Lose the Cape!

Lose the Cape

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Road trips with children...

My husband and I have always pledged, "We will never get a mini-van!" Even when we added number three, we found a solution to avoid becoming the stereotypical mini-van parents - third row seating SUV, enough to accommodate two adults and three children in car seats!

After all three were free of those restraints, my husband traded it in for his dream vehicle, the Jeep - aka, the tank. For short trips around town, the situation is acceptable, but for road trips? The trio crammed into the back seat, three adorable sardines, adorned with blankets, pillows, backpacks, and toys... For eleven hours, each way, trip completed twice a year, it is less than ideal!

Hour one - settling in...the excitement of the destination, engaged in games or books...music and conversation in the front seat, mostly bliss. Hour two - still ok, some restlessness, inevitably someone has to use the restroom...we stop. Hour three - 4, somewhat like first two, but the wiggles begin. Hour five- 6, wiggling becomes "scoot over!" "She's on my side!" "Isn't it my turn to play the (insert newest gaming device)?" The question that no road trip can ever avoid - "Are we there yet?!" Ahhhhh
It is still at least 4-5 hours to go. The knowing that the question will be asked no less than 30 times, the arguments, more frequent pee stops, ready to pop out the windows..."Are we there yet?!"

Rewind time around 30 (cough) years - a scene similar to the above, with the blankets and pillows, books and toys, two kids ride the ten or so hours to Grandma's house. There were just two of us - me and my younger brother, AND we were in a Bonneville! Still, the arguments would ensue over whose space ended where and the "Are we there yet?" drove our parents insane! Two kids, a larger back seat, for less hours…getting the picture?

After our white-knuckled, down back roads, trip home from NC in January - snow and ice in places that never saw either, let alone had the capacity to salt or clear them; we have re-thought the road trip. Soon, we will have two teenagers and a 9 year old, the eldest being as tall as I am and the middle soon-to-be. To save our nerves and brain cells, we are reverting to renting a mini-van for all future trips!

From a LONG time ago - but our favorite way that they travel - asleep!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The pretentious lanai...

I have mentioned our "pretentious lanai" more than a few times in my blog. I call it this because I had never heard the term "lanai" until searching for a new home in Florida. "Oh, it has a lovely lanai," was something I simply could not appreciate. Finally, I asked.

What I grew up calling a back porch or patio - that is what a lanai is. Mind you - porches can be on the front or the back of a home, as can patios, although they are usually more back. A lanai refers to a back porch or patio with a roof. Apparently, the term originated in Hawaii and Florida adopted it. Basically - if it has concrete, a roof, and is located in the back of a home, it is a lanai.

Ok, so the word "lanai" does sound Hawaiian, but in Florida, it just sounds pretentious to me. "Oh, what a lovely lanai you have," spoken in the snoodiest of accents. Our's being screened in makes it all the more pretentious - "Isn't our screened-in lanai marvelous?"Yet, it comes up in many blogs, due to the fact that I love to sit in my pretentious lanai and write, teach homeschool, watch wildlife, and the likes.

Recently, we added a roof to floor curtain on one side of the lanai. As the spring turns to summer, more and more of it would be flooded with sunlight and, therefore, heat. Adding the curtains cuts the outside temperature quite a bit and negates the need for sunscreen. (Also, it adds privacy, which is nice.) With the outdoor couch my husband added, it has become my favorite room in the house, or…hmm, my favorite room on the property? The overhead fan blowing and breeze from the lake, the curtains blocking heat and harmful rays, and a comfortable couch facing the water and wildlife - why wouldn't it be my favorite?! :)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Graveyard of love bugs...

It is May in Florida -the month where love bugs emerge from the bladed recesses of grass and weeds and wreak havoc on vehicle paint and walkways. If you aren't familiar with love bugs, the males are smaller than the females. When they take flight, they literally attach themselves to one another and are stuck this way until the male dies and the female lands to lay the eggs. First flight, breed, die - the life cycle of a love bug!

Every year, we scrape the guts of deceased off the paint and windshield of the car - this is nothing new…but this year, they have been bombing our front door. No less than two-hundred of the discarded males litter our front walkway and there are consistently at least twenty that are still paired in the entrance. Think conjoined birds, attached in opposing directions, trying to fly - yep, they don't get very far or fast! They just hover, moving sporadically, bumping into things and clinging to screens.

This is after many were already swept away…welcome, to the love bug morgue!

Friday, May 11, 2018

How do you say "Pecan?"...

Although I spent the majority of my childhood south of the Mason Dixon line, I was born in Ohio and raised by two (wonderful) parents who had lived in Ohio and Michigan all of their lives. In a home with predominantly northern accents and verbiage, more of that "stuck" than the environment around me. I suppose if I had friends who picked on my more northern accent or words, I may have developed the middle Tennessee "drawl" more, but that wasn't the case.

