old was just being nice to me. My middle “blessing” actually said “Mom,with this dish you have ruined the concept of pudding. Ruined it.” So dramatic…can’t imagine where he gets it.

So, clearly, I’ll be forcing them to eat the HUGE bag of chia seeds I got at Costco yesterday as often as I can, in as many ways as I can imagine. I’m quite looking forward to it. {cue evil laugh}

(What’s that you say, perhaps I should have purchased a slightly smaller bag for my first foray into chia cuisine, to be more reasonable, rational, moderate? Really? Have you met me?)

If I can’t convert them, I can always just grow a new clay family. Maybe this guy.

chia guy

I wonder if the seeds are cheaper this way from Amazon?

PS – Kale, I’m just kidding. We actually all love you, you’re not going anywhere.

A Word from Old Granny Crankypants

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As my sweet Southern friend Susan would say, Oh. My. Lanta. (Possible spelling-for-drama Oh. Mylanta. I grew up in Alaska, I’m wingin’ it.)

Seriously. It is not often (yet) that I feel myself tempted to say “Back in my day, things were different. You kids these days……”

But can we be real? (This here is already pretty real, seein’ as how I’m using  conjunctions to start sentences and such. My blog. My grammar.)

Before we get real, perhaps I should warn you. It’s hot here in the Northwest, and by hot I mean I’m feeling the need to fan myself on the front porch in front of an ice block, because we don’t have AC and it’s either the ice block and a fan or injure all of my peoples who seem to be picking their worst behaviors for display in these days of Unpleasant Hotness. Bad choices, people, they are making Bad Choices……

So I MIGHT be a little bit cranky. Maybe.

Back to the getting real. Cause kids these days (cue tremulous and crotchety old voice in your head now) are flat out spoiled. My eldest just told me I needed to buy the small people new fluoride rinse, to which I lovingly and patiently replied in my most nurturing voice, “Oh, precious,  no, there are three other bottles of three other flavors available to you under the sink.”

Oh, no. Apparently the pink one is the only “tolerable” flavor for their delicate little mouths. Seriously?? These kids need a dose of good ol’ Mr. Yuk Mouth! Remember him? Back from the day when our medicine all tasted BAD so we wouldn’t poison ourselves with it? Remember? Back when there weren’t eleventy-three flavor boosters available at the pharmacy, and a premium option to have it formulated as a icy slush??? (That could be a hallucination, I’m hot, but I swear it’s available.)

Here’s some old school terror for you, you grape/cherry/banana/magicberry-loving little ones……

yeah…..that’ll scare you into never wanting to go to the Dr. EVER. Or clean anything, EVER, cause of the scary Yuk Mouth.

Remember, back when the only oral health rinse we had was Listerine, (registered, trademarked, don’t-sue-me-its-a-lovely-product-though-I-do-prefer-Fresh-Mint) which came in only one flavor, and that proud flavor was “Light Brown Blister and Pain?”

Back in the day when toothbrushes came in either scratchy, poky or straw, and not in derivations of cartoon characters, scented handles and rotating/singing/timing/teaching you Ukrainian poetry?

Seriously, go brush your teeth. Mamaw has to go out on the porch and fan herself.

I Win Father’s Day

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Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. But I win. No competition. When the Head Dad up high was handing out fathers, I won. And I find myself this year at a loss to let my dad know how much I appreciate him, what a blessing he has been to me, to my younger brother before he died, and to all of the others in his life that he has “fathered.”

Well, that’s not entirely true, the “finding myself at a loss” part. Cause, you know, it’s me, and I’ve got stuff to say. But this year more than ever, I find myself full of emotion, appreciating my dad more now than ever before, at a time when based on the reality of human lifespans and forward motion of the calendar I have less time left with him than I’ve ever had before. Funny (NOT) how that works.

So, for my Dad, thank you.

Thank you for setting me straight and strong and true in this world. For never allowing me to seriously question if I was good enough. For making sure I valued who I had been created to be, and Who had created me. And I love you.

For the rest of you, allow me to share 10 lessons from my father. These aren’t a top ten, because he’s taught me far more than that. These are just the first ten that come to mind, in no particular order of importance. You’re welcome.

