Sunday, March 31, 2013

Adventures in Homeschool!

Ok, so it's not exactly an "adventure," really.

But so far, our decision to homeschool still feels like a great one.

Firstly, having both kids home all day long, instead of having them be gone for nine hours every day, has made great changes in the way we relate to each other.  The "shortness" and irritability seems to have vanished nearly completely.   Of course we still have moments where we'd rather drink bleach than spend one more minute looking at stupid mom's stupid ugly face, gawd.

Mom you are a freakin' idiot gosh!  
But those moments are rare, rather than being nearly every day.  A "bad" day at school for a teenager quickly becomes a monumentally shitty evening for the entire family.
We spend more time together than we ever have.  And not simply because we *have* to.  But because we enjoy each other's company.  I sincerely thought something was wrong with me as a mother, because spending extended periods of time with the kids on weekends and in the summer felt like a chore, rather than something to be enjoyed.  We all brought our funky attitudes, and made it nearly impossible to enjoy one another.  Embarrassing, and sad, but true.  It sucked.
Now that we're together every day, learning together, we're more supportive, more patient, and kinder to each other.   God, we needed that.

At the beginning of our "adventure," I kept hearing that learning happens naturally; that kids want to know, and they want to learn, and they want information.
I was skeptical.
And so, in order to avoid letting my helpless babies lead themselves into a life of ignorance and mouth-breathing stupidity, I set out trying to teach them much in the same way they learned at school.
"Here's this worksheet, and you need to do it whether you like it or not, because I need evidence that you're learning, and not just fucking around on the Xbox all day long."


And they did what they were asked.  But it didn't feel like "learning."  It didn't feel productive.  It didn't feel good...
So I backed off a bit.  I let things become much less structured.  I stopped trying to "make" them learn.

And suddenly, my daughter began to display an amazing curiosity.  She wants to be a part of preparing every meal, from start to finish.  She wants to learn how we cook certain things, and why we cook them that way.  She wants to learn.

And in between all the moments we've spent cooking, she's asked me so many questions.

"Why is it called a 'dragonfly?'"
"Is the mayor part of the government?"
"Why can't everyone get married to the person they love?"
"Where is Bangladesh?"  

It's as if her little brain is overwhelmed with all the things she wants to know, and she's only just realizing it.  It's as if she was so scheduled and so focused on learning what they wanted her to regurgitate for her standardized testing, that she didn't have any time to discover what she's really curious about.  And because her curiosities are so fast, and so never-ending, I'm forced to learn along with her.  I'm forced to seek out knowledge right along side her, and I find that she teaches me.

With our son, the changes are more subtle.  While he hasn't begun to dig into all the knowledge in the universe, he's showing a greater interest in documentary films, and he actually pays attention when his dad and I are geeking out on The Discovery Channel.  He comes up with questions, and "what-ifs," and has begun thinking critically about what he sees, rather than just accepting it at face value.   He is also a complete 180 from the scowling, brooding person he was before.  I have no doubt that the "drama" of high school occupied so much more of his brain than the education of high school.  He has also spent more time with his friends.  Because he doesn't spend 8 hours a day throwing spit wads with them, and having fart contests, he now makes a greater effort to nurture those relationships outside of school.  I think it's great.  And I like having his friends over, much to my own surprise.

We have yet to find a homeschool group to meet with regularly.  It's pretty much impossible at this point, since we still only have one car, and Dad needs it to get to work every afternoon.  But he is in the process of getting his truck running, so that will open the door for us to get out of the house, and go make new friends!  

I've had days where I've been overwhelmed and frustrated, feeling totally inadequate, and certain that I'm going to raise the two stupidest kids in the entire universe.  I suppose that's probably a normal fear, and one that I'll continually have to work to overcome.  But the decision, on the whole feels like a good one.  *snicker*

The pros still outweigh the cons, and watching them become interested in learning, and learning who they are in the process is a gift I will never want to give up.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Not-So-Amazing Moments in Parenting.

It's so easy to appear to be a "good" parent.

