Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas is In The Bag

On Christmas Eve morning I awoke to Jasper sitting up in bed whispering loudly (and that is not an oxymoron - you would have to hear him whispering to know what I mean but let it suffice to say that when Jasper whispers, it sounds like it probably hurts), "Happy Christmas Eve, Dude." He calls me dude. He used to call me honey. Now he calls me dude. Sometimes he says, "Mom, Dude....did you see what (insert tattling here)" Because he has older brothers who breathe the word "dude" as if it were some sort of uncontrollable tic. Hence the five-year-old and the duding thing.

We spent the day preparing our Christmas Eve feast (tamales, guacamole, Spanish rice etc), doing some last minute wrapping and even some last minute shopping. It was really a very nice and festive day.

When it began to get dark and the kids were frosting Santa's cookies....we were anxiously anticipating the arrival of The Guests (my dad and sister). My sister doesn't have any children and this works out well for my kids, who are the grateful lone recipients of my sister's holiday shopping and over-indulgence in the latest, greatest toy-buying excursions. She thinks I had so many kids to make up for the fact that she didn't have any. When I became pregnant with the 5th, my sister was like, "Really. I probably would have only had one kid. You can stop now." **But how many times do I have to say it? We're just sexually irresponsible. We really aren't trying to make anyone else miserable with our mass production of the offspring. That has just been an unexpected bonus.

Anyway, my sister might as well be Santa for all the excitement her arrival stirs up. She usually arrives carrying a Great Big Bag of poorly wrapped presents (my sister has never been bothered with attention to details); sometimes more than one Great Big Bag.

This year was no exception and her entrance was met with, "Auntie's here!" and the resulting stampede of little people trying to peek in the bag.

This Bag.

Yep, my people. She brought their goodies in an Abercrombie bag of ummmm....great proportions. Really great. Proportionally speaking. And all I could think was, "Good Lord don't rip the *&%ing bag! I WANT that bag."

I said, "I can't believe you brought their gifts in that bag."

And my sister, the one who isn't much for details, said, "What's wrong with it? It's just a bag."

Just a bag?? On whose bag-o-meter? This, my cheerful Christmasy friends, is THE BEST BAG I HAVE EVER SEEN. Just a bag, my a$$.

And the children? Noticed the bag. My sister continued with the innocent "what?" business.

I was reminded of the time my mother had hastily prepared a gift bag for my little 7-year-old cousin's birthday. When she handed the kid the gift bag everyone became very quiet and my mom was like, "What's the deal?" Then my aunt pointed out that the bag said (in bright, bold letters), "BIRTHDAYS ARE A BITCH". My mom was mortified. "I just grabbed a bag! Honestly!" she stammered.

Since our family loves holidays even more when they can somehow be made inappropriate, the bag continued to make the rounds for years and years after that day, showing up at basically every family birthday party. The first time it failed to show everyone participated in accusations against each other in the form of, "You had the bag last time! What did you do with it?" You would have thought the family heirloom diamonds had been lost.

Anyway, the Abercrombie bag was soon emptied of its various presents and I then informed my sister that I was keeping the bag. I really don't get out to malls much and when am I going to have another opportunity like this? Huh?

"No, I'm taking it home with me," she said.

"No, you're not," I said. "You didn't even give me a birthday present so I'm keeping the bag."

"I told you I was combining your birthday and Christmas presents!"

(Mean trick I have been subjected to basically MY ENTIRE FREAKING SAGITTARIAN LIFE!)

"No, sorry. The bag stays. Ellie take it from your aunt."

I sent in Ellie because the kid has no fear. She was successful in retrieving the bag, although it suffered some minor damage in the scuffle.

"Aha!" I said like the World's Greatest Dictator. "Take it to my meditation nook."

Now Ellie is smirking. "Are you going to meditate on it?"

"Just do what I say. I have very little joy in my life. Also? The most wicked thing I ever do anymore is toss a can into the trash instead of the recycling when nobody's looking. And even then, I usually dig it out later because I start feeling guilty. SO GO PUT THE BAG IN MY MEDITATION NOOK AND DON'T GIVE ME ANYMORE GRIEF ABOUT IT!!"

I won. The bag is mine. I am so wicked. Merry Christmas to Me.

After the wicked bag scuffle, my dad came limping/dragging in. My dad broke his leg, recently. He's doing better but he's still on a walker and using a wheelchair. And yes, I'm sure this is entirely inappropriate and offensive, but we have been calling him Tiny Tim. 'Tis the season and all that. But instead of cooperating with a "God Bless Us, Everyone!" he bellowed, "Somebody bring me a shot of tequila!"

La Chaim! After this he broke out into If I were a rich man....biddy biddy biddy.......just teasing. He didn't really. It would have been cool, though. 'Cause he is looking the part.

