Saturday, May 09, 2015

Piano recital

Lillian had a piano recital today, her third ever. This piano thing as been a long road; she really really hated it at first, and it was really hard for her.  I pretty much had to sit next to her at the piano every time she practiced and force her to do it.  There were lots of tears.  I was trusting in the studies that say that musicality helps develop math skills, an area where Lillian really struggles, and plus, I needed to set a precedent for the subsequent children that you WILL take piano lessons from ages 7-12, no buts.  I think she has a normal amount of hate for it now and will sometimes even practice without me bugging her, if she has a song she likes.

But also, she's growing up and turning into a young woman, which freaks me out.  I mean, only six more years until she can get a learner's permit.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Favorite Children's Book Authors

This is not a paid endorsement, I just wanted to tell someone about this.

I have read 5-30 children's picture books a week for almost 9 years now, so I'm pretty much an expert.  There are classics that will always stand the test of time- Goodnight Moon, The Little House, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Ferdinand the Bull.  But, if you read other books by these authors, they don't quite have the same mix of comfort and surprise that makes a good short story.  Or it's the same plot with different characters.

One of the things that is challenging with kid's books is that you, the parent, have to be able to read them over and over again without wanting to claw your eyes out.  The kids have a book called Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar where every page she asks the titular question and the protagonist guesses an animal, who then explains that they didn't do it because they eat grass, or flies, or antelopes.  At the end, turns out it was the ants who stole the cookies, but they stole them to set up a party and invite all the animals to eat the cookies that they just explained at length that they don't eat (WTH?).  The kids love it, but I hate it, so I hide it on top of the bookshelf where they can't see it.

To make books interesting for parents, authors will often try to be clever, like in the Amelia Bedelia series.  The problem is that with EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE. you have to spend 3 minutes explaining the joke... that pare is a word that no one uses that means peel, so when Mrs. Rogers says "pare the vegetables" and Amelia Bedelia "pairs" the vegetables, it's funny... see?  Times 20 pages.

It also can't have too many words on each page or be too long because either the kids will pick it to drag out bedtime, or it won't hold their attention.  Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has this problem- it's original enough that it takes like 15 pages to explain the premise before getting to the actual story, which is fun and all, but I just want my kids to go to bed already.

However, there are two authors that I can think of that overcome all these difficulties:

Peter Brown and Oliver Jeffers.  Every single book is just right: just the right length, just the right number of words per page, just the right amount of clever, beautiful illustrations.  And every book is good.

Although I love them all, my all time favorites are-

A bear finds a boy in the woods and takes him home.
A little boy gets his favorite shoe stuck in a tree.

If you are wondering what books to get your kids/niece/nephew/grandchild, buy them these.

Or, buy them for yourself, because they are great.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Phineas and Ferb Changed My Life

Last summer, I had a bad attitude, or maybe I was actually clinically depressed?  It was the heat.  I can handle it being hot in the summer.  I cannot, however, handle it being hot in the spring and fall as well.  If the triple digits would mind their manners and stay in their own season, we wouldn't be so much at odds.

Anyway, things started unraveling fast about September.  I remember one specific day, I was in my car, waiting at a light to turn onto the freeway, and the theme song from Phineas and Ferb came on.  This was the extended, album-release by Bowling for Soup and it's actually called "Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day"

There's a part where they sing:

This could possibly be the best day ever
And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be a million and six times better.
So make every minute count: jump up, jump in and seize the day.
And let's make sure that in every single possible way...
Today is gonna be a great day.

This was the opposite of what I was doing.  My days were not the best days ever.  I was laying down quietly, waiting to be burned to a crisp by the blinding Arizona sun.  (Seriously, though, there is no cloud cover ever, so the sun is always in my eyes... even if it's cold outside.)  I needed to do something to make sure that in every single possible way my summers would be great.

I sort of snapped that day and announced to Tyler that I was leaving next summer.

"So... we're getting a divorce...?" he asked.
"No no no, I love you.  I'm just not going to live here."
"You're moving forever...?"
"I don't know."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know.  All I know is that I won't be here."

My first plan was that I would get a job as a summer camp nurse and take my children with me.  Tyler said he could come with us and work remotely during those weeks and watch the kids during the day.  I applied with several camps and got accepted at a camp in Maine.

