September

So, ladies, it’s September.

You probably know that better than I.

You’ve probably gotten your kids off to school or maybe they’re gathered around your little round table looking angelic as they write earnestly in workbooks.

And me?

I feel like a hot mess.

I am absolutely unprepared to start school.

Also? Unprepared for this raininess. I was looking forward to it, but there were some things I still wanted to do which necessitated some sun for drying things off, like washing out the glass recycling bin and bringing in mousy items from the cabin which would need a pit stop in the front yard to be sanitized before being brought into the house!

And I am just not completely healthy. Physically, not that bad aside from ice-cream induced inches. My hormones! I’ve been talking about them for, you know, forever, but I’ve felt a little stymied about how to address them while having a nursing baby. Not to mention they take rather a long time to test and, now that I finally dragged myself to a naturopath, I have to wait until all of my test results come in, while enduring mood swings and irrational patches of completely rational-seeming anger and frustration and low moods.

It’s not every day and it’s not every hour, but it is not fun, guys. Not fun for anyone.

*Stops and takes some fermented skate liver oil because I remember why I’m feeling negative.*

Interestingly, every single time I take a dose of fermented cod liver oil (or skate oil, this batch), I feel better. Remember how I swore by that stuff when I was pregnant? Money worries had us slacking off on the supplements at night and about a week ago I began taking fermented cod liver oil twice daily and it helps to me pull out of that nosedive. The content of this stuff is so far superior to fish oils—there is vitamin d and a and k2 in addition to the omega 3s and I feel like my brain is currently starving for all that dha and epa and that maybe Toni is getting all of mine and no wonder I feel like I’m depleted!

Another good thing is my monthly freezer crock pot meal plan, from the five dollar meal plan site. For five dollars, I got ten recipes, a wonderful grocery list, and tons of instructions and tips. The kids and I have already filled twenty-four bags with chicken and peppers and onions and tomatoes and sausages and broth and black beans or whatever the six recipes have called for and I have four recipes, sixteen bags, left to fill. I am seriously excited about returning to grabbing a ziplock out of the freezer and popping it into the crockpot for an instant awesome dinner. Always worth the mess and the up-front work. And this time, I didn’t have to make it up myself with my own meager brainpower!

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The kids were a great help, slicing and dicing peppers and onions and crying along with me with the extreme fumes. Toni liked eating and throwing food scraps all over the floor.

Lachlan cut himself and it was Nurse Noria to the rescue. (She is hilariously a pro at getting out the hydrogen peroxide and pouring a little gently over the cut and then dabbing the cut dry and applying a bandaid. I love it.)

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She is also an expert pepper dicer.

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Yes, that is an onion on the floor. The floors suffer so much.

I am suddenly feeling motivated to figure out next week’s Back to School stuff. Maybe Jarret and I can use our date night tonight to scheme some fun things to start the school year off right! My cod liver oil is kicking in and now I just want to go and buy school supplies. Tons of school supplies.

Completely unrelated situation here: Auntie Mary, Reidun, and Cheryl: I canNOT send out email! I wrote each of you chatty replies to your emails (long ago) from my email app on my laptop and every time I try to send them, or any other email, I get a delivery status failure message. My phone refuses to sign in on all of my email addresses and I cannot figure out why! I have not been deliberately ignoring you!

For.The.Love.

This was me at eight o’clock yesterday evening:

If I have to hear another stanza of Yankee Doodle being sounded out on the piano, if I have to see another toy basket being pulled out, if I have to house another person on my lap while trying to write—if I have to hear another fight or another cry of Toni’s for me, I will.go.crazy.

Actually, done.

I am officially crazy.

It started this morning, as Jarret and I went about our morning business getting coffee and breakfast and snacks and lunch into his lunchbox and trying to be as quiet as possible.

The boys’ room door cracked open, and two eyes peered out. Two legs walked out.

Then two more legs from down the hall.

I stared at the kids, already up, and thought to myself, “Why exactly do I force myself out of bed early if not to have the house to myself for a few minutes? Just a few minutes of quietude and peace and a good start to my day? Do they really have to be awake already!?!!?!?!?!?!?”

And basically I felt like crying.

So that’s how it’s gone.

The errands to the chiropractor and Costco and all that, they were fine.

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I like the socializing, the getting out. Sure, all of the getting in and out of the vehicle and finding carts and Costco cards and bathrooms and buckles is stressful, exhausting, and I’m always arbitrating a few fights (but nothing like usual, thank God, because I packed books for each kid), and the grocery haul was so confusing with the kid snack list and the us snack list and the month’s-worth of meals list and the lunch list and then the two carts’ worth was humongous and insanity to bring in and put away and basically didn’t fit in Jarret’s vehicle, but we did it and we felt proud.

