Aug. 14th, 2014

Tomorrow's culinary adventures are going to include some kind of homemade crackers, and some kind of spinach dip. The dip will be winged using what we have and thinking about WW points; if you have a favorite cracker recipe, though, let me know! Gluten free is a plus but not necessary.

I just realized yesterday that I could actually make crackers, myself, here at home. Previously I had no idea, because I have been brainwashed by capitalism! I'm kidding...except also not. This kind of thing happens every couple of years - I realize some new thing is totally doable at home as though it's some revelation. This time, it's because my friend Kristin made crackers, and I was like, "You what what now?!"

It's funny, she just overheard some women in a coffee shop that she said sounded like us in a time warp (from the past). They were talking about breastfeeding, and flipping out that you can actually MAKE YOUR OWN HUMMUS!!! Like how someone approached her at a mutual friend's potluck years ago to say, "Kristin, did you know you can just MAKE your OWN GUACAMOLE? You can just get avocados and make it!"

There are no end to the number of things you can have these epiphanies over. I was shocked to see my boyfriend's mom MAKE FROSTING, when I was 12, and people flip their shit now when they find out Grant MAKES MARSHMALLOWS. It's really as though we all believe that anything that's not meat or produce is produced through some sort of ~*~factory magic~*~ that just can't be duplicated.

I am having such intense second (third, thousandth, zillionth) thoughts about putting the kids in school. They are still going, and hopefully all my worries will be for nothing, but GAH. The littles had their orientation(s) last night, and I just don't know about Elise's teacher. She's a first year teacher, which is fine, especially since she's starting out in an overcompensating-and-extra-enthusiastic way. She seems very nice and has decorated the classroom with Sesame Street-esque monsters that Elise likes, so that's cool. But she just talks with SUCH A STRONG MIAMI ACCENT, including the requisite horrible grammar :/ Things like, "the girls wears khaki shorts, skirts, or pants, and the boys wears khaki shorts or pants." It's extremely common down here, and I would be ok with it if it were a dance teacher or soccer coach or something, but this is the person tasked with teaching her how to read despite a learning disability, you know? And she is the sole teacher for the class, unlike how Jake has two teachers for his class, and Isaac will be floating between 4 throughout the day. Argh.

It is a decently sized class (22 kids), and they'll have an aid for half of every day. Elise feels good about it and knows someone in her class from her GS troop, so that's cool.

Jake's teachers seem pretty good, and the teachers of Isaac's that I know are the teachers I love most at the school. I can tell Jake is having a little anxiety when they talk about homework, but they've got some maximum limits in place that seem reasonable. Isaac is pumped about finally being a 5th grader, it's kind of adorable. Mostly I'm just romanticizing homeschooling and seeing tons of passionate posts from homeschoolers I know who are gearing up for the year.

I'm also having all sorts of generalized anxiety, regrets, pangs, and so forth, about my ideal parenting vs the parenting I actually achieve. I wish that I read to them more than I do, I wish we had tea time together in the afternoons more often than we do, I wish that housework and cooking didn't take so much time and attention, or that I could delegate those tasks to some kind of paid help. I paradoxically worry for every individual one of them, that they suffer because there are four others. I think back to how easy it was to control the environment when it was just A&A in the early years, and how confident and at ease I felt about their quietness and attentiveness compared to how the younger 3 are now. "How they are" is really just "like kids," meaning that they bicker and tell on each other and get too damn loud half the time, but geeeeeeeeeez does it make me feel helpless and out of control in the worst way. There's just something unrelenting and very frustrating, about nothing I do being enough to calm them down or get them to get along.

Something they've started doing that I think is great, is making this stand in the front yard that they sell things from. Initially I was against this - Jake wanted to sell rocks he found, and I was trying to explain to him that people don't want to buy those sorts of common rocks. Finally I relented, and he ended up making like $20 the first day he sat out there with a sign. Now the other two are in on it, too, and they're selling mangoes off our tree, the last of the Girl Scout cookies, rocks, homemade lemonade, etc. I demand a cut for the GS cookies (since we pre-bought all of those) and make them buy their own sugar from previous profits. None of them are ever allowed to approach a vehicle, or be out there by themselves - it has to be at least two of them at a time.

It's kind of awesome. They spend hours per day outside, not even thinking about screens, reading books in pop up directors chairs, talking, or playing ball between customers. They're also meeting our neighbors, and have had people Isaac knows from school come by. An old lady who is part of a local rock club talked to Jake about rocks for a long time one day, and then came back to talk to them again.

Isaac's mango deal is $1 per mango, or $5 for 6. He sells the $5 deal at least once per hour, which is pretty good for as quiet as this neighborhood is. They're dividing the money up, but it's still a lot for them - they don't usually really have money of their own unless they lose a tooth or get a birthday card.

