Monday, January 28, 2013

And That's Why We Named the Skeleton Raoul

Years ago, we bought a plastic skeleton as a Halloween decoration. Sometimes, we leave it as a skeleton, and sometimes we wrap it as a mummy. It doesn't get put away with the rest of the holiday decorations. Instead, it hangs in the 3-season porch all year. Well, a few weeks ago, Jay was out in the porch dancing with the skeleton. I had to tell him to stop dancing with the skeleton & come in the house.

So, my husband was on Facebook discussing the odd things parents have to say to their kids that really you never thought you'd have to say. He brought up that statement. We then decided that we should name the skeleton, if for no other reason, so I wouldn't have to repeat that particular statement. I asked the kids to choose a name for the skeleton, but they could not agree on one. Since the kids couldn't agree, my husband and I chose one. We decided on Raoul.

When I was in the hospital, on bed rest, while pregnant with my son, the doctor that was taking care of me always asked us if we were naming the baby Raoul. It was an ongoing joke between us. Every time, he'd say, "So, you're going to name the baby Raoul, right?" It was one of the very few things that made me smile while I was stuck in the hospital & has remained a private joke in our family ever since. So, now we have a skeleton named Raoul, who hangs out on our porch.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yes, We're Still Homeschooling

I know I haven't posted about homeschooling since we took our Christmas break. My last few posts have been rather personal & did not involve homeschooling at all. We are still homeschooling, I just haven't really had much to say about homeschooling for the last few weeks.

We got back to work on January 7th. Dea has now officially started 9th grade. It has been a slow start, trying to get her used to her new schedule. She is not starting all her courses (there are about 12 of them this year) at one time. I hope that we will soon find our rhythm. I also hope that she soon stops complaining about the courses she doesn't like.

Jay is still working on 3rd grade. He will start 4th grade mid-April. I should be ordering materials for next year within the next month. Right now, things feel a bit odd with having so little Math for Jay. He watches videos on and videos from AoPS. He also plays online games & does practice problems on Khan Academy. I had also planned for him to read Math books from the library, but had forgotten about that for the last few weeks. We picked up several Math books from the library today, though. For ASL, we have exhausted all our local library has to offer in the form of DVDs. Well, all that would be useful right now. They do still have a few, but those are too advanced for now. So, we are using a free online course for the rest of 3rd grade.

I had the idea to use picture books, next year, to reinforce the literary elements we've discussed last year & this year and possibly introduce some new literary elements. I decided to try it out during the last few months of this year, so if it doesn't work out I can figure out something else. We've tried it out with a few books over the last few weeks, and it is going well so far. It was kind of odd wandering through the picture book section again. I haven't been in that section for 4 or 5 years, since Jay decided he had outgrown picture books & Easy Readers.

I've also recently set up another blog. It'll have more photos & generally be more visual than this one. It will also have less personal stuff & focus more on homeschooling & family time (family games, hikes, activities, etc.). There isn't much there yet, because it's new. Feel free to check it out, if you'd like.

We also found out Jay has allergies. The doctor said it wasn't really important that we find out what he's allergic to, since the reaction is so minor, but it's probably animal dander and/or dust.So, she suggested OTC allergy meds. I'm going to look into natural allergy treatments, to see if I can find something other than meds. Until then, he is on the OTC stuff, because it is helping. We're not getting rid of the animals, though. If his allergies get worse, we'll consider it, but as long as they are manageable & minor, we are keeping the animals. He was really worried that we'd have to get rid of the animals. He loves them so much. He would hate to be the reason we had to give them away. Also, he can't stand the idea of not being able to have pets of his own when he grows up, especially cats.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Conflicting Memories

It has been 11 years since my grandmother passed. To this day, most of my family still talks about how much they miss her, how wonderful she was, how the world was so much better when she was in it, etc.

I admit, this is not the way I see it. My memories are actually quite conflicted when it comes to my grandmother. I do have some good memories with her. When I was a kid, it was my grandparents who took me to museums & zoos. My grandparents lived outside Chicago. They took me to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, the Sear's Tower, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Brookfield Zoo. I remember a night out with my grandma & my great-aunt. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, then saw a play at the Theater on the Lake (I think we saw Fiddler on the Roof). So, I do have some really good memories of my grandma.

