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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Resolutions and stuff

Yeah, I'm one of those people this year.

I don't always make resolutions, but this year I am. And really, they're not new. But I have a renewed determination to follow them.

Lose weight. Get in shape. Those are the no-brainers in this case. And thanks to a 1000-Mile running challenge, I should be able to do that (and if you want to join, and you click on that link to do it, I get credit for free stuff...and free stuff is awesome) and train for the next few races at the same time.

And I've gotten some fun gizmos to help, like this awesome calendar from a friend, and an activity tracker thingambob from The Dude, and some hand weights to use while running. Plus, my "sole sis" is doing her evil best to keep me motivated (actually we torture each other, but that's ok). We've been slacking for the past couple of weeks because of the holidays and the craptastic weather, but we'll get back to it. We always do.

I totally bombed at the whole attempt to lose 25 pounds by my birthday thing, but I think I'm in a better head space to do it now.  New year, new start, right?

Then there's the whole business thing. I'm determined to actually turn Mom Cave Designs into a legitimate business, and not just a hobby that makes me a little bit of extra money. I have no idea how to do it, but I've been looking into taking some business classes and figuring out what I need to do in order to make this happen. The orders that I've been getting have been keeping me busy, and it's been awesome. I love being able to do this - especially getting the weighted blankets out to people who need them, and adding new items to my Etsy shop is always fun.

Write more. I constantly have things that I want to write about pop into my head. And then I get distracted and I don't do it. Or I lose my nerve and decide not to put whatever it is "out there". I've always been very selective about the things that I write about, and I plan to continue that. But at the same time I'm going to try to stop worrying about making someone mad with the things that I want to say.

Those are the main things that I am focusing on this  year. And hopefully, with the support of my friends and family and all of the people who are crazy enough to keep reading what I spew online, I'll be able to make it all happen. Only time will tell.

Happy New Year, people!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Backwards Stocking

I finally started decorating for Christmas today.

I went out and bought a fake (ugh) tree, and got it upright and put more lights on it (a story all on its own) and I got the stockings hung up on the mantle.

Every time I post a picture of our stockings, I sit back and wait for someone to point out that one of them is backwards - because someone does it every. single. time.

The funny thing is that I don't even notice it anymore. It's normal to me.

After I got them up, I decided that I was tired and I was going to quit for the night. There's still so much to do and if I keep going, it's going to be way too late way too fast. So I sat down for a few minutes and looked at the stockings and tried to remember exactly why I ended up with one that faced the opposite direction.

It all started back in 1998, when I was dating Ex1. He told me that he had never had a stocking when he was growing up, and I was stunned. So I set about making him a quilted stocking to give to him that Christmas. I didn't have a pattern, and I didn't have a lot of money, so I used scraps of fabric and made him a quilted stocking and gave it to him.

By the time that Christmas 1999 rolled around, we had Sarah - so I made two more stockings. The toe on Ex1's stocking pointed to the right. So I made mine point to the left and made Sarah's point to the right. That way, when they were hung up "in order" the toes would alternate. When Emily was born and I made her stocking, her toe pointed left in order to continue the pattern.

Then life happened, and Ex1 and I split right before Christmas the year that Jared was born. Ex1 took his stocking with him, and Jared didn't get one right away because things were too chaotic. In fact, I made stockings for Ex2, my then-stepson, Jared, Alex, and Daniel for Christmas in 2006 - however Daniel's didn't even have a name on it since we knew he existed but we didn't know if he was a boy or a girl yet. We used the blank stocking to announce to the kids that there was going to be another baby coming. And for whatever reason - probably chaos and lack of time - those stockings all pointed the same direction.

Fast forward a few years. The Dude now has a stocking hanging with the rest.

To me, Sarah's stocking isn't backwards. When I look at the row, the first one, the fifth one, and the seventh one are backwards. They should all point to the right in order to have the alternating effect that I planned.

When other people look at it, they see the one pointing the opposite way.

In the end though, we all have our stockings. And they'll all be jammed full on Christmas morning regardless of which direction they face.

Plans change. Life changes. Things don't always turn out the way we hoped, but it's ok. It's important to sometimes stop and look at things from a different perspective and realize that an unexpected result isn't always a bad thing.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Putting it out there

This is my "running shelf".

The finisher medals that I've gotten are hanging on the left side. All of my bibs are hanging on the right. In the middle is my battered old Penn State hat and my belt that I use to hold my phone and keys when I run. The top has various other doodads, like my watch and mp3 player...and for some reason a little ceramic bowl that one of the kids made is there too.

This shelf is in my bedroom (note the festive - and very stained - wallpaper) directly between my closet and bathroom doors. I see it many times each and every day, which is part of the reason why I put it there.

Although I haven't been doing it as much lately, I do enjoy running (sort of). It's hard, and it makes me hurt (mostly in a good way), and I grumble about doing it - but it's something that I never expected to be able to do and it's something that many people over the years told me that I couldn't do.

But I can do it. I'm not fast, and I'm never going to break any records, but I can do it.

I can do it.

And I'm going to keep doing it. And I'm going to do it more.

I've fought with my weight a lot over the years, and it's gone up and down within about a 40 pound range over the past 10 years or so. Without disclosing the actual number, I'll just say that right now I'm about 25 pounds over where I want to be.

My birthday is in about 2 1/2 months (*cough*72 days*cough*). I'll be 45.

