Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inside My Bubble

Ok, let me first tell you how disappointed I was to return home after dropping off the girls and find Eion awake and waiting for me. Would that he had done me a solid and slept in today. It is really the only thing about homeschooling him that gets old - no breaks. (Well, almost none. Tim did take over the educational duties so I could play tennis yesterday.) But while E finishes up his Cheerios, I've got a few minutes to type.

It's interview season for the residency program at Tim's hospital. While I am largely unaffected by this process, I do get the chance to meet many of the potentials at the weekly mixers (that's so sorority but I can't find a better word this morning) that the hospital hosts for them each week during the application process. Having no knowledge of the program really, I generally chat it up with the recruits about Roanoke, living in a smallish town, and what the transition is like going from North to South. [On that last one, I am always surprised how many people are concerned that they will not be accepted here because they are Northerners.]

The conversation invariably, and naturally I guess, ends up at a point where they ask What I Do. When I tell them that I stay home with the kids, their reactions routinely remind me that I live in a, very nice thanks, bubble.

I would say the overwhelming majority of my friends also are stay at home Moms, with a sprinkling of stay at home Dads too. Being a SAM is totally normal around here. But when I tell the young residents-to-be What I Do, more than a few look at me with clear surprise, as though I am some exotic creature who time-travelled to the present from the 1950's. Most aren't sure how to respond and, somewhat awkwardly, say, "How nice" when their facial expression and overall reaction say something completely different.

I think many of the women just can't see how someone who was born and raised in the era of modern feminism could have chosen, and by the looks of things, happily so, such an antiquated path. It probably wouldn't help them understand to add that since we were engaged, when I was 23 and barely out in the working world, Tim and I had already decided this was the plan.

Sometimes I try to explain why it makes sense for our family in financial terms or how if I held a 9-5 kind of job I would never see Tim. (Though that second explanation was lost entirely on the woman who was willing to accept a residency in a different town than her husband, placing them apart for years.) Mostly I just smile and leave them baffled as to why I seem so at peace with something they find so foreign.

PS Clearly, I didn't get this done before we started school for the day but I have to tell you how Eion has this sense for knowing when I am at the end of my rope. On those days, he always provides the best behavior and learns the most, giving me reason to soldier on. The E knocked it out of the park today. And just came over to hug me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Love (and Hate) the Holidays

I just seem to be of two minds about everything these days. But before we get to Christmas, let's recap Thanksgiving!

We had no familial visitors this year. But no need for a pity party here. We were taken in by friends King and Fiona and had an excellent time. The kids all played well together, generally leaving the adults alone. The actual meal can be a wild card when you have kids who trend picky, as mine do. When Fiona asked what sides they wanted, I explained that last year, Eion had a Gogurt. There is simply no point in trying to please them. But we had no complaining (hooray!) and they each ate the items they liked. In Eion's case, his meal consisted entirely of rolls. Morrigan was a tiny bit more adventurous, having turkey, rolls and pomegranate seeds. Maggie ate what could be construed as a downright normal plate of food, dominating a drumstick, cauliflower, rolls and pomegranate seeds. But best of all, they praised it as "the best Thanksgiving meal ever." 

When we left, I was planning to head home but the kids insisted Hans had invited us over so we had to stop by. They had lots of family in town and we were happy to join the fray. It was an excellent day.

So back to my love/hate relationship with the holidays. Let's start with hate so we can end on an up-note. 

I hate the commercialization of Christmas. The two stations on my radio presets that turn to 24-7 holiday music a full two weeks before Thanksgiving. The fact that this was ever made:

Why use just any old plate, mug, paper and note holder (seriously?) when leaving a message for the fictional man in red? [Sorry, should have added a spoiler alert there but if you didn't know already, I'm doing you a favor.] Take any creativity out of the whole exercise and buy a box of crap from China. Make sure your kids know what is important here. It's not the gift and personalized letter to Santa, it is the delivery method. Yuck.

And further in the soulless category, we have these, for when you care, well, really not at all but you have to give this person something.

Then there are these non-food items. Having the whole family over? Don't bother with real food. Here, eat this processed, alarming crap.

