Headed to the Farm

It’s been a rough few months and I’m sooooo ready for a nice break!  I’m packing up the monsters and heading to Papa’s farm tomorrow for several days. They’ll ride horses (as long as the heat and humidity isn’t too horrible) and I’m hoping to get a boatload of words done.

I have so much to do.  Getting away will hopefully let me focus and concentrate.  I need a change of scenery and I can’t wait to sit on the back deck and look out over the fields and pond while I write.  The only sad thing is that my beloved sis won’t be able to come this time, but I’m hoping we can hook up in early August before the monsters go back to school.

I hoped to leave tonight after work, but I just have too much to do yet.  Fold laundry, clean up the house a bit, pack, load up all my computers and notebooks, all the food and snacks I’m taking to Dad’s.  The worst part will be trying to get the kids up before noon.  They’re definitely on summer hours:  stay up all night and sleep all day.  I guess if they don’t get up, I’ll leave them for That Man to deal with!

An End and A Beginning

This past weekend marked the end of the band season, except for performances at playoff football games.  I’m not actually that happy, because now I’m on morning drop off duty since she doesn’t have to get to school as early (they practiced every morning before school).  So I’m driving just as much, if not more.

Now add to that some good news:  Middle made the junior high basketball team!

When Princess tried out years ago, over 60 tried out and only 18 made it.  Not good odds.  She ended up in band and grateful basketball didn’t work out.  The first day of this year’s tryouts, there were 30 girls, so better odds, but Middle was still really stressed out.  She had nightmares, fever blisters (she gets that from me), and one day she came home in tears.  This is highly unusual.  Middle hardly ever cries.

If she didn’t make the team, she was going to learn that awful miserable lesson that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it, you don’t get what you want.  Thankfully she did NOT have to learn that lesson right now.  She made the first cut Wed. when they downed to 20 girls, and the last 20 were good enough that Coach kept them all.

Now begins practice every single day after school at varying locations and times, some Sat. practices (her first practice was this weekend), and of course, the games.  That Man is determined to travel to these games if he can get off, but some of the towns they go to I’ve never heard of.  So we’ll see.

But yay, I’m so happy for her.  We have an athlete in the house!  She just sparkles on the court.  I can’t wait to see her in action!

Final Stages of the Move

Less than two weeks until the big move date!  Cue panic!

Today, we loaded everything I’ve packed so far into the POD, along with the kids’ loveseat that will go in the basement.  I’m going to have to go through another pile of stuff I thought was organized but the kids dumped more stuff on top of it.  From now on out, each box will get taken out directly instead of lingering inside.  It’s too easy to get buried, moved, etc.

I also helped Littlest clean her room today and oh dear Lord it was a nightmare.  Every time she “cleaned” her room by herself, she just shoved stuff under her bed or worse, in her closet.  So we dragged out tub after tub, filled with everything from crayons to dirty clothes to trash to stuffed animals and everything in between.

The worst, though:  doll hair.

Evidently Littlest is a budding hair stylist and has worked on every Barbie and doll she has.  Unfortunately, she never threw the hair away – she just hid it in her closet.  It was actually quite creepy!  (At least she didn’t take doll heads!)

We went through every drawer, every item of clothing, every toy.  I have a stack of stuff to donate and several more bags of trash as a result.  And her room is packed!  She just has the stuff on her bed remaining.

Only two more kids to go….

*dies*

The KoKo Intervention

I mentioned a few days ago that we were having some issues with the pup, KoKoKoNa, and promised a longer post.

It’s one of those situations where I didn’t realize how bad it was…until one particular incident.  Then I realized we were in trouble.  She’s always been fearful.  When she was a puppy I never had to worry if she got off her little collar — she would run right up and sit on the porch to wait for us.  We joked she was afraid of outside.  She didn’t WANT to go outside.

We used to have Uncle J stop by and take her out if we were going to be gone longer than 4 hours, but he said she was scared of him.  He’d have to reach into her crate to get her out, and then sometimes she peed on the floor.  Again, fear.

She barked at my Dad every time he came over.  She hated That Man’s Mom.  Still hates Uncle J.  She barks nonstop at anything and everything if I put her outside for a while, and for a medium sized dog (45 lbs) she has a very mean, ferocious bark.  I would never leave her unattended outside for fear the neighbors would call the police.

But one particular incident happened a couple of weeks ago that scared me to death.  Princess and That Man were gone to a home HS football game, so I let the two youngest monsters invite friends for a sleepover.  Of course they were excited and a little loud.  I sent puppy outside and warned the girls to let me handle her because she was nervous around strangers.

