Still Swamped – Possibly Forever

August has been crazy.  My son had a three appointment journey to an expander, preparing for braces.  They tried it in his mouth and his first words were, “Take it out!”.  He’s 12 and when young went through three and a half years of speech therapy.  Guess what a metal box on the roof of your mouth does to your speech?  My oldest asked what the expander does, and all I could reply was “I really can’t think about it”.  He has a space between his front teeth after just one week, and I’m hopeful that this thing will be in for the shortest amount of time possible.

The fair is over!!  It’s a glorious day when the fair is finished for the year.  What a crazy week and a half.  DD2 had an item in the best of show judging this year, which was an exciting first.  We have bigger plans for next year and intend to actually win a rosette.  Her sewing teacher showed her how to do counter change smocking and now DD2 is hooked on hand stitching.  She has clearly stated that she does not wish to make clothing for next year.  Okay.  Hand stitching is even more of a lost art than machine sewing.  We bought her a book of embroidery stitches for her birthday and her teacher and I have several ideas for her to try.

Summer has flown and I feel as if so little has been accomplished.  My mental list of things to do has quite a few items which haven’t been touched.  Just keep swimming.  The kids have accepted the new chores fairly well.  I’ll need to add more soon, but will wait until they get settled in to school.  Supervising the learning of the chores took more time than I thought it would.  There are reasons that it’s taken me so long to get them involved in the home keeping.

My oldest and youngest got their school schedules yesterday and both are pleased with them.  Whew!  My youngest even has two classes with one of his oldest and best friends.  Last year they had one class for one semester together.  My oldest had some drama over getting her schedule to work and DH and I were ready to pull the plug on the IB diploma, which is the goal that was messing things up, but DD1 and her counselor put their heads together and teachers agreed to the plan so we’re okay.  I am not a fan of the International Baccalaureate program, and have told my daughter and the counselor so.  My daughter knows that I am a fan of her, however, and will support it as her goal.  It didn’t help that until we really pushed to know why she was doing this, all the reasoning we heard was “because”.  When all the entanglement came up, DH told her he wanted to hear a more specific reason or he may pull the plug. I have told DH that I will not be reminding DD1 of any of her volunteering requirements or any other extras that are required.  I’ve been clear to our daughter that she has chosen this degree and as such it is her responsibility to keep it on track.  That may sound harsh, but she’s pretty passive and if she really wants this I want her to work for it.

As if the fair, back to school meetings, orthodontic appointments, well checks, etc. weren’t enough to fill our days, we’re also dealing with the stress of my sister’s losing battle with breast cancer.  There are no more medications to try and she’s on hospice now.  We took a flying trip to see her in the middle of fair week (six hours away), and have tried to make it clear to the kids what is happening.  My middle continues to hope that she’ll beat the cancer, even though we’ve said everything as plain as we can.  I think it’s just too hard to accept, especially since my dad lost to cancer just two years ago.  It was not easy having my sister show me what I’m to have when she’s gone, but I understand that it was something she needed to say and do for her own sake.

We met at a park that our dad took us to every year when we were young.  My kids hadn’t been there before and it was a place which sis wanted to go one more time.  It was hot, but other than that it was an enjoyable day.  The next day was at sis’s house.  I had prepared the kids for that with a stern warning to not say anything about the housekeeping.  I’m not the best at housekeeping, but our home is fairly picked up.  I haven’t been to my sister’s home in 21 years, but knew that conditions had not changed from that time, as my parents kept me updated.  My cousin had spent the two days prior to our visit cleaning, and cleaning had been done to make room for the hospital bed in the living room and home health care workers to come and go easily.  Without going in to many details, my daughter was afraid to sit on the toilet, and the front door isn’t able to fully open so I don’t know how the hospital bed made it in the house.  The kids spent most of the visit in a pop-up camper in the yard with their cousins.

Life is uncertain.  I guess I shouldn’t let the busy-ness of daily life pull me down.

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Feeling swamped

The Dark Sky park was a mixed bag.  We hadn’t taken the moon into consideration and it was so bright that it blocked a lot of stars.  We did see several satellites and a few meteorites.  DH played with his photography and got pictures of the moonlight on the lake as well as the Big Dipper.  Increasing the exposure time captured some of the stars’ motion.  Overall, we had a good time.  I was a bit disappointed because I had seen far more out at my parent’s house when we turned off the barn light.  I grew up in the country and there were only four houses on our road – with fields across from us and woods to one side and behind.  In the summer, the woods looked like nature’s Christmas tree with thousands of fire flies winking among the trees.  My parents weren’t rich, but I was spoiled in many non-monetary ways.