I didn't end up doing this because it seemed likely that Tyler would get a job in California AND HE DID!  We leave in a few weeks and I am beyond excited and grateful once again to Phineas and Ferb for making the world a better place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Epiphanies, plural

Lillian likes to lay like this when I'm reading to her at night.  The doctor says that her hypotonia is no longer detectable, but she's still really floppy and it's hard to tell if she does stuff like this because she can, or because it takes too much core strength to sit upright.

I don't know what I was thinking or hoping, but I think deep down, I thought that because she had grown out of the hypotonia, she might have grown out of the ADHD and maybe picked up some number sense over the summer.  But in the first few weeks of school, she's shown that this is not the case.  In considering my feelings about having a child with learning disabilities, I've realized a few things.

1. I was thinking about how Lillian could really use a full-time math tutor.  Someone to sit with her every night and do math homework; who was good at math and good with kids and could really get Lillian and explain things to her.  I starting thinking about how much that would cost and how much I would have to work to be able to pay for it when I realized that I do that.  Like, that's what a mom does- whatever it takes.   Your kid needs extra math help?  You're a math tutor.  Your kid needs a special diet? You're a chef.  Your kid needs a soft place to land?  You're a pillow.  It's pretty obvious- of course I'm going to be there for my kids, but it was just a moment of clarity that *I* could help solve this problem.

2.  I loved school.  I loved going and taking tests and learning everything.  Test taking is very easy for me; I could probably take a multiple choice test on a subject that I know nothing about and get a decent grade because I have a sense about what correct answers look like.  I liked to think that I was kind to everyone and respected all the kids regardless of scholastic aptitude, but I'm realizing that I looked down on people who weren't as smart as me.  I thought I was better than them.  Now that I have Lillian, I realize that she works way harder than I ever did at math.  She struggles to complete worksheets in class and then has to finish them at home on top of the homework, plus she goes to extra tutoring in the resource room, plus I practice with her every day and on weekends.  And she does it with minimal complaints.

When I got to AP Physics in high school, it was hard for me, and instead of sticking it out, I arranged with UCSB (to which I had already been accepted) to drop out with an F on my transcripts.  I had no coping skills built up to tackle a difficult subject because no subject had been difficult before.  For a long time, I congratulated myself on my clever solution to my problem, but I realize now that it was a total cop out.

3.  I need to be more sensitive about bragging about my kids.  Nora is very smart, and sometimes I get carried away telling people about it.  However, it's totally the pot calling the kettle black because when people brag to me about their Lillian-aged kids, I want to punch them in the face... or just cry.  That's great for you that your 8-year old has read all 7 of the Harry Potter books (Lillian can barely read Magic Treehouse and that's only if I'm sitting next to her to remind her of where she is when she gets distracted) but that doesn't make your child better, or mean that you are a better parent than me.  I'm sure this is just me projecting my insecurities, but I don't want to make other parents feel bad because their 5-year old can't count by 3's (which Nora likes to show off).  IT'S NOTHING I DID, she's just like that.  Its also something I need to remind myself- My parenting can't and shouldn't be measured by the achievements of my children.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Living Within Our Means

This is what my fridge looks like right now.

In 2011, I started working full time.  Before that point, if we budgeted carefully, only went out to dinner on special occasions, and considered our purchases, we had enough money for our needs.  After 2011, we didn't have to worry about budgeting.  If I wanted something, I bought it.  If I didn't feel like cooking, we went out.  I fell out of the habit of checking how much I was spending every month.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going crazy; all those years of being a poor college student and thrifty bargain hunter definitely left their mark, but I wasn't being careful either.

Then in late 2012, I got pregnant and started throwing up, so I switched to working only one day a month. The only thing on my radar was survival.  Then 2013 comes and I have this small human who DOESN'T STOP CRYING FOR 3 MONTHS.

At the beginning of this year, once everyone started sleeping through the night, I started thinking, "huh, I wonder how our bank accounts are doing."  Turns out, we were spending at 2011 levels, but only making 2010 money.  Whoops!

We weren't in the red because we had money saved from my full-time days, but every month, we were spending way more than we were bringing in.  I freaked out and launched a family-economy sequester; buckling down, cutting spending, and asking around for someone to watch my kids so I could start working 1 day a week.

