By my 36th Birthday...

...I'd like to have:

1. Hair that is all one color. Specifically, my natural color. (The roots are currently 3 inches long.)
2. A well-established Bible study/small group meeting in my home.
3. Visibly larger arm muscles.
4. A good handle on how to homeschool two children (in two different grades) at once.
5. The same amount of wrinkles that I currently have - no more!
6. A regular date-night with my husband, every two weeks.
7. A brand of deodorant that I actually like. One that works well, but doesn't leave me afraid that I'm poisoning myself.
8. A consistent and effective method for keeping our laundry under control. (Baby steps.)
9. A place to go for a gluten-free gyro.
10. At least one new friend, whom I see on a regular basis.

Behold the White Paw of Cuteness!



Okay, so... I'm a little shocked by how well this Responsibilities Before Privileges concept is working for us. It was hard for the first 1.5 weeks, especially for Eli. I wrote a whole blog post about it! Lila caught on pretty quickly and hasn't given us any trouble since those first few days of boundary-testing.

Well, they've both been blowing me away for the past week! On school days, Lila only has one additional chore - vacuuming under the dining room table. She comes in and does it right away, without even being asked! And it's made a big difference on homeschool days too. She is expected to do two hours of school work in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. She decided pretty quickly that she'd rather earn her privileges than exert her control over school.

Eli has slowly transitioned from a total strike against all responsibilities to asking to do them! Seriously! He decided he wanted his game time today and I reminded him that the way to earn that privilege was by doing all morning and afternoon responsibilities. He took care of his morning business and watched morning video. After rest time, he asked to go ahead and do all of them so that he could play his game! Instead of waiting until the last minute, he was totally done by 1:45.

I don't expect to ever have this kind of parenting success again, so I'm kind of rolling around in it right now! Praise God for my discontent, inspiration, and calm follow-through!

And speaking of game tame, Lila uttered the following phrase while playing Little Big Planet this afternoon: "Okay, move along, feces!"


35 Reasons I'm Glad to be 35

1. I am through with being pregnant and giving birth.
2. 5 is my favorite number and 7 is the number used in the Bible to represent perfection.
7 x 5 = 35
3. I no longer believe that I'm defined by what other people think of me.
4. I find new ways to crack myself up every day.
5. My "toolbox" for dealing with bouts of depression is full to overflowing.
6. I usually like who I am.
7. I can say that I've been married for a decade.
8. I can say that I've been a child of God for 16 years.
9. I've learned that having courage does not mean that you aren't afraid.
10. I finally believe that my butt is appealing and not just big.
11. I have started to develop wing flaps under my arms, meaning that soon I will not need air bags on the passenger side of my vehicle.
12. I am finally aware of my gluten intolerance, meaning that I no longer have to suffer from fatigue and pain.
13. I can now be wildly and proudly out-of-touch when talking to teenagers.
14. I have two of the most amazing kids on the planet.
15. I no longer have to change those amazing children's diapers.
16. I have had the time to figure out what I believe about a lot of things.
17. I'm (almost) comfortable with admitting that I don't know what to believe about some things.
18. I'm only halfway through this list.
19. I have almost recovered from junior high.
20. I'm one year closer to heaven.
21. DVR exists and I have one.
22. I finally discovered that I love fresh cherries.
23. I have found great relief from my allergies... through nutrition!
24. I finally own a guinea pig.
25. I have uncovered my crafty side.
26. I am learning, at long last, what it means to stay connected to God throughout the day.
27. When I am entering my age and weight info into the treadmill, I can push the down button one less time.
28. I have lived in Austin long enough to complete my metamorphosis into an Austin Hippie.
29. I can almost say that I've lived in Austin for half my life.
30. I've discovered that I love kale (when cooked correctly).
31. No one cards me anymore.
32. I almost have enough freckles on my arms to give the impression of a tan.
33. I'm starting to get freckles on my legs too, so I can look forward to a faux tan on them in a few years.
34. I get to constantly exasperate my husband with my complete and illogical inability to remember how to "properly" set a table.
35. I get to lose at Jenga to a child 1/7 my age.


