Lost and Found

Photo credit: Free Digital Photos
The kids have been back in school for two weeks and I've been utterly lost without them.

I've been bored. I've been emotional (for what I can only assume was Precious Preteen's going into 6th grade). While most women probably would have thoroughly enjoyed the two week hiatus from work, school, and kids - I did not.

I was just blah.

And then something wonderful happened.

I attended the first Girl Scout leader meeting of the year. Suddenly, I was a part of something again and I felt excited and alive. I had a purpose.

As I drove home on this emotional high, I realized that the blah-ness I've felt for the past two weeks had been depression.

It sounds a tad pathetic that I would wrap my entire reason for being around something as trivial as Girl Scouts. That fact that I tie up every ounce of who I am in The Man Beast and the kids is the antithesis to the "modern woman".

I was talking to a friend/co-worker/mentor about her recent retirement. She admitted that she missed working and she, too, was somewhat lost. As we walked around the local track, I let her talk. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that she was depressed. Retirement depression. Is there such a thing?

Turns out, yes. Because as much as we might complain about work or our constantly busy lives, we shape who we are around what we do. When we stop doing it (even if it's by our own choosing), we experience depression and grief with our suddenly open schedule, absent of rush-rush deadlines and appointments.

So, while I might not be the poster child for the modern feminist movement: the woman who has it all, does it all, and masters it all - I am completely normal in my feelings.

Everyone can experience depression from time to time. Luckily, mine was short-lived. School has resumed for our community and as of next week, Girl Scouts will also be in full-swing. Soon, the crazy busyness will consume my family. This is okay by me. I would sooner be busy doing what I love (being a wife, mother, and Girl Scout parent) than having an open schedule and being completely lost.

One day, the kids will be grown and gone. One day, I will retire from teaching. And one day, there is a chance that I will be lost again.

But that day is not today.

Depressed? Reach out. There are thousands of resources on the web. I'm not a doctor and you aren't either - if you feel you might be severely depressed, I urge you to seek out the help of your doctor.

Crazy or Lazy?

Note: © Copyright 2007 Greg Williams
Life has a way of sorting things out for you.

Since going back to school, I've had to delegate a lot of things in order to not lose my sanity.

Four years ago, The Boy was 10 and Precious Preteen (this is the name she gave herself, by the way) was 6. (Wow...allow me to pause on that fact for a moment. Four years ago, my babies were babies!)

Despite the fact that my children were, what I consider, young, they had to take on certain responsibilities.

Could I have done it all by myself? Absolutely. And a part of me wished that I could. But I couldn't and now looking back, I'm glad I didn't.

Stacey, over at I'm a Lazy Mom considers herself a lazy mom. Furthermore, she encourages other moms to be Lazy Moms as well.

Obviously, her suggestion is a tongue-in-cheek reference because a Lazy Mom is anything but lazy! I wrote about Stacey here.

Since this week seems to be a week of reflection for me, I've decided to reflect on the positives my circumstances have created in my children's lives:

  • The Boy has (somewhat) mastered the art of doing dishes.
  • Precious Preteen has joined him in the kitchen this year and together, they wash dinner dishes.
  • The Boy has successfully learned how to do his own laundry. (Bonus: This week, he took initiative to do it without being told!)
  • Precious Preteen is just starting to learn how to do her own laundry. (I will be posting ideas on how to make chores easier for the younger crowd).
  • Despite being a somewhat fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type person, I have maintained somewhat of a routine for the kids. They have this routine memorized and are usually pretty autonomous on Saturdays (the official Chore Day).
  • Except on Tuesdays, which are busy scout days, we have a set After School routine which the kids have pretty much adhered to after getting off the bus.
  • Over the past four years, my children have matured incredibly well. Sure, this probably has a lot to do with time, but four years ago, I was doing a lot for them. The choice to go back to school forced me to allow them to do things on their own. My choice to go back to school has prevented me from being a helicopter parent.
So, while occasionally, I am wracked with Mommy Guilt, seeing the fruits of the kids' labors eases it a bit. Seeing sites like Stacey's helps me realize that allowing kids to do for themselves is a good thing. As a parent, sometimes it's hard - especially if one plays into the gender stereotypes. But despite this pull to do everything, doing everything does nothing for the child. It forces to the man-child/woman-child to learn on their feet when they enter the real world.