We had fewer gifts under the tree this year. We're trying to be more moderate. (Stop laughing)

Jasper, being the youngest, made the most impressive haul. 'Cause his toys are all relatively cheap and he is freaking easy to make happy. "Oh my God!! Crayons!! Thank you!!" followed by tears of joy, actual weeping, etc.

Jasper likes to give as well as receive. And you never know what you're going to get when you're on the receiving end, either. Last year Jules noticed that quite a few of his turtles from his turtle collection were missing and I noticed that quite a few of the wrapped gifts under the tree were there ya go.

Ellie is madly saving money for her Seattle trip so she made gifts. She's learning to crochet and knit and so Camille and Jasper received scarves.

I got some little wash cloths. She tied them up and they looked adorable.

Ellie made a decent haul, although it was mostly practical things. My dad got her a graphing calculator she needs for calculus.....we bought her a metronome to replace the one she broke....that sort of thing.

The boys did well, each receiving mostly games for their Nintendo DS's, the X Box, the PlayStation, and the Wii. Yes, we are that kind of family. Sigh. Jeff says Joel can't do anything around the farm that can't be accomplished with his thumbs :). After Ellie played some Bach for my dad on the piano, Joel showed off by playing Halo on the X Box. My dad applauded after both performances.

From Jeff, I received a bottle of Repasado Tequila in a pretty blue bottle with two little sipping glasses (not shot glass per say, this stuff is meant to be sipped - it is REALLY good). What can I say? He likes to get me drunk. I got him a new pewter ladle he'd had his eye on. What can I say? I like to watch him cook. He loves to cook. I also got him the latest Clive Cussler book because when he's not cooking or hemming a dress or sewing on a button he likes to read manly books.

So after all the eating and the giving and receiving and the rounds of tequila and utter nonsense...we all began to hastily prepare for Santa's arrival...jammies, tooth brushing, setting out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and apples for the reindeer....and of course....turning off the electric fence. Welcome to Guantanamo, Santa! That's right. We have an electric fence. And we had to turn it off because we ARE NOT GOING TO GO DOWN AS THE PEOPLE WHO KILLED SANTA.

Why do we have an electric fence around our yard? Well, nothing says "welcome" like the buzzing of an electrified fence. Also? We are having a small problem with the wiener dog known as Schnitzel. She is really, really old. And she apparently cannot tell when she is emptying either her bowels or her bladder. In other words, the dang dog is incontinent. And my husband has banished her during the day to the (gasp) yard because he felt that disastrous early morning squish beneath his foot one too many times. The banishment resulted in Schnitzel's scratching at the door. Incessantly. And that resulted in irritation on my end and massive scratches on the door's end. Hence the electric fence to keep her off of our front porch. I, personally, think this is overkill. And so the dog is usually still in our house, safely guarded by an electric fence.

All I can say is God help me should I ever become incontinent. My guess is I'd be tossed outside on the other side of the fence. Fine. Just make sure I've got all my belongings in my Abercrombie bag.

Merry Christmas, My Friends! And Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, and Anything Else I Might Have Forgotten.....

Signing Off as a Merry-Making Sardine Mama

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crowding Out Santa and a Really Long Meme

I successfully turned 45 without a hitch! It was a great day!

I woke up to waffles and these. Yellow roses are my favorite and there were 24 of them! One for every year we've been married (it will be 24 years next month).And then? We all got ready to go visit Santa. All of us. Every single one. Even the teenagers. Because this is my birthday tradition. Everyone has to be nice to me on my birthday and this is how I get the teenagers on Santa's lap ever year. It is awesome. This year we overwhelmed Santa. You can barely see him.
Jasper was very nervous. And he should have been nervous. Because he is a toot with a capital "T" and if I were him I would have been very nervous. But Santa seemed perfectly happy to see him, promised him a bike, and even told him he loved him. Jasper chatted him up but good.

Camille choked again. She always chokes. Santa says, "How are you? What would you like for Christmas?" And then it is just like that scene from A Christmas Story. She says nothing. Just stands there with a ridiculous look on her face. She always resorts to Backup Plan A - which is to mutely hand him her letter.

Jules informed Santa he wanted a game for his Nintendo-thing. Then Santa asked the big kids what they wanted - and the big kids go along because they have a small audience of We're-in-the-Presence-of-Santa-Oh-My-God!!! little people. Santa called Ellie "Princess" and that seemed to piss her off. Nobody calls The Princess "princess". You know what I mean? Because she is The Princess and it has always kind of been a case of all of us just doing what she says so nobody gets hurt. And she takes offense to being called "princess".

There were no misunderstandings between Joel and Santa this year! Last year when Joel said he wanted "high quality pens" Santa replied, "What's that? You want some high quality pants?" and the little people were all stressed out worrying that Joel was going to get pants for Christmas.

