The Wash

Though I’m not really Amish, I do pick and choose from their way of life from time to time and try to incorporate some of those, what I consider simplistic and hard-working, values in my day to day life.  OK, maybe I fall short (really short) of this ideal much of the time but it is still something that keeps me inspired and gives me something to aim at (much of the struggle of being home with young kids comes from no pre-fabricated structure and having to sort of invent your own context.  The rest of the struggle comes from how like psychiatric health patients small children are (I could write a book on this)).  So, you pick your ideals and I’ll pick mine.

That’s at least part of the reason I don’t have a dryer.  The other part is much more feelings-based.  When I was in my twenties, I spent a few summers in various circumstances that one might choose to call “rustic” and while in these places, it was often the norm (along with peeing on the ground, cooking over propane burners, and not showering) to line dry our clothes.  I became somewhat enamored of the look of clothing flapping in the breeze on a line, the smell of sun-crisped garments and the meditative quality of the task of hanging and then taking down the clothes.  I simply love it.

In my normal adult life, modern conveniences abound and, though I enjoyed my time roughing it as a way of life and often find myself daydreaming about ways to get back to simplistic living, it’s hard to resist the magnetic pull of modernity.  That’s why I took the opportunity when moving into our new house to not buy a dryer (which had the added bonus of saving us money.  Cha-ching!)  I just didn’t buy one.  So, for seven or so months now I’ve been line-drying our clothes.  First outside in the yard in the summer, and now in our basement (which is less than ideal as our basement has a very musty-moldy odor that infuses all of our wardrobes.  Meh).

I have to say: though there are times, especially with little kids, when the ability to dry things in less time than at least a day and a half would be beneficial, mostly, I don’t miss my dryer one iota.  Not only do I not miss it, I look forward to hanging the wash as a rare moment of peace and contemplation in days that can be so messy, loud and dare I say “un-peaceful”?  I simply love the feel and smell of wet, clean clothes, the old-fashioned look of a line bursting at the seams with clothing, the quietness and simplicity of the task.

You can say what you like about the Amish, and you can scoff at my simple-minded nostalgia for a bygone era, but hang-drying clothes is where the Amish, in my opinion, got it right.

Tune in for more city Amish lifestyle changes hopefully coming soon.

I literally just went downstairs and snapped this picture right now. This is how our basement always looks.

Illness, infection and contagions

It feels like we’ve been sick forever at this point.  I guess that’s the way it is with a family of five.  By the time your virus has finally spread to each person and run its course, two weeks or more have elapsed.  That’s half a month!  By the time you can actually come up for air and take stock, life seems to have passed us by and left us behind.  When I or the kids are sick, all bets are off.  We don’t go anywhere.  We don’t do anything.  We are home for days on the couch watching Caillou, The Cat in the Hat and all other manner of obnoxious kids programming.  All of our winter activities have been derailed.  I feel so lost.  Anyone else have this problem?  Who am I?

Luckily, we, for the most part, avoided the doctor’s office.  I mean, modern medicine is great and everything, or so they tell me, but I can’t shake the feeling that every time I walk in there, I might end up under the knife.  Is this an irrational fear?  I’m not so sure.  With the way the system works, sure they have “our best interest in mind”…but also, is it me, or has the medical field become incredibly scalpel-happy?  It is starting to feel like you could walk in there for a cold and walk out with some sutures, vicodin, and maybe a colostomy bag (ok, maybe that last thing is a bit over the top but you get the idea).  Anyone else feel this way?  Especially with my state insurance card.  It’s like I can hear the “Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!” as I walk through the door and I can actually see the dollar signs in their eyes.  No lie.  Their mouths actually water when we’re in there.  It’s like Pavlov’s dog.  Fresh meat.

