Apr 18, 2016

Playing Favorites...

Today I would like to talk about which of my children is my favorite, and why. I'm aware that it's uncouth to admit to such things, but I think when you hear the whole story you'll agree with me.

Now, when talking to them separately, I tell each that (s)he is my favorite and why. His Highness is most like me in personality, so we relate on many levels. Plus he is the oldest, so he can physically keep up more often with whatever we are doing. The Littler One is the biggest presence; he has ALL the feelings and ALL the spunk and personality, and is just a kick to be around. And Tiny E and I have a lot in common, being the girls of the family and all, and she is the sweetest sassy lamb.

I mean, under extreme duress and coercion, I might be persuaded to pick a secret-favorite, but it would be very difficult, as I'm sure many parents would agree. I tend to have daily favorites depending on who is having a hard or easy time at any given moment, but over time those balance out fairly evenly.


One of my favorite takeaways from my year of therapy was that I need to leave my family.  Or at least, leave them more often for short periods of time. Longer than, say, an evening, but not necessarily several weeks at a time or anything.

Incidentally, this is not the Cat Daddy's favorite part of my personal growth. Character-building is rarely fun.

That was, like, a year ago, and so far I've managed exactly 3 nights away from my family, with another night or two on next month's schedule. It's not quite the pace I was hoping for, but it is progress and we are getting there.


Which brings us to yesterday afternoon. Sunday afternoons are our traditional chores time. And by "our chores time," I mean "the kids' chores time." Sunday afternoons are our time to dedicate to harping on lovingly nurturing the children in the guidance of proper technique.

Usually we divide and conquer, one of us taking His Highness for bathroom duty, and the other helping the littles through their tasks. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet made it to my weekly commissary run, and we were out of snacks, so we had to change it up this time. We worked out a deal where I would go to the commissary, the Cat Daddy would help all the kids complete their chores with WAY less fussing than normal from everyone, and whoever finished by the time I got back would get to go out for ice cream.

I was not optimistic. It really could have ended up resembling something like World War III. However, they floored me by ALL finishing by the time I walked in the door with groceries. This means we had clean bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, cleared floors, empty little trash cans, and wiped-down stairwell walls. People were smiling, nobody was yelling, and I wondered if I had stepped into some parallel universe on the way from the garage to the house.

I had a happy fit, gushing about how great they all were, and how proud I was, and wasn't it fantastic to be done with the chores so we could enjoy the rest of the day?!? We all agreed that indeed it was, and I went into the kitchen to put the groceries away.

Soon the Cat Daddy came in to give me the debrief. I was mildly concerned about what hiccups they might've had along the way, but he said they all pitched in and did a really good job. I have a few theories about how my being out of sight makes them transform into angel children a lot of the time, but we figured the promise of ice cream also helped quite a bit.

The Littler One joined us in the kitchen, and I gushed over him a little bit more and asked how he thought they were able to do such a good job with so much less fussing than normal, and he said it was because I left. He then said (and I quote):

"Mom, you should leave during chores time every week! And Daddy can work with us, and you can go do stuff in the afternoon during chores time!"

My eyes brightened, and I said, "Come here! Give me a hug! I think you're right! You are SO smart!" And I immediately gave him a six-second hug.

The Cat Daddy laughed and said, "No! The Littler One! We're not supposed to send Mommy away!"

And the Littler One said, "Yes! She should go away and do things while we do chores!"

And this is why the Littler One is forever and always my favorite child...

Apr 4, 2016

Scissor Safety...

All that glisters is not good for actually cutting things.

Today I'd like to rant a little bit about the dangers of childhood. On the left is one type of children's scissors. While they have a rounded tip, they have real metal blades. On the left of course is a pair of plastic scissors. They're really interesting because while they will cut paper, the blades are plastic so as to merit the description "child safe" and slow the safety-conscious heartbeats of preschool parents everywhere.

Also, they are pretty much useless.

They came with a cute little pad of colorful picture pages for cutting practice. Tiny E LOVED them because they are sparkly, and definitely wanted to use them over the boring old scissors she's been using for ages. I helped her with hand positioning and whatnot, but she couldn't get them to work right. They kind of flailed about in her sweet little almost-4-year-old hands, and the blades were wiggly enough that instead of being cut, the paper either folded itself between them or cut, but in a ripping sort of way. She was all, "Cutting is too hard."