Our coffee table in our living room is full of framed Santa pictures going back to the very beginning.....a very tiny and very unhappy baby on Santa's lap. Then a little girl standing in front of Santa (twisting her hair) while in the background, Santa holds a screaming baby boy....(Ellie had refused to get anywhere near Santa....he probably called her a princess or something). Then we have Jules added to the pics, and Camille, and then Jasper. I don't know why this tradition and these pictures make me so happy but they really do!

When we came home Jeff whipped up some of these (spinach enchiladas verdes)...

And served them on my favorite Christmas plates..... And followed it up with an orange / chocolate cake and lots and lots of off-key singing.

I suppose if a person has to turn 45, this is as good a way to do it as any, and better than most.

NOW - Here's for a VERY VERY VERY VERY LONG Christmas meme. I dare you to get to the end of it. I triple dog dare you to put it on your own blog. Also? I am tired and the spacing is erratic and I really don't want to fix it. So humor me. Just scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll. It is like scrolling while drunk or something. Which is not at all like trolling while drunk, which is something college boys do.

The Tree
1. When Do You Put Up the Tree?
The first weekend in December.

2. Real or Fake?
Fake. Jeff loves a faux fir for some bizarre reason. He claims he can't have a real tree because of allergies and then he sneezes his a$$ off while putting up the dusty fake one. Next year? A real tree!! (I say that every year. It feels like saying "Next year in Jerusalem!!")

3. Lights - What Color?
We like the lights. Multi-colored IN ADDITION to the white ones that came on the fake tree.

4. Garland?
No. Gold beads that are a pain in the neck but Ellie gets them all just perfect.

5. Theme or No Theme?
Themes are for wimps. Seriously. We have everything under the sun hanging on our tree, including the odd trash item now and then. Currently we have some packing foam that Jasper put on hooks adorning our tree. And a stick-figure reindeer drawn on lined notebook paper. Because there is no teacher here helping the little rascals make cute ornaments.

6. What Kind of Topper?
Angel. The very top of her head is missing (she took a fall a few years ago) but you can't tell when she's on the tree.

7. What's Your Favorite Ornament?
A red rocking chair my mom gave me when I was pregnant for the first time. I also have a little teapot I love that my friend, Gayle, gave me. And there are some neat-o stick pin ornaments that Ellie made once. Also - the packing foam is growing on me. It looks like a sleigh from a certain angle.

8. What does your tree skirt look like?
It has the Big Red Dude on it. In sequins!

9. Where Do You Put Your Tree?
The living room window and this is just the second year in 17 years that it doesn't look like the Department of Homeland Security put it up. We used to have a really huge wall/gate around it like it was the Mexican border or something. And Jasper still can't leave the dang thing alone. He just wants to touch it touch it touch it touch it......

10. Who Decorates the Tree?
The kids, of course! After they go to bed I often do a little work to redistribute things (or ellie does).

11. What's Under the Tree?
Gifts! And the older the kids get, the smaller the gifts get. No more gigantic plastic play sets, etc....more and more it is CD's, DVD's, video games....little things. Much neater, I must say.

12. Do You Put Candy Canes On Your Tree?
Those of you who know Jasper are laughing. Let's can I say this? Candy is to Jasper what Crack is to a Junkie. He cannot handle it. So any candy canes that made it onto the tree would be gone in under a second - he'd eat the plastic and all. We don't bother.

About the Food:
1. What's Your Favorite Christmas Cookie?
I like snickerdoodles and those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss on top. Those are my faves!!

2. Do You Bake Cookies and Give Them Away?
Sometimes. I try to. If Karen can do it then anyone can (she has almost twice as many kids as me and puts me to shame).

3. Any Special Foods You Have Only at Christmas?
Fudge is a Christmas treat we make on Rudolph night.

4. What Do You Eat Christmas Eve?
Are you seriously asking me this? Have I not pledged my loyalty and faithfulness to Tejas enough on this blog? On Christmas Eve we enjoy TexMex tamales like other real Texans GOSH! Half of them are bean/cheese for the vegetarians. We also have guacamole, bean chili, chili con queso, and Spanish rice.

5. What Do You Eat Christmas Day?
Official Texas laws give us a little more leeway on this one. It varies. This year my dad is bringing a brisket that was given to him as a gift. Since our family is multi-cultural-ethnic-religious yada yada yada.....we'll have sides of latkas and noodle kugel and some delicious acorn squash.

6. Do You Like Eggnog?
I make my Daddy Jim's special tradition. It is delicious. But we tend to do this on New Year's Eve.

