Sunday, May 1, 2016

The mess in my mind


Anxiety Brain

Welcome to my world.   Anxiety is horrendous.  It manifests itself in so many different ways.  It's not always the pacing the floor, wringing your hands type of thing (although I have been known to do that whenever the disaster involves red Kool-aid, Sharpie pens or pointy objects), it's more like living under the constant threat that you are forgetting something, late for something, failing at something, under-qualified for something, and so on....

I don't know exactly how I got here, but I think it has something to do with attaining/giving birth to four children in very short order, followed by deciding that homeschooling was a fun and fabulous thing to do, followed by thoroughly sucking at most of what I put my hand too.  Also, being over-scheduled, out-manned and unprepared most likely played a role as well.

I used to be really good at handling stress and keeping my shit together.  I was a non-traditional student (read: OLD) working three jobs AND maintaining a 4.0 GPA.  I cranked out papers, paid the bills on time and found time to craft, garden, hike, learned how to build stuff (power tools!!) and took a trip every now and then. I was on it!!

What the hell happened?

I have been spending hours on Pinterest, working hard to find ways to pull me out of this endless loop.  After wasting the last couple of years of not doing much that was productive, there is a lot that has stacked up, waiting to be dealt with.  Literally...stacked.  If you walked through the door right now, you'd think you walked into an episode of Hoarders.   I've bought bins, made countless chore charts, shuffled around paper piles, bought self-help books, read blogs, spent time on Facebook, took long naps, ate loads of chocolate.... none of it solved the problem and got to the core of the matter that I was clearly over-whelmed and totally unmotivated to do anything about it.

Fly Lady?  (check)(got irritated with the constant sales pitch)
KonMari? (check)(I haven't moved beyond the first chapter.  Do you know how many clothing items 6 people own???  And what is it with all that folding business??  Clothing is not origami friendly)
GTD?  (check)(I am not that OCD)
Home Routines (check - and actually quite successful, when I remember to actually do it, and if there isn't anything more interesting to do, like surf the Internet, or nap)

So here is my latest attempt at reining in the chaos.  It of course involves lots of sticky notes.  Sticky notes are awesome.  It is visual.  If I can't see it, I don't think about it.  (the exception of course being the clothing, legos, wrappers, mail, dirty forks, spoons bowls and cups, dog hair and shoes that I see. every. damn. day.)

This chart is a mish-mash of Kanban and Alejandra (I so totally envy her colored binder collection) and it sits in full view of my desk.  When I am able to tear my eyes away from Facebook and actually look at it, I can see all the things that swirl around in my brain in a format that lets me know - "Here is what you deemed important enough to write down on a sticky note, so get your ass out of that chair and do something!!"  The list of goals I want to meet (above the sticky notes) addresses all the things that nudge at me and give me anxiety. Things like: I don't read enough to the kids...everybody gets to bed very late...the kids need to learn how to pick-up after knee is still very weak and in constant pain...I can't ever find the paper item I need without digging through 4 different stacks of paper, 90% of which is junk mail anyway...  You get the picture.  I copied the idea for this from an Alejandra TV video.  The sticky notes below are little steps I can take to get items checked off the list above, thus lessening my anxiety about not getting anything done.  I have spent the past couple years ground to a halt, totally stuck on which 'thing' to tackle first.  So I tackled none of it.  Now I have choices that I can act on, with minimal fuss or preparation, that will move a goal along to eventual completion.  I can drive to the store to get the paint that I need to finish the painting job that was started 18 months ago.  I can sit at the computer and pull together a reusable menu of family favorites.  I can assign kid w/parent cooking nights, which will teach them an important life skill.  I can create a standard shopping list tied to a week's particular menu, saving me tons of time.  I can get the kids in a routine by teaching one skill at a time: clearing dirty dishes, loading the dishwasher, putting away clean dishes, and wiping the table.  All of which they suck at except for Jordan, who can load a dishwasher like a boss.