Let's not forget Black Friday, a day wrong in, let's face it, all ways. You have the original incarnation which was people getting up crazy early on Friday to score a discounted tv (6 available at each location!) Every year people, up extra early to get in that holiday spirit, are pushing, shoving and shouting to buy things they desperately need, like a blue ray player. But it keeps getting worse. People are camping out days early, missing Thanksgiving, in order to shop. The stores, responding to the insanity, decide to open even earlier and earlier before dropping the sham of a holiday at all and just going ahead and opening on Thanksgiving. So we've taken a day to reflect, give thanks and be with the people we love and made it into a shop-a-rama. That is what I hate about the holidays.

Slow down there, you say. Where is the love, so prominently advertised in the title of this post? While the over-commercialization makes my teeth itch, I really truly love Christmas. 

I love decorating. The day after Thanksgiving, we were out there (though not at 5am) getting a tree. Which, by the by, made it home safely and quite secure. 

The kids and I couldn't wait to get started. [As a measure of full disclosure, I did buy one Black Friday deal. The Home Depot had 6" poinsettias for $1 each (limit 10.) But I promise, I was not there at the crack of dawn and injured zero other shoppers when I acquired them!] So many of our decorations have a history: latch hook Santa, crafted by Tim's own hands (as I found out the year I tried to get rid of it - never again), the nativity set made by Great Grandma in her ceramics years, and the ornaments Tim and I have collected over the course of our marriage. (Mostly I collected but he was kind enough not to balk at my affinity for sterling silver snowflakes.) It's like a trip down memory lane each year.

I love shopping for presents. I am not much a shopper in general, as my wardrobe will attest, but I dig shopping for others. My stash for the kids grows daily. If you need to know where it is, just ask Eion. He already told me he found it.

I love holiday parties. Tim and I are hosting a party and I am co-hosting, as always, the bad sweater party for the ladies. And I love one of our newest traditions, the Christmas Eve extended family get together. With a few other families, we pick a house and whoever can shows up for snacks and drinks.

The things I love about the holidays are the important and sometimes overlooked: the joy of giving, being with friends and family, and celebrating just how fortunate we are. The next month is one of my favorite times of the year - I can't wait.

And now that Thanksgiving is over, I will happily listen to the all-carols stations.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful, And Not

(Yum! Dinner!)

Oh let's get the negative out of the way. I am grumbly that, as he does every other year, Tim is working Thanksgiving. No matter how many years I've been through this, it always sucks. (Though realistically, probably more for him than me.) And we don't have any visitors coming in town so it is me and the kids.

That being said, when you put it all in negatives vs. positives columns, the pluses so heavily outweigh the minuses that I am already feeling guilty for complaining. Today, I am thankful for:

1) Timmy. Tuesday, even knowing he had to work the holiday, he took over the homeschool duties so I could play tennis. Truly, a prince among men. I am (including the dating years) 20 years and counting with the best guy ever.

2) Friends. Our status as holiday orphans did not go unnoticed and we are being fed and cared for by King and Fiona. If that weren't enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy, we had other offers too for Thursday and beyond. I am blessed with the best friends for which one could hope.

3) Those friends again. Did I mention I only have to cook one dish?

4) My kids. While routinely driving me insane, they are great. (Even the boy.) E continues to thrive in homeschool. He told me he loves it so much he never wants to go back to Crystal Spring. [To which I have to say, slow down. Love you and all, but in a year or so you are totally going back. Just sayin.] And the girls today spent our whole trip to Kmart (needed some shoes for the Christmas pic) trying to find things for Eion - while asking for nothing for themselves. Mags even said she really didn't need anything for Christmas. I am thankful for my three beautiful, smart, and wonderful kids. [Not biased at all by the way.]

4) My country. The greatest country in the world. Not because we are born with some inherent genetic advantage that makes us better, but because we are born in a nation that values freedom, individual rights, and provides us with almost unlimited opportunity.

5) All of You. Over the years, the support, love, and encouragement from my readers kept me afloat in some tough, in a first world sense, times. Thanks for stopping by.