7. Do You Like Candy Canes?
Not a fan. There is no chocolate on a candy cane.

About The Decorations:
1. Where Do You Hang Your Stockings?
We have the most awesome stockings. Whenever I announced a pregnancy, my Aunt Flo set to work making a stocking. Each child has their own beautifully adorned stocking - the needlework is fantastic and we've sewn the children's baby rings above their names. Aunt Flo died on Jasper's 2nd birthday so he doesn't really remember her. It is lovely to hear him say, "Here is my stocking Great Aunt Flo made!!" They hang on the knobs of an antique buffet in our den.

2. Do You Put Lights on Your House?
Yes...just one string of colored lights.

3. Got Any Outside Lawn Decorations?
We gave up. It is too windy on this hill - nothing will stay put.

4. Do You Put Up a Nativity?
Didn't the ACLU outlaw those? God - I'm just teasing. Don't anyone get started or I'll be forced to tell you Happy Holidays as an insult. Because I am CERTAIN that is what people mean when they say Happy Holidays. Unlike the people who say, "Merry Christmas and I'm not afraid to say it!!" with uber angry and challenging expressions on their faces....

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. We used to have a lovely glass one and, as you can imagine, it looked quite ragged after awhile (missing hands on the wise men, etc). We had a clay one we bought in Puerto Vallarta when I was pregnant with Ellie only we couldn't put it up because it made me nauseous to look at it (I was nauseous when we bought it and what can I say? I'm sensitive that way.) We had a couple of others that were missing various important people.....This year we don't have one up. We're not AGAINST them, mind you.....I'm a Jesus fan for sure.

5. Do You Hang Mistletoe Over Your Door?
Jeff already can't keep his hands off of me. He couldn't handle any botanical incentives :). Seriously, we used to. But now with Schnitzel being mostly senile - I'm afraid she'd eat it. Plenty of it growing in the trees outside, though!

6. Got a Wreath on Your Front Door?

No, come to think of it! Where the heck is it? I know we have one...

7. How Long Does it Take You to Decorate?
We never stop. As long as there is packing foam to be found....

About the Movies/Shows:

1. Favorite Christmas TV Show?
My new favorite is The Polar Express. I love it love it love it. But we like to kick it old school with Rudolph and Frosty, too. And the Grinch!! I guess that is my all-time fave.

2. A Wonderful Life / Miracle on 34th Street / A Christmas Carol
It isn't Christmas for Ellie without Its a Wonderful Life. She had friends over last week and I served them cookies, kettle corn, and hot cocoa. For me? It is Scrooge all the way! For my 6th Birthday my family took me to see the scared the crap out of me and made me cry. Therefore it became my Favorite. Because I am weird that way.

3. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Christmas Vacation DUH. Also? A Christmas Story. And see above. Elf is funny, too.

4. Have you ever seen the Nutcracker Suite Ballet live?
Yes. And thank God my sister takes Camille every year because... I enjoyed it once. Pretty much right up until intermission. I have a short attention span....

5. Ever Been to the Radio City Music Hall Show?
That was a mean question. No.

6. Ever Gone to the Movies on Christmas Day?

No. We like to hang out stuffing ourselves and watching the kids play while nursing dull headaches.....the results of pulling an all-nighter and topping it off with a shot of Patron.

Other Christmas Things:

1. Favorite Christmas Books?
I love to read the original A Christmas Carol by Dickens. We're reading it now at tea time every day. We're on the Ghost of Christmas Future. I also love The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. And Olive, the Other Reindeer! And If You Take a Mouse to the Movies....Our coffee table is COVERED with Christmas books. We read some every day!

2. Do You Stuff Your Stockings With Any Types of Food?
Our kids are foodies and Santa puts weird stuff in their stockings. I hear that this year he's bringing them some tiny gouda rounds....and of course...candy. Putting candy in Jasper's stocking is how Santa punishes me. I don't hang one so he's got no place to leave my lump of coal, you see.

3. Do You Go to Church on Christmas or Christmas Eve?
I used to love Midnight Mass. I would still love it, I'm sure. But we're secularists (currently) - so no, we don't go.

4. Have You Ever Gone Caroling?
Of course!

5. Favorite Christmas Carol?
O Holy Night - always makes me cry.

6. Do You Believe in Santa?
With all my heart. But I'm totally fine if you don't. I won't make you believe in Santa or tell you Christmas is less your holiday than mine if you don't.

7. Do You Leave Santa Cookies?
You bet! And sometimes a shot of Patron. And the reindeer get carrots.

8. What About Rudolph?
An apple for Rudolph.

9. What Was Your Best Christmas Gift?
I've received so many throughout the years! But one that stands out as particularly special was a turquoise Barbie Carousel Kitchen!!

10. Worst Gift?
I honestly can't think of one. For Mother's Day I once received a carefully wrapped cow's tooth but that's another story for another holiday.

