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)
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:
altarflame: (deluge)
I don't even know where to begin.

I spent the school day continuing to work on our library (literal thousands of books on the floor, as we make donation boxes, dust long neglected shelving units, tape up kids' books that needed repair, and revamp our organizational system so we can actually find things again), washing dishes, and doing schoolwork with Jake and Elise. I really feel like I worked on the library for less than an hour (we started on it over the weekend), washed dishes for maybe 15 minutes, and did schoolwork with them for maybe 30 minutes. But the entire school day was somehow gone at the end of those three things.

Once I got Ananda and Aaron, everything promptly went fucking crazy. On our way home, I finally got through to our pediatrician and made Isaac an appt for tomorrow morning - I started leaving messages last week but he's been out of the office (anxiety, probably meds, Isaac's really been having a hard time). My sister called, saying some cryptic crap about me NOT LEAVING MY HOUSE and then hanging up, almost immediately after which my brother randomly showed up from out of town, with his girlfriend and a giant python, like "Surprise!" I barely got to say hi to them, because when Ananda changed out of her school uniform she was freezing up and panicking that she thinks a derby wound from her last practice is infected, and Aaron was shaking and almost in tears because while he was at school, a little hurt spot we'd seen on (his cat) Peter's forehead had turned into a giant swollen freaky spot emerging up out of his fur. Nancy started texting me loooooong messages continuously, about when we can get together during her visit down.

I started calling emergency vets, ignoring the texts coming in all the while, and had Annie heat water to stir up a salt water solution for me to irrigate her knee with. The first vet was too backed up. Laura arrived, with her kids. She took a picture of the knee wound, and texted it to her (paramedic) husband, who said he was working on an emergency. Bob tried to explain all about the snake, and agreed to pick Isaac up from STEM club, as I found a walk-in clinic to take Peter to. Grant agreed to take Isaac to his first counseling session with a new counselor, after STEM, since I would probably still not be back - even though Grant's supposed to be working from home. Annie cried about the saline on her leg, and fought with me about it, and finally agreed to at least sit with a rag soaked in it on the spot, even if I couldn't actually do any irrigation (which is basically just squirting over and over). Wincing, freaking out, etc. Brother in law texted Laura back to say they'd lost the patient.

The ride to the vet with Aaron and Peter was insane. It's barely over a mile from our house, but Peter somehow managed to get the door OFF the cat carrier we'd put him in, in the back seat. Not open, but off. So then he's running and yowling all over the damn car as I drive - he managed to step on the button to roll the back window down, Aaron was flipping out and yelling, Peter's abscess burst at some point and there was yellow puss dripping everywhere, I mean - this is all almost funny in retrospect, in a "laugh or cry" sort of way. Aaron managed to pin him in his lap and I got the window up and the window lock on.

The vet visit was great. They saw us right away, and since Peter's abscess had already mostly drained they just gave him an antibiotic shot, and us a bottle of antibiotics to keep giving him at home. The guy was nice. We were in and out in under 30 minutes. Aaron felt way better.

Back at the ranch, Bob had just gotten back with Isaac, and Ananda's leg looked a little better (and it looked better today than it did yesterday, when I DID do salt water irrigation that took it from dark pink and a little swollen, to light pink and just sore, around the broken skin - but after the vet it looked better than before the vet, with almost all of the pink gone...she just freaks about injury). While applying Neosporin and some gauze, I apologized to my unexpected guests that I basically had to turn around and walk right back out the door with Isaac, to go to counseling. Younger cousins continued to all play together with frisbies and ponies like they don't care what adults come and go, anyway.

Forms, insurance, and then an hour of "intake," as the counselor took a detailed history. She seems ok, and just needs to fully understand how smart Isaac is. He's very capable of real talk therapy and learning some new coping skills, but it seems like he's going to have to prove that to her before she moves past a "play and art therapy for kids who aren't ready for CBT" model... I hope it works out. It's another place within walking distance of our house, if it does. And he needs it. Play and art are both great and Isaac will like them, I'd just like to have some evidence based best practices going down, too. She kept stopping him to ask if he knew what words that she was using meant, like "stress" and "cognitive." He definitely does.

When we got home, Laura and Bob were gone, to their house and their city, respectively. My phone was still blowing up. Grant and I worked together to get more dishes washed, dinner cooked, figure out what Isaac needs for the rest of his science project, write down when his "family science night" at school is, swing by the store for a can of tuna to hide prescription cat antibiotics in, and make sense of Nancy's texts with our calendar. Planned a visit with her. The kids are very excited to see her - everyone wanted her down for this last Thanksgiving, since she'd been with us for the one before.

We finally sat down with Annie - she's been waiting 2 days since she brought it home, to show us all the art in her school portfolio. It has to go back, tomorrow. That was like half an hour, mostly comprised of her leading up to each piece with lots of disclaimers and then fretting over whether or not to show us the next one. Jake sat nearby with HP#5 in his lap the whole time, waiting pseudo-patiently for me to read to him.

When I was reading to Isaac, in his bed, Grant came in to tell me his mother's coming down in 3 days, with her husband and the twins, to stay here for 5 days. This IS good news... and she's coming to the derby bout Saturday (that Annie is hoping she can actually skate in...) which is great, just, uh - GAH. *sigh* My library is still half shambles, my kitchen is still not really clean, I'm overbooked morning, noon and night til they arrive - AND I HAVE A LOT OF SCHOOLWORK OF MY OWN DUE BY AND THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND, MAN.

Right now I'm trying to think of how I can even begin to lie down in my bed and just sleep... I have to put away leftovers and then dig through the safe, for Isaac's post-assessment Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, from a couple of years ago, to take to the doctor tomorrow morning. It's very 50/50 that it will be there, and if it's not I move on to my desk via flashlight, since Grant's asleep in there. I'm supposed to get my shot in the morning - if I can squeeze that in, between the cat antibiotics/taking A&A to school, and getting Isaac up to his appt, with Jake and Elise. The office where I go says I can only show up for shots between 8:30 and 9 now, for some new reason I didn't question. After that appt, I have to get things printed at Office Max because we're out of stupid toner. There are things written on just about every day of our calendar for the next month - aside from things I've mentioned here, and our "regular" stuff, there's a filling, an oral surgeon consult, an out of town fieldtrip, a family roadtrip, a birthday...

