Thursday, July 29, 2010

Moving Observations

After 7 moves in 11 years, you learn things that help, such as:

1. The boxes that paper cases are shipped in are the perfect moving tool. They are easy to carry (most letter sized boxes even have handles,) sturdy, they come with their own lids, the lids stay on so there is no need to tape them (which also means you can check contents without a box cutter,) and you can't really fill them so full that they are too heavy to lift. Also, you can get them free from a lot of copy shops and office supply stores. The best part is that they are strong enough to stack high without crushing, and they are a uniform size and shape so you can put more of them in a truck or storage area without wasting space.

2. Newsprint is a really good packing material, but don't spend money on "packing paper." If you know ahead of time that you will be moving, you can keep and collect it without spending too much money. Even your junk mail will work. If you are in a pinch, you can buy a few double packs of the Sunday paper and it will still be cheaper than a pack of paper from a moving store.

3. Make sure to wash your hands before touching your face after using newsprint or you will look like a mechanic or a raccoon.

4. Instead of bubble wrap for the really delicate stuff, use the blankets, sheets, and towels from the linen closet. A double advantage? When you use them to wrap dishes or nic nacs you don't have to waste space packing them in something else.

5. Don't move anything you don't have to. If it doesn't make you happy to look at it or you don't have a good place to put it, don't bring it with you. Donate it, sell it, gift it, but don't pack it.

6. If at all possible, do the "donate, sell, gift" thing before you actually have to move. Packing is a lot faster if you aren't decluttering and dejunking at the same time.

7. Plan your work and work your plan. If you don't have the luxury of professional movers, make sure that you know ahead of time what will be packed when and how. Otherwise, you will run out of time, space, or both.

8. Whatever is the first in will be the last out. If you think you will need it as soon as you are moved, wait until the last minute to pack it. This is important for things like toilet paper, bar soap, hand towels, liquor, and chocolate.

9. No matter how positive the move is, it still sucks. Your husband, your wife, your kids, and even your pets will be stressed out so give them a little slack, and try to keep normal routines in place whenever possible.

10. Check every closet before you start packing. Then, check them again as you are packing, Then, check them ALL again before you leave.

11. Don't pack anything but trash in black trash bags. It seems like a good idea at the time to protect your silk duvet cover by wrapping it in plastic, and sure, a trash bag is cheap and easy to tie up. You will not think this is so good an idea when your silk duvet cover is on the curb of your old house, in the rain, being picked up by the trash men, and you have no bed spread in your new house.

12. Beer and pizza will bring all the boys to your yard (to help you move) quicker than your milkshake will.

13. A dolly is a tool that you pile boxes on to prevent your back from being broken. A furniture dolly is a low, flat, tool with wheels that you use to sit on and ride down your drive way (after the beer and pizza have been consumed.)

14. Laundry is one thing that can not be neglected. I am moving with exactly ONE small basket of dirty laundry. It is a true triumph for me. I once moved with THIRTY-FIVE loads of dirty laundry. Don't even ask why we even had that much laundry, let alone why all of it was dirty. Just trust me. It wasn't a pretty site.

15. Pack up your "good" dishes, glasses, and silverware as early as you can. Either use disposables or have a special set of lite plastic ware that you can throw in a box on the last day. Personally, recommend disposables, in spite of my treehugger tendencies. Washing dishes after every meal while trying to pack up is just a pain in the butt.

16. Sleep in your own bed as long as you possibly can.

17, Always leave more time than you think you will need to do anything - packing, cleaning, driving, whatever. When it comes down to the time when you have to turn the keys in, there will still be something you forgot to pack, and area you forgot to clean, or a closet you left something in.

18. Did I mention to check all the closets before you leave?

19. Try and stick with only one type of cleanser for the final clean before you go. There are several cleaners out there that multi-task as kitchen/bathroom/tile/carpet/glass cleaners. Pick one and stick with it. On one hand, you won't be carrying several buckets of cleaning supplies with you as you leave. On the other, you will avoid the dangerous mixing of chemicals in the last few hectic hours.

20. The newspapers left over from packing are awesome for cleaning, too. They won't leave streaks on windows and mirrors, either.

21. Clean out under your bed BEFORE you have people help you move. You really don't want your father-in-law to be surprised by ... whatever you forgot you had under there.

That's all for tonight, folks!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just had to share

So, during this whole packing thing, DH found all his old Hot Wheels and set them aside to be sold. The girls found them and had other plans. Since most of their other toys are packed, they have collected these two dozen little cars and they have them lined up on the carpet playing with them.

When girls play with cars, it is MUCH different than when boys play with cars. It is just as noisy, but far more entertaining, in a soap-opera sort of way. There isn't any vroom-vrooom noises. Instead they name each car, and play act scenarios with them. Here are some examples.
"I love you!" "No, I HATE you!"
"You are so beautiful!" "Let's get married"
"Your paint is so pretty and your tires are so shiny! Where did you get them done?" "I'll show you! Let's go get car manicures!"

First, there the Batmobile and a purple and green one that is apparently the Joker. They have to fight and chase each other, of course. Then, there are two cars that we received in a boxes of Cheerios which have the Cheerio logo on them. They have been dubbed "The English Twins." Why English? Because they drive around saying "Cheerio! Cheerio!" in a British accent. (I'm laughing so hard at their awful accents that my stomach hurts.) We also have Twenty-Four Seven (because the  numbers 2,4,and 7 are on the car) and Isabella and Abigail, the black car sisters. They keep fighting over Eric, the fast Dune Buggy. Two more are named after my youngest sister and her boyfriend. Those two cars are getting married and all the other cars are getting ready for the wedding. 

This all goes to prove my personal theory about boys and girls and nature vs. nurture. No matter how delicate and peaceful then environment is that a boy is raised in, if you give them a Barbie doll they will strip the clothes off, bend it over at the waist and use it either as a pistol or a hammer. It doesn't matter how liberated and empowered you teach your daughter to be, when you give them a truck, they will wrap it in a baby blanket and cradle it in their arms.

This doesn't mean that boys can't be sensitive or that girls are never destructive. It just means that there are inherent differences in each sex. Differences that are there to ensure balance and survival of the race. This is a blanket statement that is meant as a general observation of the race as a whole, not a scientific study. I know there are people of both sexes that cross the lines in many different ways. That is one of the things that separates humans from the lower animals. We are able to have more varied elements in our personalities. It is that variety that has enabled the human race to evolve and grow.

So, when your boys pretend to blow stuff up while playing with their toys or your girls refuse to play anything other than Princess and Queen, don't be alarmed. They are just exercising  their natural tendencies. As they grow and mature your daughter just might become a Demolition Expert and son might grow up to be a Queen. How fabulous THAT would be!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Last week a very good friend of ours was in a car accident. He was hit by a drunk driver. His car was t-boned on the passenger side, then spun around, and then smashed into the retaining wall. My friend came out of it badly bruised and sore, but alive. His passenger, however was not so lucky. After a week of fighting through a punctured lung and infections from the surgeries to try and save her life, she died today. I didn't know her, but my heart aches for her family.

This is too close to home for me. I lost one of my best friends in high school, just before my junior year. He, too was the passenger in a car that was hit by a drunk driver. I went to his funeral and visited with his parents in the weeks following the accident. He was the only child in his family. The emptiness and despair in his house were so powerful it was hard to breathe. How his parents continued on after that, I will never know.

The most devastating part in all of this is how often the drunk driver SURVIVES. They get to walk away after taking someone else's life. Their lack of judgment stole a child from their parents. No son should ever outlive his son. One bad decision snuffed out a life before it truly had time to grow and bloom. No mother should ever have to bury her daughter. As a child, I lost an uncle because he decided to drive drunk one too many times. My grandmother never really recovered from the grief of losing her youngest son. Just after high school, I lost two school mates and many, many more were injured or permanently disabled when a drunk driver plowed into a crowd of teens hanging out together.

It is the most senseless of all accidents because of how completely it could have been avoided. Call a cab. Call a friend. Crash on the couch. Walk. Stop drinking. How many other choices were there besides getting behind the wheel too inebriated to see a stop sign? Why doesn't common sense kick in before it gets to that point? What makes a person decide to get in the driver's seat behind thousands of pounds of metal that turns into a killing machine in the blink of an eye? Isn't the embarrassment of asking your friends for cab fare or bumming a spot on the couch WORTH your life and the lives of everyone else on the road?

I am not suggesting that alcohol is the culprit. By all means, drink up and be merry! Just don't be merry and then kill a family of four on vacation by driving the wrong way on the highway. Only you know whether you can handle a drink or two without stopping. You are the only person who can tell if one drink makes you sleepy or downright drunk. No one else is responsible for your actions but yourself. Wine and beer and liquor can be enjoyable, but they can also be deadly by association.

Parents, let your kids know that you love them enough to drive to the bad part of town to pick them up instead of letting them attempt to drive home on their own after partying harder than they planned to. Friends, tell your friends that you care enough to take their keys if you don't think they can drive. Kids, help your friends understand that testing the limits of invincibility is not cool. Families, don't be afraid to tell your family members that they are not allowed to leave unless it is in the passenger seat.

