Apr. 20th, 2014

I'm up too late, baking Easter cupcakes. Note that carrot cake batter becomes far more delicious when you use coconut oil instead of canola or vegetable or what have you. I can't vouch for the cupcakes themselves at this point, but the batter is on point.

I've had a never ending series of miscommunications, lately, IRL and online. I feel like I've probably hurt or offended way too many people, and in every situation I wish I could just go back to the beginning and not say anything. I kind of want to curl up under a blanket and just stay there, dozing, for a couple of weeks. I have a semi-constant urge to telepathically communicate to those around me that I love them and would just like to cuddle wordlessly, please. Unfortunately, when not speaking, I am just seeming grumpy and irritable in a way that can be taken personally.

Because it's something to do, and it makes me somewhat happy to think about: lists...

Easter stuff for everyone: carrot cupcakes, dozens of white eggs, dyeing kits and subsequent hunting, a biggish chocolate bunny apiece, Cadbury creme eggs for everyone but Isaac - who has a different sort of treat I'd never seen before (without corn), and Lindt springtime chocolate...things. Also rainbow goldfish boxes for the little kids, and chocolate graham goldfish for the big ones. Then they have some little separate nonsense - Lisa Frank stickers for Elise, tiny stuffed animals Jake's been begging for every time we're at BJ's, book of word searches for Isaac, new tiny desk bamboo for Aaron, and more (skate reinforcement) duct tape, for Annie.

They're excited. One of the most exciting parts, for me, is that ALL of Ananda's normal Sunday activities are cancelled. That, I can celebrate.

My facebook wall is RIDICULOUS, and has been all week. For the most part, I have four groups of people:

-Catholic and Orthodox folks who are constantly posting meditations on scripture, pictures of Masses and Liturgies, quotes in Greek and Latin, really elaborate stuff like specially embroidered clothes and symbolic baking for children at midnight services where everyone holds candles...
-Laughing atheists who are constantly posting things about "Zombie Jesus," jokes about Easter being on 4/20 this year (mostly referencing "the most high,") and other stuff that I know would not strike anyone in the first group as funny.
-Pissed off Pagans with infographics and memes re: Christians co-opting all of their holidays, ancient Egyptian roots of parallel stories, etc etc
-Jews debating the necessity and/or elaborateness of their secular observance of a "traditional American holiday."

It's a lot of scrollin' on by, for me, and I feel about as averse to Facebook as I did during the last election.

Additional list: Elise's birthday. It's only 10 days away! My youngest, my fifth child, is turning 7 years old.

-high tea at the Biltmore (she's been flipping about this, and changing her mind daily about which dress to wear, since January...)
-some kind of birthday cake that involves these little chocolate stars I bought from Marshall's in December, on top

-sheet set for her bed - she will be very pleased about this, she's been using a top sheet as a fitted and complaining constantly
-funky journal I found for her months ago
-The Blue Fairy Book
-one of those big balls with a handle, that you sit on and bounce
-giant felt board with a beach and under water scene on it, and a bajillion little felt pieces to stick on the scene. She used to have a small one with just a few pieces when she was younger that was one of her favorite toys.
-Rainbow Dash tshirt
-couple of pairs of shorts
-a used bike from the flea market, that we're going to take her with us to pick out.

She was so happy at the end of her GS Science Camp day, Friday. I asked her if she had fun, after I signed her out, and she said, "No....I had SUPER FUN!!!" and then prattled on about it the whole way home.

I found out last week that her and Jake got into Isaac's charter school. That means that, at least initially for a trial period, ALL FIVE of my kids are going to school. I'm still trying to digest this idea. Mostly, what to do with ALL THAT CHILDLESS TIME? On the one hand I feel like I have to take 6 classes and get a part time job - on the other, I think that it won't really be all that much time, between drop offs and pick ups if I just keeping going to school twice a week like I do now. I could use the other 3 days for things like grocery shopping, my counseling and shot appts, exercising (then NONE of that would take away from "family time"), chaperoning/volunteering for classrooms and trips, and actually keeping the house clean. (<--super weird idea) I mean, all of that could eat up the 18 "free" hours per week pretty easily.

What I most want to do with the time (around college) is write, and that was Grant's first suggestion, too. I probably will. It's strange how scary and selfish it feels to really take chunks of time for that. Also exciting and wonderful, though.

While it's certainly possible that any of my kids could have issues in school, I think Ananda and Jake will do really really well from the get go. Isaac has adapted and we already know the good way outweighs any bad, for him. Aaron I think could go either way, and it's based on how he reacts to the situation - will the structure and consistency make up for the extra demands and stimulation? We'll see. For Elise, I think it's all about what teacher(s) she gets. My current plan is that barring some sort of truly horrific and unlikely shit, everybody has to really try it out and give it a chance until Christmas break - then, we can talk about options if someone(s) is unhappy in a lasting way.

As it stands, everybody is pretty pumped. Ananda and Aaron auditioned for the arts charter of their own free will and I sat down with Jake and Elise to talk about whether to put them on the list for Isaac's school, and both of them really wanted me to. They were thrilled when I told them they got in. We'll see what happens once they're dealing with tests and grades and getting up earlier day after day. I would really like it to work for them.