Ten Lessons From My Dad

10. “What kind of tree is that?” Life really is more interesting when you know what kind of tree that is. Since my parents were both teachers, we took a lot of long summer vacations when I was a kid, and several over Christmas breaks. Those trips were always peppered with my dad asking “What kind of tree is that?”, and with us kids and my mom rolling our eyes at  him. When I was a kid, I Really. Didn’t. Care. But now I’m the one asking, and noticing, and appreciating the amazing little details of the natural world around me.

9. “Mom, come on……!!” Now my kids pull on MY elbow after church. As a child, the fellowship time over coffee and cookies was always torture for my brother and I, a frustrating attempt to get my extroverted dad to STOP TALKING ALREADY so we could go home. Now, it’s MY kids who are bugging me after church, trying to get me to leave, as I wander about my family of faith, touching base, catching up, and being love. He did it then, I try to do it now.

8. Keep loving your people, no matter how hard, no matter how inconvenient. This is a foundational part of my dad’s character, and it was deeply ingrained in my brother before he passed away, and I hope it is in me. Didn’t matter if it was my dad’s childhood friend, violent and angry from mental illness; or my dad’s extended family, tense with division and hurt feelings; or a close friend, broken by his own mistakes and misjudgements. If they allowed it, Dad stood by them, walked alongside them, spoke truth to them, and always, he loved them. (There has really been only one exception to this that I know of in my dad’s life, and it was not for lack of trying. But this tremendously broken person not only could not and did not change but was hurting innocents in the process. Walking away from that was an equally valuable lesson.)

7. Life is interesting and there is fun to be had. My dad has always been interested and engaged in the world around him, teaching courses, taking courses, learning new things and sharing that knowledge with excitement. Even now, as he has struggled with health issues and the loss of his home a year ago to a fire, he is still engaged in the world in a way that inspires me. He’s currently taking painting classes, tai chi and a brain health class! Go Dad! I want to grow up and be just like you!

6. Family isn’t just to whom you are born, it’s also to whom you are called. I have always had to share my folks, particularly my dad. It seemed like young people were and are (although my definition of young has, um broadened over the years) always coming to my dad for advice, for a listening ear, for perspective and occasionally for a strong kick in the pants. He has been a surrogate father for granddaughters, for students, for people who have sought him out for his wisdom, patience and love. Have I always enjoyed sharing him? Not really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5. Keep your eyes on the road!!!! That may, in light of the other points, sound deep and philosophical, but it isn’t intended that way. In the midst of his zest for life, learning and new experiences, my childhood road trips were also full of one or more family members yelling “Dad! Eyes on the road!” as he allowed the steering wheel to drift towards whatever had caught his eye alongside the road. Still a good reminder for all of us.

4. Making gestures is important. My dad loves to give gifts and make gestures. There have been many throughout the years, all of them coming with the message that Dad loved us enough to take the extra time, the extra thought to make it special. The car I thought we were negotiating payments for me to make after college that he’d saved up for to buy me outright. The special earrings he wrapped and hid in the Christmas tree for my mom and I. (I will always hide gifts in the tree, it is now family tradition.) The romantic anniversary flowers and gifts for my mom, after 50 years of marriage. Gestures are important, because people are important.

3. Don’t research it to death. Do something, even if it’s wrong, so you can get on with enjoying your life. Case in point – several years ago, my husband and I (ok, mostly me) were in the market to buy our first barbecue grill, and I was armed with reviews, product specs, prices and comparison articles. I spent so much time researching “the best”, that I never got around to buying anything. One day, my dad showed up with a perfectly fine middle-of-the-road grill he’d bought for us. Was it the “best”? No. But we sure got to grilling on it, and enjoying our yard and our deck and each other. Classic Dad, and he was right.

2. Keep loving your people, even when it’s hard. Yep, this is basically a repeat of #8. But who likes a list of 9??? Not to mention, this one is the most important. Those extended family members who stopped talking to each other? He’s never stopped talking to any of them, updating them on how the other is, gently reminding them without words of the bond of family. He’s still hoping for reconciliation. (I’m hoping it doesn’t happen at his funeral. Seriously people, let bygones be bygones. Family feuds are a tragic waste of time.) Granddaughters who struggle with mental illness, with good choices, with loving behavior? He’s there, forgiving, loving and encouraging. And a daughter who is frequently overwhelmed, and frequently not quite as THERE for her folks as she’d like to be? Always patient, always forgiving, never guilt-tripping.

Yeah, this one’s the most important, because through my dad, I’ve gotten to know my Father.

