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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Wednesday Adventure

Yesterday, Mal and I went to the Volente Beach Resort for the first time. As the crow flies, it's very close to where we live. Just under 4 miles, specifically.

However, since we don't have a boat (and, yes, they have a courtesy dock, so we could theoretically kayak down there, but I'd have to call an Uber home, most likely), we had to drive. It's a bit more than 4 miles to drive to that side of the lake.

Once we got there, 22 minutes before opening time, I had to figure out where to park. Either the signage isn't super clear, or I'm just not the brightest tool in the combo plate. Whichever, we finally found a parking "lot" (rocky field with some paved areas the width of sidewalks, but I think you're supposed to drive on them, which feels very weird). Of course, they didn't take credit cards, only cash. I don't carry cash. But they do participate in a parking app, so I pulled over, downloaded it, set up a payment method, found out that the parking lot doesn't take that payment method, panicked because I'd only brought one credit card, and then realized I could use Paypal. By the time we got all of that squared away, it was 5 minutes until 11.

The whole time I was messing with installing the app, Mal was telling me that he didn't want to go to the park; he just wanted to look at it from the car. I got him out of the car with the promise that I would carry him. HE IS HEAVY.

When we got down the hill to the entry, I was speaking with the entrance booth attendant as Mal tried twice to go back to the car... by walking straight into the road, since the entrance booth is only 5 feet off of the street. The second time, I did yell at him about NOT RUNNING OUT INTO THE STREET. So he started crying and begging to leave. I assured the nice high school girl who was trying to help us that he'd love it once we got in. She put a wrist band on me, but Mal wouldn't cooperate, so she put it around his ankle. His response: "GET THAT OFF OF ME!"

Finally, we were set up to go in, and Mal just wanted to stand in the grass with the picnic tables. Okay, good. Take in the view. Gradually, he calmed down enough to try to go check out the kiddie pool. It was maximum 1 foot deep and had a pirate ship.

He liked climbing aboard the ship and exploring. We were the first people to arrive for the day, and had the area to ourselves for about half an hour. I slid down the small slide a couple of times, trying to get Mal to go after me. He declined. At one point, I'd walked away because I thought Mal was going back down the stairs. Next thing I knew, he was standing at the top of the slide saying, "I don't want to do it! I'm not interested!"

I laughed SO hard, because literally no one was inviting him to slide anymore. He was fighting with himself.

More kids arrived, and we ended up playing and having a snack. After an hour, Mal said he was ready to go. I asked if we could walk down closer to the beach, and Mal was very excited to see a boring old swimming pool.

At Volente Beach, the water used in the features is lake water, used and returned to the lake. Thus the swimming pool wasn't pristine. It was clean, but it was lake water. We had a lot of fun in the pool, and got to watch a bunch of people slide. Mal is tall enough for all of the slides, but hadn't the least bit interest in going on them.

Looking at that picture, I can see: Mal is at the top end of what his life jacket can support! He needs to learn how to swim already!

Anyway, we ended up staying a couple of hours, and it was very nice. I'll be excited to have something so close by when he decides it might be fun to slide, and that getting one's face wet on occasion isn't the worst thing that can happen.

We got home and had a very late lunch, then Mal was kind enough to play Cars mostly on his own so I could doze for a few moments.

When it was time to make dinner, he went into the kitchen with me and climbed up onto the bar to chat. I was peeling an onion, and he wanted to try. After we got the peel pulled off, I started to chop it, and Mal apparently just scooted all the way back so that his rear went off the side of the bar and he lost his balance, flipping backward into the floor.

I definitely screamed. Before I got to the other side of the bar, one of the very heavy wrought-iron stools fell over, as well. I picked Mal up and he was crying, but it was almost instantly a "I should be crying because that was scary and I might be hurt" cry and not an actual "I'm severely injured!" cry. The first thing he said after we'd sat down and I was rubbing around on his head to feel for bumps was, "Mommy, I forgot to catch myself!" That's when I knew he was fine. But his little heart was beating like crazy.

