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Monday, October 31, 2011

Barely Controlled Chaos

Woodland Fairy in a Swing
Fairy Wore
Tennis Shoes

A 20 by 24 room full of third-graders seems somehow so much less full than a small farmhouse full of preschoolers. I'll add pictures later of Abby's party; I didn't have my camera so I'm depending on other parents. My mom went early to Lizzy's party, and I showed up there after Abby's - and there was definitely that aura of barely controlled chaos.

And this evening - hoo boy this evening. Eight children ranging in age from three (Woody from Toy Story, and the older kids taught him to say, "There's a snake in my boot!") to 11(our angel-in-disguise, in orange and black and wings and halo)  in age, over-excited, over-sugared, and over-tired. Wearing glow-stick jewelry over their costumes for visibility. That was a hoot but also - you guessed it - barely controlled chaos. Everyone but the Wicked Witch Queen my mom went out trick-or-treating; Mom manned (witch-queened?) the door.

Harry Potter, Wicked Queen, Dracula, Tinkerbell, Skull Bride, Woody,
Ghost, Angel (sans wings and halo), and Luigi (left to right)
aka Ash, Mom, Tristan, Lizzy, Abby, Connor, Kay, Leanna, Greg
The chaos was slightly less controlled outside, but there were some very funny moments. One of the kids had a meltdown because the world was apparently conspiring against getting him a Kit-Kat. Several people looked at the faces of the five grownups herding around these eight kids and offered us chocolate of our own. One lady offered me a margarita. "Just a small one," she said, "You can take it with you because the cup is plastic." I declined, as the dentist has recently told me no alcohol. But wow - what an offer! I wonder how many people take her up on that every year.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hooray for Halloween!

I mentioned previously that we have an Angel, a Skull Bride, and a Tinkerbell all excited for tomorrow. We've got a Luigi coming too, and a Dracula and a Harry Potter. Two other children but I don't know yet what they're wearing. These kids (totaling eight, ranging in age from three to 11) will all go out trick-or-treating tomorrow night, accompanied by our menfolk (of whom we will have four) and whichever womenfolk chose to walk rather than supervise treat distribution and gossip about neighborhood kids' costumes. This is traditional for us and it's really really fun.

But this is only after a party in Abby's 3rd grade class, followed by a party and spaghetti feed in Lizzy's preschool (a different school, natch), followed by Lizzy going with my mom for a nap (thank God and Grandma) while I come home and get some school-and-job-hunting done. When Abby gets home from school we'll refresh her hair and makeup, do homework, wait for Leanna and the neighbor kids to show up, and get together with Grandma and Lizzy for the festivities.

This should be a fun - if exhausting - day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Children are Strange

Lizzy as a fairy in 2009
Abby is - as stated previously - going to Halloween as a skeleton bride. Lizzy as Tinkerbell (in a handed-down costume from Abby, and she's wearing leggings and a long-sleeve tee under it so she won't be cold). Leanna has a hard time deciding. She's usually an animal of some sort because she loves them and because her mother is uncomfortable with the darker side of Halloween. So in an effort to both please her mother and coordinate with Abby, she's decided to be an angel (Life to Abby's Death). Cute. Finding a costume in any given size two days before Halloween is a challenge, but we found wings and a halo and she'll go as an angel in disguise.

Lizzy, in addition to her problem with Bob the Tomato not being "weally a vegetable" is objecting to other aspects of the VeggieTales and its lack of realism. Because "Piwates do do things, so the Piwates who Don't do Anything ah not weally Piwates". The fact that they are talking freaking vegetables is not a problem (except the aforementioned Bob), but darn it, Pirates should Do Something.

Such strange little people.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Game Night

This should be fun. In addition to our usual suspects we have some people who have been online-friends for quite a while, but whom we have never met in person. Should be a new and fun thing.

Plus in addition to my specialty (pot roast with red potatoes, mushrooms, onion, carrot, parsnip and turnip), we have Iced Gypsy Tea (today's flavor is English Breakfast with mulling spices, sweetened with agave), and hot spiced cider. And the incomparable Carrie of The Happy Little Cake Company has made us a cake (we love being her guinea pigs!). As usual, we will most likely play Dominion, because it is in fact different every time.

Now, all I have to do is calm down (so I don't kill any of the kids); I've been stressing over the dangers involved in pumpkin-carving with lots of bouncy children around (not to mention the cramp in the fleshy part of my right thumb), dealing with Lizzy (who has been Dropping Her Spoon most of the day because she's caught a cold and she can't "bweathe thwough by dose") and fretting over the fact that none of my three browsers can access my school website today. So I need to remember that we will not be outnumbered by children (in fact, every single adult in the house tonight is a parent, which is not always the case), that Lizzy will have someone her age-ish and will therefore be less of a pill for the other kids and the adults, and that there's always that song Lizzy and I made up yesterday in the car. It can be adapted.

If you're stressy and you know it, take a breath,
If you're stressy and you know it, take a breath,
If you're stressy and you know it, then try to calm yourself down.
If you're stressy and you know it, take a breath.

ETA: The new folk were really fun, and their kid integrated with ours well, without any bloodshed or much drama. And the cake - OMG the cake was fabulous, Vanilla Spice bundt cake with apple-cardamom compote. Dangerous.

