altarflame: (deluge)
The Miami Book Fair just published their annual list of booked (haha...ha...) authors. The usuals like Dave Barry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Amy Tan will be there, and then there are a bunch of people I don't even personally usually think of as authors - Patti Smith, Jessi Eisenberg, JACKSON GALAXY, and John Leguizamo. Joseph Fink, cowriter of Welcome to Nightvale, will be there, which is sort of interesting. Also Edwidge Danticat, whose book I had to read for my Cultures of the Caribbean class.

Since last year involved both Anne Rice and Caitlin Doughty, I am not super excited. If I can get a good lineup of things I'm somewhat interested in happening on the same day, we'll hit it...




The major themes of my day have been enjoying the windy, cooler (as in low 80s) weather; trying to make sense of our calendar in light of a rescheduled wedding, a rescheduled field trip, a rescheduled appointment, upcoming exams, various facebook event invites, and my birthday this weekend; and, cleaning the kitchen FOREVER (in stages).

I also rolled up to the intersection right by the kids' school this afternoon only to find at least a dozen regular and undercover cop cars just EVERYWHERE, including blocking the road, multiple ambulances, police on foot...they were rerouting parents MILES via backroads and my stomach was in my throat. Thankfully Ananda texted me back that they were all fine basically immediately as I sat in stopped traffic wondering what was going on. It was "just" a traffic fatality. GAH!
altarflame: (deluge)
Today, I:

-made a stock pot of bone broth and two large mason jars of sauerkraut.
-found out I got an A on Stats exam 2 of 5 yesterday. I got a B on the first one. I'm still adjusting to the idea that I'm actually capable of understanding this material. Millionth time's the charm!
-got 9/10 on a BioPsych quiz. I keep missing one on every one of those damned things.
-got bad news on the phone about a good friend, and have been standing by since.
-sat and caught up with Annie for awhile.
-took Isaac's clarinet for repairs, and got him new reeds.
-took Aaron for a birthday present for a friend, and a Chipotle burrito like he's been craving.

I feel like there were a lot of other things I needed to accomplish, but oh well. Tomorrow I'm spending most of the day on a field trip with Jake and Elise. Feeling slightly starved for affection/sex, but also good about the direction my life is going in. Cough is almost gone.

I've lost 5.8 pounds since I wrote that "fat" entry. I'm trying to take a this-is-medicine, I-am-sick approach. So far, it really seems like a switch flipped in my head. Counseling last Saturday was aaaaaaall about how sick I got, and all those things I learned when I went reading.

Das about it for now.
altarflame: (deluge)
The burgeoning independence of my younger kids is so adorable.

Elise (8) has started making herself salads. Ever since she realized she could do this, she does it at least once per day. She includes things I might never think of, like raw broccoli and sliced peppers. She's so proud of herself every time.

Today I taught her how to make herself a cup of tea. Soon after she was sitting there at the dining table with a salad and tea, giddy with her feet swinging.

Jake's 10th birthday is just a few days away. He decided he wants to invite some people to go see Hotel Transylvania 2 together, on the day. Some of them are former classmates, so today around the time that school dismisses he and Isaac walked there with the invitations to hand out. It's half a mile down on our same street, but you can tell they felt like it was a grand adventure. Which was heightened when a torrential downpour started on their way back home and they arrived laughing hysterically and soaking wet.

Isaac's cell phone is in a bag of rice.

Isaac was going to heat up leftover soup, today, and turned on the wrong burner - one that was under the soup tupperware. So we had one of our annual "house filled with toxic plastic smoke" evacuations. At least it's slightly less hot these days.

I have some field trips lined up for Jake and Elise and am hoping they pick up some homeschooled friends they can see during school days semi-regularly. One is to a library for a geode and crystal thing, and the other is to a little farm and pumpkin patch that has a whole slew of activities planned for everyone coming. I also joined every local-ish homeschool related fb group that exists.

I am kind of embarrassed to say one issue I'm having is that I just don't want to have to hang out with a lot of local homeschooling moms. I want to find activities where either I can find people I actually click with, which would be great, or I can drop the kids off and pick them up, which is also fine. I really desperately don't want to get back in the swing of regularly spending hours with people I just don't relate to and/or who I'm not comfortable with, because I "have to," while the kids run around nearby. The field trips we have coming up are ones that involve groups I'm not familiar with, so maybe I'll actually make some friends. I miss a couple of PATH moms up the road who I use to love catching up with, but their kids have aged out of school altogether and people are moving away.

This is hard to explain - I don't dislike moms as a group by any means. But, I'm way past the point of trying to make friends with other moms just because they're also moms. It's like if I like someone and get along well with them, and they happen to have kids, great!

I often find my relationships with childless people to be a lot less complicated. They don't have any kids to bring or get a sitter for or keep them from being available! They also haven't had to navigate, and potentially become completely lost in, the identity crises that come from having so much of your time, energy, and resources being devoted to your kids.

I suppose I've always been out of step. When I was a teen mom, I didn't know any other mothers, at all. I didn't even have the internet. When I started homeschooling and attending LLL, later on, I was still 15+ years younger than everyone else in the groups, and in a lower socio-economic bracket. Now, it seems like everyone my age is having babies. But we haven't had diapers in the house in over 5 years, and I have definitely Moved On from the pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding mindset and perspective. I am the Girl Anachronism!

Other local homeschooling moms, here in our town - at least the ones I've been exposed to - are mostly cleaning houses or working evenings and weekends to make homeschooling possible, and they rarely if ever drive up to Miami, and being in college seems pretty weird to them. I got a lot of "must be nice" comments when I mentioned a roadtrip and we were asked what things were over and over when I brought food to a place - about, like, a container of Sabra hummus (they had never heard of hummus! Or Fresh Market...or a french press for coffee...or chai...)

I don't know if I sound horrible, but I don't want to spend all my time explaining stuff, or apologizing for things. I'm tired of friending people on facebook and seeing that they're really into protestant christian minion memes, and direct sales of Thirty One/Herbalife/Jamberry.




Yesterday was Grant's birthday and I went all out on his dinner and cake. Everything came out great. The day before, his best work friend gave him a Super Mario chess set and took him out to dinner, and then he arrived home to a kid-made banner and a pile of presents. He's also gotten cards in the mail from his mom, his dad, and his sister. The day itself was lowkey but nice; he took the day off and we did things like go out for Indian food for lunch, and get the gas powered weed eater he wanted since the electric is a huge pain and apparently he's in full swing, ultimate suburban dad mode now :)

I really want him to feel loved and worthy. I think about this a lot. He has some self worth issues and they rear up in random ways, one of which is this tendency to be like, "my birthday doesn't matter." Except that his birthday is the anniversary of the day he came into the world, and he's basically the best thing that ever happened to me - he's pretty amazing all around - soooo..... Tres important.




My Research Methods class continues to be top notch. Since having to do the training for the Human Behavioral Research lab certification, and doing studies on campus, I've had to register for a Qualtrics account and design a survey, write debriefing material for a study, and use SPSS to run statistical analysis to include in a paper. Every task we're set is wildly intimidating at first, which makes me feel like a serious champion whenever I conquer another one.

I have a B in Stats so far - next test next week.

I took a moment to relish, earlier, that I was looking at an entire paragraph written in french and could piece together what it meant. That wouldn't generalize to any french paragraph, but it was still encouraging. When composing my discussion board posts, I now know when Google Translate is telling me the wrong thing ;)

Biopsych is hard but great. I've gotten 100 on the last few quizzes and those quizzes are BEASTS - I was missing one question every time, the first few weeks. When you miss one on a 4-5 question quiz, it really counts. Piling up some hundreds is good.




I had a harrowing experience at the gynecologist. It was just shit, basically my cervix is really far back and tilted backwards and so in an effort to verify my IUD placement during a pap smear, everything from yanking to forceps was tried before we settled on "I'll just go get an ultrasound."

But, my period is somehow miraculously falling cleanly between that pap smear and the ultrasound, so yay?

And, I'm finally starting to really feel better from the illness mentioned in the last entry.

Fat

Oct. 2nd, 2015 09:00 pm
altarflame: (deluge)
A couple of days ago, laid out on the table for a pap smear, my gynecologist said, "Have you seen a dietitician? Skinny people live better, longer lives." This seems underhanded, no pun intended, when said by someone who is pushing your soft inner thigh fat around.

I don't really deny she's right, although the "better" part is subjective, and some might argue that life is better with cheese fries and alcoholic milkshakes. Healthwise, and social-advantage wise, the evidence is clear that she's speaking truth.

I am starting to doubt it's possible for me to be thin, though. Certainly not "skinny," as she referenced. I've never been skinny in my life - I was born 10 pounds, 4 ounces, and am chubby in my kindergarten graduation cap and gown pics. I've been hot and healthy and curvy, as a teenager, but I was never a thin girl - let alone skinny.

Maybe you watch SciShow and you've seen how Hank Green says in his obesity video that being fat is objectively bad, but also that it's caused by everything from genetics to industrial chemicals, and linked as much or more to gut bacteria as diet and exercise. That is a heavily researched and cited video that is hard to refute. Many other scientific voices are saying the same things as Hank.

Or maybe you saw that Salon article quoting a bunch of new research, earlier this year:
If you’re one of the 45 million Americans who plan to go on a diet this year, I’ve got one word of advice for you: Don’t.

You’ll likely lose weight in the short term, but your chance of keeping if off for five years or more is about the same as your chance of surviving metastatic lung cancer: 5 percent. And when you do gain back the weight, everyone will blame you. Including you.

This isn’t breaking news; doctors know the holy trinity of obesity treatments—diet, exercise, and medication—don’t work. They know yo-yo dieting is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, inflammation, and, ironically, long-term weight gain. Still, they push the same ineffective treatments, insisting they’ll make you not just thinner but healthier.

In reality, 97 percent of dieters regain everything they lost and then some within three years. Obesity research fails to reflect this truth because it rarely follows people for more than 18 months. This makes most weight-loss studies disingenuous at best and downright deceptive at worst.


There's a great docuseries called The Weight of a Nation that also explores how cultural forces, environmental factors, and more, are combining to make us fatter and make it really, really hard to lose weight and keep it off. I believe it was the 3rd episode that explored metabolic changes that happen when you lose a great deal of weight, that make it much harder to maintain a weight afterward than it is for someone of a similar weight who had never been morbidly obese. As in, the person who lost the weight would need to consume about 300 less calories per day, vs the person who'd always been thin, when controlling for every other variable.

All of that (frustratingly) backs up Grant's and my experience these past couple of years. We both lost around 30 pounds, and then promptly gained it all back plus some, to be at mutually all-time-highest weights. We're both looking at round 2 - which is more like round 22, let's be real - and feeling more than a little disheartened.

Part of me really, REALLY responds to fat- and body positivity campaigns. I have a bathingsuit I think is super flattering, and I swim in public. I live in public. I have a husband who thinks I'm ravishing. I've found a few places I can reliably shop for clothes I genuinely like, on and off. I'm not afraid to do just about anything, and get pretty shocked when I find out other overweight people avoid being SEEN in public, eating in public, etc. I've got a good and full life, over here.

And my blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol are all still awesome - probably due at least in part to us cooking from scratch often and eating tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. Aside from the occasional coffee, tea, or wine, I only drink water. Don't be fooled, now, I eat A LOT and I know it, and I eat a lot of fat - even when I'm eating very healthy, I just want fat all the time (olives, avocado, whole eggs, cheeses, etc). But I also think I eat a lot of healthy foods, and that helps me out in the body chemistry department vs someone fat who chows down on more cake, coke, and McDonald's? Who knows, maybe I've just been lucky.