We decided that if he wanted to sit on the bar while I cooked, he could sit on the lower part with his back against the high bar. Good grief, that could have gone a whole other way, and we could have spent our evening at the ER.

I was so exhausted by the end of the day that when Mal went to sleep just after 10, I did, too. I realized today that he had not used his computer at all yesterday, and he only got online about 15 minutes today while I was at the store and he was hanging out with James.

Parents who never let their kids use any tech at all must 1) have more energy than I do; 2) have an easier/less needing of input/more independent kid than I do; 3) have more than one kid around; or 4) just be better parents than I am. I cherish those fleeting moments of his distraction so I can make a phone call or do something online from start to finish!

And that brings us to another topic that's going to have to be another blog post, because it's just about bedtime for me this evening. 'Night, all!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Does this stuff happen when I'm not cycling and I just don't notice?

What did you guys do on Sunday?


Well, Mal and I went to church, then he was ready to come straight home, which is rare. Usually he wants to go to the water park or somewhere else.

We came home, ate lunch, and played. James actually slept until one o'clock. After he woke up, I wanted to get out for a bit to make a budget (it's hard for me to do it after Mal's asleep, which at present is between 10:30 and 11:30 PM), and to set an appointment to see a GI.

I went to Randall's to enjoy their Coke Freestyle machine and free wi-fi. I got settled in and realized they've changed their wi-fi since last time I was there. They don't allow ANY streaming, which means that I couldn't enjoy noise-reducing "study music" whilst I tried to put together a budget. Instead. I had to listen to the race they had playing on their television, where the announcer kept talking stats and places and which car was doing what... in other words, a lot of numbers.

Even when I can concentrate fully, numbers aren't my strong suit, so this was a problem. I wasn't there long before I decided to go to McDonald's and use their internet, instead. So I put my tablet into my already-heavy purse, topped off my large fountain drink, and went to get a 12-pack of soda to bring home.

I realized that we also needed eggs about the same time that I realized my soda had bubbled up onto the lid, pooled there, and was pouring down the front of my dress.  Then I quickly grabbed the eggs and headed to the cash register. About half way there, I made another unwelcome realization: My underpants were falling down. I was wearing a dress. I had a fountain drink and eggs in one hand, and a 12-pack of soda in another. There was no way to fix it, so I just walked with my legs metaphorically glued together at the top.

By the time I got to the cash register to check out, I was fully aware that my entire butt cheeks area was uncovered by what is supposed to cover them, but fortunately I had on a dress that is fully lined, so there were two layers above it. I paid and walked out to the car and sat down without losing my underpants, so I guess yay for me.

Then I went to McDonald's. I had lost all passion for budgeting by then, so decided to find an in-plan gastroenterologist to see about my stupid esophagus-sticking thing. I've had it for as long as I can remember, but recently, it wants to happen multiple times per week instead of just one painful and terrifying (and gross) time every couple of years. Primary culprits: chicken, carrots, and dry bread or noodles.

Anyhoo... the Blue Cross Anthem site makes it really easy to search for a specialist in your area, but they don't have contact info for them once you get there. I looked up the first doctor I honed in on and found that she was actually practicing in Arlington (near Dallas) rather than in the Austin area, so I filled out a form that indicated that the listing was in error.

Then I found a second doctor. When I Googled her, I found that she, too, is affiliated with a practice in Irving (Dallas area), and I filled the form out for her.

By the third one, I was angry and surmised that surely there is someone who works for BCBS whose job is to make sure that listings are up-to-date. Why was I working so hard for free? And by free I mean, to make an appointment I'm going to have to pay full price for, anyway, whether they're in or out of plan, since our deductible is something like $14M and we haven't cracked into it at all this year.

