Rest needed

I need a break. A break from life. A vacation from responsibility. I want something that realistically isn't going to happen anytime soon. But I do need to slow down a bit. Things are crazy busy and not in a good way for my health.

You see, this week I decided that December isn't a wacky enough month for us and I picked up a couple of side jobs. Just a few hours here and there doing some shipping work for an overworked mom who runs her own educational toy/game business (very cool stuff, check it out - if you are local, you can get free shipping by arranging to get stuff from me) and helping someone dust and do windows in preparation for holiday guests. Doing this led to a Tuesday that involved getting me & the kids up at 7:30am (we don't get up at 7:30am), getting ready, being across town to work from 9-11am. Then a quick bite to eat and dropped the kids at a birthday party at noon, ran over to work from 12:30-2:30. Back to pick the kids up at 3pm, finally get out of there and home by 4pm, just in time to get ready and go to work from 5-9pm.

By the time I got to work at 5pm, I was having tell-tale signs that my busy day was a really bad idea. I had muscle weakness, extreme fatigue (not tired/sleepy - fatigue), shakiness that I could feel inside and crankiness. Did I mention that eating was optional on Tuesday? Yeah, that didn't help much either. It felt like a hangover from a fight-or-flight response. It was a small dose of chronic fatigue. The chronic fatigue that I had for 2 years and don't want back.

I need to slow down. I can't do so much. I have to rest. It's hard because I want to do all these fun things. I like being involved and giving of my time, I don't want to give anything up. Except work, but I can't give that up, sadly. But I. MUST. have. breaks. If I don't, I may be back to only being able to choose one thing to do over a couple days, and that thing may be a super exciting trip to the grocery store.

This afternoon my shipping work was canceled so I took a nap (which Stella claims I do, or try to do, "every day" - fat chance!) Tomorrow I get to sleep in. I am going to rest more. Not take on any new responsibilities. Make sure I don't need to drop any current ones. Re-evaluate and tweak my life so that it works for me again. I have to do what I can to make certain that I can continue on the way I want to.

I'm crafty but not duplicitous

This year I'm doing a holiday countdown to December 25th with little gifts for the kids. Often this is called an Advent calendar and it counts down to Christmas. But we don't observe Advent, and if we did, we would have started on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and counted down to December 25th. What we're doing is a small gift for each day from Dec 1st-24th. And we're only doing it because I saw this cute craft idea where you sew the little gifts into brown paper and then hang them from a string garland. I thought, "that's cute and fun and will be totally easy!" Which, of course, it is, but you still have to have TIME. And not just regular time but time WITHOUT CHILDREN. Oh yeah, that. I'm pretty sure that sort of time is mythical.

Anyway, I collected up some little gifts. There are plastic snakes, marbles, little notebooks, etc. I completely avoided candy - yeah me! I then completely slacked on collecting up any brown paper bags. They just don't grow on trees anymore, you know? I could have sewed up our reusable bags but that would have 1) been a tough gift to open and 2) ruined all our bags.

The solution - thrift store picture book. I used the pages of a book that had lovely pictures but a trite storyline as wrapping for the gifts. Here they all are:

After sewing up the gifts, I then took some tags I had and sewed them on by hand. Sandis did the dates for me:

Then came a small problem. In the process of avoiding candy, some of the little gifts became a wee bit heavy for a garland. I switched tactics and put them in this lovely Santa tin that I found at the thrift store for <$2. Perfect!

That concludes today's adventures in crafting. Stay tuned as there will be more crafting this week at Ornament Afternoon!

Thankful for dogs

I don't write as much about Sandis, and really I should, so this is dedicated to her.

Every Thanksgiving, or actually anytime you ask Sandis what she's thankful for, she will say dogs. The kid loves dogs. Basically since birth and the love has only grown with time.

Very young Sandis loving Nikki, her first dog. Yes, Nikki actually
DID like it and would go lie next to the baby to be mauled.

A bit older, not much wiser Sandis with another kid-loving Basset.

And she doesn't simply love our dogs. Oh no, all dogs are on her radar. Big dogs, small dogs, black dogs, brown dogs, cute dogs, ugly dogs...well, she'll say there are no ugly dogs. Not even these dogs that won the ugliest dog contests. She says it's their personality that matters. Who can argue with that?

And it's not just live dogs, though she does point out each one she sees, noting its breed. No siree. Dog art, dog books, stuffed toy dogs, dog figurines, dog cartoons, dog ??? they are all loved by Sandis. They are all squealingly cute. Brian claims she would even think dog poop is cute (which Sandis vehemently denies.)

Never without at least 1 stuffed dog wherever she
goes. (Blackmail too - look, she's wearing a dress!)