I could go on and on, but by the time we reach my thankfulness for butter, bacon, podcasts and smart phones, this post might start to wear. So we'll call it a night. And I'll wish you a Thanksgiving full of your own blessings.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grandin Holiday Parade

Oh, I shouldn't have liked it, mostly because it was held a week before Thanksgiving, but it was a good time. Eion, psyched he had a coke, was chatting up the other attendees. One woman looked over at me and mouthed, "He's just the cutest thing!"

Morrigan's Girl Scout troop was in the parade and the leader was nice enough to let Maggie join in too.

They handed out candy and felt important.  It was especially nice when Eion brought over candy his sisters gave him - it seemed a long exercise to get some Hershey's kisses from home into his possession. But I was proud that Morrigan's troop had made their own banner. It just seemed to have more character than the preprinted ones.

E also saw his reading tutor in the parade and called out to him as if he were a rock star.

In spite of my doubts, the parade was very sweet and the kids had an excellent time. Seeing as the birthday party Maggie was scheduled to attend was cancelled due to the flu, we ended up at the Civic Center ice skating.

All three kids got after it in their own way - Maggie led the charge, E was in the center with a cone as a helper, and Morrigan stayed largely on the perimeter. But after a while, all the kids were out on open ice. We stayed til the bitter end with the kids disappointed to leave.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home on the Range

Did you ever have a point in your life where you read/heard/saw something that just put your whole world in perspective? A moment after which you felt you couldn't turn back? God help me for the reference, an honest to goodness Oprah AH-HA moment?

I have.

Amy, y'all might know her as fraught, lent me a book the other day. It's called Free Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy. It is all about how we are holding back and stifling our kids by over-protecting them. As I read it, I felt I had found my parenting soulmate.

It is all about how we are paralyzed by fear. How we unnecessarily shelter our kids and the damage our "protection" brings. Maybe I just love it because she is, in this case, preaching to the choir. I have spent many years (read 11- 10 parenting and 1 pregnant) being told I was a "bad" parent. Often with a smile but always with the undertone that I was just not caring enough because if I did care, you see, I would helicopter around my kids, sheltering them from harm.

Instead, I've always taken the stance that I value self reliance. If they can do it themselves, maybe they should. And every once in a while, someone might fall down. They might even get hurt. If we spend our whole parenting experience protecting our kids from any failure whatsoever, they are utterly unprepared when they do fail, as we all do eventually, if not regularly.

Reading the book, I felt emboldened. No, I wasn't a slacker all these years. I was instead refusing to bend to crazy levels of "safety." From here on out, I was going to [totally lifting from the book] world proof my kids rather than child proof the world.

So I've started to do some crazy things. My kids are cooking by themselves - with the stove. They are packing their own lunches. They are learning to do laundry. I have set them loose with kitchen knives. Just today I sent Eion into Tinnell's alone to pay our bill.

They love it.

If their reaction was not enough to convince me, I've been talking to people about the free range kids concept. One of the teachers told me a story about how, on a field trip, they were out to eat and a 5th grader was horrified that she had access to a butter knife. She was 11 and had never used a knife. Are we raising responsible someday-adults or Howard Hughes?

And the reaction around me has been interesting as well. I was at the bank with E [aside: don't let me forget to post about a not free range kids part of that trip later] and he was playing with a rubber band he found. I told him to stop it as he was going to wing it at either me or the branch manager. He asked if he could go outside with it. My initial thought was no but I quickly changed my mind. "Sure," I told him, "just stay on the bricks and don't go into the parking lot." Almost immediately, a teller came up to me, panicked, asking, "Do you know your son is outside?" Her panic turned to confusion when I told her, of course - I sent him there.

At the mall today, Eion wanted to look at some Angry Birds hats at one of the (annoying) kiosks outside the stores. I sent him on his way and told him to meet me back in the store when he was done. The cashier told me (again with the panic) "Your son left the store!" When I explained that I knew that and he would come back when done she just looked at me like I had lost my ever-loving mind.

My mind, thankfully, was fully intact. But what I knew was that he, realistically, was in very little (or no) danger being at a kiosk right outside the store. Lord knows if anyone did try to kidnap him, E is one loud fella. And really attached to his Mommy.