Yum

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Four Years Old

Yes, I know she's been four for almost two months, but today was Lizzy's well-child checkup. She's healthy, active, academically ready for kindergarten in that she knows most of her letters and all her colors/shapes and can count up to x and can draw a recognizable human figure, but by no means ready socially, physically, or emotionally. Which is fine, since she has at least one year, maybe two, before kindergarten starts for her. Her height is dead on average at 40 inches, and her weight is above average (but has not deviated from her own personal curve) at 40 pounds. Since she was 36 inches and 36 pounds at 36 months, I like the symmetry of her being 40 inches and 40 pounds at 4 years. The otoscope was about 600 times harder on everyone than the shots.

I asked about several things - our doctor says she always enjoys my bulleted lists - and came up with the following answers: Even if she is hyperactive - and Doc R is not ruling it out but does not like to diagnose ADHD this young because many children her age are this bouncy - she's definitely on the behavior-modification-not-drugs side of things. This will undoubtedly make our lives easier as she grows up. She may have hay-fever type fall allergies, based on the runny-nose-sneezing-constant-undereye-baggage-without-fever symptoms. Next time she has one of these days when she is like this, give her a children's benadryl and see whether she reacts. If the symptoms are relieved, then it's an allergy. If not, probably a cold.

And then we tried to get home. Note to self - never schedule doctor appointments after four on a weekday; the traffic causes much suckage. But at least Lizzy and I - she with a sugar-free lollipop for being a Brave Child - made up a new song. See if you can guess the tune.

When you're angry at the traffic calm it down,
When you're angry at the traffic calm it down,
When you're angry at the trafficand you'd like to get home safely,
When you're angry at the traffic calm it down.

Don't sneer - it did work.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Greek Food

There's a nice little Greek restaurant nearby, and my mom had a coupon, so we thought we'd try it for breakfast this morning. I don't even like eggs (except hard boiled/deviled) and the coupon was for a Breakfast Gyro, which had an omelet-like egg, seasoned meat, feta, tomato, and onion wrapped in a pita.

I loved it.

Chicken Gyro at Stavros Greek Cuisine
Seriously, forget my dislike of eggs - this stuff was great. It's a small place, and family-run (three generations), and it was just great food. I plan on going back for souvlaki and spanakopita and baklava (that last when Abby's at her dad's next, I think). They have several salads and meatballs and pizza (so even the kids'll eat there) and of course lunch gyros and a daily special that's not on the menu. They're only open weekdays, and that only for breakfast and lunch, but we can work around that. This place is worth it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big Trouble in a Little Suburb

Not this kind of Big Trouble.

They're putting in a Panera Bread down the street from my apartment.

It has a drive-through window.

I won't even have to leave my car in Seattle weather to get my carbalicious fix on.

This is very bad.

Very very bad.

I'm in big trouble.

But wait...  they do have a Steak Chili that doesn't look too bad for one. And the Vegetarian Black Bean looks okay too. And the Garden Vegetable and the Chicken Noodle. The sandwiches don't look any worse than the equivalents in other restaurants and are certainly better than other drive-through options.  The salads actually look good - tasty and not-too-bad-nutritionally. The smoothies - with the exception of mango of course - look fine for the kids at least. And the kids' menu is really good for a place with a drive-through window.

So as long as I stay away from the dairy-based soups, salads, and drinks - which as a mildly-allergic person I shouldn't have anyway - the menu looks reasonable.

Maybe this isn't as bad as I thought.




Monday, October 24, 2011

My Kind of Monday

Today was a Good Day. I got the kids off to their respective schools without having to rush. I got to storage to pick up some of our Halloween (well, autumn, anyway - scarecrows and silk leaves and so forth) decorations and then put them up. I applied for two jobs and followed up on two more. I did some of this week's homework. I picked Lizzy up at preschool and got to sit in on the last few minutes of her computer class. It was great - put on by a local  franchise of a company called Children's Computer Corner - and Lizzy had a great time. Plus they may have been successful in hammering some computer manners (like how to handle CDs and how you really shouldn't press the power button when someone is using the computer) into her hard little head.

I took Lizzy out to lunch with friends (just fast food, but since Natty is Lizzy's Best Fwiend and her baby sister Emmy is cute as a button (and thought that my nail polish was the absolute most amazing thing she'd ever seen) and that their mom and I actually got to chat, well, it was definitely a good time). Then Lizzy and I went to one of our favorite local places - Skinny Dip Frozen Yogurt - to pick up dessert for the whole family. Sugar-free Kahlua with sugar-free chocolate and nuts for the Hubs, nut-free chocolate-vanilla swirl with Nerds and chocolate chips for Abby, dairy free watermelon sorbet with "juice caviar" and coconut for me, and sense-free chocolate-vanilla swirl with a little of everything for Lizzy.

Good Day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chaos

It comes in two flavors around here: the flavor I can deal with, and the flavor I can't.

Lizzy and I went to the store, to pick up the things that we could not get from safeway.com today. So we needed turkey, rubber bands, and paper towels. I also got a long sleeve tee and leggings for under Lizzy's fairy costume, and a bag of DumDums to give to Trick-or-Treaters (we keep DumDums because Abby can eat them and because I won't eat handfuls of them like I will other candies in the house), and a black velvet headband with a tiny spangled witch's hat for me to wear on Halloween.

