Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Deep Thoughts

It seems like a lot of people I know are going through some heavy stuff right now. Having been through some tough times myself, I'm well aware how easy it is to get sucked down into the muck. To despair that things will ever get better. To let one negative thing send me into a spiral of depression.

I'm about to get a little religious up in here, but I hope you will continue to read it even if you aren't religious because I think there is a message here that transcends religion and can touch everybody with a heart.

In Sunday School a couple of weeks ago we watched a video called Whirlwind by Rob Bell, from his Nooma series. We've watched a whole series of this guy's videos and he thinks about religion in a way that I've never encountered. He brings it into real world terms with real world applications. He's caught some flack for his "Hollywood" productions but I guess the reason I like him is that the message he gives urges us to follow Jesus and treat others as Jesus did -- help the poor, the widows, the "least of these."

In Whirlwind, Bell addresses when bad things happen to good people (specifically referencing Job.) We all want answers, but often there are no answers. But what would it be like if we just let it go? And quit wondering? I'm not saying "Oh, there's a reason for everything, it will all be clear eventually." Maybe it will, maybe it won't.

But the most important thing I took from his message was this: when you're sitting in the middle of the shambles that is your job/lack of job/foreclosed house/divorce, just know that your story is not over. Your story is NOT OVER. MY story is not over.

And that, that brings me hope.

Who Am I

My latest post is up over at Bodies in Motivation. Come join me as I try to figure out who I am and what the aliens have done with the real me!

Also, I promise I'll be back tonight to update y'all on whether Punkin has been exercising her brain and my promised Deep Thoughts post. You're just hanging on the edge of your seats, aren't you?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Have You Exercised Your Brain Today?

I've got a "Deep Thoughts" post brewing but it needs a little more work, so in the meantime I thought I'd give you guys an update on school. Specifically, Punkin and school.

The first week went great. Until Friday that is. When we got home, there was a note in Punkin's agenda from her teacher telling me that Punkin had not participated in the class' Brain Exercises all week and for me to please talk to her about it.

We talked to Punkin about it, but trying to find out WHY she doesn't want to participate is about like trying to get secrets from the Sphinx. She either can't or won't articulate the reasons. But when we were talking with her about it, she demonstrated some of the moves for me, so I know she can do them.

So, we started out telling her what the consequences would be if she didn't participate, but then I remembered that Punkin responds much better to rewards than threats, so we told her that if she did her Brain Exercises every day this week, I would buy her a toy of her choosing (within reason, of course) this weekend.

Now I'll be honest, I really had no idea what Brain Exercises even are. Bubba piped up that he had done them last year, but not in kindergarten, so it must be a relatively new thing the school does. So, I Googled them just now and found a description of Brain Gym, which sounds like what Punkin is describing. I was going to copy it here, but it's easier just to go to this page. In addition to the things you see listed on that page, at the end, the kids are to put their fingertips together, breathe deep, and vocalize their one goal for that day.

Now listen, I'm all for helping kids learn, but this sounds a little woo woo to me. I'm justAlso, to make such a big deal about it in kindergarten is somewhat frustrating to me as well.

BUT, I get that Punkin needs to learn to follow directions and do what the teacher tells her to, even if if she doesn't want to.

So. Yesterday when I picked Punkin up, her parapro was in the office. When I asked her if Punkin had done her Brain Exercises she said yes. Punkin and I high fived and we went home. Where I opened her agenda to find a note from her teacher that yes, she HAD done them, but not to the degree that the teacher would have liked and that she gave Punkin several opportunities to do better and when she didn't, she "pulled a card" on Punkin. For the uninitiated, "pulling a card" is what happens when the kids get in trouble. There are levels of cards for different levels of offenses and the punishment varies depending on the color of the card, but usually consists of missing some or all of their recess time.

I'm not going to lie, my first thought was "Seriously? This is a little nit-picky if you ask me." But I HAD asked for feedback. So, what to do? Punish? Not punish?

Perhaps I was a little harsh, but I opted to punish Punkin. Because her unwillingness to do what she is asked is an ongoing problem with her, I went with punishment. We normally allow the kids to watch cartoons while I'm getting dinner ready, but I made her turn the television off and let Bubba watch cartoons in my bedroom.