Well, the cupcakes are done, and I've ranted on tumblr about how NO DAMMIT MONEY REALLY DOES NOT BUY HAPPINESS IT IS NOT JUST "PRIVILEGE" TALKING TO SAY THAT (probably invoking more misunderstandings and eventually wishing I'd just never said anything...) Off to bed, with me...
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School Uniform Prices

I think that part of the purpose of school uniforms is supposed to be that they cost less than "designer clothes." But they cost SO MUCH MORE than *I* typically ever spend on clothes! The uniforms I've bought Isaac and Elise DO hold up really well, and I appreciate that about them, but, gah! Elise especially is still at an age when cheap clothes are outgrown before they fall apart, anyway, so if I get her $4 pairs of shorts off the table-shelves at Target that's just fine.

Her preschool had a policy of "just" wearing the preschool's tshirts every day, with whatever bottoms you chose. They were $10 each. So I spent $50 for 5 tshirts for her at the beginning of the year, and then about $30 more throughout fall and winter because some of the originals got so stained up (since, you know, preschooler), and one just vanished. Then in February, I had to spend another $50 because the old shirts suddenly didn't fit anymore. While those costs are not the end of the world, I would straight up never normally spend $130 on tshirts for a 4 year old in one year! This is leaving aside the laundry nightmare of realizing you don't have a clean uniform shirt in the morning and always having to plan for this, or seeing something grimey on one that had just come out of the dryer, and losing your mind that 2 months into ownership you can only find 3 of the 5 shirts no matter how you tear the house apart.

I fantasized regularly about walking in there and dropping hundreds of dollars on shirts so it would never be a problem again. They were stacked up there all tantalizing, behind the desk by the door.

I'm looking at the prices for uniforms for this school Ananda and Aaron just got into, now. Thinking, "WHAT?"

Lately, Ananda normally wears a mixture of stuff she's blatantly stolen from Laura and I (mostly things we don't fit in anymore anyway), 2 giant garbage bags of awesome expensive barely used stuff from her friend Mia, who was going away to college, a few things she's traded with her friend Izzy, Hot Topic shirts she buys herself with saved up allowance money when they're having special promotions, and things we've found at Goodwill. The only clothes I've really bought her new over the last couple of years are the one formal outfit she needs for orchestra performances, $4 blank shirts from craft aisles for her to paint her derby number on for bouts, and really nice socks, bras and underwear. Ok and there were tights and leggings in her Christmas stocking and they all get pajamas on Christmas Eve. You get the point.

How am I supposed to spend much on clothes for her, when we've went from making rent-to-own payments on her cello to financing her braces? We've replaced her skates, upgraded her knee pads and helmet, and taken her on 3 derby trips, this past year. Fancier clothes are obviously not a priority to her, since all she wants for every birthday is more books and art supplies.

Aaron, Isaac and Jake mostly wear trash bag loads of really nice (sometimes still new with tags) clothes from a family we know with three boys who are all a little older than our boys. This past December I did stock them all up when Old Navy was having an absolutely ridiculous sale - I got them something like a dozen outfits (combined) for around $200, to fill in the gaps in their wardrobes. Before that I can't remember the last time I bought them any new clothes but socks and underwear, except for Aaron's dance things, Isaac's cheerleading stuff, Halloween costume pieces, etc.

And also of course about $600 for Isaac's uniforms, for 3rd and 4th grade, counting things he outgrew mid-year in 3rd. I mean, damn!

The point is that I was looking at the required uniforms for this school Ananda and Aaron just got into, and it's even worse than Isaac's school uniform prices. I mean the pants are $25 per pair, and on cold days their only outerwear options are a school hoodie or windbreaker that is $35, either way. Shorts are $22. There are like 5 styles of shirt, all $14-17. Those prices do NOT include getting the school's logo embroidered on all the tops (shirts and outerwear), which it has to be. I guess hey're not super unreasonable prices taken individually, but I'm sitting here thinking that even if I'm VERY modest (like 5 regular shirts, and one long sleeved, 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, and something for cold days, each) it's going to be $500. And I'm really not convinced that will be enough. And I'm damn well certain Aaron is going to outgrow everything I get him by Christmas and need all new stuff. Assuming he doesn't destroy the pants' knees long before that. AND I AM COMPLETELY SURE THAT AS SOON AS HE STARTS THEY'RE GOING TO SEND HOME A LIST OF DANCE CLOTHES AND SHOES HE NEEDS TO WEAR ONLY FOR THOSE HOURS OF THE DAY.

I honestly don't understand how mandated school uniforms can be legal at free public schools. I mean I've always been ideologically opposed to school uniforms regardless, although I'm less vehemently so now than I used to be, but really - I'm 100% sure the cost is not possible for some families out there. What do those parents do? I'm picturing some poor exhausted people having to do school laundry every single night.

Something sucky that has seemed to be the case thus far is that the uniforms don't take the place of "regular" clothes, either - the kids still need just as many of those anyway, since they don't want to wear their uniforms outside of school, and you wouldn't let them even if they did (because then they'd be stained and worn out twice as fast).

Ok, I'm done.

Today was productive without being nuts (roasted chickens, sewed something for Annie, planned out/crafted/rehearsed their Mythologically Speaking presentations with them, grocery shopped, made an appt) and tomorrow is one of our ridiculous nonstop days. But then Friday is almost totally open, and next comes the weekend. For now, sleep sounds luscious.
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Apr. 14th, 2014

Today has been a pretty good, pretty chill day.