This took about twenty minutes. In that space of time, Leanna's mom arrived to take Leanna home with her (this is normally not "our weekend" but she needed a sitter so we got to have her overnight), and three neighborhood kids came over to play (the fourth regular was grounded for the first hour of playtime and the less-commonly-here kids were not here). This was chaos, but the kind I can stand. I can even write with this going on; although I am occasionally called to mediate or drink imaginary tea, I'm otherwise pretty much left alone.

At this very moment, as I type, we have a ten-year-old girl sorting stick-bomb sticks by color, three boys ranging from six to ten (one of whom is carrying a plastic scythe) and an eight-year-old girl playing "restaurant" on the porch, a four-year-old girl playing with Lego, and a nine-year-old boy singing what seems to be opera in the kids' bedroom. It's total chaos and noise, but it's the sort I can deal with. At least today I can.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today I Learned...

...how much water ends up on the kitchen floor when one breaks the dishwasher's seal by closing a fork in the door. How much, by the way, is "quite a bit". Enough to need a bath towel to mop it up.

...how to make my Tropical Pork safe for all attendees of Friday Game Night. Instead of using tropical mixed fruit (potential for mango to which we have an allergy in the family) I use a can of pineapple rings and one of mandarin oranges, and instead of putting onion in the crockpot (we have a regular at Friday Game Night who is sensitive to them), I chopped the onion into a small saucepan with the liquid from the canned fruit and some soy sauce so it can be added by those who can tolerate it.

...that I'm a good student. I never was before. Part of this was learning differences (and the schools in the 70s and 80s made fewer allowances for such things) and some was simply laziness on my part. I was smart enough - I just had lousy study habits and no particular drive to succeed, even in community college in the late 1980s. Now I do, and my first session at University of Phoenix / Axia College netted me an A in one class and a B+ in the other. This is blatant bragging on my part and I don't care. I did good, and I want the world to know.

...that I'm really looking forward to this afternoon's Brownie Scout in-service event. We're going to the Junior High I myself attended to help run the Threads and Treads clothing bank for a couple hours. It's a nice girl-scouty thing to do, but it's a little different from the usual canned food drive or the like. Those are good too, but this is a change of pace. I like it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sensitivity

Ruby Gloom
My two have always been sensitive to music, especially in a movie or TV setting. When Abby was very small, she would say things like, "This is vewy not good music" during intense (for preschoolers) musical themes. Scenes where a character is afraid, or is depicted as a Bad Guy, or is about to make a Noble Sacrifice... Abby would always pick up on that from the music. I'd hate to think how she would have reacted to - say - this theme at the age of three or four. And these days, in her Perky Goth fashion, she likes the quirky music often associated with Dark-Is-Not-Evil  (and usually Girl Power) characters, like Wednesday of The Addams Family and Raven of the Teen Titans and Ruby Gloom. She has an eclectic taste in music; she loves everything from Oingo Boingo to Stravinsky. Now she does. But when she was Lizzy's age, intense music was scary.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
For Lizzy, it's not so much the intensity as it is the key. I was expanding my usual repertoire of Lullabies from Show Tunes (Summertime, for instance, and Good Night Ladies) tonight. I started in on the score of Fiddler on the Roof - it has lots of nice quiet bedtimey songs-  and she started to cry. "What's the matter, baby?"

"I don't like the song because it's sad."

"I'm sorry, Lizzy; the song is a little sad, but that's because the girl who sings it in the movie is growing up and going away with the man she's going to marry".

"Not the wuhds,  mama, the music of the song!"

I can only assume that the issue is that the song in question is in D-minor key. Because this sort of thing has happened before under similar circumstances. Poor sensitive baby.

I'm Pretty Well, Thanks

People seem to think I should be depressed because of my joblessness and other issues such as the Teeth of Doom and my unemployment insurance running out and so forth. And historically - just ask my ex-husband - October and November are when the SAD hits me here in Seattle-ish.

Surprisingly, I'm not depressed. Oh, I'm stressed about money as always; although that's been mitigated by having finished paying off some bills, it's also a stress-bringer that the UI ran out (even though I get an extension or four, the extensions are less money per week) and that I missed one or two smaller bills in the Grand Payoff of 2011. But really, aside from money, everything at Chez Gamers' Babes is Pretty Darn Good.

Today when I went for my dental followup (still do love my dentist), my dentist complimented me on taking care of my teeth and the extraction site. He said the bone graft is far more advanced than he expected at this point in the healing process. He told me I can now drink through a straw if I like ("as long as it is not a thick milkshake") because it's healing so well (although I didn't ask, I think alcohol is still forbidden, but that's not a big problem for me) and I can eat anything I want as long as I am careful. And I'm excited to say that I received a photocopy of the page in their company newsletter - I think it's called Word of Mouth - where they printed an excerpt of this blog post I wrote last May (not as exciting as Hubs' short story getting published, but still...). Also, I discovered from the UI people that if I accept a part time job, I still get partial unemployment benefits... and my dentists' office is probably hiring front desk staff. I can certainly do that - customer service is my specialty - so I think I might apply.

On the not-depressed front, I also got the news today that in one of the two classes I took last session - having gone back to school (online) for a degree in Communications - my final grade is an A (94.5%)! I don't have the final paper graded from the other class yet, but even if I get no points at all I'll have a C, and I think I did rather better than "no points at all". I'll probably have a B.

Tomorrow I'm getting a manicure courtesy of my mom, who feels that it will help me continue staving off depression. She may be right. And tomorrow afternoon Abby and I are going with her Brownie Scout Troop to do our service for the month. We may have a game after that, although right now the number of available gamers is pretty scarce.