11. Do You Go To a "Work" Christmas Party?
Jeff offices out of our home. His company is located in Pennsylvania - quite a hop from here. So, no. But occasionally we get invited to customers' parties.

12. Do You Hate Going?

13. Do You Send Christmas Cards?
Usually, but not this year. I've decided not to be a slave to my traditions. This year I've done only what I've had time for and it has been a most enjoyable season so far.

14. Do You Make a List?
For what I want??? No. I don't even want anything. Jeff and I struggle to provide for 5 kids - watching them get what they want is a wonderful gift for us both. Our gift to each other is always a weekend away for our anniversary (right after Christmas). But of course I make lists for what I'd like to give to others....I wouldn't be able to keep up with it, otherwise!

15. Do You Check it Twice and Thrice?
Constantly. I can't ever remember what I've bought for who.
16. When do You Start Shopping?
When the money's there....I can't start too early because the little'uns change their minds so much!

17. Do You Shop on Black Friday?
Nothing sounds less enjoyable than Black Friday.

18. Are You Ready for Christmas?
How can you not be? Like the Grinch comes anyway! Personally, I don't ever want to feel like I have to "work" to get ready for a holiday. I have experienced that sensation a few times and it isn't pretty. This year - I'm letting go of some perfectionism, some traditions I thought we "had" to keep, and a few extracurricular activities that really just served to keep me from doing things I'd rather be doing. So - YES - this year I am ready. Every last gift isn't bought, much less wrapped. Things haven't yet been mailed that need to be mailed. I haven't done as much baking as I probably should have in order to show my appreciation for all of the wonderful people in our little family / learning community. But I'm sure that when Christmas morning rolls around, I will discover that "It came just the same!" So yes! I'm ready! I'm alive, I'm kicking, and I shall be merry even if it kills me.

Signing Off as Sardine Mama on an Uncharacteristically Silent Night

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Distressed Aging Among Wood and Women

Shall I be like everybody else and say that I can't believe Christmas is almost here? Yes! I think I shall!

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. Also? I can't believe my birthday is almost here. I will be 45 on Tuesday. I am not entirely happy about it. The turning 45 part. I'm not aging well, as of late. Because as of late, I have been aging. As of earlier? I was doing pretty well in that regard. People were like, "You're 40? Seriously? You look like you're 30!!" I guess I kind of thought that would continue. But now, people say, "You're almost 45? Happy Birthday!" I wait. Nothing else comes. They seem to be done.

I can no longer count the wrinkles or gray hair. They are now officially countless. Should I just let my hair go gray? It is an idea I am toying with. I doubt seriously I'll ever do it, though.

I have friends of all ages. I don't tend to think too much about it. But occasionally I'll be talking to someone, maybe someone I've just met, and I've noticed that I automatically assume the person I'm talking to is older than me if they are anywhere near my age. Why do I do that? I'll be talking to someone I think of as "an older woman" and then be stunned to discover she is a year or two younger than me. This happened fairly recently as I was waiting on one of my kids to finish with a lesson. First of all - the woman had at least one grandchild she was proudly talking about. So my mind went, "a grandma" and put her in the grandma category - a category of which I am still light years away from because there is no way in hell my kid is ever going out with Levi Johnston.

**OK - time out for a little OT. Can't help myself. Yes - any girl can get pregnant. Yes - lovely, nice, respectable girls do get pregnant. Lovely, nice, and respectable girls do have, and act on, perfectly normal biological urges with nice, respectable boys and it makes them all very human and nothing more. And I am not criticizing Bristol Palin - who quite honestly, seems like a lovely kid and I mean that. But where was her mama when the young and naive and hormone-ridden Bristol walked through the door with.....LEVI JOHNSTON? What about this kid made Sarah say, "What a nice young man!" ?? I'm not saying I could ever control who my kid climbs out a window to see.....but Levi was considered a fine "date" for Bristol. He was welcomed into their home. If I had shown up with Levi at my house at that age? My mama would have had that kid pegged in 2.5 seconds or less and he'd have been out the door. I know this because I tried with a couple of versions of Levi, one of whom went to jail later, and my mom said, "Who the hell didn't see that one coming?" Because my mama was a smart cat. And I am a smart cat. And if my daughters were to ever show up here with Levi Johnston - he would get the old Texas boot - believe me. And if the worst happened - and they crawled out their windows anyway - and a baby resulted - we would not be pushing the marriage deal even if I was up for VP (which would be highly unlikely but you never know because DUH Sarah Palin was up and I am more qualified!!!) with LEVI JOHNSTON. If anyone needed any evidence that Palin was lacking in judgement - HELLO - there is Levi Johnston, father of her grandchild, showing his stellar fathering skills by posing naked with a hockey stick!! She thought, at one time, that he would be a fine son-in-law?