We did end up having to take Ruth in for an ear infection.  Up to that point, she had been the least sick with the actual flu bug (which may not have actually been the deadly strain that both my mother and mother-in-law were crossing themselves and throwing holy water over their shoulders hoping that we didn’t contract, but if it wasn’t, it was definitely a distant cousin) but ended up with a secondary ear infection.  Blast!  So we had to turn ourselves in to the authorities at last and come under their scrutiny.  We did avoid surgery this time, but not for lack of trying as they desperately questioned Ruth for underlying symptoms and possible overlooked syndromes at large.  Sorry.  Super healthy kid here, doc.  Just write the script and we’ll be going now (nervously eyes the doorway).

At this point, we’ve lost touch with all our people.  We’ve stopped going to all our groups.  This is really why I hate getting sick.  It’s not so much the physical discomfort, fevers, barfing and whiny kids (though those things do suck ass chunks), but the way illnesses totally wreak havoc on my fragile existence: the rhythms, the sustaining framework that gives my life structure and tethers me to my days in a concrete way that I’ve worked so hard to build up at home with the kids.  It all comes crashing down around me and I’m left standing like a foreman at a building site, all that rubble piled up at my feet.  It’s enough to make you take a union coffee break and never come back, I swear.

On an even more negative note, know what’s depressing as fuck?  Doing a budget.  Yeah, all the smoke and mirrors that you’ve kept your true financial situation hidden beneath: gone.  It ain’t pretty, folks, to take a real hard look at your real fiscal limitations.  Shudder.  One of the more unpleasant tasks of adulthood, to be sure.  Like all good hard doses of reality, it’s hard to swallow, but it does a world of good.  Kind of like kale.  Yeah.  Budgets are like kale.  That’s good.  (more on this later…)



Notes from suburbia

Hello from the burbs.  I saw three swankily outfitted joggers pass my house the other day.  Two of them were simultaneously walking dogs.  Once, one caught me letting my elderly dog out in my pajamas at noon and I managed a proper neighborly wave despite my kids screaming in the background.  The guy just kept jogging.  The freakin’ burbs.  Yeah, don’t let a wave slow you down, guy.  Wouldn’t want to ruin your time. I’m telling you.

“I’ll be goddamned if Ruth grows up to be a jogger!” I said during a rant the other day to Greg.  He looked confused, like, ‘I thought we wanted our kids growing up being active and healthy?’  Yeah, but not that kind of active and healthy my eyes shot back.  ‘What’s wrong with jogging?’ his eyes asked me (that’s right, when you’re going on ten years of marriage, a lot of your communication becomes telepathic).  EVERYTHING! my eyebrows shouted as they jumped to the bottom of my hairline.

No, there’s really nothing wrong per say with jogging (I think it’s a soft j, pronounced like y).  Maybe it’s just jogging in really expensive clothes (which are made in China by underpaid minors probably just like everything else) and jogging with your hair done and jogging with your pampered pet at like 7:30 in the morning before heading off to the office.  Wow, I sound bitter.  Don’t mind me.  I knew I would have problems adjusting to life in the burbs.

In other news, we are starting to stand out as homeschoolers.  Perhaps it’s because Ruth is now clearly school-aged and is clearly not in school when she would be.  People are often very concerned (“Aren’t you worried about socialization?”  No.  “How will the kids learn to read, though?”  Shrugs shoulders.  “What about math?”  More shrugging.  “What if they want to attend college?”  Eyes glimmer with barely contained rant on how I wish I had back the money I spent on my own college degree.  Even more shrugging.  My shoulders are starting to hurt).  Or they simply admit that they could never homeschool their own kids (“You never get a break!”  Tell me about it, people.  You wanna see the state of my house half the time?)  Then I watch them observe my kids like some novel rare natural phenomenon.  “Homeschoolers….what are they like“?  It’s interesting is all I can say, to be more in the public eye as a homeschooler.  At this point anyway.  I can see though, from the monotony and superficiality of the responses that it’s gonna get boring real fast.