However, I also have a whole lot of bad memories. My grandma didn't like me much. She did not like my hair. I don't just mean that she didn't like the way I styled it. She did not like the length, regardless of what the length was. She did not like the color, even before I started dying it. She did not like the way I brushed it, not the style, the actual way I physically ran the brush through my hair. She did not like the color of my eyes, as if I could control that. She hated all of my clothes. She disliked my book choices. She disliked my music preferences. She disliked my movie choices. How do I know she disliked all of these things? She told me, that's how. She complained about every single thing about me. Mostly, she complained to me, when nobody else was around, so there were no witnesses. This of course meant nobody believed me, because all they ever saw was the nice side of her.

My grandma's mom, my G.G., was the most important person in the world to me. She died when I was 9 or 10. I was crushed. I was lost. I was truly devastated. At the funeral, I had to be strong & help occupy the younger kids, while the adults got to grieve & cry. I couldn't cry, because I had to keep the little kids happy. My mom bought me a new outfit to wear to the funeral. It was a pink shirt with a black skirt. She didn't want me wearing just black, which is why I got stuck with a bright pink shirt. At the funeral, my batshit crazy grandmother, pulled me aside and told me that I was disrespecting my G.G. by wearing black to her funeral, because I was too young to wear black. What kind of psycho does that? How horrible a person do you have to be to tell a child that they are disrespecting the most important person in their life by wearing black to that person's funeral? Some of you might think this should just be written off as her being overtaken by the grief of her mother's passing, and saying things she didn't mean. However, she was always like this to me. She always pulled me aside to tell me something was wrong with me. After informing me that I would be in trouble if I didn't finish every bite of food on my plate (which she had over-filled), she would berate me for being overweight (even though I was technically within the healthy weight range for my height). She is a big part of the reason I was convinced I was fat, even when at a perfectly healthy weight.

As if her obvious dislike of every single thing about me wasn't enough, she also had expectations for me & my life, though it was never clear exactly what they were. It was clear that I never lived up to those expectations. I had my daughter my senior year in high school. Instead of dropping out, I stayed in school until I had to be pulled out, less than a month before my daughter was born. After having my daughter, I convinced all of my teachers to allow me to finish my work for the year at home. I did all the work for the last quarter of the year, in a week, at home, while taking care of a newborn. I took my daughter to the school, where she sat in her carseat next to me, while I took all the tests I missed. I fought against a teacher who tried to fail me for no reason, just because he didn't like me. If he had failed me, I would not have been allowed to graduate. I fought the injustice, got the principal on my side, and he was forced to pass me. My grandmother was so bothered by my having & keeping my daughter, that she refused to show up to my high school graduation. She freaking boycotted my graduation! She would tell everyone else that any job was fine, and you shouldn't be ashamed of working at some place like McDonald's. When I got a job at McDonald's, and was training to be a manager within 4 months of starting as a crew person (something not everyone can say), she insulted my choice of job & made sure I knew that she felt I should be ashamed to work somewhere so low.

Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. When I was accepted to a college in Chicago, she offered to let me live with them. They would take care of my daughter while I worked & went to school. They lived close to a train station, so I could commute to school by train every day & get a job at a store or restaurant within walking distance of their house. I turned down this offer. If I had accepted, they would have been the ones raising my daughter, not me. She is my daughter, therefore my responsibility. I didn't want to visit with her a few hours a week, I wanted to raise her. So, I got a job at McDonald's and worked my butt off to raise my kid entirely on my own. Did my grandmother commend me on being a responsible mother? Was she proud of me for putting my daughter before myself? Was she proud of how hard I worked at being a good mom, taking care of my child, making the ends meet, etc.? No, of course not. She bitched about how I threw my life away, at Christmas, and told me my daughter would throw her life away, too.

So, eleven years after her death, I still have to bite my tongue every time someone starts waxing nostalgic about how great & wonderful she was. Truth be told, I have far more bad memories than good. I would love to just focus on the happy ones, but I can't. Someone will say something about how great she was to her grandkids, and the first thing that pops into my head is generally a memory of the museum or zoo. However, that is followed by a memory of looking out at the crowd at my high school graduation & knowing she wasn't there or hearing her voice say "You are disrespecting G.G. by wearing black to her funeral," or "Why, so she can throw her life away just like you did?"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Body Hates Pregnancy

I was around 4 months along when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. There had been no signs or symptoms prior to that. There was no morning sickness or weight gain. There weren't even missed periods. By 5 months, I had gained a total of 5 pounds. At about 7 months, I got dizzy & lightheaded, vomited blood, and almost passed out. It was also about that time that I stopped being able to keep down solid foods. The last two months of the pregnancy, I couldn't eat anything more solid than ice cream. I was walking 5 miles a day until just a few weeks before I had her, despite having Braxton Hicks contractions for the last month to month & a half of the pregnancy. That was the closest to a healthy pregnancy I've ever had.