Except that I get sick - a lot.
And I stay sick for a long time, when I do.

I never really connected that to being fat. Just now I was reading online, though, and I saw that a really disproportionate number of those hospitalized for flu are obese. Obesity was proven to be an independent risk factor for getting the flu, in 2009.

Basically, being fat screws up your immune system. You get sick more - in general, not just with the flu - and you get sicker when you get sick. Here's the National Institute of Health, explaining it in more technical terms via PubMed. The
CDC actually lists those with body mass index greater than 40
as one of the subsets of people who need a flu shot, along with infants and the elderly and immunocompromised!

But, guess what? Flu shots don't work as well for the obese.

Kinda like how the morning-after pill doesn't work as well for overweight women. And who knows how many other medications.

I know someone (online) who is super active, fat positive, and strong. She bikes and walks often, is in circus school for crying out loud - she's also got a badass career and is a great mother. She had a terrifying pulmonary embolism a couple of years ago, related to the Nuva ring - which is much more likely, if you're fat. Like how ovarian cancer is more likely if you're fat. And about a million other things. I don't have the will to keep linking everything, but I assure you, this shit is easy to find if you go looking independently.

Basically, obese is not something you want to be. These health risks are freaking me out tonight on a level that nothing else I know about my weight ever has. This is going to be on my mind in a big way now, every time I come down with anything.

What good is my full life, if it's cut short? By infirmity or death, or both (one after the other)?

So... do I just believe I can be in that tiny sliver of people who manages what is basically statistically impossible? Even if the reality is that losing and regaining over and over is much worse for you than just staying the same amount of fat, over time? My therapist, annoying ass that he is, really likes to say it's just a matter of "making a decision, and sticking to it." Which is sort of hilarious, since he's a type 2 diabetic with a pot belly that's been on some diet or other as long as I've been going to see him (about 2 years now) with little if any result. Obviously everyone does better at doling out accurate advice than following it?

I'd give a long sigh right now, but I'd go into a coughing fit.
altarflame: (deluge)
Ananda and Aaron arrived home last Friday night from their high school's annual fine arts camp - 4 days, 3 nights. They told us stories for hours.

I felt so proud of Aaron (who had never been there before, and was texting me the first night that he couldn't sleep and didn't like it). He ended up having a great time and being really glad he went. He spent some time playing a tall console piano that he's still missing, in a room with 3 other students, and said all of them cried. Which is basically exactly how his piano playing effects me. Ananda then had to hear about it all week from them :p She only gets excited if he's playing something recognizable that she's into, like the theme from Howl's Moving Castle or Carol of the Bells, around Christmas.

The photography teacher apparently saw him for the first time and immediately asked if she could take pictures of him, and now wants to try to get him modeling contracts.

Aaron2 Aaron1

^Those are pics I took of him after he got his ears pierced.^

The biggest thing, though, is that Annie's gay friend E asked Aaron out, the night of the bonfire (Aaron is straight). He turned E down by saying, "I wish I could be into you because you're a great guy. I'm sorry it's not that easy - I'm really proud of you for going out on a limb, that had to be really hard." E went back to Annie and said, "your brother just didn't date me in the most epic way imagineable."

He is still him, and so he had a story about a panic stricken old guy screaming "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! GET OUT OF THAT TREE, NOW! FEET FIRST!" I nearly killed him myself after he described going back alone to examine a yellow jacket hive after the swarm fell upon a girl who had to be taken to the hospital. I mean... he has seen My Girl. Get it together, Aaron.

He also came home WITHOUT his @&#)($ dance bag (that had jazz pants and shoes, ballet shoes, dance belt, dance tights, tank tops and more in it...)

Anyway. Ananda mostly laughed hysterically describing cabin antics, prank wars, and inside jokes. She also came home sore from moving constantly the entire evening of their dance, and knowing some new dances. She liked it better than last year, which was her first year, and that is saying something.

All in all it seems to have been money well spent.




Saturday was a complete fiasco that involved things like Aaron coming in my room with skates and pads in hand at 3:56 saying, "Mom, I'm supposed to be at Super Wheels at 4:00!" and Annie realizing, while we were out, that her iPhone had vanished. Teenagers, man.

Sunday was sleeping in and french toast brunch.

frenchtoast

Then Grant and I went, alone, and got iced coffee from the farmer's market, and walked around Pinecrest Gardens for a good long time.

Aaaaand Sunday night, the seven of us met Shaun and my friend Kristin's mom, Melanie, on the beach - where HUNDREDS of others were as well, including fire twirlers and drummers - and watched the moonrise/eclipse. It was great. We had an awesome view, bags of food, spent hours in the water. I drank too much wine - or perhaps just the right amount.

The weird thing is that when I got home, my bathingsuit bottoms were FULL OF SAND - like, between the layers of fabric there is a TON of sand. You can gather it up into a big ball. I mean wth. I guess I'm going to have to cut the lining open to get it out? Sheesh.

Yesterday/Monday was good. Highlight of homeschooling was probably when Elise wanted all the details of how doctors get to people's brains, to operate, and Jake had to leave the room for that explanation... she is very consistently fascinated by death, medical procedures, anatomy, etc, and almost never upset by any of it. He is extremely sensitive to those kinds of things, and really irritated by her fascination. The last time I had a blood draw, he stayed in the waiting room and she was so inquisitive that the phlebotomist enlisted her help with things like swabbing the area and feeling the vein as it puffed up o_O

Annie had an orthodontist appointment in the afternoon - her impacted canines are STILL not out, though they're much lower down now than before. I also officially made our last payment on her braces, yesterday. Gooooood lord. Between pulling the baby canines (dentist), the braces themselves (ortho) and her oral surgery (specialist), we and our insurance have paid something like $13,000 toward her mouth in the past couple of years! So glad Aaron and Isaac don't need orthodontics.

IMG_5423
Annie's mouth, day 1.

IMG_5422
Annie's mouth, yesterday.

Her bottom teeth are so much straighter now! It's weird how clearly you can see the tiny chains from the impacted teeth (which get shortened gradually at every visit now).

I had to invest a chunk of the evening to my own school work - I had a French test, a Research Methods quiz, and a Research Methods lab assignment due last night. As soon as I finished Annie and I hit it out the door to go to a free outdoor Jose Gonzalez show featuring our favorite food trucks.

jose
Cristy, me, Jose Gonzalez, and Annie, after the show was long over.

Cristy's Shaun's girlfriend and has only known us for a year or two. Elise hogs her bigtime when she's around, but she adores Isaac. Ananda and I realized as we talked after the show that she had no idea Isaac was ever in any way difficult or complicated. He's come so far and is doing so well that just seeing him now, she was thrown to learn he was a high needs baby, tyrannical toddler/preschooler, etc. I love it. Just telling her a couple of stories, I could see Shaun get the war-torn look of someone who has had to be in a restaurant when someone starts screaming, and has had the movie paused for half an hour every 10 minutes further in so we could try to wrangle Isaac...for years. It really impacted our ability to do anything, we always had to plan for Isaac - from bringing an inflatable dingy for Isaac to be pulled in because he wouldn't wade through the sandbars with us because he hated water, to... everything. It's impossible to overstate. It's so great that he's where he's at. I love that he can be happier now, and that we don't have to struggle all the freakin' time. The transformation over the past couple of years has been so radical.

This has already been written here and there over several hours, and is probably disjointed enough. I promised some people who are done with their workbooks that we'd visit Pet Supermarket and look at fish.
altarflame: (deluge)
I am staying at my sister's house since yesterday afternoon, with her older kids and a few of mine, while she and her husband stay at the hospital with their youngest. Isabella (3) had been acting lethargic and uncomfortable, with a distended belly, for too many days, so they took her in. She has some kind of non-mechanical bowel obstruction - apparently that's something that can happen after a stomach bug, when swelling or twisting of the intestines caused by inflammation from the illness won't let anything through.

The good news is that's usually treatable with a resting period of not eating for a couple of days. So she probably doesn't need surgery or any other radical intervention - just IV fluids and observation, along with some meds to make it hurt less and lots of probiotics.

Since I am basically The Princess (and the Pea), I don't sleep well at other people's houses, on couches. There is a very precise confluence of events, involving nudity and too many (specific) pillows and a lot of room and a blasting fan, that all have to transpire for me to only suffer my normal level of insomnia. But after I cleaned the kitchen from dinner and made Elizabeth giggle until she wasn't sad and otherwise acted responsible, I did manage to get really excited and start longing for a new kind of roadtrip.

I found this picture on tumblr, of a 350 year old oak tree (verified via other sites):


To say I love it is not saying enough. These trees make me ache in the chest. I can't drink them in enough.

I go out of my way to drive through tunnels of "old" live oaks in the Gables pretty regularly, and those are babies by comparison. This is one of those, that I've been using as my facebook cover photo for awhile:


I mean I accidentally found myself among live oaks at sunset on my last roadtrip and almost lost my damned mind.

Last night I learned there are various individually named and dated live oaks that are hundreds of years old. Angel Oak is in Charleston, and more than 1500 years old. <--DO YOU HEAR WHAT I'M SAYING?

The Angel Oak tree:


(from tumblr user rorybore)


(from tumblr user nottheleaningtowerofpisa)


(from tumblr user gregfoster)


(from tumblr user cgawel)

I would like to encourage you to go find more angles to view this tree from ;) There are endless streams of pictures of it in the "Angel Oak" tag on tumblr and on Instagram.

You can also visit "Oak Alley Plantation," where movies like Interview With the Vampire (and many others) were filmed...



Though they are sad places, with slave quarters intact, and a lot of sordid history. I suppose it's all kind of dark.

I found this image last night - the "Tree of Redemption."


It's a lot to take in. The South as a whole is so awful, and lovely, and weird, and haunting, and ultimately my opinion is something like "It's not the trees' fault! They were here, first!"

Hopefully they'll be here after us. And I'll get to hang out with some more of them soonish.


(Angel Oak again, this time by tumblr-er leahdeleah)
altarflame: (deluge)
My whole life is education. A lot of it is very good, much of it is deeply exhausting, some of it is very challenging - which can be both great and terrible.

Driving 3 kids to and from school for 45 minutes, twice a day. 7.5 hour per week driving to and from the school! Going to all their various open houses, too, and contacting their teachers, buying their supply lists, asking how it is, buying them more supplies, sitting up talking about it, handing them more money, filling out stacks of forms.

Homeschooling 2 kids. Reading to them, taking them places, guiding them through things, assigning them things, sitting down to meals with them, sitting down at the computer to search for things they're wondering about, checking over their pages of writing or of problems, getting everything out for something.

My school. Hours at statistics homework pausing and unpausing lecture videos with a calculator and a notebook. Reading and reading and reading assigned reading about neuroanatomy, "the triune brain," the modules for my training certification to do research, slides forEVER on research projects and lab criteria. Adobe Connect meetings in a headset with one group, formatting APA citations for discussion board posts with another. 45 minutes at a time with my french teacher talking on a headset, recording myself speaking french in little bursts. High pressure 5 minute timed quizzes hunched over a laptop. Laptop perched on the windowsill playing video lectures as I wash dishes.

Highlighters and the wall calendar and my phone's calendar and sitting down at night to record what Jake and Elise have done and make lists for the next day. Squinting as I triple check 10 different links to make sure I'm not missing any deadlines.