What I'm telling you is that my Sunday afternoon was weird, and what was supposed to be a sort of relaxing break didn't actually yield much by way of accomplishment or relaxation. Also, I'm a Mom so not too sure what I was expecting with that whole thing.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Disney Pixar Cars Movies and Music, Entry 3 of 3

It's interesting: The third installment of Disney/Pixar's Cars franchise is easily my favorite. The soundtrack is probably my least favorite. One reason might be that for this outing, they didn't include the score, so the run time is only half an hour and a lot of our drives are that long or longer, so it feels even more repetitive.

Digressing a moment, Mal really enjoys listening to the scores. He wants to know the name of each movement, and then later when he plays those scenes at home, he also hums the score.

That's a couple of bars... repeated... from the final race scene in the first Cars movie (yes, he's playing with Cars 3 vehicles).

I would recommend Cars 3 to literally anyone, but it will pack the greatest emotional punch if you've seen the other two movies. It will pack maximum gut-wrenching if you've viewed the other movies multiple times and these are starting to feel like people to you, and how much longer until we move on to the next thing I think I'm going crazy


Where was I? Oh yes... Even as a stand-alone, this movie has very ambitious and relatable themes, especially to those of us of a certain age.

I'm going to digress AGAIN, because it seems like my wont this evening. I've read extremely disparaging reviews of Cars. One mentioned that the entire franchise is a victory of marketing over art. I think that art is subjective, but in my experience, Cars is every bit as emotionally-satisfying as, say, Toy Story, without being quite as "Hey! I'm tugging on your heart-strings right here! Feel it!" (And we won't talk at all about "Up," which I like, but good gravy.) And maybe I feel protective of it because my child loves it so much, but here are some things we've discussed because of the movies:

1) That "bad guys" aren't always "mean." He notices that ***no spoiler here*** is extremely personable throughout one of the movies, and asks me, "Is he a nice bad guy?" So we've gotten to talk about how people who have bad intentions can be charming and seem nice, but that doesn't mean they're good people.

2) Death. Oh, gosh, death. Probably because Paul Newman died, Doc Hudson dies between Cars and Cars 2. Mal has told me that Cars 4 is about when McQueen is dead, and Cars 5 is about when Sarge and Carla Veloso are dead. I've had to point out that Doc doesn't "come back," even though he makes appearances in the third movie. He's represented on old film and in McQueen's memory. Mal understands enough to know he doesn't want to die. He's asked about James's and my grandparents. He's being able to work through these scary and complicated issues because of a few animated films.

3) Concentration and frustration and anger are different emotions but might look the same on someone's face. This comes up from the way the cars look when they're really racing hard. There are times McQueen is having run racing, and his concentration is underlied by joy. But sometimes, he's just trying his hardest and it doesn't look great... Oh, also, somehow animators MAKE A VEHICLE HAVE THIS RANGE OF "FACIAL" EXPRESSIONS, so you can pipe down about "artless." Anyway, we've talked about how to think about a situation to try to figure out what a person (er, automobile) is feeling. In other words, empathy.

There are other things, like the scenarios he creates when he's playing with the toy Cars. Like he'll make good guys decide to be mean, or bad guys take a new lease on life and are kind. Or one car will give another one a pep talk to get them to do something they're scared of. Again, it's all play/work through some pretty deep experiences. I'm grateful to the franchise for those opportunities.

Back to the actual Cars 3 installment...

Lightning McQueen isn't as young as he used to was. He finds that the newer-generation cars are simply physically faster, no matter how hard he pushes himself. After a huge set-back that causes McQueen to miss out on the end of a racing season, he is faced with the reality that his career might be over, and has to decide where to go from there.

After having seen the movie once, going back and watching his training scenes and realizing what is actually happening... I'm seriously tearing up writing this. It is so simple and elegant and beautiful. The relationships that develop among several generations of cars throughout the story are hopeful. Comforting. The things McQueen learns about his mentor, and the end of his racing career... whooo. I can't. I can't talk about it. Let's move on.

Nathan Fillion is in the movie, too, so there's that.

I've seen reviews that talk about how this is an interesting examination of how aging athletes deal with their futures, but, I'm telling you, it's applicable to every career, to everyone. I can't say anymore because I'll spoil it.

