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)... )
altarflame: (deluge)
A couple of my friends who live up in Miami like to say I live in "the sticks," which I always protest, because, what? This is not the sticks! Sure, I get the occasional possum and raccoon on the deck, and yeah, we can walk past a tomato field to feed a horse some carrots, but what of that? :p Then I am actually up around Miami, and come back home, and see this as our highway exit...

Isaac (scooter), Jake (bike), and Elise (running) in our obviously not rural area ;) I'm on a bike, and you'll just have to take my word for it.

I thought it was funny, in an "of course" sort of way, when I got to Girl Scout camp a little late to pick these two up one day, and this is how they were using their time:

She was so thrilled to have people at camp (albeit more counselors than campers) who understood her excitement about the Neil Gaiman signing, and SuperCon :)

Pictures from Dance Empire's (public, widely promoted) Instagram, obviously screencapped from my phone - I had resisted Instagram successfully for so long, but then when Aaron basically started LIVING at the studio and they were posting pics all day, I had to do it. He's in both of those groups, doing ab exercises. Because DE actually takes their company dancers to the beach, since it's harder to run on sand and harder to maintain balance in the water O_o

The thrown together Peter pan costume I mentioned.

Sometimes, there's no living with this kid. Who happened to be turning 12, the day these were taken.

I actually made the entire hat for that ensemble before I realized I'd used a toddler pattern as a guide. It WAS 1 in the morning... Beary got a hat.

Jake is so touched, whenever anyone does anything FOR Beary.

Isaac, with his clarinet (that seems as big as he is, to me) and after he was done riding on Jake's shoulders.

He got pretty darn good on the recorder last year, but this is obviously next level - it's more complicated fingering patterns, harder to make the sound with the reed, and WAY heavier and harder to hold up on his thumbs.

That (Hot Cross Buns) was from yesterday, and he's already doing it more smoothly and also playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, today :D

GMYS posted this one a couple of places. Jake in black on flute near the camera, and Isaac in red down on the end, with his clarinet. They elected to quit violin and switch, this year - Elise is still playing violin.

Sorry this is awkward, it's a screencap from my facebook app, but look at them last year, in their camp shirts, on their way out the door one morning...

And this year:

The biggest difference I see, aside from how badly our mat has aged and how much less hair Jake and Elise are sporting, is in my Beasty's height - I didn't notice at first, but she's on the step in pic 1, and standing on the porch with the boys in pic 2. She's grown so much!

Best ever. Lettuce wraps and bubble tea from Stir Moon, which INCLUDING A 25% TIP is $13. So yummy.

My lovely Ananda baked a cake and made the frosting totally on her own, for the first time.

She thought it tasted "weird," but I could tell she was somewhat proud of it as she served it up to a line of eager siblings.

Photobombing, separate days.

My Elisey Beast.

Math, yesterday after dancing. You can see the progression from, "ok, multiplication review" to "WHAT'S THAT?! A CAMERA?!" pretty clearly, I think.

Ananda, sciencing (really, that's a word) in her laboratory room.
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
Fucking GAH.

Ok! In the past 24 hours:

-a woman was thrown in a van and kidnapped in the parking lot of Grant's job; he and some other people in the office heard her screaming from upstairs. Cops were called. There is video footage, but it's not clear or close enough for identifying the victim or perpetrator :/ For what it's worth, he works adjacent to a nice hotel in a 7 story office building on a main road and this was broad daylight. I'm doing that thing people do, where you hope there's a lot more to this story and it wasn't totally random because then it could be, alright, it's possible this is some kinky consensual shit arranged via Craigslist...right?!?!

-we found our missing cat, Elvis. Dead, under our deck :/ I have no idea what happened to him, and it was not something we could discern looking at him. He hadn't acted strangely, he just went missing and aside from looking for him a lot we didn't know what to do...then it started stinking out there. Elvis was born on my bed three years ago, and used to ride around in my cleavage. He slept with Annie most nights, but Isaac sometimes. Ugh. Grant buried him and it was horrific, just, it is really hot and really rainy and nobody was allowed outside until he was done. G's felt sick all day since. Sophie, Ananda's cat, was at the doors yowling and acting disturbed the whole time he was working and has been lying in Elvis's "spots" around the house all day, since.

-someone whose life I have been following online for about 7 years, and vice versa, announced on facebook that her husband had a stroke driving their son home after work/school yesterday. They're 33. The guy managed to pull over and call for help and seems as ok as he can be, even joking a little in the ICU, but... O_O It's so terrifying and seemingly random :/ This family lives in the greater Boston area and are just getting over the whole city wide terror shit from the Marathon bombers.

I have already been in a state of thinking of my stroke-addled Nana and aging Pa daily, since Aaron and I went up there for the dance convention last month, and have spent the past couple of weeks forcing away shitty thoughts about the abducted women found in Ohio as I allow my kids to branch out and do things. Now my terrible, raised-on-horror writer's mind is seeing all our cats as potentially rotting carcasses and not wanting to handle raw meat. It's pretty terrible.

In an effort to distract myself, while cuddling with Grant, I somehow got sucked into a ridiculous New Times article about a cult based out of central Florida and the crimes, abuse, rape, and so forth they're being accused of now that their guru has died and people are bringing all the stories to light.

How is any of this shit real life? How is ALL OF IT real life? I mean when I was a teenager/young adult I knew of a local cult with a weird prophet-guru, one of our best friends was in a serious relationship with a member and they collectively owned a business we went to a lot. But they were totally peaceful cultists.

Then I start thinking of how people are so desperate for meaning and long for systems of continuity that distract us from the impermanence of everything and how every single thing we do is a way to fill the time we have and make the best of it, O_O You know, as I cuddle and console Elise while she sobs about Elvis being dead.

After writing that first bit - I actually forgot all this crap for half an hour and laughed hysterically just by forcing myself through several pages of - you see what a paragon of depth and meaning I am, over here?


...ah-ight, more pictures from the vault...

these are all from the weekend of the dance convention, away and home... )
altarflame: (deluge)
Today, it was just Jacob, Elise and I at home during the school day. Grant was up at his office, A&A were at a friend's, and Isaac was at school. We sat around the table eating snack plates* and playing with Story Cubes for awhile. I'm teaching both of them to knit, this week, which is tedious as all hell but they always seem eager to get back to. We've also been working a lot with their Starfall writing journals and tear out, fold up books. The ones the two of them have are the last of my free pack of Starfall first grade workbooks and art books from 10 years ago when Starfall was giving them out free to educators and I ordered some.

After we got Isaac from school and collectively collapsed from near heat stroke, the four of us packed a swim bag and a snack bag and set out to walk up to the Y to swim. Two blocks out, though, Ms Denise (Elise's fabulous former preschool teacher) pulled over and gave us a ride in her giant SUV, which was sweet and thrilled Elise. She lives about a block from us so we knock on her door and sell her Girl Scout cookies and she always waves when Elise is playing outside as she's passing.

Anyway, swimming was cool. It's always weird for me how any mom within 75 pounds of my weight who is there with their kids is sitting on the sidelines fully clothed. I'm in a bikini, having fun in the pool. Usually after the first few minutes and/or whenever I'm not up on the deck, people stop staring. The lifeguard was fun and uncovered the diving board and encouraged kids to get on and try it - Elise is on cloud 9 for doing it when her big brothers (although she actually calls Isaac and Jake her "little brothers" and Aaron her big brother) were afraid to. The walk back was ok, it was cloudy and near sunset so aside from swarming clouds of gnats it wasn't too summer-ish.

I'm looking forward to the weekend, even though tomorrow's kinda ridic: Ananda has Girl Scout program aid training (for summer camps) from 10-4. Aaron has hip hop from 11-12:30. They both need to be picked up from Cybele's before any of that, and in the evening all 7 of us are going (and meeting various friends**) to the derby match, where Annie's junior team will be carrying the flag and generally skating around acting like they rock.

Derby matches are usually a lot of fun. And then SUNDAY!! Bwahaha, Sunday is Mother's Day, i.e. MY DAY, i.e. I will be sleeping in late, demanding all sorts of ludicrous pampering from everyone and going out alone for prolonged dates with my husband without any sort of bs guilt.

No, I am not kidding. I bought us gift cards to Outback and the movies, and new wine glasses (they were all broken over the past several months). I was just on the phone with my sister today, comparing the gifts we got ourselves - in advance of the day, obviously :p She went with clothes and a book.

