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Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Word About My Husband (after a bunch more words)

It has been more than fifteen-and-a-half years since I published my first "blog" post, just a couple of years after the Diaryland site started, and just as the word "blog" (a shortened version of "weblog") was starting to be used. I called it an "online journal." If you're interested, here's the March 30, 2001 entry in all of its glory.

I started the blog because I wasn't ready to share the news of my first pregnancy with anyone else, but wanted a record. Then I knew that some people would want to stay updated (like my mom, and far-away friends), but I didn't want to be "that guy" sending out group emails every week. I figured an online journal was a good place to put info that people could check at their leisure, or ignore altogether.

I can't imagine how many words I've written since then. It's been a lot.

I've never had more than a core few dozen readers, and often many fewer than that. I think I took a two-year break when D was 7 or so because Facebook updates were faster and easier. Since then, obviously, I've started blogging more regularly... But the format is different now. I tend to write when I have what I think are bigger stories, or experiences or products to share.

Of all time, my most popular blog post has been the one several months ago where I made a bunch of weird food from a kid's video, and the company shared my link with their followers. The post that is visited as a result of the most searches is my review of the steak, egg, and cheese bagel from McDonald's. Yeah, that kind of insults the rest of my life. Whatever.

I've made it a point to write as honestly as I can, trying to be aware of the privacy of others. I've had to go back and remove some posts and edit some things after I've gotten feedback (times that also clued me in that maybe more people read my journal than I thought, back before they had counters standard on blog services).

I never want to make anyone look or feel bad. And I hope we can agree that, although I'm strongly opinionated and voice that often, I can also be brutal to myself.

Where am I going with this?

Oh, yeah...

Several years ago, I was divorced. When it came up, I tried to keep it classy. I actually ran into some trouble with the church I attended; it was communicated to me that my posts could be "divisive" to people reading but not getting all sides. I tried to rein all of that in; I really did. But I wanted people to know what I was going through, too.

Consequently, over the years, several women have messaged me privately to confide things like, "After XYZ years of emotional abuse, I have left my husband..." Now, I never think that the dissolution of a marriage is to be celebrated. And these women didn't want congratulations or praise or a party. They reached out because they learned, like I did, that when you elect to initiate divorce proceedings and your life gets really messy, you lose people. I think it's just a lot of drama, even if you try to keep it to a minimum, and it's hard. And some people don't have the emotional energy to deal with it.

So, in those cases, I'm so glad that I put my stuff "out there." I'm so glad that a few people knew they weren't the first, or the only. I'm glad I felt like a safe person.

Today, someone reached out to ask me a question that has had me ruminating over it for some time. It involved how you live functionally when the person who's supposed to love you the most actively and visibly resents and detests you.

Here's the truth, no finger-pointing, just reality: My older child's dad did not like many things about me, and he did not try to hide his disdain (or he wasn't good at it, if he did). I think that we got married so fast, he might have thought I had some quirks that weren't his favorite, but that the good stuff outweighed that. As the years passed, I think it just got to be too much for him. I felt "too much" a lot. Too big, too loud, too immature, too crazy, too excited. Embarrassing. On so many levels.


Here's what I want to tell you about my husband. If you're a guy, this is important. Actually, it's important no matter your gender. My husband is amazing at this. I still need to practice mindfulness about it.

Before we got married, James told me that he loved me, including the hard/bad stuff. Now, it's not because my annoying/wrong stuff is so adorable that he just can't help it. He was letting me know that he was making a choice to love ALL of me.

In fact, recently, we kind of butted heads and I said, "I'm a bitch sometimes, huh? Just a bossy little bitch." He didn't sugar-coat it and deny that. He nodded his head. And a bit later, he said, "I love that about you, too. Because it IS a part of who you are, and I love you."

Now, there's no way he's saying that when I have a bee in my bonnet that he's enjoying it big-time. What he's saying is not that we're lucky my "good stuff" outweighs my "bad stuff." He's saying it's all me, and he loves and accepts ME.

Maybe other people have this kind of thing and it's normal, but I feel like it's revolutionary. There is such a freedom to admit mistakes and talk about weaknesses and get things out in the open when you're not afraid you're going to disappoint someone out of loving you.

He's my role-model with this, because I want him to feel that same security and surety, and I want my kids to bask in it, as well.

Jackpot hit, friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Trip and Other Miscellany (pics and videos and fun)

There is a lot about which I want to blog (like our experience with Wacom and the Better Business Bureau, and Lenny and Larry's products, and even Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Cups, among other things), but, dang it, I just don't have the time.

So here's the stuff I really want to remember. Hopefully. I actually kept jotting down stuff so I'd remember, but it's on my phone and my phone is in the other room, and I'm really tired and it's getting late, hence we're going to try to wing this.

This time a week ago, we were in Dallas at the amazing NYLO South Dallas hotel. We decided to try the State Fair of Texas for the first time in 3 years. Two years ago, I was just having a baby as it opened, so it was out. Then last year... well, our kid has been slow to acclimate to travel. But this visit was perfect!