Please, use your own brain and just don't drive drunk.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections of memories

Today I got a very special treat. While consolidating 20 boxes of "Misc Office" stuff, I found the packet of souvenirs from the trip we all took to Disney World when LH was three. It really was the time of our lives. Make A Wish Foundation granted us the wish to go to Orlando for a week and they covered everything, from flight and hotel (Give Kids The World is a whole different experience!) to food, cash, and even a night out by ourselves. Looking at all the photos and trinkets was just what I needed to make me smile. That is why I keep that sort of thing. So I can look back at it all and feel good.

This whole part of the packing process has been a walk down memory lane for me. Whenever we move, the computer desk is always the last to go, so we normally shove everything from the desktop and drawers into a box and label it "Office Stuff." Usually, these boxes get misplaced or we'll grab what we need from them and never really unpack the rest. So, now I still have a box or two of items gathered from each of the office spaces place we've lived over the past seven years. Since I am finally getting around to sorting and consolidating, I can see a snapshot of what was important to me at that time. Some boxes are full of Mary Kay sales tips and leads. I have lost count of the work lanyards with Company ID Tags dangling from the end of them. Other boxes have mostly bills and pictures created by the kids. My favorite part is getting to see the "family portraits" grow from three stick figures, to four, and then to five, with a black dog wearing a red collar. 

Throwing away or recycling the vast majority of the paper has reduced the amount that I am actually packing to take with us. Still, I have gathered a gallon-sized-bag full of business cards and names with numbers scribbled on papers. There is another bag - even more full - of Christmas cards, birthday cards, and party invites. It seems silly to keep them all, but when it comes time to send out Christmas cards (yeah, right!) or invites to our own parties, it helps to know who has invited my kids to parties in the past. Plus, I have the phone number and address right there to help me track them down. My hope is that once we are settled in, I will be able to go through all these stacks and make a list (or database) of friends, family, and business contacts. It might seem daunting to someone else, but I do data entry for a living. I am good at it and I like to do things that I am good at. 

I have a bunch of open boxes sitting in my office area right now. Most of them are full of office supplies and art work sorted into their own spaces. As far as I know, I have gone through all of the "Misc Office" boxes dating all the way back to our first rushed move over seven years ago. I really need to put a lid on them, mark them, and put them in the car to go, but I really don't want to. Once I have officially finished this sorting process, I have to move on to the next item on the To Do List (the kitchen) and that will not be nearly as much fun. I would MUCH rather stay nestled in a pile of memories and wrapped in the smiles artfully scribbled in red crayon.

Is this why people scrap book? I finally get it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

More thoughts ....

... because I need to sit still and take a break.
I found out today that my van will hold 30 boxes if I take out the back seats and leave the middle two in. I also found out that I can, in fact, survive working in temperatures above 100 degrees, but I don't really like it. Finally, I learned that my girls are even more awesome than I thought.

Even though I have done this whole moving thing 6 times in the last 11 years (I've said that before, haven't I?) I still have never been able to get it done without major help and wearing myself out. In spite of have the same amount, if not more, time to prepare, I have never been this far along at this stage before. Part of it is that I refuse to allow myself to be paralyzed by fear and depression. Only a few of the moves have ever been for a positive reason, and even the positive moves have been heavily dosed with stress. After two weeks of wondering where to begin, I always end up watching, with shame, as DH does all the lifting and moving. The last few days are spent shoving whatever we can grab into boxes or bags and moving it car load by car load only to shove it into a corner where it will be forgotten until the next move. Recently, I stumbled upon boxes marked "Miscellaneous" that were packed up in the move six years ago.

There have also been elements of my life that I have neglected to de-clutter either before or after the move. Seeing and moving the "baggage" from one place to another does nothing but add to the guilt I have from letting it build up to begin with. I keep telling my self 1) that I will go through it later, and 2) that I will never do it again. Still, I end up with box upon box of neglect and regrets, filling up my garage, closets, and any other free space it can find.

I have always longed for one of those crisp and clean homes where no papers are lying about and there is nothing on the floor except furniture. The art and school supplies are tucked neatly away in fashionable, but tidy, containers. The garage is a wide open place used only to park the car and sometimes work on a project or two.  I can even imagine that the inside of the refrigerator is sparkling clean and the bathroom cabinets have nothing to show but clean folded towels and sweet scented soaps. Is this an unrealistic goal for me? Probably. It doesn't hurt to have something to work for, does it?

Over the past three years, sometimes because we wanted to and sometimes because we HAD to, DH, the girls and I have gotten rid of approximately half of what we owned. It started when moved from a four bedroom house with two living areas and the converted into three separate offices into a three bedroom house that was half the size. The big house was a dream come true in many ways, but it  wasn't perfect. It was, however, much more space than I have ever lived in before. I didn't think we had a lot of stuff when we moved in, but we had WAY more than we should have had when it came time to move out. The "stuff" we owned that didn't fit into the new house filled the garage as well as a moderately sized off-site storage unit.

Paying for extra storage was a pain, at best, but when it came time to move again, we had to put everything we owned into storage for at least a while and that was when we really could see how much we had accumulated. We filled the largest storage unit they had and then another smaller one, and we still had stuff that wouldn't fit. It was the first time I had ever seen all of my things all in one place. It was an eye opening experience and I can tell you, I was embarrassed. Seeing all the "stuff" we had but didn't use, I was shamed thinking of all the people who had so little and lived every day without ever needing more. How could I raise my children to value the right things in life when they were so surrounded by needless clutter?

We started by going through the toys. 15 lawn sized garbage bags were reduced to 6. Then we sorted through the nic nacs and decorations. Over the next year, we donated or sold portions of DH's book collection, arts and craft supplies, clothes, movies, games, even more toys, and what I like to call "dust catchers." We held a garage sale and offered anything that anyone would buy. We put out all the books we never read, clothes we never wore, toys that we didn't play with, and kitchen appliances that we never used - even the very shelves we stored them on. Not only did we clean out half the garage full, but we made a sizable chunk of change, as well.

Still, the house felt cluttered and messy. The one thing I had never conquered was the paper clutter. I have always felt the need to hold on to papers, notes, receipts, and anything else I had written down, "just in case." In case of what, I'm still not sure. WP was the one who helped me first let go of this massive amount of documentation filling up every corner of my home. We started with the oldest items first and shredded, burned, or recycled anything that was not legally necessary to keep. I had been careful to keep the most important documents all in one spot and away from the rest of my papers (thankfully) so it was easy to sort through things quickly without the worry of getting rid of something vitally important. Still, I found a few treasures along the way and the effort payed off very nicely.

It took about a month, but I eventually cleaned out every storage box, accordion file, and cubby hole that I had filled with needless clutter. The amount of weight lifted off my shoulders increased with every envelope that I gladly threw into the fire. Not only was I able to reduce our total number of boxes, but I was able to gather the stashes of photographs, keepsakes, and artwork into central locations. Every since then, I have been extremely diligent about keeping the paper clutter to a minimum. Anything not directly related to money coming in or going out gets recycled almost as soon as it comes in the door. I have a filing system for keeping the important things and I am able to find whatever I need whenever I need it. I still have about three years of bills and pay stubs, but at least they are all organized and sorted neatly.

The last area of clutter has been the hardest to part with. I have collected almost every piece of artwork, school paper, and story my girls have ever created. Believe me, they are all three prolific artists and authors. We have plastic storage bins stacked up holding papers dating back to pre-kindergarten for all three of them. Part of the problem was that I would put it aside to go through it later, and I never did, so it just piled up higher and higher. The other part is that I just love looking back at all the the things my girls have done. I enjoy seeing the progression of their art work from scribbles, to stick figures, to amazing art. Their first little attempts at letters make me smile, comparing them to how much they read and write today. I also believe it has to do with the fact that I have so few things saved from my own child hood. The things I do have are so precious to me. I want my own children to be able to go back and see how much they have grown the same way I do.

The time has come, however, to let go - of most of it at least. Today, I have no idea how small or large our next house will be. I only know that I will be paying to keep our things in storage until I do find a place. Space is money, now, and I can not afford to pay for storing anything that I do not absolutely love. DH gathered the dozen or so boxes into one spot for me, and I have been spending the past two days sorting through them during the breaks from packing and moving everything else. All three girls have gotten in on the act, too. It is much more comforting having them there with me as I examine each piece to decide if it is something worth saving or not. They are there with me, remembering the occasion when they created something or letting me know that they really have no desire to keep it anymore at all.

School papers have unanimously been delegated to the "trash" pile unless it was a project they spent a great deal of time on. School art is only kept if it was memorable and well done. The home art work is my favorite to look at because you can really see the personalities of each girl as they are given free time to do whatever they want. LH has very simple and plain drawings. She prefers to write stories and make little books for her sisters to read or color. TD has more of a romantic side to her art. There are princesses and princes and girls with flowing dresses. Usually she draws in pencil or uses only a few colors to complete her works.  Simple but elegant. EG has the most fantastical and original art of the three of them. She uses lots of colors and wild shapes to represent things. She actually has a Picasso-like style of drawing common items but representing them in a more colorful and surreal manner. It isn't like a preschoolers drawing of a brown square and red triangle for a house. She actually intends for her pictures to turn out exactly the way they end up. She can draw very realistically when she feels like it. I think she just prefers a more impressionistic or abstract style.