Now, where was I? Oh yes. The old lady I was talking to who turned out to be younger than me. She had what I consider to be an older woman's haircut. She had on what I consider to be an older woman's pair of walking shoes. There was a Christmas tree on her sweatshirt. And she was a perfectly lovely woman. I mean that. I enjoyed talking to her. Of the two of us - there is, I'm certain, way more wrong with me. But obviously, she crossed a line, at some point, that I have not. She grew up. What causes this growing up and when am I going to do it? When am I going to wake up with a Christmas tree on my sweatshirt yelling at my kids to "turn down that noise you call music!" When is my ringtone going to change to something other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers Hump de Bump? When am I going to be offended by words like hump? When am I going to stop thinking my 15-year-old son is hilarious and tell him to get serious about something....anything? When am I going to turn clueless as to what my kids are up to? When am I going to stop contemplating my next tattoo? When am I going to become financially responsible, carry a handbag, and wear some effing sensible shoes? When am I going to stop saying "effing"? I honestly don't know. But I don't think it is going to happen next Tuesday. I'll let you know.

I have already received my birthday present. Do you remember when I posted awhile back about how much I hated my floor? The vinyl floor that has been in this house since my husband was in jr. high? Well - my husband read the post and was concerned about this misery over the floor. And he was surprised. I find his surprise surprising because I have only been beating my breasts, gnashing my teeth, and ripping my hair out over this floor for the past 13 years (since we moved in). He hadn't noticed, apparently.

Anyway.....right before Thanksgiving he and the kids started ripping up the floor. He knew there was wood underneath. He didn't think we'd want to keep the wood uncovered permanently, "It isn't very pretty," he said. "Just some nasty old pine, I think." But....WE LOVE IT! The kitchen came first and it is some yellow pine. To say it looks rustic is an understatement. And of course, it is all nailed down and there are nail holes and nails and scuff marks, etc. But it looks good, I think. I mean, this is a farmhouse, right?

When we got to the dining room we were surprised to find red oak. Even better! Jeff's brother said the red oak was in the house that was here before this one - the house his parents lived in and then tore down, later. And the rest is "scrap lumber". Some is black and is from a house that burned down. Some had been painted blue and a little bit of the blue remains. It all looks very distressed which is good because it is old and all and it seems fitting that for my 45th birthday, I should receive something old and distressed, much like myself.

*Let's play I Spy. Who can spy my glasses? A teapot? A straw hat? A yellow fluorescent lantern? Jasper's feet? A red plaid shirt? The nasty old vinyl floor that still leads down the hallway to the kids' rooms?

See where the wood changes between the kitchen and the dining room where the red oak begins?

I am so dang happy about this I can't even express it. Our previous floor was *the* floor used in movies when they wanted to designate a setting as a "70's scene". Seriously. We've seen it in several movies, including Apollo 13. While there are a few things I fondly remember from the 70' vinyl flooring is not among them. Good riddance, ugly effing floor.

OK - we've got to go hang our Christmas lights. Jeff is sick with a cold. I'm trying not to be mad about it. I think he's good for climbing up the ladder. We'll certainly find out.

The lights are strictly for us, you know? I mean, we're on a ranch. There aren't many drive-bys. And we keep it simple. But oh how I LOVE driving up our long dirt lane to see our house sitting bright in a dark pasture! However would Santa find us, otherwise?

I'm signing off as an Ungracefully Distressed and Aging Yet O-So-Jolly Sardine Mama!

Friday, December 4, 2009

We Could Use Some Restraints. Seriously.

My cheesy friend over at Shaggy Boys just posted to her blog about this blog post. Grilled Cheese Chick is one of my homeschooling mentors. I like her. She's not weird. Well, not in a bad way. She's not a purist or a zealot about homeschooling. Purists and zealots make me incredibly nervous - no matter what it is that they are going off about. If you are just too dang excited about whatever it is you're talking about? And your eyes are all lit up like the 4th of July? I am less inclined to believe a word you say. 'Cause you are crazy and all. And lacking perspective.

When we first began considering homeschooling it seemed that I met a lot of those lit-up types and that was what caused me to take my sweet-ass time in making our Big Decision to Homeschool. The homeschooling community is great but it does seem to have an inordinate amount of crazy people. As opposed to the public school community where everyone is normal. (Just teasing - I'm saying that out loud so none of you defensive types get defensive).

Anyway, like I was saying, Grilled Cheese Chick isn't all lit up...about anything. She homeschools - except for when her kids have asked to go to school. She unschools - except for when she doesn't. She sets up schedules and organizes their activities and runs a tight ship - except for when it starts leaking. In other words - the chick is keepin' it real, so to speak. And that is why I consider her an expert. Also? She has 3 kids who can mostly read and write and one who is at the University of Texas (doing very well). I'm not sure but I think that her 100% success rate (thus far) exceeds that of the school down the street. And? Her boys are cute.

