Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years' Resolutions

Here's my list for 2009:

Family/Home -

1.) Continue doing Lone Star Baby-centric things. We did a good job on that one in 2008 - probably too good of a job - we need to ease up a bit on the structured activities. 2.) Make room for more Lone Star Girl-centric things. 3.) Do more organizing this summer - maybe straighten up one more room - baby steps.

Fitness -

At 37, I am getting old so this needs to be my year for weight loss. I don't think I can safely be this heavy without estrogen's protective effects and my estrogen will be ebbing away ere long. I need to lose 49 pounds to get to where I want to be weight-wise, so my goal is 49 by 40. For 2009, the goal is 20 pounds - baby steps.

Work -

1.) Keep working on the serenity. 2.) Convince the kids that some things must be memorized, no matter how much we all hate that.

Writing -

1.) Can't say I did that well on last year's resolution to spend at least 10 minutes on it at least 5 days per week, but I am going to amp it up anyway: at least 15 minutes at least 5 days per week. 2.) Also, to be accepted by 5 publications (including online ones) that I have not been published in before.

What are your New Years' Resolutions?

Merry Belated Christmas!

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday and are continuing with the rest of the Christmas season being wonderful, too! We went to Dallas/Denton to see family on the 26th and got back just about an hour ago, very late on the 30th, which is why you haven't heard from me.

Our Christmas was mostly lovely. The mice arrived, the girls had a lovely time, and we got to spend some very nice time with our Corpus relatives. The Lone Star Baby is at the age where presents are very exciting to her and she built "the coolest, most beautiful-est thing ever" with her new play dough set :

I'm not really a fan of such present-focused phases (but I am a fan of cool play dough!) though I definitely fall under their sway and run around trying to make sure the girls have lots of stuff that will make them happy. We are silly humans.

The best thing about this Christmas to me, besides the kids getting to see their cousins, was that it was the first time in a few years that all six of the siblings of whom I am the eldest were in one place at one time.

As the years pass, I expect it will be even more hard to get all of us together for happy occasions. I hope not, though. I stood on a chair and Sarah on a stool if you are wondering. And I still had to stand on my tiptoes. We have a photo just like this in which I was 18 or so and Jazz just a toddler - we fit better then, but I still wasn't quite tall enough.

The road trips this time around were blessedly uneventful, always excepting that Manana Road exit, which was only a matter of being instantly lost and nothing serious. We are glad to be home! Good night!

Advice From The Lone Star Family

Never, ever, ever take the Manana Road exit off of I-35 in Dallas. Don't ask - just don't do it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Mice

Since the guinea pigs joined our cozy household, we have become regulars at a local pet store, buying guinea pig food and recycled newspaper bedding every few weeks. These jaunts have kept in the Lone Star Girl's mind the fate of the baby mice at the pet store, which are not exactly sold as pets, if you know what I mean. The Lone Star Girl became quite passionate about wanting to "rescue" some, even though we all made it very clear that mice, unlike rats, are not much fun as pets, possessing very little pattern recognition and having very short lives. She remained passionate and made her request to Santa.

Santa explained her passion to a kind man at the pet store and they entered into a series of communications aimed at Santa acquiring two female (male rodent urine is too allergenic) mousekins who, by Christmas Eve, would be old enough to leave their mothers, but not old enough to be knocked up. Both Santa and the pet store man were both so sweet about going to this trouble to satisfy the idealism of a young girl. I understand that the mousekins should end up under the tree by morning ...

Christmas Eve Cookie Kringle Mania

Well, we got our annual batches of cookies out to the neighbors' doorsteps and have plenty left over for home and Santa ... and I'm tired! I wish I could manage to get the baking done before Christmas Eve, but I never seem to pull that off....

