altarflame: (deluge)
Written early yesterday evening:

Adapting to life without school in it is weird.

I didn't have to do it in January or February because I had 40 hours of crisis counselor training (plus commute times...) and grad school app shenanigans to take up the hours I might have spent on academics, over the last couple of years.

Also, re: applying to a, single, grad school... I had to get stamped and addressed envelopes, with forms I'd printed, to 3 different people who had agreed to recommend me via emails. I had to apply electronically to the university and via paper to the particular grad school. And, I had to submit an 8 page (minimum) Personal Narrative Statement, addressing various questions. I'm not complaining, I'm just kind of astounded by how people recommend you apply to as many grad schools as possible. You're supposed to have fail safe schools and high hope schools, with mid-range options in between. Aside from how this guideline does not really apply to me as someone who doesn't want to just move my whole family anywhere in the country, on a whim once we hear back - wow, that sounds like a full time job! To fulfill the application process for a bunch of different schools. Not to mention non-refundable application fees (mine was $30, and I've seen several listed at $50, so they would add up quickly). It just really rams home the idea of "privilege," I guess, which is something I think about a lot, lately.

Aaaaanyway. Life without school in it. I'm supposed to be using it to write, and that's not really happening thus far, which is absurd because I NEED to write and that manifests in stupid ways. For instance, picking fights with Grant.

Today I made a bunch of vegetables held together by eggs and asiago, for Ananda, Jake, Elise, and myself. We ate out on the deck, as is the habit lately. The deck picnic table is literally rotting in several places and will need to be thrown out soon, but for now we're enjoying watching the fungus change (really). Grant made fantastic coffee like he does every day since we got each other/ourselves an espresso machine for Christmas and he set out to master it. He works from home 3 days per week now, which is kinda huge since his commute is so intense.

Jake, Elise, and I skipped watering our various plants and flowers, which is normally A Thing each morning, since it unexpectedly rained so much yesterday.

I took Ananda to the Orthodontist at 11, which is the reason why she was home. The wait was kinda ridic, and I spent too much of it pointlessly arguing on facebook about a meme I disagree with. On the way back we drove through Starbucks for green tea, which was an excuse to put Bernie Sanders stickers on their drive-thru stickering spots. I do try to pick places that accumulate stickers and are (hopefully) not obviously the bane of employees forced to scrub them off.

I weeded our hibiscus while talking with Annie about getting our soil tested because I'd like to know it's safe to make tea out of that hibiscus and this is an old house that's liable to have lead in the soil. Especially there, where there are pipes present.

Grant and I worked on a budget for the next couple of pay periods, including the STEM and yoga classes Jake and Elise are in, and these other class I'd really like to put them in. Among many many other things. We've had a never ending stream of home repairs - the AC, the dryer, the kitchen sink, the house's water pressure, more Septic Tank Saga. The front door and deck are next up but it's kinda intimidating/never ending.

I picked up Aaron and Isaac from school, and took them with Ananda to Michael's, to get her the pens and ink she needed for art class.

I talked to Aaron about the new rouge plant (Rivina Humilis L.) that's sprung up at the corner of our house, as it fits in with our mutual goal of providing habitat for birds and butterflies. He's got milkweed seeds that will be planted soon. We've also been rolling pinecones in bird seed and hanging them around. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just baiting them to be killed by our cats, though the cats seem to rarely if ever go after them.

Jake and I talked more about limericks. He wrote a couple, and did some multiplication assignments, which I checked. Elise and I reviewed all the words and sentences in her handwriting book, once she was done working on today's pages. I read him more of The Magician's Nephew, in the hammock, and her more of The Prisoner of Azkaban. She's the last one still listening to Harry Potter.

I made a big caprese salad for me, Grant, and Ananda. I cut up a loaf of sourdough and set it out with the most delicious honey. Everyone is in love with that honey, Aaron raves about it like someone describing wine for a magazine.

I thinned out and repotted all my tiny chard seedlings, and brainstormed with Grant about how to build more draining tables or raised beds.

Written Tonight:

While I was typing that yesterday, my sister was calling and texting my cell phone over and over. It was forgotten in my locked car in the front yard, and she needed me to give her a ride to the hospital ASAP. WTH, you know? My phone is almost always in arm's reach - as I type now, I realized it's actually under my wrist on the desk.

So I spent 7 hours at the hospital ER with Laura, and then awhile at the pharmacy, and we managed to laugh a lot and she's ok. She's in a lot of pain but it's nothing dangerous, just something to get through. I'll be taking her school kids to and from school along with mine, tomorrow.

TODAY, after I took my school kids in and made sure breakfast and activities were available, I slept for a couple of hours. When I got up Jake and Elise showed me all their new lego creations and drawings, and told me about the dreams they had last night. We ate together and took care of our plants and watched videos about parasitic fungus taking over carpenter ants in a rain forest, pausing to talk often. We also talked about the democratic primary states that were up today, and native plants we could put in our yard that would take minimal upkeep, and ideas for inventions... our good friends who are in Hawaii sent us tons of pictures of black beaches, sea turtles, and more, that got us talking about and e-searching all sorts of other things... basically until it was time to pick kids up from school.

On the way I played a song I'd never heard before, and lo and behold, it made me cry continuously. And laugh out loud several times. I had to pull over to keep paying attention and crying as it's 10.5 minutes long:

I sat there in a parking spot and shared it on facebook, tagging the first half dozen or so moms I could think of, before continuing with my day.

I'd promised all my kids Chipotle after school, so off we went, and while we ate there was somber talk of our (beloved) pediatrician, who recently died. We're attending the memorial service in a few days.

Then we made a list of ingredients for a bunch of soups I'll be cooking in the coming days:
-french onion
-butternut squash
-kale and bean
-italian (italian sausage, vegetables, tomato-olive oi-broth base, beans)
-cream of mushroom
-zuppa toscana

Two grocery stores and lots of good talk with Annie in the car later, after I'd put everything away and made sure Isaac took his meds and checked in with Laura about tomorrow and argued for continued political hope, on facebook...

Here I am.

The point of listing what I did, yesterday, was supposed to be to show how it really is a lot, added up, and yet it's not nearly enough to fill the time. The crisis counselor gig is 4 hours once a week. My kids are great company, though the amount of food they eat drives me to distraction lately. I have a lot of long distance communication with some great people I really care about. I'm fairly happy. It's kinda drifty, though. Kinda unfocused and diffuse. Which is...ok? It's temporary, on several levels, and... I'm not even sure what my point is. Except that sometimes I'm so aware of myself twiddling my thumbs between tasks.

I took Jake and Elise to a 3 day, 2 night herbal conference a couple of weeks ago and (partially because I was so ready for it, and it fit with the place where I was anyway), it really changed my life. It's not something I've talked about online anywhere, but I guess I probably will at some point. I'm not sure where to begin. I took a ton of notes, during classes. We camped. They had a great kids' program and a good meal plan. I made friends and got their contact information. I joined groups like United Plant Savers and Florida Native Plant Society. I spent time alone by water and under stars. When I got home, I changed the way I eat completely and totally, and without any of the angst or struggle that usually accompanies that. That transition has already altered the way I feel, physically, SO MUCH. Emotionally, I feel quieter and slower in a peaceful way, most of the time.

I'm very aware on many levels of meaningful change and growth being slow processes. Somehow that seems ok, now, though, when it really never has before.

I think about age all the time - how I feel so young, but I had to get older TO feel young?

While I was away, my bachelors degree arrived in the mail. I was extremely on edge about it coming whenever I thought about it, as though I hadn't really finished it until the paper showed up at my door and I wasn't ready to face finishing it at all. I have a fear of success that is hard to explain. Not the possibility of failing... success, itself.

When I had The Paper here, though, it was just nice. Kinda like the difference between the frenetic energy and near terror as my wedding approached, compared to the peace and contentment of realizing I was married. Or the anxiety and pseudo-despair of going through the editing and type setting and cover choosing aspects with my book publisher, vs the happy pride when I received a box of copies. I think that once something is finalized I relax into knowing that it can't be taken away. Even if things change in the future, _____ was real and happened.

Grant insisted we buy a frame straightaway, but honestly, where do you hang your own college degree in your own home? It makes perfect sense to me to display in an office setting but seems silly to put up in our hallway or something. He thinks differently; that I'm the first in my family to do this and that it's a good thing for our kids to see. I'm sort of mortified by the idea, though. I think if the home office we originally planned for my writing existed, it would make a little bit of sense there.

I have to go to bed now, so that will have to do.

I have continued to update my tumblr with personal stuff pretty regularly.
altarflame: (deluge)
This has been a really, really hard month or so.

1.) I am triggered all to hell and back.

So many doctor's appointments, so many tests, so many tense, anticipatory waiting periods. I can't go to bed, can't sleep when I get there, feel tense and on edge most of the time for what appears to be absolutely no reason. It's isolating and I keep pushing people away even though I feel so lonely. Ignoring texts, postponing vists. Normal efforts feel like huge efforts, though school, kids' schedules, kids' needs, and so forth keep marching on as I metaphorically drown in life. I have horrible intrusive thoughts when dealing with scissors and knives.

I'm still in counseling, it's better than it was, and it's been a year since I really felt triggered, so... I'll be ok. But this is coloring everything else.

2.) Grant's been depressed for a long time. He's gained weight, he's eating like shit, hates his commute, etc (those are his reasons/contributors, not mine). This, in addition to periodically worrying me and generally making things feel a bit glum, results in things like less fun, less interaction, less sex, etc, within our marriage. I've been in a "make my own happiness, be responsible for my own day" paradigm for years now, but it gets a lot harder to maintain when I feel like a shaky crazy person and just really want affection and distraction from my own BS. Also, his subtle and not so subtle rejections really underlie how few real life friends I have locally. I think I'd turn to him a lot less if he wasn't the Fount of All Adult Interaction, these days. But so long as I'm in this transitional period of being completely bogged down with my (mostly online) schoolwork and homeschooling a couple of kids, I don't exactly have a ton of resources for a social life. I fantasize constantly about being in a communal living situation with other adults, such that they would just be readily available for a sit-down breakfast, or a late night talk, or whatever.

Spoiler: "whatever"=sex.