Here she is with a mountain of dogs, a couple of cats
and a reindeer

Sandis loves going to the vet, visiting the humane society, and doing community service projects for dogs. Not just because she's helping dogs but because sometime in the course of events she will get to see more dogs. I'm surprised she doesn't have a journal where she notes each and every dog she's ever seen.

Now this week we are babysitting 2 dogs in our home as well as another friend's dog at their house. While some may see this as a burden, an extra thing to do in an already busy week, to Sandis, it's a dream come true! What could be better than THREE extra dogs! (yes, 4, 5, 831 extra dogs would be better, but this is pretty damn good.)

Sandis has made the dogs' happiness her sole responsibility. For the ones at our house, she makes sure they each get equal numbers of pets, that she plays with them outside and in, they only eat their own food and more. For the one we visit, she goes outside with him to watch him play with sticks. She is sure he gets his treat when we're leaving. Lectures us on what he likes and doesn't, which stick is his favorite, explains to him why he can't bring his 4' long stick inside.

When she grows up, Sandis is planning to open a dog sanctuary, on the ocean, where she will adopt all the dogs that would otherwise be killed in shelters. She's going to do this after she travels to New York to visit Percy Jackson, of course :) She's chosen California over Florida for her ocean front canine villa because "there are too many mosquitoes in Florida." Good plan.

Optimist or Pessimist

When presented with the question, "is the glass half empty or half full?" and told about the conundrum that this question presents, Stella replies, "well, it's half full of water and half full of air, so it's completely full."

Touche my dear.

Sometimes it's better to receive

Sometimes it's better to receive than to give. At least when what you receive is this from your daughter:


Thanksgiving is a simple day for us. It's just us. No additional friends or family coming over. No driving to visit anyone. It's a nice break from the hustle and bustle of our normal days.

We do go out though. In the morning, we do the Thanksgiving day 4 mile run in Ft Collins. Ok, Brian does the running, the girls and I walk. I don't know that we've ever done the full 4 miles either. There are various unofficial short cuts along the route. Today, with a whining 9 yr old and an 8 yr old with a sore ankle, we took the Loomis loop shortcut, meaning we walked 2 miles, not four. That's kind of how it goes most years.

Our meal is fairly simple too. No worrying about making Aunt Clara's casserole and Grandma Shirley's jello concoction. Brian does the cooking, as always. So, sometime after football we eat a dinner which generally includes turkey cooked on the grill, hubbard squash and some sort of dessert. There is always other things too, but it varies year to year. Some roasted vegetables, baked sweet potatoes (without that nasty marshmallow crap), cranberry sauce (not that gel from a can either, shudder) and stuffing often make an appearance. This year it was corn w/peppers and onions, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

This year wasn't as simple in that we have 2 extra dogs staying with us as well as a house/barn full (dog, cat, 6 horses, pony and various chickens) to watch. But honestly, I don't mind watching pets, it's kind of fun. And the girls are totally THRILLED to be able to play with extra animals. Stella has decided she likes horses now (add them to cats, dogs, chickens, lizards, pigs and a cow on the list of pets she wants.) She also has been the official "chicken checker" when we go over. Sandis spends all her time with the dog. She's not quite sure about the horses. Not. At. All. She stands waaaayyyy outside the fences and watches us give them their hay.

Of course, we should be thinking of what we are thankful of on this day rather than rambling, right? Now I'm just tired from getting up early and can't really think straight, but I can come up with a few things.

I'm thankful for/that:
  • My family - Brian and the girls
  • Being able to homeschool and having the girls love it
  • My many, many friends :)
  • Actually having a job
  • Having a husband who has a job
  • we can stop hearing about Black Friday after tomorrow
  • it is finally time to put up winter holiday decorations tomorrow so I can stop bitching about seeing them all over the place.
  • Stella has a med that suits her
  • It's not summer
  • Diet Dr. Pepper, Jubelale and Gingerbread Lattes
  • Pharmacology
  • Books
  • Chocolate
  • The Packers and the fact they are still undefeated
  • I get to sleep in tomorrow ;)
Stella's new meds are working fabulously. In fact, just in the last 1/2 hour, she yelled at me and then in the next breath said, "I'm sorry for yelling but it frustrates me when you ask me to do one thing and then when I'm not even done yet, tell me something else to do." Um, wow?

