Thursday, August 30, 2012

I love my kids, I hate my blog, and I miss carbs!

I love my kids

Wow. I really do. The transition to four kids now that we're full strength (Boy Wonder came home last week!) wasn't really as hard as I thought it would be.

Sure, sometimes I think all I EVER say is "Get off that!" or "Leave your brother alone!" or "We don't put dirty underwear on our sister's head!" but really, my house is a safe haven of order and calm. HA!

This week was the first week of third grade for our Boy Wonder. It was hard to watch him walk into the new school knowing how nervous he was about being the new kid. He came home that first day a little bummed that he didn't make a friend, but by Tuesday afternoon he'd not only ridden the bus for the first time (dubbed "Best. Experience. Ever" by the kid himself), but he'd made a few classroom friends. Life in third grade is good, folks, life is good.

First day of third grade and a happy little brother.
The younger ones and I alternate between local parks and the two libraries in town. Boo still insists he's big enough to ride the bus to school and that he's deserving of a class of his own, but with enough promises of slides and swings, he relents and let's his big brother go. He's too eager to grow up.

The girls? Well, they're angels. No, it's true. McK is a champ at dinner and eats enough to get her power lifting career off and running in the near future and Riley Roo sleeps. A lot. Like, all the time. I guess I would too if given the chance.

I hate my blog

OMG. I really do. I changed it a few months back when I was wallowing in the dark of Alaska and all I could think about was lemons (I still don't own my own damn lemon tree) and sunshine. Now? Well, I just don't connect with it or the design scheme. It drives me crazy, really, and is a big reason I don't update it often. (The other four BIG reasons being the minions I live with who treat me like their personal pack mule and cleaning lady).

That said, it's being updated AGAIN this week. Can you forgive me? I hate cleaning and remodeling as much as the next person, but when you just don't jive with the name or the look of your very own sacred space (Ok, it's just a blog, but whatever!!), nothing feels right.

I spent about an entire week agonizing over the name. I finally remembered my favorite Shel Silverstein poem and BOOM! Life was magical again. Updates soon.

I miss carbs

I made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror last week. Not that I was expecting Elle Macpherson to be staring back from the foggy glass or anything, but after three kids in four years, my body just seemed to give up and say "@#$K it!"  And I'm only 34!!!!

It was a sort of galvanizing moment, I guess. I had an image of myself carting around these same 30 pounds and being miserable while my kids grew. No energy to get through the long, beautiful days that come with the territory when you have four children. No love for myself. Fear of mirrors and any sort of pant WITHOUT an elastic waist. I mean, really, what sort of life is that?

So this week I started a process I like to call the 60 Day Gutcheck. I'm not great at struggle or discipline, but after I took my "day one" photo on Monday, I'm pretty sure I'd be willing to eat dirt for two months to get a fire started under my ass.

Because money is tight and personal trainers and diet programs aren't cheap, I'm sort of mish-mashing a few programs together and hoping for success. I have a copy of Bob Harper's Skinny Rules that gives me a few guidelines to follow when it comes to my awful eating habits (is "crap off your kids' plates" a viable food group??) The rules are pretty strict and I'm eating pretty bland, colorless (read it: carbless!) food...but seriously, ya'll...have you SEEN my "day one" photo?? Taste is obviously overrated.

From Weight Watchers, I'm stealing the journaling concept. I've read too many articles that state people who write down what they eat lose more weight than those who don't. Not saying I don't groan each time I have to write down "four bites of Boo's chocolate chip cookie," but the point is that I'm owning that shame, sir!

And workouts? Well, gym time is a commodity I'm not really afforded right now so I snagged P's Insanity set and you'll find me every afternoon cursing out Shawn T. and his brigade of skinny, ab-crazy devotees. When I can't take all the bouncing and jumping, I have a couple Yoga and Pilates dvds to torture myself with.

I promise to share the progress photos. Eventually. Like when I'm already Kate Moss-skinny and am allowed within ten feet of a baked good again.

I'll be sure to update the 60 day progress once a week or so if you promise to send carbs. Lots of carbs. Ok, forget that last part.

Hope your week is great!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Calling Boy Wonder!

Oh, how I LOVE this time of year!

Each May, I struggle with a weighty sort of depression when my sweet, sweet firstborn, the leader of my ragtag band of minion/children...gets ready to leave for the summer. No matter how excited he gets to visit his father and the other side of his family, it's a fight to make my face match his in excitement. And yes, many, many times, I'm faking it.

Summer passes so slowly when he's gone, and to compound the matter, he hates the phone. (Pretty sure it's a genetic thing because I hate it, too). But as summer winds down and the month of August marches on, things start to change. He wants to talk more. He's got the countdown marked on his calendar ("three more days, Mom! Three more, days!")

This summer was especially hard for us all. Two days after he left for the summer from Alaska, the rest of the family sold everything we owned and relocated to Houston. We got a new apartment, a few pieces of new furniture, and brand new routines without him. And no matter how hard his little brother tries to explain how utterly cool the new pool is, he can't do it justice for his older brother.