Nope. Terrible scissors are too hard, kiddo.

I handed her the metal ones and said "Here, try these instead." But she wouldn't. She REALLY wanted the sparkly ones to work out. So I let her flail them about for a while, until she actually said, in her sweet little almost-4-year-old voice, "Maybe you wight, Mom," and agreed to give the old scissors a try (A response which, incidentally, I stored up in my heart for future access and remembrance when the conversation goes decidedly differently. Not that I can use it in any way, but it will be lovely to remember days gone by).

Did she then cut all the pictures out perfectly? Of course not; she's not some sort of creepy paper-cutting genius or anything. But she had a steadier grip with several fingers in the big loop, and when she cut her little paper scraps to bits, they were nice, smooth edges.

On the parenting spectrum, we fall somewhere in the vicinity of the free-range arena. Of course I don't want my kids chopping entire fingers off as a habit or anything, but I'm OK with their needing band-aids or maybe even the occasional stitches (only once so far, knock on wood). I mean, I'm a grown-up, and I still get injured by stupid plain old paper from time to time. Boo-boos happen.

But the thing about this situation is that I see it as a case of respecting tools as not-toys, learning how to work the tools in an age-appropriate way, and using the right tools to do a job. Cut paper, not skin, etc. Use decent scissors, and cutting is just exactly as difficult as it needs to be for a sweet little almost-4-year-old. Some parents might see the more realistic scissors and think they're more dangerous, but to me that's analogous to grown-ups who see sharp kitchen knives as more dangerous than dull ones. Maybe it depends on your definition of "dangerous," but I think the better tools are safer because they work as intended.

In conclusion, since we have about 5 pairs of the Fiskars kid scissors, I decided it was best for all if I found a new home for the sparkly plastic ones. For our family, everyone is better off this way.

Don't fear the metal, kids. It's just a little steel...

Look at the nice clean edge straight through that house.

Mar 3, 2016

On Chiropractic and Caring...

Today I'd like to talk about my chiropractor.

The truth is that I started going to a chiropractor back in Alabama. I haven't written about it yet because for so many years I was anti-chiropractic, and I couldn't find a way to succinctly describe why I had not only given chiropractic a shot, but ended up doing about a 150-degree flip on the matter (No, not 180 degrees. Still about 30 degrees skeptical).

And honestly, it's kind of a boring story. Ever since prolotherapy, I've been putting a lot of work into getting strong and re-building a healthy neck/back/spine from so many years of hinkiness. I'm super-fortunate in that for the most part, staying strong will let me live well and (mostly) pain-free, but there are a few bits & pieces that I'll always have to pay attention to. So I ended up considering chiropractic for a long-term maintenance plan, and here I am.

Here's what I can tell you thus far about chiropractors--they are as many and as varied as any other doctors, and yes they are actual doctors, though not in the medical field, per se. My chiropractor here is a little on the woo-woo side. He has complimented my chakras and has a bazillion supplements to try if I should ever desire, but he doesn't require or really even push them unless I inquire. Which I appreciate, because maybe one day I will actually want to inquire, but not until I'm ready. The Cat Daddy says I've become a 'damn hippie,' and he's not entirely wrong (I haven't delved into the essential oils. Yet).

As I get to know Dr Chiro, one thing I like more and more about him is his kind spirit. His clientele is a mixed bag of all sorts of New Englanders, and he has a way to relate to every single one. He himself is sort of a quirky character, so it all fits together swimmingly.

To keep things relaxed and calm, he has a sign up in his waiting area about ending your cell call, "so you can relax and enjoy your experience," and he plays soft music of varying genres, and even my crazies are learning to keep it fairly peaceful (sometimes) when they are along for the ride. The office is in an old house, so everything is in pretty close quarters. While the treatment and waiting areas are partitioned, you can hear pretty much everything unless you go into one of the private rooms. At my appointment earlier this week, I overheard him teasing the lady next to me, calling her a "dainty lotus blossom," to which I raised my head and replied that I was TOTALLY going to tell my family that's what I am. A dainty lotus blossom. To which we all laughed because, well, it's pretty clear that neither she nor I is the dainty lotus blossom type.