My goal for the evening is to finish sorting through the other two boxes I have not even opened yet. I hope to reduce the "keepers" to one plastic bin per child. I am well on my way to succeeding. I have filled two garbage bags so far, and I will probably have another filled by the end of it all. Surprisingly, I don't feel regret for the papers I am choosing not to keep. I thought I would feel sadness at seeing it go, but I feel no remorse at all as I grab handfuls at a time and pitch it into the trash. Knowing that I will not have to move box after box of things that "I need to go through" is comfort enough for me.


The move begins

I am very sorry but updates will be sporadic at best for the next few weeks. Packing and moving are easy to say, and if I were single or even married without kids, this might be a different kind of endeavor. However, I not only have to pack with and for my kiddos, I have to referee while they try to do as much as they can. EG wants to get rid of everything so there is less stuff to keep clean and so that she can share her things with other kids who need them. TD wants to keep almost everything that has ever had any sentimental value to her. LH wants to sort, and sort, and sort, and be in charge of telling her sisters what to do. You can guess things don't always run smoothly.

The minute I get packing somewhere else in the house, they start in with the bickering and yelling. I have to break it up before blood is drawn, although I would much rather let them duke it out. Also, DH is working from home a few days a week, and that means as little noise as possible. He takes help desk calls just like he is at work, so letting the dog bark, doors slam, or kids scream is a big no-no. Several times I have sent the kids outside or told them to take a break just because they were getting noisy. So, things are not moving as fast as I would like, but they are moving steadily in the right direction.

We have learned from our past mistakes from the last several moves and since we have the time and the bodies to do it right, we are making sure that we fix our past errors whenever possible. For instance, we have 9 years worth of school papers and art work that needs to be streamlined. I want to keep memories and important things, but I really don't need (or have space for) every worksheet, spelling test, and math practice that three girls have done since pre-school. We are keeping several frame-worthy pieces of art work as well as samples of their progression throughout their education. We are getting rid of about 75% of what's left over.

Anyway, I have to go pack boxes, referee children, and of course, clean house and keep cleaning house and clean more house along the way.

I will post more details about where we are moving as I am able to figure them out!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Rollercoaster Continues

I have so much to do my head is spinning. Where do I even start?
Last night the landlord of our house let us know the lease is up at the end of the month. That is a little less than three full weeks from now. The good news is that we were able to leave on an amiable note. The bad news is, we have to leave.

With a full house and only three weeks, we have to start packing even though we don't know where we are going yet. That makes me feel panicky. To give us a little more room as far as finding a place (and paying to get into it) WP has agreed to let the girls and I "camp out" at his place for a week or so if we need to. The relief of knowing that no matter what, we have a place to eat, rest, and sleep is an amazing comfort. I have been in the situation where I didn't know what would be happening and I think the fear and uncertainty is one of the things that pushed me over the edge, health-wise.

I know I shouldn't have been surprised that this happened, but I was.  I have mentioned in the past that I feel overloaded handling the families finances. Now, along with that, I have to head up the search for a home because I am the one who knows what we can afford. As soon as all this happened, I switched into my normal "I'll take care of it mode," but that isn't a smart thing. My marriage is a marriage in every sense of the word and I should be including DH in things like how much things cost and what is due when. Maybe I will still be "in charge" of all of it, but I have to talk to him on a daily basis in order to make sure he knows where we are. If I don't share my side, I can't be upset if he never picks it up, can I?

Once I was able to get my thoughts together, DH and I sat down and talked about plans and contingencies, and nuts and bolts. This was a very hard thing for me to do. I realized that I might have become a bit jealous of my position as Sole Owner of the Finances. Sure, it means I am the only one who worries about juggling money, but I am also not really held personally accountable for making mistakes. I have to deal with the utility companies, and buy groceries, and pay car loans, but if I decide to order in dinner when I really shouldn't no one yells at me for it. I just keep on juggling.

As I have also said, in spite of being in charge and having many years experience, I am still not very good at actually HANDLING the money situation. I make mistakes all the time. Over paying, under paying, forgetting things, miscalculating things, not keeping track and not following up, buying this because we need it without looking for a cheaper alternative, spending money on that luxury because "I deserve it" - these are the sins I pay for every single day. On a good week, I will know what we have in the bank, what we owe to everyone, and what we have left. It doesn't make a difference because I will usually ignore it anyway. On a bad week, I will not even bother to check or keep track, and I just try to manage things in my head. You would think I would figure out a better way to do things when it hasn't been working for me so far.

Anyway, I came to terms with my failures and I listened to DH when he made suggestions last night and even when he reminded of a bill that I said I needed to pay.  It was very difficult, but I listened and agreed to check my numbers again. When FIL made suggestions about where to move and how to pack, I listened to him, too. I realized my first instinct was to become defensive. The fact that I can't handle this is hits a raw nerve. Any input has, in the past, come across to me as someone else pointing out my failures. I had to swallow my pride and accept help, even if it was just in the manner of well-meant advice. This may very well be the beginning of my recovery.

This morning we had to talk to our girls about moving and what our plans are (or aren't.) It was a bit depressing that they took it so well. Apparently they are used to this. Throughout the day, though, they have been open and have shared their feelings and thoughts with me, and that makes me feel much better. Even though I can't fix it completely, I want to know that they are scared or worried. They each have warmed my heart in their own way by trying to put a good spin on things in their own mind while recognizing their own fears. LH is looking for a fresh start so if we move to a new town, she can make all new friends and maybe she won't get picked on as much, but she will miss her friend and her boyfriend.  TD wants us to get a house with a big yard so we can get a new little friend for BBD, but she will miss being with her very best friend who was supposed to be moved into the same class this year. EG is very concerned about how her poor teacher will take it, knowing that she won't be there next year, but she is comforting herself with being busy about things - cleaning, tidying, packing (I have no idea where she gets it from but I'm not about to send it back!)

After our little talk and DH was leaving for work, I was about to start in the garage with taking notes and making lists and starting the "preparatory stage" of the move when DH mentioned it sounded like a shower was running, but it was coming from the garage. Huh. Strange. And then he backed out of the driveway. I however, found the hot water heater had sprung a leak and was threatening to flood our laundry room. I managed to catch it just in time and called the landlord as I was putting out towel to keep the water inside the closet, at least. No matter what he told me over the phone, I could NOT find this magical "shut off valve" that he kept telling me was there. I found the gas line and turned that off,and then I turned down the temperature knob just in case. I examined every part of the copper pipes that I thought were the hot and cold and there was no knob or lever. Kicking myself for being so dependent on others that I had to wait for someone else to show me how to turn off the water I grabbed more towels to hold back the lake that was growing in the water closet.

After what seemed like forever (but was really only about 30 minutes) the landlord showed up, declared that we would need a new hot water heater, and .... what was that? There was no cut off installed to begin with? So I wasn't completely blind for not seeing something that didn't exist? Go figure. My faith in my own technical abilities was restored! Now that THAT was determined (and the water was turned off) I had to assess any possible water damage. At this point, it looks like there will be pretty minimum damage since we caught it in time. At least I THINK we caught it in time...a walk through the garage showed a few wet spots here and there. I am terrified to see what that is from or what it has done. We learned a long time ago not to store anything of  value directly on the garage floor so most everything is on shelving units and rolling bread racks. Not quite everything, though. I will have to pull out the equivalent of a pick up truck load full of odds and ends and see if  we have to pitch anything before it becomes a mold issue.

I have a temporary respite from this, though. Other than making room to pass through the garage, I am not able to do much of anything until the landlord finishes the new water heater installation. I can't wash dishes, do laundry, or anything else involving water. I am reluctant to start putting anything in boxes without a safe place to put them. I don't want to start packing dishes until they are all clean (which they aren't) because I want to pack them together to make sure everything is safe and makes it to our new home (wherever that may be.)

So far on my "Things I can do until I have running water" list I have Set up "station" with newspapers  unfolded and stacked so I can pack dishes and glasses quickly and safely - done. Pass out space bags to the girls to fill with stuffed animals - done. Put away clean laundry so I can really see what it left to wash - done. have each girl find and pack a bag with their favorite items that they can keep with them - done. Get LH her own Facebook account and complete lecture on "Friending" and Internet Safety - done. (Please don't judge. I have to give her something to keep her busy while I am packing or else I will be swamped by really big boxes full 1/4 of almost nothing.)

Well, crap. Now what?

Debbie "Mover and Shaker" Lollar

Monday, July 12, 2010

Waco for a day

DH was asked to teach and judge at a BSA event by an honored colleague of his from a different area. He has been asked to do this for the last few years, and each year he is asked to do more and each year he has more fun with it.  I mention that he had fun only because there are several events in his own area where he is asked to do similar jobs, but he is not treated nearly as well and the venue is far from ideal. He usually comes home from these events physically exhausted and emotionally drained and I hate to see him go at all. The event he went to this weekend, though,  is held at the Baylor University campus in Waco and it is very well organized. DH is treated very well as a guest and he always has a blast. I can't help but be supportive of this sort of thing because when something he loves makes him so obviously happy, it makes me happy, too.

