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October 29, 2011

    Today I sit while B goes through the advanced placement testing.  Again.  The kids were scheduled at different times this morning, but fortunately our early morning kid was the one scheduled for 8:30 am and our sleep-in kid scheduled for 10:30.  It is clear to me that it is time to insist that A move to the upper math class.  And set up the kids for private testing so that there is no question about his placement next year.  I feel like a failure as a parent for falling down on these two issues so far.  I can only imagine that they feel just as badly.  I know A feels bewildered for being "demoted" to the lower math group.  I know B was anxious last night about getting to sleep so he could get a "good grade."  Mostly I feel like I do a good job parenting, but this school/grade/gifted/placement stuff has me all twisted up.  I have my own experience growing up, which tells me that challenge and gifted programs and a parent advocating for your academic success is a good thing.  I have my Stanford experience, which was fabulous, and something I want to gift to my kids somehow.  I have knowledge of the fixed and learning mindsets such that I want to not only change my own tendencies towards the fixed mindset, but also give a learning mindset to my kids as well.  I also watch other systems and the kids that prosper in them: the PYP/IB program in the international school they attended, and the homeschooling success of some of my friends.  I simultaneously believe that they will do fine in any system, and am not at all certain that what I'm doing is the right thing.  How do I give my kids the happiness and love for learning I want them to have?  How do I ensure they follow and reach their dreams after they graduate from high school, whatever those dreams may be?  And given those goals, how do I navigate these little decisions and choices that will have such a big (but unknown) impact on the flow of their lives?

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October 24, 2011

    Today was the first day back after our return from my 20th reunion.  C and I went without the boys, borrowed a two-seater convertible, stayed with friends, saw other friends, and enjoyed the beautiful California weather and the reunion activities.  We had a lovely time.  It was our first time leaving the boys for any length of time.  I think we would have begun sooner except that we were on a different continent than their grandparents for quite a while.  It seemed to go just fine, though I haven't gotten the detailed reports I had anticipated.  The times we called to talk to the kids they were busy and didn't want to spend time on the phone with us.  There was a bit of rescuing pots, plates and utinsels from unaccustomed places this morning, but I found my stove cleaned (a job above and beyond the call of duty that I had been saving until after I canned the pears).  Dad said before they arrived that they had done this before and had every confidence that it would go well and everyone would want to do it again, and so far as I can tell it has proved true.  I am looking forward to sending the kids off for a week with their grandparents some summer, and spending time with my husband again.  We haven't been managing our time in the evening without kids very well of late, and I'd like to do better.
    I am ready to make some changes.  Sometimes I get discouraged about how often I seem to be saying that.  It does feel like I've been getting better.  It's also felt like it has been a long time that I've been digging myself out of a pit.  I have been moving forward and upward, though, and I'm still gaining ground.  It has been a long slog for me this last year plus since our return to the States.  I don't have enough hindsight yet to tell where I am in relation to where I was before we left, or where I should be, or the shape of the graph or even the slope of this curve.  Still, I have the sense that the dips and backsliding that occurs every month are not taking me all the way back.  Until I burned my foot four weeks ago (second degree burns on half of the top of my right foot while juicing grapes), I was very consistent in my running, and I'm working my way back to running during the boys' practice MWF.  I signed up for the Seattle Half Marathon during TG weekend, so I need to get back to where I was pretty quickly.
    As far as writing goes, I have had a number of pushes that make me really want to invest the time in it again.  One was reading this Ira Glass quote and remembering what XX had to say in _____ about 10,000 hours.  One was reading about Lois McMaster Bujold's early days as an unpublished author.  Another was listening to Michael Buckley speak to a roomful of kids about his early years.  Then C and I met with our financial advisor who had asked us some standard questions about the next 5 and 10 years.  I haven't found a consistent time yet to sit and write, and I haven't found a good place where I'm most successful, but I'd like writing to be a regular and dependable part of my week again, and I am experimenting to find that time and place.  I was reminded that November is coming soon, and therefore NaNoWriMo.  But, I don't feel like NaNoWriMo is the right kick in the pants for me.  My early notebook work with Natalie Goldburg books has left me without worrying overmuch about the internal editor that the wordcount diarrhea is supposed to alleviate.  The carving out of time and the understanding of one's family and friends for the new focus of one's attention is something I'd like to come to a balance with for every day, not for just 30 days; I don't want all the same pressures to come snapping back redoubled after a calendar page is turned.  In addition, my success with NaNoWriMo has not been in November, so I plan to forgo it again this year.  But I'd really like to start banking my hours -- I want to get better, I want to have my output match my vision.  And I know that the way to get there is to put in the time.
   