So we all sit in anticipation of his Monday morning arrival. Just one short week later, the little man begins a new third grade adventure in a new school. His grandparents mailed him a GIGANTIC box of school supplies. My folks have been mailing him school clothes, new shoes, and a bright orange backpack he picked out.

It's that time again. Life's ready for all new adventures...all we need is the Boy Wonder.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of "Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School" to help answer the following question parents, teachers, and administrators face every year:

Stagnation, being unable to accomplish one’s job at a high level, is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale.  Why do you think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions?  

This is a topic that really hits home with me. Boy Wonder has been in two (soon to be three) elementary schools in his short academic career and the differences between a "good" teacher and a "great" teacher are amazing and startling and eye opening.

We started out with an amazing kindergarten experience. It was hands-on, it was challenging, it was encouraging and rewards-based. Our son thrived in a situation where he worked hard and earned praise or certificates for his efforts, even if his effort didn't always mean he'd figured out the problem completely. The "carrot" he chased was often just far enough out of his range that he'd bring whatever concept he'd been working on home and mull it over with us. It was fantastic and we saw his brain power quadruple in capacity in nine short months.

Fast forward the next two years in a new school and a new program. It was supposedly "self driven" where the teachers took a back seat and let the kids go at "their own pace." Have you met my child? He's brilliant. But his "own pace" takes him straight over to the cut and paste table during free time and not to the challenging books or puzzles station. That's just him. He loves to create Lego men out of recycled math quizzes and glue sticks.

 When we had problems with Boy Wonder's most recent teacher (second grade), we took the problem first to the teacher, then to the program, and then to the principal. Many parents did. And unfortunately, the results never changed. The principal was focused on the "problem" kids. The ones lashing out at teachers, skipping classes, fighting, cursing, failing. There was no emphasis on the rest of the student population--the ones that weren't necessarily in their fancy "advanced elementary" program, but weren't destined for juvenile hall, either.

It was a school-district wide culture, we found. Unfortunately, with the pressures the schools felt to pass this mandated test or that one, to keep violence and bullying from overrunning their schools, they had precious few resources left to encourage, empower, or train their teachers. (At least that was our experience at this particular school. I can't speak for every parent in the district and I'm not trying to.)

Bringing this post back around to the question, I think teachers are no longer tasked with merely leading our children through educational rigors to bring out their best, they've been tasked with so much more that should not fall on their shoulders. They're expected to play psychologist, social worker, educator, nutritionist, and ambassador when dealing with strained relationship between parent and child. As such, they often fail to deliver the necessary results that drive test scores up and translate to lower graduation rates.

I also think legislators are misguided when it comes to "bottom line" economics and schools. It's easy for them to cut budgets and spending for our children because the outcomes and "products" are ten years or more out. So they cut budgets, underpay teachers, and overload them with responsibilities. Then they blame them for declining test standards and graduation rates.

Kinda tragic, really.

The Book

"Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School" is written by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia. It's geared toward teachers, principals, education reformers, and parents and tells the story of the New York Success Academies. In addition, the writers impart the lessons they've learned along the way when it comes to encouraging teachers, pushing students toward excellence, and building award-winning literacy programs.

It's a call to action...a challenge to make every school great, no matter what resources are available.

The book includes a DVD with teacher interviews illustrating the concepts described in the text.

Want more information about the authors or "Mission Possible"? Visit

What I Took Away

I loved the sections about reading and writing, an area in which we struggle with our own child. When a subject bores him, he retains very little. And yet, long after bedtime, I will find the same child under his covers with a flashlight reading the lore manuals to his favorite fantasy video game (written for adults.) Around the breakfast table in the morning, he can tell us which Gnome King in which Gnomish century began the war with the Trolls...amazing, really, when he's pushed toward something he likes, he can achieve anything. When allowed to remain in the comfortable, known pool of what he considers "boring" books, he languishes with his comprehension, no matter how well he can read.

The bottom line, according to the authors, is to push him. Rigor is their battle cry, and they claim its the best way to excite students and teachers to do great things. I have to say, I agree.

The Giveaway

The authors were kind enough to send me a copy of their great book. They were even more amazing in that they sent a copy for you, too. All you have to do is comment and I'll select a winner next Monday morning, August 20. Just tell me (and the authors) what your school experience is and how you work as a parent to make it even better.

Thanks so much and have a blessed week!


Disclaimer:  "I was compensated for this post.  All opinions expressed are my own."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Minions: The 2032 Edition (Where are they now?)

Yes, I have a little time on my hands. A lot of time, actually.

As I sit here, I think about who my kids are and with this new, adorable addition, I catch myself guessing what she’ll be like in the future. Blonde hair? Brunette? Daredevil? Bookworm? All are fine with me, I’m just a nosy person by nature and love to speculate.

So speculate I did and I came up with a blog update I could write in 20 years, letting my loved ones know just what my grown children are up to.

At 28, Dominic is the author of the bestselling, million dollar steampunk/goblin/zombie comic book series “Boy Wonder’s Tomb of Doom.” Recently optioned for the big screen, the series will also be made into a MMO/RP video game—much like “Warcraft,” the beloved video game of his youth.