When DH asked me to go along with him last year, I agreed, even though I don't "Do" BSA events. For one, it was our anniversary weekend and being with him was better than missing him. For two, he promised me we could stay in a hotel out there and then we could have all Sunday to ourselves. It was not bad as far as anniversaries, and it was nice to get a chance to see him in his "natural" environment. This year, he asked all of us to come along and since I had already been once, and I knew what to expect, I agreed. The kids could use a day out of the house and I knew all the girls would be the stars of the evening Pow Wow.

To streamline costs (because that is what I do) we decided to drive out in the morning, drive back after the pow wow that night, and pack all the food and snacks we would need. Waco is a little more than 1 1/2 hours from home so the driving part wasn't too big a deal. Well, it wouldn't have been if he didn't need to be at the college before 8:30 to set up for his first class. That meant we all had to be up at 5:00am and be on the road no later than 6:00am, and we would be heading back home sometime around midnight after he finished judging all the competitions (and after he undressed and put away his very complicated outfit.) This also meant we had no where to "call home" for the day since there was no hotel room. I would have to either sit through all his classes with the girls (which might have been cute for the first 15 minutes) or keep them busy around town until the Pow Wow in the evening (which meant finding free things to keep them all busy from 8:30am until around 5:00pm, and then get three little girls dressed in THEIR very complicated outfits.)

I opted to drop DH off  (so I would know which building he was teaching in) and take the girls out for a day on the town. Now that I have been dedicating myself to this for a few weeks, I think I am getting pretty good at it. I have learned what they really need to have at hand, what we don't have to lug around, what they are interested in doing, and how to maintain crowd control. When it came down to it, a day out here keeping busy was no different then a day-long outing at home. I just needed to know what there was to do for three young girls in a college town (that didn't sound right, but you understand....)

We spent a few minutes on an impromptu photo shoot. It still amazes me just how beautiful my girls can be.

After that, the first thing I decided to do was go to the grocery store. The trip the day before was a little bit rushed (there was another huge storm rolling in) so I didn't quite get everything I needed for lunch and dinner. We headed to the HEB a few miles down the road and took our time browsing the aisles (I was hoping to waste as much time as I could.) By the time we came out of there, lunch and dinner were shaping up to be a little more elaborate than I had planned, mostly because I found some really awesome Buy This, Get This Free deals. I normally don't buy potato chips unless DH specifically requests them for a reason (they have no nutritional value) and I buy bottles of juice or lemonade mix instead of individual boxes or bags of drinks (less waste AND less money.) This time, LH was ecstatic because we were having real Pringles with sandwiches lunch (and not just goldfish crackers.) The chips were a good deal and we got a free package of juice boxes for free with each one and that made TD and EG even more happy. It really doesn't take much to please my kids, I tell you.

After the shopping trip, I took the girls to the Waco Travelers Information center. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but the girls got to window shop, run off some energy, and use the water fountain and the bathroom without the fear of something creepy growing on the seat (gas station restrooms are getting nastier each time I travel!) I was able to grab some pamphlets and get some ideas of where to go the rest of the day. I know, I should have already done the research and had the whole day planned out, but I dropped the ball. Besides, it was much more fun to harass the poor fools who were left running the gift shop. And it killed almost an hour.

Now I decided to head back to the college to meet DH for a picnic lunch. I had more than enough time to get back there, which was good because I wasted almost 30 minutes getting lost going the wrong way on the highway. I know it was a dumb mistake. I even have a compass in my car to tell me which direction I am heading. The problem was, I didn't pay attention to it while we were heading out, so I didn't know which way I was supposed to be going on the way back. Once I finally pulled off at a picnic stop, I found a map to guide me back to the college. That was great until I spent another 30 minutes getting lost around the Baylor campus. (I have lots of adventures like this all the time. I call it being Directionally Impaired.) I was completely frazzled once I got to the hall to meet DH. At this point in the day, it was about 85 degrees and the humidity was probably around 95%. We were all hungry, thirsty, the kids were bored and we still head to take DH to a different building before pulling out everything for lunch. Luckily, this was the only building he would be in for the rest of the day and it was also where the Pow Wow would be that night. It also happened to have large common rooms and dens for the students to hang out in so it was much more comfortable than eating at one of the picnic tables outside (and getting burned, and being mosquito food.)

Lunch was kind of rushed because I didn't pre-make anything. I really hate eating soggy sandwiches. I would much rather bring the ingredients and assemble them when it is time to eat. Unfortunately, that meant that DH had help us pull the cooler out of the van and then we had to pull everything out so everyone could make their own lunch. Because of my imaginative route getting back, DH only had about half an hour before he had to get back to teaching, coaching, and judging (that was, after all, why he was here.) The rest of us were able to take a more leisurely pace and I didn't rush them. The more time they spent lingering over lunch, the less time I was required to find something else to keep them busy. It can be very nice to have such a wide open agenda.

While the girls and I packed everything up and put it back in the car, I started making my game plan for the rest of the afternoon. I had four more hours to kill but I had at least a few ideas on how to do it. Within a few miles of the college, there was a zoo, the Texas Ranger museum (the soldiers, not the baseball team), a toy factory museum, an outlet mall (oooo, dangerous!) and a free water splash park. Apparently these things are all the rage these days. Instead of a pool (which must be carefully maintained) cities and even outdoor malls are installing large, open, concrete areas with water fountains splashing all over the place and drains so the area doesn't collect water. Kids are able to run and get wet and splash around, but no life guard is needed.

At first, I thought the splash park was the way to go. We had out swim suits with us (for once!) and it was free, after all. I was headed in that general direction (there were signs with arrows!) then, my brain kicked in. It's now 95 degrees, at least as humid, and the pow wow is going to go from 8:30 (their normal bed time) until 11:00. Wearing them out and potentially letting them get sunburned was not in my best interest. So, what else could I do that would take time, keep them busy, but not leave them so tired they would pass out? I looked to my left and like a sign from above, there was the Dr Pepper bottling company and museum! I know most other (non-Dr Pepper loving) people might not understand how cool this idea was, but you have to know it to love it. I wasn't sure how much it would cost, but I knew there would at least be something yummy to drink during or after the tour. It also was cooler inside than out, and the review said it would take 1 1/2 hours. Perfect!

The kids were actually pretty excited at the idea. Or maybe they were just humoring me because they know what a DP nut I can be. I once spent a whole weekend with my in-laws, on one of their VFW trips because they told me they would stop in Dublin, Tx on the way back. (If you don't understand why that is a big deal to a DP lover, well... I just can't explain it. It is an EXPERIENCE.) In any case, we got to the museum, where I did have to pay admission, but I didn't care, and we were treated to a history lesson, a biography of the founders, and an archeological dig all in one place. Waco, TX is where Dr Pepper was first created (Dublin, TX is where the first franchise was opened, in case you were confused) and the whole plant was built around an old, Artesian water well. The well was later filled in when they switched to piped in water, and then later excavated by some Baylor students (and probably Dr Pepper lovers) and the whole first floor of the museum is dedicated to it. The displays show the history of the plant, the old techniques of bottling, the story of how the Dr Pepper drink evolved, and the old well, itself, including the details of how it was found and dug up again. The third floor was dedicated to the founders of the beverage company, the sales people who peddle the stuff, and (my favorite part) a theater showing a series of old Dr Pepper commercials from the last 50 years. The second floor was a mixture of DP artifacts and an exhibition area that currently, it is taken up with an interactive exhibit about money and the science of making cash (get it? CURRENTLY, CASH? I kill me...)

I didn't get any pictures of the inside of the museum. I was too busy trying to keep an eye on all three girls at once. Usually they are very good at staying together and not wandering off in public, but I guess the long ride in the car made them antsy because I almost lost track of them several times. In fact, I did lose track of TD at one point. She wandered into the next room before we did and became focused on one of the interactive sites so she didn't hear me call her name. There were a lot of people at the museum bustling back and forth through the rooms and it wasn't all that quiet, for a museum. I admit I started to panic thinking someone could have grabbed her and run off before I could even blink. Thankfully, LH spotted her within a few minutes and I pulled her aside to chew her butt (once I found out she was ok.) It apparently made an impression on all three of them because they didn't stray farther than an arms-length away for the rest of the afternoon.

The tour ended in the gift shop (of course) but I didn't feel the need to purchase anything. Because Dr Pepper is also bottled here in Dallas, it isn't that hard to find stuff with a DP logo on it around. Pretty much anything they had there, I could get elsewhere for less. Besides, I have had friends who worked at the factory and they have given me plenty of tote bags, t-shirts, and cup coolers to please any Dr Pepper fan. Strangely, the girls didn't ask for anything like I was afraid they would. I heard lots of "This is cool!" and "Look at that!" but not one single "Momma can I?" At least until we got to the soda shoppe downstairs. I immediately saw that the servers made Dr Pepper the old fashioned way down there  - they pour the syrup and add the carbonated soda by hand - and I had to try it. They also had ice cream and could make floats with Dr Pepper (which is like ambrosia and nectar of the gods combined,) Root Beer, or even 7-Up. For $1.25 a piece I was not going to pass this up. It meant standing in line for an eternity and trying to keep up with the girls in an even more crowded store, but the floats were worth it. I got each of us our own, but I ended up finishing two more after mine. Good thing I only got the "small." for each of us. I probably could have gotten a "Large" and then kept going, but that's just me.

