altarflame: (deluge)
Actually I was with a wide array of people I love being with, but I didn't have any kids or a husband along. Just me in our smaller car, accumulating varied messes and then cleaning them out at a trash can every few hundred miles/couple of days.

I find myself at a place where I'm not sure I want to use real names to talk about people online anymore? That's weird. IS THIS THE END OF... whatever this is? Or, was.

For my own records, for the handful of people that are rooting for me or just clicking for content they've been skimming for years, for the couple of RL lurkers that read this instead of calling me on the phone - perpetuity:

I stopped in central Fl on day 1/my way up, to meet a guy I'd talked to a lot on fb (he's a friend of RL friends) and his girlfriend. They were both great - we went out for Indian food and it was a little like, "I don't actually know these people," but really not so bad, and then when we went back to their place there was a distinct, "I could easily have kept talking to them for many more hours" vibe. I really only eventually left when I did because it was so late and I had 2.5 more hours of driving to do that night.

Also - she is SO MUCH like my friend Kristin, and he is so like Grant in certain ways, and she and I have some fundamental stuff in common; it makes me feel like maybe there are just a few prototypes of people, like cats (white, black, ginger, calico, tabby, etc).

When I went to leave their place, I saw their cat on the roof of my car, but you know. Cats jump off. RIGHT? I didn't even think about it. I sat in my car for a few, programming the GPS and updating some people on times, and then I drove off. The whole way through town. ONTO THE HIGHWAY. I was driving on the highway for a few when I sat up straighter, adjusted my rearview mirror a bit, and spotted their damned cat on the trunk of my car. Casual, if slightly hunched, in that cat loaf position. I thought "if I just pull over, she'll immediately be ran over...but I can't leave her there!"

Anyway I made a big illegal u-turn when there was a huge gap in traffic to stop at the most secluded area possible, in case she bolted. But she just sat there on the trunk looking at me. So I put her in the car and texted them, "headed back to your guys aren't going to believe this shit."

EXCEPT THEY TOTALLY DID. They were relieved she was ok and thankful I'd brought her back, but also like, "Oh yeah she does this, that's why she has a GPS collar. You've got to shove her off the roof of your car."

On my way to Tallahassee, I texted Grant and Co pics of the cat screaming at me in the car (because apparently she's just like other cats in not being into regular, inside-vehicle travel) and told them the story over speakerphone. They were dying of laughter.

Sooooo I stayed up a bit with Jess and Cale when I finally got to Tallahassee, but mostly was exhausted and on day 1 (uterus trying to kill me) of my period.

Bedtime was the beginning of me trying to reconcile my normal Princess and the Pea ways with travelling. Gah. I LOVE Jess and Cale, and their place is mostly awesome (decor, space, cats, food, etc), buuuuut they don't have allergies or asthma of any kind to contend with. I myself am a slob, but an allergic slob, so there are certain things that have to be in place - like no wall to wall carpet, seriously high tech vacuum, periodic intentional dusting, etc. Also they just have different cats than I'm used to? And their futon has a big bar sticking up in the middle of it. Anyway I basically tossed and turned for hours and then woke up far too early with my eyes crusted over, coughing and sneezing, each morning. By day 4 I was dizzy and light headed and tight in the chest, and had to do a lot of phone tag with pharmacies and Teledoc to eventually get an inhaler before I passed out in the middle of CVS. I've been on a steady cocktail of claritin and/or benadryl with albuterol, ever since.

I could spend the rest of my life talking to Jess, though. Two different days, we went out to coffee shops and just talked for hours while I methodically shredded my styrofoam cup. One day Cale came too, and I got a bunch of nonsense out of my purse (mushroom playing cards, tarot cards, various seashells) so everyone could fidget with things and look through stuff while we talked.

Sidenote: It's so epic that Cale is someone I get along so well with, and could easily be good friends with in his own right. It would be so different to continue on with her and our 20 year friendship, with someone I felt awkward around inserted into our visits. Even when Jess was in the hospital and rehab last year, after surgical complications, it was easy to talk to and stay with Cale just the two of us. It makes me really happy for her, that he is as good as he is.

One day the 3 of us went on an hour+ drive to Withlacoochie (really) Florida, to swim in a cold spring. We stopped in the last available store, on the way, to get some food to take - the place seriously had gallon sized cans of boiled peanuts with faded labels and rusty tops. The vending machine outside only sold Faygo (.35 cents - quarters only!). The friendly cashier had a southern accent and just a couple of teeth. It was the pinnacle of "I hear banjos, paddle faster!" and one of many times I felt like I was in not just a different city, but a different country. I feel so distinctly Cuban once I'm outside of Miami-Dade County (where I feel white).

The Springs were AMAZING. Beyond amazing. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and something about the cold shock of water and the physical exertion was the perfect antidote to all the driving I'd been doing, and the lack of physical affection I'd started to feel like I might shrivel up and die from.

Really - I am suddenly quantifying how touchy each of my kids are and wondering wth I'm going to DO, when they're all grown up.

The Springs were even better because we got there when it was storming, and walked through the woods in the rain, and after we waited out the park ranger's orders not to get in due to lightning, we had the place to ourselves for a bit since the park had mostly cleared out.

Eventually it was time to I-10 it over to Jacksonville for the second half of this trip. Which sounded a lot like this:

Jean-Paul is doing great on all fronts, really having a kind of all-around upswing in love, career, mental health, errythang, so that's obviously cool. He's also the best kind of host, from not caring when or how I come and go and giving me my own key, to washing my allergen-coated bedding, and frequently having cookies or (gluten free even) brownies there when I'd get back. He's a host with lots of fluffy towels, and great conversation at the end of every day.

If anyone who reads this doesn't already know, he's both my 6th grade boyfriend/long time long distance friend, and Grant's cousin. So I get to do fun stuff like list our relationship as exes and relatives, on facebook :p

He's also an IT guy, like Grant, so the guest bed was just like my own in that it was near a computer used for working from home on double monitors.

Him: I can't believe you slept through that conference call.
Me: You have no idea.

Jacksonville is a sprawling place that's woven it's way through various parts of my life. I lived in a huge, dilapidated, old house in "historic" San Marco when I was 10-11, until we were evicted. Then I lived in a tiny, dilapidated, old trailer in Sin City, until we were evicted, and then turned 12 living in a roadside motel on Phillips Highway. There was a westside trailer's spare room and a beach apartment's couch in there, somewhere. When I was 19 or 20, Bobby and I moved up there with baby Annie and newborn Aaron and lived for a few difficult months with my mom in Mayport, before getting a nice house in Mandarin that was working out well, aside from the whole "second trimester miscarriage/fetus buried in the backyard" ordeal, until that whole relationship blew up.

The point is that Jacksonville in it's entirety is like a mesh patchwork of different kinds of mixed nostalgia. I generally avoid chasing ghosts when I'm there, but I decided for some reason to go find the two story house (from when I was 10-11). The path Laura and I used to walk to our bus stop is blocked now, so you have to go a few blocks out of your way to continue down the street the house is on. It looks the same, when you get there. Who cares, right? Except apparently I do, because I went and wrote a freakin' 4+ page long poem about this fucking house.

On that note - I used to say I felt six deep down inside, and weird little anecdotes about things that happened when I was 6 would come out in my (fictional) writing. My most private inner self, was the me that laid awake night after night in bed with Laura sleeping nearby, eavesdropping and making up stories about fairies.

At some point that changed, though, and for the past few years if I were to be so silly as to talk about my "inner child," I'd have listed her as being 9. The me that lived in LuMar apartments and read Stephen King books I didn't quite understand all of, and had a baby brother, and a big imaginary world behind a closed bedroom door. "Recently molested, still happiest at Nana and Pa's house" Tina has been who I am under the exterior.

Well, during this trip I realized that's not really the case anymore. My deep down, vulnerable, kid self has somehow evolved into the 11 year old hiding behind a building when the school bus came, and then spending the day sticking my feet in a fountain and stealing books from the library. Down a few layers I'm now that me, simultaneously venturing out into the world and also extremely isolated. Menstruating and starting to think obsessively about sex, and crushed that my sister is moving away.

I don't expect this to exactly make sense. I realize it sounds pretty kooky. But I think it's interesting, anyway, that it isn't (as I once thought, in my mid-twenties) that a part of me is just gonna be 6 forever. Apparently that formative, private, underneath part of me is growing older, too, albeit much slower than the rest of me and for reasons I don't fully (consciously?) understand.

