Monday, July 30, 2007

Measels make you bumpy, and mumps'll make you lumpy...

That bitch. All this talk about immunity, and my kids are covered in poison ivy. Covered. Chad is completely red from his toes to just above the knees. Cadence has it from head to toe, on her forehead even. I still appear to be immune, since all the itchy insect bites I keep unconsciously scratching have remained only insect bites.. even after several half-hour sessions each day of applying a baking soda paste to miles and miles of the stuff.

We had a long talk about scratching. The kids are washing with dish detergent. I was thinking since it dries the skin so well, it would help. Just an idea, but it can't hurt them. I've considered a salt soak, but I'm afraid it will sting. Wait it out. Just don't scratch.

Riley doesn't have poison ivy, despite having the same contact with the plants as her siblings. She's suffering from some other weird and scary symptoms that will take us to the doctor tomorrow.

There's this gland in her neck that's swollen. I mean it pops right out, you can see it. It's only on one side, and she says it hurts to the touch. No fever, but on her way to bed tonight, she said her body hurt. I pulled off a tick that was embedded in the middle of her back tonight (weird, and just.. eww), and she has a strange sore on her scalp. The sore could easily be an insect bite she scratched open, but we also found some weirdo bug in the girls' room. Ever seen a grub? Its body was like that, all white and squashy and fat and gross-looking. Only round like a marble, not long like a worm. And it had little red legs and a little red head, which also reminded me of a tick. Only bigger, like a June bug in May. Chad killed the thing before I got a good look at it, so I have no idea what it is. She's also Completely Covered In Mosquito Bites.

So now I'm worrying that it's Lyme disease or some kind of lymphoma or an allergic reaction to all the bites or any number of horrible things that could be wrong with my kid. I'm worrying that I'll end up in the hospital with Chad and Cadence getting cortisone shots. I can't sleep from checking on them.

And my husband says my "job" is easy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Everything Wants to Be Loved...

"...Everything wanna be loved. Us sing and dance, and holla just wanting to be loved. Look at them trees. Notice how the trees do everything people do to get attention... except walk?" --The Color Purple

I was thinking today about other's opinions. We all pretend like they don't matter, but to almost everyone, to a varied extent, they do.

When I first discovered internet messageboards, it was like finding the Holy Grail or the Lost Temple of Hercules. It was better than websites, and better than email. You can interact with several others, to whatever degree of intimate details you're comfortable with, and come and go as you please. Unlike websites, you can always comment when you want to. Unlike email, you don't have to wait for days or weeks (or forever) for a response. Blogs followed, which were equally fantastic things. Read people's thoughts; leave comments readily. Awesome.

I felt a sense of friendship that I'd long forgotten. My old high school friends have taken their lives in drastically different directions than me, and we are no longer close. I hadn't made any new friends for a thousand reasons, mostly because I was too busy being a mom and going through the motions of my regular life. Suddenly I had an opportunity, through websites like MatchingMoms and homeschool groups, to actually meet and make friends with others based on common interests - How easy!

Except it wasn't easy. Every homeschool activity with a group I've been invited to, I've been somehow unable to get to. Our car was broken down. Or we had no gas. Or we had no money. Or something. People begin to get the idea I'm purposely avoiding them. I've started several potential friendships that just abruptly stopped. MatchingMoms brought me together with several moms who exchanged only a few emails before ending contact altogether. Messageboards have shown me several people with personalities (as far as one can tell, anyway) that I adored, and who were receptive to written and email exchanges at first. Then, again, abruptly ended. I don't even know why it happens. It just stops. I send another email or letter. Nothing.

I'm seriously wondering what the hell I'm doing to drive people off. What did I say? What did I talk about that may have turned them off? Am I not smart enough? Educated enough? Earthy enough? Am I too pushy or abrasive? Too young? Too old? Too .. what? I started trying to present myself in a more friend-friendly way. But through all my attempts I'm not even sure what that means. Maybe I'm just not outwardly friendly. Not that I'm aggressive or anything, I'm just not a smiling, bubbly, overflowing with friendliness kind of person. And I hate pretending to be. This is why I'm not a waitress.

It's a natural human reaction to get defensive when your feelings are hurt. This is because we care what people think. I'm likely to say, "To hell with them. If I'm somehow not good enough for them, good riddance. I didn't want to be in their pompous little Good Enough Club anyway." Except I do want to be in their club. I do want to be good enough. I get angry so I don't have to feel bad. I'd really like to be able to be completely apathetic about their lack of interest. I don't want to be jealous every time I read someone's posts about having coffee with the friend they made on the internet or about the latest playgroup they attended. I'd like to believe when I "meet" potential friends, we just "didn't click" and leave it at that. But I wonder. And worry. Because I care what people think.