She wailed. She cried. She yelled at me. I sent her to her room until she could apologize AND tell me what she'd done wrong. She kept wailing "I can't stop crying! I can't stop thinking about television." It wasn't fun, for me or her, but I hope the message got through.

I just wish I believed in the message.

She pinky promised me she would do her Brain Exercises today. With gusto, even. We'll see.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Boot Camp Haiku

Sweat pouring like rain,
Muscles burning like brush fire.
It hurts; hurts so good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When the Rubber Meets the Road

My latest post is up over at Bodies in Motivation. This is the week it gets real, y'all.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Going to Look Good from Every Angle

A while back I mentioned that I had begun reading some style blogs. I meant to link to them at the time, but, well, you know, life got in the way. My road to hell is going to be so smooooooth because it will be slick as glass, paved with all my good intentions.

Anyhoo, one of my faves is Looks Good from the Back. Adrien and Marianne are so cute and I love their sense of style. Their near-daily posts are cute, funny and I love their occasional mocking of the different style blog "poses" -- though the new poses that they've created are what really crack me up. The best thing about them, though, is that the things that they wear are what I consider "real people clothes," as in "clothes that don't cost an arm and a leg." I covet their bags and their shoes and their ability to put together things I would never have considered.

See, that's always been my problem. I'm afraid to get adventurous. I don't know if things "go" or not. Or is it too matchy-matchy? Can I really put those two colors together? Does it look like I'm trying too hard?

So, a couple of weeks ago when they put together a style board for Samantha of Campenette for BlogHer, I asked them how much they would charge me to put something together for me. One arm? One leg? A combo of the two?

As it turns out, they were easily bribed and immediately set to work on helping me update my fall wardrobe. See, because of our financial situation, new clothing for me just hasn't been in the old budget. My work wardrobe is in serious need of updating/upgrading.

I sent them a brief explanation of what I was looking for, my body type, weight, sizes, etc. Hey, nothing like sharing your weight on the internet for the whole world to see, right? But to get their advice, I would have done just about whatever they asked me to.

They put all these ingredients in their magic cauldrons (i.e., their brains) and pulled out the most amazing finds. My style boards are up today over at Looks Good From the Back. I'm thrilled with everything they've put together and I can't wait to start rocking some of these outfits. I've already bought a thing or two and I'll post pictures here once I get some stuff going.

Adrien, Marianne -- thank you so much!! You're THE BEST.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It Happened on the First Day

Well, the first day of school has come and gone. And I would say it was a success.

Because I drop the kids off early in order to get to work, I had to leave Bubba and Punkin in the gymnasium with about a hundred other kids to wait until it was time to go to their class. Bubba immediately found all his friends and was soon jabbering away, barely noticing my presence. Punkin and I found the line where the kindergarten class was supposed to sit. She didn't cry. She didn't cling to me, as she so often does when she's nervous. She just sat down on the line, criss-cross-applesauce and hugged her bookbag to her chest. I gave her a kiss, told her I loved her and told her I had to leave.

"Okay, Mommy."

"Have a great day, okay?"

"Okay, mommy."

I walked away and turned back to look at her when I reached the gym door. She looked so little sitting there. She saw me looking at her and then she smiled a huge smile and waved at me. I waved back.

I made it to the car. I even made it out of the parking lot. It was only when I called Mr. Daddy to give him a report of how it went that I broke down. And it wasn't full on sobbing, just a catch in my throat and tears pricking behind my eyes.

When I picked them up that afternoon, Punkin rounded the corner first, sweaty but looking happy. She got a smiley face in her agenda, but more importantly she had a smile on her face. But one of the most exciting developments was also one of the most surprising. I asked her "Did you make any friends today?"



"Bubba!" You see, it turns out that Bubba and Punkin played together in after school. They haven't played well together at home in over a year, with most attempts at joint play evolving into a yell-fest with lots of tears. But on Friday Bubba even allowed Punkin to join the Memangee Club, a club created two years ago by a group of sweaty boys in the after school program. The only requirement to join the club, apparently, is to be able to chase Katie Smith really fast. Punkin, as it turns out, is a pretty fast runner. So, she's in like Flynn. Of course it doesn't hurt that Bubba is the President of the Memangee Club. And he's promised her that next year, she can be president.

