This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Friday, April 3, 2015

Debt-Free Disney

I am not a Pinterest mom.  I am not a soccer mom.  And I am not a PTA mom.  I have never cut my kids’ sandwiches into little teddy bears, or made caterpillars out of grapes, or recreated an impressionist’s painting with their broccoli, mashed potatoes, and grilled chicken.  I often use sarcasm and Bugs Bunny like dialogue when speaking to my kids, and they understand it.  I am sometimes quick to anger.  Our house often looks like a scene out of the movie Animal House instead of Martha Stewart Living or a Pottery Barn catalog. I feed them highly-processed, near fluorescent, mac & cheese alongside their antibiotic free pork chops, because they like it and because it is cheap and easy.  I use harsh chemicals to remove the stains from their clothes and virtually every other surface in our home because it works.  I let them watch TV because I watch TV.  I let them stay up late and sleep late every weekend because I stay up late and sleep late every weekend.  All four of them have hand-held electronic devices that they could spend hours on, and if homework is done and they’re not on restriction, I let them. 

It works for us.  I should be okay with that.  Instead, I find myself constantly feeling inadequate.  But I finally did something that all parents (whether they admit it or not) aspire to – I took my kids to Disneyworld. 


My husband and I were blessed to receive a week in a condo in Kissimmee, FL from my parents for Christmas (my mom told me at the end of October), we booked it for the week of Spring break, and I set off to plan the most magical vacation ever. 

I started on the Disney website – with its bright colors and cheerful music and bibbity-bobbity-booing all over the place.  I found the tickets, went to add 7-day “Park-Hopper” tickets to my cart for 2 adults and 4 kids, and was prompted to enter their ages.  My cart showed 4 adults and 2 kids and the total was 3-months-worth of mortgage payments, a week’s worth of groceries, and the blood of a virgin.  I was certain that there had to be a mistake.  I didn’t want accommodations, I didn’t have a dining plan or a personal guided tour from Mickey Mouse – we were only buying tickets.  They were calling my 11-year old an “adult.”  So I did a little research and discovered, sadly, that there was no mistake and that children 9 years old and older are considered adults by Disney.  I mean, I guess I sort of get it; the average 9-year old is tall enough to ride everything in the park, so they should pay full-price, but holy crap.  My 11-year old daughter is tiny!  I will admit that the idea of fibbing about her age crossed my mind, but I didn’t.  I did, however, call the reservations people to try and use my awesome negotiating skills to try for a better deal.  I had worked in corporate sales for years before I had kids, and I have successfully gotten a stubborn group of 4 kids to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, and take a bath almost every night, Disney reservations should be putty in my hands. 

Here’s the thing:  Disney has more people wanting to give them money than they can allow in the parks at one time, so they don’t negotiate.  They don’t have to.  They will, however, help you find the best deal.  I learned that I could get the 7-day tickets that I wanted, a Memory-Maker package, AND add a single night at a Disney Value resort with a dining plan to get Magic Bands for all 6 of us for only about $50 more than I was going to pay for just tickets.  So that’s what I did.  They even let us pay for it over time (which felt a lot like debt, so I freaked out about 6 weeks later and paid the whole thing off rather than following the original plan).  I was so excited to tell the kids about it Christmas morning. 

Of course, the snoopy little 9-year old found out early, but she kept her mouth shut. 

About 2 months before we were scheduled to leave, I had a freak-out moment about the cost.  I called Disney to see how much we could save if we dropped a day or 2 at the parks.  Maybe we should just get  5 or 6-day tickets instead of  7-day tickets – if I averaged things out, it should save us about $500 or so.  Nope.  Because this is where the genius of Disney comes into play.  Every day of tickets that you buy, the price drops considerably.  So I asked about dropping one day and discovered that we’d only save $6 a ticket, or $36 total.  Drop 2-days? We’d save less than $100.  See, Orlando is chock-full of family-friendly attractions like Lego land, Universal Studios, and Sea World (if your family is into animal torture).  Disney does not want you go and spend any money at any other park – they want all of your money – so, they make it very expensive for you to leave their park and go somewhere else during your average 7-day stay. 

My kids’ current obsession with Harry Potter meant that I had to look into Universal Studios for their Harry Potter world.  I discovered that there are actually 2 Universal Parks and that they have Harry Potter World in one and Marvel Universe in the other.  Obviously, we’d need to go to both.  A 2-day Park-Hopper ticket for the 6 of us would be about $1,800, but going from a 7-day ticket to a 5-day ticket at Disney would only save us about $100.  I was too cheap to pull the trigger and decided that this would be a Disney-ONLY trip.  When we told the kids, they were completely over the moon excited. 

