The Final Tale

 

But first an update on story #1…the narrative of youngest daughter starting school.  Let me share (if you are a veteran reader you already know this) that I am 100% a liberal arts person.  I understand the basics of the birds and the bees and I can tell a conifer from a deciduous tree.  I know what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar.  That’s about it for biology and chemistry.  As far as math goes, let’s just say that I consider it a win if my checkbook balances and I do that everyday so it’s not too many numbers.

Since I have a definitive bias towards art, literature and writing, it is possible that I may have let the math lessons slide a bit.  Youngest daughter also has struggled with the retention of even the most basic of math facts.  Loads of tears, worksheets, computer programs and textbooks later, we finally happened upon something that worked two months ago.

At the beginning of the summer we were still working on addition and subtraction.  It just didn’t make sense to her.We found a computer program that she really enjoyed and with the looming deadline of placement testing for her new school, she had quite a challenge before her.

Keep in mind that she is entering the sixth grade and had to place in fifth grade or better to take math on campus.  At the beginning of the summer she was at a second grade math level.

She tested on Monday and place firmly at the fourth grade level…almost to fifth. They are allowing her to register for the sixth grade math class based on the fact that she accomplished so much over the summer.  I suspect that she is actually really great at math and just needs a teacher who can guide her (someone who can actually do math and isn’t studying ahead trying to remember how to do long division)!

What these words leave out is how truly hard this all was.  Copious tears and meltdowns for both of us.  Me feeling like I had failed her.  She feeling dumb.  Apologies and hugs. Giving up and starting over.  Endless lists of what we needed to get done (me).  Endless doodling on the page meant for figuring out answers (her).

It is done.  She is entering school on the same level as everyone else in her class.  We saw her desk yesterday with her binder laid out and waiting for her.

That made it so real.  And hard.  And happy.  And proud.  And anxious.  And….

on to story #3…

Binky Goes on an Adventure

I love all my kiddos.  I even like them a lot of the time. Honestly there have been times (in all of our lives) when I would have traded them for a fountain diet coke with crushed ice, but I’ve given that addiction up, so it’s a moot point.  I stuck it out…they didn’t run away from home (well, one of the did, but she came home).

When my two girls left home, I thought I would die.  They both left at the same time and dropping them off at college (the same one my husband and I went to) was impossibly hard.  I survived.  They survived and thrived.

But this is my baby boy, Binky.  This unfortunate nickname is no longer in use, but grew out his extended attachment to his pacifier.

He’s been quietly making plans for his future for quite a while.  He’s never been much on sharing the important stuff.  He’ll coast along for a while and then make a big announcement about what he’s about to do and surprise us all.  I knew he’s been trying to figure out this apartment thing.

I just preferred not to think about it.

It’s time for him to move out.  It’s a good plan.  The apartment is further in towards Austin.  Not too far away for him to bring his laundry home and raid the pantry.

I want him to go and build his life.  He’s an adult. My job is done.

But…he’s also still Binky with all the moments and memories that name symbolizes.

What will my life be like with him not in it all the time.

Sleeping soundly through all the malfunctioning smoke alarms going off for 30 minutes while I try to shut them off.

Endlessly sharing sports names and stats while I struggle to appear interested.

Never straightening out his nasty socks so they can be properly washed.

Continually butting heads with his Dad.

Insisting that the vegetables in a Hot Pocket are enough for a healthy diet.

Living in a room that any decent health inspector would condemn.

Planting daffodil bulbs and sunflowers…well, mainly eating dirt, but we tried.

Always knowing when I need a hug…even when I don’t.

This growing up thing is hard.  For Mom’s and kids.

I’m going to go cry for a while.

It will be okay.

In time.

And, of course, I have Barret the dog to keep me company.  Thank you, Jacob.  I really mean it.

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I Should be Asleep…

but I’m not (obviously).

I haven’t felt much like writing out loud…as in on this blog where people can read about me and my life.

I’ve been writing in my head a lot.  Trying to make sense of the events that have happened and are about to happen.

Nothing tragic or serious.  Nobody has died or been diagnosed with a terrible illness.  Just normal life events, but they seem to be happening too frequently for me to handle them.

I feel weak and unstable and lost.  I’m crying a lot.  About nothing.  And everything.

I’m crying now.  Writing things down (out loud) makes them real.  And hard.  And life-changing.

I’ve thought a lot about how to share the stories that have unfolded during the time I haven’t been writing.  There are 3 distinct narratives and I shall share them in the upcoming days and together we shall make sense of this crazy unpredictable thing we call life.

Story #1:

The Youngest Child

Tomorrow, my youngest daughter, will go to take a placement test prior to starting school on the 8th of August.  No big deal, right?  She’s 12 and will be entering the 6th grade at a private school – the same school that I taught art at last year.