We left at about 9:30 in the morning in order to miss Austin traffic, and stopped at the beautiful Bell County Safety Stop, where Mal played on the playground for a good half hour or so.

Then we headed further north to the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, then we stopped in at the Collin Street Bakery for lunch. Mal slept the rest of the way to Dallas, and really enjoyed our cool loft-style room at NYLO.

The next morning, we hit the State Fair of Texas for three hours, enjoying an array of fried foods and somehow sitting in pudding after this picture was taken. Well, that was just me. But still.

From the fair, we drove further north to my parents' house where we stayed for two nights. We got to go to their HOA's fall festival, D got to take a day off from peopling, and it was nice and relaxing. Mal went to bed quite a bit earlier than usual, even having taken a mammoth nap on Saturday afternoon.

After church on Sunday, we drove back as far as Waco. Mal slept again, from the moment we got onto the highway until about 45 seconds before we exited to get to our hotel. It was great! Unfortunately, that gave him LOADS of energy, which he did not use up thusly. It threw a little wrench into our dinner, but we really liked staying at the Homewood Suites, and James didn't mind eating his to-go steak in the room (I got to finish mine in the restaurant for once; James took Mal out when he started going berserk).

Monday morning, we visited half of the Cameron Park Zoo before coming home. It was great! I'd go back again to see the rest of it (we had mobility and energy issues, plus it was getting HOT).

We spent the second half of Monday doing the post-vacation catch-up, but it wasn't too bad since we'd gotten to do laundry at my parents' house.

Definitely the best travel we've experienced since the birth of this sweet boy, and probably one of the better trips Team Dave's has had, period (since we've had a pre-teen/teen with anxiety even before the little 'un). We saw so many birds (evidenced above) on the trip that my bird-fond older child was quite pleased.

Now, back to reality: Last night was actually one of the better nights of sleep I've had in a good month. Mal has taken to waking more frequently again, and yesterday morning WORE. ME. OUT. with his very insistent (kicking, hard pulling) nursing for the two hours before we got out of bed. But last night, I actually slept hard enough to dream. Weird, stupid dreams, but still. I like sleeping.

The day before yesterday, Mal did something he's never done before: Asked me to give him a kiss. Actually, he said, "Tiss," and leaned in toward me. So cute!

He has another word in his vernacular, too, and it's one of the clearest words he says: "sugar." One of his nursery rhymes features a boy who eats out of the sugar bowl, so let's never say that the computer didn't teach him something. He says, "Sugar. Eat." A lot. Like 5 times a day. I do let him have a little bit of sugar, too. Because, whatever. It moves him on to other things. Thanks, nursery rhymes.

Today, Mal was at the gym playing when he stopped, pointed up, and said, "Tum-bet." What? "Tum-bet." He was listening to the music... and, yep, there was a trumpet. He also said, "Dum-bone," though I think it was still more trumpet. Still, that's pretty observant. Many times, he will announce that the opening of a song is "la-la," which is how he says "ukulele." Or, "dit-tah," which is "guitar," and is ALWAYS followed by, "Daddy." Yes, Daddy plays the guitar. He'll often insist that Daddy is playing that track, too, and I never correct him. I remember thinking that my dad's job at the news station was to climb the big antenna out front. I don't think anyone ever corrected me, either, and I turned out fine.

Guess what? Mal has a favorite Weird Al song! When D was about his age, maybe a little younger, she requested "Hardware Store." When it gets to the part where the choir echoes "hardware stoooooooore," she'd throw her head back and sing.

(That was some AWESOME fan work, by the by.)

Well, now Mal has his own Weird Al song, and it's this one:

As SOON as it's over, he says, "More!" and is happy for me to replay it. I've stopped after about 4 times, because I really like this song and don't want to get sick of it. (I am listening to it now, since I landed on it to share it with you, though.) I know, his first song will probably be "we're great and you suck" instead of something more wholesome, like "Jesus Loves Me." *sigh*

Mal knows when he's dirtied his diaper, and very often will tell me. Or go get a new diaper. Or just take off his old diaper, leave it in the floor, and walk around until I notice (which, hopefully, is quickly, because... yuck). He does all of the things that kids are "supposed" to do to indicate potty training readiness. But he's not ready.

However, in the past few days, he seems to have honed in on a "potty spot." It's not really convenient, though, because it's outside, at the base of our stairwell. There is a little patch of wildflowers, and he stands there, squats, and holds on to the railing. He's used it three times in the past two days, including once yesterday when he wasn't wearing a diaper (but he WAS wearing shorts... long story).

I guess I should put his training potty out there? Or something? I don't know how to potty train a boy.

Okay, so the long story is this: Yesterday, we walked up to the office to do a couple of things. I briefly thought about taking his diaper changer, but didn't. And, sure enough, once we were up there, I realized he'd soiled the diaper he was wearing. He can go a long time without peeing, though, so I just took him into the bathroom, cleaned him up, and put his shorts on sans diaper.