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And then there was dinner and after dinner and dinner dishes, they’ re supposedly helping Jarret vacuum the car while I get a little quiet time to do a little blog housekeeping for fun, but no. They’re all oozing back inside when Jarret’s back is turned and Toni is needing me, even though I fed her a mere half hour ago, and they’re fighting over the piano and asking me for our address because they want an American Girl magazine and they’re pulling out toys and they’re crawling on me and I am done.

I can’t take it any more!!

After I banged that out on my keyboard and announced to everyone that I was done, I went into my room with some chocolate and then, for the first time that day, I had less than five people surrounding me and not one person was talking to me while I was trying to think about something else.

It was nice.

I feel very sorry for myself when I get very little sleep the night before.

Coping skills go out the window.

But last nights’ sleep was good, so I’m a little more resilient.

I don’t know; maybe I shouldn’t bring them all while grocery shopping, but often they’re a lot of help. And the fact is, if I don’t train the kids to do something because it’s temporarily hard in the training phase, they’ll never learn to do it! So I’m always working towards them being really helpful with the food buying and stuff—and they are, I’m not complaining about that stuff—I just needed to make sure I very clearly stated the quiet time rules and kept them in their rooms for an hour or two afterward so that my (and their) mind could recover from the chaos.

When I get home from a full day like that, I need to do a little mental picking-up and reorganizing of all of the thoughts about all of the things which are in my purview.

It’s like Kim John Payne says in The Soul of Discipline, that a kid who is acting out is often working from a place of disorientation, of having not had the down time to recenter him or herself (by having downtime to read or play with toys or imagine or be out in nature—you know, kid stuff), and so they’re pushing back out of their depleted resources.

I just made it sound new-agey and dumb, but it is sincerely one of the best books on parenting with authority and understanding and I cannot recommend it highly enough. (Not a Christian book, so read wisely knowing that.)

Anyway, I was the kid who’d been rushed around from place to place and buffeted with some pretty confusing (a new meal plan) and stressful (five kids for six hours on the go) things and I just needed some quiet time so I could function again.

And now two tousle-haired girls have come into the living room carrying their special blankies and their stuffed animals and interrupted my quiet and introspective morning and I will be cool instead of lame and complainy and negative and finish this up and then embrace the fact that they still want to sit on my lap. It’ll be a good morning.

The One With the No Pretty Pictures

Whenever I Craigslist something I have this dread that I’ll oversell the item and that when the buyer arrives she will be disappointed at the condition of the item and leave and I’ll feel terrible. So I always try to make sure that people know all the flaws ahead of time just to avoid this awkward situation altogether.
Same with my house. I have the bad habit of using my phone strategically to see my house with all the junky cropped out and the pretty filtered just so, just so that I don’t collapse in despair at the condition of the slovenly hovel.

But then. What if people come over?!! They’ll find out the truth!!

Apparently I need to be a recluse if I’m going to try to act like my house is ever clean or organized.

The reality of a house full of kids with a mom who isn’t often filled with energy to spring clean and repair the items that are declining rapidly with age is this:

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Marker marks, everywhere. On the other bathroom door there is hair dye from me. Whoops. I have cleaned markers from walls for ten years and I’m slowly losing the desire to even bother.

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Water spillage from showers and baths that destroy baseboards. Also, we are probably dying from toxic mold exposure.

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More water damage. And dings and dents.

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The stain on cabinet edges beginning to wear and show the light wood beneath and more chips and dings.

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Concrete floors with cracks and holes (which hide dried lentils) which could be so pretty if I could find the best method of cleaning it and scraping the playdoh off which has happily adhered to it for months. Also if I could eradicate the scrapes, paint tracks, and scuffs from my constant furniture moving.

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Ah, stainless steel. Not ever clean.

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Every baseboard dinged and damaged and corners coming apart and paint chipping and dirt, everywhere.

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Outdoor, grass uneven and weedy and dead and an ac unit and blackberries—the whole reason we poured concrete— coming up right where they always were against the house.

Oh, and cobwebs. Everywhere. I cannot even imagine what it’s like behind the stove and the dryer. The kids’ bedrooms!!

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Not to mention incredibly creative, classy and creative “atm machines”.

Lol.

It’s all good; job security, right? Maybe I’ll do a fall cleaning series to motivate me to get all this stuff repaired!

Pantry and Coffee Hutch

I was basically jumping for joy late last night as Jarret finished installing the pantry and microcounter in the fridge nook.

Things to organize in the morning!

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And so I did, while my sick girl slept sweetly and the rest of the kids busied themselves with toys and legos and audio books and baking banana bread and a chubby scooting girl occasionally picked up nickels to suck upon before being forced to relinquish them reluctantly and then, blessedly, went down for a nice long nap on my bed.