Except it is a big deal.  I’ve been homeschooling for over twenty years. Her older sisters were home-schooled almost their entire lives except for Pre-K and 1st grade respectively.  Her older brother never attended school.

Life changes though.  She’s the last one at home and is lonely.  The home-school group we belong to is mostly younger kids.  We live out in the middle of nowhere and friends are few and far between.

It’s the right thing to do.  She’s going to love it.  Her uniforms and books are bought. School supplies are ready.  She’ll attend school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for classroom lessons.  We’ll still home-school some on Tuesday and Thursday.  The best of both worlds.  We’ll still spend time together and she’ll make new friends.  I’ll have a little time to myself…

for the first time in 20 years.  A lot of who I understand myself to be is wrapped up in home-schooling.  I think that it’s true that in committing to raising children we lose a little bit of who we are.

Part of me feels like I’m quitting or giving up…like I’m failing for giving up home-schooling.  I know in my head that this is untrue.  I’ve always tried  to do what’s best for my kids.  Now, attending school is what’s best for this child.

It’s change.  I’m not always comfortable with change…okay, I’m never comfortable with change.  I’m trying to celebrate not having to write lesson plans or set up a classroom.  I’m thinking about things I might do in my free days.  Who knows, I could even clean house!

See what I mean?  It’s not really a big deal, right?  Except it is – to me.  And there is still story #2 and #3.

Stay tuned..I gotta go and stop the new dog from eating more glitter.  That’s a spoiler for story #2.   Not that the dog is eating glitter, but that there is a dog to eat glitter because Matilda, the basset dog and Abbey, the bagel dog may steal food left and right, but they would never eat glitter.

Until tomorrow…

Peace.

 

 

The Ecosystem Under the Fridge

Remember Jiminy and Mulan?  They were the crickets rescued from an untimely death by my youngest.  The ones that were destined to be made into cricket flour granola.  And yes, it’s really a thing – a sustainable, protein-rich food source.

Remember that Mulan escaped and we couldn’t find her because female crickets don’t chirp?  Shortly afterwards Jiminy died.  My daughter believes that he died of a broken heart.  He was determined to escape.  He successfully chewed through the screen two more times before he passed.  I suspect that there is only so much plastic a cricket can ingest before they succumb.

Anyway, it was a sad day.  She carefully placed his remains in an outdoor plant so that he could decompose and complete the “circle of life”.

On with the story…

A couple of nights ago, she notice a tiny (very tiny) light brown cricket on the floor in front of the fridge.  Evidently, Mulan was “with child(ren)” when she escaped.  Much happiness ensued at the realization that the lineage lived on.

I was excited too.  (Sarcasm)  So excited that I thoughtlessly commented, “This will work out great since a tiny green gecko is also living under the fridge.  I’ve noticed him coming and going late at night.”

Youngest quietly asked, “Don’t geckos eat crickets?”

“Um, yes.”  (Crap)

A homeschool science lesson followed.  After lots and lots of googling by youngest daughter, it turns out that Mulan and Jiminy probably had about 100 offspring.

There should be more than enough crickets for the gecko and enough so that Mulan and Jiminy live on.

Google doesn’t answer the question of how many crickets one household needs living under the fridge or whether you actually need a gecko at all.

I suppose you do need a gecko to help control the cricket population.

Sort of a circular question and answer thing…

Kind of like the circle of life itself.

New Day

clutter-is-not-just-physical-stuff-717x1024….from the website becomingminimalist.com

Today is a new day.

-and this was the first email I chanced upon (out of the more than 900 that fill my inbox).  I’ll take that as a sign.  A positive sign.  A bit of encouragement and a thought to carry around in my brain for today.

…while I wash some laundry (including the “doggy” sofa cover), wash some dishes so that we have clean silverware, blow off the carefully planned menu of new recipes and just make some food that I know everyone will eat…

try to accomplish a bit of schooling, sort through the winter clothes and see what fits and doesn’t, fill a box (or two) with giveaway…

put my fitbit on and work towards 10,000 steps while avoiding the bag of candy corn that I bought to decorate cupcakes for my husband to share at work.    I probably should avoid the cupcakes and frosting also.  Crap!

…take a deep breath and balance the checkbook and update our online budget plan.  Remember that these are first world problems and that we are making progress…slowly…

hug and love my family (and myself)…

I’m NOT going to make a list of everything that needs to be done around here and “beat” myself up for not accomplishing it all.   I’ll do the things I listed above and if more happens I’ll celebrate.

I’m NOT going to try and deal with all 900 emails today…although I will try and figure out why I have so many and unsubscribe to the ones that no longer add value to my life.

I’m NOT going to get so focused on following the planned school schedule that  it causes stress. “Rabbit trails” are part of homeschooling. The point is to learn, not to check off items on a list.