1. Spoil your kids, even when they are far too old for it. By spoil, I mean surprise them by watching their small monsters children so they can have a date night, or with the occasional cash encouragement and direction to treat themselves. Say, maybe when they are in the middle of a difficult season of tight finances, trying to be responsible adults and feeling deprived of small luxuries like tomato plants and flowers. Such small spoiling says “I love you, you will get through this rough patch, but don’t forget to enjoy life in the meantime.”

Tomatoes and flowers from my dad

Tomatoes and flowers from my dad

20130616_142901

Sorry dear readers, but really, I win Father’s Day.

I love you, Dad.

Emergency Room Survival Humor

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Parenting a child* with serious mental illness has meant for us multiple trips to the emergency room. As anyone who has ever been to the emergency room can attest, you are not there to enjoy the ambiance. It’s not the I Really Prefer This To Shopping at Target Room, after all. You are tense, you are frightened, you are pretending everything will be OK, and you are forced to share space with strangers who are experiencing their own crisis when you’d really rather be alone.

That was me last week, waiting for another psych evaluation and admit, sitting in that cold, noisy waiting room at the exhausted end of a day that started with fire alarms at 4:30 a.m., fire trucks, another ER visit, and the teenager’s mental health crisis. (Indoor cigarette smoking against the rules, duh + teen having rough time = A BAD DAY)

(The first ER visit early that morning was for my Hero Husband’s burned fingertips, injured as he attempted to put out the fire and then carried a box of books outdoors that was ON FIRE, to prevent the imminent conflagration of our entire basement and house. His courage, and selfless straightforward actions to protect us? I. Have. No. Words. Well, one. Gratitudelovegratitude.)

This was the box UNDER the box the Hero Hubby carried out.

This was the box UNDER the box the Hero Hubby carried out.

Sign Language for "I love and will protect my family"

Sign Language for “I love and will protect my family”

(Also, don’t do that should you ever be in that situation. The AMAZING kind and professional police officers and firemen gave us that message loud and clear. Smoke inhalation will get you long before the flames will, so just GET OUT.)

(Also, GO CHECK YOUR FIRE ALARMS. Now, walk away from your computer and check them. I would not be typing this today had our smoke alarms not worked last week.) (I’m not kidding, GO CHECK THEM.)

So there I was, hanging out with the teenager as we waited for her to be called back, and my tired, giddy brain produced the following. It killed some time, and made us both giggle as we concocted it. Perhaps one day you can use it, and get a giggle or two out of a tough situation.

Inappropriate Ways to Amuse Yourself in the ER

  1. Engage in a loud argument with your companion about why your approaches to your treatment-resistant lice have failed. Scratch a lot while arguing.
  2. Have the same argument…..with a chair. (Note: if you or your agreeable companion are there for mental health issues, you get a free pass to do this. You are merely poking fun at your own related experiences, which is ok if merely inappropriate is your goal. If you are there for a non mental health situation, don’t do this. That’s just mean.)
  3. Begin a fierce, loud disagreement with your companion about which one of you has lost the bag of tarantulas.
  4. Pass gas enthusiastically and with abandon. Act like nothing is happening.
  5. If people talk loudly about THEIR ailments, share your opinions on their treatment options and prognosis. Include your beliefs on the use of tarantulas for healing purposes.
  6. Rowdy, unsupervised children in the waiting room? Teach them some favorite songs! “100 bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer……” (Note: do this only when you are fairly confident you will be called back no later than bottles 82 or 83. Otherwise, you too may find yourself in need of a psych eval.)
  7. Mime Fun! Mime your symptoms, the weather, or your favorite episode of Law and Order for the audience. waiting room.
  8. Score some of those purple non-latex gloves, blow those bad boys up and express your creativity! Begin handing out Balloon Turkeys. Or Balloon Spiders. Or Balloon……Hands.

Do you have any good additions to my list? If they are Inappropriate but Generally Harmless, share them! You never know when we all might need them!

*Parenting it is, whether it is your birthed child or the child of your heart, as in this case of our niece/foster daughter. I have her permission to blog about our adventures together.

Sweet Halloween Victory

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The best opening line of a joke EVER

So, a hillbilly, a pickle and a Lego man walk into a bar…….

Isn’t that the BEST set-up for a joke? It’s been crackin’ me up all week. And I don’t even have a punch line! (And technically, it’s a Lego mini-fig, but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way…..)