I had a dermatologist appt this morning, to look at a mole that suddenly became red, swollen and sore last week. It's gotten mostly better since I made the appt, and she suspects mosquito bite or zit, which is a somewhat exasperating relief (since my normal doc looked at it while I was getting my shot last week and said 90% chance it was infected, 10% skin cancer). I mean honestly. Dermatologist is really nice, though, and we did a whole "skin study" since I'm over 30 and have moles and freckles everywhere - basically that means I stripped, she looked at all my spots, said everything is fine and that I should come back in a couple of years. She has a licensed brand of products that I'm thinking of buying, like a glycolic acid cleanser that will supposedly stop my pimples from happening and a sunblock I wouldn't rather die that use regularly since it feels like almost nothing and smells nice. She could also zap all the little red dots off my arm in a $140 visit (out of pocket, since they aren't hurting anything). Stuff to think about, I guess.

I got exciting emails that Aaron passed his audition this past weekend and has been admitted to the arts charter school for dance, and Ananda passed and can choose from Visual Art or Instrumental (cello). She definitely wants Visual Art, and I don't have a community resource for her for that, like I do for cello, so Visual Art it is, and I guess we're about to have an adventure.

I also got an email that one of the camps some of them go to in the summer is going to be EVEN FURTHER away from our house than it usually is, BUT...there may be transportation! Like, a school bus picking them up right from our door! I almost can't imagine. This will completely transform MY summer :) Here's hoping.

We spent a lot of the afternoon and evening at my sister's apartment, Ananda talking with me and Laura, Aaron doing his schoolwork and the 3 younger kids playing with their cousins. It was nice time, albeit kinda hectic. Eight kids can start to feel like a lot in an apartment.

Grant was home when we got back, and in a complete roll reversal came out to meet us in the yard.

There is some peripheral tragedy that I keep coming back around to thoughtfully - one of my good friends regularly takes their kids to activities and classes at a community center that was shot up, with fatalities, over the weekend. And, my mother in law's best friend - whose husband just died of lung cancer a month ago - just had her brother kill himself on her porch. My mother in law spent the week down here trying to help her, right at the end with her husband in March. She's probably coming back down again, now.

I suppose it's a strange thought, but I always feel like it's such grossly inconsiderate assholery to kill yourself in ways that directly infringe on and traumatize other people. They have to deal with losing you, they shouldn't also have to discover and possibly clean up the area. This was also about money stress, which makes me want to go off on a tirade about our capitalist society, but I'll save it.

Mostly, it really is a happy day, and the peripheral things really are second and third degree periphery. In my little microcosm it's good news and good company, and I get to go rinse this mask off my face and watch shows with Grant, now.
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Apr. 13th, 2014

I am really at a loss as to how I can slow down, be happier, relax, and still give all of my kids everything that they need. Stretching helps. Meditating helps. Drinking enough water and making sure I step outside often enough is nice. Lots of things help for anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes.

It's WONDERFUL to be able to go and go and go, again, now that my shots have taken effect and I'm no longer sick, exhausted, and in pain. But I don't know how to relax, now. Part of that is that there is so much to do, part is that I was pushing myself through much worse conditions than "plain old" mental exhaustion and tension, and so my cues for when to scale back are totally screwed up now.

There is also a combination of real backed up work (at school, with our house, mostly with each kid) that snowballed while I was napping, weeping, and/or sitting in waiting rooms, and my own terrible self conscious guilt about how much of that all backed up. I think on some emotional level I feel like however much it hurt, however hard it was to cope with, however terrible living at doctor's offices can be, I focused on me a whole lot for a long time. And it worked! I'm better now! But it seems selfish to focus on me anymore, at all, as a result.

And I'm...frenetic. There may be an element of my body and brain readjusting to having ENOUGH B-12 again? Because I feel almost jittery at times, like a constant caffeine buzz. I can't stop moving my feet around when I'm sitting there. I was really in a fog for months, so, it's got it's benefits as I DO ALL THE THINGS, but O_O

I have also turned a significant corner, in therapy, as of about 2 months ago, and I feel radically less triggery and ptsd'd out ever since. It's there, but it's so much less a hindrance than it's been in years past that I feel...free? Normal? It's big. And, again, that's great. But, again, without having terrible depression or internal freakouts when I don't take care of myself...I just kinda don't take care of myself. I'm realizing things randomly, like, wow, I haven't spoken to a friend, any friend, even online or in text, in a WEEK. Or, I haven't went and exercised in...TWO WEEKS?!

All my resources are just going to this deficit I've built up, since I can attend to that deficit now.

After teaching my kids all Friday morning; taking all 5 of my kids to the dentist Friday afternoon; blitz-cleaning with them for a frantic hour; and then hosting Laura and her kids and Shaun and his girlfriend, plus baking and frosting a big cake that night (Grant cooked dinner) - then I woke up super early Saturday morning and took A&A with all their supplies up to audition at the arts charter. It's far, it took many hours. When we were back home I tried to chill out and just water and prune all my plants, talk to Elise, enjoy Grant making soup, but it's like I can't kick the manic anxiety of having already pushed myself too hard. Because this is just a close-up example of how ALL THE DAYS, strung together, with no rest days, have been for weeks. Last night at the "end" of obligations, he and I got in a stressful conversation about his work stress, his self esteem issues, his generalized fears and things that do and don't effect our relationship. I cleaned our entire (gross) bathroom to take a bath and relax, and then laid awake in bed until 3 am. This morning, I had to be up by 8 making a huge breakfast for everyone before taking Annie up to her end-of-the-year mentoring showcase performance, where the rest of the family eventually met us.