3.) My sister and I keep having these knock-down drag out mega dramatic messaging sessions that just sap me of all strength and happiness. She's working out a lot of old pent up issues, we're both trying to bridge a communication gap we've always had, and it's the most tedious, long winded, emotionally exhausting thing. I don't even know how to explain it. We're so similar that our differences always seem glaring and cause us to clash. New issues tend to feel like historic patterns, which magnifies them...

There was the evening I spent crying on a sidewalk, and in a public bathroom, and on a dock, weeping and sending fucking novellas back and forth by the dozen. The immediate following weekend filled with more of the same. I turned off facebook messenger notifications because of how stressful the sound of receiving a new message became, but just checked it obsessively anyway.

We ended up having a "date" that went really well and seemed to settle a lot in a positive way, but I feel all the old stuff edging back in again and then today feels right back where we started a month ago. I think we mean too much to each other to drive each other this fucking crazy. I also think we both have too much on our plates to devote nearly as much to the other, as we'd each like... GAH.

I don't have any other relationship that's like this (and neither does she). Neither of us are dramatic in our friendships or even put up with this shit with other relatives. It's this migraine of a paradox that "us" can be important enough to us both that we'll wade through the muck and "do the work," buuuut...that still doesn't fix the muck. Both of us feel like we bend over backwards for the other one in a way we never would for anybody else.

With my sister and with Grant, I don't know to what degree my PTSD kicking into high gear is affecting things. I know it makes me more sensitive, at times, and more loathe to deal with conflict at all. What's less clear is how it alters my perception of the relationship issues themselves. Basically, I have trouble trusting my own judgement on subjective interpersonal things at all, when I'm in this state.

Those are the main three things. ISIS is also getting me down, and taking up all my NPR airtime, and Boko Haram and antibiotic resistance just make me want to never look at the news again. I've spent an awful lot of heavy time talking to my children lately, about terrible current event stories they're confused about.

They're great, though. Shining stars every one :) Isaac has had some resurgence of anxiety for the first time since he went on Zoloft and that's been a struggle, for him and for me, but he seems to be back on the upswing and all told it was nothing on how he used to just always be.

I'm reading him Stephen King's Eye of the Dragon (which is not at all like other Stephen King books), and it's SO DIFFERENT than it was to read the same book to A&A, years ago. Isaac is so complicated and brilliant and...worried? He also interrupts constantly, but that is another story.

Elise is SO WONDERFUL. She's had a massive cognitive leap in the past couple of months, I'm so proud of her. All of a sudden she can listen to more complex chapter books (and be really into it), play Minecraft on her own, speak with far less hesitating and searching for words - her drawings have went from stick figures and suns (exclusively, for years) to varied and detailed. And, she also maintains her bubbly, high energy, chipper self a solid 90% of her waking moments. She makes me laugh and we snuggle and take walks and she's constantly got something to show me.

We finally found a couple of good homeschool resources, too, so she and Jake are able to get out around more people and do more things regularly and I'm relieved about that, even though I sometimes feel as though I'm walking uphill with cinderblocks as I initiate these activities and get us out the door for them.

They are the bees knees, those two, and my school days with just the two of them are sweet even when I'm dragging a bit, and preoccupied. They're both really into TERRIBLE MUSIC, I don't know which is worse - Jake wants to listen to things like "It's Raining Tacos" and "Best KittyCat Song" and Minecraft music from YouTube all day, and she wants a steady stream of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. That I still enjoy our time so much speaks volumes ;)

They're still very innocent, our interactions are so simple and focused on them in an easy way, and I'm keenly aware of how fleeting that is. I adore taking Ananda for an afternoon at a tea shop or staying up watching Montage of Heck with her, and I love to slip off with Aaron for Chipotle or lie around talking about his school issues/girlfriend, but...I don't know. Jake and Elise are still with me in the moment, for now, in a really different way. And not just because they don't have smart phones yet.

There's some adolescent complexity that tints everything with self-consciousness, once it comes on, and something about the lack of it in Jake and Elise seems really vibrant, and temporary.

I'm still doing well in my classes, and am so ready for them to be over. I have less energy for obsessing over grad school options and am taking it one day at a time until a few upcoming events that may clarify things for me.

Very pleased with how spring seems to be shaping up for me, re: part time internships and other professional opportunities, as well as my determination to use it to write. Hopefully this triggery bs will be long past by then, but if not writing is about the best purge there is. Just sitting down to write this nonsense has lifted me up significantly since I sat down to start it.
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.


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.

Annie's mouth, day 1.

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.

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 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)
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)
So, I failed my Stats class. Had a massive anxiety/depression spiral that lasted a week, and on the other side of it now I can see the good parts - in that I really do have an epic support system. The day of my final, after the test, I was sitting in my car in the parking garage at FIU feeling like death and despair, and I had a new, lengthy fb message from my friend Jenny about how wonderful it had been to see me while we were in Tampa, and how great my kids are. On the drive home, I got a random "I love you and am so glad you're my friend" text from someone else. When I unlocked my front door, Jake was standing there asking how I'd done, and when I said, "pretty horrible" he gave me a hug and pat my back.

At the time I appreciated those things in a mental way while my insides continued to churn with I HAVE RUINED MY FUTURE MY FINANCIAL AID WILL BE SCREWED GRANT WILL HAVE TO WORK FOREVER I WON'T GET A DEGREE I'LL JUST BE PAYING STUDENT LOANS OFF LIKE A JACKASS, FOR NOTHING. Now that I'm 3 days into re-taking the course*, and calm, I can reflect that I am truly privileged to be able to say those things out loud, in a muffled monotone, facedown on my sister's bed while she raises an eyebrow from the other side of the room. We laid on the floor together, ordering chinese takeout and contemplating the ways we self sabotage. It could be worse.

The peak evening of my misery, after all, featured a heavy chest and a tight throat but also involved drinking an entire bottle of wine while talking on the phone to my friend Kristin about her epic adventures, and then having lots of great drunken sex with Grant. Text received the next morning said something along the lines of, "you were snoring less than 2 minutes after the last time you came; it was adorable."

Most of it wasn't that fun, though. I had about a half dozen terrible nightmares, frequent headaches, constant stomach cramping. I felt like I was acting - woodenly - anytime I observed my kid's latest cartwheels and LEGO creations and drawings and Minecraft structures.

Hopefully, in 10 years, this will seem like the most melodramatic horseshit imagineable, on my part. I'm sure it didn't help that I also started my period. I am pretty emotional and irritable the day before I start and exhausted the first day of, every month, regardless of circumstance. Though that doesn't generally come with panic or sleep disturbances.

I did very well in my Summer A Neuropsych class, which was EXTREMELY interesting and somewhat challenging, but in a totally doable way. Now in addition to the Advanced Stats I'm taking "The Individual in Society," which is basically a random BS easy class to fill in some needed credits, with a teacher known as being lenient. There is a lot of reading, but I am ok with that, and read fast.

According to my advisor, I MAY still be able to graduate in December as planned. It depends on whether I can take the third course in my "research sequence" in the mini-session at the end of fall semester...she said they only let people do that if it's the last class they need to complete their degree, which it will be in my case.

This teacher I have for Stats now seems like such a dream, after my last one... he explains everything like we're 5, in clear english, with perfect handwriting. Previously I had a professor with a very thick accent and terrible handwriting, both of which really matter when you're learning a subject filled with new words and odd symbols. He was also a PhD level Statistician who spends most of his time doing research for the university and teaching grad level math majors, so he often needlessly overcomplicated things or neglected details he thought should be obvious. The new guy covers all the same material, often in ways I'm sure the old guy would have thought were dumbed down or repetitive, but I understand things on a much deeper level with the hand holding. This guy also cares about the social context and nuance of the problems, which REALLY helps me contextualize everything; the other guy obviously felt the words were superfluous and pulling the numbers out was "all we had to worry about."

To be sure, I had some major personal hurdles to get over regardless of my instructor - it was a blow to my pathetic ego to get to a point of realizing I'd have to work this hard daily at something academic to have a chance at it, even when that means forgoing things I'd rather be doing, or disappointing my family. I am spoiled on thinking college is something that can be squeezed in around the edges of my already-full life. That has generally been the case thus far; especially if I'm willing to settle for Bs here and there.

*That was Summer A, this is Summer B. They're 6 week back to back mini-sessions, so it's a lot of pressure but it's also over faster.

The 100 Days of LJ Challenge seemed like such a great idea in theory. In practice, I just refuse at this point in my life to prioritize blogging if it's stressful to do so. There was a time years ago when it was very important to me to get the pictures up and record the funny anecdotes and make a note of the recipes, and sometimes I miss that a lot - but a lot of the time when my week looks like this, it just feels like another thing that's very hard to make time for.

-Sorting out schedule shifts at FIU for Summer B given my failed course - involved waiting for an appt with my advisor and standing in a long line at enrollment, filling out forms, etc.
-Selling/buying books.
-Bill paying errands.
-Getting my debit card sorted out because something was flagged for security - which complicated bill paying errands.
-Ananda at the Orthodontist.
-Spending an hour and a half, with Isaac, searching for our Deathly Hallows DVD, then a downloaded file, then trying to find a file to download, then trying to figure out what's wrong with uTorrent, before finally going through this ridiculous process in the tv room with this new system Grant's installed - at one point I was actually googling how to get the screen to stop displaying upside down, on my phone, while Isaac stood on his head using the keyboard to do as I said. Then we finally bought it through Amazon Instant Video, only to find that even when we turned up the tv, DVD player, computer, and Amazon movie window volume...the audio wasn't working. Checked speaker wire, restarted everything, blah BLAH BLAH. Gave up when it was far too late to start a movie, which we still haven't gotten to (though Grant has fixed all our issues with an annoyingly quick and simple lot of solutions).