OK - back to the blog. It is called Beginnings on Education and the post was written by a girl named Kristen who is an elementary education major at Salem State College. She states she is not a fan of homeschooling. She also states she doesn't know any homeschoolers. Then she draws conclusions - because that would be the next logical step.

First of all - Kristen is a cutie pie. For sure. And she's somebody's pride and joy, no doubt. I bet she's a good student and I bet she'll make a good teacher. So, I'm not beating up on Kristen at all. And quite frankly, I didn't approve of homeschooling until it appeared that it might benefit my family. So no judgements on Kristen - and let's keep it sweet if we respond (either here or on Kristen's blog).

She lists quite a few advantages of homeschooling, and a few disadvantages, most of which are described as "restraints". Personally? I could use some restraints. Several of the duct tape variety come to mind.

*I just told my husband what I'm blogging about today and, as the boys came charging through the house, he said, "That is the sound of unrestrained homeschooling."

Anyway, Grilled Cheese Chick gave her own take on the disadvantages and restraints...and lacking any creativity of my own this morning, I am copying my cheesy friend and doing the same. So here are the disadvantages listed by Kristen on her blog and in her own words:


Time Restraints. Parents' lives are completely turned upside down when they choose to homeschool their children. It consumes a lot of their time. Planning education activities from day to day can be draining for one person.

Oh man, where do I start? Time time time time time....we finally have some! When Ellie and Joel were in school (they made it thru 3rd and 1st grades, respectively) we had no time together as a family. No time to take trips together, no time to play games together, no time to even go out to dinner together. Why? Homework, for one. And the fact that my kids were basically MIA for 7 hours a day (minimum).
We are done with schoolwork (on the days we have schedules) by noon. Done. Totally. Evenings? Are ours. And there's no homework unless you call watching NOVA together, or curling up together to read some Dickens, or hanging out in the backyard with a telescope until...well....the morning, homework. I don't know who Kristen talked to, but even the very rigid homeschoolers I know rarely have this complaint.

So Disadvantage #1? Is a huge advantage from where we sit. Right now? It is noon here. Ellie is playing the piano, Camille is doing some phonics work out of a little workbook right next to me, Jasper, Joel, and Jules are running around outside freaking out because it is unnaturally cold here and they are loving it loving it loving it! In a moment they will come in for some hot tea and we'll continue reading Dickens out loud. Not because it is necessary for school, but because we love the dickens out of Dickens (especially this time of year!). And next week? We're heading to Corpus Christi with my husband while he works there. In the middle of the week. Because we have the time to do so :).


Financial Restraints. For married parents, usually one takes on the full-time job and the other stays home to homeschool. This can be a big hit to a family's financial situation.

Bingo. We make substantially less than many two-income families. But we're not a single income family because we homeschool. We made the decision to live on one income way before we decided to homeschool. We know several homeschooling families where both parents work - so this doesn't even apply to them. Now, homeschooling, in general, can be expensive. I am waiting for the next paycheck so I can order Jules's next math book. But lots of families get by without buying the things I choose to buy - many simply utilize their public libraries. Also? Joel got through the entire summer and fall with two pairs of shorts. And he has two pairs of jeans to get him through the winter. And he's fine with that - 'cause he doesn't go to school and have to worry about a wardrobe. Ellie's closet consists of jeans, t-shirts, and performance gowns (strange combination, I know). So we save A TON on the "have to haves" school parents deal with. My kids don't even know what it is they have to have, poor little sheltered things that they are.


Being with your children 24/7. Making the decision to homeschool your children means they are around you all day long. You have no time off.

Here's a thought: if you don't want to actually take care of the little things you birth? Don't birth the little things. I think one of society's problems today is that parents expect everyone else (the schools, the churches, the daycares) to raise their kids. Ask any teacher. They go way beyond "education" in what they are expected to do for students nowadays.

Now, I'd like to be all high and mighty here - and say that it is all rosy being with your kids all day every day. But that would be unfair and possibly cause some readers to immediately request prescription medications under the "what the hell is wrong with me?" guise. Because it isn't always fun being with kids 24/7. But, as a stay at home mom, I got over this before my kids were school-age. And they're easier to be with all day when they're older. I ENJOY being with my big kids. Really. We have a blast together. I usually enjoy being with 7-year-old, and I occasionally enjoy being with the 5-year-old. The rest of the time I tolerate being with the 5-year-old, knowing that his condition is one that is simply temporary insanity. None of the other 4 remained 5-year-olds forever and I'm assuming Jasper won't, either. So yeah. Pass the tequila and tomorrow's another day.

