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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

My Birthday

I turned 52 this year and now that I am finally doing better with keeping my expectations low for how much hoopla there will be on my behalf, Rainman and the kids managed to do a pretty decent job of making me feel special this year.  Go figure.

Rainman attempted to take me out for a relaxing breakfast on my birthday.  It was a Saturday.  He had to work at noon (which means leaving our house by about 11:15 to make sure he gets in on time).  He kept puttering around the house and I kept pacing saying things like, "Shouldn't we get going?"  "Maybe we should drive separately so we won't be a in a rush."  He pooh-poohed me and assured me that it wouldn't be rushed.  (I am just like my mom in that regard - I can remember the rare times when we went out to eat after church to Mel-O-Lane.  Dad and us kids would wolf down our meals - chug the Mountain Dew (the only time we got to have pop!) - and be ready to hit the road.  There would be my mom sitting back in her chair just calmly sipping her cup of coffee and disgustedly saying to us, "Don't rush me.  I am enjoying my coffee.").  My point is, when I get to go out to eat, I am just like my mom.  I like to take my time, enjoy being waited on, and just relax. 

Remember these bottles?

When we got to my number one choice of locations, there was a line out the door (Luckily, I had kind of figured this would happen since it was now mid to late Saturday morning, so I had a back up place in mind.)  Off we went to my back up option number two....and...yup.....line of waiting customers outside.  So, yes, my birthday breakfast ended up being at Chick-Fil-A.  Good thing I really like Chick-Fil-A!

Unfortunately, between home and the three restaurant stops, Rainman and I had gotten into a tiff, so by the time we sat down to eat, he took my birthday card  out of his pocket and shoved it across the table to me with a semi-snotty "Happy Birthday!"

Anyone that has been married for any length of time, knows exactly what I am talking about, right?

It was a very sweet gift, but at the time, I felt like it was something unnecessary and way too expensive.  Notice I said "at the time".  But, more on that later!

The kids gave me sweet gifts this year.  S-girl and V-girl gave me small, thoughtful gifts - things I needed or would really use - a new hair brush - a bath bomb.  L-girl got new family pictures printed for our wall.  D-man and A-girl, broke college students, both said that they wanted to take me out to eat.  A-man is 14 and just sort of huddled around everybody else as my gifts were open.  I did get a hug and an "I love you" from him though.  I will take it.

I got Chinese take-out for my birthday meal and a foot massage and pedicure by my girls.  It was a good birthday.

Now back to Rainman's gift.....which was.....a night alone at a bed and breakfast.

Let me tell you about my life now that the kids are getting bigger.  When it is not sports season, I spend a lot of evenings my bed....reading....or taking a bath....whilst reading.  When I say "a lot", I really mean pretty much every night.  I have given up watching t.v. - with an occasional Netflix show here and there.  So, my evenings are very quiet and solitary - since everyone else still wants to watch t.v. or is just doing their own thing.  Every now and again, the kids and I will play some games, but pretty much, I think they feel they have spent all day with me and are done with me by the end of the day.

As I opened his gift in the middle of Chick-Fil-A, he said things like....I made sure it had a nice bath tub....and you can read on the private balcony, etc.


But, I thought....I do that for free every night at my own house!

He had actually looked at the family calendar (a rarity) and reserved my room so I wouldn't put it off (which I totally would have).

This is where he sent me.

It was actually great.

Here is what I realized....I do spend a lot of time alone either reading or working, but I am also interrupted a lot by questions, having to referee disagreements, or having to use my Solomon type wisdom to decide what is fair in their quest for more computer time.  I see (or hear) the kitchen getting dirty and people not cleaning up after themselves, so even if I go to bed early to read, I know there will be a mountain of dishes in the kitchen just waiting for me when I get up in the morning.  When I awake, there are also just random piles of shoes and socks spread throughout the house - even an occasional pair of undies that have been  mysteriously abandoned by their owners.  

