Archive for January, 2008

Time Warp Doom

clock radioIt’s 2am and pitch dark outside.  Physically I’m sick and mentally I’m preoccupied with various types of thoughts.  I’ve been tossing and turning in my bed for the last few hours…again.  I decide that, rather than force myself to sleep which could take a few more hours, it’s better to ignore the urge and I elect to be productive instead.  So I get out of bed and pop two Tylenol PMs hoping that they will kick in about 20 minutes after my productive time starts.  By my calculation, that will give me at least 4 hours of sleep tonight.  Not great but not the worst, either.

After self-medicating I make an executive decision to help myself to a mug of milk and about 6 Chip Ahoy cookies.  There is, after all, no better way to comfort oneself back to sleep than with some good old fashioned milk dunking.  I head back to my room with my comfort food in hand and proceed to eat in bed while catching up the latest issue of my favorite homeschool rag: The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.   A few well-written articles later, I now feel the need to catch up on a week’s worth of news and blog postings that I’ve fallen behind on as my illness took center stage (only to be temporarily upstaged by my 3 year old’s walking pneumonia diagnosis).  Except after I cranked open my laptop I noticed that my laptop time indicated it was 5:45am.  How odd!  How can my computer time be so way off the time of my clock radio…<glancing at the clock> which STILL reads 2am?  Wait…how can it still read 2am after approximately a full half hour after I first looked at the clock.?  BECAAAaaaUUUSE, dear readers, my DH set the alarm to go off at 2am and rather than turning the alarm switch to the “Off” position after the alarm went off he accidently turned it to the “Alarm Time” position…that’s how.  So now I realize that the Tylenol PMs are going to kick into high gear any second as my day is dangerously close to having to begin.  By my calculation, that leaves…oh, about…ZERO hours, minutes and seconds of sleep tonight.  Oh, joy of joys.  What a way to start our homeschool day…doomed by a dag-gone time warp.

In an instant, the feeling to blog has commandeered the urge to get caught up on current affairs and, again, I ignore the urge to fight it and so HERE I AM WORLD…sick, moderately loopy, and somewhat peeved that I am trapped in a time warp.  Ugh.  Ah well, I suppose DH’s faux pas tonight cancels my faux pas from earlier in the evening when I mistakenly reminded him to take DS1 to swim practice only for them to find out upon arriving that it was cancelled (something I had known about but had neglected to make the adjustment to our calendar).  Oops.  Sorry………

Now it’s becoming very light outside and I’m very loopy but still have enough presence of mind to realize that I’d best stop blogging before I write something embarassing and subsequently give my dear friend, Nanny-nanny Phoo-phoo (or NP, for short) more fodder for her and her Psych students to chew on.

So until tomorrow later…..Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..


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Hurray!  Hurray!  Hurray! <wild cheering in the background>

My almost 3 1/2 year old son has FINALLY decided that it is TIME to go poopy on the potty!  I’ve waited three days to go by before writing this post…hoping that it wasn’t some sort of fluke.  For some inexplicable reason (because I had given up complete hope) he has decided on his own that he was ready.  He never even told me he needed to go!  He just helped himself to the potty (without the kid’s potty seat, no less) without me knowing then yelled for me to come and see the poop in the potty for myself!  I was only too happy to wipe his butt for him as tears of joy rolled down my face for I had truly believed I would never see this day come! 

Needless to say, I was completely overjoyed as was my newly trained 3 year old along with his 7 year old brother.  We all started doing the Snoopy Happy Dance and singing and carrying on.  I even baked cupcakes to celebrate!

I’ve gotten alot of grief from members of my family about my boy’s delayed progress in this area…and I’ve given myself some of that grief, too.  After all, my first son was completely potty trained at 2 3/4 years old so why was it so difficult training my second???  After months and months of failing at The Art of Poop Management (and believe me, there wasn’t a tactic I hadn’t tried) I finally, with great exasperation, resigned myself to the fact that the boy will be potty trained when he is ready and not a minute sooner. 

Good things do come to those that wait give up!

No more coaxing, bribing, pleading, reprimanding, or withholding…no more poopy diapers…it is FINISHED!   YAHOOEEEEYYYYY!!!!!!!!