It's a little radical. But I think my kids will be better off for the freedom. I remember working at the used clothing sale the PTA had last spring. I was manning the checkout and a Mom and her daughter came up with several items. I asked the little girl if the dress they were buying was for her. She did not answer and refused to make eye contact. Her Mom, very proudly, told me how she had trained her daughter not to talk to strangers.

How utterly freaking sad.

This little girl had been raised to think the world was so full of danger that she couldn't talk to an adult even when her Mom was right there to prevent kidnapping or whatever the hell else her Mom thought might befall her.

I'm not going to raise kids afraid of anyone that has not been fingerprinted and background checked. Kids who bathe in Purell and won't ride their bikes up the street. Kids who are afraid of butter knives.

So if you see three kids unattended in our cul de sac, those are mine. And yes, I know they are in the street.

Thank You God or Karma or Whatever Smiled on Me Today

[You know, E's school pics alone are a reason he can't homeschool forever.]

I was decidedly NOT FEELING IT today. Dropped off the girls and returned home to find Eion still asleep. Thank goodness - I was back in bed in a flash where I proceeded to have a major pity party. Among my complaints:

Tim is in Florida leaving me to deal with kids, activities etc all alone. Not to mention, we rarely travel alone so I am just not used to being left like this.

The 24/7 being with E is getting a bit old. While intellectually I know this is the right move, I could do with a trip to the mall since...

I have come to realize that the vast majority of my fall/winter wardrobe has some age on it. Like about 5 years. When I lost my Eion baby weight, I bought new jeans and generally updated my closet. Since then? I've gone with the mantra that I'm not Princess Di and therefore do not need a new outfit for every occasion but when I can't find anything purchased in the last three years, I get irritable. 

As I bemoaned my First World Problems, Eion woke after his 13 hour slumber and went to get breakfast. I generally dragged my feet and put off as long as I could the start of the day.

But then, E was the best guy ever. He read his words without sounding them out. We crushed an entire Science SOL and an entire Social Studies SOL. He knew all his spelling words but two. He killed it at Math. We were done in record time and it seems everything was sinking in. After which he happily played iPad games while I shopped for some new clothes. 

The fates seemed to know I needed a day like that today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tootles Courtney or Why You Should Watch Your Mouth on Social Media

[Says the authorette, and sufferer of intermittent and persistent diarrhea of the mouth/keyboard, with self deprecating laugh.]

Today we are going to talk about how Courtney is going to be unfriended on the facebook later today, something I almost never do. I'll happily wage day long comment wars with people who post quotes from Elizabeth Warren (which sometimes lead to me being unfriended) and will read with dismay and amazement when a friend from high school bemoans the clearing out of Zuccotti Park (I wasn't even going to touch that insane comment stream) but I very rarely take any of it personally.

But then we have today's post from Courtney. She is a 20-something gal who used to babysit for us. She had her own baby so we don't have any business transactions these days but seeing as I had no beef with her, she remained my facebook friend. Until this gem popped up today: [Disclaimer - all posts are sic so grammar and punctuation totally not mine but the comments in brackets are!]

Courtney: back in the er with grandma, she's in severe pain again and really sick, praying that the drs actually do something this time around

[As she is taking aim at Tim and his ER doc co-workers, you know my hackles are up.]

Now we'll get into the comment stream.....

Friend 1: did they do a cat scan on her
Courtney: Yeah, back on Friday

[Note: doctors did do something on last visit.]

Friend 1: did they put her on meds or are they waiting to see if it passes
Courtney: They did that and still nothing! I swear I'm going crazy, that stone is 5 mils
Friend 2: They need to help her and do it right this time. And not send her home in pain
Courtney: Yeah that's all they [know] how to do is send people home in pain

[An aside here. ER docs CANNOT FIX KIDNEY STONES. Sorry for yelling but all the ER can do is try to ease pain. If you want this problem fixed, you need to see a Urologist. A second trip to the ER does not change what the doctors there can do. Just saying. Now back to the story.]

Friend 2: That they Do need new Drs in there how is she now
Courtney: The whole hospital needs new drs! Lol!
Friend 2: Amen the one here does to [(sic) nice grammar sweetie]

You know, I am aware that I am, as the wife of an ER doctor, exceptionally biased here. That being said, I am not a honk for the ER. Seriously, it is a miserable place. The doctors, nurses and staff there are doing the best they can, even if their efforts are not apparent to the outside world. Tim will tell me stories of the bureaucratic and administrative hoops he has to go through in order to treat his patients and it sounds positively maddening.