We stayed at the office until after it closed, playing pool in the 24-hour tenant lounge, hanging out by the pool, and eventually walking back to the apartment. He made it almost a whole hour. Then, you know, the spot. I knew he'd peed. There was a puddle, and when I asked him, "Did you pee?" he cheerfully said, "No." After a few moments, I told him to come inside and we'd get a bath. He walked up the stairs and I started taking his clothes off of him when I realized what had happened. This wasn't one of those nice rabbit turd situations, either. So I left his clothes on the front porch and brought him into the entry way. "DO NOT MOVE!" I instructed him.

As I was coming back from his room with the wipes, he ran across the carpet and jumped up onto the couch. I caught him before he made too much of a mess, but he was not happy with my pulling him off by one leg and one arm. He did love his bubble bath, though.

I keep telling him how much easier this would be if he'd just use the toilet, but I think he likes the drama.

In non-Mal news, my husband hasn't used shampoo since March of this year. I tried the "no poo" experiment and couldn't take it. He tried and it's worked great for him. He said that his hair feels and smells really gross to him on the day he water-cleans it, but I don't notice anything. He's always had a dry scalp and dandruff, and he actually has much, much less of it now.

For me, the whole thing helped me find Angel Wash and Angel Rinse, which I adore. For the first time in years, my hair is actually growing out again. So everything worked out for both of us.

On the weight loss front, I continue to notice small things, in details about my body and in the way clothes fit. I gave myself a free day or two on our trip, but even then didn't go too far over my limit, and with the walking still managed to have a calorie deficit most days.

I guess when I set up my SparkPeople account, I put a goal weight, and because I said I wanted to lose one pound a week, it put me at reaching that goal in late March. Maybe that's when I'll be done? I actually don't think I can maintain the goal weight I chose, but we'll see what happens. I also made up a weight when I started, and because I don't have a scale and don't update, it looks like I've been doing this for two months now with no results. But I see it.

It's tomorrow! I gots to go to bed. I'm going to regret all of this dumb blogging in the morning. Before the sun comes up. But I do it all for love, right? And it's FRIDAY! Happy weekend, friends!

Monday, October 10, 2016


Can I tell you something? I was ready to go back to bed by the time my husband left for work this morning.

"You're taking him with you, right?" I asked as the grown male person grabbed his keys.

I love my son. I adore him. He's my favorite. But I'm tired. And I don't mean "we're still not sleeping through the night" tired (though that's a huge part of it). I mean complete physical and emotional exhaustion, and I don't see an end within sight.

First, a few months ago, Mal had gotten to the point where he was only waking 4-6 times per night (those of you who have children who, like my first, are great sleepers, will cringe at that "only," but it was a definite improvement). Some times, he'd sleep through from the time he went to bed at 9:45-10:30 until 2. Once, he even slept until 4. Now we're getting somewhere!

Then he started skipping naps. At first, a couple of days a week. Now, he might nap once a week, but his norm is not to. If he falls asleep in the car, he might catch 20 minutes or so, and that's preferable to nothing, but typically, he's just up from whenever he gets up (which was 6:15 yesterday, but is usually closer to 7) until he goes to bed at night.

When THAT is varies, too. Yesterday, he tried to drift off at 5:30, but 6:30 is really the earliest I feel comfortable letting him doze off. So I kept waking him. He ended up staying awake until 7:40.

The nice part of the early bedtime is my having a few moments to my own thoughts and pursuits after he goes to bed. The down side is that 3/4 of the time, instead of sleeping through a few hours, he sleeps a while, wakes up, needs help resettling, and it ends up being a 2-3 hour process, like taking a true nap before he settles in for nighttime sleep.

Last night, by the time the Presidential Debate was over, he'd awakened 3 times (once it was a matter of my putting him back to sleep, using the restroom, and as I was walking back into the living room to watch, he was already crying for me). I was so tired and frustrated, I ended up just going to bed at 9:30.

Then Mal was awake very often, more times than I care to count, but I'd guess 10-12 times before 5 AM, after which time he woke up any time he unlatched from nursing. So we nursed constantly from 5 until he was ready to get out of bed at 7:15.

Now you can understand why I don't feel rested most mornings.

And if he were groggy and slow to wake, we could muddle along together in the mornings. But that's never the case.

He jumps out of bed with an enthusiastic, "Eat!" or "B!" (computer) or "Pak!" (park). This morning, it was all three. And he cried when I was physically unable to produce food, log into the computer to pull up a video, AND make sure he could swing simultaneously, eight seconds after I'd first sat upright for the day.

I started a video for him and pulled some food together, then started James' coffee and toast and sausage, and Mal and I headed into his room. After a few, Mal wanted to read a book, which he brought me, sitting in my lap regardless of the fact that I, too, was eating.

I closed the laptop to read the book, but he didn't like that, so he abandoned the book and opened the laptop. After about 1/4 of a song, he got the book back and closed the laptop himself. I read the book and said I was going to go finish up James' breakfast, at which time Mal said, "Deedees!" (which is how he's referring to "nursies" this week, I guess).


