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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trying To Keep The Peace

I think most homeschooling families can empathize with a parent's complaints about homework. It's hard enough to get a kid to do "school" work when they are fresh early in the day; tackling it at the end of the day when everyone is tired and cranky must be especially tough.

So, knowing that most kids will naturally chose to do just about anything than a workbook page or book report, I came up with some ways to help parents make homework less of a daily battle. I hope this list of steps that published today on Alpha Mom helps some frustrated parents out. Believe me, I've been there.

But, when you homeschool, you can't really implement the last step, which sometimes really sucks.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Boys Don't Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

My Dad used to say the rhyme above, probably hoping that his oldest daughter would not become a trollop, and that I'd always wear big coke-bottle glasses.


Sorry, Daddy, I got contacts at 16.

Earlier this week, I took Belly to the eye doctor. She had been complaining that the letters in books were hard to see. Turns out, she does have a slight farsightedness issue and could use reading glasses. So, I took her down to the neighborhood store to pick out some frames.

Before we left, I talked to her about her friends who wore glasses. I even showed her the girl I think of when I think "coolest little glasses wearer".

That was it. She wanted glasses, and she wanted them now.

The frames she picked were way cooler than anything I ever wore as a child. And, they are pink, natch. Silly things cost as much as my glasses, and I have a sinking feeling she will misplace them in a month. I almost wish she needed them all the time because at least they'd be more likely to be on her face than "oh, where did I leave them"?

But, now maybe, just maybe, reading won't be such a chore for her. Even if the effect is minimal and the letters' clarity is more in her imagination, I'm hopeful this will be the trick.

But, Daddy, she quite possibly may look even cuter in glasses, so we could have trouble.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's In Your Village?

I am, technically, a stay-at-home mom (save for my cherished gig here, and the whole homeschooling side job).

By definition, this means I should be raising my children, cleaning, cooking, and. . .what else? Am I supposed to scrapbook? OK, I draw the line at scrapbooking.

The other day, a neighbor was walking by our house with her kids, and my children lured them into our driveway to play. Soon, I had two of her kids riding scooters and bikes with my three. Her last child, a newborn, snoozed happily in the stroller.

At one point, one of her children needed to use the bathroom, so she came into my house with me as I showed the way.

"Wow", she breathed looking around, "your house is tidy".

I looked at this other mom, tired from having two toddlers and a newborn, and debated whether to keep my mouth shut or to tell the truth.

I confessed. "The cleaning people were here this morning".

This was a big step since I feel like admitting I pay other people to clean my house is kind of akin to saying I have a personal chef or live-in nanny (for the record, I don't have either of those, but wouldn't begrudge anyone of them). I know I'm a stay-at-home mom, and accept that responsibility, but, who says I can't outsource?

This all reminds me of that "it takes a village" saying. I need a village.

I need my mom who comes over to help out whenever I call. I need my sister and friends who are happy to have my kids over for a playdate. I need my neighbor who always has an extra egg or cup of sugar; she also has the incredible daughter who babysits my kids so Fairly Odd Father and I can go out to a movie. I need the television that entertains the children when I'm out of ideas and energy. I need the internet, oh, yes, I need that.

And, I need those three smiling women who show up at my front door on Thursday mornings, ready to tackle the jobs I hate, freeing me up to do things I enjoy a lot more. Like what? Well, let's just say that I won't be employing a personal chef or live-in nanny anytime soon. I've got those jobs covered.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's Have a Toast

In ye olde blogasphere, there is a baby shower of sorts being thrown for two fantabulous bloggers---Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored and Rebecca of Girl's Gone Child.

Kristen has done what I did and decided to surprise herself with three children born within a few short years of each other. However, she's also doing it while running a not-so-mini-media empire from her home.

Rebecca is having #2 at an age when I was barely capable of having a meaningful relationship last more than a month. Oh, and she's written a great book and regularly contributes here too.

So, my hats are off to you two. If you can handle all that, another baby will be a snap.