With so many obstacles facing us in life, why wouldn't we choose to give our kids this little leg up in responsibility? 

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Like an old friend

Summer reading: Picoult, Kingsbury, and Gulley
I'm scheduled to graduate with my Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education/Special Education in December. Did I mention that? I am amazed that a task that has taken four years to complete is almost over - and I'm in one piece!

Of course, I still have to get through 16 weeks of student teaching.

But I'm looking forward to it. I am eager to learn new things from teachers who know what they're doing. I'm excited about picking up some really good ideas in real life (verses Pinterest) and implementing them in my own classroom (God willing!).

For the past three years, I've been in survival mode as wife, mother, paraprofessional and full-time student. I've been spinning these plates, trying not to let any of them fall and break. With the amazing support from my family and co-workers, I've done well. But there have been a few things that I've had to put on the shelf.

Aside from this summer, I haven't been much of a reader these past four years (unless you could online journals and textbooks - I don't). I've never worked in the summer but I've never been one to pick up a book and read it, either - despite my absolute love of books.

When I dump myself into a project, I do it with unbridled gusto and reckless abandon - often at the expense of other interests. For the past four years, my passion has been school work. I couldn't stop being a wife, mother, and paraprofessional, so I kept those things going. As far as other interests were concerned, however, I just didn't think about them.

My second passion is writing. But since starting school, the only writing I do is in the form of weekly, academic papers. My creative streak has waned.

I saw a brief spark when I participated in National Novel Writing Month back in November 2008 and successfully wrote 50,000 words of drivel by the end of the month. Is it any good? No! In fact, it's horrible and there have only been two people on this planet who have read it and I wish with every fiber of my being that neither of them had. It's very rough and not the least bit ready for human eyes.

But it is written.

I've been meaning to pull it out and edit and revise it - not to mention add to it (50,000 words is more of a novella than a novel). But I never have.

And as my academic career slowly comes to an end, I find myself letting small sparks of interest into my heart. It began this summer as I read book after book. Perhaps this is why the itch to write has started coming back - reading and writing do go hand in hand, don't they? (I wonder if King reads? I wonder who he reads?)

I think it's time to get that spark back. I don't have to create masterpieces. In fact, it is of my opinion that my blog posts over the past couple of years have gotten increasingly worse - I wrote so much better before I started writing every week for school.

I think I might like to delve into the world of NaNoWriMo. I have a story brewing at the moment that cannot wait until November. But I think I might use the month of November to devote completely to writing.

In light of everything that has happened over the past year, personally, it is time to grab hold of a passion and protect it as fiercely as I protect my marriage and my relationship with the kids.

It is time to find a little bit of me - a part that doesn't have a title or expectations attached to it. Just me. Photobucket
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Mother/Son Endeavors: Photography

This past weekend, the Turtle Clan drove four hours north to visit my little brother and his family. Having two small and very active little boys meant finding an activity that would expend some of that energy. We headed to the lake.

While Baby Girl Precious Preteen and The Man Beast were wading in the water, The Boy and I played around on the beach with various objects and my iPhone.

The Boy grew animated in a way I had not seen for quite some time as he started talking about things he might want to do after high school. His interests are many, but they are all in the arts. For example, he loves to draw and as such, spends all of his spare time drawing. He's tech savvy like his father, and enjoys drawing on the computer, composing music and animating. His latest interest, it would seem, is photography.

So he and I played around a bit. I tried to convince him to ask for a camera for his birthday/Christmas but he refused. "I really want a new computer," he says. Spoken like a true computer geek.

With the exception of the first picture, The Boy meticulously and painstakingly set up every shot, attempting to get everything "perfect". Nothing is by accident; even the placement of the sand is purposeful!

Backyard leaf

Beach find

Mom's Toes

Mom's Toes, again

Mom's toes, again...

Mom's Toes, again!