Life is good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Preschoolers

I love Lizzy's preschool. In addition to the basic things I love about it - the Montessori Method especially - I love that it's so multicultural. The director is American. The head teacher and another of the teachers are from England, one teacher is from India, and I've forgotten which Spanish-speaking country the other teacher is originally from. The kids show similar diversity in their backgrounds. On Wednesdays they have someone come in specifically for Spanish language things - art and music, mostly. This morning I got a form for signing Lizzy up for computer classes (we don't take any of the extra classes available as of yet, but this one I'm signing her up for - one of the things listed on the curriculum is "proper care of CDs and DVDs". So yeah, for $36 for five classes I'm in). I love that her school is so diverse; our friends and family tend to be religiously diverse and we have a wide range of abilities and "issues", but there's little racial diversity among our close friends - some but not much. So it's nice to have diversity at school (Abby's as well as Lizzy's) and in our neighborhood. Part of this is the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in a nearby suburb.

Lizzy's preschool and its diverse makeup was a fairly large part of the final paper I wrote for my Cultural Diversity class last quarter ("Cultural Diversity in Your Community"). Today "the Spanish teaching lady" (as Lizzy calls her) helped them make headdresses that look Aztec to me (see picture) but then I'm no expert. It does not look like a "Thanksgiving Indian Headdress". Lizzy's descriptions of what happens at school are a little confused unless you're four, but she told me that "the Spanish teaching lady showed us a picture of people with hats and stapled them after we colored them". When asked what these people looked like she said, "Mommy, you know all the kids." When I explained I was talking about the people in the picture and wondered what they looked like, she said "they have dark hair and fancy hats". So there's no telling the origin from her description.

This kind of thing is hard to sort out in any case; Lizzy's profound disregard for pronoun references is an issue. I think my favorite here lately was, "someone made a bad choice and put orange paper tray work in the water work shelf and it got soooo fat! Wasn't that silly?" Then she went off into peals of laughter. I needed a visual reference for that one; it turns out that someone had taken something that belonged on a tray lined in orange paper (dry rice maybe, or something like that) and put it in the area where they do water play, thereby puffing up the stuff - whatever it was.

ETA: It is apparently based on a design from a Native Canadian people who emigrated to Mexico. Girls' headdresses have three feathers and boys' headdresses have more (which Lizzy says "isn't nice but is real" - I think this means they're more authentic).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Days Are Like That

My mom does not approve of the amount of TV my kids watch. They do watch rather a lot but content matters and... and that's a soapbox for a different day. In any case, today Lizzy was a very tired little girl and all she wanted to do was sit on Grandma's lap (Grandma takes her a few days a week so I can Get Things Done) and watch TV. So they did. They watched quite a lot of preschool shows - Little Einsteins, Blue's Clues, Backyardigans - and Lizzy even talked Grandma into an episode of Spongebob Squarepants (which Grandma loathes). But they had a nice day, and sometimes you just need the quiet at-home (or at-Grandma's-house) day.

And when I picked Abby up at school she was full of the songs she's learning for her school's Veterans' Day concert. Yes, those songs. Her favorite is the Air Force one ("Here we go, into the wild blue yonder") although she likes the others too. She can't read a lot of the words on the sheet they gave her - there's a lot of French (the Army song's caissons) - and Latin (Semper from both the Marines (which also has words like Montezuma and Tripoli) and the Coast Guard). And of course we're in Seattle-ish, and she went to camp at the Museum of Flight during Blue Angels week, so we already know the Navy's song. I don't know the tune to the Coast Guard's song, but we've got the rest of them covered for practice. She came home and sang the Air Force song to her step-dad, who grew up on Air Force bases. He was charmed and amused, and Abby's going to sing the song to Grandpa Joe (retired Air Force man, and Hubs' dad) when he comes to visit this weekend. Should be fun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Great Local Business

Abby at Jump Planet in early 2007
Jump Planet is a fun fun place. We've been there before, attending birthday parties for other children, but only recently did we realize that their free play is affordable and fun. And (this is key) they wipe. Lizzy. Out. If she doesn't sleep tonight, after the morning at preschool and over an hour of running, jumping, bouncing, and sliding at this place, then there's no hope at all on that front.

My main worries about places like these are generally cleanliness and safety. Jump Planet is clean - at least three times during the hour and ten minutes we were playing I spotted employees wiping things down with disinfectant, mopping the floors, etc. I imagine that after the doors close for the night they have other, more complete cleaning routines; this is not your fast food or mall play space.

Lizzy at Jump Planet in October 2011
As for safety, not only is everything soft and bouncy (even the floors are padded) but there are special rules; e.g. crawling over walls internal to a given ride is acceptable (as long as one watches for smaller children) but crawling over external walls is forbidden. And the customer service people manage to impart these rules while remaining cheerful and convincing even excited children that the rules are reasonable. They have great customer service - it's clear that the people there love their jobs and are basically nice people besides - and the kids and parents coming in obviously liked them back. My personal knee-jerk safety question is covered too; they're a nut-free facility.

They do parties for birthdays as a large part of their business, and they've got a Halloween bounce party coming up. I'm considering it...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Published Authors...

...like my husband Laston!