With several of us lying on the treatment tables as Dr Chiro went around making his assessments and adjustments as needed. Deep breathing, lighthearted banter, thoughts of wellness, and overall relaxation were the mood of the morning...until the next client walked in the door. This lady had a presence about her. Heck, this lady WAS a presence. Her voice had an old-school throaty sound and was not shouty, exactly, but definitely a few notches above "soothing." She proceeded begin a cell phone call with "I hung up on you, so I'm calling you back." You could feel everyone hearing her conversation. The mood went to somewhat non-relaxed, and Dr Chiro grinned and softly uttered "Oh, God," as if she were his crazy loud aunt or something.  Those of us in the immediate vicinity chuckled softly in return.

Here's where it got clever, though. Her conversation continued, "I just arrived at my appointment, so we can talk until my turn, and then I'll call you back when I'm done."

Well, Dr. Chiro dropped my chakras immediately and peeked his head into the waiting room: "Come on back, Ms. So-and-So," and ushered her to a private room, complimenting her sweater as she (loudly) ended the call. He got her situated and resumed his rounds.

When he got back to my chakras I smiled and said, "You're a smart man," and he smiled back and said,  "Thank you, that's the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day. See you next week," and sent me on my way.

It just goes to show that a little kindness does everyone good, and maybe chiropractic care is just as much about the caring, as the chiropractic. Maybe. Regardless, I hope when I'm older and crazier, I get loving eye-rolls and muffled chuckles at my antics, as opposed to, say, horrified gasps or blank stares. On the other hand, if I'm spending every spare moment talking on the phone, you'll know something has gone drastically wrong and maybe I need a little talking-to after all.

Just make sure you compliment my sweater...

Feb 21, 2016

On Foreign Objects...

Full of triumphant sass and squirms

My third kid is my "nosy" one.

I'm not talking about butting into people's business (although she does that too). What I mean by "nosy" is that Tiny E's nose is the subject of her attention much more so than the boys' noses were for them. She's a little fixated on keeping her nose cleared out, and all the toddler-type actions that go along with that (Building Immunities! is my battle cry).

Such things gross out the Cat Daddy to no end, but I'm fairly nonplussed; mostly because I too was a nosy little kid, and it worked itself out.** To my knowledge I didn't horrify anyone with public nose habits after the age of 4 or so, so I'm pretty confident that she will also develop in an age appropriate way and for heaven's sake stop eating her boogers.

So while it was a first for us, I wasn't terribly shocked at today's events. I did think it was a little...different...that she asked me to help her get a "crystal" out of her nose. But given the time of year I figured hey, those boogers get dried up in there, and perhaps one was being a little stubborn. She suggested I use tweezers, which again I thought was a little...different...but also very logical. I was also very excited to use the tweezers. I affirmed my commitment to be very careful sticking pointy tweezers in her nose, and took a look.

Of course, upon further examination, I realized that by "crystal" she meant "bead she had stuck up there," and after a couple of tweezer attempts and few questions all became clear, including the fact that tweezers weren't going to cut it on this one. 

I sighed deeply, knowing that this would likely mean a visit to Urgent Care, but since she was breathing fine and in no pain I figured I would check the Internet for any magical tips to try first. I didn't find much, other than "Try tweezers" and a tip called the "Mother's Kiss," which it turns out is an actual technique that people try and succeed at.

In true euphemistic fashion, the Mother's Kiss is on the order of the Kiss of Life in that it involves the mouth but no actual kissing. It's simple, really--the parent blocks the clear nostril and then gives a quick breath into the kid's mouth, sending the air up thru the nose and, ideally, dislodging the foreign object.

I understood the mechanism of it, and I'm used to doing odd and/or gross things in the course of any particular parenting day, so it really didn't bother me. My biggest concern was that this particular bead was the kind with a hole in it, so I wondered if the air would go straight through the hole instead of forcing the bead out.

But still. After some encouragement from this post, I reasoned that it was worth a try. At worst it would be unsuccessful and we'd have to go to Urgent Care anyway, and I'd be thought a weirdo by my family for trying awkward things. Which of course they already think, so there was truly, truly nothing to lose.