My pregnancy with my son was no picnic. Shortly after finding out I was pregnant, I started to bleed. That lead to bed rest. I was on & off bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I also started to suffer from widespread, unexplained pain. Years after my son was born, it was decided that the pain was the onset of Fibromyalgia. My placenta was in the wrong place. I actually lost my job due to my absences from work because of the pain & illness. At 23 weeks, I went to the doctor, after a night of pain so horrible that I could not sleep at all. My doctor did an exam and found that my cervix had thinned, I had started to dilate, and my water bag was bulging. I was sent directly to the hospital, where I was immediately admitted. They gave me Magnesium Sulfate to stop contractions, even though I was not having contractions. They told me that it was possible, though not likely, that the Magnesium Sulfate may cause fluid build-up in my lungs & around my heart. I was quickly transferred to another hospital, one that had a better High-Risk Mom's Unit & better NICU. Not long after getting there, breathing became very difficult. They found fluid build-up in my lungs & around my heart. I told them the other hospital said that was a possibility from the Magnesium Sulfate, but they were certain that I had pneumonia. So, I was transferred to the ICU. They decided to give me Zithromax. I told them I can't take that antibiotic. It causes violent, uncontrollable vomiting. They figured I'd be fine getting it in IV form, since I didn't have a 'real allergy' to it. My body really hates Zithromax. I would get huge, red welts at the IV site & they had to move the IV every day or two. They refused to take me off the Zithromax, though, insisting that I had pneumonia. I was on that antibiotic for 10-14 days (I don't remember if it was 10 days or 2 weeks). I was eventually moved back to the High-Risk Mom's Unit, once they were sure I was out of danger from the pneumonia I didn't have (I have had pneumonia since then & can say with absolute certainty that what I had in the hospital was not pneumonia). I had steroids shot into me to help develop his lungs, in case he came early. I had shots to help prevent blood clots. Luckily, I'm not afraid of needles. Though, I will admit that I came to really hate needles during that pregnancy. I had bruises all over my belly & hips from the shots. Spending all day in bed didn't help the widespread pain. They did some form of test on me every day. The hospital food tasted like plastic. My daughter was staying with my dad & step-mom, due to my husband's work schedule. Even better, I was admitted mere days before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, that was not our best holiday season. After 5 weeks in the hospital, my son decided he was ready, and my water broke. The night my water broke, the doctors were still calling it 27 weeks. So, it was technically the very beginning of 28 weeks that he was born. Just prior to heading into the delivery room, the doctor did an ultrasound to make sure my son was still in the right position. During the ultrasound, my son turned sideways & tried to come out arm first. They rushed me off to an operating room, knocked me out, and did an emergency C-section. (I just did a post about my son's NICU stay, if you want to read that.) After surgery, I got to see my son for a few minutes before being taken to a room of my own. Then, they found that I had a fever. They wouldn't allow me to see my son while they figured out why I had a fever. It turned out my fever was caused by an inter-uterine infection. Luckily, some of my family members are wonderful. They came and celebrate Christmas with us in my hospital room. It was not an ordinary Christmas, but it may have been when I felt the most loved & most blessed - my loved ones gathered in the hospital to share the holiday with me. I finally got to go home just about a week after my son was born, after a stay of about 6 weeks total in the hospital. That was my 2nd healthiest pregnancy.