You moms will get the idea, I think.  While I read, there is almost constant chaotic background noise (music, t.v., laughter, fighting, cheering for sports, impromptu wrestling matches).  

Mental chaos.  

I almost always awake to...a messy house.  

Physical chaos.

At the B&B, I was truly alone.  Literally.  I was the only guest and the innkeeper doesn't stay on site.  So, I locked myself in and rattled around in that big old house by myself.  I did have a bit of work to do to meet a deadline, but I sat on my balcony and typed away.  The only interruptions were from me watching people walk or bike by in front of the house.  There were also occasional tourist stops in front of the house.  I felt a bit like a minor celebrity as I would stop my work to wave at them from my perch on the balcony.

When I finished my work and sent it off to my boss, I read.  

I sat in the massage chair downstairs for a LOOOOOOOONG time.  I took a bath.  I shaved all my bits and bobs.  I exfoliated.  I moisturized.  I read some more.  I used Door Dash for the first time and wasn't murdered. (My son, D-man recommended it because he works in a dorm on his campus and said they get deliveries from Door Dash all the time and he said  the guys seem nice and normal.  That didn't stop me from texting him messages like, "I did it.  I am awaiting my very expensive cheesesteak and fries...and possibly my murderer.  Just know that I love you....."   After my food was delivered, I texted him, "I am alive and unsullied". LOL  I crack myself up.)  

Really, the Door Dash thing was a bit expensive, but when you don't want to go out and get your own food/can't get your own food - it is pretty awesome.  I did it all from my phone.  I ordered.  I paid/left a tip.  They sent me a text that they had gotten my order.  They sent me a text when my order was picked up by the "Dasher", and literally sent me a text when my "Dasher" parked his car and was walking up to the door!  This is the kind of thing that makes me feel old and realize how good this younger generation has it with these kinds of things.  In my day, you had to drive in the snow, up hill both get yourself food. 😉  

Breakfast at the B&B was wonderful and unrushed and I could just take my time over my coffee with no pressure.  The innkeeper did pop in and chat with me a few times as people tend to do when they find out you have 6 kids....and homeschool.  It was definitely a splurge, but, great job, Rainman!

I am a teeny tiny bit ashamed that I did spend almost the whole time reading. Almost.  I was also able to spend time thinking and praying.  Again, something I "think" that I do at home, but in retrospect, I don't do it as often as I should and even when I do ends up rushed and....thoughtless.  It was nice to go a little deeper.

One thought that kept rearing its head was Rainman and I becoming foster babies.  My parents were foster parents for 25 or 30 years.  But, I have been reluctant to be a foster parent, especially for babies, because I remember how attached my mom would get and how she would cry when they would leave.  I didn't want to do that to myself, but, that is kind of selfish, isn't it?

Rainman and I are still mulling over the realities of bringing in extra tiny people to our family, so we shall see.  (Yes, we have been bringing extra little people into our family for years - but most of them go home at the end of the day)  I was thinking of the practical things like - we already have most of the "baby stuff" - we have a lot of love here - we all love babies - babies are portable so they could easily go with us to sports/school events/church with us.  We will see....we are very early in the thought process.  But, pray for us, will you?  Age is factoring into our thought process a bit.  I am a bit leery of losing sleep again.

I completely get that I am getting older.  But, I still forget.  Kind of like I sometimes forget that I am overweight and then I see a picture of myself....and think, "Oh yeah....that is right....I am fat."

Here is a recent example:  V-girl and S-girl decided that they wanted to paint their bedroom because it was too little girlie for them and too "Neopolitan" looking (like the ice cream - and it was....brown on the bottom, white chair rail and pink on top).

Anyway, the girls picked out a color and I got to work...thinking I would knock it out in a day.   This is where the "Oh yeah....I am old now" snuck up on me.  I did manage to get it done in 2 days (with the girls doing the little touch up spots for me because the thought of climbing up that stupid ladder one more time or even sitting on the folding chair and bending over to get the spots near the baseboards had me in a tizzy.  They also got paint on the ceiling and I just looked at it and said, "Meh....who will be looking at your ceiling, right girls?"  I was not climbing up that stupid thing one more time!)