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Only a small amount of the upheaval.

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This was what I had to work with: a linen cabinet strengthened, repaired, and repurposed as a pantry and a small base cabinet ripped and modified to fit in the remaining space. Could it have worked out any more perfectly, space-wise? Jarret simply has to stain and install a toe-kick and glue on some Formica and install some shelving above the microwave and this will be perfect.

I had to cull cans and boxes and foodstuffs from the various places—drawers and dressers and china cabinets—in which they had previously resided.

Then a whole lot of organizing and placing and washing pots and pans and various bins to repurpose to hold other things.

I’ve basically been in that kitchen all day.

Not to mention I decided to pull down all my fanciest dishes from the uppermost shelves of the kitchen, where they’ve inaccessibly and dustily resided for too long, too scary to move and therefore useless to me.

That was a humongous amount of hand washing.

But very nice with the large amount of podcasts I’ve listened to this entire day.

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They used to be on top of the cabinets as well as on the uppermost shelf. So hard to reach and so dusty.

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Waiting to dry.

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And now in their beautiful new home, all protected from dust and accessible for perhaps some fancy dinner I will host in the future. How fun is this coffee hutch?!? Also awaiting a toe-kick and countertop Formica.

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I think this is where my coffee pot and beverages will be when guests come over. The bottom part has paper plates and cups and napkins and paper towels and plasticware and tablecloths and things which never had a home before.

The pantry is awesome.

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Apparently now I can stock up a lot more now that I have the space!

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Neato is vacuuming the floor right now, hence the chairs on the table, and then I’m going to mop and put away pots and pans and luxuriate in my new and improved kitchen and dining room. And all for free!

Cabinets and Things

One of the many perks of Jarret working with Good Kondition Homes is that we get house-related random items from time to time, items that were removed from a new home because of a mistake, perhaps.

Over the years, we’ve gotten and installed several of these odds and ends, including a green kitchen island, in previous houses and, this time, we received several slightly bashed-up cabinets in a beautiful dark wood stain.

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We loaded them up in our rickety trailer from a former GKH model home and stored them in our storage room until we could figure out just how we could work their sizes and various constraints into our current house plan.

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Yesterday, I was kind of obsessed with installing them and gaining some seriously awesome hidden storage so I measured and chalked some drawings and texted them to Jarret.

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A coffee bar/dining hutch sort of thing, using the long island-type cabinet and an upper cabinet to the left with open shelving filling in the right. It felt like genius.

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And so, he took the cabinet and sliced off a “leg” and ripped some boards and cut down and installed an end panel because one side hadn’t been intended to be seen and raised the toe kick and did a whole lot of complicated adjusting and installing because whenever you take a set of cabinets meant for one space and modify them for another, it’s quite the creative endeavor. But luckily, hello, he’s Jarret, and my dream is partly accomplished!

We’re the perfect team. I come up with crazy ideas and he does them.

Also included were a tall pantry and a small base cabinet, which, with some modification, should fit into the fridge nook where I currently have Hemnes Jr. and my microwave. (Which setup I was really liking so I may be sad to see it go. But to have a real pantry with doors? I would be able to leave things in boxes and cans if I wanted to?! That would be amazing.)

Also happening around here:

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Boys companionably playing their hour of tablet time. (“Twenty-three health.” “My orcs have eighty-eight health!”)

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Girls amazed at Tabi losing her first tooth. (Noria, wide-eyed, watching Tabi place it into a zip lock bag, “Mom, where do you place all your tooth bags?!”) The only tooth fairy around here has been Uncle Lucas, on occasion. We always forget and the kids seem to somehow catch him with a pocketful of change and a soft uncle heart. :)

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Noria reading “hic” on her own in a Tintin.

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Sunny trips to Yville Store for tootsie rolls or smarties.

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Trips to the tiny town library for Redwalls and Boxcar Children.

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A smoky haze that enveloped us for a few days causing this beautiful sunrise.

Noria, playing with several of my colored pens: “These are the girls and these are the guys,” points to two blue pens, “…Shark Water…and…Gravel…….” still thinking about the last name of Gravel, “…Tuck.”

Looks up at me, suddenly conscious that Tuck may be a strange last name for dear Gravel. I look normal, as normal as I can while trying not to catch Jarret’s eye, and she keeps going, telling me about the exploits of Shark Water and Gravel Tuck as they try to marry the girls who are currently hidden in the couch, safe from matrimonial harm.