After the excitement (and sugar and caffeine) of the afternoon, I suggested we head back to the college early. The common area we ate lunch in would still be mostly empty and there were enough couches and chairs for everyone to have their own, comfy spot and still be in sight. Much to my surprise, they ALL agreed. I guess I did the job of keeping them busy a little TOO well. We all grabbed our travel pillows and blankets (their idea) as well as little things to do to keep us occupied and camped out for the next two hours. LH had her book on CD (she's finally gotten around to being interested the the Twilight series.) TD and EG had their MP3 players as well as books, pencils, paper and a huge area to run around in. We chose a spot to camp in, everyone grabbed a seat, then I sat back on one of the couches and promptly fell asleep.

I can't believe that with all my worries about keeping them close, keeping an eye on them, and keeping them safe, I end up falling asleep in the public area of a major college for OVER AN HOUR. I wasn't the only one who fell asleep, either. LH was curled up listening to her book and wouldn't have heard a thing if her sisters had been drug out of the building screaming. I woke up and immediately panicked, realizing where I was. Thankfully again, there were no issues. Apparently, once TD and EG got tired of coloring and reading they kept each other company playing around the room. They did cartwheels, played Hide and Seek, fought invisible Ninjas (of course they couldn't see them. They were NINJAS.) And they didn't even see anyone else for the entire time I was out cold. I really shouldn't have worried because if they had seen anyone, it would most likely have been a Boy Scout or one of their Advisers.

Shortly after I woke up, DH came down from his classes and he and LH pulled the cooler back out of the car so we could eat again. Dinner was pretty much the same as lunch, but we traded out white bread for whole wheat bagels and I chopped up fresh veggies to dip in Ranch dressing. The girls weren't all that hungry (I guess they were still full from the floats) but we had two hours until we had to get dressed for the pow wow, so again, I didn't rush them. Instead, we were treated to a well-coordinated show of all the "moves" they had been practicing for the last hour. Then, everyone got their after-dinner cookie and it was finally time to start getting ready.

For the last year or so, I have not been dressing up in my own regalia and dancing during pow wows. First of all, getting dressed means that you will have your picture taken, and I am becoming allergic to lens side of cameras. Second, now that LH is big enough to wear the outfit that I "grew" out of, she has been more willing to dress up and dance. TD and EG would never pass up a chance at dancing, so that means three little girls to help get ready. It starts with the hair, of course - each girl gets a pair of french braids, which we then wrap with colored laces and then attach either fir strips or long, leather tassels. Then come the dresses, leggings, wraps, moccasins, belts, breastplates, chokers, necklaces, earrings, barrettes, bracelets, shawls, bags, and fans. By the time I have outfitted each one, I have barely enough energy (or time) left to put on lipstick, let alone get myself dressed in the same style getup. Wearing plain clothes also means I can dance certain songs while wearing a shawl, but I don't have to dance more than once or twice a night. It is certainly more comfortable and allows me the freedom of movement to help others if needed. For instance, if EG's moccasins come untied or TD drops an earring, the dresses aren't really loose enough to be able to squat down and or crawl around on the floor.

In any case, I helped all the girls get dressed and we squeezed into the smallest elevator I have ever been in (hello, claustrophobia!) and we made it upstairs just in time for the girls to line up with the other dancers. That was when they all suddenly got cold feet. I have never seen them do this before, so it was a bit more than puzzling. LH had a pretty reasonable excuse. She was tired before she ever got dressed and it was no well past 8:00 and she was ready to call it a night. I convinced her to just walk in the Grand Entry since she was already dressed and she could relax after that.

Then, TD started in with not wanting to dance, and she was actually in tears. She has always danced a certain style and there is a particular type of dress that you wear for it. She dances what is called Jingle Dress and it is a fairly athletic style. The dresses are covered with tin cones set in rows close together so when the girls dance by jumping up and down, the cones swish and make a "jingle" sound. Unfortunately, she has grown and danced in her dress so much, that it is now torn and stained and not fit to wear in public. In fact, I knew she would still want to wear it anyway, so I made sure to leave it at home. This wouldn't be a huge problem if we could just go out and buy a new one, but these dresses are only hand made by someone who knows what they are doing and they cost BIG money. DH has made almost all her dresses in the past and he just has not had the time to make her a new one since she out grew the old one. Instead, we brought an outfit that was big enough for her, but did not have jingles. The dress was created for a more stately and dignified style - it's a regal sort of bobbing step that allows the fringe on the shawls to sway without you actually doing much movement yourself. You don't jump up and down in these dresses. For TD, this was a heartbreaking thing to face. If she couldn't dance HER style, she didn't want to dance at all.

Again, I pleaded and bargained with her that if she would just dance once around the arena, she could sit down and not have to dance the rest of the night if she didn't want to. I also convinced her that I needed her to help watch over EG because she was going to dance no matter what and I didn't want her to get lost in the crowd walking in. She finally agreed, but I really hated to make her do it. It really hurts me to make them do something they don't want to do, especially if it is supposed to be something fun. Nothing will ruin a hobby faster than being forced to do it when you don't want to. I surely disn't want to destroy this experience for any of my girls.

It turned out to be ok after all. They all processed in (TD with a few tears but looking brave anyway) and the Grand Entry was done in a very short time. EG jumped right back out there to keep on dancing with her Daddy, but TD and LH headed straight for me outside the dance circle. LH immediately put her head down and started to snooze. EG at first declared that she would not dance and I let her alone about it. Then, she started playing around with LH's digital camera, snapping shots of people making goofy faces, and her bad mood melted away. It wasn't long after that before her feet started itching. She couldn't bear to see her little sister out there having a ball (and getting all the attention) and not have her share of it. She announced she would dance "just one dance." Then she danced another, and another. She didn't dance every one that night, but she did have a very good time and it was her choice to go out and enjoy it. It makes me feel so good to see my girls choosing to make the best of things without my having to council them about it.

The Pow Wow was scheduled to go for about three hours and there were half a dozen or so contest dances thrown in, but the vast majority of the time, the dances were open to anyone. EG and TD danced as long as they could but they didn't quite make it to the end. LH stayed asleep the entire time. You would think that sitting within 10 feet of five singers yelling and beating on a five foot drum would keep her awake, or at least keep her from sleeping soundly. Apparently, not. That girl did not even stir until I found a couch in the foyer of the lobby and told her to go lie down on it then she slept there for the rest of the evening.  EG was the next to go. About 10:00 I saw her falling asleep sitting up and I pulled her onto my lap. Eventually, I sent her to go sleep on the couch with her sister, too. TD managed to stay awake the entire time, but did go to "relax" on the couch shortly after EG did.

DH was on his feet the entire night. When he wasn't dancing, he was judging. He came over and said Hello a few times, but for the most part he was gone and busy for the whole event. Then 11:00 came and the pow wow was over and it was time to get undressed and go home. I was beat, and I hadn't been nearly as active as anyone else had been. I had to keep moving for awhile longer though. the girls were still all dressed up and they couldn't ride home like that. I wake them up just enough to get their accessories and dresses off, and walk them down to the van. They fell asleep as soon as they were buckled in and I didn't hear a thing from them after that.

In a moment of genius, I figured out that having the girls wear tank tops and gym shorts under the dresses allowed them to get dressed and undressed wherever it was most convenient (and not crammed in a stall in a bathroom.) This makes the going home process much easier and faster. I also learned that having them keep all their accessories in one bag that they also use for dancing, means they can start to undress whenever they are tired for the night and nothing gets lost. This is especially important when you calculate just how much the outfit is worth when you add it up piece by piece. Even ignoring the value of the dresses that DH makes for them, the shawls, ribbon work, bead work, leather, and wool can cost hundreds of dollars - and that is just a small girl's outfit!

The value of DH's outfit is potentially 10 times what the girls' are. That means even more care and detail when undressing and packing things away. Once the dancing ends, there is a still full hour of un-preparation for him before we can leave. Each piece of his regalia is carefully, folded, hung, rolled into a special cloth, or packed away in a storage box and set just the right way into his suitcase so that it all fits without moving.  On top of the satin, silver, beads, and leather, his outfit has feathers and lots of them. His bustle alone is a six-foot wide fan of feathers that sticks out on either side like a set of large, beautiful wings. On his head he wears an 18 inch long roach which is lined with porcupine hair and deer tail. It sticks straight up almost 8 inches above his head and he wears leather and feathers on top of that. Of course, he is always the last of us to be able to get undressed, so we are almost always sitting in the car snoozing and waiting for him to finish changing into regular clothes long after the dancing has stopped.

Tonight was no exception, but I wanted to stay awake for his sake. Once he was changed, we still had almost 2 hours left of driving before we got home. I know that having a sleeping passenger can bring on the sleepies, especially when you are already tired. I knew I needed to help keep him awake long enough to get us all home safely. Then we had to unpack the van - at least the most valuable and perishable items BEFORE we could call it a night. We left Waco just before midnight, got home around 1:30 in the morning and didn't make it to bed until after 2:00am.

This morning, miraculously, TD was the first one up. When I got up at 10:30, she was already watching TV. Once I realized that everyone else was still asleep, I only stayed up long enough to eat a little bit, take some medicine and go back to bed. I think we all finally got out of bed around noon.