While running with a group of friends this morning, I voiced something that has been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks now. And now I'm going to put it in writing.

I am going to lose 25 pounds before my birthday.

I'm doing it because I want to. I know where my ideal weight is, and it's actually a little beyond that 25 pounds. But getting rid of that first 25 is a good, realistic start. And if I can when I get that done, it's going to mean something.

It's going to mean that I finally took control of my eating and exercise habits.

It's going to mean that I have proved to myself that there are better ways to deal with crappy days than eating myself stupid.

It's going to mean that I'm going to be healthier than I am now.

It's going to mean that I've forced myself to not hide in the house as soon as the weather turned cold.

It's going to mean that I was able to make a promise to myself and actually keep it.

And it's going to mean that I can tell myself I TOLD YOU SO.

If I was a hashtag person, I'd call it #25by45. But I'm not, so I won't.

But watch me, because I'm going to do this. And I'm going to rock it.

Monday, October 5, 2015


I had a pretty crappy day yesterday.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the situation, because they aren't necessarily important. Suffice it to say that I was involved in an argument in the middle of my driveway and it was loud and it was heated and I lost my cool over the whole thing. It wasn't pretty, but at the same time, I managed to say what I wanted to say (something that I have kept in check for a very long time) and at that point in time I didn't give a crap who heard me.

But, while I was getting everything off of my chest, so was he (no, not The Dude). The insults were flung at lightning speed, and every one that he threw at me was returned.

Until he puffed up his chest and got in my face and hit me with the zinger. The one that brings it all back up to the surface.

"I have to work for a living. I don't get to just sit around on my ass all day like you do."

Suddenly, it all came flashing back.

His voice wasn't his anymore, but instead changed to a voice from my past and I swore I could smell the booze even though I knew there was none there. I snarked something back at him and went back inside the house and did what I had to do until he was gone, and then I lost it. The Dude held me while I sobbed and until I could catch my breath again. I wanted him to stay for the day but he had to go and so I stayed here with Jared and Daniel. They kept themselves amused with toys and games while I drowned in my thoughts.

We always hear the phrase "domestic violence survivor" (or something similar to that). I survived it. I got through the physical violence with nothing more than a pair of bent glasses, some handprints on my neck, and a few minor bruises now and then. The physical stuff, in my case, was easy.

The emotional violence was so much more. The insults - about my housekeeping, my cooking, my parenting, my weight, my hair, and yes, even the fact that I got to sit around on my ass all day and do nothing - were thrown at me on a far more regular basis than the punches were. I knew even then that I was doing my best, but it wasn't good enough.

Then I realized that my best was never going to be good enough, so I quit doing much of anything. I survived by doing the bare minimum, and I got lazy. The kids were always fed and they always had clean clothes, but the house was always a disaster. I didn't care - because even if I cleaned it, I'd still get yelled at - most likely because in order to get the house clean enough, supper would be later than usual or something equally ridiculous.

I finally escaped from that life a few years ago. I started a new life and eventually got a new house in a new town and started to really pull my act together. But there is still one box sitting on my bedroom floor that I haven't unpacked from when we moved, there are always random messes in various places, the laundry doesn't get done as often as it should, the grass needs to be mowed, and my kids can sure as hell still give me problems on a regular basis.

I'm not perfect. Not even close. But I'm so much better than what I used to be.

But yet, that one insult being yelled at me in my driveway yesterday brought all of that pain back to me like it had never even gone anywhere. I wanted to yell back, to tell him how his idea of me sitting around on my ass was drastically different than my reality, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't say a word.

That one insult hit me like a punch to the gut and a kick to the head all at the same time. It knocked the wind out of me and took me back to one of the darkest times in my life, a time that I have talked about and written about and analyzed and replayed millions of times. A time that I thought I had "survived".

In reality, I honestly don't consider myself to be a survivor. I'm not "over it". It's not done and gone and buried somewhere so that it can never come back to haunt me again. It's still a part of me and it always will be, no matter how much time passes.

I'm not a survivor, but I'm surviving.

Please, do not ask who it was. Other than referring to him as "he", I've intentionally kept this vague, because it's really not important who "he" is. "He" could be anyone, and "he" has been multiple people in the past - I only chose to write about this particular incident because of my own personal reasons.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pumpkins and Persecution

We all know how I feel about pumpkin, right?

It's gross. It's icky. I hate it with every fiber of my being, and then some. I don't want to taste it, I don't want to smell it, I don't want it near me unless I'm hacking it to pieces in the process of making a jack-o-lantern....and even then I usually gag a time or two.

So a year or two ago when I was working at the fast food joint, pumpkin season rolled around like it always does. We started serving pumpkin spice coffees and pumpkin ice cream and other grotesque items made with that horrendous stuff.

Guess what? I had to deal with it.

I could have told my boss, CrankyPants, that I refused to serve anything related to pumpkin because I thought that it was gross and icky, and she would have shown me the door. I could have quit then and there and just kept going on with my life elsewhere. Or, as I chose to do, I just sucked it up and served the damned pumpkin crap. And life went on.

I bet you can see where I'm going with this, can't you?

I am so sick and tired of seeing posts floating through my newsfeed saying that Kim Davis is being persecuted because she's a Christian and she's standing up for her rights. No, she's not being persecuted. She's being punished for not performing the job that she was elected to do, and that she most likely took an oath of office promising that she would do.

That's not persecution. That's the consequence of breaking the law.