Pronunciations and word selection, not to mention accents, are very different - not just in the north or south, but all of America. Take the word, Pecan…I have heard it said three different ways, my pronunciation of the word varies between two of these: Pick-AHN and Pee-KAHN…as my favorite pie, I will call it whatever the baker would like! The third is PEE- can. Apparently, Pee-KAHN is the nationwide dominant pronunciation. PEE-can is popular up the East Coast and New England. It is Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma were the pick-AHN is used - this is odd, because neither of my parents or family are from these states, yet they use pick-AHN!

That brings me to my son's pronunciation of the word syrup. Almost the entire United States pronounces it as Sir-up. Only parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York areas use Sear-up. Despite the fact that no one in his immediate and extended family pronounce it that way, he says Sear-up. So why is that? And why do I say pecan differently? Who knows!

The reference of carbonated beverages also varies. A teacher of my son's did a FaceBook poll on what it is called and where the person was from. Over one hundred responses and all but two fit the "mold." The term "soda" is used in the Southwest, New England, FL, Georgia, the Carolinas, the Virginias, PA, and Missouri; "pop" in the north - coast to coast, minus New England; and "coke" in Southern Texas through Tennessee, with the states south of these. After we moved from Ohio to Tennessee, my dad once ordered a coke (assuming the brand - "Do you have coke?" "Yes," "Ok, I will have a coke."), but received a Pepsi. It was then that we learned that anything that is dark and carbonated is called a coke!

How do you express to someone that you would like to help relocate them from one position to another? Do you "take them to the store," "bring them to the store," or "carry them to the store?" Or how about working the lights - Do you "turn the lights on," "flip the lights on," or "cut the lights on?" The last of both of those was a North Carolina thing that we adjusted to, after moving there. You carry people to the store and you cut the lights on…odd - because you aren't physically carrying anything and cutting the lights usually goes with off, not on…anyway!

So - how do you say "Pecan?"

Monday, May 7, 2018

All zapped out….

Ah, the good old MacBook Pro…My husband got it over ten years ago. In his line of business (Computer networking, engineering, cloud, etc.), he has to update to something newer every few years. So, it became mine! Mac and I have done a lot of writing, blogging, bill paying, and research together. Although the bottom of the screen now glows (no clue why) and various marks and dents litter its surface, Mac has been ever-faithful, always getting the job done.

However, of late, Mac is getting cranky, shocking me…literally! If you have ever drug your feet across carpet, then touched something metal - it is that kind of sparked shock. Ouch! Perhaps, in his old age, he is becoming picky about how he is touched. He is becoming the elderly widower, living in the scary old house that kids are afraid to near, for fear of being eaten…or, in this case, zapped!

Using Florida Virtual for some of the middle school classes, however, requires being on a computer…which is usually mine. So, I ordered another laptop - it is a Levono  - microsoft and does what needs to, in regards to accessing excel, word, and the internet. No worries of being zapped for the kids, but I still prefer old Mac, despite the zaps. Maybe it is the keyboard layout or the less touchy mouse, but I just am not ready to retire this old Mac!

Then again, I am apple biased. After I was diagnosed with leukemia, at ten years old, the Make A Wish foundation sent a couple of representatives to the hospital. They told us all about the organization and asked what wish I wanted to make. Honestly, I had NO idea! I didn't want to meet a celebrity - my prednisone chipmunk cheeks, balding hair, and general feeling of sickness put a crimp in that idea. I was too young to drive. I had already been to Disneyland and Disney World. So - the top three that kids generally ask for - celebrities, vehicles, and vacations - were off my list.

Ever practical, even at ten, I wanted something that would last - something that would benefit more than just me, but my whole family. What did I eventually select (and even though I am officially dating myself with this comment) in the summer of 1988? An apple computer - a 2Gs, to be specific! For anyone born before 1985, you might remember that most people did not own computers in their homes.  We were the first in the neighborhood, that is for sure!

Apple didn't merely send the screen and hard drive of a 2Gs, though. They sent those and a color printer, mouse, joystick, and games, as well! To say they went all out would be an understatement. Showering me with a massive dose of love and encouragement, I was all smiles for weeks. (Ok, not when I had a bone marrow biopsy or spinal tap, but otherwise - smiles!)

Needless to say, Apple gained a fan. However, for a while there, when microsoft had the cheaper laptops, I was a customer. Let's face it, Apple did have some down time before the iPhone, iPad, iPods, ieverythings - but they got back into the game! Ouch! Zap! Calm down Mac, it's just a blog! :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"Some assembly required," or not...

Another geek peek here - I love to build things! My mother's father was a carpenter/builder and my mom's brother is still…amazing works of beauty, sketched-glass laced together with intricate woodwork and stone. Maybe it is in my genes, but I love to build!

I ordered a six-drawer tall/narrow dresser last weekend. The high ratings and perfect size, with "some assembly required" - I was sold. It arrived yesterday in a very tall and heavy box - way too narrow for anything to already be assembled. Hm. Apparently "some assembly required" means that I didn't have to measure and cut the wood, or drill little holes in various parts of the planks. I enjoy a challenge and was armed with screwdrivers and a hammer, so I read the directions. It was 6 pages of pictures, all incredibly vague with nothing labeled…but, neither was any of the wood or hardware! Going by hole positions, shapes of wheels, and sizes of screws, I began. 