And now. The dentist. And other doctoral visits as I try to get myself and my rogue hormones back under control so that I can feel more primarily positive, happy, and motivated. Because when mom is out of sorts, the whole family is out of sorts. (Knowing that it’s hormones helps a lot. If this were the first time I felt like this, I’d think it was just me. But now I know that it is me not being me. And that’s a huge difference!)

Random Stuff

Yesterday afternoon, I tested my hypothesis that microwaves don’t only produce muffins-in-a-mug seven minutes faster than toaster ovens, but that they also make a muffin you’d actually want to eat, which is the whole reason that I actually went out and bought the machine of certain death. Because waiting seven extra minutes wasn’t the problem, but waiting seven more minutes for something that is totally inedible and encrusts the mug it’s cooked in so thoroughly that it takes seven more minutes of intense scrubbing and some mild christianized oaths? Just not acceptable.

So it was awesome to see my hypothesis proven and a perfectly risen muffin in my mug at the end of a mere sixty seconds.

So then Abel wanted his own muffin, and I showed him the recipe and the ingredients and he started mixing. A few minutes later, he placed it in the microwave and, perplexed, asked me to put it going for him (which I did while telling told him to go far, far away from the death rays). When the timer beeped so soon after, he was pretty amazed. The whole thing cracked me up; what ten year old is so impressed by a microwave?

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So now the ingredients are readily available for whenever one of us has a craving.

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Toni was being coy and experimenting with door opening and shutting.

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I love my little desk area. Do you see the photo strip of the kids goofing off? Jarret paid for them to take these photos in a booth at the mall and for some reason the thought of it is just the cutest thing. (I guess I was always too frugal to use them as a teen and now they seem less cool because of ubiquitous cell phone cameras and yet there’s still a bit of mystique about them.)

I also love my homeschool planner, although I never actually use planners faithfully. I’m going to try to force myself to do my meal planning in the box provided for each week and keep track of projects and books I want to read and kids’ assignments and such here rather than on random scraps of paper stuffed into end table drawers and my purse. I love this particular one because a) it’s attractive, b) it has some great articles about scheduling and homeschooling which are so encouraging and helpful that they alone are worth the price—I’m not even kidding you—c) chore charts and blank schedules and report cards and attendance forms….so many great forms! and d) it takes into account the fact that you’re running a household and schooling your kids. Pretty cool. It only has room for four kids, but I have some time before I have to worry about Toni’s scholastic schedule.

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This is Noria’s fly trap. She plans to sit here waiting for a fly to land, and then quickly fold both ends of the baby wipe up over the fly, effectively trapping it. This is a fantastic idea and I’m all for it.

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Tabi received (you can see it on the floor to her left) a watch kit from the daughter of her hero, Susan, and has been hauling around that kit with its interchangeable colored circles and bands and customizing the color of her watch hourly to match her various outfit changes.

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What could be more calculated to thrill a one-year-old than sitting at a sliding glass doors with full view of both kitties and sissies blowing bubbles? Nothing. Except maybe spotting her Daddy when he gets home.

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Whenever my kids get back from staying at my parents’ house, one thing stands out as the best thing ever: pancakes.

They love my mom’s pancakes.

Do you know how many people I have referred to my gym in the past month?! Four. Four besides me. My two sisters, one of their husbands, and gym-hating Jarret. I should get some kind of reward for this, don’t you think? Jarret alone should count for some serious reward, considering his previous attitude towards working out. That took some serious convincing and now he tells me that he really does think it benefits his mood, attitude, and (hopefully) back. (It very obviously benefits his biceps, but that’s not why he’s doing it.) I had had to skip Zumba all last week and still did some treadmill and weight lifting but it just wasn’t the same. Last night it was like, yes! I love classes! And the Zumba teacher is just so positive and unintimidating and encouraging.

And then my drive home was looking at gorgeousness like this:

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This is just north of Lois’s road and literally one of the best views in the universe. (Is this true or is it the endorphins speaking? Who cares?)

and I was all jazzed up and stuff because exercise is transformational and just what I need no matter how disinterested I am those three days I have to get into the car and go there. I never regret it.

Bees, Spiders, Flies, Fortunes

When I looked through the notes app on my phone to find the kid quotes that I always jot down, it became apparent that we must have some late summer insect influx going on.

Abel: “Oh, look! Those two flies must be mating!” He points to some creepily conjoined flies.

I: “Haha! In the air? I’d think that’d be hard!” (Me, as usual, trying to act casual to normalize the fact that he and I are talking about mating. I’m being strategic, here.)

He: “Yeah, holding onto each other while flying.”

And we both wander off, content to allow the pests to procreate privately.

Another time, I ask Abel to kill a large spider for me, offering fifty cents when he seems disinterested. (I’m not sure why I contracted out this killing; I’m rather proud that spiders don’t really freak me out as much as snakes and mice do.) He does the deed. Then he tells me that he’s actually scared of spiders (more than bees).