She can believe whatever she wants to believe. She has that right. Whether or not I agree with her isn't the point. (For the record, just in case you're new here - THIS is how I feel about equal rights.) She's standing up for what she believes in, and that's ok. I don't agree with her, but in a way I almost (I said almost) admire her for sticking to her guns.

What's not ok is that she's not doing her job, and by not doing her job she's violating other peoples' rights.

She's a government employee. The law says that everyone has the right to get married, but she's using her religious views to prevent that from happening.

HER religious views. She is trying to impose HER religious views on everyone else in Rowan County, regardless of what religion they practice themselves.

This country was founded in part on the freedom of religion. But folks, it's not just freedom OF religion.

It's also freedom FROM religion. People are free to choose not to follow any religion at all.

If homosexuality, gay marriage, or singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while driving violates your religious beliefs, then don't participate in those activities. IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

Don't like it? Don't do it. But the law says that you can't stop anyone else from doing it either.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Get a grip, people.

It's  getting to be that time of the year again.

Fall is coming and people are anticipating cooler weather, and for whatever reason it seems that people just have to equate that with one thing.


Pumpkin everything.

Pumpkin all the things.

Personally, I despise the stuff. I think that the taste and texture of pumpkin is nasty, and yes, I've tried to eat it numerous times, and no, I don't give a crap how YOU make it - I don't like it.

Pumpkins are good for 3 things: jack-o-lanterns, roasting the seeds after making said jack-o-lanterns, and then smashing the aforementioned pumpkin after Halloween is over. That's it. Nothing else.

But yet, there are people who worship the almighty pumpkin. As soon as there is a hint of fall weather (or even before), their eyes glaze over, drool runs down their chins, and all they can think about is adding pumpkin to everything edible and/or drinkable.

They act as though they can only get their beloved squash for a limited time each year - which for the most part is true - if they're going to wait for one to ripen on a vine in their garden. However, with the dozens of people I know who are afflicted with pumpkinitis every year, not a single one of them stands in their garden, guarding the plant, watering it, weeding it, talking to it, waiting patiently for it to ripen so that it can be harvested and cut open and gutted for its (supposedly) delicious flesh. Instead, they do what most people do.

They go to the store and they buy a can of it.

See that? I bought that can of pumpkin last year specifically to make a point. It's been sitting on the shelf in my pantry for close to a year so that on the off chance I decided that I wanted a pumpkin pie in June, I could make it.

Want a pumpkin roll in February? Well, by golly, whip that can of pumpkin off of the shelf and make it!

You want pumpkin cupcakes in May? Crack that can open.

Got a hankerin' for some pumpkin pancakes for a delicious brunch in December? Guess what? YOU CAN MAKE THEM ANY TIME YOU WANT THEM.

You don't know how to cook/bake, or you don't want to? I bet you can find another pumpkinitis victim who would gladly do it.

Oh, but then there are the people who think that their coffee needs to be laced with the crap too. Pumpkin spiced lattes and cappucinos and whatever - well guess what? Some of them DON'T EVEN CONTAIN PUMPKIN!!! They contain "pumpkin spice" which is usually a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice (all of which are available at any grocery store *GASP* year round). If you don't want to make your own "pumpkin spice" mixture - you can buy it already made and sprinkle it in your drinks until your little heart is content.

Now from what I understand, some of these places that sell these grossly overpriced fluffy coffee drinks are now adding 'real' pumpkin to them - but a quick google search brought up about eleventy bajillion recipes for drinks with pumpkin in them - so if I had the desire to ruin a perfectly good drink, I could do it myself for a lot less money. And you can too!

Of course it doesn't stop there. Corporations feed into the pumpkinitis epidemic by adding the crap (or some imitation of it) to everything that is prepackaged whether we want it or not - Oreos and M&Ms and peeps and salsa and candles and soap and pudding and bagels and marshmallows and air freshener and cookies and soda and toothpaste and ice cream and it just. keeps. going. on.

I even found an image for pumpkin spice flavored condoms - which I found are NOT a real product. But I wouldn't be surprised to see them on the shelf at the local drugstore any time now because people will somehow feel that they just can't live without them.

How long until we have pumpkin scented toilet paper?

Seriously people. You can buy pumpkin year round. If you love the food that much, make it whenever you want to make it. SEIZE THE FREAKING DAY and make a pumpkin pie in March if it will make you happy. If you love the candles so much and they're not available at your favorite candle store year round, then stock up on them in October when they are on the shelves. Burn them whenever you want to BECAUSE YOU CAN. All of this prepackaged food has the shelf life of Twinkies anyway, so if you love the Oreos that much, buy a case of them and stash them in the cupboard to enjoy year round.

Stop acting like you can only get the crap for 2.5 seconds out of the year.

Oh look - I still have over
15 months to use it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Almost there...

Less than a week until school starts.

The majority of the school supplies have been purchased, parent/teacher conferences are scheduled, sports practices have already begun, and it's only a matter of time before I dump the kids off at the front door of the school and do the happy dance on the way out of the parking lot.

I love my kids. I really do.

But I can not wait until they are back in school. Seriously.

I've never been one of those moms who greets the new school year with "but I'm going to miss my babies so much" or "I just can't bear the thought of my darling angels being gone all day" or any of that jazz.

Instead, I'm over here saying "finally, I can poop in peace!"