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June 28, 2011

    Yesterday was the one year mark from C breaking his back.  It wasn't an anniversary he wanted to remark on or remember in any way.  But it has caused me to look back and remember what was going on and where I was a year ago.  I was gearing up for the last couple weeks of school (and work at the school), in the process of transferring my knowledge to paper for others to use, saying goodbyes to close friends and neighbors, making plans for our last Dutch adventures and our final European vacation, getting ready for the big pack-up and move back to the States, enjoying the warmth of long-awaited summery weather.  It was a very different place from here.  I don't know if I have fully recovered from all of the turmoil of big unanticipated changes on top of big changes.  That's not exactly the right way to say it.  I think I have found my balance, mostly, though I'm still not to where I want to be with all the things I have done and want to do.  The big changes of a year ago have affected me, have changed me.  I'm not the same person I was when I left; none of us are.  I think "recovered" implies getting back to where you were before, and that's neither where I am (even literally), nor what I expected. 
    I am feeling very positive about the present and immediate future, however.  I like the summer schedule.  I like that I am running regularly, more distance per week than I remember ever doing on my own recognizance, and more regularly than since high school.  I like that I am combining that running with recording and limiting what I eat to good effect, though I still have 10 more pounds I'd like to lose permanently.  I like that we are moving forward with some of our house projects (our fences are down at the moment and getting put back up better than ever; I mapped out a new deck), though the dishwasher's failure to work faster or better after my wonderful fix has added impetus to our kitchen remodel.  I like that writing is closer to being a habit.  I like that the kids are almost 9 and 10 and both self-sufficient and snuggly.  They need me and don't need me in ways that feel comfortable and enjoyable.  I like the summer weather and available foods.  I like that my garden is growing (first strawberries picked Saturday, and flowers in vases).

    There's a lot scheduled this summer.  Soccer camps, training, practices, and tournaments.  Visiting friends.  Clambake.  My dad's 70th.  The annual car-painting, tie-dying, ethnic food pot-lucking game-playing extravaganza.  My niece's shower and wedding.  We don't have any camping trips on the agenda yet, but I'd like to squeeze them in somewhere.  I'd like to get a visit to the in-laws as well, but that will take a more concentrated section of time than I see open yet.  All the same, everything and anything seems possible from here, (except that the feeling that it is will remain unstinting in perpetuity).  Time to get busy while that sun is shining...

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June 13, 2011

    I just fixed the dishwasher.  I turned off the water and the electricity.  I used a Philips screwdriver to release it from the counter and on the electrical box, a hex driver to take the front plate off and move the electrical box, a crescent wrench to remove the hose, a phone book to jack the front up, a yardstick and flashlight to make sure the hose was not caught underneath, a water sprayer to get the cat out from behind, a bunch of old diapers and a couple plates to catch the water until I figured out I'd turned off the cold rather than the hot, and a 1/2" hex wrench to loosen the clamp on the waste water supply.  I rerouted the electrical wire through the correct hole in the cabinet so that the dishwasher can be pulled further out, and I rerouted the water supply hose to the channel on the right where it's supposed to go instead of squeezed with the electrical wire under the machine, and tried to expand the resultant two kinks in the line that had been the cause of the cycle taking upwards of three hours in the first place.  Of course, we just returned from a weekend away and don't have even a half dishwasher load dirty for me to test my fix with, but I'm proud nonetheless.  I just wish it had taken me less than the months it did to actually do it.

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February 17, 2011

    After last night I am craving an unbroken night's sleep at least once this vacation.  The dog and the cat are not traveling with us so that's two of the five miscreants down.  I had the boy with cold feet and pushy knees at some dead of night time on one side, the boy with the bad dream and the need to sleep between C and I at a later dead of night time, the dog (twice), C's alarm, repeatedly (I hate that sound effect more at every snooze), and the cat (multiple times).  I talked gibberish to the nightmare, dreamt I was trapped, moved beds, grumped at my love come to kiss me, and finally got up tired. Grrrumble.

    Today is a day of packing and cleaning.  But first, breakfast!    

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February 15, 2011

    Today marks the six month anniversary of my arrival back in the United States after living abroad in Holland for nearly three years.  Next week we go on vacation to the Bay Area in California.  It was at our six month mark after our move to the Netherlands that we came back to Seattle on vacation, and it was at that time that things started turning around for us.  The misery that had been a big part of transitioning let up and we started doing more and being happier.  I've been looking to this day to be the turn-around point for myself.  I'm hopeful, most of the time, that this point will mark the beginning of the upswing back to my normal happy.  Because, frankly, it's been pretty tough.  I've been lonely and disconnected, unhappy and overwhelmed, burying myself in my vices and refusing all too often to do the writing and running that keep me on an even keel.  I have read well over a hundred books, played way too much spider (and deleted it from my phone dozens of times), and spent hours and hours getting our music library in shape despite the urgency of other tasks.  I mostly unpacked the house except for the garage and piles of projects, such as the sewing, the art cabinet, and all the photos and frames and negatives that need putting together.  I hurried to get our Christmas picture taken in early December, then got the letters folded in with the pictures before Christmas, and they have been sitting on a shelf waiting for labels and stamps ever since.  I have allowed my e-mail box to stuff itself until I am immobile (again), and I have nearly ceased activity on Facebook not because I haven't craved the connection, but because I felt stupid, incapable, guilty, and unworthy.  I am frustrated by my failings and my feelings.  I have been impatient with myself and unkind in ways I wouldn't tolerate in anyone else.  I am ready for all of that to change.
    I am making progress.  I am running more.  I am starting to make the personal and social connections that will keep me from feeling invisible at the schoolyard and at home.  The weather is helping and I am able to work in the garden, something that gives me calm and satisfaction.  Things feels more possible.