I love it and I'm glad it's temporary. Every bit of it, though I'm relishing the Jake and Elise part, and I'm less lonely/restless with my mind more occupied.

Still low key lonely/restless.

pictures! )
altarflame: (deluge)
Man. I've been so calloused to the meme-style, overly political and often war-justifying 9/11 stuff that floods my social media feeds every year that I haven't actually felt anything about it in a long time. I get frustrated with how people act as though the deaths of three thousand americans 14 years ago is somehow more significant than the suffering and deaths of millions around the world ever since (or, you know, right now).

This morning, though, I realized Jake and Elise don't know anything about 9/11 or even realize today is a "thing." Since they're in 3rd and 4th grade now I figured they were ready for a historical overview - for knowing that today is a Day for a lot of people in this country.

Damned if I did not cry excessively explaining it and then seemingly traumatize them forever. I didn't even go for broke (window jumpers, daycare in the building, scary graphic videos, etc), but to see it for the first time through their eyes is so awful. *sigh*

I see some of my friends posting things about, for instance, the Story Corps episode on 9/11 making them ugly-cry.

NOPE.
altarflame: (deluge)
I feel so challenged AND so capable, both in the best ways!

My days are very, very full right now, and I'm actually sleeping at night, but much less is mindless activity and much more is deeply engaging, which I love.

A typical day, lately, involves getting everyone up and fed breakfast, rounding up food for the school kids to take, and driving them to school with some talk about what's going on at school that day. Then, I come home with Jake and Elise, and we work on months of the year and multiplication tables (combination of looking at things we have hung up, reciting, and sometimes grabbing manipulatives). We look at things they've been interested in or curious about online (like looking up "what is the most dangerous animal on land" and "can you pee in a spacesuit") and then they do their chores while I grab some coffee and check some stuff online.

Over the next few hours, there are times when I work on a laptop while they do their workbook or other sit-down work; times when they have free play or work on projects while I either take high-pressure tests/quizzes or do french work that requires me to record myself or log on and speak with a teacher; and times when I take them out places like the library, or to the ocean, or on an exploratory walk, or the Frost museum. We'll probably be getting a zoo membership and hitting Pinecrest Gardens, soon. They both have lists of things on hold, at the library, too. I recently posted some videos and pictures from one of these "field trips" on my tumblr, under the "personal" tag.

The three of us always sit down and eat lunch together. Sometimes Elise makes the 3 of us sandwiches, or Jake uses the toaster oven and leftovers to make us all nachos, but usually I cook. One day last week, I guided them through the process of making several loaves of banana bread - the only things I actually did was chop nuts and move the loaf pans to the oven. So, they got to brag to their older siblings (who devoured most of it) that THEY made that.

In the evenings here and there I give them supplemental things, but mostly they log into their Reading Rainbow and Animal Jam accounts online or color. There's a strict "no screens" rule in effect during the actual school day. I'm glad Elise is excited about Girl Scouts and Jake has some friends in the neighborhood, because the only thing I ever really worry about with them is that they're more isolated than any of my other homeschooled kids have ever been. They just don't have an extracurricular passion or motivation for a particular sport or whatever. They enjoy groups that are just for hanging out or arts and crafts, and they like classes when PATH offers them.

They're getting along so well. I really cherish their innocence and unselfconsciousness.

I also eat up the way the big kids are changing. Aaron's jawline could cut glass. Annie makes me laugh constantly. Isaac LOVES his new school.

I love hearing about their days. I try to rotate taking them out solo as much as possible on the evenings and weekends. We have a lot of sleepy cuddle piles in the evenings.

Our calendar is ABSURD, between Grant's business trips, things I have to go to campus for, the kids' various open house and art dept nights and field trips, everyone's various appts for health, dental, and psych - absurd. We have 3 birthdays and Halloween, in October. I have a friend getting married out of town this fall, and we're starting to plan for that whole-family travel. There's also going to be an Ani Difranco concert for a few of us, and G was selected to be a part of a live NPR event he's pretty excited about.

Grant and I keep finding ourselves standing in front of our big wall calendar suggesting different things that don't work over and over.

I've already had a prolonged cold. I do wish I had more regular, built-in time to socialize with people outside this immediate little group I'm cocooned with, IRL. I am heavily utilizing text and fb messenger lately, and my friend Kathy comes with her kids once evening a week and they have dinner with us, but I still start crawling out of my skin for real life grownup interactions.




My classes are so fucking intense! First of all my stats teacher recommended I take Research Methods co-currently, rather than after Stats is over, since he's designed his course for that to work and I just got a 64% in his class during Summer B. After a silly amount of messaging, email, calls, trips to campus, forms, and financial aid snags, I am back in a position of being able to graduate in December - assuming they offer the very last, 2 credit thing I need in the mini-term during December. They usually do, but it's not guaranteed yet. So that is great, complicated though it's been to work out!

For having ONLINE classes, these feel much less strictly online than I'm used to. My BioPsych class has mandatory groups you have to meet with in the community, throughout the semester. French requires logging in for skype-like sessions with the teacher once a week, for 45 minutes, as well as recording myself talking quite a bit. All 5 of my Statistics exams are on campus, proctored.

Aside from that, though, the workloads are just rigorous. My BioPsych discussion board posts - normally the most banal of tasks in any online class - require a thesis statement, a word count, and APA citations. My french discussion board posts (you guessed it) have to be in french. This french class has DOZENS of assignments per unit, and about 10 days per unit! Research Methods has several big papers throughout the semester. And, of course - Stats. Though so far at least, I'm feeling way better about that. At least the first third of the course seems to be something I have down at this point (not a moment to freakin' soon, eh?).

I'm currently working my way through all the modules and quizzes necessary to get a certification that will allow me to do Human Behavioral Research - both through my Research Methods class this semester, in the future in the FIU labs, and also at other institutions. It's very interesting and almost embarrassingly exciting - sharing my account is illegal! The modules are called things like, "Assessing Risk," "Informed Consent," "Federal Regulations," and "Working With Prisoners!"

Get a load of these BioPsych calendar segments:

08/31 Anatomy of the Nervous System 3.0-3.4
09/07 Anatomy of the Brain 3.5 & 3.6
09/14 Neural Conduction & Synaptic Transmission I 4.0-4.4
09/21 Neural Conduction & Synaptic Transmission II 4.5-4.7
09/28 Development of The Nervous System Chapter 9
10/05 Review & Midterm Exam
10/12 Hunger & Eating 12.0-12.4
10/19 Hunger & Eating 12.5-12.7; Hunger Project due
10/26 Hormones & Sex 13.3-13.7
11/02 Sleep I 14.0-14.3; Sex Project due
11/09 Sleep II 14.4-14.8
11/16 Addiction 15.0-15.3; Sleep Project due

To say I am eating it up is putting it lightly.

I'm also juggling an agenda with 6 colors of highlighters, and making massive lists before I go to bed each night, for the following day. Two weeks in, though, I feel really good about everything. I get completely fried periodically, and can find myself REALLY enjoying my time out with Jake and Elise during the school day as a break for me as much as something good for them. And, Grant helps a lot, when he's in the state and not involved with all day training for his own certifications. We were out on a date this morning for a couple of hours. He's currently coloring at the dining table behind me.

And I guess I'm gonna go to sleep now and not make any promises about when I'll get back to this next.
altarflame: (deluge)
I'm thinking a LOT this week about classism, charter schools, and the underfunding of public schools in general.

I live in south Florida, in Miami-Dade County, and our public schools are pretty terrible. As a result, there are many homeschooling families and much homeschool support here, of which we are a part. The state is even heavily pushing their own K-12 Virtual School program, which is undertaken at home - out of necessity. They can't handle the population load.

Ever since we started putting some of our kids into the school system a few years ago, I've been really surprised by how different it is than when I was in school.

Upper middle class and rich people are still largely in the private schools. Aside from them, though, what I see is that among (what's left of) the middle class, all the PTA moms, all the dads with businesses that are willing to sponsor a team or club, a lot of the parents who have the resources to chaperone a field trip - all the the kids who've had financially privileged beginnings involving the nurture of a stay at home parent, high quality childcare, and/or extracurricular activities - none of those people are in the regular public schools anymore. They've all headed for the hills, aka "free" public charter schools.

Which I get. Obviously I get it - aside from being homeschooled, my kids have only went to charter schools. The non-charter public schools (regular district schools), at least around here, are...in my opinion... no place for children :/ Which is a sad state of affairs. One that is more easily ignored since middle class people, who have more time and education and likelihood of voting than poor people generally do, have an alternate option.

One district elementary school I looked at years ago had 45 students in a single kindergarten class. Of them, around 15 spoke no english. The teacher only spoke english, and didn't even have an aid. She could have been the best teacher in the world, but what can you really manage in a situation like that?

If you want your child in a class of under or around 20, with an aid in the room, and you don't have private school money, you put them in a charter school. If you want your child to have field trips, and regular art and music, you put them in a charter school. If you want them to have ongoing access to up to date technology - yeah. Charter school. If you'd like to avoid a school that's recently been in the news for violence or scandal, if you would like extracurricular activities or tutoring options available, if you want a school with decent test scores - most of those schools are charter schools. Assuming you can't afford private, obviously. There are only a scant handful of exceptions, most of them involving either a very rich enclave as their district (like Palmetto High), or special magnet funding (like Coral Reef has).

Theoretically, charter schools are public and therefore open to anyone. That's what's behind their stated policies of taking any student, and it's how it's justified that they receive public education funding. In theory they're wonderful collectives started by passionate groups of people who come together for the good of the community, to provide superior options for whoever would like to take advantage. Tons of volunteer hours go into getting them up and running. The principals and administration are often top-notch, and sometimes full-on visionaries.

Except that, unlike regular district schools, they don't offer (often can't offer) free transportation. Students come from all over, which the county is not prepared to accommodate, and so private bus options start at around $100 per month per child. Charter schools are also less likely to offer before and after school care, and it can be *expensive* when they do. Last year, A&A's school had none, and the younger kids' school was charging me $150 per week for the 3 of them to stay after school for ONE HOUR, TWO DAYS PER WEEK. You can rationalize the costs of transportation and childcare as real expenses that money needs to exist for, or compare those amounts to the costs of taxis and nannies and say they're reasonable, but the fact is that those things are free or very cheap at normal district public schools around here. Parents who are barely scraping by with government assistance, and who have to work at those times, just cannot consider these schools for their kids. A couple of big local charters are even out in the middle of nowhere, with VARIABLE DISMISSAL TIMES, with their complete lack of public transit or before/after care. Practical logistics are a huge barrier to entry.

Charter schools are more likely to offer real and nutritious food for meals, that costs more. One of the schools my kids have attended has no free lunch option because the free lunch program doesn't work with the catering company and chef the school uses. I like that it's better food! But it's also $4.75 per student per lunch, which adds up REALLY fast. In a county where charitable programs pop up to provide free meals at libraries every winter and spring break and summer vacation, to feed all the kids who ONLY EVER EAT free breakfast and lunch, during the school year... that is really significant. It seems almost shameful in my mind, although I also completely understand the good intentions of the people who started it. Regular school lunch is gross, it's about the cheapest possible route, not nutrition. Again, because public schools are underfunded.

