Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whew! I'm Glad That's Over (Part 1)

Okay, just to give you a hint of my state of mind the past week or so: Not Good. You know that "the baby" started kindergarten on Aug. 20 leaving me Home Alone...and bored. There's only so many times one can clean the bathroom before it gets boring (once, to be precise).

I've made a few missteps this past week. 1) I didn't factor in any fun little errands (a quick trip to Starbucks or the craft store, for example). It's odd because I had no problem going out and spending money when it was "Son #3 and me." Now that it's just me, I'm finding it very hard.

2) I thought it might be a good idea to work on a budget for our family so I checked out a few books from the library on the subject. Yawn.

3) I also realized that we've procrastinated long enough. It's time to think about estate planning (wills versus trusts, long term health care, etc.). Normally, I'm not afraid to confront my mortality in the list. However, it's been nearly 7 years since I've had a complete physical (ob/gyn visits not withstanding)...

4) I've decided to catch up on my long overdue routine medical checkups. Here's my general thought about healthcare: Ignorance is bliss. You go to the doctor, they'll find something wrong. You don't go, well, ignorance is bliss. Except what you don't know can kill you, so I'm trying to revise my thinking. (Note: this does not apply to Dear Hubby or kids. Mandatory checks ups for all.)

The combination of finances (which aren't bad, but nor are they where I want them to be), anxiety about putting off my physical, reading about estates, wills, probate, etc. is not a good one for my first weeks solo. It's left me in a rather maudlin mood in fact, convinced that they'll find Something Seriously Wrong, although I have no reason whatsoever to suspect that would be the case. I really should've eased into being a responsible adult. ha ha.

Why, oh why couldn't I have started off reading fluff, non-fiction books instead?

My physical today went well with my new doctor. I liked her a lot. She gets my sense of humor and didn't fuss at me for neglecting my health. My acid reflux has flared up in the past week. It's the first time in a couple of years. The doctor loaded me up with samples of Prevacid and if that doesn't clear it up in 8 weeks, then I'll go back so she can check out my upper GI. I optimistic the meds will do the trick though since it's not something that bothers me chronically (knock wood).

She also sent me for routine blood work. As I sat in the lab's waiting room, the nurse called four of us in at one time. She had two women sit on a bench, one man sit in one chair and me in the other chair. I didn't like the chair. It was too big. Once I sat far enough back for my back to reach the backrest, my feet wouldn't reach the floor. I felt like I was 6 years old. Then the two nurses start drawing blood from the man in the chair and one of the women on the bench. I'm thinking to myself, great, I hate needles. I'm a big baby. I look like a little kid in this oversized chair and if I cry it'll be in front of these other patients. Not that I've ever cried at routine blood tests before, but nevertheless.... Fortunately, I was the last to have blood drawn so the other patients had already left and the nurse moved me to the bench where I could sit with my feet actually touching the floor. I told her I'm not a fan of needles so she pulled out the smallest butterfly needle. Score! It was smooth sailing from there.

I have a couple of other routine tests scheduled over the next few weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Time Flies....(NOT!)

I was surprised at how long it's been since I've blogged. It's not like I've been having a blast. Time flies when you're having fun, you know. It apparently sometimes flies when you're bored.

If I had to sum up what I've been doing with my days of "freedom" (since Son #3 started kindergarten), I'd have to say napping. And doing chores. And the occasional errand.

All's going well with the kids in school so far.

Today I went to the optometrist for a long overdue eye exam. It did not go well. The technician did my pre-screening and with my contacts lenses in. My vision with contacts was 20/25 in one eye and 20/40 in the other. I knew that I wasn't seeing as clearly out of one eye. I chalked it up to age.

The doctor came in (after I removed my contact lenses) and he had me look through the various lenses at the eye chart. He'd ask, "which is clearer? A?" then flip the lens "Or B?" The problem was, while one might be a teensy bit less fuzzy, none of them were clear.

In otherwords, he couldn't get my vision to 20/20 with the lens thing-y. He put this goop (lumescin, or something like that) on my eyes and looked at me through this fluorescent light scope. He asked whether my eyes are ever itchy or burning (they aren't).