-Isaac at the psychiatrist for his monthly appt - which went very well, I love that guy and think he really likes Isaac.
-Taking Elise to "Get Smart" to spend her leftover birthday money, as promised (involved MUCH browsing and calculation). She ended up with a Hula Hoop, a Playmobil set, and some kind of stackable multi-crayon drawing...thing.
-Of course by then the two of them are starving, and then we need gas, and his prescription needs to be dropped off.
-Surprise very interesting long distance phone call for the drive home (this was a good thing).
-Aaron, for the 10th time, needing to talk extensively about his woe and misery because his girlfriend dumped him. He's entering the anger phase of grief. It's obvious to him, now, that this text-based relationship existed mostly in his own head, which is just making him lonelier. Thank god we have cats to cuddle, because he does not want mom hugs about it. The piano songs are all very very sad. Between the two of us, this past week, I swear.
-Everything from Mon and Tues on the schedule for this Summer B Stats course, which is actually a lot. I spent about 2 hours locked up in my room with math, and felt absurdly proud of myself that I didn't veer off topic towards other parts of the internet a single time.
-CRAMMING in going to see Mad Max with Annie like she's been begging me to for was a late night movie run, 11pm-1am. Her 3rd viewing of what she claims is her favorite movie (she'd already seen it with Grant and with friends). FWIW, it really held my attention, and was thrilling in that it was totally fearless and like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was also an awful lot of high strung tension for an entire 2 hours, which I find kind of exhausting, but I still recommend it if you can handle some gore. Be compelled by the fierce female protagonist, the bevy of gradually developed "lovely wife" characters, and the old lady biker gang kicking ass with a suitcase-full of seeds in tow.

-All my Stats work for this day - about an hour of note reading and video watching, followed by 30 minutes of problems, and 10 of checking my answers, basically...but interspersed with lots and lots of kid-bickering and telling, because apparently today was the day Legos could only bring grief.
-Realizing how out of practice they are with actually accomplishing their daily chores and dealing with the awful transitional stage of beginning to truly enforce that again. Along with guiding A&A through the process of making an apple cinnamon bread pudding for tea, it all had my math time dragging out over about 4 hours.
-Taking Ananda and Aaron to better thrift stores to the north as promised, for their cosplay shopping. Isaac scored a brand new looking HP tshirt in just his size, that has Snape on it and says, "Severus Snape - Friend of Foe?" $1!
-Taking Ananda, Aaron, and Elise to derby practice.
-Tackling my filthy kitchen.

-All 5 kids dental cleanings and checkups. We fill the whole office, they sit in a row in every exam chair they've got, each with their own hygenist and the dentist moving from one to the next.
-Stats, either before the dentist or between these other things?
-meeting Kathy and her kids at Laura's for giant dinner that I provide and cook in Laura's kitchen, for the 13 of us

You know what I'm saying? Our last weekend was like this, it's just always kinda like this lately. Stats teacher only schedules work on weekdays so I'm hoping to get a couple of days worth in over the weekend and have more downtime next week. And I do actually have to accomplish something in my other, filler class, before it sneaks up on me.

Grant and I are so good at juggling things and being close. At cuddling and murmuring to each other when I climb in bed next to him before I black out, and texting and fb messaging each other throughout the day. We send each other links and listen to podcasts and news stories from the other on rides, and while washing dishes. I found an "I love you" note in his familar-as-my-own handwriting, in my wallet, the other day when I opened it up. So much of what I accomplish would not be possible if he weren't able to work from home some days, and cook dinner many evenings. I felt like he deserved the whole world on Father's Day, though he settled for a family trip out, a bunch of homemade cards, and an elaborate dinner I made him while spending two hours on the phone with my own dad.

This is a video made by our friend Shaun, with a Lego cowboy of Jake's, and an arrow Jake made of Legos. Jake took pictures of both, on green construction paper, and sent them to Shaun to animate "like when you pick a character in a video game." He's THRILLED with the results, particularly the credits:

And this is Elise, showin' off her skillz. Facebook tells me that anyone who has the link can see it, so hopefully that works despite my generally locked down facebook:

Days 7-10

Jun. 16th, 2015 02:17 pm
altarflame: (deluge)
I can't *really* update 4 days worth at the moment, but I'm not forgetting about the challenge, either. My life will be really different after Thursday, when I have my big scary Stats II final exam. Neuropsychology has been hard in a good way, like "I can do this!" and "Man, I love this material, challenging though it may be!" I'm fairly confident in my A, there. Stats II has been a lot of FORCING myself to study, realizing my mind has wandered, bringing it back, getting really upset, calming myself down, realizing I'm distracted, taking a deep breath... I have to google dozens of foundational knowledge bits to solve any given problem, partially because my math education thus far has been really lacking and partially because I just don't retain math related things. At all. I do not understand this, I've forgotten things from the beginning of this course already (things that I felt I'd mastered a month ago look brand new again). It's so discouraging and overwhelming.

Before I can tackle a 6 part problem that needs two pages of scrap paper, I have to google embarrassing shit like, "What is the little squiggly line, in math?" and "Which is the y axis and which is the x axis?" But like, heaps and heaps of those sorts of things... I'm constantly referencing back to a guide to basic stats symbol meanings and searching YouTube for how to make my calculator do this or that, both of which I should clearly not need anymore. Then, I watch 3 Kahn Academy videos, just to get to the Stats II part of it and actually begin the problem at hand. And there are hundreds of such recommended problems I'm supposed to work through, to prepare for the final. I actually feel I'm beyond the help of a tutor, or at least the sort of free tutors the school employs. I am going to take advantage of some of my professors extra hours today and tomorrow but obviously he can't spend the ENTIRE TIME coddling me alone - he generally responds to the sort of things I'm needing to ask with answers like, "you shouldn't be in this class."

Most people in this class took Stats I last semester, with the first half of this book we're currently using the 2nd half of. I took Stats I 3 years ago at the community college, with an adjunct teacher who was fired at the end of our semester (we all took our final in the math department, proctored by an administrator).

I've had a painfully upset stomach for like a week straight, and even nightmares. I think it's just a lot of pressure, as I know this is the one real hurdle in the way of me achieving a lot of stuff I want to achieve that impacts the course of my life. And, I apparently viciously loathe actual mental struggle. Enough to hopefully check the National Hurricane Center to see if maybe, just maybe, the university will be CLOSED when I'm scheduled to take my final, so I'll have extra study time?! I actually asked myself if I'm somehow self sabotaging my own ability to get it, or if I have a real mental problem here, or I'm just a damned idiot. Is this lingering brain fog from pernicious anemia? Am I already getting old? Good lord!

So yeah, that and gallivanting around the state is where I've been. The gallivanting has involved a lot of this same sort of cyclical study shit as described above, but in random Starbucks locations in far flung cities, and with additional stress because it's too much to add to a roadtrip I should have just declined to be a part of.

Because Tumblr makes posting pics directly from my phone SO EASY, I do that a lot.

This is me after staying up most of the night, last week, before Stats II Exam 3:

This is a brief synopsis of our trip up to the greater Tampa area, this past weekend:

While we were there, I got to spend an evening with an old friend:

And, A&A were part of a (roller derby) banked track boot camp that was pretty sweet. My mother stayed with them:
altarflame: (deluge)
I spent way too much of today trying to sort out a logistical hassle with the school board re: somebody's missing evaluation from 2010-2011 (their error, which has somehow suddenly become a time sensitive emergency). Sooooo many emails (with our internet connection randomly crashing every 5 minutes) and phone calls. Ugh.

I woke up Jake and Elise with surprise Starbucks breakfasts: chocolate croissants and chai tea lattes. Very out of the ordinary and well received, on this cold cold (for us) day. We sat and talked for awhile, and then looked at some old pictures together, and then they were largely left to their own devices while I dealt with the school board crap for hours.

First, they bundled up and let the chickens out in the side yard to run around under their supervision. Elise has been inexplicably terrified of our chickens for the last year or two, and normally doesn't even want to be outside if they're out, but Jake somehow reassured and coaxed her into first being near, and then touching, and then HOLDING them (they're super sweet and docile). She was very proud of herself. They came and told me someone was near our yard, and when I saw it was a neighbor and talked to her about her missing dog, they were allowed to go follow her down the road and help get the dog back while I continued pacing the deck on the phone.

Then, they played a game that involved taking turns tying and gagging each other with copious amounts of scotch tape, and a ton of hopping around the library laughing uncontrollably. I mostly grimaced and turned a blind eye to this, continuing to write emails with the occasional raised eyebrow.

After that they decided they wanted to scrub a bathroom with before and after pictures. They actually worked hard for like an hour and made a real difference on the tub, mirrors and walls. I...honestly thought it was weirder than the kidnapping game.

When they got very very quiet, I went and found them playing Minecraft in the tv room - Jake was teaching her to build different things and when/how to dodge various creatures. I love their camaraderie. I have a feeling it will not become so painfully awkward and sad as A&A's did, in the coming years, since Jake is older - Ananda hitting puberty so much sooner, as a girl, really threw a huge wedge between her and Aaron for awhile.

I love the ways that they use their time. It's days like these that make me think that, while I'm not really comfortable with it, unschooling is really a great way to grow up.

Eventually they accompanied me to pick up Isaac, drive through the bank, pick up A&A, and go to the grocery store. Dishes, dinner, bedtime reading, I am.

Tonight's dinner - which was all demolished right away - included:
-8 cloves of garlic
-basically every leaf off of an entire basil plant
-8 big tomatoes, a couple of romas, and a handful of cherry ones
-two containers of baby bella mushrooms
-about 4 heaping handfuls of kale
-two whole boxes of Orzo pasta
-a whole wedge of parmesan cheese
-"extra" stuff; several tablespoons each of olive oil and butter, half a lemon, a couple of splashes of white wine, a chicken broth cube, and salt

I used to do this regularly, but it had been awhile.

I am trying not to completely panic about how tomorrow is Isaac's birthday and thus includes things like getting up early to cook a special breakfast, making trips to pick up various things throughout the day, and spending the evening out with him and Grant... aaaaand I have a TON of homework and a test due by midnight tomorrow night :/ These things aside from Jake and Elise being home, and cleaning being way backed up, and the cold I have.

I think the key is to NOT become paralyzed by all of it and just keep moving through tasks one minute at a time. Which would be simpler if the test and homework were not math.

This is a good thing for me right now:

I have an almost finished, MEGA picture post I've been gradually editing and uploading for days, chronicling an amazing trip we took last Friday-Monday. It was really great, and I think there are going to be about 80 pictures in the damn thing when I'm done.

For now...stretching and sleep.
altarflame: (deluge)
It's starting to rain again. There are some real issues this brings up for us - the van has a leak, and the deck needs to be resurfaced kinda badly, and those things are easy to ignore during the half of the year when it never rains, but are gonna become mega issues soon if we don't attend to them. And, with rain comes mosquitoes.

Still...I love it, and am eager for storms.