Let me tell you – doing Disney “debt-free” IS possible, but it is NOT easy.  Our family gave the kids Disney gift cards that they could spend in the parks for Christmas.  I was in total save mode.  Whenever I was at the grocery store and went under budget, I would grab a Disney gift card or 2.  I had a jar on my counter that said “Disney Dough” on one side and “Mickey Money” on the other, and I would drop random change and small bills into whenever I had them.  I was determined not to dip into savings to pay for this trip, and we do not do credit. 

I am happy to say that we had an AMAZING time at Disney.  Yes, it was insanely expensive, and overly crowded, and there are “stories” that I will tell in subsequent posts (seriously – people provided a wealth of post material), but it was a great experience for our family.  Disney has a way of doing EVERYTHING right so that the pain of spending all of that money feels worth it, and you want to come back and give them more money.  And I do want to go back.  As soon and as often as possible.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hefty Accomplishments

I have been actively avoiding responsibility this week.  I was sick all weekend and although I am finally starting to feel some better, I just don’t want to do anything.  I did stuff last week.  It made me sick. (I know that it didn’t actually make me sick, but just go with it.)  Last week was all about cleaning out clutter.  I got rid of unmatched and warped Tupperware, bagged up some old clothes for donation, and set aside some items to sell (someday).  I even convinced the kids to get rid of some of the plethora of toys that they move around their rooms while looking for the toys that they actually play with.  But the biggest cleanup happened in my eight year old daughter’s room. 

I used to imagine that my kids’ rooms would look like a cross between my own childhood room and a Pottery Barn catalog.  When they were babies, keeping their stuff neatly arranged was easy – they couldn’t actually play with any of it and it stayed wherever I put it.  When they were toddlers, I just gave them a few toys at a time to play with and kept the rest out of reach.  But as they got older, they gained access to all of their stuff all of the time and my catalog dreams were shredded along with most of the paper in my house and it all ended up on the floors of their rooms.

My daughter loves her stuff.  I mean, she REALLY loves it.  She never wants to get rid of anything.  Ever.  Her favorite things are her stuffed animals.  She had probably close to 150 stuffed cats, dogs, birds, unicorns, hedgehogs, foxes, wolves, horses, etc.  Name an animal – real or imaginary – she probably had at least one of them on her bed.  She has been found asleep on her floor some nights because she has carefully arranged and tucked in 50-60 stuffed animals into her bed and there is no room for her.  When I informed her that she needed to par it down, I could see the panic in her face.  I suggested that she arrange them in a line, starting with her most favorite, going to her least favorite, and that we could start by giving her least favorites to some kids who don’t have any stuffed animals.  She liked that idea, but an hour later, I found her in her room hugging an armful of animals, and she said “I can’t.  They’re all my favorite.”  Sigh.

I was beginning to think that I would one day I’d walk into her room to discover that she had disappeared under an avalanche of poly-fill stuffing and faux fur. 

I know what you are thinking: “Well, why would you keep buying them for her if it is such a problem?”  But see, *I* don’t buy them for her.  Grandma does.  Her friends do.  Her siblings do.  Every birthday, Christmas, weekend outing, etc., she gets a new stuffed animal.  She names them all.  They have distinctive personalities with likes and dislikes.  This one prefers the shelf to the bed, that one likes to be near the window, the one on the floor is feigning sleep because he doesn’t want to play with the two under the dresser – there are entire sagas played out in her mind about these animals.  I love and admire her creativity and imagination and I didn’t want to squelch it in any way.  She wants more than anything to have a REAL animal of her very own.  Sure, we have a dog (who she loves), but she wants her OWN animal. 

As most parents will tell you, you can send your kids to “clean” their rooms all day long, but if you really want it cleaned you need to go in there with them.  So last week, I went into my daughter’s horribly cluttered room with her, and helped her clean out things so that she could manage it better.  We went through her clothes and got rid of anything that was too small, torn, or stained.  We tried on all of her shoes and eliminated the ones that were snug.  And we tackled the stuffed animals.  We had already taken 4 trash bags full of clothes and shoes out of her room, and so I used that momentum to tackle the zoo that she had collected.  We went at them with the understanding that we were going to be sending at least half of them to new homes and we used the “no touch” method.  I would pick up an animal, hold it for her to see, she would say “Keep” or “Give away” and I would either put it into her toy bin or into a garbage bag.  She didn’t have to touch them at all.  She did great.  Better than great, actually, because she got rid of 3 trash bags full of stuffed animals. 

