Thursday, March 23, 2017

I post this picture to illustrate what my life is like these days. Not because it's a great picture (which it is) but because this was MEANT to be my holiday card picture. I send cards every year, real cards, that I write in by hand with a nice little personalized Christmas message. I also enclose a picture and a letter detailing what we've been up to the past year. I love it. I send almost a hundred every year and it's a wonderful tradition that I'm very happy with.

However. This year I COULD NOT get the picture to work. My friend took this one of us when I realized that the pictures I'd had my dad take in August were not accessible from any phone but his. Then for a long time I couldn't figure out how to access this one, either. Finally my husband just emailed it to me (old school tech.) Even then I couldn't get it to print properly on our printer. It kept coming out all yellowed. I decided to spring for actual photos, and went to Shutterfly to place an order for pick up at Target. They wouldn't let me order more than 9. In case you missed that part, I send 10x that number of cards.

So, I could have called them, maybe, and tried to figure it out, but since it was pretty much a week till Christmas at that point I called it and decided no picture with my card this year.

And that's everything right now. Good intentions + massive effort = dismal failure. Let's review!

Homeschool
It's hard to view this year's attempt at homeschooling as anything but a flaming trainwreck, unless it's to look at it as a dumpster fire. I could not get my 10 year old to do anything. For the first three months we went on a field trip every week and kept a loose schedule to see where her interests and learning style lay. When that resulted in very little work being accomplished, I put together a daily schedule and sat beside her to work on every subject. She got WORSE. Over Thanksgiving I had many conversations with her, my husband, and friends who homeschooled, and the best we could determine was that she was sabotaging the experience because she hated being at home. She claimed she didn't know how to write a paragraph, so I assigned her one sentence. She couldn't even do that. Literally, lying on the floor, kicking her legs and crying, claiming she "didn't know what to write." I started bringing her to the library every morning for three hours and whatever was done in that time was our work for the day. I had to limit the number of hours that I'd work with her because otherwise it ate up the whole day. Every science test I gave her was an F. She wasn't on track to finish her math at grade level. She wouldn't do her writing assignments or her grammar. The only thing she enjoyed was Latin and read-alouds. If she had been doing art, or anything constructive, I could have at least pointed to that and said, hey, she's learning and growing in this area, so it's okay. But after about a month of homeschool, she refused to work on her art at all.

During this same period of time, my son refused to do the work assigned to him by his homeschool co-op, and during conferences managed to convince them that he'd learn better if he did all his work online. After Thanksgiving, seeing that he had turned nothing in and was spending his "school hours" playing video games, I sat him at a computer where I could see the screen to ensure that he was actually doing work. Still, he wouldn't turn in his projects. On the last day of the semester I went in to his co-op for a celebration, and tracked down one of his teachers to let her know that he was prepared to present four projects that day. She'd had no idea he'd even done them. He ended the semester with a D, two Cs, and a B-. And that B- was an F before I intervened. So we thought about it and determined that it wasn't working, and we needed to accept that and change course. They both started at public school by the third week of January and are doing well. My daughter keeps asking to be homeschooled next year because she doesn't like all the homework. But seeing what she's able to produce in the environment vs what she refused to do with me, I can't see that homeschool is at all an option for us anymore.

Whole 30
After we got back from our Disney Trip, I put the family on a Whole 30 diet. Mostly I wanted to curtail the habits we'd picked up over the holidays of having dessert 3-4 times a day and whining for snacks constantly. My husband and I also wanted to lose some weight, as we didn't fit into our pants. For me, there were health issues I wanted to cure, as I've had stomachaches, heartburn, and digestive issues (to state it delicately!) The diet itself was fine; it was difficult but not impossible. We ate a lot of fruit which helped with sugar cravings, and I had a repertoire of recipes from GAPS and from friends who have gone through it. Unfortunately, I saw no improvement of any kind, whether in weight loss or reduction of my cravings or digestive symptoms. My husband says he lost some weight, but I don't think either of us saw the results we were hoping for, especially considering how much work I put into cooking every single meal for those 30 days. (Part of the diet involves not eating out.) So I am still eating a limited diet to avoid aggravating my heartburn, and wearing skirts and sweatpants as much as possible. Not happy.