Every single day, I go to the FIU website and search for available Stats II and Botany 1010 courses for the fall that may have opened up, and I go to my FIU email to see if my disability appeals have been approved. This has been going on for approximately 2 weeks now, as part of my morning and evening routines. So far I've received a maddening email about the appeals, stating that they've been received and are being processed, which will take up to 6-8 more weeks - and I've gotten into a Stats II class that is with a teacher that is rated terribly on ...I don't really expect any resolution of these issues anytime soon, I just know from past semesters that Constant Vigilance is the only way to get into certain classes. I will lurk, and lunge when appropriate.

Today marks the end of a couple of ongoing situations I'm glad to be done with. First, I actually have the van back, running. Eleven days in the shop, DOZENS of phone calls and one reasonably entertaining shuttle ride up to the dealer later, it turns out to have been the computer system they just replaced having gone bad again - maybe because it was a bad computer, maybe because we had a wire shorted out in the dash. It was covered by warranty.

Second situation, there is this puppy that showed up on our front porch last Friday. She was clean, clearly used to attention/affection, adorable, had no collar, and refused to leave. We played with her in the yard in full view of the street for hours, until dark, and I expected every car that pulled up to our corner and every person who walked by to stop and say, "there she is, that's my dog!" but...nobody did. I called around and borrowed a crate she could spend the night in, and posted about her on a local rescue's facebook page as a lost dog (nothing). We took her, Saturday morning, to an animal hospital to be scanned for a microchip (nothing) and to look for lost dogs they have notices about (nothing). Around Saturday afternoon, I started to panic a little, because really, we are at capacity around here and I don't have room for puppy training or dog ownership in my life. Or budget. Or yards. But I didn't want to just call animal control, as they were clear that they only give a few days for adoption or claiming before they kill the dogs they take in.

We considered fostering her for the rescue organization, as that's something they encourage and help people with, but she destroyed one of my plants and a toy of Elise's inside an hour that involved all of us home and attempting to watch her... and we're gone so much! Grant and I both also got really sick of cleaning pee/poop up really quickly. More importantly, in addition to the cats being violently opposed, Isaac is TERRIFIED of her (for his own anti-dog reasons; she is not mean, but her normal puppy behavior of jumping and chasing is panic inducing for him). He even came in our bed last night saying he had a nightmare that the dog was attacking him :/ I mean Isaac has a long history of bad dreams about all manner of things, but, I feel really bad for how stressed it's been making him. Relegated to the yard, she's been going from terrorizing the chickens to finding a dead rat under the deck and dragging it up to our doors, when she isn't digging up my new planter full of flowers. It's beyond "not cute" and into DEAR GOD MAN. I am clearly spoiled on the low maintenance of cats.

ANYWAY finally, today, after a LOT of back and forth texting with people I know who are deeply involved with the rescue, they've got an opening at a no-kill shelter for her. It's a long drive but I'm ok with that at this point. Jake's in love with her and would be all about keeping her forever - he's going to be the one person who really misses her like crazy, but at least I can tell him she's going somewhere safe, now.

In addition to getting the van in and the dog out, today, and continuing my vigil at the FIU sites, I walked Isaac to school (which is worth 4 Weight Watchers Activity Points), fried a lot of eggs, made some milkshakes, made tacos, and baked some lemon syrup loaf cakes - that's a Nigella recipe that is a regular, around here. I am trying cold brewing coffee here myself for the first time, and will see how it's turned out tomorrow. I also washed seven hundred million dishes, and continued forcing leading my kids in cleaning their rooms out and organizing them thoroughly, since we have a realtor coming sometime in the next week to tell us what he thinks we could get if we decided to sell the house. I don't know that we are going to sell the house, but he seems like a decent guy who answers our questions quickly and thoroughly so I'm interested in what he has to say. There are a lot of factors that make me think our Zestimate is probably inaccurate. I read another chapter to Jake and Elise. Aaaaand I worked on the budget for a little while.

Overall I'm sort of confused that it all sounds so good "on paper," since I spent the majority of the entire day loafing around (napping, fantasizing, internet), and the majority of the night...loafing around (shows with Grant and later Annie).

I've been doing entirely too much loafing around, in general. Something about my school semester ending and a lot of my kids' activities wrapping up for the school year, along with restricted transportation, has left me feeling like I'm floating along in some vague and timeless way. Everything from the past couple of weeks kind of blurs together, with little standout times - like when Gloria brought James over so they could use our kitchen all day to bake for a fundraiser, and Elise's birthday, and this neato hour long phone call with someone whose voice I hadn't heard in a decade. I mailed a card to my Nana and a letter to my mom, for Mother's Day? I've planted a LOT of seeds and some other stuff. Pruned and watered a ton. Isaac's talent show at school went REALLY well, and we finished reading Goblet of Fire, which he loved, so he got to watch that movie. Overall I just feel really....vague and timeless.

I made a friend (GMYS parent) who is also a nursery inspector, and gifted me some hibiscus. Between him and his family, and this cool chick (and her family) who runs what was Elise's preschool that I have ran into here and there over the years but am now planning to have over for dinner, it seems like I might have real prospects for new local friends. I was starting to think that was impossible, that I had exhausted my town's possibilities or something.

I am really, really excited that new episodes of Louie are happening.

Grant was in Missouri last week, for work. When I picked him up, Friday, I don't know what clicked into place but we had the craziest nonstop ultra hot sex weekend ever. I spent all of Monday somewhat sore and goofy-happy, after a night I think I grinned through in my sleep (Happy Mother's Day to meeeee). We're doing a lot of emotional evening cuddling and ooey gooey afternoon texting, this week.

I've lost 18 pounds, now. It's feeling very doable and real.

I've had some interesting little things happen, with my book - a small bookstore owner took a couple of copies earmarked for particular readers to read, review and bring back, so that she can move on to more and more handpicked regular customers with the same copies...she's just doing it because she believes in local authors, which I thought was pretty great. Then the other day I realized I have list additions, ratings and reviews on Goodreads - I had no idea :)

I've also made a lot of use of tumblr for personal posts lately, particularly picture posts, since it's so easy to make them directly from my phone with one step.
altarflame: (deluge)
1.) Studying made me cry, tonight. It was the Health Psychology chapter, "Psychological Effects of Terminal Illness and Death." I made it through the SIDs section, I gritted my teeth through the Causes of Death Among 1-15 Year Olds. I already knew everything they had to say about the Kubler-Ross Model, and palliative and hospice care, mostly because of friends and real life situations. I actually laughed about the nonsensical, bullet formatted lists in our power point describing the pros and cons of dying young vs dying old*. But somewhere in between how confusing impending death is to hospitalized children, who can't really grasp that their lives are going to end, and the bit about conflicts that arise when an older person refuses treatment and their spouse or kids bitterly protest... I was just done.

2.) Earlier, Elise said to me, "You know, my birthday is only 26 days away. That means that your youngest kid, your little baby, is going to be 7 years old. That's pretty crazy."

Yes, Elise. That I can have five kids and the youngest will be 7 - is crazy.

3.) I spent awhile, tonight, in a rolling chair, head leaned on Grant's belly as he stood in front of me and ran his fingers over my neck and my shoulders. We can get to a place very quickly where I'm gasping and making involuntary noises and am COVERED in goose bumps. It occurs to me that I'm glad it was him that taught me, when we were 14, that my shoulders are dense with nerve endings and crazily sensitive. He licked my sunburn, actually, after I got back from a trip to the Keys with my mother, and I went wide eyed and slack jawed and asked him to please do that again. He really likes my shoulders in general, which I suppose is why he's the only person who ever really explored the "hyper sensitive shoulders" thing I have going on. It's really an art form, the way he knows when to bite. There are worse ways to pass half an hour.

*The most dryly existential hilarity was how young people might feel bitterly upset that they have not realized their life goals, whereas older adults may have accepted that they did not realize their life goals and made peace with that. My text book scoffs at the notion that anyone might ever actually realize any goals; that's not even a possible outcome.
altarflame: (deluge)
This has been a great, easy going weekend! I have a big photo post about our New Years Eve/Day that I will post soon, along with a comment reply that's gotten loooooooong enough to be it's own thing, but this is quick :)

Yesterday and today, I:

-looked at all kinds of crap, mostly cool and sometimes hilarious, all over tumblr and imgur, with Grant.

-also this article <--Go on and read it, you'll gasp and laugh and then feel kinda like crying.

-did another 8ish lessons in Duolingo, mostly comprised of the "food" section. Several of which I needed to do 2-4 times to pass. I'm learning French because I am probably going to France for two weeks this summer, for a school thing (that financial aid pays for! How exciting is this?!) Also to be able to help Ananda, because she wants to learn it and live there for a couple of years when she's in college. I was afraid the similarity to Spanish would be confusing, but it's really not, it's very helpful and I am actually getting better at Spanish because of this - which is great. Highly recommended app!

-realized I can now google foods in french, look at the image search results, and use THAT for cooking inspiration - you may not realize what a difference there is in what google gives you if you type in "croissant egg" vs "croissant oeuf" but it is HUGE!

-power walked 25 minutes on the YMCA treadmills, with Annie, and rode bikes around the neighborhood for 20 minutes, with Aaron...I'm feeling so much better these past couple of weeks :) I don't know if that's an arthritic flare ending or if the B12 shots have really made this much of a difference, since my deficiency was diagnosed, but wow. My only problem now is how weak I feel from a couple of very sedentary months while I was hurting and exhausted, but I'm trying to exercise in short bursts at least a few times a week until I get back to the point where I can really challenge myself again. I was disappointed and a little embarrassed when I went rink-skating with Annie's derby team and a friend, last week, and could only do a couple of 5 minute bursts of fallingskating before my legs were SCREAMING at me...



-ordered my new parking pass for the coming semester, and figured out on the map where my new classes are going to be. Entered everything and links into my phone calendar. I feel lately like I couldn't live without my freakin' phone calendar.

-made lots of sauteed vegetables, fried eggs, a pot of soup, two batches of coffee, cups of tea, cut fruit, and so on for various people.

-re-watched the first 10 episodes of Arrested Development, in about hour long bursts, with Ananda (who hasn't seen them) and sometimes Grant (who has).

-helped Grant research recipes and shop for food and a kitchen scale.

-bought leeks and radishes for the first time, and looked through the tumblr tag and our Relic, "The Art of Mastering French Cooking" by Julia Child for ideas on what to do with them (feel free to weigh in!)

-listened endlessly as Elise played this learn-to-read app I got her on my phone, and looked at all of her prolific and steadily improving drawing and coloring projects, and answered many questions from her about everything from what is underneath our house to where tea comes from.