Also unlike regular district schools, charter schools are able to have all kinds of requirements for attending - like a minimum number of parent volunteer hours that can only be opted out of through monetary donations, required parental attendance at certain open house events, and looooooong supply lists that cost hundreds of dollars to acquire. Both of our charter schools have required all of those things. I've also had to buy more than a dozen novels, 5 or 6 workbooks, and 3 textbooks, so far. If you fail to meet a requirement, you lose your seat for the following year. Which I guess brings up the waiting lists, and the fact that poor parents - and especially poor first generation immigrant parents who suffer language barriers, of which there are MANY around here - often don't even have the connections to understand what a charter school is, or how it works. Let alone to sign up by January to get their kid's name down on a list, for Fall. I talked to a Mexican woman in a back to school aisle last year who was shocked that charter schools don't charge tuition, and started immediately calling her friends to let them know that. To be clear, we were talking about a SPRAWLING local K-12 charter with thousands of kids attending in many buildings, with several surrounding athletic fields. She and her social network had assumed it was a private school since it doesn't appear in their district options and their kids weren't automatically assigned to it.

There is also a culture of pressure to spend, at charters. Though not technically "requirements," you still feel like you HAVE TO DO certain things as a parent, and your kids feel it too. Like $10 tickets to see their holiday show, $30 to buy your own kid's artwork in a frame, $150+ for field trips to other cities that involve fancy busses and meals included, sending in $5 to put in the teacher's birthday card, contributing items to their Thanksgiving feast and Halloween parties, $10 for a "Friday shirt" different from their normal uniform polos, $5 each every week for this afterschool thing they all want to do, and on and on and on. It's neverending and sometimes very short notice. I get stressed out about it at times, but I feel like it would be nervous breakdown territory if I was living in poverty. It is really Private School Lite, or as Ananda would say, Lowkey Private School.

There's just no way most of the families in the town I live in can handle any of it. So their kids just all, collectively, fall through the cracks of the education system, and attend public schools that much worse off because the people with the time and money to spare have opted out of them. In the past, poor kids in district schools with busy and/or neglectful parents (like, you know, ME AS A CHILD) benefited from the voluteerism and proactivity of other kids' parents. Especially in a place like the greater Miami area, where the wage disparity is so enormous. In addition to helping to enrich the environment and pick up slack, they were also the ones to pitch a fit about poor conditions at school board meetings. Now, those same people are relatively content at charters, instead of complaining en masse about horrible conditions. I'm sure the dramatic income inequality here contributed to this whole charter school phenomenon taking off the way it has...

The underfunding is disgusting. Truly disgusting. No public school in Florida is given the amount of money they need to do what they should be doing. Charter schools have totally classed off, and families attending them are constantly subsidizing the amount the school's given by the govt, to get their schools closer to having what they actually need. This, again, gets the attention of many voters off the situation that remains at the district schools. AND, the charter schools are diverting government funding away from the district schools. I don't think it's fair to expect individual charter school parents to sacrifice their own child's quality of education to this cause by putting them back in a floundering district school, in an attempt to shoulder what used to be dozen's of parents burdens all on their own. I don't know what we need at this point. I feel like a hypocrite writing all this out.

I am in the beginning phases of research into what I can do, support, donate to, help with, vote for, etc to get public school funding up and to benefit kids in district schools. I am also kinda grossed out by how, on the surface, everybody just pretends that since ALL the public schools are "free," that means it's just parents who care more, who send their kids to charter schools. That is a common assumption I've personally heard parroted many times. "These are better kids, because it's the kids of parents who care enough to get them on a charter list and drive them out of the way, instead of just sending them to a district school." While that may be a factor that plays in sometimes, it's also a wild oversimplification. Even if it was true - do we really want to leave the kids of neglectful or apathetic parents to struggle at school, too?
altarflame: (deluge)
It is SO GOOD to have Grant home.

Isaac needed to have his bloodwork and urinalysis done at the same time as I had counseling, this morning, but it was no big deal, because we just split up.

In addition to Isaac, a couple of others are lowkey sick, and this time G made the Gatorade, popsicles, etc run - AND THEN made absolutely delicious chicken noodle soup from scratch. I was able to make a big platter of meat, cheese, tomatoes, olives, and basil leaves, and set it out with a whole sliced baguette, as a big snack, and he prepped everything for the soup at the same time. So that we had dinner ready a couple of hours later, like magic.

Things just seem so much easier with a partner. He's taking Monday off so I can go to FIU like I need to, as people are getting out of their first day in school, and Annie has to go to the orthodontist.

Also - he's just so warm and cuddly and good. For most of my life I've thought that true love would be passionate sex when reuniting, but with us it's more like a narcotic sedative when he arrives after a trip. He's in our bedroom again and we're both moving through water while we try to talk, drowsy and slow. I press myself against him and that is IT.




I'm getting excited about homeschooling Jake and Elise. The hours with just them and me, devoted intentionally to them learning things. They're so wonderful and curious and funny. This school year is shaping up really well, Ananda and Aaron are both ready to go back and know they like it, Isaac has shifted from nerves to excitement about starting somewhere new. Elise is adorable, she is actually giddy about "being a third grader" even though almost nothing actually changes. I think it's like an age number going up, in her mind.

I'm weighing a couple of different membership options for us, like the zoo vs botanical gardens, etc. Whatever it is has to fit in the budget and make sense for some unit studies. "The budget" is somewhat stressful at the moment, but I feel enough cozy domestic bliss to ignore it until we sit down to strategize again tomorrow.
altarflame: (deluge)
I don't know how I reached a point in my life where I turn on Enya and start a bundle of sage and some jasmine oil burning, but here we are. It feels pretty nice to be all freshly clean in the dark with a glass of cold moscato, after this neverending beast of a day.




I failed (to get the C I needed for it to "count") Stats II again, in Summer B. In Summer A I got a low F, in Summer B I got a D+. So that blows, but I've kinda just refused to invest the energy in being devastated by it again, like I was the first time I failed. It was such a demoralizing ego blow, to realize I'd really have to try hard and not just for an A, but to pass the class. I'm not to the point of being proud of myself for perseverance, which is what Grant is trying to encourage, but I am zen about this as being only one part of my life.

Zen:

-In Summer A I got test scores like 12% and 19%. In Summer B I got test scores like 48% and 70%. Clearly I'm making progress and will thus actually pass the fucking class eventually. A big part of my Summer A anxiety was an overwhelming fear that I just wasn't capable of learning the material.
-The D+ replaces the F, which helps my overall GPA.
-I did also do very well in Neuropsychology, which I LOVED, and The Individual in Society, which I liked, this summer, and thus earned myself 6 more credits toward my degree.
-My children are all so sweet and sympathetic -"But you worked so hard and study so much!" "Oh man, you were so close this time!" I think Elise actually feels better about herself for the tests she was failing in 2nd grade (for non-reading).
-So far, this hasn't impacted my financial aid, fear of which was another major cause of me panicking in Summer A.

Snail's pace it is. I'll be taking Stats II in the fall starting Monday, along with Intro to Bio Psych, which sounds fascinating, and a french class, as I am inexplicably hell bent on learning french. I don't need to do much other than that even though it's a longer/normal semester, because I'm almost done with the entire degree, minus this research sequence that begins with freakin' Stats II.




I've thought a lot about that previous entry, on "external novelty," and decided it really might be me coming to accept that I DO want a lot of it, and seek it out. I realize that sounds ridiculous and contradictory, but I have a long established pattern of pitching a long, final, protesting fit about something before coming around and admitting I'm all about it. See: cloth diapers, homebirth, extended breastfeeding, the Catholic Church, IUDs, leaving Christianity altogether, polyamory (and monogamy), AND MORE. Listing every problem I have with something and defending my existing position as being against it is kiiiiinda how I work through my feelings of wanting that something. Sometimes, at least.

This is related to why I was willing to engage in tedious and frustrating arguments online for so long - people like to say, "Do you really think you're going to change someone's mind?" as though it's impossible. But I've had my mind changed by things in online arguments more than once. That is a thing that can happen. Even if the person you're arguing with is unswayable, there are always silent lurkers reading. Unfortunately I just don't generally have the energy for it anymore. Debate zaps me like little else.




I spent last Fri-Sun gallivanting all over the state again, visiting old friends. Good talk, good laughs, good food, good hugs. TERRIBLE nonexistent sleep, though. I am just too "Princess and the Pea" to sleep at other people's houses, I think. I mean I can barely sleep at my house! Otherwise, it was a great time and I'm very glad to have done it. I had some great stranger interactions too, including an Amanda Palmer fan spotted in the wild by her tattoo.

I got back and hit the ground running...met Grant and the kids at a restaurant north of our house, for dinner, before we all headed home and I unloaded my stuff. Then we had to get up at 4:30am, to take him to the airport so he could fly out to Maryland for work.

I've gotten a lot accomplished this week, though it's frustrating at times how circuitous and/or boring some of it is.

-Isaac's school orientation
-his haircut
-shopping for his uniforms
-his psych appointment
-and a bloodwork referral, for some minor physical problems that just aren't going away
-Aaron's haircut
-buying crickets for his spider
-getting his ears pierced, like he's wanted to forever
-school supply shopping
-school lunch shopping
-curriculum and field trip planning, with Jake and Elise
-cleaning out their cubbies
-scheduling their evaluations
-an Old Navy trip for khakis and jeans for the school kids

I've also had a ton of cuddle time with Elise, who is SO sweet and fun to come home to, and some with Jake (along with lots of talking with him), and shows with Annie, and dates with Aaron and Isaac out places.

They're all pretty great.

Annie is SO 15. She's so into having a cultivated aesthetic that she's practically in costume most of the time. I'll come home and she's just randomly in a full blown hipster getup with tons of jewelry and sun glasses, in the kitchen, and has the audacity to ask, "What?" if I look at her a second too long. She goes into rants about the most silly precocious nonsense, like communism, and 13 year olds who idealize the 90s even though they didn't even live through them <---she truly cannot even hear herself. It's hilarious in advance to think of the conversations we'll have about the things she's saying now, when she's 25. She's got friends over or is out meeting friends or staying at their houses pretty often. She talks about her plans for when she's 18 a lot.

Aaron is less depressed, and really happy with his haircut and his earrings. He was happy to see Darrien for awhile while I was away, since D's been down for the summer with his dad. He and Grant seem to be getting closer and it's great to watch.

Isaac is REALLY excited about starting a new school, and being a middle schooler. It's a nice change from him just being nervous. He is adorable and loves his new haircut. He's been sick off and on for weeks, and complaining of being too hot to do things or sleep periodically for years now. He keeps getting nauseous and getting headaches, for a couple of years if not forever. It's something we talked to his gastroenterologist about LONG ago, and the people at the hospital when he was in patient for constipation, and his doctor, but to no avail. He had lingering coughs and colds many times over the past year, some of which were severe and interfered with his ability to do things. He saw his pediatrician multiple times, he had a chest x-ray, he had allergy testing - no answers. Some of it could be anxiety related (headaches and stomachaches especially, but he was also using a light cough as a tic and that would sometimes turn into more intense coughing he couldn't control). I don't know what to do with him lately. He's throwing up too often when he lays down at night, he's acting really rundown and tired and congested during the day. Even though he's happy and productive. The PA who takes his vitals and measurements before he sees the psychiatrist suggested a couple of things that could be to blame that I haven't heard before, like hypothyroidism or a Vitamin D deficiency, so we're doing a blood panel. In the meantime I'm making him a lot of cups of tea and going to pick him up a lot of gatorade and reading him a lot of Narnia.

Jake has a really rich inner life. He tells me all the time about questions he has about life, about dreams he had that made him cry, about the elaborate things he's built with legos, and the books he's reading. He also makes me nuts begging for screen time 24/7 and acting incapable of handling 5 minutes without something engaging him. It's a weird mix. He's a weird kid, but in a good way (I think). He's a little whiny and sarcastic about school starting, but also willing, and very capable. He's eager for the field trips and the time alone with Elise and me. He goes out of his way to do nice things for her really often.

