homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

As advertised

I'll be damned. My kids are acting exactly as the commercials said they would.

I bought Kix the other day. Kix. I've never had Kix. When I was growing up, we ate marshmallow-infested cereals like God intended. Now I'm married to a health-conscious person who has shown me the error of my dietary ways and I buy organic Cheerios. Okay, and the occasional box of Honeycomb, 'cause a girl gotta get her sugar.

Anyway, I've been on both ends of the spectrum and missed the Kix thing entirely. I picked up a box a few nights ago on a complete whim. The box had a picture of Blue (from Blue's Clues, dontchyaknow) on it, so I figured what the heck, let's try 'em.

When I unpacked the groceries, Hubby scoffed. "Kix? Might as well give them the hamster food! That stuff has NO flavor. They are NOT going to eat it, honey."

Yeah. That's why our three-year old polished off nearly the entire box in a 24-hour period. OMG he is nuts for these darn things. And just like in the commercials, I busted him climbing up on the counter to get the box, and then dumping out a big heapin' pile for his baby brother to enjoy as well. These two are munchin' the Kix like there's no tomorrow. (And goodness knows, there might not be--there aren't enough left for one more bowl of breakfast, alas.)

Okay, Kix people. I believe in Truth in Advertising again.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hausfrau's night out

It's been a rough week, mom-fans. Nothing specific. Nothing major. Just the daily struggles of yer average stay-at-home mother with really young young'uns. I had a bit of a hissy fit a few nights ago because the babies Did. Not. Nap. all day and I was beyond "touched out" when my beloved came home. Just imagine--I was unshowered, uncombed, the house was a disaster, I had a toddler shrieking at my feet and an infant in the frame backpack kicking my kidneys and jamming his tiny widdle fingers deep into my ears and I had just spilled raw chicken juice all over the damn kitchen. How was my day, indeed. And he wondered why I didn't greet him like I live in Stepford or on freakin' Wisteria Lane. Sigh.

Anyhoo, after the plaster settled from the ensuing Very Loud Discussion and Pity Party, I think he got clued in to the fact that I really, REALLY needed a little break. So last night we went Out. Yes, actual Out, where you call Grandma to watch the little guys and you put on clean clothes and order something that doesn't come with a twirly straw or a side of smiley fries. Out.

Granted, he was going to meet a group of guys he hung out with in college...and I knew none of them...but, um, out of the house and the promise of beer? I'm there, dude.

First hurdle: Becoming Presentable. As many of you who know, love, or *are* housewives will appreciate, my wardrobe these days consists mainly of yoga pants (yes I DO actually do yoga, damn it! Just, um, not quite as often as I'd like...) and my hubby's cast-off T-shirts. I own three pairs of jeans that I can actually get into; none of which actually share the same shape as my postpartum body. (Thankfully, one of them is too *big*, so at least I can feel skinny...although weirdly proportioned.) So, um, what to wear? Eureka! I have that new yummy sweater that I got so I could show my face outside of the house for the holidays...and some slacks. Damn. The slacks need to be ironed. But first, dinner...cleaning...shower...putting Infant to bed...

Second hurdle: Light-Speed Grooming. It will probably not surprise you to hear that my daily grooming routine consists of putting my hair into a ponytail. If I'm blessed and the children nap, I get to do fun stuff like shower, shave, wash my hair, and brush my teeth. There's really not time for much beyond that. So I'm WAY behind on the maintenance, folks. I took a deep breath, got myself into Efficient mode and decided to hit as many of the big items as I could, and let the rest go. For example, lip gloss but no eyeshadow. Besides, Gawd knows I didn't want to LOOK like a pathetic housebound person who got overly excited about actually getting to leave the house and hang out with grownups. I didn't have time to tweeze the twin forests that pass for my eyebrows, but I did decide to splurge on the "pampering" experience of upper-lip bleaching. Which totally freaked out my three-year-old. Seriously. He looked at me all suspiciously and kept asking, "Why you have mustache, Mommy?" I tried to joke about it, but he wasn't buying that I painted white shit on my face for a lark. He marched into the bathroom, soaked a hand towel in the sink, and came out and handed it to me. "Wipe it off," he ordered. Yes, sir.

I got Infant nursed, conked out, and snuggly-tucked away. Score. I still had time. I started to set up the ironing board when Dear Husband raised an eyebrow and reminded me that we were going to a Smoky Bar and I should wear jeans. Oh. Okay. Except that of the three pairs of jeans, the only one that was remotely clean-ish was the smallest, tightest, shortest (can flares be floods?) pair. Greeeeaaaaat. But I put them on, and a slightly less yummy sweater, and was surprised to notice that I looked okay! Not at all like someone who had just jammed herself into the least stained piece of Wal-Mart crap she still owns. And actually, kinda skinny. Not MILF, maybe, but definitely "not bad for a mother of four".