His short story Mapping People has been published, in the company of people like Cory Doctorow and will.i.am, in an anthology called The Tomorrow Project: Conversations About the Future, published by Intel. Click the link to read; he's Chapter 5.

I can't even express how excited I am by this. I can write but I can't write stories... and I am married to a man who can. And that is about the most thrilling thing that this inveterate reader can imagine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Game Night?

Our new friends could not show up to game night this week; they said they'd catch us next week. So we only have our two most frequent attendees, plus us at Chez Gamers' Babes.

It's just as well.

Abby, Leanna, and Lizzy have not seen Greg (my future son-in-law, because if Abby won't take him, Lizzy has volunteered) for about a month, due to game night being put on hold for illness or birthday celebration or tooth pain or what-have-you. Conversely, Greg has not seen them for the same time. All four of them are excited to see each other, Abby is shrieking with excited glee, Lizzy is seriously overtired - the bags under her eyes look like they've been packed for a month's stay in the Arctic - and Leanna and Greg don't have volume switches under the best of circumstances, which these are not.

So I'm losing it, Laston is in his own quiet way, and Greg's dad Nate is the only sane being in the place. I have to get out now, or I'll start screaming at the kids, instead of just minor shouting. I say goodbye to the other adults - the kids are oblivious - and run to the store. On the way I get a call from Abby's Nana (her dad's mom), asking if we're still on for tomorrow.

Uh, what?

I have a vague - very vague - recollection of getting a call from Nana on my way to the dentist two weeks ago. Apparently there was more to that conversation than I remember, because she's picking Abby up and taking her out for the day tomorrow.

So, Friday Night Game Friends? Next week might be better after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Politics

I'm not talking about the Occupy X movement, or the 99%, or any of the other current examples on the national (or international) stage here. I'm talking about a stubborn-but-fairly-honest little girl named Abigail, nearly nine years old, in the third grade. She has glasses, freckles, missing teeth, unruly hair, and a sweet nature. She has a love of the paranormal on a school-child level, and problems with reading fluency but a huge spoken vocabulary. She has a developing sense of humor - even about herself from time to time - and a tendency toward pedantic speech. She's popular with her peers and thought her bid for Female Class Representative to the Student Council was a fairly sure thing.

But it wasn't.

She's not heartbroken, not at all. I think it was the idea of being the representative more than the job itself that attracted her. But she's a little baffled and terribly indignant that the girl who did get voted in got it because she asked for votes. Out loud and in person and right to people's faces. Abby thinks this is cheating; one should apparently only ask for votes if there is reciprocity. I tried to explain that this is not how voting works - that it's perfectly normal to ask for votes and there's not actually anything wrong about the other little girl doing so - but she has it so firmly entrenched in her eight-year-old everything-must-be-fair brain that there is no moving her on the topic.

So I thought about it, and all I could come up with was this: Wouldn't we all be better off if all politicians were as honest and, well, as basically nice as Abby?


Yes. Yes we would.

"An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere." ~Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The School Saga

Abby is a very good student, enthusiastic and school-loving, but she struggles with reading; she has all along. Since her whole family - mom, dad, stepdad, grandparents, aunts and uncles - are big readers, and her stepdad and I are writers as well, we find this a little baffling. She loves to read. She makes a jump in reading level every year around April. She's just not very fluent at it.

Fluency - in third-grade reading terms - is akin to fluidity... the ease with which she reads. She stumbles over words a lot, even words she should know because they are "sight words" and have been for awhile. They all stumble on laugh and tough, on thought and through. GH words suck. But she also has trouble with words like clock. Although dyslexia would not surprise me (she still has a little issue with bdpq and spelling) mostly this is because she's simply an auditory learner - her spoken vocabulary is ridiculously enormous (she uses phrases like "ridiculously enormous", for instance). Last year, in trying to sound out laughed, she went through words like lounged and languid, which surprised (but pleased) her teacher.

So she has the brains to read well, and the vocabulary and the desire. We just have to find the right method for teaching her. She's now in Title 1 reading help (she was last year too) and there are enough kids she knows in there with her that she feels no "special ed" stigma. She's not "disadvantaged" but she qualifies under "young children who need reading assistance". In an effort to help her more at home, we've also:
  1. Gone to the library and gotten (eight) books she wants to read and are either at her level or the next level up (per the librarian, who apparently hears this sort of thing often). These include things like the first two Bunnicula books, the first three Ivy and Bean books, and Trixie the Halloween Fairy.
  2. Made a place (the shelf by her school backpack) and a time (during homework time) for her "required twenty minutes of reading a day". Part of the problem is that she likes to read in bed, and then it would occasionally go by the wayside because the evening would get away from us and she has to sleep sometime.
  3. Promised that she will read her library books in the living/dining room and then put them right back on the shelf. These are special books; if she wants to read other places - and I will encourage this - like in bed, she can read one of the gazillion books she owns. And that's when she reads other books - like the Harry Potter she's so fond of but that are too hard for her.
  4. Looked at some other ways to make reading fun and useful. Having her read her own menus in restaurants. Getting her some reading games for her DS. Having her help me scan grocery labels for nuts, to which she is allergic. Like that.
In any case, we (Abby, her dad, grandma, stepdad and I) are working on it, the school is working on it, and when it comes time for her next physical exam, her doctor will be checking on it as well.
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Now - my school. This is the final week of my first session at the University of Phoenix. Four-year-old Lizzy explained to me today that my school is in my house and it's all on the computer, so she will be my recess teacher and make me go outside sometimes. Sounds like a plan.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SO Grown Up

Not the girls. Not this time.