Everyone just wants to be loved. We want to be seen as intelligent, wonderful people. We want to have friends who adore us as much as we adore them. We leave our childhood to go have children of our own, becoming the providers of love for our children. Sometimes leaving behind the reception of love from others. That's why internet messageboards and blogs are so popular. We sing and dance, and blog, just wanting to be loved.

Music and Life - Alan Watts

From Katherine at Our Report Card today. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Score One for Mom...

I just picked up a whole set of Junior Edition encyclopedias, and an accompanying set of atlases from a freecycler in Des Moines. Yay! I can't say enough good things about freecycle. I've gotten rid of some books and random household stuff through freecycle, and have picked up some huge finds. Freecycle kicks butt.

And speaking of BUT, I had a hell of a time finding this place this afternoon. I was driving on fumes and hoping I had enough gas to get home again, becoming more and more worried about it the longer I spent driving around. Then, to top it all off, I got lost on the way home again.

There are not many places I can get truly lost in Des Moines. Usually I know that even though I'm not familiar with the road I'm driving on, if I keep going North (or West, or whatever) long enough, I'm bound to find a street that I do recognize. Not the case this time. This time, every street I took ended in a roadblock, an accident, a parking lot or a construction site. I was doing really good at not swearing at first, but the longer I drove around, and turned around, the more (and louder) cursing I did. I tried to get on the freeway going East, but because of an accident, all lines of traffic except one were blocked off - the one left open being the entrance to the freeway going West. At this point, I was so flustered I didn't even notice I was going the wrong way for several exits. Ugh. By the time I got home, I was a complete wreck.

It's kind of a dirty little secret of mine that I'm terrified of heavy traffic. I'm not frozen with fear or anything, but I'd rather drive 30 miles out of the way than drive down one street with heavy traffic. When Vic flew to Japan, he flew out of St. Louis and I saw him off alone. That meant I had to drive home again alone. Twelve lanes of heavy traffic, it was a nightmare. I cried until I got back on a good old two-lane highway. Today, the directions to this pickup were from the freeway. I sucked it up and took it, the same way I do when I go to the hospital, or anywhere else downtown. But I didn't like it. This getting lost thing just really frazzled me.

People Get Ready For School??...

I'm seeing a lot of posts lately with statements of homeschooling readiness. "We're all set!" they say. They list their curriculum to prove it. I thought I would list mine...


Well, we have that History Odyssey I bought, and I can't wait to use it! Except I still have some books that go with the program that I've yet to buy. I didn't realize I needed anything else when I bought the study guides, or I would have gotten it then - before that money was spent on other things. So, History! We're ready! Almost.

I bought Saxon math for Chad. It came with everything we need, except the notebook paper of course. Ooh, crap. Looks like we're out of notebook paper. He's ready to do some math! After I get the paper. Woohoo!

I haven't decided yet if I want to use the district math curriculum for Cadence or buy our own. I don't think Saxon will work well for her. Too much book work, not enough pictures. So, until I actually purchase something, I guess it's just the district's stuff. She's ready! I guess.

I've also been hunting desperately for a science curriculum, since we have to report science this year. The reviewer (no, I still haven't replaced her) said we could just keep notes of the science-related activities we do, which is nice. I dunno. Seems like a book and paper curriculum would be so much easier to document.

History Odyssey is supposed to incorporate reading and writing, but I plan to assign a book each week, just like I did last year. Does "I plan to" count as being ready? I'm also drooling over Sequential Spelling, but have yet to buy it. But I plan to.

One of the nice things about being a relaxed homeschooler is that I don't feel the need to micromanage our schooling. One of the bad things about it though, is that I'm not really "relaxed" and pretty soon I'm bound to start freaking out about what we don't have.

Here I Am Again...

Here I am. Again. Crabby. Bloated. Crampy. Bitchy.

Monday I took Cadence to the doctor and went completely psycho on my kids in the car on the way. Chad and Riley were fighting over some little McDonald's toy. After screaming at asking Chad to give it to her about a million times, and Riley throwing it at him, I said, "Give it to me!" .. and pitched it right out the window of the car. Riley immediately started to cry. I felt terrible. I blamed it all on Chad, telling him if he had just done what I said and left her alone, none of this would have happened. The rest of the ride was very quiet.

Later I apologized of course, because I just couldn't let my kids go on feeling like a) it was all their fault or b) their mom was insane. So, I apologized. And I didn't even use the word "but."

There is no manual, although I'm not sure it would help if there was. I'm trying, and while I usually am doing my best, sometimes I'm not. Some days I feel like the struggle to be a better parent is just that - a struggle. A pushing, wrestling, biting and scratching, fistfight of a battle with myself just to keep from abusing my kids with my words and actions. Screaming and yelling was all I knew how to do when I became a parent. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do, to sit and make myself be quiet, quite literally biting my tongue instead of saying, "Gah! What is WRONG with you?"