Independent Play

My kids have never been the sort to want to go play by themselves in their rooms (well - the adolescent wants to hide now, but that's a different sort of milestone) - they have always wanted to drag their toys out to where the people and the action are. I certainly can't blame my girls for wanting company, regardless of the charm of the stories I hear about children immersing themselves in imaginative play in their own little nooks. When we set up the Lone Star Baby's room this summer, she had a brief period during which the novelty of the room kept her playing in it, but it only lasted a couple of days. Recently, however, a sort of Christmas miracle has happened.

Lone Star Pa and I like to sleep in on weekend and vacation mornings since we get very little sleep at all in our workaday lives. Generally, once the Lone Star Baby stopped wanting to nurse back to sleep in the mornings, the only times we got to do this were when the Lone Star Girl generously decided to supervise the Lone Star Baby over cartoons on some such mornings. More lately, though, my repeated (and ignored) admonitions to "play quietly in your room until we get up" have actually been being obeyed! I don't know why, but it has been rather special! In addition to more sleep for the grown-ups, this has also resulted in a deeper interest in legos on the part of the Lone Star Baby, which seems like a lovely bonus to me.

Strange and wonderful times...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Writing Progress Thus Far On This Break

I haven't done much, as I've been busy with Christmas-mania, but here is what I have done:

  • submitted one poem
  • entered one fiction contest
  • followed up on an August book proposal I sent with a phone message to editor
  • left a phone message regarding research for an article I've been working on forev-ah.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Soup Kitchen

The big girls from First Day School and I went to volunteer at a local soup kitchen tonight, the same one the Girl Scout troop volunteered at recently. We got there early and rolled forks into napkins and then they actually asked us to serve, rather than having us hand out plastic ware and sodas and wiping tables like last time, which probably means they really needed the help tonight. Glad we could do something.

Christmas Cards

I used to be very good at sending out Christmas cards (heck - there was a time when I even sent out Christmas videos), but in recent years, I just haven't been able to pull it off. This makes me feel rather guilty, even though I know that I have too many things to keep up with in my life. Still, I enjoy Christmas cards and wish to participate. This year, I took baby steps to getting back into the Christmas card swing of things and sent out about 30. A lot of my old address list is outdated, so I didn't get to send them to everyone I wanted to send them to, and I sent some out so late (after finally finding addresses) that they will surely arrive late, but it was a start. Baby steps, baby steps...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More On Maternal Judgement

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with some mothers who are my friends, my colleagues and some of the generally finest people I know...people who really put themselves out there to help others and who are generally just wonderful. So I was sort of surprised to find myself in a variety of conversations during different encounters where the basic gist from these wonderful people was "parents these days" and how all these parents they knew left something to be you could just tell if someone was a good parent or not.

I find this sort of talk very frustrating. I know I was as bad about judging other parents as any new mother when I was a new mother - I think new mothers do that because they are so afraid of making bad choices that they just have to see choices that are different from their own as wrong as a defense mechanism - but none of the people I was talking to were new parents by any longest shot, and we were all folks who had experienced enough reality with our kids to know better than to think we had the answers that others should be striving for.

Why must the world continue to bash parents so much? I really think we are all doing the very best we can and that we mostly, except in cases of truly egregious abuse, cannot know the balance of good and bad in another family. I really think we should just respect each other for the very hard work that we are all doing. Parents rock.

Neighbor Christmas and Meeting for Eating

Yesterday the Lone Star Baby and I spent some time making brownies and cookies for our wonderful next door neighbors and the dearly loved family that used to live three doors down. Our next door neighbors always get our three families together for a little party for the children - it is so nice. We stayed up late having fun together.

Today, our Quaker meeting is having a Meeting for Eating (Christmas potluck) at the home of our clerk and that will be lovely as well.

It's nice to have a little time off from work to actually get to see people!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Allergy Article

My December column is up on the website for We the People News. Lately, I've read several articles about the fact that deaths from food allergies are actually very rare these days and how we all just need to chill. While I understand the general societal need for chilling (about a whole bunch of things), when you have a child with the sort of allergy that can be life-threatening, chilling really isn't an option. Especially when that child is of an age where you cannot control what she comes into contact with and where compliance on her part is spotty at best.