I feel like a big scribble on a page. I've got gregorian chants on as I type, and am thinking of doing a stretching and deep breathing session somewhere nearby, before I brush my teeth.
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Discussing how they kinda missed the puppy that was taken to a shelter, yesterday morning, Jake tried to comfort Elise by saying, "Don't worry, it's the one where they find them homes, not the one where they turn them into burgers." Possibly I shouldn't have laughed so hard. I did explain that the burger thing is not really true of any shelter, but then he wanted to know what the kill shelters DO do, with the bodies of the animals. He seemed to have real indignation that they "waste" them and just be horrified that they basically get thrown away, or burned, when maybe they could feed hungry people. I was at a loss about how to continue to navigate that conversation.

Jake is weird, and wonderful. He's so tall now that when I hug him, I can just look down and have my face in his curls. I love the way his head smells, and that he's so affectionate with me. Even when he's rough housing with Grant, he's super careful with me when he gets close to where I am. I can't think of a time when he's ever lost his temper and hit me or pushed me or even been rough, even as a baby (and he has a serious temper, and gets in minor physical fights with other kids pretty often). He's careful and sweet like that with his little-girl cousins, too (Elizabeth and Isabelle, 3 and 2), always running to do them favors and eager to help them with anything they need.

My sister is looking at a house for sale a few blocks from us, that's in a great location, big and nice with a huge yard...that has a Santeria shed in the back. Weird shit painted on the walls, stained up bathtub used for draining dead animals of blood, you know, the works. It really adds to the "mystique" of the dozens of giant criss-crossing banana spider webs in the overgrowth and power lines right above the property. She's talking about destroying the shed and then having her bible study group come and do a prayer circle around where it used to be, and getting some kind of priest to come bless the yard afterward.

I am so so so tired, tonight.

Isaac stayed home for Take Your Child To Work Day, today, which was a little weird since Grant works from home solely on the computer and phone on Thursdays, and I am not employed. He was writing about it, for school, this evening. He decided to do his writing about a day he actually spent at Grant's office, since he figured that would be, "more interesting than just talking about how Mom does a lot of dishes."

I mean, really. *sigh* Parenthood robs you of all dignity! Never mind the meals (and coconut brownies) I made them today, or the chapter of Harry Potter that we read together, or the ride and support I provided for him, Jake and Elise to go perform in their recital, or even the work I did on plants this afternoon. The math help with Aaron? Washing Elise's hair? No, no...I am but a dishwasher.

Grant and I laughed about it a lot, but - I swear.

Grant and I also agonized over which new benefits package to choose, this evening, because his company is changing their offerings and we have to be ready to switch by June 1. It sucks. The old benefits we're used to were amazing. The new ones are still competitive, but they're nowhere near as good. For health insurance premiums, we're going to go from paying $250 in, to paying $384 in, per month. Our yearly individual and family deductibles will nearly double. Our co-pays are jumping from $10 and $20, respectively, for regular doctors and specialists, to $20 and $50. And, our HSA account, rather than being something the company puts $200 per month in, will now be a setup where we put in $150 and they match it, each month. So really we're putting in $384+150, or $534. It will be more than double what usually gets deducted from his check - so that we can pay higher co-pays... after reaching our higher deductibles. It's still not terrible, for a family of 7, particularly as much as we use it. We get to pick our providers, and things like mental health and speech therapy are included. Gah, though.

Dental's staying the same, vision is being added for free (none of us need that), and we're getting "Teledoc," now - somehow they've actually set up a (free, included) service where you call a number and people call in prescriptions for whatever you need (for many situations) over the phone. They'll also advise you about whether something requires a visit, what you should know about your symptoms, etc. They've even got Skype built in, in some magical way that complies with HIPAA regulations. Because of my husband's general career path in health care IT, I can only imagine the entire industry springing up around the security involved with HIPAA compliant Skype consultations.

It's interesting how polyamory has changed everything and nothing, about my relationship. For instance, when Grant was in Missouri for a week recently, he asked what I would think if he were to try to find someone via OkCupid to go to a movie with him. He was bored and alone and constantly aghast at the Missouri-ness of the place. I laid out my hesitations, which were all centered around his personal safety getting rides from strangers, and then we laughed a lot two days later about how he ALMOST got a male gas station attendant to agree to go see Captain America together as bros, but that was about it.

Meanwhile, I passed on a lot of his Missouri complaints to a guy I talk to online who used to live in Missouri, and who was eager to weigh in on just how terrible it can be there. We laughed too, via fb messages.

Pretty edgy, eh?

I think the best and most tangible change, for Grant and me, is just how completely honest we are with each other. About pornographic things we look at/read on our own time, and fantasies we have, and people we think are attractive. I feel like I can just TALK to him so freely about the never ending perversity running through my head like a ticker tape, with no filter, and that's...amazing. Sometimes I think back to the times when we kept so much shit quiet in the interest of sparing each other's feelings, and it almost seems like we didn't really know each other at all. Because really, I have a LOT of sexual thoughts and feelings, and they make up a huge proportion of the things I talk about with my FRIENDS, weirdly absent were they all, with Grant, and for how long? Sheesh. Him, too, there's a huge element of "private life that gets shared with nobody" that is now shared, and it's sweet, and I feel a whole lot closer and also REALer, with him, as a result...

This day - what I want to call tomorrow, that begins in 5 hours - is going to start way too soon, and go nonstop. Argh. I promise to actually put pictures here, though! I have a ton.
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Today has been a pretty good, pretty chill day.