But back on point, we have in Courtney, a perfect illustration of what is wrong with the modern medical machine. Her grandmother shows up in the ER. She has a problem that HAS to be fixed by a specialist. The ER doc does his/her best to verify that she has a kidney stone and gives her pain medication. S/he can't do anything else. Grandma needs a specialist. But rather than see one, she shows back up at the ER four days later, where they still can't fix her problem but they are open and you don't need an appointment.

And her granddaughter sets out to slam the medical community on facebook.

The doctors in the ER are not magicians, they are doctors. And, in general, the ones in the ER are trained to keep you from dying. They are really good at keeping people alive. But if you show up with something requiring the care of a specialist that, while painful and awful, will not kill you, there might not be anything they can do, other than treat pain.

So Courtney, we are through.

One of these days, when you are done with school and are a Pharmacy Tech, you'll have some one in your place of work, angry about something beyond your control, that you couldn't fix if you wanted to. You'll do everything you can to help them but they will still leave angry, go home and slam you on social media. Maybe then you will understand.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mary McK 1911-2011

Tim's paternal grandmother passed away today. Grandma lived to be 100 years old and was a fighter until the very end. 

My first memory of Grandma was when Tim and I were dating. Truth be told, I don't know if she and I  had even met yet, but Tim told me that she had slipped him a twenty when she found out I was Catholic.

And apparently, she used to write what was inside the gifts she gave Tim, his brother and his father for Christmas on the outside of the package. You had to look, but it was there. They would make a big show of shaking and otherwise investigating each package before declaring, "There are jeans in here!" She never did discover how they knew.

Then there was the Christmas when we gave Tim's brother the Fart Machine, a small device that could be activated remotely and made, naturally, farting noises. Grandma, then about 95, found this to be tear inducingly funny. You had to love it.

We were fortunate enough to see Grandma on her 100th birthday. We gave her the option of any place in town for lunch. She chose the land of fried fish and gigantic margaritas. A woman after my own heart.

Love you Grandma and we'll miss you. Our lives were better for having you in them.

And I Will Toot My Own Horn

The latest South Roanoke Circle is out. I'm on page three.

Apologies for the Ad BUT

Sorry for the Shutterfly ad and for ruining the surprise of my Christmas card (for those of y'all on my list.) But they were giving out a $10 coupon for embedding it in my blog. And I am a cheap date.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Field Trip

Eion has decided that every outing we have is a homeschool field trip. That includes the tennis shop, the hairdresser and Kroger. But today, we went on an honest to goodness field trip, though it is a bit partisan so I doubt the City schools would have participated.

We went to a Republican victory rally that had local and state elected officials speaking. Did the E listen? Welllll, not so much. For a while he hooted and clapped but when he tired of that, he took to running laps around the crowd with Greg Habeeb's (rep from Salem) son. They went around the crowd and both came back to hug me repeatedly. Cute indeed.

When the speeches were through, E moved in on the governor, Bob McDonnell. Here he is on approach:

One of the other speakers intercepted him and asked, "Do you want to meet the Governor son?" To which E replied, "Yes Sir!" Gov. McDonnell chatted with him and posed for a picture. 

Next up on the field trip roster: it's me and all the kids collecting signatures to get Herman Cain on the ballot in Virginia. Come see us at lunch tomorrow at the SoRo fire station!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Schoolhouse Rock

We're about two weeks into The Great Homeschool Experiment and I can tell you two things with absolute certainty:

1) My house is WAY dirtier and messier than before


2) We totally made the right decision.

And by right decision, let me make sure we don't confuse that with an easy decision. My life has changed drastically. Tennis time is down, hell everything but Eion time is down. I find myself in the position where I am going to have to figure out when to Christmas shop for the first time in years. Even when the kids were wee, I had a few hours of Mother's Day Out to myself. Now, it is me and E, all day, every day. And as I can feel right now that spot between my shoulders that seems perpetually tight these days, it is not without wear on me.