This is too long for me to go into much detail about the soundtrack, so I'm just going to list it and then share my favorite song.

Kings Highway - James Bay
Truckaroo - Brad Paisley
Thunder Hollow Breakdown - Brad Paisley
Glory Days - Andra Day
Ride (feat. Gary Clark Jr.) - ZZ Ward
Drive My Car - Jorge Blanco
Freeway of Love - Lea DeLaria

The two songs by Paisley are instrumental, and a lot of fun. It's amazing how different "Glory Days" sounds from the 1980s song it covers. "Ride" is the one Mal started singing first, and he loves it best. I was skeptical of an Aretha cover, but "Freeway of Love" is pretty good.

My favorite song I have been unable to find a correct lyrics listing for anywhere online. But the parts that mean the most to me are at the beginning, when he speaks of feeling the "outstretched hands of time" with foreboding. Then he decides that he's going to be purposeful and do what he has to do, so everything changes. "I shake the outstretched hands of time." Then later, the bridge: "When I lay on my pillow at night, I think about what's still going right and thank the stars up above there's still things left that I love." <3 <3 <3 Same, man. Same.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Schooling as Childcare? Yes, Please.

Some days, I get it. Especially days like today, when we're toward the end of a month during which James has worked almost nonstop, even from home. When I'm exhausted from the 24/7 care of a spirited child. I am getting enough sleep. I am getting my chores done. But everything feels more difficult than it needs to be, and I must say "Jesus, take the wheel" in my head two dozen times a day.

So I get it: the urge just to find a "good" preschool program and enroll Mal. The relief that would come from having a few hours in my house inside of my own head. The ability to go between chore and rest at my leisure. Not being dictated my part in a play scene I only sometimes understand. Not to have to say, "Hold on" then rush through something all day, but to be able to complete a task thoroughly from start to finish in one fell swoop.

When James isn't working so much, he is good about hanging out with Mal so I can get out on my own, but that's not the same thing as just being home. Alone.

We homeschool. I love it. I have no intention not to homeschool. But, again, in this season... this very long, multi-annual season, I totally get it.

Case in point: Mal was sitting at the table playing with sand so, sitting with him, I started this post. Within three minutes, he decided to go into his room and play something else, and is now calling me, crying, because he needs my help as someone is out of gas.

I never felt this fatigue with D. D, too, was precocious and challenging, but Mal is what I call "extra." And being the constant touchstone for such a verbal, demanding, emotive, energetic little person is draining.

("You always make me sad." The exact thing Mal just said to me after running back in here and telling me he's too scared to be in his room by himself. Now he's standing here crying loudly at me. And James is trying to work. Fortunately, he's not on a call, so I'll let it play out while I finish.)

And, yes, mostly there is happiness and silliness and I love it. But the not ever feeling caught up with my refilling of patience and energy is a bummer. So while I might side-eye the moms brimming over with glee because school starts in 3 weeks... I have to admit that I can see it.


To end on a funnier note, yesterday morning I was in the closet getting dressed and Mal was jumping on our bed. He said, "I use those to go to sleep at night." I went into the bedroom to see what he meant, and he was pointing at my chest.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Unschooling Preschool, Sunday Evening Edition

Tonight, we had a great 30-minute physics study.

A few months ago, Mal asked me if he could make a turntable. He'd been watching the turntable videos from a Cars 2 video game, where the cars show up on a turntable so you can see them from all angles, hear their catch phrases, see their strengths, and decide which one to race. Since then, we've actually played that game at Chuck E. Cheese, but they don't give you very long select, so you can't really watch the little bits for each car.

I remembered then that D had gotten a cake decorating turntable for me, so we used that. Mal's played with it several times since then.

Tonight, we got it out and he was showing off individual cars. After a while, he'd spin the turntable slowly at first, then gradually speed up until the fact that their weight isn't evenly distributed became apparent and they spun off of the turntable altogether.