We nursed, and I got up. He came into the kitchen crying and demanding. He wanted his dad's breakfast, which was exactly the same as his. He wanted a frozen yogurt tube. He wanted an apple. He wanted juice. He wanted a spoonful of sugar. He wanted a carrot I was peeling for our slow cooker roast dinner.

He wanted to ride on his horse. He wanted to watch more videos. He wanted to sit in a different seat. He wanted to stand on the cabinet. He wanted me to put toothpaste on a toothbrush he'd found in a drawer in his bedroom.

I went and got him toothpaste, and he chewed on the toothbrush for a moment before throwing it down and coming back for more food. He looked in the freezer and didn't like what he saw. He wanted his dad's lunch.

Then he disappeared around the corner to our room and I got the dinner prep finished. I knew to be afraid of what I'd find in the bathroom, but I loaded the dishwasher and started it before I went into the other room.

Fortunately, he was just standing in James' sink, talking about brushing his teeth, and gumming up the mirrors (which I clean on Mondays, anyway). I got him down, and we went into the other room.

He wanted this. He wanted that. He wanted to go to the gym, and the trampoline park, and the park with the swing. And I'm exhausted; I don't want to go anywhere for a while. I want to go slowly. He wants James' guitar. Not the one that's out and that he can play with, but the electric one that's in a case and that, every time he gets out, he gets so mad and screams because he wants to do something with it that none of us understands.

He cries in frustration when he can't open the case by himself. He cries in frustration when his attempts to bring me the case don't work as it's wedged in behind a chair. Then he SCREAMS when I tell him we're not opening it right now, and set it back up.

As a distraction, I go into the bathroom to clean it. He follows me in there. He usually likes to wipe stuff down. This time, though, he decides he wants to use the toilet. While I'm cleaning it. And it's pretty nasty, so I tell him to let me finish cleaning it, then we'll use it (if we were actually potty training, I'd drop it and throw him up there). He doesn't like my idea and keeps trying to put the seat down on top of my hands.

Finally, I get him set up and he's actually pooped already, so I have to go get stuff to clean that up. Fortunately, he sits still for all of it, but then I have to reclean the toilet, anyway.

When I finish that up, he decides it's time to go somewhere. He asks me, "Pak. Opu?" "The park is open, but we're not going anywhere right now." He goes to the door and when I don't follow him, he cries.

I go back into the bathroom to get the rest of the cleaning stuff, and... it's quiet. When I return to the kitchen, Mal's up on the counter, heading toward the sugar. This time, I tell him that I'll just get him some sugar, which I do after I put him on the floor. Two teaspoons later, and he's no longer obsessed with the idea. Sometimes it's easier that way.

I see that he's once again scratched his face, so we head into his room to trim his nails (again) and have a nice few minutes playing with a teddy bear book his grandma made him.

Then he gets out a toy drill whose batteries are dying. I go get the mini-tool kit to open it up. AAA. Go back to get batteries, and when I get back into Mal's room, he's pulled every mini screwdriver, bit, and attachment out of the tool kit.

We get the drill back up and running, and by the time I get the tools reorganized, he's bored with the drill and wants something else. I don't remember what. But I remember his crying.

It's 10 o'clock and I am ready for lunch. I've thought about that a lot lately. One reason I think the calorie-tracking and cutting back is so not freaking fun for me is that I don't get many breaks (James did take Mal on several "adventures" this weekend, so I *do* get some down time, and I appreciate that), and eating food I really enjoy is that my taste buds can have a big old party, even if the rest of me just wants to crawl back into bed.

Oh, also, I'm on DAY TEN of my period. And this convergence of stuff is why I had pb&j trail mix, a Little Debbie bat brownie, and a Hostess cupcake for lunch. And, yes, I counted it all. I'll still be within my allotment. The cupcake was an accident. I meant to grab a brownie and grabbed the wrong thing. And, yes, I had to eat it. I didn't want to hurt its feelings.

I was doing something in the living room or kitchen or bathroom or something when Mal went into his room and after a few minutes started fussing. He came into the living room and was frustrated that he couldn't get the rest of the yogurt out of the tube on his own. I helped him, then went into his room knowing what I'd find. It wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, but I gotta remember to take messy food out of his room when I leave.

Anyway, at one point, Mal wanted some of my soda, which I gladly (kind of) offered to share. He got a bamboo straw, but I don't like the feel of that straw, and I didn't want it in my soda, so I got a silicone straw instead. That's typically what he uses, anyway, but because he hadn't picked it out this time, he was infuriated. He started screaming and crying --

(Aside: D showed me a video once, a game play-through. It's some horror game, and is supposed to be scary, but this one glitch makes the whole thing accidentally hilarious. Anyway, there's this dead baby ghost running through the house crying, and even when you can't see it, you can hear it. D said, "That's my life: a baby vaguely crying in the background." Guys, this kid cries A LOT. It's demoralizing. I get that it's how he communicates. I get it. But, still... it wears on a person after TWO YEARS.)