He said my corneas were very rough, which he attributed to very dry eyes. News to me. Unless it's allergy season (when I'm congested and sneezy) or I'm in a smoky area (which is rare), I rarely use eyedrops at all.

He wants me to use Thera Tears 4 times a day for the next week, wear glasses only (ACK!) and go back next Tuesday morning. Hopefully there will be an improvement and we can continue with the exam. Other than roughness, my corneas looked fine (clear, not diseased or infected). I hope I'm not going to give up contacts permanently. I've been wearing soft contact lenses since they first came out nearly 30 years ago (since I was two - kidding!). I've never liked myself in glasses, so I'm hoping I won't have to give up the contacts permanently. We'll see...

Other than that, not much is new here. Tonight is Son #2's first baseball practice of the fall season, and tomorrow is Open House at his school. Perhaps I'll have more to say then.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

1st Day of Kindergarten

Yesterday was Son #3's first day of kindergarten. He had a really great day. Better than mine apparently. Here's a photo of him in his school uniform: navy blue polo (plain or with a school logo) and khaki shorts or pants (girls can also wear skirts or skorts). Kindergarteners are required to carry the school totebag, rather than a backpack. This is so the adults can spot the youngest students more easily.

No separation anxiety for my little guy. He climbed right on the bus, sat next to his cousin and didn't glance back.

After the bus pulled away, Dear Hubby went to work and PawPaw (who came to see Son #3 off) went home. I went back to the house to finish reading the newspaper and feel sorry for myself, when Son #2 calls from his school. They apparently changed the menu in the cafeteria and instead of chicken tenders, which Son #2 likes, they would be serving spaghetti, which Son #2 does not like. Would I please bring him a peanut butter sandwich before 11:15? See, I'm still needed. ;-)

I made his sandwich, attended morning Mass at church, dropped the lunch at the Son #2's school, and went to the department store. By the time I was finished there at 10:45, I was soooooo bored. I *really* have to get used to the quiet and to finishing my errands in 1/3 the usual time.

I then went to Barnes & Noble (Son #1 needed a thesaurus and there was a book I wanted to look at). I ordered an iced cafe mocha and just sat down in the cafe' section when my cell phone rang. I was my friend from California (bless you, Sandie, for calling at the perfect moment) so we shared a cup of coffee long distance. Sandie kept me amused for an hour and 45 minutes (bless you, Verizon, for free in-network calls).

That significantly shortened my pity-party. It was time to head home, do a couple of chores, check email and meet Son #2's bus. Son #1 arrived an hour later, and Son #3's bus arrived about 15 minutes later.

Son #3 enjoyed himself, except he didn't eat much of his sandwich - opting, instead, to fill up on the grapes I packed for him. He also didn't get a milk in the cafeteria because he "couldn't find" the milk money in his lunch bag. It was in the tiny zippered pocket exactly where I said it was. Oh well, he'll get the hang of it.

Son #2 also had a good day, as did Son #1, who was very excited about getting an A on his first Spanish quiz and his first spelling test.

Today is Day 2 of kindergarten, and Day 2 of my newfound 'freedom.' I went to morning Mass again, then took the minivan (which is named Steve, for those of you who do not know) for a car wash and oil change. Yesiree, I'm living the exciting life now! (yawn)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

But I'm Not Even *IN* School!

What a week it's shaping up to be! Not a bad one, mind you. Just busy. Son #2 is doing well in 5th grade. No big surprises. Of course, he's adjusting to a new teacher, but he's at the same school with the same friends as last year. We're just trying to get settled into the new routine and learn what the teacher expects. Open House at the school isn't for another week or so. I should have a better handle on things by then. Son #2 is a good student. Things tend to come easily for him so he doesn't necessarily put forth his best effort. We're working on developing a better work ethic, because let's face it, at some point things will stop coming so easily for him and he'll need a back up plan that doesn't include coasting on his good looks, manners and sense of humor.

Son #1 seems to be adapting well to Junior High. The big leagues. Changing classes for all courses. He hasn't been assigned a locker yet - that should happen next week once everyone's schedules are pretty much set (some "tweaking" of the schedules is still going on - not for my son, though).