Potty Trained!

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I am sure many people can relate to the title of this post.  Unfortunately, the title was a shameless and underhanded trick on my part to hook you into reading this post which is, in fact, about my Mother-In-Law (MIL) except the dear woman is anything BUT evil.  In fact, in the eight years that I have been married to her son, she has consistently invoked overwhelming awe in me because she is as close to perfect (if not already perfect) as one could be as a Mother-In-Law.

I never really gave much thought to the “in-law factor” when I decided that my DH was the one for me.  My in-laws were nice and all but if they weren’t I don’t think it would have changed my mind about marrying DH.  If anything, I was prepared for the worst kind of MIL based on my experiences with my own mother (no offense, Mom).  My mom is loving and generous and nurturing and will defend even the slightest of her children’s transgressions.  But at times, she can also be overbearing, critical and controlling and knows she can get away with it because…well, because she can.  These traits of hers I’ve learned to accept and deal with.  After all, she is my mother. 

But to also have to deal with the same traits in a MIL?  I don’t think I could have borne that so easily, if at all.  Fortunately, for me, I don’t have to.  Know why?  Because in addition to giving me the gift of my perfect match in a husband, God also graced me with the best MIL in the whole world!  This ain’t no suck-up post, either.  She’s not dying…or dangling some juicy inheritance over my head.  She’s very simply…AWEsome!  (Too bad that’s such an over-used word.)  It brings me so much pleasure to pick out a greeting card for her for some special occasion (birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.) because there isn’t a card out there, dripping with sweet, loving, kind words, that she is not deserving of.  I wish I could buy ALL of them for her!  [This exercise is in stark contrast to my ill-fated attempts to buy an appropriate greeting card for my own dad for his special occasions.  These visits to the greeting card store inevitably result in a psychological and emotional struggle because…well, because…they just don’t write greeting cards for adult kids of alcoholics whose mean-drunk fathers are still miraculously alive with their organs intact after 40 years of hard liquor.  There simply aren’t any sentimental or nostalgic moments from my childhood that warrants the purchase of the “best Dad in the whole world” card!  For some reason, the greeting card makers either don’t write these type cards or if they do they don’t display them.  Heeeeyyyy…I think I’m onto a great idea on marketing to the dysfunctional masses…]  But I digress.  Suffice it to say that I am utterly delighted in being able to pick out the right card for my MIL and that any agony suffered in the process is in choosing the card that is the most beautifully worded.

In the 10 years that I have known my MIL, not ONCE has she ever criticized me or chastised me in anything that I have done or said (and believe me, I’ve done and said PLENTY that warranted that from her…especially those moments when I was unkind, impatient or harsh towards my DH or my kids…pretty much daily).  She is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother and unselfishly serves others before thinking to serve herself in any capacity.  She is ALWAYS genuine, patient, tolerant (Lord!  Is she tolerant!), loving, kind, humble, polite, soft-spoken, considerate and always eats what I make for dinner (on those rare occasions that I actually do make dinner).  She is ALWAYS available and willing to help in any capacity.  She does not gossip, is never boastful nor does she speak badly about anyone…ever.  She has NEVER nagged me or so much as suggested I do or say anything a certain or different way or rendered her unsolicited opinion.  If she has ever judged me I have never known about it.  And she has never created an opportunity for contention (which has been my life-long strong suit).  I have never heard her raise her voice much less yell except when addressing my FIL who, in the last few years, has suffered a partial loss of hearing yet refuses to get a hearing aid.  The mere fact that she has been married for 45+ years to my dear FIL alone qualifies her for sainthood!  She is very simply a most wonderful person…not just a wonderful MIL.

Now some of you reading might be thinking “Yeah, yeah…how wonderful for you…big deal.”  But you know why it is such a big deal?  Because this is a woman who comes to our house EVERY DAY.  Sometimes MORE than once a day!  My in-laws live 10 minutes away in the next town over but they also own a 9-acre farm adjacent to our farm so we see them all the time!  In fact, I see them way, way, WAY more than I do my own parents (who now live right next door to us).  All this time together would very definitely be a problem for my unsociable self if my MIL wasn’t the gem that she is.