I ask, “I thought you’d be more scared of bees since you’ve been stung over twenty times by now!”

“No, I’m just filled with contempt for bees,” he told me.

“But you just killed that spider for me…?” I asked, still confused by this new information.

“I only killed that spider because there was a price on its head,” he clarified.

Ohhh. Okay.

Note to self, also found in the Notes app: I owe Mere $6 for some expense no doubt incurred on our trip. Oops. Also I owe Mel for a recent Baby Shower gift.

At Panda Express, our favorite not-good-for-us food, we take our fortunes as seriously as people can who do not believe in fortune-telling, which is to say, we would always love to think that there may be a grain of truth in them.

Anyway, the kids always love to tell us what theirs say.

Abel reads aloud, “Your sensitivity is an asset.”

He looks up, and says, “Hey!” in kind of an offended tone.

Then he thinks for a minute and says, “Oh, whoops…! I guess I kind of proved it,” and grins.

Lachlan thought that his, You are the life of the party, was true, since he is “always cracking jokes” and I took the opportunity to tell Tabi that hers, You are getting a promotion, was true if she continued to do her schoolwork and chores faithfully (which she hasn’t—so much for summer school, not that it’s her fault). I can’t remember Noria’s fortune.

This week must have been crazily busy, because I haven’t found time to write anything and I have a huge pile of laundry in the two baskets on top of the washer and dryer, towels ready to be folded and put away and my and Jarret’s clothing to be sorted and stuffed into bins and dress shirts that need to be hung up.

Ever since I began realizing that it’s important for me to model for the kids how to be a Healthy Human in my lifestyle and priorities, which includes physical health and mental health and social health and creative health, and have started to make some changes, I have rediscovered joy in the simple jobs of cooking and laundry and cleaning, because they’re not all I do and I don’t do them constantly. I save up a few days’ worth and then it’s very satisfying. So I fully plan to finish this post and then put my podcast going and go tear down that textile wall.

And also. I did something yesterday that is still filling me with guilt and fear and trepidation and worry that I am going down the wrong path.

Please help me out.

Yesterday I went to WalMart and bought a microwave. 

I’m still feeling guilty about it.

I fear that a) I have lost a little of my crunchy card, b) I will die from micro-waves from damaged door seals or an improperly closed door, because it said that that could happen in the manual, and c) I will rely on it for more than the quick muffin-in-a-mug purpose I bought it for and then d) we will all spectacularly die.

Please tell me that many of you own microwaves and that you are not dead.

Why did I think it was so necessary to be able to experience the muffin in a mug phenomenon, a chocolate cake in a minute? (As opposed to eight minutes in my toaster oven.) Why did I think that this single pleasure was worth ruining my other not-so-secret pride in the fact that I’ve not had a microwave for half a decade?

(At WalMart, I placed the heavy box on the belt and the girl politely asked me, “Did your microwave go out?” and I said,  “Actually no, I haven’t had one for a long time and I decided to buy one,”  {The girl had no idea how much angst was going on behind my outwardly cheerful exterior, no idea how much turmoil and self-doubt churned beneath my brave smile} and she said, “Wow! I don’t know how I’d survive without my microwave!” and I left, agonized, conflicted, and craving a chocolate muffin. {Which I still haven’t dared make, because I’m very intimidated by this machine of death.})

Anyway.

Any new change in kitchen appliances or eating plan—and this is occasioned by both, since I’m thinking that to stick with THM I will need quick and easy treats—always has me taking everything out of the cabinets and setting up zones. The first zone I’ve set up is the Coffee and Beverages and Smoothies Zone, and features my coffee grounds and loose tea and protein powders and liquid stevia and vanilla and apple cider vinegar for GGMS. Next I decided to make Hemnes Jr. the Microwave and THM Baking Station, with coconut flour and almond flour and baking powder and baking soda and powdered stevia, etc, for making the famed MIMs and such.

All over my bar counter are jars of rice and quinoa and oats and misplaced appliances and a million spices, so that’s what I’m going to be organizing today, into a Cooking Zone near the stove. Another podcast situation.

So we started this new budgeting thing, where Jarret revamped all of his categories (Small School Supplies: $10.00, Household Supplies (kind of like brooms and such) $10.00, Groceries: $Undisclosed Number Because It’s Probably Humongous, and several others) and scooped them all into one large Household Fund and then put the entire thing into my hands.

All he told me was, “All of the household purchases have to come out of this fund and when it runs out, we have no more money to spend.”