After we had accomplished the cleanout of things to sell or give away, we had to tackle the trash that was in her room, and how an 8 year old child can have that much trash is beyond me.  There were a few broken things, and some stuff that was simply beyond donating, but the “art” was the main culprit.  You know, in college, I participated in “Earth Day” and I signed a petition urging my campus to consider electronic textbooks and computer based testing to cut down on the use of paper because it killed trees.  Little did I know that one day my child would have enough paper in her room to handwrite the complete works of Shakespeare on in print large enough to be read from across the room.  There must have been 3-4 reams of paper with just a mark or two on them, all wadded up and torn.  They were in stacks on her shelves, in her closet, in her dresser, behind her dresser, and under her bed.  And we had to look at all of them because she was afraid that she might accidentally throw away her masterpiece.  I wanted badly to tell her that she wasn’t Da Vinci, but I didn’t.  We went through all 12,000 sheets of paper and kept less than 50.  We hung a few up and neatly stored the rest in her desk. 

Once the dead forest was removed, I saw something odd under her bed.  I started pulling in out and was bewildered.  She had 10-12 collapsed cardboard boxes stacked up under her bed.  There were one or two big boxes, but there were also a lot of broken down shoe boxes.  Underneath the stack were wads of poly-fill and some fabric pieces.  It looked like a rats nest.  I asked her what it was all for, and she told me that she was saving it to build a house for the cat that she was going to get someday.  All I could picture was that my daughter was going to be a hoarder and that she was going to have a cardboard shanty town for cats in her living room where normal people would have a piano.  I convinced her that the cat that she might someday have would not need a cardboard house and we added the cardboard to the recycling bin.

All told, we hauled out 5 trash bags of trash (not counting the recyclable cardboard).  You would think that her room would now be a sparse and barren place after a total of 12 bags of “stuff” was taken away, but it isn’t.  However, now she can find her stuff and she can manage it herself.  I was very proud of her and the way that she tackled this with me. 

Unfortunately for me, I have 3 more kids with hoarding potential and rooms of their very own.  I need to recover before I can tackle their rooms.  And I need to buy more trash bags.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gray Matter

I want to talk about absolutes.

 It is so easy to say that we believe in something absolutely – to stick to your guns, no matter what.  Or at least, that is what everyone wants us to think.  But it really isn’t. 
So, you think that you are pro-choice? 
What about a drug addicted, prostitute?  A “mother” who no longer wants her child because at her first check-up discovers that the baby she is carrying is a boy, and she cannot sell that kid into the sex industry for what she had planned and now wants to abort.  Still pro-choice? 
What if you are against gay marriage?  There is a couple, homosexual, who have been together for more than 15 years, who want to adopt a couple of kids.  The state where they live will not allow it because they are not married.  They are not married because the state where they live won’t allow it.  The kids?  They are the nephews of one of these people.  If they do not adopt them into their very stable, and loving home, then they will be bounced around the system, from foster home to foster home, for the next 5-10 years until they age out, thinking that no one cared about them (despite the fact that there was a loving family that wanted them; but that wasn’t what “the state” determined as worthy).   
These are just 2 examples of stories that are floating around the internet right now.  They are both true (as far as my limited resources are able to determine), and they are both tragic.

They are tragic because there are people who will argue for that perfectly healthy baby boy to be aborted and for that loving couple to be denied those needy kids because it is detrimental to “their cause” to say otherwise.  

Do I believe that “gay marriage” is wrong? 
Spiritually?  Yes.  I am a Christian, I believe the Bible, and the Bible calls it an abomination.  Socially?  No.  I have friends who do not share in my Christian beliefs who, I have to say, are wonderful people.  Some of their relationships are better examples of I Corinthians 13 than some “Christian” marriages that I have seen.  I believe that God assigns the same value to all sin.  I have friends who are liars, a few who are thieves, many who exhibit jealousy, one who has been an adulterer at least 3 times, and yet they are not faced with the condemnation that my homosexual friends face.  I look at these relationships and I struggle to find offense beyond my faith.  I acknowledge that I am inviting much criticism here, but I am not speaking of members of my faith who have chosen homosexuality (the two are not reconcilable) but I am speaking of those outside of my faith.  “We” do not protest the marriage of 2 non-believers of opposite sex, and I question how a homosexual union is any different – it is the union of 2 individuals who do not share in our faith.

I am calling on you – all of you – to use your God-given gray matter to say that there are no absolutes.  Until we tell those in the political and religious pulpits that each and every case needs to be examined under the unique circumstances pertaining to it, then the town criers among us are going to determine the rules.  Right now, we are a nation divided by the town criers, the race baiters, and the politicians.