Back to school, and doubts - I worry that I've set this fall up terribly, since I'm going to be in school most of the hours that they are. I don't want to never be ready for them in the afternoons, be totally overwhelmed in the evenings, or have extra stuff of my own to be worrying about in the mornings. Not that it necessarily has to be that way - I just don't know how it IS going to be, yet. I have built in study and homework time on campus during the day, which is helpful, since that won't be encroaching on home life much. What is probably most likely to happen is an ongoing sleep deficit and a lack of resources for Grant and me to feel like a couple.

I'm also at something of a loss about all the appointments that have to be scheduled during school days - theirs and mine. For Ananda's braces, for Aaron's optical specialist visit, for Elise's next round of tests, for some vaccine boosters. For my own B-12 shots. How in the fuck do people with jobs do this? It's a question I've been pondering a lot. Especially when, in lieu of a set dismissal time, I saw that instead A&A's school has a CHART describing the days different grades get out, on A days vs B days, and depending on whether they're on an ABABA or a BABAB week. I mean - this school doesn't even offer aftercare OR bus service. HOW DO PARENTS WITH JOBS DO THIS? They literally never get out at the same time, even on the random early release days scattered throughout the year.

In a way, it makes a lot of sense for me to maximize their time in school and cram in as many credits as possible - especially if one or more of them may be back home again after Christmas break. This way I can get my bachelors at the end of Spring 2015 pretty much no matter what.

It's interesting how many ways there are to look at this. The part of me that will be relieved to outsource their educations seems foreign, and I'm still not quite comfortable with that attitude in myself. Or comfortable getting used to it, since this might not work for everybody. It's also really different to be planning it out as me in school when they are - I'm excited about my classes, but I was looking forward to all those hours as endless possibility when I was imagining myself home alone. I wonder if I'm crazy, if I should CLEARLY be using the time to write. I've been going through cycles of cracking up when I'm not writing, until I finally write again. And what the hell I should do with the one week between when they start, and when I do (aside from rush them forgotten lunch boxes and answer the phone when they call with confused questions...)

Blah, blah, blah :) Time to eat some lentil soup and play "Would you rather?"
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Robin Williams, perspective, HONY

I, like millions of other people, am really sad about Robin Williams dying. Facebook feels like a neverending one-two punch of drama and comedy that undoes me. It'll be one post quoting him on hope, love and beauty, followed by a still from Aladdin saying, "Genie, you're free!" Then a plea from a depressed friend to support each other, followed by somebody going, "Nanu nanu."

I, like millions of other people, feel like I had some kind of personal relationship with Robin Williams and that he was somehow a part of my life specifically. I know better, mentally, but the feeling is still there. He was a present fixture from infancy, when my Dad and then later my sister were into Mork and Mindy. Our youth group leader had us watch The Fisher King. What Dreams May Come and Patch Addams were my favorites, in the couple of years after they came out, in a very awestruck and teary eyed way.

I felt like Robin Williams was honest and relateable, when he said his favorite word was "pussy". I quote him regularly about how Episcopalianism is "Catholic lite." Just last season, he was on Louie, and Louis CK is pretty much my hero - that show makes me laugh and cry all the time. There's just nothing else like it. On the Robin Williams episode, they promised each other that whoever dies first, the other will go to their funeral.

This NPR link is as good as any; it has 4 minutes of audio, a decent slide show and a video of RW talking about addiction and comedy.

Shane Koyczan said on facebook, We never expect to hear about death. We never wake up knowing someone will have died today. As we busy ourselves with all of the lovely distractions that life offers us... we push death away... like some unwanted vegetable on the dinner plate. But every once in a while, death enters our periphery and reminds us that it's still there. Not to scare us... not to terrorize us... only to remind us to cherish each bite of the meal put before us. Like it or not we will be made to eat our vegetables. My deepest gratitude for the man who reminded us to play with our food. Au revoir, Robin Williams.

That quote makes me think even more than I already was, about how strangely we perceive things in the news. We, in this case, being middle class Americans, I guess. Spoiled first world consumers? The point is, I felt the same level of distress when I saw a headline about ISIS beheading children that I did when I found out John Green was in the hospital. Somehow, those two news items equaled a worrisome evening for me, as though they are in any way equal. They're not equal, not at all, OBVIOUSLY, and yet one is familiar to me and one is almost impossible to comprehend. I've been mentally distressed at times, about Syria and about Israel vs Hammas and the state of the Gaza strip, these past months, but...I didn't cry about them. I cried about Robin Williams.

It's understandable, we're more worried for things we actually care about because they're close to us and seem to be part of our own lives, but I can't help but feel that there's a lesson here. About the importance of familiarizing people with victims and people in conflict zones, so that they'll actually take action to influence change.

The Humans of New York guy is doing something like that, now. He's been in Iraq instead of NY for awhile and honestly, silly as it sounds, shameful as it is - I have found myself thinking, wow. I don't normally picture Iraqi people as Dads in dress shirts taking their little girls to buy fruit. I don't imagine them going swimming or hanging out at malls, lamenting that they might be too bad at math to be doctors when they grow up.