Immovable Eli

Eli's determination to avoid his responsibilities is remarkable!

I instituted the Expectation Chart last week and it worked fabulously for Lila. She knows what is expected of her and she learned very quickly that I was not kidding about the boundaries. She takes care of her responsibilities without a single complaint now.

Eli, on the other hand... I have been shocked (and slightly bewildered) by his calm refusal to conform. I don't ask much of these guys, as far as chores are concerned. Just enough to give them the idea that being part of a family comes with responsibilities. But Eli would rather miss out on videos and game time than do his chores. I'm glad that he's not so hooked on screen time that he just has to have it, but I really thought I had more leverage!

On Friday, we upped the ante. I bought a locking door knob for the playroom and told Eli that all those toys are also a privilege that has to be earned. Doug installed the new door knob on Saturday and I've noticed two interesting things.

1. Eli still doesn't care. His favorite toys are locked in that room and he just calmly declines the invitation to earn access to them. What the what?!?

2. The door to the play room has been locked for most of the past three days and no one has asked us to unlock it. Even after Lila has finished her responsibilities and earned her privileges, she hasn't asked for access to the play room.

This is proving something that I have believed for a long time: They would be just as content -- if not MORE content -- without all those blasted toys! For three days, they have relied on their imaginations and the few things of interest that are still out and about. And for three days, no one has complained of being bored!

It definitely helps that the weather has been so gorgeous here lately. But even when the kids are inside, they are content.

Now, if I had the nerve to suggest that we get rid of any of those locked-away toys... there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth! Clothes would be torn! Dust would be put on heads!

But I digress.

Back to the topic of Eli. He did give me a small grain of hope this afternoon. All afternoon, the only thing he'd agreed to do was tidy up the living room a bit (i pointed out a whopping five items that i wanted him to put away). Lila came home from school, promptly did her job (vacuum under the dining room table), and asked to watch afternoon video.

When asked if he was going to finish up his jobs so that he could watch with her, Eli's first response was a No. However, when I asked him to go upstairs to his bedroom (since the playroom was also off-limits), I sensed some hesitation. I sweetened the deal slightly by reminding him that he could watch the episode of Rescue Bots that he'd been wanting to see... and he decided to go for it!

We did half a reading lesson (~15 mins) and he vacuumed under the kitchen table. Lila was rather pissed that he got to choose the video, since she usually gets to choose in the afternoon, but I was just excited that he finally decided to participate!

He may go right back on strike tomorrow, but at least he has proven to me and to himself that he can do what is expected of him and there are benefits to doing so!




My husband has a problem.

Not everyone knows about it and it's not something I like to talk about, but... the time has come for me to seek support.

Doug is addicted to Snoopy.

There. I said it.

As I type this, I am sitting on the couch with one small stuffed Snoopy and a couple of his siblings (Marbles and Belle, if you're curious). There are at least a few in every room, despite 10 years worth of efforts to stop the insanity. In the time that we have been married, I've only successfully convinced Doug to get rid of a few items. We still have dozens of stuffed animals, blankets, figurines, shirts, and various holiday decorations. But the Bane of my Existence is Handy.

Handy is a small, hand-sized, Snoopy that Doug has had for many years. Handy has his own vacation clothes, Halloween costume, and Christmas sweater. This dog accompanies Doug on trips, both business and pleasure. He has had his photo taken at Stonehenge. I haven't been to Stonehenge, but this stupid little dog has. He even made his way into our wedding photos. Don't get me started on that one.

Well, it's time for me to draw the line. On Saturday, Doug left the house to run errands. When he returned home, I could tell by the look on his face that something was up. And then I saw this...

You can't tell from this photo, but Doug's wearing a Snoopy shirt.
He bought underpants for Handy. Underpants!