Little steps are what I can handle at the present moment.  A single counter space.  A single goal (put away this basket of laundry).  A single errand, phone call or email that I have avoided.

Read this Interesting article about willpower as a muscle by


Saturday, April 30, 2016

When Doves Cry...

I've been feeling extraordinarily sad about the surprise loss of Prince.  I was in total disbelief when I first read the headline on my news feed.  "WHAT?!?!?!?"  Why is that?  Why is it so shocking?  So hard to accept?

Music icons are supposed to be around forever.  They age as you age.  As their music matures and changes with the passage of time and issues they care about, you change right along with it.  The music isn't supposed to end.  The magic of the personal memories their music evokes isn't supposed to end.

I've scanned the news every day since looking for new information about his life, his art, his talent and his mysterious personal life.  I love that he gave enormous donations to various youth organizations, schools, music programs and so forth - and did so anonymously.  I love that he was so protective of his art, his persona, his creative genius...  And I love that he was such an introspective thinker about religion and humanity.

I am moved by how the world has been touched by his music, and how so many have honored his memory and his legacy by playing his music, sharing their memories, wearing purple...

Thank you, Prince, for your music.  Your songs were in the background of many an afternoon of painting nails, trying on clothes and laughing with friends...many an evening of driving aimlessly around town, singing your songs that we wouldn't dare play in front of our parents...  Thank you for your artistry, your message that you are free to be yourself - crushed velvet, makeup and heels included.  Your style was captivating and liberating to many...You touched so many lives.

Thank you

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Simple Woman's Daybook Entry

Outside my window... It is cloudy this morning.  Rain is the way...

I am thinking... A conversation we had over dinner last night.  As a way to avoid six people sitting around a table staring at their devices and not talking, I made everybody hand them over and then tossed out a conversation starter:  "If you could go back in time to observe anything you wanted to (not interact with the people or try to change events), what would you want to see"?

Colin: "The lions, because I like lions".  (So says the six-old who didn't understand the question)

Owen: "I would go back to when the dinosaurs lived, because I wonder what it would look like where our home is right now.  Like a magic world or something.."

Rylan: "I would want to see aunt Susie again, and see daddy's dad, because I never got to meet him".

Jordan: (I can't remember and he is STILL asleep (1 pm!) so I can't ask him)

Me: "It's a choice between standing in the crowds as they welcomed George Washington as he arrived in the capitol to officially take the office of the presidency, or to be at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, and listen to Martin Luther King as he gave his 'I Have a Dream' speech".

Dean: "To be sitting in the garage as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak experimented and built the first Apple computer".

I am thankful... for coffee, headphones, warm kitties and fleece blankets

From the Learning Rooms... We are starting a new science unit this week called "Secret Formulas" .  Owen has been requesting something chemistry related.

In the kitchen... leftovers from dinner last night. We went to a Persian cuisine restaurant last night called Rumi's House of Kabobs.  Sooooo good.

I am wearing... Pj's and a sweater because it is chilly out, and the kids left the backdoor wide open as they keep running in and out of the house to report their lastest finds.  They are hacking away at the dirt with shovels, playing 'archeologist'.  yay......

I am creating... ummm.. not much?

I am going... just the usual round of Sunday errands, nothing exciting..

I am wondering... why cats like sitting in boxes, baskets, crates, etc.... weird.  I call them 'cat traps'.

I am reading... "White on Snow" for myself, and "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" to the kids.

In the garden... Well, this is a bummer.  The wood used for the raised garden beds is rotting away, and as I was digging out weeds yesterday, a wall on the one of the beds fell away.  I guess it has been six years... but I still would of expected them to last a little longer.  Dean is willing to build me an elevated garden box. I need to keep the garden on the simple side - I just can't add anything more to my plate, and I hate, HATE our soil so I don't want to rebuild the planters on the ground.  We also have an excess of garden snakes, ants and slugs all over the yard, so spending ample time kneeling on the ground does not appeal to me AT ALL - as well as it irritates my knees.  I will use my largest flower pots to plant my tomato plants, and the garden box to plant just a small amount of herbs, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beans and maybe a single cucumber?