So then I was like, “Shyess!! I can buy those sets of water bottles I was eyeing at Costco!” And proceeded to spend rather a lot of “Grocery” money on water bottles. And then some coffee travel mugs, because we’ve been trying to survive for like a year without tall enough coffee mugs which fit in the cupholders and which aren’t poisoning us with xenoestrogens. Tall order, but I found some. (Also attractive, we will agree a very important characteristic.) Then I had very little money for food for the next week, so I actually sat down and wrote out a meal plan based on the items I had in my fridge and pantry stores.

!!!

I didn’t know it was possible.

So the moral of this story is that, if I’m allowed to be a bit of a fool and blow money on things which I think are awesome and totally needful, and if I’m held accountable on the money situation, I can totally make the fallout of this unwise plan work and get all frugal and mealplanny and I can actually only spend like $35.44 for the week, mostly on produce. 

And we actually ate better, because I did more crockpot meals and they were a lot better than whatever I had been throwing together previously.

Then this week I did it again, buying a wireless printer/copier for my homeschool (you have to have printing and copying abilities) with mostly my own money and then some binders because I’m going to take the boys’ K-4 and K-3 schoolwork and go through and consolidate the best samples of struggle, progress, and mastery into some binders in my tiny closet office. (Which I love.) Which then left very little money for food, but again, I can get creative with what I already have when my mind gets engaged, so I have a meal plan and it’s going to be great. Also, I’m starting to create a recipe binder for meal planning because I’m finding that it’s not actually that terrible and maybe this dog can learn new tricks and do it all the time, whether or not prompted by some foolish overspending on school supplies. (Which…I always walk by that aisle in Costco and just leer. I really shouldn’t lead myself into temptation. But those large collections of Sharpie markers! The pencil sharpeners! The paper cutters and boxes of white paper! Legal pads. Mechanical pencil sets. It’s almost worse than Target’s decor aisle, because I know I ain’t got no business looking at that stuff. This stuff is just out of my reach and my justification and it makes me very covety.)

Anyway. So I have lots of stuff to do here at home to get that kitchen reorganized and under control and the laundry baskets empty and all that good stuff. Maybe one more cup of coffee, then I will start.

Fair and Knowing Anything About Parrots

Ever since we realized last year that Toni was going to be born during our annual and much-awaited County Fair and we would therefore most likely not be going, we promised ourselves that we would make it a tradition to make it her family birthday day trip destination thereafter. She would love it, we promised ourselves.

And so we did. And so she did.

(Well, actually, I think she was a bit bored with her role of “sit in the stroller and do nothing fun surrounded by people having the time of their lives”.)

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She was out of sorts from time to time from the heat and the loudness and the chaos, being the sort of girl who’d rather be down off my lap making trenches in the graveled ground with her grabby dimpled hands and picking up rocks for taste tests; as long as she could have her chubby legs extending off the protective blanket and resting upon myriad points of sharp gravel, to the potential consternation of all civilized mothers in the area, she was happy.

Our first show was the Pirate Parrot show, which was entertaining and informative all in one. (Field Trip, right there. Shyessss.) At one point, the pirate asked whether any of the audience could identify the thing or things that made a parrot a parrot. For each wrong guess (They can talk? They have unique colors on their wings?) he tossed the brave answerer a gold-wrapped candy, saying, “Err! Wrong answer! Here’s a gold nugget for trying.”

Honoria, watching this, turned to peer up at Jarret under the bangs of her new shorter blonde bob with a slightly self-conscious grin.

“I really want one of those nuggets, but I don’t know anything about parrots.”

(One could argue that not knowing things about parrots was what got those kids their nuggets, but I see her point. It’s hard when one is suddenly presented with the opportunity to get nuggets for parrot knowledge and one isn’t prepared! How many other things should we be studying for such a time as this?)

After the parrot show, we sweltered our way to the ticket booth, passing the rides and keeping our eye on the ticket amounts required so that the kids would have an idea on how to spend their hard-earned money.

As far as finances go, Jarret paid the admission and for dinner and had the kids pay for the rest. Abel and Lachlan were considerably well-heeled, having $20.10 and around $17.00, respectively, although Abel wanted to keep the dime in reserve in case he wanted a smartie pack from Yville Store later on. The girls hadn’t heeded our admonishments to save up their chore money (in fact, they’ve been rather un-countonable as to chore doing) so had much smaller cash reserves. $3.55 and maybe $1.75 or so.

The girls ended up, after purchasing their tickets, on the carousel.

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So big and yet so little.

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The boys finally settled on the big ferris wheel with Dad.

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Then there was the motocross, a fave.

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Followed by more decisions.