I don't even wanna list it all, everything we've done today. Or Thursday, before I arbitrarily started the last paragraph. Every day lately is too much, never stopping. It makes my head hurt to even start with the listing. Last Wednesday, which was overwhelming, Grant wanted to budget and then plan the logistics of how today would go, and by the time we were almost done I felt like I was going to cry. "Normally," historically, things might SOUND overwhelming on paper but in each moment I was chill and ok and so things really did just SOUND that way. I don't know why that seems so challenging now. It's like the last piece of the puzzle I'm just not getting - how to be present and enjoy stuff as it's happening. How to ride the wave. I've been riding the wave by coping with things that are NOT getting done, for too long :/

I'm not yelling or angry. I do probably seem hyper or irritable at times, though often I keep that together, too, and it's just an internalized pressure buildup as I stretch further and further.

I go in these circles, that are comprised partially of these things:

-what can I let go of?
-part of the problem is definitely all the driving
-we can't afford to live closer to things
-I'm not willing to let things go
-I feel like it's totally unacceptable to punish any one of our kids for how many kids we have. Like that is not even an option. Whatever they need individually is irrelevant to our family size, in my mind.
-is it fair, right, natural or ok, for parents to sacrifice SO MUCH of their entire adult lives for their kids? For how many years? It wasn't expected or common until very recently; kids fit into existing adult lives. Not the other way around. I don't want to be that parent. They need to see a model of a wholly realized person who is happy in their own life...don't they?
-but, yeah, that is on me, that I had 5 of them, of course that will be massive and often take over my life completely for long periods.
-and they each have a LOT of unattended, unstructured time. There are just a lot of them, so it adds up quickly when the attention and structure is so often coming from me. I don't have even one overbooked kid who doesn't get hours to do whatever they want at home, every single day. It is truly just cumulative effort because of the number of kids.
-this is going to get harder before it gets easier, I just know it is.
-can we afford a housekeeper?

I don't know how much it plays in, but Grant thinks it's HUGE and not something I'm giving myself enough credit for, that I've been strictly on weight watchers for over a month. I normally (my entire life...) do a lot more food-for-coping. He's probably right. I chew absurd amounts of gum.

I have a couple of hours here alone right now. Before opening this, I was using them to read health psych (heart disease and diabetes chapter). But I am so keyed up, sore, unrested, I don't know HOW to relax.

I don't know HOW to be happy. Like I know all the reasons why I should be happy and I'm not sad, exactly, just frustrated with... I don't even know what :/ "Just" frustrated. Random frustration.

I mean I'm playing Enya, naked, drinking hibiscus tea. Attempting to very leisurely read my chapter's slide show. And I'm a kinked-muscle mess (eventually giving up and composing this entry).

I suppose that, taken as a whole, the problems I have are about getting better in huge ways and transitioning to improvements. I just have to zoom out and see it that way intentionally, at times.

*deep breaths*

One thing I really, really need is more breaks AWAY from my children. ALL of them. Grant's talking about giving me a couple of hours each Tuesday evening. I sometimes have Sunday afternoons, though they are (supposed to be) for studying and cleaning.

I can't do what I did when they were much younger and just stay up half the night by myself every night, any more, and without that break in between the sort of days we have I start to crack up. Maybe I'll use those Tuesday night hours to host a "book" (wine) club, or something that is easy but would actually gain me some adult interaction. I really, really need adult interaction.
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Apr. 12th, 2014

I baked this cake, yesterday, for Shaun's birthday. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5, because I was using 9" spring form pans and had a lot of people here. I only keep turbinado/raw sugar in the house, mainly because I way prefer the slightly more maple-y taste and like thinking it's less processed on some ephemeral, unscientific level, so that is what I'm always using in all baked goods I reference. I subbed almond milk for buttermilk, which is also pretty standard around here, and grass fed irish butter for vegetable oil because yum, but also because I've read enough about causes of inflammation to not ever buy vegetable oil again as long as I live. Re: various forums around the internet, I melted the butter before I put it in.

Overall it's a really easy recipe (put all the dry ingredients in the mixer, mix them, then add all the wet ingredients slowly as you mix, then bake). I just used my standard "wingin' it" chocolate frosting (powdered sugar, cocoa powder, soft butter, vanilla extract, added in what look like the right proportions until it's frosting). I typically have a really thin layer of frosting compared to what other people are into - I'm totally grossed out by bakery frosting layers. A really thin layer of buttercream was pretty perfect for this.

