About Trees. Sort of.

The last time I was at Walmart, I made a vow I would never go there again. And then today when I was out looking for a certain kind of hand-held shower head (I want it to attach to the faucet in my bathtub, not the shower head, not the kitchen sink...do they exist?) because I think it will ensure my sanity over winter with a poodle who likes to lay in mud puddles, and after Target and Petsmart, I went to Walmart. And just so you know from the start, Walmart didn't have what I was looking for.

I hate Walmart from about mid-October through mid-February. Why? Because they stuff the store that already has the most stuff with way more stuff, sticking it in the aisles, making some nearly impossible to pass through. Aisles should be aisles! Clear and easy. Not a minefield of dog beds, Walmart Scentsy's, Art kits, rounds of winter coats, "all of your Thanksgiving needs," and anything else you can [and can't] imagine. Regular trips to Walmart don't fall into my pleasant category, but it's like they sit and think up ways to make a trip to Walmart downright torture: "Let's make our "artery" aisles one-way!" "Oh! Especially during the busiest time of the year!" Ding ding ding, we have a winner! 

I am tangent-ing. What I have to say is worse. Magnolia had to go potty, so we went to the family restroom. Okay, here's one thing for Walmart: the bathrooms at the back of the Belle Isle Walmart are award winners. They are pleasant surprises. It may just be massive amounts of air freshener being pumped into the air, but I never dread having to go when I'm there - but I'm trying not to be there, so this whole good bathrooms point may be obsolete...except for the real point of this paragraph - which I'm getting to. The toilet paper dispenser is full of not one, but two industrial sized toilet paper rolls. The remnant rolls are also on top of the dispenser. If someone were to run out of toilet paper in this bathroom, they would be seriously unlucky because of how well stocked it was this afternoon. 

Magnolia goes, and I go to grab her some tp, and that's when I see it: one of the rolls on top of the dispenser (really about 1/4 of a big roll) has a big ol' poopy finger print on it. Like on the side of it. Like they had their hand in the cardboard roll, and stopped the paper when they'd unrolled the proper amount with their poo thumb. I was in shock. And shock more than disbelief like when I walk into a stall and wonder how someone didn't notice they peed all over the seat. Better yet, when I walk into a stall, and I'm not sure how someone failed to see that part of their poop didn't actually make it into the bowl. And then there's the less obvious, sort of, skid marks that some fail to wipe off the back of the seat. I can't imagine that I'm alone in my habitual turnaround to make sure that everything, whatever it was, made it down okay after I flush. 

Back to the tainted roll. I get Magnolia taken care of (using a different roll - so happy to have had the option) and put her back in the cart. Then I knew I couldn't live with myself if I left the roll for someone else to discover, so I pick it up (far away from the poo print), and throw it away. This was followed by a very thorough hand washing, just in case. Cora had been watching me. When she asked me why I threw it away, I told her it was because of the poo. She looked at me for a second, then said, 

"Mom, I can't believe you just threw away a whole tree."

And I couldn't think of a single thing to respond with. 

The weather has been cold and sleety here since Friday. Our church was cancelled on Sunday, and so were all of the things Jake needed to be at work for on Sunday afternoon/evening. He did, however, have to go to his work church that morning. I spent most of the morning thinking it was a bad call that they didn't cancel, especially when I heard that only 8 people in their congregation made it. When Jake got home, he told me that a homeless man wandered into the church (it happens a lot at this church). He was very cold, very much inebriated, and looking for shelter from the weather. A woman in the congregation went and got him a big warm coat (his was thin and soaked). Then, she helped him put it on. She slid it on one arm, went around, and helped him on the other side. She touched him. She helped him do what he could not. They called for a ride to come take him to a shelter. When Jake finished telling me this story, he said, "Church not being cancelled was worth it, just for that one thing." I know he's exactly right. 

During lunch, I told him that one of our friends, Heather Price, had posted that she might break tradition and put the Christmas tree up since they were homebound for another day. (Heather has 6 kids. Coming up with indoor activities for three days straight for kids who range from 14-2 would have me "bending" traditions, too). We decided we'd also put our tree up before Thanksgiving because Jake wasn't going to have another day off like that until mid-December. It was so fun. We didn't have to "fit it in," it just happened. Our tree is glowing. Our nativity is on the mantel. We have random ornaments on the floor where Magnolia has decided to try them out as toys. I love it. I will love it even more when Jake gets home. (Only an hour left. 11:30PM. Gotta love tech.)