*snack plates were started by my paternal, Cuban grandfather, who always gave my sister Laura and I, along with all our (all female) cousins plates of rolled lunch meat, tomato slices, olives, pickles, sometimes cheese and usually crackers. Jake and Elise are my first children to enjoy snack plates since every other kid I have hates at least one core component.

**I met this chick at the FIU transfer orientation the other day, very boho mismatched clothes, wild hair, piercings, interesting bracelets. I walked up to her and said, "I realize you shouldn't really judge people based solely off of their appearances. But you really look like we ought to be friends." This worked out very well, and before long we were deep into each others' life histories/aspirations, and planning for her to come to the match. She's a child psych major who wants to work with deaf kids :)

+5 pics from last Sunday afternoon, which was event-laden... )


Apr. 23rd, 2013 10:03 am
altarflame: (Ahem (sebastion))
This summer's shaping up to have a lot of cool opportunities and interesting stuff for everybody. I've been in a frenzy of emails, calls, forms and combing the calendar for the last two days, as always happens this time of year. And then again before fall.

So far this is what we've got on the table as probable, counting summer as basically anything that happens after today since a lot of it begins in May:


-5 classes at FIU, broken into 3 for Summer A term and 2 for Summer B. I actually have my schedule and financial aid in place since getting accepted, and am now setting up incidentals like going to get my student ID, having my parking pass mailed to me and acquiring my book advance/books.
-gardening - currently I have 3 flowering plants on the front porch, succulents and basil on the deck, about 40 houseplants, and a whole mess of seedlings in the house that will be transitioned to a raised bed in the coming weeks: white and flamingo chard, spinach, red and romaine lettuce, and lavender (for Isaac's anxiety, we're talking about it all along the way...we also have a "life cycle of a seed" poster hanging in our dining room these days).
-counseling. I finally made contact with somebody yesterday, like nails on a chalkboard though it was, and she's supposed to be calling me back about our insurance today. This is actually Grant and I both, separately and then together
-Writing dammit. It might be more like 2 hours per weekend rather than the hour per day I've been trying to strive for, but I can live with that if all this other stuff is happening.
-also with Grant, and "hopefully" - acquiring a second car, again (we sold the Civic awhile back, too many problems)


-regularly scheduled cello rehearsals on Sundays, and derby practice Sundays and Wednesdays, for awhile more at least
-6 hour training to be a program aide for girl scout camps, in May
-part of the color guard made up of junior derby players for the adult bout on the same day in May O_o
-GMYS finale concert THE NEXT DAMN DAY good grief
-going paintballing with her derby team later on in the month
-3 weeks of Girl Scout camp in June and July, 2 as a Program Aide (volunteer/helper basically, then next year she'll get to be a Counselor In Training) and one as a regular ol' Girl Scout
-Somewhere in the midst of that, attending the Southern Regional Junior Derby...whatever it's called, rally or some shit up in central Florida - this will involve her team being in their first two bouts!*
-auditioning into whatever ensemble for GMYS for the fall, before the summer is over - I'd also like to try to get her some kind of supplemental cello learnin' but it basically has to be free so either a public school program, a magnet she only goes to the music portion of, or this Frost mentor program...we'll see
-she also wants to look into starting to volunteer at the library, we'll see, and has a goal of "being at sleepovers as often as possible this summer"
-which could be related to the whole "SHE'S TURNING 13 ON JUNE 1!!!!" thing


-hip hop on Saturdays and jazz dance on Thursdays**, til the eventual Dance Empire end of year recital
-I'm basically trying to decide whether to try to get him into a camp at Dance Empire or just sign him up for their intensive weeks, and/or their summer classes
-either way he wants to do ballet technique classes again, which is interesting to me and they're offered on Saturdays in one big block so yeah sure he doesn't have to pay ~shrug~ They're offering 7-15 yo barre and stretch, 7-15 yo turn and jump, 7-15 yo open ballet and pre-point for 10-16 year olds as a 4 hour long extravanganza, and he's aghast at how inflexible he's supposedly become ever since someone complimented him on his extensions (?) last week. Dancers!
-I'm sure there will be some epic TLC party before a couple of families leave town for the summer as they generally do, and he will be in like flynn
-whatever we decide to do for his birthday on June 27th (he'll be 12)


-the rest of the school year obviously, which features the talent show he's doing a jump rope act in this Friday
-GMYS camp for a month***, now on clarinet
-birthday party in June for a PATH kid he loves


-GMYS camp for a month, hopefully playing drums (HE HATES THE VIOLIN SO MUCH)
-birthday party in June for a PATH kid he loves


-turning SIX on May 1 - we're going to the Seaquarium**** because she had no idea such wonders existed, but we have been on a big Squid YouTube kick that's somehow led into whales, and she is PSYCHED. Also, she keeps asking for a science lab so we're going to do our best to set that up as her birthday present with like, basic common kitchen ingredients common to many experiments and a space allocated in the house with a table Grant's made, and some little accessories - she will love it
-those 3 weeks of Girl Scout camps that Annie will be at, albeit in separate age groups of course
-GMYS camp for a month, back on violin

All Kids:

-(well, minus Isaac in this instance) homeschool yearly evaluations
-(and plus me in this one) dental checkups/cleanings

*It will probably be Grant taking her to paintballing and the rally, for a variety of reasons - also, Grant is not travelling anymore in the forseeable immediate future, under his new supervisor that's looking like a more quarterly sort of thing...and he works from home on the days I'll be in school.

**I actually found another Dance Empire parent IN HOMESTEAD who is WILLING AND ABLE TO CARPOOL, this is life changing people, seriously, wow. I am excited.

***the little kids' camp is actually IN HOMESTEAD, good grief A&A's was insanely far last summer, that was a circus

****If you are a AAA member, in the month of May you can go to the AAA office and get a (discounted!) Seaquarium ticket, and then take it to the Seaquarium, and they will give you another one free. Since the Seaquarium is absurdly, disgustingly, prohibitively overpriced, this is a big deal that can potentially make it possible to go. It ends up being $36 plus tax for two adults, rather than $80.
altarflame: (Default)
I really didn't sleep much this past week, and I seem to be making up for it by sleeping the entire weekend away.

Two different nights, I stayed over at my sister's until like 4 in the morning talking and hanging out and periodically cuddling her young (sleeping) baby (who can't be put down without Laura or she'll wake up). Both nights, the times were kind of an accident as we were both shocked when we realized how late it was - I basically headed over after we both had all our kids settled in bed around 10. One of those nights, her husband Frank was home, and pretty entertaining, and part of the conversation, and that my friends is pretty weird. He went on a Starbucks run for us O_o I did take over rum as a peace offering, but...

Then there was the night I stayed up til 3 at home, going over a final draft of my manuscript and getting it sent back to my publisher so they can format it.

Then there were the two nights I stayed up til 2 or so, studying for my proctored, week late, not-associated-with-my-teacher statistics final. That has been a kind of an ongoing nightmare ordeal - thank you to everyone who weighed in, I did go to the chair of math at that campus and he was glad to hear everything I said but also critical of me coming so late in the semester. I'm not really sure how it's all gonna play out yet. I think I did pretty well - probably B well - on that test, but am not sure if that's "enough," or if my overall grade's been decreed contestable. I'm trying to have a positive outlook and just know that if I end up retaking the course come fall, I'll be going in already knowing 75% of it very well....

Aced my psych final without studying. In a "finished first, only person to get a 100" way.

Last night, Grant and I drove up to Miami Beach, ate, drank and wandered around before sitting for a long time on Lincoln Rd watching people go by.

And keeping in mind that I had to have Isaac, Jake and Elise ready at GMYS camp by 9 each morning, except for the field trip day they had to be there at 8:30. Somehow, this didn't even seem very hard. I was not tired throughout the week (and I was not getting nap opportunities). But then today I slept til 10, we took the kids to brunch at a local diner, and then came home and I immediately went back to sleep until 5 pm.

I'm writing this epic beast of a paper letter to an old friend. We've decided to be pen pals and I realized when I sat down to start that I'm really not sure how much she already knows from the past few years. I mean, it's currently 17 pages. I put the business sized envelope back and grabbed a manila a couple of days ago.

Something has also shifted in my outlook, such that I am looking forward to surgery. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, and I will still be freaked about it right before I go in, I'm sure - but as things stand I'm doing really well knowing it's coming (we're planning for Spring, fyi).

Grant's going to Minnesota for a couple of days for work. I remember a time when I would have been really miserable about that, but that's definitely not the case anymore. Kinda just wish it was somewhere cooler for him because, really? Minnesota?

I recently gave Ananda and Aaron the assignment to write a paper for me about things they want for the coming school year. I said it could be in any area, but needed to at least have some actual school-centered thoughts in it.