I had a dermatologist appt this morning, to look at a mole that suddenly became red, swollen and sore last week. It's gotten mostly better since I made the appt, and she suspects mosquito bite or zit, which is a somewhat exasperating relief (since my normal doc looked at it while I was getting my shot last week and said 90% chance it was infected, 10% skin cancer). I mean honestly. Dermatologist is really nice, though, and we did a whole "skin study" since I'm over 30 and have moles and freckles everywhere - basically that means I stripped, she looked at all my spots, said everything is fine and that I should come back in a couple of years. She has a licensed brand of products that I'm thinking of buying, like a glycolic acid cleanser that will supposedly stop my pimples from happening and a sunblock I wouldn't rather die that use regularly since it feels like almost nothing and smells nice. She could also zap all the little red dots off my arm in a $140 visit (out of pocket, since they aren't hurting anything). Stuff to think about, I guess.

I got exciting emails that Aaron passed his audition this past weekend and has been admitted to the arts charter school for dance, and Ananda passed and can choose from Visual Art or Instrumental (cello). She definitely wants Visual Art, and I don't have a community resource for her for that, like I do for cello, so Visual Art it is, and I guess we're about to have an adventure.

I also got an email that one of the camps some of them go to in the summer is going to be EVEN FURTHER away from our house than it usually is, BUT...there may be transportation! Like, a school bus picking them up right from our door! I almost can't imagine. This will completely transform MY summer :) Here's hoping.

We spent a lot of the afternoon and evening at my sister's apartment, Ananda talking with me and Laura, Aaron doing his schoolwork and the 3 younger kids playing with their cousins. It was nice time, albeit kinda hectic. Eight kids can start to feel like a lot in an apartment.

Grant was home when we got back, and in a complete roll reversal came out to meet us in the yard.

There is some peripheral tragedy that I keep coming back around to thoughtfully - one of my good friends regularly takes their kids to activities and classes at a community center that was shot up, with fatalities, over the weekend. And, my mother in law's best friend - whose husband just died of lung cancer a month ago - just had her brother kill himself on her porch. My mother in law spent the week down here trying to help her, right at the end with her husband in March. She's probably coming back down again, now.

I suppose it's a strange thought, but I always feel like it's such grossly inconsiderate assholery to kill yourself in ways that directly infringe on and traumatize other people. They have to deal with losing you, they shouldn't also have to discover and possibly clean up the area. This was also about money stress, which makes me want to go off on a tirade about our capitalist society, but I'll save it.

Mostly, it really is a happy day, and the peripheral things really are second and third degree periphery. In my little microcosm it's good news and good company, and I get to go rinse this mask off my face and watch shows with Grant, now.
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I was really going to do the New Years pics, but then I was thinking I never posted Christmas pics, and I've just made so many yummy things this week that it started me looking back at other yummy things...I'm sure you get the idea :)

Best of eatin' in late November, December and early January )
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The birthday boy himself, first thing in the morning as a newly 8 year old person.

And, the next afternoon, ready to host a pajama party :) Few people really honored it being a pajama party, but he didn't care at all.

This is actually from BEFORE the party started, or guests began to arrive...just my sister Laura, surrounded by our collective 8 kids, in our library with a balloon animal kit. It's Laura, Elizabeth (3), Isabelle (almost 2), Jake (8), Aaron (12), Elise (6), Isaac (9), Brian (7 next month), and Ananda (13).

Jakey and (cousin) Elizabeth ♥

We had a lot of people show up, aided in part because two other women brought THEIR collective eight kids. Along with Shaun, and Izzy being over.

It was good stuff, even if my formatting is wonky as ever ;)

This is a random pic I just loved, the other day during violin class.

Aaron is in a period of RAPID change. It's what happened to Ananda a couple of years ago, when she jumped 7 inches in height and 3.5 shoe sizes during a single year. He's suddenly only about an inch shorter than me - he looked different when I got back from Boston, vs when I'd left 4 days earlier O_o I am just waiting to wake up one morning and find he's taller than me.

The rest of these are from today. Here are my girls, waiting for Annie to get called back to get braces put on.

She got RAINBOW braces. That weird bar is to hold open a big enough space for the adult teeth to erupt through. The (3) teeth without brackets are baby teeth that will be pulled next month. She kinda loves the way they look, though she is (of course) hating the constant discomfort. Laura showed up today with flowers and gelato for her, having had braces herself. It was really sweet.

I've been getting all pictures of her approved for about a year now, and she was adamant that the braces were ok cropped but terrible with her whole face in the shot. Similarly, Aaron came out to the deck for pictures shirtless but then demanded I crop out everything from the nipples down :p I would have anyway, most likely, even if he does have a bizarre lot of defined abs from dancing/studio exercise.

Laura took Jake and Elise with her when she left, and this is Ananda, Aaron and I rolling around laughing about nonsense for an hour afterward.

Isaac tried out for the cheerleading squad last month. He loves it. He's the only boy on the team, but mostly hangs out with girls at school anyway. I think it's fitting that the uniform is the colors we've been dressing him in since birth.

And one more Jakey and Elizabeth shot, from this afternoon:

They have something special. We're always lamenting that they're related and can't grow up and get married.
altarflame: (CharlieBrownChristmas)
Sitting on a big L-shaped sectional couch tonight with Laura at one end nursing Isabelle, while Frank sat on the floor with his head in her lap - DRUNK to the point of being ridiculous - and Jake stood nearby making Isabelle smile with toys - next to Isaac, who was next to Brian cuddled up to Annie, who was hogging my lap, as I had my other arm around Elizabeth, who was holding hands with Elise (who is trying to campaign to make Elizabeth her sister)...I was thinking life is pretty good. Grant stayed home with Aaron, who was sick, and my mom was in another room on a phone, and we were saying geez - geez, Annie was the nursing baby. We were the middle schoolers. Look at all these fucking people we've made, and one of them isn't even here! Gray hairs and 30s and time. Christmas trees again. Let's just sit in a heap for awhile and have a truce and not worry that hours and hours are passing, and laugh.