Oh, okay, get technical. I only actually carried two kids. But I'm raising four. And the two that I did carry were both C-section deliveries, so that's gotta count for something, right?

Naturally, the second that Grandma pulled into the driveway, Infant woke up and started wigging out. We handed him over with the full expectation that she'd have him rocked to sleep within minutes. I underestimate my son. When we returned, a mere two hours later, he was still screaming at full volume and she couldn't get to the door quickly enough. So of course, I feel like the world's most selfish, heartless mother. I'll beat myself up over that for the next few days, at least.

But in the meantime, I'm sure you're just dying to know about the actual Out. It wasn't half bad. It was a little low-key for me because I was the only wife who came, which surely either made me or my Dearest look pathetic/desperate. Plus there was that unspoken tension where you can just tell that the guys are thinking, Dare we make off-color jokes? Can I say the word "tits" without condemning my buddy here to an earful the whole way home? Eventually, though, they just ignored me. Which was just fine, because I couldn't possibly reminisce about stuff that they all did together 16 years before I even met my husband, nor did I know or care enough to be able to hold my own in a conversation about sports. Oh, I did participate a little when it came to music and our experiences with dot-coms (I think the one guy's eyes nearly dropped out with surprise--oh yes, there is more to her than just quiet arm-candy nursing her beer in the corner!) but for the most part I must say that I enjoyed just passively taking it all in. It made me extremely nostalgic for my male friends (and hanging out with them in bars) from my single days. Not in any flirtatious sense, but just the dynamic of loud, competitive camaraderie that has nothing at all to do with asking "does this outfit make me look fat" about 18 hundred times.

Oh, and I got nice and drunk. On three freakin' beers. Let me tell you, I have become a serious lightweight with the drinking. Which I guess is a bonus because it makes me a rather cheap date.

So there. I got a little moment of not-Mommy-ness. I'm ready to put my yoga pants back on and eat ice cream in front of Blue's Clues. Bring it on.

Monday, January 22, 2007

You're On Notice!

Just a piece of random web-coolness...

Next time you feel like listing all of the things that suck today, do it with style. Make an "On Notice" board, from Comedy Central's THE COLBERT REPORT. You'll get it off your chest, and look cool while doing it, too.

http://www.shipbrook.com/onnotice/

Thursday, January 18, 2007

My preciousssssssss...

Okay, I have a degree in English Writing. I've worked as a writer and proofreader. Typos bug the living hell out of me. Here's a recent one that made me shudder. Interestingly enough, this was broadcast right onto my television screen. I was watching Boston Legal on Tuesday night (not only is the dialogue fun, but between Spader and Shatner, I'm in serious drool country) and during the first commercial break, a commercial aired for Domino's Pizza. During the last seconds of the clip, the catchphrase was displayed:

Get the door. Its's Domino's.

Its's?

Am I the only one getting a Gollum vibe here?

There is no way I mis-saw that. I would never have noticed it if it were correct; it would have gone right beneath my proofreading radar. I sat bolt upright in bed and demanded that my husband corroborate. Unfortunately, as is his habit, he had stayed up specifically to watch the show and was already snoring softly. I waited and watched for the commercial to air again so I could prove at least to myself that I hadn't imagined it. Alas, I haven't seen it since.

Look, I realize that many people get confused by the its/it's thing because it is one of those times when 's does not indicate possession. For the record, people,

Its is the possessive form. Don't look into its eyes!
It's is the contractive form, i.e., "it is". It's too dangerous.

Therefore, Get the door. It's (it is) Domino's (the pizza franchise belonging to, I assume, Domino).

Of course, what really crushes my spirit is not so much the thought that the graphic artist hedged his/her bets by doing it both ways (presumably hoping to fix it before release), but that NO ONE caught it. And I believe that ad folks make much, much more money than this poor young nitpickin' Mom.

*sigh*

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Researching and reconnecting

I've been reading a lot about homeschooling, unschooling, and education in general. I'm trying to prepare myself for what's ahead, and get an idea of approaches that will suit our family. My most recent read is Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School Tell Their Own Stories, edited by Grace Llewellyn.

What makes this title worth mentioning is that it's compiled of testimonials from the children themselves. Not studies or generalizations or even anecdotal blurbs, but a personal view from those who do. Recently, I've been reading juvenile fiction to try to get an idea of what homeschooling is like from the learner's perspective. I've been itching to get a first-hand glimpse into the reality of the uninstitutionalized child.