Today is the first day that he'll have to change into gym clothes for Phys. Ed. class. I'm curious to see how that will work out. The school sells a gym uniform for $15, or they can wear a plain white t-shirt and plain navy gym shorts. We've opted for the latter so far. I'm not opposed to buying a gym uniform with the school logo on it, but right now a 5-pack of white Hanes t-shirts costs less than $5 at Walmart and I found 3 pair of navy shorts are Kmart for 4 each.
  • 3 gym uniforms + 2 extra shirts = $17
  • Not having to do laundry every night = Priceless

I'm a little worried about Spanish class. He does not have a text book. I know some schools are getting away from that, but Son #1 is not a great "auditory" learner. I hope they have books but perhaps haven't distributed them yet because the lockers haven't been assigned. In the meantime, he does have an excellent memory and that will help him with his vocabulary words.

He's also expected to do a science project this year, so we'll have to get online for some realistic ideas. Of course I'm not doing any of the work for him, but we do go through each notebook everyday - organization is a challenge for ADHD kids, and his organization skills are just emerging. It almost feels like I'm back in the 7th grade again, except I have clearer skin and finally outgrew the training bra, but I digress....

Then there's the paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Those of you have kids know what I mean. There are far fewer forms required to buy a house than it takes to get your kid settled in school. I have 3 kids, so that's 3 times the paperwork.

My kids are each at a different school which means I have to join 3 different PTAs. Don't count of seeing me at the meetings though. I don't have a lot of patience to sit through them - especially the reading of the previous meeting's minutes (Hellloooo? If I wanted to know what happened at the last meeting, I would have attended the last meeting. Sorry. That's me being snarky) and the budget stuff. As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm a "Slacker Mom" (I should make that one of the labels on my blog). I just can't participate in every fundraiser for 3 schools and two scouting organizations (cub scouts and boy scouts). I cannot bankrupt my in-law's, sorry.

Then there are the school fees. Lunch fee for the month, Supply fee to offset the photocopying expenses, PTA fee, Lab fee. Of course, each one requires a separate check.

Son #3 went for his kindergarten assessment on Tuesday so I picked up his packet and got a jump on that paperwork. His assessment went well. On the first day of school, the teacher will read a book - I forget the title - about a raccoon who goes to school but will miss his mom, so she kisses the palm of his hand. Momma Raccoon tells her son that if he gets lonely all he has to do is press his palm to his cheek and remember the love. I heard a similar story years before the book was published (1993) so my boys are very familiar with Mommy's Magic Kiss on their palm that cannot be washed off and will not wear away no matter what.

While Son #3 was in the class with the teacher for his testing, I sat in the hallway and completed my "assignment" - a construction paper cutout of my hand pasted on a larger piece of construction paper and a personal note. After reading the story on Monday, which will sound vaguely familiar to Son #3, the teacher will have the parents' "hands" in case the kids get lonely. Cute idea. The kids should be pleasantly surprised.

Meanwhile, I've been too busy to whine about how lonely I'll be on Monday... :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Great First Day of School

First Day of School for Sons #1 and #2 was Friday, August 10th. Son #3 starts kindergarten on Monday, August 20th.

Despite almost missing the bus, Son #1 had a really good day at school. We were walking to the bus stop a block and a half away at least five minutes prior to the time recommended by the driver when the bus pulls up, picks up the kids and takes off. Darn. Fortunately, I knew the route and knew that we had a chance to race three blocks in the opposite direction and catch the very last stop, which Son #1 did - just in a nick of time. As Son #3 and I were walking back home, the bus driver stopped to let me know that he passes the first stop on the way out of the subdivision so that if we miss it the first time, he'll stop there a second time on the way out. Good to know.

Son #1 is 7th grade now. Junior High. The Big Leagues - changing clothes in gym class, changing classes, having a locker, etc.

As I mentioned in earlier posts Son #1 had trouble with this bully who has been in his class for the past three years. (Click here for a brief history, and here for our recent efforts to head off additional trouble.) This past Spring, Bully started smacking Son #1 in the back of the head several times a day and after three weeks, Son #1 finally has enough and strikes back. Yes, we've discussed dealing with problems as they arise...