If the pieces had been labeled and a FEW words of explanation offered, It would have shaved a good hour off the process. Two hours, a pinch bruise on the left pinky, blisters on the thumb, and a lacerated pointer finger later, it was complete. It turned out great and I really love it, but I must say two things. One - "some assembly required" isn't accurate. It should have read, "All assembly required, but don't worry - we cut the wood and have all the hardware. Labeling is absent and directions are vague, but you can do it!" 

Two - the builder and klutz genes collide into a physical oxymoron. Inserting a large zinc cam into a wooden hole shouldn't be an accident waiting to happen…but a misplaced pinky finger in the push? Yep.  Additional injuries, klutz related and occurring during the build - a toe was stubbed on a plank and ankle bruised; however, that is just me…walking around the labyrinth of wood and hardware! It is a recipe for disaster when the klutz picks up a hammer and nails! :)

Not the best picture - but, walah! :)

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Kitten Shower...

So, we went to a kitten shower a few days ago and it was amazing. We got to hold kittens and learned about a lot. It was so much fun! I can't wait for the next time, but let's talk about what we learned at the kitten shower. We learned a lot, as you know How to take care of a kitten and all the things they need, which is a LOT! I named one destiny with a blackish grayish coat. I loved that kitten! haha It would mew when it was away from me and it would relax if it was near me. Oh, and did i not tell you, I'm the youngest daughter of the blogger you read, who makes these blogs so well! Well, I'm gonna let the real blogger take over! haha!

Thank you, Anie, for your narration of the kitten shower! She snuck onto my laptop while I was away! ;)
With "Destiny" - 2 weeks old and eyes still are shut!
Were you aware that baby kittens are more needy than infant humans? With my three, I was able to enjoy 3-4 hour stretches of sleep, but kittens? Nope! Twenty-four hours a day, every two hours, begins the cycle of bottle feeding and bathroom time. Litter number determines whether this is a 20 minute thing or over an hour! I had no idea that kittens aren't able to use the bathroom on their own. Mother cats lick the baby's genitals to stimulate the nerves and muscles to urinate and defecate (pee and poop, folks, pee and poop!) So, caregivers to the baby kittens have to do the same; clarification - with a warm, moist tissue! :O Then, they have to be cleaned up afterward. Baby kittens also need specific temperature of warmth and cuddling, as well as extra medical care without the antibodies of their mother's milk. They are prone to digestive issues, respiratory infections, eye infections, etc..

So - why the kitten shower? The local animal shelter hosted a "kitten shower" for the public - open to anyone interested in fostering, adopting, or just curious about kitten care. My aspiring vet girls wanted the education, but also the kitten fix. :) During the class, two litters of kittens were brought into the shelter. The ones my kids were holding (and me, of course) were about 2 weeks old, a litter of five: two mostly black, two gray, and one black and white. The other litter was just shy of a week old, long umbilical cords still attached - a trio a calicos. So - eight cats in less than 2 hours, with twenty-three brought in the day before!!

Kittens apparently do not fare well in shelters - between the germs and the needs, ones without mothers need a foster home until they are old enough to be adopted (around 2 months or 2 lbs, when they can be "altered," aka, spay/neutered). Ones with more serious health issues generally go home with vets, techs, and shelter staff. With cats, there are three types of fosters: 1. Mother and kittens - this is the easiest route and great for first timers. The momma cat takes care of the kittens and the foster's main concern is caring for the momma (food, water, litter, etc.). 2. Weaned kittens - these are generally over one pound and about a month old. They don't need the care every couple of hours like the neonatal ones do. 3. Neonatal kittens, aka baby kittens - these are the ones described above - needing help with everything and the fosters full attention every couple of hours.

So - now that's all of that is out of the way (and if you are still reading and interested), a few more basics of fostering. 1. Limited to no cost to you - shelters pay for all vet bills, medicines, food, formula, etc. They do ask that you bring them in to be checked once a week, something that takes less than twenty minutes. 2. Fosters need to be kept away from all other pets - this means that a spare bathroom, laundry room, etc. are great places to keep them. It is for all the animals protection, as you wouldn't want your precious pets sick from something they might have or the babies from, well, everything that healthy animals have! 3. Shelters are more than ok with take-backs and foster failures. Take-backs are when a foster comes home and realizes they just can't do it - this happens and shelters are ready for it. They are just grateful that the kittens had a day or two of not being in the shelter, exposed! Foster failures are when fosters just don't want to say goodbye to their balls of furry cuteness and end up adopting instead. Again, shelters are very understanding and appreciative!

Before Saturday, my exhaustive understanding, if we shall call it that, was that fostering baby kittens required bottle feedings, personal time, and are for a duration of around a couple of weeks or months. All of this is true, but I was clueless to the facts that can't pee or poop on their own, how poorly they thrive in shelters, and the extent of need for foster families!