Now, a side effect of her removed depression/anxiety is that her ADHD is running rampant. We just went to the thrift, craft and dollar stores looking for cookie cutters for the upcoming Ornament Afternoon. She was a whirling dervish, but in a good way? She was skipping about, talking non-stop about everything under the sun, while breaking a creamer, asking for 20,925 things and generally being Stella. "Mommy, mommy, mommy," (because one "mommy" is never enough,"can I get this or this and this and I need this and isn't this cute and look at this and Sandis might like this and the dog is black and I like raisins and look at this!" This diatribe continued for approximately, well, the entire afternoon.

Along with this is her OVER love of the dogs staying with us this week and the dog/cat/horses/pony/chickens we are watching at their house. She doesn't do anything wrong, per se, just her general enthusiasm is a bit much for non-humans (or humans, really.)

This new version of Stella, which is the REAL Stella, is much easier to take than the one that rages for 12 hrs a day. Still though, it wears a person out. Thankfully, Jubelale is out for the season and will make my evening much more pleasant :)

Just a quote. By Gatto.

You have surely noticed me mentioning Gatto before. If not, well, maybe you weren't paying attention? Just for you, the one who was gazing out the window daydreaming the solution to world peace, or maybe just wondering if you should eat that last donut, when you were supposed to be reading my blog, I think Gatto is brilliant. He has insights into the system of public education in our country that are a major reason why I don't want my children in school. Read any of his books and you'll see why too. You may not agree with him 100%, but you will see that he has some good points.

And today, I came across this quote that Home Education Magazine posted on their Facebook status:

"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior." ~ John Taylor Gatto

And that is why my children aren't in school
Stella's new meds seem to be helping her this week. The low-down:

  • She's had less incidences of anger and they are certainly lasting less time. In other words, not all day. Not even long enough, usually, to get her sent to her room to cool off.
  • She's doing less physical lashing out during her outbursts. Still yelling, but not so much hitting and kicking.
  • She's also done her school work without whining and carrying on for hours.

I've noticed the difference. Sandis has noticed too (as the recipient of the most of Stella's physical anger, this is good.) Brian says he hasn't been yelled at all week. And Stella says she thinks she's doing less hitting but still a lot of yelling. Fingers crossed that this isn't just a "good week" and that her medication is actually working for her. We go back for a follow up next Wednesday so we'll have some more time to see if this is really working or just a fluke.

As a side note, Wednesday was a word that's spelling perplexed Sandis on her PASS test. She got that question wrong (no, I didn't change it.) I still have to say Wed-Nes-Day to myself to spell it correctly so if a 9 yr old gets it wrong, that's ok :)

Mailed away......

We completed the PASS testing on Wednesday, whew, lol! Another year and a half until we have to do this again. Actually, even though I don't like doing it, it was pretty painless. It only took 3 sessions of her sitting down and working on it. She liked doing it, thought it was easy. I looked over some of the answers before we sent it off, she was doing pretty well so I'm sure we'll make that 14th percentile cutoff ;)

Put it in the mail on Thursday afternoon. Not sure when we'll get the results but I won't be on the edge of my seat waiting. Neither will she seeing as how it's already outside of her realm of thought. Not only that, I doubt she will care what the results are once they do arrive. Her only other test was the Greek/Roman Mythology exam, and she only cared about that one because she got a medal (for scoring 93+%, I believe.) No medals with this one, so I'm sure it matters not at all :)

1 in 4

1 in 4 women take mental health meds. I find this completely and totally unsurprising. For so many reasons.

  • First, we've always thought women were crazy. Hurricanes were named after women because? Right, because they are crazy and unpredictable. Even if that isn't 100% true, certainly that's what the common collective thinks. Everyone knows Hysteria is craziness with the root hyster(o) coming from the Greek word, hystéra, which means womb. The misogyny goes on and on but that's enough examples for today lest we become more depressed than we already are.

    • Second, there's isolation we deal with. Today we do everything ourselves. Women have trouble breastfeeding. Why? Because they've never seen it done. Never seen a group of women of multiple generations showing how things work. Helping each other out. Helping new and old get through this time with support and love. And that's just the beginning of that baby's life. The start of millions of tiny and not-so-tiny decisions, each of which is the key to happiness and fulfillment (or so we think.) As soon as we make a decision, we're second guessed, by ourselves or others. Or some new technology or study emerges to tell us we've done it all wrong. AHHH!!!

      Then we each sit run around crazily in our houses and cook a meal for our family, with food we've each gone and purchased by ourselves, while out running errands that we all have to do but each of us does ourselves. How much easier would life be if the 10 families who lived around you all shared these tasks? You cooked 1 meal in 10. Someone took all the library books back. Two people did all the week's shopping together.

      But instead our family lives next to other families who we don't even know. If we need help, we rarely ask. When we do, it's seen as a sign of weakness. We are supposed to be able to do it all, do it all well, and be happy about it!