And the hormones don't help. Hormones are my enemy. My little temper tantrum in the car was completely out of nowhere, which was why it slipped through my filters so easily. Normally, I would notice I was getting angry and step on it; just grit my teeth and say, "Please just put the toy away if you can't agree on who will play with it," in my best Sweet Mommy voice.

I used to hope my kids couldn't see through my fake sweetness. I was afraid they would think I spent my days hating them and pretending I didn't. Now, thanks to these outbursts and subsequent apologies, I'm glad they know the truth. I'm not perfect. But I'm doing my damndest to be the best parent I can. Now, my hope is that my children will reach adulthood with the understanding that while my instinct was to beat the living crap out of them, I somehow managed to treat them with love and respect. I made mistakes and then did my best to make it right again. I loved them enough to fight with myself instead of them.

I think the worst part about living this way is the feeling that I'm the only one who has this much trouble. Every other parent I know seems to be a natural at it. When Mom raises her voice, it's because she's Really Mad, it's not just part of a normal day. The parents I know don't have to apologize to their kids because they never hurt their feelings in the first place. I see the awfullest kids with the sweetest parents and I think I can't possibly deserve such great kids when I'm such a psycho. I don't see other parents taking deep breaths and counting backwards from 10. I don't see other parents start sentences with, "Damnit! ---" before replacing the angry face with a nice one and restarting with, "Please." I'm sure they exist. I just don't know anyone like that.

Thankfully, the worst of the hormones are out of the way now. I'm still suffering and grumpy, but I'm past the point of complete insanity. I plan to spend the afternoon reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and drinking homemade cocoa with my kids. May chocolate cure all that ails us.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Check out Mars on August 27...

Contrary to a circulating email that goes around every year or two, Mars will not be as big as a second moon to the naked eye on the 27th of August (Who believed that anyway? Duh.). However, thanks to orbiting patterns it will be in opposition on that date, and closer than it has been in thousands of years. It would be a good time to dig out the old telescope and get a good look.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

To my Artist internet/messageboard/blogger Friends...

I'm going to sketch on my wall. I can't stand it anymore. See this wall?

Just pale yellow paint and some coathooks. It's begging to be filled with chaotic and unrelated images, no? It's seriously bothering me.

So.. how do I do this so the sketches LOOK like sketches and can still withstand washing of fingerprints and crayon? Is it possible to paint something and have it still look like a charcoal sketch? I considered spray lacquer, but I don't want it to be shiny.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

They make coats out of these things?...

Check out what we saw on the way to the cookout today:

A MINK! (This isn't an actual picture of the mink I saw, and not to cheat the guy out of his photograph, I found it here.) I was so excited! But, I was driving and it was hippity-hopping across the grassy clearing so quickly. If I hadn't gotten a better look at it, I would have assumed it was a muskrat or maybe even a cat. But it was mostly the mink's canter that gave it away. We've had ferrets, and the way a weasel moves is pretty unique.

I was kind of surprised, previously assuming mink are all glossy and black. This one was fluffy and brown, just as in the picture. I knew mink lived around here, but in all my years in this farm and country state, I'd never seen one before.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weekend at the Arts Festival...

Saturday we took the kids to check out the Arts Festival in downtown Des Moines. We parked several blocks from Gateway Park where the festival was held and walked. Des Moines has changed a lot in the last 5 years, and Gateway Park is just one of those changes. We passed several new lofts and cute little shops along the way. Country girl that I am, I still found myself fantasizing about living in some swanky loft, shopping in those cute little shops, walking to one of the many new parks and outdoor areas, visiting museums, etc.

The Arts Festival has tons of activities for kids. My kids made beaded bracelets, painted and colored, and glittered to their hearts content. I'll have glitter in my hair for years.

Sunday I returned to the festival with my mom, without kids, to look at the art displays. One artist scuplted in clay, removed the sculpture from the kiln when it was red-hot, and rolled in it ashes. The result was a dark, charred effect that was just beautiful. I could have looked for hours.

Here are the highlights of the weekend:

Gateway Park, on the south side of downtown Des Moines. The park was lined with tents: artist tents filled with the products of some great creativity, vendor tents brimming with tasty and bad for you Fair Food, and community tents for things like the zoo and the performing arts center. I read that more than 1400 artist applied for one of the 166 display tents available, which means next year will be even bigger and better.

Riley's bead bracelet.

Cadence glittering her painted horseshoe.

A mosaic-style recreation of Van Gogh, in ginormous size. Very cool.

Street art in chalk.

This was a very cool stand-alone sculpture the kids loved.

And my personal favorite - Geek Art! Microscope images, tinted in different colors and printed for the nerdy art enthusiast's home (at a hefty price, I might add):

Zucchini pollen in orange.

A dust mite, the hairs in green. This piece was called Nightmare Blanket, which I found quite fitting.

Closeup of a crystal formation, I forget now what type of crystal.

This was the third year my kids have gone to the Arts Festival, but it was the first time for me. I had so much fun! I can't wait until next year.