This little guy would only eat and pee for Ab!
Evan getting his snuggles in

** NOTE: If you find a litter of stray kittens without a momma nearby, do NOT take the kittens. Watch and see when the momma comes back. Momma cats are like us human mommas - sometimes we just need a break or a snack! Rarely do the mother cats actually abandon their litters. However, bringing in the mother AND her kittens to a shelter is a great idea!

Yes, of course I got my furry fix, too!!
A funny "who's on first" type moment, from when this picture was taken. (Who's on first, what's on second, and I don't know is on third - Abbott and Costello comedy routine)
Evan: Ohhh, mommy, he's asleep!
Me: His eyes haven't opened yet.
Evan: I know, he's sleeping!
Me: No, his eyes haven't opened yet, Evan.
Evan: I know, it's so cute, he's sleeping.
Me: (Sigh) No, his eyes haven't EVER opened yet, he's only about 2 weeks old and baby kittens don't open their eyes until they are older than that.
Evan: Ooooohhhhhhhhhh.
He must have been gazing longingly at the donuts when the vet mentioned that part. ;)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Shhhhhh - Daddy's working!"...

There are wonderful aspects of having a husband who works from home - no lost time driving to/from work, enjoying impromptu lunches on the lanai, no need to find a sitter for a sick kiddo, etc. The list is vast. However, when homeschooling three children, the quiet blocks of time are, well, limited! Much of each day, it doesn't impact our lives; but when phone/video meetings are scheduled, it does.

"SHHHHH - Daddy is working!!!"
That phrase is uttered no less than five times a day, sometimes upward of thirty…like today.

It all began with my son letting the cat, Sassafras, out onto our pretentious lanai without checking for anoles. "Mom, Sassafras has an anole in her mouth."

I thought he was messing with me, so I ignored the comment until rounding the corner to see just that. Sigh. Outside we go. She dropped the anole for a second before chasing it again, us on her heels. Evan left the door open, so when we grabbed the cat, the anole escaped into the house. If you have ever tried to catch an anole - it is a very tricky exercise, often involving a bowl and at least three people! This time, I just let Sassafras do the work. (Remember, this is during one of those "I need it to be quiet" work calls and Anie's squeals were more than enough to invoke a "be quiet!")
I picked up Sassafras, poor anole in mouth, and we went back outside, where I had her drop it. Toting her back in, I tell Evan to pick up the anole and put it outside. Um…I think he would have rather picked up a spider…or a bear cub. :O So, out I go and AGAIN, he doesn't shut the door…so, out runs the cat. Let the cycle begin again!

Eventually, I had Sassafras on the inside and the anole into the grass. Amazingly, the cat's play and bite was soft enough for him to run away quickly - anoles are pretty resilient. :)
To anyone unfamiliar with anoles - here is a little one! (Think gecko, but smaller)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Flooding the kitchen...

As a continuation of the previous post, my son did stay true to his gender, but not in such a gag-inducing way.  (See "Painting with Poop" for that one.) After coming home from a playdate, I put on one of the kids favorite shows and ran upstairs to change my clothes. Apparently, a toddler can do an incredible amount of damage in a 7-10 minute window of time. When I stepped into the kitchen, my feet felt it - the wet. I looked to my left, where only my daughter still sat on the couch, eyes glued to the animated entertainment that I so wrongly assumed would keep them both occupied. Looking to the right, I saw him, a bowl in his hands, frozen like a statue in front of the fridge. At his feet was the kids' toilet chair insert, already overflowing with water. 

"What are you doing?!"

"Ummmmm. Don't ask me dat!" Mr. cute furrowed forehead tells me.

"Why is the floor all wet?" (Mind you, I was at least 6 feet away from him.) "Cause I made it," he said, proudly.

"Why in the world would you want to make the floor wet?!" I am trying to remain calm…poorly.

"Cause I going swimming!!" He is so proud. (I Sigh.) "See, I get water here, den I put water dare, den I make a pool!"

Yes, he got water out of the fridge via a bowl, then dumped it into the toilet insert, and, once full, onto the floor. I later found out that desk was also wet and puzzle pieces were floating in the drawers! At least the mess was made entirely from water…unless there was something in the toilet bowl insert before he started…oh dear!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Painting with poop….

My mom once told me, “Cleaning your house with kids playing is like trying to brush your teeth while eating an oreo cookie.” The “pre-kiddos” me was borderline OCD - anything other than perfectly straightened and clean was heart chaos. After my first was born, I was able to maintain that semblance of peace and tidy, but, nineteen months later, that all went sideways. Adding number two meant a lot more, well, number two! My only means of sanity was learning how to ignore the clutter and letting go of my ideal household. Still, there are those huge messes - the broadsiding “this is going to take hours to clean up” types - that can really get to us. These are the embraceable disarray.