She doesn’t know this…no one does for that matter…but every single time I am in her presence she unknowingly models to me the Proverbs 31 woman and causes me to pause.  On one hand, I am so grateful that God has placed this woman in my life to be such a poignant reminder on how to be the wife and mother that He desires me to be.  On the other hand, as I observe her gentle demeanor and interaction with those around her it is a painful comparison to my anything-but-gentle demeanor and interaction with those around me…and quite glaringly points out how really ugly of a person I tend to be…surely a tendency I’ve inherited from my father!  My self-awareness of my crude and abrupt demeanor is the reason why I have recently initiated a mom’s study group at my house called “Homeschooling With a Meek & Quiet Spirit” by Teri Maxwell.  It is my hope that the fruits of this study will spill over into every other area of my life…not just in the area of homeschooling.  It is, to be sure, a bittersweet moment of observation and reflection when I am in my MIL’s meek and quiet presence.

So how is it that this sweet demeanor comes so easy to some people (like my MIL) and is such an awful struggle to others (like me)?  Is it learned behavior or a divine gift of the “sweet demeanor gene” that has somehow not made it into my particular strand of DNA?  Is my crass demeanor one of God’s ways of ensuring that I know that His strength is made perfect in my weakness?

Perhaps I wouldn’t be singing my MIL’s praises today if I had her for a mother for can you truly appreciate the good qualities in someone if they’ve always been in your life and you don’t know any differently?  It’s possible but I believe that appreciation comes later into adulthood.  Take my dad, for example.  My siblings and I have unanimously agreed from the beginning that he was just an awful dad.  Mean, strict, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Only when I was in my late twenties (and in therapy) did I realize that for all the terrible ways he was as a father he was, in fact, excellent in providing us with our basic needs:  food, clothing, shelter.  He may have been an alcoholic but he was a functional alcoholic.  For as mean as he was during his bouts of drinking he never once physically abused my mother or us kids and, to my knowledge, never cheated on her.  But these are the positive attributes that we overlooked in favor of the negative ones simply because they were not glaringly obvious day-to-day.

I have never wished for a different mother.  My mother is a saint in her own right, too.  After all, she has put up with my belligerent, alcoholic father for 40+ years.  And she did what any caring mother in her situation would have done:  she overcompensated with an overabundance of affection and nurturing (not to mention provided the best home-cooked meals) and did everything possible to salvage what she could of our shredded self-worth.  But now that I’m an adult that woman just unmercilessly nags and criticizes me!  I mean, she must truly think it’s a MIRACLE that I, the idiot daughter, have been able to raise my kids these past few years because I just can’t seem to do anything right in her eyes (not even load my own dishwasher properly).  LOL!  But it’s okay, Mom.  I know you don’t realize you’re doing it and that when you do nag and critize me it’s done out of love.  I learned about 6 years ago (when DS1 was just about a year old) that my way is just as okay as your way and it doesn’t get me upset anymore that you think otherwise.  I love you more than you can ever know!  But back to my MIL… 

Everyone should be as blessed as I am in this regard.  I know that a MIL like mine is a precious rarity indeed.  I also know that I’ve got just over 10 years to start modeling the same attributes she has or when it becomes my turn to be some young woman’s MIL, I will completely alienate her (and probably my son) because I am just as overbearing and nagging and critical as my mother is to me.  I will, in effect, be known as “The Evil Mother-In-Law”.  Ugh.  Thank God that the bible is full of hope.  Between that and a good supply of duct tape to tape across my mouth, I should be in good shape when that time comes!

I love you, my dear MIL.  Thank you…for being so incredibly gracious to me when I have been such a pathetic and undeserving daughter-in-law.   Please know that, in my heart of hearts, I deeply treasure your son and your family and it is my sincerest heartfelt wish to be every bit the Proverbs 31 woman that you so exemplarily demonstrate.  Until that day comes, however…I have my work cut out for me for there is still much, much, MUCH work left to do!!!  Please don’t give up on me!  🙂

“Her children rise up and call her blessed…”
-Proverbs 31:28

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“So…”, my 75-year-old retired engineer father-in-law begins, “what’s RJ’s report card look like???”.  This was a question that took me by surprise in the middle of a homeschool day last week.  How do I answer this so that I don’t have to take an hour away from our already constrained homeschool schedule yet do it succinctly enough that he understands?  I reply without much pause: “RJ doesn’t get a report card like the public school kids, Pop.”