After dedicating the past 3ish months to them morning, noon, and night (and then some), I'm ready for some quality ME-time.

I'm ready to deal with the morning drama, take them to school, and then go for a run.

I'm ready to go to the grocery store - alone - and not feel frazzled the entire time I'm there (or come home with a bunch of crap that I didn't plan to buy).

I'm ready to help Emily get her Crayons for a Cause up and running.

I'm ready to hide out in the Mom Cave and work on lots of new projects. I have so many ideas for things that I want to get made in addition to the normal routine of the weighted blankets, and it's so hard to get any of that done when the kids are home - but with 7-8 hours of peace every day I can get so much done without feeling like I'm neglecting them. 

And I'm totally ready for Date Day with The Dude - on Tuesday, the first day of school, he and I are packing a cooler and our fishing poles and we are taking off for the lake as soon as the kids are safely at school and we're going to just hang out together all day. We might have just spent a solid 2 weeks together, but we did not get any time alone - and ever since we got back we've both been busy taking care of stuff and haven't really had a chance to really see each other - so I called him today and officially asked him out on a date. And he said yes.  (I think he likes me.)

I've been told before that I'm selfish because I enjoy my time "too much" when the kids are in school. Maybe it is selfish of me, but I look at it this way - I am here for these kids 24/7, whether they're in school or not. I'm lucky enough to not have to work a "real" job so I can spend the entire summer with them and it's awesome. But when they're in school, I get to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I finally get to do stuff for ME, without taking away time from them. I can sneak away for a day and go fishing with The Dude without having to worry about finding someone to keep an eye on them. I can hide in the Mom Cave all day and not worry about who is going to fix them lunch (because I already packed it before they walked out the door that morning). I can go for a run to clear my head and keep myself healthy without wondering if they're burning the house down while I'm gone. And if I want to take a nap in the middle of the day, I can do it without fearing judgment from someone who might show up at the door for some unknown reason.

And if all of that is selfish, then so be it. I know that having the time to myself while they're in school makes me a more relaxed person, which helps me to be a better mother. And I'm ok with that.

5 days, 4 hours, and 45 minutes....... give or take a few......

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bit by bit.

Know what I hate?

(Besides pumpkin flavored anything, that is....)

I hate the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Whether it's the unending list of things to do, financial obligations, scheduling conflicts, or emotional crap, I don't like to be overwhelmed. I like simple. I like easy.

Unfortunately, life isn't always simple or easy.

We came back from vacation a few days ago, and I've been trying to get things done ever since. There's so much laundry and cleaning and sorting and catching up to do, and even with my plethora of lists, I'm still having trouble figuring out where to start.

I spent the majority of the day yesterday mowing the grass. It was wet and overgrown and awful. A job that usually takes less than 2 hours and about a half a tank of gas took me over 5 hours and about 2 1/2 tanks because the grass was so high that it kept stalling the engine. It was a nightmare, but I got it done.

The other really big thing that has been nagging at me, waiting for me to get it done, was weeding the garden. I did it right before we left in the hopes that it wouldn't be so bad when we got home. But, we apparently got upwards of 5" of rain and the weeds went crazy. What makes it more difficult is that we dug this garden this year, so the grass keeps growing back in from the edges.

I knew I had to get it done today, no matter what. I was tired, I was sore, and I was in no mood to do it, but I forced myself to get out there and do it. The ground was just wet enough that the weeds weren't hard to pull, so once I got started, it went fairly quickly and easily, and although I only planned to do about half of it tonight, after about 3 hours I had it completely done.

I worked on it alone, with Alex and Daniel occasionally coming outside to tattle whine give me progress reports on getting their laundry put away. As I worked, I replayed various scenes from our vacation.

I kept thinking about the devastating scene with my mother, replaying it over and over again, until I couldn't tell if I had sweat or tears dripping off of my face - or maybe a little bit of both. I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened, and so far I'm not succeeding at it at all.

The only good thing about feeling so helpless with that situation right now is that I can flip that good ol' coping mechanism switch. You know the one - it has that crazy label on it that says "If you can't control one aspect of your life, push this button and you can control something else instead".

Eventually I'll be able to accept this new normal with my mother and get past it and deal with it better than I am right now. At this moment I might not be able to get a grip on the emotional baggage that came back with me a few days ago, but I can sure as hell make sure that there are no weeds in my garden.

Getting fresh snacks is a bonus.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Post-vacation crap

Sometimes I seriously wonder which is worse - preparing to go on a huge vacation, or cleaning up the mess afterwards.

We got home early Friday afternoon. My stomach revolted against me the second we crossed the Kansas state line (not kidding) and so I felt like crap for the rest of the day. I didn't do much except help unload the van (in between trips to the bathroom) and make sure that the house was still standing. On Saturday we ran around for the big festival here in town, but I managed to get a few loads of laundry done here and there.

Today was the busy day for me. It was hard to get started, but I kept working on laundry and even though it's not all done I can at least officially say that all of the sleeping bags have been washed, dried, and put away.

I had planned to work outside today, but woke up to a little bit of rain. It stopped, so I decided to go ahead and mow the grass. I figured that if I at least did the front yard, my house wouldn't look quite so ghetto and I could take my time getting the back yard cut. We apparently got quite a bit of rain while we were gone, and the yard was a disaster. What normally takes me about 2 hours and less than a tank of gas ended up taking me 5+ hours and about 2 1/2 tanks - the grass was so overgrown and wet that it was almost impossible to get it done. It still looks terrible because it's all clumpy and nasty, but it's cut - and after it dries out a bit more I'll mow again and get rid of all of the clumps.