It is said that boys make bigger and more disgusting messes than girls, but in our family, it isn't my son that has caused the most chaotic upheaval, but my daughters that do! For instance, my artist. When she was a little less than two years of age, one of her masterpieces stunk…literally. After waking early from a morning nap, she was suspiciously quiet, but happy - so I continued cleaning my bathroom, instead of going in to check on her. Bad move! She had climbed out of her crib and decided to add to the artwork already in the room. Using the dark clumps her digestive track had created after waking, she proceeded to scoop out pieces and use them as brown finger paints - coloring pictures on the walls, furniture, and some toys. Imagine my amazement when I opened her door! First, I was greeted by the lovely aroma accompanying such creative artistry. Then, her happy face and "'ook, momma! I 'ainted deese!" If she hadn't have been so cute and proud of herself, I may have had a major meltdown right then and there. Embracing the disarray, I praised her handy work before explaining that we don’t use poop as paint!

A more graceful use of paint, albeit still messy, from 12 years ago!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Playing games with Sandhill Cranes….

Here in Florida, we have a wide variety of large birds. My personal favorite is the Sandhill Crane - large, light brown body with a long neck, topped by a small head, red colored capping, and long beak. Although they walk like the 80s "King Tut" dance, they truly are graceful. Each spring, a tiny, orange puffball or two are often spotted, awkwardly following around their  tall parents. It is amazing how much personality is packed into their tiny brains - curiosity, their social nature, the way the tilt their heads while listening... Even though we have never fed them, our pair, lovingly named Bernard and Bernice, strut around for a "talk," gracing us with their presence while we sit on our pretentiously named lanai.

One day (clearly we were bored…or just facetious), we opted to find a video of Sandhill Cranes mating. Playing it on my phone, Bernard became all flustered, making the Raptor like call-back sounds to the unseen cranes. He urged Bernice along (who I swear had a "seriously, Bernard, you aren't falling for this?!" look on her face) and then went looking for the invisible others. I suppose that was more of the start of the story than the end, though. It was after having our little fun that the pair became frequent visitors.

Sassafras, our cat, is especially intrigued by the pair, which tower over her in height. She likes watching them…and Bernard, well, he likes watching Sassafras, as well. He will slowly creep closer and closer to the screen, listening to Sassafras's little squeaks and gurgling responses. (Again, Bernice stays far removed, watching Bernard like he has lost his mind, occasionally turning away from him completely - her stance against his insanity!) The first time Bernard and Sassafras met, I thought he would try to poke his beak through the screen (or Sassafras would jump up and tear it) - nope. He will put his beak downward and push in a bit, gurgling all the while…until the cat-like instinctual need to jump up a bit occurs and he flutters back a few steps…and does it all again. It is entirely too entertaining to watch, nature channel in real time.
Bernard approaching Sassafras - let the games begin!

Monday, March 26, 2018

When Moms can't wait for school breaks (homeschooling)...

Usually, longer school breaks are a mother's nightmare. After the initial, "Yeah! They are home! Yeah, we are out of school!" wears off, it is onto the, "Now, what will I do with them? Mom…I'm bored!!" The everyday things that define a school-day schedule, whether for the stay-at-home mom or the working one, become derailed. Cleaning a bathroom can take hours, with the multiple interruptions of someone needing something or an argument to mediate. When it is too hot, cold, or rainy for hours to be spent outside, then what? Arts and crafts, trips to the zoo, "play with all the toys cluttering up your room!!" and the likes? Then, what?

I, however, as well as the vast majority of homeschooling moms, do the happy dance! (I am guessing this goes for teachers, as well?) Why? Well, first, the obvious - they are home the majority of the time, already - we are used to it!  Navigating the schedule of cleaning amidst the chaos, constant interruptions, and the likes are nothing new. We don't need the adjustment period of quiet and productive to loud and stopped. The second? No planning the school days, curriculum deciding, juggling teaching and homework, no pencils to sharpen…the bliss of nothing school!

Homeschooling three kids at different levels is challenging, I won't lie. There is no sick time off (seriously, I am the mean momma - unless you have the flu or are throwing up, we still do school work!) and there are days where I can start with one kid at 9am and still be completing with another at 8pm! I get burned out, spent. Two kids with ADHD, one with autism, and all three being, well, kids…yep. (I am in complete awe of teachers - the ones who are 100% in, caring, tuned into their pupils' needs, day in and out, with 20 plus students - absolute awe and admiration! Honestly, if it weren't for FL virtual and the hybrid homeschool, I think I would cave to my personal preferences (peace and quiet during the day, all errands and housework done before kids go to bed, spending more time writing and such) instead of doing what I know is best for them as individuals.

Back to the topic - school breaks! The big summer one starts in a little over a month! I have a mental countdown going…. - School is out for the summer! Homeschool moms and teachers - get on your happy dancing shoes, cause it is coming soon!!

Today, I am too tired for the happy dance - toes up and relaxing in the sunshine of the pretentious lanai will do!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Why would I want to move to Florida?!...