I am hoping... I am hearing rumors that we may get a lot of snow this coming weekend. Like in the range of 20-30 inches.  I am sooo hoping that it is true.  Call me crazy, but I haven't had enough winter yet...

I am looking forward to... Tickets for Coldplay's U.S. tour go on sale in our area beginning on Monday.  We are hoping to score tickets for either the Tulsa show or the Denver show.  

I am learning... well, since I was mentioning the place we went to eat last night, I wanted to be more specific about the food rather than just calling it 'Middle-Eastern'.  'Kebab' means 'roasted meat'.  The restaurant we went to serves it in the traditional Persian (Iranian) style by serving the meat with saffron rice, a roasted tomato on the side, and butter pats on the plate.  The waitress told us to mash the tomato and butter into the rice, and then sprinkle it with Sumac powder (which was in glass salt shaker on the table).  She didn't mention what the powder was last night, but I looked it up today and read about Sumac powder.  From Wikipedia: "The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy crimson spice...The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat...In North America, the smooth sumac (R. glabra) and the staghorn sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed "sumac-ade", "Indian lemonade", or "rhus juice". This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth, and sweetening it."

I am hearing... Umizoomi on the tv. 

Around the house... there will be some cleaning, sorting and napping going on in the near-future.

I am pondering... how soon we can get rid of the plastic playhouse in the backyard.  It is a spider and wasp haven.

One of my favorite things... my sage/thyme candle that sits by my computer.  I sniff it at regular intervals.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Rylan has a birthday party to attend on Tuesday afternoon, and other than that just the usual stuff.  Oh, and NO doctor appointments this week!  For the first time since mid-February we get a break!

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing...

This is Colin, about 5 years ago.  It always makes me laugh, and laughing is good. :)

To read more entries and visit a variety of other blogs, go here...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Today I write...

Notepad, Pencil, Pen, Paper, Lined, Lines, Stripes

I haven't been in the mood the write lately.  I can't really pinpoint any particular reason why, just that I didn't feel compelled to do so - which is kind of sad, since several significant events have passed by.  I have had plenty of weighty thoughts rolling around in my head, things I wanted to document and so forth, but the act of sitting down to write about it just didn't appeal.

Things got tough beginning in December.  My aunt Susie passed away unexpectedly - shortly after Thanksgiving.  I spent most of December in a state of numb shock.  About that time, Owen began to have some significant behavioral issues.  He was going through cycles of anxiety, OCD, angry outbursts and crying episodes on an hourly basis.  It was hard to keep up and know how to comfort him and calm him down.  It is hard enough to parent as it is, so it is a thousand times more difficult when you yourself have to really focus on relating to what the child is feeling and helping from that perspective.  It is a MILLION times worse when your child is dealing with anger, anxiety and depression, and you have to go 'there' to feel the very things you know can take you over the edge again.  I'm sure it is akin to an alcoholic passing a drink to a friend and catching a whiff of it.  I find it difficult to be around anyone struggling with their own demons - I am fragile enough myself that I feel I could lose any ground I've gained - each and every inch I've crawled away from the abyss.

So today I write because Owen is gaining ground.  Each day brings its own challenges and Owen has multiple meltdowns, but he also has a very good handle on describing his feelings and has shown, periodically, some effort in trying to manage them when things get intense.  Owen has begun psychiatric testing at the university.  I am anxious to see what the results will be.  He should be finished by next week, and then we will know where to go from there.  He has been seeing a therapist for the past several weeks as well.