The sight of this little girl, playing outside in the street, makes me kinda gasp and just LONG SO HARD for her to always be ok. Just, oh my God little girl be safe. She looks like spun glass in a hail storm, to me. She's in the same country where this guy lives.

So yeah, silly, shameful, but WHAT HONY IS DOING IS SO IMPORTANT because, truly? It's made me care. Not just on some intellectual level where my conscience tugs at me that I SHOULD care, but in the pit of my stomach way that my children matter to me. We get so upset when we lose a Phillip Seymour Hoffman or a Maya Angelou because they're real to us. And that is valid. But everyone is real.
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This house is so full of delicious food. Good lord. The fridge is like, Grant's homemade marshmallows (plain and chocolate), jambalaya, and chicken chili, and my leftover (AMAZING) soup, roast chicken, and iced lemon green tea. Loaves of banana bread on the counters. I love it when we can actually accumulate some leftovers - it's almost impossible to make enough of anything for that to happen, anymore, just based on the logistics of our stock pot, wok, roasting pans, etc, so we have to make two meals. One for right then, and one to store. Last night we had zucchini pasta and stored the chili.

I seriously spent like 2 straight hours washing dishes Saturday evening and at least an hour cumulatively, yesterday. Our dishwasher has been broken for years and we haven't replaced it since there's an electrical issue in the wall behind it that has to be fixed beforehand.

I really love when we can eat things from out in the yard. We've been eating mangoes off our tree every day for weeks, and that's gonna continue for awhile. There are bananas ripening on the deck and more on the tree. All the tomatoes Grant put in the jambalaya were off of my plants and about 4-6 of the eggs we eat each week are from our chickens.

It's a drop in the bucket of what we need and use, foodwise, but it's nice. I'd really like to add more stuff to the list. We got a carambola (star fruit) tree at the latest Adopt a Tree event, though it's just a struggling baby for now. Expanding the chicken coop and flock seems like the simplest way to actually get a return on investment and put a teeny tiny dent in the grocery budget.
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Weight Watchers Review

I'd like to say, first, that I don't think there's anything wrong with loving yourself just as you are, thin, fat or otherwise. I OFTEN see weight loss before and afters where I feel the before pics are more attractive, to my own subjective tastes. We're all much more than our looks, and don't owe looking a certain way to anyone, regardless. And I know health can be - and is often - very unrelated to size. So this entry is in no way meant as a scolding or a prod at anyone. Nobody is under any obligation to be trying to lose weight, and I think it's important to say that sometimes because there's this subtle but constant pressure on women to feel like they are.

I always feel uncomfortable about adding to the omnipresent cloud of "diet talk" that permeates every corner of modern society, because, eww.

That said, if you are someone who is trying to change your body, for whatever personal reasons, or you are just curious about what I'm doing with mine and how it's working out - here we go...

I've been using Weight Watchers for 5 1/2 months now. As longtime readers know, I've tried a lot of strict and rigid restriction-style diet plans over the years (being vegan, or on the Eat To Live program that is basically fat free vegan, going gluten free, saying no sugar or white flour ever, etc). They all work well but none of them have been sustainable for me. I am too much of a foodie to cope with knowing any sort of lovely indulgent thing is off limits permanently. Or even semi-permanently. In some health and ethics related ways, this is definitely a flaw - BUT. It is what it is, for now at least.

I feel like I could do this - Weight Watchers - basically forever.

I have a long history of compulsive and emotional eating and really lost any ability to regulate food intake by hunger cues as a child. As a result, this points-system guidance is extremely helpful. It actually feels like magic that I can use this tool to change my body. All I have to do is stay the course and be patient.

I have tried just counting calories before, and had the (free) MyFitnessPal app at the suggestion of my therapist for that last year, but I hated it for a few reasons:

-*way* more math and research time on my part, vs the simple and built in points system for everything from restaurant menus to my own recipes that I put in.

-no differentiation between healthy and non-healthy calories; WW has made daily points limits lower than they used to be because unlimited fruits and vegetables are now zero points, which automatically encourages you to eat healthier. They are also calculating points values for other things on an algorithm that involves fat, carbs, fiber and protein, rather than just calories.

-I didn't like it just being on me to feel like I failed when I occasionally decided to splurge. WW has 49 "weekly points" built into the program that are above and beyond your daily point limits - you can eat them all at once as one crazy buffet dinner, or spread them out as glasses of wine and scoops of ice cream throughout the week. I suppose I could have worked out some sort of similar system for myself, but instead I usually just figured a day or week was shot and gave up on it, when I went over my max calories. With WW I really feel like there's nothing I can't have. This is hokey, but I often think "I can eat anything I want, I just can't eat everything I want."

-This may be bs, but a lot of research suggests that people actually lose weight much more often when they use a program that costs money, because the investment gives the whole effort more accountability. It would be nice to just psych myself out that I'm smarter than that and can milk a free program, but I think it's true. Subscribing to this plan that charges our bank account makes me feel like it's real and not just in my head (or my phone, or whatever).