It was SO GOOD. Really really good. Grant is the kind of person who usually thinks most homemade cakes are too dense/heavy, and he loved it. A couple of my kids can think things are too chocolatey (I know, I know, I've failed them utterly), and they loved it. Ananda and I want everything to be INTENSELY, darkly chocolate, and as rich as possible, and we loved it. Laura's picky kids and Shaun's health conscious girlfriend loved it! Clearly, most importantly, Shaun loved it, and took home an awful lot. This is going to enter my rotation of go-to birthday cakes.
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Three Things

1.) Studying made me cry, tonight. It was the Health Psychology chapter, "Psychological Effects of Terminal Illness and Death." I made it through the SIDs section, I gritted my teeth through the Causes of Death Among 1-15 Year Olds. I already knew everything they had to say about the Kubler-Ross Model, and palliative and hospice care, mostly because of friends and real life situations. I actually laughed about the nonsensical, bullet formatted lists in our power point describing the pros and cons of dying young vs dying old*. But somewhere in between how confusing impending death is to hospitalized children, who can't really grasp that their lives are going to end, and the bit about conflicts that arise when an older person refuses treatment and their spouse or kids bitterly protest... I was just done.

2.) Earlier, Elise said to me, "You know, my birthday is only 26 days away. That means that your youngest kid, your little baby, is going to be 7 years old. That's pretty crazy."

Yes, Elise. That I can have five kids and the youngest will be 7 - is crazy.

3.) I spent awhile, tonight, in a rolling chair, head leaned on Grant's belly as he stood in front of me and ran his fingers over my neck and my shoulders. We can get to a place very quickly where I'm gasping and making involuntary noises and am COVERED in goose bumps. It occurs to me that I'm glad it was him that taught me, when we were 14, that my shoulders are dense with nerve endings and crazily sensitive. He licked my sunburn, actually, after I got back from a trip to the Keys with my mother, and I went wide eyed and slack jawed and asked him to please do that again. He really likes my shoulders in general, which I suppose is why he's the only person who ever really explored the "hyper sensitive shoulders" thing I have going on. It's really an art form, the way he knows when to bite. There are worse ways to pass half an hour.

*The most dryly existential hilarity was how young people might feel bitterly upset that they have not realized their life goals, whereas older adults may have accepted that they did not realize their life goals and made peace with that. My text book scoffs at the notion that anyone might ever actually realize any goals; that's not even a possible outcome.
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Apr. 6th, 2014

Maaaaan I really needed a weekend to hurry up and happen, so, hurray for that.

We still have all kinds of crap to do on weekends, but none of it is the most tedious or draining stuff that I do, and Grant is around double-teaming the cooking and childcare (or the two of us are off on our own).

Biggest tedious/draining weekday things, lately:

-painstakingly sounding words out with Elise, and reminding her a million times of a handful of little phonics rules; her language arts work is mainly in Kumon books of rhyming words and phrases that group things by consonant blend, right now (we sometimes also use Abeka's "handbook for reading" and Starfall's 1st grade curriculum, and supplement with BrainQuest, as well as snail's pacing our way through little leveled readers together...). It takes about an hour to get through three short Kumon pages with just a few 4-6 letter words each, because I make her actually do it - she wants to just trace and copy without knowing what she's writing, or guess that the word is what the picture seems to show and move along with the wrong assumption. Then, when Grant gets home, she spends 10 minutes trying to tell him all the words, with a little bit of coaching. At the end of which he generally stares at me aghast and thanks me for being patient :p Which is actually REALLY VALIDATING and helpful because the other kids certainly do not appreciate me being completely absorbed with her for half the afternoon (when I count in other subjects and conversations with her). I'm not sure at this point whether this is more frustrating when we sit at a table together with nothing else going on, or when it's an ongoing part of my cooking in the kitchen and she has a chair in there. THANK GOD she really loves schoolwork and WANTS to do it, and gets really excited about her own little leaps :) She did have a very noticeable "leap" this week, too, which is nice and gives me some hope. She actually told me the three things she was SO EXCITED about were her Girl Scout zoo sleepover this weekend, her birthday coming up, and learning to read. Be still my heart! Even if I am gouging my own eyes out at the end of each teaching session.

-reminding/keeping on top of Aaron about his schoolwork... Ugh. He's so sensitive, and absent minded, and easily distracted, and smart, and frustrated with himself. He, also, has had a little "leap" - he did a big amount of bedroom cleaning in about 30 minutes mainly just because he wanted to, this afternoon, and has been taking showers without me badgering him the past few weeks. And he IS actually doing a math assignment and reading a chapter/writing about what he's been reading every day, for the past 3 weeks, so. We're getting somewhere. But it's not where we need to be. It often takes all day long and way too much stress. It's reasonable and plausible to expect him to catch up when he doesn't do what he's supposed to do, this year, rather than just losing that slack time and falling behind. But he's still a little behind (in math only) because of how far behind he fell the couple of previous years. I THINK we'll be able to get him to grade level in math by the beginning of the next school year. Grade level actually starts to matter in a big way once a home schooled kid hits high school age because if you want a diploma rather than a GED you have to have transcripts that show all requirements ticked off. Up to that point, it's something most parents value that they can be doing 11th grade science, college level reading and 5th grade math if that's where they're at when they're 10 or whatever. Aaron's in 7th now. And fwiw I totally cannot tell whether the caffeine is having any real affect.

-phone calls. HOLY SHIT THE PHONE CALLS. This week I've had to call their dentist's office, Nissan 3 times about our van and rental, I've spent an hour and a half total on hold with Miami Children's Hospital about Elise's neuro eval, we have this ongoing dispute with the dept of solid waste management about a trash pile left by and collected for the previous owners of our house, Isaac's teacher, the arts charter A&A are auditioning for, the disability office at FIU, it. never. ends. While I was in Jacksonville last weekend I managed to lose my credit card and managed to spend over an hour on the phone with Capital One. I'm just so done with the fucking Responsible Adult phone time.