Growing up, each spring break, my family would pile into the old Boneville and drive the long stretch of I-75, making our way from middle Tennessee to Brooksville, Florida. My father's mother's parents lived there in a hybrid, trailer home/small homes retirement community. As the youngest by a few decades, my brother and I stuck out as the"young'ns" who didn't belong. We would ride rusty bikes under the pines and branches, ground littered with Loblolly pine and sweet gum tree droppings, for hours and sneak into the "seniors only," indoor pool. On occasion, we would go over to Disney World or do other tourist-y type things. As for my impressions of Florida: hotter than where we lived, where the elderly went to retire, college kids went to party, and people from other countries came to see Mickey Mouse - it wasn't where couples moved and had families, right?

When my parents moved to Florida (for Dad's job), my first thought was, "Well, that is going to make for hot summer visits!" My Mom would joke, "So, wanna move to Florida?" Um, No. A) Too hot. B) Filled with geriatrics, spring breakers, and tourists. C) Too hot. D) No mountains….Um, No! In fact, if I had to move from our lovely Raleigh, North Carolina, it would be about anywhere BUT Florida!

So, if you are as biased against Florida as a place to raise a family (all the while not melting from heat, covering kiddos eyes when a spring breaker passed by, and any other preconceived misconceptions about the state) - we used to be one of you. (Disclosure statement - perhaps I shouldn't claim the entire state for the following, but there are plenty of locations here that the following rings true.)

Then, we began discovering things about Florida. First off, although there may be a hearing aid store in every strip mall, there were just as many (actually more) families and people our age as there were any other age (aka, elderly and college spring-breakers). Second, it may get hot in the summer, but (at least in the bay) afternoon showers cool the temperature considerably. This means cooler evenings to sit out and enjoy the pretentious lanais (something that we couldn't do in Raleigh - hot stayed hot and evening wasn't really cooler). Third, again with weather, summers weren't really hotter than Raleigh - there will be many weeks when Florida is 5-10 degrees cooler! As for "winter" - my arthritis is very happy with the lack of cold weather! (The downside in the weather is that it isn't until Jan/Feb that we see colorful, autumn leaves, which turn back to green instead of falling…I love autumn, my favorite season - and nothing beats the fall leaves in NC. Also, it was an adjustment to wear short sleeves at Christmas!)

Fourth, no state income taxes - got to love that, right? Fifth, Florida's homeschooling, ahem, "home education." It is completely different than North Carolina, as the student is registered to their county's public school system, listed as home educated. With this, they do require yearly evaluations (which we were doing anyways) to maintain the status. However, they also provide whatever is needed to educate, for free. In upper grades, a student can come into their zoned school and take some classes, then head home. (Read: If you are concerned that your chemistry lover will set your home on fire, send them in for that subject! ha) They also offer free virtual schools - whether full time (which is technically not home educated, just public school done away from the classroom) or part time (some of the subjects). The teachers are wonderful, as are the classes. For me, a mother of three kiddos in different grade levels, it takes the selection, weekly planning, and teaching of certain classes completely off my plate! Also, there are many hybrid schools - ones that offer everything from core classes to electives and languages - which meet 1 - 3 days/ week, so the kids are in structured classes with peers, teachers other than me, etc. Because "home educated" is perceived as what it is, a school option, I have yet to receive one single disdainful look from anyone when they discover we homeschool. If anything, it is "I wish I could do that!" Florida also gives "perks" to homeschooling families - with our current homeschool card, our family of five can go to Legoland for the price of one adult! Other parks give discounts, as do aquariums, zoos, etc. Homeschool days bring together families all over the state for interactive and educative fun.

I do love North Carolina - after living in the mountains and the coast, actually, four different areas in the state, it was the place I officially lived the most amount of years. (Tennessee, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, California being those other states, in order of time there.) It has the fall leaves, ski slopes, and climbing of the Appalachian Mountains and the beaches, Outer Banks. Luckily, my husband's family and brother, sister-in-law, and nephew still live in North Carolina - so wonderful reasons to return and visit. But…when I am sitting out in the mid 70s sunshine while NC is being blanketed with snow? Yep, I do love that about Florida!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Job opportunity and description: Motherhood...

Job opportunity: Motherhood

Experience/schooling required: Birthing mothers - Legally, none. Adopted mothers - see below, the list is extensive and exhaustive.

Pay/hour and year: $0

Compensation: See below, must read entire job description and requirements first.

Duration of job: Infinite, 18 plus years of full time work. Year 19-death - part time work and full time concern, worry, and second guessing your job performance in the first 18 years. There is no definite end date for this job and, unlike most jobs, quitting is not optional.

Hours: 24 hours/day, 7 days/week; 52 weeks/year (add additional day/four years for leap year).

Vacation Days: subject to the Employees support of family and friends.