As a “for instance” I can describe a “day in the life” for those that are morbidly curious about what homeschooling looks like for us at the moment.  Take yesterday.  I got the kids up early in order to drive Greg to work.  Normally I never do this.  The kids usually wake up on each their own schedule (Miles first at around 7, then Joel at about 7:30, and finally Ruth at 8:30 or 9.  She’s not a morning person) but as I said, I thought Greg needed a ride which he actually turned out not to but the kids at that point were already up and dressed, ready to head out the door with shoes on and all, so I decided to take them out to breakfast for bagels and then head to the library for the storytime program.  They each got a chocolate chip bagel and we hung out in the bagel shop eating and observing the morning rush of people coming and going.  From there, we drove to the library for the storytime, which is actually for kids ages 3-5, fine for Joel and Miles, but Ruth sticks out, literally, like a sore thumb in that crowd as she is easily the tallest kid and always has the answers.  I don’t know if the other parents are amused like I am or annoyed by her overzealous helping of the librarian at these programs.  Meh.  They do the usual storytime stuff: read some books, do some dancing and movement stuff and then we go to the “maker studio” to do a craft.  Yesterday, the theme was crayons and they had a sheet of paper for the kids to color with new boxes of pristine crayolas.  You can bet those would be my kids becoming extremely frustrated because things are not going exactly as planned with their papers.  Both Ruth and Joel are lately displaying exhausting perfectionistic tendencies which gets a lot of sidewise looks, believe me.  I guess people think that because they are the oldest kids in the group, they should be the most mature.  Shrugs shoulders.  Trust me, people, many of you with laid back 1 and 2 year olds will find yourselves in similar positions come the 4 and 5 years.  Just wait for it….

After that, most of the people cleared out and we were the only ones, apparently, with no place important to be, so we just hung around in that room.  They have a bunch of legos that the kids are free to use at leisure and so, that’s what they did, for about an hour, while I talked with one of the librarians.


After that we went home and had lunch.  It was warmish yesterday and so our yard has turned into a mud pit with a giant lake puddle at the bottom.  They pretty much spent the rest of the day tramping all over the yard, yelling, whooping and playing until dinner, getting absolutely saturated and filthy.  After dinner, because Greg wasn’t feeling well, he sat in the living room with them and watched an Elmo movie.  As a general rule, we don’t have any regular screen time for them but we do watch a select few programs now and then when people are sick or if I just really really need a break to clean or get something else done.  After the movie was over, they made a game of stripping down to their underwear and chasing each other around and around the island of our house.  Then we read some books and went to bed.

That was it.  That was the extent of our “curriculum” for that day.  Though some days I do have more structure, for Ruth anyway, in general, some variation of this is how most of our days go.

Tune in again next time for a day in the life, homeschooling addition.





Well helloooo…

It’s been a while.  The last time you heard from me I think I was on one of my woman tangents about ovulation and baby makin’, then zilch for what? Two months or something?   Blame it on all of the years watching my mom’s soap operas in the summers.  I love a good cliff hanger.  But sadly, I’m exactly where you left me, still tracking my monthly ovulation with fervor, still in fertility purgatory, constantly going back and forth with my feelings and thoughts, probably where I’ll be for the rest of my life…or at least until menopause.

Actually, you can blame the whole thing on Christmas.  Christmas these days has a way of totally throwing life off track for many weeks.  I think there was a time when I thought that having kids would bring back the joy and fun of Christmas.  Now I realize: for them it’s magic.  For me it’s shite.  Because who’s the one making all that magic?  Oh, yeah.  It’s me.  I’m the one up late trying to put together the toys so they’re user friendly on the big day, fighting with the spousal unit in whispered tones over who put the stupid allen wrench where and sweating out my credit card bill.  Um, I’m sorry.  Where the hell are Santa’s elves when you need them?

Enough Christmas bashing, though.  I could go on and on though I do have, of course, many enjoyable memories from this holiday season.  I’m not really the Grinch incarnated though I see his point.