After I spent the whole afternoon in a coffee shop full of man buns, writing and editing this poem and talking to a woman nearby about Pokemon, and feeling sick, I went out to dinner with Kristin! And heard all about her recent adventures in Micronesia, and laughed about god knows what. Definitely the best part of the day. We took a horrible selfie that screams her jet lag and my allergy and asthma troubles.

The next day, I drove back down to central Florida to hang out with the new guy again. Girlfriend was at work. We went and swam in one of his friend's pool, and ate mangoes and played music, for hours, and told each other a bunch of shit about our lives. Then when she was off work, we met his girlfriend for Korean barbecue, the highlight of which is that he apparently walked in and claimed someone else's reservation. He said this was a panic reaction, and it caused a lot of laughter when the waiter approached us with the party whose reservation it actually was. Seems relevant that our group and theirs were literally the only people in the place, so it's not like anyone was getting turned away.


I spent a whole day with Kristin, her sister (who I've met several times), her mom (who I've hung out with lots), and her kids (who my own consider family). I adore all of them, individually and as a group. Sent plenty of pics back to my house. We walked up to a brunch place and then hung around sister's apartment until she had to go to work. Then Kristin and I drove down to St Augustine, where her fiance/love of her life was finishing up with his conference for the day and becoming available.

Man oh man. One, much as I love them all, just her (or her and her guy) is better. Two, we went to the most off the hook AMAZING restaurant (The Black Fly, on Anastasia Island). The three of us split three dinners and three desserts. Luscious crab cakes. Blissful scallops. Mushroom medley in puff pastry. Chocolate mousse cake with hazelnuts, coconut lime creme brulee, and bourbon pecan ice cream. Every single bite was moaning and heaven. They're grossly in love and infectious in their happiness. And, since he hasn't heard them all before, we get to tell him all of our old stories :D

IMG_1892[1] IMG_1888[1]

We went back to their hotel and swam in their warm, salty pool, which was hilariously close to frequently passing freight trains. Lots of laughing, and everyone finding my hairs wrapped around them (which was an ongoing theme of the whole trip... it's almost as though I was on a mission to clog every shower in Florida). She's a bug scientist and he studies mangrove conditions around the world, so nothing I have to say about plants will ever seem inconsequential to either of them. Yet we can also be aghast together about tumblr porn that involves eyeballs being pushed out of assholes. THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, I TELL YOU.

I went back through central Florida on the way home, specifically stopping in to spend an hour with this guy I only met this trip. It was an interesting conversation on a couch, and then I gave him a ride to work. He (like Cale, and Jean-Paul, and practically every other man I ever talk to apparently?) is an IT guy, and was tense about a problem he was having trouble solving at this new job. I was like, well, you sound like Charlie Brown's parents to me, buuuuut I'm willing to bet I know someone who can help with that issue. So Grant and him skyped through it.

IT guys are interesting, and a bunch of the ones I know don't really identify as IT guys. Cale was going to be an attorney and this is just a way to pay the bills, Grant would rather see himself as a photographer or dad, this other guy would rather be around kids and has worked with kids at times. Jean-Paul is adamant that work doesn't define people and anti-capitalism in general. Like even when they make a ton of money (which is frequently the case) and enjoy their jobs, there's still this vague unease at being seen AS that job, which I suspect is partially because none of them seem to consciously choose it. It's a whole generational phenomenon where smart underachievers stayed up on computers instead of doing their homework, and missed a lot of high school/dropped out entirely, and then that somehow turned out to give them a super profitable skill set.

Back to my timeline here, my last stop was to see Samara, Bobby's wife (who I think is the bee's knees), about my allergies and general malaise. She sells and markets and graphic designs for some pretty natural and well planned out supplements, and I have been dead against hearing about them (or any other direct sales) before. But I basically walked in and said, "Clearly I need help. I am now ready to receive your wisdom." She's got grace for days so this was actually not awkward, and involved laughter and hugs as I told her about the Herbal Conference I went to in February, and how I stopped eating grains for months but just cheated a ton while travelling, and don't know if I can cut sugar at all, and so on... she's the most calming presence. I don't even know how to describe her energy.

I even had a long, civil conversation with Bobby before I finally headed out towards home o_O

So here I am. It's been a restorative sort of weekend featuring lots and lots of sleeping in my LUSCIOUS KING SIZED BED, lots of showing my kids pictures, and cuddle piles, and just a few occasions of venturing out with a couple of them at a time. Aaron, Jake, Elise and I went to a cafe and down to the ocean to look at jellyfish, yesterday. Later I'm probably taking some people to see The Secret Life of Pets. I arrived home broken out, with canker sores in my mouth, tired like I haven't been since I had babies and still reliant on a couple of meds - so while I really did have a great time, it was good to get back to my nest. Definitely gonna be brainstorming ways to make future travel less physically stressful. When I went to Lakeland a few weeks back to visit my grandparents and other family, it was sort of perfect because I stayed at my friend Cindi's place (which is far cleaner than my own, and pet free) where I had my own room with a good bed, and limitless access to a bathroom nobody else was waiting on. Obviously it's not reasonable to expect everyone I know to be able to provide that kind of guest space :p I wonder how much of my trouble was about NOT bringing all my normal supplements with me (because they're for the whole family, some require refrigeration, etc). I usually take a LOT of shit every day, and strongly suspect I'm counteracting some malabsorption issues that way. I'm also kinda flabbergasted by how cavalier other people my age act about chronic extreme sleep deprivation? Jean-Paul acts like that's just "being an adult," and even Jess and Cale "can't sleep past 9am" (even if we're staying up talking til 3-4am?!). Kristin is basically ideologically opposed to naps. I'm just like, guys. GUYS! SLEEP IS A WELLSPRING OF GOODNESS AND LIGHT!

I also got back to the news that I'm getting a $5,000 grant I hadn't counted on, for this first upcoming year of grad school! I have a mandatory orientation for that next month, and I'm getting pumped about the whole situation. I met with my advisor and got my schedule sorted out a few weeks ago. Also exciting that the average age of FIU grad students is 31, so hopefully I can actually make some friends other than the teachers.

Not ready to let go of summer yet, though... bookstores are throwing Harry Potter parties; Grant, me, and Ananda are going to NYC next month. And, Kristin is coming here for a couple of days. I am failing abysmally at prioritizing book writing. Today I had to make a million appointments, take Isaac to counseling, drive Elise to and from camp, wash a mountain of dishes, cook us all dinner, and more. It took me 3 days to write this entry! This weekend seemed promising, but someone wants to come over, and I've been asked if I can cover some hours at the crisis call center.

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So. Making Christmas awesome and meaningful for five very different kids of varying ages is some damned hard work, particularly on a budget. But I think we did a pretty great job :)

It involved a lot of shennanigans and acrobatics on our parts, like driving 5 hours north to Lakeland, staying for 8 hours, driving 3 more hours north to Lake City, sleeping overnight and staying part of the day, and then driving the 8+ hours home. That's right - we left early Friday morning, got back late Saturday night, and traversed the entire freaking state in the meantime. This enabled us to spend Christmas Eve-Eve with my Nana and Pa, mother, Laura and Frank, Bob + his girlfriend, etc, and then Christmas Eve with my mother in law, Robby, Patrice and Nadia - including going to mil's Christmas Eve family renunion. We had a packed cooler and ate at peoples' houses; no hotels, no restaurants, only gas money. The kids watched Redbox dvds in the van, and played an "interactive Harry Potter dvd game" that we got for 4.99 in a clearance bin FOR HOURS. Elise also dressed a chicken via a free iphone app FOR HOURS. I didn't realize until I got my phone back that she was taking screen captures. I have many shots of a chicken in various states of dress. I used to really be against electronics for roadtrips and I still usually think it's a lame idea but, well, we needed them to sit in the van for 16 out of 36 hours, and it's getting pretty cramped in that 3rd row as they get bigger. Extenuating circumstances if there ever were.

