Saturday, July 19, 2014

Personal Declaration of Independence

While rummaging through boxes of Cate's personal effects, we came across this gem.  Enjoy!



  We The People of America declare our independence from The Emma Hall.  This child invades our privacy and personal space.  She also destroys our property and blackmails us.  The utterly worst part is, she gets away with it all without proper punishment, and therefore, she repeats her actions!

Declaration of Nature Rights

  We, us in America, would like the right to get revenge on The Emma Hall.  We would not exactly do what she has done to us; we only want to be able to poke fun at her in a harmless way.  We want to be able to draw mustaches, as she does to us, without suffering from the consequences we have been threatened of.  All in all, we desire the right to have a two-way fair, friendly battle with the child.

List of Grievances

  The Emma Hall has done us wrong, America wrong.  She has read our journals, which are not for anyone else but us to see.  Then after invading our privacy, she threatens to use this private information for her own gain.  The Emma Hall enjoys drawing mustaches, sharpie mustaches we might add, as we lay in a slumber.  When Emma Hall does not agree with one of us, or is angry with us, she resorts to the behavior of putting shampoo and toothpaste on our bedding.  The Emma Hall has plotted against us many times.  She has threatened to put Tabasco sauce in our mouths, shaving cream on our faces and tie us to our beds as we lie helplessly asleep.  The worst of all is our government does not punish Emma Hall adequately, so she continues her schemes.

Resolution of Independence

  America wants to pull harmless pranks on The Emma Hall and not be punished.  We pledge our faces, hair and bedding to have revenge on The Emma Hall.  We know she'll retaliate in probably the worst way possible, but we're willing to risk it all just to have the satisfaction of knowing we were able to get The Emma Hall back.

Catherine Hall

Cate and Emma were in tears laughing while reading this together.  Sisters, gotta lov'em.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

hold me...

When my babies were still babies I'd often struggle with feeling "touched out".  Meaning, I would get physically and mentally tired of being physically smothered by my children all day long.  Picture this:  I'm sitting on the couch nursing one child, while my pre-schooler and toddler were snuggled up to or strewn about the rest of my body, rubbing my face or playing with my hair as they watched another episode of Little Bear.  Or, we'd all be sitting on a pew at church and I'd have a child on my lap, another on one side of me, another on the other side and one pulling on my leg, while Wes was sitting at the other end of the pew quietly begging one, or more, of the kids to sit next to him.

It was hard for me at times.  All that physical touch and the need for me to respond to their every question and story drained me sometimes.  Mostly I enjoyed those days of motherhood, but come nighttime, I'd often crave silence and solitude (sorry Wes!).

But, I have no regrets either.  I never shewed them away, or told them "not right now".  Oh, how I wanted to.  Oh, how greatly I wanted to!  But, I made a pact with myself early on in my mothering days that no matter what, if any of my kids ever asked me to come cuddle them (or hold them, or be with them, or how ever they phrased it) I would drop everything I was doing at that moment, and do just so.  And, I cuddled them until they had had their fill of me and moved on (this could be five seconds, five minutes or an hour- their choice).  This pact meant that whatever I was doing at the time came to a sudden halt.  Laundry stopped being folded, dinners stopped being made, projects stopped being completed and phone calls stopped being answered.

Because I knew.  I knew that one day those pleas to "hold me" or "cuddle me" would wain with age.  I knew that one day it would come full circle and I'd be the one begging them to give me some lovin'.  I knew it wouldn't last.  And, I was right.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The summer of fulfilling realistic dreams

Every summer my kids seem to compile a list of dreams they want to fulfill during the summer.  And, more often than not, those dreams include things like- walk on The Great Wall of China, adopt a miniature horse, or go on tour with One Direction (still loving that group, sigh.).  And, it's frustrating for me to constantly shoot down their dreams because of practicality and cost and everything else.  So, this year I proclaimed our 2014 summer theme to be: "The summer to fulfill realistic dreams!", and every Monday night we set out to do so.

The first dream fulfilling night checked off one of Alice's dreams (getting a Slurpee from 7Eleven) and one of Emma's dreams (finally climbing up on top of the dinosaur bones at Ibach Park).  Check and check.

The Slurpee dream was a piece of cake.  For some strange reason I had never taken Alice to 7Eleven to get one before, so we all hopped in the van and made our way over to the local Sevie (that's what we called it in high school) and told the kids to go crazy and get whatever they wanted.  Fun!  And fulfilling!