This is Annie's, HEAVILY corrected for spelling but not in any other way:
"I have little opinion on the subject of the school year. I will of course read more books, preferably fiction. I would enjoy it much if I could continue my musical studies and I am thoroughly convinced that we should do more history. I would like (if it's possible) to go back to dance. It would be great if Aaron would stop being so annoying. It would be awesome to go to Harry Potter World or the Rapids. I would like to go swimming more often. I want to learn how to play the guitar. I want to drink an obnoxious amount of caffeine and I want to see The Hobbit (I have to read that book before the movie comes out so don't let me forget) in the theater. I want to get my own cello and learn how to sew. I want a new pair of rollerblades. I want to repaint me and Elise's room a new color. It would be cool to learn how to waterfall braid. I want to dye my hair blue, green, purple and orange, at different times of course. I want to get all of the Nirvana and Foo Fighters songs on my iPod. I want my hair to grow faster. I want season 3 of My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic to come out so I can watch it. I want to get books at the library. I want to watch horror movies with Dad. I want to get more colored and black sharpies. I want to be able to do cool things with my nail art pens. It would be nice if I could stop biting my nails. I would most definitely like to finish this. I want to go on a lot of sleepovers, and I want to sleep in a lot, and listen to really loud music (cuz loud music is awesome!). I would like to continue to study astronomy. And next time I would prefer to type instead of writing this down."

My commentary on all that is:
-cool, Christmas gift ideas
-oh yeah, I forgot I got her a sewing machine and it's just sitting, last Christmas
-we can easily watch nail art pen YouTube videos
-How funny that she wants music I used to listen to at her same age because of Rock Band
-Geez is she ever like me. I don't know how anybody put up with me at all.

The horror movie thing is something she and Grant do now, she is constantly ravenous for more and talking about how she loves being scared. There's a fairly limited supply of horror movies that are not intensely gory or ridiculously disturbing (I'm not letting her watch Saw or Silence of the Lambs or something) - so far they've watched The Woman in Black and The Ring, which are both actually PG-13.

Aaron thinks they're both crazy.

(never finished, will post more soon :p)
altarflame: (Default)
Written this morning:

I feel like there should be Rocky music playing in the background, because I got Ananda and Aaron up to the Gables by 8, and Isaac, Jake and Elise to their place here in town by 9 (they're all at Greater Miami Youth Symphony day camps) - all five wearing specific shirts, with a packed lunch, having eaten breakfast. The big kids have a finale performance this afternoon that they're nervous about, and the littles have a field trip to see a play that they're extremely excited over. Elise has never been on a school bus before, and can't remember seeing a play.

Now I'm about to buckle down with my coffee and study statistical formulas all day long because, truly, if I don't get a really good grade on the final Saturday morning I'm likely to need to retake the class :/

Aaron on stage, for a solo and a quintet deal, at two different performances thus far.

Ananda center stage in a cello choir, and then lost among the cello section at a full orchestral performance. This is the best I can do with an iPhone in the dim auditorium with the no flash rule, unfortunately.

The day the littles came home in their camp shirts.

And Elise SO EXCITED about her (tiny!) violin :D

Aside: She wants to practice every minute of the day. I don't know if you've ever HEARD a five year old free style on a violin for hours, but...O_O I mean...I am rapidly running out of honest answers to the question, "Do you like my playing?!" So far I've overused, "I love it that you love your violin!" and "The more you practice the better you'll get!" along with, "I can tell you're really into it..." Ananda taught her how to use the bough on the right area, at least, so now it's a somewhat rich cacophany as she leaps about, "singing" "songs," and not just a constant screech-scratching.

Written last night:
I am so at odds with myself right now. So stuck in this paradox of what is best for each kid, our family, me, etc.

We live in a house we love, and can afford, and OWN, which is big since we have terrible credit and a big family/love of pets for a landlord to accept - and it's in a rural suburb where there is little to nothing for my older kids to "do". We love and visit the Everglades several times a year, and their aunt Laura/our local friend Kristin are both over frequently. My college campus is very close to our house. The charter school we're considering for a couple of the younger kids is very close by, too, right around where Elise's preschool was. There are a couple of farm stands we adore, a family owned bookstore we try to be loyal to, and a couple of restaurants we enjoy - along with the place where we get our cars fixed.

But that's it. IT, it. I mean, aside from grocery stores.

Their homeschool social network of amazing friends, the really competetive and superior dance school they're interested in/have went to in the past, their symphony classes/group (and right now, daycamp), and most of the activities and enrichment we're interested in, are all 40-60 minutes up the road. The zoo we've had a membership to, the cool stores they want to buy things at, Isaac's free counseling and evaluator, everything. We even tend to drive for a better library branch, since our local one has an extremely small and outdated selection compared to anything to the north (though Annie often puts in requests for our branch, since she burns through books too quickly to wait). That area - the Pinecrest/Kendall and Coral Gables area - is rich in concentrated artistic and cooperative awesomeness and for several years now we've been up there 2-5 times per week for various things that I believe everyone is getting a lot out of.

There is absolutely no (financial) way we can move our family there, though, and I am losing my mind from the driving. We're also really straining the boundaries of how much car time is fair to the younger kids, and what we can afford in gas/maintenance spending (to say nothing of my environmentalist pangs...which are sometimes significant).

I do what I can to maximize efficiency and fun; we have it down to a science to pack snack bags and grab books to look at on the way out the door. The younger three also each have a dry erase board and set of markers for it that they keep out there. Several times during this day camp period for Ananda and Aaron, I've taken the younger three bowling or on the metrorail to the main branch of the library or out to the beach, so that we weren't doing the round trip twice. And several times A&A have went home with another family we know well who also has kids there, who love them and just took them back with their own kids the next day. We have a built in dvd player that we use maybe once a week in the van, too. Still, it's feeling terrible - Jake has developed car sickness, especially in the early morning, and has thrown up in the van 3 times this summer (and thought he was going to another half dozen) :/ I mean, this camp experience has been priceless and awesome and all that jazz, but it's meant that on most weekdays the little kids and I spend almost 4 hours total on the road! It's (the older kids/far one) almost over, but their progress means they were able to audition into ensembles they're excited about for the year. That are up the road.

And Aaron's old dance teacher calls/texts me periodically to remind me of her willingness to scholarship him completely, and I really see how good that was for Aaron and how he has something and could make a life out of performing and then teaching dance. He still begs to dance again, and is very willing to devote hours per day to it. With a child as NOT academic and with such a short attention span, that's huge! How can I say no?

But how can I say yes?! They're gonna want him most evenings during the week. They're gonna try to have him for competitions and traveling; that's the whole point of scholarshipping him - they want talented (and gorgeous :p) boys so they can win competitions. It's gonna be a big deal, not just for him but for everyone in our family. I am not someone who can stomach just declining when my kid has huge opportunities presented to them; it's going to either break my heart or break our bank account, when they're asking for him to go to another state again. I mean that NYC trip...I don't regret it at all, but we were screwed for a solid 6 months afterward. It was not something most people in our circumstances would have even considered.

Two days ago that dance school had a picture on facebook, of alumni with a tv show coming out, standing in front of a massive 3-building lit ad for the show in Times Square. And I get goosebumps, and then I get really stressed out, dammit.

I also really love our quiet times at home. I see tremendous value in CHILLING OUT AT THE HOUSE, doing creative things, reading, sit down schoolwork, cooking and eating together. We still have tea a couple of times a week. Still gather for dinner. I know families who either cannot do activities financially or have opted out due to logistics, and I understand what they're doing and why. Their households are calmer and their children are more thoughtful and that is kind of priceless to me - and yet. I just don't know where the balance is, here. Even if everyone "just" has ONE thing per week...that adds up to an awful lot of stuff.

Our fall schedule is already looking insane, without dance and without knowing what the GMYS schedule is gonna be. I mean at minimum it's my last semester at MDC, Isaac and Elise will most likely be at the charter school, Isaac will be in counseling again come October and I'll be trucking everybody up to TLC and PATH on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Then there is this WHOLE other variable of whether to move two hours north, so that we're still the same distance from everything we travel to now, but Grant is very near his job. His commute is not sustainable. I would miss our town terribly, but am also psyched about the idea of being somewhere else. The house thing is hard. His job is still in such a transitional state that his boss has told him he should wait til the end of the year to relocate, "until things totally settle down." GAH.
altarflame: (Default)
I'm going to do an epic entry about Elise's birthday with tons of pictures sometime soon, but in the meantime, I want to talk about my biology class.