Between my daughter and my son, I was pregnant 2 other times. With the first of those, I also had unexplained, widespread pain. I was unable to eat, starting at about 4 weeks along. Sometimes, I was lucky if I could keep down water. I repeatedly ended up in the hospital dehydrated, from vomiting everything I attempted to eat or drink. My doctor kept telling me I was fine, everything was fine. He lied. He didn't want me to know the truth, because he didn't want to risk me having an abortion. He is Catholic and allowed his religious beliefs to cloud his judgement. He put my life at risk, because he didn't approve of what he assumed I'd do if he told me the truth. I lost weight during the pregnancy. I was not eating, so my body was eating my muscles to give the nutrition to the baby. I lost muscle mass & got weaker day by day. I was certain I was going to die, but stupidly believed the medical professional I should have been able to trust. At 4 1/2 months, I was at home alone. I was in excruciating pain. I crawled to the phone & called my mom. I told her I was dying and asked her to come get me. She took me to the ER, where I learned the truth. I was diagnosed as severely dehydrated and starving, not surprising since I hadn't kept food down for 3 1/2 months by that point. They did an ultrasound, yet another one I wasn't allowed to see (they had not allowed me to see any of them during that pregnancy). The ER doctor said he had done the ultrasound to check on problems from previous ultrasounds. I asked what problems. This was when I was informed  about the hemorrhage & abnormalities. It turns out, not only were my fears that the pregnancy would kill me totally correct, but the baby wasn't healthy at all either. The next day, I saw my doctor & confronted him about keeping these things from me. He tried to claim that he thought we'd talked about it. I dropped him as my doctor, of course. I saw another doctor and had the pregnancy terminated. The next pregnancy was a repeat of the one prior, but it was terminated sooner.

I am not ashamed that I had abortions. I would not have survived to bring either to term. Neither baby would have made it. I already had a child at home that needed me, and I couldn't leave her without a mom. My life was in danger, and I made a decision. Some people may judge me for that, but that is their problem, not mine. I did what I had to do, and do not apologize for it. 

Raising a Preemie

My son was born at 28 weeks gestation. He weighed 2lbs 14oz and was 15 in long. He spent 2 months in the NICU.

He couldn't breathe on his own. He started on a ventilator. Then, went to a bubble CPAP. He went back & forth between those two for a while before staying on the bubble CPAP. He eventually made it to a nasal cannula, then finally room air. Before he was born, they were giving me shots of steroids to help his lungs develop. After he was born, they were giving him caffeine to help him breathe. He came home on an apnea monitor. It was like they sent the sounds of the NICU home with us, just in case he didn't feel at home without the alarms.

He couldn't eat on his own. He never did latch on to breast feed, but did eventually take a bottle. For a long time, he ate every hour because he couldn't eat much at one time. Between eating every hour & only sleeping for 20 minutes at a time, we didn't get a lot of sleep his first year or so.

He started seeing an eye doctor before he left the hospital. Retinopathy of Prematurity is a common problem for babies born before 32 weeks. It can cause vision loss, even complete blindness. So, they had to check him for it. You can't just check once & be done, though. You have to check repeatedly until the child develops the condition in one or both eyes or it is certain that they won't develop it. Amazingly, he never developed it.

The most frightening thing we dealt with during his NICU stay was his jaundice. I know most people don't think of jaundice as dangerous. Most babies get it and are just fine. What you may not know is that severe jaundice can be quite dangerous. Serious complications can include cerebral palsy, deafness, and brain damage. Jaundice is generally treated with phototherapy - those special blue lights. However, even though he was surrounded by those lights, his bilirubin numbers kept rising. The doctors told us that, if it got much higher,  they would have to do an exchange transfusion. That is exactly what it sounds like - removing all his blood & replacing it with fresh blood. That was a truly terrifying moment for me. Fortunately, the numbers finally started to go down.

We were lucky. We were so lucky. There were babies who had had surgery. There were babies waiting to have surgery. There were babies with problems far worse than my son had. There was one baby that came in weighing less than 1 pound. It was so small that it couldn't even go in an incubator, because an incubator would be too big & wouldn't keep it warm enough. So, it was in a tiny plastic tent. I knew we were lucky & that is what kept me sane. It is so hard to sit next to your baby, as the doctors talk about removing all his blood. It is so hard to be holding him & have those alarms go off saying that he stopped breathing & his heart rate is dropping. I heard those alarms in my sleep.

When I was at the hospital with my son, I felt guilty for not being at home with my husband & daughter. When I was at home, I felt guilty for not being at the hospital. I hated having to say goodbye to my baby boy every day. I wanted so badly to take him home with me. I cherished the moments when I got to hold him, though. When they're that small, you have to hold them a certain way. You can't cradle them in your arms the way you do with full term babies. You have to do what's called Kangaroo Care. Since they can't regulate their own body temperatures, and blankets won't keep them warm enough, there has to be skin to skin contact. So, I would wear a button-up shirt (they are easiest for this), open it part way, and snuggle my little boy on my chest. He would bury his head in my neck, and I would revel in the warmth of my little guy. I would sit there, trying to tune out all the alarms going off around me, focusing just on my baby. I would talk to him, tell him about his sister & his daddy. I would tell him stories and sing to him. I hated having to put him back into his incubator & leave him there.