The Lone Star Girl is bothered by the fact that I no longer eat nut-laden foods that I used to enjoy, because I can't enjoy them anymore. Bothered by it in a sweet way. Other people are bothered by it in a way that makes me want to beat them with heavy objects - Thanksgiving was fun, and I expect that visiting family at Christmas will be very relaxing as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Breakdown Season

Fortunately, I'm talking about objects, though it probably applies in other ways as well, truth be told.

Perhaps this season of breaking machines began in the summer when our gas line rusted through and started leaking and had to be replaced. Or when we got stranded in Austin and had to replace the radiator in Lone Star Pa's car. Or when the power steering fluid in my car started a slow leak. Perhaps it began in September or early October - whenever it was that the water heater in the garage that heats the water for our washer broke. We haven't replaced that. Washing our laundry with cold water isn't such a big deal, except that we are supposed to wash the Lone Star Girl's bedding in hot water because of her dust mite allergy. And there were those lice the day before Halloween. So it would be good to have a hot water heater there again, and I thought we would save up for one after a bit and all - but things just didn't work out that way as you will see. And we had the dryer, after all, the heat of which could be used for killing dust mites, etc.. So. Perhaps the season began on Halloween when I drove Lone Star Pa's car for the first time in a good while and noticed that it felt tight and difficult to steer. He said that I was feeling it pull right and that it was fine once he fixed the tire involved. Uh huh.

Those previews aside, however, the season got serious the week before Thanksgiving. I started noticing a lot of flickering lights in the house and I also drove Lone Star Pa's car again and found that the steering problem was still there. Our favorite quasi-mechanic shop told us that the power steering pump was about to go and, since having it professionally replaced would cost about as much as the 1994 Camry is worth, I spent a bit of the Thanksgiving break calling and visiting junkyards and Lone Star Pa and my dad spent a couple of really hard days taking out the old power steering pump and putting in the "new" one, because they rock like that. One of my uncles, a journeyman electrician, came over and said an entire breaker box in my house really needed to be replaced, which he then did at cost, with many hours of labor, because he rocks like that. Then he came back twice (as of yesterday) and chased down some other problems, ending with tightening up some connections on a light fixture, so that I finally don't feel frightened of the lights anymore. A couple of weeks ago, my car failed to start at the Lone Star Baby's school after I went to pick her up. Lone Star Pa and my dad got the battery properly watered and charged and it was good to go except that a couple of days later, Lone Star Pa's car wouldn't start so we had to get it all charged and thankfully that looks like it was all it needed. Then the back-up disk for the computer broke and had to be replaced this weekend. Then the dryer broke and the heating element had to be replaced yesterday.

This has been....a little ridiculous, really. As well as a lot expensive. I'm ready for the gremlins to move on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Lone Star Girl -Thespian

The Lone Star Girl participated in her first speech tournament today. She and her partner got to semi-finals with their duet act (Juliet and the Nurse) and her group won second place in group improv. - she even got a trophy. I am proud of that acting girl!

Silver Award

I was Girl Scout Leader back when our girls were Daisies and for the first two years of Brownies*. After I had the Lone Star Baby, another wonderful mom took over for the last year of Brownies and our wonderful current Troop Leader has had them since they started Juniors. I fully expected to owe another turn once they became Cadettes, but our Leader has graciously stayed on with them, knowing that a Daisy troop is in my future.

I haven't helped much with the troop since the Lone Star Baby came along, and I knew it was time to start pitching in more this year. Cookie mom is the one job I never, ever want to have so I agreed to be the troop's Silver Award advisor as they work on their Silver Award this year and next year.

Things are going to be busy.