    The dog gave me a bit of a scare over the weekend; he started limping badly and having trouble getting around.  I suddenly realized that there was no way for him to go to the bathroom without navigating some stairs.  While waiting for the vet appointment, I thought about needing to start a sod garden on the deck just for him.  Since then he's had x-rays of his knees and the news is positive; it's not a big tear of his ligament, and the joint mouse is an unlikely cause as it is buried in a fat pad, so the conservative course of rest, pain meds and anti-inflammatories is how we will move forward.  In addition, he's not losing weight any more, and is a couple of pounds over his last vet visit in January.  The realization by A and B earlier this winter that the dog was aging and might have another five years in him put the boys in heartbroken tears already, even though he was healthy.  I am glad that the news now is not more dire.  He's such a good, sweet, wonderful dog.

    I've started, for the first time in my life, to limit my calories, actually tracking them and recording them.  I have always relied on my fitness and my sense of satiety in the past, but I am getting older and I don't like the shape I am in.  I'd like to get back to feeling and looking fit, and stop eating to fill other cravings, something I've not had a lot of trouble with in the past, but has snuck up on me in the last six months.  I've committed to running a marathon in the fall, which will help too.  As it is, the boxes of Thin Mints have gone directly to the freezer unopened.

    As always, there are lots of things I'd like to do/get done.  More than are likely, or likely possible.  I am going to do the wise thing now, and not list them all.  Partly to save myself guilt from not finishing them all when I've written them down, and partly in response to a TED talk I saw that suggested that when you set a goal and then tell people about it, you get a rush of accomplishment that actually detracts from the likelihood that you will reach the goal.
    When I was in fourth grade, I loved my teacher.  For Christmas, I told her I would make for her a series of magazine issues to run the rest of the year.  I can't now tell you any single thing that was in the long first issue I gave her, but I can still feel the shame of not completing all the issues I said I would.  I was just-turned-nine.  I'm sure and certain that if ever she would think about or come across the product of my labors, she wouldn't blame me for not delivering the promised ones.  So why can't I do the same?
    This is an issue (obviously) that I have struggled with a lot over the course of my life.  I am ready for that to change too.  I know that it requires a hell of a lot more than any quick fix, but perhaps if instead of concentrating my energy on changing the things I do poorly, I pour it into enhancing the things I do well.  I do a great job at single-minded project organization, taking chaos and bringing order to it, and finishing things that can be finished.  If after I finish with the music, I pick my next project well, and look at it as a game to win/puzzle to solve, I can bulldoze through obstacles that might otherwise stop me if I spent time beating myself up because I wasn't doing everything at once.  I'm sure you'll hear from me again on this topic.

    And that will have to be that for today.  I'm wrung out.
   
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January 13, 2011

    Hoo boy.  Another year sped past.  I just re-read my first ever blog entry from six years ago and am amused at how far and how near that time is to this.  Six years later and I am again in the same house in January after not having lived here most of the previous year.  My niece turns 21 in a few days, both kids are in school now, though neither of them ties shoelaces on any sort of regular basis (Velcro is a blessing and a curse simultaneously), and we recently abandoned a produce delivery service because of rampant unwanted substitutions in favor of buying local foods and from farmers markets.  I've been reading The Rolling Stones by Heinlein to the boys in the evenings, C and I are enjoying tv shows we missed or started in Europe by way of Netflix on demand, and several years of successful poker "chip" management of the boys' screen time was ditched last year in favor of attempts to get them to learn self-management of screen time and balance with the rest of their lives.  They received 5 new Wii games for Christmas they are enjoying, but although we have a (large) tv now, we don't get broadcast television or have a DVR, and I have not yet instituted the movie nights where we share with the boys our favorite appropriate movies.
    I want to do so much.  I'm still struggling with balancing all I want to do, all I think I should do, and all I am actually able to do, with what I do.  I'm not particularly pleased that this struggle defines so much of me.  If struggles define a person, and I was suddenly able to resolve this one -actually do all I wanted to do-, what would I pick as a struggle to wrestle with next?  I'll have to think about that.
    I'm also still fighting back to normal after the move.  Writing and running have helped (as I knew they would even as I failed to do either), and finding some buddies during the school day will help too.  I've given up on finding the old dish drainer, even though there are a couple unopened boxes (marked garage tools), and even went to Freddie's to get another earlier today.  Of course, while I successfully returned the too-small boy pajamas on the top floor, and bought peanut butter and game night groceries next door, despite writing it down in Epic Win, I failed to remember to head down the escalator and actually buy the dish drainer until I'd gotten home again.  The house is full full full of things to sort, organize, complete, and put away.  I have Christmas still to put away, a mountain of dishes, Quicken to do, and am very thankful that my niece is willing to clean for cash, so that there will be less work for all of us before company comes on Saturday.  Pictures still haven't gotten on the walls, though the big map is hung, and our garage still lacks room for a car.  We've all settled in to our nest, but I'm still trying to adjust the feathers and sticks a bit.  Some of them poke.
    Time to put some music on and go do.

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