I say that with a completely clear conscience, by the way, because I used to be one of them.  I used to be the one who thought that all homosexuals were the guys in pink bouffant wigs marching in a purple thong across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I thought that abortion in cases of rape and incest was okay because it was better for the victim.  I thought that all government regulations protected all of the citizens, even if it trampled on a few individual’s rights. 

I was naive.

Some might say that I was stupid.

I accept that responsibility, because I earned it.  I earned it by being complacent in so many things that were wrong or at least headed in the wrong direction. 

I allowed myself to be swayed by the cherry-picked stories of social media – I would never give an impressionable child to a guy in a thong marching on Times Square (Honestly, I have come to learn that most people like that do not want children) & I would never allow a drug-addicted whore to use abortion as birth control (and most people like that never become pregnant to begin with).  That was easy.  It required no thought. 

I didn’t have to utilize my gray matter to make that choice. 

And on the surface, these are easy concepts for anyone with a religious background or well-rooted belief system.  But the problem is that they are NOT ALL easy decisions.   I wish that they were.  My life would be so much simpler if everyone and everything in these situations were absolutes, but they are not.

Is it better for a child to be aborted, or to grow up feeling completely unwanted and ignored in the “system”, or to be adopted by 2 people who will love and nurture them into a productive member of society?  Are these 2 men or 2 women somehow less deserving than a heterosexual couple?  WHY?  History has proven that heterosexuality does not equate purity – we have witnessed examples of sex trafficking, slavery, pornography and worse perpetuated by heterosexual couples, so why is it that we believe that loving homosexual couples would be any riskier?  Would we be okay, as Christians, if they were adopted by a heterosexual Jewish couple?  A Muslim couple?  How far away from our traditional faith must they be before it isn’t okay?

What about abortion?  When does it cease being a choice and become a child?  Ask an expectant mother who wants the life in their belly when it becomes a child, and most (not all) will say that it as soon as they find out about it’s existence.  But those who do not want it?  It is not a child until it is born and takes it’s first breath.  Until then, it is nothing more than a parasite to them.  I struggle A LOT with this as someone who has carried and given birth to four children of my own.  I cannot imagine ending a life growing inside of me.  Even in the face of questions like “what if your 12 year old daughter were raped and became pregnant?” could I condone abortion.  HOWEVER – At that point, I acknowledge that it is no longer my choice.  We are no longer talking about me and my body and my life or my future.  IF (God forbid) I were faced with such a scenario, I would talk and pray with my daughter.  I would seek outside counsel.  I would let her know that whatever she decided, I loved her and would support her, and I would ensure that she knew that abortion was not her only option.  I would hope that I had taught her the value of life before this had happened and that she would see that something wonderful could be produced from something horrific.  But – IT WOULD STILL BE HER CHOICE.

Let me try to make it a bit clearer:

Is it okay to abort a baby, but not okay to decide where that baby is born? (Mid-wifery/home-birth)

Is it okay to decide where that baby is born, but not okay to have that baby vaccinated? (Anti-vaccination)

Is it okay to force that baby to be vaccinated, but not okay to give it to a loving, homosexual couple to be raised? (Adoption/gay-marriage)

Should the government be allowed to determine, based upon blanket assumptions, what food that child should eat?  (Federal lunch program)

What subjects they should focus on and how?  (Common Core)

Where and how they should live? (Homesteading/Survivalism)

Is it okay to have this wonderfully individualistic child be defined by a few random standardized tests?  Is it okay for the parents (whomever they may be) to determine that the educational standards do not define, but rather cripple, their child?  Should they be allowed to opt out? What if that skews the results for the other children? (Common Core/Educational standards)

What if the child is ill?  Should some bureaucrat in Washington DC have prevue over a child’s medical treatment? (Medical Marijuana/non-sanctioned FDA treatments/even Obamacare)

I have chosen a few of the most extreme examples that are hot buttons in today’s media, but they are meant to act as catalysts.  I want you to realize that there are no absolutes in ANYTHING worth having an opinion of.  To me, that symbolizes their triviality.  These are the issues that distract us.  If you think that the government should stay out of situations regarding your doctor, your children, and your bedroom, then I hate to break it to you, but you are a conservative.


A conservative believes that there are certain areas that the government should just stay the hell out of.  A conservative believes in a small government and a great deal of personal liberty.  I am NOT a republican, but I am a conservative.  I am proud of being a conservative.  I believe in my individual rights as an American, I believe in my city’s rights, my state’s rights, and my country’s rights and I understand that they may not always be in agreement, but that the rights of the individual should prevail unless they are in DIRECT conflict with the other’s rights.   