He came home about a month earlier than was expected. As I said, we were so lucky. The doctors told us not to take him out unless we had to. They told us not to have him around too many people. It was February when he came home, and cold, flu, & RSV season was in full swing. He was at much higher risk for respiratory illnesses, so I listened. I told everyone that we were not accepting visitors. Nobody would be allowed to visit him. Nobody would be allowed to hold him, except us of course. Many people were rather angry at me for this. My mother tried to guilt me into allowing visits by saying, "He needs to bond with his grandparents" (I also hadn't allowed visitors while he was in NICU to prevent infection). I told her that it was far more important that he bond with his parents & sister first, and that he could bond with grandparents when they weren't posing so much of a health risk to him. She didn't appreciate that. Nobody did. I don't know that anybody understood my decision. We enforced it, though, despite angering several family members. My baby's health & life came first, no matter who got upset about it.

We had regular appointments with the NICU follow-up clinic. They were concerned with his muscle tone. His muscles were too tight. They told us that he would need physical therapy. They gave us some stretches & exercises to do with him every few hours, and we did them. He also needed tummy time 10 times a day for about 10 minutes each time, to strengthen the muscles in his neck. We followed their directions and when we went in the next time, they told us that he was doing much better and wouldn't need physical therapy after all.

They sometimes voiced concern over him not hitting milestones when they thought he should. I didn't worry, though. I know my son. He has been a perfectionist since birth. He might not hit a milestone when he "should," but when he does hit it, he will far surpass expectations. Saying a few random words wasn't enough for him. He said one word at 12 months (that would be an adjusted age of 9 months). He then barely said an intelligible word for the next 10 months. When he started speaking again, it was in full sentences. He refused to take a few steps & fall down, like other kids. He held onto the furniture until he was sure he could walk without out it. He then spent some time (maybe a week) walking just far enough away from the furniture that he could grab on if he was going to fall. When he was certain he could walk without falling, he took off at a run (and hasn't slowed down since). This is just how he does things. Everything has to be on his timetable. He doesn't care when he "should" do it. He just cares that he does it right.

He doesn't have a lot of lasting effects from being premature. He has ADHD, but didn't have much chance of escaping that since everyone else in the house has it. He does have some respiratory issues, though. He is more prone to respiratory illnesses. We recently found out that he has some allergies. There's nothing too severe, though.

There are very few sounds that I consider frightening. In fact, I can only think of two. One is the sound of a giant spider tapping its talons on the floor (don't ask, it was from a nightmare I had that is burned into my brain forever). The other is the sound of those NICU monitor alarms going off. Years later, both of those sounds haunt my darkest dreams.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Poet of the Month: December: Silverstein

This is another poet we really love, and the kids know well. They were introduced to the works of Shel Silverstein & Jack Prelutsky as infants.

Everything on it
Where the Sidewalk Ends
A Light in the Attic

Saturday, January 12, 2013

He's a Ninja, That's How

We have a 3-season porch. Well, it's actually more of a 2-season porch, because in the winter it's too damn cold to be out there, and in the summer it's way too hot. During the winter, mice like to hang out in the porch, because it's warmer than outside (by a degree or two), there's no wind, and it's one of the few places in the house where the cats can't get them. They come in through the mail slot. Anyway, our cats always want to get out there, because they smell the mice. We keep the door to the porch locked, though. The porch is where I keep all the Art supplies, as well as some of my personal stuff I don't want the kids getting into.

The kitten has always had a thing with the door to the porch. He has tried everything to get out there. He tried tunneling under the door. He tried going through the door. He tries to run out there every single time someone opens the door. He has even tried opening the door. That door has one of those long handles, not a round knob. So, he will get on the table next to the door and stretch until he has his front paws on the door handle. He then puts as much of his weight on it as he can. I've also seen him stand on his back legs, reach up with his front paws to grab the handle from below, and try to pull it down. This is just one more reason to keep it locked.

A few weeks ago, the door was unlocked. I don't remember why I left it unlocked. I went into the kitchen for a few minutes. When I came back, the door was open & the kitten was out in the porch.

You know that scene from Jurassic Park where the Velociraptor figures out how to open the door so she can get to the kids who have shut themselves in the kitchen? I'm pretty sure that is what happened, except it was my cat, not a dinosaur.