Today, I am going to live in the needs of the day.  Do what needs to be done.  Be open to the interruptions – aware that sometimes they are the work I need to do.  I’m going to enjoy the tasks at hand and keep my mind focused – not running ahead to the next thing on the list.

There will be laughter and rest and hugs and smiles and…

it will not be perfect.  And that’s ok.

As promised…

…and I am back today to write another line or two of my story.  We all have one – a story, that is.  While mine currently seems enormously insignificant, I’m going to keep on living it and writing about it anyway.  I know I’m not alone in this struggle called life.  And I am aware that it is not always a struggle.   “This too shall pass” as my Dad used to say.  He stole the quote, but I can still hear him saying it so I’m going to credit him.

Art today…

IMAG1023

I’ve had these little canvases for a while.  I bought them for another project that hasn’t happened yet.  They were just sitting on my shelf and looked lonely.  I’ve started just painting them – and then repainting them – and then layering some more paint.  Now I’ve started sticking on the dried paint scrapings from my desk.  They are becoming quite heavy and textural.

Why?  I don’t know yet.  I suppose they’ll let me know when it is time…

I am not a tidy artist…

IMAG1022

But sometimes, I’m not sure that I’m an artist at all.  But my middle daughter says that I am an artist and she should know.  She will be graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in December.  That makes her for sure a “real artist”.

She tells me to make what I enjoy.  To do what I like to do and not to worry about it all so much.

So I made this recently…

IMAG1030 (2)

 

and yes, those are little plastic chickens on top.  I think it might be a little bit of art therapy.  As I look at it I see little parts of my life reflected.  Some of the “down” moments and quite a few of the hopeful ones.  Art?  I don’t know.

While “doing school” today, my youngest and I stumbled across a poem we both liked.

The Sparrow

 A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.

So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life’s window-sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic’s rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.

It was written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  It was a good message for today.  A good message for tomorrow.  Just a simple, good message….

A Tiny Little World

Depression is hard…trying to keep going and not let on that you are struggling.  Doing what has to be done.  Tired all the time.  Battling the hopelessness.  Frustrated because the negative feelings aren’t fully connected to the reality that you are living in.  Knowing that things aren’t really all that bad, but mad at yourself because you are unhappy anyway.  Not living up to the expectations that you are placing upon yourself.  The little voice in your head that gets louder and louder – criticizing and commenting on all your failures.  Knowing that the folks around you (who don’t live with you) are unaware of the struggle.  Pulling into yourself bit by bit until only you only have to deal with your immediate surroundings, decisions you can’t avoid and work you have to do.  Realizing that you’ve isolated yourself from anyone who might be able to help because you don’t want them to be aware that you are weak and less than perfect.

…an unhappy tiny little world…

I’m peeking out a bit today.  This vicious little merry-go-round ride I’ve been on is not fun.  I’m blogging today and I will write again tomorrow.  I promise myself.

Life has really been going on rather normally I suppose.  Most people around me would probably be surprised to know how hard the last few weeks/months have been.  What’s been happening since I last wrote regularly?

I’ve got three part-time jobs now.  Part of it is for the money – we are really working on getting our debt paid down.

My newest job is teaching at a private school that opened in our little town.  Did I share this already?  I’m teaching art one day a week and am really enjoying it.  I was pretty sure that I would like it, but am actually surprised at how much!  It’s been fun to get to know the kids and to see how talented some of them are and how enthusiastic they all are.  The art lessons are supposed to complement the history curriculum and they are studying the Renaissance.  That’s challenging to do in one hour, one day a week.  I’ve been lightly touching on an aspect of Renaissance Art and then adapting a lesson to be both fun and fit into the time we have.  Today we did a “stained glass” project using tissue paper, laminating sheets and a laminator.

My youngest and I are fully into our homeschool year.  It’s been sooooo different having only one “student”.  We’ve actually “done” school almost every day and are hardly behind my schedule at all.  We’ve also managed several field trips (other than trips to the grocery store).  We’ve visited the Blanton Art Museum and the Austin Zoo so far.    Not bad for a self-described eclectic un-schooling family.

We’ve been working on the house doing some small maintenance and renovation projects.  Right now we are working in our hallway which is almost large enough to be a room on it’s own.  Three of the bedrooms, the classroom/studio and hall bath open into it.  It also contains a built-in desk, counter and two upper cabinets.  I’ve decluttered enough that the cabinet above the desk is almost empty so we are removing it.  It overshadows the desk and looks cramped.  We’re putting in a simple shelf instead.  Less stuff, less clutter and a more open airy feel.  All the walls are going to be painted Polar Bear white.  I’m ready for simple, uncluttered and peaceful!

Still sorting through stuff and trying to see how little we really need.  Layer by layer we are downsizing.  About a box a week is going to the thrift store and the trash can is always overflowing.  Where does it all come from?!?!