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The boys, although a little dubious, finally agreed to accompany me on my favorite of all time, the Tilt A Whirl, which I assured them might look slightly boring but which I’d always loved as a teenager, so wouldn’t be totally terrible, however advanced the technology in other rides has gotten in twentyish years.

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We did not regret that awesome ride and these guys were naturals at throwing our collective weight in just the right places. We fully planned to repeat this performance the next day.

Also, I so rarely get to have moments of pure, unmixed joy with my boys and this one will live in my memory. I can just live and enjoy my kids every now and then! Good to know.

Abel kept pausing as we passed the various fair booths and was about to play one when he discovered the atrocious price for two teensy darts ($5! are you kidding me?!) and had almost written the whole thing off when we spotted another booth, with a deal of $10 for 45 wiffle balls. The boys anted up some bucks and Jarret made up the difference and we all tried our hand at tossing them. Near the end, Abel’s wish came true and he ended up with a medium and large prize, two stuffed animals, although he’d been angling for the jumbo pirate minion all along.

This boy is sweet.

He still likes stuffed animals.

For some reason, that gives me a very cozy feeling.

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He also enthused on the way home, still on a victory high, that he didn’t mind having a very limited amount of money for treats, games, and rides. It was still a lot of fun to carefully choose a few rather than having the sky the limit.

The other kids weren’t on a victory high after having thrown their own wiffle balls to no avail, but they’ve gotten over it by now, I believe. Poor cuties, learning those hard lessons of life. Abel seemed to be extra solicitous of Lachlan in the van on the way home, and he took a while to come around.

The second day of the fair, yesterday, was rainy and cloudy but not excruciatingly hot, so that was nice.

We saw both demolition derbies, which helps me understand the colosseum phenomenon a little better, since the more crashing and destruction that occurs, the better our cheers. The more violence, the more admiration. The guy that skulked around avoiding crashes until the end seems like a wily wimp and the guys who gamely go for it from the beginning seem like the heroes.

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The girls requested that we watch another parrot show, so they and I did so while the boys chose their next ride.

I watched the girls, quite far from me, watching the show raptly and realized that maybe this was Honoria’s chance! Surely she would now know something about parrots, since she’d heard the answers during the last show.

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Yeah, no.

They were as clueless and entertained as the first time and it was adorable.

After we rejoined the boys, who’d enjoyed the Scrambler, another oldie but goodie, we attended the sea lion show, which featured three sleek and adorably well-trained things that, to my clueless eyes, looked like seals, and we were rather delighted at their antics.

Another demolition derby, lots of food, more gawking and gawping, learning about invasive weeds and native weeds in the barn, some more rides, good times.

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Rollercoaster with Dad. Lach borrowed fifty cents at the last minute, raced and bought an additional ticket, and ran to cut into line where Abel and Jarret were waiting shortly before their car arrived. Well worth it!

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I love this picture, having so much fun with my four olders. (Tabi and Nori were thrilled to join us.)

I have a feeling we’re all swearing to ourselves to have hundreds of dollars put by for next year, which means we’ll remember in July and start desperately scrounging change, but it’s a whole lot of fun to make memories and use up all that extra money we’ve always got lying around.

Gym Familiarity and Other Stuff

Yesterday I huffed up the stairs to my Pound/Zumba class, a few minutes late from depositing all my children and bags where they belonged but looking forward to getting those green drumsticks featured in Pound in my hands. Being a former drummer, you know, in middle school, this is kind of an amazing bonus to the ol’ workout regime, the ability to do some flam taps and such while working on abs. Sort of some gratuitous and unexpected fun while doing what should be drudgery.

To my chagrin, instead of the friendly and welcoming Misha* and the drumsticks, I saw the class was already engaged in following the slightly intimidating gym owner Andi* in a cardio step class on one of those accursed step things which combine ankle-twisting with confusion and off-rhythmness and stumbling and trying to catch up. All good things, of course.

I tried to shrug off the quick flash of disappointment and despair like that little first grade boy who came into the classroom at FFCS on the first day of school to find out that his name was taped to a desk pushed together with three chatty and utterly cootie-filled girls. (This is the now-grown son of one of you readers, btw, who shares my last name.)

The pathos in that little try-to-be-brave shrug-to-himself and his one last agonized glance toward his distant compatriots—that was me yesterday morning. I SO wanted to turn back and head back down those stairs. I thought I’d kind of determinedly pushed my way through being the new awkward girl who doesn’t know what’s going on and is terrible but has a good attitude and a teacher-pleasing spirit and I had thought I finally knew what was coming and was actually sort of looking forward to rocking those sticks and those kicks.

Whatever. I did my own little shrug and went and grabbed my step and then, glancing around surreptitiously, a pair of four-pound weights and an eight-pound medicine ball and started v-stepping.