(Rest assured, it does get easier with time. And, no longer having those new-mom jitters is a good thing, for you and your little munchkins).


Thursday, September 18, 2008

You Can Lead a Horse to Water. . .

One of the most frustrating things I'm finding about homeschooling is that I cannot force my daughter to learn a fucking thing if she isn't interested in learning it. Not one thing.

The other day, as we pushed on through a disastrous math class, she cried, "I'm not learning this, I'm memorizing this" and a little warning bell went off in my head.

Before we started homeschooling, I read John Holt who cautioned against this. I then eagerly signed up for a bunch of "unschooling" message boards, but quit when I was afraid I'd get flamed if I brought up the "t" word one more time (that words would be "teach"). I took into account my oldest daughter's feisty/stubborn/"I know it all so you don't have to teach me it" personality when planning our approach.

Regardless, I bought stuff. Fancy books and manipulatives and flashcards and workbooks and DVD's and CD's and. . .you get the picture.

None of it matters.

The child who sits happily as I read the story of Beowulf, who grows wistful when speaking about our time learning about Ancient Greece, who excitedly asks when we can do science again: that same child gets sullen and defiant when the math books come out. She claims she cannot add the simplest numbers almost daring me to force them out of her. We slog on until one of us is yelling or in tears.

Clearly, I need to find a better way.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008


Saturday, D woke up four years old.

He started the day by declaring the following, when I turned the channel to Sesame Street:

"Mommy, you change the show? This is a baby show".

Later, he surprised me with his sudden ability to grow facial hair.

My baby boy. He's grown up so fast.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Just a Girl

I had forgotten about her until I was scrolling through our vacation photos on the computer. And, there it was: a photo of my oldest daughter and another girl, big smiles on both faces, her arm around Belly's shoulder.That should have been it: a nice photo to capture a nice memory.

Unfortunately, there is an asterisk next to that memory that I cannot erase.

I met her on our first night at the campground. It was after 9, dark, and I was walking to the bathhouse to brush my teeth. She walked into the girls' room with me and, after using the toilet, talked to me while I brushed.

And talked, and talked and talked.

In a few short minutes, I learned that they had been living at the campground. They had just found an apartment in town. She had several siblings, one of which was with her grandmother and was either a foster child or was about to be a foster child (she talked fast). Her mother was pregnant with another baby, due soon (pregnant and camping? oy, her poor back!). She was 7.

I told her I had a daughter her age who would love to have a playmate while we were here.

And so the next morning, they played together. While we were on the playground, a loud, rumbling pickup pulled up to the playground. A couple sat in the front: the woman was large, and I thought I recognized her as the woman with few teeth I had seen in the camping store. The man was even larger and unsmiling. He yelled her name and beckoned her to crawl into the backseat.

"That's my stepfather!", she said brightly as she ran toward the truck. I smiled, waved at her parents and was ignored. The truck left a cloud of dust behind it as I brought my foolish arm down.

The truck returned at 12:30am that night, slowly passing our tent, its muffler-less presence echoing in the quiet dark.

Why was I worried about this girl? Why did I think so much about her and what her life was like? Was this unsmiling man, her stepfather, kind to her? Where were all the siblings she had mentioned that first night? How long had she been living in a tent?

Did her mother take her to a dentist for goodness sake?

It really was none of my business, was it? After all, she hadn't asked for help, she seemed as bright as the sunshine and, if there was anything wrong, I hadn't seen it.

The only thing wrong was that it seemed that her family was poor, very poor. But should I even call that a "wrong"? My family had lived just north of "no money" for much of my adolescence, and I turned out fine.

I would have liked to ask her if she was ok. But a grown woman coming at a just-met 7 year old with those questions would have been over the top.

By our last morning, she was gone. I've decided that they got to their new apartment, and she danced around the empty rooms, talking all the while. Her siblings returned and her mother had a baby which she held at every chance. She is now warm in her bed, not in a sleeping bag on the cold, hard ground.