The truth is I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for a while now but it just never seems to be a good time.  I don’t need to go into the specifics of my life as a homeschooling parent, especially for any of you other homeschoolers out there, but basically my kids are always with me.  It’s very tricky to finagle any time away from them and any time I do is usually spent in some degree of cleaning frenzy or trying desperately to take steps forward with our homeschooling “curriculum”.  Basically, reading, gathering resources, trying to make connections with people, organizations and groups, and fill up our weeks with interesting, budget friendly (a.k.a. FREE) stuff.  I can tell you that it’s a fun but daunting job and the worst part about it, that I think will probably be a constant struggle, is the self doubt and grappling with the lack of validation from society (which you’d think I’d be used to by now), especially with articles like this floating around.  (It’s a damn shame that a small percentage of the homeschooling population that uses the guise of “homeschooling” to cover up abuse and neglect can affect the public’s view of homeschooling so profoundly.  The reality is that no matter at home or within trusted organizations (the Catholic church comes to mind or this recent case that’s been hitting way too close to home lately) abuses of power and misuse of people, children being the most vulnerable, happens in our society.  If we want to help the problem, I think we should ask ourselves how our greater society perpetuates this abusive mentality.

Whew.  Heavy stuff.  Good food for thought though.  As much as I despise the news sometimes, it’s important to address societal issues and not walk around with blinders on.  A more objective view of reality is, in my opinion, severely underrated.

On to less intense subjects such as Lego club.  Have you been to a Lego club?  Great things.  Usually sponsored by libraries, Lego clubs are held once a month or so for a couple hours where you can come and just build…to your hearts’ content.  Considering how expensive Legos are, if you have a son or daughter clambering for these little plastic building blocks of desire, Lego clubs are awesome.  The best part besides your saved pocket money?  You’re not constantly stepping on them or having to clean them up in your own home.  Cha-ching.  We went to our first one yesterday and it was great.  Not just for the aforementioned reasons but it was also cool to be around other Lego fanatics and to see what all other kids could come up with and create.

Well, I’m gonna end this now.  The kids are mutinying.  Hopefully I will be able to write more soon and it won’t be another two months before another blog post.


Breaking news from ovulation station headquarters…

This just in: I got a freakin’ static smiley face on my ovulation predictor thingy!  For those well-versed in all things fertility, you know what that means!  My understanding, though sometimes I feel like reading those instruction sheets that come with these types of tests are like deciphering hieroglyphics, is that my LH surge has been detected, there’s a big whopping dark blue line on the test screen, and ovulation is mere hours away.  Why am I so giddy?  Probably has something to do with all of the posts I’ve been reading by people who are online trying desperately to conceive.  What can I say?  Their enthusiasm is contagious.  For me, though, the results are perhaps a bit less exciting.

Though, I did tell Greg this morning after he woke up that we should just “go for it”.  (I kind of knew going into this that part of me was going to feel like that.  It’s one thing to kind of sort of know around-ish the time you are probably fertile and then to be sort of careful and just see what happens and another to know precisely and to purposely let a month of potential pass you by).

It almost feels like too much control to the point that I’m a little uncomfortable.  To be honest, that’s part of the reason I never went back on birth control after having Ruth, besides the fact that I just didn’t like the idea of purposely altering my hormones with a daily pill.  After I realized the awesome responsibility in having a child, I knew that if I went back on birth control, I would probably never come off of it again.  I had the feeling that I would never be able to fully and confidently say “yes, I’m ready” and make that decision (kind of the same way I’m not able to make the absolute and final decision to say, “no more”.  Greg says I’m indecisive.  I prefer the term “open-minded”).  Better to leave it up to fate, or timing, or biology.

As a disclaimer, this philosophy does have an expiration date.  I have always thought that four would be the “perfect” number of children, or at least a nice full family with lots of dynamics and noise (the good kind, though I’m finding out more and more that with the good comes the bad) and that maybe there wouldn’t be so much of the “first child, middle child, youngest child” dynamics that comes with three (though I have heard from someone recently that has four and whose opinion I definitely put stock in that then you just have two middle children).   Anyways, after four, I think I would definitely without a doubt be able to call it quits.  Also, I’ve told Greg that I feel that I could be “open” to the possibility of another child for the next little while.  It’s amazing how fast your age sneaks up on you.  I was only 32 when I had Miles.  “A lot of people are only just having their first child at this age,” I reassured myself, “I’ve got loads of time to make up my mind.”  Though, my menstrual cycle vanished for almost two years after he was born.  A few months later, I turned 35.  Now I’m wondering, “Where did all the time go?”  I’ve recently begun to feel like the window for another is rapidly shrinking.  It seems tiny now.  I guess that’s why it’s on some level so difficult to purposely watch another month of possibility come and go.