I'll write more soon.
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My last couple of days have been extremely hectic and fraught with extremes, albeit in mostly good ways. They've also exemplified the ways in which Grant and I make awesome co-parents and life partners.

Monday (after getting Isaac and Elise up and to school, and waking my other kids with some instructions), I had a meeting with another author and some employees of my publisher, with a Miami Herald photographer, at Books and Books in Coral Gables. Grant was working from home, so I didn't have to feel awful about leaving anyone and going far away. It was interesting - parking was easy, photographer was interesting and we talked at length because one of the people we were waiting for got in a car accident (she's fine). Picture setup was a little cheesy, having "events" is cool - you know.

G picked up Elise while I wolfed down lunch, and then we picked Isaac up together before heading around to do all kinds of financial errands (bank, paying our insurance, this and that). Incidentally, I scored a lovely antique porcelain 18" doll, with fabulous details and red ringlets, for only $15!! This doll has bloomers OVER lace tights, under her layered dress - Elise is going to flip about it, for Christmas... Then we decided to take the kids some treats, and surprise them that we were going to Santa's Enchanted Forest.

It was so good - Elise was enraptured with the cheesy displays and animals there, Ananda was so happy she was actually demonstrative AND LETTING ME FILM HER ANTICS (<--O_O) as she and Aaron gangnam style'd all over the park like fools (often with strangers joining in spontaneously), everything we ate was yummy and Isaac got on stage during a show where they called for volunteers. It was not at all busy, being a weeknight in early November, and the weather was PERFECT. Splitting up and rejoining with subgroups of big and little kids made things really simple.

We skipped last year, and somehow that meant everybody can ride everything now, basically, and nobody's afraid of anything, and we realized we have no idea how to carry everything around a place like that without a double stroller.

Aaaand then we stumbled out to the parking lot, tired and subdued, to find one of our van windows busted out and our GPS and phone chargers stolen. They also scattered my makeup case all over the asphalt. So Grant got all the glass out of/off of the van while I called the police and put a dvd on for the kids.

FYI, the cops told us they're getting multiple calls every night from outside of Santa's because people are breaking into cars there regularly. We got our Saturn broken into AND PEED ON about 8 years ago O_o

Yesterday there was no school, and we let everyone sleep in since filing the police report after Santa's pushed bedtime back really, really late. I went up to my classes while he called around and found someone to fix the window as cheaply as possible, worked and got in line at our polling place for us both. By the time I arrived, he'd been there for over an hour. We got to talk for about 15 minutes before they called us back, and then I dropped him off/picked him up at the glass place with the second car and we went and had free things at Starbucks with our "I Voted" stickers, before coming home and rallying our kids to go help Laura and Frank move. I got her kitchen cabinets' contents into reusable shopping bags and her hangers and things into trash bags while he helped move heavy things and made a food run for everybody.

Their new, rented house (they close on their house's sale tomorrow) is pretty great. It's in a really strict association I could never deal with, with very small lots I wouldn't like, but I can completely see it through their eyes and be psyched for her. The whole place is dominated by this enormous, beautiful dark wood, stainless steel and granite kitchen, and they have crazy upgraded details like hummingbirds and passion vines painted all over their guest bathroom. It's an easy place to feel safe and secure while Frank is on 24 hour shifts and she's there alone with the kids. We all ate a triple load of Pollo Tropical in her new dining room, for dinner, with some of Frank's firefighting friends who were also there.

Then I stayed up half the night alone, excitedly online-interacting with lots of people while the election unfolded, and then slept half the day away after taking Isaac and Elise to school.

So. I suppose I'll go now, and take Aaron and Jake - the former to ballet and the latter to some kind of "Mom and Jake" only date, while Aaron's dancing.
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Grant took this picture of my sister and Frank with Brian, Elizabeth and Isabelle, visiting Isaac today. They brought him a bag of goodies.

Apparently Isaac did not have pants on during their visit (under the covers), and cracked everyone up by looking through the gifts excitedly and then saying, "Well, thanks for coming." My sister understood. She's definitely not going to think him rude for feeling awkward when, on the way home, her Brian told Elizabeth, "You're just a big dunce bucket - an entire bucket of stupid."

There's a new quote out of that kid every week.

Later, I brought our other four kids up and we all stayed for about 3 hours. Jake and Elise watched movies on the other tv in the extra bed.

This guy actually brought him his laptop to use so he can play Minecraft while he's stuck in there, which is a serious sacrifice of love. He's installing all the mods Isaac wanted, here...

Clear liquids, only.

He went to the bathroom...a lot, today. So much came out of that kid that it seems completely impossible on several levels, ranging from "no wonder he's been feeling badly," to "how did that not kill him exiting his body?"

He's kind of exhausted, since he slept very little last night and was extremely stressed by things that were done to him, so I'm hoping he just sleeps the night away...Grant is staying with him and is going to work from the hospital room, because there is so much bs to do for the person outside of the hospital (Elise starts Kindergarten tomorrow and someone has to talk to the school about Isaac being in the hospital, we have to take care of insurance and referral things, I have to go to the college financial aid office for the billionth fucking time - Tuesday is Aaron's infectious disease appt and picking up Virtual School paperwork from the Home Education office, Thursday TLC starts back up...and dishes and cooking and groceries and gas and making everyone brush their teeth and do their chores and, yeah, I really do actually miss my husband who just flew back into the state after nearly two weeks gone, here, when I'm not worried about Isaac, and am squeezing all my book marketing stuff in around the edges when I can, like at 2am last night...)

He played UNO with me until he didn't want to sit up anymore and had been taking turns by asking me to just show him what I was putting down so he wouldn't have to look.