Once I got that done, I came inside and worked on more laundry and other stuff. I really didn't get as much done as I had hoped to, but I was exhausted from mowing and my body hurt. A lot.

But, I managed to get quite a bit of stuff done - nowhere near what I wanted, but every little bit helps at this point.

Of course, things never go as smoothly as I want them to, and when my vacuum decided to give me attitude, I figured out that the one hose was split - which totally explains the lack of suction lately. I knew I could "fix" it, but then I couldn't find a screwdriver and then I couldn't find the duct tape and as I threw an internal temper tantrum (I was too tired by this point for a real one) I found them and I rigged up the vacuum so that it works. At least it worked enough for a few swipes across my bedroom carpet because I'm tired and I'm not vacuuming everything that needs to be done right now even though I really should.

 I had hoped that we were going to have a fairly quiet week this week, but since it's the last week before school starts, I know that's not going to happen. I just found out about 10 minutes ago that Alex has to have a football physical sometime in the next 2 days in order to play (oops), and that's on top of the girls both needing physicals within the week, along with trying to get school shopping done and deal with real life at the same time while also trying to recover from a vacation that exhausted me both physically and emotionally.

I'm really just not in the mood for all of this. I'm just not.

I need a vacation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Time marches on....

We got back from TMOART:15 this morning, and as I mentioned the other day our vacation was not all fun and games. Don't get me wrong - all in all we had a good time. But as with any trip, there is always stress and aggravation.

One thing that we do every year is get a group picture of the kids. And it's not just any picture, but it's our traditional Line Them Up In The Same Order On The Lion Statue picture. We leave from my parents' house and head up to State College for the day, run around, take the picture, eat lunch, and then head back. It's a fun family ritual and the kids actually look forward to it, despite the looks on their faces in half of the pictures.






It's crazy to see how much they've changed - I mean, I know that they're growing up, but this just reinforces it so much more. The kids were joking around about "what are you going to do when we're away at college or all grown up and we don't go on vacation with you anymore?" I told them that they still have to go along just because I'm the mom and I said so. Honestly, I don't even want to think about that time, even though I know it's coming faster than I'd like to admit.

For now, I'll just enjoy our silly little traditional picture every year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Get Hit or Run For Cover

I actually wrote this post on my notepad app on my phone at about 4am while we were staying at my parents' house, but because of the lack of WiFi, I wasn't able to post it until now. I debated not posting it at all because it's so hard to deal with, but maybe if I had read something like this before our visit, I would have been more prepared for the experience.


No one prepared me for what it would be like to deal with someone affected by dementia. I never expected such a drastic decline to happen in the span of a year.

The fairly regular phone calls gave me a false sense of security. I knew that mornings were clearer for her, so I made sure to call first thing, before the stress of the day could get to her. She was clear, lucid, sometimes even joking. She was the mother that I remembered.

But then we got to their house. Dad had recently been hospitalized so we busted butt to get there earlier to help before the family reunion. They didn't want our help, so we tried to make it a pleasant visit.

I told Mom earlier that day that the upstairs shower had leaked into the downstairs bathroom and she blew it off like it was no big deal. Then Alex got a shower and the same thing happened. We were all sitting out on the porch enjoying the cool evening air when she exploded out of the kitchen door, pointing her finger at him, screaming that he was never to take a shower unsupervised again because he made such a horrible mess downstairs. Alex sat there, stunned and confused, trying to wrap his 9-year old brain around what just happened. She continued on for what seemed like hours, with me trying to tell her "Mom, it was an accident. He didn't know. Mom, he's 9." Finally she stopped and went back inside while Alex collapsed into my arms, crying. I told him again "honey, we've talked about this. Grandma's brain doesn't work right anymore, and as much as you don't understand what just happened, neither does she." We talked about it and he wiped the tears and said he was OK, but the damage was done.

A little while later, after the kids went to bed, she came back outside. She started in again about how terrible he was for making such a mess. I pointed out to her that I had told her that the same thing had happened earlier and she just got angry. She started lobbing insults at me, slowly at first. But then they came faster and faster, like she was a major league pitching machine fully loaded with baseballs aimed straight at me - and my only options were to get hit or run for cover. She ripped me for not watching the kids closely enough (I'm not a helicopter parent and she never was either), for stealing a nap on the porch swing (never mind the 20+ hour drive to get to their house the day before), for having such horrible children, for "poking at that thing all day" (her version of me texting with other family members in preparation for the family reunion), and on and on it went. We got into a full blown screaming match that resulted in me running inside to our room and sobbing uncontrollably for over an hour.

It wasn't just the insults. Trust me, they hurt like hell and cut me to my core. To see her inflict so much emotional pain on Alex ripped me to shreds even more. Having my girls come into our room to comfort me and hold me and reassure me that I'm NOT a terrible mother reinforced to me that she was wrong, but shouldn't have even had to happen.

She still has good moments - sometimes hours or days even. But the bad moments creep up, seemingly with no warning. Maybe it's because I'm not around enough to see it regularly, but living 1100 miles away makes regular visits difficult. Maybe I've been shielding myself from it, intentionally or not. Maybe their refusal to get (or admit to?) an official diagnosis has given me a false sense of hope that it isn't really happening.