Elise is a happy and excited hilarious nut. She wants to be a taxidermist when she grows up. She has a bird skeleton she's keeping on the porch, that I'll only let her touch with her big rubber gloves on. She keeps talking in this guttural horror movie voice. She's also frequently doing awkward and clumsy "ballet" she wants me to watch. Her reading has really taken off - I got her a multi-pack of Fancy Nancy early readers at BJ's tonight and she was able to read me all 6 titles in probably less than 2 minutes. Books like that take a third the time they would have, for her to read me, vs 3 months ago. She LOVED the weeks she spent at Girl Scout camp SO MUCH, and can't wait to start going to troop meetings when they start up. She's just nothing but joy. Quick to help with anything I ask, affectionate as all get out, genuinely entertaining. Sometimes her prattling on and on can get tedious, but that has really started to shift as she has more language bursts and hesitates less in the middle of her sentences.




I've gotta go to bed. Tomorrow is a night that will once again feature Grant, and I am ready. I've decided his armpit is my favorite place in this world. He was lying in a hotel bed while we skyped earlier and it's almost terrible, how great he looked.
altarflame: (deluge)
Today I took Elise to Girl Scout camp, and had a totally unsatisfying date with Ananda that involved everything being closed and sweating too much in the early morning humidity.
I made plans with Shaun, to see his and Cristy's new apartment tomorrow night, and ordered flowers to be delivered to my Nana for her birthday.
I washed dishes, made a big brunch, and sat with 4 of my kids to eat it.
I snuggled with Grant, and with Jake. Grant's off today and tomorrow, because he just got back into town from working for 7 days straight in another state. This left him free to do things like bring me more pina colada popsicles, and acquire pizzas for the kids to eat for dinner.
I huffed around about being tired, took a short nap, and then buckled down and did 12 quizzes, 2 message board posts, and 4 responses - because my non-stats class has no deadlines but the end of the semester, and that is nearly upon me. With all the requisite reading, it was about 6 hours straight at the desk.
So then I obviously had to stretch extensively.
I drank tea with Aaron.
I ate brie on riceworks chips, with Ananda.
I talked with Isaac.
I held Elise in my lap at one point, attended her dance party at another, and read her a chapter of her Clementine book, before bed.
I kicked Grant in the stomach perhaps too hard, when he had the audacity to tickle me in retaliation for me tickling him.
I found a great new song, sent Jess a facebook message, broke open the Soul Cards Nancy gave me 2 years ago, and then sent her an email about them.




I think a lot about how I don't really crave external novelty, or at least not the same kinds other people seem to. Partially because Grant really, constantly does LONG for novelty, and so I'll get this sort of "sameness guilt" because he's restless about stuff I have a hard time empathizing with or even prolong for him - and other times because I realize I am irritated by how much everyone else seems to want "change" and "variety" and I wonder if I'm really that weird in this.

It makes me happy to find a song that I like and play it 15 times a day for a few weeks, or just turn it on repeat for a whole evening. I usually have 2-4 songs I'm over saturating everyone with at any given time.
I'm very satisfied when I figure out a meal I can make regularly that's always delicious.
I find the idea of mixing up the Thanksgiving menu to be ridiculous - how can anyone possibly get sick of foods you only eat once per year?
I am ok with having 6 months of visiting coffee shops and botanical gardens on the weekends, and 6 months of staying home doing crafts and taking walks. Then, we can just switch back.
I have, basically, the same hair I've had my entire life, and I still look at it with happiness and pride or total exasperation daily, depending on what sort of mood it's in. I think about it and photograph it pretty often, and touch it constantly, but I almost can't imagine thinking, "Man I need a change."
I've changed, bigtime, I've let go of tons of old baggage and I've got different politics than I used to, and new questions. Ideologically, I've come a long way. Growth and change are really important to me. Somehow, they cause me to experience my old friends in new ways, and my marriage as though it's new, and my city as though I never even saw it before. All of that just leads me to want to experience those old friends, and Grant, and south Florida, more fully and deeply, and to keep feeling and working and aging and see what it does to me. Kinda like how I'm still mothering these same 5 kids, but they're completely different and require totally different things of me vs 5 or more years ago.
Life is so rich and heady, even the simplest things are nuanced.

I'm in a phase this month where I make frittatas with lots of chopped baby greens, fresh basil, irish butter and parmesan cheese. I serve it with salted tomatoes and avocado. I do this 3-4 times per week, and I savor it and just marvel (that's right, dammit, marvel) at how good it is, every time. Since there are so many of us I have to plan for this by buying several dozen eggs and large containers of greens, weekly. For a couple of years, though, I've been doing breakfasts several times per week that are variations on eggs (mushroom and brie omelettes for awhile; fried eggs on toast, or on mushrooms and chard, came next) with cut up, salted tomato and avocados. For a few years before that, we had pots of steel cut oatmeal (usually strawberry or apple cinnamon) and moosewood muffins (peach-blueberry, triple berry, or strawberry-chocolate chip) all the time.

I feel like I cannot bear to move away from south Florida because I can't live without royal poinciana trees, live oaks, bouganvillea, climbing pothos, and banyans. I realize they have other trees and bushes up north, but I haven't looked at these enough. I notice tropical flora everywhere I go every day. I talk about it literally anytime we're in the car. I park just to get out and be near it. I drink it in, and don't know if I'll ever be able to get "enough."

Re: novelty. I just want to do the same things in different ways. I want to experiment with sex like a spiral you can't reach the bottom of, with endless possibilities. I want to experiment with where we sit to talk. I want to explore what's inside of me, and the people I love. I want to watch movies I've loved for years with friends who haven't seen them yet. I want to invite new people over to taste our specialties. I'd like to find board games to exhaust, that we haven't yet. I want to be thorough and take my time. I want, obviously, to process and write down what's already happened and then read back over it. Maybe it's all ultimately about holding on? I don't know.

Macro Examples - I don't give a shit about space, and even less so the concept of possible aliens. I have some weird kind of nerd guilt like I'm supposed to, or something? But I really just don't. Pluto inspires thoughts of "whatever" from me, that I cannot voice aloud in my own house :p Watching the moon and spotting shooting stars are the limit of my emotional investment in space. I have a small amount of mental intrigue about weather on other planets, but it comes and goes. I care passionately about the ocean, here on this planet. I've thought regularly about the fragility of coral reefs since I was 10. I cry and make myself sick reading about pollution, oil spills, and radiation in the water - and dead zones, DEAD ZONES O_O. I would support criminal prosecution of the people who run Sea World, and those who harm whales while fishing irresponsibly. I worry about sharks being misunderstood. We haven't even explored the entire ocean, on this planet, and we want to go to Mars? It really just makes me feel, "Why?" more than anything else. Quarks, though? Pentaquarks? I eat that up. I want to know more, and more, and more about what's all around us right here. The sentience of plants. The communication between animals. Neurology, forever, bring it. The desire to go where there is no oxygen and rely on technology to view cold things millions of miles away through glass? Ew.

Micro Examples - I like travelling, but I'd rather revisit places I've already been than go to new places. I can't get enough out of short or single visits. They feel unfinished. I talk about things like living in France (and learning french) or NYC for a year at a time, when the kids are grown, but a weekend away seems sort of pointless unless it's for some specific event or just to get away from regular responsibilities. Ultimately I would way rather talk, do it, doze, snuggle, and laugh in a nice hotel bed, with Grant, than go travel around with him out in public. I would rather talk to strangers in coffee shops and subways than just galavant around without making connections. If I'm going to be alone I can do that here, with my bathtub, or with candles and a yoga mat, or washing the dishes and listening to NPR.
altarflame: (deluge)
[livejournal.com profile] jerkface mentioned not being able to believe Elise is already 8, and I realized I want to say all kinds of things about her. I talk about my older kids less and less, based on what I see as their increasing desire for/right to privacy*, but she's still younger, and homeschooled, and I know there are people out there who have been rooting for her over the years.

The thing I think most often is that she's just SO HAPPY. That's what I worried about the most, when her prognosis was most bleak. I was afraid she might be isolated in her own mind due to sensory problems (blindness, lack of real sleep/wake differentiation...so many things were on the table). I wanted more than anything for her to know that we loved her. Grant gutted me, crying in a parking lot at one point about how much he wanted her to be ticklish.

This is what I remind myself, when I worry about her seeming working memory hurdles, or how behind she is with reading skills. Those are both SO MILD in context anyway - it might seem, during a deep conversation, that she's a little scatterbrained. She seems to have a memory lapse that really makes someone stop and notice only once every few months. Going into 3rd grade, she's reading at about a "middle of first grade" level. Her speech is on point for her age, with a better vocabulary than average. Her imagination and reasoning are advanced. She can easily sit down and play UNO with her brothers, or color pictures, or participate in all the different things that happen at camp without anyone thinking there's anything differently-abled about her.

She came home from the first day of camp THRILLED, this summer. "I'm so glad there are no tests at Girl Scout camp! Except the swim test, but I did great at the swim test. You jump in the ool, swim across to the other side, and climb out - easy peasy lemon squeezy." She still has nightmares occasionally about tests in school. She has no trouble at all with musical chairs, being on the chore rotation they use for clean-up, telling me all about the silly "scary" stories they share and why she doesn't really believe any of them. She did need someone to tell her what her single line in their skit was, right before she went on, even though she'd been saying it to herself all week. But, there was pressure, and she executed it well once she was up there.

She's ridden a bike with no training wheels for about 6 months now. Since summer started, she's mastered hula hooping and cartwheels. She can easily get herself a bowl of cereal with milk and a spoon, or make herself a pbj, though she asks for help whenever she wants "tomatoes with salt and mrs dash," which is her favorite food (sharp knife). Her second favorite food, incidentally, is a steak salad from Chipotle. Her drawings are still stick figures and her writing is transitioning from almost unintelligible to what I call "phonetic if you squint," unless we're working specifically on handwriting and she's tracing and copying on manuscript paper. Then, she does great.

We recently bought her a subscription to JungleMemory.com and she's mastering those games pretty quickly. The other site we pay for is Reading Rainbow's new "Skybrary," which she loves and will spend as long on as I'll let her. She sometimes wants to play Minecraft, but hasn't managed to actually figure it out well enough to do it without a brother sitting and guiding her step by step. I have an app on my phone, "Endless Reader," that she's starting to grow out of but I really recommend to anyone with kids who are just starting to read.

It's much harder for her to follow along as I read chapter books than it was for any of the other kids at her age, except maaaaybe Aaron. She's still not really there yet, though we've tried a few times. She can pay attention and is very interested, but has to stop me on almost every page for some kind of clarification, and has a really hard time making sense of the plot as nuanced stories progress. I'm currently reading her a Junie B Jones book and that's working out well, as did "The Hundred Dresses" - but Harry Potter or other "real" chapter books are still a couple of years away, I think. She loves being read picture books.

In many ways we've let go of the idea of her being brain injured. I worry when she sometimes gets headaches - even though that may just be hereditary, as Grant and Isaac also get lots of headaches (and Grant's started in childhood). We still don't have scooters or other "one sided" things, since her preschool teacher spotted her favoring one side of her body when she was 4 and an occupational therapist recommended lots of (and only) "bipedal" activites (the bike, her flying turtle, skates, etc). It's in the back of my mind that she could have seizures when she hits puberty, and I still have a knee jerk reaction to her seeming too hot or cold (not regulating her temperature with sudden changes like going in or outside, or getting in water, was one of the most lingering issues she had - probably until almost 3 years old).