All day I have been trying to relax and not do too much. I can do house work anytime, for the most part. Wearing myself out with chores when I am already close to exhaustion just isn't sensible (or fun.) We nibbled on the left over travel food for breakfast and lunch (if you could call them that) and everyone has been too tired to do much at all. DH has been catching up on the recorded stages of the Tour de France, LH spent the day finishing up her book, and EG has been playing computer games. The exception to sitting around and being lazy was, of course, TD who was invited over to a friend's house for the afternoon and got to go swimming (which made her sisters extremely jealous.) I even went back to bed for another snooze. I would have probably kept sleeping if LH hadn't decided to make dinner and had to ask me a question about how to cook the frozen shrimp. I can not describe how thankful I am that LH is so willing to step up and make dinner on a night like tonight. Some kids her age would grab themselves a sandwich and slink off to their bedroom, thankful that they were spared the torture of another family dinner. Instead, she figures out what is for dinner, either because of my menu or because she decides on an easier recipe, and then cooks and serves dinner for everyone at the table, just like I do. I don't know how it happened, but something good has sunk into her, and I couldn't be more proud.

Now it is after midnight and I am ready for bed (again) I think. I have another week ahead of me helping the girls fight off cabin fever while not spending any money or hanging at the library for five days straight. I might have to deviate a bit from the plan I created for the summer, but I don't think the girls will mind too much. They are getting used to being flexible because I have to change up plans in relation to my energy level for the day. As long as I can keep them out of the house as much as possible, they will be happy. I think I might be through with day trips out of town. As much fun as we all had, I doubt that I will be able to pull it off again. I am pretty sure the relative success of the day was due as much to luck as anything else. I am very glad I decided to go and bring the kids, though. It was really cool for them to see what it is that DH does when he goes out of town and I know he enjoyed showing them off to all the people that he talks to about them.

Hopefully they will go back to school at the end of the summer and remember the trip as something fun they were able to do.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Worry not...

The rain is pouring down right now. It makes for a cozy and quiet feeling. The kiddos are all watching movies, DH is working (from home YAY!) and I am looking for things to fill the hours today. I am still trying to recuperate from the trip to the museum day before yesterday. I really wanted to get to the library today but, alas, it wasn't in the cards. We still have a few hours left until dinner and the library happens to be open late tonight, so maybe we will have an evening field trip. Who knows?

I do know that I need to make sure the girls get out of the house as much as they can. Since I have been having a high pain/low energy week, the girls have had to be extra patient and understanding about finding things to keep themselves occupied. This has led to the typical problems you'd expect from a group of girls like them. When you are dealing with a case of Cabin Fever, all the little aspects of each others personalities are amplified - especially the ones that get on your nerves. LH is more antsy, impatient, and possessive of her personal items ("GET OUT OF MY ROOM AND STOP TOUCHING MY STUFF!) TD is full of energy that doesn't have an outlet so she seems to be a bundle of waving arms and legs - even when she is sitting "still." (MOOOOOOOM! She kicked me! No I didn't! I was just stretching!) EG has been keeping things (especially her bedroom) as clean as possible, even checking on her room several times a day to be sure nothing is out of place. Believe me, I am not complaining. It's just that it can be hard to referee an argument when one girl wants to clean the room while the other wants to play with the toys she just pulled out. She also has more time to think and for her, that means more time to worry. She is at the "What If?" stage and she is having a hard time handling the way she imagines the outcome of things.

Last night was a perfect example.  DH and I were getting them into bed and kissing them all goodnight when he asked them please to be careful of the left side of his face. He has an abscessed tooth that is causing quite a lot of pain, not just in his mouth but all the way into his ear and all across the side of his head. When he explained this to the girls (in an effort to request more quiet and less arguing at bedtime) EG burst into tears. She was so overcome with worry for her Daddy that she couldn't keep it in. What DH said was, "My tooth hurts a lot and it is causing the rest of the side of my head to hurt too. I have been to the dentist and it will be better soon, but I will have to have the tooth removed and I won't be able to chew for awhile."

What EG HEARD was that he would not be able to EAT so he would not have any energy and he might die. No sooner had I calmed her down about that when TD (trying to help) mentioned that when the dentist removed Daddy's tooth, they would put him to sleep so he wouldn't feel it. That started a whole new spout of waterworks. Apparently, she had heard a bad association with the term "put to sleep" and while I don't know if she really knew why, she was even more fearful. "No, no, " I told her. "They will probably just give him a few shots that won't hurt much at all and then they will take out his tooth when he is numb."

Now she was choked up because Daddy would be losing a GROWN-UP tooth, and don't you know, Mommy, you only get one set and he won't grow a new tooth! Amazingly enough, she didn't really calm down until I described, in detail, exactly what would happen during the tooth extraction, recovery, and after he gets a replacement for his tooth. She wanted to be sure that no one would hurt Daddy and that he would be able to act normal after everything was done. How do you look into those gigantic blue eyes overflowing with tears and say, "Just go to bed already! I'm tired!"

Now, I understand the melt down was due at least as much to fatigue and too much time on her hands as it was real concern for her father, but it is still so moving to know how much she worries. It isn't just about her father, either. Last year, her class was talking about feelings and how they affect us. They talked about happy and sad, and they also talked about concern, worry, and fear. Every child wrote a sentence and drew a picture of something they were worried about. It was the most revealing assignment any of my kids has ever been given. EG's sentence was simply, "I worry that my big sister will die." and she drew a picture of LH in a hospital bed with a bandage on her chest. Whew! Talk about a tear jerker!

Of all the emotions my kids show to me, Worry is perhaps the hardest to deal with. Fear is usually about the Fantastical, so it is easy to dismiss or explain it away. (The monster under the bed will not be there if you clean your room because they like to eat dust bunnies. No dust bunnies = no monster.) Worry is about the Unknown Future - What If? It is much bigger and harder to manage. My kids (because of their scary analytical brains) started the worry stage of the What If's a lot earlier than they should. LH has a hard time trying new things - What if I don't like it? TD is more of a specific worry wart - What if BBD gets lost when he runs out the door and can't find his way home?  EG has the most broad What If skill of all of them  - What if something happens to my family?

One one hand, I really wish they would stop being such worry warts. Did they learn it from  me? Do I worry too much and that habit rubbed off on them? Is it just because they are as scary smart as they are? Should I be concerned about it? What if it is a sign that they have some sort of OCD problem?  Will this get worse and prevent them from living a normal life?

Ok, fine. You got me. I guess I know where they get it from after all. I guess I need to lighten up a bit?

Debbie "Worry Wart" Lollar

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the eye of the beholder....

When I took my girls to the Dallas Art Museum yesterday, I was surprised (as I always am) at what they liked and what they didn't. Keep in mind, they have all been to this same museum at least once before, so most of what they saw was what they had already seen before. This time, I really wanted to find out what they thought of the art instead of just pointing, "Look at that!"

Yesterday, the museum was a very different place from what I remembered. I have never been there during a "Free on 1st Tuesday of the Month." It was very crowded with families who normally would not have been able to go. Large families, families with toddlers, families with lots of kids... it was a zoo - and that was just the courtyard! In the garden there were guards constantly asking kids not to run under, over, and through the exhibit pieces. I can't really blame the kids, though. Most of the art is gigantic, bronze, and just perfect for climbing and hiding in.

I mean, seriously! Look at these things! I can't imagine a more fun thing to play on, except, you know... they're ART, and you can't do that.
My favorite piece out there was a new one. I didn't see who it was created by or what it was named, but it looked to me like an Ode to Construction (or something like that.)

Once we got inside, it was even more loud and chaotic than the courtyard was. The noise and crowds were mostly centered around the Center for Creative Connections. This is also known as the "Kids Room." It is the only room in the museum where you are allowed to touch anything. It is actually a huge section of an entire floor dedicated mostly to letting kids create art. There are bright colors and textured walls and interactive displays everywhere. One area has a few dozen giant building blocks, and another area has buckets full of cloth and paper and just about any other material you can imagine and kids are encouraged to glue, tape, staple, tie, and connect whatever they want to build two and three dimensional art.

I have to admit, this place is pretty cool. It is also geared towards children slightly younger than mine. As much as I wanted to give them a chance to create, I took one look at the people pouring in and spilling out of the area and I knew there was no way I could handle that. Being in downtown Dallas in an open access museum already had my Kid Safety Alarms going nuts. Crunching into a mob like that would likely have caused a conniption of some sort. All it would have taken would be for me to lose sight of one of my girls or see some creep "accidentally" brush by them and I would have brought the whole place down on our heads.

So, I carefully steered my girls in a different direction and they took the bait. We headed toward the summer exhibit devoted to coastline art from many different artists. Half way there, my knee gave out. Now, I have been having a lot of trouble lately with my right knee and I have had to walk slowly or take long sitting breaks before, but this was not the sort of pain that was going to go away quickly. Both knees are in pretty bad shape. When the pain starts kicking in, usually it hits me in the knees first. Unfortunately, that causes me to limp slightly, which causes my back to hurt right across my hips. This causes walking of any sort extremely painful. I had a tough decision to make. Leave or stay? Put up with more and more pain throughout the day, stopping for long periods to rest? Take enough pain meds to knock out a horse and push through (making it unsafe to be responsible for all three girls, let alone drive home)? Leave and disappoint my girls? I didn't like any of these solutions, so I found a compromise. I went to the front desk and politely asked to borrow a wheel chair.