So today I write.  I've experienced a small victory.  Yesterday's date has been a black mark on the calendar for the past twelve years now.  Yet, for the first time, it passed by as just. another. day.  I helped each little boy write that date on top of their schoolwork yesterday, was just a date.  Owen struggled with what each number meant, and Colin struggled writing the number four.  Rylan was happy because it was a 'special day'.  I turned inward and smiled a wry smile - if she only knew....  To Rylan, 'special days' are dates that have numbers that repeat, like 2/2/16 for example.  So to her, 4/4/16 was really cool because 4 x 4 = 16.  To me, it was now just another day.  We did schoolwork.  We drove to my psychiatrist's office, and I had my routine appointment while the kids had lunch with Dean.  I didn't mention the date to my doctor - because it didn't even enter my mind.  (victory!)  

Today I write...after my appointment I joined Dean and the kids for the rest of lunch, Dean returned to work and the kids and I proceeded to the community pool, which was a reward that Owen had been doggedly working to reach by earning stars for working or sharing without fuss and argument.  On the way to the pool we passed by the cemetery where several of my relatives are buried.  The kids were commenting about how 'that place' must be full of bones.  Well that didn't sit well with me, so I detoured and drove the meandering road through the cemetery to the area where the headstones bear the names of my grandparents, great grandparents and great aunt and uncle.  I told the kids, "these aren't just bones....these were people.  People who were family members and friends that meant a lot to the living.  That is why they are here.  It is a way to honor them, and remember them".  It then occurred to me that I have no idea where the final resting place of my aunt is.  She was in a casket for the funeral, but it was my understanding that she was to be cremated after wards.  It is her mother and father that are my grandparents I mentioned, so I imagine her ashes are most likely in that cemetery.  Rylan commented on how she missed aunt Susie. I miss her too.  I still can't believe that she is gone.  Her two younger sisters, my SIL and my nephews are all in Ireland this week for Spring Break.  As they post pictures on Facebook, I periodically find myself wondering why Susie is not in the picture.  Aunt Susie and the other two have been collectively known as 'the aunties' for as long as I can remember.  The three of them did everything together.  It has been very difficult for all of us to come to terms with Susie's unexpected departure, but my other aunts have taken it especially hard.  I am glad that they have this week away to breathe a little and maybe take some comfort.

Today I write because spring is here and it is time for renewal.  I feel better emotionally than I have in a long, long time.  I know now that Owen has the resources and the help he needs.  I am proud of the way the family supported each other as we dealt with the stages of grief, and with the mundane task of dispersing a lifetime of possessions.  As I type this, I look out my window and see a metal decorative spinner, rotating gently in the morning breeze.  And I think of Susie, knowing that she once enjoyed looking at it as well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Minion construction Day 1

Yes, you are correct.  This is not a minion.

I love creative costumes like this one pictured above.  It is easy, kid-appropriate and humorous.  Especially if you tried to sit down.  I bet I could whip this up in about a half-hour - unlike the stupid undertaking I am in the midst of, making not one, but TWO minion costumes.  These minions are the costume creation from hell, I tell you.  I think at least 287 different steps are involved.

I am the proud owner of a new glue gun, since my trusty old one is currently 'misplaced' and no one is fessing up.  My new glue gun is the boss.  The glue gets wicked hot.  WICKED hot.  Like, shout-several-curse-words hot if glue oozes out over your skin. Which of course it does!  And, wouldn't you know... gluing foam is difficult, and holding two pieces of foam together, sandwiching 1000 degree hot glue in between is not a pleasant crafting activity.  The directions I am following for these costumes made is sound like you just glue here, press here.. glue there and press there, and voila!  A perfectly rounded minion head!  So after expending a lot of mental energy in trying problem solve glue vs. foam, I have some insight to share.  

Clothespins, crafty people!  Clothespins are your friends!  After struggling with that stupid tube of foam for the entire first half of the Broncos game, I got wise and figured clamping it shut with the help of clothespins would do the trick, since I clearly did not have enough hands.  Besides, clothespins do not have nerve-endings.  My hands do.  I pinned up twelve seams sealed with hot glue, still burning each and every one of my fingers plus a way-too-curious child (or two) in the process, but the clothespins got the job done in holding everything closed until the glue set (I actually let it sit overnight).  The kids wondered if this freaky-looking minion head with about 50 clothespins sticking out all over it was the finished product.  Uh... no.  I am now in the process of working on minion head #2, in between math problems, dirty dishes, phonics and tuna fish sandwiches.  