-- And I said, firmly, "You have to stop screaming because you're not getting your way!" I crouched down in front of him to take the straw, and was grabbing it rather roughly when I noticed his genuine tears. I said, "Mal, it doesn't always happen the way that you want it to happen. You have to learn how to be patient while we get things ready, and learn to appreciate things the way that they are. We're trying our best." Then I just sat there and kind of rubbed his back. He kept sobbing, but I could tell he was trying not to wail.

Eventually, I pulled him in for a hug, and he wrapped his arms around my neck and climbed into my lap.

When he felt better, he hopped up and ran into his room. I just sat there, crouched in the floor, absolutely no energy. He noticed, came back, and leaned in for another quick hug.

I think God gives me those moments to help recharge me; otherwise, I'd probably just lie in the fetal position some days.

James said this weekend, "I never thought I'd be a TV-babysitter dad." And he's not. But Mal likes to watch music videos (and, recently, PBS Kids, which is a nice change to the 20-something songs we've listened to over and over again for a year) and, frankly, at times it's the only way to divert his intensity away from demanding things of us. So we never suggest, "Let's watch some TV!" but if he asks for it, we almost never refuse him, unless we're trying to get out of the house for something.

It's how I was able to write this blog post.

Not sure this post has a point. Mostly whining. And now Mal wants "Deedees," so I have to go.

This is Mal's first superhero. He looked and looked and he wanted one with hair. :D

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Some Baby Boy Anecdotes

See that kid? I spend about 28 hours a day with him, and he still amazes me.

His vocabulary is expanding, but even when he doesn't know or use the right word, his communication is pretty successful. Just like when he was a newborn, man, does he have opinions. And he expresses them all of the time.

Yesterday, when we were changing his diaper, he said, "Bye bye, poop!" and that was the first multi-word sentence he's ever said. If you prefer "Bye-bye, poop!" then it was his third or so two-word sentence. The one that he uses most frequently, almost as much as he used to say "babum" (praise all the sweet goodness in the universe that the Year of Babum has passed) is "habeet," which is to say, "Have it." This is how he lets us know he wants things, and he wants all of the things.

I'm pretty sure last weekend he said "my daddy," but that was one time and it might have been a stammer or something. Still, it was cute.

Mal is really big on possessions. He fiercely needs people to "habeet" if it belongs to them, to the point that he will cry and yell, "Bobby! Bobbby!" over and over if James uses my (I'm still Bobby) phone. This is one reason I couldn't let him see our van being permanently towed away this week. He got upset enough when the oil change dude drove it into the garage a month or so ago, and he really didn't like it when the tow guy hoisted it to take us all to Walmart to get the tire fixed a couple of weeks ago. So I knew he couldn't handle seeing Barney leave forever.

We've been driving James' old car all week, and still when we go outside and see it, he says, "Daddy." Yesterday I reminded him, "Well, yeah, but we're driving it now and Daddy's driving the new car." This morning, when we went out, he said, "Daddy," but then squatted down and pointed to the tire, saying, "Bobby." I guess he's giving it to me one piece at a time?

He knows which computer is whose. His Chromebook died last week (might have something to do with the fact that he took a cup of water from his water table and sprinkled it all over the keyboard), so we got the Macbook that I bought about six years ago and that D used when I switched over to a PC so I could work from home. D hasn't used the laptop in a couple of years, maybe almost three. But she did recently get her own Macbook, and as little time as Mal spends in her room, he figured that out, too.

I got the old Macbook out and he said, "D." I said, "Well, yes, D has one like it, but this is a different one." Then he said, "Daddy." I started to correct him, because James has a Dell. Then I remembered that James' work laptop is a Mac, and he's brought it home a few times. Mal's pretty observant.

He was upset enough about the Chromebook that I finally hid it yesterday. We've been waiting to see if it will dry out and work, but it's quirky. So now, he makes sure before he asks to use the Mac. "Works," he'll nod. Yes, that one works.

We went to the park today, and he was talking about everything. His swing was yellow. The other swings were blue. "Push." Oh, my goodness, he says "push" a billion times when we're at the park. Like even while I'm pushing him. I'd forgotten what demanding little boogers kids are before they can pump themselves.

Mal has used the potty several times lately, when he's asked to sit down or we've just sat him on it. He strains like he wants to poop, but never has (according to a blog post I read yesterday, D did for the first time the day after her second birthday). He knows when he's getting ready to go/going/gone, though. He will still say, "Poop!" or sign it right after, and increasingly he doesn't fight when we want to change his diaper. He's ready to get out of that, unless he's having a lot of fun.

The other day, I was making dinner while he was watching videos, and he'd pulled his diaper down around his knees. Thank goodness he didn't decide to sit anywhere.

It would seem that Mal might be leaving his nap behind, which will be fine if he can hold it together the second half of the day, but is sometimes being quite the challenge.