I also enjoy all sorts of things Weight Watchers offers, like the weigh in days, chart that shows my weight loss over time, the recipes searchable by point values, and the forums. Those things are sort of incidental, though. I do not go to meetings or buy any WW brand products (which honestly seem pretty gimmicky and silly to me, and often not very healthy at all). I am also aware that Weight Watchers may well be the least punk thing I've ever done in my life.

I've lost 29 pounds so far, since late February. I feel better, which I've written about before, but there are other tangible differences too that have been noticeable, lately:

-My ASOS plus leggings are now baggy around the knees and over, for me (which is actually a tragedy, I don't have many clothes, love them, and can't really afford more at the moment).
-Bras I was using band extenders for, for years, can now be worn on their own again.
-My hip measurement, which includes my hernia bump, has gone down 7.5 inches.
-I can actually see it when I compare old pictures to new, now, which is wild for me since I really haven't felt I can SEE much difference in the day to day.

Currently, my daily points target is 35. Under the cut is me describing everything I ate today, and some other eating things from this week, in case you want to see just how this actually works in the day to day in my case.Collapse )

There are still times when I get anxious or moody because I can't just binge eat - I do think going through counseling as I do this is part of my success thus far. Intensive counseling before I even started has been pivotal, because I really understand that I was self sabotaging like a motherfucker since I know that losing weight is a path that ends in the OR, for me.

I've learned, partially through the points system, that I don't actually enjoy food at all when I eat compulsively or binge. I enjoy the lead up sometimes? But it's this mindless hand-to-mouth thing that's very disconnected from enjoying anything, I almost feel dissociative when it's happening. I suspect this is similar for addicts of all types. For me, though, I FEEL like I'm really enjoying food much more because I'm enjoying all the food I have, rather than just some of it, or enjoying it in my mouth but not my stuffed stomatch, or liking it but feeling emotionally bad about it, etc etc.

Also, it's important to point out that I got my B-12 levels back up before I started... deficiencies like that, as well as all kinds of hormonal and thyroid troubles, and med side effects, can make weight loss REALLY FUCKING HARD/semi-impossible, even when you are "doing everything right."

I saw someone on facebook the other day who has lost over a hundred pounds and kept it off for several years talking about how he hates when people make excuses - you just have to want to do it. He talked about how walking is free, and jump ropes are cheap, and it was just too angering (and complicated) for me to even go into there. Obviously chronic health conditions and mental health conditions can be huge obstacles that require MEGA RESOURCES to tackle, that not everybody has got. Ultimately that's about him anyway, and not anyone else.

I read a lot for my Health Psych class about how the most successful treatments for people with obesity involve cognitive behavioral therapy that starts with writing down every single thing that you eat. I reminded myself of that often in the early weeks of Weight Watchers, when logging points ANYTIME I ate ANYTHING still seemed like a hassle. I do think it's part of what's helpful and what works, about the program (built in food journaling). These days it's very automatic and not a big deal at all.

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Well, I've got several half done LJ entries that have been sitting around open for various periods of time, a lot of it the kind of thing I often just delete rather than finish. I'm going to cut some of it below.

Life is pretty good :) I'm listening to a ton of Vampire Weekend pretty reglularly - this week's favorites are Horchata and Step, last week it was Walcott all the time, the week before that I was focused on White Sky and Oxford Comma. My Vampire Weekend Pandora station is a thing of beauty and joy, and has temporarily displaced NPR in our kitchen.

It's probably strange how relevant various iPhone apps are to my daily life. There is Pandora and NPR, and I use the Weight Watchers app anytime I eat or exercise, the C25K app 3 times a week at the Y, my camera very often. Texting throughout the day with Laura and Kristin, and Grant when he's at work, is pretty ongoing. I watch Khan Academy math videos and do Duolingo french lessons basically anytime I'm somewhere waiting. This of course does not count the goofing off that is Tumblr and Facebook.

I realized this weekend that I'm probably going to hit 500 tumblr followers anyday now. I suppose a lot of people like plants, and food, and my random pictures/bizarre sense of humor.

I'm also going to be down in the 230s this week. I started this ~*~weight loss journey~*~ in the 260s.

Elise had a neurological evaluation up at Miami Children's Hospital yesterday. The PA that worked with us was very nice, she interviewed me for a long time and then examined Elise. Next she had Elise write her name, draw a person, identify various letters and their sounds, and then try repeatedly and without success to sound out a simple word (sit) whose letters and sounds she obviously is very familiar with. She's 7 and going into 2nd grade, and this is her first formal evaluation since mid-year during preschool, fyi. She actually had three evals during preschool, that went "barely behind in a couple of areas, ahead in others" then "pretty behind in speech and writing and patterns, but ok otherwise," and then "average to above average across the board." Then in Kindergarten it was clear she couldn't move at a standard academic pace, and I took her out mid-year. Throughout the last year+, for first grade, it's been very obvious that she has some short term memory issues, but they manifest in this maddeningly inconsistent way that's very hard to pin down.