Do I think that you are wrong to choose to not vaccinate your kids?  Hell yes I do.  I think that you are putting the rest of the populace at risk.  Did I still opt to separate my kids’ vaccines into separate shots in order to minimize risks and identify potential problems?  You bet your ass I did.  Will I fight for your right to make such choices?  Yes.  To an extent, but not absolutely.  I feel the same way about home birth, medical marijuana, gay marriage, gay adoption, and even gun rights, etc. 


Life is gray matter. 

There are very few absolutes.  Life requires that we use our gray matter – our brains – and we’ve been handed a cafeteria plan on morality and expected to accept it.  Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.  Life is too messy not to use our God-given gray matter.


And for God’s sake, quit criticizing me for using mine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I have only blogged once in the past year.  I could tell you that it was because my life has been hectic.  There were exigent circumstances – there was laundry, housework, dinners, and grocery shopping.  My kids have things going on that occupy my time.  I had a job – teaching remedial English in a local community college that could support a blog of it’s very own.   

All of that is true.  All of that has been true since my first kid came home from the hospital.  That isn’t why I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been blogging because I have had many things on my mind that are not funny (which is sort of what I set out to do here – tell the funny stories of parenthood).  I have never been afraid to share a serious post here or there, but EVERYTHING I think about lately has been serious in nature.  And I haven’t shared any of it because I have been afraid. 

“WHAT?!” you say, all slack-jawed at your screen. 


Yes, I have been afraid.  Not of what I have to say – Lord knows that I will defend my reasoning for every one of my beliefs until the day I die, (or I will listen and contemplate all of the evidence and arguments and shift my opinions accordingly if needed).  No, my fear lies in the fact that very few are listening and the belief that I must, therefore, be insignificant. 

Do you know that fear – the fear of “insignificance?” 

It is crippling. 

I experience it as I watch the news, read articles on Facebook, as I sit in on PTA meetings, and as I witness my family and friends make poor decisions.  I see things that are wrong – things that are a mistake.  Solutions that are tinder for a building fire of misfortune on varying scales and… I bite my tongue. 
I think to myself “That’s a mistake.”

And I say nothing. 

I bite my tongue because it’s none of my business.

It doesn’t concern me.

Does it?  

Whether it does or does not, I have opinions about it. 

I have “thoughts.”

But I have been afraid to say what I think, here where I am supposed to be most comfortable. 

I’ve been afraid because I am “just” a mom.  I am a Christian.  A Southerner.  A woman.  And I am white. 

Common core?   I must be biased because one of my kids is failing.

Ferguson?  I must be a racist.

Politics?  I am just a back woods Alabama gal’…

But I am not. 

I am smart.  I know that I am. 

My opinions are not tinged by where I was brought up, by whom, how, or when.  My initial reactions might be, but not my opinions. 

My opinions are forged in sleepless nights contemplating the facts of whatever is occupying my mind; and a lot occupies my mind.

And I feel insignificant.

I have opinions, just like everyone else.  I have ideas of how things could be handled better.  I have ideas of how to improve.  But I am “just a woman,”…  “just mom,” … “just a Southerner,” …

…just insignificant...

But we are a nation of “justs,” and none of us are insignificant.  That is the beauty of our society and our government – no one is insignificant.  (Or at least they shouldn’t be).

And yet…

Yet, I’d be willing to bet that every one of you reading this has an opinion on Common Core, vaccination mandates, nutrition standards in schools, Ferguson, ISIS, gay rights, business rights, individual rights, etc.  So why don’t you have a blog spouting off about what you believe and what you think the “right thing” is?

Because you are afraid of being insignificant. 

Well…stop that.  Stop being afraid to say what you think.  You’re thoughts are valid and important.  They are just as valid as the next guy’s.  Since when do a bunch of politicians know what is best for you? 

STOP keeping your thoughts and opinions to yourself.

I may not have been sharing all of the thoughts and opinions here, on my blog, but I have been writing to my senators.  I have written about the rights for parents, for business owners, for individuals, for midwives, for parents – you name it – but I have written to those who are supposed to be my “voice” in the arenas that matter, because I have realized something….

No one cares what I think. 

No one is obligated to, except the ones that I help put into office.  They are the ones with the power.  And if they are smart enough, they realize that we, the insignificant, are the ones that gave them that power.  Trust me, they want to keep it. 

So tell them what you want. 

Don’t tell me – I am insignificant – tell them.

Do you think that businesses ought to have the right to uphold the principles that they utilized to establish their business? 