But the (non-specified) learning disability she exhibits is similar to what tons of kids without brain injuries deal with. It's not more severe than Ananda's dyslexia, and I don't really see Ananda as anything but brilliant (Annie was speech delayed, and then stuttered, and she didn't read picture books until she was 8.5 - her handwriting and spelling are still ATROCIOUS even though she can type up an A paper, and she's generally needed math tutoring). Elise asks complex questions about everything from whether it's possible for homeless people to be happy to how our bodies manage to turn EVERYTHING we drink into urine, which basically always looks and smells the same. We talk in depth about all kinds of things regularly. She's a sponge, and in addition to being so hungry for online research and explanations of everything, she's the one kid in the house that never shies away from written school work.

I worry that she's too praise-dependent, and that she seems really sensitive to even minor criticism (from siblings, or peers), but those are pretty benign "worries" to have.

It's hard to over-emphasize how happy, enthusiastic, cuddly and all around wonderful she is. My friend Kathy comes over every Monday with her kids, one of whom is a super chill chubby baby - Hector. Elise will hold, carry, and play with Hector the whole 4-6 hour visit, with a nursing break or diaper change as the only interruptions. She wears him in Kathy's tula (sling type carrier). She loves having cleaning jobs, and took a magic eraser to half a dozen walls before our 4th of July party. She'll RUN to the kitchen if I ask if she wants to help me cook, or RACE to put on her skates, if Annie or Aaron is willing to take her around the block. There is no occasion so small as to not merit a homemade card. She asks for a Beasty Sandwich a lot, which means Grant and I squeezing in on either side of her. This can be standing up or lying down, as long as she is the Roast Beast.

There are little things she takes a lot of pride in, like that she now has autonomous showers instead of baths, and flossing, and keeping her closet organized. I'm consistently amazed at how she proactively brushes her own hair and is grateful for trips to the dentist and just, in general - what a great kid, man!

Sometimes I think she makes it glaring, by comparison, that the rest of us are all low-key mentally ill. Grant and Aaron outright struggle with depression, off and on. Annie, Jake, and I are just sort of depressive, understated personalities, and Annie's had struggles with separation and selective mutism, and I've had struggles with PTSD. Isaac has mild to moderate anxiety even with medication (it was moderate to severe, before). We're all pretty functional and I like our life and our family, but sometimes I wait for the day Elise asks me what the hell is wrong with the rest of us, and don't we want to DO more and why is the air so heavy around us? I can tell we already exasperate her at times, though she doesn't have words for it at this point. She's just...chipper and extroverted. She's a perky morning person. She desires organization and schedules, like Isaac does, except without the stress it brings Isaac. She makes me think of Debbie marrying into the Addams Family, except without the murder plans.

She's obsessed with My Little Pony, and plays with her pony toys every single day.
She still sleeps with the doll I made her, every night, and sometimes asks me to recharge her with love (big, long hug).
She's incredibly lean - lanky, even. I think she's going to have a totally different body type than me, or Ananda.

It's really precious that she's still as childish as she is, but she's also changing fast. She's VERY HARD to capture on camera - even less photogenic than me... I can be entranced with the ribbon of freckles on her nose and cheeks, and her kaleidescope hazel eyes, and just baffled by the terrible pictures I get over and over.

She is most definitely a youngest child, eager for attention and quick to stalk and bother her older sibling's friends when they're around. She thinks every teenager should be giving her a piggy back ride and that all adults want to hear her stories. It's normal to her to skate and talk with adult roller derby coaches and players, and other parents, and neighbors. She escalates to violence with her older siblings over the slightest things, partially because they generally ignore her little fists hitting their hips or chests so I don't even hear about it unless I witness it firsthand. Toddler cousins and friends' babies inspire her to act like she's an adult and they need her "help" with all sorts of things they absolutely do not. With kids her own age, she becomes waaaay more self conscious and hesitant, and is a bit of a follower. Peers have always made her unsure. At camp, it seems like she benefits from the Girl Scout buddy system and the groups they're separated into, and like she has talks and laughs with other individual girls spontaneously sometimes, but she never has particular recurring names, or a phone number, or someone that runs up to her when she arrives. I sometimes wonder if she's approaching an age when socializing is going to get a lot more complicated and she'll suddenly be very aware that she's not anyone's friend. It's been the same in her troop throughout the year, and in her class before we pulled her - she likes existing in a group of kids her age very much, but doesn't get close to anyone. There's a girl down the street who's come over and spent the night a few times, but she often ends up spending most of her time here with Jake, and then Elise gets REALLY huffy about that.

She has an imaginary friend named Felicia, which was Grant's old nickname for her. I only know about this because Jake sometimes talks about it with her in front of me, which makes Elise shush him a lot and get really irritated with him.

She's itching to be boy crazy, and gets gushy and embarrassed over random boys so easily that it's silly.

I get scared sometimes that she might be too vulnerable as an adult, too easily taken advantage of, too immature but still able to go off on her own. Other times I think I'm being paranoid, so mostly I just try to take it one day at a time. There's so much to be grateful for.



*this is a weird gray area where I try to err on whichever side is greater. For instance, Ananda constantly tells me she's fine with me sharing any and everything about her. She seems to love it that there are people out there who know about her. She's actually said we should get a reality show, although I think that's easy to think of as fun when it's just a hilarious hypothetical situation. But what if she doesn't always feel that way? What will it be like if/when the trolls and haters she finds so entertaining in theory or when directed at me, come for her? Conversely, I almost never talk about or share pictures of Jake even though the info/images are objectively harmless, because Jake is in a self conscious, preteen phase of never wanting me to. Aaron and Isaac approve images and video case by case and think most talk is ok, but I still feel like I should go easy because they've got so many RL peers online, now.
altarflame: (deluge)
I am SO proud of Elise, and happy for her ♥! She did her first solo sleepover at Girl Scout camp, last night - she spent the night once last year, with Ananda there in the same cabin. Normally she's just there during the day, but during certain weeks there's a sleepover option for one of the days.

Ok I have to interrupt myself to mention that she just walked up behind me and read that first paragraph. I had to explain the code nonsense for the little heart symbol and tell her "certain," but she is really having a reading leap! I sent her away and told her in 10 minutes we'll go get barrettes and clips like she wants.

Anyway... I was worried about her, more than makes any rational sense. I kept wishing they had one of those daycare cam type things I could log into to see how she was doing, even though I don't really think that's necessary at all. She's 8, she's there every day, she's spent the night with her sister before - I actually lived on that campground as a child, for half a year while my mom and stepdad were the site managers. She's just also my baby, and I get really suddenly overcome by feelings of how vulnerable my kids are for the past year or so. I think it's something about having teenagers who will move out? I try really hard not to let it effect my actions or even let them see it. It's just become so normal for Ananda to leave for 3 days to a friend's house, and go to the beach and the movies with them while she's there, or be gone for a whole week with the school - or for Isaac to go on out of town field trips overnight with chaperones, who I know and trust but, what the heck. I'm happy for all of them, I'm just also periodically seized with the fragility of...everything?

The point is I was relieved as well as thrilled for my Beasty, as she told me all the details on the way home. They had a campfire! She roasted her own marshmallows! They actually swam in the ool* AT NIGHT! All the girls in her cabin had a pajama dance party, before bed! She cannot wait until their end-of-week performance tomorrow - it's "medieval week," she's going to be a knight, and that means they're wrapping her in aluminum foil. Last Friday was Heroes and Villains week, and she was Harley Quinn, which basically meant she wore a red skirt and a black shirt, with pigtails, to say her single line while they all giggled their way through some incomprehensible story line in varying degrees of costume.

When I started this entry she was still in the shower, because she decided she wanted a short bob again and so I'd just cut off 8 inches of her hair. It's pretty adorable. I can hear her out there, cutting in on Jake and Isaac's UNO game over and over to make them look at how much it moves when she shakes her head. This is why we have a barrette and clip date. I'm sure it's been 10 minutes already.

*no p in the ool
altarflame: (deluge)
Things I've Thought About A Lot, Today:

1.) Pentaquarks. They've isolated a new particle! I went through a period of intense fascination with the concept of a fundamental particle, following high school chemistry. I was trying to explain this to Ananda and Aaron, today, in terms of how when I was their age, and hell even when I was 25, quarks were still theoretical.

2.) As I've mentioned before, I feel good in metaphysical, "spiritual" stores. Even when I'm rolling my eyes at some of their services (aura photography?!) and many of their products ("angel pendants" to watch over you?!), I cannot deny that I am more content than normal, and not at all eager to leave. Grant feels the same. My kids obviously feel the same (all of them, different though they are). Is it the clean expanse of wood floors? The soothing new age music? The smell of sage and incense? The plants, the crystals, the salt lamps, the way everyone talks in really warm and welcoming hushed tones? I DON'T KNOW. But it's significant enough that Grant and I have actually taken steps, some involving money, to make our home feel more like that.
I believe that there's a lot to be learned about how natural materials and nature in general enhance our well being. I also believe we don't really understand much of it yet, so what we have in this in between place is people who are keyed into this feeling but don't know what to do about it, and unfortunately also those who prey on them. Thus we have things like in-depth, matter of fact sounding lists of symptoms each different kind of crystal can supposedly "cure." That's ridiculous to me, and yet the idea that being in a place full of glass, wood, and crystals could be good for you does not seem weird to me at all. We know sunlight (or Vitamin D supplements/UV light) is necessary for health and mental health. We know that plants filter the air. We know plastics contribute to rising cancer rates. Fucking hell, scientists have proven that when your skin smells sandalwood oil, it heals itself. I read an article a couple of days ago, about a very large scale study done in Toronto, proving that living around trees improves people's health in many ways. I learned years ago about how being near the ocean or a mountain improves people's moods significantly enough to help alleviate depression and measurably boost engery, because of negative ionization in the air. When I hear about people wanting to colonize the moon or live on Mars, I think...we don't even understand all the ways we need this planet to thrive. I imagine living in space a la sci-fi radically shortening our lives and nobody understanding why - it would be like the whales at Sea World that live 13 years instead of 100 with people standing around scratching their heads, saying "But they have water to swim in. They have food. What else do they need?"
Please note that all those links I embedded are WebMD, PBS, the Washington Post, and the BBC. I don't read or share anything from the kind of horseshit "Natural News Daily" and "Spirit Science" sites that have viral facebook posts daily.