I know from working with Ananda and Isaac that Elise definitely has some kind of reading disability - it is just a whole different world than teaching neurotypical kids. Aaron and Jake practically seemed to teach THEMSELVES compared to Annie and Isaac, and Elise is very much like they were - doesn't recognize a word we just did repeated exercises with a minute before, can't even string the sounds together mentally when I say them out loud one after the other, and even start to blend them out loud - and makes wild guesses that come out of absolutely NOWHERE ("igloo" for sit, since there's an i in the middle). There is this frustrating disparity that happens in these learning disability situations, where you have a kid who seems brilliant in conversation and who you watch figure out all sorts of complex concepts, who then cannot do this seemingly simple task.

Anyway, the PA also had her walk a straight line, hop a lot of each foot, follow her finger with eye but not head movement, and some other things. She seems confident that Elise no longer has any real neurological problems, but does have some kind or kinds of learning disability. Our next steps are an "N-met" test back at this same office, on a computer in a couple of weeks, to test her attention and focus, and then a psycho-ed eval at a university department. Hopefully that will be sooner than the N-Met, but I keep getting a voicemail and leaving messages so we'll see.

We've been waiting since late March for the appt she had yesterday, so I'm glad the other appointments are seeming soon. My goal here is to get her some concrete diagnoses to enter school with on August 18, so that she can get an IEP asap. The school she's going to is the one that did wonders for Isaac - he was in a class with 2 fulltime teachers and an aid for 22 kids, and he was getting before and after school tutoring in addition to having lot of "Reading Plus" work to do online at home, via their subscription.

Really what I've seen with Annie at home and Isaac at school is that, with a smart kid with a reading disorder, you keep trying new things until eventually something just clicks in a way that leaves you wondering whether it was the actual last method, or just them getting old enough. Annie and Isaac both read chapter books for pleasure regularly now, but I still feel nervous about Elise because of her history making it all seem like new territory.

And, it is still on the table whether or not Elise will be staying in school at all. But I want to give it a chance, and she is excited. I think the main variable is honestly whose class she ends up in.

She was excited to do the evaluation yesterday morning, and loved it, so that's helpful. There were stickers and a trip to Starbucks involved, too.

Old partial nonsense rambling entries!

#1, some thoughts on bikingCollapse )

MuchCollapse )

thoughts on birth control, and riskCollapse )
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Jul. 5th, 2014

Written The Evening of July 3:
I feel good. I'm happy and excited about a lot of things to come. Because this is real life, there is also some sad stuff, but it's compartmentalized about as well as it can be. In the interest of needing to attend to guests that will soon arrive and not wanting this blog to fall COMPLETELY by the wayside....lists!

Great stuff:

-We loved season 2 of Orange Is The New Black, and then I read the actual book. I think the show is more entertaining, but the book is more interesting. I wanted more when it ended. Jenji Kohan has really went off on her own personal-drama tangents within relationships, for the show, but I was still impressed with how much of the PRISON part, and the characters themselves, are taken exactly from Piper Kerman's story.

-I'm reading Anna Karenina now. Albeit at a snail's pace of a couple of pages per day.

-After about 9 months of on-again, off-again C25K'ing that took me through various points in the program (involving lots of redoing weeks or not making it through whole days of later weeks), I restarted the whole thing after a bit of research. Now, I'm doing it at a higher running speed, with the treadmill on an incline, and way more dedication to actually going three times, every week. It's been EXTREMELY DIFFICULT but I feel like a fucking rockstar when I pant and huff my red faced ass through the entire thing. And apparently the shit they say about periods being easier if you exercise may be true, which is kinda horrible because wah, but also great because, well, that gives me a way to make my periods easier! IF ONLY THE Y WOULD FIX THEIR AIR CONDITIONING.

-I'm doing yoga "for real," albeit in baby steps - I've had a mat and periodically went back to a couple of prenatal poses off and on for years, if I got stiff, but now I'm actually using instructional video and doing it every morning, and challenging myself to do the poses, you know, CORRECTLY? Also, my YouTube guru explained how to double up a section of my mat to make a cushion under my knees and, wow, that is a serious game changer. It seems so silly now, that I didn't think of that on my own. Note: Downward Facing Dog is a lot harder when your muscles are trying to adapt to running. Ow.

-There's also some swimming and more walking on Grant's and my "Saturdates," along with plenty of gardening work...I basically hurt all over, all the time, in a way that I feel good about.

-I'm really excited about my Fall semester at school - really, really excited. I got a full schedule of teachers with top reviews on ratemyprofessor, and everything I'm signed up for is actively progressing some part of my life that I want to progress. Next-level Statistics and Psych of Parenting get me closer to my core degree requirements, french and Botany (AT FAIRCHILD TROPICAL GARDENS) help me learn things I want to know and care about (they also provide credits I need, just not the major-specific ones). I have hours scheduled on campus without classes 3 days per week, that feature available math tutoring, and I have hours at home before the kids get home 2 days a week that I can use for homework. It's pretty ideal, and I even ended up randomly scoring a bunch of grants I didn't expect to - that's something you either do or don't get at the last minute based on factors I honestly don't understand. So, we will have a pretty fat student aid refund, for Fall and for Spring. It's good to feel back on track in school, after falling so off of this wagon with the whole pernicious anemia deal. My medical appeals were approved, though, and at this rate after the new year I can take 3 things in the Spring and have my bachelors, and start applying to grad schools.