So I sat Tiny E on the counter and explained I was going to pinch the clear side of her nose and blow into her mouth. After a few giggles and some fine-tuning and snot-wiping, I gave a quick puff (sort of CPR-style) and...POP! Out flew the bead on the first try. We talked about not sticking stuff up her nose, washed off the bead and discussed its future, and came to a non-agreement which is moot anyway because the bead has now been lost and forgotten somewhere in the recesses of my quirky old house. She agreed not to put anything up her nose (at daycare) anymore, but I only give her about a 55% shot on sticking to that one. She's my nosy one, after all.

When we played Two Lies and a Truth at dinner that night, I got to say I made a bead shoot out of Tiny E's nose by puffing air into her mouth, and my entire family was equal parts amused, impressed, and grossed out. I assume that the Cat Daddy was entirely thankful I saved us a doctor trip, and that it was my privilege and not his.

In conclusion, the human body is an amazing thing, and if you are curious about something, sticking it in your nose is certainly one way to see what happens next. Just make sure you have someone on hand who is willing to, um, blow it out if needed...

**Little known fact: if you stick crayon pieces up your nose--and if they don't stay stuck--they will eventually come out in the form of crumbly snot. It's a non-threatening and effective deterrent to sticking-things-up-one's-nose.

Jan 30, 2016

Awesome Awkward Angsty Angst...

I've heard it said that blogs are kind of dead if you want to make a living from them (Whew! Pressure is off for meeeeeee!), but that Podcasts are moving or have moved into the blog slot.  And I've already mentioned my growing affinity for podcasts. I love them so.

There is one I found recently, called the Mortified Podcast. There is a whole Mortified 'thing,' where people go to stage venues stand up in front of a microphone and read their journals, diaries, or other writings from childhood or adolescence. Deliberately and on purpose. They have stage shows in lots of cities, and over the years they've compiled the audio from some of them, and sometimes added follow-up interviews, into a podcast. These are people from all walks of life, so it's a bit of a mixed bag which episodes you might find the most interesting, but it seems to me that there must be something for most everyone.

I'm trying to decide how much of an introduction to give before sharing this episode with you. I mean, I want as much as possible for you to understand how I ended up in the parking lot at work, having to stop the episode early and pull myself together from a serious ugly laugh-cry before I went inside, and needing to stifle a few escaping giggles for the next half hour or so. Then again if I explain too much...well, I don't want to ruin it, is what I'm saying.

 These are the things you should know going into things:

--You'll need about 20 minutes, and it's not for little ears (unless your kids are sailors like some of mine. AHEM).

--The first half was fun and sweet in a sassy way, but it was the second half that sent me into hysterics.

--There are F-bombs. I really don't like the F-word, but in this context it is kind of hilarious. I think you'll see why, even if you wince a little bit like I did.

--I was born and raised in Phoenix, but two big parts of my heritage are solid Midwestern values and nerdiness. Nerdery. Nerd-dom.

--This podcast perfectly exemplifies the struggles of adolescence that transcend all. In other words, farm kids can have attitudes too.

So listen. Enjoy. Have some earmuffs on hand for the F-bombs. Maybe cotton ones...


Jan 1, 2016

Merry New Year--2016

Dear Friends,

I would like to say nice and inspiring things about the new year, but instead I'm going to talk about Dr Who, because right now I'm a little bit wrecked over it.

I've watched Dr Who from afar for a couple years now, if by "watched" you mean "caught a few random episodes, thought 'I would really like this show,' but also thought 'I'm not sure I want to get into it, because I'll never get out again.'" My first episode was the one where he meets Amy Pond, so I suppose that would make the Eleventh my first Doctor, or "my" Doctor, as some are prone to say.

This summer/fall though, our friends the Pastors T (and family) came to visit over a few weekends. The Pastors T (and Family) are hardcore, die-hard Doctor fans, and the ninth season happened over several of their visits, so we all ended up watching on the couch together more than once. And, as expected, after an episode or two I told the Cat Daddy to go ahead and leave the series recording on the DVR for me. 

The biggest problem is that Dr Who is wonderfully silly and irreverent a lot of the time, but then they go and put in moments of great poignance and beauty, and then I start crying, and maybe spend a week or two grieving when a key character dies, and/or there is some sort of big goodbye to be made (or maybe all of the above within a 3 episode span). It's terrible and beautiful, and I kind of hate it. Sort of exactly like the tail end of the Christmas special, when the Doctor makes River practically burst with love and feelings, and she's crying all over the place and tells him "I hate you." So I guess in that way I'm kind of like River Song, and I could do worse than being similar to River Song. Dr Who gets me, and it's the WORST.