We also did things like breathe a sigh of relief that my (textbooks, college money) book advance was several hundred dollars more than my textbooks cost, since the college book store sells things like Skull Candy headphones, Kindles, children's books, mp3 players, batteries, PAJAMAS - basically they know a lot of people are coming through with extra grant money that can only be spent there and take full advantage with a huge inventory of non-college-related products. Board games, greeting cards, earrings, hoodies, cool bags and journals of all shapes and sizes, candy of every sort - it's ridiculous. And awesome. And really helped us round out our gifts for them. I have a daughter who asks for things like rainbow packs of sharpies and G2 Pilot pens, after all. Eventually if you don't spend all of your book advance, you get back the extra in a refund check, but until then it's only available electronically for purchases there, and this time it came through just in time for us to buy things we couldn't have afforded otherwise.

You can generally spot the people going to school at Miami Dade on grant money because they're the only ones walking around in head to toe overpriced MDC gear, since they bought it with "fake money". I have no interest in college sweats, shoelaces or headbands, but I'd like to think this is pretty close to the intended purpose of the grant as it really is helping me go to school rather than having to work instead. Which we were getting really close to the point of, when I went back (that was before Grant's new job, which pays more than the previous one).

So, yeah.

Our time with Nana and Pa was great. It was hard, at times, because it's really different with her disabled, but I was so glad to be able to rub her back and make her happy and talk to her, and make Pa obviously happy, and just BE there. She burst into tears when she saw Ananda because, well, Annie is basically a woman at this point and it means time just keeps passing. I had a good time sitting around like a lazy bum while Laura cooked and prepped for the party, talking and laughing with her. Grant took all the kids and Brian to the park while I entertained Elizabeth and Frank got hilariously buzzed. I really think I like him better drinking, it's pretty funny. Bob hung all over Gloraly, his girlfriend, while they muttered to each other, and my mom seemed thrilled to have us there in an exhausted sort of way. The food was good; the presents were wonderful; the kids said we need to go back soon and I agree. I took a ton of pics I'll post sometime soon.

Teresa (mil) was SO sweet and so happy to have us, and Robbie came home from some friends' houses to be there with us, and IS TALLER AGAIN - he's seriously like 6'4" at this point, it's getting crazy - and made me laugh, and Nadia is out of her shell and Patrice is great. I wished we could have stayed for days and days. It was so easy and natural, sitting on their porch with Grant watching cousins kick a ball around in their currently-dry retention pond, or watching Elise and Oma (Teresa) play on her bed while Grant fixed her computer. The reunion thing we went to was crazy; Grant is descended from hillbillies, this is the second reunion I've went to that was in a (different!) barn. The variety of American flag tshirts was astounding - one actually featured an eagle riding a harley davidson. Crazy. It was very sad leaving. I somehow took zero pictures that day, though Grant got a couple I'll try to pilfer.

The ride back was...uh...trying, let's say. And we got back at about 3 am with a couple of people getting sick and Jake having an accident.

But, Christmas day here at home was awesome. Ananda got boots and headphones and pajamas she loved (all picked out by Daddy, which I find super impressive), and restocked underwear and bras, and a Kindle that made her lose her mind with glee, and an epic stocking full of all kinds of goodies. Aaron got the remote control helicopter he wanted, and a new cheapy phone since his old one stopped working and sneakers that actually fit and new super soft pillows from BJ's because I knew he'd not stop rubbing himself on them and acting like he was stoned for days. Elise got Ananda's ENTIRE old Groovy Girl doll collection, including accessories, among other things, and Jake and Isaac got walkie talkies and art supplies to share as well as a bunch of individual things (games, puzzles, legos, books) that made them happy.

They came home from the roadtrip with crazy relative presents - knee high converse Ananda had been dying for, new Calvin and Hobbes collections for Aaron, a Super Mario Kart K'nex racing set for the little boys that really works, an 18" doll for Elise, a bike for Jake, just all kinds of stuff.

THEN back home Opa gave them a new trampoline, as a group (the old one got taken apart when it started popping springs, months ago), and $50 each.

They're completely drowning in loot.

Our Christmas dinner was a roast with lots of onions, garlic, and mushrooms; roasted potatoes, and green beans, with rolls. We had Izze and wine with it, and Shaun was over. Everyone was stuffed by the end.

Then we all got sick for real, and have spent the past two days alternately feeling better and relapsing by turn.

Today Grant went back to work and I started cleaning in ernest; Christmas presents, road tripping and family-wide illness have NOT been kind to my house and HOURS of solid work in, I still have at least another full day to log before it looks passable. But I took a lot of reading and kid-conversation breaks, and we're still in this insular, surreal holiday mode without preschool or activities, as everyone explores their new stuff, and I'm cherishing that.

Our house feels like home to me in the best way, after travelling. Messy or otherwise. And I'm so glad we didn't get sick until it was all over.
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We're back from Boca Raton (since late Thursday night). It was pretty good. The kids and I glutted ourselves on delicious and very pimped out free breakfast every morning and went swimming every day. I felt I was friends with the omelette and pancake chef guy by the time we left (laughter and tips each morning...he cooks better than I do).

The noodle fish in it's native habitat.
The first day at the pool I got to be the mom of the four year old girl running around the deck with a pool noodle between her legs telling everyone to look at her giant penis. *headdesk*

I drank rum every night (free bar, and kiddie drinks and snacks, every night from 5:30-7:30). I took them to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center one afternoon - it was totally worth it as a FREE trip that involved seeing injured and rehabilitating sea turtles up close, their amazing butterfly garden, lots of (outdoor!) aquariums full of great exotic things like urchins, starfish, sea horses, etc, and climbing to the top of their 40 foot observation tower that sways in the breeze...but it also turned awful because it was a 100 degree day and we didn't realize the reeeeallly loooong boardwalk was ONE WAY...until we got to the end of it. Everyone was bright red from near heat stroke and long past done by the time we got out of there (nevermind that we'd guzzled probably a gallon of water combined and poured that much on our heads, as well).

A and A went by themselves to see the extended version of The Lord of the Rings (1, 2 and 3 are upcoming, this is around the country) in theater. Neither Grant nor I wanted to spend our one evening together in a FOUR HOUR LONG MOVIE we've already seen. They came out FLIPPING THE HELL OUT about the EPICNESS of it so large, loud and surround-sound. G and I were actually able to lock the bedroom door and make some private adult time happen while they were gone, and the three littles watched Noggin. Other than that evening he was doing team building and social activities with/for the company, eating dinner with them, etc.

I managed to get three social studies quizzes taken (well) online and do/email my 3 page paper for SLS, and I got a callback on the first Craigslist job I sent a resume in for, while we were there :) I also got all my studying and homework for algebra done within the first 36 hours we were back. Understanding algebra is a whole new world for me over here, I'm really glad I'm doing this now before my older kids hit higher level math.

Camera Phone Pics from Gumbo Limbo; 9, 8 of which are far too big )

I felt pretty isolated while we were there (when I didn't feel like a boss for all that was getting accomplished), on my own with the five kids without Grant or my sister/friends in town or even internet access most of the time. I mean you talk to strangers in the pool but come on. Still, I've had to deal with hotel withdrawal from the first morning I woke up with everyone wanting to know what was for breakfast and what we were doing that day O_o Seriously, I could use some automatic maid service around here.

I'm currently having my first IUD period and,'s pretty horrific. Both in pain and debilitation levels and in blood loss. I mean...this is carnage. I spent all of yesterday dizzy and weak trying to just lay around as much as possible :/ I'm having to deal with things like "Oh I bled through all that onto the van seat...and...the chair at Starbucks...this is awesome...." I changed clothes 3 times yesterday *sigh* I had to sit on a fucking folded towel to ride with my sister to Whole Foods (because we don't have time to hang out, like, ever anymore). I thought I was going to have to take oxycodone to sleep last night - it actually hurt badly enough that I was wondering if I had perforated or something - but my wonderful and open minded husband helped me with alternate pain relief, if you know what I mean. And if you don't you probably don't want to.

Supposedly a lot of women's bodies adjust to the IUD within some variable number of cycles and then this shit lets up a little. That would be nice... I mean I don't have any other complaints here, I had no cramps or spotting between periods and still started on time as I would have normally. But, uh....sheesh. The last time it was this bad was when Dama was down last year and I was just LAYED UP by it, but that only lasted one or two days and we're on day 3 of insanity here now. I'm so thirsty it's impossible to drink enough.

This is my new fb profile pic, taken at Cauley Square by Grant.