DH offered to take my mom zip lining for her birthday.  She’s talked about it for years, but my dad was a hiker, not a zipper.  Is that an appropriate term for it?   We’ll go with it.  She’ll be 75 this fall and is in good health, so why not do this now?  She’s excited about it.  Apparently she only has doing a zip line and learning how to ride a horse on her “bucket” list.  I told her she’s done well to have so few desires.  I think it’s good to have things you hope to do, but it can’t be healthy to have a huge list.  To me, that would just indicate a person who is unsatisfied with their life in general and that would be sad.

I’ve gotten absolutely none of my sewing done yet this summer.  Perhaps I was way too ambitious in what I thought I’d be able to accomplish.  Supervising the kids cleaning their bathroom will be fairly minimal now that they’ve got it down, but it’s been time consuming during the learning.  My son’s braces are being preceded by an expander which will take three appointments.  I was supposed to get a crown today, but the dentist wants it to be tweaked before putting it in, so the temp went back on and I have to wait two more weeks.  Then I got a call that he’s not happy with the bite register so I need to go back in tomorrow to have that redone.

Appointments are draining time away.  I used to think that there was only one block of time in the year filled with appointments.  Nope.  There are three or four and they all stretch to cover about two months each.  The day will come when I’m not in charge of the kids’ eye, dental, ortho, and doctor appointments any more.  I think I’ll be able to find something to do with all of that time.  I have many interests which I have no time for today.

Lesson plans are complete for everything through the first six weeks, and some subjects are set for the year.  Algebra and Chemistry will need to be a bit flexible for comprehension so I can’t go too far forward with those.  I know it sounds silly to want the whole year planned, but it makes me feel confident to have everything in order for my daughter – especially after I had gall bladder issues last fall which involved two endoscopies and a gall bladder removal.  It was a huge weight off of my shoulders to know that school was in order.  The previous year was my dad’s funeral.  This year could be my sister (not to be morbid but realistic).  Life throws a lot of curve balls and I don’t want my daughter’s education derailed by one.

DD2 and I have lots of projects planned for next year’s fair.  We didn’t get everything done this year that had been planned (no pattern there!), so some projects will go to next year.  My mom had made a 3D Christmas village in plastic canvas years ago, and the pattern book came to me.  DD2 wants to make one and I think it could take a best in show as it’s likely to be a unique entry.  We also never got her crochet sweater started, although we have the yarn.  Recently I bought a beading magazine and it has a bracelet pattern that suits this young lady to a t.  She loves it and can’t wait to get started.  One thing at a time.  This year’s fair is yet to be gotten through.  Six projects for judging, one which we’re hopeful will be put up for a best in show.

Deep breath and keep marching forward.

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Daily Doings

Summer is flying by and as always, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’d planned to do.  I’ve gotten a few driving lessons in with my eldest.  That is one scary ride.  I’ve had to have her come to a complete stop in a few of her turns to avoid collisions with a guard rail, our mailbox, and just plain jumping a curb at an intersection. I’m not sure why I’m working toward her license.  I foresee a lot more empty parking lot time.

The chores are coming along.  The kids now have folding their own laundry back, and I’ve checked the drawers – they’re actually doing it.  They’re changing their sheets and it’s wonderful to have gone from four sets of sheets to change to one.  My middle child always (and that’s not an exaggerated ‘always’) has armfuls of pillows and animals on her bed as well as her sleep mask, usually a robe, and who knows what else.  Changing my youngest’s sheets involved stepping on things and pushing numerous other items out of my way as I walked around his bed.  They’ve each learned how to clean two-thirds of their bathroom.  The remaining third comes next week.  I figured if I divided that chore up it wouldn’t seem so awful.  Mostly we’re working on the things which directly relate to them and we’ll work outward from there.  This project won’t be confined to the summer months.

I’m also keeping the school year in mind so that as we establish chores so that not more than one will fall per day.  Monday is cleaning the bathroom, Tuesday is laundry, and Wednesday is sheets.  There’s room to add on without interfering with homework.