3.) My mother only talks to my sister and I about medical things. It's a source of major frustration for Laura. I've gotten kind of zen about my mom, not really expecting more from her than is realistic and ok with what I get. It would be nice, though, if she were connecting with us for any other reason. As it is, she texts or calls only when Nana, Pa, her, or Todd (her husband) visit a doctor or hospital. Then, she gives us exhaustively detailed play by plays of those visits, even if they're routine or she doesn't understand much of what was said. She also leaps on to any mention - say, from a facebook status - of Laura or I, or any of our kids, having an illness or injury and grills us to a ridiculous extent for details. No matter how minor it is, she will be angry that she wasn't personally notified. In between health updates...nothing. Weeks pass without a text or call, barring a birthday or holiday. She doesn't comment or ask about anything else, even when, for instance, I told her in person while we were up there about how I was worried I'd fail a class and that I really had to cram for the final I was going to take as soon as I got back home. That is just not something she was ever gonna think about again - if I'd said I had a weird feeling in my knee, she'd have been texting me every couple of days and trying to lecture me for not seeing a specialist.
Part of this is, I believe, because she's traumatized by her father suddenly dying of liver cirrhosis (before she could arrive to see him, even) and then her mother having a crippling stroke due to malpractice complications, while she was still in shock about her dad. Both of her parents went from healthy and autonomous people who'd barely turned 60 to dead or totally changed within a month. It probably doesn't help that like 2 years before that, Elise and I went through a mega medical nightmare that she was deeply involved with. My mom doesn't write or talk out her stuff even casually - she definitely hasn't sought counseling. She shakes and has panic attacks anytime she relaxes, so she's generally pretty tense.
The other part of it, though, is that my mom has basically zero interests or activities that do not revolve around medical crap. There are so many layers to this - like ok, she doesn't work or go to school, and she doesn't really have friends, and she doesn't have any hobbies or attend church. She doesn't go anywhere with Todd, and usually seems offended that he loves his job and wants to go out places. She doesn't have an online community, or even something like a Pinterest. But it goes deeper than that - she doesn't watch shows or movies. She doesn't read books or listen to music. She doesn't keep up with the news, or vote, or exercise, or cook, or craft, or clean her house (Todd does that). She takes care of Nana, which while important and appreciated is incredibly repetitive and monotonous. She drinks a lot in the evenings. It's like all of her energy goes to holding back a flood of thoughts and feelings that she just can't deal with. It's kind of wild to wrap my head around.
The hardest part of letting go and being ok with her as she is, has been ceasing to just want to SHAKE HER and yell at her, to make her live her life before it's too late.

4.) I tend to accomplish things in fits and starts - I rarely if ever just do something all at once, beginning to end. I suppose there are exceptions, like in cooking or washing the dishes, or homeschool lessons, but in general I like to move between projects, I like to have different things available to choose to work on at any given time, and I have a lot competing for my attention. So there is often just not a block of time available to do something completely without having to step away for a bit, even if that was my style. And, it's not. Compounded problem.
Unfortunately, when you have a somewhat forgetful and messy husband and a bunch of kids, you can't ever really leave something unfinished and expect it to be there waiting for you when you get back. This is THE BANE OF MY FUCKING LIFE, and has been for a long long time.
If I'm going to sew, I have to set my sewing machine up somewhere - this involves clearing a space and carrying it there, sometimes a new needle, finding the right notions, locating and plugging in both cords, threading a bobbin, adjusting my thread tension and stitch length and troubleshooting why the machine's giving me trouble at first when I test it out, and often additional stuff like ironing fabric (find the iron; get out and fight with the ironing board) and checking my measurements, or digging around for new pins. The point is that it's a 10+ minute process that seems like an insurmountable hurdle when I only have a spare 20 minutes total for sewing, or when I'm just feeling tired and lazy but know that 3 different things need some kind of mending. My place to set it up will also inevitably be a computer desk or the dining table, so once someone asks for a snack and the phone rings I generally have to put it all away halfway through whatever I'd planned to do, because I'm taking up valuable real estate, and then I don't want to get it out again. Or, I can leave it where it is to get back to later, right in the middle of the house, and then find a cat has chased away my spool of thread, Jake took my stitch ripper to be a Lego accessory, and my lightbulb is burned out because Elise turned it on right before bed. There was a time when I had a dedicated sewing table and the ironing board stayed set up next to it, and seriously, I used it at least weekly. Six months at a time pass, since I don't have a dedicated spot. Part of my setting up process is getting all the thick dust off of everything.
This is an allegory for all of life, though. If I start sorting laundry into piles on my bed, someone will come mindlessly shove them over into one big one so they can sit down while my back is turned to turn on Pandora. If I lay out an 8x5' area of quilt pieces I need to move around and plan, or all the granny squares I have done so far to see if my counting is right, Grant will not even realize he's kicking some of them under the bed when he comes in to take his shoes off.
I log in to three different websites on two monitors to get everything I need going in tabs, to study Stats, because there are formula cards and necessary tables along with video examples and my practice problems. Get notebook/calculator/pen by the keyboard. Walk away to pee and grab a cup of water before I get started - get back to somebody logged in to google under their own name, watching Bob's Burgers. Pen on the floor, calculator missing.
This kind of stuff makes me so nuts! I was actually crying talking to Grant about it this morning, partially because the tights I'd finally gathered up from around my closet and drawers and the laundry room to see which fit were under the chair I'd set them on, and partially because he basically feels it's my responsibility to change my methods. I get his point, maybe he's even right, but a.) I also think everyone should be more considerate of each other's efforts, it's worth prioritizing, we don't have babies or toddlers anymore and 2.) "changing my methods" feels impossible. My own procrastination and distractibility already make life hard enough - adding in a bunch of people with the same issues creates a serious uphill battle to productivity.
I have a novel and a nonfiction book I'm aching to write, but I can't do it with one half hour on a Saturday, 10 minutes Sunday, and then 3 hours two weeks later, etc etc. It's like flood gates that, once opened, are going to be really REALLY frustrating and disappointing to close, and those are also threads that I'll lose and not be able to find again. There is a reason that everything I've written for the last 5 years has been "microfiction" and poetry. Bursts. Because being able to leave something and come back to it? As-fucking-if. Most of my saved writing notes and research are on a broken laptop, and some is on a hard drive that's been replaced but is still somewhere in the house.
Part of the issue is that too many things are important to me, and I have a hard time letting go of any of them. Part of the root issue is that this frustration represents me feeling out of control in general, and like there isn't room for me, in my life.
I've begun to fantasize about having my own rooms, like a wing of the house nobody else ever goes in except to tiptoe carefully or sit near me for conversation without disturbing anything, as I work on something mindless (like crochet or chopping vegetables). It's unrealistic and it's selfish buuuuut it's also a beautiful vision, that wouldn't disturb my ability to read with children and then fall asleep in someone's arms, at night. The way that, say, my own apartment would.
What's that, you want to run and play, or get on Minecraft? You're having an argument? You want to eat cereal and then leave the bowl on the table with milk spilled next to it? Absolutely, in the main house. Have fun! DON'T LET MY DOOR HIT YOU :)
A girl can dream.
I think as I read over this last section that there might be a few simple things I could do to help alleviate the worst of this one... I'll have to think about it a bit more. And why it's suddenly bothering me more than it has in years.
altarflame: (deluge)
After a long stall in my weight loss, during which my hernia grew and my back pain increased and my eagerness to get in the freaking OR started to actually exist... I somehow felt incapable of (and/or uninterested in) putting any limitations on my eating. Too anxious about school, too sleep deprived to deal with any form of diet, too many roadtrips and whole days out of the house and too many priorities all around to make this tired issue another one.

The point is, I realized it sounded doable out of all the options, so I've went flour-free again. This is day 6, I believe, and the process has followed the same pattern I've experienced before - I get really depressed around day 3, less so on day 4, and then that part is mostly over. I feel way less bloated and experience less of the constant stomach discomfort I generally experience otherwise. I am hungry more often, and eat more overall. And, I lose at least half a pound every day, regardless of how I glut myself on meats, dairy, sugar, etc (in addition to produce, I mean, but nobody would expect produce to inhibit weight loss). I tend to feel way more flexible and comfortable when I haven't had glutinous things in awhile, and then I realize how used to feeling sluggish and hurting in ways that make me more sedentary I often am. It's also not hard at all, to just not eat the stuff. Considering how difficult most dietary restrictions are for me, that's pretty significant. Usually between 10-15 pounds down the effortless weight loss stops and I have to try in other ways, for that, though it is easier than it would be since floury shit is a lot of weight watchers points and I don't mind exercising as much when I'm not bloated all the time.

I was trying to figure out why I went back to eating flour last time, after about 5-6 months off that left me thinner and more energetic, and then I remembered - I was on vacation with Grant, just the two of us. We discovered a fabulous local farmer's market near our hotel, with fresh loaves of french bread, fresh mozzarella from some small farm, fresh organic herbs, heirloom tomatoes, artisinal salami, and great wine. It all seemed so wholesome and natural and irresistable, and it was a special occasion, so we bought it all and had it for lunch in the park, and then as a picnic dinner in the hotel room later.

And then, legit, it was NOT ROMANTIC AT ALL when I was in terrible pain and could barely button my pants, for the next 3 days. Also not romantic spending way too long in the bathroom over and over. But I had already messed up my system, so when we went to my friend Kristin's house up there and she started cooking me homemade pies and putting eggs and avocado on toast I went with it. By the time I got home from that trip, I was already getting used to my old-normal level of gastric discomfort, using the bathroom way less regularly, and regaining weight.

Then, in my quest to figure out pernicious anemia, my gastro tested me for celiac and I didn't have it, and some scientific articles came out that said the gluten free craze was a placebo-esque fad and I basically said, "oh, fuck it. Hand me a brownie."

Well. Whatever. This is very clearly a real and significant improvement, and if it's just a leap in the nutrient density of everything I eat and a reduction in empty carbs, so be it. If gluten really is an inflammatory substance that contributes to the horror show that is my leaky gut, well, I've got my bases covered.

Anyway, food related: I've been making frittatas 3-5 times per week, lately. I wilt a bunch of baby kale and spinach in irish butter, get it out of the pan, spray the pan (I don't have anything nonstick so this is necessary), put in a mix of 10 beaten eggs, almond milk, salt, fresh basil leaves, and tons of good shaved parmesan. Dump/spread all the wilted greens back in. Put more basil and parm on top. Move to the preheated oven til it's cooked through. Cut and serve with a pizza cutter. SO good. Ananda, Aaron, and Jake love it and tear it up every time. Isaac will eat a piece in a pinch. I tend to set it out for everyone with a lot of cut and salted tomatoes and avocados, knowing that is the only part Elise is ever interested in. Along with a huge freezer bag of belgium waffles from the last time we intentionally made way too much so they could be toasted as needed, greek yogurt, leftovers from whatever we most recently had for dinner, and a neverending stream of clementines and blueberries, this is what my kids subsist on until dinner every day.

Dinner tonight was Grant's creamy potato leek soup, which is really fucking good, but as he made some jazzed up cheesy herb bread for everyone else and I'm not eating bread I browned mushrooms and steamed/buttered broccoli, to throw in my bowl(s). Yum. I also ate a bunch of riesen while they had milano cookies. I'm telling you, this is really not hard ;)




My day was great!
-Last night I met Kathy and her kids at Laura's, and we all had dinner/talked/generally hung out until late, when I returned home and watched shows and ate things with Annie until way too late, and it was all without consequence becaaaaause...
-Grant took Elise to Girl Scout Camp this morning so I could sleep in. She loves it there and does great stuff like swim, hike, craft, and sing songs all day, so I don't feel guilty at all watching Stats lecture videos, washing dishes, and watering/pruning plants for most of the afternoon after sleeping the morning away. She is the needy, energetic, more chronically bored child when home, who feels like she's really suffered if 10 minutes have passed entertaining herself, and the three little kids just bicker a lot when they're all here without structure and then tell on each other constantly. Her being at camp has made the days seem SO simple. Jake and Isaac just read their latest library books, play Minecraft, and build with Legos the whole day. They also took a walk and got some starfruit from one of our neighbors that is always giving us excess fruit off of his trees. I think Isaac + Elise is the killer combo, because usually Jake can get along fine with either of them for extended periods. And, picking her up is fun because she's exuberant and bouncy and full of stories about how amazing and wonderful camp was.
-I took the time to notice how pampered and generally blessed I am that I can do things like decide on a whim to go browse around one of my favorite stores for awhile, and swing by somewhere to pick up a few groceries on the way home from grabbing Elise. I also generally enjoy it a lot when Grant's working from home and I can take the car wherever I have to go, because it has air conditioning (moment of respect; this is serious - AIR. CONDITIONING.) and I'm just so over the van.
-SEX. Finally. So much better.
-Reading to the littles was fun at bedtime. I read Elise The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, which I'd actually never read before even though we've had it here for years. She was almost absurdly into it. I should take video of her some time, she is truly hilarious. Jake and I are to the Department of Mysteries in The Order of the Phoenix, which means Shit Is Getting Real but also that's just a fascinating chapter as they move between all the rooms full of bizarre experimental magic. Isaac and I have started The Magician's Nephew, aka Narnia #1, and he is talking me into extra pages every time because (BWAHAHAHA) despite his concerns that they were going to be "kind of boring and dumb" he's been totally sucked in from the first night.
-I sat down with the big wall calendar and wrote all over it, and there is just something cathartic about putting it all down where everyone can see and feeling like I've got something under control.
-Jake finally agreed that I could trim his bangs, so he has eyes again.