Then we made our way to Ibach park in the neighboring town to fulfil Emma's dream.  I used to always take Cate and Emma to this particular park when they were little and, I guess, Emma was too tiny to ever be able to climb up on top of the faux dinosaur bones.  So, it had become a dream of hers to do just that.

Evidently, it's harder to get up there than it looks- at least for my Emma.  She tried for a while this way...

Then she gave this side a whirl.

Finally, her big sister gave her a leg up.  These two, I tell ya...

Success!  She looks genuinely satisfied.

Then Alice and Spencer needed to pose and we all felt triumphant.

And, they jumped down like the big kids do.

And, we rounded off the night with a bit of play on the playground for old times sake.

Oh, and that cow.  That darn cow.  We spent hours upon hours back in the day hanging out with the cow because Cate felt a keen responsibility to care for that darn cow every time we came to this park.  She'd bathe it, feed it and call it by name.  She loved that cow.  It seemed so much smaller this time we visited.  Honestly, everything at the park seemed smaller.  Did this park shrink over that last 10-12 years?  Or have we all just gotten bigger?  Never mind.  Don't answer that.

Next up: invent something that hasn't been invented before (Spencer) and go to a carnival (Alice).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On pressing the pause button...

I've had a number of family members ask me why I haven't posted anything on my blog for several weeks now.  I don't know, or maybe I do know, but am not sure how to put it into words.  

I'm feeling extra private right now.  I've always struggled with how much to share publicly, and how much to keep off the internet.  You see, the constant over-sharing I see on facebook makes me cringe, so I regularly re-evaluate what I'm doing here, and if I should even be doing anything here.

Life is exciting right now for our family.  So many of my little baby birds are flapping their wings and flying around our nest.  It's wonderful.  I am absolutely loving this stage of mothering.  We are teaming with excitement and anticipation of what lies a head for our children.

Part of my pause is just the necessity I've felt to be completely present in all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding Cate's high school graduation.  It's a big deal.  A right of passage.  Of course, I took a thousand pictures, and thought a thousand things during all of the events, but I didn't want to spend one minute posting about it, when I could spend that minute basking in all of the hoopla with everyone else.

Things have settled down now.  Sleeping in, summer jobs, vacations and a more laid back daily routine have enveloped us.  We are drinking in these last couple of months before Cate heads off to school by making memories, checking off items on the kids bucket lists and simply enjoying family life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Your puzzle is not their puzzle

Isn't it beautiful this time of year?  The sun is shining, birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and the grass is greener (as green as mine is ever going to be for the rest of the year.  I should take a picture so I can remember it's beauty because, come late August it's going to look like it's on deaths door).  It's that time of year again when people start spending more time outside of their houses, in their yards and on their porches.  It's that time of year when the kids want to play outside until 9 pm because darkness hasn't fallen yet and once you do get them inside you have to toss them in the shower because they smell like dirt, sun, sweat and grass all rolled into one.  It's that time of year when houses are bought and sold, people pack up for family road trips, love-smitten couples say I do, and when young people graduate from high school and begin a new chapter in their lives.

Cate's graduation is just around the corner, and I keep getting asked the same question: How are you handling it?  Are you going to miss her?

So the short and sweet of it is-fine and yes.  I'm handling it fine and yes, I'm going to miss her.  With that being said, I would be much more upset if she weren't graduating (dropped out) and if she weren't excited and ready to get on with her life (wanting to live at home, playing video games and wasting her life away).  And, yes it will be hard to not have her here at home, living with us.  It will take some adjusting to.  Things will be different in our house, no doubt.  But, the one thing I do know for absolute certain is this- There are things about life Cate needs to learn that she simply cannot learn living in my house.  She must learn them out there (wherever there happens to be- college, mission, work)  So, although I am weepy and nostalgic about all the wonderful times we've had together, I am also very excited about what lies ahead for her.  She has great things on the horizon and she must leave my house in order to accomplish them.

That's it guys.  That's the cold hard truth of the matter.  And with all of that said, I also want to throw out there a few things I have learned about myself and her while watching/supporting/helping my daughter go through her own high school experience.

1.  Your child's high school experience will not be like your high school experience.  And, even when you feel like you know what they are going through, you really don't know exactly what they are going through because, their puzzle (high school) is not like your puzzle (your high school), and their pieces (talents, disposition, interests, abilities) are not like your pieces (your talents, disposition, interests, abilities).  So, although I can offer my sympathies to my high schooler when she/he is having a hard time, I cannot really know exactly how it is for them.  And, it is best to be very judicious in my advice giving at that point, because what I experienced way back when does not always translate to what they are experiencing in the here and now.  It is much better to try to be a true listener.  Help them feel like they can share with you and you will just listen, instead of reacting to their problems.