First of all, I have to say: We bought a car on Saturday, and he held tough the whole three hours we were there. Oh! We were treated so well at Onion Creek Volkswagen, too, I should give them a shout-out. It was taking the financing stuff a while to process, so I asked James if there was any reason we couldn't go get lunch and come back. He asked the finance guy, who then invited us to their staff break room to eat Chicken Express with them. It was awkward but delicious.

Anyway, Mal kind of napped on the way home, but that was it for Saturday. He didn't nap much last week, which tends to put his bedtime to 7-7:30 PM. It's better than him being awake until 10:30 (which can happen if he gets a long nap... and he is HARD to wake up, ironically), but, again, only if he's not spending the hours from about 4:30 PM until then crying about everything.

Yesterday was sort of perfect. We had a nice quiet morning, we went to the store to get him some watermelon, then to the gym, then to Trader Joe's for all things pumpkin, and he fell asleep on the way home. He ended up napping for a couple of hours, and we went to the park for a bit after his nap. He didn't even think of asking for videos until after dinner, then he watched for about an hour, and at 9:25 asked me to come lie down with him and "shushies," which is how he's saying "nursies" now. He's never said anything before except "babum," doing the sign, and sometimes "lala," which tends to mean "the other one."

Anyway, he was asleep within ten minutes. Nice night.

Today, he was exhausted most of the day. We went to the park this morning, and he wasn't ready to go after an hour and a half, but it was starting to get hot (again. Thanks, ATX, you big tease). He asked for French fries, so we went to McDonald's and hung out a while so he could eat. I realized that if he's focused on fries, he'll sit still a long time.

Here he is, waving because I was taking the picture to send James and told him, "Tell Daddy, 'hi!'"

Of course, later he got up, then sat back down, the wanted me to get him, and he put his foot into the ketchup and it was a big mess and ketchup smells AWFUL when it gets on skin but whatever. We lived.

After that, he wanted to go to the gym. Actually, I think he wanted to go to the trampoline park, for which my sister gave him a gift card but James happened to have it at that moment. Then when we got to the gym and he realized we weren't back at a place where he could swing ("deem"), he cried and cried and cried. I got him out of the car, anyway, but he wanted me to hold him. I put him down to get his bag out of the car, and he was so distraught, I decided, "Nope," packed him back in, and just came home.

He wound down a little here, nursing often and watching about an hour's worth of videos. Then we played in his room, and he would get so upset about... well, everything. Then nurse some more. Ad infinitum from about 1:30 until 6. Fortunately, he got a second wind about 6, and was in a pretty good mood for James when James got home from work.

Mal ended up going to bed a bit before 8, not as a basket case, but just a tired little boy. He still needs that midday nap, but I don't have the tools to help him unwind, so he'll start to nod off, then get up and re-energize, even when he's weepy and clumsy and miserable.

One more exciting thing: Mal is starting to eat more, in terms of quantity and of variety. When we went to Trader Joe's yesterday, they were sampling pumpkin waffles (we knew he liked frozen waffles: one day I walked into my bedroom and he was sitting on the bed chomping on a waffle he'd pulled out of the box he'd just taken out of the freezer without my noticing) with pumpkin cream cheese, and he loved those, so I bought them. They were also sampling their ghost and bat potato crisps with spinach cream cheese dip, and he liked THAT, so it was a sale, too.

Tonight, he ate some pumpkin ravioli, an orange, and chips and dip for dinner. Before that, he'd had a Mamma Chia pouch, half an apple, a few veggie nuggets, French fries, some goldfish, and a few M&Ms for lunch and snack. And he had a pumpkin waffle with cream cheese and a slice of Dave's Killer Bread with butter for breakfast. This is in addition to "shushies" allllll dang day.

Oh, yeah... I was so excited about the awesome hoodie I got Mal at the Hanna Andersson opening. Then I went to hang it up after I'd washed it and realized: I'd bought him two hoodies at Once Upon a Child already! Oh well, the one from HA is lined and much warmer, almost like a proper coat. Maybe he can wear it at least once or twice here in Austin.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Back Side of the Blessing

All day, I've been on and off about whether or not to write about this, but I'm struggling right now and decided to blog on the off chance that someone else might read it and think, "Me, too!" and feel less alone.

We've discussed before (like how I say that? I kind of feel like blogging can be a conversation, when people interact, anyway) my apparent inability to make and maintain friendships, namely with other women.

At many times in the past, my schedule was set up to allow for regular social interaction.

In Las Vegas, when D was Mal's age, I had weekly planning meetings at church: D went into childcare, and I sat with creative types, throwing ideas around, listening to music, and making each other laugh. Then on the weekends, I'd often sing or be in a drama, so I'd spend several hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning hanging out in the green room with people, eating together, sharing our lives.

Now, once, before D was born, I had a viewing party at my house because I'd been at a concert where I was definitely going to be in the televised video and no one but my friend Adrienne (and my family) showed up, and that kind of stung.