Up until now, the only adult homeschooled person I knew was a former colleague with whom I've lost touch. So imagine my surprise and delight when I opened this book to find out that the first story was from another woman I know! (Coincidentally, she is also a former colleague--from the same organization.) I'd had no prior idea that she had a nontraditional educational background. Needless to say, I dug through my address book and located her, and am now deep in discussions with her via email about her experiences. I also plan to contact her parents: her father was quoted several times in the book, and I found his insight to be very helpful.

Back to the book, however, the other thing that makes it noteworthy is that I feel it does a good job of being objective. First, I felt that the subjects selected were representative of a diverse population. Some initially attended more traditional institutions, others were exclusively homeschooled; some used curriculum, others followed a more "learner-led" philosophy; and of course the *reasons* for homeschooling were as varied as the subjects themselves. So I did not feel that I was getting a homogenized picture, but rather the frank admission that there is no "one way". But more importantly, I read the updated edition, in which the writers were asked to contribute a followup essay, a decade after the first, to reflect on their experiences. In these, the authors were very candid about what they believe did and didn't "work", and were human enough to admit to a few regrets here and there.

Honesty. What a concept. Come on, we all know that very few things in life are wholly good/bad, beneficial/harmful, what-have-you. I appreciate being able to make what I feel is an informed decision. Objectivity in reporting is so much more helpful than one-sided propaganda. And the more I'm reading from the homeschooling bookshelves, the more relieved I become as I find more and more of this sort of approach. Biased? Sure. But most also attempt to be fair. How refreshing!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A memo to my 9-month-old son

Just a few things, sweetheart...

1. Lying down in bed with Mommy for a 45 minute nursing session is not napping. It is nursing.

1a. It is especially not napping if you spend half the time trying to destroy the paperback Mommy was trying to surreptitiously read behind you.

1b. Dozing off during said nursing session and then only having the freaking courtesy to remain unconscious for ten minutes is not napping either.

2. Screeching until I put you in the backpack and then playing Kamikaze Baby once you are there is not particularly how I would choose for us to play. It's annoying. And it hurts Mommy. Let's knock that off, okay?

3. If I move more than one yard away from you in any direction, it is not necessary to scream at the top of your lungs and chase me, crying hysterically. I am just going to pick up the sock/turn on the model train/interact with your brother/retrieve your toy. You will be OKAY.



oh, and PS: Um, stop eating the cheese off the floor. It's yucky. Hell, son, it's even been stepped on. Hang on, I will get you some new cheese.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Have you hugged your lactation consultant today?

Really. Give the boob lady some love. She deserves it.

We have a lovely thing here in Allegheny County. As part of the Healthy Start program, they offer a Breastfeeding Help Line. Most maternity patients in this area come home from the hospital with a nice packet of propaganda--sadly, much of it from formula manufacturers. But one thing that's almost always included is the big red heart-shaped refrigerator magnet with the phone number for the hotline. And sister, it does get used!

For the uninitiated, a lactation consultant is like a breastfeeding coach. As past generations of women reinforced the taboo against breastfeeding, young mothers who wish to try are often finding themselves without an experienced support group. In a perfect world, communities of female relatives would help a new mother...but hey, it ain't a perfect world.

You'd think that the theory is easy enough (baby + breast = nursing success) but it's so much more than that. It's a learned talent for both partners (mother and child). It can be physically very demanding, mechanically very baffling, and an extreme emotional drain (especially if the mother is *discouraged* from breastfeeding by unsympathetic others). I personally know a few women who gave up out of frustration early on, who might have stuck it out if only they'd had a friend who was there to give advice or comfort.

Beyond that, lactation consultants are experts in their field. Even women who have successfully nursed a number of children still run into questions or problems, and it's nice to have someone knowledgeable to call for advice. Who do you call when your newborn has a painful latch? When you suspect that the two of you may be developing thrush? When you have a low supply and want to increase it? The lactation consultant!!

Today I spoke with Diane, who was friendly and funny and more than willing to look up the pharmacology information for a number of drugs (both prescription and OTC) that my PCP recommended for a lingering illness I'm battling. She didn't give me a flippant "oh, don't worry" like my doctor had. She actually sat there on the phone and looked up each drug, then read me the full entries for each as it pertained to my concern. She reassured me that each would be safe, and went a step further by giving me side effect information for myself, so that I can be proactive in countering these potential problems. She did not treat me like an idiot or a worrywart or a beginner. It was just two women working out the answer to some concerns in a frank manner. It was precisely what I needed.

I've used the hotline twice before, with equally satisfactory results: once for advice on battling mastitis and once with a question about illness-induced dehydration and supply issues. Each time, the consultant on duty has had quick and informative answers and has been friendly and comforting.