Physical Requirements:
For birthing mothers: First 9 months of job - must be willing to gain at least 20 lbs over a 9 month period of time (although, it is more likely to be 30+) with the understanding that it will not go away after the 4-12lb child is born. Must be willing to endure nausea, breast pain, general fatigue, aching bones, swift kicks to the stomach, ribs, and sides (from the child), comments about your state of being, unsolicited comments and stories about the horrors of child bearing, etc. Note: you must understand that delivery of child could take hours to days, will be painful (from rather painful until an epidural is given to extremely painful if not), will change your pelvic bones permanently, and may present the following: hemorrhoids, ripping/tearing of vaginal walls, prolapsing of vagina, uterus, bladder, and/or rectum, stitches, etc.
For all mothers: Next 1-2 years of job - must understand that sleep is not completed in a normal time frame, often interrupted hourly, and sometimes nonexistent; so must be able to fulfill a rigorous schedule on limited sleep. Buying coffee in bulk is recommended. Must be able to lift and hold, occasionally sway, rock, or bounce the child's 10-30+ lbs for hours at a time. Must be able to bend, twist, squat, and stretch. Changing diapers, bathing, feeding, soothing, etc. are daily requirements. Understand that, at times, any of these activities may result in urine arching unnaturally, feces oozing over changing spaces, spit-up stained clothing (on child and mother), etc. For those feeding via breast, expect pain upon latching, tender nipples, possible infections, leaking breasts, and future sagging ones. Those who are not, expect unsolicited comments about the benefits of breastfeeding, questions to why you are not doing so, an overwhelming selections of bottle, nipple, and formula choices, and the inconvenience of preparing bottles on the go.
Years 3-18: Greatly dependent upon the individual needs of the child, but expect the weight lifting requirements to increase. Be prepared to bend, squat, and pull a flailing child from a grocery store floor after the denial of any demanded purchase. In two story homes, climbing stairs no less than 40 times/day is required  - please see your primary physician regularly.

Financial Requirements:
For birthing mothers: Costs of prenatal care and labor, hospital, and other such medical expenses; maternity clothing, nursing bras and pads, and transitional clothing. All the above are the responsibility of the employee and their family.
For adopting mothers: Costs of paperwork, agency expenses, occasionally the prenatal/labor of the birthing mother are required. Again, we do not compensate for adoption costs.
All mothers: Costs of baby care - extend from clothing, diapers, and wipes; to dietary needs, sleeping and playing structures, etc. Note - a car seat MUST be present to discharge a baby into your care and car. Well care, sick visits, etc. are monthly to yearly requirements; insurance coverage for medical expenditures alters these costs from expensive to ridiculously expensive. Expect these expenses to grow, not recede, as the child ages. (For accident-proned children, expect ER visits, costs of casting, stitches, and other such things.) Additionally, power and water bills will double each year - laundry, dirty dishes, lights left on, night lights, water left running, etc. are just part of the cause. Although you may teach your child to turn off lights and faucets, these bills can still be mind boggling - it is advised that you consume a large beverage of choice or valium before reading these bills.

Medical Experience/Requirements:
For birthing mothers: Legally, none - however the ability to apply bandages, deal with screaming and bleeding children, knowledge of first aid, CPR, dialing 911, etc. are preferable.
For adopting mothers: Agency dependent.
Please note, that once the child reaches prepubescent years, understanding of human anatomy and ability to teach/discuss said anatomy to a child, despite embarrassment or discomfort, is required. Not having this conversation can result in negative results. For female children, be prepared for monthly meltdowns, soothing a balled up and cramping child, and irrational emotions. These are normal. They are, however, not singular to the female children. In some situations, your child may have additional, on-going medical needs, from physical to emotional and mental. Examples: ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum, developmental delays, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, diseases, cancers, etc. This is not a complete list and, in the case of multiple children, you may have more than one with these on-going needs at a time. You will need to create self-soothing mechanisms for dealing with these needs and suggest discussing these with other mothers. (Although we have extensively searched for stores selling sanity, unfortunately, none have this in stock…ever.)

Emotional Requirements: A strong emotional/mental constitution is required to deal with the non-stop, loud screaming and crying, sometimes for hours on end. Must be able to either reproach or ignore incessant whining, screaming, tantrums, fighting, door slamming, more whining, flailing, shrieking, lying, blame placing, more excessive whining, irritating sounds, music and lyrics that you hate, mind numbing television and movies that "help the cognitive abilities of your child," hitting, biting, slapping, scratching, poking, repetitive activities, still more whining, spitting, booger picking, poop smearing, crayon marks on walls, broken valuables, food and beverage stained floors and furniture, even more whining, singular obsessions, lost library books, soiled clothing, etc. Note - however annoying, frustrating, or disheartening, expect unsolicited advice at all stages of Motherhood - from friends and family to complete strangers. You will be told how "they" did it, what you should be doing, what you are doing wrong, and the various ways you should improve. To avoid self meltdowns, hiding in the closet with wine and/or chocolates, please grow a thick skin and remember that they do not have exact duplicates of your children and are not you. Although they might have an idea of your life, they do not live it, so take their "advice" with a grain of salt. However, from those who love you, do keep an open ear and mind…especially if words come from those who have raised children of their own - they may have some unexpected pearls of wisdom and (hopefully) are only speaking to help, not hurt.