Yesterday, he turned off the light & turned on the fan, at the same time.

He is obsessed with the chain that hangs from the ceiling fan/light.He is always trying to grab it. He will jump up on your back & try to reach it.

I was in the office, talking to Jay, with my back to the living room. Then, I heard the sound of the chain being pulled & the living room light went out. I turned to see what was going on, figuring the light blew (they do that a lot here). I saw the kitten on the table, the chain was swinging wildly, the fan was on, and the light was off. He just sat there looking at me with a look that said "Ha, Ha! You shall never know how I do these things, you mere human, you."

I know how he does them, though. He is a ninja! He always does it when you aren't expecting it. He always does it when you can't see him. He is trying to keep us off-balance. He turns lights & fans on & off and opens doors! These are not normal cat behaviors. He is a ninja. Either that or he is a wizard. Maybe he is a wizard disguising himself as a cat. Or, he could be a shapeshifter. Damn. Maybe he was right. I will never know how he does it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Our Favorite Games

These are, in no particular order, our top 10 favorite games.

1. Pass the Popcorn

2. Scattergories

3. Scrabble

4. Monopoly

5. Gray Matter

6. Rummy

7. Wildcraft!

8. Scene It?

9. Chess

10. Arkham Horror

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Million Minute Family Challenge 2012

We participated in the Million Minute Family Challenge in 2012. It was our first year participating in it. Since we've never really payed any attention to how much time we spend playing games, we decided to set a goal that we figured we could reach. Our goal was 1,000 minutes. We ended with over 3,300 minutes logged. We definitely intend to participate again this year. We do family games on a pretty regular basis around here, so it wasn't too difficult to surpass our goal. Of course, this challenge only counts board, card, and dice games, not electronic games. We don't do video games, but we do play DVD games, like Scene It, Are You Smarter Then a 5th Grader?, and Game Wave games. None of those counted toward our total. So, that suggests we play games together for more than 1,000 minutes a month on average. Now, I know that some of you are thinking that we played more during those months, due to the challenge. It is possible that the challenge encouraged us to play a bit more, but not by much. We really do play games together quite a lot. We're planning to aim for a higher number next year. Also, the kids have asked that all games count this year. I didn't count games for school or games that only 2 of us played. So, next time, all non-electronic games, that 2 or more of us play, will count toward our total. In order to come up with a reasonable goal for next time, I'm thinking of tracking our family game time for a few months to get an average of how many minutes we play per month. That way, we can set a goal that won't end up so far below our ending total.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I am So Done!

On Christmas Eve, we got a Christmas card in the mail from my husband's sister. Well, actually, my husband & the kids got a card from her, that's how it was addressed. He was livid. He refused to open it & immediately sent her a message asking her about it.

His sister & I have had issues ever since he & I got together. I attempt to deal with it by maintaining civility around her & discussing her as little as possible when she's not around. If he tells me news about her, I listen, ask important questions, and try to be polite. I don't want him to think he can't talk to me about her, but I'm also not exactly interested in her life. She took our cat when he needed a new home, and I am grateful for that, but that's pretty much where positive feelings for her end.

She deals with our issues by bouncing around between ignoring my existence, being a total bitch to me, and trying to be all buddy-buddy with me. I guess we're in an ignoring my existence phase right now. When I saw the envelope & how it was addressed, I shrugged. It really doesn't bother me. It did bother him, though.

It appears that she heard that I don't like her, and this hurt her feelings. I have never made a secret of my dislike for her, so I don't believe she was unaware of it until recently. She claims that at a family dinner, one I didn't attend, she had been under the impression that I was sick, but one of my kids told her that I didn't come because "I can't stand her." I don't see either of my kids saying that. My kids know that I dislike her, it would be impossible not to, and I've explained why in a manner as respectful as I can. However, I don't generally use terms as harsh as 'can't stand' or 'hate' when speaking of her. I say generally because I can't be 100% certain, as I don't recall every single thing I've ever said regarding her. Anyway, she was 'hurt' by this news and apparently takes my being civil to her as me being two-faced and lying about my feelings toward her. So, she is "being true to herself" by ignoring me & not including me in the Christmas card to my household. I truly believe that she is being true to herself with this jr high level display of maturity.