-had a terrible/hilarious misunderstanding with Isaac - I was playing Lorde and dancing in the kitchen this morning and he came in and asked if I could make him something. I told him I was cooking up some sweet dance moves and he could eat those, in a very playful/silly way, and he burst into hysterical tears and ran to his room, slamming the door behind him o_O I followed, apologized, asked what he'd been up to and how he was feeling, blah blah blah but yeah, sometimes you just don't know how someone is going to react *sigh* He actually screamed at me about my "ridiculous nonsense" before he calmed down and decided to take a nap. There are many moods that Isaac gets in and outbursts that come from him that I just cannot imagine from any of my other kids, but I try to remember that he's gotten light years better about that kind of thing and it's a surprise, now, rather than a constant, like it used to be...I think this was the 3rd (and most minor) bizarre freakout in the past 3 months, from him, which is hard to deal with in the moment since he had months with no freakouts, previously - but it's awesome when I remember it used to be bizarre freakouts all day every day, years ago. Now he's mostly burning through books and building with legos quietly, or having truly amazing conversations with me (Isaac is so, so smart, and usually very mature for his age, too, possibly because he's had to overcome his own anxieties and deal with medical issues and all). There is also a lot of bickering/telling between him and the other younger kids, but I feel like that's normal-annoying stuff. Also - he's read THREE Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and at least a dozen picture books, since Christmas!

-read Little Bear, and Olivia books to Elise. And more Harry Potter #3, to her and Jake. And more Harry Potter #4, to Isaac. And poetry, to Ananda.

-knitted about 8 more rows of this sweater back that will be done, oh, probably in 2020 at this rate.

I have really got to stop making this "quick little recap mini entry" before it ends up eating up all the time I planned to spend cooking and posting pictures.
altarflame: (deluge)
I've had a kind of "what is my life" morning. It's featured calling what will hopefully be my new rheumatologist a half dozen times before I could get through, scheduling their soonest appointment (mid January - this is actually the first group I started calling a week ago, but I assumed I'd be able to find someone else to see me such luck, so mid January it is). And calling and then emailing the Disability Services guy I've been meeting with, at school. And wincing and grimacing my way through my stool sample kit instructions *dies*

Mostly I've been like, ok, here, double dose of b-12, prescription folic acid, second cup of coffee...I'll This has involved much forgetting what I was doing and sitting back down at the computer, trying to keep my eyes open. Attempting all the while to force myself out the door to go do 30 minutes of cardio that might perk me up, and/or get started on formulating my answers for the final I have tomorrow (she gave us 5 essay questions, and 3 will actually be on the exam).

I feel entirely too confused and startled by the requests and interjections of Jake and Elise, but also grateful for them because, you know - they're awesome. And otherwise, today, I feel as though I'd just refresh facebook and tumblr with a furrowed brow every few minutes until it was time to make dinner. Even if I don't feel like getting up to see how cute Tom looks under the Christmas tree or coming to check out the stuffed animal classroom they've set up, it ends up being (mostly!) worth it. Soon we'll be sewing poor battered Beary up again and putting yarn loops through the million gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree, and it's them dragging me along and asking to open the doors since the weather is nice and the fact that I'll be carting people all over for activities in a few hours that are probably keeping me from turning into some sort of drooling lump. I have to squint and concentrate and explain why it's important to water the Christmas tree, and how the wooden bench will warp if we keep it outside, and show them what guava fruit actually looks like since the paste is in everything down here. They really are so awesome, so curious and questioning and aware, all five of them.

This morning I stumbled out of my room to wake Isaac up for school, and he was sitting at the dining table in his school uniform, with his backpack on and his packed lunch next to his chair, reading on Jake's Nook. I was like, "Wow. Good morning." He smiled and said it back in a distracted way, obviously absorbed. On the way to school he told me Jake had read this same book, and told him he should read it, and then went on about how he's not so sure books are actually always longer than their movie versions anymore because of some comparison he did with Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Vaguely related: There are a lot of things I don't like about his school, like the standard overbearing focus on the FCAT and the gross Common Core emphasis. But something I love is that his class last year and his class this year have read novels as a class that Isaac really loved and talked about often, and they did a lot of projects around the books. His favorites have probably been Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

He's going to be in 4 different parts of their holiday show, this year - dancing with the cheerleaders, playing the recorder, singing with his class, and something else he refuses to tell me because it's a surprise. And, I learned my lesson last year about ordering tickets early, so I won't have to stand around outside dealing with scalper auctioneering and then get in late (that actually happened!).

Yesterday afternoon, I went and picked up Ananda from a friend's house - she'd went with three people, Saturday night, to see Catching Fire and then sleep over. She was going on and on about everything they'd talked about the night before, like North Korea, the possibility of Amazon shipping packages via drones, Kanye West's hilarious narcissism, how to put together Les Mis cosplays, and the music one of them is writing. Her friends are so fucking priceless.

I just love giving them (all 5 of them) space, and then seeing what they do with it. Elise is always taking this little notebook and a pencil up into the mango tree to "write down observations."

Anyway, back to my muddled morning - I also have Kristin texting me and a date to schedule with Nancy, so those are good things, even if good through a sort of haze. Ugh.

Here's hoping crafty time and more hours lift me up a little, sometimes it's like that and I just have a hard time getting going. Otherwise, well, here's hoping the nap I succumb to works.
altarflame: (deluge)

- wrote 5 page paper about the "Burqa Bill" France passed in 2011, and how it's impacting people/communities.
-wrote 10 page paper comparing and contrasting the Schoenstatt (Catholic, vigil to Mary) shrine and the Wat Buddharangsi (Theravada Buddhist) shrine, both out in the Redlands. Their live-in fulltime religious folks, their rituals and community events, their aesthetics and how they fit into larger movements. Accompanying 10 slide power point presentation.
-Psychology of Aging final exam, online
-12 slide power point presentation on medical aid to Haiti, and how and when racism and exploitation play into it, along with how that can be avoided, and the very good work many people are doing
-made up my theater midterm, in person
-tomorrow I take the theater final
-and present that second power point
-and watch Bucket List and start writing a MASSIVE paper due this weekend, about it and some other articles
-and, this weekend, write a 5 page paper on how race has impacted nation building throughout the Caribbean
-and get the rest of my documentation from my doctor and meet with the disability services people again


-we cut out, decorated, and baked a million gingerbread cookies
-there has been some great dinner on the deck time
-lots of my-bed morning cuddles
-much driving to their 7 million activities
-tomorrow afternoon Isaac, Jake and Elise will be performing in their little holiday recital with GMYS :) Isaac's school holiday performance, Aaron's dance solo in the Holiday solo show, and another GMYS concert with Annie are all coming up too. And another derby bout. And and and.
-Ananda and Aaron stayed up late with me tonight watching all the cleanest standup comedy I know and love with me, and laughing a lot.
-I got a couple more Christmas presents - we now have everyone's Christmas Eve pajamas and all the stocking stuffers except pomegranates done, along with about a third of the actual presents. I've never been this "behind" on this stuff, but my house feels quiet and glowy from Christmas trees when we're inside, and they've loved decorating and whatever, basically :p
-lots of conversations with an angsty Aaron who is feeling he wants to quit dancing forever
-lots of tiptoeing and reassurance with Isaac, who is having mega-anxiety
-a great hour out looking at the sky and taking pictures of it and each other, with Jake. Also an interesting hair styling time with him, this afternoon.
-two batches of failed royal icing with Annie, after her failed cookies :p she's sticking with it, though. Her iced tea and cheese sauce (for Mac n cheese) were great on thanksgiving, too. We had a 90s music video marathon on the way to derby.


-I got the first 6 of my 15 freaking fillings done, Monday. The next few will be at the end of the month. Dentist really had to do a lot of drilling, since he tackled the worst ones first, some below the gum line :/ He said, "borderline root canals." They look great now, but chewing has basically sucked for a couple of days.
-Second weekly B-12 shot happened. I don't even feel them, which is nice. They are also having no measurable effect on my (non-existent) energy levels, which is meh.
-counseling is really, really helping me - I'm truly excited about the PTSD strides I'm making. EMDR is very challenging sometimes, but worth it.
-gastro was interesting, I have more bloodwork pending and have to absolutely die of trauma because they want a STOOL SAMPLE *sounds of me flailing in panic like a baby*


-emailing with Nancy DAILY to make sure we can hammer out a date/times that actually works for both of us, before she leaves the state for another year
-Grant's Christmas party is this weekend, and it's at a Greek place with belly dancers, this year. Looking forward to that :)
-I saw on facebook that one of my best friends is engaged, heard through the grape vine that another might be pregnant again, am psyched to see Kristin renew her online presence, returned a message to somebody I like talking to, am editing someone's AA story for them to share on a subreddit... and am generally like WTF about how I don't have the time or resources for more real life interactions :/ It really bums me out, sometimes, and is definitely something I hope might improve if we're in Maryland (because I won't be spending some 15-20 hours per week driving, there will be more like-minded people about, and also Kristin will once again be at close range).
-I'm reading American Gods (Neil Gaiman), since, hey, I have a signed copy and Grant's almost done with the audiobook so we can talk about it. Mostly just in waiting rooms and bathrooms, not that those don't add up.
-I've gotten kind of stupid depressed about a couple of pictures of me taken recently, I feel like I am just looking...old. In the face. And I don't like that. It surprises me when I see it, like - wha? That's not how I feel, OR how I look :p I honestly have a really hard time conceptualizing how I look in general, I really love some aspects and am really not into others. I'm usually very happy with mirrors but completely horrified with pictures, and am used to getting both degrading comments and unsolicited flattery - regularly. My standard reaction to it all is to shrug and go back to just, you know, living in here and looking out through my eyeballs. I'm extremely pleased with how my hair feels on my back and shoulders and how great stretching is, tonight, for instance, so I just roll with that.

Catching Up

Dec. 2nd, 2013 03:30 am
altarflame: (deluge)
I'm up late, lingering over the very last of the lovely the beginning it was honestly sort of hell. I was just totally overwhelmed with trying to get the entire house clean and cooking so much, with company coming and time limits. I was doing school presentations and things the day before my Dad arrived, and I'm so freaking exhausted. I was taking 20 minutes once an hour to lie down, for an entire evening. Once things were underway, though, and it was too late to do any more than was done, I started coasting, and that has been wonderful most of the time since...