Pics from the TLC end of the year pool party that I talked about in the last entry, stolen (with permission) from Cybele's facebook :)

cake Annie and Sophia made.

Annie and Sophia :)

My daughter in the purple shirt.

Outdoor living room.

The other 2/3 of Aaron's "gang", the Ninja Dolphins.

He thinks it's hilarious that someone else who went tagged this pic of him "that crazy guy" on fb.

All pools all the time.

I don't know who these TLC kids think they are even having an end of the year party; they've already had one more "meeting" (Christina's birthday party, at her house) since and are resuming meeting at the library on Friday afternoons for the summer :p

Since we've been back, my broke ass has scored an espresso maker and a stair climber for free (freecyle and a neighbor giving away). I've gotten to a point in my coffee consumption where I can clearly no longer afford to depend on Starbucks alone (plus I can use almond or coconut milk at home), and I've wanted a stair climber ever since Aaron and I went to NY last summer and I realized how woefully hard stairs are for me and how nonexistant those muscle groups are in my body.

Grant is considering a way higher paying job that is almost impractical it's so far away...he'd be driving half an hour to take 2 trains O_O's a $20k a year leap, with a solid company, and the guy is talking about commuting reimbursement and 2k-3k a year raises. Still health care industry, which seems to be the best and most solid for IT down here (digitizing records, having to keep up with new HIPAA laws, and Obama funding). The job Grant has now straight up doesn't pay enough; it's a great work environment and it's a huge blessing that it's close but there's very little opportunity for advancement, no raises, and we're basically just digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole the longer he stays there. I mean we can barely scrape by with enough side jobs done for other people, but those are inconsistent and it's a stressful situation. We aren't willing to move for the job (we love and own this house, and we love where we live and don't have any desire to live in Ft Lauderdale).

THEN AGAIN, the company Grant works for has acquired land to build this massive huge expansion that's like 3 times the size of the currently existing maybe he will have room for advancement there if he waits it out. If we can manage to wait it out. We don't even know how long that will be, I mean a year seems conservative and it's not like anybody has even said he can count on it down the line...the dude offering him the far away job is a former supervisor from the job he lost in January, who also left that company they were at together. Grant DOES love listening to audiobooks and NPR and things during a commute (enough that he misses it sometimes, though he says it's outweighed by being home so much more).

Alright, I don't know what today has in store for us...probably Grant and Shaun will build more of Kristin's chicken coop and I'll do more editing and rearranging of my short stories (which will soon be available for e-readers!!!) I think for now I may join Elvis on the bed for a nap. The King has the right idea.
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Alright, well, three pieces of information have come to light since the previous entry, and we're going :)

(the main two)

1. When we figured it out, with current gas prices and our mileage, we save $38 in gas if we go with him rather than making two round trips.

2. The hotel has FREE COOK TO ORDER BREAKFAST!! So we can all get stuffed in the early part of the day for free. With groceries kept in the room for lunch, it's just 3 dinners to buy for us - and his meals are comp'd.

Those two things combined definitely tip the scales to "guilt free vacation", but also

3. The suite comes with a king sized bed and a pull out sofa, and there's room on the floor to bring an air mattress.

So it's all good in the hood, the hood being Boca Raton in this case :)
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Grant has an IT conference he has to attend next week, for four days. His job is paying for his accomadations and meals. The accomadations are a two room suite and we already got permission for him to bring us along; there's a pool, it's near a beach, there's wifi for my laptop (virtual college course, Craigslist job hunting, etc).

Pros: Paid hotel stay, we always want to do that! Chances to swim for free daily with ease. We only have one vehicle and can't really afford a rental so if only Grant goes I have to drive him the two hours there and then come back 2 hours, same for picking him up, and he has no transporation in between. I've already approved this with my Tues and Thurs class professor, Bob is here to keep the animals alive, and the kids got told and are eager to do it. I don't want to sleep without Grant for several nights either, I'm bad at that.

Cons: We really aren't sure the room is equipped for all of us, I mean we camp in a damned tent and could bring sleeping bags and things but truly, it could end up cramped, and nobody seems to know details about the accomadations (the hotel website is sparse on pictures and doesn't include floor plans). We also really can't afford for all of us to be eating out of town for 3-4 days, even if we do try to keep some fruit and sandwich supplies in the room to cut costs. And, although I can meet some minimum productivity requirements with the laptop, I could be more productive at home and there's a lot of productivity to be engaging in at the moment. It's also a pain in the ass to pack and try to clean beforehand.

Should we all go? What do you think, internet?

What I'm really doing online right now is procrastinating because once I STOP procrastinating, I have to

make oatmeal
make sure Ananda and Aaron have their bags packed and supplies ready to be at Cybele's for 3 days, starting at the PATH handoff this afternoon
get the ferrets packed up with supplies in the big dog crate because they're the little boys' show and tell in their class today
make sure A and A and I and J (haha) have their folders and bags for their classes this afternoon
have everyone in clean clothes and shoes and out the door with their hands and faces washed to go to art therapy for Annie (the rest of us play at the nearby mall play area while Annie's in there)
then their classes
then lunch at the park
then PATH and the handoff
then picking Grant up

So oh yeah I also have to pack lunch before we leave, and make sure I have the $20 cash for the art therapist (woot sliding scale), and the carrying case for the ferrets so we can have them in that to go into the classroom since the big dog carrier is only for during transport and other activities.

I have some good ideas for how to make the most of this day, like watching the kids' documentary on Brazil we have out from the library in the van (this is a follow up to going to see Rio) and walking around the track at PATH a couple of times to get some excercise in. Elise and I have good one on one time while the other four are in classes, too - last week we found her an AMAZING $9 dress on the clearance rack at Macy's and the week before we sat in a bakery together in a booth talking. She's pretty great.

(OT) Annie's making a doll in art therapy which I think is coming out great.

Over and out, internet, my clock is ticking.
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UGH I am so depressed!

*giant heaving sigh*

However...this is awesome.

We just got back into town from visiting my mother and Nana and Pa up in Lakeland late last night. Today sucked.

I got up and went to RCIA and the teacher was just giving me a really hard time about missing last week the entire meeting. I called her in advance for permission to be out and she acted like it was between me and God, basically, and lots of people are out all the time for work or a cruise in one case or whatever. Anyway she kept singling me out and referencing it and making penance jokes and all this crap the whole time today and at least twice she got really mad at me in ways that made other people visibly uncomfortable. I mean, COME ON.

Then I stayed after to meet with her; I assumed we would be making up last week's content. Rather, I got a long long lecture/interrogation about whether or not I'm committed enough. I confessed to her that I do think I've had a sort of prideful sin of feeling that I have done so much independent reading and research over several years that I already know most of what is being taught in RCIA, which in turn has made me feel like it wouldn't be a huge deal to miss one week to go camping; they're often doing things like "The Bible is divided into many smaller 'books' and they can be categorized as gospels, poetry, prophecy" etc - stuff I learned in Baptist kintergarden, basically. I told her I realized it's not really right for me to think that way because often I DO learn great things and I realize I have to come regardless and that there is a seminarian coming every week. I thought I was being honest and trying to bridge a gap between the two of us but I guess I just irritated her more because she got downright threatening about whether or not she would approve me and telling me she doesn't see the conversion, the true spiritual growth in my eyes during mass and things like that. It's like, lady, I have been attending Mass on my own as a non-Catholic for the last 3 years. I was crying at Midnight Mass on Christmas. I didn't realize you had to be there to catch and count the tears in a little tally bottle to approve me.

I know I should not be so bitter. I like her on a lot of levels. It's just very frustrating to have her be the gate through which we must all pass to enter The Church. Today she made us close our eyes and listen to Elvis again (How Great Thou Art, on cassette).

But, next week we are going up to the "Vatican Splendours" exhibit at the Ft Lauderdale Museum of Art and I am really happy about that. We're going to have headsets to listen to some hour and a half long thing explaining everything we see and I'll be driving a bunch of people in my van. There's also a free art exhibit here in Homestead on Saturday that I'll probably be taking the kids to.

I still have to go make up the lesson from last week separately as well as seeing a video I missed since I started late in the Fall rather than when everyone else did, and I have extra reading for this is probably a good thing for me on some levels. I have some abivalence about Lent and my first confession and things like that right now.