But there were other things, other get-togethers, and the big one when our planning meeting was postponed in lieu of helping me move the stuff from my house into a moving truck.

And that was all good. But, honestly, none of those people were "I have a couple of hours free; I should call so we can meet for anything other than coffee" people.

Then we moved to Texas. Again, it was easy to fall into a pattern of social scheduling: I joined a ladies' class that had regular "fellowships" (which were fun, even if they used to be highly structured to the point of being a little ridiculous), and a preschool-aged homeschool group (all of those kids are teenagers now; it's crazy!), and eventually the same thing with church and meetings. We did homeschool enrichment classes, and so most weeks spent a full day with other parents (and lots of kids). D got really involved in gymnastics, so I would chat with the moms there.

And then toward the end of our time in North Texas, I got involved in the theater and made some "hang out" friends, for the first time, people I knew not because they were other parents and our kids were small, but because we had a common interest. And that was really the first time I had "real" friends in my adult life. Then we moved.

We tried a few times to make forays into the homeschool community here (it's huge), but then D's anxiety started taking over and she's not up for big group events anymore. After Mal was born, I tried joining some different "mom" groups, and none of those took.

For a while, when we first moved, we had our small group, and then there have been other times where, say, my birthing center has had regularly-scheduled things to help get women out of the house and chatting. In the past year or so, every construct that was in place has slowly eroded.

When I go out these days, it's with my sweet little guy, and that's it. The other day, when D was up and making her "breakfast" (while Mal was taking his afternoon nap), I was talking to her about some stuff I'm dealing with with Mal and realized, even though I already knew it, that she couldn't care less. This wasn't something to waste the few minutes a day we get to talk on. I thought, "Good gravy, Mabel, this girl needs a friend."

Now, understand, I have a friend. A best friend. But he's a man. And he's an introvert. And he spends all day around people. And he's so good and attentive and sometimes, mostly in the morning, but sometimes at night, too, I feel like I'm blowing out his proverbial speakers... Like I'm talking, but we've hit a point where he can't absorb without it stressing him out. That's why God made more than one lady, I'm sure.

It's just interesting to me to think back and realize that I had a social network (in real life) and a regimen in the past that has lent the aura of friendships without genuinely producing friendships. I do have a couple of people that I see every few months, but if I'm stressed in the middle of the day and need to talk to someone? I just try to think about something else, stay in the moment with my kid, and do the thing.

In the past few months, I've just found myself struggling with loneliness quite a bit. And I'm not sure how to fix it, other than the last sentence of the paragraph above.

As an aside, I'm glad I get to stay home. It is, as I entitled this post, a blessing. It's huge. It's what I want to do. At some point in the very near future, however, I hope I'm again in the position to be a good friend to someone again.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A No-Longer-Foregone Conclusion

A friend of mine had posted something on social media about how expensive child care is, sharing an article about how it costs more than college tuition (not this article, but this one has a lot of information that's interesting and crazy). After several people commiserated about it, including that high child care costs are why they don't have a second child, someone else popped in with "That's why everyone should get a college degree" or something to that extent.

What I thought was, "Seriously?! That's elitist BS." What I said was something about how my husband who does not have a college degree has exponentially more earning power than I do, and she congratulated me but she wants her kids to go to college, blah blah life experience and mind expanding, goal, complete something big, yadda yadda.

Many of you know that my ideas about education, and specifically institutionalized education, are far from mainstream. Mike Rowe has actually done a lot to move this conversation into the forefront, with lots of practical information and research to back up what I've intuited for years. (By the way, bookmark that page. There's a ton of good stuff on there.)

I distinctly remember having the "life experience" conversation with another homeschool mom when D was very young, maybe even preschool-aged. Our family paradigm is not "school, college, career." I am sure some people genuinely have transformative experiences in college, but is that the only way to have those experiences? I'm almost certain that if you gave a 20-year-old as much money (or had them work to earn it, whatever you're planning to do for your kid's schooling) as a year in college would cost and told them to pick a foreign country and go live there, travel, meet people, learn the language, they'd grow even more than they would in classes at a university.

Kids coming out of their teens and into their young adult lives are like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis (note: I just realized a couple of weeks ago that "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is not biologically correct, as it refers to a "cocoon," which is a moth home, not a butterfly one), so I don't think the college setting is magical. I think it's the age and the being away from home.

Here's the thing: I'm not anti-college! It's super important to get a degree if you're going to be a teacher or lawyer or doctor or any of those things that you have to study very specific coursework, especially as a foundation for more difficult coursework in graduate or law or medical school or whatever. For me, I have a theater degree, and, gosh, I had some good times, but I could have learned the exact same things volunteering with a robust community theater.

But here's where I bristle at a lot of the ideas about college, degrees, and "getting a better job": If you look up online, "Is a college degree worth it?" the main answers you're going to see are in terms of salaries. They compare salaries among the same jobs for people who have a college degree and who don't. Or jobs people without a college degree "can" get compared to ones that have the degree as a requirement. This whole system makes some assumptions that make me uncomfortable because they're limiting and, again, elitist.