Magnolia has been sounding different. I spent a few days trying to figure out what it was, and then I got it when she was playing blocks on Saturday. She said she was building a tower. Tower was different. Her R's sound like R's instead  of W's or uh's. She has the R sound! YAY! Having the R sound makes her sound older. It's weird. And she says Cora differently. Instead of Coe-uh, she is now Cora. My little baby is getting bigger and I'm all kinds of happy and sad about it.

Did I tell you she now wears her age size, too? I bought her 24-month sun dresses at the beginning of summer. This fall, I bought her 2T leggings, nope, she just skipped right over 2T to 3T. Her legs grew. She's funny and sweet and a little hoarse right now. She's been having fun with her voice.

Jake was the répétiteur for Street Scene. He worked on it for seven weeks. Seven weeks of not getting home until 10:30. I felt my anxiety start to spiral a bit. I had an anxiety attack a little over a week ago. Oh how I hate those. My first one in a really long time. We saw Street Scene with his parents on Sunday afternoon. It was wonderful. The music is by Kurt Weill and the lyrics by Langston Hughes. Yes, that Langston Hughes

I'm admittedly not a huge opera fan, and I think this is especially true when it comes to operas written in English. I think it all sounds so much more romantic, or tragic, or whatever it may be when it's in a language I don't understand. It was not the case with Street Scene. I think it might be because it's really a blend of opera and musical theatre. There was even a tap number. It was still tragic. And lovely. And parts were so very tender. Anna Maurrant sings a song called Somehow I Never Could Believe. Part of the lyrics read:

I don't know - somehow something awful happens
in the kitchens where women wash their dishes
Days turn to months, months turn to years,
The greasy soap-suds drown our wishes. 

Langston Hughes captures bittersweet moments in the most vivid ways. Him and dreams...

Jake is already onto the next show. I can't wait for it! TheatreOCU is putting on the radio show play of It's a Wonderful Life. First, it is my favorite movie ever. Second, I love radio shows. A Prairie Home Companion? YES! The fact that my favorite movie will be presented in one of my favorite forms of entertainment is huge. But that's not all! Jake is a character in the play. He's been fitted for a costume and everything. I'm certain that it will be amazing, and if you're reading this, you should come. Here's a link to showtimes and tickets. Tickets are $12, and I'm sure you can just call or visit OCU's box office to avoid the $1.65 fee for ordering on-line.

Did you think that was it? Nope! Because when It's a Wonderful Life is over, Jake won't be working insane hours anymore. We've been having this discussion: there are insane hours (not just 5 days a week, mind you. 7. He works 7 days a week), and then there's just downright ridiculous. He's in the downright ridiculous work schedule category. All told, I believe it will be 11 weeks of this schedule when December 15th rolls around. Phew.

Amid the crazy schedule, our 92-year-old sewer line backed up last week. The smell of a backed-up sewer line is.... Is.... Hmmm.... Atrocious. I was happy when the plumber could come on the same day to clear the line and get things moving again. I'd love to write a whole post comparing a sewer line to bowels. Maybe you should look forward to it.

In other news: We sold our Outback on Saturday. Are you ready for a story? Okay. In May, about a week after we bought our Prius, we got a letter in the mail letting us know that our mortgage would be going up $350/month for a year because when we closed on our house, the taxes weren't calculated correctly, so there was a shortage in our escrow account. It was also news we weren't really thrilled about heading into the great desert of no paycheck known as summer. It wasn't something we were planning on, but we would make it. Since the bills from Cora's ear tubes started coming in, we started feeling an even tighter pinch. We used to put 1,000-1,500 in savings at the end of each month. Since getting paid at the end of September, we definitely do not have that much left over. The only extra expense we really anticipated was the increased tuition we'd be paying for Magnolia to start school, and Cora moving from half-day to full-day. We were planning on that. That was fine. The other extras were beginning to stress me out.

When we were looking for a second car, that's really what we were looking for, a second car. We ended up finding the Prius for a ridiculously good deal thanks to a hail sale, so we got it. But that meant that we had two practically new cars. And Jake has a 1 mile commute. 2 miles if he's going to his church job. Our life doesn't need two really great cars right now. Selling the Outback became a really obvious way to free up some money each month. Selling it was a big relief. (I love being able to pile money in my savings account, and I'm a little moody when I can't do that - especially because we rely on a hearty savings to get us through summer.)