Anyway. That was RCIA, and then I felt like I just couldn't write and just...overwhelmed by so many issues, large and small, that have been getting to me lately. Grant and I are definitely in some kind of rough patch, and it's punctuated by lots of good moments and I think it will be ok, but in the meantime I am so emotionally exhausted and weary of hashing out the same damn things over and over and OVER.

I think I'm having something like a really early nonsensical midlife crisis. I spent my childhood and adolescence taking care of my siblings and holding my mother together and working and then I started having babies...and now, NOW that I am here in this financially precarious situation, married with five children and a great big house to keep clean - I want to be young. I'm ready for something wild and new every day and it never comes. I'm really, really restless and NOT content with my life as it is, and...I don't know. I've had a million theories for why this is over the past 6 months, some of which I've written about:

We had a lot of drama and upheaval as I was growing up so maybe I don't know how to have everything stay ok and the same.

I can't have babies anymore so I'm getting bored now that my youngest is gonna be 4.

I'm coming out of a fog from all the pregnancies, labors, surgeries and trauma and am "waking up".

I've just been attachment parenting and/or homeschooling five children for the past 10 years and so this was bound to happen eventually.

I started my family very young and never ever "partied" beforehand, at all, or even just lived on my own or traveled or...whatever.

I'm trying to channel my energy in productive directions - succeeding sometimes, failing others. Trying to remember what is good and rewarding and joyful about my domestic life as a wife and mother, trying to think about how much better I have it than so many other people and how my whole world seemed to dangle by a thread when my various kids were in various dangers and they're ok, now! They're all ok so...what is my problem?

I want to get tattoos and piercings and go on roadtrips with friends and get drunk and have really amazing sex pretty much constantly. I need to have too much music up way too loud and often and I am driving too fast and getting speeding tickets and I'm too distracted by facebook chat and phone conversations with people outside of the house. All of this scares the living shit out of Grant. I confessed to him today, lying on our bed with tears all over my pillow, that what sounds better to me than anything is if I just had a pause button I could push on my family, such that I could go off and do what I want to do for some indefinite period of time and then come back and find them all just the same waiting for me.

Obviously this is not really plausible. And what scares the living shit out of ME is the idea that by time I can act young or do what I want to do, it will be "too late".

*sigh again*

I am trying to remember that most of the things I crave lately have little to nothing to do with lasting happiness and find some kind of middle ground - wherein I go out and talk on the phone more with friends but also read to my kids and cook something decent here and there and plan out a tattoo as I sweep the floor....argh.

I feel silly right now for even bringing any of this up. I just got back from a camping and a hotel road trip. But they were both trips with kids that centered around family and extended family and both of them also featured quite a lot of those capital T Talks Grant and I have been having.

Anyway. After he and I talked, earlier, he went over to Shaun's to watch the Super Bowl and seemed to have a pretty good time and then came back and played ping pong with Shaun however many hours later. He starts his new job tomorrow and I hope it's good for him.

I think he's been having some good stuff for himself...taking the bigger kids swimming or to Bingo while I hang with littles, sitting in the back of the van watching a movie while I do the driving, things like that. I feel so insanely guilty for how stressed he gets about my malaise.

Career/job/educational choices for myself, as well as schooling stuff for the kids, have been looming large for me...Ananda and Aaron have self-corrected what I've been seeing as their biggest problems in recent weeks, which makes homeschooling seem really great and makes me second guess everything I've been saying about putting them in the charter school. Sometimes lately the pressure of making these sorts of decisions for other people is seeming a bit heavy. There are a lot of ins and a lot of outs with this business. Annie found a $4, clearanced Nightmare Before Christmas lunchbox at an FYE while we were out of town and ended up getting it in a "might go to school in the Fall" way.

I considered filling it with rocks to beat (bil) Frank over the head with this afternoon when he was trying to threaten to take all of Elise's old shoes over to Goodwill if I didn't come get them within the hour since Elizabeth keeps scattering them about their house :p

WTF'ery: whilst we were on the highway starving one day, we pulled over at a McDonald's. Hashing out how many of us there were and how many nuggets we should get, the cashier was like "You want to just get the 50 piece?" THE WHAT, we asked?? That's right. She said fifty. We got a 50 piece chicken nugget. AND TOOK IT DOWN. THE WHOLE THING. ALL FIFTY. Afterwards Grant was like, "Damnitt I only got two of those!"

I ultimately believe that most of the angst I'm dealing with at the moment is the result of really seeing how poorly I've been doing in many areas and striving to change it. The changing it part is great but it's hard to see how far I have to go instead of just living in denial (like with my weight, or doing independent things with my life like a writing career or going back to school). It's hard to know that I'm turning 30 this year and just sort of haven't accomplished anything for almost 4 years, since I failed bigtime. Even though I know it isn't quite that simple - in another way, it is. I'm sure it's good and transformative to be struggling with things and pushing for progress, it just feels like pulling teeth in the meantime...and drudges up all kinds of hoohaw in the bargain. This will still ultimately be my year, if for no other reason than IT HAS TO BE.

That's a wrap.
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I have soooo many pictures and stories about this trip, because we really, really crammed a LOT into it. I'm putting the first 20 pics in this post because I am too tired to do more and really, how many do you want to look at at once?

We listened to two volumes of Queen's greatest hits basically the entire time. This first entry's theme song will be "Killer Queen" which you can click and play behind the cut. Because really, it was always on in the van, and we were always singing it when we were out because how catchy can you get? That lilt, I swear.

First 20 Pictures )
altarflame: (this is serious)
We're home! We got in at about 11 last night, after stopping at a Whole Foods in Boca Raton for dinner (thanks GPS!).

So far for today I've fed everyone half an Odwalla bar and a square of chocolate each for breakfast, because there is NO food here, and then we went and picked up our produce share (a day late), got our house key from my sister, and deposited a check that had come in the mail, at the bank. Ever since then I've been trying to reply to emails and read my friends' page and go back through facebook and so on while the kids run around and reacquaint themselves with all our "stuff". I think Aaron has played guitar or piano for the last two hours solid and Isaac has been locked in his bedroom with the legos that whole time. EVERYONE ONLINE HAD BABIES WHILE I WAS AWAY.

ARIELLE I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU GUYS!! I wish you would update 5 times a day, but of course you have that whole "newborn baby" thing taking up all your time and attention.

So my sister in on the way over here with a big pot of soup for lunch and cookies she baked us for tea, how awesome is that? And my email group is having meetups both tomorrow (at the zoo) and Saturday (at a museum). There's a BirthGirlz soap box derby Saturday night, at the bookstore, too. I love it.

Right around West Palm Beach, heading home from being away, I always get this niggling nervousness like, uh, we've been away for a week. In this case with my sister caring for our pets and bringing in our mail and things, and we have an alarm, but still. I start to think. What will we find when we get there, late in the night, kids sleeping in the back, assuming all is well? What if there was a fire/theft/animal death/massive bug infestation/etc? So it's a relief to come in and find it all just waiting for us as we left it. The chicks are bigger. And our house feels ENORMOUS after being in either a tiny cabin or our minivan the whole trip.

I have a million pictures and stories but that will probably have to wait until late tonight at the earliest. We shall see. Because I ALSO have a veritable mountain of laundry, a van to clean out, three boxes of produce to put away, a HOUSE TO CLEAN, and mostly I've got to go outside and sit in the grass with a bunch of small children and chickens and talk with Laura while we eat something yummy.
altarflame: (nicoletta)
Very Bad:
I think it's possible I had some sort of minor heart attack or...something...on the way up here, to Tampa. I mean I hope not? No, I did not go to the doctor/hospital, because; I was able to continue driving well and wonder whether I was having a heart attack the entire time; it was the middle of the night, on the highway, out of town; I just took a 24 hour heart monitor off a few hours before, and was only 48 hours out from a cardiologist listening to me and doing an EKG and saying I looked great. So, it seemed to me that I was already under medical advisement for heart "issues" and - well - I am not exactly eager to ruin my vacation to rush off to the ER :x *sigh* I feel a little guilty for this, based on things I've recently learned, but also, MOSTLY, like I am being responsible and doing all I can in this regard.
Basically there I was innocently driving along when suddenly I had sharp, sudden chest pain that intensified for about 10 seconds, stayed steady for about 30 seconds after that, and then gradually tapered off over the next minute or two. It was under my left breast, and coincided with a sudden numbness and tingling in my left arm and hand. My left arm continued to feel heavy and that hand tingly, as though I had a tourniquet on for a blood draw, for, like...2 hours afterwards. It basically stopped when we got here and I stood up and started walking around, out of the van. But you can believe it was not still while I was in the van, I was constantly squeezing my fist and stretching it in different directions (and praying) to try to get it to knock it off...I did not have any nausea or shortness of breath or anything like that during this episode. Nothing else has happened out of the ordinary since and I imagine I can call tomorrow to get my 24 hour monitor results...just thinking about this again is stressing me out. Blah.