I haven't decided yet if it is good or bad for me to get into a show that brings out ALL the feelings. My feelings get kind of big for their britches sometimes, and I've historically done well to stick to mostly lighter fare. On the other hand, I have friends who say when they're feeling emotionally, um, stuck, watching a good feelings show and crying it out does them good. So there's always that angle.

In the meantime, my current project is going back and starting with the ninth Doctor in order to catch up on some of the back story. Because it is all connected. And by "some" of the back story, I mean "10 of the 50 or so years Dr Who has been in existence, and not including the books, spinoff shows, and audio stuff that has all contributed to the Dr Who universe." I'm hoping that getting a broader perspective will ease some of the heaviness and depth of this past season. For now it helps that the earlier episodes were not the extensive production quality they have now, and it feels a little easier to stay emotionally detached. For now. 

In conclusion, stupid Peter Capaldi and his stupid good acting are the worst, and the show also makes occasional references to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I also happen to really like, and so I think I might be done-for.  

Happy New Year...

Oct 23, 2015

What I'm Into: Podcast Edition...

While I have some chores and things to attend to, today I'd like to talk instead about what feels to me like a newfangled technology, but as with most of my trend and fad discoveries, it has been around at least a little while. Much like motion-sensing lights in bathrooms. I walked into the bathroom of a very modest church a while back, looking for the light switch, and the lights flicked on automatically. ZING! I thought, "Wow, what a fancy touch for this mid-80's linoleum and country blue and peach floral vibe." Except then I realized that I find motion-sensing lights pretty much everywhere, and have even lived in houses that had them in certain places, so they're probably not all that fancy and new anymore. And I concluded that I'm, um, aging gracefully. I digress...

Anyway. Apparently everyone knows about motion sensing lights in bathrooms, so instead I'm going to talk about podcasts. Which, again, I'm pretty sure everyone knows about, but I'm new to this gig so you get to hear about my finds.

It started a year(s?) ago when the Cat Daddy started listening to musical podcasts from his favorite groups, and I was all "yeah, that's pretty cool," but didn't do much about it. He tried to tell me how to do it and I was all "So, it's an app?" and he was all "the app is where you find them," but I was only half listening so there you have it (apologies to the Cat Daddy).

Fast forward to this spring, when I was thinking forward to wintertime running in New England, and remembering that it may well involve dread-mill time, and sort of grumbling about that. Then I got to talking with some running acquaintances in AL and they mentioned which podcasts they were into, and how they really passed the time, and even gave me some suggestions, and it got me to thinking "Hey, this might be a good idea."

I'd heard murmurs about Serial, but it sounded a little intense for me. Kind of like HBO shows. Eventually though, I'd watched enough TED talks and Facebook snippets that I finally started looking up the sources of my favorite things, and bam--podcasts. You know what made the long driving days (almost) fun on our move? Plugging my phone into my car's auxiliary jack and listening to podcasts. You know what makes me (almost) look forward to dishes and laundry and lamesauce chores? Podcasts. I'm serious; if you are not into them already, you need to take a look and see what you can find. There is something for EVERYONE out there.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you some of the podcasts I'm into* **...

Another Mother Runner--This is run by Sarah and Dimity who are, among other things, mothers and runners. They talk mostly about running-related things. Obvs.

TrueFaced--If you are into Jesus, and Grace, and stuff like that, this is a great little weekly snippet. They are my people.

Open Door Fellowship Church--This is my home church. Always will be. Bill from TrueFaced started it with a bunch of hippies over 40 years ago, and it's one of the few places I've seen God's grace lived out in all its messy, trusting, brutiful glory. There are others, but not many. I don't listen every week, but I like to keep tabs and check in from time to time. They are my people.

Newsworthy With Norsworthy--More Jesus stuff. Luke is a pastor who is really good at asking questions and exploring ideas with people from all corners of Christianity. My favorite guests of his so far have been Nadia Bolz-Weber and Richard Rohr, but that's like saying my favorite parts of Disneyland are Space Mountain and the Blue Bayou. There's a whole lot more in between and around the two to love.

Invisibilia--This one is amazeballs. Alix and Lulu explore aspects about us that are invisible, but have a huge influence on our lives. It's science-y, and story-ish, and really hard to describe. They did an initial run of 6 or so episodes and are (I hope) in the process of making more.