It looks great, but seriously, I was sore from my finger tips to the tips of my toes.  I think the only part of my anatomy that was not sore was my head.  That is it.  Sad.

So, then I think, what am I  even thinking by considering taking in extra little people that I will have to get up in the night with?  But, then I think about those poor little babies and think, if not me...then who?  Will it end up being someone that doesn't love babies the way my family loves babies?  I love how V-girl has gotten to be a psuedo-big sister to the extra kids we have watched for the past 5 years.  You don't really realize the natural life skills that are taught when there is a younger sibling around.  Even the simple ones, like being aware of someone else's needs or having to wait for the baby to stop crying or get their diaper changed before you can ask your mom a question.  Little things that are actually quite big.

Selfishly, again, I think of the fact that I am finally getting back to my singing and am enjoying being in 2 bands.  I have time to write and have gotten some articles published with  more possibilities looming.   Will those things go away if we take on part-time/temporary care for babies?  I don't know.  Should I even consider those things as part of my decision?   

Anyway, happy birthday to my rambling self.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Summer Recap

Summer, here in Georgia doesn't end on Labor Day with temperatures still in the 90s....summer will still be here awhile.

But, here are some highlights from our summer, thus far.  Lots of good stuff...and a few not so good things sprinkled in the mix.

We didn't take any family vacations although about half of us made it up to Indiana for Rainman's family reunion.  We did a lot of hanging out and chatting on the back deck, swimming in the pool, and sitting inside in the air conditioning when it was too hot.  Boring to some, but not to me.  I was in heaven with all 6 kids home again (although, don't tell anybody, but sometimes it did get too loud and wild for me...sometimes they get along a little too well.  ).

D-man got a summer internship in our county, so we got to see a lot of him.
Sometimes he even got to surprise us and come home for lunch in his spiffy big boy clothes!
He is starting his senior year in college and is planning to take the LSAT this fall because he is thinking law school year near.

A-girl got a summer job literally the day after she moved home from college and didn't look back.  She worked the whole summer.

We still got to see a lot of her this summer (and discovered one of the best thrift stores we have found down here in Georgia.  They have 10 cent days!!!).  She is starting her sophomore year in college and managed to get more scholarships this year than she did her freshman year!

L-girl went to tennis camp, went on a few mission trips, worked as a nanny this summer and sprinkled in a few odd jobs here and there. She was busy.  We didn't see a whole lot of her!  She just started her senior year in high school.

A-man is a freshman in public high school this year.  He had a bit of an adventure this summer at a youth group pool party.  He and one of his friends were playing catch with a baseball and A-man jumped for a ball over his head and caught it.  When he came down, he found himself, impaled through his shoulder on a wrought iron fence post (in through his armpit - out through the top of his shoulder)  Yes.  Yuck!  It was a first (and hopefully last) ambulance ride for him....and for me....I got there just as they were getting ready to pull away.  Here is the miracle though - which a few of the doctors even acknowledged - no major arteries were struck - no major nerves - no bones.  His surgeon said it was almost like everything important just moved out of the way as the fence post went in (like Moses parting the Red Sea).  He had a few of the doctors look deeply into his eyes and say that they hoped he realized how amazing it was that his injuries were not much, much worse.  It really is amazing.  The medical bills have started arriving, so that is fun too.  I just have to keep reminding myself that A-man is here and doing great.

S-girl was part of the church youth group this year so she finally got to go to the summer fun events and the mission trips.  Seems odd that she is old enough for all that stuff, but she is.  She even sent in an audition tape to be on a local kids cooking competition show.  She wasn't selected, but if you know her at all, it was huge that she had the courage to put it together and send it.  Huge.  She just started 7th grade and is still at home (yay!).  If things keep going the way they have with the older kids, I will only have her at home for one more year after this one.  She is already a fantastic golfer, so I am thinking she will be off to play high school golf.  I cannot believe that.