My husband wrote 'Return to Sender' on the card & sent it back. He won't stand for her disrespecting me (he also won't stand for me disrespecting her, so it isn't a double standard). He then responded to her message explaining why he sent the card back. He doesn't want to rise to her bait & get into a petty argument with her (she is a drama queen who always has to be the center of  attention & always has to be in a fight with someone), but wants her to know that it is not okay for her to disrespect me. This caused her to respond again. It was in this response that we found out what was allegedly said, where it was allegedly said, and that it was one of our kids who said it. In this response, she also informed him that there should be a filter in place to make sure I don't disrespect her in front of family. Apparently, me being honest with my kids about my feelings toward someone & the reasons for those feelings is disrespectful, despite the fact that I actually put in a lot of effort to not be disrespectful when I speak of her around or to my husband & kids.

She is now not speaking to my husband, again. This is not the first time. Hell, it isn't even the first time she's stopped talking to him because she was pissed about something dealing with me. She has also unfreinded him on Facebook. She's pissed at my husband & at me. He's pissed at her. I'm feeling bad for him & pissed at her. Now we start months of her talking shit behind my back & his, while not speaking to either of us. Not that that's too far from when she is talking to him. Then it's her talking shit behind our backs while being all sweet & "I keep trying to reach out to your wife, but she just refuses to have a sisterly relationship with me" to my husband's face.

To be honest, I'm pissed at his mom, too. She knew my kid allegedly said something that allegedly hurt someone, and she intentionally kept that info from us. That really pisses me off. She kept important information about MY kids from me. She did it because my husband's sister asked her not to say anything to us about it. So, not only did she keep pertinent info about my kid from me, but by doing it at the request of her daughter she took her daughter's side in this, despite always telling us she planned to stay neutral & not get involved. Well, wtf do you think keeping this from us was? It was getting involved, which you said you wouldn't do!

The story keeps changing, too. Details get changed, depending on which version we hear & who we hear it from. My mother-in-law explained her not telling me about what my kid said with 3 different excuses A) so my child didn't get in trouble for repeating things I said in front of them (the child would not have gotten in trouble), B) as her way of not judging of me for what I said in front of my child (like I'm dumb enough to believe this crock of shit), and C) to stay out of the argument (I guess I'm expected to ignore the fact that there was not an actual argument going on at the time this all happened, which means there was no argument to stay out of). She is now pissed at me, too. I am too livid to actually speak to anyone in his family, right now. My husband wanted me to talk to his mom about it & explain my feelings about the current situation. So, I emailed her about it. Apparently, she's angry because I chose to email instead of call her. Her response even included "Who do you think you are writing this shit to me?" Who do I think I am? Really? I am the person she betrayed, despite her denials of betraying anyone. I am the person she kept important information from. I am the person she sided against, based on a comment from a child, a comment nobody ever bothered to verify or clarify with an adult in our household.

There is a part of me that wants to write her back & tell her off about a few things in her email - like her assumption that she knows me so well (several things she said prove quite the opposite), her thinking that she has some kind of right to argue my feelings & my level of anger (as if she knows my feelings & how angry I am more than I do), and the fact that she thinks she has the right to tell me what to do. I could also argue her comment about the "slight threat that you would withhold us seeing you & the kids," as no such thing was in my email. I did, quite honestly, inform her that my initial reaction was wanting to cut myself off from them. However, I also said that I had changed my mind & at no time did I mention cutting them off from the kids. I know, though, that responding would do no good & would just prolong this stupid fight. I really have no interest in prolonging this, so I have chosen to not respond at all.

I am done! I am done with his sister & her drama queen bullshit. I am done with his parents. I am done being anything more than civil. I am done trying not to hurt anyone. I am just done. I will not be inviting his family to anything. I will only go to stupid family things for my husband's sake. I want to walk away from this drama & bullshit now, before I lose the ability to hold onto even a modicum of diplomacy when dealing with them. Since I can't do that without causing harm to my marriage, I will cut contact down to as little as possible & be civil when I have to deal with them.