First of all, it's rather time-intensive, since it's only a 6 week long course. I'm going from 9-11:20 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and there is quite a lot of reading to do outside of class hours. It's also intensive in grading policies; the professor is covering a chapter per class, each ending with a quiz, and doing a test every two weeks (three total). His quizzes and tests are all fill in the blank answers without any multiple choice, they are the entirety of your grade, and since it is a short class he has a strict no-makeup policy.

I was surprised and impressed by how much nicer the science classrooms at MDC apparently are - huge in comparison to the ones I've been in, with whole walls made of glass looking out. Wood floors, tall lab tables and 5 foot maps and diagrams floor to (high) ceiling make me feel as though perhaps I'm "really in college," although we still have tiny, slanted desk surfaces and can I just ask WHAT THAT IS ALL ABOUT?! It can't just be me, since I found this on the internet the other day:

My textbook is larger than my desk, and you absolutely cannot stand up without all your stuff falling off. I cannot tell you how familiar the sound of all of someone's stuff crashing to the floor is, in my classes.

There are no words for how I hate those desks.

Anyway, my teacher is really something. He has a moderate southern accent with a minor lisp - very Russell Edgington, or perhaps Darrell. He's also either the most interesting man to have ever lived, or is so supremely full of shit that I am dumbfounded he isn't being laughed off the podium. I haven't decided yet. Here is a list of accomplishments he's told us he has, through anecdotal stories, over the course of two classes:

-he's traveled the world
-worked in Italy on new cancer treatments
-tried to teach doctors in the US about it
-been asked advice on new car designs by the CEO of Ford, at the Republican Convention
-been asked for medical advice by Manuel Noriega (just over the phone, though)
-owns a horse
-jet skis
-was a single father to successful children
-manages at least one musical group and is "heavily involved in the music industry," as well as having had various performers live with him at different times (and ask him to come with them on visits to their own doctors)
-is the cousin of the guy who plays the Incredible Hulk
-delivered many babies and did quite a few open heart surgeries, in New England
-maintained a family practice, in central Florida, where he helped many African Americans who are prone to high blood pressure
-was the absolute best at "all procedures," including fluid drainage, spinal taps and so forth, in Connecticut, where he treated mostly Polish people who drank too much

And this man, this renowned and fabulous man, is....teaching at Miami Dade Community College.


I just...don't get me wrong, ok? I have been very impressed with some of my teachers and assignments, and MDC Homestead is very architecturally brilliant with lots of green space and a huge student body. MDC as a whole is (according to their never-ending hold messages, anyway) the biggest secondary learning institution in the country. Obama was at the graduation ceremony last year! And if he wants to live out in the Redlands or down in Key Largo, I suppose a full time teaching position would be a relatively low-stress facilitator for that.

I don't know, man. I have had to keep my laughter silent a couple of times as he goes on up there.

This teacher is extremely open about his personal opinions in a mentor sort of way, too - he's very skeptical of evolution, and urges us all to use the internet to get medical information our doctors won't give us, as well as advising us that through a controlled experiment of eating only cucumbers, mozarella cheese and TGIFridays spicy wings (not the other kinds - this is important) he was able to lose 25 pounds in two months.

The actual class - the biology part - is wonderful. I love this kind of material. Yesterday was all about chemistry necessary to biology - atoms and their parts, how they combine into molecules, radioactive and other isotopes and how they're used in medicine, solutions and their parts, blah blah blah. I already know most of it from high school retention and teaching my kids but it was like he organized all the information I had just jangling around loose in my head. I'm thinking of heat being energy and what the electrons are doing, as I wash the dishes :)

Today was about cells, and was a mixture of things I already knew (like the root causes for lactose intolerance and sickle cell anemia, and the affects steroids have on various body systems) and things I did not (like how proteins string together and the basic building blocks of all cells and how we get them to combine into polymers and, gah, I love this kind of science and how it relates to life). Water is looking different to me in the best possible way.

I'm going to be in Statistics for 3 hours+ every Saturday for the entire 12 week semester, and after this first 6 week biology session is over, I start the 2nd 6 week session in Psych of Personal Effectiveness, which sounds like bs to me but who knows. Then in the fall I do Spanish 2, retake Abnormal psych from back in the day and take one natural (as opposed to applied) science, and will be done with my AA in December.

We're going to have a busy summer, since Isaac, Jacob and Elise have two different two week sessions of beginner camp with Greater Miami Youth Symphony here in town where my four older kids have been taking classes, and Ananda and Aaron have a 6 week session of Intermediate camp up the road 40 minutes.

And for one week, those sessions overlap. But, one of our favorite TLC families is also going to have kids at Intermediate Camp and has already offered to help with that. We'll also have a second car by then so I won't be doing this ridiculous shlepping Grant to the train thing if I need the van.

Elise is so excited to get to go with her brothers this year. At the moment I think the absolute best part is that we're going to be getting her a lunch box (and she wants My Little Ponies, just like her new bedding that she purchased with birthday money).

Facebook excerpt from this morning:
It. Is. So. HOT.
After walking Elise to preschool, riding my bike to and from college, and walking to get Elise from preschool, I have sunburned upper arms and basically came in and did a "strip and shower" thing followed by chugging water. I am so glad we're getting another car before summer is REALLY upon us (since according to this is "only" 86 and feels like 90).
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This day, like every other freakin' day lately, can best be described as "gah" and best be handled through coffee.

I took Grant to the train station.
Got Elise to preschool. And because I went to the Health Department the other day she finally has her permanent vaccine exemption so I was able to be like "I got you that form!" rather than "Oh dear, I am gonna do that, I swear I am".
Am now texting Annie's GS troop leader about cookie/money exchange later today since I forgot it conflicts with Isaac's counseling.
I have a humanities quiz and humanities bulletin board posts due today in one of my online classes, that have to be done before I get Elise from preschool (at noon). I'm going to be squeezing them around getting something out for dinner, and making the remaining kids do various enriching or house cleaning things.
Then cookies, and counseling.
Then PATH. Where Annie can sell cookies and I can talk with Karen about A and A doing two days with her kids next week like we previously mentioned.
Then picking Grant up from the train station.
Then dinner, dishes, reading to everyone, their bedtime.
My bedtime, which will, I imagine, be far too close to my wake time (5:45am to drive Grant to the train station again tomorrow, so I can have the van to take the kids to GMYS since Annie still doesn't have a case for her cello and I am not taking a cello with no case for blocks of walking and then a trolley ride through rough parts of town).

Yesterday I filled out an insane stack of printed (registration and scholarship) forms for over an HOUR, so that all five kids can go to GMYS music camp this summer. They're sitting in a manila envelope with our printed taxes from last year until A and A can get their teachers to sign off on them doing intermediate rather than beginners this time around, tomorrow. It was interesting picking preferred electives out with them. And this is an interesting add on to my filling out and submitting applications galore for charter schools for the fall just in case and to keep options open, and the preview to picking Girl Scout camp weeks and locations for Ananda, and deciding whether or not to do VBS O_O It's crazy to me that in order for these things to happen in 6 months, I have to worry about them NOW before everything is full and deadlines are past.

I have to do the math tonight so that if I don't understand it I have tomorrow and the next day to go to the learning support lab before my test Sunday.

I'm on my stupid (torrential) period.

I have a meeting with a complete fruit bat this Saturday, to talk about whether or not she (as a groupless leader) and I (as an interested party) will start duo-style Overeaters Anonymous meetings. She's just a harmless garden variety Florida Keys fruit bat, saying a local bar would be the perfect place to meet and telling me about all the nice Hell's Angels in her area, including her podiatrist. She has that weird Keys accent that means "everyone here is from a different part of the country if not the world and it blends into a mush". I am extremely comfortable around people like this.

The place recommended by the therapist who told me I have too severe of an eating disorder for him, as a student-therapist, to possibly help me with? That place is a freaking RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER with a spa-like website. Right.

My high school best friend, who is also Ananda's first GS troop leader, and who's wedding I attended last year, wants a case of cookies. I'm meeting up with her after Algebra on Sunday, and I'm glad. We really don't see each other enough.

I managed to cram in an hour and a half with Kristin two nights ago, during which she fed me fabulous things, we showed each other way too many texts and pictures on our phones, and there was a lot of laughter.

However, I realized on the drive to the train this morning - which Grant passed sleeping in the second row of the van under a blanket since he feels like crap and it's an hour drive - that I have still not managed to find an opportunity to talk to my husband this week about things that happened on MONDAY.