I had been told that this was happening. Some of my brothers and sisters see her more often and they warned me. I know from my own research, from my past experiences as a case manager, and even from friends who have experienced this same journey that these things happen.

But I wasn't prepared.

That's not something that I say very often. I do my best to be ready for anything. I make my lists and check things off and review every possible scenario to make sure that I am prepared for anything. I knew that she might be overwhelmed with all 7 of us being in her space and disrupting her routine, so we planned various outings to give them a break from our chaos. But it wasn't enough.

I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to live in her brain every day. The constant confusion must be overwhelming. But the confusion that those around her experience at the same time can seem almost catastrophic because we can only watch the decline, helpless to change it. All we can do is get hit or run for cover.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Observations from the day....

Today has been insane-crazy. I'm pretty sure that we reached a whole new level of crazy over the past 24 hours, and it's only going to get worse.

It started with a phone call from my mother to let me know that my father had to be admitted to the hospital after what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure this morning. It's nothing serious serious, but he's 88 years old so there are always risks. They only expect to keep him overnight, but I've learned to brace myself for more bad news when things like this happen. Of course Mom is getting stressed out because we're having our big family reunion next weekend - I told her not to worry and that we'd try to get on the road earlier than planned so that we can get there Monday instead of Tuesday.

Of course, since we had originally planned to leave Monday evening and we now want to try to leave Sunday morning, we've basically lost 2 days of prep time. We haven't started packing anything yet, laundry isn't done, we don't have food to take on the road, and we are just totally not ready.

Along with all of that, there's approximately eleventy bajillion things to do around the house before we can walk out the door and leave it for almost 2 full weeks. The garden still needs to be weeded, the grass needs to be mowed, there's a huge pile of tree limbs that really need to go away to prevent rodents from taking up residency before we get back, the house needs to be cleaned, mouse traps need to be set now that those little a-holes have decided that they like my pantry, I need to get the house key to the neighbors, and so many other things that I haven't even thought about yet.

And here I thought that I was being so efficient by getting the oil changed in the van the other day. "Woohoo, look at me go, getting it done ahead of time." Ha.

Of course while this is all going on, we have a major opportunity for recruitment for Scouts tomorrow and I've been running around all week getting stuff ready for that, including taking about 3 hours to get set up for it this evening (not to mention making some really generic derby cars for people to play with at the event) so that I can maybe sleep a little bit later tomorrow - but basically my whole day tomorrow is shot too.

I have no idea how we're going to get all of this done. None.

But I just keep reminding myself that it will get done. I might lose my mind in the process, but it will get done.

Why is it that there is one wheel missing every time I buy more
than one derby car? 

Starting to weed the garden as the sun goes down was an amazing
 moment of peace in a day of chaos and stress.

By about 9:15pm it was too dark to see what I was doing,
but at least I got everything watered and started weeding.
And it was still 99 degrees outside.

The bats come out around 9pm. And it's really hard to
catch a picture of them with a cell phone.

If it was a full moon, I might have had enough light
to keep weeding.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Checking things off....

Today was a crazy busy day.

I managed to get the entire front flowerbed weeded, which was more of a challenge than I had thought it was going to be - but it's done and shouldn't be completely overrun with weeds before we get back from vacation.

Hopefully at some point there will be more flowers in there than dirt, but until everything that I planted establishes itself, it's going to continue to look relatively pathetic.

After I got done with that and got a shower, I took Alex and Daniel into town for their very first official eye exams. I figured that since the older three kids now all wear glasses, I might as well get these guys checked out too.

Luckily, we escaped from that appointment without any new glasses - which actually disappointed the boys. I, however, did a happy dance on the way out the door.

We then ran a ton of errands - stopped at a paint store to pick up some paint chips for a friend, ran to the library to make a whole ton of copies of stuff for Scouts for a big recruitment thing this weekend, got the oil changed in the van, grabbed some (late) lunch, picked up a few things at the store, got gas, stopped and got a new air filter for the van, and then came home to keep working on clearing the fabric pile out of the garage.

Oh. The air filter.

The oil change place wanted $35 to put a new air filter in the van. I might have laughed at the poor kid who was working there when he told me the price. So I bought one (granted, it's still a stupid expensive filter) and changed it myself when we got home.

In the meantime, The Dude went to get the Scout trailer to bring it over here and stash it in my garage as we had planned. I was still out there going through the fabric and suddenly a thought came to me - I walked to the open garage door and reached up and touched the top of the opening with my hand without even stretching (and I'm short). I pulled up the pictures of the trailer on my phone and tried to judge the height of it.

My fear was right.

So now, the garage is cleaned out for a trailer that's sitting in my driveway. Because that's my luck. But the latch has been repaired and it's here and safe for the time being, and I'll work on going through all of the stuff over the next few days and get that all sorted out.

But.....other than balancing the checkbooks and washing the rest of the fabric (those are at the bottom of the list) I've gotten everything done that I set out to do today.

That means one thing - time to make tomorrow's list.

I'm so ready for vacation.....3000 miles in a vehicle with 5 kids will be a cake walk after this week.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Sometimes, a day starts out on a really crappy note.

You know, like finding out that the trailer that contains a huge amount of your Scouts' camping equipment has been broken into.