2.  Make your house a place they want to come home to.  Make your home a refuge from the battle they fight each day.  Make it a place of rest.  A place of comfort and sweetness.  Make your home their personal "soft place to land" each day.  If they want to spend the weekend staying home and relaxing with the family, let them.  Have fun with them.  Go to the movies together, play board games, eat take-out, but don't make them feel like something is wrong with them if no one is calling them to go to the dance, go to the basketball game or whatever else teens do.  Sometimes they don't have the energy needed to "go out" and maneuver the teenage social scene on the weekends.  Sometimes they need to stay home and rejuvenate.  It's okay.  Nothing is wrong with them.  I read this article a while back and it was really comforting to me because nobody talks about his kind of stuff.  Nobody wants to gush effusively about how their teen wants to stay close to home and not participate in all of the "teenage fun" that is out there.

3.  State your expectations clearly.  My kids all know that when Wes, or I say no to something, then that's it.  No point in arguing, because we are not going to budge.  But, they also know that Wes and I do our best to not say no to very much.  We try our very best to have a positive growing-up experience for our kids.  And, we talk a lot about what we expect of them and what they need to do in order to meet those expectations (all within reason).  It isn't always smooth and easy, but it's clear.  Teens like boundaries to be set.  They want to know what you will or will not tolerate.  Additionally, teens typically want to gain your approval.  So, when they do something right or well, make sure to praise them- sincerely.  And, when the do something wrong, correct them in private and then let it go.  Humiliating your teens in public is not going to earn you their trust.  It is only going to drive a wedge between you. 

4.  Don't try to be their best friend.  You are their parent, not their buddy.  You are there to lead and guide them, not pal around with them or seek their approval.  If you are looking for your kid's approval, you've got issues.  You. have. issues.

5.  Teach decision making skills, and let them practice.  I figure Cate is going to be making some of the most important decisions of her life in the next ten years, and I want to make sure she know how to make the best decisions when those moments come.  I teach that decision making is much more than what choice will benefit you the most?  There is higher-level decision making that takes into account how your decision will affect you.  How it will affect your family.  And, how it will affect your community.  Every decision has consequences, and those consequences don't just affect you.  There is a big ripple effect and it needs to be taken into account.  I'm not going to go into specifics on how to teach decision making because there are truckloads of books on the subject.  I'm just going to throw out there that is something that needs to be taught by you, regularly.  Likewise, it's important for your teen to make their own choices on smaller things while living with you.  They need the opportunity to practice their decision making skills and then when the consequences follow you can discuss those too.

BTW, I loved this article that's been making the rounds on Facebook lately.  Take a look.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I feel like crap and other sad stories from my sick bed...

I've got to give a huge shout-out to my two youngest children for sharing the most awful, agonizing and lengthy illness with me that I have experience in the last few years.  Thanks kids!  It's been brutal.  I love you!

Along with a cough that does nothing for me (i.e. completely unproductive- high in the throat) and a sore throat that makes everything sad and dismal, I've spent the last five days binge watching Gold Rush and Deadliest Catch.  Yesterday, after my seventh episode of DC, Emma finally piped up and asked me why in the world I like watching these kind of shows (brutal conditions, treasure hunting, good 'ol boys behavior, foul language) and I had no answer.  Just do.  Can't get enough of it.  Go Time Bandit!  Get on the crab!!!

Cate is going to be finishing up her last week of high school this coming week.  WTH! (H is for heck)  These last few months have been interesting to watch.  She is so done with the high school scene it's ridiculous.  She is refusing to go to the Grad Party ("mom, why in the world would I want to spend one more minute that I have to with those people?  It's like being set free from prison and then turning around and going to a "set free from prison" party with all your old fellow inmates).  She's outta there!  And, honestly, I totally relate.  I was not sad to leave my high school life behind when I was finished either.  Upward and onward was my motto too.  And, that's really how it should be, don't you think.  I mean, I've often told my kids to make sure you don't peak in high school.  Meaning, don't have your high school life be the pinnacle of your life, because that would mean you'd have a long, slow decline until the last days of your earthly life.  Peak in your 50's or 60's I say.  Peak later!  I haven't peaked yet.  I may never peak. (jk)

I brought Party Pizzas to a birthday party potluck we went to last night.  Did you eat a lot of Party Pizzas in your youth?  I sure did.  They were one of my favorite treats that I'd have to purchase with my own money because you can surely bet my mom wasn't going to be buying that sort of crap to feed to her beloved kids.  Yesterday, as I was baking them up (I bought four and cut them into small pieces and served them at the potluck.  Genius, no?) I asked some of my kids if they new what a Party Pizza was, and they didn't.  I felt like a total failure as a mom.  How have I not exposed them to this sort of deliciousness before?  I've got to make amends and do them right.  From now on, our Friday night pizza nights are going to make the switch from Little Caesars to Totinos!  A mouth full of nasty cheese and square pepperoni bits cannot be beat.