I'm buying a french press because otherwise the next time someone outgrows their shoes I'm gonna have to be like, "sorry guys, from now on you wear old Starbucks cups on your feet".
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I am eating it up! Sometimes literally. Right now I'm having a gingerbread man :D

Last Thursday evening was Elise's preschool Christmas show. It was hilarous and awesome. We brought cupcakes.

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Because we left in a flurry of "can't be late" with baking stuff everywhere, and forgot to lock up Oliver (Aaron's cockatoo), we arrived home to find him on the kitchen counter and a GIANT mess all over the counter and floor...the contents of 4 different jars of sprinkles, the empty jars themselves, the mixer bowl with frosting coming out of it, spatula and spoon and cups including the water they'd had in them, stuff from the junk drawer that had been left ajar, the shredded remains of a printed recipe...having a parrot is like having a toddler that never grows up. FOR SEVENTY YEARS.

Ananda managed to rook Grant out of FIVE DOLLARS for the cleanup (I usually offer one or at most two for a single cleaning job...but she's shifty and saving for a guitar :p). She did a great job, too, that whole room was sparkling the next day.

Friday, my Beast had "Pajama Day" at school. She was thrilled to go in wearing a nightgown and slippers to watch movies and eat popcorn. Ms Denise was all teary eyed saying she's one of her favorites ♥ I love that woman.

I feel really good about her and preschool. Sometimes I wonder how Isaac and Jake would have done, but then I remember how impossibly difficult Isaac was at her age, and how different Jake's temperament could be...I think AWANA and VBS were good to them, let's just say ;)

While she was there the rest of us went to Miami Children's Hospital and got Aaron's cast off (FINALLY, geez). The smell...I mean...there is no way to describe how terrible it smelled in that room when his five-weeks-insulated foot was unleashed on the air. I seriously almost ran from the room. I was still feeling ill an hour later. I mean...*shudder* The doc knew - he looked up at me and said "Get ready" right before it came off, and had alcohol there ready that he immediately handed him, saying "Clean your foot!"

I ALSO crammed a trip to BJ's during their music classes and going to pick up Grant into that day, before dinner...this is why we sometimes end up having dinner at 10 pm. After which, on Friday nght, we watched Home Alone with all the kids - a first for the three littles and the first time in years for the older ones. I really forgot how impossibly, ridiculously cute Macaulay Culkin used to be. Jake was cracking us up laughing hysterically at the burglars walking into traps...Kids beating grownups; the ultimate crowd pleaser.

Saturday night was Grant's company Christmas party (way the hell in BOCA). I was not sure what to expect, kind of anticipating a lot of "small talk" and some awkwardness. It was a lot of fun, though! We were at a table with great people - a guy from the Ukraine who kept asking me language questions and telling me cool cultural things; the most BEAUTFUL Haitian woman, like, I almost felt I was being rude staring at her; a couple of hilarious aging platinum blondes who had too much to drink and were not afraid to mock yawn and roll their eyes during speeches; and Grant and his boss. The food was out of control - I skipped the salads and bread but this fish covered in capers and tomatoes and spinach, mmmmmmmmm, and chicken marsala with lots of mushrooms, and shrimp linguini, and so much apple crisp and tiramisu, and tiny cake truffles, just OM. The combination of ornate, gothic detailing in the swanky room and the four very large glasses of merlot I had (they kept coming around pouring!) make it all very surreal and enjoyable in my memory.

We spent an hour talking and walking and snacking around the city part of Miami Beach - taking Shaun extra cake truffles from the party since his place is right there, sitting at a picnic table...I was getting all existential and Grant kept asking questions since he could tell I was gonna be raw and poetic with answers, until I started laughing about how I am not Ernest Hemingway and really can't be getting drunk and spouting life philosophy until I have some cred. Then we went to the beach-Beach and slept on the sand until it was too chilly, and then went home :)

Yesterday was a day of baking cookies for our tree and doing last minute shopping for presents.

Rolling pins for all sizes!

My brother's girlfriend was over for part of it (they mostly "played video games" and "watched movies" in his room...eww). Grant did some yardwork with a few different littles, and took Annie out once. Totally relaxed Sunday.

Then today - TODAY!!! I slept in...on a weekday. This has not happened in months and months and I am so psyched to continue it :) No homework due for me, no schoolwork for the kids, no preschool to get Elise to...we're still going to TLC tomorrow but whatevs.

Also, I logged into the college site, and got nothing but good news.
1. Two As and a B for this past semester.
2. Overall GPA now such that I can apply for the MDC scholarship that will mean more money in our pockets.
3. EVERYTHING all set and ready to go re: my Spring schedule, financial aid and book advance O_O NO calling in...NO seeing an advisor...NO standing in lines...NO logistical hoops to jump through?!? Being off of academic probation rocks.

SIDENOTE: The FREE music classes my children receive, along with many others in multiple locations around the county, with FREE loaned instruments and FREE songbooks, and truly dedicated, caring teachers, are all through the Greater Miami Youth Symphony and funded through the Children's Trust. GMYS is having an instrument drive you can donate any amount of money to, no matter how small, and there is an organization matching donatons so you get double impact when you donate following this link: Tax deductible and a GREAT way to pay it forward and promote the arts :)
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Sometimes I really feel like we are part of a local community in a way that makes me happy. It took a long time to reach this point because we don't live in a world where neighbors routinely talk to each other or it's simple to find every resource where you live. I remember the years when it was just the kids and I - even before the internet, with Ananda and Aaron - fondly, but this is a whole different kind of great, too.

Last Friday, I walked Elise the few blocks to her preschool in the morning. When I went to pick her up a couple of hours later, I brought Aaron with his bird on his shoulder. Not long after she got home, Elise was SO EXCITED because her teacher, who lives about a block from us, was outside our yard where they were all playing (she had come looking for her 10 year old son, who is a friend of Aaron's - and because there are similarly aged kids in three of the four homes at this intersection all the kids gather).

(they found a moth, that Aaron immediately went to his giant reference book of butterflies and moths to classify)

Then all the kids and I walked up to the trolley stop. I said hi to an artist from ArtSouth and a woman I used to go to church with, who were coming in and out of the community center where the trolley stop is. Then we rode it over to ArtSouth for the kids' music lessons - my friend Kristin was there picking up her kids and we stood around talking for a few minutes. She and her housemate Carina are throwing a Halloween party we're invited to. Ligia, Ananda's Girl Scout Troop leader, has kids in GMYS too and we stood around talking about curricula (she also homeschools). I think Jake is trying to chat up her youngest in the cutest possible way.

(who can resist a boy with a violin on his back?)

When music lessons were over, Aaron had to go one block over to where his acting group is meeting. Nearby on the sidewalk, a tourist asked which is THE BEST Mexican food and THE BEST antique shop, because that's what we have "downtown"...a lot of both of those things. So I pointed her towards Casita Tejas (where we eat) and Jacobsens (where we've bought half a dozen things for our house).

I love PATH and TLC and our pediatrician and so on, but all of those things are 30+ minutes north by highway. Sometimes it seems like a miracle to have discovered real resources HERE in my little town that exists as part of the worst area of suburban sprawl in the entire country. Like that I can get on my bike and ride a mile or so to my college classes, taught by good teachers at a big campus with funky architecture and lots of green space, is almost surreal. We ride our bikes to get our homeschool evaluations! The days where we go eat at Mama Mia's and walk to the grocery store can really be the best days. Sidenote for locals: I HIGHLY recommend both the bruschetta and the cappuccino at Mama Mia's.

Tangenitally, if you're local and reading this, the Sleeper family's bookstore (formerly Spellbound Books) has moved to a WAY superior location across from the old bowling alley in the strip mall, next to a karate studio. WORLDS apart from the crappy place they were in for awhile there.

The kids and I talked a lot last week about the Occupy______ movements, and the concept of the 99% (then we saw Occupy Miami tent campers in a park over the weekend, on the way to the Spooky Symphony). Describing those things to children of course requires a lot of talk about the economy, a review of basic economic principles, an overview of what the stock market is and what Wall St is (Aaron remembers seeing it when we were in New York), as well as talk of banks and lending standards, mortgages and foreclosures, student loans, health care, outsourcing, China, and euros challenging dollars as the Gold Standard. I always try to teach a very unbiased version of politics, for the record, though they generally know where I stand (as well as where others do, and why). Anyway, even though all five kids were there for these conversations as we sat down to lunch, I was mostly talking to Ananda and Aaron, since they were the ones interested in what I was blogging about and who I felt could most understand what I was saying.