Anyway, as I've blogged a couple of months ago, I learned that the Bully would have the identical school schedule as Son #1 ... all 7 classes. I also learned that Son #1 did not get his first choice of elective, Spanish. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive at the thought of his taking Spanish because of his speech impairment, but it'll be required in high school so I allowed him to request it. Truthfully, I wasn't disappointed to learn that he would take Agricultural Sciences instead. Son #1 has had all summer to get used to the idea of All Bully/No Spanish.

However, the principal - which whom I recently discussed my concerns about the Bully - really came through for us in more ways than one.

Son #1 got off the bus - so excited. Bully is in only *one* class (Social Studies) with Son #1. And Son #1 is indeed taking Spanish as an elective now. Ay Carumba! Had I known this earlier, I would've spend the summer working on the basics with him.

Son #2 also had a very good first day of school, but for Son #1 it was

The. Best. School. Day. Ever.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I was chatting via "comments" on my last post with Nadine, who is an author. Clearly I have issues with criticism. I also have equally huge issues with positive feedback. Go figure.

I completely agree with Nadine's statement about creating just for the joy of it. On the flip side, isn't art something that's best shared (generally speaking)?

Back when I was in college, I actually resorted to leaving some of my art projects at school - I conveniently managed to be absent - simply because I didn't want to see the grade/comments. Never picked them up. I must've done well enough on them because I got an A in the class.

Perhaps it's less an issue of whether or not I - an uber left-brainer - am capable of being creative and artistic (right-brain traits). Rather, perhaps I've spent so much time over the past 20 years nurturing my left side of the brain and neglected my artistic side. Let's face it, as a former secretary and manager, and as a mother of three, logic, reasoning and organization certainly comes it handy.

But even assuming that I do have a creative, artistic streak, how do I learn to embrace the subjective (art is, after all, highly subjective)? As a left brainer, I'm used to dealing with absolutes, black and white, right and wrong. The numbers either add up or they don't. The sentence is either grammatically correct or it isn't.

How does an author who has already received six rejection letters, muster the strength to send their manuscript to the seventh publisher on their list? I just hate, hate, hate putting myself out there. Even when I worked as a secretary, I hated performance evaluations. I knew I did a good - no, excellent - job, but sitting there across the table from my boss and listening to her say wonderful things about me? Ugh! I'd literally start feeling nauseous days before the review. Dreaded it worse than a trip to the dentist.

So what's the secret recipe to embracing feedback - all feedback? It certainly must include a healthy dose of self-esteem. Mix in an unwavering belief in one's own talent. Perhaps a pinch of "Aw, what does he know, anyway?" Hmmmm....what's missing? :-)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Can a Left Brained Person Be an Artist?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m wondering whether there’s a repressed artist inside of me. (If so, it must be very, very repressed – squashed, practically – since I scored “right brained” on only 2 questions versus 16 for "left brained".) Anyway, is this inner artist something to take seriously, or is it merely my neglected creative side acting up for attention?

So, am I artistic or creative? Hmmm. Tough one. (Setting aside the above-mentioned test results for a moments.)

I took Art in high school and college and did pretty well as I recall, with watercolor, and drawing in pencil and pen & ink. I look back at my college sketchbooks and some of the stuff looks okay, others are sort of amateurish. I’ve generally considered myself to be able to learn the skills, but clueless as to whether I have that “it” that makes one an artist. I haven’t attempted to draw in over 20 years.

Writing. That’s another interest. Can one be a writer without anything to say? That’s a dilemma now isn’t it? I admire folks, like Nadine, who have written a book. In school I earned A’s in composition and writing classes, but let’s face it. The emphasis was on sentence structure, grammar and presenting a persuasive argument. Again, learned skills, but are they necessarily the traits of an artist? (Or my left brain's natural ability to break things down into steps.)

I’d love to take a creative writing class at the community college. I think it would be fun now that it wouldn’t count for anything (i.e. part of my overall grade point average).