On days like this, the idea of my own private island or living by myself in a cave is so tempting.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Medieval Times & Renaissance - 3rd Grade

Battle of Hastings
Castles of Britain
Castles in Medieval Times
Hand Weapons
Siege Weapons
Siegecraft & Defense
Middle Ages Interactives
Heraldry Game
Heraldic Dictionary
Middle Ages
Mr Dowling
NOVA Medieval Siege
The Crusades
The Elizabethan World
Gode Cookery
History for Kids
The Tome
Medieval Recipes

Why Why Why Did Knights Wear Heavy Armor
You Wouldn't Want to be a Medieval Knight
Ye Castle Stinketh
A Medieval Feast
The Horrible, Miserable Middle Ages
What if You Met a Knight
Ms Frizzle's Adventures: Medieval Castle
Knights & Castles
About Castles and Crusaders
Henry VIII: Royal Beheader
The Axe and the Oath
Henry VIII
Two Histories of England
The World of Castles
Life in a Medieval Castle
The Middle Ages
Questions & Answers: Knights & Castles
Charlemagne and the Early Middle Ages
The Importance of Charlemagne
The World in the Time of Charlemagne
Life in the Renaissance: The Church
Life in the Renaissance: The Countryside
Leonardo da Vinci
The Italian Renaissance
Leonardo da Vinci
What Life Was Like in Europe's Romantic Era
Leonardo da Vinci
Outrageous Women of the Renaissance
Life in the Renaissance: The City

Historical Fiction:
The Seeing Stone
The King's Shadow
The middle Ages: An Interactive History Adventure
The Door in the Wall
The Castle in the Attic
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights
The Book of the Lion
Pagan's Crusade
Murder Most Medieval

Barbarians disc 1 & 2
The Madness of Henry VIII (National Geographic)
The Tower (series)
Monarchy (series)
History's Mysteries: The Inquisition
Inside Islam
Empires: Martin Luther
Scourge of the Black Death
King Arthur: His Life and Legends
The True Story of Hannibal
Da Vinci & the Code he Lived By
The Crusades: Crescent & the Cross
Islam: Empire of Faith
King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend
The True Story of Braveheart

Make a Meal
Make a Book of Days
Write a Code of Honor
Design a Coat of Arms
Build a trebuchet:

Build a Castle:
Ok, we had some issues with this one. We had planned to use this:
However, the plaster brick recipe they provided was off & we wasted a lot of plaster trying to find the right amounts. Then, we ended up not having enough bricks. The glue that came with it had solidified in the packaging, so was useless. Elmer's glue wasn't strong enough. We didn't want him using 2-part epoxy or hot glue (and 'we' includes Jay, as he doesn't like getting glue on himself, and knows that he isn't ready for epoxy or hot glue guns). We wanted him to be the one to do it, not me. It wasn't my project, it was his. Therefore, we agreed that he should be the one to build it, but could not agree on an adhesive. He tried building without any adhesive, and it collapsed before he got halfway there. So, we bought this:
$12 at Walmart. Foam bricks you can cut, paint, glue, or whatever else you want to do to them. He built his castle without any glue, so he could knock it down with his trebuchet.

The display board, knights, flag, and drawbridge are from the other castle building set. Of course, moments after this picture was shot, the invading hoarde fired their trebuchets & catapults. Flaming pieces of wood were shot over the castle walls, along with the heads of those killed on the battlefield. There were so few left to defend the castle, and the siege had gone on for so long. Sadly, the castle was overrun with enemies. All that is left now is the crumbling remnants of what was once a strong & beautiful fortress.

Da Vinci Kit:

We did the other activities, as well, but the flying machine model is the only one I took pics of.

2013 Reading Challenge

We did a reading challenge in 2012 where we read a different genre each month. We enjoyed it, and the kids were introduced to some genres they had previously given little to no thought. We all read some new books & new authors. We've decided to do things a little differently this year, though. We are going to read our way through the alphabet. We will start with A & work our way through Z. Assuming we want to continue this way, we'll then start back at A & do it again.

Here's the basic plan: Go to the A section. Chose a book that sounds interesting. Repeat with B - Z. Aim for  new authors. If you choose an author you've read before, at least choose a new book. Simple. There is no time limit. It's not A one month & B the next. It's just when you finish A, move to B.

The goal is the same - to expand the kids' horizons, expose them to new authors, writing styles, genres, and books. This way, there is no limiting genres by how many weeks or months in a year or by how many genres & sub-genres I can think of to add to the list. This way, there's no forcing them to read genres they don't like. 

We will, of course, still be reading books outside of this. I will be posting the books Jay & I read for this here, on my blog. I will be encouraging Dea to post hers on her blog.

Exploring Genres: December: Fantasy

The Hunger Games
Ghost Town
Killer Pizza

The Mercy Thompson series (books 1-6)

I did have several others checked out, but with everyone being sick during December, I simply didn't have the time or energy to do much reading.