Poor V-girl was stuck at home with us all summer.  She so wants to be one of the big kids.  It really chaps her hide that she is too young for some stuff.  She started 5th grade this year. I am so happy that I will have a few more years with her at home full-time.  The adventures she and I will have...but, I think we will both be a little bit lonely!

Three of my extra kids left me and moved to Texas.  I am equal parts sad and excited.  Their dad had moved there for a new job and mom/kids stayed here for awhile while they sold their house and he got settled out there.  I was so happy when the time came that they could go join him in Texas and be together again - but, man it hurts too.  I have been watching the girls since they were about 3 months old (and the same with their little brother). It is hard to let go of being part of their everyday life.

I still have one of my extra kids left, but he will be heading to full-time school at his mom's school next year.  Everyone is leaving me.  (sigh)

We did manage to do a few things with all 8 of us this summer - which made me very happy.  I know those are going to get harder to come by as my people keep heading out into the world to become their own people.

So that is our summer update.  I am so ready for sweater weather, bonfires, hot chocolate, and boots....but it is still supposed to be in the 90s here all week.  And, let's be honest, it is barely sweater weather here in January - but a girl can dream.  

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Read Aloud Favorites...and Not So Favorites

Much to my children's chagrin, I still like to have read aloud as part of our school day.  Every year they assure me that are all way too old for such nonsense.

But, like the good mom I am, sometimes I have to completely ignore their opinions!

I am going to list a few of our favorite read aloud books/series here in case any of you would like to torture your children the same way I do.  If I was more of a Pinterest mom, I would have a beautiful graphic labeled Top Ten Read Alouds...or something, but, since I, you get a willy-nilly list that you will have to slog through if you are interested in my thoughts.


The Magic Treehouse Series  by Mary Pope Osborne

I liked these ones because they pack a lot into their skinny little binders.  Action.  Adventure.  Intrigue.  You don't necessarily have to stretch these ones out and can finish them in just 1 or 2 read aloud sessions.  These are a good choice if you have someone under your roof that doesn't have a huge attention span.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This is the first real book that I can remember being read aloud to me my Mrs. Toll in 4th grade.  When I was in K through 3rd, my two favorite parts of the day were going to the milk cooler and counting out the little milk cartons for our class and going to the library and sitting at the librarians feet while she to read us reading upside down.  But, when I moved on to the next school level, as a big kid, I was surprised when our teacher made part of our day read aloud time - and it was a big chapter book.  It was also the first time I can remember wanting so hard to sob, but knowing that I would be mercilessly be teased (I am looking at you Mike O.) that I had to swallow it back and pretend that I was completed unaffected by the story.  The beauty of homeschool is that all the other students have already seen everyone cry numerous times so it isn't that big of a deal.

Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is still one of my favorites and I read this one just as much for me as I do for the kids.  I have not made it through the whole series with my kids, but I feel as though their education would be lacking if they didn't know what a "bosom friend" is or that "tomorrow is a new day without any mistakes in it yet".

The Impossible Quest by Kate Forsyth

This us a book series that I got at a friends Usborne Books party.  I personally enjoy fantasy and science fiction, so I am fine with those types of books even for my kids.  This was a fun little series that has 4 kids as the heroes and lots of adventure, bad guys trying to get them and the need to work together and appreciate the gifts and talents that other people have to be just as important and useful as your own gifts and talents.  There are some dark magic type moments, but there are those in the old Disney classics too.

I am also a big fan of mysteries, so the kids and I have done a few of those as read alouds too.  These we just randomly picked up at the library.  These are also skinny books, so they don't take too long to get through the whole book.

Cam Jansen
Encyclopedia Brown
Jigsaw Jones

We have read a few of the Boxcar Children books.  There are a ton of them, so I don't have an exact one to recommend.

Not So Favorites:

We have tried to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books - but my kids don't love them as much as I would like.  I am not sure if they are too old fashioned, but not as old fashioned as say, Anne of Green Gables.