I got that message first thing this morning, so Daniel and I took off into town to deal with that. I crawled around inside the trailer and was relieved to find that nothing obvious was missing, but the latch itself was destroyed. I made the police report (not that I expect anything to come of it) and then one of the Scout dads and I ran all over town trying to find a new latch.

We couldn't find one, so we secured it as well as we could in order to form a plan, which will ultimately involve towing the trailer over here to put it in my garage so that I can go through it, clean it out, and inventory everything that is in there - a job that I've been meaning to do for months. And one of the Scout grandpas thinks that he can weld the latch to repair it for free - a huge bonus for our little pack of boys.

Of course, in order to get it over here to inventory the contents, there has to be room in my garage - which would not normally be a problem.


A month or so ago (maybe more) a friend of mine found out that a friend of hers was cleaning out a "hoarder house" - it was a house that was apparently stuffed full of fabric and craft goodies (the owner had passed away), and the person who was cleaning it out didn't want to throw all of the fabric in a dumpster. So I went over and spent a few hours going through floor-to-ceiling piles of fabric, batting, sewing supplies, partially completed quilt tops, spools of thread, and so much crap that it was unreal. I piled as much as I could into the van and brought it home.

However, it all stunk. It had that nasty musty stale animal old lady smell to it, so I piled it all in the garage until I could figure out what to do with it.

I had hoped that just leaving it in the garage would kill the smell, but it didn't. I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to get rid of the smell and I'd just have to toss the stuff after all.

With the latest development of the Scout trailer being moved in sometime in the next few days, I knew that I had to do something with the pile today, so I started going through it. I unrolled all of the batting and hung it out on the clothesline to air out, and I took the first pile of fabric and quilt squares and quilt tops and tossed them into the washer with lots of detergent, and hoped for the best.

When the first load was done and I opened the washer, I was greeted with no smell at all. Not willing to risk the odor coming back in the dryer, I hung it all out of the line to dry. Some of the tops started to pull apart, and some of the fabric basically disintegrated, but I think there is quite a bit that is salvageable with a lot of patience and a little bit of luck.

Some of it is remarkably hideous. Some of it is gorgeous. Some is hand stitched, some is done by machine. Most of it is polyester (ick) but some of it is cotton. There is absolutely no way to tell how old any of it is.

Now that I'm getting a chance to actually look at some of the stuff, I think I'm going to do what I can to finish as much of it as possible into quilts - some are going to be small lap-sized ones, some a little bigger, and some might actually be twin or full-sized by the time that they're done. And when they're done, they're going to be donated somewhere. I've seen a couple of programs over the years where foster care agencies look for quilts and blankets for kids that are in state custody, so that's where I'm going to start.

Busted up trailer. Dirty hoarder fabric. Cluttered garage.


Motivation to clean, organize, and inventory the trailer along with getting it fixed (hopefully) for free. Fabric that is coming clean with not much effort. Cleaner garage. Being able to take stuff that I have to turn into donations for someone who needs it.




The last 2 days have been crazy busy with Scouts and day camp. The weather has been disgustingly hot and gross, and I've run non-stop with Alex and Daniel while the older 3 kids were at their father's house. I'm glad that we were busy though, because it was distracting me from the reality that Alex was going to spend tonight with his father.

Normally, that wouldn't be such a big deal, but since it's been close to a year and a half since that's happened, I've gotten used to him being around all of the time. But we've been working toward him being able to do this - and it was time.

I've been dreading it and looking forward to it at the same time. Dreading it because I know deep down in my heart that his father will most likely disappear again. I hope he doesn't, but I'm a realist. Alex has been dancing around all week waiting for their time together, and it ripped my heart to shreds to see his excitement - but I couldn't squash it.

At the same time, I looked forward to it purely for selfish reasons. I looked forward to a bit of a break with only having one kid running around the house. No arguing. No bickering. I knew that he would come home after camp, play with his Legos for a while, watch a movie, and fall asleep - because when there's no one around to annoy him, that's what he does.

After we got home from camp, we took a nap (at least I did) and then we decided to have Mommy-Daniel Date Night. However, we were both tired so we kept it pretty low-key.

Out to eat, but more interested in the
storm clouds outside.

I told him he could pick *a* snack
at the convenience store.

We came home, ate our junk food, watched a movie, and he's currently snoring on the loveseat - just as I predicted. I'll toss him into his bed here in a few minutes and go to bed myself, and then we'll try to find something fun and exciting (or quiet and laid back) to do with just the two of us tomorrow.

Honestly, I hope I can convince him to go fishing with me. But he generally thinks that fishing is "boring".....

All I know is that it will be fairly peaceful and quiet. He and I get some quality time together while the other kids are gone, and we can just relax and chill together - something that I can definitely use before the chaos of The Last Week Before Vacation.

Friday, July 17, 2015

More road trip planning

It's that time of the year again.

TMOART:15 is just around the corner.

If you haven't been around for very long, that stands for The Mother of All Road Trips: 2015 Edition. It's our annual (for the most part) road trip from here in Kansas to my parents' house in Pennsylvania, usually with a few (or a lot of) other stops thrown into the mix.

This year, we're keeping it simple. Renting the short bus last year cost us a small fortune, so we're taking my van this time - which means that luggage has to be kept to a minimum. Side trips are going to be eliminated due to finances and time and overcrowded seating arrangements. But we're still doing it. We're going to spend more time with my parents (including a reunion of all of my siblings, something which hasn't happened in a lot of years), more time relaxing and less time running around like idiots trying to see everything and do everything and run run run run constantly.

