Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heebie-Jeebies: Three (of many) on my list

There is no roller coaster in existence that I will not ride. 

I approach strange animals without hesitation. 

Being out by myself after dark doesn’t bother me in the slightest. 

There are a whole slew of “normal” fears that don’t even come close to giving me the creeps.  However.  Lest I come across as a little bit too well-adjusted (sidenote:  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) let me confess a few things that do make my skin crawl. 

1. Clowns

(This is the only form in which I can post a clown picture.)

(I also found this lovely sentiment.  Whyyyyyyyyyy?)

I never really liked them as a kid, but the aversion has grown quite a bit stronger in adulthood.  I know clowns are supposed to be silly and happy and comical, but I find them creepy, sad, and not at all funny.  I especially can’t handle them in person.  I can hesitantly watch Cam as Fizbo on Modern Family, but remember the episode of Seinfeld with the opera clown?  Nightmares. 

2.  Small patterned holes

(Sorry, I can't bring myself to post a picture here, or I'll never look at my blog again)

For years I’ve been known by friends and family as having a pretty severe fear of skin rashes.  It’s only been recently, though, that I’ve figured out the real issue.  Things like diaper rash, eczema, and just general redness/scaly-ness of skin do not seem to affect me.   It’s repetitive patterns on skin that give me the heebie-jeebies.  Several weeks ago I read a blog post where the writer expressed a similar aversion and defined it as trypophobia.  Well, let me tell you something:  I have found my people.  Now I know why I also don’t enjoy looking at wasps nests, golf balls, or (*super shudder*) lotus pods. 

A word of warning, though.  If you think you’re also prone to trypophobia, I would advise against Googling it.  While I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this oddity, some of the pictures I saw made me nearly ill and took days to leave my mind.

3.  The Family Ties theme song

Okay, I’m not exactly afraid of this one, but I do have an intensely negative reaction to it.  As in, I sort of want to punch something upon hearing the first few bars.  Family Ties is our current “falling asleep show” on Netflix (do other couples have “falling asleep shows”?), and I always brace myself, finger on fast-forward button, to skip right on past the opening credits before I have to endure them.  I’m not sure whether it’s the music, the lyrics, or the “ooo”s and “sha na na na”s that are most troublesome to me, but Mark definitely enjoys tormenting me with the song every time he happens to have control of the remote.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who shrieks at oversize shoes and squeaky noses, averts their eyes at the sight of honeycomb, and has to stifle an actual gag over "and there ain't no nothing we can't love each other through, (Oooooooooooo) ..."

Clown image: Flickr
Clown sign image: Flickr

Monday, August 20, 2012

Homeschool Newbie: Volume 1

We're seven weekdays into our homeschooling adventure, which seems like a good time to mark my initial thoughts on it all.  In twenty weeks or so, I can look back at these first observations and either laugh and shake my head at the adorable naivete of this early perspective, or maybe use it as a reminder of the reasons we took on this crazy experiment.

Because here's the thing:  Seven days in?  I really, really like it.  I mean, I'm trying not to be overly-effusive about something we've barely begun, but I think I kind of love it.


1.  I'm tailoring Maya's days to what she needs.  Last weekend was packed full of constant activity and a super-late night, and by bedtime on Sunday both of my children were melting down to an extent I have never experienced.  Crying, flailing, fighting, grumping ... it was epic.  So I decided there was no way I was going to wake either kid up the next morning before their exhausted bodies decided they were rested enough to feel human again.  Which meant Maya woke up at 9:00 - far later than usual.  She needed that.  And I could do it.

She also needs time to process as she works.  One of her complaints about school was that she often didn't have time to finish a story she had started in creative writing.  I really enjoy giving her the freedom to write and imagine and take all the time she cares to take in crafting a story or paragraph that says everything she wants it to say.

2.  It's a major time-saver.  We're done with our official "school stuff" within 2 1/2 to 3 hours every day.  And that time includes random breaks for a snack or board game or other general life stuff that brings natural interruptions.  Even the day Maya woke up at 9:00, we were done with school by 11:45, with breakfast in there somewhere too.  A schedule like this gives us the freedom to head to the library or run errands, ride bikes to the park or just play at home, without needing to cram those activities into the late afternoon or before-bed hours around homework, etc.  I thrive on this kind of daily flow, and the kids do too.  I'll appreciate it even more when we add in piano and dance lessons over the next few months.

3.  No morning rush.  Oh my.  I cannot express my love for this change.  No more mornings spent dragging a sleepy, snarling kid out of bed and hounding her through the getting-ready process before racing to the bus stop.  Instead, I get up and have my coffee, curl up on the couch with the laptop to get some e-mails sent, and then when Maya wanders out, she snuggles up next to me.  We open up her daily Bible reading and devotional, then explore a few pages in one of her history books.  Noah plays and glances over our shoulders at the pages, fiddling around at his train table.  Eventually we get off the couch to make breakfast, work on morning chores, and gather back at the table for a math lesson and other subjects.  But this new way of beginning the day is the polar opposite of the old one, and it is priceless.