Then yesterday, Isaac and Grant found a dollar in the road. Isaac was hoping there would be more, but it was just the one. He made some jokes about dollars blowing around in the wind because people were burying them to try to grow money trees, and then said how crazy it would be if he could really grow money trees. Then he floored Grant by adding, "but I guess then everyone would grow money trees, and there would be so much money that it would start to be worth less and that wouldn't work at all".

I thought it was amazing that Isaac not only understood my economics lesson well enough to absorb that but was also able to apply it in context that way!

I continue to believe that our long meandering discussions teach them far more than any book work does.

The Spooky Symphony was great :) I think it's exciting in a different way this year, since my kids are all in (or will be in) Greater Miami Youth Symphony themselves and so they know they could be up there alongside the Alhambra people in a few years if they excel.

(from the balcony of the Gusman Theater)
altarflame: (NewFive)
I made Ananda and I a separate, vegetarian dinner tonight (usually she just doesn't eat the meat in whatever is for dinner). Mushroom bisque, curried chickpeas and tomato slices I dolled up. Hers had salt, pepper, basil, olive oil and parmesean. She was in heaven.

I'm contemplating whether I should reconsider our Friday afternoons...we're not going to TLC (a purely social homeschooling meetup at a library half an hour north of us, the day after PATH which is the same thing with many of the same kids but at a park) because we're doing Greater Miami Youth Symphony in that time slot (local, free, and a continuation of their summer music camp). Clearly, in theory, there is no contest here. Jake and Isaac with violins, Aaron with a flute! But, in practice, I'm not so sure.

TLC was really satifying, decompressing socializing time for me, and all the kids had a great time at it, too, all summer...there are more older kids for Ananda and Aaron there (vs PATH), in a setting where they can branch off more than at the park (by going to the adjacent community center or out to the walking path while adults stay in the library) and it's pivotal to a lot of larger social interactions (sleepover pick ups and drop offs, mostly, but also things the teens toss around there like having a book club or doing an ongoing art project for someone who's moved out of state). Meanwhile, the weekly classes at GMYS seem a little less fabulous than the intensive camp was; very crowded, only 30-45 minutes of instruction in a large group setting. Still, because of different start times and general disorganization, we have to all be there for at least an hour and a half that involves me sitting around in a REALLY mosquito infested courtyard with the girls, trying not to be bored. Aaron is learning all sorts of things on the flute by ear, and is so good at that, that he never has to actually learn to read music to follow along with the class on paper. So it's sort of pointless to send him to try to do Mary Had a Little Lamb when, A, he will not learn it by notes and they can't really make him or even test him on sheet music skills, and B, he's here at home mastering piccolo songs from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack....

Jake and Isaac like having violins and want to learn to play them but we've been kind of lacking in enforcing daily practice, which is really necessary here if they're gonna excel.I guess what I really need to do is commit to practicing, and to planning activities for those of us waiting, or just drop out, since there's little point in fretting over keeping the instruments in good condition and making it to the classes on time if they don't end up able to play an instrument (Ananda is doing a cello class that's up in Kendall on Sunday afternoons, so irrelevant here except to say she is the one who sparked the family GMYS action by suddenly really wanting to take up cello).

Elise could join GMYS next year and have a little 1/4 sized violin and that tugs at me in a hard to deny way ;) I also know they'd love to go back to camp next summer. And I really want them playing instruments.

I'm really only thinking about this because last week Elise's physical took most of the afternoon (largely in waiting room time) and so we missed GMYS and went to TLC since we were up there anyway; everyone loved it, in such a lower stress way. Cybele, Karen and I laughed SO MUCH.

Isaac, Elise, Georgia and Jake at TLC last Friday.

We spend a couple of hours on Thursday evenings killing time up north between "PATH is over" and "time to pick up Daddy at the train station". Previously this has mostly been spent helping to clean out the local Borders -

(I got this pile for $16 last Friday!)
-but now Borders is closed. So this past Friday, we went to Party City's Halloween section in Hialeah.

Wait, let me tell you, Hialeah - it's meant some interesting discussions with my kids about the difference between the ghetto, and the barrio :p And it's yielded a lot of O_O reactions from them about, say, the way store mannequins in normal clothing boutiques in nice strip malls look.

(Standard Hialeah Mannequin)

And we had Oliver with us at Party City, because he is an official PATH member and joins us at the park every week now.

(Logan with Oliver, Cooper, Ananda holding Elise's hand, and Adrian)

Anyway, entertaining ourselves at Party City:

The costumes Jake and Isaac desperately want.

It occurs to me that my taste in shoes might be "Halloween".

I lol'd.

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Sometimes, when everyone is trying to talk to me at once or I'm on the phone or I'm just frazzled trying to cook dinner...oh hell all the time, but especially in the van when he's two rows behind me and hard to hear or I'm yelling "What?!" through the locked door while Grant and I have "adult time" makes me NUTS how Isaac overtalks. He runs everything he has to say through a filter that multiplies it by 5. For instance, when someone else might say, "Can I have a popsicle?" Isaac will say, "Hey Mom, I was wondering, and I know I already had a treat this morning, but I just LOVE the flavor you have when I saw it in the freezer and I PROMISE I will eat my dinner so do you think that just MAYBE please please please I could have a popsicle, and I promise I'll throw away the wrapper and not leave the stick on the table?"

I am not exaggerating. I'm not even doing what is phonetically exaggerating but spelled correctly, however that works. Most of what Isaac says to me tends to be asking for something. It's especially exasperating because, 1. he tends to just not hear my "yes" and ask again in a minute, in ways that make NO SENSE, 2. I am not some hardass he has to manipulate by any stretch of the imagination. He really could just ask and get the same damn results. And 3., I have talked to him about it several times.

Typical conversation starts with me doing homework or editing at the main computer:

Isaac: "Mom?"
Me: "Mmhmm?"
Isaac: "I wanted to ask you a question, and I know you're doing something, and I know it isn't dark yet and we can't usually use computers before it gets dark, but -"
Jake, who is eavesdropping and sees where this is going and wants to get the drop on Isaac: "MOM CAN I USE THE LAPTOP?!"
Isaac: "Mom no don't listen to Jake, that isn't fair at all, I was just getting ready to ask you a question and Jakey heard me and so he's trying to cheat, but I was already going to tell you that I was wondering - "
Elise, who heard Jake: "NO MOM LET ME USE THE LAPTOP!!"
Isaac (getting frantic, near tears): "Elise is doing the same thing Jake is doing, they're mean and we're a family and they're supposed to be nice, I just wanted to ask you a question and they're ruining everything, can you please send them out of the room so I can ask you without anyone else interrupting?"
Me: "Isaac, I know you want to use the laptop. You can. Next time just ask without the big leadup."
Jake: "Can I be after him?"
Me: "Sure."
Jake: "Yay! I get to use the laptop!"
Isaac: "Wait, what? He can use the laptop? I wanted to use the laptop! I know it isn't dark yet and we usually have to wait until it's dark but - "
Elise: "Me being after Jake?"
Isaac: "NO! No, it's not jake, it's me, Mom tell them to leave I can't even ask you anything -"
Me: "Isaac I said YOU CAN USE THE LAPTOP. YOU CAN USE THE LAPTOP. The answer is YES! Ok?"
Isaac: "...oh. Alright! Thank you mommy, I'll set a timer so Jake knows when it's his turn and then Elise can set a timer for Jake, I'm just gonna get on or starfall and I'll see you in a little while!"


Isaac has so much anxiety, and I feel bad because it's gotten to where, at times, it is the other day when he was sobbing and going crazy because someone else got to the rocket Grant helped the kids' launch before him to bring it back, and Jake casually said "Somebody's making a fussy wussy again". *sigh* I don't know how to not laugh about that. It doesn't help him any that everybody else in the house is unusually chill, I guess.

Isaac is really the only one who seems to feel as though he's in competition with the other kids or like he is threatened by being one of several. I really don't think we favor anyone in daily life but...I don't know, I guess when I think of it Isaac has such a low threshold for EVERYTHING and really, sibling issues are just one tiny part of the complex web that is "life's frustrations".

On to pics and daily life:
This little dog followed us to and from the trolley both trips one day last week. Elise also played with him in our front yard for about half an hour, before his owner came home and called him (with plenty of scolding for escaping again).

Necessary supplies for trolley riding.

She and I waited for TWO AND A HALF HOURS outside of advisement at the college. I downloaded three different pbskids games for her to play during much of the time. I am really feeling like "How did I live before an iPhone?" increasingly often.

What I see when I try to take an afternoon nap.