And Grant has had 9 days off in a row, Isaac 4, we've had so much cool intermittent company, put up Christmas trees, and blargh. This week is gonna be wall to wall, as all weeks tend to be lately. It's the end of the semester, and today I did two quizzes, some discussion board stuff and submitted a 5 page paper, online. The beginning of the end of the all too brief peace and lazing about. After we grocery/Christmas shopped, this afternoon, Grant took Ananda and Aaron to see Gravity, and I put a movie on for the littles and took the quiet hours for schoolwork...

Tomorrow I have to get Isaac to school; go by my doctor's office; go spend two hours getting fillings; then go to the school to make-up a theater exam, give the disability services people more documentation, and sell my textbooks back; make a power point presentation; write another paper; drive Aaron to dance; make dinner; read to everyone before bed... Tuesday I have classes, then a B-12 injection, driving people, feeding them, readings. Wednesday is counseling, gastroenterologist, blah blah blah. The three littles have a holiday concert instead of their normal music classes, after my classes, on Thursday. I'm trying to figure out with Nancy when we can see each other again before she leaves town in a couple of weeks, and with my sister when I can babysit so SHE can go to the doctor. Both of which are important to me, and more "good" than "work".

I make a point of scheduling leisure and downtime, lately. Tuesday evening, Grant will be here since he works from home Tues/Thurs, and we're going to watch a movie. Wednesday there are a lot of activities, but they're spaced out and local to where I can get a lot of quiet time at home with just Isaac and Jake, which is an unusual combination of kids to have home alone. Friday-day we will do nothing but guided schoolwork that they can't auto-pilot or do on the computer or whatever, since the rest of this week is low on that.

I'm just SO. fucking. TIRED. All the time. Friday, Saturday and today/Sunday, I've been going to bed around 1-2am, and sleeping until 1-3pm. Then I drink a lot of caffeine, and...take a nap. Still, I end up dozing off around 10 or 11. Second wind til bedtime.

I spent awhile up troubleshooting Ananda's chocolate chip cookies, with her, tonight, while everyone else was in bed. They came out hard as rocks and completely stuck on the pan, and she's very spoiled on early successes since she's made some challenging stuff like cheesecake and had it come out perfect. We talked a lot about the French law against face coverings for Muslim women, too, since I had to write about that earlier for school and she was interested - so many layers of racism and freedom and religious expression, etc...

I wrote another poem the other day. I've written a lot of poetry these past few months, for the first time in awhile. It's under here. )

Continuing with getting all of my November pictures posted!

Ananda's derby team had their first home bout this month, which was the first time I got to see her actually playing (not just practicing) in person - Grant and Gloria had previously taken her to away bouts. We got a lot of people to come out, including old high school friends of mine who are not pictured, and some of Annie's friends. Pre-bout tailgating included a big taco spread we brought along. Derby makeup, and nerves:

Gloria and LJ, excited:

Shaun and Cristy:


Possibly tipsy Grant, and Elise in mini-derby makeup Annie put on her:

I dressed up.


With Miguel and Izzy, all trying to look tough and then bursting out laughing as soon as the picture had clicked.

#1 fan.

It was fun. One of her coaches, who is on the adult team that had a bout after theirs, told her how well she'd done. She TOTALLY hero-worships this woman, and it made her flip. She was silly-stupid-happy for two days after :)

Back at the ranch - the chickens have finally started laying, as Jake and Elise wasted no time in RUSHING in SCREAMING to tell me ;)

Yes, it is a blue egg. And they roam free a lot, so it's like an Easter hunt every day :p

I randomly went outside for something else and found them wearing cut up cups as crowns.

Elise watching TV with Tom:

Isaac, sleeping with a special shell his penpal sent him :D

The cats use his bed, when he's at school.

One night, we had Miguel and Izzy and Izzy's brother Francois over, for dinner and a projector movie/sleepover. After the movie, Grant sat at the laptop projecting things on to peoples' faces. Like sunglasses, and clown noses, and celebrities.

Much laughter all around.

Next day:

New closed coils post-extractions, and new colors:

Our little Beasty's Girl Scout troop was in a parade up at the Falls - her shirt says "Keep Calm and Camp On," from this summer at GS camp.

Her brother's saved her a bubble necklace they'd gotten while watching the parade. You can see highlights from the rest of the parade (I didn't get any good shots of her group, unfortunately, and it seemed more important to scream and wave anyway) are here. <--They all get bigger. It's wild how the quality and variety of what is in a parade goes up, driving 30 minutes north :p


Some Thanksgiving seems somehow ironic that these cuddly chickens were safely hanging out in the kitchen for part of the afternoon. They all just walk up to people and fall asleep in your arms, making little happy noises. It's ridiculous.

We were all SO. STUFFED. Nancy and Steve and their little dog Sundae, and my father, and Laura and Frank and their kids, and Gloria, and Shaun, and Grant and I and our kids. Delicious. And stuffed. And haha, you can see the picking my kids had done off of the edge of my clementine cakes.

Hours later:

That's Elise, (niece) Elizabeth, me, and Isaac.

You can see Gloria, Ananda, and Frank...we were still outside at 1am.

The only black Friday shopping we did was at Guitar Center...

Aaron, in Grant's hoodie and his new hip hop sneakers, drooling over expensive headphones.

Saturday was the Greater Miami Youth Symphony's 55th Anniversary Concert. Grant took Annie, and sent me these, while Aaron hung out with his friend Adrian and I took the littles to my sister's, since our mother was in town. I pretty much spent the whole visit catching my mother up on my latest lab results and apologizing to everyone for my brain fog and sleepiness. Sometimes, right in the middle of visits like that, I do stupid shit like tell everyone I'll run to Publix for a few things and then burst into tears and rant to my husband on my cell phone in the parking lot for 15 minutes until I feel like I can stay awake long enough to continue, uh, living.

Well hello, 3:30 O_o

Ok, so...

Nov. 19th, 2013 09:57 am
altarflame: (deluge)
Last night's entry feels so stilted to me this morning. I worked my way through some terrible hours to get to a point where I could write it honestly, but I spent most of the day...really unhappy. Like I commented on someone who linked to a supposedly comforting song about how "It Will Be Over Soon," by saying that the song seemed to just be saying life is a never ending series of miserable shit and it goes before we know it, leaving us dead. Some vague part of me understood that to be intolerably emo, but, only sort of. My mother in law commented on my doctor's visit, saying she hopes I feel better soon, and I had to restrain myself from saying, "I'm never going to feel better. This is degenerative and I will probably never feel ONLY THIS CRAPPY ever again."

*deep breathing*

Enough time in the hammock, enough chugging of water and minutes after everyone is in bed, enough Grant being home and being ridiculously nice to me (I always think of Lestat saying, "Pamper the madman" in these circumstances) and I at least felt like the stress headache was fading and my shoulders were unlocking.

Basically I spent 4 hours waiting at my doctor - my MD since childhood, as my rheumatologist closed her office very suddenly - with OR dramas playing on Lifetime for most of it. Then we got to go through this whole pain and inflammation thing, and she is great, she spent 45 minutes with me - which is why I wait. We drew blood and prescribed meds and ordered more x-rays and she's referring me out to a different rheumatologist and wrote me a note for my professors.

I am a total academic slacker, normally - I do everything that needs to be done, and I usually get really good grades, but I do the least I need to do for the A (or just settle for a B if I'd rather do something else), and I do it all at the laaaast possible minute.

This doesn't work anymore. I have to somehow adapt my procrastination and slacking to life with arthritis. The night the paper is due, my hands might be swollen or hurting. The school day after the one when I elected to stay home with the kids instead of going in, I might be so tired I literally can't keep my eyes open standing up. And, apparently, the "now it HAS to be done" urgency that usually kicks in when I'm under real pressure...doesn't, necessarily, if I'm depressed and/or dissociating because I don't want to think about this RA shit at all. When it gets that bad, the only thing that doesn't fall by the wayside as a priority is the kids.

So I have to find my new Overly Busy + procrastinating + fast reader and writer + RA Student Formula. Along with just adapting to things like, no no you can't not go in because it hurts to get up and down or walk, that's not going anywhere, NEW NORMAL OK?

Whatever, I mean...flares end and all that. I know.

Anyway. My whole 5pm-10pm after the doctor was spent dragging all 5 kids around to a bunch of stores for things they variously need (new sports bras for Annie, new hip hop sneakers for Aaron, blah blah blah), and to the pharmacy, and to get food for dinner - and then eating, and cuddling with Elise, and reading to Isaac. It all felt so much more short tempered and complicated than it normally would. I think I have a terrible tendency to displace my dissatisfaction with my health and react to situations as though I'm dissatisfied with my life as a whole. At least I think I generally catch that, and work it back around to where it needs to be?

I just can't stand how complex and multi-faceted the "shit that's wrong with me" list is getting. I've been dealing with this "ever-larger hernia, having a hard time losing weight, back pain, I need more surgery, I have surgery related PTSD so I don't want to lose weight and get it fixed" loop for a LONG TIME (it's actually helping me get past it, to realize just how long it's been and be sort of aghast at that). It feels really crappy and I hate seeing myself in those terms, so much so that I just refuse to and focus on the parts of me I'm very happy with as much as possible (outside of working at progress on The Loop, like exercising and delving into the worst triggers in counseling). But piling an autoimmune disease on top of it? Is...a lot to take in. And I would really just rather fucking not.

"Silver lining" (?)...counseling really HAS been working with the PTSD stuff, and I feel more ok about it all than I ever have. By a long shot. Also, or perhaps as a result, something about this whole RA thing makes me feel much more motivated and capable about taking care of all that Loop stuff. Like I just cannot live with both sets of issues simultaneously, and refuse to do it for long. Of course there is also the bonus that inflamed joints do better without extra weight.

I also have no appetite, which is definitely not something I've ever had as an edge before. I realize I've had NOTHING all day at 3-5pm fairly regularly, and frequently just make the smoothie I talked about a couple of entries down with a feeling of annoyance.

Part of what made me super emotional about my pain issues - aside from, you know...hurting constantly - was seeing Super Cool things I am currently incapable of, over the weekend. First I went and saw this play with Annie, for school, and it involved (of all things) a dude kneeling under a table, with his head up through a hole in it, inexplicably. It was funny when he periodically interjected in the scenes unfolding around him, shouting at people sitting normally around the table. I was watching this and thinking, I just could NOT play that part. And it shouldn't matter, because why would I want to wear a table as a necklace on stage, anyway - but I was watching him as an hour unfolded, thinking, my God, I would be in tears. I would not be able to deliver any lines or even remember them by 20 minutes into kneeling on a hard surface.