I finally got the little sandwich grill running for my youngest and he made himself grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  He was pretty pleased with himself.  I need to get him going on scrambled eggs, which he also loves.  The problem is that I have to limit how often he makes these foods, but it’s still working toward more independence in the kitchen.  DS seems to be grooving on it, even the chores.  I don’t know if it will last, but I’ll take it while I can get it.

We got out to the lake last week and the kids were thrilled to be there.  It’s so hard to go these days with two young ladies to plan around.  I miss the days when I could just decide to take them swimming without conducting a survey first.

Coming up soon we’ll be going to a dark park.  What makes a dark park is the absence of light for a certain mileage radius, I think eight miles, to enhance star gazing.  We can’t camp at the park so we have a hotel reservation, but we’ll have to keep an eye on the weather in case we need to cancel. I grew up in the country and when we turned out our yard light you could see so many stars.  I can only imagine how much more we’ll be able to see at the park.  Too bad we missed the peak of sunspot activity, but maybe we’ll see the Northern Lights anyway.  I know, we’re complete geeks.

We recently got to see my sister – she lives several hours away.  DH took pictures as all of her crew was at my Moms and as her two oldest are in college, we won’t have many more opportunities for whole group shots.  Also, my sister has terminal breast cancer and I haven’t asked her what her life expectancy stands at these days.  I do know that her family is in counseling and that she may put in for a trip to Disney through a group like Make a Wish for adults (Dream might be the name).  We’re the ones who are counted on for pictures for events so I’ve started tagging pictures with her.  It seems morbid, but I want to be ready.  I did the same when Dad was getting worse with his cancer.  It’s nice to be able to have DH just go put all the tagged pictures in whatever format is needed without a big time commitment.

It looked like rain most of the day but never delivered.  I’d better wrap up and go water my plants.

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Summer Activities Under Way

Initially we thought our oldest had best find a job this summer, but when the best prospect fell through DH decided to take the trip to Mammoth Cave and Kentucky Down Under.  On the way home I got to thinking and decided it’s a good thing to have her home.  She still needs a lot of time behind the wheel to move up in her driver’s license, and I want to really get the kids involved with learning how to do chores and pitch in with the housework.  They also like to do some fun things like going to a small local lake and crafts.  So, this is a learning summer with some fun thrown in.

Groans were heard as the plan was announced, and some attitude has been met with, but I’m moving forward in small steps to help them adjust to the new ways of the house and they are rising to the challenge so far.  The first driving outing wasn’t all that fun, but it must be done.  Hopefully the class we’re aiming for isn’t full yet.  The class is during fair week, which is awful timing, but at least there aren’t any schedule conflicts to work around.

My middle and I filled out the fair registration form – take one.  I plan to re-write it in a more organized fashion, but wanted to start getting the projects down on paper and have her involved with it.  It did get her to sit down and bind off her knitted scarf so it can be exhibited, and I think we’ve got a small spark lit to work on more projects before the registration deadline (in about 3 weeks).  We can also list things which we plan to have finished.  You aren’t penalized for showing less than you register, but I don’t want to have any no-shows, so I won’t put more than one unfinished project down.

I found a small sandwich grill for a reasonable price and need to walk the kids through how to use it.  My younger two like grilled cheese sandwiches and are always at a loss for what to have for lunch.  This appliance is intended to help in building more autonomy in for the kids.  The older two are in high school and aren’t that far away from taking care of things for themselves.  Along with taking on more cleaning responsibilities, they all need to get more experience in the kitchen.

All of this ‘teaching’ is hard for me.  I’d prefer to just do it myself rather than go through the eye rolls, attitude, and hassle of teaching them, but my mom didn’t teach me anything and my housekeeping has suffered for it.  I want these kids to have a better start in the home keeping realm, and I have to continually push myself to take the time to teach them.  Add to all of this that my eldest wants to learn how to sew.  Did you hear my head hit the table in exhaustion?  Add even more to this and I have my own stack of sewing and home school to plan.

I don’t know how much will actually be accomplished this summer, but I do know that it’s better to aim high and not hit the mark than to not aim at all.

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Kentucky Down Under

We just got home from a trip to Kentucky.  DH and I had been to Mammoth Cave years ago – before kids- and it was time to let them experience it.  When we visited Mammoth all of those thousands of years ago, we also found an unexpected place called Kentucky Down Under, and we were sold enough on it to make sure our kids got to see that too.