4.  It's ... fun!  We're reading Charlotte's Web (again) and Homer Price.  Learning about different cultures and how people have lived throughout history.  We're studying maps and playing with magnets and going on nature walks to observe how animals move.  I'm learning things too!

5.  I'm actually doing a better job keeping up with housework than I did before.  This one is weird, and completely unexpected.  But I told Mark the other day that (for me, at least) focus begets focus.  Staying on task produces more of the same.  When I'm in focused mode, I'm less likely to jump online during a break and get distracted by my Google Reader, and more likely to take those few minutes to unload the dishwasher.  If Maya's working independently on a section of her math lesson, I'll throw in some laundry and pick up a few things in the living room.  There's a steady, gentle pacing to our day now that feels both free and organized.

Now, obviously there are difficulties that come with this new arrangement as well.

1.  While I still have times during the day where I can relax and do my own thing, I'm never really alone.  I'm not someone who needs loads of alone time, but it's definitely nice to have some.  Yesterday I dropped Mark and the kids off at church and ran to grab something at the store before heading there myself, and I was sort of startled at what it felt like to be walking around on my own.  My sister-in-law and I are going to start a child-swap arrangement soon so that each of us will have some kid-free time during the week, so that will help give me those little rejuvenating get-aways.

2.  Big questions come out more naturally.  This is a good thing, but challenging too.  With all of this learning together, you're bound to field some inquiries about hard concepts.  Like attempting to explain the Trinity to your 7-year-old before the coffee has completely entered your system for the day.

3.  Maya and I have different ways of working.  While our personalities mesh pretty well for homeschooling, we approach tasks in contrasting ways.  I like to tackle a project efficiently and focus on getting started and done quickly.  Maya likes to take her time, stopping to chat or watch a rabbit out the window, humming a little tune as she moves her pencil.  This can drive me a little bit bonkers.  And I'm trying to walk the line between teaching her to stay on task (an important life skill) while also allowing her to work the way it comes naturally.  Sometimes that means getting up to do some work in the kitchen so that I can do a little bit of efficient countertop scrubbing while she sings her way through her math worksheet.  I'm still working on the balance.

4.  I haven't figured out the best way to involve Noah in our school time.  Sometimes he enjoys just playing on his own, but I know he also feels some boredom.  I usually have us take a break at some point to let Noah choose an activity for the three of us to do.  And it will help a lot when he starts preschool in a few weeks, giving us three mornings a week to concentrate fully on school.

To make a long story short far so good!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Perhaps a case of pickle jars would suffice.

Photo courtesy of  fstorr

The past several weeks with a surprise niece arriving and several loved ones set to give birth very soon have prompted much baby talk among family and friends, along with the reliving of birth and labor stories.  (Why do we never tire of discussing this?)  And for some reason, several of these recent conversations have lingered on the experience each mother has had when her water broke.  

(Fair warning:  I’m going to talk about this now.  Read on, men, at your own risk.)

Many stories about pregnant women and amniotic fluid sound sort of cute.  “I just felt a trickle”, they say.  “I wasn’t even sure what it was at first!”.  Or the infamous tales of it happening at the grocery store, complete with charming little jokes about breaking a pickle jar.  I just never really thought it would be a big deal.

With Maya, I was in latent labor (my definition: labor that does absolutely nothing productive but does make you want to die) for 36 hours before my OB graciously broke my water with something that looked like a glorified crochet hook.  I don’t remember much of anything from that day (48 hours with zero sleep will do that to a person) but I was so grateful to know that somehow, some way, this baby was coming, that it was all sort of a blur of relief.

So on the night of my due date with Noah, I crawled into bed giving no thought whatsoever to anything of note actually happening at home.

At 3:00 AM, I woke up to a tiny *popping* sensation.  Not even fully awake, I had the presence of mind to jump out of bed, and I immediately flooded the floor.  Drenched and in shock, I heard Mark ask what was going on and told him he should get up and start making phone calls and packing the car.  When he asked if I was sure, I whisper-screamed a few choice things to convey my certainty.

What I didn't know, though, was that this water thing?  It wasn’t done.  Oh heavens, no.  I sat on a bath towel on the way to the hospital, and when we got there the thing was done for.  I stood up and flooded the parking lot.  They stuck me in a wheelchair, and when I got up again in triage, there was another gush that sent them running for towels.  I was so bewildered and soaked and uncomfortable that when the cheerful nurse came with her little testing strip “just to see if this is amniotic fluid or urine”, I blinked several times before gritting my teeth to inform her that if this is urine, she might as well be admitting me anyway, because in either case there is a serious medical situation happening. 