-Jake and his bedtime woes. I send him back/make him actually get into (rather than playing next to) his bed a million times every freaking night. He still continuously acts surprised that he's expected to ever sleep. He gets RIDICULOUSLY emotional. On Friday and Saturday night we let whoever wants to sleep in the tv room with a movie, so we don't deal with any of that. And that also takes the place of their before-bed reading, which is not really a tedious thing for me but just takes a long time.

Some good "weekend" things, this weekend:

-wine and Netflix marathon, Friday night.
-Starbucks, in a leisurely, just Grant and I way, Saturday afternoon.
-G and I went and saw the Grand Budapest Hotel last night :) With contraband Ben and Jerry's. It drug a little here and there, but I also laughed out loud a bunch of times. I wasn't huge on Moonrise Kingdom, but in general I ♥ Wes Anderson.
-wandering around the farmer's market with Elise this morning, while Annie was at a dress rehearsal. We picked Elise up from a zoo sleepover her Girl Scout troop just did and she was SO HAPPY (relief - I was afraid I'd be headed up there in the middle of the night or something when she freaked. But she had a great time. We even called Oma to tell her all about it). I'm really happy with that market, you can get a bunch of rainbow chard, some leeks and a sack of purple heirloom green beans for $9. Or, a whole fresh pizza you watch the guy make from dough in a portable brick oven, for $9. It's not too bad. There is an actual french baker with amazing stuff, and Grant is becoming addicted to the sausage. He brought me edible flowers to cook one week :) But I think we have yet to even hit $30 total spent in a trip. It's like some kind of revelation, I'd previously only been to markets like this in other states. Still not quiiiiite Silver Spring level, but I'll take it.
-being home with just Aaron (who is really REALLY chill when the house is quiet and calm) and Elise, for most of today, while Grant totes Annie to her things and hangs out with Isaac and Jake. They have a Sunday afternoon Life (board game) ritual. I took a nap. I talked to my sister on the phone for an hour and a half (<---not the terrible kind of phone call). *good sigh*

The coming week is going to be loaded with all manner of horseshit. A&A only have a week to get their audition materials ready (for TWO arts areas each), and we're a week and a half away from PATH's "Mythologically Speaking" event so that's planning, costumes, verbiage, and memorizing. Jake and Elise need a lot of help with their characters, even though we keep their bits simple. Annie also has a lot of practicing to do, if she's going to be ready for the mentoring showcase next Sunday, and that's something I have to push her to do. She's going to need a schedule of extra home practicing, or else it will all seem overwhelming and cause her to just freeze. I'm meeting with Isaac's teacher. Isaac also needs a birthday present for his best friend Andrew's birthday party. They're all going in for dental cleanings and checkups Friday afternoon. Aaron has earned a trip to the Aviary, that I am not excited about but will be pleasant for :p We also REALLY have to unload the rest of these @&#*(^$!* Girl Scout cookies. blah Blah BLAH, basically.

...I just realized I never went and got my shot last week. What the heck. I carry the injectables around in my purse and refer to them as my arc reactor, because I still can't believe I'm really back to normal - HOW could I forget that?
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"You've got, what, 22 kids?"

That's what my counselor said today, as a joke attempt, while I was in the middle of listing my current biggest "mom worries."

Annie is probably going to have oral surgery in the coming months, since her impacted canines are not coming down from braces (making space for them) alone. The surgery's not that big of a deal in and of itself, but, geez, general anesthesia? *sigh* For the most part, she's doing really great and I'm pretty much bursting with pride about her at all times. I was very impressed with her team captain skills and skating abilities at the scrimmage in Jacksonville last weekend, but I was just beside myself about her ability to make casual and graceful conversation with Nana, even when Nana's repeating herself, or being semi-delusional. The whole visit was wonderful and a big part of it was only possible because Ananda is somehow, miraculously, mature enough to take the silliness in stride and laugh with her about things that aren't even that funny. I wish I could convey just what I mean here... I just really would have cut her an awful lot of slack, if she'd been uncomfortable with the (Nana's in...) diaper jokes, or if she'd fumbled and stuttered when she got asked the same question for the third time, but I never had to. I think we all managed to have a good time that was very minimally weird, and made everyone feel glad it happened.

Aaron is on a temporary, experimental daily caffeine regimen that I hope might bridge the gap between "this is not sustainable" and "adderall." It seems important to add that this is something his pediatrician and my counselor, who is a licensed clinical psych, recommend as a great next step, along with some dietary alterations. I don't know where to begin, with the schoolwork battles and the all day every day nonsense...both of us are WAY too frustrated. I simultaneously want to throttle him and want him to not feel bad about himself, EVERY DAY. I took him with me to counseling today, and he sat in the waiting room doing his math, and then the two of us went to Galloway Farms Nursery for an hour. He liked it even more than I do, and found big areas I hadn't discovered on my own :) The only problem being that I clearly, completely screwed our first day caffeine "results" by isolating him in a small, quiet space for math and then taking him around a very serene place I knew he'd find ideal to the point of being a utopia. Ah, well. We need a bunch of days in a row to judge anyway, and I want to do as much else as I can to help him cope in general... He is still managing to be EVEN TALLER every freakin' week.