“Well…how’s he doing in math?  Is it better than his reading???”  Ouch.  Was that an intentional zinger or a well-intentioned yet misspoken voice of concern?   Within a split second I realize it is my turn to be officially squeezed under the homeschool microscope…a place I knew that I already lived although not strikingly reminded of it on a daily basis.  Today was the full frontal assault by a well-meaning and understandably concerned grandpa.  His 7-year-old grandson is, after all, having trouble reading.  This fact has caused me some level of concern during this past year but I’ve been pretty good about shoving my concerns aside (thanks in large part to the MANY articles I’ve read from other homeschooling moms who have shared how their children have each taken a different length of time to read based on their individual developmental stages) and I try desperately not to be tempted to compare my child’s progress with those of others his age.  Perhaps it was the Christmas card that Pop received from his nephew and his family on the west coast that mentioned how their 7-year-old private-schooled daughter was now reading her third Harry Potter book.  I have to admit that I gulped when I read that statement in the same card we received…then hurriedly buried the thought in the “Don’t You Dare Compare” mental file.

“Well, Pop,” I responded, “if you’re asking if RJ can convert celsius to farenheit and vice versa like your sister did at the age of five…then no.”  I cringed after the words came out of my mouth but I knew that his genius sister (who I adore) was one of his measuring sticks.  She is the same sister who was allegedly potty trained at nine months of age and is, undoubtedly, the reference against which my 3.5 year old, who refuses to make any progress in this area (see my post on The Art of Poop Management), is being measured. 

“Then how do you know how well he’s doing?” Pop asks.

“I know he’s doing well when he masters his lessons.  Sometimes it can take 2 days to master a lesson, other times 2 weeks.  We go at his pace, Pop.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.”

It wasn’t a spectacularly articulate explanation and I’m not sure how well he received it but I got the feeling he wasn’t walking away with the warm and fuzzies.  Can’t say I blame him.  Most times I don’t walk away with the warm and fuzzies.  Most times I wonder what in tarnation am I doing trying to educate my beloved boy…I am for sure going to ruin him.  The good news is that most times I’m also quick to knock those moments of insecurity out into the poop pile.  But when I’m officially under that microscope…jeez louise…I am just not in love with that feeling AT ALL.

The last thing I want is to cause our friends and family concern.  Scratch that.  The next to the last thing I want is to cause our friends and family concern.  The last thing that I want is to do wrong by my child and throw him into the lion’s den every day…all day.  I’ll take that uncomfortable feeling of being under the microscope, scrutinized up close as well as from afar, any day of the week in exchange for the knowledge that my child is exactly where he belongs:  home with us.  I’m going to give him the best education I know how.  And if I can’t…then I’ll find a resource to help make it happen.  But that resource will no way, no how, not ever be the public school system…or even a private school system.   The goals set for our children are (first) spiritual, (second) character-based, and (third) academic…in that order.  I certainly trip throughout the days, weeks and years keeping those priorities straight but they ARE what we strive for.

The magnification of the homeschool microscope I’m under pales in comparison to the magnification of the microscope that God has me under.  That’s a slide under which I’m perfectly content being under even as uncomfortable as it, too, may be.  I will happily expose my transparent flaws with the knowledge that He will fix what needs fixing when He deems it’s time to be fixed.

In the meantime, however, I guess I’ll have to develop callouses on my homeschool tissue so that intentioned or unintentioned zingers don’t cause me to doubt myself or the path we’ve chosen.  That shouldn’t be too tough to do.  If there’s one thing I’ve gotten good at over the years…it’s the building up of callouses where they need to be (and sometimes where they don’t need to be…but that’s a post for another time).  🙂

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Warning:  This post is not for weak stomachs or the faint of heart.