She stood at the door and barked her head off.  I went out and leashed her, brought her in slowly, and she was like a frothing-at-the-mouth insane dog.  She barked and lunged and carried on like she was nuts.  Not the even same dog.  The girls didn’t look at her, didn’t say anything, just sat quietly on the couch while I stood with her at the back door trying to get her used to them, and I could hardly handle her.  She was so frantic to bite something, anything, that she almost got my leg (I was standing between her and the kids).  She caught my pants’ leg in her teeth.

I know she loves us.  She’s not a mean dog.  But fear can still make a dog go redline and she was over that line and then some.  She would have bitten me if she could have.  Even after I put her in her crate, she couldn’t relax.  She couldn’t stop barking.  She even barked at me every time I walked by, as if she were saying, MOM GET ME OUT OF HERE SO I CAN BITE THOSE STRANGERS AND CHASE THEM OUT OF OUR HOUSE!

I finally put a blanket over her crate and only then was she able to settle down.

The next morning… she was fine.  She spent the night in Princess’s room (unusual — she usually sleeps with Middle but I didn’t trust her anywhere near the guests) and was calm enough the next morning that I carefully introduced her to Middle’s friend.  She didn’t bark once.

But I can’t have a redline dog around my kids, or our neighbor’s little girl (less than 2 years old), or any of the other kids that run in and out of our yard in the summer.  I can’t risk anyone getting hurt – I would feel horrible.  As horrible as I was feeling at the thought of finding KoKo a new home.

I know Cesar Milan recommends walking regularly, and I’ve not been able to do that with her even using his techniques.  She’s just too strong for me to handle and I’m exhausted after 30 mins.  However, Raelyn recommended the Gentle Leader collar.  My local pet store was out of the size we needed, but I found a knockoff version that has worked wonders.  I’m able to walk her and keep her calm.  Wearing that collar, she didn’t bark at my Dad when he came over the next time and even took a treat from his hand (where the time before she struggled so hard she got out of her collar and ran away).

Better, but not enough for me to trust her with children.

So in talking to my Dad, he’s taking her for two weeks for a little intervention.  He has a well-trained, calm bird dog that she can hang out with and he’ll work on teaching her some of those commands.  She’ll be on the farm with lots of new situations and animals to hopefully help her settle down a little.  It’s deer season, so he’ll have lots of strangers in and out (all grown men who’ll be warned to be careful around her).  It’s my hope that a few commands that I haven’t been able to teach her will help steady her out, and I trust my Dad’s recommendation.  If he feels she’s not safe to keep around kids, then we’ll have to rehome her, as hard as that will be.

He gave me an update this morning (we took her up Saturday afternoon).  She will do what he asks…but she doesn’t do it “eagerly.”  She’ll come at his command, but not offer affection or welcome affection in return.  She leans away from him and retreats as soon as he allows it.  She can’t relax but paces constantly.  If he uses his “alpha” NO voice, she pees all over herself.

But he said she is better.  She hasn’t tried to bite him.  She’s just scared.

I have no idea what happened to her before we got her at 10-weeks old.  Maybe she’s inbred.  I really don’t know anything about her or where the people we bought her from had gotten her.  I’ll just keep hoping for the best.

Too Scary for Glasses

This weekend, I finally had the opportunity to go see The Conjuring with Princess.  It’s the first time we’ve done a “mother-daughter date” — though she adamantly said it wasn’t a date — just the two of us and we had SO much fun!  I laughed until I almost hurt myself watching this movie with her.

I’ve already said many times that I adore watching horror movies on Netflix.  Cheesy ones, supernatural ones, serial killers, whatever.  I love horror movies.  I don’t get to watch them very often unless I’m alone, because That Man can’t stand them (he about messed his pants when the creepy voice said “Get out” in The Amityville Horror).  If it’s even loosely based on something real – like demons – he can’t do it at all.  But then Princess came along, and as she’s gotten older, that’s “our” thing to do together.  She’s been dying to see The Conjuring on the big screen, and I’m relieved we actually made it before it left the theater.

She’s almost fifteen–going on twenty one, if you know what I mean–and was so sure this movie wouldn’t scare her.  I mean, the same child refused to even use the bathroom in our finished basement for years because she had a dream about zombies attacking through the basement after watching an episode of Walking Dead with me.  Two years ago she was convinced she had a “stalker” aka Edward the Vampire type ghost that made the chair move in her room and made breathing noises on her iPod recordings (of course those noises could NOT have been her or the dog she slept with every night *rolls eyes).