I ordered a new swimsuit for this year and it came the other day.  PSA:  Do not, I repeat do not try on a new swimsuit after downing an entire bowl full of homemade mac and cheese and a double stuffed s'more.  It is not good.  Not good at all.  Anywho, I bought a dresskini (code for two piece swim dress) and guess what?  It looks great because you can barely see any of me when I have it on!  Bingo!  Additionally, I purchased a sweet, major coverage swim cover-up that will be on my person at all times when I am walking around the pool deck. **side note** Did you know that running into one of my old high school classmates at a swimming pool when I am dressed in my swimsuit is #3 on my most feared life experiences possible?  True story. #1 and #2 involve falling from high places and eating foods that should not be eaten.

Finally, I officially quit working at the YMCA.  Just too many plates spinning in my life and one had to fall off.  I'm sort of sad, because the people I knew and worked with at the Y were nothing but wonderful to me.  And, truthfully, I liked working there.  And, I would have stayed, but they paid squat and the hours were not really there for me.  The last couple of years I had only been subbing anyways, so it's not a huge deal that I quit, but still.  There are friends I had there that I only saw there and, since I'm not there anymore, I won't really have them there in my life. (whew, that was my most obnoxious sentence to date and it contained five "theres"- five too many!)

And, now I'm going to wrap this up.  My family is on their way home from enjoying a delicious Sunday Dinner at my folks home (while I finished up episodes 15-18 of last season's DC) and hopefully, they'll have remembered to bring home some food for me (I have been famished during this illness.  I guess laying around watching t.v. and hacking up a lung is cause for an increase in consumption, right?).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Living well on less: around the house

As I meander the blogosphere, I am quite often shocked by the tone some of the more well-known mommy bloggers exude when it comes to materialism.  Do you consider this too?  I may be overly sensitive to such ridiculousness, or maybe I'm unawares of the reality that all of the well-known mommy bloggers are absolutely swimming in cash.  Who knows?  All I do know is that I simply cannot relate to the extravagance of a lot of the purchases these women seem to share and advise upon with all too much regularity.  I mean, really, do most SAHMs have a spare $400 to drop on a raincoat?  Or, regularly purchase $60 scented candles to illuminate their homes?  Of course, these bloggers are often "gifted" these items in exchange for "highlighting" them on their blogs or Instagram feeds, but geez Louise, what does this kind of indulgence do for me?  Nothing.

So, as I've pondered this trend, I've decided I want to combat it with my own series on how to live well on less.  Or perhaps, how to live well by spending carefully?  Possibly entitled "Frugal Chic" as to keep myself hip?  I don't know...but what I do know is that I have spent the last twenty years of my life perfecting the art of living well while spending less, and I love it.  Truly, it is a very satisfying way to interface with materialistic matters.

So, for today, I thought I'd start by tackling some of the "around the house" things I do in order to keep our home running well while being prudent in the outpouring of cash.

Utilities.  Don't you just hate paying exorbitant bills for simple pleasures such as electricity and running water?  Of course, I do, but at the same time I am always grateful that I have such luxuries in my life.  I shudder to think of how much work would be involved in daily living if I were to not have the ease of all my utilities running smoothly.

Gas and Electricity.  Wes and I don't do anything particularly thrifty when it comes to electricity and gas.  I do keep our thermostat set at modest temperatures depending on the season.  For example, in the winter months I keep our settings at 66 degrees for daytime, and 58 degrees for nighttime.  This may seem radically cold to you, but our house is well insulated and our bedrooms are all on the second level, so at night we don't need the heat blasting (additionally, several of us use electric blankets and such) and we do enjoy sleeping in cooler conditions.  In the summer, I set our thermostat to 74 degrees.  Now, you Arizonans will find that preposterous, but here in the northwest, our summers are quite mild and we only use the air conditioning for a few months of the year, so our bill don't take much of a hit.  And wonderfully, in Oregon, there are typically a couple of months, in both the spring and the fall, that we don't have to use either heat or AC so our utility bills get a bit of a rest.