Apparently Ananda is also freaked by hospitals. For most of the kids' and my visit, Grant took her out and the two of them stayed gone - she is basically a very tense and teary eyed stone wall when inside. *sigh* I tried to talk to her about it a little on the way home, but eventually took pity on her palpable hatred of the topic and switched to distractions.

They all took Isaac things, today - Jake and Elise made him cards, and Annie brought him $1. I brought him several packs of flushable wipes and a bunch of new underwear which, I guess, is not especially glamorous, but hey. I also brought Grant hidden snacks to eat in the bathroom where he can't see, and an insulated lunchbox with a cold pack and bottled frappuccinos in it.

Isaac won't let anyone hug him because he's afraid of people tugging at tubes or touching his heplock :/ But, his belly is squishy - in the way Jake's and Elise's always are - for the first time I can ever remember! So that is to just keep it that way.

We had a pretty good evening back at home - some skype with our hospital peeps, some dinner, some laughing.

I am so tired. And have THREE different looooooooooooong posts in the works that I've been working on for like, way too long considering they're blog posts (I usually sit down and type fast for 20 minutes and that's it). But they're almost done! Which means, with the schedule I have, that you should be seeing these Extra Crafted Mystery Entries (ECMEs) by, oh, winter at the latest!
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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)
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So, I'm getting more and more tumblr questions and lj comments and facebook messages about my book, which is really wonderful, but it's also grating on me in this unexpected way...

Maybe because I'm not really used to achieving any kind of personal success unrelated to other people.

Maybe because I wasn't really taught that long term rewards are achievable.

Maybe because I've talked a lot of shit on here for a lot of years about my writing and now THIS is the first thing that's gonna be out there to represent it and this is good writing, in it's way, it really is, I'm proud of it - it's just also insane and not for everyone.

I'm just....thinking about my neighbors, and other PATH moms, and my mother in law and aunts and cousins leafing through it, dance moms and my teachers and it kind of makes me want to hide my head under a pillow until I'm old. I think I would ideally have every single person I will never encounter IRL read it.

You're either in or you're out, right? I'm in.

It's just, somewhere in between answering a bunch of interview questions for my publisher yesterday and seeing the cover pop up on my dash because Bobby reblogged it I was like, alright. I'm not going to throw up. Really I'm not. Lol, geez. It just hit me, You are choosing to publish the contents of your head.

And I wrote this ridiculous bullshit yesterday, spontaneously and like vomiting through the keyboard like all of Twenty Troubled Ladies went for me...and I'm just looking at it, like, really? This is what comes out of your head and through your fingers? THIS? This is the contents of your head...

I'm doing a lot of narrative nonfiction, and working on my children's books, just lately, and have been thinking it's sort of odd that the way time is, and production is, I would always be working on totally different stuff by the time something from years before was getting released (you know, assuming other things get released...)

Except apparently I'm still gonna periodically write totally gritty and psychotic short stories.

I am pretty pleased with this past semester of school now that it's over. It's the worst grades I've gotten so far, but it proved to me that even when the shit hits the fan and school can't be a priority, I can still keep going and make it work. January-April for me was like,

-CPS and cops at my house about Isaac counseling issues (everything resolved and closed quickly and without repercussion, but holy shit), and kicking Bob out and moving bedrooms around, and so many phone calls and forms
-Taking Isaac to Kendall and Hialeah multiple times per week for hours at a time, and twice an entire day, when Grant and I weren't interviewing with someone, or filling out packets, or making my sister fill out packets, for his counseling and his psych eval
-getting rear ended and having whiplash - trips to my insurance place and meeting their inspector and sitting on the phone, trips to the chiro, and CONSTANT PAIN and reduced range of motion, for weeks....(thank God that seems to be over)
-ER trip for my hernia and subsequent surgical consultations triggering the fuck out of my PTSD and putting me into a severe dissociative funk
-Bronchitis so bad I ended up at the hospital for it, and on an inhaler for the first time in my life
-Getting ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION and spending seriously countless hours on the phone and via email with publisher contact going over cover choices, pseudonym merits, story order, dedications, intro, fonts, my bio, their marketing, interview questions and answers, and tracking down my wayward fucking diva artist for permission to use his images, and having ANNE RICE say she'll read and review my book and having a heart attack....
-Aaron's glands swelling to chipmunk proportions and requiring multiple doctor visits and tons of meds
-walking my mother through my grandmother being put in a home and my grandfather going through open heart surgery that went badly, then ok, and now how to navigate them being in this center together and eventually (hopefully?) going home. Which reminds me I need to get the freakin' cards the kids made them in the mail...
-finding out my financial aid was flagged and cancelled and bullshit AGAIN and tediously plowing through bureaucracy AGAIN to be able to pay for school
-getting offered a refinance rather than foreclosure option for our house that we couldn't afford and my husband basically having a nervous breakdown and putting all the finances totally in my hands (as in, he doesn't even wanna know) and pulling us through that, with the help of selling crap, "manifesting" near miraculous things, and a certain Wright Bank family benefactor (that means Shaun).
-Aaron attended 12 weeks of acting classes and was then part of a performance we all went to, Ananda and Elise sold Girl Scout cookies, Jake learned to ride a bike without training wheels, Laura had a baby....
-I even hung out with/caught up with Kathy multiple times, and met up with Jess and Cale for two different cool nights in Miami and some good phone calls, and spent stolen minutes with Kristin at the bike rack and in our kitchens!

I also think Grant and I might have been nearly killed on the beach, and holy shit can I just say that looking at that list right now is making me give my monitor a severe side-eye because WHAT THE FUCK is the matter with the past few months?!

Point being, I did not drop out, or miss too many classes, or withdraw from or fail anything, NOT EVEN ALGEBRA - which I am now done with, forever.

Humanities - A
Computer Crap - B <---That's really what they call it, isn't that crazy?
Spanish - B
Algebra - C

I'm in like Flynn, it's on like Donkey Kong. I'm gonna get the fuck out of this degree. I'm gonna get STRAIGHT As again if my life ever calms down, but if it doesn't, things'll work out.