Posting pictures of smiling faces, engaging in enriching activities, and fooling everyone into thinking you're the most perfect, most loving, most amazing parent ever in the history of parenting.

Several times in the past, I've had moments of weakness and frustration, and have confided in my friends about my perceived failures as a loving, adoring mother.
Their reply is always the same.  In one way or another, they reassure me that I'm a "good" mother, and that I'm doing an amazing job with the kids.

I agree.
To a point...

Like nearly every other mother in the world, I am sure I love my kids beyond what anyone else could even fathom.  Even when wading thru shit and vomit, there isn't even the slightest waver in my adoration of them.

They're my babies, and I love them so much I could just squish them.
And we do our best to be predictable and reliable with our discipline, while still making sure they know they're always loved.   Loved, even at their most unlovable.  Even thru their rolling eyes, their disgusting rooms, and their terrible hygienic habits, we love them irrevocably.
And they know that.

In that regard, I think we fall into the category of "good" parents.

However, there are moments that we don't share.  Moments that I think we would be better off sharing.  All of us.  Because nothing sucks more than believing you're not as "good" at being a parent as the rest of your friends.  Nothing sucks more than believing that despite your best efforts, you're fucking up your kids on a grand scale, because of all those funny little things that happen in between the "good" moments.

In the spirit of honesty, and parental camaraderie, here are a few of our more embarrassing, real, and "bad" parenting moments.  

Yeah.  Here they are.  

Gonna type 'em.  Riiiiight now.

Taking a pretty big leap to the assumption that I'm not alone in this...

"Bad" parent moment #1

Bitching at your kids for dropping cereal all over the floor, and leaving it.
Promptly dropping cereal all over the floor, looking around in all directions, and kicking it under the fridge.  That was me.

"Bad" parent moment #2

Revoking all TV privileges for the rest of the afternoon, simply so I don't have to hear the sound of the Phineus and Pherb theme song for one more god-forsaken second.    That was me, too.

"Bad" parent moment #3

"NO, you may not have cake.  NO MORE JUNK FOOD today.  Too much junk food is bad for you."
Followed by a sneaky midnight visit to the kitchen, to eat the cake I told them they couldn't have.  For the sake of their health and safety.
Goddammit, that was me, too.

"Bad" parent moment #4

"That does it!  Early bedtimes for everyone!"
When I just want a moment to myself, for fucksake.
These are all me.  This is becoming an embarrassment...

"Bad" parent moment #5

"Your grandma is coming.  Make sure your rooms are sparkling!"
Meanwhile, I ignore my own room, and opt instead to just keep the door closed while she's here.
In my defense, I'm usually so exhausted from scrubbing the other 95% of the house, that the cleanliness of my own bedroom can suck my balls.

"Bad" parent moment #6

"Don't listen to what that mean kid at school said.  Her mother is an alcoholic barfly."
Not my finest hour.  But dammit, if she raised her kids not to be assholes, I wouldn't have to comfort my kid after hers went out of her way to break his fragile heart.

"Bad" parent moment #7

Shushing the beautiful, yet constant singing of your sweet daughter.
Seriously.  She's got an adorable little voice, complete with vibrato and accurate pitch.  And she loves to hear herself.  At great length.  All.  The.  Time.
And I'm not proud of it, but sometimes, I just need her to shut the fuck up.  A lot.  No, really.
Even knowing that I will miss her little voice constantly filling the air with music, I still need her to quit it sometimes.  Because, damn.

"Bad" parent moment #8

Shouting the shortened "STFU" instead of actually saying, "yo!  Shut the fuck up!"  Because, well, that's rude.  However, we've used the relatively PG rated "STFU" so often that we've had to explain what it meant.  Although, when you really think about it, knowing what "STFU" stands for is better than not knowing, right?  Education, yo.

"Bad" parent moment #9

(God.  This is turning out to be a much larger list than I anticipated...)
Sending both kids to their rooms for an argument that was pretty one sided, simply because I want them to STFU already!
Honestly.  Does every pair of siblings argue this way?  Sometimes it's literally over the sound of the other breathing.  They fight over an involuntary bodily function that's fucking necessary for being alive.  I mean, stick a fork in me.