I made a food budget of $800 a month.  It's so high because I was including our Costco trip wherein I might buy socks or a new swimsuit or something, and our grocery store has pretty much everything you could ever need (lamps, pillows, huge toy aisle, art and craft supplies, baby clothes).  I have no idea what I bought, but we maxed out our grocery budget 4 days ago on April 26.  I decided I was going to see if we could stick it out.  I did make an emergency run for milk, apples, and bread, but other than that, it's been slim pickins.

We've eaten every piece of frozen meat in our freezer (I even MADE hamburger rolls to avoid going to the store), eeked out soups with questionable bottom-of-the-bag vegetables, eaten several tuna dishes, and forced my family to eat oatmeal when the cereal ran out.

I've learned several things- 1. Wow, food runs out fast when you're not constantly going to the store to replenish your stock. 2. Man, I'm thankful for the grocery store and I don't have to somehow otherwise procure food.

And 3. I waste so much food!  Most of the food we've been eating these last 4 days has been less than perfect.  Let's just say, I've been cutting some brown spots off.  If I had been able to go to the store, I would have totally thrown that stuff out.  Or, more likely, ignored it in favor of the fresher food and waited until it became completely inedible and then thrown it out.


Monday, March 31, 2014

I am not a flexible woman

I'm not naturally flexible.  This is me, giving it my best effort to touch my toes.  I'm not joking.

After I had Lillian, I took a Mommy-and-Me yoga class.  It was fun but I was so totally not as flexible as the other women in the class.  I asked the instructor how long I would have to do yoga before I would be able to do a simple down dog pose with my heels on the ground.

Ten years is what she guessed.

Ten. Years.  We're coming up on 8 years, and still I'm nowhere close.  She underestimated the power of my hamstrings.

The thing is- I hate yoga.  The whole time I'm doing it, I think, "I hate this.  I'm so uncomfortable. I don't want to breathe.  I'm so bored."  Plus, I now have a peanut gallery that says stuff like, "Mom, she said you're supposed to put your forehead on the ground."  "Mom, she said that you're supposed to be on one leg."  "Mom, she said to grab your toes."

Yet I do it.  Because I fear that if I don't, I soon won't be able to bend over to put my own pants on.  Which... actually... might not be a problem.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Almost Thou Convincest Me To Give Up Wheat

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and she told me about how she has all these food allergies that went undiagnosed until she was 30.  How did that happen?  A few doctors suggested that she had food allergies but she didn't believe them because food allergies meant that you got hives or went anaphylactic... right?  Then she started having problems with her gums and her dentist asked her if she'd ever been tested, so she decided to get it done, and turns out, she's allergic to wheat, eggs, corn, soy, dairy, bananas, and apples among other things.

"What symptoms did you have that you weren't sure you were allergic to pretty much everything?!"

*Tired all the time (I'M tired all the time)

*Stomach hurt a little all the time, but not that bad (MY stomach hurts a lot at random times)

*Sensitive skin and always had a rash (I do not always have a rash, but I do have really itchy skin)

*Gum problems (I do not have gum problems, but I do get big ugly canker sores inside my mouth that appear at seemingly random times)

She went on an elimination diet and suddenly felt about a million times better and had so much more energy, no more stomach pain, could fly, etc.

I told her that I had these things, and she said it sounded like I had a wheat allergy.  Bah! I say.  I don't go in for all those pseudoscience food fads!

She shrugged her shoulders and said that there'd be no harm in trying it and that I might feel better.  "Pfffft, you can have my pizza when you pull it from my cold dead hands," I said to myself because that would have been rude to say out loud.

Then I talked to my sister and she told me all about how her husband's doctor put him on a grain-free, dairy-free, fun-free diet along with enough vitamins to justify buying a pill case to lower his cholesterol.  And now he's lost a bunch of weight, feels better, can fly, etc.

Maybe there was something to this?  I decided to give up wheat for a week, and maybe I'd feel better, and if I didn't, I'd know that I don't have a mild wheat allergy.

I started on Wednesday and I felt the same until yesterday afternoon when I hit a wall.  I was so tired, I worked for about an hour to get everyone to take a nap at the same time so I could lay down, and then the baby woke up and I cried.  My eyes were droopy at dinner and I went to bed at about 7:30.

Not the miracle cure I was hoping for.
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