One thing this semester did teach me, is that it is ludicrous and impossible for me to go to UM's med school and enter the Extremely Rigorous neuroscience program. But, I am mostly ok with that, and it will probably be there when my kids are grown, right?

I also managed to finagle full scholarships for all five kids to go to Greater Miami Youth Symphony day camp; 2 two week sessions of beginner for Isaac, Jake and Elise and 6 weeks of intermediate for Ananda and Aaron. I think A and A are gonna have a really great time this year; there are PATH friends and Girl Scout troop members who will be there with them.

+20, some of which will be repeats if you've been looking at my fb/tumblr )
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This is a really enormous photo post with 37 pictures and my kind of captioning. I stopped cutting entries awhile back because, 1. I don't mind other peoples' uncut ginormous entries and 2. LJ seems half dead anyway and so my perception is that most people are reading this right on my page or from their google readers, BUT - I seem to get an email that somebody unfriended me like clockwork just about every time I do a photo post? So, FINE, here's a cut :p Feel free to tell me if you have an opinion on this, I genuinely find the extra click more irritating than the extra scrolling myself but then I don't read many ljs so my friends' page is slow.

right through here )
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Yesterday I was driving down a 2-lanes-each-way road with a median, when a dog ran right out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, and heard screams, and then a bunch of other brakes as a woman rat out in the road in front of my lanes and then across the median into the others - after a second dog, that I saw was twitching and lying on it's side, with some blood :/ She was hysterical, and kept screaming, picking up this very large dog in both arms frantically as a little girl I sort of assumed was her daughter ran around in front of me and the lane next to me, crying, trying to catch the second dog as cars backed was really intense. And I can't help but note that though I sometimes find my faith in question, I involuntarily, automatically start sincerely praying for people in moments like that.

THEN, on the 4-lanes-each-way highway about 30 minutes later, the car right next to me suddenly slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason. In retrospect, I wonder if the driver had a heart attack or seizure. In any case it was 70 to nothing in a couple of seconds, and he was in the on-ramp, merging in lane, and I was aghast watching my rearview mirror as an instant pileup went down. Loudly. Again with the snap-reaction shock prayers, and wondering if I was in "skirting disaster" mode and this hoohaw would continue throughout the night.

Definitely the most intense drive to Miami Beach I've had thus far.

We spent this evening with Pandora carols, getting our Christmas stuff down from the attic. Grant got colored lights up on the house with big kids, on the roof, while I assembled this small fake tree we have with white lights, bird ornaments and little kids. We've become "those people" - each of my kids' bedrooms has a small fake tree in it, which meant we had to get Elise a $5 one today since she's commandeered the big closet as her room. And we have this bird tree. And then we get a real tree that is the Actual Christmas Tree (though I can't ever bring myself to go buy one until the prices come down a week into December). All the giant fleece stockings I've sewn over the years are hanging around the library and we have some big gingerbread and shortbread dough plans for next week.

I'm really psyched about Ananda's Christmas presents this year - we got her the big old headphones she's been begging for, with SKULLS even, and some boots I think she'll love, and ridiculous emo feather hair extensions for her stocking, and pajama pants she needs, and THIS SEWING MACHINE - that was $50 purchased at midnight Black Friday sale style, and very highly reviewed, and a Brother. It looks perfect for beginning.

I'm making her and Elise quilts based off of fabric I already have here, and doing some other crafty things for both of them as well. I linked my mother to the Harry Potter jewelry tag on Etsy for Annie, and told her Aaron wants more Calvin and Hobbes collections (she's REPEATEDLY begged for lists and ideas). Elise's 18" dolls will most likely get replaced between us and relatives - she left them at the park after PATH a month or more ago and we didn't realize until bedtime :/ She used to carry them everywhere. It looks like fil is gifting all the kids another trampoline, which is awesome (our old one started popping springs a couple of months ago and we took it down). I have Christmas pjs for all the boys. ♥

I really love this time of year. I love baking and decorating and horrible Christmas music and travelling to see family, which we are for the first time since my Nana had her stroke. I feel ridiculously blessed, even though we are really struggling with a lot of bills, because we're also doing most everything we want to and my kids have lives that make me "Squee!" all the time.

Speaking of which: Thanksgiving pictures. I really didn't get any of the ones I'd want to have, looking back, but I was busy, man!

The day before, Isaac got a haircut.

That night my Dad got here, and regaled us with wild stories like he always does, until almost 4 am.

He is a really good storyteller. The next day Aaron said, "I can't tell when Grandpa Arthur is telling just the truth...but I really like listening to him." Wise boy, that Aaron. I can listen to my Dad for days even though I've heard most of his stories a dozen times now.

Waiting for the feast: my three youngest, and my sister's two born children (she's due in February).

Left to right, Jake, Brian, Elise, Isaac, Elizabeth. I was teasing Laura the other day that I'm waiting to see what Jane Austen shit she whips out next; Brian Alexander and Elizabeth Marie? What? :p

Grant did a great job out here. He's still setting up the buffet tables (Bob's desk and the boys' play table, both made by him) with table cloths (our tv room curtains) on the right. That's most of Ananda's desk lamp hanging above the table, and lanterns we got as party favors after a friend's wedding last year scattered around with my bath candles in them :)

Laura, Grant Sr and his girlfriend dishing up plates.

My Dad and Aaron.

I don't think I got any pictures of Shaun, or of everyone together, or all sorts of other things. When I think back what I want to remember is cooking with Laura, and laying around in the hammock in the chill with kids after we were all stuffed. I'd like to forget having to force my exhausted self to PUT AWAY ALL THOSE LEFTOVERS WUT O_O

We got plastic cups at BJ's (meaning, a CRAZY FUCKTON OF PLASTIC CUPS) and every day now I see something like this at some point.