Hidden Brain--This one is sort of in the same vein as Invisibilia, but focused more exclusively on social science.

How To Do Everything--This is a brief and fun look at most anything you can imagine. Mike & Ian answer listener questions on how to do...everything. It's a little tongue-in-cheek, a little sassy, and somehow still incredibly informative.

TED Radio Hour--So about half my podcasts are NPR-related. I think the Cat Daddy may be a little concerned that I'll turn into a crazy liberal, because apparently that's what happens when you listen to NPR (I've heard). But I could not resist an NPR show based entirely on TED talks. Plus, I might have the teensiest crush on Guy Raz.

The Simple Show--I took a winding path to get to this one. It started over on The Art of Simple. I've been loosely following Tsh and her family for a little while now, particularly their recent (almost)year abroad with their three kiddos. I pretty much completely ignored her podcast for a while, but then she re-vamped the whole thing and did a post on why I should go give it a try, so I did. Tsh's deal is living simply; that is, living holistically within your life's purpose. Which can mean something different for everyone, which is why it's a great listen. I think her biggest strength, though, is bringing in other people. (Nearly?) Every show is an interview where she talks with someone else about their own "simple," and many/most of them have their own websites and/or podcasts. So if you are kind of bookish and want to find people to follow, this is a good place to look.

PopCast--If you will look back over this list you will see Jesus stuff and science-y, thinking stuff, and a bit about living simply. And you might think, "Wow, Skerrib, you are cultured and deep," right? That's what I thought too, as I congratulated myself for jettisoning almost all the pop culture in my life. But then on a Simple Show interview, Megan Tietz dropped that she had also been interviewed for the Popcast, so I meandered over there to give it a cursory listen. I'm only about 5 episodes in, but I'm already certain I want to be besties and/or a professional third wheel to Knox & Jamie. Clearly, I've kept the lighter-duty parts of my brain too. You're welcome.

With winter coming, that dread-mill will be looming, so please feel free to leave me some of your favorite podcast suggestions. Ideally I have a smile on my face as the ending bumper music is playing, so no scary things or Lifetime specials, please...

*This list is ever-changing. There have been a couple I've tried and dropped for various reasons. There was one I really, really wanted to like because it involved interviewing all sorts of famous personalities on a more behind-the-scenes level, but it had too many f-bombs for my tender ears. I think it was actually called the WTF Podcast though, so I had fair warning there.

**I'm also into several non-podcast things--somehow I've completely missed telling you about my Apple TV and YouTube discoveries--but those will have to wait for another day. And we have also been in a timeframe where the Littler One wants to record and post his own Minecraft videos on YouTube, which I'm all for, except I'm stuck on the part about how to go about recording a Minecraft video. So there's that. Aging Gracefully.

Oct 9, 2015

Patchy Patchy...

When the Cat Daddy went into the Air Force, he went through Officer Training School. A substantial part of the first two weeks of OTS was learning how to keep their uniforms in good order. They trimmed loose threads. They learned how to tuck or blouse their pant legs just right in/over their boots. And they ironed. They ironed and ironed and ironed.

When the Cat Daddy returned from OTS, I told him that I would be letting him maintain his own uniforms. There were several reasons behind this, but my favorite was that the US government had invested so much time and training into his uniform techniques that I didn't want that training to go to waste. He replied that was fine with him, and that it was probably better than trying to train me up to the same standard anyway (he knows I'm a lazy ironer). So now when we have to buy an iron, he's the one who picks it out because he irons way more often than I do & knows which features are the important ones. And when he needs something sewn on he takes his uniforms to the base alterations place, which for a reasonable price does a great job in probably 1/3 of the time it would take me. And if it comes out wrong (which I don't think it ever has) he has them do it again, and I'm very happily out of the loop.

Well, this year the boys joined Cub Scouts. I've quick-stitched patches and such in the past, but something about Cub Scouts seemed more official to me. We bought the Badge Magic (stuff to stick the patches on instead of sewing them), but then it turned out that their pants needed hemming as well. And in the past I've sort of hack-hemmed my own pants, but again something about doing them for someone else made me want to take it up a notch.