-I've also leveled out a bit from the bizarre almost-mania I seemed to have when my B-12 levels first shot back up. The first couple of months I was taking shots were months of fidgeting, insomnia, and hyper productivity. Now I can chill out AND ALSO STAY AWAKE - balance is key and all that...

-My plants are thriving, and thrill me. My front planter is a wonder to behold, and I'm about to have tomatoes up to my eyeballs. My kitchen window makes me happy every time I look at it. There are pictures of this on my tumblr, and in case anyone doesn't know this you can click "personal posts only" and see only my personal stuff without all the reblogs, over there. The only problem is that the GOD FORSAKEN CHICKENS tore up my squash and pumpkin vines yesterday. I'm not sure any of it can be salvaged. Also I have a lot of work cut out for me clearing space to get my jasmine into the ground, and they really have to get in the ground.

-Counseling is going very well. I feel so much better about surgery. My big worries to tackle have gone from completely ridiculous nightmare stuff about getting cut in half to manageable concerns like, "I want to feel listened to this next time around." Likewise I've moved from the vision of Grant being approached by a surgeon who is telling him I've died on the table, to a desire to have Grant finish working through his own stuff about my previous surgeries before I go back in for more. <--He agrees so that part's just down to scheduling.

-I am very, very happy with Grant. It would be it's own entry, or maybe even it's own book, but I'm just really fucking happy with him. Stupid happy. There aren't words. It's good to hold close to myself.

-I've lost 23 pounds now, in about 5 months. I feel like I can sit and stand up straighter more easily, and my back doesn't hurt when I wash dishes. It all feels so realistic and doable, to me. Gradual and livable is definitely the way to go - I had ice cream and pizza and all kinds of things this week, along with my healthier stuff. Weight Watchers is kinda perfect that way. It feels weirdly sustainable, as in, the level to which I can sustain this is surreal. I want a brownie batter doughnut and milk in the middle of the night - fine, green smoothie for breakfast and salad for lunch, the next day, and then I can have steak and root beer in the evening. I guess it helps that I genuinely like smoothies and salads. At this point in my life, I'm ready to be a WW "lifer" and pay to be on the maintenance plan once I reach goal.

-Basically I feel like I will be a much healthier, better educated, more mentally stable and attractive person at 35 and at 40 than I was turning 20 or 30, and that's a cool feeling to have.

Written July 5:

-Now our car is having an intermittent shifting issue, aaaaaaand as of this morning WON'T START. It's still under a pretty extensive warranty, at least.

-My mother's Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) has apparently yielded Secondary Pulmonary Hypertension (SPH) - SPH is a really big, terrible deal. People sometimes die within months of being diagnosed. You can go on to live another 3-10 years with it with some radical lifestyle changes and aggressive medical care, but my mother isn't even willing to quit smoking or TRY to get enough sleep. She's in some kind of weird denial that makes talking to her beyond frustrating. I'm doing a cyclical thing where I cry about this, talk to my Dad or my sister about it for awhile, feel better for a bit, and then repeat. I can't imagine how I'd feel if I hadn't 1.) put some distance between the two of us, several years back, and 2.) really worked through a lot of my Mom Stuff in counseling, last year. My mother is only (newly) 50 years old. Understanding that she is the same age as my a couple of my children's friends' parents, and seeing that THOSE 50 year old women have interests, hobbies, and hairstyles, that they're aware of current events and plan things that they get excited about, just...I don't know, man. My mother's whole life is a graveyard shift security guard job, binge drinking at her brother's house on the weekends, and helping my Nana and Pa with Nana's care. She periodically re-reads the Twilight books.

It's kind of scary in a selfish way, too, to see that this is my mother at only 50 years old - in and out of the ER unable to breathe, chest swollen and sore from an enlarged heart, taking several intense meds and still having her O2 sats drop into the low 80s from walking down a hallway... Her mother, at 65, has been bedridden for over 5 years from strokes. My mom's grandmother died of cancer at only 42. I am trying to focus on the lifestyle problems and non-repeating flukes involved in these cases, and the Cuban longevity on my Dad's side that I seem to take after in most regards, because good grief.

I'm sitting in a taco shop with Shaun and our laptops, writing this, and it is impossible to overstate the World Cup madness in every venue in Miami. The tvs are just BLARING (in Spanish) and every time someone almost scores all the customers around us ROAR with noise. I'm waiting for Annie, who's around the corner at SuperCon, dressed up with some friends. Last weekend Grant and I were walking around the Gables and we could hear the generalized roar from every tv for a mile radius around us, on the sidewalks. At one point this week we succumbed, and just sat on the ground at a store watching a game on the flat screens there.