Regular Bad:
It is sucky to be accompanying my husband to Busch Gardens, where he is so psyched to get on all these really intense roller coasters, and not even be willing to consider going on them myself. As a person with ptsd undergoing a lot of medical tests, I am frequently fighting the feeling of an adrenaline rush as I, say, cut up chicken or nurse a baby. And I have these heart concerns. And it just couldn't appeal to me less.
I am normally someone who would be jumping up and down squealing with anticipation about this sort of thing. I used to be the one who'd get on anything at the fair, back when Grant was afraid of even the tame stuff. Now he goes with Shaun while I stay with the kids in the hotel room, and it is LAME. I am lame. This is all lame.
And this whole day! I think I'm PMS'ing - which has the added bonus that I may be dealing with the terrential flood of doom in a hotel and vacation situation - but everything that could go wrong, today, did. Our card started being declined everywhere even though we have thousands of dollars in our checking account, because we had too many things go through at once, out of town, and they flagged it - but it was Sunday, so we couldn't get ahold of anyone at our bank to fix it. And we had lost the annual passes we just bought yesterday, for Busch Gardens, which we discovered when we got to the gate. And I reached the door of a big show there with Ananda, Aaron and Isaac, out of breath from running across the park...right as they closed the doors and locked them because it was starting. And Elise pooped, right as we were walking out the door. And neither our GPS nor Google Maps can understand the overlapping highways and construction around our hotel. And the kids locked a bunch of their underwear and a groovy girls doll and the tv remote in the safe, in their room, but have no idea what they set the code to first. And and and.

The day before we left, Grant got a $2.50/hr raise! It's the equivalent of over $5,000 more per year for us, knocking him up from a barely enough for our budget if we didn't have a big money market account to "in the clear even without that". This of course is barring major medical expenses, but hey. I'm proud of him, he's always getting special projects the boss doesn't trust anyone else with and doing "above and beyond" things like going back for new certifications and checking his email to help people on his off days.

He also got back together with his biggest client from when he had his own business, for an ongoing part time's pretty cool, he'll only be doing about 8 hours of work for them per week, but that will add up to a significant amount of money because when he's doing stuff on his own like that, it's about $65 per hour.

Aside from the stuff that happened today, and the heart junk, this has been a good trip. I LOOOOOOOVE this luxury hotel stuff. I don't care how cheesy it seems, how self serving, I love:
-not cooking
-not cleaning
-coming back to a magically cleaned room every evening, with fresh towels, made up beds, cleared floors, trash out, all of it
-the feeling that we're helping the economy in some small way, as confident consumers
-giving money to people - the bellhop who brings our stuff up, the valets, the room service lady, the homeless guy on the corner, the maid for the rooms, the waitress at a restaurant - I just love it that Grant is a guy who loves giving people bigger than necessary amounts. I love the feeling of being in a position for "giving back", and how happy it makes people. Especially the maid and waitress type situations because it is really a lot of work for a family of 7, sometimes we make a huge mess at a table or in a room, and it greatly assuages my conscience that we can give someone $30 for all their running around.
-and I love not having any outside obligations, even the small ones like therapy or doctors appts, but also, of course, the bigger ones like Grant working

This has been awesome for the kids, school-wise, too. We went to the Salvador Dali museum and really spent a long time talking about symbolism and reccuring themes and what surrealism is and all that sort of thing. They were VERY attentive and amazed, and it was their first experience of a non-children's museum with the extreme quiet and the hands-off exhibits. I was able to buy them some geometric pattern and optical illusion coloring books they've been using with colored pencils here in the hotel room. Then today the 3 older ones saw a pretty fabulous show at Busch Gardens - Kumanga, I think it was called. It was the first major live production with a lot of effects and stage craft that Aaron or Isaac had ever seen (though we did go see a smaller Wizard of Oz at Actor's Playhouse last year, and Annie saw Disney on Ice when she was a 4 year old Girl Scout). Ananda and Aaron (and I) also had their faces painted yesterday, and she got a hair wrap today. I love showing them and talking to them about different things, from driving along a long narrow strip of land with a still bay on one side and a choppy ocean on the other, to huge rollercoasters, to city skylines at night from our windows.

I'm trying to decide if it makes me a crappy typical American or not, but I am also really loving easy, convenient, happy ways I can help people and "make a difference". For instance, Whole Foods has this line of products called "World of Good", it is all handmade, fair trade trinkets that have their own individual stories on the tag. So far I have an irregular, yellow tinted glass teardrop keychain, that is a piece of littered glass a woman in Ghana found on the street and melted down - it's this cooperative of single mothers who pick the glass off the ground all over the city and melt them into keychains. Only $10-ish (I don't remember exactly) and I get to help them AND have a piece of glass that was litter on the streets of Ghana on my keys. I have a purse handmade from hemp that grows wild in the Hemilayas, that is harvested and mixed with scraps of New Zealand wool and Indian silk that's left by traders, by a women's co-op in the Valley of a Thousand Hills ($24, and really cool looking).

I also love things where you can spend an extra $1, $5 or $10 and it goes to whatever cause, at the grocery checkout or even ordering pizza online.

Very Good:
My husband went crazy and bought me stuff that's making me all goofy, for my birthday. He bought me this oval shaped box, pewter-ish, to keep rings in, and 3 rings. They're sized to be interchangeable with the engagement ring I've been wearing on my right hand since our wedding, when my wedding band went on my left hand. Two are BEAUTIFUL garnet rings he gave me early, then on my actual birthday he gave me an opal...opal is my birthstone and I love it, and it's so hard to find opal set in white gold, or silver (I'm really not about yellow gold). And he gave me a bracelet and set of earrings from this antique store we went browsing through, that I loved in the case, a month or more ago. And an iPod! An iPod Nano. So far it has a classic rock, a Sarah McLachlan/Ani Difranco, and a Veruca Salt folder. I see the Indigo Girls forthcoming.

We had Publix ice cream cake in the hotel rooms, with 27 candles that, thankfully, did not set off the smoke detectors and douse us all in sprinkling.

We've only been here since VERY late Thursday night/early Friday morning, and I've already had two showers. By myself. Really.

I think about writing CONSTANTLY. I've started 3 more short stories in the past week. I was writing with a pen and notebook while stopped in traffic on a bridge the other day (as the driver). I just have a lot of ideas. I have a budding sense of enthusiasm for trying to pitch this themed collection.

I signed up with Associated Content the other day, as well, and will probably be answering some of their calls here and there...I have so many ideas.

The problem is how these ideas dissipate like mist leaving me grasping at nothing if I don't record them almost immediately. My brain is like a seive anymore.

I also think, a lot, about the economy, particularly as a strange contradiction to my own personal economics...we stopped struggling right as everyone else started, it's weird. Profitting in buying a foreclosed house, feeling secure for the first time as financial panic is the main headline everyday. It's weird.

And politics, of course. I won't even get into that. But it's somehow surprising, even though it totally shouldn't be, to see people walking around Busch Gardens in candidate shirts and buttons, and to see all the lawn signs and bumper stickers constantly up here on vacation just like at home.

I can't help but think the new Pink song "So What" re: her divorce, is awfully catchy.

Halloween - that's another thing. There are big bilboards everywhere here for "The Raven Twins", who are starring in this years' Busch Gardens "Howl-o-Scream"....I am so aware of all the spiritual connotations behind Halloween this year. The Mexicans who'll be marching with their sugar skulls and burning things at altars for the Dio de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, the Fundamentalist Christians who will keep their kids in lock-ins all night so they aren't exposed even to costumes, the Pagans I know who believe that at this time of year "The veil is thin". When did Party City's merchandise get so hardcore and R-rated, and all the haunted houses become so psychologically motivated and 21+? Grant bought a cd the other day out of a sale bin, called "The Nightmare Revisited" - it's bands and singers doing the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, cover-style. My kids love some of it - *I* love some of it - and I wonder what my Orthodox friends and Catholic friends would think of it? I mean, it's a Tim Burton children's movie, but it's also a gothic cult classic, and when you put Marilyn Manson and Korn at the helm, a certain "edge" emerges.