Before I had highschoolers, I was definitely more tied down to my home and kids than I would have been had they been in school. But that was a relatively short period of my life. And it was a sacrifice I'm glad I made. But it was a sacrifice. Now? If I want to have lunch with friends I simply do. I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old who are more than capable of holding down the fort so I can take a sanity break with a girlfriend. If you are planning to go into the mommy gig without making sacrifices? Well, just get ready to start them in "school" at 6 weeks. Eventually, someone like Kristen will raise them for you. But yeah, don't homeschool.


Limited Activities. If a child does not attend school it has limitations. (I'm sorry - did future teacher Kristen really just call "a child" it?) Your child will not be able to join a school sports team or club. Also school related activities such as dances and events will not be in the cards for them. This can cause friendship restraints.

God how I wish we had limited activities. Really. Because what with all the clubs, sports, classes, parties, and other activities? I am running myself ragged. Actually, in some states I believe homeschooled kids can participate in school activities. My kids can't. And I admit that I am dang sad that they can't be in the marching band. 'Cause I was in the marching band. And my husband was in the marching band. And we still live in the same town where we both went to school and the dang marching band is still amazingly awesome GO MIGHTY TIGER BAND!! YOU ROCK!! Anyway - so there are trade-offs. But my kid made her debut with the San Antonio Symphony, instead. And she played in a groovy all-girl rock band for awhile. And my son will probably end up in a band - he is headed in that direction. Sports? We've done soccer, basketball, and tae kwon do. We know a homeschooler who is probably going to go to college on a baseball scholarship, and another who could go on a soccer scholarship. So....yeah. That's not really an issue. Pretty much anyone who knows anything about homeschooling could tell you that.
As for dances? My daughter has gone to the prom once and intends to go again this year. And it is a dang nice prom, too. At a country club. With shrimp. That she won't eat 'cause she's a vegetarian. Which is a crying shame and a waste of shrimp, if you ask me.

That's it for the disadvantages. But Kristen goes on to say that she "strongly feels a child should be placed in a school environment. Even though there are ups and downs, that is how they learn.....They need to be able to experience their youth by attending school events and having friends inside the school."

First of is not horrible for most kids. I went to school. I loved school. I have fond memories of school. But not all kids can say this. Some kids do have a horrible time in school. Some get beat up or worse (watch the news). Some get bullied. Some never quite recover from the bullying and have lifelong issues resulting from it. So you can't just make blanket statements that cover everyone who homeschools or everyone who doesn't. Because these are individuals we're talking about. And I don't think the schools do a really good job of respecting individuality.

I once had a woman say, "Aren't you afraid your kids are gonna be weird if you don't put them in school?" Really? My kids were gonna be weird anyway :). Seriously, though. Are there no weird kids in school? There were weird kids in school when I was a kid. We all knew who they were, where they sat, who they hung out with.....are they not there anymore? If they are there, I bet they wish they were homeschooled :).

Here are some random pics of my kids being totally unrestrained by homeschooling. Because I like to prove a point.

Here is Camille with her two homeschooled friends at last year's dance recital. Yes! They take dance! With School Kids and Everything!

Here's Homeschool Co-Op waiting for their Chinese Food (Chinese lanterns hanging up behind them). Yes! They're visiting and socializing!

Here's Ellie rehearsing with the San Antonio Symphony. She's the one sitting behind the piano - I know. It isn't the same as a high school band but it is almost as good!

Joel and Jules with some of the kids on their Odyssey team last year. (Joel has his hair behind his ears intentionally - "take a picture of me with a mullet!") These guys won a Ranatra Fusca for Extreme Creativity - the highest honor give by Odyssey of the Mind. And yes! They competed against School Kids!

Homeschoolers marching for justice....El on her cell phone, of course. Yes! Homeschoolers use cell phones! To call other lonely, restrained homeschoolers!

Thank God I have weened my kids off of team sports!! Yay!! Hurray for martial arts!! No all-day-long games and zillions of practices....and TKD teaches really great skills, both physically and otherwise.

Homeschoolers can put on goofy Holiday Shows just like the schools. Jules proves it.

Here's Ellie's Odyssey of the Mind Team with a bunch of girls from Singapore at the Freakin' WORLD FINALS in Maryland!! Yeah, they competed against Real School Kids to get there. Twice, so far.

Here is Joel, Jules, and Camille with their Homeschool Readers Theater Troupe, Life on Stage. Just a bunch of normal homeschoolers hee hee.

Ellie and her band, Heart Corps Rebellion, along with their buddy and guitar guru, Kevin. They played popular music and everything. Like School Kids.

So see? We really can't restrain ourselves from fun and learning. They go hand in hand with our family life...which is relatively unrestrained, in general.
Signing Off as the Headmistress of This Little Sardine School