This time I refer to my mouth. I went to the dentist for my follow up and now, in addition to infant foods like yogurt and soft noodles and mashed avocado or banana, I have graduated to toddler-type foods like bits of meat cut up small and grapes and other foods that are soft-ish or can be cooked to make them so.

I was spending way too much time thinking about food. Partly this is because I have issues with food anyway, but partly it was even more restrictions on my usual choices. And I'm mildly allergic to cows' milk so a diet primarily consisting of dairy is not so good. I still have some obvious restrictions - nothing crunchy or chewy, carbonated or drunk through a straw - and I'm still tiring easily and should "take it easy", but otherwise I'm pretty much Back to Normal. You can tell because the dentist and I had a fun little chat wherein I taught him the English phrase "Leave well enough alone". If I'm doing that I must be feeling better in spite of the fatigue.

This is a Good Thing, because it's my final week of the first... (does one call it a "quarter" when it's only nine weeks long?)... session at school. Between my final papers for two classes and job hunting and (reluctant) housekeeping, I don't have time to think about what I'm going to cook! We have a Brownie Scout meeting and I want to schedule a massage 'cause I really need one and... <takes a deep breath>. Don't know how much I'll be posting either. So wish me luck on my finals, and I'll catch you on the flip side.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Personal Responsibility

My husband is fairly hard-line on the personal responsibility topic. I am too, to a lesser degree - I feel it's important but I'm more willing to make exceptions for people who need help (in my estimation) than he is. And we try to teach our kids that personal responsibility too. The eight-year-old is the easiest of the three - she's at a receptive age for it (she hasn't hit the adolescent nothing-is-my-fault bit yet, frequent home-late excuses notwithstanding) and she has a certain amount of her mom's sense of Random Guilt For Everything - but the eleven-year-old is coming along too. Her mom and we (and Abby's dad) work fairly hard on it, and we've had some recent homework projects that have improved our (the adults') communication on the topic. None of us are perfect, but we're working as a team (go amicable divorces!) to get a sense of responsibility for their own homework instilled in the older two.

The youngest, four-year-old Lizzy, is a little harder. Part of this is simply because she's still very young; her time sense is still screwy and her memory of where she has put things is a little weird. And she violates warranties in the strangest ways. I've lost track of the number of remote controls that have gone missing around here (we've found most of them (although one we found in a full glass of water) and those we haven't we've replaced). And the King County Public Library's local branch probably knows my phone voice by now, as I call in to explain why books are late fairly often. But this time she's misplaced the book that belongs to Snow the Giraffe, which was lent to her by her preschool this weekend (she was Star of the Week so she got to bring Snow and her blanket, book and basket home with her this weekend).

We saw the book Friday night when we read it, and Saturday morning when we read it again, and we have looked all over the darn place. Abby's gotten under the bed, we've looked under and behind the couch, etc. No Giraffes Can't Dance to be found. Sigh. So I ordered a copy from amazon.com, next day delivery, and I'll bring it to the preschool and let them know. And I'll try to instill a sense of This is Wrong in Lizzy. But I'm not holding my breath on her getting that lesson yet. We still have to reinforce it with the older two, and they're 11 and eight.

It will come with time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Alternative Foods

Although I am considerably overweight - I could stand to lose about a hundred pounds - I try to eat fairly healthily. I am also mildly allergic to cows' milk (I can manage a serving a day without ill effects) and I tend toward high blood pressure, which limits my options somewhat. Generally on Friday Game Night I use my triple crock pot to make things everyone can eat - we have me, one allergic to tree nuts, one sensitive to onions and mushrooms, two with diabetes, and several on lower-carb diets among our usual attendees. So - for instance - on spaghetti night I use whole wheat noodles (and I've been known to use spaghetti squash or steamed veggies as an alternative base) and I make three sauces - one veggie (lots of onions and mushrooms), one meat (no onions nor mushrooms), and one cream-sauce-with-meatballs (using Campbell's low-sodium Cream of Something). The triple crock pot is freaking amazing; it's the best thing my mother-in-law has ever gotten me. Not including her oldest son, of course, but that's a separate post.

However, here in the last week or so, I've had Tooth Issues. Which means my options are even more limited than usual, because I'm not allowed anything crunchy, chewy, too hot, carbonated, or taken through a straw. I've drunk a lot of iced tea and water, and eaten endless rounds of Jell-o, Greek Yogurt, and pudding (and lost eight pounds). Most of the soft noodley things are either too hot, too high in sodium, or both, although I have done some of that too. This morning for breakfast my mom took me and the girls out. I had two pumpkin pancakes and a slice of bacon and it was wonderful. I thought I'd post a couple of my recent concoctions in an effort to remind myself that although I'm in pain and exhausted (and "taking it easy" per the dentist), I'm not completely out of my normal creative mode.

Frozen dessert: two overripe bananas, one cup light chocolate soy milk, one cup (4oz) chocolate pudding, and a squirt of Hershey's chocolate syrup in the blender. It wold make a good shake, but I chose to freeze it and eat it like ice cream.

Poor Man's Stroganoff: one package lower-sodium stroganoff noodles mix, 2oz browned ground beef, a couple chopped fresh mushrooms, some minced green onion. Prepare the stroganoff mix per the directions but when the time comes to turn down the heat, add the extra ingredients. Yum.