She is fine.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

(Not Really) Roughing It

When most people heard we were going to spend a week tent camping in New Hampshire, their reaction was one of either sympathy or disbelief. Only a few seemed envious of our vacation plans. I realize that camping isn't for everyone, but it really isn't as much work as people may think. You just have to be ok with a little dirt, a lot of chilly (or too hot) and a tiny cook stove.

Here is D stirring up some eggs for breakfast:

We went for a walk down to the river and Belly got her toes wet. The water was C-O-L-D!

Then, Fairly Odd Father showed the kids how to skim rocks:

Jilly played her first game of mini-golf. Well, her first physical, not-computer-game-based, game of mini-golf:

One afternoon, we spent at a huge mountainside lake. Oddly, the water in the lake was much warmer than the water in the campground's pool:

A highlight of our camping trip had to be cooking hot dogs over the open fire. Of course there were marshmallows cooked too:

But, with 40 degree nights, breakfast was the chilliest meal:

A trip to the Fair was well worth it. After all, D got to try out the big tractors:

and, Jilly got to play "impatient Massachusetts driver":

D and I posed in the Carousel bench---it was his idea to sit there, honest:

The girls screeched on the roller coaster:

And, before we knew it, it was time to go home.

Not a bad way to spend a week. Even if I did have 10+ loads of laundry to do when we unpacked.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nightly Postscript: When Bedtime Is Hell

I'm sick of being pissed off at bedtime.

There was a time when I'd tuck the kids into bed and say something like, "I love you more than all the stars in the sky" or "I love you more than all the donuts in the world". We'd kiss, and they'd go to sleep without another peep.

I really do remember this happening. . . .twice.

Recently, bedtime features one very tired and end-of-rope mama and three not tired, acrobatic kids. I scramble through three stories, reading as fast as I can without sounding like that guy from those 80's Fed Ex commercials.

Then, I alternately kiss/scold/threaten/"I love you"/sigh/plead/threaten/tuck in/tuck back in/physically lie child down to be tucked in. Some nights this works, and I sit quietly until three children's breathing slows to the speed of "sleep".

Other nights (tonight), I tell them I'm "done for the night", and stomp out of the room to go sulk. They'll either quiet down and fall asleep on their own, or Fairly Odd Father will use his daddy voice to quiet them down. Or, I'll hear them goofing around, and I'll go back into their room and get angry, frustrated and icky.

Then, when I finally go to bed, I think about how if something terrible were to happen in our home that night, the last memory my kids would have of me is of an angry, frustrated and icky mommy. This thought causes me to get out of bed and stop by their room one last time while they sleep. I straighten their pillows, tuck the blankets around their small bodies and kiss their foreheads. Then, before I leave, I whisper that my love for them is bigger than all the stars in the sky.

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Jumping Into Perfect Posts

I've emerged from a woody campsite in New Hampshire unscathed. It's taken a few days to get back into the swing of "living in a house"----things like running water, an in-home bathroom and a refrigerator hold a special thrill to me right now.

But stories of our camping adventures and the drunken aftermath will have to wait as I have decided to jump into the institution known as the Perfect Post Awards.

The Original Perfect Post Awards 08.08

These awards were started by Kimberly of Petroville and Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil back in 2006 to recognize great blog writing each month. I've long admired these awards and have finally decided to play a part in awarding these little bits of monthly love.

So, as my first choice, I happily bestow the honor of the August Perfect Post Award to: dahdumdumdumdumdumdum (that's a drumroll)

Ali of The Cleaner Plate Club for her post titled (deep breath, this is a long one): "Om's Blue Cheese Zucchini Boats: Like Her Garden, A Thing of Beauty".

OK, so the title is a mouthful, the post itself is gorgeous. What resonated with me most was how much we can still feel the influence of those who died years ago. While reading this post, I could feel, not only how much Ali had loved her grandmother during her life, but also how much of her grandmother she still carries with her and sees in her own children.

Stop by Ali's blog and read this post. You'll even get a delicious recipe at the end so that you too can remember something special about her Om.

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