"Bad" parent moment #10

We argue in front of them.
I mean, it's rare that we ever get into those really awful arguments that everyone has, but no one admits.  And if we do that, we take it to our room.
But for every-day skirmishes, we air all our business right in front of our poor babies.
In our defense, if we fight in front of them, we apologize and make up in front of them.  If they're there for the carnage, they ought at least be present for the stitches.

"Bad" parent moment #11

Hoping like hell that your kid acts up, talks back, destroys room, etc., simply so you can ground them, instead of letting them go do the terrifying, yet totally reasonable right-of-passage type thing they want to do.
Seriously.  Every time my son wants to go out with his friends, in their car, that they will be driving, I silently hope he behaves like a douchebag before the event arrives, so I don't have to let him out of my sight.  Ugh.

Somebody tell me we're not alone.
Somebody reassure me that we're not raising serial killers, and that they won't have to spend thousands of dollars in therapy trying to undo the damage we've done to their fragile little brains.
Somebody tell me you, too, keep a stash of secret cookies in your room, for the sole purpose of not sharing them with your kids.
Fuck.  I guess that should have been "bad" parent moment number 12...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why today sucks, and requires *this* many swear words.

It's not a good day.

It's not even a bad day.

As a matter of fact, fuck this whole day.  In the ear.

It started off with a general grumpiness that wafted its way thru our entire family.
Both kids argued over video games.  Dad argued over video games.  Everyone wanted to play, and no one wanted to share.

Then it escalated when it was time for Dad to leave for work, and for the kids and I to start our school time.  We usually watch an hour-long video about frontier living, move on to journals, and then the little one does a few various worksheets while her brother does his GED courses online.

Today's schooling, however, was met with loud, exasperated sighs, and rolling eyes.  They sat watching the video as if I were making them watch someone simultaneously giving birth and eating warm dog shit.  Their disgust was immediate, and they wanted me to know it.  The little one even went so far as to hide her entire body under a stuffed animal, to show me just how much she was NOT watching that goddamned video.   Behold their amazing display below...

Oh my gawd, mawm, this is stupid.  Let me show
you what I mean by way of my facial expression!

Finally, I put an end to it, and told them to "just do what you want for a while," and we all went to our separate corners.
Well, I went to my separate corner.  They plopped down on the couch like the boneless fat people from Wall-E, and proceeded to play an hour of Minecraft.
Highly productive, successful homeschool.

My son had previously asked about having a friend over later, and I told him we'd "see how the day goes."  He must have remembered that statement, because I heard him start prompting his sister to start her journal assignment, and he began cleaning the kitchen top to bottom without being asked first.
I don't know of any teenager who does things like that without being asked first...

Sure enough,
"Hey, Mawm.  Can I see about going out with my friend tonight?"

I'm sure my raised eyebrows were enough of an answer, but instead I replied with a short and to-the-point "no way.  We weren't able to do school today, so there will be no running around and visiting."

Why, such an accusation!  He looked at me as if I were drunk and proclaimed his innocence over the lack of school, insisting that it was his sister, and not he, who behaved like a hyperventilating heathen when we tried to watch our video.

Of course he didn't like my sticking to my "no," which I still don't understand.  These kids have known me long enough to know that if my "no" is going to change to a "yes," it does so immediately, and continuing to harp on the subject will result in nobody getting anything they've asked for.  Dammit.

Then he called his grandmother to ask if they could sleep over.  Because everyone knows that if Mom sucks, Grandma is the anti-suck.  He sat there on the phone with his arms folded, speaking to his Granny.
"Ooohhh, nothing," he said, "just been sittin' around playing video games all day."

REALLY?  Because it's not bad enough that people think homeschooling is a crazy, lazy, tin-foil-hat thing that weird people do with their kids.  You have to go and reassure your grandma that we're pretty much sitting around on our stupid asses all day, hooked up to the stupid-box, and ensuring a lifetime of drooling idiocy.  Thanks, kid.

And then, the final slap-in-the-face.