I made a vow to myself that when I started blogging I would only blog with a topic that’s laying on my heart.  Know what’s laying on my heart these days?  Poop.  That’s right.  Poop.   It’s an ugly but necessary fact of life.  Every living creature does it.  Most of us humans learn at an early age how to propery deal with it.  Our youngest, however, who is almost 3 1/2 years old now, refuses to be potty trained.  We’ve been trying for a year now…with very little success.  So as I continue to change poopy diapers every day (sometimes several times a day) poop lays heavier and heavier on my heart.

Potty training issues notwithstanding, we live on a farm.  Not a productive, revenue generating, working farm but rather a counter-productive, financially draining, hobby farm complete with most of your standard stock of barnyard animals.  And with that comes…POOP, of course.  Lots of it.  We’ve got horse poop, miniature donkey poop, sheep poop, goat poop, peacock poop, rabbit poop and, not the least of which, dog poop.  We used to have cat poop, too, but we learned that poopers who don’t mind property boundaries always end up meeting an untimely and often early death of some sort or another (hit and runs, midnight snacking for wild life and the like).  So we have no cat poop at the moment.

When an excess of poop abounds, one quickly learns and masters the art of poop management.  There’s even such a thing as poop etiquette.  Oh, you won’t be able to find “Poop Etiquette” on Wikipedia, much less a book on it.  But if you’re a farmer (productive or otherwise) and you’ve got critters…you know the etiquette.  For you casual farm visitors, here are a few simple pointers to help you navigate through (and around) the poop (the “poop” on poop, if you will):

Recyle your poop.  This is one of the 3 R’s of the green initiative, of course:  Recyle, Reuse, Reduce.  Like most farmers, we make compost out of our poop (mostly the horse & donkey poop) and use it for fertilizing our pastures and gardens.   You’ll never get Martha or the Backyard Gardener to show you how it’s done so if you’re interested, come on over for a live hands-on tutorial. 

But composting is just one way that we recycle our poop.  Our eclectic band of barnyard animals also contribute to the recycling initiative…oh, yes they do!  They actually eat each other’s poop (hey – I warned you this wasn’t for the faint-hearted).  Here’s how the poop recycle cycle works:  The miniature donkeys (Eeyore and Merlin) eat the rabbit poop…the dogs eats the donkey poop…and…well, nobody really wants to smell much less eat the dog poop so that’s really where the cycle ends.  But there you have it…recycling with poopers eating other pooper’s poop.   

Poop in one place.  When I was in my early twenties and on-the-go, my dad used to say that I was “like horse sh*t….all over the place”.  He was so complimentary toward me, wasn’t he?  That one wasn’t as bad as telling me the reason my eyes were brown was because I was full of sh*t.  Too bad I hadn’t yet learned the laws of genetics back then as he, too, has the dominant brown-eyed “sh*t” gene that I inherited.   But I digress…

Pooping in one place is a big deal when you have lots of ground to cover.  Most critters don’t really care about this particular rule of etiquette but every now and again you come across one or two very poop-conscious animals.  We have two such animals at the moment:  Jimmy, our Paso Fino Stallion and Bunny, our bunny.   Jimmy is very thoughtful and poops in one of several large poop heaps in our pasture as shown in Exhibit A:

Horse Poop
(I included the basketball in the photo as a point of reference…
my kids don’t actually play in the poop).

The other two horses and two donkeys (and the rest of the barnyard gang for that matter) just poop willy nilly all over the place with reckless disregard.  Poor Bunny has no choice in the matter as she is held prisoner in her rabbit condo and her poop just conveniently collects down below her but we give her credit for poop etiquette just the same.

Don’t poop indoors.  This applies to most everybody.  Most horses, including our kind and considerate Jimmy, do not have enough of a disgust for their own poop that they refrain from pooping where they sleep.  We do have two, Reno and Brownie, who do actually hold their pee until morning (that’s a topic for another post) but not their poop.  I did own one beautiful white horse, Libra, back when I was a teenager and she was a verifiable poop snob.  She never, ever pooped in her stall!  And for that she earned the World’s Greatest Horse title from me.