Maybe it was the cool moon spectacle messing with my crafty mojo last night...  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Simple Woman's Daybook Entry

Outside my window... An absolutely gorgeous fall morning.  The air is still and the neighborhood is quiet.  I hear the occasional crow...

I am thinking... about how the Pope moved so many people this week.  I'm not Catholic, but his words are for all of us.  I hope Congress listens.  I hope the nation listens.  I hope the world listens.

I am thankful... That the cub scout meeting that I led last week went well.  We have 10 little boys - and they are all full of life yet very sweet.  The object of the meeting was to create *something* out of recycled materials.  Boys this age are not big on crafts... (are they ever?) but I did find a cool project on Pinterest where the boys could create a wolf head, since they are wolves right now.  They were actually excited!  I have all the pieces and parts that they have constructed, now I just need to glue it all together and spray paint it.  They then can add details this coming week.

From the Learning Rooms... Rylan has finally clicked with multiplication, Owen is really getting into math as well - MEP is a very good fit for him and his problem-solving style.  Colin is spending lots of time on ABC Mouse and really enjoying it.  On Friday, I watched a fantastic online discussion given by Julie Bogart from Brave Writer on Periscope, called 'When it all goes wrong in your homeschool'.  It was just the shot in the arm I needed for positive thinking after the first month of slogging through work with the kids.  Even though this is our 8th year homeschooling, sometimes you need to hear that it will all be OK over and over and over again.  This particular discussion is no longer available on Periscope (they only remain for 24 hours), but Julie indicated that she would put it up on the Brave Writer site in the near future.

In the kitchen... I figured out a quick and easy way to create beef stew this past week.  I purchased two packages of Hormel's Beef Tips in Gravy (which would be about the same price as getting stew meat), 32 oz beef stock, bottle of beer, baby carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms and baby potatoes or sweet potatoes.  First saute the onion and mushroom in some butter or oil, and after a few minutes add in some chopped celery.  While the veggies are sauteing, I put the carrots and potatoes (cut into 1 inch chunks) into a pampered chef microwave steamer with a little bit of water, and steamed them in microwave for about 7-8 minutes.  This will cut down on the cooking time, overall.  As soon as the onions turn golden brown and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has cooked off, sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the vegetables and stir until it is mixed in well.  Then pour in a little beer to deglaze the pan, scraping all the good bits off the bottom.  Keep pouring in a little more beer, stir, and then a little more, until the entire bottle is mixed in well.  Add the beef stock, stir well.  Add in the carrots and potatoes - plus the water they steamed in!  Finally, open up the two containers of Beef Tips and scrape all of it into the pot and mix well.  Add a little pepper.  I would nix adding extra salt, there is plenty in the stock and Beef Tips.  Any part of this process can be tailored to what you have on hand veggie-wise.  You can also add some Worcestershire,  a bit of tomato paste... whatever.  When it is all mixed in, cook for about 15 minutes and it should be good to go.  I actually made it twice this week.  Dean needed to take stew with him for Fall Camporee this weekend, so I made a second batch.  It goes together from start to finish in about 30 minutes.  Yummy and kid-approved!

I am wearing... blue silk(ish) pjs from this past Mother's Day.

I am creating... Minion costumes!  Do you know how hard it is to find a large piece of egg-crate foam??  I gave up after visiting five different stores looking for a twin-size mattress foam pad, and just purchased a roll of foam from Hobby Lobby and used a 40% off one item coupon on my phone.  It's not quite as thick as what I wanted, but it will do.  Can't wait to get started. :)

I am going... On a fall hike very shortly.  There is a family fall colors hike at the cub scout camp about an hour away, so we are picking up my dad and then heading up there to join the other families from our pack, and Dean and Jordan will join us as well, since they will be ending their camporee stuff just down the road at the boy scout camp.  Should be a beautiful day!  