If you and/or your kids are into animals and experiences with animals, this is the place for you to go.  They offer a ‘walkabout’ in the paddock with kangaroos, emus, and tortoises.  Our guide was Billy, and he let each of us have a couple of matchsticks of sweet potato to feed the kangaroos.  He told us tons about the animals, has been working with some since their birth, and let us know the two who would be okay with pets on the head.  Apparently most kangaroos don’t like to have people touch their heads or ears.  One of those two sweet ‘roos started handing out kisses.  You’d scritch her cheek and before you knew it she’d be licking you.

When we had been there before, our guide did not take us near the emus, but Billy did and we were able to touch them as well.  We even got to see a joey get into his mama’s pouch.

The animal shows were wonderful as well.  The handlers made their way among the audience to let everyone touch who wished to, except when the animal did not want to be touched.  Our kids touched an alligator (tail), Australian pythons (which apparently eat venomous snakes), and a very large rabbit (can’t remember what kind).  They showed a great horned owl (which came to the park after it was hit by a car), but did not allow touches.  Maybe because the kids had all touched the snakes and the owl had been eying the snakes closely.  Maybe because there were two groups of pre-school kids who were all rather wired.

There’s a lorikeet enclosure, and the first cup of nectar is free (included in admission).  We went there early and the lorikeets were anxious to eat, so we were covered in birds.  I think DH had five on him at one point.  Our youngest was taken a bit by surprise and headed back into the entry hut with the worker, but still enjoyed watching.

We didn’t go into the petting area as it was hot (over 90) and we’d seen the main attractions, but they also had goats, and I believe sheep and a donkey to touch.  Another area had demonstrations of sheep herding with the collies.  Dogs freely roam the park, and we heard the dingoes (caged, no touching) howl.  There was a wagon giving rides which we skipped due to heat, but the kids were allowed to pet the horses while they awaited their next load of passengers.

The park has a small cave which is included in your admission ticket.  Every person carries a flashlight and you may wear a miner’s helmet if you choose to.  The water in the cave has a pair of mating crayfish, which we got to see.  Our guide took pictures of the female for research documentation as one of the guests spotted her getting ready to cross our path.  Very cool.

Mammoth Cave is worth the trip too.  I’m just worn out on caves as we’ve been to several over the years, and it’s kind of become just ‘hiking underground’ to me now.  The kids enjoyed it, even though our son hated that he was too young to carry a lantern on the Violet City Lantern Tour while his oldest sister could (have to be at least sixteen).

The other thrill of the trip was for my husband and our middle.  They were joined by our son on Kentucky’s longest twin zip line at Jesse James riding stable (I think the whole thing was called Kentucky’s Adventure Park, but I only remember the riding stable for certain).  Our son was not happy at the end of the zip, but the other two loved it.  It’s 300 feet high, and about a half mile long.  It starts with two small zips to warm you up, but that part isn’t advertised.  Our oldest just wanted to take the chair lift, which she was allowed to do with a ticket for the alpine slide ($5/person).  I sat in the shade enjoying a heavenly breeze.

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School’s Out – and They’re Bored

My youngest can make Eeyore look like a barrel of laughs at times.  Within a couple hours of his release from school for the summer, he was bored.  We went to the library and loaded up Monday after school, and got started with the summer reading program.  The day after school got out, the church youth had an evening outing, which he went to.  He found that the History channel made Mountain Men season 3 available without a cable sign in.  Still, he’s bored.  His room is full of books and things to do, but I swear this kid could use a full time cruise director.

Dental appointments went well.  We did find out that the rinse my middle child uses tends to cause staining.  Great.  This was supposed to help the teeth, not cause issues.  Apparently the office has seen a lot of staining with the Crest Pro Health rinse.  They suggested finding a clear rinse.  We’ll see if it makes a difference.

My son found out that he’s ready for braces.  His brushing still isn’t where it needs to be, but they said waiting a few months probably won’t make the difference.  I did promise him that we’d wait until after his birthday (July), but that we’d better put them on during the summer since it’s a long appointment.  This makes three for three.  At least the office gave us a discount when DD2’s braces went on, so we’re likely to get that again, and insurance does cover about one fifth of the total cost.  It’s still a chunk of change, but we’ve been able to pay each set of braces off before the next went on at least.  DD2 just has a retainer check left.