Another Beach Find

The Boy's Toes

Rock in the sand

Enough with the toes already, Mom!
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Making the transition

Photo by Iva Floyd @ This Side of Perfect

I've had the chance to read quite a few books this summer. Despite the fact that I start student teaching Monday (!!!), I went to the library and grabbed three more reads. In the past, I've read one at a time, but I told The Man Beast that this time, I'm reading at least two at the same time. One is in the living room by my recliner and one is by my bed, ready for me to pick it up when I read at night before I go to sleep. He doesn't understand how I can do it. "I'd get all my characters mixed up."

I find reading two books at a time relatively easy. It usually takes me a page to "remember" which story I'm in and from there, I follow along easy as a can be.

I can do this, I think, because as a mom, I'm a multi-tasker by heart. (The only thing I cannot multi-task is cooking with anything. Apparently, it takes every ounce of my being to prepare a palatable meal.) For most everything else, however, I've got it pretty much in the bag.

While I admit I am getting a little rusty as I get older, for the most part, I have everyone's schedules memorized. Yes, I write them down on the family calendar (and plug them into my iPhone - how did we ever live with "dumb phones"?) But, every morning, I look on the calendar to see what I've got going on.

School has just started - and so will everything else. It is organized chaos, as a fellow blogger said (although she was talking about her classroom).

This year we have made a huge transition. The Boy is now a freshman in high school and Baby Girl is in middle school. (In fact, I don't think the term "Baby Girl" is applicable anymore. I'm open to some suggestions on what I can call her on my blog.)

This particular transition has been difficult for me. I've chalked it up to the fact that I don't currently have a job to keep my mind off all the changes. But job or not, my family has entered a new chapter in our lives.

I've described life as a roller coaster and as a wave in the past. Both accurate descriptions. But I think those just describe the little things; the little big things. Instead, I think the best description for life - the whole shabang - is a book. Each phase in your life is a chapter. And just like in a book, some chapters are less "fun" than others.

This is my new chapter and I'm having a hard time with it. When you're in the throes of Baby Boot Camp - that is, the first three years of your child's life - you're sleep deprived, frustrated and lost. People reassure the new parents that this doesn't last forever and it will get better.

Skip to the end of the Parenting Life Book and you hear about the empty nesters. Those who woke up one day and discovered that all of the craziness of life that they might have complained about is gone because their children have left the nest to set out on new adventures of their own. Once again, these parents are lost.

But those of us who are in the middle have a little mix of both. Suddenly, when our kids start dating, we find ourselves sleep deprived as wait for our teens to get home from various outings. We are frustrated because as our children go through various hormonal changes - attempting to figure out who they are - we wonder the same thing. We are lost because we're not sure what role we play in our teens' lives. We know they aren't old enough for them to be our friend. They also aren't young enough to need our constant guidance. But we also are wise enough to know that we can't just "let them go" because while they don't need the same guidance they needed as toddlers and young children, they do need guidance.

This is where the Man Beast and I are currently. We are trying to find that perfect balance - giving the kids space while at the same time, giving them guidance; that last ditch effort before they leave the nest.

On a positive note, TMB and I are excited to see the kids continuously making discoveries about who they are. While I don't always like or agree with what comes out of the Boy's mouth, I'm glad he's voicing his opinion. Baby Girl is becoming more vocal and voicing her thoughts (which are very logical and continue to blow me away).

Live at the speed of life. 
-Tom Dooley

 While this particular chapter of my life is more difficult for me than I would have imagined, I am trying to take it day by day. I'm learning to embrace the everyday and cherish it. All of it. The good moments. The bad moments. The I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out moments.

Because when you think about it, it is the overall story - not the chapters - that makes a book great.

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A little too quiet

Photo: Free Digital Photos
During the school year, my family's schedule follows a pretty predictable routine:

  • Rise and (somewhat) shine at 6 am
  • Baby Girl gets dressed and eats breakfast while The Boy gets dressed and takes the dogs out
  • 6:30 the bus comes for Baby Girl (middle school this year!)
  • 6:50 the bus comes for The Boy (high school this year!)
  • 7:30ish The Man Beast gets ready for work
By 8:30 am, it's just the dogs and me and a very quiet house. Too quiet, sometimes.