*Rules have changed recently so that now they spend two years in each level, but it was different then. - they had one year of Daisies and three years each of Brownies and Juniors.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Four And A Half

Today is the Lone Star Baby's half birthday. This seems like a particularly significant half-birthday because it is was at exactly this age that the Lone Star Girl weaned for good, after a long and gradual and mostly natural process that included only some very mild encouragement from me at the end, when she was already going a week or two in between nursings. The Lone Star Baby has also been saying that she will wean at four and a half and is also going a week or two at a stretch at times between asking to nurse. She nursed to sleep tonight, though.

I have told my four and a half year old girl that she doesn't have to stop unless she wants to - it is up to her at this point, as I am fine with her occasional nursings. She says she is stopping now and maybe she will - she sounds pretty determined when she's not sounding like she's changed her mind about ever weaning. It is so cold these last few days that I am starting to think that the extra immunities provided by nursing through the winter wouldn't be such a bad thing, but we'll see. She's planning her weaning party - says she'll want a princess cake and for us to decorate the kitchen in princesses. The Lone Star Girl requested a Captain America cake at her own weaning party.

Today marks nine (non-consecutive) years that I have been lactating. It doesn't seem that long.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Our Soccer Girl

Today was the last game of the season - our little Yellow Jackets were so cute! We had a potluck picnic at the park where they practice and have their games at lunchtime a little while after the game, and the kids all got trophies. I actually missed the picnic, showing up with the Lone Star Girl after almost everyone had left because I had to pick her up, but I could tell that The Lone Star Baby and Coach Lone Star Pa had fun.

Smart Girls

I just dropped the Lone Star Girl off at a nearish-by high school to take the SAT for the first time. She's taking it as part of that same Duke University seventh grade talent search that I participated in at her age. I think she would really enjoy the summer enrichment classes offered through the program - I know I did, what with the boys and dorms and spotty adult supervision - but I doubt we can afford them.

She likes to roll her eyes at me for suggesting that she take a practice run at the SAT in seventh grade, but I know that underneath her sneering, she is really giving it her all ... because she kind of wants to skip high school. This is a plan I am not thinking I can support, but the merits of which she is still trying to convince me. The other Young Friend in our Quaker meeting, who is three years older than my girl, attended the same public GT program that my daughter is attending for middle school, but then skipped high school and now, at barely 16, is a college sophomore at the local university. My daughter has surprised me by wanting to follow in her footsteps lately.

Their circumstances are, however, somewhat different. Our friend's father teaches at the university and so is around. Also, our friend is a touch more brilliant and a lot more mature, in my opinion, than my also-brilliant but pretty flighty, girl.

I can't see myself going along with this, but I am always glad to see the junior woman aiming for something academic, anyways, so I'm happy to have her trying to convince me. I wish she'd try to convince me with As in all of her academic courses, but she seems to think that would be going too far.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advent and My Little Light-Seeker

We've decorated the tree that Lone Star Pa has had since first grade with the beloved ornaments that the children have made over the years and some that we've been given. We've decorated the house with paper chains and the Crafts of Christmases Past. We've put up the advent calendar and advent wreath and our little nativity scenes on shelves. The Magi have begun their long trek down the hall to the Bethlehem shelf. We're making Christmas crafts and reading Christmas books. The Christmas season is definitely here!

This year, the Lone Star Baby seems particularly enthralled by Christmas lights. We have some on the tree but don't put any up outside because we don't have an outside outlet. She is on the lookout everywhere we go, telling us in the car you look for Christmas lights on that side and I'll look on this side - tell me when you see some. She also has adopted a variety of superlatives much more firmly into her daily vocabulary than before so that she can describe them - wonderful, great, perfect, so beautiful. Just like her.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Feed The Squirrels!

I heard on NPR that this winter is looking like a no-acorn winter for some unknown reason (scary), so the squirrels are going to be hard up. We are not nut people because of the LSG's allergy ( No nuts! Don't put out nuts! Nuts are scary and evil! ), but we are going to try to put out a lot of birdseed this winter, which I hear is good for them.