According to my text history, since I've been out Aaron's new spiderling arrived at our house - it will grow into a Mexican red knee tarantula. He's been begging for this basically since he could talk. I know entirely too much about varieties, vendors, care, behavior, enclosures, and so forth of tarantulas, since his birthday.

Grant has been using a bunch of boxes he ordered to build all kinds of things with the little kids - walls they can burst through, structures they can sit inside of, pyramids for treasure, all kinds of stuff. It's pretty great.

I guess I'm out for now.
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Our lentil soup recipe (this makes about half of a big stock pot):

Sautee in a small amount of water or olive oil, all diced up small,
-half a big yellow onion
-about 6 cloves of garlic
-4 large carrots
-4 celery ribs

Then to that, add,
-either a can of tomato juice or a couple of liquified tomatoes (we use the magic bullet)
-3 or 4 chicken broth cubes and 1 or 2 beef cubes. This is your call. I'm sure vegetable broth would be fine, and obviously actual broth as opposed to cubes would also work.
-24 oz of dried lentils, which I usually get as 2 12 ounce bags
-a lot of water - I fill the stock pot until it's about 2 inches from the top

Cook that on low-medium heat, stirring now and then, until it's reduced a couple of inches and is noticeably thickened.

Really, it's unbelievably delicious, REALLY cheap, and very good for you. We like to serve it with optional parmesan cheese on top, and a big bowl of salted diced tomato and avocado that can be eaten on crackers. I think white wine is a nice touch if you're into that.

Isaac has this horrible joke book Frank got him a couple of birthdays ago, and he reads it out loud to us at the dining table sometimes. Today over tacos, random guesses at answers seemed to provide bizarre and potentially unsettling insights into my children's minds :p

Isaac: What has holes but can hold water?
Elise: Bubbles!
Isaac: What gets bigger as you take from it?
Aaron: Reading?
Isaac: What gets taken before you get it?
Jake: Innocence!

*blink blink*

I took Annie tonight, and we watched The Fault in Our Stars. Before we headed north, we went through Checkers and got cheese fries. I ate WAY too many cheese fries when I was pregnant with her, and she is aware of that and it's totally a vice and a joke of both of ours. She says very right-on things whenever she has any (which is probably twice a year), like "These are way, way too good." Basically, we get extremely excited whenever one of us reminds the other that cheese fries exist and are out there, available. May we never remember more frequently.

It was interesting seeing what was left in the movie and taken out, vs the book. Overall they did a great job, and she and I were actually the only two people in our whole theater, which was really nice on a few occassions. Twice I said something that made us both laugh a lot. One, "You're only 14 and I'm pretty sure we've already surpassed your lifetime quota of 'how many sex scenes you're supposed to watch with your parents'," and two, "oh my gosh I'm just so relieved I don't have to deal with seeing him in that suit." *sigh*

While we were out, Grant posted this on facebook:

Isaac (10): Ahhh!!! A big palmetto bug! Elise, come get it!!
Elise (7): *sigh* Where is it?... There, OK... I got it! You can come out!
Issac: Phew!

Hmm, I'm trying to think of significant things from the past week or so.

I've gotten a lot of (Weight Watchers) Activity Points. I try to accrue but not actually eat the Activity Points. I did about an hour of walking Sunday, swam laps Wednesday morning, and did jogging intervals today.

I also fell for the first time in quite awhile today, outside the grocery store, but it felt like my standard clumsy semi-annual fall, rather than the scary B-12 deficient falls I was experiencing weekly for a few months there. Off the curb and onto the parking lot. I happily realized I hadn't fallen down since January, as I looked at my skinned knee and bruised hand. It was definitely a "lost my footing/can't walk straight" thing, rather than a "my legs stopped working" thing, so...hooray?

I scored some really cheap wardrobe staples from Forever 21 plus, via mail order. Great long-enough, flattering tank tops in good colors for $4.80 apiece, and leggings for $10, with free shipping and a discount code applied on top even. Also a jumper/pantsuit thing that looks HORRIBLE, though. Maybe in another 20 or 30 pounds it will be ok - we'll see.

Also got about $300 in science equipment totally free through another homeschooling family on our email list! SO MUCH STUFF. A dissection kit and manual that Elise is far more excited about than I am, and huge cases of everything from chemicals and reactants (carefully inventoried) to a compass, iron filings, magnets, scales, microscope slides, safety goggles, rubber gloves, sterno, a big 1 1/2 volt battery, alligator clips - just so so much. We're still going through it all and trying to make plans for it.

The same family also gave us a ridiculously gorgeous silver plated candelabra, the greatest hits of Tchaikovsky, and an illustrated children's dictionary, while we were there. Because homeschoolers ;)
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May. 30th, 2014

Today, I read Jake and Elise 1.5 chapters of The Goblet of Fire. I read Elise The Long Forgotten Doll. I read Jake Never Too Little To Love and I Love You More.