Well long story short, one of my running friends is a seamstress and does hemming and patch-sewing for people in the neighborhood as a way of funding her hardcore running habit.

So guess what I did? I could have hired her to hem the pants and sew on the patches, but instead I took a sewing lesson from her. I had the machine and the gist of the process, and she had the experience and the techniques to actually make things look good. So we spent a lovely couple of hours wrestling with fabric, and she graciously and patiently looked on as I learned how to do the things, and she made some dollars along the way. It was a win-win-win as far as we were concerned.

(Another thing I love about my late 30's is that I'm learning what things in life I care to take on myself and what things I can afford to hire out to people who know better than I. I'm getting pretty good at asking for help when I need it, and I'm finding people are generally glad to share their talents with me.)

That was a couple weeks ago. Since then we acquired new Den patches (above), and the boys earned their Bobcat badges, so it was time to test out my new skills. It took me a couple tries but in the end I was very pleased with the results, and have declared myself a serious, patch-sewing Scout Mom.

The Cat Daddy looked at my work and said he still wasn't sure he'd trust me with his uniforms, and I said that's fine. I'm not sure I'm up for that level of pressure and besides, I have a friend who would be happy to to take the job...

Oct 7, 2015

Snippets to Suffice...

Kids, there is so much to tell. So much. But there is so little time. So little. Rather than cramming all of the things into a gigantic post, it seems less painful to us all to let some snippets suffice--

--I started back to work a month ago, and can now say with authority that if you are going to start a new job, it should be with a company you've already worked for and like, and with people you've already worked with/for and like. You will have the BEST first week ever, and will only sweat a little bit from excitement, rather than buckets and buckets trying to figure out workplace culture, boundaries, and the like.

--On my first day I showed up with my trusty work laptop, ready to get back into the swing of math and big engineering words and stuff. I had a lot of questions, but I settled pretty easily into my workspace knowing most of them would be answered eventually. There were a couple, however, that were more urgent than the rest. And it turns out they are pretty much universal. You can be most any occupation, in any stage or station in life, in most any place in the world, and it boils down to these key issues: "Where is the bathroom?" "Where is the water?" and "Where do I get/store my lunch?"

You know what's not universal? At my particular away-from-home job no one asks me to do any bottom- or nose-wiping. People try to be as alone as possible in the restroom instead of all crowding in to find me when I'm there. They get their own food and drinks, and if I shoot a serious look or point to my phone they can tell I'm concentrating and should not be bothered unless necessary. I haven't had to give a single time-out to any co-workers, and I still get to say silly things sometimes. On the downside, no one has expressed any desire to give me snuggles or hold my hand walking into a building, but somehow it still feels like I'm winning, so I think it's a good fit.

--Overall the balance of work and home is...balanced. I *think* I might have found my own personal sweet spot. Our schedule is full but not overwhelming, at least most of the time.  The house is a notch messier than before, and still not completely assembled the way I'd like it. And I would love a little more downtime for *just* me, but that will come in time, I think, as I learn how to chisel it out of the day.

--The equinox arrived and, like clockwork, the weather cooled. My favorite time of year is now, when the mornings and evenings require a fleece but it still gets warm enough in the afternoons to take the chill off. The fall sunshine has a nibble of crispness to it, and of course the orchards have the best apples, without that suspiciously shiny wax coating one finds at the grocery store. The kids love it when I melt peanut butter and chocolate chips to dip their apple slices in, but I'm happy to skip the melting and dip right into the PB and chips. My family loves the local homemade apple butter with its hint of molasses, but I have discovered the "low-sugar" version, which in the case of jams and jellies doesn't mean blandness or artificial sweetener, but rather a bolder, more tart, and purer fruit flavor. I might have a slight low-sugar apple butter toast problem.

--Thus far moving back to Massachusetts has gone swimmingly. It's not exactly the same, of course; no place ever is. But we have made some new friends and re-acquainted with a few old ones, and are experiencing the joys of relational roots.

--I turned 38 a few weeks ago. I've been in a bit of a heady place for a few years, kind of surveying my life and realizing I'm THERE. I'm an adult, driving the mom-mobile, flying through these years of raising a family. A while back I saw a picture of my family (parents, brother, and me), taken when I was the same age as His Highness is now, and realized that when that photo was taken my parents were younger than I am now, and I got a little mind-blown, thinking, "There we were, and here we are."