It does my heart good to see him looking after her like that. She thinks he hung the moon, but she thinks he doesn't love her. He would probably like to pretend that he doesn't, but his actions on Friday make it pretty clear to me that he does. Hopefully she'll soon realize it too.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

OH! and A Winner! UPDATED

I nearly forgot to announce a winner in my Give and Get contest! I used Random.org to select the winner.

Apparently I'm too stupid to figure out how to put a screen shot of the Random Number Generator here on the page, so you'll just have to trust me. The winner is....

Commenter #11 -- Rougeneck!

Now, Rougie, you didn't specify a charity, so I'm going to email you and let you know you've won and see if you'd like to specify. If I don't hear back, I'm just going to choose for you!

Thanks for playing along, you guys.

Rougie has selected animals as her charity recipient, so I have made a donation to the Human Society in her hometown. Thanks again for playing, y'all.

Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of Her Life

All week I've had a vague sense of anxiety. I wake up at night and can't get back to sleep. I find myself clenching and unclenching my hands. My neck is a little tense. Mr. Daddy, an excellent reader of my moods, keeps asking me "What's wrong? Just tell me what's wrong. After 13 years of marriage, I know it's something." He stays after me, even after I've protested numerous times that there's nothing wrong.

Really, I was telling the truth because I couldn't put my finger on just what was wrong exactly. Until it finally hit me.

Punkin is starting kindergarten tomorrow. My baby. Who is still only 4 years old (she'll be 5 at the end of the month, for the record). When I finally fessed up to Mr. Daddy, his response was "Oh good grief. You're being ridiculous." Um, dude, when you press your wife to share what's bothering her, don't brush her off and make her feel silly. TALK TO HER. Don't you guys get it by now? We women want to talk things through, hash them out.

Y'all know the issues we've had with Punkin. While her behavior has vastly improved and she's always better behaved for other people, her starting "real" school is making me a little nervous. I've told a couple of people that I don't have any problem picturing Punkin in the classroom, but the idea of her tiny little self in the large cafeteria, full of kids, carrying a tray nearly puts me over the edge. But then yesterday I was trying to imagine her in the classroom, learning sight words and I nearly had a panic attack.

The thing is, I know I'm overreacting. Punkin is smart. She can do this. Tonight we go to meet the teachers and then tomorrow morning, my Punkin takes her first real step into the real world. And the first step in walking away from us. And maybe that's what's really making me sad.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Olfactory Memories

I have lived a good life. I don't mean I've always been good. Heaven knows that's not the truth. But I have have lived a good life. And no, I'm not about to die or anything. At least not that I know of. I had a boyfriend in college who used to say "I could step out in front of a North/South (our campus buses) tomorrow."

But that's not my point.

Last night I took Toby out for a walk before bedtime. I stood there in the dark silence, feeling the heat that was still all around me, listening to the crickets and the tree frogs. I took a deep breath and that's when I smelled it. Cows. I know I've said this before but I love the smell of cows and hay and barns and yes, even manure. My grandfather was a dairy farmer and all of those smells take me back to my childhood and spending time on their farm.

I'm not sure why it is, but olfactory memories are stronger for me than anything else. A smell can take me back to a particular place and time faster even than music. Perhaps it's because my olfactory memories are usually tied to pleasant events while songs often aren't, but who knows?

As I stood there last night and inhaled, my eyes pricked with tears as I thought about my grandparents. I have such happy memories of staying with them. Though my grandmother never really kept snacks that I liked -- she only had fig newtons and cracker jacks -- she could usually be counted on to have a homemade pound cake or a chocolate pie on hand, though I never fully appreciated her meringues.

I can remember so clearly standing outside their house, listening the window units as they cooled the house. Once you went inside, the noise of the air conditioners didn't quite drown out the crickets or the whippoorwills. As I climbed into bed, I'd bury my nose in the sheets, smelling of Gain and sunshine, one of the cleanest smells there is.