Well, in any case, it’s fun to see a darkened test line on a test of some kind, even if it’s not a pregnancy test.  It’s still really interesting to know almost the exact timing of my ovulation.  Through all of this, I find myself thinking into the future with Ruth and how excited I am to be able to give her the tools to really understand her own fertility.  Though it is, of course, her decision how to go about her body and sexuality, I hope that she has a lot of information and is critical in the things she does and doesn’t do.  One of my main goals in parenting is to raise extremely critical and open-minded creative thinkers.  Though I (clearly) don’t undervalue intuition and other kinds of understanding that are important for a balanced and deeper human experience.  Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut even when it doesn’t make sense on paper and you can’t explain yourself in words.

Ovulation station

It’s not really the “ovulation station” around here.  I just wrote that ’cause it rhymes.  That makes it sound like it’s a non-stop ovulation party or something.  Really, I just bought my first ever ovulation predictor kit and I wanted to write about it.

For reasons of my own, I choose to avoid the more modern methods of birth control and instead opt for something obvious but overlooked: natural family planning, if you’re catholic, fertility awareness if you’re just a plain person.  Basically, there are only 6 days out of every menstrual cycle when a woman is actually capable of conceiving and you just need to narrow it down as best you can based off of a few metrics to find out when these 6 days most likely occur.  Yeah, just something they sort of skim over in sex ed in the public schools (don’t even get me started).  “Oh, and young women?  Your bodies?  They’re pretty weird.  And gross.  And pregnancy?  Basically you can get pregnant any time ( I swear, this is honestly what they tell you) so you should always either be abstaining or using contraceptives within a religiously condoned and legally sanctioned relationship.”  Yeah, let’s not do something crazy like give young women the power to understand their own fertility.  Nah.  Let’s just use smoke and mirrors and make it all seem like strange voodoo.

You can probably tell that I’m so going to be all up in unlocking the “mysteries” for both my daughter and sons to a woman’s fertility.  I mean: hello?  I swear this is the first time in my life I have ever actually researched and become aware of the timing of my own fertility.  Pathetic.

So, I have a bit of an issue, though.  I spent most of my twenties on birth control that altered my hormones and cycle.  Then I’ve spent another 8 or so years being pregnant and/or breastfeeding which also alters your hormones and cycle so I honestly feel like I don’t know what normal is for me.  And I don’t know if breastfeeding is still messing with the timing.  What I can say is that my last two cycles were around the same length and so, based off of those, I have my ovulation narrowed down to like a weeks worth of days.  Now, I add the tests (there are ten in a pack) to detect the proper hormones and I guess they are 99 percent effective at telling you when ovulation has occurred.  Add this to my calendar method and I should be able to get a pretty good idea for when ovulation for me happens on a monthly basis.

Is it weird that I’m excited?  Why do I feel so giddy about gaining so much insight into my own fertility?  I don’t know!  But I can say that there is a feeling of empowerment at getting to know and respect my body and it’s awesome capacity to create life.  Mind you, I am learning in order to avoid this capacity, but still.  I approach the subject with a sense of profound respect and awe.

(Hey, if you don’t homeschool, parents, at least consider taking sex ed into your own hands.  Trust me, if it’s still being taught the way it was when I was in fourth grade or whatever, it’s severely lacking.)

More park Review

Maybe our lives are so boring that I can’t think of anything to write about except a lame park review.  Or maybe everything else is so chaotic, a park review is the only thing that seems to stand out in my mind as something I can firmly wrap a blog post around.  Probably a little of both.  Hey, don’t ex out!  I saw your mouse hand moving toward the upper right hand corner!  This is gonna be sweet.  I swear.