Of course, along with planning the actual itinerary comes planning for all of the crap that has to be done before we can even pull out of the driveway. There is a lot of stuff that we need to do first, things like an oil change in the van and weeding out the garden and flowerbeds and mowing the grass. And of course my constant obsession over the financial aspects of it, budgeting for gas and food and fun stuff and (please no) emergencies.

The lists are running rampant. On my phone. On scraps of paper. In my head. On my gigantic new-to-me white board calendar that I got in a thrift store in OKC earlier this week.

But the funny thing is that even now, as we get down to just over a week before we leave, I'm not spazzing out about it like I usually do. We've done these trips enough over the years that I know that no matter what, unexpected things are going to happen (remember The Great Flying Boulder Incident?) and we'll just make the most of it and have as much fun as possible before the reality of another school year starts less than 2 weeks after we get back.

The kids are excited to go, I'm more than excited to get away from reality for a while, my parents are looking forward to seeing the kids, and it'll be nice to have some real quality time with The Dude.

I'm so ready.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Observations from the day

Today has just been one of those days when I kept seeing things and saying to myself "I should write something about that" but then when it came right down to it, I couldn't come up with the words. So instead, you'll just get my random thoughts and a few pictures.


For whatever reason, whenever the sky looks the coolest, the stupid panoramic feature on my phone camera refuses to work. So instead of getting a really cool panoramic view of this....

I end up with this kind of garbage....


Facebook is such a funny place. For real. I enjoy it most of the time, in spite of the haters. But it's so ironic that I can post things about having a glass or 3 of wine when most people know that I'm the only adult in the house and no one bats an eye (having one right now, thankyouverymuch) but when I post a picture of a lightbulb, it sparks intense debate (not just tonight - every time I mention that I use CFLs it happens).


And this one....this one might just be my most favorite observation of the day. It would have been cooler still if I had noticed it two days ago, but still - I'll take it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A girl with a vision. A mom with power tools.

It's a good combination.

It all started out a while ago when Emily decided that she wanted a bookshelf for her room. The three basement bedrooms are small, don't have closets, and all have at least one cement wall - which makes adding shelves more difficult. We've had to get creative with storage down there (remember the beds that we built?), but so far the kids have done well with improvising.

Emily decided that she wanted basically a bigger version of some cubbies that I had made for the girls many years ago. I told her to draw up what she wanted, and we'd figure it out from there. So she came up with this:

She drew it on her iPod. Whatever works, right?
We finally decided to do it yesterday, so we went out to the garage and poked around in the plethora of scrap plywood leftover from other projects. Once we found the wood we were going to use, we got started. She decided to change some of the measurements a bit, but that was the fun part - we created as we went.

She decided that she wanted a back on it, but rather than use plywood, we used a scrap piece of paneling that we found in the garage to give it a different look - and make it not be quite so heavy to move around.

Once we got it assembled, she went to work with the sander.

Then she dug around the cans of paint in the basement until she found the one that she wanted - light colored so that she can doodle on it and decorate it however she wants to.

It actually is square - but the picture
makes it look wonky.

I really can't complain about a kid wanting more room to keep her books - and I'm even more thankful that she was happy to design it and help build it rather than insist on something store bought. We had a fun few hours doing it, she's happy with the final product, and it didn't cost us a penny.

Pretty awesome in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Take a step back

We had some pretty nasty storms yesterday here in our neck of the woods. They didn't last long, but they packed a punch with a lot of wind and rain. We got stuck driving home in it, and for the first time in a long time I debated pulling over until I could see better, but at that point I was only a few blocks from home and wanted to get the boys inside in case it started hailing.

Luckily, the weather passed quickly, and we got cleaned up and headed out to Scouts and then to the library for a bit. We didn't get home until close to 9pm, and after the boys went to bed I went downstairs to work on a sewing project.

This morning, when I finally rolled myself out of bed, I looked out the window of my bedroom like I usually do - and then without even stopping in the bathroom I put my crocs on and went out to my garden.

Or what was left of my garden.

A good sized branch came out of the neighbor's tree and landed partially on their fence and partially on my garden. I couldn't really tell at that point how much damage there was,but I knew that the only way I was going to find out was to get in there and start cutting. I went back inside, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and went over to the neighbor's house to make sure that they were even aware of the situation.

She came to the door and said that yes, they knew, but they didn't know how bad it was on my side. I showed her the picture that I took and she gasped in shock. I told her that I would clean up my side as best I could, and she said that they had already called their son (they are both in their mid to late 80's) and hopefully he would come over after work to help clean up the mess. I assured her that I would help clean it up since I knew that they would be unable to help.

Then Alex and I started cleaning. We got the clippers and started cutting the smaller branches to remove them to see just how much damage had been done to the garden. Once we got the worst of the branches out, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the damage was contained to one potato plant and possibly a raspberry bush.  That was it.

I was thrilled.

We went ahead and did a quick weeding since the ground was wet, and then he helped me to stake up some of the more wobbly plants and we piled all of the branches we had cut into the wheelbarrow.

There were a lot of branches. The wheelbarrow was completely covered.

But then I took a few steps back and looked again.

And a few more steps.

A few more steps back, and I started to see just how much bigger the problem really could have been.

And at the same time, I started to realize how small the problem really was in the grand scheme of things.


Sometimes it takes a blinding storm to see things a little more clearly.