Anyway, we’re sitting down for the movie and I made her put her glasses on.  She hates to wear them unless she has to for school and I hardly ever see her wear them at home.  We weren’t ten minutes into the movie and she took them off and tried to get me to put them in my purse.  I refused.  “You HAVE to be able to see!”

She compromised.  Every time one of the scary ghosts popped up, she buried her face on my shoulder (she’s almost a foot taller than me now) and had me watch it for her.  “What’s happening?”

“Look and see for yourself!”

“I can’t!  I’m scared of the witch’s face!”

So if you go by “too scary for glasses”, The Conjuring was a huge success.  In all honesty, I think it’s probably the scariest movie I’ve seen.  It didn’t need a bunch of gore or TSTL teenagers boinking in the car while the crazy killer approaches.  All it really needed was a believable background story and a creepy doll.  I loved the whole set up.  And man, I loved Lorraine’s outfits (this one in particular).  Not the normal “seventies” clothes I think of.

Now I really want to write some horror.  *coughs*  *looks at our Plantation files with Molly*  *gets to work*

New Puppy!

Ever since Pepper passed away in March, we’ve been thinking about getting a second dog.  Well, “we” being me and the monsters.  That Man likes dogs well enough…. from a distance.  He’s not really an indoor dog kind of guy.  But Middle Monster wrote a powerfully cute Christmas letter about really really REALLY wanting another dog, and TM finally agreed.

I looked on petfinder.com first but couldn’t find anything that was a good match for us.  I wanted something boxer like, not too big, but that energy level.  Our poor old gentleman Pepper (Schnoodle mix) hated it when KC wanted to play with him.  She’s very high energy.  She could run up and down the stairs after a ball all day.  I wanted something she and the girls would really have fun playing with.

I never expected to end up with a PUPPY.

We found her on craigslist.  Supposedly the guy had bought her for his son he has on the weekends and the care throughout the week (without his kid there to help) was too much.  I say supposedly because “supposedly” she was wormed and mostly housebroken too…  and both of those were big fat lies.

I took her to our vet immediately the next day and she tested positive for both roundworms and fleas.  Poor baby.  We’ve also started her on her puppy shots, and until she gets all three, she can’t be around other potentially infected dogs.  Which means she gets to make the Christmas rounds with us this year.  (That Man is so thrilled.  NOT.)

She’s also “supposedly” purebred American bulldog but she can’t be purebred — she’s just too small.  But she’s awfully darned cute and we didn’t care about the purebred thing at all.  Plus smaller is good for us.

Other than the potty training (which is actually going pretty well), the hardest thing of all was naming her.  She needed a cute name to match her perky ears and assertive personality (she growled at KC upon their first meeting).  Mom and Dad wanted to name her Sunshine (so we’d have KC and the Sunshine band, snort), but the monsters didn’t get it.  They wanted to name her either Kona or Cocoa.

It was like WWIII around here, people.  So the puppy’s name is officially KoKoKoNa.  I hope she can live up to such a mouthful.  Here are both dogs pictured with the monsters (our Christmas cards this year):

Back to School Tradition

This is one tradition I can definitely do without.

Every single year, there’s ONE item that is a pain in the backside to procure.  I end up hitting several different stores to find this item.  It’s different every year, so I can’t “prepare” by stocking up on the missing item months in advance.  Did that the year I couldn’t find Expo markers and there were buckets of them everywhere the following year.  Naturally.

What peeves me off is that the school supply list is never a huge shock.  I mean, every year, I have to buy generally the same basic things, plus one or two extras (like this year, Princess needed a flash drive).  So why is it always a very basic thing that’s impossible to find?  Why do I have to roam the entire store looking for the items on the list?  I mean, would it be so difficult to have everything I need in one or two aisles?

Seems to make sense to me.  But whatever.

This year, it was paper folders with brads.  Yep, you know, those 20 cent folders in rainbow colors.  How hard is that?

They had plastic ones (no brads).  Paper ones (no brads).  Decorated ones with holes (no brads).

I went to Wal-Mart.  Target.  Struck out.  Luckily my GROCERY STORE had them.  Yes, my grocery store.  How sad is that?

Don’t even get me started on how much it cost to send three girls back to school.

($118, not including any shoes, clothes, or even backpacks.  This was ONLY supplies.)