The Book
Is still on hiatus. I stopped writing a year ago (April 2016) because I just couldn't handle having a puppy on top of everything else. I had too much work to be able to take a whole Saturday and write. Once the kids went back to school, people were asking if I planned to work on the book again. The short answer is, no. Not yet. To my mind, the book is a huge time and resource commitment with a slim chance of low return. Getting published requires more than talent and hard work; you have to also write the sort of book publishers are looking for right now, and that people want to read. Short of stumbling upon some sort of Harry Potter or Twilight niche, the best I can hope for is to make around $20,000. So I've never felt that it was appropriate to expend my family's resources on writing when my contributions are so necessary in other areas. But the real reason is that I just don't think I'm good enough at writing to get anywhere with it. It's going to have to be a hobby for me; not a profession. My husband says that's exactly the wrong attitude, and if I want to be a successful writer I have to make failure a non-option. That the only way to get better at it is to sink time and energy and training into becoming better. It's wonderful to have someone who believes in me, and I appreciate everything he's saying. I'm sure he's right. But again it comes down to the fact that this can't be the right time for me to invest in the book. We are investing in other things right now. The book must wait.

Parenting
People insist that I have great kids. I agree, but it's not easy to get them there. I am very tired of the fighting and arguing. On the one hand there's been great improvement in this area because my confidence as an authority has skyrocketed in the last year. I know that it's right for me to manage their screen time, to insist they eat a balanced diet, to require them to help around the house. So I expect all these things, and, as children do, they fight me constantly because they don't want to do them. Each child has his/her own unique method of resistance. Maizie fusses and cries and complains. Pookie screams "I hate you!" hits, and calls me stupid. Doob does a bad job and claims it should count. And Ginny shuts down and refuses to comply, then offers snide remarks to extended family at my expense. Among the many fine abilities my husband has, discipline is not one. Nor does he have time to figure out and enforce the massive network of rules and arrangements I've established with the kids. The end result is that I expend an enormous amount of work (mental and otherwise) to keep on top of the kids. I really feel parenting shouldn't be quite this hard, and I'm wondering when the fruits of my labors are going to show. The truth is, sometimes I don't like being around any of them. Those fleeting moments of joy, like when I watch my 5 year old riding a bike for the first time, or hear the peals of laughter as all four jump on the trampoline together, or receive a spontaneous hug from the 3 year old, are present every day and make the journey worthwhile. Yet they are too few to really sustain me.

Prayer
It will come as no surprise, given this self-indulgent and whiny post, that my prayer life has been a struggle, too. When I find time and energy to be with the Lord, I feel so much better. Going on a mini-retreat with my mother's group, reading a spiritual book, or even something as simple as listening to Christian music is enough to draw me right back to where I am fed and sustained from the grace of God. Yet there is SO MUCH NOISE, not just in my house but in my head. Concentrating on anything is so difficult. What I really long for is escape...re-reading a book I love, or imagining scenes from my world in my head. Prayer takes effort, and I have expended so much elsewhere that it's hard to find the motivation. I know that I need it. I know that it will help me. I want to do it, yet I don't. I feel much like a person who realizes that cooking an actual meal will nourish them best, but they grab a packet of potato chips instead. Not that I do that. I am a superstar on the nutritional front. But I'm filling up on processed prayer.

I know that the answer is quite simple. Trust God. Keep moving forward. Do what's right and the rest will follow. I know that I'm a good parent, and my kids will be fine. I would love to just shut off the neurotic parts of my brain that question everything I do and whisper that I'm the problem. I envy the amazing women in my life who don't overthink every damn little thing. I can recognize, intellectually, that things are getting better.

I know I am slightly (if not severely) depressed. My OB and I are working on some supplements that may help better than the SSRIs I was on for three years (and which I didn't feel did much.) In the meantime, I'm just going to keep doing what I need to do and seizing joy wherever it finds me. Most days are better than today.

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