I admit, riding instead of walking was embarrassing, but I would rather be embarrassed than have to cancel a trip like this. I thought my girls might be embarrassed too, or even start to worry about me more. It turns out they are smarter and cooler than even I thought. All they were concerned about was who got to push me around first. They all took turns wheeling me from gallery to gallery, in and out of the elevator, up and down the halls. When they got tired, I wheeled myself for a bit, and then one of them would take over again. As much as I have to admit it, it made the trip so much better than I anticipated. Instead of leaving when I got tired, the girls wore out before I did!

One of the activities I asked them to do (to make the trip a little more exciting) was to take down or at least notice the names of the artists that they especially liked. I told them that we would be going to the library to research more about the artists and then Friday, they can recreate one of their works in a different medium (take an oil paint and sketch it or use watercolor to paint a sculpture.) This also let me get a good idea of what kind of art they really liked so I would be able to find more things to interest them. Again, they surprised me with what they liked and what they wanted to steer clear of.

The ancient artifacts and statues seemed to freak them out the most. Something about the little statues of men and the masks created to scare away spirits gave them the willies. While they seemed to like the Native American Art, they asked to leave the Pacific Islands Art exhibit in the middle. They wouldn't even walk through the African Art. They seemed mostly bored by the European and Early American Art and Sculpture. Although, the furniture that was displayed alongside many of the portraits was really beautiful.What they all seemed to get the most excited about was the Modern and Contemporary Art.  They liked Georgia O'Keefe and Jackson Pollock, as well as anything that was a photograph - even the ones that looked like nothing more than a black and white blur (until you got close enough to see it was a picture of the ocean without any landmarks whatsoever.) The new exhibit called Through the Eyes of Our Children - Something Beautiful is a collection of photographs taken by Dallas area students and it is both moving and inspiring.

By the time we made it through the last display and headed for home, the museum had started to empty out considerably. Most of the activities for children ended about 30 minutes before so we were just in time to see the last weary moms drag their exhausted toddlers out to the parking lot. We were fortunate enough to get a spot right outside the museum door at a parking meter and we got out to the car just as the the meter ran out.

I was very stiff an sore on the way home. Sitting still for two and a half hours will do that. I wasn't exactly still, but I didn't move my legs at all, and I am still feeling the strain of it now. I have been tired and sore all day. I still think that the wheelchair was a wise choice. Without it, we would only have been able to enjoy half the museum before heading home.

Today was supposed to be a day for swimming, but the rain in the forecast made us find other things to do. Apparently, they didn't want to wait for the library to start their personal recreations. LH made her own mini-replica of some of the sculptures from the courtyard. She used whatever was on hand and today, it was copy paper, tape, a shoe box, a wooden dowel, and some extra playing cards.

LH was still inspired to create so she kept building with the playing cards and created a wearable vest with a button closure and everything! EG is here modeling it.

EG said she felt like Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place.

Tomorrow I hope to feel good enough to actually take them to the library so they can look for more information on their chosen artists. Who knows what they will decide to create tomorrow?

Debbie "Artist" Lollar

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Short Update

Some days just don't get moving like they should. In spite of all plans otherwise, what needs to happen, just doesn't. I am beginning to wonder why I make plan or have any sort of expectation for the day when I wake up.

Instead of spending the afternoon at the library (like I planned) we spent the whole day being bums at home. The girls were wiped out (and still a little scorched) from yesterday's swimming pool adventure. They had no problem at all taking a day to recoup by parking their blond, skinny butts in front of the Hypnogourd and losing themselves in marathons of Cake Boss and Clean House. One the one show, they enjoy watching the amazing cakes this New York bakery makes and the owner of the place is, well ... colorful to say the least. Thankfully, it's a "family" show so the language doesn't reflect the true beauty of The City. The other show is a lesson in "What Not To Do" and I enjoy watching it myself. Part of me compares the disastrous messes to my own Humble Abode (at least in my head) as a measuring stick to make sure I haven't let things get out of control. The other part of me likes to see the makeovers. From Ultra Classy to Fun and Exciting, the designers on that show have some real talent. The Hostess isn't my favorite TV Personality, but the rest of the crew is usually fun to watch. The realization and the growth that these crazy, messy families go through can be really heartwarming. Watching the Before and After shots flash across the rooms makes me gasp every time.

I really wanted to get outside today because the weather cleared up and we had sunny skies all day (in spite of the Weatherman's warning to the contrary.) But, my desire for anything more fun that living vicariously through the bakery owners on TV was cut short by the realization that the headache I woke up with was the same headache I had been dealing with for almost three days. 48 hours is usually my limit when it comes to headaches. If the cocktail of OTC's and prescription pain killers can't kick the pain in two days, I have to up the power level and head for The Migraine Arrest Medication.

I hate taking this stuff. While it never fails to stop the headache (at least temporarily) it had some of the nastiest side effects of any medication I have ever taken. When it first kicks in, I can feel my head swim, my stomach lurch, and my body get heavy all at the same time. I usually nod off for about 30 minutes at that point. When I wake up, my head is usually pretty clear, but I feel like the headache moved down into all my muscles. The stiffness and soreness feel similar to what I deal with almost every day, but they are much worse. I just want to crawl back under the covers and not move until it all goes away. The positive side is that they DO go away. It may take a few more hours, but by the time the aches fade away, I feel like a new person. I have been known to clear out the laundry bin, vacuum all the floors, and scrub the kitchen  top to bottom in the rush that I get from this stuff. As I said before, I don't think the meds actually give me more energy, I think that the relief from the pain is so amazing, I just want to jump up and down and run around.

I probably would have had another super cleaning fit today if it hadn't been for the lovely burn I have across my shoulders. I have been treating it with fresh Aloe and a spray that is mostly Aloe with a few extra goodies mixed in. By tomorrow I won't be in any discomfort at all, I'm sure. Today though, I remembered just why I don't like to wear racer-back anything in the sun. When you get burned with a racer-X on your back, your bra (for those of you don't know) does not fit in with the burn pattern. What you get from this is rough, painful, peeling, shoulders from where the bra straps rub - even if the rest of you is healing nicely.

Instead of putting up with all of this, I decided (probably not wisely) to go Commando today. For awhile I was able to wear a cami with a built in bra because the straps are loose and soft. While it serves the general purpose of keeping you from being completely embarrassed while answering the door to a stranger, it really doesn't give the "protection" you need to go walking around and moving a lot. 40DD's have a gravity all their own and without steel-belted-radial-style support, it's much smarter to stay put and holler across the house for someone else to bring you your bonbons.

So, here it is almost an hour into tomorrow morning and I have gotten exactly Zip accomplished for the day. I managed to get all three girls moving to do their daily chores (EG showed more enthusiasm than even I expected!) but DH was the one who cooked dinner and wrangled them all into their beds (finally!) tonight. I only feel a touch guilty about everyone else pitching in while I sat on my derriere all day. The mess, of course, is mostly theirs, after all. Besides, DH is an excellent cook when it comes to French Toast and bacon for dinner (who would have thought Hot Fudge would make a decent topping?)

By 9:00 I had all three girls convinced that an early bedtime was necessary to have enough energy for tomorrow's new activities. As usual, it still took another hour to get them all actually asleep (this is why I start the bed time routine at 8:00 during the school year.) DH took that opportunity to flip on the recorded broadcast of the Tour De France and pull out the long-neglected Indian Craft that has been ordered by a friend (and paid for) and should have been delivered mid April.  Knowing I can be his biggest distraction, I really wanted to stay out of his way to let him work on it, so I decided to do something that I, too, have been avoiding. I logged on to the Jr College website and I finished choosing my classes for next semester.

I am terrified to finish the registration process. I just know that as soon as I officially register for class, I will get an amazing job offer over the phone and I will have to cancel my plans to return to school, once again. Right now I have secured Financial Aid (for the second time) and I have even chosen my degree path and my classes for the next semester. All that is left is for me to register and pay for the classes once the money comes through. That is such a scary thought right now! Paying money (even if it isn't mine) means that I have committed to this school thing. Once the tuition is paid, I have to attend because I am not allowed to drop classes (until I have actually taken a few courses.) If I skip out or cancel, it will affect my GPA, which is a 4.0 right now and I would like to keep it that way.

I have been waffling about what degree to take and what career I want to pursue. When I look at all the choices, I have decided to go for a teaching degree, at least for now. I have had a few bad experiences in the past, but perhaps they were more situational than personal. I would like to think that I have grown as a person since then and that I am more able to handle those kinds of stresses than I was before. Besides, if I agree to teach for just four years, I will have my entire college degree paid for. Texas is cool like that because we need teachers so desperately. After spending four years teaching what they need me to teach most in the school that I am needed most in, I am free to go my merry way with my college degree and my teaching certificate.