The Middle Monster Project

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  I even tried to get it off and running awhile ago, but the dog (literally) ate our homework.  Then the summer just flew by and it’s almost time to start school again.  So before we get too busy with homework, etc. I’ve decided to start.

The Middle Monster Project.

You’ve heard me talk about Middle for a long time now.  She’s hilarious, dangerous, and challenging in the best of ways.  She can walk across a room, trip, and almost kill herself.  A daily mantra around here is “You only get one little body – take care of it!”  We used to joke that she was the boy we never had — she has many typical “boy” personality traits, while also enjoying makeup, Team Jacob, etc. just like her sisters (except they’re both Team Edward).

When it comes to school, she’s a physical learner.  e.g. instead of buying flashcards to practice multiplication, we made our own.  Part of her learning requires hands on approaches.  She learns better if she makes things herself and really understands how things go together.  To learn to count to 100, we practiced with pennies, etc. and physically moved them around, made piles in different ways, etc.

One of her struggles at public school is reading and writing.  As a baby, she was constantly sick with ear infections and ended up with 3 surgeries before she went to kindergarten (two ear tubes, one tonsillectomy).  As a result, she was a little delayed in speech and to this day, she still says some words wrong.  She’s not the world’s greatest speller, either, which handicaps her writing assignments at school.  It’s not that she can’t — it’s that sometimes she just can’t be bothered.  Her attention span is short.  Frilly silly girl books cannot hold her interest, unless they’re cartoon style or manga.  While her sisters read Junie B. Jones, Middle read Captain Underpants and Teacher From the Black Lagoon.

In short, she has typical “boy” tastes in books, but likes some “girl” frills.  It’s been difficult to find a series that she really loves as much as she loved Biscuit (the dog) books in kindergarten.

So what does any writer do when she can’t find the books she wants to read?  She writes them, of course.

I tried this a year or two ago but Middle just wasn’t quite ready.  She was excited about the idea, but interest waned.  She left our story notebook out on the floor, and the dog ate it.  I think at some level she was relieved.  But I think she’s ready to try again.  She’s been drawing a lot more, and the same old Captain Underpants books just aren’t going to cut it in 5th grade.  We need more.  We need something meaty and exciting.

So we’re writing a book.  Together.

Filed under “know your child” and “learn from past mistakes”, I’m loosening up my “requirements” this time around.  Last time, I had more selfish reasons.  I really wanted something “publishable.”  So I pushed a litte too hard to come up with a unique high concept idea, and by the time we got around to the idea, she was bored already.  This project isn’t for me.  It’s for her.  So I’m giving in on some of what I would require in a story before I wrote it.  If it’s a little fanfiction-ish, that’s okay.  If she’s obviously the protagonist aka Mary Sue, then that’s okay too.  I just want to get a project that she loves, that she’ll have fun with, and that will most importantly, HELP HER.  We’re working on her writing too.  We’re working on her reading ability.  That’s key.  Not whether Mom can sell this book.

Middle adores notebooks (gee I have no idea where she got that, I protest sheepishly) so I picked out one my personal favorite notebooks I’d been saving “for a good cause” that she’s had her eye on for awhile.  It’s small, hardcover, with a big spiral so it’s easy to turn the pages.  It’s also dividied with some cool pockets that she adores.  I’m giving her one of my favorite magical purple pens.  And I’ve listed out some little “homework” pages that should be fun for her.

She’s only 10, so the key is to keep it easy.  I didn’t list more than 3 things for her to do on a single assignment.  (Remember, her attention span is short!!)  I listed some generic things to get us started.  After I read what she’s got so far, I’ll tailor more assignments to pinpoint what she wants this book to be about.

So far, here’s the first easy assignments I’ve given her, if you’re interested in doing this with your kid.

1. Things I love to read about.

2. Things I love to do.

3.  My character is a boy or girl?  How old?

4.  Hair color, eye color, special abilities.

5. At night in bed, this scares my character:

6.  Best friend, person or animal.

7. Family.

8. My character lives… in our time/world?  In the past?  In a castle?  In the future?  On another planet in space?  Anywhere!  Tell me about it.

I figure this might take her a few days to fill out.  I listed each mini assignment on its own page, with lots of room for her to doodle and write in her own words.  If she gets inspired, she can also write on the back of each page.  I’m going to encourage her to draw if she wants.  Clip pictures from newspapers, etc. and stick them on the pages, or use the pockets to add ideas as she gets them.