    • And media, of course, has done its part too. Objectification in the media is nothing new. We've added dismemberment to the mix more recently. An excerpt:

      Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female objectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002)

    • And do we even need to mention environmental toxins? They are within us and around us every day. From plastics to heavy metals to pesticides. And you can try to avoid them but how? Eat organic but the shopping center sprays their weeds. And you drove there in your car that uses gasoline, and you breathed those fumes as you filled it up. And that organic produce goes into a plastic bag. Maybe a reusable one, but still basically plastic. You went with cloth? Is it organic cotton? Unbleached? Without the chemical sizing that kept the fabric stiff for the initial sewing? How do they power the lights in that store? With sustainable practices or the general electricity that burns fossil fuels? And, of course, you have to have a job, and a good one, to afford to buy the more expensive produce. What kind of things are you exposed to there? And on the way there? I think it's basically impossible to avoid completely.

    So is it any wonder that we turn to drugs to help us cope?

    Now, all that said, I rely on my meds. I've written about this before but for those who don't know or didn't read that post, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Maybe that's triggered by the isolation, the pressure to be perfect, the environmental toxins or a million other things, but it is there. And to survive, yes, survive, I need to take medication. Drugs. Sad state of affairs? Maybe. Reality? Surely.

    So no, I don't find it surprising in the least that 1 in 4 women are on meds. I find it admirable that 75% of us are doing so well.

Six words

Today I'd like to explore the six word epitaph. You've probably head of it since it's a book, been on NPR, is across the internet. If not, click on that link back there and you'll see what it's all about.

I was thinking that I would like to try to see if I could sum up my existence in six words. Then I thought about summing up just parts of my life in six words. It's not easy, but, then again, it does cut to the heart of the matter pretty quickly.

Worked too hard, should have quit.
Learned to love, loved with abandon.
Too many books, not enough time.
Sandis, Stella. These are my triumphs.
Headache this big. Excedrin not working.

Not enough structure, too much structure.
Learning, yelling, fun, experiments, writing, reading.
Meaningless testing over, back to fun.

Autumn is best, Halloween its jewel
Crunchy leaves, orange pumpkins, smiling children
Hot, irritating, sweaty, grouchy is summer

Stella, "I named my butt Piper."
Wanted more. Body, husband said no.
They love and annoy each other.
TV sucks them in. Turned off.

I'll add more tomorrow. For now I'm off to bed to read. After all, there are too many books and not enough time ;)

Monday Mingle

I'm trying to blog every day this month. I'm kind of sucking at the NaNoWriMo thing, so I'm doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month.) Better at it but still not perfect.

BUT, I have nothing to say today. Kids went to quasi-school, I visited with friends and then worked on holiday gifts. After all that excitement, I went to work. Oh how engrossing...not!

So, I saw that Eighty MPH Mom does a Monday Mingle. Answer 3 questions, post the link, blah, blah, blah. As you know from previous posts, I like to answer random questions in list format so here we go:

1. What are your Top 3 Pet Peeves?

  • people who don't have common courtesy (they cut in line, throw trash on the ground, don't show up to things, etc)
  • improper grammar, even my own
  • patriarchal oppression of women, especially when it's "subtle"

Kind of more then pet peeves? Yeah, probably. Little things don't bother me too much. I don't care which way you hang the toilet paper or if you drink right from the milk bottle. Life's too short to worry about those kinds of things.

2. Do you lose your temper easily?

No, but when I do, watch out! I am a Scorpio, after all ;)

3. What is the biggest cooking disaster that has happened to you?

I don't do most of the cooking, Brian does. I do suck at breads involving yeast. I can't ever get those damn things to rise.

If you want to play along, click on the picture above. These are technically last week's questions, but there aren't any for today and these seemed like perfectly lovely questions that were just begging to be answered ;)

42 and counting...

Today I am 42 years old. Forty was a tough one for me. You see none of my relatives have lived past 80, so I was 1/2 way through my life. Half. Way. Through. My. Life. That's huge. You think you should have accomplished something by that point. Be stable in a job. That you love. Or at least like. Have enough money to not be living paycheck-to-paycheck. Little things like that :P

Compound those thoughts with a husband who when you turned 39 started teaching your children to call you "old." Yes, he thinks he's funny. No, it didn't make turning 40 very easy for me.