Do you think that mothers ought to have the right to home birth?

Do you think that Common Core is great, or should be abolished?

What is your opinion on ISIS?


The budget?


Do you think that the government should be held responsible for their part in… well, anything?

Your opinions matter.

Tell your congressman. 

Don’t tell me (the individual blogger) – I am insignificant.

But you (the citizen) are not.

And neither am I.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering, I'm Still Alive

Wow.  I had not realized that it had been so many months since I posted something.  I could exaggerate about how extremely busy life has been, or make up some stuff about why I haven't posted, but seriously, most of you are parents.  You  get it.  Life happened.  So I am sorry if you have been waiting with baited breath for 9 months for a new post from me, but life happened.

I have been neglecting my blog in part, because I have entered the world of academia.  Well, sort of.  I have begun teaching a basic writing course – remedial English – at a local community college near where I live.  It has been an interesting experience.  I am what they call an adjunct instructor.  That means that I am not faculty, but more like a contract employee, hired to teach per class.  I don’t get paid much, but it is more than I was making as a free-lance writer this past year, and the paycheck is steadier. 
When I was younger, I used to imagine being a college professor.  I would see myself in some sort of hip outfit, pulling into my reserved faculty parking space in a cool little retro MG with the top down, stepping out with a worn leather messenger bag full of papers to grade and a latte in hand as I strolled confidently into a cathedral of a building that would be home to the English department.  Not MY English department, mind you.  I would be much too busy writing and touring the country promoting my latest novel to run a department.  My students would love me; they would fall all over themselves to try and impress me.  They would ooooh and aaaah at all of my lectures on lofty literary topics such as “Images of Evil in the Romantic Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson,” and the wait list for my creative writing class would be over a year. 
That is what I imagined.
That is nothing like what I am doing. 
I am pulling up to an industrial building in my black minivan and wheeling a milk crate full of papers that I have already graded into an office only slightly larger than my closet at home that I share with another adjunct who teaches on the days that I am not here. 
I have students who like me, certainly, but they are all striving to do as little as possible to at least manage the C required to make it out of my class and into English 101.  There are a few exceptions, of course.  Out of nearly 70 students, I have maybe 20 that have serious potential.  They are the students who are actually here to learn.  They either have never tried, or they were never taught, but they are capable.  They think that I am funny, they say that I am their favorite teacher, and that no one has ever broken down English and writing for them as simply and effectively.  They try. 
And then…
Then there are the rest of the students.  The ones who have missed 9 out of 12 class meetings, the ones who have turned in 3 out of 15 assignments, and the ones who have yet to complete a single weekly journal.  They are halfway through the semester and have a daily average of 14, a journal average of 10, and a test average of 0 because they failed to turn in the take-home test that they were given 5 days to complete.  They are the ones that I want to kick out.  I want to hand them a pink slip and show them the door, but I cannot.  Community college is state funded.  I am prohibited from using attendance as a grading tool.  (Why it is okay to use attendance as a grading tool in state funded primary and high school, but not okay in community college, I have no idea.)  In my assessment, it was suggested that I “soften my criticisms” and I wanted to tell them that I already AM softening my criticisms.
My mother, who has been a teacher all of her adult life and is now retired, asked me how I was enjoying it.  I told her “I love teaching.  I despise grading.  I look forward to the discussion of writing with the 10% of students who can follow what I am saying and even the additional 20% who wish that they could follow it and make effort to.  I dread seeing the slackers.  If I could only teach the students who wanted to learn, it might be worth pursuing as a career, but it is okay as a job for now.”   She replied that the only way I would get to teach just the students who wanted to learn was to go back to school, get a doctorate, and teach 500 level courses to others attempting to get their doctorate.  I don’t want to do that.
I’m not even sure that I want to do it again, which is good since they do not have any classes available for me at the moment for next semester.    I have told them of my availability, and time will tell if they have to create another section or two that fit those parameters, but for now, at least, I am facing unemployment (again).  Part of me is glad, honestly.  I am looking forward to getting back on track with my weight loss (which has morphed into “damage control”) and spending some quality time in my yoga pants with my DVR. 
And maybe even writing on my blog.
But now, I have 70 some odd essays to grade before Tuesday…joy.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Truth Is, Change Sucks

I am procrastinating.

I just wanted to put that out there so that when you wonder what the point of this post is, you will know that the point is simply to postpone all of the crap I need to get done today -- going to the grocery store, getting on the treadmill, folding clothes, etc.  That and I need to vent about dieting so that I don't raid the candy aisle when I finally make it to the store.