I have a couple of major things due tomorrow, and lots of other major things due soon, as 2 of my 3 classes are the "nothing is due until the end of the semester, when you must turn in MANY HUGE THINGS ALL AT ONCE" sort. And I am the procrastinating sort. I have to fit all my homework doing in around walking Elise to and from preschool at 9 and noon, riding my bike to the insurance place, feeding everyone and making them do their chores and schoolwork, and having a dinner plan. PIECE OF CAKE, RIGHT? Honestly the immediate stuff is doable (and not at night...I have to make phone contacts). I'm mostly still up to do necessary laundry for Grant's work clothes and Elise's preschool tshirt, and towels for morning showers...At least there's caffeine about the place.
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We had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving. Grant surprised me by staying home from work the day before and helping me with cleaning, and he outdid himself with the setup he put together on the deck. I cooked and laughed and talked shit with my sister in the kitchen for several awesome hours. The weather was perfect, and it was great to laze about on the hammock with a blanket under many assorted children (including niece and nephew) when everyone was stuffed. We had several guests, including my father, who it was great to hang around with. I may or may not have drank an entire bottle of sangria between afternoon and midnight, along with at least 1.5 hard ciders. Thank goodness it was proportionate to the 17 meals worth of food I put away :p


-brined and roasted turkey
-garlic mashed potatoes
-green bean casserole
-sweet potato casserole
-Rachel Ray's FABULOUS brussels sprouts with bacon
-corn on the cob
-cranberry sauce
-pineapple upside down cake
-stuffing (stove top...the only thing I "cheat" on because I love stove stop, damnitt)

(Laura, who was also gonna cook separately another day for her own family, and is 6+ months pregnant)
-macaroni and cheese
-to die for herb and cheese biscuits
-pumpkin cheesecake

And Annie made some great iced tea.

I have some pics that I'll post sometime soon. Today was a day of leftovers, naps, lounging around outside, and taking a lot of tupperwares over to Kristin's for her annual Black Friday Potluck. Aaron stayed. Grant is up the road with Shaun. And I'm going to bed.
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Jake, who got a tooth pulled 6 months ago: When can I go get my other teeth pulled?
Me: Uh, hopefully never. I'd like it if your baby teeth fell out on their own, you know?
Jake: But can't they just pull them all out now?
Me: That might be painful...and you wouldn't be able to chew...and you'd be missing your one adult tooth forever, then.
Jake: But I'd be rich!

Annie: Is Adele like Florence, like all giggly shy and quiet when she talks even though she belts out the enormous singing?
Me: Not really, Adele is kind of awesome in interviews because she's really not afraid to tell people the truth.
Annie: Like what?
Me: Well I saw one where someone mentioned pressure on her to lose weight, and she was just like, "I make music for people to listen to, not to look at".
Annie: Ooooh, take that society!!

"(mostly) culinary highlights"

Last-last Friday night, we had a party at Kristin's - I made white chicken chili and peanut butter fudge, and brought (multigrain) chips and (Chachies, mmm/ow) salsa. Shaun brought homemade pesto and maple syrup chocolate chip cookies. Ananda made and brought brownies. What can I say, I feel self conscious showing up at a potluck with 3 adults and 5 mega-eating children. As a result, people usually end up raving about all the stuff we bring for most of the night :)

Grant was in Fargo for work for 5 days, which led me to make things I might not otherwise, since he's more meat-centric than the rest of us. So one night it was just green bean casserole and (fresh) cranberry sauce (children were thrilled); the next it was a ton of broccoli and cashews stir fried up with soy sauce, on basmati brown rice. My new favorite place to eat breakfast out is the Royal Palm Grill, and my new favorite breakfast to have at home is a fried egg, sauteed shrooms and sliced tomato on toast :)

Grant and I spent basically all night out, Saturday night, for the Sleepless Nights thing in Miami Beach. We were in such a sweet happy Wow I really missed you mood that it didn't seem to matter that we kept missing the free shuttles, or that we went up five flights of stairs for nothing once, or that we never did find the burlesque show. Our night ended at the 8oz Burger Bar where, apparently, one can watch William Shatner documentaries, listen to Mumford and Sons and get plates of asparagus until 5am daily. This is useful information! The food was "above average", but the DRINKS! I had a pumpkin bomb that was a. Pumpkin ale, goldschlagger and cinnamon sugar. Mmmm....

Assorted pics from the last two weeks...

Grant, calling in for a conference call while we were out to lunch.

Some ladies I chill with. Laura took me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast for my birthday. Elizabeth told the waitress, "Bacon right away!"

Isaac with Georgia after TLC one Tuesday.

The latest thing Aaron can do that causes staff to approach me saying, "Ma'am, is that your son?"

He can go all over those pipes like an orangutang.

Halloween! Annie as Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas, in a dress made of my scrap fabric and her Sharpie.

Aaron as "a time traveler from the 1970s". He actually got that shirt at an antique store and earned the headphones by doing ALL the laundry in the house.

We did later remove that errant tag.

This is one of the several costumes Elise wore on different days. She was a princess at Kristin's party, and Princess Peach specifically for trick or treating, but went as a ladybug to TLC the following afternoon - all assembled from our dress up chest. I think it's pretty great that what you're seeing here is an old recital leotard of Ananda's, 2 year old homemade wings and last year's Christmas photo tights.

Grant wore the same thing he does every year.

I actually had a plan for myself this year, but since I ALWAYS end up doing Halloween last minute, I was blind-sided by needing to go to ten stores and call for advice to get Jake and Isaac's overalls. Store clerks at Walmart, KMart, Target and Sears were acting like they didn't even know what overalls WERE. I went to THREE Goodwills. *sigh* Kristin finally steered me towards the Osh Kosh Outlet. Anyway, I was bent over the sewing machine finishing Ananda's dress, like, as my three younger kids circled with their bags panicking that it was already getting dark.

And now, the Many Faces of Elise.