Now, at 42, I still don't have enough money (the same place there) or know what I want to be when I grow up (same thing there too, huh) but I've come to terms with it enough that it doesn't depress me. I thought for today, I'd do something easy and just list 42 random things about me in completely random order:

  1. I'm an introvert. INFJ, if you must know :)
  2. I'm eating french toast for breakfast because you get whatever you want for breakfast and dinner on your birthday. Brian and Stella are making it for me (and everyone.) Tonight we'll have Shepard's pie
  3. We shop for "new" things almost entirely at thrift stores and garage sales. I love sifting through everything to find the gems. The kid prefer it too. As Stella said, "I like to have the shirt or whatever that there's only 1 of. At Target there's like 20 of each one." Plus it's cheaper that way. We can't always buy used though, and certainly don't for underwear or socks.
  4. I love autumn and Halloween. You can see posts about these obsessions in September and October.
  5. I'm a worrier.
  6. I love books. I love to read. I could spend all day reading and it wouldn't be a wasted day at all.
  7. If I take time to "do nothing" I feel lazy.
  8. I am a Unitarian Universalist, and have been for most of my adult life, but I didn't discover that I was until 2004. It was then I started attending Foothills UU Church.
  9. I'm a free-range parent and always have been, before I knew there was a name for what I was doing.
  10. I had the same thing with Attachment Parenting. That's what I was doing with my kids and then I realized there was a name for it. Seems I do things and then find my group?
  11. I like the Green Bay Packers and have since I was a little girl. Other teams I support include the Colorado Avalanche, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Wisconsin Badgers and CSU Rams.
  12. I used to tailgate for 4 hours before every home CSU football game and several hours afterward. We always traveled to WYO and AF games but also saw the team play at Nebraska(L) and Michigan State(W). The most exciting was the 42-41 win over AF in 2006, a game where the Rams scored 28 unanswered points in the 4th quarter alone.
  13. I love my iPod Touch. If it was the new version, it would be the perfect device because it would include a camera. Still, it hooks up to free wi-fi allowing me to use the internet pretty much whenever I want without paying a single dime in monthly fees (which a smart phone would charge.)
  14. I have a master's degree in entomology from CSU. I decided I wanted to go back to school and bugs seemed cool. Yeah, it was that thought out.
  15. I really enjoy FaceBook as a way to connect with people. I get to see a small window into my friends' lives. My friends both far and near. I'm able to stay close that way and not lose people. It's so much easier for them (or me) to say something to everyone then to try and call or email individual people. People may say it's a time sink, but to me, it's time I enjoy spending so it's "me time." And I don't care that it's public either. Really, I don't count on anything said on FB to be private in anyway. Same for this blog. Or YahooGroups. Or various forums. They aren't private.
  16. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Ideas include: researching insect vectors, women's studies, vet or vet assistant, teaching, counseling, some sort of home creative business, photography. I wish I could decide and move forward but I really can't figure it out!!!!
  17. My favorite color is green.
  18. My favorite animal is the red panda.
  19. I have been to Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Canada.
  20. If I was rich, I'd have a million bags. I love purses and bags and can never find the exact right one.
  21. I've had thyroid surgery, a hysterectomy and knee surgery twice. I've also been hospitalized one other time, besides the surgeries and not including Sandis' birth.
  22. I had extreme chronic fatigue for almost 2 years. So bad I couldn't walk around a grocery store without having to rest for a day and a half. I didn't return the cart to the corral because it cost me too much. I think that CFS has been with me through out my life and will continue to be, waxing and waning, reminding me to not over do things. But my hope is that it is never that bad ever again.
  23. Stella was born at home. On purpose. Because of how the hospital treated Sandis' birth as a medical event, even with a midwife and doula. I knew I could do it and I did. Not only that, but my friend who attended to care for Sandis (who was there for her sister's birth), said that I was incredibly calm and quiet. I did it, and I did it well ;)
  24. I nursed my kids until they were 3 yrs 9mo and 4yrs 1mo. Sandis self-weaned, Stella I had to wean due to health reasons. It still makes me sad that I had to do that, even knowing that it was the best choice :(
  25. I learned how to and played ice hockey as an adult. I love, love, LOVE playing hockey. It it totally and completely the coolest game on earth.
  26. I have owned the following pets in my life: dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, various fish, mice, rats, parakeets, pacman frog, other frogs, various lizards, various snakes, turtle, ferrets, spiders, praying mantises and a cool metallic ground beetle. I kind of like everything :)
  27. My favorite radio station is KBCO 97.3 which plays alternative.
  28. My favorite bands are Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, They Might Be Giants, and The Who with honorable mention going to Sheryl Crow.
  29. Favorite TV shows have been ER, Boston Legal, Arrested Development, Weeds, Breaking Bad and Big Love.
  30. Favorite movies are The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Usual Suspects and Pulp Fiction.
  31. My favorite coffee drink is a gingerbread latte.
  32. My favorite alcoholic drink is a Deschutes Jubelale.
  33. I really want a family vacation to a deserted beach where we can stay in a small cabin and play in tide pools. And another one to DC. And yet another to Germany. Anyone want to contribute to that fund? :P
  34. I'm dyslexic, had 2 lazy eyes and have such poor vision that at 18mo old I had glasses and they were trifocals.
  35. One thing I don't mind about aging is the gray hairs. They actual add some depth to the blah color of my hair.
  36. I have no trouble with public speaking. I have even been told that I am good at it :)
  37. I've been told I'm a good writer as well.
  38. I have a lot of depression with just a bit of mania. And when I get manic, I love to shop, but never can find anything I want to buy - so I do ok with it.
  39. I really enjoy organizing things like closets and homeschool schedules.
  40. I wish I could move to Wisconsin. I love it here, I love the people here, but that will always be home.
  41. I'm a creative person. I can sense when things look right. I love that part of me. But I can't make that part of me into a career because then it will be work instead of fun.
  42. I didn't truly discover my feminine side until after my second girl was born. Now I embrace it where before I wished it didn't even exist.