My PaPa's truck had a singular smell too -- hay, mixed with hot vinyl, dust, and tobacco. He always kept a spittoon on the floor hump between the driver's and passenger's side. If you were riding three abreast, you had to be careful not to put your foot in the spittoon if you were riding in the middle. His barn was a completely different set of smells -- dirt, gasoline, old oil, and tractors. He had a huge bin of nuts, bolts, and random parts that I used to love to sift through. We'd all take turns climbing up on the big old tractors, pretending to drive.

My grandparents were interesting people. They raised seven children, starting their family during the height of the depression. My grandfather was a funny, funny man and he got most of the attention. My grandmother, quieter, was a faithful woman -- faithful to her church and to her family. It was only after I became a mother myself that I truly appreciated what a strong woman she must have been.

My grandfather died the year after Mr. Daddy and I got married. My grandmother died when Bubba had just turned two. I grieve sometimes that my grandparents never met my children, but I grieve more that my children never really got to know my grandparents.

Last night as I stood there, I missed them. And I missed the simplicity of my childhood. But for a moment, standing there, smelling that glorious blend of summer smells, I went back.


Don't forget to leave the name of your favorite charity on yesterday's post. The deadline for entry is tonight at 11:59 p.m.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Give and Get

For a long time I kept it a secret the difficult times that Mr. Daddy and I have been through. Financially, we have struggled since we moved back to this area nearly five years ago. Having two kids in daycare was tough too. The year that we had them both in daycare full time? That year we shelled out $12,000 in daycare fees. You might wonder why I even worked, but it was always my job that had the insurance. And having had to buy private insurance for a year while we were self-employed made me realize what an awesome thing employer subsidized healthcare is. Things have gotten easier as the kids have gotten older. We went from two kids in daycare to just one and starting this Friday both our children will be in public school and all we'll have to pay for is after school care.

I came clean a couple of months back about our struggles and it was a huge relief. I always felt like I was holding something back from you guys and now there are so many more things I can blog about now that you know most of the details. Also, since then I've been reading so many blogs by people who have either been laid off or whose loved ones have been laid off. It's made me realize that we are not alone.

Since that post of mine, Mr. Daddy and I have really been working to pay off our debt. We've paid off three cards and just started working on the 4th this month. If I had actually written a physical check for the nearly $1000 I just sent Bank of America, I would have written SUCK IT in the memo field. I was saying it in my mind, though.

There's an old hymn that instructs us to "Count your blessings, name them one by one" and so I'm going to take a moment to write about a few things I'm thankful for:

1. I'm thankful that Mr. Daddy and I have been able to make such progress on our paying off our debts.

2. I'm thankful that we had enough extra money for me to buy a plane ticket so I could go and see AndreAnna this September (Woot!) Also joining us? Annabelle Speaks, Pseudostoops, Campenette, Belle Plaine, and McMama. If I left anybody out, I apologize. I've never met any of these women in real life, but I've gotten to know them all via their blogs and Twitter over the past couple of weeks. And AndreAnna is one of my most consistent commenters (and one of my favorite bloggers), so I'm super thrilled to finally get to the hang with her.

3. Mr. Daddy is able to fulfill a dream of his: to register for the introductory blacksmithing class at the John C. Campbell Folk School this November.

4. We were able to buy the kids' back to school clothes without worrying where the money was going to come from.

I know all this is money related and I don't want it to seem like we're Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks all of a sudden, or seem like I'm bragging, but I just cannot tell you what an absolute relief it is to be able to do these things. For so many months, nay years, we had our noses to the grindstone without room for any extras. There were literally times when we were down to $5 or less before payday. So to finally be able to breathe and have a little fun, well that feels pretty darn good.

Throughout our financial troubles, Mr. Daddy and I have tried to continue our charitable giving. We give weekly to our church. Our Sunday school class provided food for needy kids to take home on the weekends. Mr. Daddy sends money occasionally to Make A Wish and I send money pretty regularly to the USO. I believe in paying it forward. So, in honor of the many, many blessings we have received, I want to make a gift. In your name.

Leave a comment with the name of your favorite charity by 11:59 p.m. on August 4th. I will use a random number generator to select one of the comments and then I will make a $50 donation in your name to the charity of your choice.

The way I see it, this way everybody wins.