He did that with a bunch of cars. Then he noticed a large plastic cup and put it upside down over one of the cars before spinning the turntable quickly. After doing this many times, he put a second car on top of the cup, which was inverted over the first car. And then he put two cars on the turntable at the same time, then three. Then he'd just throw a car on while others were spinning.

It was fun to see what would happen. There is physics (and the associated math) involved, and although we of course didn't dive into the written formulas, the fact is that for half an hour, Mal conducted his own physics experiments.

"But he was just playing!"

EXACTLY. One of the foundational principles of unschooling is that children learn best by playing.

My son is three, and does not have a predictable attention span. If I'd asked him to sit down and do some experiments, no matter how fun they were, it is debatable whether he'd be able to do it. Also, if I put limits on his "screen" exposure, whether time or content, he might never have seen the turntable clips. And if I thought of learning as something that only happens when an expert is pouring information into a neophyte, then I might have missed this very cool interaction.

Have a great week, people!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Glamorous World of Motherhood

Hey, guys! This is my kid wearing only Slytherin underpants and sunglasses when we took an ill-advised jaunt down to the lake earlier this week.

It's been in the hundreds all week, and while I knew that and took plenty of fluids with us, AND refilled with tap water when we ran out, the uphill-pushing-50-pounds part nearly resulted in heat exhaustion for me.

I've had heat exhaustion a couple of times (it feels like a cross between hypoglycemia and food poisoning, if you're interested) and could sense it coming on, so I was literally stopping every 4 steps or so and drinking or swirling-and-spitting water (that last one Mal had not seen before and he did not like it). Finally, I had to pull over to the side of the road and sit in the shade, dumping most of the remaining water on my head, while I cooled off. Mal just sat on his trike-stroller the whole time and was fine. He wasn't super happy that I wouldn't let him drag his feet, thus making it more difficult for me to push, but I was not worried in the least about his disgruntlement at the time.

In other news, this has been a weird-feeling week. One reason may be that we've been on acute Poop Watch (TM). Here's the scoop on the poop: I thought Mal would *never* potty train, but right around his third birthday, he just seemed to get it, and so we were able to do away with daytime diapers. Cool.

We had gotten good enough that i wasn't super worried about accidents anymore, and wasn't constantly asking if he had to go. Then, at some point, when he started pooping like 5 times a day, never tidy "just dump and rinse" but "full on scrub the training potty" filling it in the sink and dumping it into the toilet over and over, I decided it was time to get rid of the training potties.

Here's a thing about me: When I decide something is over, it is OVAH.

I tossed the pots (would have loved to give someone to reuse, but figured the "eww' factor would be too much) and we moved on to the big toilets, no problem.

Except after a few weeks, Mal said he wanted the training toilets back because he was scared of the big potty. This was only for #2. He was peeing like a champ. Well, he's a boy so he can pee a lot of places, but one of them is the adult toilet, and he wasn't terrified of it, even though he also won't flush it in case it's too loud.

Anyway, I compromised and bought him a padded Paw Patrol training seat with handles for us to use on the big toilet. He never used it.

Since that time, he's often had what we call "shart events," where he'll squeeze a tiny bit off and manage to squash the urge to go. For a while.

During the past week, he had not used the toilet to poop since like Monday. He just kept sharting over and over, a dozen times per day or more, and sometimes as often as every 5 minutes for 4 rounds. It's demoralizing.

We've talked about how bad ignoring your body's urge to poop is, that poop is the stuff from your food that your body does not want or need and wants to get out of you. We know that he's not constipated. This isn't an "it's going to hurt, so I just won't go" situation.

And today, I looked up "stool avoidance," which is a thing that has been studied and that has lots of advice online. Apparently, 1 out of 5 kids has a period of refusing to poop, and without intervention, it tends to last about six months (are we 3 months in? I have no idea; I should keep better notes). Also, it's typically with kids who are potty trained later, with many being trained between 42 and 48 months, and most of the rest after 48 months. We're not even there yet, so that's not him.