Also, some of the newer flavors of pudding and such are yummy, and Gerber Yogurt Melts  - they're freeze dried bits of yogurt - are great. They have some crunch but they are meant for toothless babies so they melt quickly. When I'm too tired to get creative, well... that's what the packaged stuff is for, right?

Friday, October 7, 2011

A New Favorite Company

Lizzy's portraits were taken on the first Monday she was in school, by the good folks at Teddy Bear Portraits.

Yes, it *is* a camera photo of a
professional photo
And they are fabulous.

First of all, the photographer got Lizzy to hold still. Without even touching her. Those of you who are regular readers will know what an amazing feat this is under normal circumstances, much less when Lizzy's excited by the venue and the event, the photographer is a stranger, etc. It is in fact freaking unreal.

The portraits are reasonably priced as these things go (I got a couple dozen prints in varying sizes for around $40) and there are no sitting fees. In the case of our school, the order came with a personalized tote bag, which the students are expected to use for their show-and-tell items (this has the dual effect of making sure the show-and-tell items top out at a certain size, and ensuring that the kids don't get them mixed up - remember, most of these kids are pre-readers). The portraits came in in a reasonable time, and - this is key - all three poses look good. Those of you who are parents will understand how hard this last is, especially with preschoolers. They're a squirmy bunch. When I called to ask Teddy Bear Portraits a question, their customer service people and supervisory staff were kind, polite, and generally gave Good Customer Service.

The only problem I have at all with the portrait company is that I cannot afford the rights to the digital pictures right now. However, I have three months to order digital prints. I did send a suggestion that they allow a la carte purchasing of the digital rights, but I don't think they'll go for that. In any case, they're a fabulous portrait company. I hope to be able to afford the digital rights soon so you all can see their work here on my blog.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Inactivity

I am very very bad at inactivity. Even when I'm sick or tired or pregnant or whatever, I cannot just sit still and do nothing. I can't nap in the daytime unless I have a high fever. As a rule, watching TV is not active enough. This is part of the reason I'm overweight - I have to do something, even if it's nibbling, and I got into the habit of munching in front of the TV rather than doing my cross-stitch or what-have-you. Also part of the reason I really like video games; they give me something to do with my hands.

So yesterday, when my dentist more or less ordered me to rest (he threatened to send me to an oral surgeon, "who will charge you thousands of dollars for the same thing and maybe that will make you take resting seriously,") I was Not Pleased. But he gave me some specific guidelines - no lifting more than 30 lbs, only soft foods, nothing too hot, nothing carbonated, just relax. By fortunate coincidence I have no assignments due until tomorrow midnight.

I can't do it. Not all the way, anyway. If I do nothing at all I'll go bug-nutty. But I can watch old TV on Amazon Instant Streaming, apply for jobs on the Internet, play on Google Plus, and fold laundry without going crazy. The good offices of hydrocodone make me sleepy enough that I'm not overdoing the one of those activities that's actually physical. That's as good as I've got.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Born Every Minute

Smoothie Straws - SUPER-WIDE! Bag of 35. Colorful, Wrapped! 9.5" Long.Yep, that's me. A sucker. Not in the easily-trusting sense, although that can be me too, more so when I was younger. But in the sucking sense. Given a choice, I will always drink from a straw. It just feels right to me. But apparently I actually sucked some stitches loose in my sleep, because they fell out. Yes, again. Stop looking at me like that; I can't help it.

That whole breathing through a hole in your jaw thing? Totally overrated. Also, gross.

So, back to the dentist. Again. Repacked it and sprinkled topical antibiotic on it. Again. Restitched it (back to silk). Again. Then (this is the new part) he put something that smelled nasty - I think it's the dental equivalent of Liquid Bandage - over the stitches and had the assistant melt it on cure it with his itty bitty hair-dryer-looking thing, and then applied the patch material over that. All this as he was scolding me (rightfully so - I took no offense) for not ensuring that "taking it easy" refers to everything physical, not just eating soft foods. I protested ("arhgharnngg!") when he said I shouldn't be lifting things over 30 pounds and then I remembered when my chiropractor (years ago) quoted "Dem Bones". Yeah, yeah, I get it. All connected, over-straining while lifting equals clenching jaw, etc. Apparently the painkillers were working well enough that I was overdoing without realizing. Sort of like I did after both my c-sections.

So I am supposed to take it easy for realz this time. For three days I am supposed to do nothing more physically strenuous than folding laundry, loading the dishwasher and driving the cat to the vet (the cat, with her carrier, probably tops out at nine pounds). Grandma has promised to explain it to Lizzy, Laston and I can explain it to Abby, but it boils down to me being on the dental equivalent of partial bed rest. Sit on the couch, do homework, job hunt online, eat still more Jell-O and applesauce and soup, no carbonation, no drinking straws, nothing too hot, clove oil for pain only after the patch falls off, nothing physically strenuous.

Good News. I've already lost four pounds. Another three days ought to take care of a few more.
Bad News. I canceled this week's game. We can have my famous spaghetti with three kinds of sauce next week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bottom on the Bale

Twactah Twain
Ready!
That's the last line in the little rhyme the good folk of The Farm at Swan's Trail teach small children on field trips to keep them in their seats on the Wagon (pulled by the Tractor) on the way to the Pumpkin Patch. This is where Lizzy's preschool had their field trip today. Doesn't she look like an intrepid explorer of pumpkin patches? She objected at one point because the whole place isn't "weally a field". Much like Bob the Tomato being a fruit, so what the heck is he doing in VeggieTales? She's picky - in a semantic sort of way - like that.