Ok, so first of all, being with little kids all day has warped my brain (duh) in many ways.  One way is that I have become a connoisseur of the things that kids consume (juice boxes, children’s books, kids clothing, yadda yadda, you get the picture).  One such thing is play equipment and parks.  I feel like in the last seven years I have spent more time at parks than any other destination outside the home.  The kids are a little young for museums still and we’re too poor to be regulars at a lot of the indoor stuff for kids, so…that leaves parks.  That’s why you can totally put stock in what I tell you about parks.  I basically live there.

So, the other day, I went for a leisurely stroll after Greg got off work (Or I bolted out the door half-dressed in outerwear as fast as I could and yelled over my shoulder that I would be back in a little while.  Either way.  It had been “one of those days” (why does it seem like more days are those days than not?)).  Wow, me.  Way to digress.  Anywhoo….on this walk I happened upon a little neighborhood park that was so freakin’ cute, it made me want to barf and I said to myself that I would remember where it was so I could bring the kids back the next nice day which ended up taking a while because recently, I swear it rained for like 2 weeks straight (and of course it started on a day when Ruth left her extremely expensive gymnastics mats outside so they ended up getting soaked for days and I had to take them apart and dry them in the basement).

Finally!  A sunny day dawned and after our usual prolonged morning rituals and after wrestling the kids into warmer clothing, we ventured out for a walk into the sun and crisp afternoon in search of this hidden mystery park that I had stumbled across.  It didn’t take us long, maybe only 15 minutes, with the older two on their bikes and Miles in our old nineties jogger stroller.  By the time we got there, though, I realized when Joel came up to me and asked for water, that I hadn’t really planned for an extended walk/park visit as I had left pretty much everything back home.  I said a little prayer that no one would have a big poop accident or something and just hoped we would all make it home in one piece if a bit dehydrated and poopy.


It was called “Hidden River Park” and we were the only ones there which, cha-ching, because sometimes the last thing I want to do is make sure my kids are taking turns and sharing with fellow park players (not that I don’t think these skills are valuable, but to be honest, I just felt like zoning out for a bit, not teaching core values plus, when it’s the three of them, they have their own system for working out disputes, namely, they are pretty rude and pushy with each other but in a loving sibling way).

I wondered, though, if it was called “hidden” because the people in the neighborhood wanted to keep it to themselves.  It was basically a single lot on the corner converted into a park and I swear, it almost seemed as though the residents of the surrounding neighborhood had built it themselves.  For their kids.  There was a sand pit area and all of these cool toy trucks just left there.  I pretty much was nervously glancing around the entire time we were there waiting for someone to yell at us and inform us that it was a private park and not open to the public.  No one did, though (another cha-ching)


Joel and Miles were all about the sand pit area and I don’t blame them.  It was cool as hell with these big weird rocks all over it.


There were even a couple of swings in the back which Ruth ran to right away.  It was just a really cute little neighborhood park with a lot of character and charm.  Off to the side there was even a little hill that, after the kids got tired of their original tasks, they started rolling down together, which, I mean, early 1900s picture perfect childhood activity, right?  Take that, Ipod/pad/phone-obsessed culture!

After a while, the lack of water was getting to the kids, the cold started settling in as the sun went below the tree line and Miles started acting crazy, trying to push one of the toy shopping carts into the street, a sure sign that he needed sleep.  So, after a little bit of a break down from Joel, we headed for home.  It was a nice way to break up our day and so good to get out and soak up some vitamin d and fresh air after being stuck inside the house for so long.

I give this park 4.5 out of 5 stars because the people that made it really did a lot with such a small space and it had such a nice cozy well-cared for feel but I take away .5 stars because of my own personal feeling of being a little bit watched or unwelcome at such an exclusive place which might totally be completely in my own head, not in reality.

In any case, happy fall park playing!  Get out there before the temps really drop!  Though, stay tuned for our backyard sledding hill/ice rink to come.