Today I am seriously wishing that I could just be comfortable being fat so that I could get me a big ol' Route 44 Coke, a bag of Sweet Chili Doritos, and lay on the couch and stuff my face while I clear the DVR.  But all it takes to kill that inclination is for me to try to put on real clothes.  You know, clothes with buttons and zippers instead of elastic and stretch cotton.  I feel like I should convalesce until I am presentable to the world again.  I am doing well though, on the diet and exercise stuff.  I've forced myself to exercise, I am eating healthy, non-processed foods, and I tell myself that if I give up and give in now it will undo the torturous hell that I have endured up to this point and I will just get disgusted and want to get healthy again at some point and I'd have to start over.  I do NOT want to have to start over.  And standing next to skinny people on the beach in June keeps me motivated.

I think I will write a self-help book and call it "Change Sucks But You Are Fat."  It will be all about how to make healthy foods more palatable, how exercise won't kill you even if it feels like it will, and how awesome unhealthy food is but also how bad it is for you.  It will contain pictures of me on the treadmill looking like I am dying that have captions like "If I can do this, you can do this." or "Just remember that if you stop, you will be fat FOREVER."  I will reveal the truth about all of the lies people tell you about losing weight because the reality makes it all easier to bear. For example, all of my life I have been told that "once you get your body off of sugar, you will stop craving it and when you eat it it won't even taste good."  This is a lie.  Sugar is awesome no matter how bad it is for you.  Another big lie is "if you will get into the habit of working out, your body will crave exercise and you will feel worse when you don't do it."  Bull.  What they ought to tell you is that you will NEVER stop craving sugary stuff, but that it is a slippery slope.  Once you eat sugary foods, it is really easy to eat more sugary foods and then you are screwed because you can't stop.  And as for exercise, the truth is that you will loathe it unless you are naturally athletic (I am not).  You will have to make yourself do it so that you can occasionally have those fattening, sugary treats that you crave so very much.  I will also get real about "Healthy Weight Charts" because they are full of lies too.  I am 5" 8', I wear a size 11 shoe, I have a barrel chest and 7" wrists.  According to "the chart" I should weigh between 126 and 146 pounds.  I read that and I want to laugh, then cry, then go eat my weight in Oreos.  Those charts are crap and if you search the internet long enough, you can find one that says you are okay just the way you are.  I know because I found one that says that a large framed 40 year old woman could weigh up to 197 pounds and still not be overweight.  Ignore the charts.  Ignore the scale.  If you want to know if you are overweight, look in the mirror when you get out of the shower.  That is how I found out that I was slowly morphing into Jaba the Hutt.  

My weight loss journey began the day that I decided to take my measurements to see if what was reflected in that mirror was accurate.  Sadly, the mirror was being kind.  I measured my neck, chest, arms, torso, waist, hips, thighs, calves -- everything.  I wrote it all down and stared slack-jawed at what was before me.  With these measurements, I could probably shop successfully in the men's big and tall section.  That was the turning point.  That was the last day I had a Route 44 Coke and the first day I got on the treadmill.  

Writing all of this out has motivated me enough to get off of the couch and go get on the treadmill so that I can shower and go to the store (avoiding the candy aisle) and buy more lettuce.  No, avoiding unhealthy food isn't easy.  No, losing weight is not nearly as fun as gaining weight.  No, my body will never crave exercise and it will always prefer fatty, sugary, starchy foods.  Coke.  And bacon.  And buttered bread.  And THAT is why I must now go get on the treadmill.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mommy Confession

Yesterday, I wrote about my battle of the bulge.  Today I am writing a confession.

A few weeks ago I met a mother who has 4 kids like me.  Her youngest will start kindergarten next fall and she asked me a question that sort of threw me for a loop -- "What do you do all day now that they are all in school? I just cannot imagine what it will be like to not have them at home, under foot, needing something every 5 minutes."  I stood there, looking like I had been caught in a lie.

What do I do all day?  The honest answer is "As little as possible."

I know that as a stay-at-home mom, I am supposed to argue that my job is just as hard as someone who works full-time.  I am supposed to talk about how I cook and clean and run errands and how incredibly busy my life is running a house full of 6 people -- and it is, sometimes.  But many days, I sit on my couch in my yoga pants and drink coffee and write or watch TV until noon.  I might put a load of laundry in to wash or dry, I might fold some clothes or load the dishwasher, but I relax a lot. At first, I felt incredibly guilty about this.  This woman was asking me a sincere question about how I occupy my time, and I stood there like a deer in headlights trying not to blurt out the only answer that popped into my head, which was "Nothing.  I'm really lazy."