I tried to seek help from Doug's brother, Keith. Unfortunately, he wasn't even willing to discuss the issue. Keith says he's been trying to talk to Doug about his problem for years and there's nothing more he can do.

Doug's parents won't be much help because his mother, Irene, is even further down this rabbit hole than he is. For every one Snoopy item in our house, there are two in hers.

And so, friends, I turn to you for support.

What's a girl to do when her husband buys underpants for his stuffed dog?!?


You'll thank me later.

Gypsy says, "Don't argue with your mother!"
I'd like to say that the Expectation Chart has revolutionized our world overnight, but that would be a lie. In fact, I've been experiencing some pretty serious backlash from it. And I'm discovering how very hard it is for me to avoid nagging and "reminders".

I think it's reasonable to remind the children what's expected of them at the beginning of the day and after rest time. Maybe that's even too much (the kids would definitely say so), but I see it as covering my own butt.

If I speak my expectations out loud, then no one can claim ignorance later. Well, they can try, but I'll know they're full of hot air. What seems to be going on right now is some hard-core boundary-testing. "If I refuse to get dressed and only do half my school work for the morning, will she really not let me watch Morning Video?" Here's your answer, Dear One: In this house, you only get privileges if you take care of your responsibilities.

I know it hasn't always been that way, but we're making a change for your good. I will defeat this beast we call Entitlement. The whole friggin' country is suffering from it, but I'm not going to sit idly by and wonder why. I'm going to fight back! If you want something, then work for it! We live an absurdly cushy life as it is. I am quite confident that my expectations for you are not too high. If anything, they are still too low.

To quote generations of mothers across the globe, "You'll thank me later."


Look Out Kids...

'cause Mom just got organized!

This may look like a hastily created -- and oddly proportioned -- chore chart... but it's not!

It's an "expertly crafted" Expectation Chart!

And, more importantly, it is the freedom (for me) not to get angry when responsibilities are not taken care of.

The kids know what is expected of them, and when. They know what they stand to gain by meeting expectations. They know what will happen if they don't.

I will neither nag nor entertain beggars.

My children, your choices are your own and many a valuable lesson lies ahead of you.


Cute Kitty of the Year

Doug might think this is his chair, but it really belongs to Cookie.
"I don't care that you have a camera. Go away."
He sleeps this way all the time.
Curled toes? Are you kidding me?!?


Calm down, Angela. It's just a vase.

Look! I painted a vase and I actually like it! That never happens.

Roughly once per year, some combination of family members and I will go to one of those paint-your-own-pottery places. I spend lots of time picking just the right piece and just the right colors and desperately trying to squeeze some drop of inspiration out of my brain. I labor over the paint job for as long as I can before someone insists that I stop. I lovingly hand the piece over to the employees, hoping they'll tell me how wonderful it looks. Ignoring their lack of enthusiasm, I anxiously wait the week that it takes to be ready, then I go to pick it up. I get the thing in my hands... and I hate it.

This time, I took the opposite approach. I looked over all the pottery and picked the most practical thing - a vase. I picked a few of my favorite colors, with no idea what I would do with them. I did look through an idea book, but I took vague inspiration from a couple of items and then put the book back. I sat down at the table and started painting. When I finished, I said, "Hey! Look what that turned into!" I handed it off to be glazed and fired, hoping only that it would not turn out to be a total waste of money. I gave it only a passing thought after I left and waited nearly two weeks to go back and pick it up.

Imagine my shock when I asked the girl at the front desk for our pieces (Eli painted a T-Rex) and she said something along the lines of, "Oh, that one's yours? I love it! It turned out so great!" And then I got it in my hands and I actually agreed with her! Now I have a vase that I will be proud to display on my dining room table. Maybe I'll get some more of those beautiful daffodils to put in it...

Moral of the story: If you expect your art to look like crap, then you'll be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't.