Whew! I made it to 42! That took quite awhile. Hopefully you've made it to the end :) I'm sure there are many, many more things about me I could have shared but those are the first 42 that I though of. If you'd like to know something I missed, ask in the comments!

Testing, 1, 2, 3

As per the law in this state, I am testing my child with a standardized test. We have to test at the end of odd-numbered grades or have an independent evaluation done (yes, I'm a bit late.) Of course, the test need only cover reading, language and math, all other subjects being unimportant. And they only have to score above the 14th percentile. So, it is incredibly meaningful information.

We are using the PASS test. Mostly because friends have used it and said they liked it. But also because 1) it is untimed and 2) it has a placement test so they aren't being tested beyond (or beneath) their ability.

Now I must say that I do not like standardized testing. Why? Well, I don't think they really show what someone knows. I think seeing what they can do makes more sense that filling in circles. I think there is more to learning than reading, language and math. I think teaching to the test is wrong. They say it well here. An excerpt:

    The U.S. is the only economically advanced nation to rely heavily on multiple-choice tests. Other nations use performance-based assessment where students are evaluated on the basis of real work such as essays, projects and activities. Ironically, because these nations do not focus on teaching to multiple-choice tests, they even score higher than U.S. students on those kinds of tests.

And, of course, Alfie Kohn has much to say on the topic. He's even written a whole book on the topic.

So, naturally, my kids love the test. Sandis did the placement and wanted to do ALL the rest TODAY. Stella is jealous she doesn't get to fill in circles so I'm letting her do the placement test too. For crying out loud, what's up with them?! I guess it's the novelty of the thing. Plus, they don't realize that tests can mean pressure to perform. Crazy kids.

Hearts & Horses

Today the Brownie Girl Scouts went to Hearts & Horses for a field trip because the girls all wanted to do stuff with animals. I thought seeing animals helping would be a great thing for them to learn and see. And it certainly was!

The tour was amazing. Mostly because it wasn't a scripted tour or even much of a tour at all. Instead, a woman who works there took us around the complex and showed us what they were doing that day. In the process, they got to meet both horses and humans and see both in action. There were people with disabilities doing some riding. Volunteers were feeding and cleaning. A veterinarian and her students were working on a horse's cut and later floating a horse's teeth (which is taking a giant version of your dentist's drill and grinding off spurs on the horse's teeth.) Everyone was so friendly, it was like a family there. The Girl Scouts seemed to be immediately enveloped into the family and were introduced to the people who came to ride and even helped out giving the horses their lunch.

They are going to have a winter show at Hearts & Horses with people of all abilities riding in it. The girls are quite keen to see that so another trip there may be in our future :)

All the girls carrying a flake of hay to one of the horses:

Getting the flake into the feeder, without having the horse eat it all before it got there:

Watching the vet floating the horse's teeth:

Try, try again

Our second trip to the Denver psychiatrist commenced today. Well, actually, we only see a Physician's Assistant (PA), but still, they are the ones with the magic notepads that dispense pharmaceuticals, so we'll take it. Nothing definitive happened, that's for sure. The scales we filled out for anxiety, depression and ADHD don't show us much. She's not typical for anything - not surprising to those that know her. The kid isn't typical whether it be for a disorder, getting dressed, working out a problem...she's her own self.

The reaction to the last medication was telling, however. To try and treat ADHD with a stimulant when there is underlying anxiety will make the symptoms we're seeing 10X worse. Ah, that explains the raging demon we had living with us for awhile.