Brooding, huffy teenager comes into the room where I am, and begins wandering around aimlessly.  A sure sign that he's about to say something he knows is monumentally offensive, and will probably warrant another week's worth of grounding.

"Hey...Mawm?  What would we have to do to get me back into public school?"

I don't have a clever picture to put here, but you probably heard the sound of my fucking head exploding from your house.

After all the stupid nonsense and drama we went thru in making the decision to homeschool...after planning field trips and fun family outings, and ensuring him that this meant we trusted him enough to take it seriously, this little ingrate wants to drop this steaming turd of a question in my lap.

He didn't like my response, (which consisted of me glaring, and saying "leave this room right now.")  He vanished into the recesses of his bedroom, I'm assuming to write me a lovely "thank-you" note for all my hard work in raising him for the past sixteen years.

I did take a cue, however, from his half-truth confessional to his grandmother.  I immediately turned off the TV for the rest of the day, and declared it to be "reading time" all around.   The little one went off to her room to choose a book, and I selected one from our bookshelf for the big one.  Upon handing him said book, he immediately rolled his eyes, head, and body in a dazzling display of teenage angst, and took the book out of my hands as if it weighed 500 pounds.

(The Hardy Boys, by the way.  It's a goddamn paperback that he could probably read in less than a day.)

So here is my salute to today, this bastard fuckface of a day.  This nails-on-a-chalkboard, shit-splatter of a horrendous day.   
Go eff yourself, Today.  With a fork.  In the neck.  Because you suck.  

Now the rationality.
Teenagers are selfish.  And mean.  And purposely cruel to their frazzled parents.  Even the good ones.
I have a good one.  I know I do.  And I'll do well to remember that the next time I see some horror show on the news, about some lunatic kid who lights kittens on fire, or throws his whole family irretrievably down a well.  
He's a good kid.
He's just a teenager.  And therefore, he is an enormous asshole sometimes.

Like, say, today for example.  *grumble*  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Expectation vs. Reality

My circle of friends and family is filled with culinary artists.  People who take ordinary food, and morph into amazing displays of cuisine fit for a king.

And then there's me...
Gordon Ramsey would have me caned to death, if he ever set foot in my kitchen.  It's bad.  There are literally scorch marks on my wall behind the stove, because I apparently don't have the necessary cooking skills required to avoid catastrophe.  Nobody has yet perished from my glorious lack of culinary ability, but that may indeed be due to the fact that I don't make it a habit of cooking for other people.  When it's time for a large family potluck, I'm always the "mashed potatoes" person.  I'm told it's because I make good ones.  I believe it's because nobody is brave enough to eat anything else I make.  And rightly so.

I came across a recipe on my newsfeed.  Something sweet and sinful, and something requiring ingredients that we regularly keep in the house in plentiful supply. 

Chocolate cobbler:
Great for any chocolate fix

2 stk butter
1 1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c self rising flour
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c milk
1 c sugar
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 c boiling water


1 Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x13 glass baking dish, melt the two sticks of butter in the oven.

2 Meanwhile in a bowl, mix together the 1 1/4cups of sugar, flour, vanilla and milk. Once the butter is melted pour the batter over the butter, but do not stir.

3 In a separate bowl mix together the cocoa and remaining sugar.

4 Sprinkle cocoa/sugar mixture on top of batter. Do not stir.

5 Pour the 2 cups of boiling water on top of that (don't stir) and bake for 30-45 minutes. I bake mine until I have a nice golden brown crust. In my oven this usually take about 35 minutes. Serve warm. Great with ice cream

Don't I look fucking delicious for such a seemingly simple, albeit weird recipe?  

Ok, so the boiling water was weird.  I've never come across something like that before.  But what do I know?

Upon mixing everything, we (yeah, we...he least I don't have to take the blame for the whole thing...) we realized that the dough was looking a little thick-ish.  Seems weird.  But what do I know?
We "poured" to the best of our ability, and ended up with several large lumps of what looked like paper mache.  Then we covered the whole thing in cocoa and sugar, and pondered whether or not we were indeed in the midst of a practical joke.  