That being said, this is exactly what the little guy needed. He is motoring through any and all topics I give him. The math, social studies, spelling and science take next to no time to complete. Reading is still our biggest struggle but we have gone from a child who had no interest in reading to one who is trying to read signs and sound out words all day. He makes spelling jokes and finds the Dick and Jane readers hilarious. While we might question his sense of humor, he's on the right track. Tim heard him reading the other day and commented that he seems to have made more progress in the last week than he had in the first 6 weeks of school. I think he's right.

Not to mention, while I think I will really miss time alone (or alone with Tim,) Eion has been such a great guy lately. We went to lunch on Friday and the waitress stopped me to comment on what a "sweet and darling" child E was. Eion! The extra sleep and homeschool structure appear to suit him just fine.

He even was receptive to school on Sunday when I explained that we wouldn't be working tomorrow since it was field trip day! The Governor and Attorney General of Virginia are going to be in town so we are going to (hopefully) meet them. (Not to mention I have a tennis match and a hair appointment.)

Upheaval may be the word of the week but we're going to deem it all for good.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If She Doesn't Scare You, No Evil Thing Will

So Maggie had an assignment yesterday that related to some book about the founders of the Audubon Society and (if I understood correctly) their crusade against the use of stuffed birds in fashion. The question posed to me was:

Do you think it is ok to kill an animal for fashion? 

I found this rather a loaded question. Seeing as I thought it biased against those of us who might have a fur (or two) tucked away in the closet, I was very deliberate about my answer. 

We discussed how people had been using animals for food and clothing for millions of years. We discussed how we personally had benefited from the death of a bird that night (yummy grilled chicken.) And how we had leather shoes, leather purses, leather jackets and fur coats in our closets.

I was sure to cover how animals raised for consumption, in food or products, needed to be treated humanely and killed in the most painless way possible.

To give time to the other side of the argument, we talked about how someone who didn't want to eat meat or wear animal products was well within their rights to do so. When I started to cover how the important thing was to respect other people's opinions and (basically) not be a busy body imposing your value system on the rest of the world, she looked at me and asked, quite pained at this point, "Can I be done with my homework now?"

This morning, I was packing her bag for school and was curious how our very balanced and wide ranging in scope conversation was put to paper. It was this.

"My Mom thinks they should be killed quickly instead of taking a long time to kill the animal. So she does believe [it is ok to kill an animal for fashion] because she likes her purse, shoes and fur coats."

That's Miss DeVille, if you're nasty.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Night

Oh but I do love Halloween. Even as a kid, I think I liked it better than any other holiday. Sadly, it was on a Monday AND Tim had to work but we weren't going to let that dampen our fun now were we?

Our friends Lori and David invited us over for pizza before trick or treating, as they have now for years. Seeing as we live in a part of the neighborhood where no one would be foolhardy enough to go door to door, those hills are killer, we are always eternally grateful for a home base in the flat lands!

It is a wee bit tough because both Maggie and Eion feel they have a proprietary relationship with Will, neither wanting to take the place of 2nd best friend for the night. But we hugged it out and agreed they would all stick together.

After snacks and posed pictures, the adults grabbed a traveller and we were off and running, literally.

I don't remember running from house to house when I was trick or treating as a kid but that is what my children, and their friends, feel is absolutely necessary now. For the first hour anyway. 

After a loop around White Oak/Brightwood, Eion was out. His bag was 1/3 full and he was tired of trick or treating. Lori was sweet enough to let him hang with her, and apparently discuss all the math he knew, I discovered later, so the girls and I continued on.

We made a pit stop at April & Greg's where, among other things, Morrigan wanted to adjust her costume. She had borrowed her sister's leggings and they were giving her fits.

With fresh supplies for the adults and kids desperate for the next round of houses, we were back at it. 

As it got darker and more crowded, we intermittently lost children and found them again but ended the night with no missing bodies. I was concerned that Morrigan, who was doubly hindered by a foot injury from the day before, causing her to limp and have trouble keeping up with her friends, AND the troublesome leggings would consider the evening a failure. 

But not a chance. As we drove home, loot in hand, it was declared by all, "The best Halloween ever!"