I'd been looking for a real second car since I decided to sell the Outback. I found one that I thought would do just fine, but it was about 60 miles away. I went down and test drove it today. There was one minor hiccup that looks to be about a $30 fix, which the dealer is fixing. If all goes well, the dealer will be delivering it on Thursday. I think I might be a little jealous that Jake will be the main driver. Until then, he's walking. I don't know why I just realized he'll be walking home at 10:30 tonight. That makes me nervous. 

We've been downsizing in other ways too. We sold our television. I'd always worried what it might be like without one. It's a crutch for me. Sometimes I just need to make dinner. But really, it was just excess in our house. I was watching a video about a woman who moved her family into a micro-house. As she was giving the tour, she said most people who come talk about what she doesn't have, but as she opened up a cabinet displaying her full 8-piece china set, she said, "I like to focus on what I do have." I don't even remember if that's the exact quote, and I wish I could remember what minimalist blog I found the video on so I could share it, but that's what stuck with me.

I love how easy it was to get rid of the Outback. I loved that car, but I love the freedom of less worry. (I don't know that life is ever completely worry-free. Moments are. Maybe Days.) With the ease and lightness that comes with purging, there is something else that comes along: the ability to pass things up without feeling like I've giving up something or missing out. Constantly wanting more in terms of things is exhausting. Even useful things like a Garmin watch. I would love to not buy a single thing, besides food [okay, and flowers], for a year. (Minus kid stuff because one-year is far too long for little bodies that seem to be growing every day.)

There are days when I long for paper and pencil living. [Cora would call it paper and graphite living.] And I keep feeling more and more like that's what my life should look [feel] like. I think figuring out that I'm the one who is ultimately responsible for what my life looks [feels] like definitely involves a learning curve. There are times, like during the last week or so, when I really feel like I'm getting the hang of it.

PS: Somewhere near the beginning of this post, Cora came out of her room. [I'd already put them to bed.] She said she couldn't get comfortable because her covers were all messed up. [They were, she'd been reading at the foot of her bed.] She wanted me to cover her back up, but she was a little sad that I'd told her to go back to bed. I picked her up and held her for a minute. She said she was hungry. [I was a little hungry, too.] So we went out and had a little evening snack. [It was really like a second dinner.] We had such a fun conversation. I loved it. Those are my most favorite moments.

On My Mind: Contentment

I am content this evening. It's wonderful. I'm not worrying about anything. I'm happy and keep finding myself lost in thought. I'm at peace. It's a lovely and welcome state of being.

We went to parent-teacher conferences for the girls this afternoon. I love these conferences. Thirty minutes with each of the girls' teachers basically just gushing over them. Hearing all the wonderful things our girls are doing when we're not right there with them is wonderful. I'm amazed by them. Cora's language skills have exploded. She's reading and writing, and the world has become so wide open for her. I love that she can develop those skills in a very self-guided way at school.

There are five areas of work in Montessori (the last [culture] is really a sort of extension to the four main areas of work - mostly just an extension of language):

Practical Life
Culture (geography, botany, zoology music, art, physical activity, foreign languages)

Cora is at home in practical life and sensorial work, and she has been since she started her Montessori program at three. I love that her mind is on fire for language right now, but she is equally interested in working hard in math. Last year, on a day when I was observing, she spent about an hour on a math work. (I wish I could remember the name!) In Montessori, the steps to the work are just as important as the work itself. They have to get their mats and supplies (she had help getting the supplies because the cubes of 1000 are pretty heavy). She had to start with 1 and move all the way up to 9,000. I loved watching her work her way through. I can't imagine what she's doing in kindergarten. Here's what the work looks like:

(Can someone help me remember the name?)

When they're done, the teacher comes over and asks specific questions about certain numbers to make sure the child is grasping everything. And then when the assessment is over, the child must put away all of the supplies for the work just as orderly as she found them.

Her math skills keep on blossoming. I'm proud of the hard work she continues to put into math even though I know she'd rather be writing and illustrating stories. In kindergarten, they are in a different classroom with a different teacher everyday, but they return to their "home" circle for lunch, circle time, and combine with a nearby circle for chapter time before they return to their area of the day. Our conference is with her circle teacher, but each of the area teachers writes a report of what Cora is working on and what their goals are for her. It was rewarding to hear how she does with all of her teachers in all of the Montessori areas.