A Teenager and A Ringwraith

I love this photo. It's Lila, dressed as Cindy Lou Who, trying to force her brother to take a picture with her. He was clearly not interested, but she wasn't taking "no" for an answer. This was the best shot I got. By the third photo, they were both on the ground and she had him in a headlock! To make things even better, they were in the middle of Lila's classroom. At least they were doing it all with smiles on their faces.

These guys have been seriously... refining me this week.

Lila's been copping a teenager-level attitude with me. Sometimes I am able to maintain my composure and politely ask her to use a more respectful tone (and word choice) with me. At other times, I cop an attitude right back. Obviously, I strive for the former response. The latter usually does not end well. For example:

Me: "Okay guys, it's bath time!"
Lila: [hands on hips] "I am not going to take a bath!"
Me: "Don't tell me what you are NOT going to do!"
[Begin downward spiral.]

When Eli was a toddler, he used to make this noise (particularly in the car) that sounded exactly like the shriek of a Ring Wraith. I must say, the sound became much more tolerable after we made that connection and I would occasionally even begin to giggle when he did it. But I digress...

The point is that he has rediscovered that sound and begun using it again... every time we tell him something he doesn't want to hear. For example:

Eli: "What can I have to eat?"
Me: "Well, you've already had a snack and it's not lunchtime yet, so you can have fruit, nuts, or--"
[Begin brain explosion.]

I really really really hope that this week goes more smoothly. For everyone's sake.


About Lila

For those who are curious, here is the Core Teacher Commentary from Lila's report card for this term:

Lila is doing such a nice job in 1st grade. She is a wonderful reader, consistently performs well on spelling assessments, and is a kind friend to her classmates. As you know, handwriting is a struggle for Lila. Let's just keep encouraging her! I would also like for Lila to focus on math facts this last trimester, especially addition. We would like for her to be able to solve 35 problems in 2 minutes by the end of the year and she is not there yet. Consistency is the key. Keep up the hard work!
Today was Dr. Seuss day in 1st grade. All the students were to choose a character from a Dr. Seuss book, memorize 4-6 lines from that character, dress like the character, then recite the lines in front of the class. Lila (with some encouragement from me) chose to be Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the book and/or old cartoon - NOT that obnoxious movie).

She did a fantastic job and she made the cutest stinking Cindy Lou Who you've ever seen! I will post photos as soon as I have uploaded them to the computer. The photo you see here is the result of sleeping in sponge rollers overnight. Lila found them in a drawer last week and requested that we use them to give her curly hair for Easter. The classy shirt she's wearing with those adorable curls is a novelty tee from Panama City Beach, FL.


Easter Recap

We were finally starting to finish off some of the candy from Valentine's Day... and Easter happened. We kept the candy in our eggs to a minimum (did half real eggs and half candy-stuffed ones), but there's still the candy they got from Grammie and what was left in the pantry. I wonder if I could convince the kids that a tornado blew through Austin while they were sleeping and ONLY carried off the candy from our pantry...

Aside from the excess of crack candy, we had a lovely Easter weekend! Friday and Monday were both school holidays, so it was also a long weekend. We used Friday, plus about one hour on Monday, to catch up on our schoolwork. Yay! [happy dances] [pretending to forget that we did not make it through all our work today] [humming to self and rocking from side to side]

Saturday was egg dyeing day and attending an Easter service. Austin Ridge had two services on Saturday evening and two on Sunday morning. Since Doug and I were both serving at church on Sunday morning, we attended on Saturday evening. After church, we had a lovely dinner at The Grove. Sunday morning was church again - Doug ran sound for the 3rd/4th/5th graders and I worked in Glory Kids - then home for lunch and Easter egg hunting.

We had dinner at Joe and Irene's in the evening, then came home and crashed! Doug was back at work on Monday, but the kids and I spent the whole day running errands and taking care of various chores. Today, it was back to life as normal. And, as in years past, the kids have re-hidden and re-found the eggs multiple times since the initial hunt. I have requested, several times, that the candy stay in the kitchen when the eggs get hidden, but Eli keeps "forgetting" that detail.