I've been wearing combat boots around for the first time in years and years. Not my shiny platform ones from high school, but Grant's clompy ones from the Army Surplus Store. I feel moody and spontaneous and like I'm tired of caring about how I look, with my diastasis, and it feels natural rather than like I'm "dressing up", for the first time in like a decade. So I'm regressing? I get into this problem sometimes, that if I ever go back to "before I had kids" or even "before I was constantly pregnant and/or nursing babies", I have to go all the way back to high school to find myself in the mess and remember who I am with all the diapers and lessons and pacing separated away... which puts me at 17.

Well, I think this has gotten long enough.
altarflame: (walmart)
Grant was at work this day, so it was just me and the kids. Right Start Math with A and A - they LOVE this program, and don't ever want to stop when it's time.

Ananda and Aaron also both had soccer games in the evening. Laura brought Brian and we had a big picnic-y shmorgasborg while they played, with all the little ones. There is this one guy, Ian, who is a dad of one of Aaron's teammates, who has done work with Grant at some time in the past, and over the course of the soccer season we've sort of become friends. His wife hadn't come as they had twins a few weeks back - twins that are co-sleeping and breastfeeding, how awesome is that? Point being, she was there this time and the two of them were each wearing a (tiny! weeks old!) baby in an Ultimate Baby Wrap. So cute.

Then I took my kids and hit it to Game Night at the bookstore, where I found out via cell that my husband had sent my mom more money (hundreds), which freaked me out, because I had just refused to give her more money the day before and then she called him at work - knowing he has a hard time saying no. We had just given her a ton of money to move back to Jax with earlier that week (thousands), all because she was flighty and decided to go back after we had just paid a bunch of money to bring her down here last month (thousands). This most recent bit was supposed to be covered by some check that has still not arrived in the mail. I felt tense, and weird, and confused, and mad, and finally I called her, which was a huge mistake because I cried my eyes out on the phone with my mother right in the middle of the bookstore. Blah. Then my sister beeped through on my mom's end, irate on my behalf for a veritable mountain of reasons I don't even want to get into, and apparently laid into her pretty hard for an extended period of time... I haven't talked to my mom since. I feel guilty everytime I think about this, because it is SO HARD to begrudge my mother anything because, you know, SHE IS MY MOM, and I got a settlement, but damnitt, the settlement is all gone and we're down to Grant's job and a loan against the house. Yeah, the house is still "mostly" paid for, and the cars are paid for, and we have money in the bank - but we still have a lot of bills, and I have medical expenses like whoa to pay and we'd like to have some wiggle room for things like Christmas presents and a vacation without cutting it down to being back to paycheck to paycheck. I mean I know we are better off than a lot of people right now and we buy stuff, and we eat fancy stuff, but the thing that really kills me is my mom is asking for money to pour down a hole. I paid to have her teeth fixed (thousands) and that was totally justified money I felt good to spend and still think was well spent, because that needed to be done and will improve her quality of life. I wish my mom would seek some kind of therapy because I really think she's unstable right now, but she totally tunes me out when I suggest this. I also offered to pay for her therapy, going so far as to prepay the first session and slip her the directions, while she was still down here, but. She ignored me. She only wants money to do crazy things that are going to land her needing more money again.

I discovered and got a book while there, after the phone calls, about Dry Tortugas National Park - it's just Southwest of Key West, and really fascinates me. It's just two tiny islands, one of which is home to a lot of endangered sea turtles and migratory birds and a handfull of employees, and the other of which has some white sandy beaches and a big fort that has been a military base and a prison in the past. It was a MAJOR pirate port for a long time before it was either of those things. It's right in the middle of very dense, gorgeous coral reefs, and there are multiple intact, preserved shipwrecks in the water surrounding it, too. So the snorkeling is basically breathtaking. You can only get there or leave by boat or seaplane. I really want to go at some point.

Ananda took her new Lyrical dance class for the first time, which was a switchover from regular ballet she was bored out of her mind in: this blends jazz dancing with ballet, is more advanced, and has a different teacher, and she loved it. And she's always loved musical theater, afterwards. The boys and I had lunch with Grant on his break while she was dancing. We made cards and letters for people at the dining table, back at the house (you Johnsons have a package coming soon).

Me, Ananda and Aaron went to City Church for the first time. It was awesome in a lot of ways, but the kids' program is really lacking. I found myself wishing all sorts of VERY varied people were there with me, by turn, to listen or give me an opinion about it. I saw Sarah and Melissa for the first time in months, afterwards - they do some of the childcare there, which is kind of weird as they're agnostic, and they think so too? It was good to catch up, though...Grant and I were double teaming a big cleanup when I got back.

Then G, who I'm thinking of just calling Nanny for clarity since I still call Grant G sometimes, came over. She is normally Wed, Thurs and Fri but we're shuffling days for various reasons. Grant and I went and had lunch at Chili's and then saw Sex Drive at the theater. By ourselves! I wasn't sure if the movie was going to just be really dumb but, well, it was hilarious. I was really secular but SO. FUNNY. We laughed a lot. Grabbed dinner ingredients and came home.

Elise apparently did pretty well with Nanny this time - I always feel bad leaving her. I know she's 17 months old and we're practically joined to the hip most of the week, but...I dunno. It's a new thing for me. Even when I feel great about everything else about it, I'm anxious about her forming an emotional attachment to someone who is here because it's their job. Good outweighs bad, I'm just bitching because I can...

Nanny again, Grant still off. Grant and I took Jake and Elise out to lunch at Casita Tejas. Then Ananda and Aaron had homeschool evaluations (way late, they're for last school year, but nobody really cares). We did it at a friend from the bookstore's house - the Catholic mom of 7 kids (they can be evaluated by any certified teacher). Her house is A.MAZ.ING. All wood, old interior, big and rambling, on 3 lots with a pool and a trampoline and a veritable PLAYGROUND of swing sets, and just. I don't know, it was like being at the Weasley's house. We kept seeing a streak past a doorway or hearing footsteps as small people tried to inspect us undetected, until finally two girls stood there with many heads poking out behind them and asked, "Can they come out and play?" The answer was yes and so for the next hour while Theresa and I perused their schoolwork and talked about how their year went, I didn't see them once. At one point she got up and moved a small framed picture off a free floating shelf to adjust the thermostat that was hidden behind it, and that struck me as really funny. We talked long past the evaluation, they were sad to go when it was time, and I went and swam at the Y after I dropped them back off at home. Grant was here working from home in my office most of this time.

The swimming was good - I swam for 15 minutes a week ago and got a big endorphin rush, but this was more like 35 minutes and it kicked my ass. In a good way, though, it makes me want to do it more.

I had a really late counseling appt - 5. We all went, the little ones napped and we went to a big park in the area when I got out. The counseling was ok...nothing especially helpful. The park time was better.

After the park, we ended up having a (luscious, incredible, moan-worthy and totally worth it) dinner at Outback. Coconut shrimp, lobster in butter sauce, creamy onion soup with brown bread and sweet butter, red wine soaked shrooms, Oh my gosh my eyes were rolling up in my head the entire time. CHEESECAKE OLIVIA. I figured, you know, I'm about to go to the cardiologist and find out who knows what - I need to live it up while I still can ;)

And then, with 30 minutes til they closed, we passed through Best Buy on the way home and got the laptop we've long budgeted me getting. So that I can take it and go write, when Nanny is here, and bring it with us to other places and write, and all of that.

We have this dream that by the time a year and a half or two years passes and we wouldn't necessarily be able to keep affording Nanny indefinitely, hopefully by then I'll be making enough with writing profits to keep her here. I am not sure if this is wildly optimistic or totally reasonable, but it's also only a small portion of why I want to write. The short story collection I'm working on has me so excited sometimes. My therapist says it sounds like a bestseller to her, which is nice, but then I think, well, she's my therapist. Not the New York Times.

My laptop is awesome. It's not a crazy expensive one - $650 - but it's got a few little perks that make it seem impressive to me, and hey, I'm looking to write stories not play World of Warcraft or whatever. I've never had my OWN computer, before.