But yesterday was one of those magical moments when the parenting stars align. When it doesn’t matter how NOT artsy or craftsy I am, or how much laundry didn’t get folded this week, or how grouchy I or may not have been the day before.

What mattered yesterday was the fact that my sweet husband and I (with an assist from the teenager) pulled off some serious Halloween 2012 Costume Victory. Three boys, three costumes that actually resembled what they were supposed to resemble.

The nature of the victory? The usual. No contests were entered, no medals awarded. Honestly, the three costume recipients weren’t even effusively grateful. But when for even a brief moment I feel like I’m doing this parenting thing right, I claim that little victory!

Highlights from Halloween 2012

  • Hillbilly costume – triggered by four unfortunate though necessary pre-orthodontic dental extractions that left the 11 y.o. with two front teeth surrounded by large gaps of empty space on both sides. This costume was a no-brainer. (Except for my lingering “first-world problem” concern that maybe the costume really just made fun of poverty and people who cannot afford dental care? Neither of which were my intentions. I stand firmly against both poverty and lack of access to dental care.)
  • Pickle costume – a specific request from the six y.o., as it is his favorite food. If you can’t tell, he was a dill pickle. Not sweet. I don’t know why. I just know I’m eternally grateful that the dollar store had vaguely pickle-colored laundry bags, cause I don’t sew.
  • Lego costume – this was a lot of work, but I asked for it. Middle child always wants to forgo a creative homemade costume for a PC costume from the store. No, not politically correct. Plastic crap. I was protesting this consumeristic approach when I naively said “hey, let’s look online for costume ideas, I’m sure we’ll find something cool.” Cool, yes. Easy, no. But at least if I ever need to pour a four foot cylinder of concrete, I’m totally ready with the remnants of a 10″ cardboard concrete form. (The tube for the head.)

Lessons learned, 2012

  • If you need suspenders, always ask Grandpa. Where else are you going to get a fashionable pair pre-printed with hunting scenes – ducks, deer AND rifles?
  • You can hot glue gun warts on a pickle at a rate of about 20 warts per 15 minutes, if you are not picky about quality and are moderately careful not to glue costume to small child within.
  • Lego man may need to sit down at some point. Check this out before he wears costume to school for the day.

Another Halloween has come and gone, and I am keenly aware that I don’t have many years left to enthusiastically craft poor quality costumes, or supervise candy sorting and trading, or scrape sugared-up little boys off the ceiling and pour them exhausted into bed and kiss their sticky cheeks. So forgive me, but I’m going to sit back and savor this for a spell. Pass the Reese’s Cups, would you?

Sweet Halloween memories made here

Frog Redemption: A Second Chance

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Later today,  my middle child will be the proud recipient of a classroom frog. His fourth grade class has completed their study on habitat, and the wee froggy learning opportunities are being distributed to new homes. The bowl is ready, the water hopefully dechlorinated from a night’s exposure to the air.

Truthfully, though, we have yet to work out certain key details:

  • where the frog bowl will reside, as said fourth-grade boy’s room is devoid of clean surfaces;
  • how we will keep the frog bowl free of cat exploration and snack hunting;
  • why we are trying this again when our last attempt ended tragically in early frog death.

I posted this about my eldest’s classroom frog experience on Facebook a couple of years ago,  before I started blogging:

Without the skills or resources to perform a forensic necropsy, we won’t ever know for sure exactly when the classroom frog brought home after Thanksgiving died.

But when the conversation goes like this:

“Mom, I think my frog is dead.”

“How do you know, does it look dead?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it upside down or something?”

“Yeah, it’s upside down, and this….stuff has grown all around it…..”

I think we can be reasonably sure death visited a while ago.

At these times, parenting can be hard. When his tears came, after heroic efforts to contain his sadness failed, I sat down with him. As much as I wanted to reassure him that the frog was cheap, probably would have died anyways, and had clearly been traumatized by classroom life before reaching his care, I couldn’t. After all, the death had gone unnoticed long enough to allow a corpse-enveloping growth of some gooey nature.

Clearly, the frog’s care had lacked a certain…..care, you know?

Haltingly, he shared with me his guilt –  about not feeding it enough, and not even noticing for a while it was dead. Instead of explaining away his guilt I helped him sit with it, and lovingly assured him that this hard moment and hard feelings would help him do better by other beings in his care in the future.

And then I told him that’s why we let kids start with frogs, and not babies.

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