Then, the next night, Annie's derby team had their first home bout, followed by an adult bout. The adult players are amazing, and role models of Annie's at this point (some to the point of hero worship), and they keep trying to pull me in and get me on the team. I know a couple of them as friends of friends, who have made this a real mission... There are all different physiques and skill levels represented in derby, btw. And chicks in their 40s, alongside the 19 year olds. Over the summer when I was feeling awesome and doing C25K and hiking up and down hills in Maryland with Grant, I was thinking of getting some skates and at least practicing with them sometimes, and being one of the helpers or refs is nothing else who take less hits and falls but are out there and participating. And that just seems...unfathomable, now, but also like I'm not sure roller derby could even be something worth thinking about or prioritizing if I have to like count spoons all the time.

The bout was still awesome. We had Gloria and LJ, Shaun and his girlfriend, an old high school friend, and some of Annie's friends there. She did great and had a blast. We brought a lot of food to share. There is just, also, this sad sense of loss and anger as an undercurrent, and an aftermath.

I hate having to tell anyone about it. I feel embarrassed and ashamed to talk about any part of my health issues with, say, other FIU students or even my teachers. I don't explain it to the derby players because my flare could end at any point and then I could be having 6 months doing that, and I wouldn't want them asking me about it or wondering during that time. And I don't exactly know why that is. I hate writing about it here, I hate the idea of being seen as disabled even though I don't see disabled people - or just people with health complications - as "less than" in any way. If anything some of my favorite people to read about or interact with have some major challenges. I just haven't figured out how to reconcile all that into a positive acceptance of myself, yet.
altarflame: (deluge)
It's an ongoing source of angst that I am not "devoted" enough to any of my kids' various extracurricular activities, and thus get all kinds of complaints and tension. For instance, just today Aaron's solo rehearsal, which was scheduled from 3-4pm, ran AN HOUR over. I don't get an explanation or an apology - I get a side eye for questioning why I've been chilling in the parking lot for so long, since none of the other parents were questioning why all the solos were running late today (apparently they all had to be judged and rated, but it was completely impromptu - like how they schedule things THE NIGHT BEFORE via 11 pm email, and I'm supposed to just "make that work" the following afternoon regularly...but worse!). The full time "dance moms" who hang out in the lobby for hours on end do a kind of, "Oh, how typical, hahaha" chuckle and that's the end of it.

Similarly, Friday evening he had to go to his solo rehearsal with no knee pads, because he lost the ones I bought him. I explained that to his choreographer, along with reassuring her that he should have them by next time since I'm making him tear the house apart until he finds them. She seriously acted like I am negligent and she was speechless, or something. Like I should just get him new knee pads every day - not like, you know, he needs to keep track of his own things and learn responsibility (this is not a safety issue like it would be in derby, they are soft comfort knee pads for sliding on, and he's already wearing sweat pants...some of the dancers choose not to use knee pads ever, but she had said he should get them).

I understand and appreciate that every single one of these programs is only possible because one or more adults is really putting in some serious hours - I even make a point of telling them how much I appreciate it - but it's not possible for me to do that with all of them...or any, really. I can get people where they need to be, and pony up whatever money and supplies they need (neither of which are insignificant obligations...), but that is really about it. I read the emails and texts that flood in, too - but I don't want to be a part of any phone chains that are being set up, and I cannot volunteer. Whatever I can possibly do drops offs and pick ups for, without hanging around DURING things as they go on, I do. We're talking about:

Annie's roller derby team
Her orchestra ensemble
Her cello mentor and fellow mentee
Her Girl Scout troop
Aaron's dance studio (which includes tons of teachers, many hours per week, and carpooling)
Isaac's (school) teachers
and cheerleading squad (which was just in the Veteran's Day parade this morning)
and clarinet teacher
Jake's violin teacher
Elise's violin teacher
And her Girl Scout troop

This does not count A&A's social gatherings, which are usually every weekend, or Isaac and Jake's playdates, like they just had Sunday. Obviously it also doesn't include appointments, like how we've been to the dentist/ortho 10 times in the last 3 months.

My phone's calendar is absolutely ridiculous. I feel like I am bending over backwards to make these things possible. I can't stand it when people act like I'm half-assing because I don't sit and preside over the bake sale table, or reply to something quickly enough. It flat out drives me crazy when people try to enforce "mandatory parent meetings" - FOR WHAT? So we can spend an hour and a half repeating ourselves about something that is also on the flyers that get handed out at the very beginning of the meeting? I just won't do it, anymore. Like if it's really mandatory that I sit through hour and a half long meetings more than annually, we just can't do whatever that activity is. I'm committed to things like cooking us real food, and spending quiet unhurried time with them one at a time in the evenings, and I'm not letting those things go in the name of whether or not some jackets should have peoples' names embroidered on them or not.

Meanwhile, plenty of parents are walking around in $150 tracksuits with the dance studio name, the cheerleading squad logo, etc on them. And I am the asshole trying not to laugh at them.

I have to pick Isaac up 15-20 minutes late from cheerleading twice a week. There is no other way he can participate, because of other things I'm running around for. He knows and is ok with this. The school is still filled with adults at that time, with other activities full of people, the office staffed, and aftercare kids playing on the playground. I have explained this to his coach, so it can be expected. Still, this woman (coach) marches him out to me, and gives me a fucking lecture about how she doesn't have time to babysit him - and every time I tell her the same thing. FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T BABYSIT HIM, GO HOME! I say it politely. I re-explain that it will always be this time. I reiterate how a-ok I am with him being "on his own" behind the locked gate with everyone else, and that if it isn't ok he can't be a cheerleader. She makes vague ultimatum-ish statements, then gets really sweet and says she'll talk to some other people about it to work something out... and then it repeats again a few days later.

Stupid. Like how the other parents actually ASKED ME who I was on the phone with, when I stood downstairs talking on the phone instead of sitting in on Jake's and Elise's violin class a couple of weeks ago. I told them, "My Dad - he called because it's my birthday," and rather than, you know, "Oh cool" or "Happy Birthday!" I got shit like, "Oh. We were wondering where you were." and (I AM SERIOUS), "My aunt called last week but I returned the call after we left since my phone was off for class." <--My phone rang in our car on the way there, fyi, mine is always off IN THE CLASS, too. Good fucking grief people are ridiculous. It's not OUR CLASS. I don't miss MY OWN CLASSES for phone calls. Just. )(#*$ODFJIOSD*()#&$)(*

The "arthritis smoothie" I make myself every single day:

-frozen pineapple chunks
-half a banana
-tablespoon-ish of virgin coconut oil
-couple spoonfuls of flax seed meal
-couple of tablespoons of (really good) "smoothie" style fish oil (Barlean's)
-tsp of probiotic powder
-tbsp+ of coconut water kefir
-B vitamin mix powder
-water necessary to turn it into a drink (not much)

I do this in the magic bullet, so it takes all of 30 seconds for it to be transformed into a fairly tasty, relatively homogeneous something once I get it all in the cup.

In other inflammation related news, I called my rheumatologist today to see if she had the results from my blood draw Friday morning, and got a recording of a voice I've never heard saying, "Unfortunately, Dr ______ ______'s office has closed. Fax ___-____ for your medical records." There was no option to leave a message or be transferred to the answering service, as would normally have been provided on a day they were regular-closed.

Uh. Right. I mean...what? Did she die suddenly and tragically over the weekend? My last appt was last Wednesday and this was not brought up O_o This could complicate my documentation for school, and I cannot imagine how completely unbelievable it'll sound to my professors if my specialist just suddenly closed. I mean, maybe, possibly this can be a mix-up since today is a holiday, and I've just misinterpreted?

Because time is of the essence on several levels, I've already sent the fax for my records, in case it is what is seems. With one of those fax-with-email programs, because who the hell has a fax machine.

12 Things I'm thankful for, for the first 12 days of November:

11/1. the lovely cooler weather
11/2. talking to Dama on fb today
11/3. texting with Kristin, all the time
11/4. Grant's magical hands
11/5. this job that he has, that has been such a boon in so many ways - #5 being money
11/6. and health insurance that allows me free unlimited therapy
11/7. and dental that means we can all get everything we need done reasonably
11/8. and frequent flier miles/hotel points that make trips possible
11/9. AND their no doubt epic Christmas party coming up again - this time, there will be belly dancers and it's at a greek place. Aaaaand I will NOT be near-carried out in a drunken stupor this year :x
11/9. being back in regular touch with Jean-Paul
11/10. Nexxus split end binding conditioner
11/11. all the way healthier stuff BJ's has started stocking
11/12. how funny a couple of the people in my group (for our theater class) can be
altarflame: (deluge)
I am really struggling.

I've only ever been this consistently exhausted, before, last fall-February (i.e., before I changed my diet to more anti-inflammatory stuff, which it still is primarily made up of) and in early pregnancy (that is not a possibility).

I just went and got blood drawn today for a new SED rate, and am going back to my rheumatologist Monday. I don't even know what I expect, though - my pain levels/mobility troubles are not bad enough for me to embark on the sort of drugs arthritis patients are offered (steroids and immunosuppresants, for the most part)... they're "just" really annoying. I suppose I'd like some validation.

And additional documentation, for my professors, would be nice. *sigh*

Today was actually a pretty ok day, overall. I went to a rehearsal that my group, from our theater class, had scheduled. That was actually really fun, we laughed a lot. Then I talked on the phone with Robby, catching up, on my way to get my blood work done - and they were very fast and efficient at Quest, and only needed one vial. All of that was finished very early.

I did a lot of scolding and reprimanding here at home, which I hate, but I'm trying to orchestrate a really massive whole-house deep cleaning because, 1. we're having a LOT of Thankgsiving guests, and 2. we're actually moving sometime in the coming months. All week has been a lot of guiding, cajoling, threatening, time-outing, praising, and so on... Ananda and Elise actually have their room spotless, including things like their closets and drawers, and Isaac is close, but Aaron and Jake are being ridiculous about it. Normal everyday chores are a battle now because we're doing so much OTHER cleaning that they can't believe I still expect those to get done, too. The other day Jake actually said to me, with the hot water running behind me and a sponge in my hand, "Why don't YOU have chores?!" He'd just been in the next room in plain sight as I cleared and scrubbed the bar and counters, and then swept the floor, before I started on the dishes. Aside from the whole "stfu I'm your mother" factor. I gave him a toned-down version of all that and he was like, "But nobody bugs you about it!" I was like, "Right, because I DO THESE THINGS without being 'bugged'! If you woke up in the morning and did your chores right away without being told, I assure you I would never mention them again, except perhaps to say, 'Jake, you deserve an allowance!'"