Nanny, and Grant, Day 3. Talk about spoiled. On this day she blew me away by having Elise reach for her as we left, rather than needing to be peeled off of me, and by getting Jake and Elise to just lay down together in Jake's bed and take a nap while I was gone. I do not understand this voodoo she's using, or what desperate levels my children have sunk to in my absence, And when I asked Jake about it later, he was all happy! Talking about how he read to Elise in his bed and he takes good care of his little sister. Elise also didn't shriek or bolt towards me when I walked in, on this day, she was happy to see me but was fine with hanging out with Nanny while I was there in the room and we talked.

It's weird calling her Nanny because I read The Nanny Diaries and, well... *shrug*

Ananda was EXTREMELY depressed all Tuesday. I mean, she didn't want to eat, or go anywhere, or talk to me at all, or receive affection, wouldn't talk about it. She was procrastinating to the point of blatant refusal when I requested anything of her (like her normal chores, really basic stuff that takes very little time). Worried about her, frustrated by her, ugh. Sometimes she just seems like an intense kid, other times she's kind of depressed, and then there are days like Tuesday. I wish I could help her. She has activities she loves outside of the house 4 days out of every week, she has friends that she plays outside with daily, friends she sees at the bookstore weekly, friends who call on the phone regularly, and a penpal. She has a bunny she takes care of. She has brothers and a sister. I gave her a Halloween edition Groovy Girl doll I ordered on eBay that came in the mail, and she perked up for like...2 minutes? She has an active faith in God and a prayer life. She starts each day with morning chores and ends them all with a bedtime routine she loves. She eats copious amounts of vegetables, adequate protein and lots of whole grains. She gets lots of sunshine and regular excercise. I don't know what else to do for her. She is only 8 years old. I think more and more that the GOOD answer is "It will just take time, she's been through a lot" and the bad answer is, "This is just how she is, there's a history of depression in various relatives on both sides of her genetics".

Nanny distracted her pretty well with the big ol' Halloween collage they've been working on this week. I will have to post pictures of that, btw. It rocks.

Grant and I used this babysitting day (she comes for 5 hours at a time, for what it's worth) to go together to lunch at Whole Foods and then my cargiologist appt.

Lunch was good: I had a sandwich of prosciutto, which I'd never had before, fresh mozarella, which I'm not certain I've ever had before, tomato and pesto, which are two of my favorite things. Then I read a magazine cover about how we're living history - this is the Great Depression all over again. And I thought, I guess. I just ate a $10 sandwich and it was sitting in a big stack of $10 sandwiches plenty of other people were eating, too.

It was mostly good news at the cardiologist: my heart sounds totally normal to the guy by stethoscope and my EKG looked good. Perhaps more significant, when I asked him about the possible lasting implications of my extended sepsis and heart trouble last Fall, he said it shouldn't have any lasting implications.

He did prescribe a 24 hour heart monitor, though, which I'm wearing right now after having it put on at Homestead Diagnostic Center earlier, and a sonogram that I'm going back for next week, in order to try to understand these spells I described to him when I either have chest pains or am just sitting there on the couch and can feel my heart pounding in my back like I'm doing something hard.

We had an ADT guy here hooking up our dormant alarm system, most of the afternoon...our across the street neighbors just had their house broken into and 2 weeks before that my friend Kristin's house was broken into, so I'm paranoid to leave all our new junk here unguarded when we go out of town in a couple of days.

ADT guy left pretty much exactly when it was time to leave for soccer practice, I had people strapped into carseats already as he pulled out of my driveway. This was the first practice Grant was able to come to in full, because of work, so he got to meet Aaron's coach and see Annie in action, and also talk with that guy I mentioned who he's worked with before, the other dad from the team with the twin babies? Ian. They've emailed each other since then, so I think this could go somewhere and maybe our families will interact beyond soccer.

Also - I had to almost strong arm Ananda into going to practice, which I wasn't really sure was the right thing, but she was much improved by the end of it so I was glad it seemed like I made the right decision. Both of them have great coaches and love making them proud.

Grant took Isaac out alone for Daddy and Isaac time, after our late post-soccer dinner, which turned out to be "Daddy and Isaac buying surprise presents for all the kids time", which turned into Mommy being really uptight and being like, "I don't understand why you went to Walmart when we don't go there, and why you'd buy G.I. Joes when we don't really agree with what they stand for, and YOU are so the one cleaning up those 50 plastic balls when they are never, ever, ever in that inflatable ball pit". A long conversation and a night's sleep later Elise adores the ball pit, Aaron is playing with G.I. Joe's minus the guns and I'm trying to remember I have a husband who (1) gets great joy out of surprising our children with things from his own childhood, AND (2) seeks out spending special time with our kids one on one...even if they are at The Only Place Open At That Hour (kind of like He Who Must Not Be Named).

Last day of Grant off and Nanny here.

We took just Annie and Aaron in the Prius. She had a counseling appt at 11:30. Grant, Aaron and I got lunch at Whole Foods with stuff for Annie to-go style - this time I had curried beef sheppard's pie with caramelized garlic green beans - then picked her back up. The four of us went bowling up at the Dolphin Mall's new Lucky Strike. Annie is always really light and happy after counseling, it works wonders for her. I bowled horribly, but got a lot of knitting done. Annie seemed thrilled with herself and Aaron insecure about bowling. They used bumpers in the gutter, which I sort of squint my eyes about (It's cheating!!) but understand. I tried to get them to try throwing Granny Style like I did (very well) at their age, but they were both too self-conscious. In an almost totally deserted bowling alley, even after Daddy demonstrated. I swear.

The four of us came home, found out everyone else did great - they had a bath with all the ball pit balls after a pee incident. They had lunch and tea. Nanny and Isaac finished the Halloween collage and had it hanging up - it's really cool. Really really.

The whole heart monitor thing, I don't know. It wasn't as bad as going to get the ultrasounds done last week because it wasn't at the hospital, but it was one of those situations, since it was at the (far cheaper) Diagnostic Center, where everything is dirty and none of the employees speak much english or act especially polite. I felt like a total tool coming out of there with leads showing above the v-neck of my shirt and my big old fanny pack with the monitor in it bulging under my clothes. The whole thing felt really impossible and like I almost backed out, for about an hour - I was close to just saying "Screw this!" and tearing the thing off... but then I basically forgot I had it on and now I'm not sure what was so freaking bad. I mean it comes off tomorrow.

Tonight was Crazy Hair Night at AWANA for the big kids - Ananda gave herself 3 pigtails with rainbow shoelaces hanging off of them all, Aaron had green and red stripes sprayed into his hair. The Cubbies (Isaac's group) all wore their costumes and had a party, so he went as a knight. I got a TON of desperately needed, backed-up cleaning done while they were gone (Grant took Jake, and Elise slept part of the time). I managed to clear every stinking speck of clutter and toys and hoohaw out of the tv room, library and office, vaccum carpet thoroughly and sweep wood/tile. I also got the dining table cleared, all the dirty laundry out of our bedroom (I swear 2 loads accumulated in 2 days, I don't understand our laundry situation) and the kitchen and dining room swept. When everyone got home, I had them pitch in on some other things and now I'm at a point where I feel I can actually really manage to finish the cleaning and pack tomorrow, while Grant is at work.

Because tomorrow night when he gets off, we're hitting the road and going to stay in Tampa until next Tuesday evening. For his birthday and mine. I want to go to the Salvador Dali museum and he wants to go to Busch Gardens, and both of us are interested in the other person's thing, too. Plus they have Bob Evans up there ;) We'll stop in and visit my Nana and Pa in Lakeland Monday afternoon/evening, while they're both off of work, and probably take the kids to Adventure Island, at some point.

The day after tomorrow is my birthday. 27. It looks like I will probably see it after all ;) I have told my sister that if I die in the next year, I want her to say in my eulogy that I died like a rockstar*.

I really wanted to go to Key West, but Fantasy Fest is in full swing, which means 80,000 tourists, most of them drunk and wearing nothing but paint. Maybe we'll do that another month.

Unrelated to anything: I have developed a theory that, at least in South Florida, there are far more McCain yard signs, but far more Obama bumper stickers, and I think that is an economic divide (who is a homeowner vs who is not too snooty to put a sticker on their car).

*For those who don't know, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain all died at 27 - as did many, many others

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