Ooh, then there’s jewelry design. I’ve taken classes in lampworking (glass bead making), actual jewelry making (forming precious metal, soldering, stone setting – loved it! But it was expensive and I haven’t been able to find classes locally). Lately, I’ve been playing around with beaded jewelry – you may have seen the photos on my blog before, but here are a few. I’ve never looked into selling anything at craft shows, consignment shops, etc.

About two years ago, I found a watercolor book/kit at Barnes & Noble. Step by step instructions, all materials included, etc. I have yet to put the brush to the paper though. I just can’t take that first step.

Ditto with scrapbooking. I’ve accumulated tons of the stuff (paper, scissors, stamps, die cuts, album, sheet protectors, etc.). I’ve even selected the photos, but again, I can’t just take the plunge.

I think my problem (just one???) is that I hate feedback of any kind. Compliments are just as painful to me as criticism. So perhaps that is what’s squashing the artist within. When it comes to my kids, I have all the answers: art is subjective so what’s pleasing to one person may not be appealing to another; art is a personal expression so it can’t be “wrong” (despite what Mrs. C, Son’s #1’s first grade teacher years ago, said), and so forth.

So how do artists not take criticism (or compliments) personally? Anyone? Bueller?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Right Brained, Left Brained or Scatter Brained?

You’ve heard it before: right brained people are artistic and creative and deal well with shapes, patterns, while left brained people are logical and tend to deal well with numbers and words. But what if you’re not sure which you are? Oh I get the general idea from various personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators and the like, that I am among other things:

* logical,
* detail oriented,
* analytical,
* more of an introvert, than an extrovert
* a collaborator, rather than a leader (Are you yawning yet? I am.)

However, I’m starting to wonder whether there’s a suppressed (repressed?) artist somewhere inside of me. I’ve been perusing a book called Doing Work You Love by Cheryl Gilman (I found it on the $2 table at Barnes & Noble three weeks ago). It’s actually pretty good, but sometimes a little new agey. (The section of consulting a psychic? Uh no, thanks. The section on interview techniques? Better.) So, has it helped me find the work I love? Not exactly, but it has helped me identify the work I hate, so that’s a start.

One of the exercises I liked involved prioritizing. Here’s how it works. First, start by numbering the paper 1 through 10. Next, write thing that’s important to you next to each number. Don’t worry about listing them in any kind of order. Write them as they come to you. Ranking them will come later.

Once you have the 10 things jotted down, compare #1 to #2. Put a check by whichever is more important. Next, compare #1 to #3, then #1 to #4, and so forth. After comparing #1 to #10, move on to #2, comparing it to #3 (remember, it’s not necessary to compare #2 to the one above it, because you already did then when you compared #1 to #2). Don’t forget the check marks. Compare #2 to #4, then #2 to #5, and continue on with the list. When you're finished, count up the check marks for each item.

It was interesting to see which things ended up with the most checkmarks. My final list – now ranked in order of importance – is:

1. Time for my family & friends (no surprise there)
2. Helping/Collaborating with others
3. Creativity
4. Flexibility (this tied with #3)
5. Slightly larger house (higher on the list than I would have thought)
6. Autonomy/not being stuck in one place all day long
7. Exercise more (ok, I just put it on the list because I thought it should be there, not because I necessarily wanted it to be there. Nevertheless, it ranked higher than I expected.)
8. Make decent $
9. Time for volunteering (this was tied with #8. I thought it would’ve ranked higher, actually)
10. Write

These items represent my motivators. It was a neat exercise. Try it if you bored sometime. The results might just surprise you.

By the way, if you're curious as to which side of your brain is dominant, here's a brief online quiz:

Friday, August 03, 2007

Job or Hobby?

With Son #3 (my baby) starting kindergarten on August 20, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I should do with my time when the boys are at school. The problem is I never figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Getting pregnant in mid-2001 allowed me to defer that decision for five and a half years, but here I am – older, not so much wiser – and I’m starting to feel anxious.

Money is tight – we do okay, but we do skimp. Part of me things it would be good to contribute to our family’s income. My ideal job would:

* Be meaningful and fulfilling
* Allow me to work from 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (so I can be home when the kids are)
* Flexible enough that I could take the day off occasionally to chaperone a field trip, volunteer in the classroom, etc.
* Pay me a nice chunk of cash (never mind that I’ve been unemployed for 5 yrs)
* Creative, not boring
* Allow me to be autonomous – in other words, not chained to the desk all day

Yep, I should keep dreaming.