I didn't actually read to Ananda and Aaron, today, but the three of us did watch both the first and second updates on the Reading Rainbow kickstarter (along with contributing with them sitting next to me, all of us emotional), and this Mental Floss video that they recognized just about every single thing from (including the author narrating):

This is how I found Isaac sleeping last night, not long after I left his room following our HP chapter:

The child that I was so freaked about being unable to read, just 2 years ago. I've lost count of his re-readings of those Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Other than that, there's a very battered copy of The Order of the Phoenix, and an Archie comic, on his bed there...

I have some parenting regrets, and some parenting insecurities, but I feel really good knowing that I've done this right, with them.

Once we got to the pool yesterday, I took this:

This weekend, I think that all seven of us are going to go see Maleficent together, which is exciting. We also have a birthday party for a friend, and Ananda is turning 14. She's electing to have an outing rather than a party - we'll see where that goes. I've got tons of stuff stashed away for her. FOURTEEN!

I feel like absolute crap today, physically. I don't know what's going on, but ever since we got back from swimming yesterday I've been semi-nauseous with a low grade headache. I can't shake the feeling that the pool made me sick, even though everyone else is fine and that doesn't even make sense. Just, ugh. It rained a lot today though, so I didn't have to go outside to water anything, and it felt very cozy and nice in the house. Annie made us chai and a big plate of mozzarella, tomato slices and basil leaves, this afternoon. Grant took care of dinner after I washed yet another epic mountain of dishes.

Bleh, I do not feel like I'm going to be able to sleep at all (because horizontal=more nauseous), but clearly it's past time to do so. I developed the ability, while I felt like shit CONSTANTLY, to be physically upset and emotionally happy at the same time. It's weird how that can happen. I mean when pain really amps up or exhaustion really kicks in, they can take over everything, but my baseline was so awful for awhile there that little things like "kinda sick" still don't really effect my mood overly much.

I've been having THE WEIRDEST and most vivid dreams every night. I mean everything from summoning demons with a big group in an abandoned house, to slow dancing on a stage in the middle of a crowded stadium, with John Goodman? Seriously wtf. And, I've been waking up 1-2 minutes before my alarm is set to go off for about a week now - which is really fucking bizarre, because I set my alarm for totally different times on different days and have nothing even vaguely resembling a regular bedtime. This even happened at the end of a nap over the weekend - normally I have to set alarms for naps because otherwise I'll just sleep for hours and hours. It's starting to be almost expected, though, that I'll suddenly wake up, grab my phone off the windowsill and see that my alarm is about to go off O_o

Tomorrow morning, after I take Isaac to school and pay some bills, I s'pose I've gotta schedule an eye exam for Aaron (based on some complaints he had today) and my annual pap/IUD check (since I realized that's about 6 months overdue). And get my supah-late shot. And do my laundry. And then basically concentrate on Elise learning to read, all day long.

I'll leave you with this video my friend Kristin made - it's a contest entry for the Tour de Fat car to bike trade, and she won. That means she'll get to donate her only-barely-sellable car to be auctioned off for charities she likes, as a tax deduction, and will get thousands of dollars to spend at a bike shop to outfit herself and her kids with bikes/gear. She's been planning to go car free for a long time, so she wasn't as upset as she would have been otherwise about her car's new problems. But finding and winning this contest is such a KRISTIN thing to do - I swear she can just manifest...anything.

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May. 28th, 2014

Well, we're about to go swimming, but while everyone runs around like chickens with their heads cut off finding bathingsuits and towels, I have to summarize the big ol' things I feel amazed/humbled/inspired/excited by, on the internet, today.

1. Maya Angelou has died! The tributes are so beautiful. I read all of her books in high school, and re-read them/read newer stuff, a couple of years ago. If anyone lived a complete and totally realized life, it was her, and sick at home at 86 is not the worst way to go after all those crammed full decades. I'm going to be focusing on her a bit with the kids, in the coming week.

2. Levar Burton launched a Kickstarter to bring back Reading Rainbow, as a free interactive thing for schools and homes and libraries all over - it looks really amazing, and the funding has been climbing up and up so steadily all day that you can actually watch it go. I've cried about this twice today, as a person who grew up watching Reading Rainbow in school, made it a part of Ananda's and Aaron's homeschool days in their first few years of life, and was really upset when it's funding was cut. Go to the link! Give! The video is entertaining and the rewards are interesting. The comments are inspiring.

3. I'm looking forward to giving to that and this new solar powered roads things I've now read about on 3 different websites - go and research that, too! I don't have time for all the links, but, WOW! There's a lot of info out there. It's worth making happen. Even if you only have a dollar to give, give that dollar! Friday both of these things are getting our money :D

4. There's going to be a new Queen album?! Apparently they've been sitting on unreleased songs with unheard Freddie Mercury vocals for 22 years?! I'm ready.

5. This is a great article Ananda and I both enjoyed - After a whole week of terrifying stories out of the Sudan, this is a nice ray of light.

6. Also food for thought:

Alright, pool!


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tina long-winded marie

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