--And finally, time for a little bit of True Confessions. I don't much care for Pumpkin Spice things. You can keep your lattes and pies and pancakes and whatnot.

I'll be over here with my apple crisp...

Aug 26, 2015

Come Lord Jesus...

OK kids, it's a little crazy over here these days. There has been a lot this summer to blame on the Big Move, but I think we've reached over that fence and into new territory. We're mostly-reasonably settled, at least as far as the kids are concerned, and yet the crazy continues.

The most obvious explanation for all this craziness is that we are less than a week from school starting, and all of us in the Skerrib family have wrung the snot out of this summer. We are ready for a return to structure, and challenge, and maybe a teensy little break from one another every single weekday.

Then again there's the mom-guilt option, where my own inner chaos, stemming from still not having anything on the walls yet (but constantly running after the kids in hopes of heading off any major messes, damage, or fire, hence further delaying any progress on putting things on said walls), rubs off on the kids and they mirror it back to me.

And of course there's the "we're all failing" option, where I am raising ill-mannered savages, plain and simple, and somewhere around age 20 they'll suddenly and without explanation mellow out into the normal and wonderful people I know are deep down in there. Or, you know, they'll become sociopaths. Either way.

These are the things I ponder as I go up and down stairs, chipping away at Mount Laundry one load per day, until someone poos and I have to add a load of bathroom rug, thereby disrupting the system (Children, please get your poo INto the potty).

I mean, most likely the first explanation is the truest, and we're all doing better than it feels 87% of the time. Tomorrow will dawn and most likely I will arise and jog, and contemplate life, and return home full of endorphins and happy thoughts. OR maybe freak out just a little bit; either way.

Still, I believe today that I have crossed a line. Call it a boundary, hedge, point of no return, margin of safety, arbitrary control point, or what have you. I call it "Come, Lord Jesus."

"Come Lord Jesus" is what happens when I try to get us into a system that will revolutionize our home, and it starts out well in the short term but eventually certain individuals incite mutiny, and the system is revolutionized alright, but in the exact opposite way from what I'd hoped. It is what happens when we are mere yards from the finish line, and our watertight form devolves into all-out flailing and tongue-wagging, and we have expended all that was in us, and we just cannot care anymore. This is when I take a breath, throw up my hands, and say "Come, Lord Jesus."

Two summers ago, we had a "Come Lord Jesus" moment very similar to this. It was the week before school started, and as I sunk into the couch and contemplated the mutiny raging about me I decided that turning into Loud Monster Mom, while very rarely occasionally effective, would do nothing. We needed a change of scenery, and that change of scenery was just around the corner with the start of school, and so we just needed to hang on until we got there. So I took a deep breath, in and out, and tabled the cleaning and nagging and routines until the following week. The house was a disaster, but it eventually got cleaned up, and no one was permanently scarred in the process (Incidentally, Jesus did not return. While a slight disappointment, I like to think it left the door open for continued prayers of this nature each summer).

Last year the kids ended up with a short summer due to scheduling differences between Virginia and Alabama, so there was no "Come Lord Jesus." In fact, it was closer to a "Holy crap," and mad dash for school supplies in time for the start of the school year. The kids maintained that it wasn't fair, and in some ways I agreed, but that particular pain saved us several days of "Come Lord Jesus," which I think was a better deal overall. And the house was still a bit of a disaster, but it eventually got cleaned up.

This year, however, the situations were reversed and they ended up with a loooooooonger than normal summer.  They cheered, "Yay!" but even they are rethinking that cheer at this point. There are no more field trips to take, activities to try, or places to explore that will make it better. Don't get me wrong; there is plenty to do. It's just that I can no longer be reasonably sure that no one will lose an eyeball in the process. We need our village, and we need it now. Come, Lord Jesus.

And so today some of us have done our chores and some of us haven't, but I am acting as if we all have, and will lovingly and firmly dole out whispered consequences later. I think at this point it's worth it for my own sanity, and their own safety.

In conclusion, it just goes to show that you always have choices. From experience I can tell you that losing your cool makes the tiny sociopaths think they've won. Make space for your sanity, and make room for the Lord Jesus, and soon a new season will arrive, and eventually the house will be in something that resembles order.

Don't let the sociopaths win, people. Come Lord Jesus.

Amen and amen...