That kid can really scowl.

Aaron also did more of his ridiculous, oblivious, maddening Aaron sort of crap this evening. He had solo rehearsal tonight, and I'd been reminding him of that in a countdown way all day long. He needed his knee pads for this. He never found the knee pads, and for whatever reason right after I said, "We're leaving in 7 minutes" he decided to get in the shower. I realized this 10 minutes later, when I'd been yelling for 3 minutes for him to get out here and come on, and he wasn't coming.

The weather, driving him, was lovely though - and I took the other four kids to BJ's after we dropped him off, and was happy to see they've added more really surprising items I won't have to go elsewhere for anymore. There have been a lot of these kinds of additions in recent months - I can get gluten free cookies and crackers there, and really good bulk grape seed oil. They've expanded their organic apples to a bunch of different varieties now (Grant is some kind of bizarre apple connoisseur - I don't even like apples at all). This time they actually had organic virgin coconut oil and gluten free pasta.

Prior to today, I've had a lot of the inverse - the kids being the only good thing, and/or thing I'm doing well at. Grant just got back from a week out of town for work and the whole time he was gone I was doing what they needed aaaaaand...that was pretty much it. Also pondering how I really don't give myself credit for "just" mothering, anymore - I feel as though I've done absolutely nothing if I was a great mom all day, cooking for them, reading to them, teaching them and driving them places, settling the petty squabbles and soothing the minor injuries...if there is still a backlog of undone assignments, of my own, and a mess all over the place, I feel like I've just done NOTHING. Which is clearly not true, but...I dunno.

Some highlights from the week:

-Finishing the Prisoner of Azkaban, and starting Goblet of Fire, with Isaac. Sheesh it's fun reading to him, now. He was soooo caught up in the tension and drama of the Shrieking Shack scenes, and laughing so hard at all the cool happy last chapter moments. Then, starting the new one, I was watching him figure it all out and's great. Really great, to where I have to make myself stop where we should and march out of his room (because his bedtime is important since he goes to school, and since I have other people waiting on me to read to them).

-Making Elise bed-curtains. She has a bottom bunk, below Annie's, and saw some Pinterest style picture of a little girl with drawn curtains over her bed-area in an attic and just fell in love. I was like, YOU KNOW, it would be reeeeally easy to do that to your bed! So we went over to Opa's (Grant Sr's) house, and got the unused curtains I bought fabric for and sewed years ago, that were just sitting around, and came home and used camping rope and strung them up. Now - she is so. happy. She has a little table Grant made her in there, and I let her take the lamp from the tv room. She talks about it nonstop.

-Everything, ever, with Annie. But especially - last night, cooking dinner together and talking, while she made brownies and sat on the counter. And reading, all the time. And snuggling like we've done a lot of, in my bed and in the "round spinny chair" (we've really never thought of anything better to call it...)

-Aaron is playing Sail, by Awolnation, on the piano all the time. He's camera shy so I can't share the video *stomping my foot*

-We went and did PATH's "Scientifically Speaking" event: the four homeschooled kids each dressed up as a scientist, and presented as though they were that person ("I'm _____, I was born in _____ and....") Elise was Mary Treat, Jake Albert Einstein, Aaron Carl Sagan, and Ananda Hank Green. Jakey froze up a bit but saved it in the end. Elise's little spiel was intentionally very short, but she did well with it. Aaron is actually a performer and spoke with a voice and gestures designed to mimic. Annie had the most real information. I was super happy with the stuff I managed to find at Goodwill and in the clearance/Halloween section of Party City for them, for this.

I am, as I am every night, FREEZING shivery cold in my 70+ degree house, with goosebumps and a fever and all. Gah. It's a good thing I've been making some real counseling strides, or just the recurring fever would be giving me panic attacks (it's normally a definitive sign I look for, to mean "Yes, I may have a strangulating hernia making me septic again," partially because it's unusual and the lack of it keeps me from misinterpreting stupid minor things like indigestion for a reason to worry).

The good news is my husband is actually waiting for me in our bed again, all furnace-warm as he tends to be and sweet enough to reach out and pull me in, in his sleep :)
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
WHOA I'm suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed by an avalanche of what seems, at the moment, to be totally unmanageable. Kid things, homeschool things, college things, house things, holiday things, doctor things, activity things, health things, budget things, just. *deep breath*

I remember a time when list making and pre-scheduling was a way to procrastinate. Now, if I DON'T do it - thoroughly - I'm totally screwed. There's just no other way to keep it all straight. Just this morning I got an email from Isaac's cheerleading coach that I didn't bring in the October payment (already sent apology) and then realized I had entered a due date for an online exam wrong and, as a result, had missed the deadline (still working out how to approach that issue with professor). I'm also realizing I have to let the woman I carpool with for dance know that I can't do the northward trip Wednesday afternoon, and really frustrated that the receptionist at my rheumatologist cannot get my email address right so that I actually receive some blood test orders NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I CALL AND REPEAT IT, LETTER BY LETTER, VERY VERY SLOWLY. It's just altarflame, fyi. Not super complicated. So far we've gotten altarslame, altarflane and that old classic, alterflame. I've spoken with this woman 3 times, and left her 2 messages, starting last Monday morning.

A friend of mine is asking to come over and I sat and thought, and thought, and could not think of a single time when I could invite her that wasn't either scheduled in some way, or necessary to use for things I have to prioritize (kids' school work, the dishes, my homework, reading to kids, etc) then since so much time IS scheduled. Part of why I'm screwed at the moment is because I chose to spend good time with my husband, ignoring everything else, for too much of the weekend. We're at a place where to procrastinate is to court doom, and I started procrastinating late last week when I just felt triggered, and done, and everything seemed to double in weight for a couple of days. Overall, I am happy to report that counseling is going well and I feel less nuts all the time :p

Just a few random tidbits from my swirling thoughts:

-We've spent over $3,000 out of pocket at the pediatric dentist and orthodontist, since August, which has only really been possible because August was when Grant received a quarterly bonus and I got my student aid refunds. Annie still needs her last 3 baby teeth extracted this month, before our monthly ortho financing payments kick in (for her braces). I'm happy to report that EVERYTHING that was wrong with Isaac and Jake's teeth has been fixed, Elise's one cavity is filled, Annie's big ortho mess is well on it's way to being better, and all five of them have sealants on, now.

-But I went to the dentist last week, for the first time in what turned out (somehow) to be FIVE YEARS. My teeth look pretty good at a glance, and never hurt, but apparently I have some fierce demineralization around the gum lines from the "antibiotics of last resort" I was given while septic - dentist said he sees that and it's a thing, apparently...and, thus. I NEED FIFTEEN FILLINGS. FIFTEEN. As my sister so aptly put it, "that is basically dentures." I'm torn between being horrified and being really, really grateful that I got in there before the need was for root canals or worse.

That is the tip of the iceberg of the swirling thoughts, but if I really start writing I will write for a very long time, and I just don't have the time to do that, unfortunately. I have to go write various tiered and prioritized plans, turn off all social media, hide my phone, and systematically work through as many things as possible until, you know, I lose consciousness or something.

My tumblr queue is very full and will be posting automatically for at least a week, and I have some great pictures that I'll hopefully find time to throw up here at some point in the next few days :)
altarflame: (deluge)
How my kids spent most of the evening:

These three watched Toy Story 3 in a heap in this round thing while the couch sat nearby, empty.

And these two played Magic: The Gathering as they have all day long, excepting meals and chores. Now that Jake can read well enough to keep up with him, Isaac never has to try to trail after the oldest kids begging for a partner.

In between online tests and making dinner, I got on skype behind a locked door with a woman who has a YouTube channel and soon-to-be podcast of authors reading their stories. Normally, the stories are lesbian erotica. For Halloween, she's doing a horror special, of which I am a part. <--These are the kind of gigs my publisher lands me, no doubt partially because my editor is a LAMDA recognized, multiple award winning author of...lesbian erotica. She also writes full-time for the (Miami) New Times, which means lots and lots of free food and events for her, and sometimes, Grant and I. He is more impressed with VIP passes and the like than I am, but it's nice.

I felt grateful for aaaaaaall the hours I log regularly, reading aloud. It was fun. I'll post a link when there is one.

It's so important to me to protect quiet time with my kids, and unstructured time, and time to talk. We have so many things happening these days, and it can be really challenging. I spend 30 minutes in bed with Isaac EVERY single week night, no matter what, talking and reading to him regardless of how late it gets or how tired I am - because he goes to school all day every day, and thus misses SO MANY "moments" I automatically get with the others...even if they are only Monday, Wednesday and Friday (the school days when I am not in school). I say, "yes, of course" when Jake asks to go around the side of library and look at a spider web as we're leaving, even when I really, really don't want to. I sit in the dark of the tv room listening to Aaron play piano, for long minutes, and tell him how great he is. But it's hard! I'm always saying things like, "Elise, what if you come with me to BJ's, just you and I, to shop?" and trying to milk the ride to cello class or derby practice for all the catching up I can with Ananda. I don't ever want our interactions to be dominated by me assigning school work or asking why x, y or z isn't done.

I think we're still doing pretty damn well. I'm just also aware of how easy it would be, to not be.

Amanda Palmer reblogged my post about the concert, with commentary. Just sayin' :)
altarflame: (deluge)
This evening, while Grant got the grill going, I ran up to the store for a couple of dinner ingredients we were missing. Got home, and Elise had on dark sunglasses and a jacket tied around her waist. Arms crossed over her chest, she started doing squats and chanting in a deep voice, "Emo, emo, emo!" Meanwhile, Jake ran past me with a hamster puppet on a wooden sword, yelling, "We're having roast hamster tonight!!!!" Then Aaron appeared, asking if I wanted to see how deep he'd cut his finger while he and Adrian were whittling with Adrian's homemade knives as though I was going to be REALLY impressed.

My house :)

Right this way to the pictures (and one short video)... )

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