To treat the anxiety, we have to move on to Prozac. A bit scary, daunting, worrisome, insertyourfavoritedescriptivewordhere for mom. Still, I will do it. I need to know if this can help. I can't go on letting her scream and rage, hit and kick. If it was just to me, that would be different but I'm so afraid she's going to alienate her sister. Not to mention that she feels like shit about all of this too. Being that out of control isn't exactly a fun way of life. In the 10min after we left the appointment, she had yelled at her sister no less than 3 times, shoved her, argued with me, poked her sister, hit her sister repeatedly and called both of us names. Yes this was when we were leaving the building, getting in the car and driving less than a block to the gas station. We won't even continue on to lunch and beyond, it's just too bleak. The girl needs something to help her.

Her regular therapist thinks she may just be a stubborn, willful child who wants her own way all the time. Let's hope that's not the case because if it is, there is no drug that will help her. Or us.

All my fault

It is all my fault that Stella is hungry.

First, I wouldn't buy her food while we were out at the dentist despite the numerous restaurants in the vicinity. Horrible bitch that I am, I said we had food at home.

Once home, Stella was heating up her lunch. It is one of those nasty banquet lunch things that the kids think are the bee's knees. To make one you have to heat, remove plastic, stir, replace plastic, heat again. She did the heating part. She was otherwise occupied so I did the rest, leaving it to finish heating. She then removed it from the microwave and dumped it all over. This is my fault because I didn't tell her I'd removed the plastic at the corner. Apparently where the plastic film is removed is key. Who knew? (Apparently, I should have known. I am omnipotent, didn't you know?)

It is also my fault that she cannot possibly eat any other thing in our house.

Feel free to rant and scream at me, Stella does. It is most obvious that I have failed as a mother, caretaker and human being.

Just wait until I make her do school work in a bit. Oh, the horror that will be unleashed will be worthy of a scene from a B-rated zombie flick. I'm sure that torture technique classes visit homeschoolers to see how to make their victims lives a living hell. They could probably get some pointers from the aforementioned lunch scenario too (at minimum, those banquet lunches - after a few of those, anyone would relent.)

At least I have to work tonight, which means in 3 short hours, I will get to escape from these walls to a place where my actions are more dictated (maybe) but at least no one yells at me there.

Meet the new week....

...same as the old week.

Yes, now that Stella's birthday is behind us, it's time to get back into our regular week. Things change but they pretty much stay the same. We're busy and trying to not be. This week's schedule:
  • Monday - quasi school (where we didn't sell any f'in' butter braids. Seriously, $12 for a family sized danish? People pay that? I'm sorry I'm not supporting student council, really I am. I like to do things for everything my kids are involved in. But I hate selling anything and this seemed ridiculous.)
  • Monday night - work for me
  • Tuesday - school at home, dentist appt for girls
  • Tuesday night - work for me, group therapy for girls
  • Wednesday - psych appt in Denver, therapy appt in FtC, Girl Scouts for Sandis
  • Wednesday night - teach OWL for me, library raptor program for the girls (and Brian)
  • Thursday - Girl Scout field trip, Rhythmic Movement appt for Stella, hopefully some school
  • Thursday night - Brian goes running, nothing for us???
  • Friday - school and nothing else
  • Friday night - work for me, another Girl Scout field trip
  • Saturday - teach OWL for me
  • Sunday - choir practice for Stella
Then it starts all over again on Monday. I feel like a rodent on a wheel, and I have several who will demonstrate wheel-running process for me if I falter. The following week is better, but only because Girl Scouts and therapy are only twice a month.

I wish we could drop, um, well, EVERYTHING and just stay home. Forever. Won't happen though. Stella has to have therapy. I have to work (it's a money thing, not a Iwanttodoitallandstillbeagreatmom thing.) The girls love Girl Scouts more than anything else. sigh. Someday, I'll have a slow, peaceful life. Probably my next life. Maybe. If I'm lucky. Which I'm not. Fuck. I guess I'll take solace in the fact that soccer is over and that's 3 less things on the schedule each week. That's as good as it gets around here.

Happy Birthday!!!

Happy, happy birthday to Stella! My second born child lives life her way and to the fullest. She knows what she wants and doesn't stop until she gets it. She can give the best hugs in the universe. Her eyes are amazing blue. She has a sense of style that has no match. Happy birthday not-so-baby girl, I love you more than life itself.

(PS. the pig is because she loves pigs. She will squeal like one when she sees this post, guaranteed.)

First attempt --> Fail

Well, Stella's first drug attempt was a HUGE FAIL. If anything, her temper and sleep have been WORSE since she started taking her ADHD meds. I stopped giving them to her on Thursday, coincidentally, the same day she did Rhythmic Movement with Adele. She had a better day on Friday. I don't know if it's the lack of meds, the addition of movement or just a random good day. We'll be heading back down to the psychiatrist next Wednesday and have another Rhythmic Movement session on Thursday. We'll see what the future holds.