Grant had the day off Thursday and was able to come with us to the kids' symphony camp's end-of-camp show. Jake ended up grouped in with some older kids and actually playing songs on his tiny violin, and Aaron had a flute solo. Annie and Isaac did great, too, they knew their parts very well and you can really see everyone learned a lot...Grant took more videos and things that will be forthcoming.

Not long after bringing them home, I drove Grant to the airport - he's been in California for work and is getting back late tomorrow. He's been taking and uploading pics here -

In the meantime, I have other lovers.


This was Elise and my lunch Friday while the kids were at their last day of camp - eaten salted, on crackers.

We have thunderstorms rolling in every afternoon now.

I let my kids jump on the trampoline in thunderstorms, which is something I remember doing with much fondness. It's kind of hilarious because I've taught them to count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to know how close it is, and to come in if the lightning gets too close. So I'll walk out there under the deck roof to peak at them and see everyone stop jumping and laughing when there's a flash, and counting on their fingers until the thunder, and then basically being like "GAME ON!"

The parking lot of the library where we go for TLC is SO BEAUTIFUL.

I mean, as parking lots go, you know?

Ananda. *sigh*

Little kids waving to Daddy. There's been a lot of texting going on.

Laura brought Brian and Elizabeth and they all hung out with Karen and I, and Georgia (Karen's little daughter/Elise's best friend). The big kids always vanish to the connected community center to socialize as though their parents aren't in the next building over the whole time.

Outside of Whole Foods eating Rice Dream pies.

Gorgeous tomatoes.


I spent a long time on phone calls yesterday morning - to get everything in order for my older four kids' homeschool evaluations (and letters of intent, for the little boys), and Elise's doctor paperwork and VPK hoohaw, for preschool in the mornings. We're just about ready to go and everyone will be (re/)starting next Monday, the 22nd.

I'm taking everyone up to St Louis for church in the morning. Church is actually way easier WITHOUT Grant, because he is just way more stressed by having them all in Mass, and more distracted by trying to parent in church, than I am. I've suggested he sit on the other side of the sanctuary from us several times :p

This is a little 20 second clip of the latest thing Aaron's come up with lately, on the piano:

I'm trying to figure out what to do with Ananda re: music and art...her GMYS (Greater Miami Youth Symphony) teacher from camp is suggesting we take her up to the Miami Dade Kendall campus on Sunday afternoons, where they have a specific cello and bass teacher, for cello, rather than bringing her to the local Friday afternoon lessons her brothers will be continuing at - since they don't really have a teacher that is a cellist, so they can only get her so far. As it is, I will be at the Kendall campus on Saturday mornings for class (it's about half an hour away); I don't know how much of our weekends I want to commit, here...weekends are seeming more precious lately what with Grant's work weeks leaving him little time at home. But I think that would be really good for Annie, and it's FREE (aside from gas, I guess).

Her art therapist just moved to a neighborhood that's half an hour away, rather than >15, like it has been (we go to her). So that will be more of a drive, though it is flexible scheduling. I could presumably set it up so that her cello and art therapy are both on Sundays to save on gas and hassle but then that is gonna eat up all of Sunday afternoon every week.

I was also perusing the Dance Empire fall schedule, since I still get the registration emails, and it kind of sucks that we really can't put them in anything even if we can afford it...they aren't offering anything for the ages/levels that A and A are on, on days we could actually do it. Year before last, they rearranged their whole schedule for Aaron's availability...but I'm not really willing to have dance take over our entire lives again (they did that because they knew he'd give them an edge competing; it's not worth it to them if we aren't going to do a lot of travelling with them and have them there for a lot of special rehearsals). I alternately think it is just fine that we aren't doing that anymore...and literally gut-wrenching :/ Parenting is hard, man! I feel such guilt when I think of how Tawanna especially taught Aaron for free, paid his way to competitions, etc as an investment, and how she was SO HAPPY and hugging and thanking me at the end of the Broadway show...but it's like...the little kids and I were spending OUR LIVES in the car and twiddling our thumbs at the park between driving, and it got so unmanageable so fast (we paid $600 just for recital costumes that year, and hundreds more for tickets and dvds of shows, and let's just not discuss New York). Both of them miss it a lot. But they also have instruments and scouting and social lives they didn't then, now. Ananda gets zero excercise, though. But she really doesn't have a dance body type. Argh.

Soooo yeah, over and out.
altarflame: (GothMaryPoppins)
Weeks old partial update:

When contemplating motherhood, I don't think most people consider the realities of what it will be like. FOR INSTANCE, this morning found me naked, bent over a laundry basket digging for clothes, when a four year old appeared behind me frantically strumming a half-sized accoustic guitar and scream-singing, "I seeeeeeeee your buuuuuuuut! Me SSSEEEE your BUTT!!!"

A lot of motherhood is like that.

Elise talks about a few things repetetively, normal four year old obsession stuff like how many brothers and sisters she has and who my parents and siblings are and basic rules of the house and that she's four and going to preschool, but not until fall, and we have an umbrella for rainy days because we're going to walk to preschool, and that her best friends are Naja and Georgia...etc. One of these things she brings up relatively often is that her "brain had problems" when she was born, and she had to be in the hospital and we were SOOO worried, but now she's doing great! Today she paused in the middle of her normal monologue around the point where people were praying for her and I wanted her to come home to ask, "WHY my brain have problems? What problems you mean? HOW?"

So I spent 15 minutes explaining what umbilical cords are, and what they're for, with lots of pictures from ye olde internet for help, and took her outside to see how the hose doesn't work if you compress a part of it and how umbilical cords usually have something in them that makes them strong so you can't compress them, but hers didn't, blah blah blah. The point is that she gets it all as I'm saying it and asks intelligent (for her age, obviously) questions about what I'm saying and DAMN would I have liked to have witnessed this interchange via crystal ball about 4 years and 2 months ago.

SIXTY pictures off of my iPhone, spanning the last three weeks, with tons of commentary... )

I realized sometime in the past few days that - for the first time in who knows how long - I'm content. I can look around and feel good about my life, as it is, without feeling there are an awful lot of things I HAVE to fix or can't live with as they are.

It's really nice.
altarflame: (Time is coming for me.)
I am really, really busy. I have too much time to think because I'm often busy in idle ways - driving people to far flung locations, sweeping the floor, sitting in a boring class, etc. But as far as sitting down to make a big entry? Not so simple lately...

I got an actual ring for my nose piercing.

I really like writing papers and analyzing literature again, for english.

Grant went to his interview for the other job and got an official offer, that he's trying to leverage to get a fat raise at his current one...but he doesn't really think that'll happen.

I made my YouTube obsessed son this cake for his 10th birthday:

Tonight, when I went and picked the two of them up from the third extended, four hour long Lord of the Rings movie (they've been showing them in theaters...) I had to listen to the most absurd conversations ever the whole way home.

Me: Logan likes Lord of the Rings?
Ananda: NO! But I'm going to make him listen anyway! I made Aaron listen for half an hour!
Aaron: It's really weird how for this, she's the hyper crazy one and I'm the calm one.
Ananda: He's the only one who'll listen!
Aaron: Sometimes I just have to play along.
Ananda: You remember the Nazgul?
Aaron: The what?
Ananda: The nazgul, come on Aaron!
Aaron: The Nashew?
Ananda: *rolling her eyes* I forget you don't speak elvish.
Aaron: Not everyone SPEAKS ELVISH ANNIE.
Ananda: Ok, well, the NAZ-GUL -
Aaron: Nah-hooey?
Ananda: NAZ-GUL!!
Aaron: Naz*raspberry fart noise*fahoohoo?
Me: Bursting into hysterical laughter as I drive
Ananda: MOM you're encouraging him!
Me: nearly wrecking as tears start to fall
Aaron: I know what you're talking about. The leader of the ring wraiths.
Ananda: You KNEW?!?!

She's absconded the ring from our Lord of the Rings monopoly and is wearing it around her neck all the time on a chain, which causes Aaron to constantly talk in a horribly accurate Gollem voice about The Precious and randomly tackle her for it.

Jake has been walking around with a giant straw, sucking up air and then burping loudly.

My kids, I tell you.

I think everyone is mostly doing well, although I am periodically at a serious loss about my lack of downtime. Today I spent a lot of time on hold on the phone, I taught everyone and had them do tons of schoolwork, I read to A and A, I cooked lunch, I did my homework, I went to class, I picked them up from their movie. I'm starting an EARLY MORNING EXCERCISE ROUTINE that sounds like serving myself up a big plate of death for breakfast each day because I've gained weight and am at an all time high and really not happy about it.