Totally Pumped
When we got there she was fine. When we saw a friend ("the shy girl", Lizzy calls her) bundled up, she suddenly became chilly. We found a jacket in the car, and also the teachers brought each child an oversized tee shirt emblazoned with the school's name, so she was just fine. They pumped water, played on the playground, pet baby animals (four-day-old rabbits are tiny), rode in the tractor-pulled wagon to the pumpkin patch, and had Creamsicles. Aside from a bee sting, the kids did great, although I have to say this was a lot easier with first-graders when Abby's class went two years ago! Whichever parent it was who said to her own child loudly enough so the whole wagon-load could hear, "no pumpkins too big to carry yourself!" - that parent I nominate for sainthood.

"The Shy Girl", Lizzy,
and "Bwicey"
It was a good time, if rather tiring. And I have renewed respect for the teachers who do these things - not to mention the employees of The Farm - there are reasons I never completed my degree in early childhood education and field trips are pretty much the top of the list. A special shout out to Farmer Tim, who taught the kids the rhyme:

This is the hammer,
This is the nail,
Keep your bottom,
On the bale.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Squick

Squick is the reaction some people have when confronted by TMI, taboo subjects, things they consider unnatural, etc. The Veggie Tales squicked my older daughter when she was little. My husband is squicked by many things. This post may squick you if you are uncomfortable with medical / dental / surgical details (this means you, my darling husband). You have been warned.

I went in last week to have a tooth pulled and another root canaled. Not too big a deal. Uncomfortable but certainly not a major thing. Until they discovered that these teeth had roots going all the way up into my sinus cavity. All this was covered in another post. That was Wednesday. Thursday I graduated to noodles with mushrooms, whee. Friday we went to the dentist before the casino because something felt like it was coming loose. The dentist (not my usual guy) said it was just a little of the membrane they use to keep the bone graft material away from mouth bacteria, it's all good, just be gentle.

And it was. Until I had a sneezing fit last night due to going through old papers my grandmother and then my dad had kept and were now passing to us (and some of them were hilarious - letters from eight-year-old me to Grandma and so forth - but that's another post). Dusty. And apparently, since there is the hole going all the way up from the surgical wound into my sinus cavity, violent sneezing knocked all that packing material loose. One should not be able to breathe through a hole in one's gums.

Ewwwwwwwwww....

And apparently I also have seriously strong saliva, so the silk stitches were too deteriorated to hold all that stuff in. That's right. Jenn The Gamer Mom, Super Spit Girl. So I went in again today. He repacked it, used some topical antibiotics, and restitched it, using what amounts to medical-grade fishing line.

This is getting really old. But it is what it is, and it must be done. Kableh.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Star of the Week

This week marks Lizzy's stint as Star of the Week at preschool.  The Star of the Week gets to be line-leader, gets to choose who helps clean up "with wipes!", brings a snack (we're bringing fruit leather), and has assorted other responsibilities and privileges.

She also has to fill out - with parents' help - a list of favorites (stuffed toy, restaurant, movie, etc), the answers to which were pretty funny. Some are fairly normal, like her favorite restaurant is Red Robin and her favorite movie is The Care Bears II: a New Generation. But she wants to go on a field trip to "the desert" (too much Magic Schoolbus, perhaps?), and her favorite breakfast food is apparently "grapes and bacon". And we were asked to make a poster with Lizzy and Friends at various stages, shown to the right.

In addition to Lizzy's turn as Star of the Week, the Sound of the Week is Aa. Not AY. Not AH. Aa. S I was racking my brains trying to think of something that is neither apple nor alligator, of which I'm sure there will be plenty, and my eight-year-old pipes up with, "um, mom? She could bring me. I start with Aa". To which the answer is "no, not on a school day". But Lizzy is bringing a picture of her big sister. On the back it's labeled:

Aa Abby
Aa Abigail

That ought to do the trick.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

INgratitude

This is developmentally normal for children ages eight and eleven. Doesn't change the fact that it makes me want to strangle them.

The issue is simple; they are never satisfied. None of this is big stuff, just the automatic whine of, "but why can't I...?" with every single thing. None of our kids are ever going to go hungry, but you'd think we were deliberately starving them every time we refused them a third slice of cheese with their already enormous sandwich. It also goes hand-in-hand with the infamous it's-not-fair phenomenon. Tonight I made each child a snack-size zip-top bag of "trail mix" for a movie-time snack. Some cheezits, fruit snacks, cereal, pretzels in each bag (these are half the size of sandwich bags). Lizzy's still young enough that she doesn't notice differences in this sort of thing, but the other two, well...

First Abby's did not have enough pretzels. Then Leanna's didn't have enough fruit snacks. So I divvied them up more "fairly" and told them that the next argument I heard about the snacks would trigger me taking them away entirely. They think I'm mean. I think I'm keeping myself sane.

Maybe I need to pull out the mantra we used when they were Little Kids:

"You git what you git and you don't throw a fit".

Or maybe our other mantra - the one for grownups - is more appropriate here:

"Developmentally normal does not equal socially acceptable".