Forty minutes later...

"This doesn't look like the picture..."  

It looks like one of the first few horrifying diapers we changed when the teenager was a newborn...weird, watery, and in no way resembling something you're aching to put in your mouth.

The good news is, the taste is much more appealing than a watery infant shit.
If you can get past the strange, half-liquid consistency, it's pretty awesome over ice cream.

Google and good friends have since informed me that you can make due with all purpose flour by making a few simple adjustments.
But until then, I'll just eat this runny chocolate gruel.  Nom.

Give it a try, and let me know how it turns out when prepared in the kitchen of someone who knows what the hell they're doing!  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kid-sick, and the turd incident.

Kid-sick.  It's different from grown-up-sick.

A terror that lurks just under the surface of the put-together facade of every parent.

Today, the youngest kid is sick.
She started off this morning, lazy and whining, running the smallest fever.
A little peppermint oil on the soles of her feet, and all was well.

For a while.

When her fever returned, she got lazier and whinier, and decided to take herself to bed to rest.  She stayed there for several hours, sipping water, and barely moving.  I moved our vaporizer to her room, and diffused some oils of lemongrass, eucalyptus, and cinnamon bark, to help with her aches and pains, stuffiness and general gross feeling.
She fell fast asleep, and I relaxed, settling into the big chair to watch Wayne's World with my son and his friend.

And then I heard it...

It sounded sort of like a distressed "MOM" and a drowning gurgle.


I raced to the back of the house to find her looking panicked and green, and shouted "GET TO THE BATHROOM, QUICK!"

Then I saw it.  Everywhere.  On the floor.  On her blankets.  On her books.  On her.  Dripping out of her hair, her nose, off of her hands.

Hurk, again.


So, we made the long treck to the bathroom together, her leaving a slimy trail of vomit the whole way.  We blew her nose and ran a bath.
I stepped in her vomit.

HURK, you guys.

At that point, the smell hit me, and I did my best to hide my complete and utter disgust, because I didn't want her to feel any worse than she already did.  But, vomit.  Vomit everywhere, and now, vomit on my feet.  My sock feet.

She soaked in the bath, and I made seven hundred trips between the kitchen and the vomitorium, er, her bedroom, carrying piles of blankets to the laundry room, gathering up various sprays and rags, wiping down every conceivable surface, mopping up her mattress, and trying to make this newly-created cesspool of a bedroom into a sanitary space again.

"Mom, I am so sorry," she moaned from the bath.
"Honey, it's not your fault.  You couldn't help that you threw up while you were sleeping...were you sleeping?"

"No...I was awake.  I just didn't want to get up."

" knew you were going to get sick, and you still didn't get up?"

"Yeah.  I'm so sorry, Mommy!"

Jay-zuss, Mary and Jose.  The entire back of my house is covered in vomit, smells like a public toilet, and I have another person's puke on my sock feet.  

"Honey...when you know you are going to vomit, get to the toilet.  I will come and help you, but get to the toilet.  You can't just throw up like that.  Now your sick germs are everywhere.  And they are on my feet.  Ok?"


Nearly done with the de-vomitization of her bedroom, I got some fresh sheets to make her bed.  And that's when I

It was brown.  And smushy.  And kind of wet in the middle...
And it smelled like poop.  Yeah.  I smelled it.  With my nose.


"Sister.  Is this POOP?!"  

It was poop.  Poop, mashed into her mattress.  Actual poop, you guys.

"Oh my god.  Why is there poop?!"

She explained, "I'm sorry, Mom.  I thought it was a fart."


So, I'm done.
The vomit is clean, the poop is clean, the child is clean.
The mattress is going out the door as soon as the Mr. gets home from work, and if I am able to restrain myself, I won't set it on fire.  Maybe.

The good news is, the sick kid is back in bed, clean and resting, and feeling just enough guilt that I know she won't purposely barf and shit everywhere next time.

And I am done in time for the Alice Cooper scene in Wayne's World.
Which is perfect, because I'm finished thinking like a grown up for the day.