Job expectations:
Birthing Motherhood - To carry and birth a child, pounds ranging. Please note: alcohol, drug, and tobacco consumption is not allowed, shellfish and raw fish to be avoided, and there is a list of pharmaceuticals to be cautious about. Please consult your prenatal physician for this mind boggling information.
Adopting Motherhood - hours of endless paperwork, raised and dashed hopes of possible babies/children, uncertainty over the fact that the birthing mother can change their mind, understanding cultural rules and structures (if adopting outside your country or origin), intrusive home visits and classes. (Note, although not listed above, do not be surprised by questioning from strangers about your purpose for adopting or assumption that your significant other is of a differing ethnicity, if the child's "race"is not the same as yours.)
All motherhood - Care for the daily wellbeing of a child, from infant to adulthood - feed, clothe, change, bathe, clip nails, soothe, etc. Your role is not limited to caregiver. You are also expected to be their teacher (always in practical life skills; however, there is a separate form for those taking on the role of homeschooler), psychologist, fight mediator, life guard, cook, housekeeper (cleaning, laundry, etc.), personal shopper, sounding board, etc. A general understanding of the legal process is recommended - as you should expect your child to argue his/her case from toddler to adult stages. These additional roles may vary, spouse/partner/other help dependent, and may require more or less than listed. Also, as we can not guarantee an "easy" baby; therefore, rolls might vastly differ in degree of difficulty. Multitasking is a must, this includes being constantly interrupted or changing both pace and place in a nearly inhuman way. You may believe that superpowers would be preferred, but understand these are fictional. We do not expect you to contain these, even if your expectations do not parallel ours. Please understand that you must not expect gratitude for this job. In the teen years, you may be loathed and hated (or at least claims of such). Do not apply for this job if you cannot accept this.

Side effects of job:
Birthing mothers - Weight changes, hormonal havoc, and emotional distress over your roles for the job are all expected in the first 9 months. (As well as those listed in the physical requirements section above.) In the following months to years, in addition to these: change in the state of your vagina, altering size and position of breasts, aching back/joints, etc.
All mothers - Expect wrinkles, graying hair, occasionally thinning of hair, physically appearing older than you are, scars, and other such changes to outward appearance. (Note: At some point, you will be the one giving unsolicited advice, most likely, without realization. This is a side effect of Motherhood.) Bragging about your awesome child - this is a side effect from disillusionment or actually having that one overly exceptional child. In the case of the latter, please be considerate to other mothers in your gushing, as they may not have one as brilliant, beautiful, obedient, or stellar as yours. In dealing with the deluded ones, smiling and nodding is generally the best tone to take, as you can not reason with the disillusioned. If you are that mother, well…we are sorry.
Often, an unexpected side effect occurs, in the form of understanding more about your own mother. The results from this understanding can vary from gratitude and closeness to some "aha" moments.

Benefits: If you have read this far, you are prepared (or at least believe yourself to be) for this job. These vary from individual to individual, but general benefits are observing a string of "firsts" (first bath, first tooth, first solid food, first step, first night of full sleeping, first haircut, first day of school, etc.); watching a tiny infant grow into a full grown adult, with all changes along the way; experiencing a "never-dull" existence, full of adventures and heart glowing moments; etc.
The benefit that most of our employees agree upon, however, is the love. You can expect to understand love as you never have before - selfless, full hearted, not dependent on the other person, never ceasing, unexpected love. From the moment you meet, whether in a delivery room or years later in an adoption location, there is an inexplicable love for this needy person of flesh and bones. This gift of joy, opportunity, life - whether your job position is cut unexpectedly short or lasts until you leave this earth, is unique and only a position that you can fill!

(PS - thank you "Green" for your feedback before posting this!!)

Friday, March 2, 2018

The unexpected uses of tobacco...

I already spoke about the benefits of having ground coffee in the house (for more than the obvious consumption), but there is another item I always have on hand. Hidden in my sock drawer is a pack of cigarettes. 

Why? Rewind, again, to around 2002. Enjoying the summer sun, while highlighting scribbled notes for a college history exam, I spotted a stray kitten under my father-in-law's car. The later named and beloved "Spooky" created a domino effect of catastrophes as my husband, mother and father-in-law, and I tried to catch him. 

For me, it was stepping on a yellow jacket. (For those not familiar - a yellow jacket belongs to the wasp family, but is yellow and black, appearing more like a fierce bumble bee than a wasp.) In the seconds between my bare foot landing on the winged beast and actually hurting it, it managed to sting me three times. I have been stung and/or bit by many an insect, wasps, bees, and hornets included; however, non induced the pain as that trio from the yellow jacket! 

My father-in-law came to the rescue on that one - slicing open a cigarette, he wet and packed the tobacco onto the stings. Within minutes the swelling and pain decreased! (It is the nicotine in the tobacco that provides this magical result.) I kept those stings packed and taped on for much of the day.

After that visit, I bought a pack of cigarettes to have nearby, in case of future unwanted stings. To this day, it is still in its wrapping, but still - ready and waiting for the inevitable day that it will be opened and used for its unique purpose! 
(Picture from Wikimedia Commons)