There is this thought process that goes: school, pick a potential career/major, go to college, graduate, more school and/or get a job and start making a living. Like this is how life is meant to work. Like this is how life has always worked.

Do you know when I think my husband had the most fun and really enjoyed himself and freedom? When he was living in his car in the Seattle area. He'd do day labor when he wanted to and needed or wanted money, but if he didn't want to work, he didn't. He had a dog. He had friends. When we visited a couple of years ago, I saw some genuine nostalgia there.

According to articles and numbers, his story would be a sad one. Homeless (although his "homelessness" was not the same genre as the forced homelessness that's often fueled by mental illness or drug dependency; it was voluntary). Day labor. Not much money. Dang it. He should have gone to college.

This spin presumes that a high salary is the arbiter of happiness.

Now, let me say that I understand there is a difference between having tight margins and between the genuine struggle and inability to make ends meet. So I'm not trying to minimize the troubles some people have.

However, having "more money" versus "a little less money" might not matter to some people. Might not matter to a lot of people.

One of James' friends (maybe an old girlfriend?) told him that a college degree was important because it proved you can jump through the necessary hoops. Ugh. I can't even talk about that.

There are some thoughts I love in this summary of a survey of grown unschoolers. Namely this one: "The great majority of respondents were gainfully employed at the time of the survey.  Exceptions were some of the full-time students and some mothers with young children.  Of those who responded to the follow-up questionnaire, 78% said they were financially self-sufficient, though a number of these added that their income was modest and they were financially independent in part because of their frugal lifestyle.  Several of them described frugality as a value and said they would far rather do work they enjoyed and found meaningful than other work that would be more lucrative."

Is there room for discussing job/life satisfaction as we ponder the "necessity" of a college education?

I'm one of those "college educated" people who is considered a "short termer" in the job market, as I have mostly stayed home. I get paid nothing, and I absolutely love what I'm doing (though I would like it even more if it included more sleep).

I'm not even talking about education inflation or the high level of student loan debt from undergraduate degrees alone, the fact that a degree does NOT guarantee a job like it used to, or the reality that when it came time for me to be professionally credentialed (as a Real Estate Agent, and then later as an Insurance Agent), I had to learn everything I needed to know on my own. Nothing relevant to any job I've ever had was present in my college education.

I just wish people could break out of the kindergarten-to-job-track mindset. There are so many viable options today: military, Job/Peace Corps, starting a job as a teen and working your way up (seriously; in retail and food service, there is a lot of turn-over, and advancement opportunities for someone showing up and kicking butt are plentiful), creating your own job (teaching tennis or walking dogs or mobile auto detailing), opening an Etsy shop or a Patreon account or something like that (yeah, maybe not a living wage, but it also might be), trade school, apprenticeships, etc.

There's room for all sorts of opportunities.

Along with the "school, school, school, school, job" paradigm is a very "standard" life that includes having a fairly nice house where you can be proud to entertain and have plenty of room to spread out. That's cool if it's what you want because it's really what you want (not just your conditioning), but it's not necessary.

When I was a single parent, my daughter and I lived in an RV because doing that was both how I met some priorities I had, but also because it had always been a dream of mine. Except that it got very hot and very cold (lesson learned: get all-weather insulation if you're going to full-time it), I loved living there. It took 5 minutes to clean, we spent lots of time together, there was no yard work, and I'd live in an RV with my family right this moment if it weren't for the fact that a certain teenager and a certain introverted husband would lose their stuffin' from the lack of private space.

However, when D and I lived there, we never felt cramped. You know what else? I never once felt self-conscious. I had people over, we had dinners and game days and D had sleep-overs. Everyone (except for one person, and, whatever) thought it was so cool. D's dad was worried about the "stigma" associated with living in an RV, but I think her friends all left saying they wished they could live in a camper.

This is kind of along the lines of the unschooling survey: frugality (even to what most people would think is to the extreme) leads to not necessarily having to have the highest-paying jobs. It's all a matter of what makes a person happy, and if they can be happy working 37 hours a week at Sam's Club to facilitate not having to take work home, and being truly free on their off time, then good for them.

Feeling like the folks who "flip burgers" or clean the restrooms at the fair or dig ditches are somehow inferior or more pathetic or probably not as happy is what I meant by elitist BS.

A photographer I follow on Instagram really hated his M-F 8-7 life and wanted to be as happy as he was taking pictures on weekends. So he quit his job, lived in his Subaru, and visited state and National Parks. He recently bought a really nice camper van (one of those that looks like a van on the outside and can park in a regular parking space, similar to this, but not exactly like it... also: droool). He is not in the "high-paying job" category anymore, but he is happy. He is free.

I could go on with the anecdotes for a long time, but just wanted to dangle this out there, in case anyone cares. College is great when necessary, and there is tons that can be done to mitigate the cost. But just the idea of "you have to get a college education to get a good job" needs to go away. We need to ask the question, "What do I (or my kids) need to do to have a good life?"