My oldest thought she was on track for a summer job, but found out that they were looking for a year-round employee.  She’s on a heavy academic track and has a lot of homework each night so we won’t let her work during the school year unless it’s super limited.  So now we’re headed to Kentucky for a 5 day get away since we’re not tied to a job yet.  The kicker is that I caught a cold this week and have been fairly vegetative the past few days.  I’ve kept up on laundry, but that’s about it.  I got a snack/picnic bag started before getting slammed, so it’s not awful, but I need to get some things cleaned and make biscuits tomorrow.

I’m not going to go overboard, but I do need to have us ready for being able to eat a pick-up lunch in the car if needed.  Beef jerky and pepperoni are must haves for us when going to park areas.  Burger King is usually not the most convenient to find.  We hadn’t planned on eating lunch in the car every day in Maine, but that’s what happened.  There are some things I count on having for our crew: two have been mentioned, plus the biscuits, chips or pretzels, applesauce, grapes, and some sort of cookie.  I know it’s not nutritious, but it keeps us moving, doesn’t need refrigeration, and all of my kids need to have frequent snacks or one gets crabby, one starts to feel sick, and the other just gets out of sorts.  They aren’t diabetic, just in need of nibbles through the day.  We always throw a case of water in the car for trips as well.

I’m not fully looking forward to the trip as DH and I have been to Mammoth Cave before, and I know how hard this could be with my ankle, which at times can hurt as much as it did when it was freshly injured a year ago(and I had physical therapy!).  We have tickets for the Grand Tour (4 hours, 4 miles), and that’s a tough walk with slippery hills and lots of steps.  One step at a time, hiking boots, and all of my various braces need to go.  I’d better pack a positive attitude as well, and just see it through my kids’ eyes as they experience the Caves for the first time.

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Wrapping up the School Year

Today I attended the last function for the school year.  I just (sarcastically) love sitting on those hard bleachers while two hundred children walk up to get a certificate.  Yes, two thirds of the class made the A-B honor roll, and nearly one-third of the class had all A’s.  I still think that there’s either grade inflation or the classes need to be a bit harder.  Our middle school also had a new honor roll this year…for learning behaviors.  The reports cards had two grades for every class: one for academics and one for learning behaviors.  What a world.

DD2 finished all of her school work for the year today – one week early.  She’ll still watch a few documentaries, but she’s pretty proud of finishing up.  It also lets me get a jump on getting all of her things organized and filed.  Even though our state doesn’t require me to, I keep every paper she does, my lesson plans and grade book.  If there’s ever a question, I want to be able to produce what’s needed.  I don’t plan to get rid of any text books until after college is well under way.

Being type A, I got our cupboard of school supplies inventoried to be ready for the sales in July.  We won’t need a whole lot, and it’s good to know that ahead of time.  It will be tough not to pick up any 70 count, single subject spirals when they’re 20 cents each, though.

This time of year there’s always a never ending list of things which should be done before school gets out, so tomorrow I’m taking the car for an oil change and to have something tucked back up into the van after dropping through a rust spot.  This is a 2003 vehicle and we’re trying to make it last for another two years, if possible.  It hasn’t had too many big repairs, but we don’t really want to be stuck with any.  Part of the problem with a new vehicle is to accommodate a family of five for a vacation, or even to put groceries behind the third row of seats, you have to go with a pricey SUV these days.  I don’t know if the lack of minivans is due to new gas mileage requirements or what else, but I really would just like to get a new version of what we have.  That’s not likely to happen, according to what DH has found.

I don’t do the car shopping. I show up when we need to go sit in the vehicle DH has picked.  My dad loved looking at cars.  Every car salesman in town knew him by name, and knew that he rarely bought anything.  As a joke, they’d send the newbies out to try to sell him a car.  Every Sunday after church we’d pull into at least one lot to look before going home.  It was a rare event for Dad to drive past a dealership without pulling in to look.  This is why I hate car shopping and why I’m as little involved in the process as possible.

DH and I were cleaning out Dad’s golf bag today.  I can’t tell you how many handfuls of broken tees we pulled out of it, plus 53 balls, two umbrellas, and some weird thing that looked like an odd pixie stick.  It was just as much fun as when we cleaned out his back packs.  Those had a stack of motel cups.  He always took the extras home and apparently he took them hiking too!

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