I am wondering... If you still get monthly cramps after a hysterectomy. (?)  Three weeks and counting...

I am reading... I visited the Pottermore site yesterday, and read the new bit on there about Harry's ancestors.  Loved it!

I am hoping... That even though I really do love the sunshine, I hope that it starts to cool off a bit and feel more like 'fall'.  I also hope that Rylan's loose tooth comes out today.  It is her first molar tooth to come loose, but it is wedged against her wire band of her braces, so she can only wiggle it in one direction.  She is complaining.  Loudly.  All the time.

I am looking forward to... This coming week.  No extra stuff on the schedule.  It is also my dad's birthday and my FIL's birthday (same day).  I am thinking about taking my dad to the Denver Botanical Gardens.

I am learning... How to shape foam with scissors this week.  Minion teeth...

I am hearing... Clone Wars on Netflix (I think they are actually really good!).

Around the house... Tons of dog hair.  Still!  I hope Abby finishes her seasonal shed soon.

I am pondering... All the advice I heard on the online discussion I mentioned earlier.  Lots of good stuff there - especially the advice that homeschoolers (the parents, really) need to offload the tendency to feel like society's perception of homeschooling rests on their shoulders.  (I do this to myself all. the. time.) Yes, it is a non-conventional educational choice that we've made, but don't feel like you have to live under the constant pressure to always perform at a higher standard in order to prove the skeptics wrong...  This includes making comments to public school parents that your homeschooling experience is above par, even when it isn't.  Even homeschoolers can have bad days (weeks)(months)(year?) and it is okay to be honest with yourself and those you converse with.  Don't put yourself in the position that you must uphold the entity of 'Homeschooling' and push yourself to emulate an impossible, and mythical standard.  Keep it real.  Embrace your messy house, your lack of exercise or balanced meals and the children that refuse to produce stellar work, and just enjoy your choice to be with your children and homeschool them.  You are so lucky to have this opportunity.  Children grow up way to fast, and you need to treasure these years, not be a slave to them.  Good advice! 

One of my favorite things... Telling my youngest, as I put him to bed, about the exciting thing that he will be doing the next day.  He is so cute when he is excited. :)

A few plans for the rest of the week... A hike today, and possibly the Botanical Gardens mid-week.  Then the usual roundup of activities: Lego robotics, ballet, jazz, violin and Nutcracker practice for Rylan, piano and cub scouts for Owen, and boy scouts for Jordan.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing...

Rylan helped me pick out a fall wreath yesterday, for the front door.  I love fall!!

To read more entries and visit a variety of other blogs, go here...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cat fight in the night

Cat fights are totally related to penguins...

You know how, in just about any penquin documentary, they mention that even when surrounded by a colony of penquins, a returning female can pick out the distinct call of her mate and find him in the crowd?  It is the same thing with mothers.  You can be at the playground deeply immersed in conversation or a good book, with the noise of kiddos running everywhere, each yelling to their friends or their own mothers, but when your child calls out, "Mommy!", you are instantly aware they are referring to you.

It's the same thing with your pets.  Early this morning I was jerked awake by a yowling cat telling off another cat, just outside our window, and I just knew it was our cat.  She was not supposed to be outside.  We let her out occasionally, but only during daylight, and she usually keeps to our backyard.  I got up and double-checked all of her usual sleeping spots, and yep, no Kitty.  I went downstairs and opened the front door.  I barely got a 'Kitty-Kitty' out before she made a beeline up the front walk and hurried past me - telling me exactly what she thought of me as she passed by.  I'm sure it was something along the lines of, "You stupid human.  I am WET (sprinklers).  I was ACCOSTED by Jinx (neighbor's cat).  I can't believe you FORGOT about me."  In my defense, it was probably some young child in the house that let her out the back door, just as everybody was finishing ice cream and heading for bed, and nobody noticed.  Not my fault.  Except for it kinda is since I usually count heads before I retire, both human and animal.  Sorry Kitty.