One pediatrician had the advice to dispassionately put them back in diapers (she specified "not Pull-Ups"). No drama, just a matter-of-fact statement that since the child can't control it, that's what's necessary. Well, I'd asked Mal earlier if he wanted to go back to diapers so he wouldn't have to deal with changing underpants, worrying about the potty, etc. and he said a definite NO to that.

Her other idea was some "program" where they get 1 M&M for sitting on the potty, 2 M&Ms for staying so many minutes, and 3 M&Ms for actually going. UGH. We don't do incentives like that. And I get that she's a pediatrician, but, honestly, our child isn't medically ill, and we value relationship over the goal of perfect potty training, so... meh.

In the end (pun), I went to Walmart and bought another training potty. I'd asked Mal about that, and he said he needed it, because it was his size. When I brought it home, he was pretty interested... and then sat on the actual toilet. He said, "I used those when I was a baby." But a couple of hours and 2 pair of lightly-soiled boxers later, he actually poooooooooooooped on the toilet, so if I spent $12 on a potty we'll never use but just knowing it's there makes him feel better, it was *toiletly* worth it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

When Pretending is Serious Business

Today, Mal's eye caught on fire, so he had to come into the doctor's (my) office for a shot, as one does. I gave him a shot, and he proceeded to tell me that I needed to use the hammer. I tested his reflexes, and there were none, but that could be because the hammer is plastic and I wasn't getting near any tendons.

As the exam went on, he kept telling me instruments I needed to use, ending with scissors. I proceeded to cut off his big toe and replace it with a Play-Doh prosthetic (pretend, also). Mal got really upset and pretended to take off the prosthetic toe. "I don't want Play-Doh! Give me something else!"

"I can't. I super-glued that on. You can't just take it off."

Mal started to get genuinely upset. "Give me my toe back!"

Then he changed tacks: "I want a tire."

So I put a tire on his toe.

"Not that one. That's yellow. I want a black tire."

I put a different one on.

"That's brown."

Then I pretended to use a spray can. "Shhhhh-shhhhhhh shhhsshhh. There I painted it black."

Brightly, "Okay! Thanks!"

And that was all for playing doctor.

Later, Mal was playing Paw Patrol. Recently, I rearranged his closet to fit more stuff in it. It looks great and works like a charm... until something needs to be removed. I'd just taken down the giant Paw Patroller, and pulled out a bunch of track pieces and the lookout tower. I was sitting in the floor when Mal decided he wanted to get out his Cars, too, to play "Car Patrol."

"Okay. Your cars are right there, just inside the closet."

In fact, I'd just picked ALL of them up and put them away to make room for the new play sets. Mal, who was sitting halfway between me and the closet, said, "You get them!"


Mal insisted louder that I get the Cars. At one point, he got mad that I was playing with Rider on a bike and took him from me, hiding him on the far side of the room and walking much further than he would have had to in order to have gotten his cars.

"Mom! You get them!"

"Why can't you get them? You're much closer and they're right there."

"Because I'm scared of the monster!"

"Well, so am I. I don't like monsters."

"There are no monsters that live in my home; there's only me and my family."



He climbed over me and asked for "deedees" and kept insisting I get his cars. At some point, we got back onto the monsters. I told him I was still scared, and to prove to me that there weren't monsters, he opened his closet door, revealing the Cars bag.

I pointed this out, and he hid behind me saying, "But I'm still scared!" I told him I was, too. He said, "But the monster will eat me because I'm a kid! He won't eat you!"

"Yes he will! He'll say, 'Look! There's a big lady. I'm not wasting my time with this little kid. I want the giant treat!' Then he'll eat me and poop me out later and it'll be really gross."

I can't tell you what happened after that, except that neither of us got the cars and a few hours later, when one of Mal's friends came over, he did try to get the cars himself, but the bag got hung up on a drawer knob. Again with the "everything fits, but just don't try to move anything."

And this, friends, is why my brain is how it is these days. This is how I spend my hours. Good times. Gooooood times.