Magnolia is becoming so independent. Three-year-old work doesn't sound as complex  - though it is in every single way for the one doing it. Magnolia comes home talking about two people most of the time, but when we were talking with her teacher, we found out that she and a little girl, Zadie, are just about inseparable at school. She has NEVER mentioned her!

She loves play dough, easel painting, and water work. She's able to come into the classroom, pick a work and stay engaged with something during all of her time. She still doesn't always ask her teachers if she needs help with something. Her teacher told us of two experiences where Magnolia knew she should ask for help, but her stubborn streak [my term, not her teacher's] won.

One was at the play dough table. The lid was still on the play dough, and she couldn't get it off. Her teachers moved progressively closer to her as time went on. Her circle teacher, Ms. Jensen, ended up sitting on the floor right next to the table, and Magnolia would smile at her and motion to the jar the play dough was in. She'd work at it for a minute, then smile again. Eventually Zadie asked to join her, Magnolia accepted her request, and Zadie wondered why they were just sitting there. She [Zadie] looked over at Ms. Jensen and told her about the play dough, and Ms. Jensen told her that she was sure Magnolia would ask for help if she needed it. It took another minute before Magnolia got down and asked if Ms. Jensen would open the play dough.

The other instance was at the easel. There's a clip at the top of the easel to hold the paper. It's a real reach for Magnolia because she's so tiny. She worked for FORTY minutes trying to clip her paper onto the easel. Both teachers were pretty much hovering, letting her know they were available for help. She finally got was able to clip the paper by herself. Ms. Jensen told us she was not expecting that outcome, but she sees how her delay in asking for help is definitely leading to her independence. She hasn't had much trouble with that clip since she figured it out on her own. This is a good lesson for me.

Every time I leave our girls' school, I am so happy they are there. They are loved and cared for. Who they are is nurtured and respected, and that nurturing really helps to stretch them in safe ways that leads to amazing growth. I LOVE MONTESSORI! I love fabulous, caring educators.

More contentment...

This really comes from something I've not been content with: my home. It's all my fault too, I've been neglecting my minimalist desires and letting stuff get out of control. Surfaces have been covered (I hate visual clutter), it seems like dishes have constantly been in the sink. I don't even want to talk about the laundry. The last few months have been hard. I've basically been going at this whole parenting/homemaker thing [extra] alone. Jake doesn't get home until 10:30 most nights. And weekends don't really exist. A day off? HA!!![!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

Let it be known that he does the dishes around the house, but he has been stretched so thin that he hasn't been able to. It would take more than one hand to count the number of times I have walked into the kitchen and wanted to cry at the pile of dishes in the sink from the day before. Sometimes I really want a dishwasher so I can hide my dirty dishes. I don't think I will complain about unloading a dishwasher ever again.

Sidenote: I once wrote a post on my blog about how I loved doing dishes by hand. Proof. I've decided this is only the case if I have a choice.

It's like even when he just does that one thing, it makes everything else so much easier. Because his crazy schedule started around the time the girls started school, I have had an overload of excess paper stuff all over from the things they bring home. I leave them out because I want Jake to see them, but then they just stay out because I forget about them. I'm jumping on the file box bandwagon for each girl. I think it will help out a lot. In addition to school starting and all of that extra paper, we have been getting SO MANY medical bills for Cora's ear tubes. We're up to about $4,000 now. I'm trying to not be overwhelmed by the number because the result of the number is priceless.

I have been on a mission to stick to my "less stuff" guns. I feel like I'm always on this mission, but I've realized that if I'm not always on this mission, then junk piles up fast.

Here's the real deal, when my home isn't in order, I'm not in order. I like being in order - when I'm not I feel stunted. And I really love my sweet little Dot. For real, my house has a name. We were made for each other. She teaches me really important things. Sometimes I'm slow...or really tired and just want to be lazy because mom's need breaks sometimes, and breaks for this mom have been pretty non-existent.

I think a big part of my evening of contentment was getting a little break today. On my way out the door, I asked our babysitter if she could stay a little longer than I'd originally asked her after the PT conferences. She could! I ran to the library and picked up a book, then went to lunch. I had a date with myself. Just me, yummy food, and a book. (I went to Saturn Grill - I was really trying to get to Kitchen 324, but the construction around there is crazy.) My reservoir was filled just enough to make me feel like I was on cloud nine. Shoot, if one hour alone doing exactly what I want to do is all it takes...I'm going to take it whenever I can.  


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