I'm loving Florence and the Machine's live performances on KEXP (easily found on YouTube), and this enormous insane ring I got the other day, I mean, it's just ridiculous. I'm a giant piece of red glass that I texted a pic of to [ profile] rainingkisses and she was just like, that is gaudy. I'm getting another God forsaken piece of shit ear infection (I'm not happy about this, can you tell?) and even though I've been CHUGGING emergen-C, raw garlic, probiotics and anti-inflammatories, and using the alcohol and vinegar spray my ENT had me whip up to keep in a spray bottle, I can tell I'm gonna have to go to in. I don't have TIME for the ENT. My next few days are like, sell my summer a course textbook back for gas money, get my new financial aid appeal filed, take the kids to this beach day we have scheduled with some other families, TLC at the Pinecrest Library, potluck at Kristin's house, homework, 3 online quizzes for social science, another english class, water all my plants, clean this pig sty again, teach everyone read to everyone love everyone cook a lot - this is all before the weekend. I do not have time for doctor's appointments.

But I can tell the pain is gonna go through the roof sometime in the next 3 days :/

I also need to go back to my gynecologist all post-period and have her check that my IUD is still positioned correctly and give me a green light to not think about it again until my next pap smear.

Tangent: I went to the orientation for Elise's preschool and really loved it. I'm super excited for her. Ananda, Aaron, Isaac and Jake are all gonna be in the Greater Miami Youth Symphony beginner's camp from 9am-3pm for 3 weeks this summer, which is a TON of time for just Elise and I. Then when the school year starts, she'll be in pre-k from 9am-noon and I imagine it'll give me a good opportunity to take advantage of doing school with the older four without her constant show stealing interruptions. I'm considering how many mornings per week I want this to be for; I'd just assumed it would be all five but as I was selecting options on paper the other day I realized it might be better in several ways to just make it M-T-W.

Ananda had her Girl Scout award ceremony for the end of the year. She's a cadette now. I sewed everything on her new vest for the event and she made brownies and lemonade herself to take. I also surprised her with an audaciously enormous owl ring from the same place I bought this absurd ring I'm wearing.

Grant and I keep doing this touch base on the phone or in the car or over email or as we drowsily lay in the bed thing that involves a lot of furrowed brow-ing and "we're making it all work, we can do this"ing. Sometimes we get kind of scared that we need more time together or are drifting apart, especially as we only just did some major relationship repair work - he is really freaked about taking this new job and committing to so much time apart and it having devastating irreparable effects :/ I feel like we're trying to accomplish massive, enormous amounts of things (me getting a degree and publishing books; us educating and raising our kids well, and paying all the bills we have; him climbing a corporate ladder) all at once and that we just have to sort of buckle down and deal for a year or two and then things will ease up a little on several levels. Hopefully o_O
altarflame: (Default)
These days are busy as hell. I'm sleeping at night, which is really new, and means I don't know how in the world I'm supposed to maintain my "internet presence". I mean, I have about half an hour in the mornings where I go through my email, facebook wall, friends' page and tumblr but that's barely enough time to comment/reply the way I want to, let alone offer any content of my own.

Let me tell you about yesterday:

-woke up at 7am, aka Asshole O'Clock, and after stumbling around for a bit, had a pretty rad (I actually used the word rad) sexual encounter with G, before driving him to work

-woke the kids up far earlier than they wanted to be awake (9, I am a slave driver :p)

-Supplement Circus: I washed down probiotics with Emergen-C because I'm feeling like I'm getting a cold. Isaac and Elise take probiotics everyday; he's also taking a stool softener and she also needs fish oil. Breakfast was "scrounge for what you can find"

-returned the director of Elise's (future) preschool's call; got details on how to get the VPK funding, when school starts, when open house will be, their supply fee, vaccine exemptions, etc.

-called the charter school about older kids again; told waiting list results have been pushed back (AGAIN)

-called Greater Miami Youth Symphony's (Homestead Extension) contacts about their summer program availability, pricing, requirements and forms; printed and filled out 2 page forms for 4 different kids, along with scholarship requests and out last tax return. Put all that in a big addressed and stamped manila envelope

-texted Memo back and forth about his sketches, our formatting of the childrens' book, when he'll be back in Portland, taped up our printed and cut manuscript, wrote him a letter with size and distribution and profit sharing info and stuck all THAT in a separate manila envelope, addressed, stamped...

-ran over to MDC's student life dept to get my stupid parking decal and ID and kept not having things (run back out to the van for registration; go wait in line at registration to get a schedule print out...)

-logged into the Virtual School and perused and printed the syllabus and calendar for my online class (The Social Environment)

-worked with Ananda and Elise to get Elise's new Princess Palace ready (she's moved to the big closet as her OWN ROOM since we realized her toddler bed fits in their with lots of space leftover...) It is looking really fabulous and I'll try to get some pictures ready soon, she is so excited about this.

-helped Aaron make soup for everybody's lunch

-worked with Ananda on homework for her writing class

-played phone tag and did some email forwarding so that, finally, the title company that did our home loan will be refunding us unclaimed funds that were supposed to be for debts that no longer appear on our credit report (HUGE help right now...)

-massive insane $455 grocery trip at BJ's (that's at least $600 worth of stuff purchased elsewhere...) pushing one cart, pulling the other, because I refuse to grocery shop more often than bi-weekly anymore and we save tons this way. Back was dead by the time I got everything in the van

-pick up Grant from work, payday advance because we miscalculated something and don't want checks to bounce

-run home to drop off all these groceries; they put things away while I get ready for class

-Class for a couple of hours was highly entertaining and potentially really helpful to my real life, which takes some admitting as it's the stupid Student Life Skills class I have to take since I got put on Academic Probation the last time I dropped courses due to some medical emergency or other

-studying in the courtyard for an hour (my class was dismissed early) or so while I waited for Grant to get back from his CODA (Codependents Anonymous) meeting and pick me up. Called home and gave everyone school and housework assigments via speakerphone (Bob was home)

-Cooked and ate a late but not too late dinner, made everyone brush their teeth, got Elise her calcium paste (her decay has held steady...I am really hoping these teeth last until they fall out and we don't have to do any extractions)

-Grant and I went for a half hour late night walk

-I gobbled Aleve like a drowning woman for my back pain, along with some 5-HTP, and after some good talking, we collapsed into bed and blacked out together at around midnight.

So yeah. The day before was similar, except it was calls to Miami Children's Hospitals' Orthopedic Clinic about Isaac's broken arm, and a trip to the dentist office, and a call to my gyn about why my IUD check has still not been deposited when I dropped it off almost TWO MONTHS AGO, and going and getting my algebra book from the Kendall campus (which involved like 2 miles of walking in the 95 degree heat) and Annie's Girl Scout meeting where she got her new Cadette vest with all the insignia and patches she earned this year that I need to sew on before their award ceremony at the end of June. Best of all it ended with the third amazing beautiful intense shared bath with Grant in a row...

Tomorrow I have to take all five of them with class supplies for the older four and sleepover gear for the older two, to their enrichment classes and then PATH, where there will be a kid-handoff, and I have class again in the evening.

TODAY it's mainly Goodyear - since they put our drive belts on wrong last week and it's making a racket - fulfilling some promises to various kids (Chinese Checkers, Harry Potter trivia cards, reading more Anne of Green Gables) and then this evening will rock:

1. Writing time at Starbucks!! I've almost got the last short story done, then I'll figure out the order and figure out what to do with this collection ♥

2. Much anticipated trip with Grant to this amazing classy sex store we found. It's got like, clear windows and good lighting and friendly women working the counter and is generally not SKEEVY AND DISGUSTING like the other places around here...they even have toys and lingerie and other such interactive things in separate rooms from porn so you can browse what you're looking for with pretty minimal exposure to XXX pictures of every possible persuasion. Definitely writing positive reviews and Wednesday is 20% off "Ladies Day".

I have a massively huge entry...I mean even by my standards it is just fucking ridiculously long...about Grant and I, that I will be posting whenever I can finish it. Tentatively titled "The Dirt" :p I am still trepidacious or emotionally confused some of the time here. But...I have a lot of real hope for the first time in a long time that I can not just stay married to him but be truly (maybe even sickeningly) happy in the marriage.

I'm really glad I chose the total honesty path instead of continuing to sugar coat until things blew up worse...having everything out in the open has been huge for us, it's such a freeing release to be completely real with each other.

And that's a wrap, because clearly I don't have time to keep sitting here...

May 2017

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