Not much is happening on the art front.  I just haven’t had the energy to complete anything.  Anything I did attempt just didn’t measure up to my expectations.  I’m cleaning an architect’s office and have been gifted a lot of flooring and upholstery samples.  I’m planning on playing with them and seeing what I can come up with.  Lots of fun colors and textures!

Time to open the blinds, throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in.  No more shutting out the world!  There is joy out there to be found, lived and enjoyed.  I’m going to give it a try…



The Broom

…is missing.  I know I have a broom because I used it yesterday.  Okay, maybe not yesterday, but I have swept a floor – in this house – since we moved in nine or so years ago.

Is the Guinness Book of World Records online?  I’m interested to know what’s the longest recorded length of time it has taken to find a  broom in a normal sized house.  I might be getting close – 46 minutes.  Yep, that’s right.  My house is a little bit lived in right now, but it’s not going to be featured on a hoarding show anytime soon.

I just can’t find the damn broom.  I’ve wandered through every room although I’m certain it wouldn’t be in any of the kids’ rooms.  Why would it?  That would mean that they attempted to sweep their rooms.  And that would be impossible because you would have to see the floor in order to sweep it.  (Love you all, but you really do need to clean your rooms)

It’s not outside in any logical place – like on the porches for instance.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not supposed to sweep today.  Yep, that must be it.

It’s official.  Housework is done for the day.

I did de-clutter our classroom (again).  I went through every single item one at a time and made a decision on it.  Planning has begun for the next school year.  My last child and she’s going into Junior High.  All the elementary stuff is going away to be shared.

Except the crayons. You can never outgrow crayons.  And maybe the construction paper.  And maybe a few (thirty) picture books that she’s not ready to part with yet.

But the rest?  We’re moving into the big time around here!

Three boxes to the thrift store.  One bag in the trash.  A ton of paper shredded to begin a new life as chicken and rabbit bedding.

Maybe the broom is under the clothes in the laundry room…

Bits of this and that.

A bunch of miscellaneous stuff today:

The art card project has grown and is taking flight.  Once I started making the cards, the dream took shape and took on a life of its own.  I am finishing up 100 cards this week in what is now a numbered series – A100-A200.  I realized that I wanted to make this a dedicated and ongoing project.  I didn’t want it to take over this blog because I like the direction this one is going in.  So….there’s a new site…unearthedart.wordpress.com.  And to think that a short time ago, I was terrified of writing on this one.  All the art card information will now be posted over there, so if you are interested that’s where you need to go…see ya’ there.

Busy week here in the household.  My youngest daughter’s birthday is the 10th.  Our anniversary is the 11th…we had it first…31 years!  You wouldn’t believe the number of people who said it wouldn’t last.  There have been some rough times, but I feel confident in saying that we will make it to Thursday. My second daughter’s birthday is the 14th and mine is the beginning of next week.

We start my son’s only formal classes on Thursday (I call them “formal” because I’m not teaching and therefore, don’t get to be flexible about assignments and deadlines!)

We are down to one car and that could prove to be interesting since we live miles past nowhere.

I think the theme for the rest of the month is going to be “balance”.  It’s so hard for me to give the proper attention to each aspect of my life.  I get excited about the art part of my life and the household part gets neglected.  I work on the house and I feel neglected.  I love my family and want to take care of them, but then the concrete (practical) stuff doesn’t get done.  Sometimes I feel like I just overthink things and complicate my own life.  I’m my own worst enemy in that way!

But now, I must be off to….do something else.  I think I need a plan.  It would be easier to stay here and chat, but I mustn’t.  Okay, honestly I use that word all the time – mustn’t, but when I typed it, it just looked weird so I went and looked it up to make sure it was a real word.  It is!

Blessings on your day.

 

Aargh.

“Raising children is a creative endeavor, an art rather than a science.”  Bruno Bettelheim
 
I have no idea who Bruno Bettelheim is and no time to go look it up.  I just hope, whoever he is, that he knows what he’s talking about. 
 
At this rate, raising my children may be the only creative time that I have.  Only two days into “school” and I’m exhausted.  I’m not managing my time very well or there really isn’t enough of it!  School, home-keeping, outside job, journaling, art project, blogging, hubby-time, sleep…it’s not fitting into the day (hubby, those aren’t listed in order of importance).
 
It’s only day 2 – I need to remember that it’s always hectic at first until we find our pace and settle in.  Everything isn’t necessarily going to get done.  Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! 
 
At least, I’m sort of maintaining a good attitude about it.   Ummm, if you don’t count the meltdown I had last night.  It’s all gonna be okay…and that’s a first for me. 
 
I’m making progress with living a more intentional life.  I’m setting fairly realistic goals, being flexible, and not throwing my hands up in the air and screaming.  Just a quiet “Aargh”. 
 
Progress!