The Little House on the Prairie Books have had mixed reviews from my kids - which I find amazing - because I remember being entranced by the stories.  I still love these books and I would say my kids "like" them well enough.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

This series is great!  However, I don't consider them great read aloud option because there are a lot of wordy description sections that make the kids eyes glaze over.  I have found these are better read by yourself, because it is easy to skim those parts and move along.  I did the same thing when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - great books - just not great read alouds - at least for my kids.

One other quirky thing about me is I have a rule that if I know there is a movie about a book - you HAVE to read the book first.  No exceptions.  (I will admit sometimes one will sneak by me that I have no idea was based on a book though!)

Yes, when you see the movie you are almost always disappointed because they left out so much detail or cast a completely wrong person in the role you connected with the most, but, I think it is better to have the true full picture/intent of the book before you see it on the screen.

This rule was where I got my reluctant readers to really read though and it was all because of....Harry Potter!

Now, I will say that I actually read the books first because I had heard a lot of talk when they first came out, from the Christian community, that they were horrible books.  After reading them, I understand their concerns, but I found a lot of good in them.  So, instead of banning the books, I had the kids read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti first.  Then we talked about how there really is evil in the world at work behind the scenes and talked about why some Christians were choosing to stay away from Harry Potter.  I think this approach worked really well and we have enjoyed the Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling series with no guilt.

Honestly, my list really could go on and on.  I LOVE to read.  I am hoping to instill a little of that into my kids.  One of my favorite memories of my dad was the time I realized that he liked to read as much as I did.  When I was a kid, I remember him reading the newspaper every day and I remember him reading the Bible, but not really much other stuff.  Looking back now, I am thinking it was just because he was too busy working, taking care of the house/yard/cars that he didn't have time to read for fun.  I get it.  There were many years in the middle of this parenting thing where I just couldn't read....or would start a book, full of hope that I would have time to finish it, and there it would sit on my bedside table - slowing accruing library fines -  because I was too tired at the end of the day to read.

Back in 2001, Rainman had a long term work assignment in The Netherlands.  We only had D-man and A-girl then, so we packed up and moved to the apartment his company had rented over there.  At the end of his work assignment he took 2 weeks of vacation so we could tour Europe and asked his mom and my parents to fly over and meet us.   It was so much fun being able to see the world with them.  Back to the reason I started this story...when we were in Italy, I needed to run to the store (probably for diapers) and my dad said he would go with because he needed a few books.  As he and I were perusing the books we could find printed in English we chatted a bit.  I told him that I panicked a bit if I was almost done with a book and didn't have one waiting in the wings (even if my time to read was slim - I still needed one waiting for me as an option!).  He chuckled and did his little sideways smirky-grin and said he was the same way.  He explained that he was almost done with his Tom Clancy book and didn't want to be in the middle of nowhere in Europe and not have his next book ready to go because he wouldn't be able to relax without knowing he had a book..  I remember my mouth dropping open because I had no idea that he and I had that in common (since every one, including him, used to tell me that I was exactly like my mom).

Now that my kids are older, I have a lot more time to read.  I have also stopped watching t.v., so most of my free time is spent with a book in my hands.  I am hoping that all of my kids will follow my example and become readers.  D-man has definitely become a reader, but he is following in Rainman's footsteps and seems to enjoy non-fiction more than fiction.  But, least he is reading in his spare time and not doing all the other things a 21 year college guy could be doing, right?!?

We are getting reading to start our new school year next week and I only have 2 students still at home.  Crazy!  I have already started to gather my read aloud pile for the year....and they have started the moaning and groaning, like usual.  It actually makes me smile a bit to hear them complain about this particular thing, because I know that at least one of the books I have chosen will get inside their heads and mean something to them or inspire them to go dig up information on ancient Egypt, or the depression, or even Norwegian recipes.  I know it.

This is what homeschooling is all about....tackling favorites and the not so favorites - whether it is books, chores, school, or life... together.

big of a deal.