This new phase in our life - albeit for just a few more weeks - is very new to me. The last time I stayed at home while the kiddos went to school was back when The Boy was in Kindergarten/First Grade. The Man Beast was working a wicked schedule at big chain pizza place and our schedules were completely backward. In fact, the only reason I got up in the morning, was to get The Boy dressed, fed, and out the door to catch the bus. Then, it was back to bed for a couple of more hours before Baby Girl would wake up and then our day would start.

(Wow - typing that makes me a little melancholy. It's hard to believe that not too long ago, The Boy was starting his school journey and here he is gearing up to end it.)

Usually, I'm rushing around in the morning trying to get ready with the kids. Once upon a time, I would take both kids to the elementary school while I would head to the middle school. Then, when The Boy started going to the middle school, I would drop Baby Girl off at the elementary school and then The Boy and I would head to the middle school. It was around December of last year when I had surgery, that the kids started riding the bus. And this year, rather than start one routine and have to change it in a couple of weeks, both kids ride the bus to and from their perspective schools.

In 11 days, I'll start student teaching and I won't have to worry about the too quiet house. In 11 days, The Man Beast can get back to his regular schedule of seeing all three off to school while he has the whole house to himself as he gets dressed. In 11 days, our schedules will be in full-time full swing as Girl Scouts starts up again for the new school year.

In 11 days...

But today, I sit in a too quiet house with entirely too much time on my hands.

Until next time,

Adventures in Low Carb - My dismal failure

Pancakes: food of the breakfast gods
Before I started working in the school system, I had lost 40 lbs through Spark People.  I was still a good 20 lbs overweight, but I was feeling pretty good. Then slowly, over the years, I gained almost all of those 40 lbs. back. (Working with students with severe disabilities means that a lot of their curriculum includes life skills lessons, which included grocery shopping, which included cooking, which included a paraprofessional eating a lot more than she should. Add to the fact that we were able to celebrate everyone's birthday and well, it was just a weight gaining disaster waiting to happen. (Note: I do not blame my students or the job for my weight gain. I used to but soon realized that this wasn't actually blame, it was an excuse and it was unacceptable.)

That's my back story. Long story short (too late!), I stumbled upon the low carb way of eating. Many people know this as Atkins. The program has undergone massive changes in the past 20 years, one of which includes adding more veggies to the diet. I've been following a low-carb/low-sugar diet since May 28th (right after we came back from Girl Scout end-of-the-year trip).

Being on the diet for almost 10 weeks means that I've gotten pretty bored with my food choices and have started venturing into the realm of low-carb recipes. Some have been successful; some have been dismal failures. And since this blog is this side of perfect, of course I'm going to share the failure!

The best food known to man (besides cheese) is pancakes. Right? Right. I can't "have" pancakes. ("Have" is in parenthesis because I can have anything I want; I choose not to partake in foods that have a whole day's carb allowance in one food. I don't love pancakes that much!) But I have to admit, I was jonesin' for some pancakes. And I found, what I thought, was the perfect recipe:

Cheesecake Pancakes.

Yes, please.

The ingredient list was simple: cream cheese, eggs, butter, cinnamon, salt, ground flax seed and Splenda. The process wasn't quite so simple. I had to beat the egg whites separately, cream the cream cheese, add egg yolks, sweeteners, and flax seed meal. Then I needed to fold the egg whites into the mixture and cook them. Easy peasy, right?

Not so much.

First, they didn't hold together so well.
Dismal failure: Exhibit 1

Then they cooked too fast, so they didn't cook completely.

Then they swelled...
Inflated, eggy balloons

And deflated...
Deflated, sad balloons

And they tasted eggy and flax seedy. Not a great mix. Not a great recipe. Will I try it again? You know, I think I might - just not with this flax seed. (I'm told that golden flax seed has a milder taste. This has a very strong flavor. I don't like the Muffin in a Minute recipe with this flax seed for the same reason.
Butter and sugar free syrup makes them also palatable

But, I'm not going to give up! I'm going to find the perfect pancake recipe. I will!

But first, I think I'm going to make some Oopsie Rolls.


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