As I become older...

...I become less perfect. Or care less about being perfect, maybe. I do my best to do everything that is my life but certain things, like cleaning the house, fall through the cracks. I've found my standards have become lower and lower as I age. Today, for instance, someone is coming over and all I've done is:
  • pick up visible clutter, well, mostly
  • vacuum
  • sweep
  • clean bathroom, well, mostly. Damn kids and their toothpaste! Do they really need cavity free teeth that badly?
  • close doors of really horrible rooms
There are still dishes to be done, kids' things scattered about, blankets on all the furniture, piles of mail on the counter. Not to mention the dust and the Halloween decorations are still up. Well, the dust could count as Halloween decorations, right?

I wish I cared more, cared enough to make it a priority but I just don't. I never have and surely never will. I can only become more comfortable with my squalor and resign myself to it. You can come to my house and feel better about your own. That is the person I've become.

Have you forgotten your meds?

I take various meds and supplements. Don't worry, my doctor knows about, prescribed and pretty much insists I take them. For the curious, on the list are T3, T3/T4, Effexor, Zyrtec, D3 and B12. Today I realized that I had forgotten my meds when a song came on the radio that I liked. I was singing along (obviously, I was alone) when it hit me that this song was popular when I was in college. This meant the song was some 25 yrs old. A quarter of a century. And it seemed like yesterday. That made me cry. Yep, I'd forgotten my meds.

In case you have these issues, here's a handy list so you know when you've forgotten your meds:
  1. You cry because you like a song that's 25yrs old
  2. You cry because Linkedin sent you an email and would like to recognize the good work you do. And you don't even use Linkedin
  3. You cease to worry about anything that you need to do in the future. None of that matters. You don't care about your daughter's birthday prep or Christmas gifts or anything of that nature.
  4. You cry because of a moderately sad story you read on someone else's facebook feed.
  5. You have a headache. Just a small one at the temples.
  6. You cry when you remember when your oldest was a toddler taking music class and how cute she was and now she's half grown.
  7. You can't remember if you ate anything that day.
  8. You realize that you did, but only because your 7yr old made you a grilled cheese. (yes, said 7yr old practically begged to make it for you, however, it's after 4pm and you are over 40 yrs old and you haven't fed yourself anything all day.)
  9. You cry because you're not really into the book you're currently reading and you don't want go to the library for another one right now.
  10. You realize the day is mostly gone and can't remember what you did. Ok, can't blame that one on the missing meds.
Don't even ask what happens if I don't take them multiple days. Oh. my. Bob. It is awful. I ran out waiting for the fucking mail order company to get them to me once (they had 3, yes THREE, weeks to get them to me before I ran out. They took four and a half weeks.) I had a headache, fuzzy thinking, nausea when I ate or was in any position besides lying down and not reading, chest pains, hard time breathing. I was a mess. Never, ever, ever again will I not take Effexor for more than 1 day. It is a crazy, nasty drug. But when I take it, it does work. And it works better for me than Zoloft was doing.

And don't even think about telling me to get out in the sun and take a walk and I'll feel better. Yeah, without the drugs, I wouldn't even go outside. Seriously. I have a chemical problem in my brain. The drugs take the edge off, they don't cure me. Some of those things might work for mild depression, but they aren't going to work for me. If you think they do, then you don't understand what I have gone through and continue to go through. I read once that to say your depressed when you are sad is like saying you are starving when you are simply hungry. Think of it that way. You haven't experienced starving if you think one meal can fix things.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I realized the other day that this movie (my favorite of all time, by the way) can cure any bad day.

It had been a hellish day of screaming, hitting, kicking, screeching and general malcontent (none of those by me, thankyouverymuch.) There was and is no cure for Stellaism and some days just have to be borne.

Still, late afternoon, they asked to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas and I said, "YES!!!" before they could even finish forming the words. Why? Because then they will sit, eyes focused on the glowing screen, becoming zombies sucked inside the world that is not their own. Is it a good thing? Hmmmmmm..... At that moment, I say yes. Generally, not so much. But I needed the aforementioned crap to END and this would do it.

And end it did. They were mesmerized. But, it also had the unexpected side effect of taking me to a happy place. The music, the story, the beautifully done artwork that is the sets and characters, it all took me to a state where I was smiling. Even thinking about it now, I'm smiling. All through work that night I was smiling and humming the songs.

It was magical. I may try it again some time. I don't think it will work every day, for many reasons. But that day it did, and I am thankful.