Currently dating this year’s SI Swimsuit Edition cover model, Dominic says he has no plans on settling down anytime soon. He lives in a multi-million dollar treehouse in Northern California with his cat, Miko Jr., and said Brazilian bikini model.

At 23, Andrew is a five-time heavyweight IBJJF world jiu jitsu champion, after defeating his idol and honorary uncle, Roger Gracie, both in their division and in the absolute division. This comes after graduating this spring with honors from Stanford with a  master’s degree in chemical engineering , a degree he plans to use to discover the next renewable fuel source, ultimately ending the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Andrew is engaged to his elementary school sweetheart and fellow IBJJF jiu jitsu lightweight champion and rising MMA superstar, Ava Cannonier, and plans to get married at 25, after earning his first million dollars (and getting permission from the bride-to-be’s Killa Gorilla father, retired UFC light-heavyweight champ, Jarrod Cannonier).

The rebel of the family, Makenna (21), bucked her mother’s traditions and prejudices and is a junior at the University of Texas in Austin (much to Grampa Gary's delight), where she is the president of her sorority and captain of the Longhorn cheerleading squad.

 Dating the Longhorn quarterback and presumed first-round draft pick in the 2033 NFL draft, Makenna is a dean’s list student studying biomedical science with plans to participate in the university’s fast-track medical school program. In her spare time, Makenna runs marathons, works in local animal shelters, and knits hats for newborn babies at the hospitals where she volunteers.

The natural born fighter of the family, Riley (20) is a sophomore at Texas A&M University where she studies architecture and works as an assistant professor at her father’s Gracie Barra College Station jiu jitsu academy. After winning her first gold in the women’s flyweight division at IBJJF’s world championship at age 18, Riley has returned to the tournament each year and captured gold in her division and in the absolutes. 


She spends her summers training in Rio de Janeiro and is often on the cover of Gracie Magazine and various women's fitness magazines. Not allowed to date until she is 35, Riley is currently single—much to her daddy’s relief.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life in L&D

Hello, world. I sit here writing this with a cup of cold hospital coffee next to my laptop, a ginormous scar across my abdomen that I refuse to look at for fear of vomiting, and the 2012 Olympics casting a nice light from across the room while the neat little soundbox is perched next to me. (Don't those things smack of the drive in speaker boxes that you'd hang on your door? Yes, I went to drive ins a time or two before they went extinct!)

Here I sit. Thinking about how our family is now a family of six. How our newest little girl, Riley Makaila, made her entrance yesterday via C-section and is doing wonderful. How she's the exact spitting image of her older brother, Boo, as a newborn. (It's kinda crazy how identical they look!)

My delivery story with Riley is so very different from her siblings. I was scared the entire week leading up to the surgery and had a hard time hiding it the past few days. She was breech and refused to turn the past few weeks and, so, the section was inevitable.

We arrived Tuesday (July 31, a wonderful day to have a birthday!) morning and I was all smiles and chatty until they started poking me with needles and talking spinal blocks. Barf. Our doc was in a particular rush to get the surgery underway, so they sort of rushed P and I through all the paperwork and medications and clothes changing until POOF!...I'm sitting on the OR table leaning on a stranger while the anesthesiologist is drilling for oil in my spine. (I was actually really upset that they made P wait outside during that part...I'm particularly terrified of needles in my vertebrae and do better when he's with me!)

The minute the numbing medication is in place, you have to lie down immediately and that sense of immediacy must have made me panic, because I started to hyperventilate, cry, and get sick from the rush of medication. Let's just say I was a little less than dignified those first few moments. Barfing up the nasty medicine shots they had me take before the OR room. Crying because I couldn't move enough to NOT panic (see of that makes sure doesn't to me now that I look back!) and the general feeling that my heart was beating so fast it was going to explode in my chest. It was hell.

The doc must have felt sorry for me or was sick of hearing me and my wailing death keen, because he knocked me clean off my butt with some wonder drug and the next thing I know, I feel a huge weight lifted up and off my chest (eww!) and then there was Riley. And she came out swinging and squalling and telling all those doctors and nurses all about themselves. Honestly, she's scored the highest on the Apgar test of all our babies and I think it was based purely on the loud trash-talking she was delivering. It was great!

I slept for the next 13 hours, I'm pretty sure. P said I was in a zombie-like state and that basically sums it up. I remember itching a lot because of the morphine and I was a sweaty sort of mess in the afternoon. But that's about it. Oh, and I was hungry. Damn hungry and resentful that they somehow though lime gelatin and chicken broth was anything less than an insult to a formerly pregnant chick who hadn't eaten in 17 hours. Really, people??

But day two? Well, it's much better. The whole "sawed in half" thing really makes hopping out of bed and dancing the can-can difficult, but I'm working on it. I love laying in my hospital bed on my butt (until my butt goes numb and I have to try to move without activating the deactivated core muscles) waiting for the next food tray. (Yes, I had chicken fried steak tonight. Woo hoo!)

There's hope I can go home early tomorrow and get back to my beloved, busy life with my beloved, busy family. I truly hope so. Riley's siblings are impatient to have her home and I'm impatient to be home with P and the minions.

PhotobucketHope everyone is enjoying the rest of their summer!