Thank you, ladies. I'm glad you're there.

kidspeak

When the comic strip ROSE IS ROSE first hit my local newspapers, it annoyed the hell out of me. See, Rose's son, Pasquale, was just learning to speak then. And his dialogue appeared in this garbled phonetic mess that could only really be worked out by reading the strip aloud. It was like slogging through Huckleberry Finn every time Jim said more than a few words.

Now I have a little boy who talks. Constantly. Nonstop. And I am the only person on the planet who can understand the majority of it. Grandparents, aunts & uncles, even his father, freeze with that smile of "honey I am absolutely riveted by what you are saying to me" and shoot me looks of desperation. I, the ever-on-duty translator, am always quick to confirm, "Oh, that's right! You DID see two turkeys in the back yard, and they ran away!"

Now I have a little boy who joyfully sings at the top of his lungs,
BAAAH DA-BIEL-DAH!
Ken we fik it?
BAAAH DA-BIEL-DAH!
LES! WE! KEN!

Now I understand.

And now I'm feeling a little jealous of ol' Rosie. See, she lives in comic-strip time. So even though her little boy is indeed growing up, he is doing it slowly. Leisurely. Maybe not as slow as those kids from PEANUTS, but still...

Sigh.

Monday, January 8, 2007

pilot post

This is where I'm supposed to introduce myself, attempt (heh) to define and explain myself, and try to get you interested in coming back to read more.

Hm.

I vaguely remember a quote along the lines of "Defining yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth." I'm not going to bother looking it up because it doesn't matter to me right now who said it or whether I got it absolutely verbatim. I just like the feel of it. It's...silly. It's like trying to stand in the same river twice. It's...well, insert your own witty or poignant metaphor here. I could write a precise dossier of my beliefs and interests and before the keyboard cools down, it will likely require revision. Hence my multiple abandoned former attempts at blogs. I'm just not the same person that I was yesterday. If I were, I don't think I'd be able to stand it. Stagnation? Humbug!

So, um, yeah. How to give you an idea of who I am. Today, anyway.

I'll start with the hard demographic facts. My name is Heather. My nickname, given to me by one high school classmate and gloriously preserved by another who has loved me through every stage of our lives between then and now, is Heaz. Pronounced so it rhymes with "fez". Or, for the more kitsch-minded, "Pez". I live in southwest Pennsylvania, and have for nearly all of my life.

I'm in my thirties and am married to a wonderful (really, ask my friends--it's been objectively confirmed) man who has full custody of his sons from his first marriage. (They are currently ages 13 and 10). The fact that I hit the ground running with this family thing means that I think about family a LOT. I imagine that I'll be writing about it a lot. Be prepared.

We also have, as of this writing, two gorgeous (again, objectively confirmed--would I lie?) sons that have joined our family via *my* participation. As I often say, I have four kids: two pre-owned, and two I helped to make from scratch. (Oh yeah, I love puns. I love metaphors. I love word play, period. Prepare to groan. Often.)

As of this writing, I am up to my eyeballs in preparatory reading for homeschooling/unschooling. I've always had the idea that it would be something I'd be interested in trying. Now I'm sure that it is What We Will Do for the younger two. (They are currently 3 years old and 9 months old). I will be journaling our experiences extensively. I'm sure some of those thoughts will be explored here.

What else? Um, compared to most, I'm probably pretty "crunchy". We recycle and compost and don't use pesticides. I am a nursing momma, we co-sleep with the little ones, I use cloth diapers *most* of the time, and my babies have been neither vaccinated nor circumcised. We do what we can to live frugally, save energy, reduce pollution, and generally live gently. That said, my home does not smell like patchouli, I do shave my legs regularly, and --guess what!-- I have plenty of friends who live their lives differently than I do, and I don't have seizures over it or anything! I know what is important to me. But I've dealt with and observed enough intolerance in my life that I try very, very hard not to be too harsh in my judgement of viewpoints and approaches that differ from my own.

Much. I *am* still human, right?

What else bears mentioning? Ah, of course. While I'm busy introducing the author of this blog, I should also note why I chose its name. Get ready with that groan I warned you about...it's lyrics. From a (*gasp!*) prog-rock band. (Oh yeah, did I mention that I'm a total classic geek? Seriously. Trek and fantasy novels and everything.) I went through a good chunk of my life actually defining myself not by what I did or what I believed, but by what I liked (hey, why not) and for a while, instead of Heaz I was "rushchick". Totally loved Rush. I still do, but no longer in an actively obsessive sense. Anyhoo...it's a line from the song "Lakeside Park", which is about fleeting pleasures of youth. I really like the imagery. It keeps me focused on my priorities. Yes, there are Big Issues out there to contend with, but life is also filled with small, often-overlooked miracles that we can choose to make ourselves available to. Spend a little time with a toddler or two. You'll see what I mean.