Elise in the morning:

Elise at night:

Elise before preschool every day, with Sophie.

Elise hiding in the front seat with my frappuccino, while the other kids run around at PATH none the wiser.

Elise and Oliver.

He looks bigger whenever she's holding him :)

Isaac lost a tooth!

Kids skyping with Daddy while he was in Fargo.

Dinner time, sans one sleeping beast.

(Is it known that we call Elise a beast? Elise-y Beast? A yeasty beasty at points in her infancy?)

Tamer of other sorts of beasts. Nobody else would attempt to co-lap these two O_o

In other news, my brother has gotten himself a girlfriend. I know, right, who would have thought? The thing is, happy as I am for him, this news is mostly manifesting itself in our house as him suddenly mismanaging his time and needing rides because he's missed the last bus 4 times per week, and neglecting all of his chores, and I'm not even ready to talk about the total insanity of him sneaking her in and then SNEAKING OUT WITH HER...while I was trusting him to babysit the three youngest (A and A were up at Cybele's: I do not force Bob to babysit, he has to be free and willing and we always ask if he has plans. All I want him to do is BE HERE if he's agreed to be because holy shit they're 7, 6 and 4!). Also, it doesn't help my opinion that during my one conversation with her she told me outrageous obvious lies nonstop... and now he's constantly asking for things I feel can't possibly be appropriate, like "Can she stay with me for the 3 week Christmas break?" I'm trying to encourage his independence, educated him about hostels and how they could go do something like that together fairly easily if they just save their JobCorps money, I just do not even know. I keep hearing that Bartok voice saying "This can only end in tears". *sigh* Sometimes it is really weighing on me that I do not have the time or resources for an overgrown 6th kid. Like when he calls me up at midnight and says, "Tina, I don't know where I am...can you come and get me?" Uh, dude, you are not microchipped, how the fuck am I supposed to know where you are?!

Also, my shin splints, which have never recovered from NYC, are acting up bigtime and it's causing me to have to stretch a lot and wear (gasp) sneakers.

Mostly things are really good :)
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So far it's went:

-Sleep in while Grant takes Elise to preschool and goes out to the store
-wake up to breakfast pizzas & oj, flowers, hugs from Ananda and Aaron, a homemade necklace from Jake, and dozens of well wishes on facebook
-take a nap with Grant, til he goes to get Elise and then comes back and crawls in bed with me, and Isaac, and Elise
-bedroom door closes for highly satisfactory Mommy and Daddy time
-talk of him grilling me a marinated steak and shrooms later
-trip out to Mama Mia's for bruschetta and cappuccino, in the beautiful weather
-sister shows up to deliver lovely edible arrangement ordered by my mother, which I happily share with children and niece and nephew

(this is where I'm at now)

I mean honestly if this is my thirties I'll take it.

Tangent: this past weekend G and I went up to Winn DIxie in the BEAUTIFUL gorgeous weather on a bike and a skateboard, racing down the same streets we have since we were 13 years old, and it struck me that we were racing down the same streets together that we have since we were 13 years old.

PostScript: Guys, seriously, why can't we talk about whether or not you like it when people talk about sex on the internet, or my weird mood swings, or the pictures I post, or my crazy friends, or college - ? These exploding political threads busting my inbox at the seams, honestly people, sigh. I mean I think about current events at some point every day but I wish I could get a quarter the input and involvement on everyday posts. Ultimately, heated debate of any kind just makes me tired of the subject of debate. <--This is me flippantly whining with a chuckle, ok? So don't come in here like OH MY GOSH YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT THE SUFFERING or I'm just gonna link you to a Rick Astley video.
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This is how I spent about 4 hours last night:

Me knitting (Annie's sweater back) with my feet up.

Laura across from me, talking (or listening). That's her house with all the butterflies, and my purse with all the skulls on it ;) Seriously though I think I can see like 30 butterflies right in this shot, geez.

I suppose there were breaks to eat. It's so great that her (born, haha) children go to sleep early and stay there on their own now :)

Best conversation excerpt:

Me: Elise has been wanting to nurse 2-3 times per day for the first time in like a year and a half! It's like she's totally happy with and at school, but is compensating for all this independence by finding a way to cling and feel connected when she can.
Her: If Brian came home from preschool and asked for a titty, I'd punch him in the face.

Step by Step Cooking Photos for Kale and Bean Soup and Upside Down Mango Rum Cake )

Isaac's clay creations:

He harvested the little springs from a pen.

Jake drew these two - this one has the sun, start, earth (green and blue), Mars (red), the moon (?) and Saturn (with rings, of course).

"Someone about to go upstairs to bed".

One of these things is not like the other... Can you spot MY bike on the rack at school??? The big stupid beach cruiser handle bars won't fit through the openings on bike racks, I have to lay it down like that to lock it up. Aaron let me borrow his chain.

Last week, a bus mowed over a bus stop. Luckily nobody was there waiting for the bus, though that makes it even more bizarre that the bus would have been veering so (extremely) close to it. I was in the stopped traffic waiting as they towed the bus away o_O

Ananda and Aaron coming out of ArtSouth. That skull on his shirt is made of music notes, and it's his flute he's carrying.

The two of them have become annoyingly obsessed with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and 50,000 plays later, Aaron can play "Concerning Hobbits" on the flute. It kind of bends my brain that listening to it on a piccolo, he had to figure out how to do it on the piano in order to learn it for flute. She's carring Xanth book #1, A Spell for Chameleon, which is great because Grant and I read Xanth in middle school and I remember that book! Piers Anthony is apparently working on the 35th and 36th now. (Reason #eleventybillion that I'm old)

I am apparently never going to have the time or ability to write more than this in one sitting, today. Four hours cleaning and scrubbing, one front porch conversation with a neighbor about an altercation between HIS KID AND BOB OMG BOB IS A FREAKING ADULT, and the random distractions of all my children later...this is the end of this entry!

May 2017

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