My plan is to not jump into anything right away, primarily to be around while Sons #1 and #3 adjust to their new schools. Son #2 is returning to his same school, and should do just fine. I do hope to use some of alone time to take some little classes – not college courses (two degrees that I’m not using is probably an indication that higher education may not be the wisest investment. How does someone whose major has been pretty much “undecided” her entire life even get accepted into grad school? But I digress…)

Our local crafts store offers classes so my friend and I plan to take Beginning Knitting and Scrapbooking 101. I’m hyperactive – although at my age, I’m more fidgety – so it would be nice to do something with my hands. The classes are very inexpensive and probably only cover the most basic stuff, but it’s ideal for me who often gets bored and doesn’t finish what I start.

Oh, I also hope to take a stained glass class. That should be cool. My neighbor’s sister-in-law owns a stained glass making shop and last year for my birthday, my neighbor gave me a gift certificate for free lessons. I never took advantage of it because I was with Son #3 all day. However, I ran into the sister-in-law last month and she said there’s no expiration on the gift certificates. Yay.

I’d also love to take classes in painting (water color and acrylics), photography, and creative writing.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gearing Up for Back to School...

As I’ve already mentioned, Sons #1 and #2 return to school on Friday, August 10th. In my opinion, that’s just too early. Even though they get out at the end of May, I think they should wait until at least the 3rd week of August to go back. Don’t even get me started about the fact that they start on a Friday. Sheesh!

Son #3 – the BABY – starts on Monday, August 20th. Now that’s a bit more like it. During the week prior, he and I will be invited to meet his teacher, visit his classroom, tour the school, etc. The teacher will also do an informal assessment of what Son #3 knows. He can count to 100. He can spell his nickname and visually recognize his full first and last name. Although, he still goofs when reciting the alphabet, he can identify every letter of the alphabet and in most cases, he can tell you what sound each letter makes (even those letters, such as G, C, the vowels, etc. that make more than one sound). He’s a pretty sharp cookie – our homeschooling has certainly paid off. I suspect that he may initially be a little ahead of the game academically, but that’s okay. That’ll give him time to focus on developing those much needed social skills. Ahem.

Son #1 is apprehensive. He’ll be starting Junior High (7th grade) at a new school. His social circle is very small and the few friends he hangs out with are going on to different schools. This arch nemesis (Son #1’s words), however, will not only attend the same school, but has the identical schedule. Yikes. To learn more about the arch nemesis – also known as The Bully (my words) – click here and here.

I called the school to set up a tour, hoping that might increase Son #1’s enthusiasm, and I ended up speaking with the principal about the situation between Son #1 and The Bully. She was going to look at their IEPs (Individualized Education Plan – they’re both in the Inclusion Program, hence the identical schedules) and see whether they can be separated for at least a few classes. No guarantees, but I appreciated it. I sent the principal a hand-written thank you note letting her know how much I appreciate her sensitivity to the situation. I can be a kiss up, can’t I? Anyway, the tour is Friday morning.

We’re all set for school. All of the supplies were bought and labeled weeks ago. I have all of their school uniforms in order. The only one who isn’t ready is ME. Especially come August. 20th and which point I’ll probably curl up into a fetal position and sob for two days.

What’s a stay-home mom to do when she has no one to stay home with?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

For John McElveen...

Hi everyone,

John recently posted a photo of a lizard on his blog so I thought I'd show him how we grow them in the New Orleans area.

After a Boy Scout trip last May, Son #1 and Dear Hubby had lunch in the French Quarter and took a walk around Jackson Square. Son #1 spotted this critter just walking around. Fortunately its owner was too far away. (Son #1 was hoping it was a "stray" and could bring it home. Uh no.)

Oddly enough, when Dear Hubby and I went to the French Quarter in January, I ran into the owner. He's hard to miss with the iguana draped over his shoulder.
John is having some medical tests tomorrow so keep him in your prayers.