Garbage.  This one has always felt like such a racket to me.  One set price, run by one company- no competition and no hope for lower prices.  So, 7 or 8 years ago Wes and I stopped using the garbage service offered in our area.  We purchased 4-5 garbage cans with lids and fill those over the course of a month (lined with large black bags) and then one Saturday a month Wes loads up his truck and takes them all to the dump in the neighboring town.  It saves us roughly $240 a year and is really not much of a hassle.  We started doing it all those years ago when Wes had his window covering business and was going to the dump regularly to recycle packaging.  We still pay for recycling and yard debris pick-up service, but that cost is minimal and deemed "worth it" to us.

Water.  This one is my particular sore spot.  In our area of the world we pay extremely high water rates even though it is one of the wettest spots in the country.  And, honestly, our water bill is mostly taxes with just a smidgen of "usage" tacked on at the end.  With that being said, I don't do much to save money on water, because it is simply not possible here.  Still, I don't have the most gorgeously green grass come August, rather I'd save money tacking on dollar bills to my front lawn instead of watering it.  Ugh!  Water is my nemesis.

Phones.  We don't have a traditional phone land line anymore.  We purchased Ooma years ago and although not perfect, it does the job well enough.  We do have to pay a minimal tax for it each month, but no monthly bill.  And, as for cell phones, we just switched to T-Mobile after having Verizon forever.  Is the coverage from T-Mobile as perfect as Verizon's was?  No, not really.  But, we are in no way suffering and I haven't dropped a call yet.  Most importantly, T-Mobile is much more affordable.  I think our savings (with 4 smart phones on our plan) is about $30 a month verses what we paid with Verizon.  It all add up guys!

Furniture.  I've never, in our entire married life, gone to a furniture store and bought a furniture "set".  I've never been able to afford to.  Each piece of furniture in our house has been individually received (hand-me-down, thrifted, purchased, refurbished, found on Craigslist or at a garage sale).  I, one time, had a dear friend of mine comment about how my furnishings didn't ever seem to be a set, but individually chosen and blended together.  How true that is!  I can count on both hands the number of furniture pieces in our home that I purchased new.  Wes and I both took an interior design class in college (not together) and one of the biggest things I learned in that class that is was simply better to go without an item, than to live for years with something you don't love.  So, we lived for years without a head board and foot board for our bed simply until I could get what I wanted.  Recently, we've been going without a chair to accent our sectional in the family room, because I don't want to settle, and I've know my mom was replacing her two chairs in her family room this spring and has offered to give me one of her old ones (which I'm going to promptly recover once I get it).  Wes built one of our coffee tables.  Our kitchen table is the kitchen table I grew up eating at, handed down to us, along with the five chairs of my childhood (I did find an additional chair to go with it at an antique shop once Spencer was born).  My bedside table was $5.00 found at a local garage sale.  Stuff like that.

Cars.  Both Wes and I are not car people.  I'd be overjoyed to live in a situation in which I did not need to have a car.  I loved those months I lived in London and used public transportation instead of a car.  Such simplicity and freedom that time was.  No hassles of insurance, gas, repairs or the like.

As of now, we own (outright) three old vehicles that suit our family needs quite well.  We have a van for a family vehicle.  This is our "youngest car" being 13 years old right now.  We also have a truck that Wes drives.  Admittedly it is not the smoothest ride in the world, but it gets the job done and has given us virtually no problems even with it's ripe old age of 20 years.  And, we have a "kid car"- my grandma's old car that we purchased from her when she had to stop driving.  It has very low mileage (she literally only drove it to Walmart and back) and is 16 years old.  Fortunately, Wes is quite a handy guy and he does a good job at keeping all of these cars running.  Just tonight he was diagnosing the van's most recent issue (alternator) and will be replacing it soon enough.  Wes also changes the oil in the cars, checks fluids, does brakes and much more.

Of course, I'm quite aware that these cars won't last forever, and that at some point we'll have to replace some, but that's where it becomes wise to stock away a bit of cash monthly, so when the time arises you have money to plunk down.  And, make no mistake, our next car won't be new and probably won't be anything flashy either.  Luckily for my, my car and my sense of self-worth are in no way related!

So, that's all I have time to write about for now.  I love chatting about this kind of stuff!

Additionally, I'd love for this series to have an open-discussion feel, so please, if you have any tid-bits of advice on how you live well on less, I'd love to hear them.

Next up: clothing and feeding kids!