V-stepping is fun, T-stepping (I’m just guessing at the spelling of these terms) is fine, but half T-stepping? So stinking confusing! I should just ignore the term, because I kept stopping and staring at her fancy footwork and I couldn’t really understand why this was supposed to be half of the original T-step—it looked completely unrelated—and then they were moving onto these Charlestons which were equally difficult and then step turns or something? I don’t know. It wasn’t what I’d signed up for and I was fighting a bad attitude.

But I decided I was going to stick it out and it was just one hour out of my week to bless the rest of my week and I could handle anything for an hour.

Anyway, she also took us through a bunch of arm exercises and ab exercises with the weights and it ended up being a pretty good workout which made me feel happy and accomplished.

Partway through our stretching at the end, Andi looked at me, red-faced and sweating across the room and asked me, “You used to come here years ago, didn’t you?”

The class turned and beheld my glory.

“Uh…no?” I said, stupidly.

“I totally know you,” she said, switching positions.

I looked nonplussed.

“Are you sure?” she persisted.

My eyes rolled up and over to the right as I tried to get my brain, exhausted by concentrating on the steps and my rights and lefts, to consider whether I had, in effect, ever been to this gym before.

“No, I don’t think so…?” was my eventual response.

“Do you have a twin sister?” was her next question, as she shifted into a shoulder stretch.

This, too, took much longer than one would imagine it would take for a non-twin to deny the existence of a twin, as I wondered if she was thinking of one of my sisters or my cousin Patricia or…?

“Uh, no?”

“You would know,” she said, not unkindly, but kind of funnily, I now realize, “You would definitely know if you had a twin sister.”

At this point, we finished up our stretches and I headed into the bathroom to get showered and cleaned up for going grocery shopping. As I was rubbing foundation onto my still red and hot face, Andi came in. “We’re still wondering why I know you!” she told me, pulling open the soap dispenser and refilling it. (I kind of wonder if this was a ploy, you know, to not seem creepy for pursuing a customer into the bathroom to determine where you knew her from.)

“I know,” I told her, slightly more in possession of my faculties. “You look sort of familiar, too!”

“I do?!” she asked, mollified, then began asking me where I’ve lived, whether I’ve worked anywhere in town, where I went to church, where my kids went to school…we were striking out with each answer. After I told her Jarret worked for GKH the homebuilder, she and I were struck by the fact that she owned a GKH house, but it still didn’t explain why looked familiar, since it’s not like I work for them or do customer meetings or anything.

Whatever. It was going to bug us but who knew why we were both convinced that we knew each other. It was just one of those things.

I left and went to the library. When I arrived, I was thinking about the fact that the names Seth and Andi Porter* were so familiar and rolled off my tongue so readily that I had to know them. I sent Jarret a text: Do we know a Seth and Andi Porter who own a GKH house?

Minutes later, he replied: Lol! You mean our old neighbors?

That was it!! Seth and Andi Porter were our neighbors in our first house, the house that Jarret built when I was crushing on him and moved into on Valentine’s Day while we were dating and in which I lived with him after our wedding, eleven and a half years ago. That was why we knew each other—they were those neighbors we hardly ever saw but were interesting for some reason and apparently, we talked about enough to remember their names easily.

This posed one small problem.

You know how sometimes people make like a little name mistake and you don’t quite catch it right away and then it’s too awkward to correct them and you sort of let it slide? Well, Seth had misheard Jarret at some point back in those days and had taken to calling him “Jerry” and of course Jarret wasn’t about to say anything (and this was before I coined the term Jarry as the endlessly entertainingly ridiculous nickname, so he wasn’t quite so responsive to it), to our horror and much suppressed hilarity and so, we remarked to ourselves as we moved a year and a half later to our blue house in the country, one unexpected bonus of our move was that we could avoid the Jerry-is-actually-Jarret conversation since we’d no longer be neighbors.

Do you think Seth will be confused when he sees Jarret? Will this come up, eleven years later? Will he wonder why it is that he doesn’t quite remember living next to a “Jarret”?

I’ll keep you posted.

Feeling a rare bit of courage after our amiable conversation in the bathroom, I phoned the gym immediately after finding out this information (because I didn’t want it to bug her all day, of course, right? Totally normal) and inquired as to whether I could talk to Andi.

She was busy, so I asked the guy at the front desk to write her a note explaining that I was the girl who was just in who she thought she knew and that I’d figured out that we had been neighbors long ago in Wilden View subdivision. It was a weird message and he seemed a little dubious as to its content and its importance. I hope he got it right. I also hope me and Andi are best friends next time I go into the gym, seeing as we went through such an arduous process together—that’s bound to bond, right? I would like that. She’s cool.