She already knows about “Beginning, Middle, End” of good story telling, so I’ll probably have her direct the whole thing.  We’ll brainstorm the plot at her level and speed, and I’ll probably write as we go.  Depending on what we get (and if she gives her permission), I’ll share it here.

Mostly I just hope she has fun and that we end up with a project that helps her writing, reading, and creative interests!

Blonzy, Blonzy!

At least I think that’s the word…

We went to see The Foreigner last night at Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre in Carthage, MO.  My beloved sister played the hilarious Froggie.  If you don’t know the story, Froggie brings her friend to a little country lodge in Georgia.  He’s very shy and depressed and doesn’t want to talk to anyone, so she tells everyone he’s a “foreigner” who doesn’t understand any English.  Very quickly he finds himself overhearing very embarrassing, personal information – and soon learns that something foul is going on at the lodge as the owner is about to lose her property.  Can he overcome his shyness – and the lie that he doesn’t understand English – and find a way to help them?

We had sooo much fun.  The monsters were getting a little bored at the very beginning because it started just a little slow, but very soon they were totally absorbed.  Middle couldn’t help but reenact some of Charlie’s dancing moves at Intermission.  Luckily she didn’t knock anything over.

I used the opportunity to wear my main RT dress complete with heels and jewelry.  I was a little overdressed, but Sis gave me the thumbs up (and she also brought me another dress that fits, so I have 4 now, yay!).  I’m so relieved that I was able to replace my heels that suddenly became too big!  I’m a big fan of Clark’s shoes now – I wore heels from 4:30 – midnight (first time in a decade or more) except for slipping them off in the car on the way home (1.5 hour drive) and had no foot pain.

Sadly my Spanx hose didn’t survive (the first time I wore them too, grrrrr!).  Middle snagged her shoe buckle on my shin and ripped a huge hole in them.  She’s dangerous to sit by (you get kicked at least a dozen times).

So I’m a little more prepared for RT but more shopping is in order!

Good News Monday – Spring Break Edition

I can’t believe the monsters are already on spring break!  Yesterday, we drove them up to Papa’s farm and they’re spending a few days with him riding horses and generally turning his life upside down.  They’ve spent days at the farm before but I’m having a little more anxiety than usual this time around.  I dreamed last night that I dropped them off at a huge movie theater and then followed them, trying to find them in the crowd, but they were lost.  *sheepish Mom*  Here’s to a fun — and safe — time riding horses.  They’ll be home Wednesday.

Of course driving into the country made me want to LIVE in the country again.  If we’re going to make the move, we want to do it before Princess starts high school.  That doesn’t give us much time to save for the dream farm on top of all our other bills and commitments.  Car repairs keep taking a bite out of crime every time I turn around and I have a feeling I’m going to owe Uncle Sam big time this year.  (No I still haven’t finished our taxes.)

We may consider other options, like temporary housing until we save enough to build or buy, but we’re limited to what’s actually available.  It’s not like that area has a booming rental business, you know?  Sigh.  At least we’re looking and keeping an ear to the ground.  If I stumble across a rental or owner finance type set up in the area, we’re definitely going to investigate, even if it’s too small for long term.  (With three kids, one already a teenaged girl, and two home offices, we need space!)

As for writing, all I’ve been able to work on is another couple hundred words on a short story.  Hopefully this week I can get back up to full speed.

I’m getting more and more anxious about RT next month.  I don’t have enough clothes or shoes yet, but I’m having a harder time finding things.  I did go down another size in jeans — even bought one pair two sizes down that were on sale this weekend.  I love buying lower sizes!  However, I’m constantly losing things in my wardrobe.  I mean, I’m replacing as quickly as I can, but since I’m still losing, I only have 2-3 pairs of jeans that work at any one time.  I only have a few shirts that I keep cycling through – the rest make me look like a tent.

I need a spring dress shoe that matches the other dresses I bought at Dress Barn (more like church dresses than cocktail dresses) but I don’t do sandals (hate open or bare toes) and most flats are too uncomfortable.  Argh.  Who knew shopping would be this hard!?!  I’m actually tempted to take a few of the Dress Barn dresses back – simply because I can’t find shoes!  Oh and I bought them a week ago – so I’m terrified they won’t fit by the time I need them anyway.  I’ll be trying them on again next week to see if they’re already too big.  One of them I accidentally bought too small, so I’m sure it’ll be okay, but the others fit me when I tried them on.  We’ll see.  It’s a great problem to have, definitely, but I need clothes!

What’s your good news this week?