Four years as a reading teacher (or an ESL teacher, or a math teacher ... okay, maybe not MATH) seems a small price to pay for four (or more) years of education.  If I suck at it, well... I only have to do it for four years. I'll be able to say I helped out my community and I will hopefully have learned something more from it (besides the fact that I don't like mouthy, pre-teen, hormone-crazed girls.) Maybe during that time I will find my niche and my true calling in life. It certainly is worth a try. If I don't know what I want to be when I grow up right now, I really don't have anything to lose, do I?

I can't wrap my brain around it yet. Is this really the First Summer of The Rest of My Life? Will I be heading back to school at the same time my daughters are? How will I handle having homework and assignments while trying to help them with their school as well? Am I completely crazy for thinking I can do this? What will it be like sitting next to girls that are barely older than my daughter while trying to take my REMEDIAL MATH course. (Yep, LH comes by her Math troubles honestly.)

Currently, I have planned on taking two online courses and two lecture courses. I will have one on-campus class every day of the week (one M, W, F and one Tu, Thu) plus two more classes that I can take whenever or wherever I can. 12 hours is a full class load. There is no realistic way I can work more than part time while I do this. I don't even know if I can keep the workload straight for Math, History, Music, and Education courses all at the same time, let alone remember a part time job schedule. How the hell am I going to keep the bills paid and the papers done on time?

I had better become the world's most dedicated Budget and Schedule Master or I will end up back in front of a monitor Transcribing names and addresses five nights a week. Hmmm, there are some tough choices I need to make.

Debbie "Schoolgirl" Lollar

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independance Day

Today was not at all what I planned (once again) but I should really be used to that by now.

DH and his Indian Drum group decided to get together for a potluck/cookout and drum practice today. The whole family was invited so we bought enough hot dogs for 20 people and headed out to a suburb on the other side of town. I don't normally have a lot to do at these get-togethers. The drum is loud, so I have to wear ear plugs to prevent a headache. It also means that casual conversation between songs isn't really possible. I attend these things because I like to show support for the things that DH is into, but they really aren't my thing. The people are nice enough, but they have much more in common with DH than they do with me. Today, we brought MIL and FIL with us so I would at least have MIL to hang out with. I can think of worse ways to spend the holiday.

Anyway, the meeting today was somewhere new. The house belonged to one of the drummers that had never hosted a practice before. That was probably why we were surprised that there was a pool and everyone was swimming when we got there. We didn't bring swim suits, and I don't even own one that fits. One look at my little girls faces and I knew what I had to do. I left everyone else there, and took MIL to the big, cheap, super store that is in every little town these days. Having bought swimsuits for my girls recently (twice, actually) finding something for each of them was actually pretty easy. I eyeballed a few suits and grabbed some that I decided were there sizes. Then, I snagged a pair of trunks for DH and the easy part of the trip was done.
Now, it was time for me to find a suit.
I can't remember the last time I really went swimming. I haven't worn a tank top in public for a long time, let alone a swim suit, certainly not since I gained the last 40 pounds. Finding a swim suit in my size was both humiliating and depressing. Finding one that not only fit, but didn't also make me look like a large, brightly flowered, pear was near on impossible. Since, I had MIL with me and she was suit shopping, too, I at least wasn't alone. MIL is roughly my size, so we were aiming in the same direction. It actually helped because we were able to make suggestions and criticisms of the suits without fear or embarrassment. We have different tastes, as well as comfort levels, but it was still nice to have the camaraderie. In the end, she chose a sporty and flattering one piece suit, which I also happened to think looked good on me. However, I refused to show up in the same suit as my Mother In Law, no matter how cute or flattering it was.
I tried on several other suits and made three trips to the fitting room. Two piece suits didn't have the, uh... support I needed on top, or bottom. One piece suits were better, but it was hard for me to find anything that was nearly the size on top that was needed. The embarrassing part came when I realized I was shopping from the wrong department. I needed to shop in the Women's section. This is also known as the Hefty or Plus Size section. This was where there were suits that had a little more coverage and a lot more support. Even though I decided long ago that the day I wore a dress in the swimming pool is the day I would drown myself, I found myself considering the style. The benefit of this style is that the suit has the style of a one piece with an extra added skirt around the hips. They are also a little more forgiving around the middle and a lot more supportive around the top. I have always associated them with older ladies or very large sizes. This is still the case, but the suit makers have been making them much nicer and in much smaller sizes these days so they are losing the label of "old lady wear" that they used to have.

So, after much deliberation, I found one that wasn't too frumpy, was one of my favorite colors (turquoise), and didn't have a skirt that went down to my knees.

While I was still nervous heading back to the party and donning my suit, I was a little comforted by the rest of the group that was swimming. I know it shouldn't really matter, but I was encouraged by the fact that everyone else who was swimming was at least the same size as I am, if not larger. If all these guys can sport their bare beer bellies and the other girls can swim around showing off their cellulite, so can I. So, I squeezed into my suit and walked out confidently to the pool.

There was another reason I decided to swim today. It was actually three reasons. None of my girls know how to swim. This is primarily due to the fact that I am such a terrible swimmer, which leads me to fear having my little ones around me in the pool. With DH nearby, it isn't so bad because he is a great swimmer, but there is still only one of him and three of them. I tend to hover around whoever isn't right next to DH and keep them trapped in the shallow end with floatees instead of letting them experiment and learn and gain confidence. As a result, I have a (nearly) 13 year old (as well as a 9 year old and an almost 7 year old) who can't swim or even float by themselves.

Today, I was determined I would not let my fears prevent them from enjoying themselves and missing out on a valuable part of their lives. I had already decided to visit the pool once or twice a week this summer. Now, I am realizing that is a much more important endeavor than I originally thought. I have changed my plans to include the regular pools instead of just the shallow, splash pools. It means letting all three girls in the deeper water all at the same time, but that is something I need to do. They need to learn to sink or swim.

This is much easier to say than to do, but it was still not as hard as I thought it would be. First of all, there were several other life guard trained, life time scouters swimming with us today. Secondly, there was a plethora of pool noodles for the girls to cling to. As long as they were gripping the noodles, they would be (for the most part) safe. For those who have never seen one, a pool noodle is a long, hollow, foam tube that are usually four foot long, and as big around as your forearm. They are also extremely buoyant. One of these noodles will support a fully grown (or overgrown) man completely. As far as fun pool toys go, these are top. The best use if them, in my option, is as a swimming aid. They can be used sort of like training wheels to let a new swimmer practice the movements and learn how to float without a teacher hovering over them.

I know they are not life-saving devices and that they should only be used with supervision, especially by non-swimmers. However, my girls were able to "swim" from the shallow end, to the deep end, and back again without any assistance other than the noodle balanced under their arms and across their chest. Letting them go that far away from me was more painful than I can actually describe. At least, at first it was. As the other adults in the pool encouraged them and kept a sharp eye for any signs of struggle, I was able to slowly relax. By the end of the afternoon, all three girls were happily kicking their way, fearlessly around the pool learning how to use them to blow fountains of water at each other.

The only issue that cropped up was from LH. Apparently, the drop off into the deep end was more steep than she realized and the confidence she had gained from paddling around with the noodle did not totally translate into true swimming skills. All I heard was a small splash and yell and she was bobbing under the surface of the water. I lunged for her at the same moment I realized that if she was drowning, I wouldn't be much help. Thankfully, within three seconds there were three sets of hands helping her out of the water and she was even carried carefully out of the pool.

She was safe. She never swallowed or inhaled water, so she never actually choked. In fact, she nearly didn't need any help at all. She had already managed to get her head above water at the same moment she was "rescued."  As soon as she realized she was in too deep, she held her breath and started to kick. This was exactly what I had been telling her to do all afternoon. If you get scared, hold your breath and just keep kicking. You will make it to the surface and you will be alright. I know I kept repeating this to her and her sisters as much to make myself feel better as to impart some wisdom to them, but for once, it was well placed advice. In fact, had no one been there, I bet she would have continued kicking until she grabbed the edge of the pool and she might have rescued herself.

After she was safe on the ground and I made sure she was okay, I gave her a hug and backed off. She was still a little shaky, but the last thing I wanted to do was baby her and feed into her fear. Gramma was there to do that, which I had no problem with, but I wanted to try to show her that I was not as worried (as I truly was) so that she would not associate the water with more fear. I felt so awful staying in the pool while she recovered. How could I abandon my baby right after a near-death experience. I know it wasn't that bad, but in those first minutes after she got out of the water, my mind worked things up to be much worse than they had been. She sat with her Gramma for awhile, and I was a little afraid that she was going to sit pool-side the rest of the afternoon. However, she proved me wrong and impressed me when she was back in the water within 15 minutes. In spite of nearly drowning (in her mind at least) she returned to jumping in off the side and doggie paddling across the pool just as if nothing had happened.

My heart was breaking in my chest, and it killed me to see her shaking and crying and being comforted by someone else, but I am still confident I made the right choice. The fact that she came away from the afternoon with happiness and enjoyment instead of fear tells me that letting go a little made her stronger. She still can't swim on her own, but maybe she will have the confidence to try now, where she wouldn't have before.
That is, after all why we are parents, isn't it? To raise children who become adults who are confident enough to go out into the world on their own.

It could be that today was just a day at the pool for LH. For me it was a much bigger step as a parent. Today I was able to show confidence and hopefully pass a little of that on to my girls.

Debbie "Waterbaby" Lollar