If you’re going to poop indoors then, for crying out load, don’t poop on walls or window sills.  This may seem like common barn sense to some, but to others it’s just another messy day in the barn.  Brownie, our mongrel horse, as well as Eeyore and Merlin, have a penchant for backing their butts up against a wall (or window in Brownie’s case) and pooping away.  This makes for very difficult poop scooping as well as leaves unsightly skid marks up and down our newly renovated barn walls.

Poop and be still.  This etiquette rule applies only when pooping inside barn stalls, otherwise pooping while walking (as when horseback riding) is perfectly acceptable.  The problem with pooping and walking around in the stall is that the poop gets kicked around and mixed around with the clean, fresh-smelling, fluffy wood shavings on the stall floor making it impossible to eradicate the poop from the area.  Like throwing out the baby with the bath water, you end up having to throw out $10 worth of contaminated shavings out into the poop wagon the morning after.  Fortunately, we have only one such horse, my Reno, who is the midnight pacer in the family.  The others obediently obey the poop and be still rule making clean up much easier and relatively inexpensive.

Wear your boots.  This etiquette rule also fits into the Top 10 Rules of Owning a Farm (a post for a future date).  Stepping into poop while barefoot and feeling it squeeze up and around your toes is just about the grossest thing that could happen to you on a farm, especially if it’s dog poop…the worst smelling poop there is.  Wearing flip-flops or open toed shoes of any kind is just plain fool-hardy (unless you happen to like the look and smell of poopy feet).   And visitors…if you’re visiting a farm, bring your boots!   I remember one time about 10 years ago my cousin’s 5 year old daughter came to stay the night at our farm.  My cousin, a non-farmer, always had her daughter outfitted in the most adorable girly-girl clothes.  When I picked her up to bring her to our house, she had on the most beautiful pair of new, white sneakers complete with lacey trim and glitter embellishments.  That was her worst pair of shoes, according to my cousin.  I shook my head and drove away with the excited little girl.  And promptly returned her the next day with sneakers that were completely dirt brown, poopy smelling, torn lace and no more glitter embellishments.  But she had a darn good time getting those sneakers dirty!

Look down when you walk.  This is yet another rule that also fits into the Top 10 Rules of Owning a Farm  list.  If you’re not looking down when you walk, you WILL step into poop.  This is a solid no-clean-soles back guarantee.  Nothing more needs to be said on this one.

Don’t buy a house near a charming farm if you don’t want to smell poop.  Some people love the thought of living next to or close to a nearby farm.  And why not?  They’re pretty to look at with all the rustic barns and fencing and animals grazing in green pastures.  They just never consider the poop factor.  Farms = animals = poop = SMELL.  No way getting around it.  I happen to love the smell of horse poop.  It is, in fact, the sweetest smelling poop of all creatures because of the sweet smelling grass they eat (cow poop is not sweet smelling given that their digestive system is much more elaborate and thorough and consequently less sweet smelling grass is pooped out).  One of the most heavenly smells on earth to me (other than horse fly spray…the farm girl’s “eu du toilette”) is the aroma of horse poop swirling in the warm summer night air.  I love to just close my eyes and take a long, deep breath of horse poop through my nose (aaaaahhhhhhh…slowly opening eyes now).  Okay, I know I just lost the respect of most of my readers with that visual but believe you me when I say that there IS a secret club of horse poop smell lovers out there.  Maybe I should start a new web ring for that just to prove it?

Don’t throw poop.  It’s just plain rude.  Unless it’s at your younger brother who tattled on you for watching more than the daily one hour of alloted TV viewing you were permitted and then it’s perfectly justifiable (especially with the big, flat, dried cow poop chips…you can really get one flying through the air like a frisbee and nail him on the back of the head).

So you see, poop management and poop etiquette is really not as difficult to grasp as you have thought.  The bigger truth is that poop management inside the home is much, MUCH harder.  Back to that 3-year-old…the one who cannot be reasoned with, bribed, threatened, coaxed or begged…the one who defies all potty training theories and practices.  I have been, as yet, completely defeated in this endeavor.  Me…the older, wiser, more mature, more cunning, more intellectually developed adult.  The one who has mastered the skill and art of farm poop management, for crying out loud!  Defeated!  By a snot-nosed, dirty-diapered 3-year-old.  Sh*t. 

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