There is an arts magnet opening up that I've applied to for both of them. Annie with her first choice being beginning visual art, and her second advanced cello. Aaron with his first choice being advanced dance, and his second choice being beginning theater. We're taking it as it comes; IF they get in, we can decide whether they want to go, and whether that will be to the arts portion only or to the entire school day. I am cautiously optimistic about the program in general - it's a new location for a very highly reviewed and established main school, up the road. Like, HOLY SHIT the reviews are SO much better than ANYTHING else I've seen for schools locally. So far, we don't even have our audition dates, so, who knows.

Ananda is adamant that she won't go if they don't allow her purple hair. I already happen to know that they don't, on paper at least (Isaac's school claims not to allow all sorts of things that I see there all the time), but I am biding my time.

Isaac is having belly aches and bathroom troubles again :/ I've doubled his probiotics and am pushing water on him a lot, as well as trying to spend a lot of time in our before-bed-calm-reading-together routine - because it really seems like at least part of this is anxiety, like that is what's left of his lifelong belly troubles since we figured out his food stuff and things improved so much. It's hard not to get paranoid that things will rapidly progress to the terrible place he spent so long in before (hospitalization, tests galore, nonstop specialists, meds, etc). He's been doing very, very well belly-wise for almost two years now, so hopefully this will improve soon. I do have some things I can give him if it keeps up... For the most (non-belly) part, I continue to be in an amazed state of NOT worried about Isaac, which still sometimes seems new :)

Something weird that I think about sometimes is just how much Aaron and Isaac open up and act differently (calmer, more at ease, much easier to have a conversation with) when one on one. They seem to suffer much more than the other three for being part of a big family. It's hard for me to ever spend time alone with either of them, see how GREAT it is, and not ache a little for how much simpler, and really possibly happier, their lives would be if they were only children. I know you're "not supposed to say that," and it's not like I'd trade situations - even if I wanted to, two only children is not exactly possible :p - it's just strange to navigate, as a parent of all of them.

With Jake, I really just worry about him falling through the cracks. He's so easy and self-sufficient in so many ways. He does schoolwork very quickly and independently, and is ahead of grade level in pretty much everything with seemingly no effort. He is my least picky eater and the one who is quickest to go get himself something healthy when hungry. He's happy to play independently or with siblings most of the time, and is generally pretty chill. Now and then Isaac or Elise will come "telling" that he hit them or something, if they were play fighting and he got too rough, or if some trampoline-tag type play got out of hand - he does have a temper if someone hurts him first, even when it's an accident. And, he has a tendency to just beg to sleep with Grant and I, at bedtime :/ The combination (periodic aggression and the sleeping alone trouble) make me wonder if he's got some kind of repressed feelings happening, as he trudges along as "the easy one." There are times when he will just randomly tell me he's feeling really sad and doesn't know why. I try to get him to talk about it, and I try to preempt it, but fuck is it hard to always "get to" him in a meaningful way throughout the day when everyone else NEEDS things constantly and he SEEMS, in the moment, to usually be a-ok. I'm actually sitting here re-reading this paragraph right now and thinking dammit, I'm totally making a list right now of little things I HAVE to do with Jake in the coming days, and sticking to it....

Alright. I put a bunch of stuff in my (jam packed) phone calendar. They're small things, but it's meant as extras, beyond the normal "we have tea or dinner all together, and I hug him when he wakes up and tell him what to do with school work, and am around to show stuff to, and usually read to him and Elise together at night" kinds of things. Like having smoothies together while talking about our dreams/lack thereof tomorrow morning, having him help me bake the lemon syrup cake I have planned for Friday, and taking him over to the library for an hour Saturday afternoon.

I have him and Elise in the "lottery" for Isaac's school, for next year. He, Jake, at least, seems to really want to go, and I think it would probably be either a good or neutral thing for him at this point. Elise also wants to go, but I am not sure if she can really thrive in that environment, or not, re: various short term memory things I mentioned in previous entries... my counselor, hearing my descriptions of her issues and knowing her history, immediately suggested I take her in for a neuropsychological eval, at her old neuro practice within Miami Children's Hospital. That made so much clear and obvious sense that I felt irritated that her doc hadn't mentioned that possibility. I wonder if her doc has some kind of reasoning why it's not valuable or something? I mean she had a pretty thorough developmental evaluation during her preschool year (which showed her behind in speech but average or ahead in every other area, including things like comprehension), but testing before the age of 6 is a lot more limited. I called today, after counseling and Aaron time and arts charter applications and lunch, to get her in for that. The receptionist offered me an appt in the middle of July with what seemed like very little understanding of what I actually wanted to happen. Now, I'm waiting on a call back once she can fully explain to me exactly what she is scheduling Elise for. Because I am ok with waiting months for THE RIGHT THING, but...gah. I wish it were more possibly to actually get a doctor on the phone. Ever. Any kind of doctor. About anything. That is one thing I like about their ped - he actually does do that.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that I would have all five kids in school next year, which is a pretty bizarre and surreal concept. But I just don't feel capable of creating the sort of structure and consistency they need, a lot of the time :/ They all need such DIFFERENT things, and their doctors and orthodontist and dentist and extracurriculars, and my counselor and doctors and college and exercising, aaaaaall start to infringe on our school days, in various ways. And all of those things seem too important to just cast aside in the name of a peaceful and uninterrupted home school day. And I think there are trade-offs, and pros and cons, with everything, and that in a ton of ways, homeschool is still the better choice for them. In other ways, though, it's not. I think Jake REALLY needs friends, for instance - everyone else has a pretty solid group of friends that they get a lot out of, between their activities and PATH, etc. Jake really has siblings and cousins and that's it most of the time, though :/ Which is not as ok as it was a couple of years ago, and he's lonely.