My day was kind of awful!
-I'm really worried about Aaron. This is every day, as he's seemed chemically depressed for a long time, and before we figured out it was depression I thought he had some kind of chronic illness and was taking him from doctor to doctor because he gives himself tons of seemingly medical symptoms (periodic low grade fever, frequent swollen glands, stomach aches, headaches) with his misery. But every non-mental possibility has been ruled out. He is totally against therapy or medication and we've been skating a line that makes me feel obligated to force him against his will for a year or more, now. We talk about it increasingly often, even though I am normally dead against forcing anyone into talk therapy because that seems pointlessly ineffective. At 14, I also feel like he has a real say in the meds decision... He does everything you're "supposed" to do - go out in the sunshine, drag himself around to exercise, stick with things like dance and join roller derby even though he's sometimes loathing them because he knows exercise is important. He seeks social interaction and will sometimes just write everything he's thinking and feeling down, so that's good. He still likes talking with Grant and with me (about things other than his misery, which he never wants to talk about) and doing things with us. I struggle to get him to take every supplement ever shown to combat depression (probiotics, fish oil, folic acid). But...he cries randomly all the time, often at the drop of a hat, sometimes for long periods. Like there are never more than a few hours between his crying spells. He can't sleep at night. He feels and looks very, very, very sad almost all the time. The heaviness just radiates off of him in waves. Ananda has found ways to make fun of him for it that make him laugh in spite of himself, and Isaac and Jake tiptoe where they used to irritate him in little brother ways because they're actually worried about him. His girlfriend broke up with him and that set off this latest crescendo, but it's been over a month straight of this now, and he was also like this before that relationship (which really only existed via texting and only for like 2 months, not that 2 months of texting and a few hugs in the hallways don't matter when you're in 8th grade), too. Crying in classes at school. He's never mentioned anything suicidal but I really don't think he would, either. I waver constantly between thinking he'll be ok, he still has interests and hobbies and gets excited about some things, still smiles and laughs every day as well, he's a teenager...and thinking, fuck, should I like him checked in somewhere? I mean that's crazy and way too drastic, right? I've talked to my therapist about Aaron, and to Isaac's. They agree it's subjective and basically tell me stuff I already know (keep the lines of communication open, encourage him to blah blah blah, try framing x and y this way or that way). He's going to start dance intensives soon so he'll at least be having a better sleep schedule and more structure enforced, as I don't think this lounging and wandering sort of summer he's having is really doing him any favors.
-I have a deep crack on the outside of my left heel that's SO PAINFUL every time I step with that foot. I'm favoring it like crazy. I've ped-egg'd and buffed it down twice, and keep slathering it in lotion, but it's terrible. I toe walk on that side and limp around, when home. I grimace and walk normally out places. That foot is just a damn mess, I broke a toe last year and never went in for it and I think it healed badly. Ever since I have all sorts of stupid issues, a strange little new bump here and a really tender spot there. I suppose at some point I'm going to have to buckle down and go to a podiatrist but the thought of seeking out a new specialist and making more appointments for myself (I already get a b-12 shot and go to counseling every week, in addition to all the kid things I cart people to) is so unappealing that I'd honestly rather just limp and hope, for now at least.
-Also sat down with the budget today, after getting a bill from Isaac's psych and just...GAAAAH. So many extra things all piling up at once :/
-I'm basically ignoring texts from some of my favorite people because I just don't want to start a catch up conversation right now.




Ananda came to me out of nowhere and asked if she can be homeschooled again and start dual enrollment at the college this fall. There are so many pros and cons involved. We've had two talks now, and I've hashed it out a bit with Grant. She's not 100% sure that's what she wants, and I'm not 100% sure I'm willing to do it, but it's looking like a possibility. She has places she wants to volunteer, and has spent a lot of time this summer with homeschooled friends who did/are doing dual enrollment. It will be a massive logistical pain in the ass for me if it goes this way, as homeschooled high schoolers who want real diplomas have to have real transcripts detailing every credit they complete, and must earn traditional grades that get averaged - otherwise, you can basically take the GED whenever you want. Between that and my not really knowing all the ins and outs of dual enrollment (credit minimums and maximums, what you have to fill out for the financial vouchers, who at the county approves it all, etc) it's fairly tedious before we get into things like me NOT wanting to have it out with her about completing work for me again, as I've gotten spoiled on that being between her and other teachers - and she "performs" for her teachers and does well as though there's no other option, unlike the endless procrastination and whining it started to be with me towards the end. And, it would mean acquiring outside help teaching her higher maths, when she has a great math teacher at her school, and that we'll be adding extra variables to daily life in the form of places she must physically get to regularly that other people aren't already going to.

I try very hard not to let things like "what is more convenient for me" play in to our choices for them. I'm not sure this is best for her on a purely "about her" level either, though. She LOVES her art teacher at school and the things she learns in his class, for instance, and the week of sleep away camp they do, and has a whole squad there that energizes her. I keep wondering how much of this is about relatively dumb shit, in the grand scheme of things, like not wanting to start getting up really early every day again, or enjoying having her hair dyed crazy colors for a couple of months and not wanting to switch back. Mostly when we talk it seems to be about a desire to have a diploma and AA sooner than she otherwise could, which, you know, why? Slow down. Enjoy your damn youth. Except that, obviously, nobody can learn to do that without hindsight. We have to decide before it's time to buy all the back to school stuff.
altarflame: (deluge)
I am disturbed about how terrible I look and often feel, lately. I'm breaking out on the regular, rather than just around my periods, and often in places I haven't since I was a teenager (cheeks) or even ever (back). My skin FEELS bad, like the texture is off. Every picture that has me in it for the last month looks so tired, and when I took the kids to the dentist our normal hygienist actually asked me what was wrong like she was really worried.

I'm physically sluggish most of the time, have regained some weight, and between that and a couple of my few real wardrobe staples wearing out beyond repair I have nothing to freakin' wear and live in the same two dresses all the time. My eyes feel puffy/itchy/swollen almost constantly, and my ears are gross... like, producing way too much goopy wax and closing if I lie down for long, then popping open again when I stand up. I mean, for 6 weeks+. Gross.

I'm trying to figure all this out because I want it to stop.

I know that the physical and overwhelming anxiety for weeks, during Summer A, over the class I ultimately failed, is a big part of all this. Both directly because it kept me from sleeping night after night and made me look like a sack of cortisol, and indirectly because, for instance, I stress-ate a lot of shit I should not have. Two roadtrips during that period of time further threw my diet way out of wack, and added bigtime to the cumulative sleep deprivation... I had at least 4 of the kinds of almost totally sleepless nights that I haven't had to power through in years, all in June. Normally now if I stay up really late I can sleep it off to compensate, or at least take a nap the next afternoon. As a result of all this I also got progressively more dependent on ludicrous amounts of caffeine, before scaling waaaaaay back when I realized it was contributing to the anxiety/insomnia.

Probably my gut bacteria is more horrible than normal. Come to think of it, I have also slacked off a lot in the supplements department (probiotics, fish oil)... There are a couple of selfies I took to send Grant in the computer lab at school wherein I look like I'm dying or something.

Anytime I have these kinds of systemic issues of feeling "off" for more than a couple of days it puts me on edge a bit, because there have been TWO times in the last 10 years, now, when I felt all around "off" because of something that, left unaddressed, would have killed me. And not just in the decades-long way that obesity and inflammation can.

Although perhaps that is the perspective shift I need to motivate me to change big things in my life.
altarflame: (deluge)
We had what is becoming our annual 4th of July party, yesterday, and I think we're all still (figuratively) hungover. We collectively slept until afternoon, ate leftover cake for breakfast, putzed around, watched shows, and then ordered chinese takeout.

It had been way too long since we had a party, as evidenced by the intense need for deep cleaning everywhere I attempted to look through outsider eyes. Good grief. I actually painted 3 interior doors and doorframes as part of my blitz cleaning/slave driving, early yesterday. I don't know why it takes a gathering to motivate us, but I definitely don't think anyone has taken the knobs off the stove to wash or scrubbed behind the toilets since the last one.

It is satisfying that, for instance, Aaron can sweep and scrub the kitchen floor while Annie sweeps and scrubs the dining room floor, Elise vacuums the library, Jake stands on bathroom counters washing mirrors, and Isaac takes out trash. We've also reached a point where I can delegate things that are actually a pain, like, "Jake figure out where that giant ice bucket is and hose it out, and see if you can find a good place to set it up," or "Annie and Aaron, go outside with the step ladder and figure out how to get this shutter off the bathroom window, Dad thinks he threw away the poles that propped it up before."

It was a pretty good and very long party. Grant outdid himself cooking. He made salsa and guacamole from scratch, and sea salt "freedom caramels," and chili to go on hot dogs. He made beef and portabello burgers. It was all awesome and appropriately (patriotically?) fattening, along with grapes, fries, watermelon, pickles, iced tea and cases of ciders and sodas and bottles of wine, and of course the requisite flag cake... Mia brought Miguel, and soon after Kathy and Rey came with their two kids. LJ brought his girlfriend Diana, and this guy Joe who adopted a kitten that appeared in our driveway (via facebook) came with his teenage son. Shaun and Cristy were here.

Along with eating like gluttons, we had a big pile of fireworks, a bizarre screening of Too Many Cooks followed by the first 5 episodes of Salad Fingers, and an hour+ long game of Cards Against Humanity. I went to bed around 5am after posting this gif on facebook:






This was a long weekend for us. Annie stayed over at Izzy's Thurs-Fri, and Grant had Friday off. We took the four kids we had with us up to brunch and then Venetian Pool, before we went and got her.

Grant and I are also in a nonstop Sexathon phase that I am eating up in a very Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, etc sort of way. Mega epic and sometimes lazy, sometimes kinky, sometimes going on forever. Oooooom.

Tomorrow is back to reality with him at work literal hours away, and lots of nonsense errands and calls and studying and so on to do on my part.

I'm feeling pretty good about most things. Extremely motivated for positive life changes.
altarflame: (deluge)
Today, I am proud to be an American.

I also feel deeply emotionally caught up in this SCOTUS decision, partially because of times I've voted at the local and state level for gay marriage and signed petitions and donated money...and partially because I love so many people who are LGBT.

My facebook feed is, for the most part, a wild celebration with everyone from my editor to Anne Rice to other moms crying from happiness.

I found myself crying a little when I explained it to my kids.

May 2017

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