I should feel ashamed or at least a little guilty, right?

But I don't really feel guilty.

I feel wonderful.

For 12 years, I wiped noses and butts, and breast fed, and fixed breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner for 4 kids.  I was an on-demand chef, driver, snuggler, referee, etc. every minute of every day and night until last fall when my youngest started kindergarten.  I was about to my breaking point.  I was seriously on the edge of losing it and not being a "good mom" because I was a little burnt out. The cracks in my armor were showing.  I would fly off the handle and yell about spilt cereal and I might start crying at the thought of a wet bed.  So for the past 6 months I have spent a lot of time doing whatever I want to do (which isn't much) while the kids are at school.

There have been moments of mayhem amid my new found oasis -- there was the dreaded lice and there have been numerous illnesses that required me to do extra cleaning and make extra runs to the doctor and pharmacist, but for the most part, I have been enjoying all of this downtime.  I still manage to accomplish everything that I did when the house was full of little mini-me's running around causing trouble, but instead of spending all of that time corralling the chaos, I spend it reveling in the quiet and enjoying the peace. I've read books, watched movies, napped, and I write whenever I want.

Sometimes the mood will hit me and I want to clean -- like, REALLY clean.  Scrub baseboards and such.  And if that is what I want to do, great!  But I don't want to very often.  And that is great too.

I love being a mom.  I love my kids more than anything in the world.  Our house is rarely spotless, but it isn't embarrassing (most of the time).  The kids' rooms are cluttered....okay, that's an understatement, they look like a tornado hit, but I try to get them to do their own cleaning of their own stuff, so I rarely feel like it's bad enough to intervene while they are away.  In fact, I tend to get more done when dad is home and the kids are here and we all work on an assigned task for a set time (like "We have 2 hours until company is coming, everybody 'panic clean!' Go!")  And it isn't like I NEVER do anything domestic.  Clothes get washed, but they may or may not get folded right away.  Bathrooms are clean, kitchen is sanitary, but we live here and the evidence of that is everywhere.

I think that years of being pulled in different directions while trying to maintain things has caused me to develop a sort of cleaning ADD. Years of being unable to finish a task uninterrupted has left me without the skills needed to stay focused.  before kids, I struggled with OCD, so the result is this weird hybrid where I cannot finish a task because I get distracted by the details of a much smaller, insignificant task.  When I DO try to get something done, it goes a lot like this:  I will go upstairs to collect laundry and notice that there is toothpaste on the counter, so I'll take one of the wet washcloths I just retrieved from the tub and wipe it up.  And end up cleaning the whole bathroom.  Then I will go downstairs and start the laundry.  On the way out of the laundry room, I will pick up a jacket, go to hang it up, and end up reorganizing the entire coat closet.  I will go to boil an egg and end up cleaning the kitchen when I only needed to wash the one pot to boil the egg in.  I'll walk out to the garage to grab a water bottle and start making a pile of stuff to take to the Goodwill.  On my way in from the garage, I'll stop in the laundry room and fold a load of clothes, and when I go to put away the clothes I folded I'll end up cleaning out a drawer...or two...or the entire dresser.  Then I have to go get a trash bag from the kitchen to put all of the stuff I pulled out of the dresser in and take it to the garage to add to the pile for Goodwill that I started earlier and when I do, I realize that all of the water has boiled away from my egg that I completely forgot about.  So I rescue the now very chewy egg and make a salad in my now clean kitchen and go sit down in front of the TV to eat.  (There is still a pile of clothes to be bagged upstairs, the clean laundry is sitting on top of the dresser, the wet clothes are in the washer, and the dryer is buzzing, but now I am sitting down...)

SOME stuff gets done, but it may not have been the most important stuff and it may not be completely done.

So my mommy confession is this:  No, I do not utilize my time wisely.  Staying at home now that the kids are back in school is not as hard as a full time job.  It could be (I'll even go as far to say it probably should be) -- but I have made the fairly conscious decision to take it easy (at least for now and for most of the time).  Anyone who has pictured me as Donna Reed or June Cleaver running around in heels making beds and vacuuming has grossly misunderstood who I am.  I do not live in a 1950's television show nor do I reside in the pages of Southern Living magazine.

Our family is real and we are messy.  If you happen to drop by unannounced, you will most likely find toys on the floor, piles of sorted laundry waiting to be put washed, floors that need vacuuming, dust on the ceiling fans, and a well-caffeinated friend who has plenty of time to sit and talk for awhile.  

Just move that pile of miscellaneous stuff on the sofa over and have a seat.  I'll go get you a cup of coffee.