Of course, the local schools are mostly ABYSMALLY TERRIBLE, very overcrowded, extremely crime-ridden, rife with language barriers...and so we are definitely at the mercy of charter school spot availability to even consider school as an option. And who knows how that will go. Earlier I had the ridiculous thought that maybe they'll all get in, they'll be doing well....aaaand then we'll have to move for Grant's job o_O

It would be really expensive, to put them in. We would deal, but there would probably be scrambling. When Isaac started 3rd grade and Elise started Kindergarten I was shocked by the prices of their mandated uniforms, and the crazy supply lists. They ask for tons of stuff "normal" public schools don't, it's a 40 item list from big class sets of tissues and many reams of copy paper, to thumb drives and ear buds for each child. He needed things like a spanish-english dictionary; colored pencils, markers, AND crayons; 10 different folders, all in different specific colors; and "at least 200" of those little loops for loom craft kits. They demand sneakers, and Isaac didn't even own them when he started (he had two colors of Crocs, and sandals, because Florida), and you feel like you need to buy your kid good sneakers to be in all day long every day, including PE. Back pack, lunch box, wtf - I spent over $500 for the two of them, all told. The uniforms being a big chunk of that.

I'm also still trying to figure out how to finance and budget all their normal summer activities, with the clock ticking for actually getting THOSE spots.

So yeah, that is a lot. It makes it really hard to care at all about shit like my own homework. Or writing. Which reminds me, my "review episode" recording, for Liz McMullen, is scheduled for the same time as Annie's next bout, and I need to try to move that. And since my editor is sending me another stack of copies, I should try to get that Tumblr contest going again. I don't have hours, you know? I've stolen this journal entry out of my sleep, partially in the hope that it will be easier to sleep once I say all of this.

I definitely have zero resources to expend any effort whatsoever on shit like polyamory (good lord, I'd be so thrilled to actually spend some time WITH GRANT sometime soon...). Once I got off the phone with the neuro office this afternoon, and we all had tea and talked on the deck, and I talked to the coordinator about this "Mythologically Speaking" PATH event they're all going to be in, it was time to take Elise to Girl Scouts and Annie to derby, and while we were out alone the boys and I got her things for the GS sleepover event Elise is doing soon (sleeping bag, raincoat, bug spray, new water bottle). And a few little birthday things for her (shorts, Rainbow Dash shirt, new sheets for her bed) that are stashed away, now. Then we picked her up, and we read, and I cooked, and Grant brought Annie home, and bleeeehh my eyes are seriously crossing.

Elise will be 7 on May 1. I have little chocolate stars for the top of her cake, and we're taking her to High Tea at a local place that does it in an absolutely over the top way she's REALLY EXCITED about, although she can't stop switching back and forth between the two dresses that are in the running for the event.

Annie turns 14 on June 1. She wanted a very low key birthday last year, which kinda makes me want to do something more significant this time around. Though I have no idea what that is, yet.
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Mar. 27th, 2014

I used my commute-from-school to talk, again. About our coming weekend, but also a lot of meandering thoughts about homeschooling teenagers - mine, and in general.

How perfect, with that recording in mind, that I got a text right before arriving, from Annie, that Aaron had just "stapled his finger." Aaron, who is now (bandaged*) outside, cleaning up all the garbage all over the deck because he accidentally knocked over the trash can, and bellowing in his cracking-cuz-it's-changing voice, "Whine! Whiiiiiine! COMPLAIN! WHINE AND COMPLAIN! Whine and complain a whole looooot so that you will reeeeeaally regret making me DO THIS!"

Ananda re-purpled her hair while I was out, for the bout this weekend. Because the purple she likes only comes with a bleaching kit, she has extra bleach. She explained this as Elise looked up at me with an exaggerated sad lip and her hands knotted together under her chin. So I have finally relented to let Annie bleach and make pink ONLY the bottom inch of Elise's hair (like how Annie had it when she was way younger, such that it can be trimmed off easily). They are ecstatic on the deck with some old towels, both waiting for it to be time for rinsing.

Elise's nails are also freshly-painted-by-Annie. Spoiled little Beast :) Annie had to wait SO LONG for a sister.

We realized the other day that Elise is about to turn 7, which is exactly as old as Annie was in Boston, when Elise was born.

Now Aaron is playing (really beautiful) piano. *deep, non-murdering-him breaths*

I will probably not be around online much until at least Tuesday, beyond the Tumblr robo-queue that's been loaded up for awhile. Possibly more like next Friday. So please don't think I'm just ignoring you if I don't reply to a comment for a week or something :)

*I suppose it's a good thing that he's had plenty of tetanus shots in the past couple of years. Often coupled with casts.
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tina long-winded marie

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