And right about then I thanked God that this hadn’t happened in the grocery store because I would never have been able to shop there again, and I really enjoy their produce selection. 

So.  You tell me.  What was your situation?  Did you have a cute, dainty little trickle?  Did your water break in the delivery room?  At the mall?  Or did you also flood the hospital and almost kick a nurse? 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hold my hand ... we're homeschooling!

Back in March, I posted some thoughts about the ongoing discussions in our home over school.  The months since then have brought more conversation and consideration, and I can finally give an update!

Our main goal was not to have a repeat of last year, where we agonized over this decision for months, virtually lived in denial with our fingers in our ears singing "La la la ... I can't hear you!" as the school year approached, and then were finally forced to deal with it two days beforehand.

(I do not recommend this method of decision-making unless you thrive on high levels of insanity.)

Do you have a small group?  Because if not, I highly recommend getting you one of those.  I mentioned to the other women in our group that I needed some accountability this time around to avoid last summer's stress, and these ladies delivered.  They were lovingly relentless in encouraging me to set deadlines and then (seriously?!?) actually following through with making me keep them!  (Partly because they love me and know what I need, and partly because we drove them all a bit nutso last year with our roller coaster of stress, and they wanted to deal with that again exactly never.)  My friends deserve gold medals in the sport of managing crazy.

And so, with weeks to spare, we decided that this year we will be homeschooling Maya to see how it goes.  Our intention is to take it year-by-year, and we certainly aren't closed off in any way to having her back in traditional school in the future.  I went into the reasons for our attraction to homeschooling back in that March post, but what it basically came down to this year was that the timing felt right to give it a run.  And Mark pointed out that we've been talking about this every year since Maya was born, and if we don't explore it, we may look back in twenty years and wish we had at least tried.

We fully recognize that homeschooling may end up not being right for us, and that's okay.  But I have to say that (normal anxieties aside) I'm pretty excited!  Our curriculum is ordered and likely arriving tomorrow, and we plan to begin on Friday, in step with the local school calendar.  Noah will go to preschool three mornings a week beginning after Labor Day, which will be good for him and also  provide a couple of hours on those mornings for more focused school time with Maya.

So.  There it is.  I would love any words of encouragement from homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike!  Making the phone call to Maya's school has made this all very, very real.  I'm praying that beyond all of the inevitable frustrations and missteps and moments of "WHAT did we do??", this venture into homeschooling will be a good one, no matter what we end up doing about school in the future.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Random Friday Thoughts

Oh, summer.  With your gloriously schedule-free days and all kinds of things to distract us, you make blogging so difficult.  Add in the Olympics, and I'm toast. Four hours every evening with suspenseful moments of victory and defeat and emotional montages set to the brilliant sentiments of Bob Costas (I would like Bob to set up a desk in my living room and narrate my life). Oh, it's midnight?  Who cares! I'd like to watch more interviews and highlights, please!  And then the next morning I'm replaying Jerry Seinfeld's "Night Guy" routine in my mind over and over.

A few brief updates for this Friday, on subjects that have totally made my week:

1.  We traveled to Riley Children's Hospital this week for Maya's consultation with the pediatric cardiology department, and had a great appointment.  Her aortic defect will likely always be present, but they confirmed that a procedure to close the hole is unnecessary.  She has no restrictions and, other than occasional check-ups and a general awareness of the issue as she goes through adulthood, will almost certainly not be affected by it in any major way.  This is the news we were hoping to hear, and we're very thankful.

Also?  Well played, Riley Hospital.  We were there a few hours and left with five new toys, stickers and candy, and an agreement between my kids that the long morning was just fine.

2.  Our school decision for this year has been made!  (Thank. Goodness.)  More on this in my next post!

3.  DID YOU HEAR THE NEWS ABOUT MEGAN??  (Sorry about the yelling, but I'm a wee bit excited.)

4.  I'd venture into the Chik-Fil-A thing, and how the whole kerfuffle drove me absolutely BONKERS, but I'm in the basement with my girl Jen Hatmaker.  Her follow-up post is here.

5.  Mark and I are going on another little getaway next week with friends, complete with a Coldplay concert, and we are so very excited.  I bought these tickets back in December, so it's been quite the wait!

6.  I've decided to bake up some cream scones tomorrow morning, in honor of the Olympic host country.  I was in London in 1995, and the warm scones with jam and cream are one of my most vivid memories.  If they turn out awesome, I'll share the recipe.  If not, we'll pretend this announcement never happened.

Happy Weekend!